Castles, Courtyards and Cañas on the Coach

26 Oct

We are now officially old enough to join the University of the Third Age, better known as U3A. Here in Jàvea, however, we are probably amongst the youngest. That suits us just fine as they’re a busy and sprightly bunch, often putting us to shame and there are so many activities we want to get involved in. One of these is the Travel Group which was organising a trip to Extremadura in the west of Spain, towards Portugal, an area we haven’t previously explored.


Monday morning found us lugging our sizable cases to the bus. Yes, that’s right, this was a pensioners’ coach trip. Several very welcome ‘comfort’ stops, two lunch stops (don’t ask) and ten hours later we were in Mérida with the evening free. Not the prettiest of towns, it’s attraction is in the the fact it has been built on a Roman city of which a huge amount still remains. That was all for the following day, however. The night was for the bars and restaurants. An October Monday evening is not the busiest of times but we soon found where the action was both in the Plaza Major and the back streets where a caña and a tapa would set you back the grand total of €1. And I can say, in all honesty, that the restaurant we finally chose had the best red wine I have ever tasted.


Tuesday was ours to explore and, being us, we were the first in the Roman amphitheatre. We had the place to ourselves initially giving us chance to savour walking in the footsteps of gladiators. It is possible to get a bit “Romaned out”, however. There were some twenty odd different Roman sites dotted about, all well worth a visit but by mid afternoon I was ready for a siesta. Did I mention this was a pensioners’ coach trip? Yep, most of them explored the lot.


Come evening and we were raring to go again and met up with another couple who encouraged us to visit one last ruin. The Temple of Diana, just around the corner from the main shopping street, was floodlit and stunning. This called for fizz.


Back to the coach on Wednesday to our next stopover and a guided tour of the medieval town of Cáceres and its fortified noble houses. We walked the walls, explored the church and the Jewish quarter before a lunch of tostada with smoked salmon on oranges, a combination I’d never heard of before but can definitely recommend.


Afternoon was medieval and renaissance Trujillo which was shut but perhaps more attractive for being empty. Home to Conquistadors, every turn was a photograph, but is perhaps best remembered by the U3A for the “little train” debacle.


If it’s Thursday this must be Guadalupe and a rather disappointing visit to a monastery and a surprisingly good community lunch venue before overnight in Ciudad Real. Here the long threatened rain clouds finally burst with dramatic lightning causing us to run into the nearest restaurant for the best meal of our trip. Good food, good wine and great company.
Friday took us to Almagro and a visit to the theatre museum – not what we intended but perhaps actually better than the planned visit to the old theatre itself – and back for the grueling journey home to Jàvea. All great fun and wonderful places but perhaps we’re not ready for more coach trips just yet.

Tapas Trail 

15 Oct

Jávea is holding its tapas route in the port this weekend.

The idea is for the restaurants in the area to offer little individual seafood dishes, each chef producing something different to showcase their skills. We punters then buy as many tickets as we like to sample whatever takes our fancy. Naturally, there are drinks to go with the tapas and corresponding tickets for those, too.

It all sounded a bit complicated but worked surprisingly well. With dishes like “mackerel in citrus marinade with lemon thyme’, ‘seasonal mushroom, peach and prawn parcels’ and ‘smoked sardines topped with cherry pepper confit’ along with another sixteen other choices of course we gave it a go.

The lunchtime session was a bit underwhelming, though, perhaps because of the heat and many seemed to prefer to linger on the beach. The evening, however, was a different beast altogether. With craft stalls doing a roaring trade, a singer serenading those that chose the sea wall as their bar stool and a jazz band getting people dancing in the street, the result was a wonderful buzz.

The restaurants were really giving it their all, offering not just the advertised individual dishes but pizza, paella and numerous other little fancies, much to Neil’s approval with him not being the biggest fan of fish. We might just look in again tomorrow.


4 Oct

God, I love being in Spain again. I love how it is comfortable and familiar yet still somehow alien. I love the food and, oh, I love the wine! The climate now is damn near perfect even with the odd thunderstorm thrown in and we have air con for when it sizzles a little too much for comfort.

Yet it doesn’t take much to make that alien feeling dominant and that is largely down to the language barrier. With that in mind I figured it was time to do something about it with some Spanish lessons. I did a beginner’s class about ten years ago and anything else has been via the internet or books and CDs. In other words I’m pretty useless especially with being away for so long. It’s taken me a fortnight to remember to say “Gracias” rather than the Greek “Efharisto” for a start.

Of course, I’ve planned to do something about it before but it’s always fizzled out. This time I’ve joined a second year class although I’m actually somewhere between year one and two resulting in excruciating embarrassment. I know I can read better than speak the language but the real killer is when someone speaks Spanish to me, however slowly. Even when they’re only saying what I would expect them to say if I thought about it, I just can’t seem to hear it. Something in me panics. I’m breaking out into a sweat now just at the thought.

When Neil is around he can usually work it out much better than me and he remembers the vocabulary. When I speak I struggle to find even the most basic words unless I’ve prepared it beforehand. My accent is apparently pretty good so between us we can usually get by. And there’s the rub. Why do I want to put myself through lessons? Hmm.



23 Sep

menacing wasp.jpg

The thunderstorms are following us around. We’ve only been here in southern Spain a few days and our second is rattling the shutters as we speak. Being on dry land I’d normally be pretty relaxed about it, though. But no. There’s a huge, great wasp taken shelter in the bathroom. I mean massive. This is the Terminator of wasps. And it chose to make its presence known just as I stepped out of the shower.

