A Holiday at Last - August 2006

This was to be the fourth of five trips to Costa Esuri we have planned for 2006. This time we flew from Stansted to Seville. If all goes according to plan, by the end of this year we will have made five separate trips to Costa Esuri, from five different airports! One of the advantages of living in the middle of the country is that we have access to three or four airports within an hour of our house, and even the north/east London airports are within reasonable reach.


Anyway, with an early morning flight from Stansted on the Wednesday morning, we decided to drive down the night before, and stay over at an airport hotel. We found that the Hilton at Stansted included up to 15 days parking with an overnight stay, so booked in there. We had an uneventful but amusing drive down, listening to the ‘Janet & John’ CD that one of my daughters had bought for me for Fathers Day. If you listen to Wogan of a morning on Radio2, you will know what I am talking about. Once at the hotel, we checked in, we headed down to the restaurant for a meal. It wasn’t cheap, but the meal was very good, well presented and washed down with a bottle of red; we retired well sated.


The courtesy bus from the Hotel to the Airport started at 4AM, and with a 7 o’clock flight, we were on the first run of the day.  At the Airport, we booked in, and had an uneventful flight to Seville. In this, we realised the following day how lucky we had been, as it was the day before the Security Alert at all the UK Airports kicked off. If we had tried to go a day later, it is likely we wouldn’t have made it at all.


The fun started when we arrived at Seville. First of all, there appeared to be very few trolleys around, and the ones that were had already been bagged by others, so we resigned ourselves to having to carry the cases and golf clubs. We then had about a half hour wait for the luggage to arrive. I had read on the Ex-Pats forum that the Crown & Hertz car hire desks were particularly busy, and it had been suggested that it was worthwhile for one in the party to go through and make arrangements for the car, whilst the other collected the luggage. However, as I was the driver, and with no trolley, we decided that two cases and a set of golf clubs couldn’t be hauled through by one, so we both waited….. and waited…. and waited for the luggage to arrive. When it finally did, and we got through Passport Control and Customs, the advice from the Ex-Pats Forum was spot on, the queue for the Hertz desk was daunting. We must have waited another forty minutes in this queue, only to be told when we got to the front, that our car had been given to someone else, as they expected us earlier ! It was going to take another hour for Hertz to find another car. We resigned ourselves to this, and went for a cuppa at the café. When we returned to Hertz, with still no sign of the car, we started to get a bit stroppy, and we were just about to get an upgrade, when the car they were waiting for arrived. Perhaps we should have complained more vigorously earlier! Anyway, we loaded up the car, and headed of to Ayamonte. The directions we had downloaded from the  http://www.costa-esuri-golf.co.uk forum were very good, and I have now incorporated them into my website. The journey from Seville to Costa Esuri should have taken about an hour and a half, but we had previously decided to call into Ikea (which is just off the Motorway at Seville), to pick up a couple of bedroom chest-of-drawers. We also bought a couple of full length mirrors, as we had decided on our last visit that the Apartment could do with these. Once loaded into the car, we continued on our way.


We arrived at the Apartment by the middle of the afternoon. It’s a great feeling when you walk back in, and throw open the shutters. We unloaded the car, had a quick cuppa, and then headed into town to stock up from the Eroski Supermarket. It should be so much easier when the new Commercial Center opens on Esuri, and Eroski open their new shop. After this, and a siesta and shower, we returned to Ayamonte for an evening meal. We had been told on previous visits that we would be amazed at the difference in Ayamonte in the middle of the summer, and this proved correct. It was much busier than on our previous visits, and during the whole week, we found the traffic very heavy, and it was difficult, if not impossible to park at the usual spots along the Marina. The restaurants were also much busier than we had previously experienced, and consequently the service was slower. We were in no rush, so had a leisurely meal and stroll through the town, before heading back to Esuri.


After spending most of our time on the last two visits in setting up the Apartment, we were determined to have a holiday this time, so we decided to start as we meant to go on, and booked a round of golf at Isla Canela for the Thursday Morning. When we turned up, we were joined by a Spanish Golfer looking for a partner for his round. Rather than hire a buggy, we had decided that we would walk the course, and carry our clubs. This was fine when we started at 8AM, but when the heat really kicked in about 10AM, we realized we had made a mistake. Our Spanish friend must have known what was coming, as he had decided to only complete twelve holes, but we soldiered on for the full eighteen. By the end of the round, we were almost on our knees, had forgotten about the score, and were just happy to make it to the nineteenth hole. We decided then and there that next time, a buggy was a must. On reflection, we should have probably waited a day or so to get over the traveling, maybe we aren’t quite as young as we feel!


