Getting away from it all

Ireland’s Dental columnist Paul O’Dwyer turns his thoughts to warmer climes and how he loves to head off the beaten track on his holidays

This past winter recorded the darkest January in terms of daylight for almost 50 years, apparently. It seems that the nation’s humour is mirrored in the weather! Clinical treatment, the provision of dental care and forging long-lasting relationships with patients are part of what we as dentists do every day. However, it can be draining. And when, on gazing out the surgery window you see grey skies and sheets of rain, thoughts turn to holidays.

In my first job as an associate, I was given a golden tip: ’The six-week rule’. My old principal said: “Take one day off every six weeks and give yourself a long weekend – if you can!”

I, for one, haven’t been always able to do this; it is always tempting (and sometimes necessary) to work through this day. How many of us have a day blocked off in the book, only to find ourselves putting a quick ’denture ease’ or ’chairside reline’ in?

However, the benefit of taking this extra day is always worth it. For longer breaks, many colleagues agree that, given the nature of our job, it’s positively therapeutic to immerse yourself in something completely different. Particularly, if it involves not talking!

How many of us have found ourselves on holiday meeting people who ask what we do, only to then listen to complete and detailed dental history – complete with lip lifting? This has happened once too often for me and so, many years ago I happened across a haven of tranquillity where no dental histories were ever discussed!

The Spanish Paradores de Turismo are a Government-run chain of hotels founded in 1928 by King Alfonso XIII. Situated in castles, palaces, convents, monasteries, fortresses and other historic buildings mostly, but some are modern hotels, built in a traditional style, in an area of outstanding beauty.

Many of these buildings are part of the rich heritage of Spain and provide a special insight into the long history of our European neighbour. As the Spanish Government maintains this chain of hotels, they are often to be found in areas where they do not compete directly with private industry. Therefore some are slightly off the beaten track and, to my mind, that is a great bonus.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of visiting six of the 93 hotels. The Paradores are represented in Ireland by Lorna Roberts (lornarobertsholidays.com) and Map Travel (maptravel.ie). Lorna and Map Travel can tailor a trip that will encompass the rich diversity of these wonderful hotels. Golf, hill walking, skiing, pony trekking can all be accommodated – or a personal tour through the country staying in the Paradores taking in the ’Real Spain’.

On a recent (all too brief) group tour, I visited the newest Parador, at Lorca in Murcia. This spectacular hotel located on a hill overlooking the city of Lorca is built on the site of the old Castillio de Lorca. While construction took place, archaeological ruins of three different historical periods in Spain’s long history were unearthed and lovingly preserved for the 21st century visitor to see. Juan-José and his team at Lorca had a warm welcome for us – and a special connection with the Irish, he had worked as a summer student in Dublin.

I know what you’re thinking: what about the sun? The beach? The next stop on our short tour was to Nerja in the south east corner. This bustling town features a breathtaking view of the azure Mediterranean. The famous ’Balcony of Europe’ sees crowds flock there in the summer. My wife and I honeymooned there some 13 years ago.

The manager of the hotel, Emilio, and his reception team, led by Marcos, ensured that my fading memories of Nerja were revived. In fact, I was given the room in which we stayed in 2000! The friendliness of the staff and attention to detail is something for which the Paradores are renowned. Nerja is great example of this.

Our final stop was to my personal favourite: Malaga del Golf. I will admit that my golfing prowess will not cause Rory McIlroy to lose any sleep but, like so many of us, I enjoy whatever time I can get on a golf course. Malaga del Golf has been host of the Spanish Masters in the past, and situated right at the water’s edge, the prevailing Mediterranean winds make this 27-hole course a challenge.

The management at Malaga del Golf is lead by Marian – whose connection with the Paradores runs deep. Her father was a Paradores manager too. This sense of pride and heritage in Spain’s past is evident in the warm welcome we received. Malaga Golf is a modern Parador located very close to Malaga airport and the ideal venue for arrival and departure from Spain. It is also a haven of tranquillity, with the beach mere minutes from the hotel. The only sounds you’ll hear are the gentle waves and the ping of a golf ball driven from the tee-boxes.

The evenings at Malaga Golf sees a serving of the very best of local gastronomy – with regional delicacies and a tasting menu featuring freshly caught fish and sea food. The buzz of the native Spaniards talking into the late Mediterranean night is the perfect antidote for the weary dentist. Pablo at reception and his team ensure that all worries are left at the door.

There are varying long and short-term deals which make staying at Paradores excellent value for money. Lorna and Map Travel can work out routes and the best possible rates by searching through the various offers.

It is a taste of the real Spain and a haven for the ’grey-skied’ dentist.

And finally, I can honestly say that not a tooth, filling or bridge was discussed. The only difficult ’extraction’ I encountered was leaving there!

Paul, a native of Cahir in Co Tipperary, studied dentistry in University College Cork (UCC). A social media enthusiast, he is an inveterate Tweeter (@ShirtNTie).

Paul is married with four daughters and lives in Nenagh, North Tipperary.

Published: 23 July, 2013 at 11:52