Paelltertainment. The twice-weekly paella-cooking presentation on the roof of Home Backpackers is less a gastronomic than a comic experience, as the resident chef regales his audience with a mix of instructions and anecdotes in (deliberately, you suspect) awful Spanglish. And all that while cooking up a giant, delicious version of this quintessential Valenciano dish – served with a cold beer and a joke.
When? Tuesday and Sunday evenings.
Where? Roof terrace of Home Backpackers.
Address: Plaza Vicente Iborra, Barrio del Carmen.
Telephone: (34-96) 3913797.
Nominally an Irish bar, The Lounge gets it more right than the countless, interchangeable franchised versions. The key to a true Irish pub lies not in the old Guinness signs on the walls, nor in the over-loud diddly-idle music on the stereo, but in the atmosphere. And this place, all modern and comfy though it may be, has it in spades. Not to mention a good pint of the black stuff.
Address: Calle Estamineria Vieja 2, Barrio del Carme.
Telephone: (34-96) 3918094.
Small but lively, this teeny-tiny bar feels crowded with just a couple of people in it. But by some kind of loaves-and-fishes, there seems to be room for more and more. Tapas, cold beer, and good company make it worth the squeeze.
Address: Calle Sant Tomeu 21, Barrio del Carme.
Telephone: (34-606) 721842.
The home of tapas, Spain is hardly unaccustomed to the concept of small and fast when it comes to food. But at times the idea of tapas far exceeds the reality of salty fish swimming in brine, or meat that has been sitting out on a counter all day long. But at Sagardi you get the benefit of small portions and loads of variety, but all freshly prepared and full of flavour. It’s a bite-sized treat.
Address: San Vicente Martir 6, Valencia 46002.
Location: Just off Plaza de la Reina.
Telephone: (34-96) 3910668
If you've eaten enough tortilla (I love the stuff, but one has a limit!), then head here for some great veggie tapas and also main meals.
Closed on Sunday and Monday for dinner.
Calle Salvador Giner 6, near Plaza del Carmen (north of Barrio del Carmen).
Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona is located on the Costa del Sol (also known as the sunny coast of Andalusia) and despite what you may think about this particular area, this holiday proved to be one of the most enjoyable spa breaks I’ve had.
The hotel has everything a frequent spa-goer wants including a Medico resort plus a Wellness and Beauty Centre. The resort is also set within huge acres of gardens and with views of Malaga, Gibraltar and the African Coastline this is almost another treatment in itself!
The spa destination is just 2kms from Estepona and 18km from Marbella so as well as enjoying all the treatments that were part of my holiday package, you can venture out from the hotel and explore the surrounding area.
This is definitely a place I would revisit when in need of that extra boost of sun and spa indulgence and I also recently discovered the hotel is situated within the famous Costa del Golf with 40 golf courses nearby. This is great news and will definitely make the boyfriend happy when I drag him along next time!
I also want to recommend the website www.specificspas.com if you’re looking to book a similar holiday like this. This is how I initially found out about Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona and specificspas.com is great for booking a whole host of luxury spa holidays throughout Europe with just a few clicks. They tell you everything you want to know about your chosen destination and you can book everything including flights, accommodation and your desired spa packages straight away.
Spa holidays like this are definitely the way forward!
See www.specificspas.com for full details and address.
Nearest airport Malaga with frequent flights from British Airways, Easy Jet, Monarch etc
This funky little bar used to be a pharmacy, and has maintained all the little nooks and crannies of a traditional dispensary. Located right at the heart of the buzzing Calle Caballeros in the heart of Barrio del Carmen, it has a big terrace so you can take in all the action going on around. Just what the doctor ordered.
Address: Plaza del Tossal, Calle Caballeros 51, Barrio del Carmen.
Telephone: (34-96) 3912401.
10,000 troglodytes live in Guadix in white-washed, water-proof, cave dwellings with all mod cons, including electricity, television and running water! They are perfectly normal people and, when we went there, a family man invited us in to his cave to meet his wife, doing the ironing and his children and friends doing their homework - something to be treasured. But, beware, some demand large sums to let you out. On the other hand maybe it's worth it. It is after all unique.
Guadix, on the road from Granada to Almeria
Mérida in Extremadura is the site of the finest collection of Roman remains in Spain, perhaps anywhere outside Italy. A stunningly beautiful theatre seating 6,000 is still in use today, and an amphitheatre accommodating 15,000, thankfully not in use, are the centrepieces.
A number of villas with mosaics, paintings and frescos, a Temple of Diana, a Trajan Arch, an 800 metre long Puente Romano with 64 arches over the river and the vast three tier Acueducto de los Milagros help complete the picture.
But you must still visit Rafael Moneo's imaginative, modern museum, full of artefacts, and a truly wonderful evocation of Roman life and culture.
