An Unscheduled Ramble !!

I had not intended writing any further blog posts, well from the sunnier side of the Bay of Biscay at least, as I had not expected to have much to write about on the journey from the South East Coast of Spain up to the Northern Coast, well that will teach me to not pre-empt things in future !! So, although this post will be ‘chronologically’ out of order I trust that you will enjoy ‘An Unscheduled Ramble‘.

Having decided to spread our journey over two days we were able to have our usual coffee on the balcony on our last morning at the apartment and to look out at our wonderful views for one last time. It would probably have made us feel better if our last day had been grey and overcast but no, it was sunny, very warm and both the sky and the sea were their usual lovely blue. After coffee and a catch up on the News and weather, the remainder of the morning was spent doing the final Hoover and clean and of course last-minute packing, but then the sad part, dust covers placed on all the furniture, water turned off and taps drained, all security shutters closed, plunging the apartment into total darkness and then we flipped the mains electric switch and secured the door behind us.

The Spanish roads are never really that busy, unlike the majority of UK roads, and it only took us two-hours to reach the ring road around Seville, but then, unusually, we hit wall to wall traffic and our first Spanish traffic jam, cars, vans, lorries all bumper to bumper and nobody wanting to give way to anyone else, we were not going anywhere very fast and we inched our way in between the traffic, then others inched their way in between us, we needed eyes everywhere, behind us, to our left, in front and to the right, traffic was coming at us every which way, but we kept our cool and although it cost us the thirty-minutes travel time we had made up on the first bit of the journey, eventually we managed to thread our way up to the North of Seville and normality resumed in the blink of an eye, the traffic cleared to near nothingness again and we could relax and enjoy the drive and the scenery.

We reached the town of ‘Zafra’, our selected destination for the night, four-hours after leaving the apartment. Our first impression as we entered the town was that it looked just like any other Spanish working town, Industrial areas left and right and to be honest a bit tired looking. The ‘Aire’ was easy to find from just following ‘Snoopy’s’ guidance but it was also well signposted, it was just off a roundabout on the main approach road, there were ten bays specifically marked out for Motorhomes and the usual service facilities were clean and everything was working, even the water supply. There were already two other Motorhomes parked up and by then of the evening we were joined by another three vans. It was a lovely and warm evening and the sun was still shining so, after a hot cuppa, we decided to go and explore to see what, if anything, this town had to offer.

Coincidentally, we were scheduled to visit this town three years ago in 2015, once again it was on our return journey to the UK, but on that occasion the town was holding its bi-annual ‘Iberico Pork Festival’, we never actually got here on that occasion as Shazza made me do a detour, in totally the wrong direction to which we were supposed to be heading, that detour cost me a lot of money, yes, it was a change of direction, but in more ways than one and it resulted in us purchasing a certain ‘Bolt Hole’ !!

The town was a short walk from the Aire but I was a bit underwhelmed by it at first, it was nothing out of the ordinary, it had a shopping street with all the usual variety of shops you would expect, but nothing that made it stand out as being special or very picturesque. Fortunately, prior to leaving the van, I had checked the town plan on-line and had seen that there were a couple of Plaza’s that looked worthy of exploration, I had a rough idea in my head of where they should be so we headed off in the general direction. We reached the first Plaza, nice enough but nothing spectacular, I am not one for aimlessly wandering around just for the hell of it so after taking a couple of photographs I was ready for turning around and just heading back to the van.

Ever had that feeling that someone is watching you ?

Eagle-eyed Shazza came across a Tourist Information Board that indicated that there was a ‘Old Historical’ part of town so of course we had to go and find it, “It might not be much” she said, “But we may as well go and have a look, it would be rude not too !” then she smiled, “Hey, that’s one of my lines, find your own to use” I said and off we went in search of the old part of town. I have often stated in these blogs that you should not judge a book by its cover and once again this place was another one of those books where the outer cover was uninspiring, but well worth opening and leafing through the content. The old town was enclosed within walls but it was not a town that was old and crumbling but one that had been renovated whilst maintaining the characteristics and charm of an old town, a maze of narrow paved and cobbled streets which still gave access to vehicles, at times we had to squeeze ourselves up against walls to allow vehicles to pass, the buildings had been renovated and old dwellings had been modernised to provide residential and retail accommodations, there were courtyards with fountains and small Cafe/Bars that had their tables spread outside to create wind free sun traps, archways off the courtyards gave access to internal squares which were again adorned with buildings that housed Cafe/Bars, small retail gift shops, a music school, and above them fantastic rustic looking apartments with small juliet style balconies, many adorned with pots of colourful shrubs and flowers, there was a fantastic church with large clock tower, a veterinary practice and so very much more. The main town hall was pretty, although compared to other’s we have seen this was not the most ‘grandiose’ we have ever seen, however, all in all it was a very nice experience and we spent a good couple of hours nosing around and through the narrow streets, alleys, archways and squares.

Not the grandest looking Town Hall we have seen in Spain

The old town was not a ghost town, we had seen a lot of movement, cars had past us, as had other pedestrians, we had seen some of the residents of the houses stood on their doorsteps talking to people they knew or who had walked passed and exchanged the usual pleasantries with us, some of the Cafe/Bars looked empty but we could hear chatter emanating from within, but it had not been a bustle of activity. We had made the decision to make our way back to the van and hopefully we would find somewhere to get a meal, we were both feeling pretty tired after what had been quite a long day and did not fancy the prospect of preparing and cooking a meal and then clearing up back at the van. We hadn’t got outside of the old town walls when we heard a lot of noise, the sound of lots people chattering, we could hear music, none of this was coming from any of the small Cafe/Bars that we had passed so we headed towards the direction of this unexpected vibrancy. We were very surprised to find one long narrow street that was lined on both sides with shops, it was like the modern-day high street conspiring within the old town and it was busy with shoppers. About half way up there was an archway which led into a very small courtyard, within it was the Santa Clara Convent which had a shop selling cakes and biscuits, we had to take a look, yes it would have been sacrilegious not too !! The goodies for sale were displayed in a cabinet, we made our choice, a tray of twelve apple filled small empanadilla, we rang a bell at the side of two small windows and waited a few moments. I was not sure if this was one of those ‘Silent Order’ of Nuns but I had expected the windows to open and be met by a dour faced old woman adorned in black, for no logical reasoning other than that had always been my image of Nuns, other than that one young very pretty Nun, ‘Maria’, I had seen in the ‘Sound of Music’. Anyway, the windows opened and we were greeted by a very cheerful and youngish looking Nun, youngish meaning probably aged in her late thirty’s rather than, as I had imagined, someone far more senior in years. She greeted us in Spanish, why wouldn’t she ? but then, when she learnt we were from the UK, she immediately switched to speaking very good English. We felt that our ‘Souls’ at least had been redeemed as we walked away clutching our tasty Saintly goodies, but that redemption was to be short-lived as Shazza said after eating one and screwing up her nose, “They would be much nicer with Custard !!” for goodness sake, be off with you my girl and say a dozen Hail Mary’s, I can just about contend with the ‘Dark Forces’ on our travels but I don’t fancy our chances with the wrath of God !!

