It's about 25 degrees Celsius here on the Costa del Sol as I type this blog. While I haven't kept away from Spain entirely; I've had a jaunt to both Barcelona and Alicante in the last six or so years; I've deliberately kept away from Benalmadena and the Costa del Sol given the fact that I spent a lot of time here as a kid and I believed that "I'd done it all".
Returning to a place that I'd spent 6 to 7 weeks of my life each year between 1987 and 1994 was odd; I calculated that the last time I would have been here was in 2004 when I did a few things for my grandad, and brought a close friend with me. I had no wish to come back after that, but recently I had a hankering to walk down memory lane and look at some of the old places that I used to hang out in as a kid.
While the apartment that my grandparents lived in was in a tourist area, Nan and Grandad were sufficiently resident enough that we were relatively isolated from many of the touristy things. I'm staying in a hotel here this time, and a tourist one at that which is a bit of an eyeopener for me. I tend to go to places off the beaten track, so to be in a hotel with a large number of Brits is for me, at least, quite unusual. I'm honestly unimpressed with my kinfolk - loud, rude and inconsiderate are all adjectives that come to mind, and it is a shame for me to see the Spanish culture being eroded by these idiots that come out here for a cheap package holiday. Few people I saw could even order a beer in Spanish, and often all people wanted to do was lie around a pool and not really move outside of the hotel complex.
Things in and around the apartment complex don't seem to have changed much; CCTV has been installed, there is evidence of cable TV and/or internet, but internally things are much the same as they were when I left them 12 or so years ago. Shops have closed, and it was a shame to see the restaurant unit next to the reception area lying empty. Otherwise, shop, restaurants and the like had opened, others had closed, but I did see a lot of empty units. What was particularly interesting was that some businesses had opened in units that I never thought would be occupied - The Spanish have a tendency to leave the ground floor of most buildings as commercial space and given the property boom in the 80s and early 90s, many buildings were put up quickly in the area with the ground floors bricked up waiting for a commercial unit to move in. Even when I wound things up over here in 2003, there were a number of units left empty which had never been occupied, and in my mind, would probably never be occupied. It was nice to see some of the more difficult (in my mind) units now being used, and a shame to see that some of the older businesses had either moved from long standing locations or gone out of business completely.
Whenever I came to Spain, I would take a trip to a shop called "Manferga" where I would buy shoes for school, or a pair of trainers. It had a prime position in Arroyo de la Miel, on the corner of Av. Federico Garcia Lorca and Av. de la Constitucion. Sadly, it appears that the economic crisis hit them too, and this long standing bastion of low prices (El rey de los precios!) bit the dust in 2013.
Similarly, you can see that the economic crisis has hit this area hard. There are many boarded up shops; abandoned supermarkets, restaurants, nightclubs and even hotels. To me, while the place evokes memories, both bad and good, it is heartbreaking to see so many businesses, and perhaps lives too, having gone to the wall.
An interesting visit.