The Costa de la Luz was relatively unknown to anyone outside of Spain until the late 1990's when a few property agents and wandering journalists found it and put it firmly on the map.
Due to its geographical location where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet it has always been of strategic importance. The British still hang on doggedly to Gibraltar as it is a gateway from the east to the west. The Coast curves round from Huelva in the North to Tarifa in the South. On leaving Tarifa you enter the Costa del Sol - a wholly better known area and a different kettle of fish.
Well know for its stunning and unspoilt beaches (no fruit machines and manufactured entertainments here) it remains one of the most popular holiday spots for the Spanish. It is especially loved by the people of Madrid and Barcelona. The CouncilÂ´s only concession to entertainment being the wood Chiringuitos it builds on the main beaches every summer and takes away in the autumn. These large wood shacks provide cool drinks throughout the day and wonderful sunset views of the sea and coast plus a little bit of music and the odd whiff of something never manufactured by Embassy or Rothmans but that is all part of the laid back style.
The Rasta headed kite surfers congregate on the beaches and the luxury yachts fill the marinas dotted along the coast. Sunbathing generally starts around 10am and finishes around 9 or 10pm in July and August. The bars and restaurants are open for drinks/snacks throughout the day but meals are served between 1.30pm and 4.30pm and in the evenings from around 9pm. Asking for a table at 12.30pm is quite acceptable and a few drinks to follow or a promenade on the paseo is the norm. The beach area generally falls quiet around 3 or 4am.
The music from the bars can be a nuisance if you are staying or living near to the beach and the traffic is certainly heavier around the beach area in summer than at other times of the year making parking more difficult. However, the holiday atmosphere and sunshine make up for it.
Many of the beaches have the obligatory jewellery and handbag stalls but be warned that you may be able to buy the same cheaper elsewhere and be careful that the jewellery you buy is not going to turn your skin green in a day or two.
Being part of Andalucia the Costa de la Luz has the Andalucian view of life that people matter more than things and everything happens in time. An attitude to be commended but it does mean that some areas can look a little unfinished and a visit to the post office can be a bit of a shock when, although there is a large queue, one of the staff puts the closed sign up and goes out for breakfast.
The same attitude to life can however work to your advantage as every event is treated with common sense rather than by the rule book. If your kids want a plate of chips that is what they get and you can use the loo in any bar or restaurant without having to buy something or pretend you did not see the "for use of customers only" sign.
Personal relationship is paramount and being known is a door opener in itself. Processes can be speeded up as "they know you" and introductions are automatic if you know someone they know as your acquaintance is taken as confirmation that you are "alright".
Pregnancy devoids you of any responsibility and even a speeding ticket can be brushed aside when they spot the bump. The pregnant woman is considered to be a whole new species to be treated with great care and understanding and not to be upset at any cost just in case she goes in to labour and you are left to deal with the messy result. Reference to children also invokes a whole new sphere of understanding and keenness to resolve the problem. It is an ideal excuse for lateness or failure to do what you said you would. Illness and children or family combined is a complete nullifier of any responsibility to do anything and generally gets other people to help you to achieve whatever goal you may have.
The law is treated with some degree of flexibility but as the years pass they are tightening up on certain aspects such as speeding and other road traffic offences. The first speed cameras appeared on our roads only a couple of years ago but they are certainly helping to supplement the government coffers. That said you can still walk into the police station and be attended to immediately, they will turn out to help with a cat stuck up a tree and they appear in minutes and mob handed when really needed so we cannot complain. Bag snatching is still regarded as a serious crime and police officers have a degree of latitude to deal with anything which comes there way without being in fear of being suspended while a 6 month enquiry takes place to see if they did it by the rules.
Individuals are held responsible for themselves and children and puppies alike stay on the pavement and walk to heel without the aid of leads or child harnesses. Children are allowed to run down hills on the premises that once they fall they will know not to do it again and there are few advisory signs except in multi national outlets. It is taken for granted that if you are an adult then you know that hot water burns and moving traffic can kill you.
Technology arrives here some 12 to 18 months after America and the UK so anything electronic tends to be expensive until it gets established and our systems such as internet and telephone are not cutting edge but they are adequate and there is certainly a will to keep up with the rest of the world.
However, where technology has outrun the UK is in hospitals and schools, many hospitals here have been recently fitted out and they have the latest technology. Budget does not seem to come into the equation when treating a patient. If you need it you get it and you get it at lightening speed. All primary school children receive a free laptop from the Junta de Andalucia with purpose built carry case so they can surf the net and hone their IT skills. It is very much considered to be a learning aid and homework specifically for the internet is given.
We do however fall down on paper processing which has left us with an illegal house problem which is going to take some years to resolve. There are a number of properties which have no papers, few papers or the wrong papers. This situation has been recognized by the government and they are now taking steps to sort it out but sadly not before both Spanish and foreign purchasers have fallen in to the abyss.
Where we do go in to paperwork overdrive is in the banking sector where every aspect has at least three pieces of paper which have to be signed and stamped. A new bank account can manage to fell half a forest leaving you with writer's cramp and a worn out ballpoint.
All in all the Costa de la Luz is a nice place to live where people still have time for each other and are judged not by their wealth but by how kind they are to their neighbours and whether they keep their children clean and tidy. If you like things done quickly it is probably not the place for you but with a little patience it does eventually happen - just not in Western world time but people live longer here, on average 10 years longer, so maybe all that stressing has its price.
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