John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Friday 1 September 2017


Manchester Airport—Málaga Airport—Mijas

02:15 Taxi
07:05 Manchester Airport
11:10 Málaga Airport
Hotel Puerta Del Sol, Mijas
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Málaga from your selected airport. On arrival, you will be met and taken to the carefully chosen Puerta Del Sol Hotel where we stay for one night. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure, allowing you time to settle into the hotel and start exploring if you wish.

The alarm clock sounded at 12.45am; and some minutes later, I got up… Did my last bits of packing.
 The minibus was late arriving. There’d been some problem; and both L., whom we were expecting, and G.B., whom we weren’t, and who was driving, were in it. The luggage was put aboard, and we set off. We went westwards along the noisy ridged-concrete surface of the A180, and continued along it when it became the smoother-surfaced M180. All motorways look much the same to me. I assumed we’d be crossing the Pennines on the M62 motorway; and it escaped my notice that at the end of the M180, we proceeded along the M18, not northwards to take us to the M62, but south-westwards till we joined the northbound M1. There were a number of fog patches that we passed through en route, but they didn’t slow us down appreciably. My first making a note of the route we were taking, was when we turned off the M1 on to an A-road, the “A616”. Were we doing this because I’d heard on the radio that some specified junctions on the M62 were not in use? That’s what I wondered to myself; I didn’t realise that we’d not even been heading to the M62 and were nowhere near it. It was dark, but I was able to scribble road numbers on a pad from time to time when we passed lights outside. At a roundabout where the westbound A616 takes a turn northwards, we turned left and continued westwards along the “A628”.
[i] We were travelling among hills, going up, down and around over moorland, occasionally held back by slower-moving vehicles; but it was when we got to the built-up outskirts of Greater Manchester that we really started being slowed down. The A628 was joined by and became the “A57”, and then at a roundabout we continued along a motorway, the “M67”. At the junction at its end we turned onto the “M60” heading south then west, then at another junction onto the “M56”, which we a few miles farther on left and arrived at Manchester Airport. We were on the upper level at Terminal 2; and before we parted company with G.B. and L., they suggested that when we had arrived back after our holiday we should come up here in the lift instead of leaving the terminal by the lower exit. It was a little before 5am.

[i] I’m writing this towards the end of the month, with the benefit of knowing that we travelled the same route back, when it was light, and with the benefit of being able to follow the route on a map. I didn’t realise at the time that this was the Woodhead Pass; only on the way back could I see that this was the case.

 Below, on the ground floor, we found the Monarch Airlines check-in desks. “Have you checked in on-line?” asked a woman who was directing those who approached. I answered, “No”;[ii] and she waved us in the direction of the long line of passengers snaking this way and that between the tape-and-stanchion barriers to the check-in desks. “We have ‘Priority Check-in’, though,” I added; so she waved us instead in the direction of a desk, adjacent to the others, that had perhaps only a couple of people waiting. From there we went through Security; although there were a lot of people waiting, snaking this way and that between tape-and-stanchion barriers, it didn’t take all that long to get through — and it was without any hold-up and additional scanning and checking this time. I hate it “air-side”: I loathe the duty-free shop “maze”, with its stifling, nauseating perfume-mélange assaulting the nostrils, through which you have to meander to get to the boarding-gates area (I always feel a strong urge to kick over the obscenely replete stacks e.g. of whisky bottles that one is forced to pass); and I find kind of disheartening and debilitating all the multitudes milling about in the boarding-gates area. (The close-packed crowds waiting for security don’t bother me in this way.) Janet bought a large banana and a Diet 7Up; and we managed to find a sandwich for me that wasn’t lathered, as most of them are, in that foul oozing jissom slime commonly called “mayo”. We made our way to the boarding gate, and had to wait a bit beyond the time given on the boarding pass; a long queue formed, but we joined a short queue next to it of those with “Priority Boarding”.

[ii] I’d not been able to check in on-line; for a few days previously, when I attempted to do it, I was prompted for a number or code that no-one had given me. It wasn’t in documentation from Riviera Travel, which indeed said that online check-in was unnecessary. And it wasn’t in the e-mail confirming our “flight extras”, for which we’d paid £110 — primarily for extra-legroom seats, but also for “Priority Check-in” and “Prioirity [sic] Boarding”.

