10 things that’ve made us happy!

20170911_081237

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’!

 

20170911_083502

 

 

Advertisements

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!

 

20170613_004327

 

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!

20170525_143133

‘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!

20160524_143005

 

 

 

Another gem discovered!

20170327_235406

 

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!

 

Chilled to the End

20161213_135600

This month’s blog is a very personal account of our dog, Freddie, who has sadly passed away at the grand old age of thirteen. If you are not a dog lover then you may find this account a tad boring but for those of you who are, and understand how dogs with their unconditional love, can really get under your skin, then please enjoy Freddie’s tale.

We adopted Freddie when he was about eighteen months old from the RSPCA in Chobham in Surrey. He had had a very poor start to his life and had been acquired by the RSPCA from a gypsy after a sharp eyed employee had seen Freddie along with his mother, chained up outside. The chain around Freddie’s neck had become so tight that his skin had grown over it and it was slowly strangling him. I would not have believed this if I hadn’t seen the photographs taken by the RSPCA where the chain had been cut out of his neck. The photographs were taken so that the charity could prosecute the owner but the gypsy disappeared so no action was taken. Freddie’s mother was in such a poor state that she was put to sleep.

I was driving through Chobham on a day off and on a whim, decided to go to the Kennels. We had been casually looking for a new dog for a few months (our previous dog had passed away nearly two years earlier). As I wandered along the line of Kennels, various dogs were barking and jumping up at the chain-mail fencing desperately seeking a little attention. It can be a heart breaking sight. Carole and I have always liked bigger dogs, and German Shepherd or a variation of, has always been our preference. I reached one kennel and there was a handsome shepherd-cross sat quietly leaning against its cage. He let me stroke his nose but didn’t seem too fussed, he just sat quietly. I phoned Carole, who was in Austria with her work, and said that I thought I had found our next dog and that I was going to reserve him so that she could meet him on the weekend.

With the office formalities out of the way I was allowed to take Freddie for a walk. He was pleased to be out but didn’t appear to care what or who was on the other end of his lead! He walked quite nicely with no real pulling, just plenty of sniffing and being generally nosy as dogs do. I called his name a couple of times, which at that time was ‘Blue’ but he didn’t respond. I’ve spent my whole life being ignored so there was nothing new there!! After the walk I returned to the office and expressed an interest in ‘Blue’ and that is when I learned his story. He had been at the RSPCA for about three months whilst they waited for his wounds to heal and for them to assess his suitability for adoption. That day was the first day he had been available for adoption and it did feel a little bit like fate.

Carole and I returned at the weekend and spent time in a large room playing with Blue and checking his aggression levels, but he didn’t appear to have any. He was quite happy for you to take a ball from his mouth and he just appeared to love to play. We were told that they didn’t think Blue had ever lived in a house so to expect damage and mess if we decided to adopt him. Undaunted we went ahead and said we wanted him and after having us and our home inspected to make sure we were suitable, a few days later I was driving Blue to our house. After a twenty minute drive, he hadn’t thrown up or poohed in the car. So far so good. We let him into the house and he basically nosed around, checking out each room in turn, found his bed and said ‘thank you very much, this will do’. Blue or Freddie as we named him was now our responsibility. I took three weeks off of work to train him and get him settled. Freddie was a German Shepherd cross with a Border Collie, incredibly intelligent and loved to learn new tricks. Although his coat was all ‘Shepherd’, his personality was mainly ‘Collie’. Freddie never did damage anything or mess in the house and after the three weeks I spent with him, we realised that he was going to be the perfect pet. He was sociable with other dogs, always came when you called his name and showed no signs of aggression to any living thing…..except cats! What is it about dogs and cats.