After such an exhausting day, we decided to stay at home for a meal and a few drinks on the terrace. I had arranged for mosquito screens to be fitted to all the doors and windows in the Apartment since our last visit, to try to cut down on the number of bites we had previously suffered. I had asked for two vertical screens for the bedrooms and two horizontal screens for the lounge and kitchen. As it happened, a vertical screen had been fitted to the kitchen by mistake. The reason I wanted a horizontal screen for the kitchen was that I expected it to be too fiddly to be continually lifting and lowering a vertical screen to get onto the terrace and back, as I expected we would use this route often. This proved to be the case, we had no problem with the lounge entrance, but I managed to walk into the vertical screen from the kitchen. I am sure this was because it is almost transparent, and had nothing to do with the amount of alcohol I had consumed that evening! Anyway, suffice to say the screen is being changed to a horizontal type before our next visit.


Friday was spent visiting Bank’s, Solicitors and Agents to get the business part of the holiday out of the way. We had previously arranged for a Spanish Will to be drawn up by our Solicitor, something we had been told was a must, as the Authorities in Spain will not necessarily respect an English Will, and the State can have a say on the distribution of an Estate if no Spanish Will is present. We took the line of least resistance, and had a Will drawn up initially in favour of Spouses, and then Children. On reflection, I am not sure this was the right thing to do. These days, anyone with a reasonable Property in the UK can fall into the Inheritance Tax trap, so perhaps we should have consulted our Financial Adviser in the UK, to ensure that our Assets held overseas are taken into account in our overall financial planning. Perhaps this is something we will have to re-visit.


I also took a drive to Leroy Merlin to look for a safe to put in the Apartment. In fact I found the the type I wanted next door at the Aldi Supermarket, and spent a lively half hour trying my pidgin Spanish out with the Assistant who didn’t speak English. I particularly wanted one that had both combination and key access, and they had one on display, but with no price tag. Once we had determined the price (about 60 Euro), which was in the range I wanted, I needed to find out if it came with English instructions. My Spanish was good enough to get the point across, but wouldn’t have been good enough to find out how it worked from a Spanish instruction booklet. The Assistant was very helpful, got me one from the storeroom, and opened it up for me. Alas, the instructions were in several languages, but not English, so I had to decline the purchase. I always feel slightly guilty when this happens, as I feel I have put the shop assistant to a lot of trouble for no reward. Am I alone in this?


In the afternoon, I assembled the bedroom chest-of-draws we had bought at Ikea, and fitting the mirrors to bedroom walls. I knew I couldn’t get away with a real holiday without Carole finding me something to work on.


In the evening we popped around to see Gary and Val, friends from Bloque 6 we had met on our last visit. They have a ground floor Apartment, and had just had sprinklers fitted to the garden. When they kicked in at about 9PM, we found that they threw the water just a little too far, and we enjoyed a sprinkling of cooling water on the edge of the patio, before we all moved back out of range. Gary promised to have the sprinklers adjusted before our next visit!


Carole’s sister, Cath and her husband Billy were staying in Vilamoura during our visit, so on the Saturday, we drove down the coast, and brought them back to our place to stay overnight. One of the big advantages of Costa Esuri we have found is the accessibility of so many nice places within an hours drive. We had a wander around the Saturday Market in Ayamonte, before heading off to Isla Canela Marina for lunch, then a stroll on the beach. We finally called at the shops in Ayamonte and bought some BBQ food to put on the grill back at the Apartment, and had a leisurely Saturday Evening with a few beers, and some good food.


After another pleasant drive to Vilamoura to drop off Cath and Billy on the Sunday, we stopped off at Villa Real on the way back, for a stroll and a spot of lunch at the Yacht Club. We had previously visited this restaurant for dinner with some friends during our last trip, and had a very enjoyable evening. This visit proved that lunch was of the same quality, and we can thoroughly recommend this place as good value for money. You can’t miss it; it is probably the only building on the Marina side of the road running along the front.


On the way back, we called into Castro Marim Golf Club to check out the new clubhouse there. It is very nice, and although we didn’t eat there this time, the restaurant and menu looks good. Before this visit to Spain, I had posted a question on the Ex-Pats forum, to see if any other golfers were in Spain at the same time as us, and looking for a game. TonyP had replied, and after we had spoken on the phone, we decided to play at Castro Marim. It turned out that CM had a promotion running from July to September, on Sundays and Wednesdays, two could play, with a buggy, for 70 Euros. This was very good value, so we booked for Tony and his son Luke to play Gary and myself on the coming Wednesday. In the evening, Gary & Val and their son Dan came around to our place for a BBQ, and a few drinks.


