Tag Archives: Spain

Surprise!

I love surprises; giving them, that is. And in October we pulled off a cracking one. My brother Bob lives in Spain in the Costa del Sol, and with his 70th birthday rapidly approaching, my sisters and I decided to surprise him for his birthday, after checking with my-sister-law Lesley what their arrangements were for this day. After all, we didn’t want to arrive and find they had gone away on a trip themselves to celebrate.

As the three of us hadn’t had a holiday together for two years we agreed we would make this trip a week long, instead of just a couple of days. I’ve been to Spain on many occasions – staying with my brother, Lesley normally arranging flights and Bob meeting us at the airport; and the last time booking through a travel agent ­– but this was the first time we were “going it alone” which meant I had to find a suitable apartment for the three of us; not an easy task. Then there were flights to book, and arranging a taxi from the airport. I found the whole thing very nervy and stressful and couldn’t relax until we were finally in our apartment. The apartment was disappointing in that it was shabby, not at all looking as clean and fresh as the photos showed, but the linen was clean and the beds comfy and we did have a lovely view out over Benalmadena Marina in one direction, and mountains, town, and busy main road and 24 hour bars in the other – very noisy all night. Still, it was only for one week and we were close to the beach and promenade.

Room with a view of Benalmadena Marina.

Bob’s birthday being the next day, we spent a lazy morning, grabbed a bite of lunch then made our way up to the venue. We peeked around the wall to where we knew they would be, spied Lesley who pointed that Bob was inside the bar and in the three of us walked. “Surprise!”

“Surprise!”

“Happy Birthday To You…”

Oh and how it was. The look on Bob’s face, at first disbelief, then confusion, then utter joy at us being there for him was pure magic and a treasure to behold and remember. One of the bar staff, realising who we were, grabbed Bob’s camera and began taking photos; we were too engrossed in our hugs and kisses and tears (mostly Bob’s!) to notice or even think of taking a picture. Everyone (apart from Bob) at the party along with all the local bar owners knew we were coming and made us most welcome. A good time had by all.

After a fabulous day we fell into bed exhausted but woken up a few hours later by lightning. No thunder, just a marvellous nature light show out across the sea. The flashes continued until daybreak when torrential rain came down and thunder like I’ve never heard exploded all around. One clap was so loud, the building shook. We later found out it woke the whole town. Apparently some 1,200 lightning bolts were recorded in the Malaga region that morning. (News report detailing the storm)

The rain stopped but the morning overcast so we ventured by bus into Malaga to explore the city, hoping to take the open-topped bus tour. Bob joined us. When we reached Malaga the rains came again. A quick dash into a restaurant for a coffee whilst it eased. It didn’t, so we made for a shop selling pac-a-macs and thought to explore the magnificent cathedral close by. The queues were horrendous so we decided to take a bus up into Mijas, our favourite town, and have lunch there. There was an hour wait for a bus so instead we went back to Benalmadena to enjoy a meal there. We found out later that most of Malaga had been badly flooded due to the rain, and nearby Torremolinos and Mijas without electricity for most of the day. Good job we didn’t go.

The next day, and for the remainder of our visit, the temperature was back up to 28 degrees, the sun shining gloriously and we managed to spend three days relaxing on the beach ­­– bonus! ­­– as well as partaking in our favourite things when holidaying­­, such as food and Sangria – of which we’ve now become experts.

Enjoyable lunch at Marina on our 1st day.

It was a tearful and sad farewell when it was finally time to take the taxi back to the airport and home but a week I’m sure our brother will look back and remember with love and fondness. As will we. And I will certainly miss the sunrises over the Marina!

Not a bad view to wake up to each morning

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Las Alpujarras Part Two

In my last blog I promised to continue the tale of my life in Las Alpujarras. The second house we lived in was in a village, Mairena, 1 kilometre from Júbar but although some of my new neighbours were related to our old ones life was different. We rented the last house in the village so the view was amazing, worth the steep climb up through the village. One downside was we were near a large goat pen which whilst a picturesque scene, especially with the baby goats, was pungent at times! I mentioned the San Marco fiesta previously, an important date for all the village, where the procession was led by the women of the village carrying an effigy of Christ. A local band followed the ladies and we all congregated at a special stone for the local priest to bless all the animals – horses, mules, goats, some of the children brought their hamsters! Everyone then followed the procession back to the main square in the village for traditional tasty stew baked slowly by the local women with simple ingredients, bread and local wine. Marvellous atmosphere, dancing, whole families joining together with friends and a very late finish.

Mairena has a shop, two bars, an excellent restaurant, Las Chimeneas, serving good local food with a twist and an olive press where everyone took their olives to be processed. Nothing tastes quite like the olive oil I bought there knowing my neighbours had grown the olives – real virgin olive oil. Whilst we had a good year time came to move on so we moved to Válor our last home in Las Alpujarras.

