Chilled on fun deck!

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We decided to celebrate our birthdays (I forget which one now!) and our silver wedding anniversary with a special holiday. Chilling on fun deck and cruising out of Barcelona, taking in the South of France, Italy and Montenegro and finally back to Barcelona.

We arrived mid-afternoon on the Friday and had our first mini taste of Barcelona. We checked in at the hotel and headed straight to La Sagrada Familia, just 10 minutes’ walk away.

Wow, the Gaudi masterpiece is just stunning, beautiful, amazing captivating …… Our tour included going up one of the towers – the passion tower – looking out over Barcelona city!

Now, my challenge is how many of the hundred plus photos to feature on this post as none of them really do justice to this spectacular structure due to be finished 2026! (Visit http://www.sagradafamilia.org for all the history – fascinating.)

We will definitely go back to Barcelona and visit all the sites!

After a morning stroll around the city we boarded the ship Saturday lunchtime and set sail for Villefranche Sur Mer which is nestled between Nice and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur.

Still a fishing village with so much charm and French chic but bustling with locals and tourists. We decided to spend most of our time there after catching the bus into Nice for a few hours.

Nice was hectic as the Monaco Grand Prix was on…..poor Steve, so close and yet so far…..another year?

Monday we docked in Livorno, west coast of Tuscany, Italy. A cruise gives you a real flavour for places but it is impossible to visit all the sites in a day. So, we decided to visit Lucca and Pisa with Tuscanybus.com which was an excellent service and tour. Lucca is known for the well preserved Renaissance wall surrounding the city plus Lucca is the birth place of the opera composer Puccini.

Such a pretty place and we sampled our first Italian ice cream!

After chilling in Lucca for a few hours, we moved on to Pisa which as expected was super busy with tourists, but still amazing to visit. The leaning tower of Pisa, 185 feet of white marble! But the bell tower is not the only attraction in the Field of Miracles – Campo dei Miracoli. There is the Cathedral, Baptistery and ll Duomo (Italian for The Dome).

The following day, we arrived in Civitavecchia Port and took the train to Rome S. Pietro just 40 minutes away. Well, as the English playwright John Heywood said…Rome wasn’t built in a day… and for sure even on the best ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour, it is a challenge to visit all the awesome sites in a day! But before we took the bus, we walked only 15 minutes from the station to the Vatican City, the smallest city in the world (110 acres) and where the Swiss guards still serve as the military force.

St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica are stunning and vast and again, impossible to really capture in a photo. Especially, in a sea of Japanese tourists with either umbrellas or selfie sticks!

We had a 10 hour exhausting but fun day. Apart from the café, where we stopped and had 2 coffees, 2 small pastries and 1 small bottle of water. I jokingly commented that the bill will be huge as there was a cash machine by the door…28 euros later!! Still, we had plenty of cents to throw in the Trevi fountain in order to get that perfect photo.

We strolled around the area and took a peek at the Pantheon, a former Roman temple. But Steve wasn’t allowed in as he was wearing a vest t shirt, so did I, but my shoulders were good to bare….ha! ha! Back on the tour bus, through the streets and more tourist points of interest until we reached the Colosseum – another wow to finally see in real life. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre and the largest ever built.

Back on the bus, final photo opportunity was the Altare della Patria, a huge monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

Phew, just minutes away from the station we chilled in a lovely Italian café with fresh pizza and ice cold Peroni beer.

My step counter had almost exploded….our poor feet!!

Good morning to Wednesday, as we docked at Salerno, a port city in Campania and about 1 hours’ drive from the Amalfi coast. We went ashore for coffee and a strolled around and just wanted to relax after Rome. Didn’t fancy a boat trip for the day when we were cruising anyway!

After a day at sea, we started sailing into Venice at Friday lunchtime, a place we have both really wanted to visit for many years. Every passenger was out on deck with their cameras. Breath-taking as we sailed by Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and the excitement just kept building. (Also couldn’t believe there were four other cruise ships dominating the cruise port skyline when we docked!).

We were half an hour walk from where our dear friends Dee and Rob were staying – we were all going to share the Venice experience!

