“Fancy a cheap holiday?”  Ah my favourite 2 words. Cheap and holiday.  They go together like fish and chips, or pie and mash or Eurovision and failure.  The suggestion came from our friends Rachel and Tibu (see other Spanish blogs for the full relationship). Tibu is Spanish (come on, how many people from Lancashire do you know with the name Tibu) and his parents live in a village called Bogarra in the region of La Mancha (yes he really is the man from La Mancha).  We have stayed there for a couple of nights once before.  We were in the area (well the country) and Rachel and Tibu were visiting the family for Las Fiestas and so we popped round for a couple of days.  It was an interesting experience. No one here speaks English.  I don’t speak Spanish.  I was known as “el muto hombre from La BBC”.  Nik (big sis.  Keep up, you will need to draw a family tree tomorrow when I introduce Tibu’s family) came in January one year for olive picking (it was freezing) but this would be the first time all 5 of us came together.

So cheap flights and a hire car were booked and we were set.  The plan was that we flew out on the 5:00 pm from Liverpool to Madrid, stayed over in a hotel near the airport and then headed up to Bogarra, via Tibu’s brother Ave (produced Abi.  Yeah, I know, go figure.  Get your pens ready, that is the first part of the family tree drawn). We were picked up by Rachel and and Tibu, then we picked up Nik and were at the airport…3 hours before the flight.  Rachel wanted to be early…and we were.  Saying that we made use of our time. Apparently something had happened with Speedy Boarding and we had to sort it out.  I had seen a few e-mails about this, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying attention.  I think I was distracted at the time by something more important, like was the Leyland Allegro more aerodynamic going backwards than it was forward (it was).  I am starting to turn into my dad when I travel and just let everyone else take the lead.  There is a pecking order here: those that can speak the language (in order of expertise; Tibu, Rachel, Nik, Karen) and then me.  I take the photos and write stuff. To be honest, I just tag along and ask when, where and what we are eating when I get peckish.  Rachel works in a nursing home and so I’m just being a substitute resident for her.  I’ve got to keep her grounded.  Anyway, the Speedy Boarding was sorted and we headed off.

Liverpool airport on a Bank Holiday was the quietest I have ever seen it and within 15 minutes we were in the cafe having all bought our body weight in perfume and aftershave.  The rest of the journey was remarkably uneventful.  I watched a couple of things on iPlayer (FYI. Witless, the new sitcom on BBC 3 starring Russell Howard’s sister is very, very funny) and we landed early. After a long walk from the plane, a long wait for the bags, and an even longer wait at the car hire desk (see the Madeira blog for my thoughts on that), an hour and half after landing, we were off to our hotel.
Again, e-mails had been sent, but I was too busy finding out how many people can fit into a mini (old style, the new ones are massive, where is the challenge in that?), but I basically ignored them.  Saying that, I do remember that there was a choice of 3 and one of them was an Ibis.  We set off into the twilight of a Spanish day and headed onto the motorway.  Very quickly we saw all our favourite shops; Mercadona (cue everyone singing the radio advert jingle); Carrefour (“It’s what your car’s for” Old advert from the 90’s in the UK) and El Cortes Ingles (Karen’s mother ship). About 30 minutes later we pulled into an Ibis on an attractive industrial estate…somewhere.  By this time we were hungry and thirsty (it was about 10:00 pm ).  Parking was tight; but Nik expertly squeezed the car in between a tree and a Mercedes, we unpacked and went to check in. 

That’s when the problems began.  It would appear we hadn’t booked into the Ibis, but another hotel “500 metres down the road”.  We repacked the cases, Tetris style and headed down the road, for about 2 KM (500 meters my morcilla).  Once bitten twice shy, we sent Tibu to make sure we definitely were at the correct place (he booked them, he could do the walk of shame).  3 minutes later, he walked back with a grin on his face.  We were at the wrong place again.  The actual place was 2 junctions back towards the Airport.

This was turning into an edition of Bullseye.  “Look at where you could have stayed”. Eventually we arrived at the 3rd hotel, and in true Goldilocks style, it was just right.  We checked in, ate and were ready to start our holiday proper the next day.  That is if Tibu can remember where his brother lives.

Tomorrow, the feeding frenzy begins.

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