Our drive to Gibraltar from Seville took a turn off into the beautiful back country roads of Spain when we decided to stop off at the little hill town of Arcos De La Frontera. The two lane road meandered through green and amber colored fields and hills. When we got a little lost at one point we stopped and asked for directions at the Spanish equivalent to a highway diner where passing bikers and truckers stopped for a bite to eat. Arriving in Arcos was a bit of a mystery to us, all we really knew about it was that Rick Steves said it was a “must see” in the region and we are always a little mistrusting of him thanks to the Hotel Toledano, Amsterdam, becoming famous for entering Europe through the “back door,” the way he carries a backpack and his style in general. But we decided to give it a shot anyway.
The town was laid out on a steep cliff that seemed to be eternally rising. As we drove up the hill through the narrow and winding streets we became increasingly unsure if cars were allowed in these alleys and if our car would continue to fit between the buildings as the distance from building to building grew closer and closer together (not that we are strangers to driving on pedestrian-only streets in Spain or anything (after all, “what happens in Seville doesn’t stay in Seville”)). Once we finally parked and got out of the car, we were not even sure exactly what there was to see or where that area would be if it at all existed. After walking around, looking at buildings, buying souvenirs and eating some sub-par tapas we were still not sure why it was worth the detour. It was interesting to see the old sleepy Spanish country town (emphasis on sleepy), the cute white washed buildings, cobblestone streets and glorious cliff location rising high above the Spanish countryside, but it was also very dead with no apparent activity to speak of.
As we walked back to our car through the narrow cobblestone alley we were barely able to squeak through, we did make a curious observation: the material that many of the buildings were made out of was literally crumbling. It seemed to be made out of the same material that sand castles are made of: SAND! We noticed the sand pile at the base of some buildings and a mere finger scratch on the bricks sent more crumbling down. Even more curious were the age of these buildings and how in tact they appeared. They didn’t even appear crumbling when you looked at them or weathered at all. Strange.
We escaped from the Costa Del Sol to Seville and it felt like we were being freed from shackles. We would have rather escaped the entire country, but that was not really possible yet. Although we came to a nicer place and a nicer hotel, it was still very hot. We can’t say we understood the Spanish Siesta until we came to Seville. After lunch, with the heat all we felt like doing was lying down and napping and that is exactly what we did both days. Unfortunately this lazy attitude caused us to miss out on seeing the sites of Seville, using our time here escape, eat and rest.
We ate at Taberna Coloniales for lunch, which was a popular tapas spot. For dinner we ate at Az Zait which was completely deserted because we ate early (for Spain’s standards). We spent the night listening to a street performer by the cathedral. It was quite romantic. We stayed in The Petit Palace Marquis Santa Cruz the first night and decided to book a second night on Expedia because it was cheaper than doing it in the lobby. We found out in the morning that Bryan had accidentally booked a room at the sister hotel The Petit Palace Marquis Santa Ana for the same price but not including parking. We talked to everyone possible to try to get them to change the reservation but they would not, so we reluctantly walked our luggage across town in the heat to the other hotel. The last day went for a shopping spree at the Sfera and bought a bunch of clothes for 2 euro each. That night we went to dinner at Enrique Becerra, where we found and online recommendation and left very bitter about the money we spent and the meal we ate. This meal threw us overboard being completely sick of tapas food and disgusted with jamon and Spain in general.
Spain in a Pain!
After arriving in Alicante, we picked up our Smart car and drove south toward Malaga and the Costa Del Sol where we had secured a free timeshare for 5 nights thanks to Bryan’s parents trade. Unfortunately it was pretty much disastrous upon arrival. We had known that the Costa Del Sol was a big resort area, which we generally don’t like, but we imagined it to be a lot like Cabo San Lucas: a nice pretty beach lined with resort hotels and restaurants. Well it was nothing like Cabo, and the only way we can describe it is like a time share hell. There was building after building, crammed together with no open space and there was nothing that looked nice or pretty about it, even the sea which we heard was cold anyway.
Time Share Hell
First of all the beaches and streets were jam packed with some of the ugliest people on the planet. Enormous, sunburnt, tattooed fatties were waddling around half naked everywhere you looked…it was disgusting. Secondly, the streets were horrid for driving, congested with traffic, roundabouts clogged with trolls. Just getting to the “hotel” was a nightmare! When we finally got to our destination: The Royal Oasis Club at Benal Beach, and we attempted to drive up to the entry to check in and drop off our luggage. But there was a gate and a guard blocking the entrance telling us that check-in was not in the building but across the street. We thought that was a little strange, but it wasn’t tell after checking in and parking on the street (yes no parking at the “resort”) that we realised that this was not even a hotel or resort but an apartment building! A very, very ghetto and nasty, gross, disgusting apartment building with graffiti and barbed-wire. So this resort company had bought some of the units inside and renovated them, but the outside and hallways were a total dump! We were livid! We may not have done very much research, but how could we have expected that? The more we walked around the more horrible the place was.
We can’t understand why people come here in droves. It was like all the riff-raff of Europe were holding a convention.We will never ever return even with in hundreds of miles of the place — we hated it that much! We felt trapped and like the second half of our wonderful trip was being ruined. We had planned on this hotel being a base to explore Andalusia by car, but had no idea the street congestion would have made it so difficult to get away from the coast. So we decided to go and stay in Seville for a few days.