Plus we met with Italian friends Angelo and Marco who immediately advised us the best way to see Venice was to ‘walk Venice’……the step counter was ready again! They also took us to the Venetian Ghetto area which a lot of tourists miss. (The ghetto was an area where Jews used to be compelled to live by the government.) We sat outside eating Venetian style tapas (cicchetti) and drinking good Italian wine, just bliss soaking up the atmosphere with the boats passing by. We walked back to the ship and Venice at night looked magical! Venice didn’t disappoint.

Next day, we all met up and started the step counter, crossed a few canals, caught a water taxi to Saint Mark’s Square and took a boat trip to Murano, famous for its long tradition of glass making.

A factory visit, a showroom visit, glass pendants for Dee and I, lunch and back to the real hustle and bustle!

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Somehow, we walked by Doge’s Palace, through Saint Mark’s Square, by Saint Mark’s Basilica, the clock tower, took photos of the Bridge of Sighs without losing anyone! Stopped at a café for a well-earned drink, and then finished walking over the Rialto Bridge and meandering through many narrow streets, over so many tiny bridges back to the hotel.

Farewell Venice, it didn’t disappoint, did I already say that? We will go back there, for sure.

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Sunday morning we docked in Porto Corsini. With a large marina and then beaches and pine forests, pretty. We took the local ferry and bus into Ravenna and strolled around the market etc. The ship sailed early afternoon and we enjoyed cruising across to Montenegro.

Kotor Bay is the deepest natural fjord-bay in the Med and the sail in scenery was stunning.

We visited the walled medieval old town of Kotor, winding streets and squares and Romanesque churches, shops and cafes. It was a bit touristy, but great fun and was a lovely port to end our fantastic cruise!

We had a final two days cruising an chilling back to Barcelona and home to Antas.

 

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Spanish Inquisition…

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Geli and Ezequiel

 

Hola Ezequiel, where were you born in Spain?

I was born in Albox, Almeria province in Andalucía, Southern Spain. Albox is situated in the heart of the Almanzora Valley with the Mediterranean coast about 45 minutes away.

Can you remember your favourite childhood memory growing up in sunny Spain?

I have so many memories but here is just one from my early childhood. I remember waking up on vacations, getting myself dressed in shorts and polo shirt and running outside into the street to play with my friends. When I was young my ‘pueblo’ was very quiet and all the houses were open and we could run in and out, at any time alone. The feeling of freedom!

What do you think are the most endearing traits of the Spanish people?   

I think the climate creates our personalities and the pleasant temperatures invite us to go out and socialise.

Can you pick fruit from your garden each day?  

Yes, at this moment I have avocados, bananas, oranges and lemons. In each season of the year there are different trees to pick from – is this paradise?

 

 

What exactly is a ‘Mediterranean diet’…..?

Our Mediterranean diet is about consuming natural produce prepared in a traditional way. The balance between vegetables from the garden, protein from meat and fish and unsaturated fats from our olive oil, makes this diet a reference for healthy food worldwide.

And your favourite tapas whilst sipping an ice cold beer by the Med?

The fish in this area is of great quality and fresh. For me, the perfect tapa to accompany a wine or a beer.

 

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What’s on the ‘menu del dia’ – a traditional Spanish meal please?

The menu will always have salad, soups, meats or fish accompanied by vegetables. Fruits and pastries are part of a typical ‘menu del dia’. The variety of products makes it easy not to repeat the same dish very often.

What is the key to cooking the ‘perfecto paella’?

The perfect paella does not exist! Each chef has his own technique and each region has different key ingredients in their paellas. The paellas with fish and seafood are more common on the coast and paella with meat, you will find inland. It’s like a “pizza” where you can put different ingredients.

 

 

What do you think is Spain’s biggest contribution to world culture?

Throughout history there have been many contributions that Spain has made to the world in the field of science and culture. But one of its most important has been its language. Spanish is used daily by 500 million people as a means of communication throughout the world. After Mandarin, it is the second most spoken language.

What is special about the Spanish guitar music?  

The most important guitar maker in the 19th century was Antonio de Torres who was born in Almeria. It is his design that we recognize today as the modern classic guitar. They are the standard in flamenco and international classical music. The creativity of this instrument instantly recreates landscapes, colours, light, smells, feelings and sensations of Spain.

Flamenco originates from Andalucía so how often do you practice?  

I spend my leisure time in my music studio. So I practise when I meet friends or musicians who know and share the flamenco duende – passion and inspiration!

Fiestas are very important in the Spanish culture…why?

