Do you know, I actually quite like Almeria city. It’s got the small town friendliness of Jaen or Cordoba, but better shops; and while it doesn’t compare to Granada or Seville for shopping or dining, the people are friendlier and a lot less pijo. Why, walking down the street behind the market at Puerta Purchena this afternoon, a marching band started up and three uni lads started doing the paso doble in the middle of the street. No hustling, no passing of the hat, just a load of happy people clapping.
Almeria is a city that lacks good hotels. I’m currently ensconced in the Hotel Vincci Mediterraneo (just below the Hotel Mediterraneo, Suite 406 if anybody is interested) which is supposed to be one of the better ones. So far, I’ve discovered that if you stand in the door of the lift the doors dont’t detect you standing there and try to crush you; the bottle opener in the mini bar just snapped off in my hand; the whole place, while nice, is more of a upper 3 star rather than a decent 4 star (and I’m in the best room of the place, it seems – although with the climate control going, the door starts to rattle as it’s loose); but the staff are wonderful. Why, just now a cleaner walked into the room without knocking to drop off some sweets and turn down the bed. She didn’t notice me in the corner, and was quite startled when I walked into the bedroom and coughed.
And, whilst sitting earlier in the bar, the music stopped and a loud beeping sounded. “Christ”, shouts David startled out of his Times, “Fire!” and was off like a rabbit.
I was stopped at the reception by a flustered young lad who admitted that the beeping sound was actually because the batteries had run out on the sound system. Not fire. Someone was dispatched to the corner shop for more batteries and the music recommenced. I got some free extra peanuts from Emilio behind the bar in recompense.
Graffiti isn’t as bad as it used to be. Granada, for example, is a sh*thole for graffiti. The last time I spent a weekend there the only wall in the city centre that wasn’t graffitied was the five star hotel in the centre, I assume because they employ large men with sticks. Even the front of the Policia Nacional station was covered in it. Round here, you only see a little bit. Quite a change from before. I’m assured that this is because it’s cleared off the next morning, and heavy fines handed out to anyone caught. Granada, take note.
The centre of town has a pleasant scheme going on called “Almeria city centre shopping centre”. Basically, all the shops in the city centre have signed up together and promote each others shops, unify the outside of their shops, general marketing and have lists of other shops so you can ask about products and get directions. A wonderful idea.
Traffic flow has been improved immensely since the Med games 2005. You can actually drive. Yes, I know, nobody has bothered to join up the lanes when you cross major intersections, so if you continue in a straight line you may end up staddling 2 lanes and being honked out, but it seems that somebody in Almeria town hall actually sat down and at least tried to iron out the hard parts. Compared to other Andalucian cities, that is.
Parking is still very much Andalucia. I parked in a street signposted “No parking on the right 15 – 31st of the month”. Today is the 28th, and I parked on the right, along with everyone else. “No need to worry” smiled the Receptionist, “that was an EU grant. I park there every day. Don’t bother paying for the hotel parking, it’ll be fine there!”
And while driving down Obispo Obera, there were no less than 4 cars parked side by side to the left. Forcing the bus on the right to mount the pavement to let me get by. And the two locales having a smoke out of the wind couldn’t have cared less, they were on the lookout for young punks with spray cans.
I had a most delicious menu del dia at midday, and intend to write it up in a bit. Three courses, plus coffee, for two, €22,40. We had a choice of 8 starters, plus 7 main courses and 6 puds. “Swap them around!” urged the genial proprietor. “Have two main courses or two starters!”. Beer and wine included. Well cooked, although the inclusion in the staff of mein hosts father (behind the bar, over 90 I would guess) only slowed things down. Mein host grabbed us while reading the menu outside. Upon hearing that we were from Murcia (not really, but he seemed to assume that anything in the Levante was Murcia, as so many Andalucians do) he told us that if we didn’t like the food we wouldn’t have to pay. Fair enough! No idea why he said this, as ten minutes later the place was packed with local workers, and he sat us at a table for 4, despite some tables for 2 being available. “Make room!” he urged. “You need space for your shopping bags!”. And in case you now swear at me for taking the cheap option of the menu del dia, that was all there was. Armando, his name was. “Cafe Bar El Turia”, C/ Ricardo 6. (See map).
Off for Sushi tonight with some friends, then intend to see if the cuatro calles have improved since I were a lad. I shall report back anon.