Friday, December 30, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 53

Yes this is a rare year when we have 53 Fridays, so this  time I am writing a post for Week 53. Starting off with a big smile from my gorgeous great-grandson Alfie who was two this week. Here he is enjoying a birthday ice-cream.

But let's backtrack to the start of the week, when we all, (well mostly anyway), celebrated Christmas, and the birth of our Saviour, Jesus.
After a somewhat dubious week weather wise, it was lovely to wake on Christmas Day to bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. Mikey, our grandson,  helped us take our annual photo when we raise a glass to family and friends, both near and far. We have posted one like this each year since we came out here.

He then tried to take one with the dogs in it, but they weren't very co-operative this year.           Then Mikey came in with us and even 'grumpy cat' managed to be included, while we took a selfie.
Our Christmas day was relatively quiet, as we were at home all day. We were fairly late having dinner but even so, it was warm enough to eat it outside. I was pleased with that. We don't do much alfresco eating in December as a rule.

Just behind the parasol post, you can glimpse my bottle of blue wine. Someone asked me about it after my post last week. Well you can see here that it really is blue, and beautifully clear. It is 17% proof, so not too strong, and has just enough fizz to make it interesting. It says on the label it has added natural flavours and aromas of lemon, lime and green apples, and it is the apples that you can really taste. I am sure a wine aficionado would not be too impressed, but I like my drinks to be on the sweet side, and this suited me because it was light and easy to drink.

There was a short praise service up at our little church as it was also Sunday, but I had said we would not be driving over for it. But my friend sent me this photo taken from the patio outside of the church. Isn't it lovely?

In Spain they do not celebrate Boxing Day, but as Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, they did have Monday as a holiday too, though on Tuesday everything was back to normal. So on Monday morning we decided to walk off our big Sunday dinner, and we went to the long promenade that runs the length of Garrucha Playa. There were quite a few people around, all out to enjoy the sunshine. Garrucha is very proud of the balustrade that lines the promenade, as it is made from local white marble, quarried at Macael, near Albox. We leaned against it to watch the passers by and soak up some rays.
There are strong currents in the sea all along our coast, and at Garrucha these are broken up by lines of rocks just off the shore. These have become a resting place for numerous sea birds. It is like a drop-in centre for them where they can sit and chatter with their friends, preen themselves, and spread their wings to dry.
We walked as far as the new marina where the water was full of shoals of fish, swimming high. I assume they like the sun warmed water.
One thing I have not seen there before was that some of these fish continually jumped right out of the water, and fell back in. You could hear the splashes they made. I tried to catch one on camera, but I was not very good at it. This was the best one I managed. I don't know what that was all about. Maybe they were just having some fun in the sun!

Although the days have been so lovely this week, the evenings are getting cold, and we have been glad to sit by the fire and watch TV, or chat while I have managed to get quite a bit more of my crocheted blanket done. The dogs don't like the fire very much, but we always let them come in with us if they want to. Kim usually tries to sit on me, but as my hands were busy crocheting he decided to try it on Mikey this week. I am sure he thinks he is still a lap dog. He nearly smothered Mikey, but he loves the dogs, and didn't mind.

His holiday is nearly at an end, and we wanted to give him a good day out before he goes, so yesterday we decided to show him a very different side of Spain, and we took him up to see the snow at Sierra Nevada. It is about a three hour drive from here, so we made a fairly early start, and hit the road by 8.00. When we were about half way we started to see the snow-covered mountains on our left, and up ahead.
Our forecast locally was not too good, but it was better for Granada, (Sierra Nevada is on the mountains that rise up behind the city of Granada), so we thought we might be alright. However, there were some dark clouds gathering on the horizon, and we suddenly found ourselves driving into fog.
It rapidly got thicker and there was no view at all, but in the distance there was a narrow line of light above the mountains, so we kept going in the hope it would clear.
Then as we drove around Granada and started the climb up to the Sierra, the sun shone clear and bright again, turning the surrounding hills to mirrors of brightness. It is so beautiful.
But there was a problem! As we entered the tunnel at the bottom of the mountain there was an overhead sign warning that the car park at the ski resort was full! This was at 11.00 in the morning, and we realised that holiday week is not the best time to go. But like most other drivers, we continued on up to the top, where sure enough, the local police were directing everyone to keep going, and were only letting in the people with a week's pass for parking and skiing. So we drove on a bit further hoping to find a roadside space, but this too was impossible. Then we came to an area of rough ground where we pulled in to consider. It was too far to walk back to the resort, and we didn't know what was ahead. So we got out and took a few photos. Mikey took us and we took him, just in case we had to go back down without seeing any more.