The cortijo we rented was very different to our other places, isolated but 1 kilometre outside the village, again with wonderful views.
Before we moved in the land had been neglected so Peter, my husband, set to and created a garden outside plus worked the land. We grew oranges, figs, nectarines, pomegranates and vegetables. The final January we picked our own olives and I bottled them in the traditional way, a recipe from a neighbour. There are so many memories that it is difficult to give a snapshot. The land sloped down to a stream (barranco) with olive trees and alamo trees, these attracted many different types of birds but the highlight of the year was when the golden oriels nested. Bright yellow but difficult to spot as they darted from tree to tree. Swallows came each spring, bee eaters flew overhead making their distinctive sound and most impressive, eagles majestically swooping down the valley. Wild flowers, wild asparagus, fennel, wild garlic were among the variety of plants dotted around the hillside. We occasionally saw Ibex, lizards, shared the house with geckos but were very wary of the occasional snake. Summers were hot but winter could be cold, thanks to our wood burning stove we kept cosy and warm. We had a veranda which served as extra living space during spring, hot summers and autumn. Breakfast outside looking at the mountains, little or no traffic noise with the scent of jasmine is tough to equal. Our visitors all relaxed as soon as they arrived and we had many riotous meals on the veranda.

IMG_20140506_203212Family visits in our two bedroomed house would have been a tight squeeze without the veranda! Válor had several bars but our favourite, La Azahara, was a central meeting point. I helped organise a book swop morning monthly which quickly became a weekly event, Paco the owner baked cakes to go with our coffee. The food was delicious too, excellent tapas sitting outside with friends is a perfect way to spend an evening. I must end now but hope once again I’ve given a brief view of a special period in my life. Perhaps one day one of you will be able to visit Las Alpujarras and have your own adventure.

Spanish Idyll

Kit Domino’s latest blog about her trip to Nerja reminded me of time spent in Las Alpujarras, Andalucia, Southern Spain. My husband, Peter, and I lived in three different white villages of the Eastern Alpujarras for six year. We began our adventure in Júbar, a small village on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. One hour from the coast, two hours from Granada and three hours to Malaga. The population was officially 50 people but we never counted more than 25, except at special holiday times like Easter and Christmas plus the fiesta in August. Many people have left the small villages to find work but still support their families at home. Houses are owned by the family, sometimes three generations share one house but everyone works hard and children benefit in many ways. Each family owns plots of land with olives, almonds, cherries and various types of produce grown in terraces originally introduced by the Moors in the fifteenth century, water comes from the mountain via a series of channels known as acequias .In February almond blossom covers the slopes of the mountainside, a carpet of delicate white and pink, the fragrance is overwhelming. We could see the sea from our house and the snow covered Sierra Nevadas towered above us creating a sort of eco-climate. Paradise.

The village church was built on the site of a Roman Temple then was a mosque, a refuge for Jews during the defeat of the Moors then a christian church. The symbol on the bell tower represents a Crescent, the Star of David and the Cross intertwined, an interesting concept today. The church was renovated during our stay there, thanks to David Illsley, a friend of our’s, several layers of murals were uncovered and preserved. Although not intact they are unique and now protected thanks to David and a team of specialists from Granada University. David and his wife run a Casa Rural, a bed and breakfast, which is how we ended up living in Júbar and is an expert on the history of the area. The church only holds services at Christmas, Easter and during the fiesta. Fiesta time in August is a wonderful occasion, people come from around the area to party but the highlight is the parade following the Christ Child on a decorated bier. It is an honour to carry it and passes through family member, males only but in Mairena the women carry their Christ. I will talk about Mairena, our next home, another time as space is running out!

A highlight for me was being invited to join the literary classes held for the women in the village. The age group ranged from 55 – 86, the older women could neither read nor write so were taught the basics. It was an honour to be allowed to join in as I learnt so much about the history of Andalucia, the culture and local customs. They helped me with my Spanish but it was the stories they told that were special and their recipes. We exchanged my cakes for fresh figs, olives, cherries, eggs and wonderful peppers (pimentos) as well gigantic melons and courgettes (zucchini). Daily chats were held in the village square around the daily bread van but occasionally just impromptu chats whilst taking the rubbish – bassura to the communal bins. I could wax lyrical much longer but hope I’ve painted a picture of a special time in my life.

I originally planned to cover the three villages in this piece but lost the original! Just to show you it is not always hot and sunny I thought you would like the mountains in winter in our garden. I will leave you with the thought that when possible follow your dream, nothing lasts for ever good or bad, but you can take your memories and polish them like gems. I hope there is another adventure around the corner!

“The Rain In Spain…

…. stays mainly … away.” Spain is enjoying a scorcher of a summer, one I can vouch for as Bunny and I, along with my two sisters, enjoyed ten marvellously hot days there at the beginning of last month;  temperatures in the mid 30s. We were in Nerja, about an hour’s drive east of Malaga town, in a lovely hotel on the seafront. Our room was huge, each having our own proper bed ­­– no put-u-ups or settee-beds here! – and two vast double wardrobes. The only thing missing was a decent fridge, having to make do with the tiny mini-bar to store our aftersun creams and odd bottle of gin or two. Oh, and no coffee making facility either; a good job we  packed a travel kettle.

