Archive | October, 2016

Barn Dance 

30 Oct

Neil doesn’t dance. That is to say, he does do a sort of stomp to “One Step Beyond” and will shuffle his feet for a smooch but anything else is strictly to give me someone to dance with. So it came as something of a surprise at the recent U3A meeting when he announced he’d got tickets for their Barn Dance. I really didn’t see that coming.

I suspect there may have been some second thoughts but it was too late to back out and last night saw us heading out of town on the minibus. That itself had been a bit touch a go. As we took our seats it became apparent that all was not well. The driver wanted paying in advance, the organiser was declining to do so until the return journey and we had standoff. With the numbers on board finally agreeing with the list (minus four) there were calls of “Vamos!” But we didn’t vamos anywhere. We sat there, the driver unwavering.

It was the organiser who blinked first and handed over the sealed envelope. A receipt was reciprocated. The minibus set forth bouncing over every speed ramp with back-jarring, barely suppressed aggression. So it was with some relief we entered the pleasant surroundings of the restaurant and found our seats in a very well organised set up. OK, so the meal was a bit underwhelming but the wine flowed pretty freely.

Perhaps thanks to alcohol inspired enthusiasm the floor filled easily and any inhibitions were soon suppressed. I’ve never seen Neil so keen to get on the dance floor! It was clear that nobody had much of an idea what they were doing and it really didn’t matter. Which way round were we supposed to go? Where are we supposed to be now? Are we couple three or four? Ah, who cares? By the end of the evening we were kicking up our heels with best of them (not that there were many of those!) I tell you what – pensioners really know how to enjoy themselves.

All too soon the call that the minibus was outside was given out resulting in an understandable stampede for the toilets. Despite very real doubts, the driver had turned up and had thankfully also calmed down. It was too late, though. He wasn’t getting a tip from this lot.

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Castles, Courtyards and Cañas on the Coach

26 Oct

We are now feel old enough to join the University of the Third Age, better known as U3A even though here in Jàvea, at least, 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.

meridia-plaza-major

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.

meridia-bridge

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.

meridia-temple-diana

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.

alcantara-wall

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.

alcantara-plaza-major

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.

Lingo

4 Oct

spanish-classes-blurb

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.