Food for thought

G and Grimble:

The holiday was drawing to a far too early close. The car contained an inordinate amount of red wine and cava that Grimble had tried to convince herself would keep until Christmas. Their clothes contained so much sand that they could have easily developed a small beach resort once back in Highworth.

They loved the Costa Alhazar and were beginning to consider plans that might not just make this a holiday destination. They’d don’t it before, so why not, again? But for now this was a holiday drawing to a close. They considered the highlights. The food was definitely part of the Peniscola appeal. This was Valencia province, home of paella and all things fish. They’d demolished whole pans of fideua, the noodle version of paella, packed with fish that a few hours before had been in the sea. Langoustines that had the aspiration to be lobsters with their immense girth. G and Grimble had almost mastered the art of shelling fish, though Grimble had been maimed a couple of times by their razor like fierceness.

They had shared T bone steaks which would have happily fed Desperate Dan. They had shared memories that were mostly great ones. They’d shared bottles of red wine with artistic labels whose price tags were so cheap that they belied the quality inside. And then they had shared dreams. It seemed G and Grimble didn’t want a permanent grey sky in their lives. Holidays were designed to reinvigorate but this one had really made them contemplate where they wanted to be. They knew that when they returned to the UK, the winter would be fast approaching and there would be the long damp, cold weekend nights watching X Factor. Yes, they always had their next tours planned as Grimble was an organising menace, but they needed more than just a tour plan. They needed an exit plan. So they decided to supplement their X factor, Chinese takeaways and bottles of red with plotting a different type of possible future.

They left Spain slowly not because of depression, though it didn’t help, but because the buggers on the French border hadn’t fixed the toll booths meaning that, on one of the busiest travelling days of the summer, a mass of traffic was trying to squeeze through the few booths left working. Combine this with 30 degree heat and this journey was far from great. They spent two hours of being stationary near the Spanish border town of La Jonquera which seemed to have been transported out of the Wild West with its neon strip of outlets, signs offering cheap booze, fags, gas and women. The Pyrenees are stunning. La Jonquera less so. However, in the long queue, at least it offered something visual and they contemplated what it would be like to live in this seedy, unruly border town.

G and Grimble motored slowly through France, to the North and, as expected the sky turned grey and with the grey they felt the holiday glow fading. In a desperate attempt to maintain the holiday just a little more, Grimble had refused to book a chain hotel that bordered the motorway however convenient that might have been. She insisted on a short journey into rural France to the aptly named Carpe Diem hotel. She felt the name encapsulated their hopes. However, this was rural France in August and they had until 11pm to arrive, which was actually beyond the normal as usually France shut down for the whole of August. This was a feature of Southern Europe that had always mystified G and Grimble. How could such beautiful tourist draw areas effectively shut their doors at the most tourist time of the year? The time of 11pm had been well within their reach until the French border debacle. Now, it was touch and go especially as SatNav lady really had not liked G and Grimble’s rural escapades and they were concerned that she might again go rogue. They moved down darkened roads and it was hard to see where they might end up. However, there it was: Savigneux and Carpe Diem. At 10.45pm, the lights indicated it was still awake unlike G and Grimble who’d traveled for over twelve hours and were feeling dazed, cramped and exhausted.

Terrified that they might get locked out and desperate to get into bed, Grimble darted into the hotel before G had even parked up, almost leaping from the moving vehicle. Despite the fact that they were probably the last to arrive, Grimble insisted on attempting to communicate with the lady on reception as to her reservation. This she did in a very unique mixture of Spanish, French, a touch of English and she was pretty sure some German invaded her sentence too. Luckily, they really were the last to arrive so really her attempt to convince Europe that the English were able to master languages, clearly not just one, were wasted. However, there was still a local group’s dinner happening on the terrace and Grimble requested as to whether it was too late to have a bottle of red there. She did not want the holiday to end. She wanted their last day to have some greater joy than traffic queues, horrible motorway services toilets and overinflated prices for everything. This was an attempt to seize the moment as the hotel’s name claimed and create something more joyful to recall.

Thus, they sat on a terrace drinking from a very palatable, and complimentary, Beaujolais. As an even greater bonus, the group dining invited them to share their desserts. And they drank wine, ate divine chocolate mouse and scrumptious ice cream cake and contemplated how the small acts of kindness just added to the happiness they felt. They tumbled into bed knowing tomorrow they would return to the UK, to Wiltshire, to Highworth and to work.

G and Grimble realised that their dreams would take a couple of years to materialise because, whilst running away was always tempting, it was not a suitable way for people of their maturity to behave. In that time in between, they vowed to have more adventures, more misunderstandings and more mischief which they might just recollect on this page.

G and Grimble go day tripping

In a spirit of adventure, G and Grimble drove not very far South to Alcossebre. Why? They’d heard that there was a small English enclave and wanted to see what that entailed.

