In the past, we have always spent Christmas and the New Year either at home, or with our relatives in Liverpool, and really expected to do the same this year. However, when we found that Carole had an additional two ‘Baker Days’ tagged onto the Christmas break, and that meant that this year, in effect, another full week off work before returning to school in the New Year, the hunt was on for cheap flights to Spain. Although all our girls have now flown the nest, it was considered too big a step to spend Christmas and the New Year abroad, so we decided to continue with the traditional festivities at home, but to try to spend New Year at our new Spanish home. We were fortunate in that we found reasonably priced flights from Manchester, leaving on Dec 30th, and returning on Jan 6. Even better, we heard via the Ex-Pats Forum that there was to be a New Years Eve Party at the Golf Club, so as soon as the tickets became available, we reserved our places.
Knowing how fickle the weather can be at this time of year, we again booked into the Britannia Country House Hotel in Manchester the night before the flight. We booked this stay before our previous stay at the Britannia Airport Hotel in Manchester, or we would have chosen to stay there, following our earlier experience at the Country House. By now the new UK Smoking Policy was in force, (and neither of the Manchester Teams was playing the following day) so we thought that it wouldn’t be as bad an experience as we suffered earlier in 2007. Wrong!
It all started quite well when we arrived in a hotel were you could see one end of the lobby from the other (lack of smoke!), and the room didn’t seem too bad either. Having dropped the bags off in the room, and freshened up after our trip across the Pennines, we decided to brave the Restaurant again. When we entered, it was disappointing to note that only a Carvery was available, but what the heck, the wine would soon make up for that. There were only a few tables occupied in the Restaurant, so it was a bit surprising to be told we would have a 30 minute wait to be seated. “What about all the empty tables” I enquired. “Oh, they are set for Breakfast, not Dinner, so you will have to wait until some of the Diners leave, we can’t change them” we were informed. That did it for me, so we decided to get the car out again, brave the night, and find somewhere to eat that wanted our custom. As it happened, we found a delightful Italian Restaurant about a mile away, were we had a lovely meal, the only down side being that of course, I was restricted to one glass of wine.
When we returned to the hotel, we decide to retire straight away, as we had an early start the following morning, and thought we could do with the rest. Wrong again, we were kept awake most of the night by some children who decided that corridor outside our room doubled as perfectly good running track, or football field, I never did establish quite which.
Maybe we have just been unlucky at this particular Hotel, as the two others in the chain we have stayed at (The Airport hotels in Manchester and Leeds) have been OK, but I think we will probably sleep in a bus shelter before we stay at the Country House again.
Anyway, these minor inconveniences soon paled into insignificance when we arrived back at our Apartment in Spain. I had swapped e-mails with another Esurian I had met through the Forum, and my ramblings on this blog, and I was delighted to find that he would be out at Esuri the same time as us, so we arranged to play golf together. Ken and Pam were joined on this trip by their friends Peter and Glenys, and when we met in the bar, we found that although none of us lived in Liverpool any more, we were all ex-Scousers, and had in fact grown up in the same areas of Liverpool. This led to much reminiscing, and some leg pulling, as obviously, some of us were true believers from the Blue side of town, whilst others were from the Red side (spit!).
The actual New Years Eve Party itself was a great success. It was good to see that there were several tables of Spaniards, as well as many of Ex-Pats; one of the encouraging features of Costa Esuri is that it is not a ‘Little Britain’ but a true multi cultural society. As we had just booked a table for two, we were pleased to find that we had been seated next to Jeff and Anne, who were very good company. Jeff told me that he had e-mailed me earlier in the year, through my website, when they were looking for a place to stay at CE, before they completed on their own place, but I had turned him away! In mitigation, I explained that we are only loaning our place to friends and family (and I didn’t know him at the time), but a least I think I had given him a couple of other e-mail addresses to try.
The meal on the evening was fantastic! The starter table was full to overflowing, with salad, prawns, lobster, salmon, etc. etc. In fact I made the mistake (as many did, I have subsequently learnt), of thinking this was the full buffet meal, so went back for a couple of helpings. Of course, when the next course arrived (soup), then sorbet, and then a wonderful steak, I was unable to take full advantage. Carole, rather smugly, says I should have noticed that they were several settings of cutlery, which should have alerted me to the fact that there were several courses.
The evening’s entertainment was provided by a duo whose repertoire of songs got most of us up onto the dance floor. As this was the first New Years event at the golf club, most of us were unsure of the dress code, so this ranged from casual, to smart, to formal, to black tie! Rather than distract from the event, this added to it. Some of the Spanish Ladies in particular were stunning in their Evening Dresses. As midnight arrived, Carole decided to practise her Spanish, and wished most of these ladies a ‘Feliz Año Nuevo’ with a kiss. I must remember this trick next year!