20130615_125434

For a dog that had had such a poor start in life, he seemed very well adjusted and this was testament to the behaviorist who had looked after Freddie at the RSPCA. She had told me that she had wanted to adopt Freddie but her partner had said no as they already had three dogs, but she had done a first class job with him. There were the occasional signs that Freddie still had a few issues, after picking up a cane in the garden, Freddie ran into the house and didn’t reappear until I had put it down, he didn’t like his tail or his tummy touched but over time these things no longer bothered him. I would walk him first thing then again when I got home and last thing at night. During the day, Pat, the local dog walker would take Freddie out with a host of other dogs. Pat was a gentle guy who just preferred dogs to people. When walking Freddie through our local village of Bagshot, complete strangers would often ask us ‘Is that Freddie?’ He was well known in the village. He was a people dog. He would play with other dogs when he felt like it but most of the time he preferred human company. Whenever friends or family came to the house, Freddie was convinced that they had come to see him rather than us and that was quite often true. At Christmas he would often get more presents than us as the family and all of our wonderful neighbours would give him presents.

We had so many wonderful times with Freddie and he never ceased to make us laugh, whether it was chasing snowballs and not understanding where they went when they hit the ground or coming up to us with a ball and nudging us to play with him or nudging us for a little affection, running around in circles barking his head off as a train would pass under a footbridge at Bagshot station. Trains were his most fun. I had to time our evening walks so that he would see both trains passing through Bagshot of an evening or else he would linger by the station and I would have to put his lead on and coax him away. I decided to take him, one stop on the train one day thinking he would be so excited but actually he was coolness personified and just took it in his stride. That was so typical of Freddie.

There is a selection of your kind comments below from people whose hearts were touched by Freddie and we thank you for them

‘he was the perfect dog………..he felt like family’… ‘the best dog I have ever been with and we will remember him always’   Elliott

‘ best dog ever. God bless Freddie sleep tight, off to the big park in the sky’   Claire

‘l just  keep remembering what a lovely dog he was , l remember at Bagshot going to my bag for his bones and he’d  be chewing on them , and how he’d rush out the door , and he’d like to stroked between his ears’   Mum

‘what a lovely dog he was’   Andy, Meg, Billy and Danny

‘he really was the most wonderful dog and what a fantastic life……….’   Dee

‘he was such a lovely soul’   Avril

‘he was such a gorgeous boy………..run free Freddie’   Frances

‘such a beautiful boy’   Janice

‘A film star life for Freddie, in comparison to so many of his clan’   Tony and Noi

‘we will keep him always in mind as a nice but most of all sweet dog’   Jeannine and Georges

‘we haven’t known Freddie for long but loved him to bits. We so enjoyed his visits.’   Kay and Mike

20151107_131733

Every picture tells a story…

Believe it or not, we do actually get ‘seasons’ here in Spain, although a bit mixed up. In the autumn the plants come back to life after a long hot summer and the desert becomes green again.

Never expected to take this photo! We had sleet but fortunately Los Chopos was just below the snow level.

20170119_084945

Just two hours north in Alicante and further up to Valencia and all of Northern Spain had meters of snow.

We had the wettest December in 30 years and last week the coldest temperatures that some locals have ever known. Thank goodness we have another road to Antas, after the rambla filled up with water just before Christmas. Well we wanted an adventure!

So, time to turn on the cosy fire, snuggle up and dream of summer…

Steve and Freddie with their winter coasts!

Spot the difference?

Snug as a bug in an Ugg…

We tried iced tea but it was too bloody cold!!

Blimey it’s cold.

Thankfully, Spring is getting closer as we start to see almond blossom everywhere.

20170119_170720-1

Freddie’s thought – I like to curl up in front of the fire with a good book. I’m currently reading “Hound of the Baskervilles”.

 

My recreational drug!

Finally, after months of saying ‘when I get time I would love to… ’ I confess I have an addiction!

I attend a great little art class in beautiful Bedar which is a typical Andalucian village set in the hillside with stunning views out to the Mediterranean.  What more could I need to inspire me alongside Trina my great art teacher and owner of the Bedar Art Center.

