I went to Spain last week. I went to an area known as Costa Blanca. As you can rightly assume, we were on the coast.
I went to an Urbanization called Villamartin…. do you know what an urbanization is? Well I didn’t. And I am not really sure how I would explain it, other then it is not very Spanish.
We were picked up at the airport in Murcia and driven to our accommodations. They were great! A lovely 2 bedroom townhouse, with a front, back and roof terrace. Pretty ceramic tiles surrounded the numbers on the house, the floors were tiled, and we had a palm tree in the back yard. The night air was warm, and with the windows open we got a great cross breeze. On the drive in, we were shown where the pool was… whatever? I mean we are on the ocean, so we are not going to use the pool right? maybe a little midnight dip?
We unpacked and decided to find some food. Now it was late, by English standards… we got in at 20:25pm, so by the time we headed out to eat, it was around 21:30-22:00. We then got lost… not noticing the tiny little arch we should have turned left at, we continued to walk for another 15 minutes. Luckily a taxi went by and drove us to the restaurant area. We found seats and the waiter came to serve us. By the end of the night we ended up calling him Smiley, so this name shall be used (to protect the innocent!) at the start of the story as well. Smiley was from Scotland and as it turned out, all the wait staff was from the UK or should I say, not from Spain.
I asked Smiley for vodka on the rocks with a water on the side.
“Bottled water?” he said.
“No, just tap water is fine”
“Oh! you can’t drink the water here”, says Smiley,
“What? just here?”
“No, the whole country. You cant drink the water anywhere in Spain” (I am thinking 52 Million people are not all buying bottled water!)
“Wait, I am from Spain, and I drink the water”, says my friend Jose.
“Oh” say Smiley “well we are not allowed to serve tap water here”.
“OK, then give me tonic. Can we have menus?”
“Sorry the kitchen is closed”. It was 22:05pm.
“In Hispanic countries, a light meal is served for breakfast. Lunch, referred as el almuerzo, usually is the main meal of the day for Spanish-speakers. In some countries, it is customary for adult family members and children to come home from work or school for about two hours to be together for this meal. La siesta, which is a rest period taken after lunch, is known to be a common practice among adult Hispanics. In the early evening, la merienda, a light snack of coffee and rolls or sandwiches, is served. This meal is often very informal and may be just for children. In the evening, often as late as 9:00 p.m., la cena, a small supper, concludes the day’s meals”
If you are single then you go out to the discos, and such, at midnight and come home the next morning… I bet you are thinking 2 or 3am? Nope, I am talking about 8 or 9am!
As we sat there, we realised that everyone was speaking English. We did not hear one word of Spanish. It was becoming clear… we were not in Spain but in “Little England” as I dubbed it. Every restaurant, store and real estate office we went into was english speaking. The bank and the supermarket (a spanish franchise) were the only places that had spanish speakers.
This, my friends, is an Urbanization. This is where your entire culture is removed from the motherland and set up in another country. The restaurants serve your food, your drinks and you watch your shows on the big screen; the supermarkets cater to your needs; and everything shuts down by english standards. And worst of all, the ocean is an hour walk away on a major roadway! Lets face it, many english cultures do not walk, they drive, so without a car (Oh my goodness no car!!!) you are pretty much stranded where you are.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the English. I am very aware that there are “Urbanizations” of Canadians in Florida and Americans in Mexico, so there are no innocents here. However, I was disappointed as I had certainly hoped to get back some of the Spanish culture I had not lived in for 20 years. But no matter how you look at it, what I had not done was take the time to research the area I was going to, and that was no ones fault but my own… well live and learn.
I am going to Dublin next weekend and I know exactly where I am staying and what I am doing. I have researched what there is to do and where we should eat, to the point that Roberta said “Are we going to have any fun?”
I will never end up in an Urbanization again, unless I plan on being there.
Why not share some surprises you have experienced while travelling? I would love to hear about them. And if you have been to Dublin, then offer up things I should not miss….I am sure I can squeeze it in somewhere