Welcome to a new and regular feature in the Costa Calida Chronicle which is hopefully going to persuade some of you to head up the RM3 away from the coast – I know, away from the coast! – and to sample some of the delights of Totana. I’m sure that many of you have been to the town for the market on a Wednesday and even sampled a café con leche or a cerveza, but there is a whole lot more to the town than meets the eye.

I’ve been told that Totana can be a bit intimidating because it’s very Spanish and that they don’t really cater for the English. Well, to answer those two points; it is in Spain and has a right to be a little bit Spanish, but they are the most welcoming and friendly people if you engage them in a little conversation (and they love the chance to practice their English!).

Over the next few months I am going to tell you about fiestas, carnivals, restaurants, characters and businesses that are waiting to welcome you. Starting this month with a look at clothes shops. We have chosen a very popular boutique for the ladies which specialises in that ‘something special’ item for a night out and a gent’s outfitters that stocks the designer labels that us blokes like to get for……Christmas let’s say! I decided to tell you guys about these first because they’re a lot cheaper than El Cortes Ingles, are right on your doorstep and if any items need adjustments (I’m talking to the ladies here) it’s usually done on the same day.

These features are going to run side by side with totana.net to keep you informed with all things Totana. For our part we are speaking to the many young restauranteurs and bar owners about making their venues a little more accessible to those of us who don’t speak too much Spanish. The website will slowly be populated with directions, translations and recommendations from these hidden gems so that the next time you visit the town you might feel a little more confident with where to go and what to try. If you have any questions or stories please send them to rob@totana.net. 

Boutique Ana

This is a ladies’ clothes store which specialises in fashion for any type of event. Over 30 years of constant innovation have made Boutique Ana a huge name in the world of fashion throughout the Region of Murcia, with over a thousand different items of clothing and irresistible prices. If you’ve ever seen a Spanish wedding or communion you’ll know that the ladies love to look chic and elegant. Well, this little gem is where those ladies shop. My partner recently bought a couple of items in there and we were both amazed at the attention and fuss that was bestowed upon us. Our Spanish isn’t great and nor was their English, but between us we managed to make the experience a thoroughly enjoyable one.

Alterations can be done in a matter of hours and the prices are extremely reasonable for a boutique of this quality, with prices to suit every pocket. The turnover of items is quick and so the fashion is ‘of the moment’ and there are masses of different designs and styles to choose from. With Christmas and its associated parties just around the corner, this could be the place you’ve been looking for….and right here on your doorstep. Located in the centre of Totana, they offer a personalized service to all of their clients, offering everything you would expect to find in a modern boutique; accessories, shoes, jewellery, hats and fascinators; everything you could ever need to look perfect for any occasion. 

Santo Baron (Menswear)

Nestled in the heart of Totana there is a fantastic men’s clothes shop which sells high fashion and has been in existence since September 2004 keeping the local guys looking sharp. Juan Fransisco comes from a family with a background in the fashion industry and in late 2003 he realized that Totana could easily support a niche in high-end fashion and set about opening exactly that. The name comes from stories told by a famous Spanish comedy duo called Luis Sánchez Polack and José Luis Coll (Tip and Coll) about an imaginary character called Santo Baron, but make no doubt, this is a seriously cool fashion shop. From the moment you enter the store you are faced with an array of men’s items that could grace any London store. There are a variety of high end brands including Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Etiem, Harmont-Blaine and Pierre Cardin among many others. In a store like this any guy could seriously re-invent his style and wardrobe. The layout of the store makes the shopping experience really enjoyable with the style of the store reflecting the designer feel of the clothes. Beautiful Italian-designed suits hang in one area and shirts, coats, jeans and a complete range of t-shirts and polo shirts in another. Accessorising is equally stylish with shoes, underwear, belts, ties, braces and cuff links all represented in great quantities. 

The store operates a standard returns policy as required by Spanish law and there is a 24-48 hour turnaround on any alterations that are needed. Keep an eye on the Facebook page because there are regular offers throughout the summer and winter months with sales in place from the start of July until the end of August and then from the start of January until the end of February.

This is a place that you guys need to take your lady to, there are potential Christmas presents everywhere you look and the least subtle of hints could see you unwrapping something seriously cool on December 25th….just saying! 

Santa Eulalia de Mérida

If ever you’ve considered immersing yourself in a huge Spanish fiesta, there’s one about to arrive on your very doorstep from Tuesday 7th January 2020, in Totana – aday not to be missed and an experience like no other! Sixteen thousand people will ascend and populate the mountain-sides of Sierra Espuña near the La Santa Church and the Hotel Jardines de la Santa (commonly known as the monastery to you and I!).

A celebration that starts early in the morning and continues late into the evening, this is a great opportunity to witness first-hand an entire Spanish town coming together to honour its patron saint, 

Santa Eulalia.

Starting at 9am in Totana town centre, the statue of Santa Eulalia is carried on the shoulders of her patrons to La Santa Church in the foothills of the Sierra Espuña.  Over two thousand people will follow behind, slowly winding their way through the mountain roads where local bars and home owners open their doors offering refreshments on the way.

Although a religious ceremony with devout Christians walking the seven kilometres in bare feet (pecados) in penance for their sins,, Totaneros in general celebrate it with gusto! Smiles and laughter are in abundance as is the sweet local brew Mantellina, a honey, lemon and anise concoction which is drunk regularly and in some quantity, but the day doesn’t start there! The night before, a convoy of vans, trucks and cars can be seen ferrying supplies up the Sierra Espuña. Their goal is to find and secure the best barbecue sites across the mountain in preparation for the following day’s activities.  

Once the morning of the fiesta arrives every imaginable sausage known to man hangs from the trees, gently smoked from below by the barbecues cooking local meats from the surrounding farms.  Even three piece suites can be seen angled around large open camp fires in readiness for the night’s celebrations. On the odd occasion we’ve set our own barbecue the night before. Two phrases should sing out loud and proud when attempting this, ‘location, location, location’ – quickly followed by – ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’.  Unfortunately finding the ‘perfect’ location and then wondering how such a spot could have been missed by the locals is a misnomer; that is until the following day when we spend the next ten hours standing on a 20 degree incline, trying to drink liquid from the side of a plastic beaker. Such a site was in part to blame for one of our group rolling sideways out of his chair and into the fire! It was four days later when my left leg finally dropped out of my hip joint and thankfully lined up with my right. Wander around the different barbecue sites, you’ll be entertained with guitars and singing, offered food and drink by strangers and get the chance to see the Spanish at their absolute best. The Fire, Police and Ambulance services are in full attendance throughout the fiesta and a bus service is provided by the Town Hall which leaves on the hour every hour, costing a mere 2€ for the service.  It’s a done deal!

Come and enjoy this incredible day and night of festivities and dip your toes into an amazing cultural experience.  Even if it’s for an hour or two, you’ll be surrounded by welcoming Spanish families, eating, drinking and having the most wonderful time.

See you there…