There was a short road journey. They saw olive tress, a ruined castle, more olive trees and roadside ladies dressed in their bikinis sat under parasols on dirt tracks off the highway. What a sad and dangerous, horrible lifestyle thought Grimble and G as they tried to avert their eyes but couldn’t help but be drawn to the mish mash of a smoking peroxide blonde, heavily made-up, in limited attire and and clearly sweaty in heat and by that she meant the heat of the sun. Often these ladies were languishing and reading a book. Grimble mused on the incompatibility of waiting for some seedy client with the passivity of a book: escapism perhaps?

They arrived at Alcossebre which had free parking: a bonus! However, their immediate reaction was not one of love. It was all rather dusty and looked a little forlorn. The promenade was attractive but the beach was small and completely rammed. As they looked down at the mass of sun sweaty humanity and a myriad of parasols, they couldn’t see a small two bum space for them and knew that this would not be a beach day. However, Alcossebre didn’t seem to have a great deal to see, other than the nearby Sierra de Irta national park.

G and Grimble discussed a trip to the wilderness. However, it became evident from the signs everywhere, loads of police and lots of bikes, that they were not the only ones with this idea. In fact, and inadvertently, they had arrived on the same day as the Tour d’Espana. It was due to hurtle into town and up some giant hill in the Sierra de Irta within a few hours: taking seconds but causing a town blockage for hours. This gave G and Grimble an even bigger excuse to quit Alcossobre as soon as another coffee would allow. Grimble was not a fan of men in tight lycra, even sporty ones. In fact, she was still trying to unsee the two men on Calella beach a week earlier who had sported lycra neon thongs. She had yet to totally purge her mind of the nasty neon and another Lycra sighting might cause a relapse which she was loathe to allow.

This supposed English enclave was definitely well secreted. Then, on their way out, G and Grimble spotted evidence as to their possible existence. Tucked on a narrow street was a charity shop. Only the English love transforming any high street into a charity shop haven. The name of the charity was as elusive as the English who used it but it was there, along with an English notice board offering the usual: odd jobs, computer repair, man with a van and translation. G and Grimble would not be joining them.

They left Alcossebre with a feeling of great indifference. They’d never fully understand why it didn’t attract them. They passed by empty roadside parasols and decided not to look too closely, convincing themselves that the roadside ladies had opted for an early siesta and were not occupied in some olive bush or perhaps in the library to select another novel.

As they were earlier than anticipated, G uttered the fatal words: Mercadona and Grimble was reinvigorated at the prospect of a supermarket sweep. She claimed her list of items needed was in her head. She scoured the aisles for wine, fuet and olive oil shower gel. Clearly, a real list would have saved time and ensured a more methodical approach to these purchases, but Grimble was happy. G liked to see Grimble content. However, he was warding off starvation and a menu del dia seemed to be not in the immediate schedule, so he placed crab sticks from the chiller into Grimble’s haphazard cart. Like a bird of prey, she spotted the luminous pink things and inquired as to why they were there. The starving G explained his enforced fast. Grimble retorted that she hated being rushed but the arrival of an alien in the basket did seem to motivate a swift conclusion.

However, time had mysteriously vanished and, by the time they returned to the hotel, the owner simply laughed when they requested food. G had to survive on crab sticks and coffee until supper.

Their next adventure was to the neighbouring resort of Beniclaro because they liked the name. As they set off, Grimble suddenly threw a curve ball detour by stating weekly market, Vinaros was on and overrode Sat Nav lady in her desperation to view, and possibly, purchase tat. From the outskirts, Vinaros did not appear that encouraging, although Grimble did observe and note the direction of Carrefour, just in case.

However, once free parked and munching on scrummy churros dipped in divine chocolate at the perfectly named Bar Moustache as Grimble had just given herself a chocolate one in this sunny square, the place began to attract them. Whist it was supposed to be a short stop before Benny Carlos, as they had renamed it, G booked in for a tattoo six hours later, forcing them to explore Vinaros. Vinaros was just their sort of place: lively, awesome beach front and very local. They never found the street market but it did not matter. They did find the town, Mercado and Grimble was delighted just looking at produce including the live razor clams poking their slimy worm like shapes out of long shells and live lobsters clicking their claws like castanets. She bought several garlic bulbs and G tentatively suggested that these could be bought in U.K. Grimble furrowed her brow and patiently explained that Asda garlic was not the same and whilst Waitrose might be close, they could fly to Spain cheaper than buying it there. She understood and emphasised with Spanish people living in U.K. who wanted to carry a three foot serrano leg on a Ryan Air flight but was mystified as to why the English abroad yearned for roasts and a full English.

Happily, they explored, the streets, the port and the cafes. Vinaros felt right. Even after the tattoo, they stayed a little longer drinking more coffee at yet another cafe and people watching. It was funny how somewhere they’d never considered visiting suddenly became the most interesting and engaging

Their trip to Benny Carlos wasn’t to be and they even postponed Carrefour. Vinaros had so enticed them, that G and Grimble had missed their siesta in favour of wandering. That’s when the love is real. No siesta, no Carrefour. They’d discuss the significance of this later.

