This was the question we were asking ourselves as we boarded the bus in Salobrena for a 2 hour ride along the Mediterranean coast to Almeria. We there was an airport – we were flying to the UK from there the next day. We also knew there was a hotel expecting us in the middle of town, which we had to get to from the bus station. Yep – there was a bus station too. But this was it. Sum total of Almeria knowledge.
Ignorance is one of the joys of making up trips pretty much as you go along. Not knowing what to expect when you arrive somewhere you really know nothing about means you don’t build up high expectations. If you destination is ho-hum, then, so what? You move on the next day. But even small unanticipated pleasures and discoveries can lead to a memorable day or two. And our day in Almeria was certainly a memorable one.
Armed with the Lonely Planet’s map, we walked the 20 minutes from the bus station to the hotel through the siesta-deserted streets. It was a 30C+ day, and I felt like a siesta when we checked in to our perfectly functional room, situated on a small square in the old part of town. But there was a town to explore …
The highlight turned out to be the magnificent Alcazar (pics here). Situated high on a hill behind the town, it was a sprawling combination of ruined and restored walls, turrets, gardens and on-going archeological digs. Apparently Almeria was one of the major ports during the Muslim reign, and hence this was a pretty major fortress and town. The sense of history was almost palpable as you wandered the grounds and walls, and the views along the coast with the deep blue Med were magnificent. And for some reason it was free to get in this day.
After spending a good hour in the Alcazar, we meandered around the old town, now newly rejuvenated with post-siesta workers and shoppers. It was still a fine, warm late afternoon, so we crashed in a street-side bar for a beer and watched the passing parade of people burdened by their recent purchases. While sipping a cold cerveza, we looked at a local bar/restaurant brochure we’d picked up at the hotel. It recommended 7 bars/bodegas all within staggering distance of the hotel. This sounded like a gift-wrapped plan for a bar crawl. So we paid, went back to the hotel, had quick shower to wash the dust off, and by 8pm we were crawling.
What transpired was a seven visits to small, lively bars populated with friendly locals enjoying a Friday night out. There was good, incredibly inexpensive wine to be had at most, several gave us excellent free tapas, and all were buzzing with a TGIF-like party atmosphere. It was after midnight when we rolled in to bed to grab a few hours sleep before locating the airport the next day. I certainly slept well.
It’s doubtful I’ll ever go back to Almeria. But if I do, I’ll be expecting an amusing and tasty night out on the town after a wander around a great old Alcazar. And I doubt I’d be disappointed.