Then we continued up the mountain but it soon became clear that the next resort was overflowing too and there was a long tail back of cars waiting to get there. We asked a police man if we could turn around and go back down, and he made sure the road was clear for us while we did this. When we got back to our original destination we decided to drive on down and if we saw a gap between the cars parked along the road, then we would stop. Otherwise we would cut our losses and go back down to Granada.
Well we were lucky. We saw a gap and just managed to grab it quick. It was a bit of an uphill walk to get back to the ski resort, but at least it was downhill when we were tired and going home. 
We didn't go there to ski. Neither Chris nor I have ever done this, and we are a bit to decrepit to be learning now, and Mikey suffers from Raynaud's syndrome and can't afford to get too wet and cold, so we were all happy to sit in the sun and watch others enjoying the slopes.
Although we up over 2000 metres, it was really warm if we stayed in the sun. Walking into a shaded area was like stepping into a fridge, but we found a sunny terrace to sit on, and have a cup of coffee.

It soon got busier, so we walked around the terraces, which are full of restaurants, small shops and ski hire and other equipment outlets. Then we found a table on another patio to have some lunch. We could just see the toboggan run where families can go with children to have some fun. We also watched the skiers choosing which slope to come down, and admiring their skill.

There was more than enough snow to make everywhere look lovely, but there was actually less than we have seen there on previous Christmas visits. Sometimes all the patios are covered as well. But it was a new experience for Mikey and he really enjoyed it. After a day of full sunshine, some of the ice and snow was melting fast, and we could hear it running in little rivers down the hillside. As we were walking back down to the car I saw this valley which clearly shows how the snow remains on the shady side but melts on the side that sees the sun.

We wanted to get as much of the journey home done in daylight as we could, so mid-afternoon we started back. At the bottom of the mountain road there is a brief glimpse of Granada city through the trees. Being much higher up than us, they do have quite a number of deciduous trees, and these were still wearing their autumn colours.

The road from Granada to Almeria crosses the edge of Taberna, the only official dessert in Europe. As well as red and orange rock formations that remind me of a holiday I spent in Arazona, there are wide open plains and these are home to vast armies of wind-turbines. I actually like these. They are quite majestic, and out in the desert there are few inhabitants to be disturbed by them. I could only catch a few of them on camera as we drove passed, but there are many, many more. We drove through them in the dark once, and each one had a twinkling light on it. It left quite an impression on me.

Well that is about it for this week. Tomorrow we have another early start to take Mikey to the airport. He will be home in time to celebrate New Year's Eve with his friends. I expect we will be home together. We don't often go out for it now.
I hope you will all with be loved ones, and I wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful new Year.

I will leave you with one more smile - my grumpy cat, just loving the sun on his belly after a week of wet and cold days. He rolled over and tucked his paws in and just laid there.

And now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll see you all Next Year!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Rocking your world 2016: Week 52

Well, better late than never, here I am with my Friday Smile. This is me with my grandson, who is spending a fortnight with us over Christmas. He may only be twenty-two, but he stands head and shoulders above me!