 The seats on the Airbus A321-200 were in rows of three, either side of the aisle; but ours, 10D and 10E, were a set of two, with the aisle to the left and a space to the right. That space provided legroom for the seat behind, and also legroom for a folding rear-facing crew-seat in front, occupied during take-off and landing. The emergency door to the right was not such that a passenger could open it and discard it after an emergency landing, so there was no briefing on that procedure. There was an audible groan around us when the captain came on the intercom, saying that we could be up to an hour late taking off, according to air-traffic control. We were in motion, but were being pushed, she said, away from the boarding gate, to a parking location to await the go-ahead. So it was that take-off, scheduled for 07:05 BST, actually happened at 07:56; however, landing, scheduled for 11:10 CEST, occurred at 11:22,[iii] so only 12 minutes late, a flight-time of 2hr 25min.[iv] There was some taxiing to get us to the arrival gate, and some waiting. The hot 30-some degree air of Málaga that met us contrasted with the cold air of a Manchester night. We queued briefly to be nodded through Passport Control. The baggage-claim carousel started, then stopped for what seemed a long time. It started again ca.12.05pm, and even so our cases seemed to take a long time to appear.

[iii] I actually scribbled the note, “Landed just after 11.30am”, here.
[iv] Timings, according to FlightAware.

 We finally got to the man in the exit concourse carrying a “Riviera”-sign at ca.12.30pm, but were still waiting for others of our ca.50-strong party to arrive. His brief words to us as he ticked our names on his list were spoken with a somewhat “plummy” accent, so that I initially wondered if he might be English.[v] He led us out, and because Janet’s arm was still sore [from a fall a few weeks ago], helped with her suitcase. There was a lift down to where coaches were parked; we used it, but because it was taking a long time to arrive, and there were so many of us, others wheeled their cases down a ramp. I supervised the loading of our two cases in the underbelly of the bus, while Janet boarded and found us a seat. It was now ca.12.50pm. The tour manager, who’d met us at the airport, introduced himself as “Manuel”, and the driver also as “Manuel”. He was aware of the bungling, inept character of that name in Fawlty Towers! Now it became evident from a hint of accent that Manuel was, in fact, Spanish; but his command of English idiom was excellent. We set out, passing on our right the San Miguel brewery, before turning right, heading south-westwards, more or less parallel to the coast, and finally turning right again and heading inland to the hotel, which was on the outskirts of Mijas. At one point, Manuel said that we were passing the holiday resort Torremolinos on our left, but that wasn’t obvious from our position, because we were a mile or two from the actual coast. He said that tourists seeking the more cultural aspects of Spain such as ourselves shouldn’t look down on those who just came for the sun and for fish and chips, for they were an asset to the Spanish economy. There was some risk, he told us, that our hotel rooms might not be ready, because check-out time was midday, and rooms had to be cleaned and changed for incoming guests after being vacated. He suggested that if that were so, we could get lunch or have a drink in the hotel first. He also proposed that those who wanted to, meet up at 3.30pm to be taken to the centre of Mijas for a guided walk around till ca.5.30pm. He changed this to 4pm.

[v] The more I think about this, the more my description of “Uncle Tom”, Tom Wilson, comes to mind (Holiday in Scarborough — Day One, par.9): “He spoke with a well-bred, “fruity” voice with just a hint of gravel.”

 When we got to the hotel, the keys were in fact available and he called our names and handed them out fairly quickly. There was iced water flavoured with slices of lemon available from a glass dispenser with a tap. It had also a herby flavour that I didn’t immediately recognise, till someone said “mint”. The key was a real metal key, not a plastic card. Our room number was “114”. Because of people waiting for the lifts, I lugged the cases up the stairs to the floor above (the “first floor” in British parlance), only to discover that the room numbers there were two hundred and something — thus realising that our room was on the ground floor! In our room, when I tried to set a four-digit combination for the safe, I just kept getting a meaningless word “hold” on the display; so I went to reception. There was a fellow-guest waiting; and Manuel was also still there. “Safe?” he anticipated. The “Hotel Puerta Del Sol” had changed hands since he was last there (it was now “Hotel ILUNION Hacienda del Sol”), and there was a charge of €2.50 to receive a sheet of paper with an activation code on it.

