Tag Archives: Spain

Car Trouble

27 Jan

Our car hasn’t been looking too good for a while. Originally purchased back in 2013 when the idea of towing a caravan began to look like a real possibility, this big workhorse more than proved worth keeping long after we parted company with the ‘van. The sheer amount of “stuff” that could be piled into the cavernous boot space made it ideal for our wandering lifestyle. The bulk of our old boat’s contents were transported across Europe, the caravan dragged around the UK and every winter we’ve spent in Spain it crossed the channel with us, carrying all we needed for months at a time.

I was the problem. My 5 foot 5 inches proved to be insufficient for the driver’s seat of this man’s car. Being unable to see where the bonnet started and the boot ended meant I struggled with close maneuvering and parking (OK, never my strong point) and proved to be a bit too much of a challenge. It reached the point where we decided not to bother with cosmetic repairs. I’m not taking all the blame, mind, as Neil added his own bit of decoration last autumn!

But still this beastie kept on going. Until last week, that is. What didn’t make it into the last blog entry was the fact that the car ground to a halt on the motorway just after leaving Benidorm. Neil managed to steer it under its own momentum to the hard shoulder and to peer helplessly under the bonnet whilst I hurriedly clambered over the safety rail sporting a fetching high-visibility vest. Similarly attired, he joined me on the scrub-covered bank and rang round our friends in search of a contact number for a mechanic. Thankfully they were able to help but it soon became clear it was a breakdown truck we needed.

We settled down to wait in what proved to be a record breaking heatwave for January and as bladders relentlessly filled. This inconvenience is so much easier to manage for a man. Having put it off as long as I could, the time eventually came when I had to get myself into an off road hiding place. This involved climbing over the sharp, scrubby bushes and assorted debris that accumulates​ in inaccessible places and down a slippery, precipitous bank to find somewhere discreet to expose myself. Did I mention the sharp bushes?

Well, the long and short of it all is that we are now without a car. The engine failure proved to be pretty catastrophic and uneconomic for us to repair. A replacement is being sought.

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Show Time

21 Jan

In all the time we’ve been coming to the Costa Blanca the show at the Benidorm Palace is something we’ve never done. This is, perhaps, surprising as the resort’s night time buzz makes a welcome change now and then from Jávea’s more laid back vibe and the Palace is something of an institution. Somehow we’d never got around to it mostly because of an image of “Dancing Girls” which didn’t really appeal.

Then we got chatting to a couple who had been recently and were raving about it, describing the show as the best they’d seen in years. In the post Christmas lull where nothing much was happening further investigation seemed like a good idea.

First opening its doors in 1977 but going through a couple of transformations ​since including a major refurb, this winter’s show was the 40th anniversary celebration ‘Rubi’ in which “more than 50 artists participate and whose main theme is the “Spanish” Fiesta.” and promising “A night full of surprises, elegance, fantasy and art.” Well, sounds worth a try doesn’t it?

Booking on-line (https://www.benidormpalace.com/en/benidorm-palace/ )was a challenge though. Perhaps we’re just awkward, but having decided we wanted to go the whole hog and have dinner there before the show we were completely unable to select our chosen main courses. Not to be defeated Neil rang the booking office. Turns out that the difference in price of the various menus reflects not just the food itself but also the location of the table. I wanted a deluxe (of course!) so Neil had to pay the extra, allowing us to sit at the same table! 

It turned out to be well worth it. I can honestly say we had the best table in the place; bang in the centre, a comfortable few rows back and elevated above the tables in front. OK, we’re not talking Michelin star food here but it was more than satisfactory and the show, well, not to spoil anything, was pretty awesome. In the early hours of a chilly January morning, there was a spring in our stagger as we left. Definitely worth the visit. 

November

3 Dec

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marina_Alta

 I’ve been neglecting this blog since our return to Jávea in Spain. To be honest, it does become difficult to think of something fresh to say about a place you’ve written about many times before.With our first month ​here now over, however, it seemed appropriate to share a few photos.
Although we still refer to the UK as home, it’s to this little corner of the Spanish coast in the Comunitat Valenciana that we keep returning each winter.

As members of the University of the Third Age, perhaps better known as the U3A, we quickly find ourselves absorbed in their groups and activities when we get back. One of the first was the annual coach trip to Valencia. I think the idea was originally for it to be a pre-Christmas shopping trip but we tend to use the opportunity to simply enjoy this lovely city. Last year it was the futuristic buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences that absorbed our time https://lamputtsonland.wordpress.com/tag/ciudad-de-las-artes-y-las-ciencias/

This time the old town called with its bell towers and their views over the rooftops. We climbed a lot of steps!

I did manage to briefly explore the wonderful indoor market, leaving Neil in a nearby cafe – he doesn’t do markets.

Some pretty amazing street art 

Otherwise, our return to Spain has, so far, been confined to the beautiful area of the Marina Alta https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marina_Alta  nd lots of coastal walks.

The end of the month brought a change from the beautiful warm days we’d been enjoying earlier in the month.  

The clouds were closing in as we walked the seafront in Dénia. 

It’s now turned decidedly chilly but I guess it’s all relative! 

