The Basket Case in Jauro

It never ceases to amaze me how people become part of your life. With Colin and Steve they became the font of knowledge, our Wikipedia de España. We were introduced to them by our Belgium friends Georges and Jeannine when my Steve was desperate to find a sports therapist to help with a sciatic problem he had. Ray solved the problem in a matter of weeks and my Steve was eternally grateful to them for their help. Fast forward four years and we are now firm friends!

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Colin and Steve moved to a small pueblo in the hills called Jauro near Antas in 2006 after buying one house. Two years later they bought the house next door as well. They did the majority of the renovations themselves and completed most of the combined houses in 2012. The pool, terraces and garden were completed in 2013 and finally the front courtyard in 2015. They have maintained the Spanish character and furnished their home in a traditional Spanish manor.

(Just a little background info to set the scene of their latest venture we have comically called ‘The Basket Case in Jauro’)

Colin and Steve have two plots of land of 800m2 and last September Steve decided Colin needed a new challenge. Idle hands and all that, so they set about clearing plot one and readying it for planting. This involved weeding, digging and rotovating. No easy task as the ground here in Almeria is rock hard. Colin already had a vision of how it would look with interlocking paths, borders and a wooden gated entrance. The clearing was just a start, a treasure was unearthed in the shape of a set of false teeth and with five ‘gummy’ neighbours nearby, the owner remains a mystery! 

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Actually, this new mini series will be known as ‘What’s in Colin’s Trug!? And not just any old trug, it is a Thomas Smith Royal Sussex Trug (for those who have no idea what a trug is, myself included, its a garden basket used to carry flowers or produce). Trugs are hand made from sweet chestnut and willow strips of wood. A full insight can be found at sussextrugs.com.

But I digress, back to the plot literally! All of their produce is totally organic as no fertilizers or sprays are being used which is quite an achievement considering there are countless bugs in southern Spain ready to pounce at a hint of a shoot.

Everything is watered by hand as an irrigation system is yet to be installed. To protect the plants a high tech gnome called ‘Arthur’ has been employed, well actually Arthur is pretty low tech but appears more effective than shiny tinsel fluttering in the wind (maybe wind is Arthur’s secret weapon!). Whatever the success is down to, the local Spanish neighbours are highly impressed and have taken a keen interest in the local basket case, offering tips and advice. They themselves produce on a grand scale and it has been a lovely way for Colin and Steve to further integrate into the local community and improve language skills. Colin is pretty fluent so ¿Que hay en tu cesta esta semana, Colin?

And if you are also inspired here’s the planting schedule to get to this stage?

September  – clear the plot.

October 12th – planted broccoli, cauliflower and onions

October 21st – planted garlic, leeks, red onions and broad beans.

October 25th  – planted more broccoli and cauliflower

October – fencing put up as protection from the wind

November 1st – planted orange, lemon and lime tree

Then more features, a lovely wooden bench (ideal for those mid morning coffee breaks!) and herb planters made from reclaimed wooden pallets.

January 2nd – planted herbs, mint, rosemary, oregano, sage and chives.

January 12th  the first crop harvested!

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As Colin says, its amazing how quickly everything grows. Lots of work keeping the plot groomed and manicured but looks very impressive! And such a pleasure and the satisfaction is immense.

And veggie costs so far for this new hobby? Broccoli and cauliflowers – 10 for 1 euro. Garlic – 10 for 2 euros. Leeks – 30 for 1 euro. Seed packs – carrots 1.79 peas 2.40 and broad 2.79!

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Colin and Steve’s house is the backdrop to this project!

What is happening next Colin? “Well, plot 2 cleared and propagated ….. so watch this space …..”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Vélez to New York!

After months and months of lovely hot sunny weather, the first really cold snap and very windy weather arrived here in Vera (15C – when you live here that’s cold!). So, what should you do? Yes, visit Vélez Rubio and Vélez Blanco where it’s a balmy 5C!

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In fact Vélez Rubio, Vélez Blanco, Chirival and Maria are the four villages of Los Velez and are situated in the northern corner of Almeria province amongst the Sierra de Maria – Los Vélez Natural Park. The landscape is stunning with mountains, pine forests and the area is also steeped in history. 

Forty-five minutes drive and climbing 2800 feet aproximately, the sky is blue and bright and the air crisp and very fresh! As you approach Vélez Rubio, the pueblo is dominated by the church, Iglesia de la Encarnación.

It was built in the 18th century and is meant to be one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Almeria.

The main alter is an amazingly detailed wood carving and some 65 feet high. The façade includes the arms of the Marquises of Villafranca and Velez who built the church.

As always, I’m not sure my Samsung mobile phone camera can do it justice?