We walked the full length of the busy shopping street and came out back into the ‘modern’ Zafra, a very lively modern Zafra at that, Siesta was well over by now, it was around 6pm, it was Friday evening and although we could feel the drop in temperature the sun was still shining and was not due to set for another hour. Across the road was a very large Plaza, busy with people, families with children, couples young and old, this town had come out to play.

We noticed that in one corner of the Plaza there was a large Tourist Information Office, Shazza suggested we go in and get a town plan to see if there was anything else we may have missed, unfortunately their was, a very old Church, which the lady behind the counter told us was very special because of this and that…….. Now I am not really that big on visiting churches, I have nothing against them you understand, but to me, once you have seen the inside of one church then they are all very much the same, but Shazza likes them so off we went, again. It meant going back inside the walls of the old town, not to the big central church but right on the opposite side of the town, I was getting tired by now and beginning to feel the cold setting in and my legs were telling me that they had done as much walking as they wanted to do for one day, but we reached our objective, had a walk around the inside and then came out again. I saw several statues of ‘Jesus’ in numerous displays whilst we were inside and not one rebuked us over the ‘Custard’ issue so I think we got away with it, time will tell ?

It felt like a long walk back, I was at a snail’s pace by now, cold, tired and hungry but every Cafe/Bar was still only serving Coffee and Cake or Churros and Chocolate, it was now nearly 7pm but the proper Restaurant type places didn’t open until 8pm and in this town there was no MacDonald’s, Burger King, Dominoes Pizza or any other ‘fast food’ outlet, so we made our way back to the van. We could have thrown a meal together but we were both just too tired so Shazza made us both an Egg and Bacon sandwich, I have never enjoyed a sandwich so much. We were both in bed by 8:30pm and slept peacefully, no excessive external disruptions even though the ‘Aire’ was close to the junctions of two main roads and no boy racers !!

We were not in any rush to get to Santander, the ferry did not sail until 8:30pm and we did not have to report until 7:30pm, according to ‘Snoopy’ we still had a journey time of nine hours, although I knew that we would cut that time down as it was Non-Toll Motorways all the way and this particular route was exceptionally quiet in respect of the volume of traffic. It was pretty damn cold, although not cold enough to have iced up our windows, we did the necessary at the Service Point before getting back on the road and fortunately just a couple of minutes outside of town, before we got back on the Motorway, there was a ‘Repsol’ fuel station, fortunate because although we still had half a tank of fuel, these non-motorway fuel stations were always that bit cheaper so we topped up the tank. The Road trip was pretty uneventful, the roads were quiet of other traffic, as is normal, just the odd car or truck here and there, when we first experienced these quiet traffic free Motorways and Main Roads a few years ago we found it quite spooky but now we enjoy being able to just set the cruise control then sit back and enjoy the changing scenery. The external temperature varied between -3 degrees(c) and +3 degrees(c), but with the sun shining in through the Skylights and Cab windows it was a warm and comfortable drive. One minute we were climbing up into the hills and crossing magnificent viaducts, then we would descend and the scenery changed from the forests of Olive Trees, on either side of the road, to flat  agricultural land where we could see for miles and miles. Occasionally we would pass close by little hamlets, villages and towns but mainly the whitewashed townships were viewed at a distance from our raised vantage positions in the van. We made one stop for a coffee at a roadside service station that had a Cafe/Restaurant alongside it, we were quite amazed at how many people were inside, we certainly had not seen that many cars or trucks on the road, I couldn’t help but wonder where they had all come from. We continued to eat through the miles and eventually we could see the snowy peaks of the ‘Picos’ mountain ranges ahead, still many miles away, but it felt like familiar territory to us as we had used ‘Aires’ in these mountains on our first ‘virginal’ trips out here, it brought back many happy memories and we spent lots of time reminiscing about the places we had stayed and the locations we had visited. Then, in what appeared no time at all, we were there, amongst the snow-capped mountains, glorious blue sky, warm sunshine, perfect road conditions and snowy mountains, absolutely stunning !!

I knew, from previous trips along this route, that there was a ‘Shell’ petrol station just 10 miles from the ferry port, I wanted to ensure that I had a full tank of diesel when I entered the UK, not just because it was cheaper over here than the UK, but we would have a long five-hour drive from Portsmouth to Doncaster and I wanted to get that drive done in one go. So after topping up we drove the short distance to the port, we had made good timing arriving at 4pm, we had knocked ninety minutes off the anticipated driving time, which gave us plenty of time to stretch our legs and take a wander around Santander town, which was literally just across the road. So we checked in, got our cabin key cards, parked in the pre-boarding lane we were directed to, locked the van and after taking a brief look out over the harbour entrance we made our way into the town.

A bit murky !!

When we returned to the van, a couple of hours later, we just settled down and waited to be called forward to board, the end of another Winter break was over, yes we were sad, we are never ready to return but we had something to look forward to on the other side and we were quite excited about getting to our site, but we had a couple of weeks before then, we were going to be busy as we had a lot to do, which I will write about at some point after we get settled into our routines on site, so you will be able to take a break from reading my ramblings for a short while, but for now, thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts and for posting your comments, very much appreciated.

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 6 Comments

Our Rod Stewart Moment ?

Normally, when programming ‘Snoopy’ I would not only set the destination but also programme the route I wanted to take e.g. ‘Shortest Time’, ‘Shortest Distance’, ‘Avoid Motorways’ or ‘Avoid Toll Routes’ but I had forgotten to do this when leaving ‘Ubrique’ so  ‘Snoopy’ was set for ‘Shortest Time’ rather than ‘Shortest Distance’. The route in my head was that using the mountain roads, we would head East which would, eventually, have brought us on to the A7 Coast Road at ‘Sotogrande’, just a few miles away from home. We were so enthralled with the views, and concentrating on the winding roads, that by the time I realised that we were actually heading South towards the A381, there was nothing I could do about it, there are very few places to stop on these mountain roads to do a ‘U’ turn !! But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, either that or ‘Snoopy’ is actually cleverer than I give her credit for and can actually read my mind !! At some point, on our final return journey up to the ferry, I wanted to refill my LPG cylinders, I had not needed to refill since we left the UK and although I knew that we would not have used both cylinders, LPG is much cheaper over here than it is in UK so it made sense to fill the cylinders here. I really dislike stopping too soon into a long journey but I knew that there was a ‘Repsol’ fuel station at ‘Los Barrios’, at the side of the A381, which had ‘Autogas’. I have used this particular fuel station on several occasions and it is only 20 miles away from the apartment. So, here we are, heading in what I consider the wrong direction, as it is going to add around 30 miles to our journey, when we join the A381, a lovely wide dual carriageway stretching from ‘Algeciras‘ on the East Coast of Southern Spain to ‘Jerez de la Frontera‘ on the West, the route, it just so happens, that we will be taking on our journey up to the ferry. But, funny old thing, today, we have joined the A381 just North of the aforementioned Repsol fuel station at Los Barrios, which means that I can stop and fill up my LPG on the way back to the apartment, ‘Snoopy’ you clever thing you !!