It must have been a very good party; neither of us can remember the walk home afterwards!
The next few days were spent relaxing, playing golf, and some excellent evenings out with Ken, Pam, Peter, and Glenys, and Dave & Kathy, who had come out to CE for a few days after New Year.
I must just recount one final story from this week. After a few drinks one night at the Golf Club, Ken, Pam, Peter and Glenys joined us back at our Apartment for a nightcap. As Peter was making a point in the conversation, there was a load crash. He had managed to swipe a vase from the table at the side of his seat, onto the unforgiving tile floor. As can be imagined, he was horrified, and full of apologies. Carole swung between telling him that it didn’t matter, and pulling his leg that it was a family heirloom. Poor Peter obviously felt dreadful, but in reality, it was just one of those little accidents that can happen at any time. Anyway, next day, there was a ring of the doorbell, and there was Peter, still full of apologies, and with a beautiful plant for Carole, by way of recompense.
I make no apologies for recounting this story here; Ken had promised that everyone in their local pub would know about it within a few days of their return to Wigan!
One disappointment of our New Year trip was that I had forgotten to take my camera. I am a gadget freak, and I have one of those PDA’s that function as a Phone, Computer, Sat Nav Camera etc. in fact it does most things except make the tea (Carole does that !). However, its weakest feature is the camera, the pictures it takes leave a lot to be desired, although as you may see later, the video it is capable of taking is not too bad. Anyway, the pictures I tried to take of the New Year’s Eve Party were abysmal, so none feature in our Picture Gallery. If anyone has some decent picture of the evening, please e-mail them to me for my collection.
I didn’t get the usual depression about returning home, as I had arranged another boy's golfing weekend for the third week of January, so only had another couple of weeks to wait for my next CE fix. Rather than have two separate weekends at CE for my golfing pals this year, I managed to hire the next door Apartment to ours, so the eight of us flew out together for the weekend. After last years problems, we decided to catch the ‘red-eye’ Easyjet from East Midlands Airport at 6AM on the Friday Morning, and return on the evening Jet2 flight to Leeds-Bradford on the Sunday Evening. Of course the down side to this was that, despite needing one less day off work by going Friday morning instead of Thursday afternoon, we had to leave Sheffield by 3AM to get to EMA in time. A couple of the younger elements from the party (Jeremy and David) decided that the best course of action was to have a night out on the Thursday, and not bother going home to bed. Those of us with a little (not a lot) more sense decided on an early night, before an early rise to be collected by the minibus. The guys who partied through the night just about made it to the collection point, but claim not to remember much before waking up on the approach to Faro.
Having done this trip twice last year, we had the timing down to a fine art, and managed to drop the cases at the Apartments, before some basic shopping at La Plaza, and a tee off at Castro Marim in the afternoon. I managed a reasonable score at CM in our small weekend competition, and then suffered from some dreadful slashing of my handicap by my fellow competitors, meaning I had no chance of winning the weekend overall, but I’m not bitter! Andrew Shanks of Andalgarve had kindly arranged the booking of the three games we planned for the weekend, at Castro Marim, Costa Esuri, and El Rompido, and he also managed to rustle up a team of four local Esurians to play us at CE on the Saturday Afternoon. Jeremy and I played Andrew and Bert, and David and Paul played Keith and Benny. I was going to say that modesty forbids me from revealing the winners, but in fact it is forgetfulness. Suffice to say we all had an enjoyable afternoon’s golf in glorious sunshine. The day continued in good vein when we got back to the clubhouse, where Benny and Keith’s wives joined us in the clubhouse, and we enjoyed the afternoon sun, and a few drinks on the terrace. I recalled that we were due to be going out for a meal that evening, and realised that I was out of my depth in drinking terms with Jeremy, David and Paul, so in best newspaper reporter fashion, I made my excuses and left.
During our trip over New Year, Carole and myself, together with David and Kathy had visited the Argentinean Restaurant opposite La Plaza, and had enjoyed a wonderful steak, so I had already decide that this was where we would spend our Saturday Evening. The rest of the guys and myself wandered down to the Golf Club, where Jeremy, David and Paul were still enjoying the afternoon session. We had arranged for Vicente (and his brother Jose) to collect us from there, and take us all to the Argentinean, where we again enjoyed a great steak meal. Unfortunately, the afternoon’s excesses caught up with Paul halfway through the evening, and he managed to fall asleep, whilst still upright in his chair! Whilst the rest of us called Vicente and Jose to take us back to the Apartments after the meal, Jeremy and David decided that the night was still young, and headed into the town in search of more entertainment. One can only marvel at their constitution!