Trina has run the center for several years and she and her husband Klaus have their own eventful story on how they discovered and moved to Bedar! I would like at some point to go to the ceramic classes although not sure if Trina’s patience will stretch that far? She says that creativity is a great way to open up, expose and put yourself out there and well it’s been a while since I’ve done that, so to speak! Trina’s wonderful, original ceramic Whimsy People are set off among her paintings, greeting cards and much more…

Her workshop is inspirational, colourful, fun and perfect to indulge a few hours away with the other ‘pupils’. It’s sociable and a laugh with even an Arty Farty Christmas Party!

After months of Steve telling me ‘don’t put too much paint on the brush’ and Trina telling me ‘Come on, get some paint on that brush and that paper’…..I start to get it. I’m currently painting with acrylics which I have never done before. Maybe I will try working with oils and canvas? I now have an easel, paints etc at home, meanwhile I start to progress very, very  slowly. Here are a few of my efforts!

Plus a work in progress, dear Freddie!

20161206_132312

more art…Rojales

Expressions of art can be found everywhere is Spain. On a recent visit to Rojales, we discovered Caves Rojales ‘Cuevas del Rodeo’.  Rojales is a typical agricultural Spanish village with the River Segura running through the town and situated just inland from Guardamar in southern Costa Blanca.

As you enter Cuevas del Rodeo along the paths there are sculptures leading to the cave houses.

Steve and Paul appreciating art!

and Kim and I were in the leather shop……

20161105_114602

Every month there is an arts and crafts market and each month a different artist exhibits in the gallery cave. Children embrace the arts a young age.

Walk by more cave houses and take the steps to the bar and live music (in summer season).

The Casa de Las Conchas is the lowest entrance to the cave area and the owner Manuel has spent many years decorating his house with shells.

Definitely  well worth a visit!

Barking at Sunset

20160126_110335

Yes, this is me, Freddie promenading in Garrucha. All of the other dogs here are tiny so I feel like a bit of a celebrity as everyone wants to stroke me and my master and mistress have asked me to tell my story.

This was my excellent life in England. Friends to walk and play with in the woods or by the river or in grassy fields. Ooh, how much do I miss GRASS!! I knew something was up when they took away my fur coat and made me have a bath. Actually, I thought I looked pretty good but my master couldn’t stop laughing at me. So, to wipe the smile off his face, I pooed in the hall! (that picture is my private collection).

The next day they put my bed in the back of the car. I thought I might have overplayed my paw when they put me in the car and then we drove and drove and drove and after what felt like two weeks in dog time, we stopped and they let me out so I could CML (cock my leg). We walked about a bit and played FTS (fetch the stick) and then they put me back in the car and I said ‘come on guys WTF!!’.  But off  we drove. This time is was a very short drive and when we stopped we were inside a big metal box.

I can tell you I was pretty nervous but my master and mistress were very happy and excited so I went along with it, right up to the point where they put me in a cage! I tried to get some sleep but the metal box was rocking and the little dog in the cage next to me wouldn’t stop yapping. All night long YAP, YAP, YAP, YAP, YAP! I so wanted to put my paw down his throat. Anyway, with the ‘yappy snappy’ next door and a touch of ‘mal de mar’, I only managed to doze. In the morning I met my ‘Jailers’ with THAT look.

20150517_165837

They gave me my breakfast and a handful of treats, as if that was going to make up for the hell they were putting me through. But hell was still to come. I was so eager to get off the metal box, that I gladly jumped back in the car. Big mistake, huge mistake!

They drove for ‘days’ and once a ‘week’ they would stop and let me out so I could CML and then play FTS and then back in the car I would say ‘WTF’!

After what seemed like a month and when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the car hit this bumpy old road. Everything was shaking and my old bones rattling and then the car stopped. When my master opened the back to let me out, I couldn’t see him for the cloud of dust and my double vision and then the heat hit. No wonder they cut off my fur coat. They had moved to hell and brought me along without consultation!

My new home was to be an old house in the middle of the desert with not a blade of grass insight! Thanks SO much!

Many doggy years later and I have grown fond of my new life in the desert! In summer, I have regular haircuts and swim in the pool plus the occasional ice cream  and ice cubes to keep me cool. I prefer it when the weather cools down and the grass briefly appears and we promenade a lot by the beach and eat in cafes! I get tit-bits and lots of fuss made of me.