Castle and culture

Grimble and G:

You couldn’t visit a resort in the shadow of a bloody great castle and not visit it especially when the entrance fee was a desultory 5€. Culture and a bargain. Grimble loved both. So it was that Grimble risked the wrath of grumpy G by waking him earlier than usual so that they could do culture before it went too hot and before the crowds invaded the castle far more successfully than the Moors ever did.

Grimble decided that this would be a day of two halves. Castle culture in the morning. Lunch, siesta and a late afternoon sail for two hours that included a dip in the sea. Thus for the first half, Grimble would not need to look like a proverbial Spanish donkey carrying all things for every eventuality. She would travel light. With her shoulder bag that contained her basics and, of course G’s basics too. Once, she had made a muted suggestion that now they were in continental places, perhaps G would like a man bag? His reaction ranged from incredulous to scathing to shock that such an outrage could even be considered by his usually thoughtful Grimble. She had to pass it off quickly as an attempt at humour to which he grunted and the moment moved on. So, even on the lightest trip days, Grimble still wandered several paces behind G, with a heavy load making her stumble like Quasimodo. This was possibly an apt role for a medieval castle.

They walked through the town built precariously round the castle, taking lots of photos. This required G requesting, at numerous intervals, his phone. Instead of holding this phone, after each photo, G would return it to the bag and, despite it being placed on top, it managed to worm itself down into the depths and hide awkwardly. Thus, every demand for said phone, required Grimble unpacking and repacking the bag and her expletive ridden mutters were becoming quite audible.

Eventually, they made it, 1000 shots later to the castle and it was impressive. The views were spectacular and the health and safety non existent with slippy steps and narrow walk ways. There was no system and the free for all added to the charm as they waited several long minutes as the seemingly entire population of Italy descended on narrow step way as only Italians could: noisily and with no sense of speed, stopping to chat and chunner on each and every step as G and Grimble waited, and waited. After several more step ways like this, G decided that these one foot stairways would easily take the girth of two, or as he put it, he wasn’t fucking waiting at every one, and they both happily squashed the somewhat alarmed tourists.

On the top of one turret, Grimble mused that they really did need some organisation and a one way system was not a bad thing. She also recalled that she suffered from vertigo and, thus, it was time to go. They left at the point were it was neither lunch or not lunch. That odd time in Spain of 12.30. However the castle was in the tourist heartland where normal times did not apply and fully aware that they were about to be ripped off, they settled on one courtyard cafe, which seemingly offered a 9.50€ menu del dia, minus drinks. Even here, which they would both later claim was the worst meal of the holiday (apart from the time when Grimble inadvertently ordered liver, only having understood the pork bit. Oh how G laughed as she chewed reluctantly with an expression like a smacked arse. That was not bad cooking, it was just bad judgement on the part of Grimble) the tourist food was edible if dull and did little to illuminate any tourist as to the usual splendours of Spanish cooking. The service was efficient but indifferent. There was an attempt to sneak in an extra dish left side that Grimble deftly handled with a loud NO!

So why didn’t they leave the tourist trap area to eat? Because the entrance fee also included a visit to the garden at the bottom of the castle and, with Grimble’s rigorous scheduling, she knew if they did castle and garden in one go, they’d be well out of line for achieving lunch. There was one flaw in the plan, Grimble hadn’t accounted for the garden being somewhat dull and to do it all, meant descending quite a long way, only to have to climb back up, in the now sweltering heat, to exit and then have to follow the road down again to leave the old town. It all seemed like a lot of faffing which a simple exit at the bottom of the garden could have rectified. As it was, they spent just ten minutes looking around the top level. Grimble commented to G that she though the array of stuffed birds of prey rather odd, whereupon G explained to Grimble that they were actually stuffed just inactive and comatose in the intense heat and if he didn’t leave soon he was likely to fucking join them.

Thus, the morning’s culture had been completed to Grimble’s satisfaction. They could now siesta like natives until the time to leave for the 5pm sail. Grimble had even asked the boat man en route to the castle as to the likelihood of a sail that required 20 passengers minimum. He had answered with a confident si.

Grimble once again risked a grumbling G breaking into his siesta at 4.15 with a happy expectancy of a lovely cooling sail. This was a two bag trip. They’d need a towel for the drying off. Suncreams would need to be transported too. And so, happy at the thought of a sail, Grimble almost contentedly carried the bags. In what was now stifling mid afternoon heat, they trampled the 15 minutes to the port. The short half hour trip pleasure cruiser was already busy with people hanging listless from it but their boat for the two hour sailing, ominously empty. However, Grimble remembered the positive si of several hours earlier and approached the man. He directed her to another bloke. This man was wizened and salty sea dog like with that grizzled Ancient Mariner expression. Undaunted, Grimble asked about the 5pm sailing. He answered with a firm no and directed G and Grimble’s gaze outward to the Mediterranean Sea. He claimed in Spanish with hand gestures for dramatic emphasis that the sea was rough and choppy. To be honest, from where G and Grimble were stood, the only high sea drama was this man’s performance. Yes, they would accept that it was a bit windy but it was hardly the maelstrom he was describing. As boat owners themselves, they were not convinced. G muttered to Grimble to give him the bloody keys and he’d sail the bugger and added something about the Armada and how a bit of wind had fucked that up too.

