Sunday, 20 October 2013

Golfageddon

In a change to this week’s planned post that I did myself the favour of not advertising in advance, I’m going to take you back now to some “research” that I did in July of this year. And by “research”, I mean drinking heavily and playing golf in Spain - an event that we chose to christen Golfadeggon. San Javier in Murcia, was the locationwhere there are more British per capita than there are in Manchester. That’s not necessarily a fact; it’s just intended to give you an impression of how many British people live and visit there. You don’t need a word of Spanish, but I found that you can mightily impress the locals with just a tiny bit – one taxi driver was bowled over when I handed him a two euro tip and said, “para ousted.”

“Oh-ho-ho! Speak Spanish!”
“Uh… un poco.”

With our flight at around 3pm, plans were made to meet at the airport at 12.15 – for ‘a few scoops’. When I got that message from Chris, I thought he meant he wanted to play golf before we went (if you knew him, you’d understand), so I said, “no, I’d best not; I don’t want to mess up my game before we even get there.”

A couple of days later I asked what time he wanted to meet at the airport, and he asked if I’d been drunk the other night, since he’d already told me – 12.15.

I wasn’t, as it happens, but now I understand what “a few scoops” is; it’s a few drinks. I suppose that should go in the Booze Terminology section…

So it came to pass that the four of us – myself, David, Chris and John – met in the upstairs bar in Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport, where they actually have some interesting beers on tap. I stuck with Amstel – little did I know it would be wall to wall Amstel in San Javier, where it was an astonishing 2.2 euros per pint up and down the strip.

One night I asked if they had any Spanish lager, whereupon the English waiter said, “Amstel”, to which I replied, “Amstel isn’t Spanish” and Chris chimed in with, “It’s Dutch.”
“Is it?” said the waiter. “I literally had no idea that was the case.”

Amstel it was, then.

We did pick up some Estrella in the supermarket, but it wasn’t the red kind you get in Barcelona. Instead the cans were green, and looked to have been brewed in Murcia. Later, at the airport, we found some red cans and discovered that the red variety is a noteworthy 5.4% ABV, while the green is a disappointing-but-still-not-to-be-sniffed-at 4.8%.

Unfortunately, the green one isn’t as tasty as the red.

I was a little disappointed at the beer choices because I like Spanish lager; Estrella, San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Alhambra, Mahou… they’re all good. I suppose that’s what you get for going to a largely British resort. Still, at least it wasn’t a choice between Carling and Fosters.

Since we were staying in an apartment on the golf complex – as far from both the course itself, and the actual town as it was possible to be… we made it top priority to get supplies in on the first night. I knew that soft drinks, beer, bacon, eggs and bread would all be essential, but was surprised to see everyone else’s baskets piled high with biscuits, sweets and chocolate. I didn’t even pick up a basket because all I wanted was beer, whisky and perhaps aguardiente de orujo.

DYC 10...
...and in the shower

John had located a Spanish single malt, DYC 10 year old, while I was still seeking out the booze aisle. “I want that. Where did you find it?

I hotfooted it off to get one of my own. It’s packaged in a chunky Bruichladdich style bottle, weighs in at a standard 40% and cost under 15 euros.

That very evening I cracked it open, eased out the oversized cork, and sampled the malty goodness. I had actually been looking for the DYC 8 year old blend that scored a remarkable 90 in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible [clean and cleverly constructed, he says, “Just so enjoyable!”]… but they didn’t have that. I figured a 10 year old single malt must surely be even more interesting, though I didn’t recall reading anything about it in the guide. Well, we all liked it anyway. Light-bodied and easy-drinking, we would get through three bottles of this between us over the course of the week.

David also bought a Spanish blended whisky called John Cor. That one was under 5 euros, and John confessed to preferring it over the DYC.

I uh… don’t remember too much about the John Cor. It certainly wasn’t bad – for 5 euros – but I don’t think I’d want to pay too much more for it. Spirits are so cheap in Spain as a matter of course that you don’t ever need to buy anything that cheap. It becomes more the sort of thing that you go, “well, if this is only 11 euro, I may as well also get this at 5 euro”, because it’s still cheaper than a bottle of Bells at home, and you’re getting two interesting new bottles.

Chris' Johnnie Walker Red (after a day)
Chris went for a Johnnie Walker Red, which he finished off in a little over two days – with coke, I might add – but he can’t drink beer like the rest of us and cider can be hard to find in Spain, so he had to have something to rely on.

As a result of all this freely flowing booze, my poor hipflask didn’t get a look-in. One swig on the first day was all it got, and ever after it was just sat on the kitchen counter. I had considered taking it on a round of golf with me, but the need to maximise my performance asserted itself from day one, and by the 5th of the 6 rounds I had started playing the best golf of my life and didn’t want to jeopardise getting a great score.

I did get my best ever score for the course we played (which I had played 5 times previously, two years ago) – 118, but it still wasn’t a great score. And that wasn’t even on the days when I was playing my best golf! On the best days I was striking the ball beautifully, but hitting all the hazards and getting some rotten luck. Still, I now feel great about golf again – no doubt until my next round, when I’ll realise I’ve forgotten the technique that started working so well for me.

