Christmas in the Canaries

Christmas had always been a family occasion for me. No matter what we were doing, my brother and I would always spend Christmas Day at my parents. There would be the usual big dinner followed by board games, more food and the inevitable slump in front of the TV at the end of the day.

But after my brother got married and they wanted to spend a few Christmases alone as a new family, it became just me and my parents for Christmas Day and it began to feel just like a standard Sunday.

Leaving the gloom on the UK behind

So I decided to mix it up a bit. Telling my parents I had decided I was going to go abroad for Christmas and it was up to them if they wanted to join me or not, they said if I could get a cheap enough deal, they would consider it. Cheap and Christmas break don’t necessarily go together and for a while, it was looking like another standard Christmas in the UK but finally, in mid-December, I found a hotel and flights package through Love Holidays for a week in the resort of Costa Teguise in Lanzarote over Christmas coming in at under £250 each. It was departing from Manchester, not our local airport, but even factoring in getting an airport hotel, doing a stay and park deal we found on Holiday Extras, and petrol, it still worked out a pretty bargainous deal.

On the beach in Costa Teguise

We had gone away for Christmas once before, spending 3 weeks in Cyprus over Christmas and New Year when I was a teenager. Back then, Christmas at home had been a fun time of the year I always looked forward to and it was odd spending it away. As much as we enjoyed the holiday itself, Christmas felt weird an we all said we’d never do it again. But now as an adult, when Christmas was different anyway, it felt like the right time to give Christmas abroad another go.

Costa Teguise

Things did not get off to the best start when we arrived at the Oasis Lanz Beach Mate aparthotel to find they didn’t have our booking. We were told we had cancelled our booking, which obviously we would never have done, and had to use the hotel phone to contact Love Holidays to find out what had happened. It turned out they had accidentally cancelled the hotel portion of our trip.

Christmas Day on the beach

Luckily, the hotel had a room we could have, although not the superior room we had booked. Without any other options, we took it and Love Holidays refunded us the difference.

The room was fine for the time we spent in it – a ground floor room with one bedroom and a bed-settee in the lounge, a fully equipped kitchen and a patio which opened out onto the hotel pool. It was also in a great location just a short walk from the beach and the main part of town but far enough away from the bars and clubs that it was nice and quiet for us.

Sunset coastal walk

We had been to the resort of Costa Teguise once before, again when I was a teenager, and were keen to find out if it had changed much from what we remembered so once the room drama was sorted and we had settled in, we ventured out into the evening to see if we could get our bearings and still remember our way around.

We found that the area hadn’t changed much at all, maybe a few more bars and clubs, especially of the British variety, which we would make sure to keep away from.

Palm trees surrounding our aparthotel complex

The next day was Christmas Eve’s Eve and unfortunately, a rare cloudy day on the island. We used the day to explore the area more now it was daylight, walking along the main stretch of beach, Playa de la Cucharas, to the small cove up by the five star Melia Salinas hotel, the beach we had mainly used on our last visit many years ago.

By the pool at our aparthotel, and below, taking a coastal stroll

Continuing along the coast path, we eventually reached Playa de los Charcos, another small beach, where we sheltered from the wind in an already built stone windbreak and sat having lunch before walking back into town.

The sun making an appearance in the afternoon, we returned to our apartment and sat poolside, taking a dip in the pool to cool off, venturing out in the evening to a local pizza restaurant for dinner.

The weather improved on Christmas Eve but the strong winds made it too chilly to sit out on the main beach so instead, we followed the coast path around to Playa del Jablillo, the small cove by the Hotel Grand Teguise Playa, where it was more sheltered.

On Playa del Jablillo beach

As the sun started to retreat in the late afternoon, we decided to go for a walk further along the coast path where we ended up at another small cove, Playa Bastian. It was a really pretty walk and it became a regular stroll for us over the course of the week.

The next day was Christmas Day and it was strange waking up to warm sunshine. We put a Christmas song playlist on in our apartment and opened the few presents we had brought away with us before walking to the beach. It was a great atmosphere on the beach and in the town with lots of people wearing Christmas shirts, hats and other adornments.

Christmas Day dessert

That evening, we had booked to eat out at a Steakhouse in town and while not the usual Christmas dinner, we really enjoyed our meal.

The rest of the week was more of the same, a really nice few days of sunshine and relaxation and when the time came to go home, we were sad that we had only booked to go away for a week.

While not the usual way to spend Christmas, we had really enjoyed our alternate celebrations and agreed we wouldn’t hesitate on going away for Christmas Day again in the future.

Revisiting a childhood holiday in Majorca

Returning to Majorca 25 years on

Back in the 80s, package holidays were a relatively new thing. When I was a child of 8, my parents managed to scrape together enough money along with making use of the ‘free child places’ schemes to take us on a 2 week holiday to Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands off the coast of mainland Spain. We went in early October – term time, which wouldn’t be allowed now but which I never feel affected our schooling back then and we stayed at the Cala Marcal hotel in the resort of the same name. We enjoyed our holiday there so much, we went back for 2 more holidays over the next few years – it would have been 4 except the one year, we had to move resorts at the last minute following a travel agent error.

At Cala Marcal hotel with my mother and
my brother in the late 1980s.