We put passports, etc. in the safe. I’d also been given the password to log on to the hotel Wi-Fi (we didn’t have to pay extra for this); so while Janet was sorting out some stuff from the luggage, I set up the computer and logged on (13:55–14:08). Then we went along the corridor back through reception, and on out to the courtyard of the restaurant, under a canopy giving shade from the hot sun.

Bing Maps bird’s eye image

Janet had soda water with lemon-juice squeezed into it, two in fact before we were done. (Since she has more or less given up drinking cola, this is her staple when cola is the only “diet” soft drink available.) I had a couple of beers (shorter measure than the “pinta” that the till receipt suggests). Janet chose “mixed salad”, assuming that that meant mixed vegetable matter, asking for it without oil or dressing; but when it came it included tuna and hard-boiled egg slices,[vi] so she sent it back, specifying what she wanted. I had a cheeseburger.

[vi] This subsequently proved to be what was almost universally understood by “ensalada mixta”.

We went through the corner door into the restaurant proper to pay (at 15:08, according to the till receipt). “Back in the room,” Janet wrote, “I organised stuff for tomorrow.” With now considerable travelling experience, she arranges the packing so that on a one-night stop such as this, only one case need be opened. We reported to reception for 4pm, and were taken in the coach up to the town of Mijas itself. We stopped at a parking lot for coaches in Calle Olivar Don Pablo; and from there, there was a choice of waiting to ascend by a new lift, or of going up flights of steps. The lift proved to be temperamental, and would beep and not function if more than two got in. Perhaps the number would have been more than two if those attempting to use it had not been so obese!

The lift up from the coach park in Calle Olivar Don Pablo, still under construction in this Google Street View image from August 2016

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:27:12
View from the top of the lift — in the distance, right: Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:30:00
Sierra de Mijas, from the same location

First, Manuel showed us the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock,[vii] the claimed location of a number of Marian apparitions, excavated in the rock in the 16th century by Mercedarian friars.

[vii] In Spanish La Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña. For peña Google Translate gives “pain”, with two more translations, “rock” and “boulder”; so I imagine that there is a deliberate wordplay here.

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:32:08
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:32:08 (detail 1)
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:32:08 (detail 2)
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:33:18
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:33:58
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:35:36
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:38:30
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:38:40
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:38:48
Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:39:26
Panorama from the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:39:40
Panorama from the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:40:02
Panorama from the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rock, Mijas

From there Manuel led us westwards along Avenida del Compás to where there was a cliff of strikingly red stone to the left. On the way, we passed tethered donkeys, which were available, apparently, to ride for €10 for “15–20 minutos”. Elsewhere, over to the right in the nearby Plaza Virgen de la Peña, there were others hitched to light carriages as “donkey taxis”. At the far end of the cliff was an old tower, which by its appearance had latterly been a restaurant, but it was closed and its sign was gone. In front of it was a yellow shack with the likeness of wheels below it; this replaced an earlier caravan. It’s a museum, “Carromato de Max”, of miniature curiosities. Next to the tower, to the left, was a reconstruction of an old flour mill.

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:43:08

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:43:08 (detail 1)

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:43:08 (detail 2)

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:44:34
Avenida del Compás, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:44:46
Flour Mill, Avenida del Compás, Mijas

We continued along Avenida del Compás as far as the Plaza de la Constitución, which was decorated, as were one or two other streets, with strings of many spherical — lanterns, perhaps — deep pink ones and orange ones, for some fiesta or feria. Manuel pointed out the location of a restaurant called “The Secret Garden”, not as a recommendation but a suggestion. Then we had a choice: return with him to the coach; or explore, and return by bus or taxi. He’d earlier pointed out the location of the bus stop beyond the Plaza Virgen de la Peña.