We had arranged to meet some friends on Monday Evening, at Bela Napoli at Isla Canela. We had met Mike & Barbara through the Ex-Pats forum just after we had put the deposit down on our place, and they had done the same on theirs. As they live in Leeds, and we live in Sheffield, we had met for a meal previously in the UK to swap stories, and had kept in regular touch, with joint progress reports. Their Apartment is in the Andalucian Village. They had completed only a few days before our meeting, so had originally stayed in the Riu Atlantico whilst they were sorting out their furnishings, but had now moved into the Apartment for the last few days of their stay. After an enjoyable meal, it was back to Costa Esuri for a bit of ‘I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours’.  We first of all went to our Apartment, so Mike and Barbara could see how we had decorated our place, and then it was across to their Apartment, to admire their place.


The Tuesday was a Bank Holiday in Spain. I wanted to catch up on my e-mail, so we decided to drive into Ayamonte, and see if the Internet Café by the Marina was open. I had used this before for linking in my laptop, and collecting my e-mails, for a very small charge. I had also previously used the wireless link that is available from the Link shop at Isla Canela Marina, but this had proved a bit fiddly as it was brand new, and they were experiencing some teething problems. Anyway, the Internet Café was shut, so we decided to drive across to Villa Real for lunch, and to try the wireless link form the town square there. As we drove on from the Marina, and around the waterfront, we passed the car ferry jetty. We noticed that the car ferry was in, so decided to give this a try, rather than drive across the bridge. It was very good and quick, and only cost 5.20 Euro for the car and two passengers. The ferry itself only takes about five cars at a time. Being originally from Liverpool, we fought the urge to give our fellow passengers a rendition of ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’.


Once into Portugal (45 minutes before we left Spain ! ), we were pleased to find that most of the shops in Villa Real were open, and enjoyed a stroll through the main  square and shopping area. We have found before, even when Spain is closed, Portugal seems to be open, and it is so close it is no bother to go across the border. After Carole had done some window shopping, and I had fiddled with my laptop, we grabbed a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants/cafes that surround the Square. Gary & Val had invited us around to their place for a BBQ in the evening.  Although Gary had been true to his word, and had the sprinklers adjusted, Carole was taking no chances, and had come armed with a shower cap, which she promptly donned at 9PM sharp, when the sprinklers cut in!


When Wednesday arrived, we had a great game of golf. Luke plays off 5, and proved much too good for the rest of us, I reckon he must have almost played to scratch. He could hit the ball for miles. Tony is also no mean player, so Gary and I admired their skill, and stumped up for the beers at the nineteenth. I was very impressed with the Castro Marim Golf Course. I had tried to play it on a previous visit, but had been rained off. This time, after a shaky start with a smattering of rain on the first, the rest of the round was played in perfect golfing weather, and some of the scenery and views of Spain, Portugal and the Guadiana from the golf course are spectacular. We will definitely play it again, and I hope next time to take in a meal in the restaurant.


Our daughter Claire, her partner Paul, and two friends Lucy and Matt were coming out to Esuri for the week following us, and we had an overlap on the Thursday, before we returned home on the Friday. They were due to arrive late on Wednesday evening, having also flown out from Stansted. Wednesday was also the day that the England football team was due to play Greece at the start of Steve MacLaren’s reign as England Manager. We didn’t think the match would be on Spanish or Portuguese TV (Which is the only stations we can receive in the Apartment at the moment, until we get Satellite TV installed), so we decided to go to the Outback at Isla Canela early doors for a meal, and to secure good seats to watch the match on their TV. I was worried that Claire and pals would arrive early, and we would miss the end of the match, but the timing couldn’t have worked out better, as we returned back to the Apartment after the match in plenty of time before the kids arrived. As it was, I had to keep them informed of the score by text messages, as they drove from Seville to Ayamonte, a pleasing task as England racked up four goals to win 4-0.


Fortunately, we were able to warn Claire and pals about our experience at the airport, so they were better organized, and got through Passport Control and collected their car much more efficiently than we had. They followed the directions we gave them to Esuri and arrived at about 11PM in the evening. Having six in the Apartment for a couple of days gave us a chance to try out the sofa bed we had bought, and experience the Apartment with six bodies in it. The sofa bed proved very comfortable (Carole and I used it on the basis that we would rise well before the younger generation – the things you do for your kids!), and overall we were pleased to find that six in the Apartment is no trouble at all. I think the large terrace helps, as we tend to spend most of the day outside on it.