The next stop is the Miguel Guiro Archaeological Museum to see more of the history from prehistoric remains and the Arab and Roman eras. The prehistoric caves and paintings at Cueva de Los Letreos and La Cueva del Gabar are UNESCO World Heritage listed sites. Cueva de Los Letreos dates from 5000BC with paintings of men, women and animals. It was here that the figure of Indalo was discovered. You see the Indalo man symbol everywhere in Almeria and it is believed to offer protection from misfortunes! We’ll see!

Time for a short lunch and then a 10 minute drive to Velez Blanco. The castle, Castillo Palacio is set high up on the rock and more than 1000 meters tall looking down on the pueblo. It was built on top of an old Arab castle in the 16th century. Sadly, only the exterior has been preserved to this day. You can take at tour but now it’s winter opening hours so it was closed when we were there. (We should have checked first!)

You will also see the remains of the Iglesia de la Magdalena on the hillside near the Castillo. In the church are the graves of the first two Marquises of Los Velez.

There are quite a few hotels here but they are all closed until the spring. But still a pretty place and nice to just wander around, soak up the atmosphere and stop for a hot coffee! Near to a bodega is the brightly coloured Fuente Caños de Caravaca (fountain) from the 18th century featuring the Vélez Blanco arms.

In the summer when the streets are buzzing with tourists and all the cafes and restaurants are open,  it would be lovely to just sit outside with a drink and watch the sunset.

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So, Los Velez to New York?

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Met Museum of Art NY

Well, the marble patio from the Castillo was actually purchased by George and Florence Meyer Blumenthal in 1913 and was the centre piece in their house on Park Avenue, Manhattan. He gifted the patio to the Met Museum of Art in 1945 when he died. The patio was removed in blocks and placed in the museum storage until 1963. (Blumenthal’s house was demolished.) After further, research the patio was reconstructed and installed and during the construction two arches and other modern elements added by Blumenthal were removed. It now serves as the entrance of the Thomas J Watson Library showcasing the museum’s Italian Renaissance statues.

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1997 to 2000 the patio was closed for refurbishment with a new floor of the same Macael marble put in which closely matches the original patio floor.

I didn’t expect this cosmopolitan ‘ending’ when Rhona (my blogging buddy!) and I set off to visit these sleepy pueblos!! But you never know what you might discover!

 

Coming soon ….. ‘what’s in Colin’s trug this week!’

Colin's trug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I was having a coffee right now …..

If I was having a coffee right now …… firstly, I would remember to take a photo of my friend Rhona and I sipping fresh coffee! Whoops!

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Anyway, we spent the morning in San Jose, Almeria. Just 50 minutes drive, on a sunny October day, from Vera. We drove by El Sotillo Cortijo, a refurbished 18th century house (now hotel), on the outskirts and which has links to Clint Eastwood and the movie Fistful of Dollars. ‘Google’ movies filmed in Almeria, you will be surprised!

This is such a lovely time of year to explore, as the main tourist season has finished but there are still enough restaurants and shops open and with quite a few people just mooching and chilling. And of course the token cyclists who are so popular in Almeria but they stop for a refreshing beer not coffee …..ha! ha! However, in July and August this place is mobbed with mainly the Spanish people on holiday from Madrid and in fact this year the local police were limiting the number of people on the beach! Hard to imagine?

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The shops are good and a little different, check out Salamandra Lamparas, great, stunning and quirky.

The promenade is lined with fish restaurants, leading to a small marina and is still a busy little fishing port.  In the main holiday season, there’s kayaking, scuba diving and other water sports plus horse trekking on offer.

The Cabo de Gata coastline is relatively unspoilt with beautiful coves, beaches and pueblos. I have visited Agua Amarga several times which is much smaller than San Jose. Definitely not such a tourist resort, and I think even more charming? (photos below)

Still on my list ‘to visit’ are Las Negras and Rodaquilar (with the closed goldmines). And one day, do some of the walking trails with Charlie.

Meanwhile, it was just a lovely way to spend a morning in this glorious part of Spain where we live!

After 3 ….. 1 2 3,   musical-notes

Woh woh woh woh woh woh woh woh woh woh  

Do you know the way to San Jose
I’ve been away so long
I may go wrong and lose my way
Do you know the way to San Jose
I’m going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose

(I know the song is about the one in LA but couldn’t resist!).

Cabo de Gata Nijar

Charlie … chilled at last!

I am so chuffed that I finally get my own blog post, although I did think and hope it was a new type of treat or toy? So, here I am, Charlie, a German shepherd of two years and five months. Some of you will have met me or at least know about me. I’m quite a complicated chap and there were times when my owners worried if I was going to make it and stay living with them? But here I am!