You could say he has had quite an interesting week, as have we. It was fairly sunny when we met him at Almeria airport on Saturday night, but during the afternoon we watched three layers of clouds rolling in from the Cabreras, until the mountain tops were lost to view. We weren't surprised as bad weather was forecast, in fact our area was now on red alert for extreme conditions.
Nevertheless, we had booked tickets for a meal and a musical show at the campsite that night, and as it is only a five minute drive from the village we decided to go anyway. It was raining when we arrived, but during the meal it was clear it was no ordinary shower. The lightening flashed continuously and the thunder got closer and closer, until it sounded like explosions right above us. The rain was torrential, and  we began to feel a bit uneasy, especially as we had left the dogs in an internal room that they had never been in before, and they hate thunder. But we enjoyed our meal and the star of the night arrived and started tuning up. But he had only done a couple of songs when water started to flow down the sloped entrance and swirl around our feet. We knew it was time to go, but we found the main entrances had been locked in an attempt to stem the flow of water. So we asked the manager to let us out through the fire escape which he did, and by the time we had crossed the car park to the car, we were soaked to the skin. Then we had to drive all around the caravan park trying to find a way to the entrance gate that wasn't flooded. The roads were streaming with water and we didn't know our way around as the campers plots are usually private. But eventually we reached the gates and carefully drove down the hill. At the bottom we needed to drive through a tunnel which goes under the motorway to get to the main road to the village, and it soon became clear that we weren't going to get through it. The water was rushing from the campo all around and had become a high speed river though the tunnel. (Not a brilliant photo, but in the circumstances it was the best I could do!).
It was pitch black except when there was another flash of lightening, but Chris managed to back the car up to higher ground, and we stopped there. We flagged down other cars warning them not to drive any further, and decided we had better wait it out until the rain stopped and the water subsided enough for us to pass safely. We were very wet and cold, so we were very happy when a Good Samaritan in a 4x4 pick-up truck, stopped to rescue us, and drove us home.
We were relieved to find the dogs were fine and hadn't torn the room apart. It was nice to get such a warm welcome from them.
A friend drove Chris back the next morning to retrieve the car. He said there were some big rocks washed into the tunnel, which were hidden by the water on Saturday night, so it is just as well we didn't try to get through it.
So all in all, we had a lucky escape, and were none the worse for the experience. But not everyone was so lucky. There was a good deal of local flooding, more towards Vera, and up around Albox. There were twelve deaths reported in the Almeria area, and probably more that didn't make it to the papers, and a lot of damage to properties, cars etc. I think we were fairly lucky in our area. The councils have put a lot of work into building flood channels and reinforcing ramblas since the last floods in 2012, so a lot of the water made it out to sea without causing too much damage. And they have worked hard this week clearing the mud and debris from the roads. There are few minor landslides awaiting attention, but the main roads are fine.
This very bad photo was taken through our car window as we drove along the motorway a few days after the storms, and it shows a rambla doing what it is meant to do, and carrying the water out to sea. There was a Facebook video of this stretch as a raging torrent on Sunday, but in just a day or two it had settled to a stream and soon it will be dry again.
So our grandson Mikey had quite an exciting start to his holiday, albeit not the one he had expected. It rained on and off all the next day too,but there was a little sun between the showers, and there was just enough to give us a rather menacing sunset. (Yes, of course it is a face to me!)
Here is a closer look.
But when I turned around there was just a little ray of hope as the clouds parted to let a little light through.

I must share another little smile here. I had foolishly tried to use an umbrella in the storm, which was a waste of time, but I left it open in the hall to dry overnight, and look who decided to hide under it.
I am sure Tango knew he was safe and dry indoors, but he wasn't taking any chances!

Unfortunately the church service on Sunday morning was cancelled, though I couldn't have gone anyway because of the abandoned car! But on Monday night it was our carols by candle-light service and I really wanted to go to this as I was supposed to be doing one of the readings, and I had printed all the service sheets so I needed to get them up there, not to mention several dozen mince-pies I had cooked for after the service. At lunch time a message was posted that the roads were clear enough and the service would go ahead, so we piled into the car. Chris usually comes to this service with me, so I was glad that I didn't have to drive. As it turned out, the road wasn't too bad, and the journey was uneventful. We had a lovely service. It is one of my favourites of the whole year so I am glad we got there. The mulled wine and mince-pies were good too!
One of our friends was there and she was worried about driving home in the dark, so Chris drove her home in her car and I followed with Mikey in ours. She lives at El Pinar, the first little white village up behind ours, and the road leading into it is steep and winding. The street lights were not working so it was also very dark. The rain from the night before had caused big, deep holes to form in the road, and they were full of water so you couldn't tell how deep they were. There was a lot of mud washed down from the banks, and the tarmac on the road had swollen up and made big ridges in random places, so it was a bit of an obstacle course getting to her house, and I happily turned the keys over to Chris to drive us back down to home.
Needless to say, the cats were not keen to go outside and they soon discovered that Mikey sits still more than I do, and he ended up with all three of them curled up around him.
By Wednesday the weather had improved considerably so we decided a walk along the seafront would blow the cobwebs away. When we got down there, the sky was bright blue and the sun had some real warmth in it. There was a fair bit of debris on the sand, but not as much as I had expected.
We walked along on the sand for a while. The waves were coming in a bit erratically, and when they broke you could see the sand was still quite churned up.
We found patched where a strong wave had brought in piles if shells. So many different colours!
It was good to get some fresh air in our lungs, and have some exercise after a few days of being house-bound.
On Thursday we had booked to go on another coach trip, so we had an early start and our first stop was at the visitors centre in Sorbas. This is a little white village built on a high rock with sheer drops down all around it. Nearby there are gypsum mines, and the gypsum is used in the manufacture of plaster. Much of the land is gypsum rocks, and there are some caves where there are big geodes which can be visited, but you need to be slim, bendy and fairly agile to attempt it. There are narrow crevasses to slip though and deep sink holes filled with water, and the rock formations are very fragile so you are only allowed in with an official guide. As not many folk are brave enough to attempt this, in the visitors centre they have reproduced one of the caves, complete with its stalactites and staligmites, and a cold damp atmosphere.