Being up in the mountains, in generally good weather for the most part over the last three days, had been extremely enjoyable but there is just something about being back near the Sea, especially when, like on this day, the sun is shining, the sky is so blue and cloudless and the Blue and Green colours of the Mediterranean are sparkling, it just has that ‘feel good’ factor that makes you smile. The external temperature gauge was showing 21 degrees(c) and at last the Air Con, instead of the heater, was turned on, it was nice to go away but it’s always nice to come home. This is how we had envisaged our retirement would be, going off in the van for days, weeks or even months, visiting different areas, villages, towns and Countries throughout Europe and then being able to come back to our ‘Bolt Hole’ whenever we wanted, we still may be able to do that or, dependent on the outcome of ‘Brexit’, we may need to re-think the logistics of how we organise still doing both. We have not ruled out returning to Morocco, we have looked back on our first brief trip there many times and we realised that actually we had quite enjoyed it, only the ‘fuel contamination’ incident, on virtually our last couple of days there, soured it for us, but on reflection, and reading about other Motorhome nomads who had been there, there is so much over there to do and see. Also, there are still some Countries in Eastern Europe that are not part of the EU or the ‘Schengen Agreement’, so our retirement dream may not be lost in its entirety, even if our ‘Freedom’ to roam may, potentially, be subjected to restrictions in the next year or so. What these frequent conversations between us do confirm however, is that we both still have that Wanderlust, we still have our retirement ‘Blueprint’ and that we are not yet ready to give up on our dreams.

We had tried to put it out of our minds, but the nearer we got the harder it became. It does not seem to be two minutes since I was waking up in the hospital recovery room, wondering how quick it would be before I could make the ferry booking that would take us to Spain and to our Winter ‘Bolt Hole’, now, here we are, driving back North again, to Santander, to get back on the ferry that will return us to the UK, has ten weeks really gone that quickly, where the hell does the time go to ?

Generally, we drive down to the apartment all in one go, normally a ten-hour journey in the car but this time, coming down in the Motorhome, it was a twelve-hour drive. However, after working for a little over eight months each year, without any holidays, we were always quite keen to get straight to the apartment and lose no time in enjoying the place that we consider as ‘home’, albeit just our temporary home for the time being. The return journey’s in the car were much the same, a long drive back to the ferry port all in one go, but this year, with having the van, we could do things a little less frantically. We were not due to set sail from Santander until 8:30pm, although we had to report an hour before, so, if we had chosen to do it all in one go again, it would have meant getting up really early, as before we could actually drive away we had to do the final checks and secure the apartment, draining the water, unplugging all the electrical items from the wall sockets, closing all the security blinds, turning off the Mains Electric and then finally, from an external cupboard outside of the apartment block, turning off the Mains Water supply feed to our apartment.

Travelling in the ‘Little Fokker’ meant that we could not only split our journey up, make comfort stops whenever we wanted without having to look for dedicated service facilities, as we had everything we needed on-board, but it also meant that we did not have to get up with the dawn chorus and we could do all our close down routines at a more leisurely pace. Our 660 mile route was straightforward, virtually from leaving the apartment right up to the ferry port it was all non-toll motorway, apart from one small stretch between ‘Jerez‘ and ‘Seville‘, but that would only cost us Seven Euro. We had decided to split the trip up over two days so our night-stop would be on a Motorhome ‘Aire’, in the town of ‘Zafra’, North of Seville and not far from the Portuguese border. The following morning, hopefully after having had a refreshing sleep, without annoying boy racers outside our windows or failing batteries in on-board alarms and a leisurely breakfast, we would have all day to complete the remaining seven-hour drive to the ferry port, board our ferry and then enjoy ‘Our Rod Stewart Moment‘……………..

                                    “We are sailing, we are sailing, 

                                     home again across the sea, 

                                     we are sailing, stormy waters, 

                                     so we can start working, 

                                     at Illfracombe by the sea

Okay, so you noticed that I may have changed a word, or two, but I won’t tell if you don’t !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 4 Comments

‘Ubrique’ – Simply Magnafique !!

Why is it that when you have to get up to go to work in the morning you struggle to wake up, but when you can stay in bed for as long as you want, you wake up at the crack of sparrows ? The ‘Works of Fiction’ had forecast that the temperature during the night would drop to freezing but we risked not leaving the gas heating on, well all the tanks were on-board under the floor and not underslung from the chassis and exposed to the elements, we would soon discover whether that had been a wise decision !! I have to say that we both slept soundly, no noise, with the exception of just one dog barking, but we have grown accustomed to that now. We had no knocks on the door from the Police telling us to move, no boy racers or late night revellers, it had been so peaceful and we awoke totally refreshed. Although we had been toasty warm under our duvet, when I got up to put the kettle on for our morning cuppa I got a bit of a shock !! I opened one of the skylight night blinds and saw a thin layer of ice covering the window, I touched it and was relieved to find that it was external and not internal, I checked the ‘external’ temperature gauge which reflected that it was -1 degree(c) !! I turned on the cold water tap and it flowed normally, so I was relieved about that too, but I didn’t hang about turning on the blown air heating and lighting the gas hob to make our hot mugs of coffee.

We did not laze around in bed, we got dressed and then opened up all the night blinds on all the windows, the light came flooding in but we had no views through the iced up windows. The good thing about the blown air heating is that we have two fan settings, ‘Eco’ and ‘High’, I had set it on the latter and the heat was almost instantaneous, however, the bonus is that when the habitation heating is on we do not need to put the water heater on as well, as it does both.

Whilst we sat drinking our coffee we had a decision to make, a normal morning but without the balcony !! I had done a bit more research on the Ubrique weekly market and discovered that this ran from 7:00am until 14:00pm, so we could get on there by late afternoon but, do we stay here in ‘El Bosque’ or do we chance our arm that there will be some suitable alternative parking in ‘Ubrique’ ? There was nothing else to see or do in this small town so it would mean just sitting around, we could leave and find somewhere to park up and have lunch en-route or just drive straight there and park up. Shazza was keen to take a look at the market, now why didn’t that surprise me ? I really wasn’t bothered either way so not wanting to disappoint my beloved we made the decision to get packed up, Shazza would sort the inside and I would go outside and de-ice the windows, fortunately I had emptied the Cassette Toilet the previous afternoon.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it felt remarkably warm, with the engine running and the window demister fan set to full power, it didn’t take long for the windows to clear. Whilst outside I noticed that our French colleague was still parked up, no sign of life though. We pulled away and with ‘Snoopy’ re-programmed we waved goodbye to this little mountain town.