They were even less convinced when the salty sea dog tried, as an alternative to their thwarted plans, to offer them the short trip. They declined for two reasons: the first, how come that sail could go on the very same sea and secondly the sail he offered was 10€ for 30 minutes. The sail that they’d wanted was 15€ for 2 hours. This wasn’t the maths of Einstein. As they left, he shouted after them, the words that Grimble had never actually heard spoken in all her time living in Spain: mañana. At this point, they both decided boat trips were not to be. Instead, after purchasing another beach sheet, as the one tiny drying towel would not suffice for both their bums, they sat on the beach until sunset. They went in the sea without being swept away in a forceful wind and considered their day of culture.

They’d enjoyed being tourists but G and Grimble agreed they enjoyed being lazy bastards more. They resolved that they would take a car trip to neighbouring resorts to have a look and sit on neighbouring beaches. Grimble also suggested, and G agreed, that trips to Mercadona and Carrefour to buy lots of wine, Spanish sausages and stuff also constituted culture as they couldn’t do that back home. With their definition of culture now firmly established, Grimble and G relaxed and contemplated their seafood dinner to come.

G and Grimble do Beach heaven and hell

Days: image

Peniscola. It was almost too pretty to be real. The castle and the sea sat on a peninsula, the fortress built on a hill. It dominated the world below. It invited exploration and G and Grimble intended to: eventually.

Satnav lady had directed them nearly faultlessly to their destination only messing up once with her finishing, which seemed habitual. She directed them into a modern housing estate and, as occurred with the crisis, it ended abruptly in an arid piece of scrubland whereupon Satnav lady declared they had reached their destination. Grimble had done research when planning this holiday. She knew this to be untrue. So Google nav once again took charge.

They arrived at Camping Ferrer and anyone who thinks that Grimble was going under canvass for the majority of her holiday, does not really know Grimble. In fact, Grimble did own a tent that had an array of empty alcohol bottles as the backdrop to the canvass. Grimble had never slept in it. G had had to erect it, the tent that is and other friends had reposed in it. However, Camping Ferrer was an all encompassing business: campsite, self catering lodges, small hotel and quite possibly the busiest bar in Spain. The reasons Grimble selected it: pool, proximity to the sea and parking.

Parking…hmmm the official hotel bar parking was insane. Cars were parked 3 deep. There were vans that had called to deliver and stopped for a menu del dia and beers. There were scooters closing up any narrow gaps between cars. It was sheer madness. The owner gave them a camping bay for their car and explained that the car park would become quieter “mas tarde”. Several days into their stop here, they still awaited “mas tarde” and their car remained a happy camper.

The beach beckoned G and Grimble and so they loaded up: folding mats, parasol, towels, sun cream, cooling drinks and wandered to the shore. Peniscola had two beaches: North and South. They were nearest to the Sud which seemed to have permanently damp sand, handy as the brisk wind made no impact on creating a sandstorm. The first problem they encountered was trying to secure the parasol. The sand was damp, the sand was compacted. This meant that G needed to bore into it like he was drilling for oil. He did this cheerfully enough and Grimble thought she only heard cunt four times, suggesting he was happy in his work. They looked around the beach and wondered at how the Spanish had managed to perfectly position their parasols. Were they born with these natural beach skills being coastal and canny? Then G spotted the tiny attachments to the parasol base, pointed caps with a hand turning mechanism. Being a bloke, he had to have one of these ingenious devices or his trip would be incomplete.

They reclined and observed that the sea water was so shallow that people were wading barely waist deep for 200 meters. Either that or they had discovered a location where giants resided. The waves were not existent and the sand soft. Finally, had they discovered beach nirvana? They tentatively dipped their toes, anticipating a sudden frost to dispel up their body, counteracting their notion of heaven. However, the water was warm, ridiculously warm, like a salty bath. All these features made for a lovely beach afternoon where they contentedly sat, swam, slept and repeated. Even though this was Friday afternoon, the beach was not so rammed as to be standing room only. It was indeed beach heaven.

Not ones to stick with a good thing, they opted on a different day to try Norte Playa, a massive stretch of soft sand. This was a further ten minute walk which doesn’t sound far but is when carrying equipment in the oven like furnace sun of midday, it was like an eternity. However, as it was Monday, they at least expected beach space. Not so. This beach was rammed causing G to ask Grimble if anyone bloody worked here and then contemplate wistfully a life where Monday work did not exist. The multitude of collective parasols were so close that they almost joined into one continuous sun shade. Under this canopy was a melee of a mass of people and huge inflatables. The beach area was being wrestled with screaming children, six foot crocodiles, unicorns and flamingos. Add to the scene: jet skis, pedalos, high speed banana boats and it looked like beach hell. This was not the beach day G and Grimble envisaged. With hindsight, they should have returned to the relative normality of South beach, but they were intrepid, they walked ever further Northward until they eyed a brief gap in the crowd plus it was now nearly one pm and beach exit time for the Spanish.

