Image via Wikipedia
Catching up with a few missed posts… this one from the end of April while we were leaving Spain on our way to Morocco….
We’re sitting on the ferry as it pulls out of Algeciras on the southern tip of Spain. Our destination, Cueta, a Spanish port on the North African coast, and from there across the border into Morocco, and on to the Rif Mountains and the Mediterranean coast. The crossing takes around 45 minutes – highlighting just how close Europe and Africa really are. So close, and yet a world apart.
Ferries are frequent, with ships from the various companies leaving approximately every hour, so there’s plenty of choice and no real need to pre-book.
The girls have been getting more and more excited about the trip to Morocco as our week in Spain has progressed—it’s like going on holidays, they said, when you’re already on your holidays. They’re turning into accomplished little travellers, and I have to say that so far this trip—from check-in at Cork Airport, to collecting the hire-car at Malaga to boarding the ferry to Morocco—they’ve taken it all in their stride. There have been surprisingly few arguments and complaints.
It’s the same now. After a brief skirmish about window seats on the ferry they’ve all settled down nicely and are reading their books or playing with their “Nintendos”.
Ahead of us lies Morocco, and a completely new adventure, but for the last week we’ve been exploring the Costa del Sol, and I have to say that, after a first impression that lived up to all of my low expectations of the region, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised.
The worst thing about the Costa del Sol is the relentless sprawl of development that span the coast. Hotels, villas, “urbanisations” (glorified enclosed housing estates), bars, restaurants and associated commercial services pack every available piece of land between the small coastal resort towns. We picked up our hire-car at Malaga airport, and didn’t see a piece of open ground for the hour or so it took us to drive down the coast to our accommodation. It seemed pretty grim!
We were staying in a resort between the exclusive harbour town of Puerto Banús, with it’s multi-million-Euro yachts and pleasure cruisers, and the much more down-to-earth town of Estapona. The resort was great—the only downside was that it was between towns, which meant we had to drive everywhere.
The driving, though, got easier as the week went on, and the more we saw of the Costa del Sol—stunning mountain villages like Caseras, people-watching in Puerto Banus, strolling along the sea-front in Marbella—the more we began to like it.
Although there are countless examples of the overzealous and unregulated development that assailed this section of Spain’s coastline in the ’70s and 80’s, there’s also a lot of regeneration going on, and a feeling that there’s a real effort to improve things. The climate, of course is the biggest draw when you live in Ireland. While chilly in the shade, when the sun was shining, as it invariably was, it was warm enough to swim outside at the beginning of April.
While it’s not a patch on West Cork for beaches and scenery, the climate here in Spring borders on the ideal, neither too hot, nor too cold. It’s perfect for the children, and the fact that there are other children around for them to play with helps to give Mum and Dad a bit of a break too.
By the end of the week we concluded that the Costa del Sol was somewhere we’d all like to return to… and that, perhaps, was the biggest surprise of all.