Friday, November 28, 2008

A Land of Contrasts

What a contrast this picture shows to the dark and angry seas we had yesterday. This was taken along Mojacar coast this lunchtime. The sun shone all day and the wind changed direction and blew from the west so the temperature was much milder than yesterday, though we have the heating back on this evening. But it was a lovely day to be out and about. We stopped at Mojacar on our way up to Albox to view a house. It was a lovely property though not what we want. It was in a very isolated location with too much land, but there were stunning views. Albox is nestled in the foothills of Los Filabres mountain range. Today the tops were covered in snow, and the scene was stunning. The highest point is Tetica de Bacares, casually referred to by the locals as the 'witches tit', but put more elegantly in travel books as 'so called because its shape resembles a woman's breast'! Whatever it's called, it is very lovely. The western reach of this mountain range joins the beginning of the Sierra Nevada. We hope to take Jonathan up to the snow on the Sierra when he is here for Christmas. It is easily done in a day trip.
We are learning to enjoy each day, whatever it brings. They are saying it will rain all over the weekend, but who knows. They got it wrong today didn't they?

A hungry sea-hound

Many, many moons ago, an English teacher read us a poem that ended with a stanza about the waves being an angry sea-hound hurling intself on the rocks and eventually lying exhausted on the sand. Although I was not exactly 'in to' poetry at the time, I loved the imagery then, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I opened the shutters today. Our hound was growling all night. Even at home we sleep with our bedroom window ajar all year, so it is open here too, and whenever we stirred we could hear the wind and the waves. This morning I went up on the roof and watched huge brown and grey waves breaking far out to sea, building again and crashing on the rocks below me. The wind whipped the tops off them as they broke, and the rocks just below the surface made the final break an uneven line of white foam. It was exciting, so I put on my jacket and went to walk along the beach, revelling in the noise and motion of it all. I think exhilarating is the word I want, and in its own way, it was just as beautiful as the sparkling blue of a sunny day. When I reached the far end of the bay I was surprised to find that every bit of the old, dry weed had disappeared. It's usually ankle deep all along the water edge, but today there was just a shelf with a two foot drop to the sea. No doubt it will get washed in again soon. While I was on the beach I spoke to the man from the flat in front of us. He has been here for five years and he said he has never seen the water come so far up the beach. It was above the line where the residents often park their cars. I'm posting a couple of photos here and some more on my gallery. Unfortunately our signal is not strong enough to add a video. You really need the wind and the noise to properly appreciate it all. According to the forecast, there is more to come before it perks up again on Monday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some you win; some you lose.

I'm afaid today was 'one you lose' It started well enough. I got up to a very bright but very chilly morning. I went outside to open the kitchen shutters and stood for ages watching the little house martins. They had discovered the warmth of the brickwork on the apartments across the road from us, and they were dipping and diving after tiny bugs in the air and then returning to the ledge of shutters and fancy stonework on the flats. They looked so cute strung out along there. Of course I took a photo but you'll have to enlarge it to even see them!
After breakfast I set off to the supermarket in Vera to do a big monthly shop, as the cupboards were decidedly bare. I spent a long time browsing the shelves for new ideas (much easier when Chris isn't with me!) and finally got to the checkout, only to find that my purse had been taken from my bag while I was in the shop. I know I had it because I needed a euro to release a trolley. My bag was on my shoulder for most of the time and on the hook on the trolley for the rest, so whoever it was, worked very fast. It was just my luck that the one staff member who has a smattering of English, wasn't working to day so I had to explain it all in Spanish, but I managed. They rang the police for me who said there was no point in coming out as I hadn't seen who took it! I rang Chris to tell him to cancel my two debit cards and left the staff to sort my shopping back on to the shelves while I drove home. Fortunately I only had about €20 in cash, but I also lost a lovely, and rather expensive crystal elephant charm that I bought back form Thailand. I used to have a very annoying bell on my purse that I bought at a craft show. Everyone commented on the noise, and it was irritating and a bit embarrassing, so I took it off and replaced it with my charm. I should have known better. The very reason I put it on there was so that no-one could take my purse without me knowing! I am very cross with myself for not being more careful, especially as I have heard of a couple of other people who have had the same experience, except that they both lost over €100. Now I have the inconvenience of sharing Chris' card until mine are replaced. They will be sent to Michael's address to be forwarded to us out here, so I expect I'll be without them for a couple of weeks. Hey-ho. A lesson well learned. My noisy bell will definitely be back on the next purse I use. It left me feeling quite shaken, so Chris drove to San Juan to buy some milk so we could have that all important cup of tea, and tomorrow we will go together to restock the cupboards.
The day ended with this very pretty sunset. We are forecast to have a few very cold days, but I don't think it will rain so there might be some more skies like this to lift our spirits when we have had 'one you lose'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

