Archive | February, 2014

Almond Blossom and Tortilla

23 Feb

It’s good to be back. When we left Spain three weeks ago it seemed unlikely we would be returning again this year. The apartment had been stripped of our possessions, goodbyes had been said and, psychologically, we’d taken our leave. But the apartment is ours until the end of March. We may not be able to stay here until then but there seemed little point in spending the time in the horrendous UK weather when a cheap flight to Alicante could bring us back to the Spanish sun.


A hire car was also required but that, too, is reasonably priced at this time of year. So we’re driving something that looks like a chewed jelly bean but it’s brand new and Neil is pleased with the way it handles. The grand total of our possessions had to come in at under 20kg each which means we’re not exactly as well stocked as before but it still felt like coming home.

Our first trip out was to the Jalón Valley in search of almond blossom. It had been slightly too early when we left but the intervening weeks have meant that only a few traces still lingered. What we did find, however, was the renowned market (Rastro) setting up alongside the dry riverbed. It’s difficult to describe. Think of a combination of craft stalls, reclamation yard finds, house clearance stands and locals selling a few oranges alongside Moroccan leather counterfeit handbags and the usual clothes venders and tourist tat of most markets. Neil got a hat.


The best part, however, was discovering a tapas bar with a little courtyard out the back set up with tables in the sun. A couple of drinks, a huge slice of tortilla and toast topped with tomato and olive oil each set us back a whole 8 euros. Including tip. 


We missed the almond blossom (again) but from this photograph you can see why it is such an attraction. 


A Time of Sadness and Looking Back

12 Feb


Neil’s father passed away recently. We returned to be with the rest of the family in saying goodbye to this charismatic and much-loved man. His funeral was a fond remembrance and his wake a celebration of his life. I think he would have approved.

With his passing came the sad chore of emptying his home. Along with dividing up the photographs and memorabilia among the many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren was also the sorting out of so many personal possessions. Deciding what to do with these was particularly hard and time consuming, a duty that fell mostly on Neil.

So forgive the long gaps between blogs at the moment. Normal service will resume as soon as possible. Then you’ll know it! 

After the Storm

3 Feb

Well, we’re on the ferry and have made it as far as Brest for the crew change and are now heading for the Channel. It’s been decidedly rolly but nothing we couldn’t cope with so far after swallowing a couple of Sturgeron. Others haven’t been so lucky, though as the sound effects coming from the toilets testified.


Saturday’s storm had been a rough one. Sunday, however, dawned bright but with a chilly wind still making itself felt. There was no rush to reach Santander so we took our time, diverting off the motorway every time we glimpsed somewhere we wanted to explore. We found a lovely beach this way but I have no idea where it was. The effects of the storm the night before were very evident, though and the clean-up operation was already underway. Piles of sand and seaweed in a frothy spume had been thrown onto the promenade and were proving a difficult job for the poor souls trying to shovel it up.


Now at low tide, it was hard to imagine how the distant sea could have come crashing so far in land. This also proved to be the case when we stopped at Santoña. Here the force of the waves had ripped up the granite paving slabs, snapping the tubular steel railings and hurled them some 10 to 20 feet away in places. We had been drawn to this spot after recognising the name as overlooking Punta del Pasaja, the first place we had arrived at in Spain after crossing Biscay on our way to Greece in Seren Môr.


We’d planned to have a leisurely lunch in Santander as the ferry wasn’t due to depart until 5pm. It was not to be, though, as they had decided embarkation would start at 2pm, leaving us tight on time. Quiche and pasty from the cool bag, then. Mind you, if we had gone into town we would have missed the spectacle of the cargo ship being rescued by the tug boats as it listed heavily to its port side. We never found out what ailed it but wondered about shifting loads in the storm.


Boarding early also had its advantages in that we were already chilled out in the bar area before the announcement came over the tanoy asking passengers to remain seated as the ferry left port as “the ship will roll”. Our reaction? Better finish the beer, then!


This is an excerpt from the diary I wrote when we arrive in Spain back in May 2010. You can find all the sailing diary on if you are at all interested.

“Neither of us got much sleep though we continued to try well into the day. When land was sited it was an enormous relief. We had decided to head for the small but sheltered Punta del Pasaja, basically because it sounded easy in the pilot guide. Simply pick up a yellow visitors’ buoy and enquire at the yacht club afterwards. First problem – none of the buoys were yellow. A water taxi appeared and pointed to a buoy which we picked up without difficulty but, of course, someone else appeared saying it was his buoy!

After picking up a second, again as directed, we settled down to get some rest. The water taxi appeared once more to tell us it was 25 euros to stay there – more than a night in a French marina complete with water and mains electricity! The bonus was we could go ashore with him as many times as we liked – except there wasn’t exactly a lot to go ashore for! Quite frankly we were too shattered to try anyway and quite incapable of looking for somewhere else. We paid up.”


Heading Home

1 Feb


Changing circumstances have got us heading home early. Yesterday saw us packing up the car for the journey to Santander. We’ve been a bit unlucky with the ferries this winter as, again, the crossing we booked for tonight has been cancelled due to bad weather. And it takes some very bad weather for them to do this! As it is, the crossing we’re now booked on will stop in Brest for a crew change and to avoid the worst of the storm forecast for the Channel. Sturgeron at the ready.

So we’re spending tonight in a hotel in Bilbao or, rather, overlooking Bilbao. That’s ok, though, as we don’t plan on setting foot out of the door. You wouldn’t either if you could see the weather. Honestly, we’ve had all four seasons in one day. Leaving Jávea in warm sunshine, the blossom just starting to look its best, we bid a fond farewell to the Mediterranean, so much a part of our lives for the last five years and headed towards the Bay of Biscay.

The heating went on in the car just north of Valencia and as we climbed into the mountains the seasons rolled back. Around Zaragoza the fertile red planes were just starting to bud with spring-like greenery. At times the road seemed to cut its way through the sky, blue to the port side while dark clouds rolled over the black mountains to starboard. Bridging the two a rainbow kept pace with us, its end caressing the rooftops, farm buildings and ornate church towers with multi-coloured light.

Descending the northern slopes brought, literally out of the blue, gritting lorries and winter. Without warning we were suddenly driving through sleet and then snow, thanking our lucky stars that we’d set out early and we still had daylight. Ah well, it’s stopped now although the wind is howling. And the cold is keeping our drinks nicely chilled on the window sill. I know. That’s plebs for you.