And then we go home to our rambling old house with a big garden to explore and see my doggy neighbours.

Life in this strange land is not so bad after all!

For any dogs thinking of moving out here, watch out for my occasional tips on ‘living the Spanish life and barking at sunset’ !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our hidden gem, Antas

Let me take you on a tour of our fabulous local town of Antas which is just a few kilometers from us and twenty minutes from the coast. Our little pueblo of Los Chopos and nearby pueblos of Jauro, Aljariz, El Real, Los Raimundos to name but a few, are all in fact part of the friendly and welcoming  Antas. The first thing you see on the outskirts is the remains of the Roman aqueduct surrounded by many orange groves.

 

Antas Monday morning market sells loads of local produce and we can practice our Spanish.

Coffee at our local cafe bar El Sur is a regular visit, especially after our Spanish lessons when we are in need of wine, beer and tapas! Gabriela and Enrique own El Sur (pictured with their daughter Romina) and have made us so welcome from our first visit. El Sur is the hub of the community and Gabriela has helped us with a local plumber, electrician etc…. She even translated over the phone while Steve and the plumber were on the roof here!!!

Down the cobbled streets is the Centro de la Cultura. It houses the local police station, library and also serves as the centre for adult educational classes including our Spanish classes.

we stroll pass the church, town hall and it’s plaza……

….. and arrive in the Era Del Lugar where preparations are underway for the Antas fiesta. OK here’s the history bit…. on a hill top outside the town is the Hermitage of the ‘Virgen de Cabeza’ which is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Antas. The statue of the virgin is taken to the plaza where beautiful, fragrant floral tributes are offered by the Spanish local residents

Then the fiesta begins, bring on the band!

And of course, the children have their own funfair!

Fiesta to siesta and then back to normal life in our chilled, lovely Antas

 

Granada

When so many people tell you a place is great, there is always a chance that your expectations will be too high but Granada doesn’t disappoint at all!! Set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucia and only a two and a quarter beautiful drive from us.Of course, we stopped on route for our Spanish breakfast of tomato toast, freshly made churros and coffee with our friends Geli and Ezequiel.

20160723_095753

There is so much to see and do aside from visiting the famous Alhambra palace and fortress. The once Muslim City was taken over by the Christians led by Queen Isabel of Castile in 1492, so the architecture at the palace and throughout the city has strong Moorish influences. The old part of the city is made up of narrow streets with small shops, tapas bars and restaurants all buzzing but still with a relaxed atmosphere. We will go back as two days was just not enough!

Strolling along to Alcaiceria the Arab district of the city and close to Granada Cathedral.

Then time for tapas and drinks……followed by a long lunch. In the evening we amble along Paseo de los Tristes (the sad walk), the place to be! We are in and out of little souvenir shops, stopping for more tapas and people watching, while Steve and I struggle to speak Spanish . It’s amazing how good beer and wine helps the fluency, well we thought we had improved as the night went on!!!

Day two after not much sleep as so hot, we start walking up the very steep hills to El Albaicin, the Moorish quarter of the city. Stopping several times on our climb, not sure if we were gasping for breath or at the stunning views!

Walking back to Paseo de los Tristes for lunch, Ezequiel, spots in one of the narrow streets a guitarist. He explains that Steve would love to hear traditional ‘Spanish guitar’so we just chill and listen for half an hour.

Late afternoon we visit Alhambra Palace, I don’t want to give you a history lesson, so enjoy some of the many photos I took. And if you haven’t or cannot visit, then ‘google’ Alhambra, it really is ‘wow’!

Inside there are a lot of beautiful mosaics and carvings but on a hot July day maybe too many to really appreciate!

Then back outside, phew!

A fantastic trip and can’t wait to go back. We were exhausted, happy but our poor old brains aching after all that Spanish ‘chatting’. Mind you, not as tired as our dear Spanish friends having to listen to us. Maybe that is why we stopped for several tapas and drinks?

20160724_190545-1

Hasta luego!