Thursday 4 October 2007

Holidays are like life: it's not how much you get, but what you need to be happy!


Having scrimped, saved, and slogged our guts out, the Snapper and I are back in the Costa Brava, the northern Spanish coastline stretching from Barcelona to the French border.
Right now I am sitting on a large balcony feeling smug. For less than the price of a Galway B&B, we have a two bedroom apartment by the pool, with a view high over the stunningly beautiful Cadaques bay, looking far to a headland that Co. Clare would be proud of, dropping into the bluest of Mediterranean waters speckled by fifty bobbing white fishing boats, washing onto a beach by terracotta houses with red tiled roofs baking in the midday sun, the olive trees swaying in the breeze.
We really enjoy our two nights at Carpe Diem in Cadaques, and could have stayed at the chilled-out comfy complex for the entire fortnight, but tomorrow we must move down into the town, to the three-star Llane Petit Hotel.
I'm not sure if I like hotels. Why do we all look forward to paying wads of cash to be surrounded by people on all sides, above and below? Children are crying, the plumbing is whooshing all around, despite it being only 08.30 on a Sunday morning - and this the morning after every man woman and child in the town danced and partied in the main square until 3 am celebrating Cadaques' own Fiesta.
But hotel breakfast starts at 08:30, so naturally at 08:32, all the other guests feel obliged to pile out of their rooms, into echoey narrow corridors.
God knows what those accents are yelling to each other, but my hangover-knackered mind performs its own translation.
"Ah good look! See mother and small children of mine! An empty corridor, and behind one of these doors lies a hungover decadent writer. So Mutti and Alfie, go down to the far end and then shout to to me, and I will shout back a few more times and then we can all laugh because it is so funny, so very funny to make a big noise early on a Sunday morning. Aha. Aha. Aha. And they say we do not have possession of a sense of humour! Aha! What are they knowing? Come on now, shout louder. I think some of them are still sleeping, yes?"
Somewhere in this hotel a creature - for that is how it sounds- produces the most terrifying sound I have ever heard. Audible from a distance of 500 metres, the screaming howling wail sounds like a victim of the most heinous torture. Evidently from something young, I imagine a mutant feral beast, half-human half wildcat, with claws for fingers and fur on its back, its massive Leonine mane wrapping contorted features around a tortured mutant feline-human face.
The screech, which makes me feel simultaneously terrified and crushed with compassion, comes roaring in 30 second bursts of steady tone and massive lung capacity, as if the creature's claws were being ripped out one by one with a pair of red-hot pliers.
The Snapper turns to me and simply says: "Teething."
Next we head towards Calella de Parafugell, where we check out the Hotel Garbi. Sadly, the lass behind reception doesn't give a shit. You can smell it a mile off.
We're off before you can say 'Stuck-up Peahen!'
Now exhausted from our day on the road, I fortunately have a secret weapon.
Down the road is the Hotel Sant Roc.
Unique and imposing in a grandfatherly way, the Sant Roc is only a three star, but the people who work there make you feel you're in a five star. They care, take pride in their work, and a cocktail on the terrace at dusk can be both electric and charming.
Run now by the third generation of the same pioneering family, the Sant Roc feels like a classy joint. Sure it's pricey, and with Balco de Calella, their new restaurant, they are trying to offer fine dining, which might be a mistake.
The Sant Roc is wonderful because of its atmosphere and gentle class. They should stick to what they have been doing exceptionally well for five decades, which is making people feel fantastic, and let somebody else grate truffle over the sorbet.
The secret of success in business is simple. All you have to do is to know your market, and then meet its needs
The next day we find the Port Bo Hotel, a business that knows exactly what it is doing. Conveniently behind the town centre, the place has little charm, but offers a crew of friendly efficient staff, large clean double rooms with balcony and sea view; a whirlpool swimming pool and loungers; free internet and laundry; and the best buffet breakfast we have seen so far, all for ¤33.00 per person per night. The Port Bo has no pretensions. It just delivers what it offers for a very reasonable price, and all power to it for that.
I don't care if I stay in a cave or a castle. Holidays, like life, are not about how much you get, but rather how much you need to be happy.
Bizarrely, I cringe with embarrassment when I spot or hear other English abroad. At breakfast one morning I hide behind my croissant, as three tables of posh English Sixtysomething friends start to swap a bit of banter.
The vowels are stretched from table to table, repeatedly misunderstood and misheard, in true Tony Hancock style, until I find myself laughing with them as well as at them.
"Little Brian is doing Latin. Says he likes it."
"How old is he?"
"12 now."
"I remember when I was 12, my Latin teacher came at me with a knife, so exasperated was he with my inability to grasp the lingo."
"Bloody hell! He'd go to jail for that now!"
"Did he?"
"Did he what? Go to jail?"
"No! Did he come at you with a knife?"
"How long did he go to jail for?"
"He didn't! I just said he would have under the present regime."
"Bloody right. Be strung up for that now. Bloody shame!"
Ah me, yes, indeed.Such a shame that teachers can no longer run at their pupils brandishing sharp blades. What is this modern world coming to?

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