‘When in Spain’…a welcome return to sun, sea, and some great Irish characters!

Our man Frank on a welcome return to the Cabo Roig seaside resort in Spain…and adding his congratulations to Roscommon’s new world champion!

There can be no doubt that for everyone everywhere, no matter whether you’re a multimillionaire or a pauper, the last couple of years have been extremely tough. Since the arrival on our shores of Covid-19 more than two years ago, we have faced changes and challenges that we never would’ve even dreamed possible.

As a family, we have been no different; we too have encountered many difficulties in the recent past. And so it was with a fair degree of excitement (tempered with a large amount of trepidation) that Carol and myself found ourselves heading for Ireland West Airport in Knock last Wednesday week, preparing to board a Ryanair flight to Alicante for a ten-day break in the beautiful seaside resort of Cabo Roig.

Covid has changed so many things, and flying is one of those. Now, along with all the other stuff like passports and boarding passes, you have to have proof of vaccination, and if you forget that particular document, you won’t get into Spain. As we took off from Knock, some on the fairly full plane were wearing masks (including Carol and I), while some others weren’t.

After two and a half hours we touched down in Alicante, where we had all our stuff in order, and, thankfully, the first thing that hit us was the heat.

You see, for a number of weeks before our departure, we were keeping an eye on the weather on the Costa Blanca, and to tell the truth, for a lot of the early part of the year it was most un-Spain-like. They had plenty of wind, rain, and even sandstorms, and I have to say we were a bit concerned. For all its attractions – and there are a good few – Spain’s biggest selling point is the weather, and the normal likelihood is day after day of unbroken sunshine. We get plenty of rain here, so we didn’t want to get much out there.

But as it happened, we needn’t have worried, as the weather took up just before we got there. During our ten-day stay, all we saw was unbroken sunshine, thankfully backed up by a beautiful, soothing sea breeze.

It was October 2019 when we were last out in Cabo Roig, and there is no doubt that certain things have changed in Spain. The cost of petrol and diesel, which used to be about 20% less than here, seems now to be at least on par with us. The cost of food in the supermarkets has definitely risen steeply as well (although still cheaper than here), and eating out, (unless you go to the budget places, of which there are still a good many), has also got more expensive.

However, the good news is that the mosquitoes have got through Covid perfectly well, and they were obviously looking forward to a good feast of best Irish flesh. From the moment we arrived, to the moment we left, they attacked both of us with enormous relish. Looking at our backs, you would think that we were being used as dartboards; there were big, itchy, swollen red marks all over us!

During the ten days, we made use of gels, sprays, anti-histamines, electric yokes you plugged into the mains, jars full of gooey stuff that were supposed to put the mosquitoes to flight, ice cubes, and finally, Vicks – all in a vain attempt to defeat our attackers. Sadly, it was all to no avail, and the mosquitoes definitely won hands (red and swollen) down.

However, despite all that, we really had a wonderful time back in Cabo Roig. As I said, the weather was smashing, and the pool, which was only a minute from where we were staying, was beautiful and had lovely warm water. We visited it at least once (sometimes two or three times) each day that we were there, and once again I regretted never learning to swim.

I don’t know for sure whether we’d ever come back, but if we do, I would like to be a dolphin. I would be the best and most energetic swimmer in the dolphin world. Until then, I will have to make do with the embarrassment of being the only adult non-swimmer at the pool, settling for walking and paddling in the beautiful warm water.


The people you meet!

However, the truth, of course, is that the positives of the break far outweigh the negatives. At the end of the day it is the people you meet that make the holiday, and in this regard, we were very lucky this time.

We got warm welcomes back from the staff in O’Riordan’s Irish bar – especially proprietor Niall, his son Craig, and a lovely young Dublin girl, Clodagh. Meanwhile, the jewellery king of the strip, Colombo, greeted us with hugs and more hugs, and supplied me with my yearly Rolex watch for €15 (guaranteed genuine). We then paid a visit to the Cabo Roig Inn, in which Gerard (one of the former owners of The Bog Road) was now in charge. It was there we met some of the best characters we ever met in the good few years that we have been going to Cabo Roig – Barry Smullen (a Wicklow man who’s been living in Spain for 22 years), Mick Fitzpatrick (also from Wicklow and a former county footballer with the Garden County who divides his time between Ireland and Spain), as well as Offaly natives Dermot and Monica Moore, who, along with Penny the dog, run their own bar, El Faro, down near the Marina in Cabo Roig.

All were very interesting people and we had great fun with them. Dermot, who is a fervent Offaly supporter and does reports on all Gaelics matters on Facebook, was a mine of information on all things GAA, and we really enjoyed the time we spent in their company. We also met up with friends and acquaintances from previous visits, like Michael, Shane and Orla Connolly from Galway, along with Jack and Annette Keane from Ennis. And, as we had a cup of coffee outside Le Paradis on Friday morning, I met former classmate Ger Enright, now living in Newtownforbes, whom I last saw in secondary school in Roscrea, way back in 1968.

Creggs man Michael Fleming was out for a few days over the road in La Zenia, and this column’s prize for dedication goes to Tremane hurling man Seamus Farrell, who, having taken the 7.20 am (that’s 6.20 am here) flight out of Alicante, got out in Knock and hit for Croke Park to watch the Rossies play Tyrone in the Nicky Rackard Cup final. Sadly they lost that one, but Seamus was also there to see fellow Tremane man Niall Keenan play with Louth in the Lory Meagher cup final, a game they won (over Longford) on a 3-27 to 3 -14 scoreline, so at least he got one win out of two.

And so, as I write this on Sunday morning, we are back in Ireland. The wind is howling out the back, and the rain is rattling against the back windows, but much as we enjoyed Cabo Roig, about ten days at a time is enough. The unbroken sunshine is wonderful, but a nice fresh Irish rain shower is no harm now and again.

If I don’t come back as a dolphin, I would settle on being a millionaire who has a holiday home out there and visits four or five times a year. In the meantime, I intend to stay in touch with my new-found friends in the Cabo Roig Inn, keeping up to date with life over there – and hopefully getting back some time in the not-too-distant future.


And finally…Lisa does us all proud

A few Sundays ago I stood on the line in Tuam Rugby Club as Creggs played host in the Ard na Cregg Cup.

Among the small crowd of our supporters were Kevin and Ann O’Rourke and their daughter Lisa. At one stage I enquired as to what was coming up for Lisa in her boxing career, and she was quite casual as she explained she was preparing for the world championships in Istanbul.

We all know by now that she has become a world champion, and along with her sister Aoife, has put Castlerea, Connacht, and Ireland on the boxing map. The enormity of her achievement is hard to quantify, but when you consider she, along with fellow gold medal winner Amy Broadhurst, is now in the company of Katie and Kellie as world champions, it’s almost unbelievable.

I can tell you it was huge news in Cabo Roig, and I made the most of the fact that I know the O’Rourke family.

Anyways, she is a lovely, unassuming girl, and all I can do is send her all my good wishes and heartiest congratulations. I wish her well in what I’m sure will be a glittering future. Everyone Irish, wherever they are, is proud of you.