A number of good hotels exist for those who are attracted to stay for a while.
Mérida in Badajoz province in Extremadura, near the Portuguese border.
Las Teresitas is the town beach of the capital, Santa Cruz, and is remniscent of a beach at the other end of the Atlantic. Yellow sand shipped from the Sahara, palm trees and cheap lounger hire make this beach an unexpected joy. Enjoy before the threatened strip resort is built here.
Las Teresitas, 8km north of Santa Cruz
Lively gay club based in the Salitien (think that's how you spell it) shopping centre to the East of Veronica's strip in Playa De Las Americas (approx 10-15 minutes walk east).
Within the complex there are other gay bars and clubs. Gemini's (open from 10pm to 4am), Cellar Bar (open from 8pm to 2am), Chaplin's (open from 11pm to 8am and gets busy from 4am), Gay-Sha (weekends from midnight to 6am) and of course Punto Zero (open from 10pm to 6am).
Punto is a lively club which is tastefully decorated and plays great music. They also have a drag show from time to time. The staff are friendly and whilst the crowd on the gay scene is mainly Spanish there are a lot of other nationalities there too.
Earlier in the evening (9pm-ish) there is Playafloor, the entrance is directly opposite Veronica's strip (on the same side of the road as Burger King).
The scene in Tenerife is growing and well worth a visit. Be warned though it does not get busy till after 11pm.
10-15 minutes walk east of Veronica's Strip (toward Adeje). Come to a shopping centre (Salitien) with a path down to the promenade (the path is just before the shopping centre). The gay bars are not that easy to find so you will have to walk into the shopping centre (for Cellar Bar, Chaplin's, Punto Zero and Gay Sha) and to the end of the shopping centre and turn right (up the hill slightly for Gemini's).
Art work hangs from the lime green painted walls and exposed pipes at this trendiest of hang-outs in Chueca. It's laid-back and an ideal escape from the nearby mania of Gran Vía. The staff are sound enough to knock off any euro cents you might be missing for your cafe con leche.
11 Calle Colón, Tel. 91 522 9107, Metro Gran Vía
Certainly not the four star accommodation we expected. Hotel was advertised with spa but there was none. Room was fine - nice bathroom. Boasted satellite TV but only news channels were in English. Pool area was small but nice when it wasn't packed with hundreds of holidaymakers and kids. This was an all inclusive package but food was poor to mediocre although they did try to make an effort on Christmas Day and there's no bar just a cheap looking counter where you get drinks from. You certainly wouldn't want to spend any time there. If all you're looking for is a room then this hotel is fine.
Puerto Del Carmen - quiet end. 5 minutes from beach.
Great restaurant hidden behind the casino in Puerto Del Carmen. Looks out on to the sea. Swimming pool on the terrace and great big four poster beds to relax on. The restaurant itself has a Turkish theme and serves a wide range of food including Chinese. Lovely for a relaxed romantic evening. Service could have been better though.
Main Strip in Puerto Del Carmen situated behind the casino.
When I travel I always book a guide, but when I do not have time enough to buy it, I surf the most relevant information on the net.
By surfing, surfing and surfing I've found this guide that gives some tips about this amazing town. This is not complete but at least it is a good point to start with.
A friendly bar dedicated to making the perfect caipirinha. The music policy plays homage to Miles Davis and all trumpet players of his ilk. Don't expect to find any chocolate con churros here.
Calle Huertas 55, Tel: 91 429 78 61, www.trochabar.com
This Benedictine Monk retreat makes for an amazing break from the bustle of Barcelona. You can get a combined ticket from the station which includes the cable car.
The views from the top are stunning. Inside you can visit the Holy Grotto and listen to the world renowned Montserrat Boys Choir. Time your visit so you are there before 13:00 when the choir sing.
I think that the Lido is fantastic. I am not a great swimmer but I loved the sea water pools here. One is really large with volcanic rocks in it. The water is deep enough to swim but you can stand up anywhere in the pool. No nasty big waves appearing to submerge your head. It only costs a couple of pounds to get in and you can stay all day.
You can't miss it on the prom in Puerto de la Cruz
I know that most people get off the plane at Girona and head straight for Barcelona. However, if you are looking for somewhere that's not so busy for a couple of days, consider Girona. I really like it along the riverside with the painted houses. There are several museums, the medieval part of the city and a great choice of restaurants where you can have a set 3 course meal for around 12 euros.
I have some accommodation suggestions at:
A small and reasonably priced hotel on a quiet sidestreet, which is just across the bridge from the bustling Casco Viejo (old town). The rooms were clean and the staff were very friendly and helpful.
C/Amistad, 2, Bilbao 48001
(34) 94 423 0134
Abando underground/railway station
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