To everything there is a season ....

....And right now the season out here is a time for Harvest. The trees are dripping with ripe oranges and lemons, and this week we saw the arrival of stacks of yellow crates at the end of each row of trees, ready for fruit picking to start. I believe it goes on all through December and January. But unlike at home, when harvesting and planting have very distinct seasons, out here this is also the season for planting. First it is a time for clearing, and for the past week there has been a faint scent of bonfires as the farm land is cleared and all the dead plant matter is burned. In every direction the smoke hung in the air like a low brown cloud, that very slowly drifted away, but it wasn't unpleasant because the smell was reminiscent of real bonfires, burning resinous wood, dried herb branches, and other natural plants with nothing synthetic thrown on to spoil it. As we have been driving around here we have seen mile after mile of neat ploughed fields, where the machinery used leaves long, straight flat-topped ridges with furrows between them for the irrigation pipes. As I went to the supermarket in San Juan the other day I saw one such field with about twenty workers spread along the rows, each with a box of seedlings. By the time I had done my shopping and was returning home, the field was completely planted with baby lettuces, which will no doubt flourish in the damper and cooler, though still warm, weather. The Spanish may be a nation of very laid-back folk, but when they do work, they don't waste any time. We have seen the same thing all over the area this week. I suspect lettuces will grow very fast, and then we can watch them being picked, and the next field being planted again.
I am finishing with two pictures of a beautiful range of hills/mountains, which were the back drop to the orange grove I was photographing. It is only a few metres in from the coast. I did a very short detour on my way home from church this morning, to take them. The hills remind me of a piece of greeny-brown velvet that someone has dropped and left it in its folds as it fell. The light and shadow on them is lovely and I spend ages looking at them. I hope you like them too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lost !!

We've seen a bit of a down turn in the weather. Rain was forecast for a couple of days, and yesterday we did get a few drops. but today it came down in shed-loads and the sky was black as pitch. We were out all morning, but as we were driving home around 2.00 there was a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky, and dipping it's end in the sea. Lovely!
We were out and about this morning because I wanted to go to a coffee morning being held by a lady from the church I go to. We are only a small congregation of about thirty each week, but we all travel from every direction, some quite a distance, to get there. This lady lives out in the country a bit, quite a long way from here so I wasn't very confident about finding her house, and persuaded Chris to drive me. She had given me very clear directions, but just as we reached her turn-off from the motorway we hit roadworks. There was a length of contraflow and we couldn't get to our turning. So we thought we would go on to the next one and double back. We duly turned off the motorway, only to find the road we then needed was blocked off. We decided to take a secondary road in what we thought was the right direction and soon found ourselves on an unmade track with no junctions. Several miles further on we turned into a tunnel that went under the road, only to find ourselves on a similar track in the opposite direction. But could we find a way back on to the motorway? ..No! Some landmarks started becoming familiar as we realised we had passed them (several times) before. In the end, after we had skidded down a particularly narrow and pot-holed section of track, we saw a tarmac road and pulled on to it. As we had no idea where we were, we dug out the sat-nav and asked it to take us 'home'. Of course it didn't know about the road works so before long we faced a barrier again and knew we had done another circuit of the same area. Thankfully a random turn suddenly brought us to a motorway junction, and two hours after leaving home we were on our way back there. Needless to say, I never did get to my coffee morning, but never mind. There is bound to be another one soon, and I'll ask how to avoid the roadworks next time.
The good news is that the sunshine should be back tomorrow. It is getting chillier. You'd be amazed how cold 16º can feel when you have had unboken sunshine for days! I got the douvets out of storage last night and Chris is happy to snuggle up but I don't really need it yet, and I'm still sitting up on the roof with my sewing most afternoons. It's hard to remember that we are heading for the end of November. Long may it last. We keep getting dire warnings from folk who've been here for a few years, that Februaury is the 'bad' month, so it's a good thing we brought some winter woollies with us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Intrepid explorers

