A Tale of two Cities: a weekend in Tarifa

One of the benefits of living in Gibraltar is the ease at which we can enjoy a Spanish Mediterrean getaway for the weekend.  Many of us lucky to live here are spoilt for choice for a gorgeous break within a 2 hour drive – from Cadiz to Seville to Puerto Banus to Grenada and the Sierra Nevada (yes, I know, technically more like a 3 hour drive, but I claim artist licence). This weekend Tarifa was our destination of choice.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Ok maybe not literally the worst (that may also be artistic licence), but enough to test the patience of any saint.

Tarifa is a very lovely place although putting labels on it can be challenging because it isn’t definitively one thing or another.  Set at the end of a stunning 5km long white sandy beach, famed for it’s kitesurfing and windsurfing, the town, at first glance, can appear unremarkable.  But once you walk around you can really appreciate the contrast between the more modern outskirts and the central old town.  The long road leading into Tarifa is lined with independent kite and surf shops and boho beach wear outlets housed in buildings that appear to be largely uninspired, functional architecture without any real aesthetic design.   The obvious absence of many international retail chains is refreshing, but aside from the individuality of the shops themselves there is little charm to this introduction to Tarifa. Yet at the very end of this road is an almost discreet entrance to the old town, which packs traditional Spanish charm into it’s medina like narrow streets crammed with old houses and many more shops, bars and restaurants.  Amazingly detailed doors feature heavily around Tarifa old town and suggest that there is so much more to see behind these enticing entrances.  They make you want to explore further.  Tarifa appears to have something for everyone, from local families relaxing together in the old town squares to adventure sports enthusiasts walking the small side streets fully kitted up, to rather cosmopolitan people shopping in expensive boutiques then watching the world go by with a glass of vino tinto and tapas.  Tarifa does tick lots of boxes for those enjoying a laid back yet engaging lifestyle.

If this was a fairytale, the rest of my story would be about how we had a wonderful family weekend playing in the sand (which we did), swimming in the pool (which the kids did), and enjoying decidedly satisfying food and drinks (which we also did) and it all went happily ever after.  But as this is real life we all know that family weekends are often not what our Facebook photos make out to be.  Thankfully we did make it through the first night with a huge amount of success.  We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset with a couple of very cold beers while the kids played.  So far so good.  We also enjoyed a delicious dinner in a sheltered mature walled garden with the sound of the ocean the soundtrack to our night.  Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? This was followed by an uneventful early night for everyone and should have set us up for a great day two.  You’d think wouldn’t you?

But no.  Somehow two 7 and 8 year old girls, who on the surface appear to be beautiful angels, manage to smash the fairytale to smithereens.  They were awful.  Before breakfast we’d had tantrums and tears (and no that wasn’t me) and this continued for the rest of the day.  Writing now I really can’t remember the sequence of events that led us to just wondering why on earth we bother sometimes.  And I shouldn’t bore you with that anyway.  Many of you will be parents and I hope are just going, ‘yep, we know’.  Looking at the photos already on my computer I see the distinctly moment-specific picture postcard snaps and already the tortuous behaviour by our little darlings has faded to a less painful memory.  I am reminded that that this morning, before leaving the beach early to return to Gibraltar, our youngest drew a heart and the word ‘family’ in the sand.  I know – it’s all a bit much really, but it honestly happened. So from that I take hope.  Maybe the fairytale is that despite best intentions and things going horribly down the pan quite rapidly, at the end of the day we always have love and hope that next time will be better.  And luckily for us Tarifa is only 45 minutes away.  Although next time it may just be a day trip and a picnic – just to be safe… Tarifa Beach Family Heart

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