We all met when I was 3 months old and I lived with my two sisters (I was one of eleven pups). Carole and Steve certainly gave me loads of cuddles when we met and then imagine, they came back the next day to see me again! This time, though, I left with them. I can still remember the garden gate slowly opening and them leading me outside. Whoa! I was so scared. But he scooped me up and I lay on the seat in the car and was stroked until I fell asleep.

I entered their house and they let me wander around so I could sniff (and wee!) and take in my new surroundings. There was also a huge dog bed with a duvet waiting for me but sleep was the last thing on my mind. They seemed to have bought so many things for me! I wasn’t that co-ordinated and I can remember when I decided to try my new bed, I climbed up and promptly fell out! A few months later, I also fell in the swimming pool, put me off water for life!

My safe place became a shelf or step, see I am a strange chap!

The first few weeks were intriguing discovering a new home meeting a new vet, my first walk outside and getting to know my new owners. One day, she sat on the floor with me, teaching me to look at her when she said ‘Charlie’ and rewarding me with a tasty treat. No problem for me. Ah! that was now going to be my name! Charlie ….. Yeah! I liked that name.

He would also sit on the floor a lot with me, trying to get me to play with a ball or rope toy. Nope, couldn’t get the hang of that. Although, I did get to love chasing sticks he’d throw outside for me and today this is still my favourite game.

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The bigger I got … the bigger the stick!

Every evening we all went walking along the promenade at Garrucha. Lots of people, bikes, skateboards, pushchairs etc. I was getting along OK being introduced to so much stuff. So many people stopped and wanted to stroke me and quite a few laughed at my huge ears! 

I really loved the garden at the house, firstly it had no fences so I could take off and chase the farmer on his tractor! Secondly, the plants tasted delicious, especially the figs, although I don’t recommend such a detox diet for a young growing pup! I was meant to be putting weight on.

But then overnight I became frightened of everything? All the training and socializing they had been doing with me went pear shaped. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to be stroked and my toilet habits left a lot to be desired! I drove my owners crazy and quite frankly they drove me crazy trying to stop me doing my own thing and became an uncontrollable rebel. How were we going to live together, as deep down inside I didn’t really want to leave but it wasn’t looking promising?

I had made friends with the neighbours dog, Woody, a podenco (Spanish hunting dog) and occasionally we would make a break for freedom and be gone for an hour or so. However, one day when we were out, it felt like a really long time, in fact it was hours. I realised Woody and I had lost our scent to get home and this wasn’t a good game any more. It was very hot and both tired. Somehow, I got us walking in the right direction and then, out of nowhere I heard a car – my car- and Steve had found us! We leapt into the back feeling shattered and stressed. Goodness, I drank several bowls of water when I got home and I could tell I was in the really bad books. The rebel in me wasn’t helping secure a future with my owners?

And that ‘op guarantees no future Charlies!

Then, one day, we all went to meet Paqui, who runs the training school (Adiestramiento Canino Zadhir). She specialises in German Shepherds and trains police dogs. I just sat behind the fridge while they all chatted. Now, what was going to happen to me? I decided to make Paqui wait 6 weeks before I would let her stroke me, let alone give me a treat. Twice a week, we all went to training classes and it was so stressful and so tiring having to obey commands ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘wait’ ‘down, ‘here’ etc. On and on and on it went but I did smile inside, as my owners were also being trained! At the end of each class, I would be let off my lead along with the other dogs. We were all young playful puppies except my nerves kicked in and none of them played with me. They were chasing each other but I wasn’t ‘invited’. What was that about, my world was going backwards.

Well, I better not keep talking about my bad habits, let us fast forward over a year and after many, many more ups and downs and never-ending training classes plus a house move, another trauma (and story!), I have finally become quite a nice pet, even if I do say so myself! I now love playing games, being brushed and lap up affection and being stroked! I’m still anxious with people and children terrify me so I bark a lot. Paqui says as one fear is conquered, I’ll invent another one! But hey, she entered me into her local dog competition the training school organised and I did quite well!

And there’s more, I’m happy to tell you, I have a girlfriend, a beautiful, lovely German Shepherd, Aura. We met at training classes just over a year ago.

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Charlie (left and Aura (right)

It turned out she was a complicated gal! She barked a lot at other dogs and barked and went crazy at the birds. But she adores people. Aura’s owners, Rhona and Ian really like me and goodness, they always give me so many treats. I’m even allowed on their sofa! And get this, Aura lives only a ten-minute walk away. Aura and I have fun and help each other when we are together! We also go to the beach together and Aura loves the sea but I still have a fear of water. But I take my frisbee and run and run.

