Saturday, 26 May 2012

Our Romantic Trip

I was writing a special for our newspaper on romantic get-aways and contacted the head of tourism for the small town of Lanjarón, Granada. Lanjarón is a beautiful village, high in the Alpujarras and famous for its natural spring water and hot springs and old Moorish baths. After speaking with the head of tourism, he invited me and a guest to stay in his hotel and spend a weekend taking in all of the wonders of Lanjarón. It was late November and Lenox’s birthday so I thought it would be a wonderful surprise that would normally be out of my price range. We arrived at the hotel, having driven that day from Granada south over the top of the Sierra Nevada on an alarming and stony track, through little villages and hamlets at the very top of the Alpurrajas. Arriving in the town made famous from its bottled water, we found the hotel to our surprise to be chained, locked and bolted. The neighbors said maybe the manager (and acknowledged expert on tourism) had gone into Granada to go shopping. We spent the day wandering around the town and finally decided to take a room, at our expense, in the only hotel that was open. It turned out to be a hotel for senior citizens where the Spanish Social Security system brought elderly people by the bus-load. We checked into our room and were told that dinner was at seven. Our room was large, freezing and filthy. The view from our bedroom window was of snow; not a beautiful snowy landscape but of packed snow up against the window. We went to the dining room around 7:15 only to find that, in a most un-Spanish way, they meant dinner was served at seven not started around seven. Every course was a type of purée; soup, vegetable, meat and pudding. After a rather disgusting dinner we went out to find a bar and something to eat but along the main and indeed practically only street, everything was firmly shut; so we returned to the hotel bar. The only beverage on the shelf behind the bar was an elderly bottle of Licor 43, so Lenox ordered one and, to his gratification, was given a huge water glass full of this sticky liqueur. I asked for a coke and the bar tender had to leave the building and ten minutes later returned with a can of coke he must have got out of a friend’s refrigerator. Some of the other guests were gloomily playing dominoes while others were watching the TV. We decided to retire to our room. We were wearing every piece of clothing we had packed while all of the blankets and towels were spread on the bed and yet we were still freezing. Lenox suggested adding the rug on the floor but it was covered with heavy clumps of what appeared to be human hair.
After an unsatisfying breakfast of purée and with our hitherto benevolent opinion about Lanjarón firmly in retreat, we decided to leave the town, as even the hot springs and baths were closed for the season. We drove down the mountains towards the coast looking for somewhere beautiful and interesting. To our surprise, we came across a place called Orgiva – looking like the Santa Cruz Mountains of California wrenched directly from the 60s, with long-haired hippies wearing outsize velvet caps, a reek of patchouli oil, painted VW buses, the lot, all apparently moved in woozy bulk to the Alpujarras of Granada. We broke out trip briefly in another notable village, Yegen, where Gerald Brennan had lived for many years. Our conclusion? Don’t visit it in November. As we were arriving at the bottom of the mountains, still in search of a nice hotel, we coasted into Trevélez and came across a restaurant apparently famous for its trout so we pulled in to the parking only to find three bus loads of German tourists parking in mathematical precision in behind us. That would be a lot of trouts for one day, we thought, so we left. The only rooms we could find in the town – tourism evidently still not being a strong point from Lanjarón onwards – was above a gas station, so we decided to go home. When we regained the coast we chose not to let our romantic weekend be completely ruined so we went to a hotel on the beach in Aguadulce, Almeria. It was full of English and German tourists and, by chance, it was “Dress in Drag Night”. Nice to see the two nations coinciding for once – if only in complete idiocy. I have never been so happy to return to the beauty and comfort of Mojácar in my life, and until now, twenty years on, I never wrote the article about Lanjarón.
Note to the Lanjarón Tourist Board – please feel free to use this essay.