Finally, they sat in a space and then realised what the kiddie commotion meant. It was not the shrieks of pleasure and frolicking. It was the shrill cries of pain. The wind here was fierce, the sand very soft and within seconds of sitting, G and Grimble were coated in a sand shell as it deftly stuck to their sun screen. They only option was to run to the water, which had the same ambient temperature as before with just a slight current. However, the sand was not for leaving them. In addition, it had got into Grimble’s eyes so she floundered around in the water with no discernible way to remove the now painful gritty mess from her vision. If she rubbed them then the sand from her body would create more. G’s comments that it was lovely were lost on Grimble as she could see bugger all.

Desperate and squinting, Grimble left the water for desperate measures and poured the water she had brought to save her from dehydration over her face. Though this might have seemed like a fail safe cure, Grimble’s water was sparkling which gave a very strange sensation to her already beleaguered eyes. It was fizzy in her eyes but momentarily stopped or diverted the gritty pain into a different type of hurt. She could now open her eyes a fraction but this would allow more sand to blow into them. This is when she realised why everyone was hogging the damp shore line, as there, the sand storm was marginally less fierce.

There was no option but to leave this tortuous beach for lunch and G guided the blinded but still baggage carrying Grimble away from the bastard beach of doom. As they mounted the promenade, the totally unaffected G looked across the vista and reliably stated, “Bloody hell, look at the way that sand is blowing, it’s like a sand storm.” Grimble would have loved to witness this vision but at that precise point, her eyes closed fast, she was not entirely sure which direction she was standing let alone looking. Blindly, she resolved that Sud playa would be their only beach destination from that point on.

G and Grimble retreat

Day maybe 7:

Their drive took them off the major roads and through the olive tree lined back roads of Tarragona province. Satnav lady seemed happy enough directing them as they passed by tiny Spanish settlements where the only evidence of human habitation were the old cars parked by houses. They veered left into a place called Renau and Satnav lady cheerfully told them they had reached their destination.

This seemed unlikely as there was no evidence of a hotel, just workmen pruning back begonias. G decided the only option was to engage the Google Satnav and, according to car satnav’s competitor, they were still a couple of kms away. G sped past the request to left turn, claiming that it wasn’t a road. But Google nav demanded they make a U turn and so they followed the track barely a car wide until it lead them to an abandoned church and a finca bearing the hotel name.

From the moment that they entered, G and Grimble were smitten. Words hardly do justice to the serenity and beauty of hotel Peralta. The entire place was so calm and well planned. They had reserved the room, Kampur. It was not just a room. It was accessed through a private doorway into a private garden complete with a cabana. Grimble had reserved this room because it contained a floating bed. Not that Grimble had ever tried a floating bed but it did sound enticing.

And there it was, suspended from the ceiling, sides covered evocatively with gauze drapes. The room was a hybrid between Indian and Arabic with a large Buddha on a table. Usually, the cynical G might have referred to this as hippy shit but he too was somewhat taken by the whole experience. He launched on the bed and it didn’t exactly float, it more rocked vigorously from back to front. G looked up not entirely convinced as to the benefit of this, especially when El Grimble, a G now referred to his Spain crazy partner joined him. Grimble decided that they needed to focus on gently climbing into bed to attain a more peaceful rocking motion rather than the current effect of a channel ferry crossing in a force nine gale. They realised they couldn’t stop this motion as each time they moved heavily, the suspended bed captured their motion and transformed it into a wave riding sensation. So it was, that G and El Grimble lay quite still and quiet for some minutes as the bed slowed pace and rocked them gently. As the swung from side to side, G advised Grimble that getting pissed and getting on this bed would never end well.

Later, feeling a little sea sick, they wandered through the hotel grounds to the almost deserted pool. There were just two other couples and enough space to give privacy. G and Grimble set up their encampment in a cabana where the breeze gently blew the cotton drapes over them. As romantic as this sounded, it was bloody frustrating to be tickled by the hems of curtains at irregular intervals, so with skill and dexterity, they positioned the towel bag, drinks bottles and anything they could lay hands on to prevent this. Thus Grimble lay on the static bed of the cabana, listening largely to nothing, and drifted off into a slumber. What seemed like a nano second later, the slumbering Grimble felt her arm being prodded and woke to G’s finger in her arm and him whispering that she couldn’t snore here. This was not exactly true as Grimble could snore happily anywhere. However, now she was awake and wanted to swim.