So, you could say “once upon a time there was a dog called Charlie ………. and they all lived ‘chilled’ ever after” Paws crossed!

Mayor Pedro Zamora of Antas

 

Firstly, congratulations Pedro, on being voted Mayor of Antas. Where shall we start?

En primer lugar, felicidades Pedro, por haber sido elegido alcalde de Antas. ¿Por dónde empezaramos? 

Please tell us a little about your family?     ¿Por favour cuèntanos un poco sobre tu familia?   

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“I have been married 10 years to my wife and we have two girls, a 6 year old and a two year old. They are all lovely. I also have an older brother along with my parents, uncles, aunties and cousins. They are very good people and I am very proud of them all.”

“Llevo diez años casado tengo mi mujer y dos niñas, una con seis años y uno con dos años, son muy bonitas. Tengo un hermano mayor, mis padres y tios bien y primos todos bien y muy orgulloso de todos.”

Pedro, who is the boss in your house, who’s in charge?     ¿Pedro, quien es el jefe en tu casa?   

“Very good question. My wife and the girls are in charge, yes my wife and the girls!”

“Muy Buena pregunta. Los tres mujeres en familia manda!”

And I am told that you have a special helper who likes to be present at any important conferences and meetings?     ¿Y mi dicen que tienes una ayudante quien siempre les gusta esta a tu lado en los presentaciones y reunión?

Yes, the one who likes it the most, has got to be Daniela, my six year old, she loves coming to events with me”   

 “Si, la que mas le gusta es Daniela la niña de seis años”   

Pedro, do you have something interesting to say about yourself, that people may not know?     ¿Pedro, tienes algo interestante o curious sobre ti? 

“not sure really”.

“No en realidad no”

Pedro Luis (part of the mayor’s team) answers with a smile, ‘he has the Almería record for the football player who runs the least in a match! (Ha, ha, it’s a joke). Pedro Luis contesta con una sonrisa, tiene el récord de Almería para el jugador de futbol que menos corre en un partido! (jajaja es broma).

“Ok I admit, I don’t run enough but I have a good technique! Why run anyway? Running is for cowards!”

“I’m really athletic and like to practice sport. I like going out to parties but with two girls I can’t as they must come first. We enjoy going out as a family as well as with friends” 

“Si corro poco, pero técnicamente soy muy bueno (todos se réin). Bueno admito que no corro mucho pero para mi correr es de cobardes.”

“Soy muy deportista y me gusta mucho practicar el deporte. La fiesta también me gusta pero con dos niños no puedo, porque ellos son la primero. También me gusta echar un rato con los amigos y con la familia” 

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From L to R…Pedro Zamora, Maria Jesús Aznar Garcia, Pedro Rodriguez Garcia and Lea-Anne Honeyman.

What do you think about social media in general both negative and positive?     ¿Que opiniones sobre los redes sociales en genéral? ¿Es negativo o positivo?

“Personally, I preferred how it was before. I don’t like mobiles. Now, you go home and your wife is on one sofa and you are on the other sofa looking at social networks! Social media has taken away a lot of social interaction at home and people used to go out a lot more and chatted to their neighbours, children in the street or in school. Today, children are at home on the internet or on their consoles, and when we go out for a coffee its rare to see people not sat on their phones on WhatsApp or Facebook!”

“Personalmente, a mi gustaba mas antes. Los móviles no me gustan. Puedes llegar a casa y tu mujer en el sofa con el movil y tú en el otra sofá con el movil en redes sociales. Las redes sociales nos han quitado mucha vida social en casa, antes la gente salía mucho a la calle hablando con los vecinos, los nínos el en la calle o en la escuela. Hoy en día mi los niños esta con internet o están en la play y cuando vamos a tomar un café es raro el que no está con el movil con el wasap o Facebook!”

But its a good way to publicise events and to inform people, don’t you think?     ¿Pero esta bien para publicitar eventos y para informar a la gente no? 

“In this sense, yes. We can inform people and yes, we are using social media a lot more to promote the town and keep people informed.  Yes, for the publicity and advertising, it is very good, but limited!”

“Para ese sentido si puedemos informar a la gente y por ese sentido estamos moviendo muchas más en las redes sociales para promocionar el pueblo y informa a la gente. Si para el tema de publicidad es bueno pero limitado

How did you get into politics, Pedro?    ¿Como has entrado en la politica Pedro? 

“I have never been a politician.  I have always taken interest in politics but never wanted to be a politician. I was presented with this opportunity and I declined at first and then I thought, why not try, it is a new experience? So, then I needed to convince others to join me, including you Lea-Anne!”