Spanish fiestas symbolize the essence of Spain and the Spanish people. They are colourful, vibrant, usually noisy, often chaotic and always good fun! They’re the vital ingredient to any party.

I only have 10 days in Andalucía; please can you suggest an itinerary of ‘must see’ places?  

Andalucía is a very large province to visit in only 10 days, but there are some essential places to go, I think?

If we start our route in the west of Andalucía, by the Guadiana River, which is on the border with Portugal, you can visit the beautiful and excellent beaches of Isla Cristina and the Doñana National Park. For nature lovers there is a lot of wildlife adorning conservation areas of true natural beauty. From San Lúcar de Barrameda you can take a boat to navigate the Rio Guadalquivir to Seville.

 

 

Once in Seville, you should visit the Torre del Oro (military watch tower) and the cathedral with the Giralda tower (bell tower).

 

 

Then, there is Archivo General de Indias which contains some of the most important historical records of Spanish colonialism in the Americas and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Discover the neighbourhoods of Santa Cruz, Triana and visit the Maria Luisa Park. Amid the scent of orange blossom, take a horse driven carriage ride. Finally, after some tapas  visit a “tablao flamenco” to enjoy the music and dancing typical of Andalucía.

 

 

Taking the motorway to Cadiz you will find Jerez de la Frontera where it is possible to visit the bodegas and taste their world famous wines. The Port of Santa Maria offers an opportunity to taste the excellent fish and seafood along with a good wine from Jerez!

 

 

Cadiz offers its carnival with a show of “chirigotas” (music groups) with lots of fun and where Don Carnal defeats Doña Cuaresma as part of the entertainment.

 

 

From Gibraltar to Malaga is the Costa del Sol, where you can visit the well-known towns of Marbella and Torremolinos. Sit and take a coffee while people watching – the rich, famous and glamorous!

From Malaga it’s about a 50 minute drive to Antequera Dolmens, the megalithic constructions from the past and El Tórcal nature reserve, known for its unusual limestone rock formations.

 

 

We can re-join the motorway onto Cordoba where you discover the world famous Mosque – Cathedral, of Arab origin and later adapted to the Christian religion, turning it into a cathedral but respecting its essence.

 

 

Stroll through the streets of the old town, especially when it’s the Spring Festival, as private houses open their flowered courtyards to the public. It really is a ‘must’. You will also find goldsmith workshops, where they still make jewellery in the traditional way.

 

 

A drive from Cordoba to Jaén will take you through a landscape of olive trees, where the intense smell of the olive oil production invades all the senses. The castle of Santa Ana and the towns of Úbeda and Baeza are also worth stopping at?

I think a trip to Granada is very special and to tour the Alhambra Palace is spectacular.  Walk along the banks of the Rio Darro, filled with bars, music and shops with the Alhambra Palace as the backdrop, especially at night, is beautiful. During the winter and spring the Sierra Nevada ski resort is open. Yet a few kilometres away are Motril and Almuñécar with a tropical climate.

 

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Finally, Almeria province, the great unknown or the ‘orchard of Europe’ has a mild temperature with an average of 13º C in winter and 26º C in summer which makes it very attractive to live all year round.  In the capital you can visit the cathedral and the castle of the Alcazaba. The mountainous interior of Almeria finds the towns of La Alpujarra (also part in Granada province), Vélez Blanco and Maria. Back along the Mediterranean coast you can see the more touristic towns of Roquétas de Mar, Mojacar and Vera, perfect to enjoy the sun, beach, tranquility and a magnificent gastronomy.

 

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But, really I have only mentioned just a few places in Andalucía…

So, to end our interview, how was it growing up under Franco rule?

My childhood, like that of any child was far from any political events. I was not even aware of the historical time in which I had to live. It was only later, in my adolescence, when I became aware of the situation.

My first years were spent planning childhood imaginative games in my neighbourhood, at school and with family. At home, people never talked about politics, it was taboo. It was a quiet and safe neighbourhood, as I mentioned before. The games I played with my friends relied on and developed our imagination in order to occupy our days. I also remember my vacations at my grandmother’s house in a rural environment. We had to find the water for the house on a donkey and at night the rooms were lit by candles!

When I was 10, we moved neighbourhoods to a house that my father had built. On the terrace I made a dovecote and I took care of our pigeons. After football, this would occupy my time encouraged by my older brother! A teacher taught me to play the guitar and it would become my favourite hobby and passion, still today.

