In the gap between handing in my dissertation and beginning my summer work placement, I decided to go to Spain for a week. My father’s friend owns a flat in Los Montesinos, which my parents had taken me to previously. Every time I run in to him he asks when I’m going to rent the place from him, so I decided to go for it. The flat is lovely, and Los Montesinos is a great location. It’s about a 50 minute drive from Alicante and only a bit further from Murcia, making it reasonably easy to get to from the airport. It’s also a short drive from Torrevieja, which has various large stores (I was surprised to find that it has a Carrefour, I thought they were an exclusively French chain!) as well as numerous places to eat/a small market every evening. There were a large amount of Swifts living near the flat, which could be seen from the balcony:
It seems that we were in the middle of their breeding season, as they have constructed nests/had babies. One such nest near our flat was in the process of getting an extension, the development of which we were able to watch over the course of the week:
It was great to be able to see a Swift sat still! They tend to eat and even sleep on the wing, but I suppose that there’s no real way of building a nest in flight.
For the duration of the trip we decided to rent a car from Europcar, as I had driven rentals from them at a previous job. Are trip started before the new paperless licenses were brought in/rental codes came in to use, so I just needed my drivers license to book/collect the rental. The rental cost was quite reasonable considering the value of the deductible. However, we were hit with a hefty “young drivers” fee as both my partner and I are under 24. This was a bit annoying as he is only a few months away from being 24, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. In the end it was decided that I would drive. We were given a Fiat 500. We deliberately chose a small car so that parking would not be an issue. The car can be seen lurking in the background of this picture:
Driving in Spain was an interesting experience. We picked up a dash-cam before the trip as a precaution, but it did not end up being used for it’s intended use. Instead my partner took great joy in saving all of the examples of bad driving witnessed by the camera, which I think he intends on turning in to a compilation. Driving on the first night was quite unpleasant, as we arrived after dark. I began every drive by repeating to myself “we drive on the right”, and thankfully succeeded in driving on the correct side of the road for the entire trip. I found that I had little spacial awareness for the first few days due to being on the opposite side of the road/car to usual, and so my partner had to reassure me that yes I had plenty of space on my right when going down tight streets. Before embarking to Spain, I read over the RAC guidelines on driving in Spain. These actually ended up adding to my confusion. According to their website, drivers at an intersection give way to the right. This seems odd to me, as in the UK we give way to the right as we drive on the left. It seems reasonable that in Spain people would give way to the left due to driving on the right. During my trip I found that this does indeed seem to be the case. The RAC advice caused me a lot of confusion on the first few roundabouts, as in Spain these are traversed anti-clockwise (i.e. cars come from the left). I found that the roads in Spain are a lot less busy than in England (even in cities), which I think helped me to build up confidence in driving there.
We arrived at the flat Sunday night, and unfortunately I was ill for the first couple of days of the trip. Thankfully the flat had a TV that received English TV channels, so I watched a lot of daytime TV and played a lot on my Nintendo DS. I was also able to plan some of our trips from the sofa. I have a mobile phone data contract with 3, and 3 has recently added Spain to their “Feel at home” roaming list, meaning that I could use my data as though I was in the UK. At the end of the trip they send you a text letting you know how much money you saved via this, and apparently I saved £185 during the trip, so, thank you 3! Aside from looking at locations via TripAdvisor, I looked over a series of recommendations left for us at the flat by my father’s friend. He has created a list of local markets, which days they are on, and how to get there. He has also included a few recommended spots to visit. We found the markets list to be very useful. We flew to Spain with Ryanair, meaning we had quite tight baggage allowances. In the end we purchased an extra suitcase for the return trip to bring back all of the stuff we bought at markets! Once I was finished being ill we went out on every day of the trip, often with a market in the morning and swimming in the afternoon. In the hottest hours of the day (around 2-5 or so), we found that Spain seems to retreat indoors. The break during the day was annoying for the first couple of days (i.e. all of the shops being unexpectedly closed), but after that it was quite pleasant really. It gave a nice dividing point to the day, as well as a time for lunch. It makes me wander about the Spanish commute however (we never did find an obvious “rush hour”). In the UK, it isn’t too unusual for people to live an hour or so away from work. If people travel home during this afternoon gap, it really wouldn’t make sense to be commuting such a large distance. So, do people tend to live closer to work in Spain? Are there places that people tend to go/people tend to do during the break if they don’t return home?
We had initially intended to spend a week in Spain, but after booking the flat (but before booking flights) I found out about Espuna Adventure. My partner and I decided that it looked pretty interesting, and decided that we would like to add this to the end of our holiday, adding an extra 3 days to the trip. This aspect of the trip did not go to plan at all, but that will be in a separate blog post.
In general, I really enjoyed my trip to Spain! I’ll be writing further posts about individual aspects of the trip.