“Yo nunca habiá sido político. La política me ha interesado siempre, pero nunca había pensado en ser politico. De la noche a mañana se me ha presentado la occasión, al principio que no, me insistieron y finalmente me decidí a intentarlo, es una experiencia nuevo, intente convencer a las personas entre ellas tu Lea-Anne!” 

Lea-Anne; ‘and you told me that It wouldn’t take up a lot of time Pedro!’ Everyone laughs!

Lea-Anne ‘ si recuerdo y  mi has dicho ‘oh poco tiempo Pedro!’  Todos rein!

“And look at how far we have come? From January to here, everything we all went through together and all the experiences!” 

“Y mira donde estamos ? Desde Enero hasta a aquí, los noches que hemos vivido y las experiences!”

What is one of the most important things that you would like to achieve or change, you can only choose one thing!?    ¿Qué es una de los cosas más importante para cambiar o lograr, solo puedes elegir una cosa!? 

“For me, it is necessary to expand the PGOU (General Urban Plan) it would be difficult to finish in four years, as there are many administrative procedures. I hope it can be completed within 5-6 years. It is a big project and Antas needs it, so we will work hard to achieve it.” 

“Para mí lo más necesario para el Antas, será elaborar el PGOU (Plan General de Ordenación Urbana) es muy difícil acabarlo en 4 años, porque tiene muchos trámites administrativos, espero que se pueda finalizer como muy tarde en 5-6 años. Es un proyecto muy grande y estaremos muy satisfechos cuando esté finalizado. Antas lo necesita y vamos a trabajar muy duro para conseguirlo.” 

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Ayuntamiento – Town Hall

What ideas do you have about improving integration in the town between Spanish and foreign residents?     ¿Que Ideas tienes para mejorar el integración en el pueblo entre los Españoles y Extranjeros?

“Well, this is something that we have spoken about before isn’t it Lea-Anne?”

“Bueno eso es una tema que hemos hablado mucho, no Lea-Anne?” 

“This is something that worries us and we would like to improve the integration, for example, with the English people. We have spoken about holding a social event and inviting everyone to bring a sample of their  country’s typical cuisine, i.e English, German, Spanish, French, etc. A real celebration of cultures in the Plaza  de LA ERA.”  

“Este tema, nos ha preocupado siempre y gustaría que hubiese mejor integración por ejemplo con la colonia inglesa. Nosotros siempre hemos dicho de intentar hacer un evento en común, por ejemplo hacer comida típica inglesa, alemana, española, francésa etc. Hacerlo en la Plaza de LA ERA y hacer una jornada de convivencia entre culturas.”

If someone were to write your biography about you Pedro, what would the title be!?     ¿Si alguien escribiera una biografía sobre ti cuál sería el título?

Pedro Luis from the culture department, OK, I have it, ‘ the man who changed Antas!’

Pedro Luis de cultura OK lo tengo ‘el hombre que cambio Antas!

Thank you Pedro for your time as I know you are very busy. It was also good to get to know you and some of your team and I wish you much success. Huge thanks to Lea-Anne, who arranged all this and translated Spanish for me. Muchas gracias!

Gracias Pedro por tu tiempo porque sé que estás muy ocupado. También fue un placer conocerte a ti y a algunos miembros de tu equipo y te deseo mucho éxito. Muchísimas gracias a Lea-Anne, que organizó todo esto y tradujo el español para mí. Muchas gracias. 

From the mayor’s office, “thanks, Lea-Anne for your interest in helping the town!!”

Y de la oficina del alcade “Gracias Lea-Anne, por el interes en ayudar al pueblo de Antas!!

You can also follow Lea-Anne on Facebook – visit-  ‘Antas Chit Chat’.

See you at the fiesta in September!     Hasta la fiesta en Septiembre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I was having a coffee right now ……

 

If I was having a coffee right now, I would be sat on the shady terrace of our apartment , which is currently ‘home’. I’d be scrolling through photos and videos, I took a few nights ago in Vera at the Moors and Christians parade. But, I’m under strict instructions from Steve, not to write another blog on Spanish fiestas, parades, carnivals etc! Sipping on my coffee, I would be stressed about the fact that I haven’t written a blog post for 3 months. Or maybe I’d be preoccupied again with Brexit which is making it impossible to plan anything and be wondering what the impact will be on living in Spain for us?  Life has been busy and very sociable and I do still have my list of ‘must visit’ places in this lovely area of Spain, which I can then share on my blog.

