Alhama de Granada is the latest place I have ended up on my quest to entertain and delight the world (or more like, for the world to entertain and delight me).
It is a small spa town around 50 or so kilometres from Granada city, in the south of Spain. Easiest way to get there is by car from Granada airport, however with a combination of my aversion to driving and my desire to keep the costs down, I opted to get a bus (there are three a day on weekdays).
Once there, the only public transport options are to go back to Granada. There is one bus a day going the other way, to Torre del Mar on the coast near Nerja, but no bus back from there until the next day.
Alhama isn’t Party Central, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s just a small Spanish pueblo with a nearby gorge offering lots of walks with spectacular scenery looking over olive groves and almond trees. There are a couple of swimming pools, the spa/hot springs a couple of kilometres out of town plus, for me, the opportunity to catch up with the endless pile of emails and internet-based stuff that I never seem to get on top of.
The name Alhama comes from the Arabic word for the hot springs. The town has a rich history, having been conquered from the Moors by the Christian knights in 1482. The town centre has a selection of historically significant buildings and monuments; the tourist office has maps and you can easily walk around them in a couple of hours.
There is a little collection of bars and restaurants in the town. Drinks in Granada Provence normally come with a little plate of (free) tapas, so if you are not spectacularly hungry in the evening you can skip dinner and just have a couple of drinks whilst you watch the sun go down.
Other options include cooking for yourself. There are a few supermarkets in town (really just corner shops) with a minimum of foods and other ‘essentials’. On Friday morning there is a market. The market is good for fruit and vegetables, plus there is some cheap clothes and household products.
There is a selection of ATM machines, mostly (all?) accepting foreign bank cards. There are a couple of pharmacies and a few other shops but really there isn’t much to spend your money on.
In an ideal world I wouldn’t have headed into Europe in August. It’s never a great time to go, and this year in particular there was the prospect of extra long queues at immigration (strike action plus new rules for British travellers entering Europe, a kind of dress rehearsal for what it’s going to be like travelling in a post-Brexit world).
Southern Europe is also currently experiencing a ‘heatwave’, with the ever-present danger of wildfires in rural areas.
However I didn’t want to travel too far from London, unless my presence was suddenly required, meaning Asia or the Americas were out. I wasn’t against staying in UK for August, but without access to my house it would have ended up costing me more money and so didn’t make sense.
It’s a no-brainer really. Do I want to spend £700 to rent a room in Tooting, South London (this was about the best option I found on Airbnb for August), sharing a bathroom, no kitchen, battling through the drizzle to get anywhere, or do I want to spend £700 to get my own one-bedroom apartment in Spain, moaning about the heat as I make my way to the pool for a quick dip before siesta time?
There were no queues at Granada airport. It’s just a tiny airport anyway (EasyJet have just started flights there, so watch it grow) and it took 5 minutes tops for the man to take a perfunctory look at my passport and wave me through. So much for the tough new regulations that I’d been reading about all week (in fact, they have until October to fully implement the changes).