On the Thursday, we drove into Ayamonte, to show the kids around the town, and then headed off to Isla Canela Marina for a lazy lunch. Carole and I headed back to the Apartment, whilst our guests stayed on, for a stroll on the beach. On the previous day, the only parking space I could find was by the port, and on the walk back into Ayamonte town centre, I had come across another hardware store. I called in for a nosy around, and was amazed to find just the type of Safe I was looking for, with English instructions, and at a reasonable price (approx. 55 Euros). It was the only one in the shop, so I had no hesitation in buying it, and I used the Thursday afternoon to fit it into the Apartment. As it is almost impossible to anchor a Safe to anywhere solid with the Apartments, I don’t for one minute think it would deter a professional thief. Hopefully, however, it will give our future guests somewhere to store their passports, documents, and other valuables, and provide a deterrent to any opportunist thief. The base of the wardrobes are fairly solid wood, about 1 inch thick,  so I anchored the safe to this, using metal expanding rawlplugs through the base of the safe, direct into the wardrobe floor.


Thursday evening was spent on our terrace with out guests, some very enjoyable BBQ food we had bought from Ayamonte, and quite a lot of drinks (I didn’t want to leave too many beers in the fridge for the kids; it would have been a bad example).


Our flight back to the UK on the Friday Morning was planned to leave Seville at about 10:30AM, so we had an early start. Claire managed to drag herself out of bed to wish us bon voyage, and then promptly disappeared back to bed. Carole likes to arrive at the Airport well before normal check-in time, where I usually like to arrive as late as possible, to avoid any unnecessary hanging around. We usually compromise (to Carole’s point of view!), so we were well on time to arrive early at the Airport. The deal with the car hire firm was to return the car with a full tank of petrol (this is what we had collected), or pay for any shortfall. I had previously learnt that car hire companies tend to charge exorbitant rates for refueling their cars, so I was on the lookout for a petrol Station as we headed on the Motorway back to Seville. I spotted a service area about 30 kilometers outside Seville, but ignored it, on the basis that there would be one nearer Airport, still on the Motorway. Wrong! As we got closer and closer to the Airport, I began to wish I had filled up earlier. We arrived at the Airport, with no sign of a Petrol Station or Service Area on the Motorway. I was all for coming back out of the Airport, and heading towards town, where I was sure we would find some fuel. However, by now Carole was panicking that if we did that we would miss our flight (this was with at least two hours to take-off!), so for peace and quiet, I settled for returning the car with a tank three-quarters empty. At check in, my fears about the price of refueling where confirmed, when we were charged over 90 Euros for three-quarters of a tank of petrol. Next time, I will fill up when I am within about 40 Kilometers of the Airport, to be on the safe side.


Still feeling a bit aggrieved about the petrol situation, we headed into the Airport for a spot of breakfast, prior to the flight. We were having trouble locating a toilet that was open, and found out why when we tried to get a pot of tea. All the water in the Airport was off, so no drinks were available (apart from bottled Coke), no food was being cooked, and the loo’s were cordoned off! I bought a Coke, Kit-Kat, and crossed my legs.


It was a relief in more ways than one when we got on the plane, and headed back to Stansted. However, when we arrived, and collected our cases from the carousel. There was no sign of our golf clubs. I waited until I was sure they were not going to appear, and then headed to the lost luggage area. After waiting for about 15 minutes in a queue, the chap at the desk asked me if I had checked if my clubs were on ‘Carousel A’. Apparently, at Stansted, (unlike other Airports we have used), unusual items (i.e. golf clubs), are returned to a different carousel than cases. Now this may have been my fault if it was prominently displayed that this was the case, but if it was, I hadn’t seen any notices whilst waiting at the ‘normal’ carousel. Anyway, I was just relieved to get my clubs back, so we headed for the courtesy bus to take us back to the Hilton, to collect our car.  We eventually got our breakfast at mid afternoon at the Little Chef on the A14.


So ended our fourth stay in the Apartment this year. As before, we had a really enjoyable time at CE, and it left us wanting more. It’s great to see the progress being made at each visit, the golf course is now starting to look a lot greener, and the cranes have been erected, ready to start building at the Commercial Centre. The kids stayed on for another week, and we were pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed their stay, and how much they are looking forward to going back. They told us they were impressed with the variety of things to do within easy reach of CE. They had a day at Monte Gordo, another at Albefuera, and another at the Waterworld Park at Vilamoura. This was as well as lots of time on the beach at Isla Canela, and just chilling out around the pool at the Apartment. We always knew CE would provide the sort of environment we enjoy for our holidays, and it’s good to hear that it also has lots to offer the younger generation.