Her swim consisted of some splattering around in the big pool followed by just sitting for ages in the cold dip pool, drinking shandy, declaring that this was the life. Grimble and G both agreed that the few people that inhabited this wonderful place were the kind of people that they liked: clean, well attired, urbane. Not one complained about the weather being too hot or the place being too foreign.

Dinner was another delight. Sat on a patio eating top class food, drinking lovely cava and listening to an unusual Spotify playlist of hits done in an easy listening style, served by unnaturally beautiful but also really charming staff. G and Grimble had intended to retire to the chill out zone with more drinks but they were enveloped in fatigue. So, they returned to their own cabana and gazed at the multitude of stars and wondered at the silence. Finally, they clambered onto the floaty bed and found it did work. For even when they tumbled around grabbing each other’s space, as they always did, the bed rocked them calmly, negating the usual threats of get out of my side or give me back that sheet, now. Grimble wondered to herself if it was possible to string up their silent night double divan from the ceiling at home as she drifted contentedly into sleep.

Having spent 24 hours in various forms of repose and eaten heartily from an organic breakfast, they took their leave of Peralta. Grimble wasn’t totally sure how organicness could actually be proven other than items were served in delightful little pots and the cold meats were presented on wooden platters. They were now on their way to Peniscola and we’re delighted that Satnav lady used a aggressive pen is cola pronunciation and even more delighted to see signs abbreviated to Penis.

Grimble and G move deeper into Spain

Day 6ish onwards:

Having left behind the wonders of Calella, G and Grimble reflected on the resort and the experience. There was no doubt that the Costa Maresme was attractive and the temperature palatable. They had a great time but possibly wouldn’t consider returning. Why not? Well much as Grimble loved a good shop, the shopping street was excessively narrow and exceedingly overcrowded. If this could have been avoided, all well and good but it was also the location of many of the best restaurants. Frequently, G and Grimble would be battling with the onslaught of shoppers and they sought out their evening repast. In addition, the shops closed at an unnaturally late 11pm, meaning this crowd situation was slow to subside.

One of the frequent criticisms of this area is the rail line that breaks the shore line from the town. However, this did not bother the intrepid G and Grimble. If anything, this enforced segregation of the town from the beach gave the beach area a serenity lacking elsewhere. In fact, the promenade was a lovely area to walk. The beach itself was not as the guides promised. Allegedly, the sea was calm and the beach inviting. Grimble was not sure how the sand texture of crushed pebbles that felt like a thousand shards of glass underfoot was conducive to feeling harmony. Escaping to the sea was one option. Clear it was, calm it was not. So now Grimble had the dual task of attempting to make her soles less painful whilst being pulled out to sea. At one point, G was tumbled over by the ferocity of the waves which entertained Grimble until she too fell victim to its power.

Everyone knows that the purpose of the sea is to act as nature’s toilet. When pee comes upon you, there is a swift run into the waves, a release and return to shore. However, the Calella coastline offered no such swift relief. The time it would take negotiating and suffering the painful pebbles and the crescendo of waves ensured that this part of the coast was not a wee depository. Thus sunbathing here was less than relaxing especially as shoreline toilets were non existent.

As G and Grimble stood by at the Waves’ edge once more with G debating a dip, there were loud shouts from some Spanish youths behind them. To be honest, in Spain this is hardly unique, where the Spanish can turn even a simple request for the time into a full on, decibel raising, ear drum shattering encounter. However, them running down the beach, which mystified Grimble anyway as to why their feet were so hardened to the surface, throwing rocks and boulders into the ocean seemed somewhat unfriendly. They jabbered at an alarming rate and pointed wildly, at which point G and Grimble became aware of a very large, purple edged jellyfish about ten feet away from them. The lads were kindly trying to deter the floating bubble of sting away. In the event of anyone getting stung, Grimble knew that she had the natural cure with her now overinflated belly of pee. In fact, secretly she hoped that this would be the relief that she needed.

Another debatable point of this Costa was the weather. Now G and Grimble had selected this area because the temperature was significantly cooler than the South, but warm enough to be ideal. However, they had not accounted for the proximity to the mountains which helped with this fresher feel but also brought significant daily downpours. So it was that their parasol multi tasked as an umbrella as they sheltered from the deluge. As the rest of the hopeful sun worshippers thrust their beach paraphernalia under arm and ran for shelter, Grimble argued that it was still warm and the rain had the same quality as the sea in that they were both wet. So G and Grimble had the beach largely to themselves during downpours which was nice. But, as all English people know, they didn’t go on holiday to see rain, however warm that rain was.

Given the trials at the coast, G and Grimble had the option of the hotel pool. This was a lovely spot but again had some issues. Of course there was the Gilbert Grunts whose fierce stares had disturbed their music listening earlier in the week. G and Grimble had later learned as they listened to them bore some unsuspecting Dutch tourists that the reason for the death stare was not exclusively their music choice but it was territorial as the Grunts had holidayed in Calella, at the hotel Mediterrani Express, for 31 successive years: same hotel, same weeks, same spot. Looking at where they ideally plonked themselves, it was clear that on the first day, G and Grimble had inadvertently invaded their land.