Although we woke up to bright blue skies this morning, a chilly wind from the north meant it was the first morning I have felt the need for a cardigan on, to eat breakfast on the verandah. Our thermometer was registering 13º at 8.30, but by 10.00 it was up to 23º again. Ever since we arrived I have talked about exploring some of the lovely coastland between here and Villaricos, and a bright, but slightly cooler day like today seemed perfect to give it a go. Chris decided to come with me. He would have preferred to tackle the hill at the back of us, but I know I wouldn't get far if all the way was an incline, so we agreed to try the coast. To begin with it was easy. We walked through sand and gravel and sank into a foot deep layer of dried weed, but then we were climbing over rocks, and every headland we rounded, led to more. Chris gallantly went ahead and tried to find a route that he thought I might manage, and so we kept going until we came to a rock face that there was no getting around. So we had to climb up to the road running just above us, and from there we went back down into one more cove before turning for home. Each of the little bays has a name but I don't know them all. I know the final one was Cala Cristal; (The sign at the top of the footpath was a bit of a giveaway!). It was the only one we got to this morning that had some sort of a walkway down the cliff. The rest were just dirt tracks. Anyway we had a short rest at Cala Crystal and I spotted a large flat rock, just out in the water. Being me, I had to climb on it to pose, so I handed the camera to Chris and started to climb. Unbeknown to me, he was busy photographing my less appealing side! Once on the rock I posed for him and then dangled my legs over the side. I thought it wise to remove my shoes, but yes - you've guessed - I dropped one into the water. This was on the seaward side of the rock where the water was quite deep, and I was too high to reach it. So I scrambled back to the beach, hoping a wave would bring it in for me. Unfortunately they seemed to be taking it further out! Chris said I had to let it go and he would walk back for the car to take me home, but I like those shoes. They are so comfy. So I tucked my dress into my knickers and waded in to get it. And I did! It had taken us an hour to walk there so I was then faced with an hour's walking home in a wet shoe, wet dress, and sundry other wet things too! We decided to go the easy way home so we walked along the road, which gave us quite a different perspective from when we are driving along it. Of course, I continued to take photos, including one of our special 'little mountain' that tells us we are on the last bend before home, and the fantastic view we get as we climb the last hill and see our little hamlet of El Calón in the foreground, then the sea, and the coastline of San Juan stretching away beyond it. My shoe survived, and my dress was nearly dry by the time we got in. It was a lovely walk. The air was filled with the scent of wild rosemary and oregano, grasshoppers were leaping everywhere, (they get as big as three inches long here), and I spotted a couple of lizards but they don't stay around to introduce themselves. I have inserted a couple of pictures in this but you can see the rest of our little adventure on my gallery. (

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Want to or Ought to?

Today on Facebook I wrote "Kate is deciding whether to do what she ought to or what she wants to". Mike replied that the whole point of our new life in Spain, is that we now have the time to do whatever we like. Well, in the end I actually managed to do both! I stripped the bed and washed the sheets. Then I sunbathed on the roof terrace all afternoon, reading my latest craft magazine, while the washing dried around me. I also managed to fit in an hour of cross-stitch before the usual teatime breeze sent the temperature plummeting. But before I went in I watched the sky slowly change to this lovely pearly pink to the front of us, and apricot to the back. Just beautiful !!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn or Spring?