The Sunday found us at El Rompido for the final day’s golf. I was drawn to play with Paul, who couldn’t understand why he played so bad on this day! After a good front nine, I was piped at the post for the overall winner of the weekend, on the back nine by Chris. This was no doubt due to the savage reduction in my handicap by my playing partners, but I’m not bitter. After an enjoyable lunch on the terrace of El Rompido, we headed back to CE to collect our bags, then on to the airport for the flight back home.
Our third trip of this year to CE came during the half-term holidays in February. As we had a mid-afternoon flight from Manchester this time, we decided to drive across the Pennines, and leave the car at one of the many Airport Car Park’s before we met up with Carole’s sister Dorothy, and her husband David, for the flight to Faro.
Whilst we had been out over the New Year period, we had been fortunate to have a day’s cross-over with our friends Mike & Barbara, and their son Jonathan, so we organised a meal out at Monte Gordo. This time, just Barbara, and her daughter Joanna were at CE for a few days whilst we were there, so we met up at the clubhouse for an evening meal.
David, my brother-in-law is also a keen golfer, so we managed four rounds of golf in the week we were at CE. It was lucky that our visit coincided with one of the fortnightly ‘Esuri Pro’ golf competitions. These are held bi-weekly on Wednesday afternoons, and consist of a stableford competition, followed by a Tapas Meal in the clubhouse. I have managed to play in a few of these competitions during my visits to Esuri, and they are very friendly affairs, enjoyed by all who take part, whether member, local, or visitor. Yet again, we visited the Argentinean restaurant, which has now become a firm favourite, and we also enjoyed a lunchtime meal on the waterfront at El Rompido with the girls. However, I have a confession to make. Despite the steaks at the Argentinean, the Italian Meals in Ayamonte, and the Spanish Tapas at the Golf Club, I still can’t resist the wonderful Sausage, Egg & Chips we managed to have for lunch each trip at the Outback in Isla Canella! The day we ate there was the birthday of a friend of mine Joe (the Irish, Manchester United supporter I have mentioned before). Joe and Barbara had decided not to visit their place in Denia this holiday, so we were determined to make them as jealous as possible about our week in Ayamonte. I had never tried the video recording capability of my PDA before, so we decided that we would try to send them a video of the warm, sunny weather we were enjoying, disguised as a birthday wish. This is how Carole and I came to be found in our shirtsleeves, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on the Marina at Isla Canella on a cool day in February. When I came to try to send the video to Joe, I found that it was too big to send as an MMS Message. Knowing that free wireless connection is now available at the CE clubhouse, I managed to upload the video to my webmail account, and e-mail the results to Joe so that he could enjoy it (!) on his birthday. If you have an mp4 player on your PC, and can stand the out of tune wailing, you can download the short video clip here. The wonders of modern science!
One of our other favourite watering holes is La Bretagne at Isla Canella. On the day we signed up for the Apartment in October 2004, we spent the evening celebrating with another couple who had bought a place in Portugal, at La Bretagne. Ever since then, we have tried to spend a night of whichever holiday we have been on at this restaurant, and have had some memorable meals there. This year, as our visit coincided with St. Valentine’s night, and the restaurant had a special menu, and was decorated for the evening, we spent our last night there. I was surprised to find that Philippe, the usual host, was not there, and found myself chatting to the new owner Sergio. He told us that he had taken over the place in the last fortnight, and hoped to build on the good reputation the restaurant enjoyed under Phillipe’s ownership. We had a thoroughly good meal there, and if this is an indication of what is to come, the restaurant remains in good hands.
One final episode of our week at CE in February is worth recording. On the Sunday Morning, Carole noticed that one of the Apartment is Bloque 9 had sprouted a satellite dish overnight ! The strange thing was this dish was not on the roof, but had been attached to one of the poles supporting the fences between the ground floor Apartments. The wire fence had been peeled back, to allow the dish to be attached to the pole. I went into ‘Mr Angry from Sheffield’ mode, and decided I could have much fun by photographing the offending article, and posting pictures on the Ex-Pats Forum, to see what indignation I could elicit from other owners about this clear breach of the rules. However, when we got up next morning, the dish had disappeared, and this was before I had a chance to photograph the offending article. Goodness knows what this was all about. I did think that the position of the dish near to the ground, and seemingly facing into the Apartments was rather strange. Maybe it was a bugging devise, and we have international espionage going on at Costa Esuri.
Talking about Satellite dishes on the rooftops, leads onto the subject of when we are going to have them linked into the Apartments. It is still only possible to pick up terrestrial Spanish and Portugese Programs on the tv in the Apartment, despite having wall sockets for satellite connection.. When satellite is available, I suspect we will invest in a digibox, to collect some English speaking channels. I called into the ADA offices to enquire about this during our February visit, and was told that this connection was imminent in the next month or so, and should be completed before our next visit in April. However, as with all promises of action by Fadesa at Costa Esuri, I will believe it when it happens.