The road getting out-of-town was easy, we did not have to go back over the bridge, but we were soon back on the narrow very bumpy and severely cambered roads, however, this is no main road and there was very little other traffic, a couple of cars and a handful of energetic cyclists, we were quite surprised to see lots of elderly people out walking, no wonder they live to ripe old ages and there I was thinking thar it was all due to their regular daily consumption of ‘Tinto Verano’ !! We couldn’t have driven very fast even if we had wanted to, I think when twists and turns were on special offer, the Spanish road builders were at the front of the queue !! The consolation of such slow speeds, when I dared to avert my eyes from the road ahead, was breathtaking and spectacular views, not just of the mountain peaks that completely encircled us, but one minute we were driving through heavily forested areas, the colours of the leaves on the tree’s were absolutely amazing, the next, the views opened up and you could see for miles across the valleys, wonderful.

It was not a long road journey, only 10 miles, and soon we were entering the bustling large town of ‘Ubrique’ but if ‘El Bosque‘ was classed as a town, then, comparatively speaking, this was a ‘City’, a well populated one at that, lots of cars, vans, motorcycles, mopeds and public buses. I had programmed ‘Snoopy’ to take us to the Motorhome Aire, but knew full well that before getting there I would need to find somewhere else to park. Whilst I kept my eyes on the road ahead, the other traffic and the pedestrians, who seem to ignore the well-marked pedestrian crossings and just cross wherever they like, Shazza kept her eyes peeled for any sort of space that looked like it would accommodate the ‘Little Fokker’. All of the official car parks were full, even the bits of gravel waste grounds were full, well I guess we had arrived on Market Day after all !! We passed the road that led up to where the market was being held and because that was a dead-end at the top, we had no option but to keep driving straight ahead, but I was quite impressed with the courteousy extended to me by other road users, they didn’t attempt to barge their way past me, and oncoming traffic didn’t even honk their horns or shake clenched fists at me, instead, they pulled in to the side and waved me through and as I passed them and waved a thank you, they waved back and smiled, I had taken a liking to this place already, the natives appeared friendly.

We were just passing out of the main town again when we saw a line of trees on either side of the road, in between the trees, parking bays had been marked out and surprisingly, the majority of them were empty, we needed no further invitation and we were quickly parked up. We expected to be parked up for several hours so we got the van converted back into ‘Home Mode’.

The perfect parking place to wait until we could get onto the designated Motorhome Parking Area, which, as it conveniently happened, was just where that car is, the one that looks as if it is parked on top of the white wall !!

It was time to get our bearings so we locked the van and walked back up the road towards the town, we had been exceptionally fortunate to have parked a mere five-minute walk from the car park where the Market was being held and we were soon strolling along and looking at the multitude of stalls. We were surprised at the lack of produce stalls, only the odd one or two selling a variety of nuts, spices and olives but no fruit or vegetables, not that we actually needed anything, but it is always nice to see the vibrant colours of the different fruits on display and smell the aromas from the cheeses and meats, but no matter. There was none of the usual tourist ‘tat’ here though, the majority of the traders were selling clothes, shoes, loads of stalls selling fabric materials and household items such as brooms, washing up bowls etc. we didn’t need any of those items either so it did not take us too long to do the full circuit.

From the market we just sort of followed our noses in the general direction of the town centre, what a difference to the little place we had left earlier that morning, the streets were full of people and traffic. Although the sun was still shining and the sky was predominantly blue with just a few wispy clouds, we could feel the sharp coolness of the mountain air on our faces. We sort of just fell upon the long pedestrianised shopping street, shops on both sides with a wide central paved area lined with trees. The shops were pretty modern looking and to be honest you could have been in any modern town centre anywhere in Western Europe. Although we we were up in the mountains the streets were all level, no steep inclines to traverse so it made walking around quite leisurely.

One of the main shopping streets, this one was pedestrianised

We walked the full length of the pedestrianised shopping area, it seemed to go on for ages, but then, at the end of it, we came to a junction and yet another busy road, left and right were even more shops and Cafe/Bars. We decided to make our way back to the van for a spot of lunch and to come and explore more of the town and some of its back streets a little later, after the Siesta period, when hopefully we would have re-located the ‘Little Fokker’ to the car park.

When we got back to the van Shazza made lunch and we sat with the habitation door open, and the two skylight roof windows open, the sun came flooding in and we sat in the warmth eating our tuna baguette and crisps, washed down with hot mugs of coffee. Although the road was not as busy as in the town centre there was a constant flow of cars and vans going past but what attracted our attention the most was the sheer volume of people, of all age ranges, using this as an exercise route. The younger generation jogging, earpieces in, attached to phones that they held in their hand, music whilst they worked out I guess, all these youngsters were wearing unforgiving wrinkle hugging Lycra, some of which looked okay in it, but others…… ? There was also a steady flow of the older generation too, minus the music machines and Lycra, they wore more conservative looking track suit bottoms and trainers and swung their arms as they walked, marching style. We have seen this a lot, both here in Spain and in Portugal, the population, young and old, keeping fit and it made us realise that it isn’t just the healthy Mediterranean Diet which is the reason behind their longevity of age. Many of them smiled and gave us a cheery wave as they passed, it always make us feel as if we are welcome in their domains, no words spoken but as the saying goes, ‘sometimes, actions speak louder than words’. A white transit van, flying a Spanish flag from radio aerial, pulled up at the side of us and a man came around to our habitation door, he asked us if we wanted to purchase any fruit or vegetables, Shazza politely declined as we had plenty, he smiled and bid us a cheery farewell. On our previous ‘On the road’ travels we had got used to local retailers coming on to many of the ‘Aires’ to sell Bread, Fruit, Vegetables, Fish and Meat but this is the first time, when we have just been parked up at the side of the road, that someone has stopped.

