On September 14th, Mark and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Plan A for celebrating this big number, concocted a couple of years ago, was to meet up with friends in Munich and go to Oktoberfest. Except Oktoberfest got cancelled this year, so that didn’t happen. Plan B was to celebrate with 10 days in Florence. Thanks to our airline, Vueling, for cancelling our flights and our inability to find another way to get to Florence that didn’t involve two days’ travel on either end, that didn’t happen. Remarkably, Plan C actually worked. We rented a car and drove to Altea, a Spanish city about 90 minutes from Torrevieja. We had a great time seeing Altea’s Old Town, with its roofs of blue tiles and narrow cobblestone streets lined with white-washed buildings sporting wrought-iron Juliet balconies covered in bright flowers. We also visited the cities of Jávea, Denia, and Guadalest. Guadalest has remnants of an 11th century castle that are well worth a visit, despite the many stairs you have to climb to get there. My glutes are still mad at me.
The most hilarious part of our trip, though, was our room at the Hotel Sun Palace Albir. (Albir is a small town very near Altea.) Since we were already on our third anniversary trip plan, we picked this hotel largely because of its lenient cancellation policy. When we were booking, Mark called my attention to the “Casablanca Suite,” which for a bit more money included breakfast and a king-sized bed. Okay, this way we don’t have to look for a restaurant or sleepily fight over territory in the wee hours. Besides, (Plan) C is for Casablanca, right?
Now, I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in my time. The worst where I didn’t pack up and leave without spending the night was in Durham, North Carolina. The ceiling leaked. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of contenders for best, although the Gage Hotel in Marathon is right up there. But the Sun Palace – specifically, the Casablanca Suite – gets the prize for most, well, surprising.
To begin with, the Casablanca Suite isn’t a suite. Like lots of hotel rooms, it has a little entryway, but that hardly counts as a separate room. But you don’t notice that once you walk into the room. As you can see from the picture, the decor apparently was purchased as a job lot from a low-budget movie set in Morocco but filmed in the spare bedroom of the producer’s brother-in-law in a less affluent suburb of Madrid. Plastic paneling sporting Arabic script ran where you might expect crown molding, and one section was inserted upside down. Paper red rose petals covered the purple shag throw rug. A two-person hot tub occupied a fair percentage of the room and came equipped with bathrobes, bath oil, and bath salts. It even has a TV in it, as you may be able to see in the picture.
The most surprising accoutrements, however, were delicately arranged on one of the bedside tables. One was a heart-shaped box. Mark ripped it open; I think he expected chocolates. Instead, the box contained a blindfold, two feathers, a small tube of lubricant, massage oil, and two condoms. (Only two? The proprietor either must assume that the ambiance of the room would work its magic a limited number of times or that after two, you’re on your own.)
The second was the room’s literature, which was also, um, unique. I’m used to fake leather notebooks with the room service menu and phone numbers for the spa, with maybe a Gideon Bible thrown in for good measure. Not here! Before the Casablanca Suite, the most unusual piece of literature in one of my hotel rooms was a booklet in a hotel room in Seattle that listed 10 reasons not to move there. But the Casablanca Suite blew way past accounts of dreary skies and eye-popping real estate prices. A paper underneath the box listed a dozen or so sexual positions you could practice on the very oddly-shaped divan with a mirror and a small copy of the room service menu hung next to it. Mind you, the names of the positions were in Spanish, so I had to use Google Translate to figure out some of them. Worse, I had to put on my bifocals to see the pictures. All I can say is that a few of those should come with the sort of warnings amusement parks post next to roller coasters. “Do not try this if you’ve recently had surgery” or “Not advisable for persons with back conditions” would not have gone amiss.
Actually, this whole thing turned out great. It’s been a while since Mark and I have laughed that hard. And the bed was king-sized, the breakfast (see picture) was delicious and sufficiently generous that we made a lunch of the leftovers on our first day. The hotel had a terrific pool and rooftop bar with a gorgeous view of the city. So it all turned out fine. Plan C came through for us, even though it was unexpected in many, many ways. Go weird or go home.
So happy 35th to us! Let me end this post by noting two things. First, we’re still hoping to go to Oktoberfest and to Florence. And second, I’m not answering any questions about this post. 😉