A Spanish sojourn: Sun, sea and wedding bells

Our man Frank reports from a family wedding in sunny Spain, complete with a large Creggs and Kilchreest contingent…

As usual it’s Monday morning as I am writing my column, but this particular Monday morning is very different to the normal ones. This time, I am sitting at a table outside the terrace of a villa in Calpe, Spain, overlooking a beautiful swimming pool that I have just emerged from. It’s 9 am, and it’s already 27 degrees.

Last Tuesday morning, at the very early hour of 6 am, we flew out of Dublin Airport to Alicante for the wedding of our son Mark to his partner Aoife. Since we’ve been here, every day has seen temperatures in the low to mid-30s.

Getting to Calpe from Alicante was a pretty hair-raising experience, as we travelled along dual carriageways at high speed, but it was when we got close to our destination that we were introduced to roads so narrow that if you met a tractor with a load of turf (thank God we didn’t) you’d expect everything to grind to a halt. Eventually we did reach the villa safely, and were delighted to find it had six really spacious rooms, and most importantly, the aforementioned pool, situated right outside the front door. With the very high temperatures that we experienced all week, it was the most valuable facility of all, even for someone like me who still has to learn to swim.

Needless to say it wasn’t too long before we decided to head for the town. It was then that we found that the 1.5 kilometres which the brochure stated was the distance from town, was in fact a slight understatement. Every journey to and from Calpe had to be made by taxi. However, the town itself was well worth it: there’s an amazing beach, loads of restaurants and bars, and a very vibrant atmosphere, with tourists from all over.

Even so, by the time Wednesday came around (the wedding was on Saturday), you could pick out different groups that were over for the festivities. By Friday night you would be forgiven for thinking that everyone you met was actually an invited guest.

As I said, there were loads of places to eat, but as a man who is totally reliant on the pint of plain, I was disappointed at the quality of the two Irish (or so-called Irish) pubs that we found in the vicinity of the wedding venue, the superb hotel Sol Y Mar. Both bars – The Irish Sea Tavern and Connolly’s – served Guinness, and the quality was reasonable, but that was it as regards the ‘Irishness’ on display. Neither bar had a single Irish person on the staff (at least while we were there), and in the Tavern in particular it was almost impossible to have your order understood.

This surprised me, as Calpe is obviously a popular place for Irish weddings (there was a Ballyhaunis one there on Friday) and the Sol Y Mar seems to be a favoured venue. So it’s a wonder that an Irish bar just across from it, such as the Tavern, wouldn’t cash in on the Irish visitors (and be prepared). The hotel itself was absolutely fabulous, but sadly they had no Guinness at all, so I had to travel over and back across the road to keep myself topped up!


The wedding

On Saturday, the ceremony was due to start at 3 pm. Carol and I, plus a couple of others, ordered a taxi to bring us to the hotel, but of course that was the first one of the week to be really late! It didn’t arrive until after 3 pm and we didn’t get into the venue until almost twenty past. There was a big panic, but thankfully we didn’t hold up the proceedings.

As the ceremony was being held on an open-air rooftop overlooking the beach, it was extremely hot. The ceremony itself, thank God, was very pleasant, and before too long we were brought indoors to the air-conditioned function room.

From that point on, everything went smoothly. The food and music were both superb, and the large crowd thoroughly enjoyed the whole event.

Aoife is from Kilchreest, with a lot of family roots in Clare, and there was an enormous turnout from the people on ‘her side’. As for Creggs, there could not have been very many of our younger folk left at home; there is no doubt that if the football lads had a game over the weekend we would have been very depleted – as would the rugby team.

As I reflect on the trip, I would say that Calpe hasn’t seen many days or nights like it. The younger crew partied like there was no tomorrow – and, mind you, the older people had their moments as well!

So to sum it all up, Calpe itself was amazing. The venue and the open-air beach-side bar, where the follow-up celebrations on the second day took place, were top class. The ceremony was beautiful, and the craic was even better. The only thing missing, even though we eventually did get used to the very hot weather, was a drop of rain and a good fresh breeze. All in all, I would say it was a rip-roaring success!


Ready to return

It’s now 6 am on the Tuesday after the wedding and I have been up since 4.30 am, waiting for our taxi to bring us to the airport. Remarkably, it was early. As a result, we were in Alicante Airport more than three hours before our flight was due to depart, leaving plenty of time for me to have easily the worst breakfast I have ever tasted!

Over the years I have had breakfast in lots of places, including at a pub in the airport with a statue of a boxer at the front door (which is sadly gone now). We assumed that the place on site now would be just as good, but as it turned out we were never so wrong. The food was simply awful, and the service was worse. There was no saving grace about it at all, except maybe the orange juice.

As I write this I am waiting to board the flight back to Dublin, while watching my 18-month-old granddaughter having a ball crawling around the floor and flying in and out between travel bags.


Galway to Dublin

We are now on the second last leg of the journey, getting the direct Citylink Galway to Dublin bus, and I have to say it is amazing.

It’s a two and a half hour journey during which I can sit back, pay no tolls, have no breakdown worries, no huge diesel bills, and endure no heavy traffic stress. Of course the free travel comes in handy as well, so it’s definitely a win-win situation. An hour or so later on this evening, we should be back in the old homestead and – enjoyable and all as the week away was – it will be nice to be back.

As for Dublin Airport, it was unbelievable! We were on the bus outside the terminal 25 minutes after touching down – we got through so quickly you would swear we were in Knock. As to why it worked out so well, I have no idea, but it certainly surprised us. The truth is that I had given up all hope of connecting with Citylink,as the plane was more than 40 minutes late – and with all the talk of the huge queues of recent times, we thought we would definitely miss the bus.

Anyway, we are now well on the Galway side of Athlone. As I prepare to return to a life of normal socialising, I will say that this trip to Calpe had a lot of moments that I will remember all my life. It is a lovely spot. But old habits die hard, and I would still favour Cabo Roig – where the Cabo Roig Inn and O’Riordans are miles ahead of the less authentic Irish pubs of Calpe. All in all, a very happy family occasion in the company of good friends.


And finally…

That great champion of the poor children of troubled Haiti, Michael Nolan, tells me that he is running a Golf Classic in Mountbellew Golf Club from Monday, 19th of September all through until Saturday the 24th in aid of the ‘Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage’ in Haiti. It’s €80 to enter a team of four, so I would urge you to grab a club, head off to the fabulous course that is Mountbellew, and support this great cause. I expect that I will be there and will once again rip up the course, probably literally!