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:46:34
Avenida del Compás, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:48:50
Looking north from the Plaza de la Constitución, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:49:34
Plaza de la Constitución, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:49:54
Plaza de la Constitución, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:50:16
Plaza de la Constitución, Mijas

Janet and I went on through the Plaza de la Constitución, choosing the left of two streets, Calle Cuesta de la Villa, which continued in the same direction at the end of the plaza. We came to a wooded area, Jardines de la Muralla (the fact that we passed the town’s bull-ring escaped our notice), and took much-needed advantage of the shade at the Cafeteria la Muralla for, again much-needed, refreshments; for it was very hot, with the sun beating down. Because Spain uses Central European Time, with additional Daylight Saving in summer, the sun comes to its noonday height at 2pm; so now, five o’clock, as far as the sun was concerned was only “three o’clock”. My order for cerveza was easily catered for; Janet had more difficulty asking for soda water with lemon squeezed into it. There was only carbonated mineral water (I persuaded her that that would be OK), and they supplied a whole lemon, sliced in two (again OK, because we could squeeze that in).

Friday 1 September 2017 — 16:53:56
Mijas Fortress, seen from Calle Cuesta de la Villa

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:02:04
Refreshments at Cafeteria La Muralla

There were a number of Brits around, for a British couple were getting married at the adjacent Church of the Immaculate Conception. There’s a substantial community of British expatriates in Mijas…

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:37:14
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:37:54
Cafeteria La Muralla, Mijas

We retraced our route back through the Plaza de la Constitución, and instead of bearing right at the end of it, north-east, back into Avenida del Compás, we continued north into Calle Málaga and turned left into Calle San Sebastián. Not far down (at №8, in fact), on the right, was the Aroma Café, at the back of which was the enclosed, shadily wooded “Secret Garden”. Janet had a salad and some bread and I had a pizza, with rather too much cheese on it, and a half-bottle of Rioja.[viii]

[viii] On second thoughts, it might have been a glass of Rioja here. I did have a half-bottle somewhere at some time. One used to be able to get half-bottles of wine (i.e. 37.5cl bottles, a “full” bottle being 75cl) in restaurants in England, but I’ve not seen them for years.

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:42:12
Calle Cuesta de la Villa, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:43:58
Plaza de la Constitución, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:50:38
Calle San Sebastián, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:50:38 (detail 1)
“Aroma Café & Secret Garden”, Calle San Sebastián, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:50:38 (detail 2)
“The Secret Garden”

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:51:18
Aroma Café, Calle San Sebastián, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:51:18 (detail)
To “The Secret Garden”

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:51:32
“Secret Garden”

Friday 1 September 2017 — 17:52:12
“The Secret Garden”

Leaving there, we went back along Avenida del Compás, turning left (northwards) when we got to the “red cliff”, crossing the Plaza Virgen de la Peña into Avenida Virgen de la Peña. Where that curves to the right there are some trees, with a bus lane looping behind them. We waited at the bus stop there, till Janet got fed up and went to the taxi rank on the other side of the trees. The taxi ride back to the hotel was €7.

Friday 1 September 2017 — 19:01:34
Avenida Virgen de la Peña, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 19:01:34 (detail)
Avenida Virgen de la Peña, Mijas — detail, showing the bus stop behind the trees and the taxi rank

Friday 1 September 2017 — 19:02:08
Sierra de Mijas, seen from Avenida Virgen de la Peña, Mijas

Friday 1 September 2017 — 19:12:22
Taxi back to the hotel

Friday 1 September 2017 — 19:13:28
Taxi back to the hotel

We arrived back at the hotel before 7.30pm, and were in bed a little over an hour later. Janet wrote: “Not good: we had to have the windows shut (mosquitoes) and the air-conditioning on. It was so loud and noisy that I couldn’t sleep.” That didn’t bother me overmuch, I didn’t find it excessively noisy; but a couple of hours later I was woken up by the sounds of entertainments just outside. Our ground-floor window faced the courtyard; opposite was the restaurant area we’d been to earlier, and off to the right was the swimming pool. I was aware of someone crooning songs in a much amplified voice. Janet’s recording of the disturbance starts when I must still have been asleep: “I heard an announcer calling out bingo numbers.… It was very loud. Not long after that there was music and singing; and then, to round it all off nicely, the fucking ‘hokey cokey’!” This went on till after midnight.

[Saturday 2 September 2017]

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