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But there is also a place I would like to re visit, Nijar, which sits between Sierra de Alhamilla and the Mediterranean coast. To be more precise , Cactus Nijar which is a commercial nursery on the outskirts of town. The founder and owner Toni Brugger moved from Austria and set up the nursery and garden almost 20 years ago. I was first taken there by friends when there was small music and art event one hot balmy evening. What a setting, and of course my photos cannot do it justice. Nijar is not far from the film studios where the ‘spaghetti westerns’ were made. and you could easily imagine Clint Eastwood riding amongst the cacti!

The garden’s many varieties of trees include olive and palm with strategically placed sculptures throughout the garden and highlighting the different types of cactus plants. It is an inspiration however large or small your garden or terrace may be?

Of course cactus plants just thrive in our climate here, as I well know from our last garden. In fact I’ve grown (excuse the pun) to think they can be quite stunning and beautiful and more importantly, fairly low maintenance.

PS… for those of you who don’t get bored of seeing photos of Spanish fiestas, parades and carnivals……!! Vera Moors and Christians parade……

Now if Steve was sitting having a coffee right now ……

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If I was sat here having a coffee right now …… Carole would have made it!

‘Thank you Darling’ …… what would I be thinking about? Well if I were still a smoker, I would be thinking about the sheer pleasure of finishing said coffee and then lighting up. The coffee taste still fresh in my mouth, as I flip the lid of the fag packet and slowly remove a ciggy. The excited anticipation of the first drag and feeling the nicotine ‘hit’ as my brain shouts its approval and writes ‘pleasure’ in my eyes. But, sadly, that little pleasure is no more. I’ve tried to get high on cacti but it just doesn’t do it for me. So what would I be thinking about? Maybe the book that I’ve been writing for so long, that now, when I decide to write, I have to re-read  the first few chapters to remind me what its about! One day soon it will be finished and I will unleash it to the public scrutiny. It will be trashed and I will be ridiculed and I will know that I should have spent my coffee breaks more productively. So what am I to think about as the aroma of the beans and my taste buds combine to provoke an idea? Life. Life is a subject of incalculable facets. A subject of such magnitude that I think I’ll go and watch the Michael Macintyre ‘Waitrose’ sketch on YouTube.

“Lovely coffee Darling and good luck with the blog …… no fiestas etc”

 

Aguilas Carnival

 

Normally, our party season kicks off mid-May at the Jauro fiesta. But, finally, we made it to the Aguilas Carnival. With over 200 years of history,  it was awarded “Fiestas of International Tourism Interest” in January 2015.

And so many tiny children participating!

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The carnival is also the most famous in Murcia and people travel from all over Spain to enjoy it!

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The carnival is over many days and the parades last anything between 2 to 4 hours! We went on the last evening for the Grand Parade.

There were thousands of people in carnival spirit helped by the “cuerva”(wine based drink) which is one of the well known features of this carnival. It’s said that the drink, La Cuerva, is prepared using all the left over alcohol from Christmas. Now there’s an idea as I peep in our drinks cupboard! Lots of spirits mixed with red and white wine plus soft drinks. I couldn’t find an exact recipe but as there is a contest for the best Cueva, it sounds like anything goes? The judges decide on the tastiest and name the winning drink “Super Cueva”!

A little tease for you ….. zoom in and count the lolly sticks in the photos above on the floats and outfits …..

Another feature is the “cascarones de confetti” (eggshells filled with confetti). Months ahead of the carnival, eggs are blown rather than broken and the eggshells stored by the locals. They are then painted or covered in colourful tissue and filled with confetti. On the Saturday before the big carnival parade in the Plaza de Espana, the cascarones are thrown during the battle of Don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma.

Doña Cuaresma (representing austerity, self denial and abstinence)  wins and imprisons Don Carnel (representing mischief, merriment and excess) and we enter Lent. He escapes (end of Lent) and they get together and we party at the fiestas following Semana Santa (Easter week). This battle is played out in many carnivals all over Spain.

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We will be there next year, will you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Change of Sunset

 

Happy New Year …… and we have moved!

Yes, we decided to shake it all up and start a different chapter to our adventure in Spain. Of course we are still ‘chilled at sunset’ but a new location not so far away from Antas. We are back amongst people, bars and Spanish restaurants, plus a spa and a gym and all within walking distance. Still close to all our lovely friends and with stunning views, open spaces and can now add a sea view to the mix. In fact we are now just an 8 minute drive to the Mediterranean coast at Garrucha. Sounds good eh?

We will be at least six months here at Valle del Este, Campo de Golf. Renting for us, right now, is a good option and not being financially tied to Spain. Brexit is such a shambles but cannot be totally ignored, so we will sit back and see what pans out …… definitely do not feel like discussing Brexit in our blog!

Meanwhile, the immediate plan in our garden apartment is to relax more, finally get my easel set up and paint at home as well as at my weekly class. Steve will finally finish writing his book! And we want to travel more in Spain and visit family and friends more often back in the UK.

