Due to my sister and I’s state of unemployment, my mum stressing over work, my dad’s disinterest in anything fun and the unexpected arrival of a certain puppy, last year (2016) was the first year that we travelled nowhere. It was depressing, to say the least.
Sensing my low mood and urgent need for sunshine, my mum kindly offered to take me to Torrevieja, Spain (where my Granddad lives) with her and my aunt as a birthday present. Desperate for bluer skies and a change of scenery, I accepted her generous gift.
My Granddad has lived in Spain for over a decade and sadly (for me, it’s a ideal for him) moved from his spacious 3 bed apartment with roof terrace and community pool to a tiny, pool-less (I repeat POOL-LESS) apartment in Torrevieja.
Torre is not my cup of tea. Sure all the necessary amenities are in walking distance (shops, restaurants, bank etc), there’s a beach with palm trees and the sun shines, but there’s no enchantment to the city, at least not for me.
To my delight, it was still a balmy 22°c at 9pm when we departed the taxi and rang for 4B on the intercom. I don’t know what I expected but the apartment was rather cramped and clearly decorated by a blind person will a penchant for wall stickers.
Despite it being late I was, as always, hungry. “Eleanor you ate on the plane” said my mother, foolishly. Technically I had indeed eaten but a) tis not my fault they failed to pack snacks, and b) some dried mango fruit and raw chocolate covered golden berries do not equate to dinner.
After much debate and the frequent and expected reply of “I’m easy” from my granddad, we went to a restaurant of his choice and enjoyed some sea food accompanied by a glass of much needed wine.
Breakfast was a struggle, a feature throughout the week. Sugary out of date cereal vs nothing. Luckily I had foreseen the issue of nutrition and packed some greens powder, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and of course, raw chocolate.
Sunscreen was also an issue. Whilst most would be fine pottering about in October sunshine I am pale and my overly sensitive skin turns red at the sight of the sun. Honestly my limbs are so pale they literally glow in a ghostly manner, onlookers are advised to wear ski glasses for their own safety.
Paranoid about not working out (for some reason I feel I will suddenly put on a stone simply by having a rest day) my granddad let me use his exercise bike and weights. After a 16 mile static cycle, too many squats to count and a little core work, I felt a million times better and dressed for dinner. I say ‘dressed’ but most of my clothes had been scrumpled in my rucksack and I rarely iron. Plus, predictably I was cold so it was a summer top/skirt with a winter thick knit cardigan situation.
We ended up having a lovely meal at a rather posh restaurant. The food was pretty damn good: chicken and vegetable paella, some sort of duck dish and a large steak devoured by my mum and aunt. Moreover, the wine chosen by my granddad was delicious, so good in fact, we ordered 2 bottles. [Side note: why do men always get to taste/select the wine? I have taste buds too.]
It was next that I experienced firsthand the ‘different types of drunk’. I am a chatty drunk, often told to “stop waffleing” when I’ve had a few. My mum and aunt are loud drunks whose hysteric s at nothing attract quite a few judgemental looks. My granddad is an emotional drunk. Urgh the worst. Whilst the others were crying over misheard words, he was shedding tears because he thought we didn’t love him. A few deep chats and comforting hugs later, we called it a night.
Hung over, my granddad slept in. We decided to forgo breakfast, and apparently lunch, and do brunch. I am not a brunch person. I am the type of person who wakes up ravenous and needs food to a) stop me becoming a grumpy bum, b) prevent stomach pain and c) kick start my metabolism.
4 hours after waking, my stomach finally received food in the form of seafood salad. It was my first tasting of mussels and I can confirm… *drum roll* I am not a fan.
The rest of the day was mainly wondering; perusing shops, markets and hunting for trainers to replace the ones my sister purchased many years previously in Torre. Though I found no shoes meeting the ‘must be canvas, have zips and be awesome’ criteria, I did purchase some €5 slipper/sock/boot hybrids to replace my hole ridden pair at home.
My granddad’s siesta time was the perfect opportunity to head to the local supermarket and grab some essentials: vegetables, fruit, eggs. I made the wonderful discovery of a fresh fruit and veg stall and the horrific discovery that the almond milk I purchased was less milk and more sugar paste. Needless to say, my pancake dinner was interesting.
The ‘meal’ was followed by consuming my aunt’s grocery hail of essentials, a.k.a vodka and €2 vino tinto.
After a few cloudy days, the sun was shining bright. For my mum and aunt this meant sunbathing/reading/siesta-ing. For HOURS. Too many hours. As a non tanner and fidget I was done after 10 minutes and went in search of entertainment.
The elders decided we would again have a meal hybrid: linner (lunch/dinner). The meal was one of the highlights of the week for me. I ordered ‘plato de verduras a la parrilla’ expecting a small plate of veg/salad not the giant slate slabe filled with grilled mushrooms, peppers, onions and courgettes, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned to perfection. Whilst I was in heaven, my granddad watched me in disgust “how can you eat them things?” ‘Things’ being vegetables. The starter was followed by a few glasses of sangria and grilled salmon salad.
Fat and full, we slowly made our way back to the apartment, chatting away. The evening was spent chilling in the living room and laughing till late.
The last day of sunshine and feeling uber cool in sunglasses😎. Breakfast was once more a case of trying to find something, anything half decent and edible. Most of our final morning was spent negotiating a time and place to have lunch with Josephína (my granddad’s partner). Eventually it was decided we were to have seafood paella.
The luncheon conversation consisted of the usual dreaded topic: me. What do you do? What qualifications have you got? What are your life goals? Do you have a partner? When I was your age I was married/had children/a house/worked 7 jobs/ had 5 noble prizes. Thankfully I had a large glass of white wine to accompany the character assassination.
With only a few hours left of sunny skies, ocean air and palm lined sidewalks, I opted for a little sweat session to clear my head and prep for the cramped night flight home.
A shower, change of clothes and fight with my rucksack later, I joined my family on the balcony. They were watching out for the taxi and having an unsuccessful conversation over two floors with Josephina. “Are you going to go out for dinner later?” “No, they’re not late, I booked for nine.” “No you and dad?” “Who? What?” Since this was clearly useless we went downstairs to say goodbye.
When we were all out of small talk and hugs the taxi arrived. Home James and don’t spare the horses. I honestly have no idea what I have just said, but my mum says it all the time. Basically we left for the airport.
Not the typical birthday bash you’d expect of a 22 year old but compared to my 21st spent alone at home, a vast improvement. Bring on 23. Perhaps i’ll have friends. Maybe i’m getting carried away.