With our lunch over we knew we still had time to kill before we could relocate to the proper car parking area, although the Market would finish at 2pm we realised that the traders would still need time to pack up their goods into their vehicles and dis-assemble their stalls, before they physically vacated the area, so we estimated that it would still be another couple of hours or so. We decided to go for another stroll, minus the unforgiving wrinkle hugging Lycra !! this time, instead of heading back towards the town, we would follow the route the fitness brigade had been taking,

Almost next to our van was a small brick and stone structure, at ground level, with stone seating set around it. We assumed that it was a ‘Rub-a-Dub-Dub‘, a nickname we had heard used by fellow travellers to describe what used to be the old Community Laundry Facility. We had seen many of these on our earlier travels, many were very grand built affairs, large open sided buildings with a roof which housed separate stone basins with taps to each, other’s were like this one, much more basic and simple affairs but I guess it was a good place for the women in these communities to meet up and socialise whilst the men folk were out working. Now, with the advent of technology, many homes have their own modern machines to do this task, or there are ‘Lavaderias’ (Launderettes), but I couldn’t help but wonder if, like with the advent of a lot of other modern technologies, the loss of some of these ‘old ways’ had a detrimental impact on the communities social life ?

We assumed that this was the old ‘community laundry facilities’

I was pleased that I had re-invested in a new digital pocket camera prior to coming out on this trip, sometimes my larger Canon camera is too bulky to carry and so I would leave it behind, if we were going out without a rucksack, and I often regretted it. We did not have to walk too far before I could start clicking away, so I will mention these words just the once to describe all of the scenery we were viewing, Breathtaking, Stunning, Amazing and Beautiful………………

We returned to the van after our stroll, it was so warm in the sunshine but we could still feel the coolness of the mountain air, this was certainly not shorts, tee-shirt and flip-flop territory but inside the van, with the glazed windows enhancing the heat of the sun, we were able to temporarily remove our sweaters. It was 3pm and I was beginning to get impatient, looking up towards the car parking area I could still see a stall with its tarpaulin roof so I decided to walk up and take a look to gauge how much longer it would be before we could relocate. I was pleased to see that the majority of the traders had gone and their were only three or four still to go, we probably could have driven up but the local Council Cleaner was starting to clear the rubbish and sweep the large tarmac area, with a hand broom and shovel and this was not a team effort, he was conducting this job single-handed so I thought it best to leave it a little longer. I returned to the van and sat people and vehicle watching, as you do, for another hour. We were well into the Siesta period by this time though and it was very noticeable, the hurly burly of movement of both vehicles and people had almost come to a stand still, Shazza sat patiently, reading her book whilst I sat and fidgeted, looking at my watch every few minutes, but the time did not pass any quicker.

Finally, at 4pm, I decided that I could not wait any longer and we prepared the van for travel mode, it only took a couple of minutes to drive from our temporary parking spot up the hill and onto the official car park, there were still a couple of traders packing up and the Council cleaner was still gathering the large bags or cardboard boxes of rubbish, however, the ‘Zona De Estacionamiento Autocaravanas‘, was clearly marked and was empty and ready for me to take up my position.

After the short process of getting the van back into ‘Home Mode’ again it was time to check out the Service Facilities, as this would probably be our final sightseeing trip, we would need to empty the cassette toilet, and dump the grey waste, before returning to the apartment. The area was clean, their was a drain at ground level to empty the ‘grey’ water and the rest of the Services were provided via a proper Motorhome Aire service machine, on one side the Chemical Waste drain with a water tap to rinse out the cassette and on the other a water tap with a screw thread (to attach a hose connector). Although the ‘Aires Guides’ had indicated that the water was ‘free’, there was no water coming out of either of the taps. I read a label on the machine which advised that I would need a ‘Jeton‘ (Coin) available from either the local Police, the Tourist Information Office or the Swimming Pool. There was a large very modern sports complex just across the road, well within a few minutes walk, it had outdoor tennis courts, a very large modern indoor pool and you could see the outdoor pools from the car park area, although these did not get used in the Winter. We walked to the main entrance of the Sports Complex building and went to the reception desk and explained that we needed a ‘Jeton’ for the Service Point, the nice Spanish Lady gave us a small business card sized registration document to put on display in our front window, this had our date of arrival and registration number on it so that the Police could make sure that we did not over stay the 72 hours parking, then she handed us the ‘Jeton’, I asked how much this would cost, usually in France such ‘Jetons’ cost €1 or €2 Euro for 100 Litres of Water, however, she smiled and said ‘Gratis‘, so the services are free but you need the ‘Jeton’ to operate the machine, we thanked her and returned to the van, observing that just outside of the Complex entrance was a ‘Pasteleria’ (cake shop) which also sold bread, handy in the morning to go and get our baguette !!

It was not difficult to find the designated Motorhome Parking on the large public car park

Motorhomes park within the ‘Blue Zone’ with enough space for around 10 vans and all for ‘free’ but restricted to a maximum of 3 days !!

The services were ‘free’ but you need a ‘Jeton’ (Coin) to get access to water (Read Text to find out where from)

If I thought that the scenery was great from where we had parked temporarily, then this, in comparison, was amazingly fantastic with panoramic views overlooking the town, countryside and mountains !! This was a large parking area which could accommodate probably around 50 cars and 10 Motorhomes and we had it all to ourselves, for the time being at least, so we took pole position with unrestricted views. When we had taken our earlier stroll around part of this sprawling town we noted that the shops would not re-open again until 5pm so we had enough time to have another coffee, the only downside being that ‘Camping’ was not permitted which meant that we could not put our chairs, or anything else, outside of the van and sit in the sun.

From our parking, looking down on where we had parked temporarily earlier.

We could both see, and hear, the town begin to awake from its slumber, Siesta was over and so it was a good time to go and do a little more exploration. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we walked down the bit of the hill from the car park and around the corner, for their was a bar, not just any old bar, but a large bar dedicated to ‘London’ !! We were accustomed to the Coastal resorts and the Marina’s being inundated with ‘English’ and ‘Irish’ Bars and Cafes, I mean what loyal nationalist from the UK should be expected to come to Spain on holiday and not be able to get a Pint of John Smith’s or Guinness, or their customary Sunday Roast Dinner or Pie and Chips, for goodness sake !! But here, up in the mountains, in what was basically a typically rustic Spanish town, really ?

Just when we thought we were far enough away from the Expat’s !!

We made our way into the main area of the town but instead of walking back along the central pedestrianised area we chose to stroll amongst the narrow side streets towards the other busy main road lined with shops and Cafe/Bars, of the Spanish variety I hasten to add, that we had stumbled across earlier that day.

When you live in a flat above a garage you need to find somewhere to Air your laundry !!

The storm drain runs right through the central part of town !!

A more modern ‘mural’ scene – ‘Shoppers in the Indoor Market’

Ubrique is full of leather retailers, many operate from modern looking shops whilst others look a bit more ‘Grand’

It was getting dark by the time we returned to the van, not only had the sun dropped from the sky but we could feel the cold beginning to set in and we needed to put the heating on straight away, I was anticipating that we would find ice on the outside of the van again in the morning. We had not had time to visit the ‘historic’ area of the town, or the museums dedicated to the towns leather industry, so decided that we would do that the following morning but from what we had already seen we considered ‘Ubrique – Simply Magnafique‘. There were several cars in the car park now, but they were near the entrance and well away from us, we were still the only Motorhome parked up and that is the way it stayed.