The seasons here are quite confusing. Now the calendar tells me it's November so I know it is Autumn, but without a calendar to help me, I could be forgiven for thinking that it is Spring. We have had a row of beautiful days. I went for a stroll along the beach this afternoon and I was surprised at the changes that have taken place since I was last there a week or so ago. We have had some substantial rain fall as well, so the wasteland is suddenly green and lush, a big improvement on the brown scorched scrubland we saw when we first arrived. There were flowers bursting into bloom everywhere. These pretty orange daisies grow out of the rocks all along the coast but I also saw gardens full of colour from roses, hibiscus and oleander, with vibrant patches of the ever-present bourganvillia. The sun was warm on my back without a hint of burning, like one of those unexpected glorious days in May when it seems to be practising for the summer you hope will follow. Two butterflies were playing tag in front of me and the birds were also enjoying the day, singing their little hearts out. The sea was clear and still and I couldn't resist a paddle. (How very British of me!) It was cold, but without the aching numbness you expect when you are foolish enough to dip your toes in November. One things for sure, counting my blessings calls for some pretty high numbers just now!

Monday, November 10, 2008

En el Aire

I was going to call todays blog 'Al fresco' when I realised how 'un-Spanish' that is. However as far as I can see, when they say 'I need some fresh air' they simply say 'necessito el aire' and don't bother with the word 'fresco', which they would use for 'fresh' food etc. Maybe they consider that the air here is always fresh so there's no need to say it! Any way the reason for the title is that we have had some beautiful weather here so we are making the most of it and eating outside whenever we can.
Yesterday I went to church in the morning, (we had a very nice Remembrance Day service), and when I got home it was much too nice to stand in front of a cooker, so I made a hasty snack and we sat up on the roof terrace to eat it. Chris is looking much better isn't he? He does love the sun, and in fairness so do I, especially at this time of year when it is gentle enough to sit in without burning. Lunch was followed by a siesta of course. When in Spain etc, etc ..... The sun gets lost behind the building next door by 4.30 and the temperature immediately drops, and soon after that it goes behind the hills at the back of us, so we have to come in. By the evening it is quite chilly indoors and we are glad to have a hot meal and find some extra layers of clothes. I don't know how much longer the weather will last, but I am just grateful for each new day that dawns with a blue sky.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Whacky Races

Well, as you can see, today we joined in some local fun, when we went to watch the Whacky Races at Villaricos. This is an annual event organised to raise money for a local charity, Asprodalba, who provide residential care for youngsters with learning difficulties. This year the children from the home entered their own cart, the black one with sharks teeth which was great. They needed a bit of help with pushing on the second lap, but they did really well. Anyone could enter a cart and lots of local businesses sponsored them. There was a good crowd watching and a great atmosphere, so it was all good fun. After the races we had a demonstration of line dancing by the Arboleas group, 'Dusty boots', and there were several stalls around selling various bits and bobs. I picked up some beads for my craft, and a couple of lengths of ribbon, and a big wedge of very nice carrot cake, so we did our bit for the cause. It's good to see the ex-pats doing something for a local charity, and the Spanish folk coming out to support them. There's quite a bit of 'them and us' so some cooperation is great. The sun shone brightly on us all day which was very kind of it. The fact that you can nearly always rely on the weather must make it easier to organise such events out here than it is at home. They raised €6000 last year, and they were well on the way to reaching that again when we left. I have put quite a lot of tiny photos on here. The competitors had put so much effort into making their carts that
they all deserved a photo, but I have picked out the best. You can click on them to see a larger version if you want to. The red one in the first picture belonged to a group of young lads from El Calón, so of course we rooted for the home team. We left soon after lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon in a beach café in Mojacar. It's a hard life!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A bit up and down