Wally-Nov12thThe past few years our holidays have consisted of just lazing around the pool the whole time. As we didn’t know the region, we decided we’d do what we always used to on holidays: every other day site-seeing, days in-between chilling out doing nothing. The first evening, we took the local road train. These trains seem unique to Spain and the Balearics; they might seem very touristy but we always have a ride on one to get our bearings. They are great fun. The one in Nerja gives a running commentary on the area, including a lot about its history.

100_6919Up in the mountains behind Nerja is a typical whitewashed Spanish village: Frigiliana. Lo and behold when we arrived, there was a road train. Needless to say, we got on. Frigiliana has very narrow,  pretty cobbled streets that are steep and with lots of sharp bends. There were times I didn’t think it would make it up the steep climbs, but it did. The driver regaled us the town’s history, particularly about the war with Napoleon, and the Spanish Civil War. We later took a walk around the village, stopped for a cooling drink, continued on, and became lost. Siesta time: no one about to ask for directions, but eventually found our way back to the taxi rank and a waiting taxi.

100_6941A two-hour drive by coach inland from Nerja is the historic city of Cordoba. We entered on foot across the vast Roman bridge, noting the nearby medieval wooden waterwheel, the oldest in Spain. The historic quarter is small enough to explore in a day but our day was hot. Far too hot with temperatures hitting the 40s to do much walking. Cordoba is renowned for three things especially: its heat, its patio and flower festival, and the Mosque Cathedral.

100_6944It was a day of learning. Any word or place name in Spanish that begins “Al” is of Moorish origin – I never knew that. Also, what we Brits call patios – the paved area outside our houses for sitting and eating etc ­– is, in fact, the wrong term. Patio is an old Spanish word for an enclosed courtyard; Cordoba is full of them. Every year in May these patios are filled with pots of flowers and plants and opened to the public, they are judged (something like our Britain in Bloom contest), and plaques award. Streets are also hung with colourful arrangements. This takes place each May; we were there the last day of June.  Most flowers had withered, but many patios were still open with their welcoming shade and bubbling fountains on show.

100_6946The Mosque Cathedral should be classed as a Wonder of the World, not just a World Heritage Site. It is vast, it is unique, and it is awe-inspiring. When you first enter the building, it takes your breath away, the feeling it evokes over-whelming, one I can’t explain, such is the history, colour, and majesty of the place. The original site of a basilica, it was destroyed in 785 by the Moors, who replaced it with a huge mosque, the most important sanctuary of Western Islam. Extended many times, including the building of a minaret, it wasn’t until 1236 King Ferdinand III100_6950 reconquered the city for Spain and, not wanting such a beautiful building destroyed, ordered the cathedral be constructed inside it. And here it still stands in its fully glory, complete with main and side chapels, transept, choir, organ, treasury – the works. Well worth visiting, and apologies for my photos not doing it justice.

However, despite all the glorious things we saw and learnt during our holiday, the highlight for all three of us was the day we to Malaga city; the whole reason why we went to mainland Spain this year. It was to spend time with our brother who lives east of the city, about half an hour’s train ride away for him. With no train from Nerja to Malaga, we had to travel there bus, a lovely 90 minute ride along the coast road. It’d been 4 years since we’d last seen him, although we do speak often. We’d hoped to see a bit more of the city too but it was again far too hot to walk about much. We found a lovely restaurant, and over several cold beers and paella, caught up on all the news and gossip. Wonderful. Our waiter took a photograph of the four of us, one we wanted for our mum, and one we know she’ll love. Sadly, time went far to quickly and soon we had to make our way back to the bus station to catch the last one to Nerja at 5:00 pm.

For Mum

It all seems so long ago now. It’s amazing how soon life gets back to normal again. But not for long. Yesterday, we booked another little trip. We’re off to Rhodes in September with my niece. Yippee! So keep on shining, sun.

Quickly Hopping In

100_6699Hello, Bunny here. By the time you read this, Kit, her two sisters and I will be far away, having jetted off to sunny Spain for a holiday. No Mum this time, the old girl feels 89 too old to go travelling, and I can’t say I blame her, airports and coaches are tiresome.

No doubt Kit will regale you all with our exploits in Nerja when we returns.

new chairMeanwhile, little George has had his cast removed and all is doing well. The poor lad has six bolts in each hip but everything has fused well and the surgeon is delighted at his progress. George is even more delighted as he’s got a new, super-duper wheelchair.

Dig those gorgeous blue wheels!

Kit was a bit worried about leaving the garden at this time of year but hopefully Dave will keep an eye on it and do some watering, which probably won’t be necessary as no doubt it will tip with rain at the weekend.

She didn’t replace the fence panel as she and Dave and the neighbours are discussing building a wall instead. Costly but will save a lot of wind blown hassle.100_6906

Right, I’m hopping off again to get a few last rays of sun before we fly home. Talk to you all again soon.