Unfortunately we did not get a restful night, at around midnight we were woken up by youngsters, coming from wherever they had been, shouting at the top of their voices, banging their car doors, revving up their car engines and then playing loud music before doing a circuit around our van, this must have happened on three or four separate occasions right into the early hours. Then at 3:00am we were suddenly woken up by our alarm going off !! Still half a sleep I bolted out of bed, believing it to be the vehicle security alarm and that someone was trying to get in our van, there wasn’t, it was the ‘Fire Alarm’. I obviously checked around, we didn’t have the gas heating on, only the gas burner operating the fridge/freezer, we could not smell any burning or sense any smoke. Shazza de-activated the alarm but I had to stay awake for a while, long enough to establish that there was no actual danger and I didn’t really get anymore decent sleep after that. We did not awake refreshed and we sat drinking our coffee in a subdued zombified state. I certainly wasn’t up for anymore walking and the final nail in the coffin for venturing anywhere else was when we consulted the ‘Works of Fiction’, the forecast for this region of the mountains was grim, overcast and cooler whilst down on the Coast, bright sunshine and 21 degrees(c), how can that be ? After all, there is only one Sun that rotates around our planet, I can understand it being a lot cooler at altitude but we are only around 80 miles away from the apartment and down there we will have clear blue sky, up here, cloudy and overcast ? At least we had driven up in the mountains in the ‘Little Fokker’, through villages and towns and had two overnight stops in places we had not visited before, so I had finally laid my personal demons to rest, this trip had served its purpose, I had taken on those ‘Dark Forces’ and won. I know they will be back at some point to get their revenge, I will be waiting for them…………..

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 5 Comments

Taking On Those ‘Dark Forces’ !!

The night stop at Estepona combined with the return of the good weather had done more than get our ‘future’ wanderlust juices going again. We had enjoyed our short period in the van and by the time we had got back to the apartment, and parked up, we had already decided to go again. First we needed to get more clothes from the apartment and pack a few provisions just to tide us over, we wouldn’t need much as we could use local shops whilst we were touring if we needed anything over and above what was in the fridge and food cupboards. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon carting our stuff from the apartment to the van, probably a couple of runs up and down would do it, then spend the evening checking the ‘Works of Fiction’ for the next couple of days before deciding where to head for the following morning.

If the weather was much warmer down on the Coast than up in the mountains then I quite fancied following the A7 coastal road North of Malaga towards ‘Nerja’ and ‘Almeria’, however, if the forecast showed an improvement in the mountains above us then it was time for me to lay my apprehensions to rest once and for all and for me to take on my personal demons, yes ! I was seriously up for ‘Taking On Those Dark Forces‘……. I think !!!

The truth is that I was not concerned about the mountain roads themselves, we had been up and down them numerous times in the car over the last three years and I knew that the ‘Little Fokker’ had a much meatier engine than ‘Wuxly’ and would cope with the steep twisting ascents and descents effortlessly. I had driven similar roads in Portugal and Northern Spain in ‘Big Momma’, which was a much heavier vehicle and three metres longer, no, it was not the roads up to and through the mountains that preyed on my mind, it was traversing the narrow streets through the villages and towns that we would encounter that troubled me. My logical mind told me that the ‘Little Fokker’ was both shorter in length and width so if a car can weave through the narrow streets then so could we, it wasn’t even that which bothered me. If all the streets were devoid of other vehicles then I could drive through any of them with my eyes closed, metaphorically speaking that is, but they are never empty. Also, the Europeans (All Nationalities) from my personal experience tend to just park however they like, cars parked adjacent to each other on either side of the narrow roads, they often don’t park straight and leave their rear ends jutting out into the road, they stop, park two abreast in the main road whilst they jump out to go into a shop, it’s a bloody nightmare. Then there are the buildings that overhang into the road, not a problem at car height but a bit more of an issue in a taller vehicle like a Motorhome, then there are the street signs, lampposts, metal and concrete stanchions on the pavements !! I am breaking out into a cold sweat just thinking about it, the image that haunts me to this day was when ‘Snoopy’ sent me through the narrow twisting old town roads of ‘Portimao’, in Portugal, in ‘Big Momma’, that was my worst brown trouser moment ever !! Perhaps it was the fear of getting that first dent or perhaps it is just that I am getting older and less confident……. Hush your mouth Eric !!!!

The ‘Works of Fiction’ had plotted against me, by forecasting much better weather up in the mountains than it had done previously, the daytime temperatures were still 4-5 degrees(c) cooler than on the Coast, but at 16 degrees(c) it would be pleasant enough although we would need the heating on at night as the temperatures would plummet to freezing !! So, we made up our minds, we were going mountain climbing in the ‘Little Fokker’.

Monday morning arrived, we were up a little earlier than normal but we still had plenty of time to partake of our usual morning ritual on the balcony, coffee and an update on the ‘Works of Fiction’. The forecast had changed !! It was now predicting rain all day and well into the evening, not just up in the mountains but also down along the Coast. Had it not been that we had already pre-packed the ‘Little Fokker’ we may have well taken a ‘rain check’ on the trip, but we had, so that was that, we were going and we were still heading in an upwards direction, deep joy !!!!

Although Shazza had been nagging me constantly about going up to ‘Antequera‘, I managed to dissuade her because that particular town, as attractive as it looks in all the pictures we have looked at, is located North of Malaga, quite high up in the mountains, around a four-hour drive away and with the day time temperature forecast to be below 10 degrees and the night temperature below freezing, no thank you !! I do not mind cooler temperatures, after all that is what thermal underwear and snow jackets were designed for, but Shazza does not do ‘Chilly’, let alone ‘Cold’ and certainly not ‘Freezing’, so I did not need to spend too much time convincing her that she would not enjoy it, let alone describing how we would be confined in the van, unable to see anything out of the windows as we would be secreted in the mist and fog of the rain clouds at that height. I could always paint a good picture, especially a horrendous one if I really needed to and I made such a bloody good job of painting this one that even ‘Rembrandt‘ would have been in awe of me !! We had also looked at the large town of ‘Ubrique‘, notorious for its leather industry, this was located further South than Antequera and only 80 miles from us, approximately a two-hour drive and although that too was forecast for rain, the temperatures, day and night, were a few degrees warmer. However, on the down side, the ‘free’ Aire we were looking to utilise, according to the information we had researched, was closed on Tuesday’s due to it being where the weekly market was held. The last thing we wanted to have to do was to get up at the crack of sparrows on the Tuesday morning to get off before the traders arrived. So, undeterred, we went to Plan ‘B’, we would drive up to ‘El Bosque‘, a smaller town but only 10 miles from Ubrique. Another advantage of this being that it also had ‘free’ Motorhome services, Fresh Water, not that we needed any, a Waste Water disposal point, not that we needed it, and a Chemical Waste Emptying Point, now that was something we would want to utilise. Although we had not done very much extended touring, we had used tha van for several overnight stops as well as day trips and the on-board toilet had been used on quite a frequent basis and was ready for emptying. Although there was no indication of whether this was an Aire that we could stay overnight on, as some just offer Motorhomers essential services to empty and fill onboard tanks, but we decided to risk it and if all else failed we would find somewhere to park up for the night then, the following day, a leisurely breakfast and at some point in the afternoon we would make our way to Ubrique.