It seems to me that the weather and the landscape here have a lot in common. They both go 'up and down a bit'! When we drive along the road from El Calón to Villaricos, we have a glorious view of the coast on our left, and on our right there are layer upon layer of these little round hills (or mountains, depending on how you see them). Ben said they are like what we used to draw for mountains in primary school and I see what he means. I think they are just as lovely as the more rugged mountains further west, and right now they are looking quite green after all the rain. The weather is just as uneven. Saturday night we had thunder storms and torrential rain then Sunday was hot, and we sunbathed on the roof. Last week we were blown away one day, scorched the next, and felt chilled the next. You just can't predict what the next day will bring. Today started damp, but cleared by lunchtime, though it never got really hot. On our way out we saw a beautiful double rainbow. I took this photo throught the car window. We think it has been rather nice on average since we got here, but we were talking to two of our neighbours this morning who have been residents for five years, and they said that this is the worst autumn they have known here. Both were wearing shorts still and they teased Chris a bit for being in long trousers and a jumper, but I think he lost so much weight while he was ill, (about six pounds in two weeks), that he is feeling the cold more than usual. I am still fine in my summer dresses though I need a cardigan for the evenings.
Today we did some more exploring, this time up into the hills and inland a bit. We were looking for a small village called Partaloa, to the north of Albox and Arboleas, where we originally started our search a couple of years ago. We didn't know much about Partaloa but had seen several properties there on the web, that looked interesting. We did find it, and it was a pretty little, very Spanish village, with one main road, a church and a school, and a couple of bar/restaurants. Next to it was a rambla, or dry river bed. These cannot be built on as they may flood in bad winters, but they are used for car parking in the larger towns and agriculture in the countryside. The bulk of the larger houses in Partaloa were on the far side of the rambla so we drove across to see them. They were rather nice but we weren't sure about the position of the one we were particularly interested in, or so we thought. When we got home and checked its details on the web we realised we had been looking at the wrong house! We have now contacted the agent and asked him to arrange a viewing for us. It could be ten degrees colder there than on the coast during the winter, but the views were lovely and the village was only a five to ten minute walk away. I have put a few photos on my gallery. The bright green in the valley indicates that they have had quite a lot of rain already. On our way back we stopped in a small town called Antas and we both really liked it. Unfortunately there is very little property for sale there, but we are investigating a couple of places.
For anyone who has been following my cullinary disasters, I must tell you that having finally found some self raising flour, I did manage to make a creditable batch of scones on Sunday, in my Ramoska of course!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bye-bye Ben

Today we had to say good-bye to our visitors. We've enjoyed having Ben and Dave here this week. They spent part of each day exploring the surrounding towns and villages, and part of it 'catching some rays' while they read and relaxed up on the roof terrace. The weather has been a bit variable. They had some really hot, sunny days, some bright and breezy ones, an overcast one and one when it rained, but it is Autumn so I guess that wasn't too bad. They loved the view from our flat, just as we do. The sea has been every shade of blue this week and we've had some interesting clouds and sky.
Since my exploring trips earlier this week, I haven't been out much except to collect essential supplies from the supermarket. As it is about a fifteen minute drive each way to our nearest shop, I am learning to keep a running shopping list on the kitchen wall. It is a long way to go back when you forget something. I am pleased to say that Chris is much better now so we will be getting back on-track next week. We did go out for the evening last night. Ben and Dave wanted to take us out for a meal, so we drove over to Mojacar, but we were a little late going out, and many places were closed. We couldn't decide whether it was just the time, or whether they were closed for private halloween parties, or had closed completely until the season starts again in the Spring. I think it was a mixture of all three. Anyway we couldn't find anywhere that we all liked the look of, so we drove back as far as Villaricos and had dinner at the same restaurant as we went to on our birthdays, and it was again an excellent meal. Today our visitors were up before us as they wanted to catch Vera market, and the markets all pack up at lunch time. Today is All Soul's Day, and once again they treat it as a national holiday, so everywhere was closing at mid-day. I sat outside with Dave just chatting all afternoon, and it was quite warm, but by teatime it was raining. We all went down to the beach bar to have something to eat before they left at around 5.30 to drive to the airport. It was the first time I remembered to take a camera so I did get a photo of us by one of the arch openings at the bar, but it is a rather grey sea and sky behind us. According to our neighbour, this weather is poor for the time of year, and the forecast is for better again next week, so we live in hope.