Last week I took my Dad back to the airport in Almeria, after him spending a couple of weeks with us. His trip out has become pretty much an annual event since we left the UK. This was his first visit since we moved to the peninsula from Lanzarote.
|Welcome to Almeria|
|Almeria City Centre|
|Kiosk on the main street|
|Relaxing on Cabo de Gata Playa|
|The old Guardia Station, Cabo de Gata|
|Windmill near San José|
|San José beach|
|Puerto San José|
Picking him up was my first experience of Almeria Airport. I could sum up my initial response when I went to collect him – underwhelmed. It’s not what you’d call a major international airport, in many ways it reminded me of my old local airport – East Midlands – back in the 1980’s. I had to smile at myself looking at the departure and arrivals boards which looked like the traffic for the day equated to about a ten minute window at somewhere like Gatwick where my Dad was coming from.
On collecting him I decided to give myself plenty of extra time, not having driven the route before. So having time to spare on arrival I thought I’d have a coffee, but not at €2.95! I followed the taxi drivers’ tracks to the coffee near the arrivals gate (a simple discreet door) instead – that was priced as I’d expect!
All that being said, it’s not a bad place; it’s clean, seems pretty efficient and because of the low traffic looked like it rarely has any security issues. I guess I haven’t spent much time at regional airports in recent years, it’s something of a culture shock after my usual ports of call like Heathrow, Gatwick and Dubai!
Driving him back last Thursday I decided, as it’s well over an hour’s drive, not to turn around and head straight back. Instead I’d come to the conclusion I should take the scenic route back and take in some of the south of Almeria.
So, after watching the ‘old boy’ pass through security, after the usual wait at the EasyJet check in, I pulled out of the airport and turned left instead of right to head into the city of Almeria to take a look around. The airport is very close to the city so it wasn’t long before I arrived. The plan was to have a look at the Alcazaba Castle and have a wander around the city centre. Having lived in Lanzarote for six years and now being out in the country for a while on the mainland it can be quite a novelty visiting full scale cities.
At the port, passing the crowds surrounding the police cars and the ambulance attending what looked like an older lady who’d been hit by a car, looking like a bunch of kids surrounding a playground fight, I was reminded why I’m not a fan. I despise the impersonal nature of cities. Many years ago I lived in London for a while, I hated it, but the last straw was the day the tube was delayed by a guy who’d had a heart attack. Nobody cared; they stood and watched whilst checking their watches. I left London soon after.
There was also the time in Liverpool where an old couple were hit by a car at speed. Only myself and one other person tried to help them before the emergency services arrived. Everyone else just watched. If it’s not obvious by now, I’m not a fan of cities. Nice places to visit sometimes, but I wouldn’t want to live there!
The Old Town
I was beginning to question the wisdom of my visit, but decided to persevere. I followed the signs through the old part of town which was very ‘real’. Not overly adapted to tourism, which I like a lot. Narrow streets, some cobbled, with small authentic shops. Exactly what I had envisaged. There were little or no parking opportunities so I didn’t stop to look around, and instead I decided to head for the newer area of the city I had already passed through. Looking at how cramped the streets were to drive around, I was surprised they let cars into the area at all. There was no need for access to anything other than the odd commercial vehicle.
I stopped at one of the underground car parks having thought that whilst I was here I should at least stop and have a walk around. What I didn’t like about the parking was that the prices weren’t displayed, much like their counterparts in London, making me assume that just like London I was going to get stung on leaving.
I had a quick walk up the street (Avenida Federico Garcia Lorca) which was now filling up with tourists, and was impressed by the central tree lined walkway with fountains and statues strategically placed along its length. I was disappointed that Burger King wasn’t open (I am a man of simple tastes) and noted that being around 11am the shops opened late in Almeria! It was only when I found that Mercadona was closed approaching home it registered that Thursday 28th was a holiday. Easter had started, and that information had slipped me by.
Getting back to the car park I was charged 45 cents for about 15 minutes. My parking fears were allayed! As there was little happening – I’d wanted to experience the buzz of the city – I headed off to find the castle, which I promptly passed by seeing the throngs of tourists climbing the steps.
It wasn’t the experience of Almeria I had hoped for, so I decided to give it another go at the end of next month as I have a meeting – on a normal working day – and the chance to make a day of it.
I did discover driving out that although the Easter holiday pretty much closes down the entire country, that does not apply to ‘working girls’ having seen some busy plying their trade on my exit from the city.
Cabo de Gata
Being earlier than I had planned to head home, I took a look at the map and headed off to the coast to take in something of the tourist sights in the area and settled on brief visits to Playa Cabo de Gata and San José. Playa Cabo de Gata is a huge expanse of sand which put me in mind of something of a cross between Famara in Lanzarote and parts of Ainsdale beach ‘back home’ (if a little narrower).
I was surprised that it wasn’t busier than it was (especially finding out later Thursday was a holiday). Each end was busy, close to the villages that occupy the ends of the beach, but along the length the odd car was parked, their owners sat nearby on the beach in relative isolation, many with dogs – which makes it a possible day out destination for us. On the other side of the road was what looked like a nature reserve with hides for observing, what looked like, flamingos.
From there it was onto San José. I’ve been planning to go and have a look after hearing a friend of ours wax lyrical about it a number of times, as one of her favourite places. It didn’t disappoint. Built around a natural cove – in some ways a little like a small Cornish town, the place has a nice beach and an atmosphere not unlike our old home town of Playa Blanca. Not a football shirt in sight and it appeared to have more Spanish visitors. I didn’t get a sense that there were many Brits around. Not a bad thing; in fact a rather good thing in my opinion.
It’s not a party town, it’s more of a place to relax. The cliff sides sport some incredible properties with large panoramic windows and what you could only guess are views to die for! My only complaint about my first impression of the place was the prices displayed outside the restaurants – they seem bloody pricey, even by Playa Blanca standards. All things considered though, when the opportunity arrises for Elle and I to get away it’ll certainly be on the list of places to be looked at.
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