It was sunny when we left the apartment around 10:15am but we could see the dark clouds heading towards us, they reached us at just about the same time as we started our first ascent, but the road was a good, well maintained tarmac one and pretty wide. As expected, the road just went up and up and the twists and turns were just constant, I was up and down the gears every couple of minutes, however, all credit to the ‘Little Fokker’, it just eased us up each and every incline without breaking a sweat and with power to spare, I felt comfortable driving and confident with the van and I soon relaxed and began to enjoy the drive. The rain prevented us from enjoying what would have been spectacular views but no matter, I was too busy concentrating on the twists and turns ahead of me. It took just over one hour to reach ‘Ronda‘, a beautiful place we visited last year so we were just by-passing it this time around. However, that is where the journey started to get really interesting, first we got held up behind a very large truck laden with sand and it was crawling at only 20mph, the road we were on became very narrow and not wide enough to overtake. There were no kerbs to this road, where the tarmac ended on each side, so did the road, on one side a steep drop into a storm drain and on the other, the bottom of the mountain, eeeek !! It got really interesting when we met oncoming vehicles, fortunately, we were following the truck so everything moved over, rather precariously, nothing was going to face-off against it and so we were able to hide behind it and just follow it through. It was the same story when we passed through several small towns, complete with hair pin bends through their narrow streets, my one positive thought being that if this truck can squeeze through, then so can I, but I am certain that if I had not been following this Goliath, that the same courtesy extended to it from other vehicles would not have been extended to me !! There were a couple of occasions when we needed to turn off to take a different road but it seemed that the truck was heading in the same direction, part of me was pleased as it just extended my confidence in knowing that I would not have any problems with the roads, the irritating bit was that we were crawling along at a snail’s pace, it was going to take much longer than two hours to reach our destination. Suddenly, the truck put on its four-way indicators and then came to a halt, it had stopped in the road for no apparent reason, there had been no warning of upcoming traffic lights or road works. What also came as a big surprise, and a bit of a shock to me, was that I was aware that all Spanish vehicles have light fitments where indicator bulbs are normally housed, but I never thought they were actually connected as Spanish driver’s never seem to use them !! Perhaps this was a non-Spanish truck driver ? The truck eventually moved over and allowed us enough space to pass, we looked up and saw a quite young male driver, almost teenager looking. Now either he had stolen the truck for its contents or he was a new and inexperienced driver and his workmates were playing a joke on him by sending him out on his first solo trip along this precarious route, the look on his face was certainly one that said “The Bastards !!

Eventually we reached our destination and it was ‘Snoopy’ who decided to have a laugh, in a strange town we had no option but to follow her guidance and she decided to take us off the main road that encircled the town, down a street passing several Bar/Cafes that just so happened to be frequented with locals. I should have known by the bemused look on their faces that we should not have been heading in the direction we were going, not that it was a one way street, more that at the end of it was a very narrow bridge over a river. I stopped and weighed up the situation, it was a tarmac road over the bridge so should take our 3.5tonne weight and, if I pulled in the ‘Little Fokkers’ sticky out ears, we should just about squeeze through, for obvious reasons I didn’t want to use the phrase ‘scrape through‘ !! We got through without incident, other than a sudden strange smell of rotten eggs, which I recognised from previous similar situations as being the smell of fear, sorry Shazza !! Snoopy’s fun nearly didn’t end there though, ‘Take the next turning on the Left‘ she commanded, I looked at the screen and yes I could see the chequered flag that indicated our final destination, but when I looked down the narrow cobbled road with rows of houses on either side I thought better of it and ignored her and drove to the next road on the left. It was a normal street, two-way traffic, with the large circular ‘Plaza del Torres’ building on one side of the road and a lay-by with several parking bays adjacent to it, funny old thing, at the end of this lay-by there was a Motorhome service point, bloody Sat Navs, I thought to myself !!

It was still raining pretty hard so we parked up, there were no signs indicating that we could not park there or that we could not stay overnight so we got the van into ‘Home mode’, Shazza put the kettle on and made us a sandwich for lunch, I was certainly ready for it and the hot freshly brewed coffee. As we were eating our lunch I saw another Motorhome pull up at the opposite end of the parking bays, I always feel a bit more reassured when I see another Motorhome parking up. Then a little later another Motorhome drives down the road, it was French registered, it slowed as it passed but it didn’t stop, however a few minutes later it came down the road again, this time it pulled up behind us, Oh well, at least we now had some other company.

Now you know that I do not have a very healthy regard or respect for the ‘Works of Fiction’, I make no secret of it, and for very good reason, they are so consistently wrong !! So okay, they did say that it was going to rain, and it did, for the whole of our drive up here, but it also forecast that this rain would last ‘all day’ and into the evening. It was 2pm, we had eaten our lunch and we were sitting looking out of the windows at our surroundings, the large bull ring to one side, a number of nicely maintained modern town houses to the other side and some in front, with the surrounding mountains as a wonderful backdrop, and the reason we could see all of this was because the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the clouds were a lovely fluffy white. Thank you ‘Works of Fiction’ for getting it wrong yet again, but at least you got it wrong in our favour this time !

So, with this unexpected turn of good fortune, we decided to go and have a look around and explore this mountain town, although to be honest, by UK standards at least, this was more the size of a large village rather than a town. As we walked past the French registered van the driver’s side window opened, the elderly gentleman asked, in French, if we were from the Auto-Camper, he pointed towards our van as he spoke. We confirmed that we were and he asked, by gesticulation with his hands against his head, whether we were sleeping here, again we confirmed that we were. He was trying to either ask, or tell us, something else, but our French did not extend to such deep meaningful conversations and he did not attempt any other gesticulations so we decided there and then that he would probably not be someone we would want on our team if we were playing ‘Charades’. We smiled and waved farewell, he and his wife smiled and waved back, I am of course only making an educated guess that this lady was his wife ? We passed the other van and observed that it was Spanish registered, all the blinds were closed so they were either having their afternoon Siesta or, like us, had gone for a wander.