We had an interesting guide who told us a lot about how the caves were formed, and then we watched a beautiful video. But it was chilly in there so we were all quite glad to get back out into the sun where the views were wonderful.
In the video, we had seen how these plains are covered in sinkholes where the minerals have dissolved over time, leaving high narrow shafts of rock.
The view from the other side of the building was quite different. From there we could see the mountains that lead up to the Sierra Nevada, now wearing their snow caps, ready for the Christmas skiers.
After a quick coffee stop we got back in our coach and drove to a bodega. They are very close to Tabernas which is the only dessert in Europe, and they are the only firm making wine from grapes grown in the dessert. We started our visit in the shed where the grapes are taken to be crushed and the juice strained into huge vats. The walls of the vats are filled with water that circulates to keep the fermenting grape juice at an even temperature. They grow five different types of grapes, which each had their own vat.
It is a small family run business which employs four family members and four other workers, plus extra for grape picking in season. Our guide was the daughter and she told us lots of interesting facts about the wine making process. We were shown the racks of oak barrels where the 'good' wine is stored to mature. The barrels need to be changed every three years, and they are sold on to be used for storing brandy.
We saw where the bottles are stored, labelled and packed. For a relatively small place, they were shipping out a huge number of pallets of wine cases every day.
She took us up to the next floor where we saw the range of wines that they produce, and she showed us the cork bark that is used for all the more expensive wines. The cheaper wines (often used as the house wines in restaurants) had synthetic corks.
Just outside the window we could see the start of their vineyards but they stretched on much further than we could see. Of course, at this time of year, they are cut right back and are resting until the spring.
Then we went up to the top floor where there was a very pleasant room with comfortable seating, and a lot of interesting artifacts along the walls.
We had a little while to wait for them to get ready for us, so we made the most of a lovely sunny veranda. I caught Chris and Mikey sharing a joke out there.
There was a lovely view out towards the mountains.
Then we had the chance to taste some of their products. They laid out plates of bread, meats and cheese, and lots of wine glasses, and their current most popular wines, though they also opened some of the others if we asked to try them.
They were very keen for us to try a new wine that they have introduced this year, and it is bright blue!
The fresh grape juice is infused with a bag of red fruits (like a giant tea-bag), which in time, turns the juice blue. They had two types, one still, and one slightly fizzy, though not fizzy enough to be called sparkling apparently. Now I am not a wine drinker at all. Very occasionally I will have a glass of white wine, but usually I have to put some lemonade in it! But the fizzy blue one was really nice, and Chris bought two bottles for me, so that is my Christmas dinner drink sorted. He bought red wine for himself, but I didn't like that at all.
We rounded off the week by going to a Christmas concert up at the village church this evening. It was the Ben Bedar Musical Group, and consisted of brass, wind and percussion sections, and a keyboard. There were a lot of them ranging from as young as about eight years, up to some experienced players, and they were very good. They played a superb arrangement of music from Phantom of the opera, and ended with a couple of carols which the very youngest members joined in with.
We really enjoyed it, and the church was full with people standing at the back, who all seemed to enjoy it too.
So now I had better get this linked up to Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking our World, and then I am off to bed.
I hope you are all in good health and ready to enjoy your Christmas. I wish you every Blessing for the Christmas holiday, and the New Year. Let's end with one more sunset. What a beautiful world we have!