I still can’t believe it is three and a half years ago we arrived in Spain, a dream we finally made come true. We planned as much as we thought possible, after reading endless information, soaking up episodes of ‘Place in the Sun’ and taking Spanish language lessons before we arrived! Once actually living here day-to-day the dream and reality were so often different and I don’t mean in a bad or negative way at all but just different.

Firstly, making new friends, we found our new life soon became very sociable! But they also became our lifeline for advice in our first year. Everyone helped each other especially when being so rural in the campo. Just back in November, we had storms and small flash floods and with non-stop WhatsApp chats, we all checked who had flooded where and if help was needed? I admit, I did have one of those ‘I’m a Celebrity, get me out of here’ moments when one day we had no internet, intermittent electricity and no water indoors (plenty outside!). But then that lovely Spanish sunshine returned and the stormy days were quickly forgotten and all was back to normal.

‘Normal? now that is a word to give some thought to? We have had so many ‘firsts’ since starting our adventure here which are now considered our ‘normal’!

Speaking Spanish, sadly still poorly, almost everyday including texting in Spanish to couriers, builders and Spanish friends.

Pruned (and respected) the many different, often giant cacti we had in our garden without them attacking either of us!

We owned a swimming pool, learnt how to maintain, tough job, I know but someone had to do it!

Saw snakes (not poisonous) up close and personal on our patios and in the courtyard.

I still have a Spanish hairdresser who doesn’t speak much English, so those first few visits caused me the same anxious feelings I get when going to the dentist!

I’d peg out the washing and wonder at the fab views of rolling hills and seeing rabbits and partridges wandering in our garden …… OK, there were also a few ‘nasties’ crawling as well!

I started taking art classes and even hanged some of my finished pieces in our home.

We were recommended Felix, the four foot tall and wide, one eyed local Spanish gardener (bless him!) who arrived at dusk, a few months after we moved in, waving a saw and he soon pruned every tree and more!

We picked our olives and took them to the olive press in exchange for extra virgin oil, delicious and such fun!

It was so normal to go outside and pick a lemon from our tree to accompany our fish dishes …… Oh! OK, …… gin and tonics!

We had lived here 10 months, when we were invited for the weekend to Granada with our Spanish friends. That was a very intense Spanish lesson but we learnt so much about the Spanish lifestyle, really great. After a few wines, I really thought I could be fluent in Spanish but ……

Fiestas became an important fixture on our calendar and we still always try and visit a new one each year as well as being loyal to our dear Antas fiesta.

Honestly, so much has happened since we arrived here, too much to mention but our blog is a lovely diary of the highlights!

Having lived in a Spanish cortijo, it was wonderful in so many ways but they do need never ending TLC almost everyday of the week. The renovations improved our cortijo and were a true labour of love but often the work needed redoing every year due to the nature of the build and climate. We asked ourselves, did we really want to continue spending our savings and time working hard on the cortijo for a few more years? The answer was ‘no’. Nobody sees themselves getting older …… who bloomin’ wants to? But if something happened to us in our home, the emergency services would never have come out to us, it would have been quicker to drive to the medial centre, if you could! I guess, when Steve fell off his ladder and only injured his ankle, it made us look at the reality of where we lived a bit more. It is a tough balance, our dream house with so much space, potential, lots of land, swimming pool and surrounded by countryside with such privacy versus total practicality.

But we moved a month ago and it is so different here and impossible to compare, it really feels like a new exciting and happy chapter!

What are you planning in 2019 ?

 

What did you do this Sunday morning?

 

Well, I can tell you what I got up to on this chilly Spanish Sunday morning. I went with our neighbours Kay and Mike to the nearby port of Garrucha. We parked at the marina opposite the dry dock where currently, there is an old 34 metre yacht, formerly named the ‘Jazmine’. It had been deteriorating for 15 years a few kilometers up the coast in Aguilas. Richard Burton bought, the once luxury yacht, from Aristotle Onassis as a gift for Liz Taylor. Just one of a number of their yachts, when they were arguably Hollywood’s most famous couple!

Liz And Richard

But it was a time when glamour and mystique went hand in hand, with the public having only the occasional glimpse of the legendary couple, not like today with 24/7 news on social media.

elizabeth_taylor_89_174773b.jpg

I guess for the younger readers of this blog, they were the George and Amal Cloony of the 60’s and 70’s.

cloony

We took a short stroll to the huge marquee erected in one of the marina car parks, where Gastro Festival de la Gamba Roja was  being held. Such a great way to try tasty tapas, including the famous local catch of the Garrucha prawns.

