Marbella, then onto Benadalid

Best Coffee in Marbella?

A few days stay in Marbella with Dani’s Aita (grandmother) and one morning we went for a walk while most places were still closed. We stopped at a café that had a sign saying “Best Coffee in Marbella” (in English!). We tried it. It may have been (to some) but these things are subjective of course. However, it cost almost 4 Euros. Trust me; the Marbella region has hundreds of acceptable bars producing more than acceptable coffee. And for less than half of that price. My advice to anyone going to Marbella would be to settle for the 50th best coffee or 125th best coffee, or…well you get the idea right?

Roman Ruins…

On the last day we visited a Roman villa (Villa Romana). It is probably closer to Puerto Banus than Marbella town; so we went by car.

I am not the best passenger it has to be said but to call it a ‘white knuckle ride’ would be an understatement. Dani’s grandmother is one scary driver! While it may be tempting to use the tried and tested jokes about women drivers or Spanish driving I won’t go there. Let’s just say combine the two and then some… It makes the biggest rollercoasters seem very tame. I end up peeking through my fingers like a youngster watching some horror movie. However, I digress…

The Roman Flooring

The roman ruins are as you would expect for a 1st century A.D. building. Only about 2 feet tall (in places). The thing that makes this place worth visiting is the mosaic tiled floors. Still in fairly good repair and clearly showing many images. Almost like new in places.

Almost 2000 years old! I can tell you that you wouldn’t have to look far around this area for recently built swimming pools with many tiles missing or hanging off. Such is the fall in standards over two millennia.

I was quite impressed. Now I am wondering just how many other such sites would have been in this area? How many would have been unearthed on construction sites only to be bulldozed by the greedy developers in the mad rush to sell properties at the back end of the 20th century? Say nothing otherwise the site works would be held up! No doubt quite a few. This area made multi-millionaires out of a lot of dodgy property developers. They call it ‘The Golden Mile’. Apparently because there was more money to be made building apartments than in mining for gold.

Unimpressed boy…

Although it was only one small site it is technically another museum. Dani’s second in as many weeks. Needless to say, he thought it was “rubbish” and “boring”. Such statements do not bother me as I know he is attentive at school. It’s normal for a kid his age to be completely uninterested in anything remotely educational while on his summer holidays.

Only a few hours later we were on the road heading inland towards Ronda then turning off for Benadalid. This is genuine pueblos blancos (white villages) territory. The green heavily forested mountains sparsely sprinkled with white clusters. Basically nothing in between – unlike other parts of the south coast of Spain where the space between village is peppered with small developments and single buildings. These villages are all still remote and quite separate.

This is the Serranía de Ronda (mountain) range and will be our base for a week or two.

From Museum to Bohemia

A Trip to the Museum…

A few days ago Dani’s mum thought it would be a good idea to take him to a museum. It was not.

When faced between a choice of (say) playing with Lego or visiting an archaeological museum which do you think a four year old boy would prefer? Yes that’s correct. The Lego (or anything similar) wins every time. I have to admit it was a close-run thing for myself. But we both, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to give the museum a try.

Unsurprisingly Dani was soon bored. There is only so much looking at old artefacts that a child of that age can stand. It was too much for him. The (supposed) highlight and reason for the visit was a replica of the famous prehistoric cave paintings at the Caves of Altamira in Cantabria. The museum had built a small section of the caves with a large mirror placed below so you don’t have to strain your neck looking up. All I can say is that it was OK. Dani did not hesitate when asked whether he liked it by the lady at the exit whether he liked it. “It was boring” he replied.

The real caves….

I tried to visit the real caves about 20 years ago. I only found out that they had restrictions on visitors when I arrived. The caves have been closed to the public a couple of times since the 1970s when it was thought that carbon dioxide water vapour exhaled by the large numbers of visitors was causing mould to grow on the paintings. The caves had been reopened in 1982 but with limited access and closed again in 2002. Very few visitors were allowed in per day, resulting in a three-year waiting list. I was only passing through the area so was not prepared to wait that long. It seems they are now of a different opinion and think the conditions are now far more stable. The caves were reopened to the public in 2010.

A final word on the museum: In fairness, I did find the section about the history of money interesting; as did Dani. He also enjoyed the Egyptian mummies.

Marbella via Los Romanes…

This endless summer rolls on. I am beginning to understand why so many parents – especially the stay at home parents – are so glad when the kids have to go back to school.

Then some respite. Holiday time. Dani’s mum is free to relieve me of the full-time child minding. And so off to the little village of Los Romanes for a weekend. As luck would have it this was Feria weekend in the village and there was lots to keep Dani amused. Including a rock concert arranged by a local bar owner named Paco. Four (relatively) local bands played for Paco’s festival which he used to promote his own craft beers (cervezas artesanales) conveniently named Cervezas Romanes.

As always with these things the weekend passed by all too quickly but this was only the beginning. We headed off for Marbella to spend time with Dani’s grandmother (again). It’s hot and he is a full-time job. Fortunately I now get a break.