Mr Grunt was an expert on Calella. Well in his own head he was. He’d been coming to this same hotel when the current owner, Pol, was a babe in his papa’s arms. However, as Mr Grunt tirelessly droned to the Dutch, who clearly wished their superb language skills had not equipped them with the ability to communicate with the English, he knew all that was needed to know about this small seaside town. He knew the best bars, the best food, the best prices. This seemed at odds with his life style whilst here where he seemed to dedicate himself to the same area of the pool and the excessively over priced drinks and snacks from Pol’s fridge and not venture into the wider world. This was the other point of consternation from the cost conscious Northern Grimble. The ridiculous prices for drinks and the hand written sign, in several languages, that prohibited any self bought food or drink, including bottled water by the pool area.

Had the mark up been reasonable, Grimble would have been happy but bottled water selling at the nearby Spar for 80 cents and 2.50€ by Pol, whilst small canned shandy weighed in at a hefty 2.50€ made her blood boil. It was excessive and a rip off. So despite the location being great, the room well equipped with a fridge, were G and Grimble to venture to these parts again, they would not be like the Gilbert Grunts repeating ad infinitum the same holiday and lining the canny Pol’s pocket. And so, having paid Pol the additional 24€ to park at his house rather than the hospital, they departed.

Thus, as G and Grimble negotiated the Auto Pista 7, giggling each time Satnav lady said pista and deliriously happy that she was now saying place names in Spanish with a voice tone that implied she would cut you given half the chance, they decided that, lovely though it was, this Costa was not for them. They were off to a place that Grimble had thrown into the equation barely a few days before departure. A retreat hotel somewhere in the mountains above Tarragona with a name that Grimble kept forgetting and hoped that Satnav lady didn’t have the same memory loss.


Grimble and G have a night on the town

Day 5:

So far, G and Grimble had shown a certain amount of temperance with regard to nocturnal sessions. They had eaten, shared a bottle of red with their dinner and maybe had a final beverage, either in a nice, sophisticated bar or back on their balcony where Grimble had cleverly created lighted ambiance with some led lights and a Corona bottle. The room helpfully had a mini fridge and they had stocked it with essentials: cava, Corona, shandy and strawberry milkshake.

However, Calella had a thriving night life of sorts. Evidently, and thankfully, it was no Magaluf, nor was it as frantic as Benalmedena but it had a splattering of clubs and pubs. Their first attempt at night life had not been as expected. They had decided to watch the Barcelona v Madrid match at a bar they were told was Barca’s Calella HQ. This was probably true given the memorabilia and colour scheme. It was also clear it was going to be rammed. Grimble being short of stature and not really that interested in footie, despite her helpful assertion to the Arsenal mad G that she liked the vibe of the crowd, knew that this whole encounter would not end well. She would be pushed, shoved and maybe even hugged depending on the score by sweaty men wearing fan shirts. They left before kick off, had dinner and retired to the balcony where they could hear the Barca fan base roar in pain as Madrid slipped three past.

They were resolved to live it large on one night of the holiday and so Grimble took to the not too trusty Trip Advisor to discover the hot and not so hot spots. She furthered her research by picking up fliers for various night spots. Memfis promised lots of fun past midnight but so far, when they has had seen it from a bar, it seemed to offer long queues of juveniles waiting to get in. Bobs seemed to be for an older crowd as the name was hardly hip hop and happening. They had passed it on their trip to the lighthouse and saw that it offered an agenda of karaoke, dance offs and foam, hopefully not all together, and litre cocktails. The Frog was discounted immediately as it had a stupid name. Finally, the flier for Kauai opened to a picture of a bar maid wearing a T shirt that proclaimed, Your Cock and at a loss to explain what this actually signified, they rejected it.

To make matters and research easier, G and Grimble spoke about expectations for a good night out. A decent dinner, good bottle of wine and, at that point, both should have agreed another drink on the balcony and bed. However, determined to prove to each other that they still had what it took and knowing that they loved laughing at, as opposed to participating in, the karaoke back in Highworth, they added this feature to an ideal night out. They also ascertained it had to be a place with a bit of life, though they were extremely vague as to what this actually signified. Grimble performed tireless research as G performed a siesta and came up with a plan. A dinner in a highly rated tapas place followed by a trip to Calella’s only English pub offering nightly karaoke and the additional bonus of high stakes bingo, whatever that meant.

The evening started well as Grimble had natural tapas selection ability. The only point of consternation was what to drink. They loved a decent red with dinner but knew from past experience that to stick to red throughout the night guaranteed a horrid hangover. In addition, Grimble’s research suggested that the English pub’s selection of red would not be extensive. But what drink went with red? The simple answer was bugger all. Therefore, G and Grimble decided to live for the moment and select drinks on a whim. A highly risky strategy.