Our general routine for the next week revolved around golf, booze and food. If we had a morning round it would be up and out, a breakfast of Coca-Cola and chocolate, followed by lunch and a couple of pints at the clubhouse after the golf, before swimming, cans, possibly a snooze, and a shower at the apartment before heading to the main drag where the evening would be spent eating and drinking at the various bars and restaurants.

We took in some of the entertainment, which was limited to one-man tribute acts singing to recordings, and in one place for which we had free drinks vouchers, a Michael Jackson act that was a guy dancing to a live Michael Jackson video… Chris spent about an hour at the bar trying to get our free mojitos in there.

If we had an afternoon round, it would be a lie in, followed by lounging around, golf, a couple of pints at the clubhouse, a shower and straight out for dinner and more drinks. I tried to take a whisky into the shower with me every day, as any good alcothusiast should. 

We got a couple of games of poker in, using lightweight Monopoly money instead of chips, but I was having no luck. I think we were all pretty smashed by the time we got down to it anyway, so there was far less caution and far less tension that there usually is.

Time at the clubhouse and on the strip was invariably accompanied by an opening period of silence as everyone got onto the various free wi-fi and played Super Stickman Golf 2 and Wordfeud – intermittently glancing up to watch for passing freaks and ghouls. The pints go down easy, and the food, while unadventurous, is good. Being lads, we nary saw a vegetable the whole time we were there. It was pretty much meat, chips and bread all the way.

So 108 holes of golf, and seven days after arrival, the day of departure came. It was beer for breakfast for me, as we still had a few cans left. We followed that up with an afternoon sat in a bar on the strip, eating chicken wings and drinking beers until it was time to get to the airport… and Duty Free – one last thing to look forward to.

I had decided to get at least one purchase in before the airport because I figured there was a risk – with Murcia Airport being tiny – that there wouldn’t be much choice on offer. I’d been hoping to get one of those exclusive to international travel Highland Park expressions, but knew the chances of this would be low.

I called at the supermarket a day or two early then to pick up a bottle of the standard Cutty Sark blended scotch (40% ABV). It’s readily available throughout Spain, but much harder to find in the UK. It features in my 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die book, and at 11 euro, is perfect for a casual purchase, leaving room for further acquisitions later on. It was tempting to get something else at this time too, since you can nearly bring back as much as you want, but I was worried about the possibilities of breakages within my golf travel bag. The stingey weight allowance on Jet2 of 20kg doesn’t allow for much clothing alongside your golf clubs to pad out the contents.

 I wrapped the Cutty Sark in a towel, stuffed it in one of the larger pockets of my golf bag, and stuffed a few more clothes on either side.

Duty free was slightly disappointing, but there was still enough there to choose from. There are two shops selling booze, but from what I remember, the only scotch on offer is the standard Glenfiddich 12. Instead I focused on the Spanish stuff, where in the second of the two shops I found the DYC 8 (40% ABV) that I had been looking for. It was only 14 euro, so I figured I may as well get something else as well, and went back to the first shop to get some Gran Duque D’Alba Solera Gran Riserva brandy de Jerez that was 20% off at 21 euro. The Cardinal Mendoza was there too, but I decided to try something different this time.

A good haul really, and one that leaves me with 6 unopened bottles of spirits back at the old homestead. I’ve decided to finish one or two before I open anything new, but with me, you know that’s not going to be long.

It wasn’t all good outcomes. Despite a lovely enthusiastic welcome from Mrs Cake, we discovered the week long alcohol abuse has left me with a vastly inflated belly. I’m hoping that works itself off naturally, since with my back, sit-ups are out of the question. On top of that, because of all the holiday cigars, I just felt so dirty – and not in a good way. At least, not just in the good way. I mean, I always have that general background feeling of dirtiness anyway. That ain’t going nowhere.

So, let me see, were there any particularly funny moments? I don’t remember anyone falling over in a comical manner or anything like that but… Chris’ profligate swearing through the various rounds of golf had us all laughing. One time he exclaimed, “You son of a fuck!” which we soon transposed into “Son of a fucking fuck” and rode on for the rest of the week.

There was one time on the course where David had a particularly tricky bunker to get out of, and hit two or three shots before the ball jumped out into the heavy rough just in front of the bunker. On his next shot the ball jumped right back into the bunker where it began. Oh, I howled with laughter. I don’t think that’s considered good etiquette on a golf course, but it lightens the mood, and I’d prefer people to laugh at me when something like that happens, than they remain po-faced.

There was definitely a lot of laughing, but those are the instances of note that I recall.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to justify tagging along next year too with further booze tourism adventures already in the planning stage, but definitely the year after that.


Gran Duque d'Alba
So I hope you’ve enjoyed the brief travelogue and have had a terrific weekend so far. I’ll see you next week with something else, hopefully.

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