Hola! Well actually I’m back now so it’s just, hi! I’m browner, fatter and relatively rested. Can’t ask for much more than that from a family holiday can you? Our eleven gloriously sunny days in Spain are over but I’m trying to keep the holiday buzz alive for as long as possible. So I thought I’d give you a little run down of our family holiday and in doing so, me a little reminder of a what a brilliant time we had.
I’ve visited Spain – and in particular the Costa del Sol – a bunch of times before, but this time we took a step back from the coast, deeper into Malaga and the mountains around Estacion De Cartama. This is not a typical British tourist area. Very little English is spoken and therefore you get a real feel for the region and the locals. All of whom were very welcoming. Although my sister was the only one of us able to fully converse in Spanish, we all gave it a shot and I think our feeble attempts were appreciated. Our group was large (10 adults and 3 children) but our rented Villa – Casa Aventura – was exceptional. With 7 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and plenty of recreational space, the inevitable irritations of family holidays, really were minimal. There is plenty of space for everyone to get some “me time” and enjoy the beautiful views on offer. Plus it literally had everything you could need from a holiday let. In fact more. Namely, a solid wood Serrano jamón (ham) holder, which was just begging to be used. Of course we obliged and had more than our fill of the cured ham that is synonymous with Spain.
Holidays with children are a far cry from those without. Remember the ones where you made the sun bed your home for the day and only moved to get a cold beer! However, lasting memories are made on family holidays and we made plenty. We had a few days out to break up our days by the pool. We’d hired a mini-van (lovingly monikered the chuckle bus!) and headed out to Aqualand in Torremolinos for one. It only took twenty minutes from the villa, with the sat nav and a co-pilot keeping our inexperienced med drivers on track. The water park was great fun for the whole family. If you are in a villa and have no slide or pool, it is a great way to break up the water entertainment. There were slides for all ages and plenty of areas for shade and relaxation. My only tip would be to pack a lunch. Food was expensive and more importantly the queues took ages, even on a quiet day. But aside from that it was great fun for all ages. It was hard to distinguish who were children, the screaming was plentiful all round!
While on the subject of pools, I have to highlight the best holiday purchase in my eyes. Our inflatable pool volleyball. Not having slides or different pools, I wanted to source a few fun games and inflatables for around the pool. This volleyball set was a huge hit. Granted, more with the adults than the kids, but we certainly got our monies worth. Coming home my waste line may not be lighter but my case sure was. I kid you not, I had about 10 kilos of inflatables!
We also ventured to the beach. I can’t tell you specifically which stretch of beach it was but I know it was in Torremolinos. I was really pleasantly surprised. The beach was really clean and well looked after. Yes there was an abundance of tourist eateries and ice cream shops, but the area in general was clean, bright and the sea was crystal clear. What’s not to like for a day visit?
Not surprisingly I have quite alot to say on this. Particularly as Tapas is one of my favourite things to eat. Small plates of deliciousness accompanied by iced glasses of locally produced cerveza (beer) or fino (sherry), what’s not to like?? And there was no shortage of brilliant little tapas bars in Estacion De Cartama. Our absolute favourite was La Freskita Merisqueria. Predominantly a fish tapas bar, everything we ate was simply superb. In particular I have to mention the conchas finas or thin shells. These large clams were served in their shells with an incredible sweet, sour, spicy, barbeque, tomato sauce that was mouth smackingly delicious. So SO good. Jared ate their squid by the plate full and the traditional gambas pil pil (prawns served sizzling with garlic and chilli) was ordered more times than is probably appropriate. We tried to return to the restaurant on our last night and found it was the one day of the week it was closed (I may have sobbed slightly). If you get the chance, please visit. It’s a fantastic little place and the service was just perfect too. On discovering the restaurant closed, the family owner who happened to be there at that time, recognised we were leaving and rushed to wish us well and give us a bottle of Cava. How lovely is that?
On the topic of great fish, the supermarkets are full of excellent fresh produce, in particular the fish counters which put our supermarkets to shame! My brother-in-law whipped up a stonking paella packed full of prawns, mussels and squid that was just ridiculously cheap. But there are also some fantastic small businesses in the town. The panaderias (bakeries) have amazing selections of fresh bread, rolls and incredible cakes, which we purchased as desserts when eating in the villa.
Estacion de Cartama also has a weekly market every Sunday. A real celebration of everything local as well as some obligatory cheap tat! Fruit, veg, sweets, cheese, honey and of course olives. Ahhhhhh the olives. They were just phenominal. We bought a small bucket (I kid you not) of olives mixed with some altramuces, which we thought were giant sweetcorn. They are infact a pulse, a white lupin seed. They are stored in brine like olives and you pop them out of their skins to eat. They are so yummy. The variety of olives was great and I have no idea how to distinguish between them. I know I LOVE gordal olives. My love of these queen olives started at Brindisa at London Bridge. Which is in my opinion, one of the best authentically Spanish tapas bars in London. And there were some gordal olives in the market, but there were also a ton of others. My two favourites were quite different. The first was small, soft and very dark green, pip in. The other a pale green stuffed with cornichons. I won’t tell you what we called them!
My last mention is about the wine and specifically the fino, which I have discovered I’m a huge fan of. Served ice cold, it smells like my mums “Christmas sherry” but has none of the awful after burn. Spanish sherry, specifically Tio Pepe Palomino Fino, is so easy to drink. It’s a perfect aperitif. Our family also like to play a little game of buying a selection of wines of varying cost from the region we are staying, to see which we like the best. I have say that bar a 98c white rioja which was only used for the paella, every wine was drinkable. But overall our favourites were a €3 rueda (white) and a €5 crianza rioja (red) called Marques de Caceres, which you can get in England but pay a lot more for!