Advised by Grimble’s trusty Google maps, they wandered a couple of hundred metres from the town centre past a couple of decent looking cocktail bars until they could see the neon sign illuminated in red proclaiming an English pub. From the outside, it was scruffy and this extended to the interior. The exterior walls were stacked with blackboards filled with chalk lists of every sport fixture imaginable. Whilst the interior, though compact, had at least five ancient screens to watch the variety of sports. The pub name really should have made G and Grimble consider their destination choice. Alcatraz. Why would anyone consider a high security, seeming impossible to leave US prison an apt name for a watering hole?

Looking at the wall decoration, it was clear the owner had a rather strong allegiance to Man Utd. given that someone had drawn, in what seemed like crayon, representations of various team dignitaries from the ages. They went to the bar and were approached efficiently by a silver haired gent whose dialect hinted that he was the infamous Manc owner of Alcatraz. Now G and Grimble had to make a snap decision on what to drink after red wine. Grimble requested GnT, and added Bombay to which the owner just stared and to try to clarify, Grimble added a belated Sapphire. He confirmed with his staff that no such bottle graced the establishment and Grimble was left with a desperate choice of Gordon’s or Beefeater. Accepting Gordan’s served in a vodka glass she reassured herself it was better than Larios, Spanish gin. Now it was G’s turn and sensing he might get red wine vinegar, Grimble stepped in and ordered Desperado. G hopefully asked for a slice of lime and ended up with a quarter of lemon reluctantly stuffed into the bottle neck.

Within ten minutes sat at the bar, G and Grimble did agree that the pub was correct to name itself after a penitentiary, however, given the nature of the staff, more appropriate would have been that great Manchester prison establishment, Strangeways as, my god, their ways were strange!

Their overt friendliness was not endearing: it was scary and intrusive. G and Grimble were happily and quietly character assassinating the rather unusual clientele when they were interrupted mid flow by a barmaid who, it seemed, needed to know their names. Had this been an isolated case of derangement, they would have let it pass but every barmaid, and even the doorman, requested their names over the course of the evening. And insisted on telling G and Grimble their own, which they promptly forgot. Added to the need to be identified, was the unrelenting request to know if they were having a good time. There was no clear answer to this. They weren’t having a bad time for G and Grimble were on a big night out and determined to enjoy themselves regardless of the giant inflatable cock in the corner or the diminutive but highly belligerent Welsh girl who, somewhat inebriated, was threatening to deck her friends for no discernible reason.

So fascinating was this study of human behaviour that G and Grimble ordered the same drinks again and surprisingly were charged a euro less making them wonder if the prices diminished as the night drew on or if, like at the hairdressers with the top stylist, having the owner serve them cost more? They had hoped for a good old laugh at the karaoke but it was not to be as it was karaoke on request and there were few requests. However, G and Grimble were given a detailed itinerary of pub events for each and every evening. Prize Bingo started promptly at 9pm, karaoke around 11pm. They could bet on everything and anything, all the sports listed on the multitude of blackboards. Food was a bonus, only English from England. As they had only left English food from England five days earlier, for G and Grimble this was not as enticing as the barmaid had hoped. Full English was €2.99. Sunday lunch confusingly was served from Wednesday.

As the barmaid left them alone for a moment, G and Grimble pondered on how the Alcatraz was supplied with English ingredients as claimed. Did they take weekly trips to Gib or did they venture by road the 900 miles to Blighty? Or perhaps they booked a cheap Barcelona flight and stuffed a case with pork products. All these methods seemed to negate the potential quality of the €2.99 fodder. And, really, did they bring the eggs all the way over from the UK when Spain definitely had lots of rural space with chickens not blighted by any recent egg contamination scandal?

For reasons that can only be explained by this being a big night out, they decided to have one last drink. One of the barmaids begged to talk to them as she claimed that they were the only normal people in the room. As they looked around, this was clearly true. G described it as a benefits crowd which were mercifully friendly whilst Grimble declared it was Swindon with sun. Even with the warm fuzziness of drink, it was evident that G and Grimble did not fit in and, given their working class origins, this was not meant in a snobby way. It was just fact. G and Grimble were attired for an evening out and not dressed for the beach at 1am. They both still had a full set of their own teeth. They wore nice smelling scents that didn’t cause a rash and their tans were bronzed and natural due to careful application of sunscreen as opposed to crimson red or tango orange. Plus, they could actual handle their alcohol with some decorum and noted that many of the now diminishing crowd were dancing drunk, which meant hobbling horribly to no sound in particular.

However, as this was their big night out, G and Grimble kept telling each other and the insanely friendly staff that they were having a great night. It was not until they left, and were well out of earshot of the pub, that Grimble looked dolefully at G and hesitantly asked if they would ever have to go there again? G smiled and assured her that even if the bingo prize was significant enough to buy them a new boat, they would not venture to Alcatraz once more. As they wandered happily back to the hotel at a respectable 2am, they resolved to have small nights out with dinner, a bottle of red and maybe a drink at a nice sophisticated bar or on their Corona bottle illuminated balcony.