Not bothering with the niceties of drying let alone deodorant, I made a run for it, slamming the door – with my glasses on the other side.


“Well it can’t stay there.”

“Well, spray it then!”

“Where’s the spray?”

“Should be under the sink.”

“Is this it?”

(Fumbles blindly, dripping, into the kitchen and holds can an inch from nose to examine) It’s labelled in Spanish but there’s a picture of a mosquito on the front.

“Will that kill it?”

Not having an entomology degree I guess it’s a pretty safe bet it won’t like it.


A few minutes later.

“That sorted it”

“Is it dead”

Running water.

“It is now.”

Retrieving glasses I spot the soggy toilet paper in the sink.

“Is it down the plughole?”

“Yes, the paper’s to make sure it can’t come back.”

“Won’t it block the sink?”

Neil removes the paper bit by bit.

“The bugger’s still alive!” More paper is shoved down the plughole.

More running water.

“It’s dead now.”

Yeah, right. I’ve seen that movie. All four of them.


All Change 

18 Sep

Our final days on board, like so many, were shaped by the weather. Frantic days of trying to get done all the jobs required to put a boat “to bed” for the winter were followed by enforced confinement below deck as the forecast thunderstorms rolled in. It rained, of course. Boy, did it rain! Four days of drumming inches above our heads as thunder growled and lightening flashed, penetrating even closed eyelids as, I confess, I hoped the nearest masts were taller than ours and would catch it first in the event of a direct hit.

After a brief lull, thankfully just long enough to dry out the dinghy sufficiently so it could be stowed in the heads, we got a spectacular encore as we were leaving. Timed to perfection as we hauled our luggage onto the pontoon, raised the bathing platform and adjusted the lines and fenders to keep the boat well clear for the coming months, the storm threw everything it had left at us in a deluge of biblical proportions. I say “we” but I’d run for the nearest bar.

We were lucky that our flight wasn’t cancelled like so many had been in the previous days and an uneventful, if rather soggy, journey to North Wales allowed us a taste of the lingering British summer – a few nice days and, yes, a thunderstorm. With visits to family and just about every clothes shop in a 50 mile radius our time in the UK seemed all too brief but our winter plans had been in place for some months. We’re on our way to Spain🙂

Last Few Days

6 Sep

Our cruising season ended with Desert Dream at anchor in the narrow bay of San Stefano on Corfu. It’s a strange place, undeniably pretty with excellent tavernas and yet.. In all honesty I think it’s more touristy and British dominated than Benidorm. Just because you’re more likely be disturbed by a Hooray Henry than a Lager Lout doesn’t make it less so. Personal opinion, of course, and we had a great couple of nights there.

Anyway, with thunderstorms threatening again we headed back to the marina. There was a lot to do to put the boat “to bed” before we could leave her for the winter months and as much of it was on the outside we needed to get in before the rain set in. So with engine serviced, water maker (which is still costing more money, incidentally) winterised, salt water washed off, cockpit wood scrubbed and oiled, sails secured, dinghy deflated etc, etc, we’re sitting out the last few days in the rain, waiting to go home.

To top it all our dongle has stopped working. We’ve no idea why as there should be plenty left on there but we’ve given up on it and are now struggling with the rather tenuous marina WiFi. I’ll try to post this but there’s no way pictures will upload, I’m afraid.

It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable sailing season despite the odd close encounter with a bucket. We’ve been to new places and met new people, some of whom we hope will become firm friends. With one or two things still to be sorted, hopefully over the winter months, the boat is definitely feeling like our home from home and has lived up to her name. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to a real bed, though. And a bath. Oh, and flushing toilets. You get the picture.

Ups and Downs

27 Aug


We sat out a few days of thunderstorms in the marina. Although never a hardship for us, we were nonetheless eager to get out and about again as the weather improved. We’d both been studying the forecasts with a view to heading south to Paxos and while Neil was quite happy, I wasn’t so sure.

You see I’m a nervous sailor. Scrap that. I’m not a sailor. I’m here under completely false pretences. When real sailors come in going “Oh brilliant, great sail today. 30 knots and we were stonking along” I just think “Mad!”

The forecast was for a Force 4, perhaps the sailing ideal. Really nothing to worry about and as Neil pointed out, I can’t have it both ways. If I want a breeze to keep us cool at anchor we’ve got to actually go out when there’s some wind. He’s right, of course.

Off we went, up went the sails and off went the engine. We weren’t heeled over much, the sails cast a pleasant shadow into the cockpit and all was well with the world. Wonderful. Yes, I get it.

Soon we were anchored at the southern end of Corfu in Petriti’s large bay and for a while it looked like we were going to be the only boat there. It wasn’t long, though, before they were rolling in – and so was the swell. Not the annoying, boat-rattling swell of the ferry boats further north but the constant, all-nighter. We were bucking like a rodeo rider but, to be fair, the motion wasn’t unpleasant. It just meant that Neil didn’t get the fried eggs he was looking forward to.


We didn’t hang about the next day and happily left the crowded bay heading for Lakka on Paxos. Lovely, lovely Lakka. Yes, it gets crowded too but we like to tie up to the rocks, providing a relatively private patch of turquoise water to swim in and the shade comes in early as the sun starts to go down.

This time, though, the last few miles were uncomfortable to say the least. I’ve often felt seasick but never actually reached the throwing up stage. It took about 10 minutes. Just writing about it now makes me feel ill and, would you believe it, a rolling swell has just started here in Lakka. I’ll be sitting next to the bucket.