My first music group, in my adolescence played protest songs. I guess I became more politically aware and understood the importance of freedom within a dictatorship. In Spain there was an air of real change with the death of Franco. The transition from dictatorship to democracy happened in my new music band, between the chords of Rock & Roll and the university. There was a journey with a lot to discover!

Gracias, por tu tiempo, Ezequiel.

 

If I was having a coffee right now……

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If I was having a coffee right now, I would be sat on the front patio feeling the warmth of the winter sunshine here in Almeria. I would have my giant Cath Kidston powder blue floral mug full of nescafe. I would be looking at the lovely plants and ignoring the many weeds surrounding them. And I would chat about this weekend and I guess finally own up to being 60. OMG 60, where on earth did that horrible number come from? In the last two weeks, my darling husband has told everyone we met that my 60th birthday was imminent! He just wanted me to be the same age as him so we really grow old together. Anyway, we will now be embracing our ‘successful sixties’ with a new adventure. Don’t ask me for details yet but keep reading our blog……..

What is the best way to celebrate such a milestone birthday? I had planned to have a quiet weekend, just a meal with Steve and then we would go for a long walk along the beach with Charlie our mad GSD puppy. That way the pain of this milestone would be minimal. People sat near me or walking by would never need to know. Then come Monday, everything would be back to normal and I doubt I would have developed too many extra wrinkles overnight!

But instead, my best friend Dee and her fiancé Rob had a moment of madness and kindness and decided to get a flight at 6.30am Saturday morning to surprise me! Well, being with Steve 24/7, it couldn’t be a total surprise but then for me, it added to the fun of us planning the weekend ahead with great friends. The celebrations started at about 1pm and ended around 5.30pm the following day. Of course, no longer being a spring chick, there were breaks for tea, meals and some sleep. But I am not shy to admit that Dee and I danced around the kitchen in true disco style accompanied not by our men but champagne flutes as bubbly as us until about 1.00am!!

In the restaurant, for Sunday lunch, we continued to reminisce about all the years gone by and added a few of the escapades from the night before. I generally received kind birthday cards plus kind and cheeky text messages!! I was also told that 60 is the new 50, apparently, well no, let us make it the new 40!

After dropping Dee and Rob off at the airport, I fell asleep in the car with many unanswered questions spinning in my head……do I stop wearing a bikini now……how short should my dresses and shorts be……is it worth upgrading the anti-aging cream while living in the sun……how long and how blonde should my hair go……what clothes in my wardrobe are now just a bit too young looking……? Then I heard ‘darling, we’re home’, so my questions are still unanswered.

If I was having a coffee right now, I would tell you what a happy and fabulous weekend I had really celebrating my 60th birthday in style!

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PS…I have just finished my WordPress ‘blog’ course on design and layout of  blogs…… would love to hear what you think of the ‘new look’???

Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo!

 

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Here in Spain, the Christmas and the New Year celebrations are slightly different those in the England.

22nd December – The day of the draw for the national Christmas lottery –  El gordo (the fat one). The draw goes on for most of the day, with many winning tickets and prizes varying from small amounts to hundreds of millions of euros! The prize pot this year was over two billion euros!!!

24th December – Christmas Eve sees a family gathering and a large meal of many savoury dishes including fish and meat. Plus many sweet dishes, ‘el turrón (nougat – honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts), los  polvorónes ( a soft and very crumbly Spanish shortbread) and marzipan.

25th December – Christmas Day is not so different with some gifts and a family meal.

28th December – Los Santos Inocentes, the origin is religious but nowadays it is festive fun when everyone plays jokes on each other, joke news on tv and in the newspapers etc, just like April Fool’s Day. I guess with Spain loving a fiesta, it is another excuse for a celebration in between Christmas and New Year!

31st December – Nochevieja (old year). This dinner is spent with friends rather than family. And did you know, you should wear red underwear to bring you luck during the next year?! Most people watch the countdown to the New Year with the ringing of the bells at Puerta del Sol in Madrid. The tradition is to eat 12 grapes within the time it takes for 12 chimes, followed with Cava and plenty of it! Then the real fiesta starts and at sunrise you have a typical breakfast of hot chocolate with churros (strips of fried dough dusted with sugar or cinnamon).