Scaramouche Scaramouche will you do the fandango…

I used to like some of the songs by Queen. I still do. They are just wearing a bit thin now as Dani can spend hours singing them. He has really taken to their music and I have no real explanation for it. I am not Queen’s biggest fan but obviously have some of their music. A friend told me recently that Queen’s Greatest Hits is the best-selling album of all time. I can believe it. Dani would agree too as he knows every song on it. Not only that. He knows other songs by other groups but Queen is the go to band.

For those interested in Queen songs here is their most famous song. A simple unaccompanied vocal rendition by a four-year-old boy. I think he has the full and correct song here…

Great fun I am sure you will agree but trust me; after the fifth time…

 

A Day Out at Warner Bros. Park

Not the best of starts…

The day did not start too well. When we arrived there were lots of people (as expected) yet the queues at the taquillas (ticket booths) were short. The problem was they were not moving. Not at all. We waited over half an hour and the area is not shaded. It was already very hot. Some people said they had been there almost an hour!

I knew it would be hot and I knew it would be busy. This was July in Madrid for goodness sake; but this kind of inefficiency is not acceptable. Someone at Warner Bros needs to address this issue.

Cartoon Village

Needless to say, by the time we got inside the park Dani’s dad was a little grumpy. Dani too. (I wonder where he gets it from?) He was ready for a relax and suggested we go to a bar!! I would have gone along with that idea – there are plenty of places to eat and drink. Instead we made straight for the cartoon village area. Who doesn’t love the Loony Tunes cartoons?

First attraction we tried was called Daffy Duck Emergencies (Emergencias de Pato Lucas). Dani was unable to shoot the water as the buttons were very stiff. My side was almost broken and there is no way a small child could operate them without adult help. Note to Warner Bros park: Those need fixing!

Things got a lot better….

The next place we went to was the Coyote rollercoaster. For some reason children over 105cm tall can be accompanied by adults. I thought he would love the ride because Wile E Coyote was “driving” the train. As it turned out this “moderate” (terror) ride proved a little too much for him. He just about put up with it and thankfully (as is usual with this type of ride) it was over in less than a minute. He was in no hurry to try it again but I think he was fairly pleased he had done it.

We visited several other attractions in the cartoon village including the Scooby Doo Adventure (house) which was an updated version of what we used to call a ghost train ride when I was young. The cars have laser beam guns which you can fire at targets. Your scores are displayed on the cars “dashboard”.

Perfect Timing

Dani’s mum wanted to go on a particular water attraction so we headed into the Wild West zone. We could not believe our luck. En-route we bumped into a certain Wile E Coyote. Walking right toward us. He stopped for a few photos. Dani was incredibly excited. Photos with his favourite character. What more could we ask for? That alone made his day.


Rio Bravo

For some reason small children are allowed on this one. I have been on several of this type of ride in the past. Usually there is the steep climb followed by a slow flowing “river”, finishing with a water slide descent and a big splash where everyone gets soaking wet. I have to admit the finishing chute to this ride was far steeper than anything I had seen before. Dani was showing signs of fear. I was also a little concerned. After 40 minutes of waiting Dani finally decided he did not want to go on it. We did anyway. He cried but we survived.

His fears were justified. The final descent was not even the worst part. Once inside the “mountain” the boat is turned and thrown backwards down an equally steep fall. Both myself and Dani (sat in the back row) physically left the seat. It is no wonder the little fella was scared. The odd thing is that there is another similar water chute ride in the park and it is a lot less severe. Yet it is deemed unsuitable for kids of Dani’s height. Meanwhile Rio Bravo takes kids only 1 metre tall.

Gotham City

Next stop was Gotham City and a chance to meet some D.C. Comics superheroes. We had photographs with Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern as well top Villains The Joker and Cat-woman. Some were less convincing than others I have to say.

 

We went on The Jokers Coches de Choque (bumper cars or dodgems) which meant yet another long wait. The turnaround time on some attractions could definitely be improved. It was worth the wait. Dani loved it.

                        

Then there was a stunt show at Gotham City Hall. The Batman facing his nemesis The Joker. An animated young boy pretended not to be too impressed when it was all over. During the show however he was completely engrossed, narrating every bit of the action for all around to hear. Very funny.

Final Fun….

Before we left the park Dani insisted that we go into Scooby Doo’s “house” again. Another long wait. Over 40 minutes. But he enjoyed it and that is what matters most. I have to admit I also enjoyed it.

By the time we came out the sun was going down and the final parade was about to start. We watched the parade and he loved it. All the characters took part, apart from (curiously) Wile E Coyote. This was duly noted, but the boy did not complain. It was late in the day and we were all tired. We went straight into one of the shops and bought a Coyote and headed for the car. Within minutes he was asleep still clutching the Wile E Coyote.

Suggestions to Warner bros.

An excellent day out. I am seriously considering buying an annual pass. However, I do hope Warner Bros. take note that they can still make some subtle improvements – especially to the chaotic entrance operations.