I wrote a piece last year after I came back from a Spanish holiday, saying that Spain had sold it’s soul and gone against its own brand values of sun, sea and fun in favour of profit.
But my experience this year gave me a vague glimmer of hope.
Most of the prices seem to have dropped in the restaurants, the cabs and the beach bars. A meal for a family of four has fallen from €100 to nearer €80. Lunch in a beach bar can be easily taken for less than €40 and the people seem to have got friendlier again. Less in search of profit and far more able to smile. Perhaps they’re resigned to the fact that their business is on the verge of bust. There are hundreds upon hundreds either gone or clearly about to go.
New build apartments are still all empty, although the prices have fallen from €220k Euro last year to a little over €120k this year.
Local figures being quoted are that of the 4.5 million properties on the Costa del Sol, only around 20% are occupied at any time – and you can tell by how deathly quiet it is. The traffic is lighter, the beaches are quieter, even the shops are quieter.
But where they win is in the places that aren’t built up. Those that haven’t been built all over still have real charm and the most fantastic food. Yes, Puerto Banus is vile, showy, ludicrously expensive and not for me – it’s not a coincidence that it has the word anus in the middle of it you know – but drive ten miles down the coast beyond Estepona and you are back into places where the Brits and Irish haven’t yet built all over and destroyed.
I genuinely think that Spain will do a ‘Greece’ and go bust, for the rest of Europe to bail out. But if you rent somewhere on the beach, buy the local food and wine and enjoy the sun and laid back atmosphere, there are still fewer places in the world I’d rather be.
This year, for the first time in many, many years, I didn’t want to come home – and that’s what Spain should be – and always used to be about.