1st January – A family dinner but maybe not much of an appetite for anyone due to ‘resaca’ or to you and me ‘hangover’!

6th January – El dia de los Reyes Magos (the day of the Three Kings or Three Wise Men). The children write their letters to the Kings with their gift wishes. On the 5th, they should go to bed early, leaving their shoes out for Kings to visit and fill with gifts! Then on the 6th, the traditional breakfast is Roscón de Reyes which is a ring-shaped cake decorated with dried fruits symbolizing the precious gems that adorned the Kings lavish clothes. Normally, hidden in the cake are two plastic-wrapped figurines, a faba bean (similar to a broad bean) and a small king. Whoever finds the small king will  be “king” or “queen” of the feast and will have good luck all the year. But person who finds the faba bean has to pay for the roscón!

 

 

Wishing all our family and friends a wonderful Christmas and a happy 2018!!

 

 

 

 

Our first olive harvest!

 

It would seem that quality extra virgin olive oil is super healthy and, probably the healthiest fat in the world! Here’s why…

 

Protects Heart Health.

Helps Fight Cancer.

Helps with Weight Loss and Obesity Prevention.

Supports Brain Health.

Fights Mood Disorders and Depression.

Great for Boosting Skin Health.

Can Help Prevent or Treat Diabetes.

Helps Balance Hormones.

 

When we moved into our cortijo, we knew we had olive trees in our garden ( plus grape vines, pomegranates trees, orange tree, lemon tree, fig tree and many almond trees). Our oldest and largest olive tree shades the pool terrace. This tree was in desperate need of a good prune in order to grow good olives. We were introduced to a local Spanish gardener who, appeared one evening waving his hand saw and winking with his one good eye! Hola!

 

 

 

As expected, we had no olives last year but, this year we had loads. However, do you have any idea how many olives you need to pick to fill a crate?

 

 

We spent ages laying the net at the base of the tree and, raking our olives off the branches. We had a few more olives on the young trees in our orchard but, we needed help, especially as our puppy, Charlie was munching through quite a few! Our friends Kay and Mike kindly ‘lent us an olive tree’ in their garden and, helped picked more olives. Kay was determined to fill our first crate to the very top.

 

The following day, we all went to the olive press in Lubrín, just a short drive away. The olives are pressed at the Almazara de Lubrín factory. A family business which can currently grind up to 180,000 kilos of olives every 24 hours. There are five varieties of olives grown in this region. The hot, dry climate, mild winters, hours of sun and the influence of the Med so close, results in a very distinctive product from other regions in Spain. The extra virgin olive oil produced gives an intense flavour with a mild bitterness and fruity taste.

We arrived to find a long queue of trucks and tractors with their trailers full of olives, cars and vans packed with stacks of crates, so we wait patiently and excitedly with our one crate!

 

 

The process started with Steve tipping our olives through a large grate in the ground.

 

 

As our olives trundled along the conveyor belt, a handful were removed and taken to the laboratory to be tested for quality and oil content. Oh! Yes, all mod cons, no donkeys pulling large stones involved! All of us stand with eyes fixed on the display board waiting to see how many kilos we had collected.

 

 

The light flashes – 18 kilos! We receive our special form and in exchange receive 3 litres of Almazara de Lubrín Extra Virgin Olive Oil!!

 

 

Fantastic, good fun and, another cherished memory made in Spain. We will be nurturing our olive trees much more now. If you had told us 5 years ago that we would be picking our own olives etc, we would just never have believed it!

 

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Serón, Almeria

 

 

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So, there has to be a plus side to doing a 3rd year of level 1 at our Spanish lessons apart from revision! Yes, we are invited on the ‘school’ trips organized by the Casa de la Cultura in Antas. To date we have visited Cape Palos, La Manga, Murcia and last week Serón.

Serón is in the province of Almería, Andalusia and located at an altitude of 822 metres. and in the heart of the Sierra de los Filabres.

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On approach, you first see the castle at the very top of the village giving the most stunning views of the Almanzora valley. The Moorish castle dates back to the 13th century. The Christians taking charge in the 17th century.  This fortress in Serón is included in the  Ruta de los Castillos (The Castle Route) throughout Andalucia. There is major restoration happening currently.

 

 

 

Visit Parroquial de la Anunciación Church where, at first sight, it has a stunning marble interior, however it is actually all marbleizing (painted marble effect) as the pueblo couldn’t afford marble.

