El Chamones

If you are in Totana and you want to find the literal ‘diamond in the rough’ then a visit to one the oldest bars in the town is an absolute must! To appreciate this ‘diamond’ to its fullest, a no-fear attitude and an open mind will be required, but once you’ve experienced the atmosphere of El Chamones it will stay with you forever; hopefully in a good way!

There is a quote on Trip Advisor that explains how important this bar is (direct translation) – If you do not go to El Chamones, you have not come to Totana!

Not everyone is aware of Britain’s oldest pub chain, Yates Wine Lodge, with its motto ‘moderation is true temperance’.  Peter Yates, the founder, came from Preston and actually came to Spain to learn about wine. The first Yates Wine Lodge was opened in Oldham in 1884, focusing on an array of affordable fortified wines for the working class.  This ‘spit and sawdust’ throwback came from a time when ‘ambience’ was something you hung on a Christmas tree or sprayed behind your ear. The pub chain has now long been overhauled and morphed into a polished shiny chrome gastro experience; a far cry from its predecessor. If you fondly remembered Yates Wine Lodge, both nostalgia and taste buds can be titillated once again.  El Chamones is the place to truly appreciate the experience again.  Officially called ‘El Alcázar’, formerly known as La Selva, aka The Upper House, this is a unique opportunity to dip your toes into a piece of Spanish history and literally take a step back in time.

Pepe is now the owner. The bar originally belonged to his wife’s grandfather and was opened in 1947.  Such is the laid back attitude of the bar, that on the day I arrived Pepe served me, then quickly disappeared to go and buy bread returning 15 minutes later to a queue of regulars patiently waiting to be served.  The bar is adorned with photographs of the Totaneros who have drunk and still drink there and snapshots of history connected to Totana, including a photograph from 1964 of a man delivering ice off his bicycle to the houses and local bars.

Possibly they’re not, but if oak barrels are your ‘thing’, El Chamones is the place to come. They are literally everywhere you look.  The main two barrels in use sit behind the bar and have a 1000 litre capacity, regularly topped up with wine from the Yecla region.  Pepe charges €3 a bottle to drink in the bar, but remember this is old school, so don’t expect it to be served in a wine bottle!  Alternatively you can have a takeaway and for €1.60; simply bring your own bottle to enjoy a fortified taste explosion.

Unfortunately, this buck will stop at Pepe. His 3 daughters work in the big cities and when he’s gone it will be gone.  If you visited Spain in the 60’s or 70’s, El Chamones is a step back in time and one not to be missed; maybe not for everyone, but if and when my time is up I would like my last drink to be here, such is its appeal!

Opening hours every day – 10.30am-3.30pm, then 6pm UNTIL EMPTY

Where is it?

If you have ever driven through Totana to Aledo or the monastery you’ve driven straight passed El Chamones on numerous occasions. Take a three minute walk from Balsa Vieja, (the main square in Totana) and take the sign for Aledo. You will then pass the Cinema Velasco on your right hand side. Carry straight on up the road another 100 yards and you’ll arrive at El Chamones (there’s no sign outside), but its neighbour is the Athletico Madrid Bar with a red and white awning above the door. 

Cinema Velasco

The opening night of the VOSE movies had the highly acclaimed Sam Mendes offering ‘1917’ on the big screen. Over 350 people attended, enjoying a fantastic evening in what can only be described as an amazing cinema. This wasn’t an entirely English audience. 

There were many Spanish taking the opportunity to watch the movie as it was intended to be seen. Local interest in the movies is high and with the mouth-watering line-up of films due for release in 2020 we may yet see that opening night attendance topped. 

Daniel Craig takes his final bow in the 25th Bond movie ‘No Time To Die’ and Tom Cruise updates his iconic Maverick role of the 1980’s in ‘Top Gun 2’. Both of these movies are sure to be massive successes and deserve to be seen on a big screen. The general feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and if we continue to support this initiative it will be a benefit for us all for years to come.

The local restaurants have been quick to react to the influx of English speakers by offering evening menus. Diners have the choice of three restaurants currently offering Italian pizza and pasta, American style burgers and ribs and an excellent Spanish restaurant all within a two minute walk from the cinema. Meals cost €10-€12 for at least two courses plus a drink. For those of you who haven’t tried them yet, I urge you to give them a go. Every restaurant is fantastic in its own right and offers incredible value for money. All menus available are on the cinema section of Totana.net and have been lovingly translated into English for you!!

Rob Birchall