My recollections of the holidays are a little hazy but the important bits are there. I remember being at the airport, carrying my teddy bear through security and watching it go through the x-ray machine but I don;t remember the flights themselves at all. I remember the uniquely shaped hotel, looming tall overlooking the beautiful sandy bay. I remember building sandcastles on the beach with my younger brother and playing in the sea, often jumping through like, what seemed at the time, huge waves. I remember occasionally leaving the beach, and our parents, to go to the hotel’s kids club and I remember dancing the night (or probably early evening) away at the children’s disco each night.

Family photo in the hotel Cala Marcal in the 1980s

As well as the beach, I remembered the area around the hotel quite well as well – the apartments and shop – where we’d buy those long packets of sweets from – to the one side, a road to the other side, eventually leading to a village with a harbour, a place called Porto Colom, which we’d walk to some evenings and sit out at a bar before returning to our hotel.

We rarely left the immediate area back then. I think we hired bikes once with child seats on the back and rode around Porto Colom one day and once took a bus to Cala d’Or to see if it would be somewhere we might stay at on a future trip (it wasn’t).

Returning to Cala Marcal beach

These holidays stopped once I reached secondary school age. We could only ever afford to go in term time and ow my schooling became more important than a holiday abroad. After this, annual holidays became 2 or 3 week camping holiday at a UK seaside resort like Weymouth or Tenby. Then, when we were older, we returned to taking a couple of package holidays but going later in the year for Christmas, chose warmer locations of and the Canaries.

The Cala Marcal Hotel still looking out over Cala Marcal beach
Walking along the headland – looking back towards the beach
and Cala Marcal hotel.

As much as we enjoyed these, when looking back at old holidays and reminiscing, we always spoke most fondly of Cala Marcal. There was always something special about it. It wasn’t a well known Majorcan resort. No one else we knew had even heard of it, never mind been there. It was a tucked away, peaceful, family resort. A place to go to get away from it all. We often talked about going back but nothing ever came of it.

A stroll along the headland.

Until recently. We’d had a bit of a run of bad news and a summer holiday in Wales where it had rained and rained and rained. My parents 40 year anniversary was coming up and we’d talked a few times about how nice it would be to get away. I was supply teaching at this point and not tied down to taking holidays in term time so I started looking online. One day, I got an alert through from holiday bargain specialists Holiday Pirates for an all inclusive, late September one-week stay in Majorca for under £240 a person and when I clicked through to read it, it was for the resort of Cala Marcal. It was like fate pulling us back.

On the road to Porto Colom – steps from the road
down to Cala Marcal beach

Whereas we had always stayed at the Cala Marcal hotel, this time we’d be staying at the Cecile apartments around the corner. As our holiday neared, we wondered how much, if at all, the resort would have changed from how we remembered it.

We arrived late evening to torrential rain, so much rain that we were forced to move apartment rooms the next day after ours started to let in. With it being drizzly and cloudy the first morning, we took a walk to the neighbouring village of Porto Colom. As we left the apartments, we immediately remembered our way around the small resort of Cala Marcal. Very little seemed to have changed. The cove of sand sweeping back to the quiet road, behind which, the Cala Marcal hotel stood, now painted a beige colour instead of the white it once was but still just as distinctive. The beach was now filled with more regimented loungers and parasols than it used to be and there were a few more shops and bars lining either side of the bay than we remembered but not enough to spoil it.

Down by the harbour in Porto Colom
Walking through Porto Colom

We easily found our way to Porto Colom, following the road up and over the hill, the smell of pine cones along the way bringing back memories of many childhood walks in this direction. My memory of the village itself was hazy at best – a long road which led down to a harbour, lined with souvenir stores and bars. The main road through the village remained but there was now an open square leading off it with bars and cafes, there seemed more hotels in the area than we remembered, the harbour seemed bigger and there were more restaurants and less shops. It still kept its quiet authenticity of a Spanish fishing village though, largely unspoilt by the intervening 20 or so years.

Views across the bay at Cala Marcal from the road to Porto Colom.

With the sun attempting to make an appearance, we decided to walk back to our apartments in time for the included buffet lunch after which we took a stroll down to the beach. The weather cleared long enough for us to take a dip in the sea, the waves almost as huge as I remembered them from my childhood after the recent stormy weather. Unfortunately, the rain made a comeback after a couple of hours and we had to make a run for it back along the short distance to our new apartment room.

Thankfully, the rest of the week brought glorious sunshine and higher than average temperatures allowing us to have the relaxing holiday in the sun which we had hopped for. We spent our days lounging on the beach and swimming in the sea and our evenings taking a stroll into Porto Colom where we’d sit out in the square, having a drink at a cafe bar.

Cala Marcal bay at night

One evening, we managed to take a look at our old Cala Marcal hotel and found that hadn’t changed much either as we easily found our way around to its cafe bar and main family entertainment area then out into its grounds. Maybe one day in the future we can return to the area and stay there once again but for now, we were pleased with our choice of apartments.

It’s always a gamble going back to somewhere you have fond memories of as a child. Often, the place has changed to the point of being recognisable, or sometimes, it turns out it just wasn’t as great as you remember after all. Luckily, neither of these was the case for Cala Marcal. The resort was just as special as I remembered from my childhood visits and I look forward to returning again some day.