Pamplona Impressions

25 Apr

Although best known for its bull running event, Pamplona is so much more. Following on the heels of our visit to Zaragoza the contrast is striking and left us wishing we’d chosen to spend longer here than this flying visit. With just a couple of hours to explore, not even long enough to have a meal, we raced around the beautiful narrow streets, a photogenic view at every turn.

They say that we subconsciously remember smells and that they trigger memories. For Seville that will certainly be from the orange blossom. For me, Pamplona will for ever be associated in my mind with the green fragrance of the new growth of spring. And, perhaps, the tangy sweetness​ of lemon ice cream.

Shady, green park

Beautiful buildings

Open, sunny Plaza 

There’s even deer grazing, protected by the city moat

Zaragoza

18 Apr

It’s perhaps unfortunate that we visited Zaragoza so soon after spending time in Seville. It seriously doesn’t compare. But perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh, particularly if, like us, you want to break up the long drive from the Mediterranean coast to the the ferries in the north.

There are two cathedrals for a start, not to mention the fortified palace of the Aragon Court. We visited the latter on our first evening after failing to be able to walk to it along the riverbank. It’s pleasant enough although so restored it resembles a stereotypical toy castle. It must have been splendid in its day but little of that splendour remains and we left after half an hour feeling we hadn’t been allowed to access most of the building.

Then there’s the food. The tapas bars get rave reviews but I feel like the boy who said the Emperor was “in the altogether”. I’d have been grateful for a Macdonald’s, to be honest. And everybody is so incredibly unfriendly to the point of rudeness. Yes, they’re busy and they are serving idiots who are stupid enough to eat in a place where the waiter insists you don’t ask him for a particular item on the menu, just tell him the number. I sympathise but it doesn’t help. Oh, and you’ll pay far more than anywhere else in Spain that we have visited.

Ok, maybe my judgement has been clouded by accidentally stepping with both feet into a water feature shortly followed by walking into a glass door that turned out not to be a door – the only time I saw a local laugh. I decided that the dire food was the third of the “these things come in threes” event. Nevertheless, I’ve been very careful to hold handrails while going up and down stairs!

Our second day restored my faith in Zaragoza. For a start we found somewhere serving fresh bread at reasonable prices for breakfast and the busy waitress managed to both smile and be friendly. It’s amazing how something like that can change your day. After losing it slightly when I was served warm white wine (they quickly realised it was a good idea to get me a fresh one!) we decided to change our eating intentions completely and hunted out a lunchtime Menu del Dia in the shopping district, completely abandoning the idea of tapas. Thankfully that worked, too.

We managed to visit both cathedrals, some Roman ruins and a quirky exhibition of huge illuminated lanterns at the Museum of the Crystal Rosary (Museo de los Faroles y Rosario de Cristal). Apparently these huge illuminated lanterns are carried around Zaragoza in October which one review we read described as a sort of collision between Blackpool Illuminations and Semana Santa. Now that would definitely be something to see.

So would we return? As an overnight stopover – probably.

Sevilla

7 Apr

We never made it to Seville on our sail from Plymouth to Greece (http://www.sailblogs.com/member/serenmor/) but I’ve wanted to go ever since. This winter we were determined to finally make the trip and, being weather-obsessed sailors, looked for a suitable weather window even though we were driving. We wanted dry and sunny but cool enough to walk around and last week looked perfect.

Of course, it didn’t go entirely as forecast. Leaving a Jávea bathed in sunshine in a car still dusty with wind-blown pollen and sand, we arrived wet and shiny after a long-threatened torrential downpour just as we arrived in the Seville rush hour traffic. However, the trusty satnav took us straight to our hotel and we were soon pounding the streets under the faintest hint of “trying to rain”.

Having got our bearings and timed the walk to the sights in preparation for the the following day, a few drinks were called for sitting outside, naturally, encased in our wet weather gear and under a parasol just in case – well we are tourists, you know. We visited enough establishments to establish that you don’t get given any crisps, let alone tapas, with drinks in Seville (you can dine off freebies in Granada) so we headed indoors for something more substantial. And thus began a three night stay of fabulous food indulgence.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the sites we visited over the next couple of days (I’ll let the pictures do that!). This blog has never been a travelogue. All I will say is that Seville lived up to expectations and then some. It enchanted me. The weather gradually improved so that by our last evening we were happily dining outside well into the night. One for the bucket lists.

The Cathedral with its bell tower on the right, glowing in the sunlight

Inside it’s gold that makes the cathedral glow. Polishing the already dazzling alter ready for Easter 

A fitting place for the tomb of Christopher Columbus 

Posing in the square outside the cathedral 

A courtyard in the extraordinary Alcazar 

A small part of the gardens of the Alcazar, filled, like much of Seville at this time of year, with the scent of orange blossom

Intriguing courtyards can be glimpsed from the narrow streets of the old town, hinting at far more space inside than the exteriors would suggest

Of course, you can’t escape the tourist tatt but some are drawn to it 

The Fallas (Again)

17 Mar

This is the third time I’ve blogged about the Fallas in Dénia so I won’t go into much detail just share the pictures. You can read more here or several entries on Sailblogs (find at bottom of page 1 of contents list and top of page 2 http://www.sailblogs.com/member/serenmor/contents/1)

The detail is extraordinary

They can get quite saucy 

Love the expressions

Some are startlingly explicit for a family occasion! 

But in the end, it’s really one long party (this was about 10am)