Local restaurants had prepared their specialties and the aromas, the hustle and bustle of visitors made for a wonderful atmosphere.

For the first time I tried a typical local tapa of deep fried aubergine with a crispy coating and sticky honey, delicious. Kay and Mike chose seafood and bacalao (cod) tapas, also equally delicious!

In fact, Almeria has recently been confirmed as the new Spanish Capital of Gastronomy for 2019! With over 300 gastronomic activities already planned, it will be a very busy city. This will also be great for tourism, really putting Almeria and the province on the map. Currently León is the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy.

After a couple of hours wandering around the huge marquee looking at all the gastronomic delights on offer, we finally sat down with our ‘cafe con leches’ and we all agreed it had been a very civilized and chilled way to spend a Sunday morning.

How was your Sunday?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airport lounging

 

So, here I am sitting sipping my coffee at Almeria airport. I’m feeling a little apprehensive about my trip to the UK, and try to distract myself with a little people watching. We all love people watching, don’t we? And there seems to be almost a pattern of behaviour when flying so I couldn’t resist making a few observations for a blog. However, photos were a no no!!! Shame!

I’ll start in ‘departures’, where in and amongst the queuing hoards at check-in, my interest falls on a couple of seasoned ‘baby boomer’ travellers. They are cultured, adventurous, language savvy and looking at ease. Each is sporting the biggest backpack. They dress in beige and grey trousers with logoed tee shirts featuring some clever and witty slogan. Stomachs are accentuated by 40 year old bumbags (now back in fashion). Can’t make out if these people are stooped with age or the weight of their back packs. Trendy or stupid? I prefer a case with handle and wheels! Baby boomer man drops his phone and bends down to pick it up, the weight is too much and sends him sprawling into a couple of young guys in front who lift the back pack off him, so he can stand up again. There is no substitute for youth however trendy you try to look.

So, why are most people impatient and grumpy in the cafe? It’s probably been an early start, need a caffeine fix, anxious about flying etc etc. But always, there is an angry English person being rude to the Spanish serving staff. Ranting in English, not one word of Spanish. The staff just look on bewildered and their ‘crime’ was serving a latte instead of a cafe con leche. High drama indeed!

I am sat close to the exit of the Duty Free Shop and I spy a tiny, very, very thin, mahogany stained old lady, Almeria’s ‘Madge’ (character from ‘Benidorm’) . She is loaded with her bottle of gin and fags and grinning from ear to ear. Was she just pleased with herself or had the earlier gins just kicked in? Bless her!

The mobile phone eh! What would we do without it? Conversation was thin on the ground, most people were either fixated at their screen or plugged in. The nodding heads of the under 35’s or maybe now 40’s, sporting earphones or if a teenager, enormous headphones. They look like they should really be outside guiding the planes to their gates! It is funny how technology has gone into reverse, phones and earpieces are just getting bigger and bigger, keeping up with waistlines and egos. Occasionally, the phone rings……YES! I’M AT THE AIRPORT HAVING A COFFEE ….. CAN YOU HEAR ME ALRIGHT? Half the airport looks up and says ‘yes’!

Out of the corner of my eye I notice a young couple with a baby desperately trying to collapse and fold a buggy with the military  precision akin to packing a parachute! They are trying not to disturb anyone by whispering to each other and goodness, how much hand luggage does a little baby need?

Then, how could I not mention the business traveller. Always appears stressed, in a hurry, last person to turn off their mobile or laptop once on the plane. They frantically call their office to make sure the world can survive their few hours of being incommunicado? No, I was never that bad!

Finally the fun part, you’ve  queued at check-in, you’ve stripped and queued at security, you’ve had your €3 bottle of water confiscated, you’ve queued at the gate and you’ve queued on the ramp. At last you are one step away from the plane door. That last couple of feet are filled with anticipation and trepidation. You start to look around the bodywork of the plane, are there any cracks, signs of metal fatigue, can you smell a fuel leak and then you are in and there’s that feeling of no longer being in control! You have to rely on the pilot. You slowly make your way down the aisle passed the ‘economy plus’ who smile and stretch their legs at the ‘cattle class’ passing. Then, you’re in the main cabin looking for your seat number, watching with amusement as the struggle for the overhead lockers goes on and there it is 23C. I look down at my seat which is filled with a man tapping away on a 10cm keypad. “Are you sure you can’t sit somewhere else” he indignantly says as he is forced to gather his belongings.

He’s gone, I relax into my seat and dig out the in-flight magazine ready to try and fill the boredom of the flight. Then as I’m flicking through the pages, the intercom sparks into life…”Good morning ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately I have some bad news, due to a technical issue ……….”