Costa Blanca: home or away?

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The most lively thing in Calpe

At the end of any trip to Spain, G and Grimble reflected on the possibility of this destination becoming a potential relocation. So it was with Calpe, and the Costa Blanca. After all, this was the favourite outpost of the Brits abroad, if the TV was to be believed. This was their mecca and the beast that was Benidorm their home from home.

Of course, this actual holiday had started as a potential trip to Benidorm, though G had been at a loss to explain why his Grimble, who had an aversion to collective boozy Brits on holiday, had even suggested this, let alone booked a flight to Alicante before she’d even contemplated accommodation. In the end, Benidorm hadn’t even warranted a day’s excursion, despite it being a short journey by tram, from Calpe. Why not? Well, the airport transfer had driven past the horizon of the town, along the motorway. This distant sighting was enough of Benidorm to confirm their views and fears.

Grimble was entranced by its ugliness and ill planning. Monstrous tower blocks blocked any daylight for their short and stumpy neighbours. At 5 foot, and pretty stumpy herself, Grimble felt an empathy for those short buildings. It was just how she felt, when she had to queue with the tall nations of Germany or the Netherlands. Overshadowed and shaded by girth, these buildings must have rarely seen the sun. It cast a grey shadow which contrasted with the azure sky and sea.

G had not really been paying attention to this emerging vista. He was busy, focused on his phone game, killing things happily. Grimble nudged him, a few times, as he endeavoured to ignore her, to show him the horror. He commented on its similarity to Hong Kong and she wasn’t sure if this was good or bad. Grimble compared it to Salford with sea, rather than the Manchester Ship Canal, which offered a clearer opinion. They both realised that for many folks this was holiday heaven and they loved their annual Benidorm breaks. This was great to have a chance to escape to high rises in the sun, drink lots of cheap booze, eat English breakfasts and roast dinners and zap around on a mobility scooter but, for Grimble and G, it was the equivalent of a living hell.

Thus they focused their attention on Calpe as a potential final resting spot. The signs were good. It’s location was awesome with the scenic rock jutting out to sea. It was humbly compared to a Spanish Gibraltar though it had two major differences: no lewd baboons fidgeting with their bits and stealing handbags and food and no territorial dispute over ownership. Aside from their multi level, high rise hotel, all was pretty low key in Calpe. However, as the week progressed, they became acutely aware that Calpe was not for them. True it’s climate was wonderful and the prices for dining out highly competitive. It had more real estate agents than Grimble had ever seen in one place and seemingly more properties available than residents.

However, as they sat in the morning sun partaking of café con leche they came to a joint decision and it was based on similar criteria. As Grimble simply put it: Calpe made them feel young. Rejuvenation and retirement might seem like an ideal partnership. However, it was not the warm sunshine acting as an elixir of youth for their aching arthritic limbs that gave them this sensation of youth. It was the fact that most of the population of Calpe was made up of very senior and ancient North Western Europeans. Their age profile was at least twenty years in advance of G and Grimble and, whilst their longevity might seem reassuring to two potential retirees, it hardly made for a hip (unless hip replacements were counted) and happening location. As G put it, there was no flange to observe. Withered bodies in Lycra hardly made for excellent eye candy of the flange variety.

G and Grimble often wiled away a sunny hour people watching. She’d observe the dress and design, commenting on its unsuitability or ill choice. In Calpe, in February, she had noted that, despite it heading upwards of 25 degrees, Spanish people were still attired in padded jackets, scarves, hats and all manner of winter paraphernalia standing next to holiday makers in shorts, flip flops, and ever increasing sun red skin, almost like an Iberian weather clock. G’s observation focus was on flange, which basically translated to a quiet noting of an attractive physique. In Calpe, this sedentary hobby was going to be rather limited in scope or interest.

Their tentative opinion on the Costa Blanca was affirmed when they ventured to a diminutive English bar one evening. Given the past experience at Calella (see ‘Grimble and G have a night on the Town’ for further explanation) this did create some apprehension though, comfortingly, the bar did have a Spanish name, Pueblo, and there wasn’t an inflatable penis or hen party gathering in sight. It was evidently a budget operation and the name clearly from a previous life form and not because the new owner had any intention of integrating with the indigenous population. It was a tiny bar with a huge pool table that filled most of the space, leaving only the bar as an area to sit and they did. It was affable enough, run by a formidable Yorkshire woman, assisted by her Cockney friend. Grimble noted and sympathised with this North South companionship knowing that, if her own experience was normal, there’d be times when this partnership would understand Spanish, or even Russian, more readily than each other’s accents.

Chat turned to the Calpe lifestyle and they learnt from a Dutch guy there that it was relatively boring. Every disco, late night joint and dance place had gone, closed down by a lack of enthusiasm, to be replaced by sandwich shops, coffee places and places to hire a bike or mobility scooter depending on the client’s needs. This might have sounded ideal but instead it made it seem quite dull and so old. The small Spanish bars serving late into the night didn’t exist in Calpe as there were few clientele who wanted to chat and drink until the wee hours. Accommodation was expensive, inflated by the affluence of the German and Nordic euro. Grimble was surprised that she recalled this conversation the following day, as fuelled by wine and ill advised shots, her head was rather groggy. G had a better recollection of the night’s events and informed her that there had been a brief moment when she had considered table dancing. Grimble had hoped that this was a fake memory but she did recall clambering on a bar stool in a quite undignified manner before giving up the final table ascent. She groaned to herself at this mad moment and wondered how British bars were able to transform even the most dignified tourist into uninhibited monster.

Once on the plane home, they reflected on the Costa Blanca experience. G and Grimble realised that there was a predominance of hurdy flurdy languages and that Spanish voices had been rare. In addition, from a point of view of Grimble making a small income teaching, there were two major pitfalls. Firstly, the ageing population had no secondary age offspring to educate, unless they wanted to send their holidaying grandchildren to school rather than the pool. Secondly, the Spanish population in Calpe had a fairly good grasp of English after five decades of Brit visitors, who refused to learn or even try the local lingo with the exception of “cerveza” and “por favor”, had saturated them with the nuances of their mother tongue. For Grimble and G, Calpe and the Costa Blanca was a pleasant holiday destination but not a lifestyle choice.