 

 

 

Serón holds the Fiesta de Jamón (ham festival) on the first weekend of July each year. We had expected to visit the jamon curing specialist producers in Serón, however, in true Spanish ‘planning’ style, at this time of year there are no tours as the producers are crazy busy preparing for Christmas!

But our stop at Seronés Artesano cheese company more than compensated. Especially as our Spanish tutor sneaked off to buy some red wine to compliment our cheese tastings! In order for the cheese to be of excellent quality, Seronés choose the best milk from the Murciano Granadina breed of goats.

 

 

 

Here come some facts – The Spanish Breeders Association of Murciano Granadina  states that they will refuse to accept any goat that has even the tiniest amount of white hair. Their milk has 5.6% fat, and 3.6% protein, which is better than most other goat breeds in Mediterranean Europe. Seronés Artesano’s Gourmet achieved bronze in the specialty of cured goat unpasteurized cheese at the International Cheese Festival with over 3000 participants. Amazing after just two years of professional production…….all in this small pueblo!

So the only decision, goats cheese with orange (I bought!) or with peppers or rosemary, thyme….. www.serones.com  (Before consuming, it is recommended leaving the cheese for about 30 minutes at room temperature so that all its qualities are enhanced)

We hop back on the coach and drive a few kilometres for a late lunch at Las Menas set further up the mountains. Las Menas is an old abandoned mining town. Originally lead was mined and later in 1885 turned to extraction of iron ore. The mines eventually closed in 1968 because they were unable to compete with North African suppliers.  There are ruins of buildings and an information board showing what these buildings were when it was still a thriving community. A popular place for picnics, camping and hiking etc in the summer season but was really quiet at this time of year, apart from us ‘school kids’!

 

 

 

Finally, full with lunch, cheese, wine and lots of walking up really steep hills, we all relax on our coach ride back to Antas. Another little ‘gem’ discovered in Spain.

 

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P.S Now for the real cheese tasting!

 

 

 

 

10 things that’ve made us happy!

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We thought we would take a great idea from our god-daughter Rosie’s blog ‘Cider with Rosie’ and list 10 things that made us happy this month.

Fame at last! If you would like to visit aplaceinthesun.com and hit the tab ‘news and features’ you will see our smiley faces as they have featured our move here! (Thanks James).

Just recovering from our third Antas fiesta. From the parade of the Virgen de la Cabeza statue, the children dancing flamenco, to the live music, just 4 nights of fun.

Meeting up with our Belgium friends Jeannine and Georges, at the fiesta, of course, as they have been away for 2 months.

September weather is still sizzling hot with balmy evenings, so making the most of it before autumn arrives.

An evening with Ezequel and Geli, who feed us their delicious home-made tapas and correct our attempts to speak Spanish! And a tip, wine helps you to be more fluent.

Rosie and Jason’s darling Ottilie was one year old on Saturday. A little party girl from the photos we have seen!

Friday evening, Cold Feet is back on tv – yeah!

Charlie, our 4 month old puppy, can finally co-ordinate all four legs when running! More on him later!

Our newest plant ‘tecomaria capensis’ is bursting with flame orange flowers. It is next to our lime or lemon tree …will be a surprise?

Finally, this was sent to us….. a ‘tweet’ from The Queen regarding the itinerary for King Felipe back in July – ‘Tomorrow we shall be taking the King of Spain on a trip in a glass bottomed boat …. so he can inspect the Spanish Armada’!

 

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Moros y Cristianos Fiestas

 

Summer is finally here in Spain and the fiestas are in full swing with the ‘Moors and Christians’. This is the key fiesta in Mojacar and having been told how good it is, we went on the final day and were not disappointed. It was fabulous!

Here is the history bit…

It is to remember the peacefully negotiated surrender of Mojacar and local pueblos at the end of the 15th century to the Christian King. Most importantly the motto is ‘no winner or losers’. On the third and final day the Great Parade starts early evening. All the town’s residents split into different guilds or ‘cabilas’ and are involved in the parade dressing in stunning, colourful costumes mixed with non stop bands who have the loudest drums!

 

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There were thousands of people there to fully enjoy and party until the early hours. My photos take you through some of the parade but working with my mobile phone and many rogue arms, heads and other mobiles, was a challenge but enjoy and feel the spirit!!

