Archive | January, 2014

Jávea Market Day

27 Jan

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As I may have mentioned before, once or twice, Neil is not one for shopping. A visit to the supermarket is always a precision operation to be completed in the shortest possible time. While he was away, then, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take my time and stroll around Jávea’s street market.

Actually, I don’t tend to buy much from the market stalls, having felt cheated too many times on our journeys around Europe. I’m also absolute rubbish at bargaining. I do, however, really enjoy the atmosphere so was happy to take my camera rather than my cash. The fruit stalls are worth a picture in their own right and my poor attempt certainly doesn’t do them justice. Filled with every seasonal product plus lots of the unseasonal, the displays are a work of seduction in getting punters to buy vast quantities. And they do.

It was the olive stall, though, that finally got me to open my purse. For a country that produces olives there are very few shops that sell them fresh, with the supermarkets only selling the tinned varieties. I’m at a loss to know why this is. So when I spotted the large, juicy, green olives in a slightly spicy sauce that we’d had with drinks in Denia, I couldn’t resist. I’ll be going back for more this week, too, but with Neil it will be a quick sortie I should think. 

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The Running of the Bulls

19 Jan

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I was very wary of the whole idea of Bull Running. Not that I intended to do any actual running (I’d struggle to run for a bus) but it is rather controversial, to say the least. But the fact is that Bous al Carrer (Bulls in the Street) is a long held tradition in many parts of Spain, most famously in Pamplona. Here in Jávea it was reintroduced in 2012 to the streets and squares of the old town after a 20 year break, funded by the local Cultural Bullfighting Association as part of the program of events to celebrate San Sebastian, the Patron Saint.

So was I going to go to see it? There was bound to be the issue of animal cruelty involved. It is obviously linked to bull fighting which sickens me.  There was also the little question of how safe would it would be. Well, yes. For a start, I am a guest in someone else’s country. Lifestyles and traditions vary and that is one of the reasons I want to be here, so I must respect that culture. I try not to be a hypocrite. I eat meat and wear leather all produced in pretty unsavoury conditions as well as using products that are tested on animals. So I can hardly be too judgemental. I’d seen the spectators’ cages and they looked pretty robust. And, perhaps most importantly, I wanted to see it.

When I arrived the children’s running was already underway. This involves “carretones” which are basically model bulls’ heads mounted on wheels and pushed through the streets to chase the kids. And they were obviously having a great time. I confess I did have a few qualms about their obvious introduction into the whole idea but again I tried not to be critical. When the bull’s head suddenly appeared with flaming horns in, literally, hot pursuit of the squealing and delighted youngsters, the safety aspect seemed a bit dubious, though.

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An announcement to clear the square of those under 16 shortly followed by the exploding of a rocket to announce the arrival of the real things soon had them running for the cover of the cages. It was time for the young men to take centre stage. Some of the older guys hovered at the edges beyond the bars, perhaps remembering when they were the ones doing the running, but not once the bull was sighted.

You could practically smell the testosterone. Each competed for the bull’s attention wanting to be boldest, most daring and agile in their attempt to touch the bull’s head or horns and escape unscathed. If one tried something new, something more challenging others would soon follow suit. But the difference between audacious and reckless is a slender one. Finding himself on the ground and trapped against the wall of the church steps, one runner was only saved by the sudden rushing forward of someone standing close by waving a brightly-coloured sheet of fabric. The risk of injury or even death is very real.  

So is it cruel? My impression was less of a wild, ferocious bull raging through the streets and more of a confused and taunted young animal defending himself in the only way he knows how. But the intention is not to wound the bull but to show off the daring of the runners. It is more at risk of injury from the slippery road surface and steps. To compare it to bull fighting, despite its links, is to belittle the horrors of the latter. However, for the evening running, balls are placed on the horns of the bull and set alight to enhance the spectacle. For me, this is a step too far and I won’t be present.

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At the ready. The risk of injury is very real. 

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Not my picture but I thought it captured the action so well that I had to use it. Those are the steps up to the old church and the bull seemed to me to be defending this position at times. 

 

On My Own

14 Jan

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Neil has had to go back to the UK for a few days and, dammit, I miss him. I thought I’d get lots of lie-ins (Neil is an early riser) but so far it hasn’t worked out that way. I guess you just get into the swing of each other’s rhythms. So I get to watch the sun rise through the kitchen window.

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The apartment hasn’t been as clean since we moved in. I like the fact that it’s tidy but there’s something quite disconcerting about a place that is exactly how you left it the day before. And it’s quiet. No wall-to-wall news coverage. No clattering of a dishwasher being unloaded at 6 in the morning. Mind you, the neighbours upstairs are doing their best to rectify the silence.

 I also thought it would be an opportunity to make the meals that I like (we have very different tastes which can limit a menu). But I keep putting out two plates ready to serve up. Looking at my supermarket shop it just yells “ON MY OWN”. And everything comes in portions big enough for two.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping myself occupied and there is a certain sense of liberty that comes with doing what you want, when you want, without having to take someone else into consideration. But I’ll be glad when he gets back. Don’t tell him, though. 

 

 

The Three Kings

6 Jan

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Although the giving of presents on the 25th December has become more common in Spain in recent years, it is still the arrival of the Magi or the Three Kings that is traditionally the biggie. In most towns their arrival is celebrated with a parade through the streets and it’s not just the children that flock to see them. Naturally we had to join them.

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In Jávea the Kings arrive by fishing boat, their first sighting signalled by fireworks as their entourages wait for them in the harbour. A lucky few children get to meet them on arrival, sit on their knee and have their photograph taken.

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Others line the streets, clutching carrier bags in anticipation of the sweets that will be thrown from the floats.

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As the parade passes many take the opportunity for a stroll along the seafront, enjoying the atmosphere in the last rays of the setting sun. 

 

Happy New Year

1 Jan

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From past experience we’d expected New Year’s Eve in Jávea to be a quiet one. Our usual plan is basically to do a pub crawl and when we’d tried to do that here on our first stay the place was pretty dead. At first we thought a tapas evening in the old town might be on the cards but again many places told us they were closed. The Brit bars in the Arenal were a possibility but it was not what we really wanted.

By the time we were returning from our morning walk we’d almost decided to have a quiet night in. Heading for our favourite bakery on the front to pick up some goodies we spotted a small menu pinned to the side of the chalk board at one of the restaurants. As luck would have it, and as it was just the two of us, the owner said he would squeeze us in.

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Knowing the Spanish trend to eat late in the evening we too arrived later than usual but already most tables were busy. However, it all seemed rather formal and staid. Our cheerful “Good Evening” to the occupants of the neighbouring table (yes, we’d already had a little drink) met with a polite nod. Ah well, we hadn’t been expecting fireworks.

But the food kept coming. And the cava, it did flow. Restraint and personal space barriers started to melt. Come midnight we were all garlanded and wearing either sparkly wigs or nodding horns while blowing party hooters. Hugs and kisses naturally followed and everyone was now the best of friends as the cava bottles were passed around. Sometimes the best of times are the unplanned ones.