 

 

It is going to be a long night for these young boys

 

 

 

Is this Bruce’s brother?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never too young to participate!

 

 

Ready to try this (after a vino blanco?)

 

 

See you in June next year?

 

 

But it is a new month, so good excuse for another fiesta….we are off to Rojales!  It really is amazing how stunning all the costumes are at these fiestas? The local councils (Ayuntamiento) know how to prioritize the funds! Bring on the girls

 

 

And the guys

 

 

And of course the children and bands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for a little siesta… until the next fiesta!!!!!

 

aaaa fiestas de san pedro

Two years on…

It has been two years since moving to our cortijo here in Los Chopos and we thought that we would take time out to reflect on the good, the bad and downright mad!

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‘Manana’ means tomorrow or more likely, ‘possibly tomorrow or possibly not’.

‘Let’s have a cafe con leche’ means let’s sit and ponder on things we need to do in the house, manana (see above!).

Not all bills are sent out, some you are just meant to know about and pay them and then, you have to work out where and how you can pay them. Not all banks can accept payment for particular bills and those that do, often will only accept payment in cash. Some bills can only be paid through a cash machine.

Where you live depends on the eyesight of the person preparing the bill. Carole has recently been moved from our home here in Los Chopos, to a flat in Alicante.

The thick walls of the house keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter – lies! The thick walls of the house keep you hot in the summer and freezing in the winter.

Decorating rooms actually means replastering.

Falling from the top a ladder onto a tiled floor is not recommended!

Spanish laws change on a daily basis hence four visits to Almeria with different paperwork each time when applying for our ‘residencia’.

Receiving our post (and the neighbours) means the postman popping letters through our car window when he sees us in town or flagging us down if we are on the road to give us all of the post for Los Chopos, so he doesn’t have to bother driving up there.

Courier service means, ‘I have no idea where you live so I’ll deliver here.’ Normally a shop or cafe. Sometimes, they will actually call and arrange a place where we can go and meet them.

How not to look like a tourist means wear jeans in 30c heat and walk in the shade at all times of the year.

Learning the Spanish language is fun but hard,  if the Spanish can say the same thing three different ways plus in masculine or feminine form, they will!

Take care with pronunciation especially when going to pay the bill … ‘pago’ means ‘I pay’ and not ‘pego’ which means ‘I fight you’!

No traffic, even on the motorways…bliss. But take care driving at roundabouts as nobody indicates and if they do, for sure they are not taking the exit you expect.

Free parking, even right on the beach!

Tasty fresh fruit and vegetables, straight from the fields to our weekly market.

Good news, we found the swimming pool lights – bad news the previous owner didn’t ensure they were earthed.

The weeds in the garden actually grow while you are watching.

Best businesses to run in Spain – a pharmacy (la farmacia) or lottery shop (tienda la loteria).

Spanish people are very helpful, thankfully plus we are lucky to have really good neighbours Becky, Ian, Catherine and Martin – much needed when living in the Campo.

We have made some great new friends who we hope will be friends for life!

Finally, ‘happy one year anniversary’ living in Spain to our dear Kim and Paul!

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Another gem discovered!

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We have discovered the Secret Garden and Mo­roc­can Tea House, Casa Mor­isca at Crevillente.

 

 

The owner, whose dream was to bring a little piece of Morocco to Spain, moved from Granada and began by buying a piece of land which had a small house and as the story goes one palm tree. Over the course of 37 years, his hard work and constant development of the land, has given us the enchanting secret garden which is now a large family home and business. The one palm tree is now lost amongst the palatial gardens that surround the home affording many hidden seating areas in which to enjoy your tea.

 

 

Wandering through the maze of rooms, you discover a plethora of small courtyards, hidey holes and finding yourself on a balcony overlooking other small balconies and further places to explore.

 

 

Finding a hidden staircase we continue back on the ground floor with more seating areas inside, warmed by lit open fireplaces, a welcoming feature in the chill of a March evening.

 

 

As the sun sets the lanterns start to sparkle and the candles line the paths, just magical. With the lullaby charms of the fountains, the gardens are a really tranquil oasis. Until the peacocks roaming around start to ‘chat’ it must be time for tea! At least 20 aromatic choices from fruit to spicy all served up with Moroccan sweet cakes. A truly enchanting treat and ‘chill out’ place which is not only beautiful but also inspiring.

 

 

We will definitely come again!