We had seen a few people at the Bar/Cafe’s as we drove in, but it was Siesta and the place felt very empty, almost ghostly quiet and this made it feel a bit eerie. We walked back across the small bridge, the one that we had driven across, and back up to the main road. I had looked on the street view of ‘Google Maps’ and so knew that the main shops were on the other side, what Google Maps couldn’t show was that all of the streets were on an incline, well it was a mountain town after all.

The water wheel which, unfortunately, was not in motion during the period we were there. Behind it is the underpass, the main road above it is the one we should have taken instead of the one with the narrow bridge !!

The Narrow Bridge that ‘Snoopy’ directed us over, loads of room if you don’t have sticky out ears on your vehicle !!

It was a typical old style town, there was a very nice ornate Town Hall building but there was no main street, it was more maze like with cobbled roads, houses up most of them but between the rows of houses there would be individual retailers, Cafe’s or hairdressers or electrical and hardware stores or butchers etc. I am sure you get the picture.

A rather nice looking Town Hall

Another thing that we noticed as we wandered up and down the hilly cobbled, or paved, roads was the fruit tree’s. in a lot of the villages and towns, the tree’s that line the streets are predominately Orange tree’s but here they were primarily Lemon tree’s. I guess in the days of old detectives, Watson may have turned to Sherlock and asked the question, “What is this“, to which Sherlock would have responded, “It’s a Lemon Tree my dear Watson“. (Think about it as I don’t want to have to explain it !! It’s like a joke but just not funny !!)

Very nearly tempted to pick a few to add to our G&T’s later or perhaps for some of Shazza’s home-made lemon drizzle cake !!

We had explored the ‘main’ part of the town, it was pretty enough, especially with the mountains encircling it, but whether it was just because it was Siesta I don’t know, but it was rather boring and other than the little square with the water wheel, there were no quaint little Plaza’s to admire or sit in. Had it not been that we could not get onto the ‘Aire’ in Ubrique, we would have returned to the van and driven on. Instead, we decided to stroll back towards the ‘Bull Ring’ and to the van. We got to the Motorhome Service Point first and took a look to see what services were available. The area was clean enough, there was a drain in the ground to empty the grey water if required, the Chemical Waste Emptying Point was useable, but there was no water tap to rinse the cassette and the water tap at the Fresh Water filling point had been removed so you could not have got any fresh water if you had needed it, probably because they had turned the water off during the Winter months, quite understandable at these altitudes. Fortunately for us, we only needed to empty our Chemical Cassette holding tank so I would do that later. We noticed that the Spanish registered van had gone but the French van was still there, they had their roof mounted satellite dish in the ‘up’ position and were sat watching the TV. We walked around the outside of the ‘Bull Ring’, there was no entrance giving access inside but we did see a poster advertising a forthcoming event the following weekend. Shazza and I have never seen a traditional Spanish ‘Bull Fight’, it would have been an experience, however, we probably would not have been able to park here as it would have been full of spectators cars and their were no signs giving allocated Motorhome parking, we had not, on our walk around, seen any other public car parking areas which gave us the impression that this, even with the provision of a Motorhome Service Point, was not a typical tourist destination. We returned to the van, put on the kettle and whiled away the rest of the afternoon on our iPads. When I looked out of the window again some time later, I noticed that the French van had also left, we hadn’t heard it leave, did they know something we didn’t ?

Superb mountain views right outside the van window !!

Shazza had brought provisions with us and we had fully intended to eat in, however, we decided to go for an early evening walk before settling down in the van for the night. It was still pleasantly warm but with the sun getting lower in the sky we could feel the onset of a chill in the air. We had just walked around the corner and into the square with the Water Wheel, one of the three Cafe/Bars was quite lively with chatter so we made our way towards it. Outside the main building was a wooden roofed extension with the sides and frontage protected with the usual thick PVC awning type affairs with large opaque windows. We entered and immediately felt the heat emanating from one of those large patio type gas heaters. There were plastic tables and chairs with what looked like plastic menu cards on each table, we took a seat and almost immediately a middle-aged woman came out and asked us what we would like to drink, we placed our order. Looking around we observed a young couple sat talking and smiling at each other, both drinking small glasses of beer, rightly or wrongly we both surmised and agreed that they were out on a date. Sat opposite us, initially on his own and drinking a coffee whilst reading his Newspaper, was a middle-aged man, neither he, or the young couple paid us any attention as we walked in and sat down. Next to our table there were three adults, two men and a woman, they were talking amongst themselves, we guessed they were probably aged in their late thirties, in a pushchair beside them was a young female child, about three or four years old. We didn’t feel out-of-place, they didn’t give us the ‘strangers glare’ it felt friendly and comfortable. This was an all Spanish-speaking place, the lady who had served us only spoke in Spanish to us, the Menu items were all in Spanish, no other language interpretations on them, this was nice. By the time she had brought the drinks to our table we had decided to stay and eat there, it was nothing fancy but they had my favourite basic Spanish meal on the menu, ‘Iberico Secreto y Patatas Frites‘, basically a Pork Fillet with Chips, Shazza elected to have the same. Whilst we were waiting for our meals to arrive more people entered, the man who had been sat alone reading his Newspaper was now joined by a much older looking gentleman, he was well dressed, casual but smart and he was carrying one of those tan leather document bags, like a soft briefcase without a handle, which he placed on the seat next to where he sat down. The lady owner/waitress came out again and they ordered two coffee’s then engaged in conversation, It didn’t sound like a business conversation, more like two friends meeting up for a coffee. Then a female entered and went straight across to the table with the three adults and the child in the pushchair. She made a fuss of the child who immediately sat up then climbed up and out of the pushchair, she was chatting away with the woman, we were not sure if this was the Child’s mother but after a bit of mithering from the child and pointing across to a circular vending machine, the woman took the child across, placed a coin in the machine and then gave the discharged small can of sweets to the child.

Our meals arrived, the food was hot and I have to say that the Iberico tasted fantastic. It is just a thin piece of Pork but it comes from the ‘Black Pigs’ that are kept free range and left to scavenge in the forest to eat from natures larder, including acorns which purportedly give the meat its distinct flavour. Even Shazza stated that it was the best Iberico Secreto that she had tasted, which, from her, is praise indeed, this is not Ala-Cartê dining, this is simple basic food, the best kind. As we were enjoying our meals the two gentleman departed, and as is often the case, they gave a general farewell to everyone as they left. Another couple, more around our age group I would guess, arrived and went straight inside and sat at a table that had a tablecloth on it. I don’t know whether there was a different menu, probably not, but it looked more formal and intimate inside. Then an elderly chap arrived, he looked a right character, dressed in dark olive-green casual trousers with a thick green woollen jumper over a collared shirt and wearing what looked like a Robin Hood style hat, again dark green and with a small green feather on the side. His longish grey curlyish hair protruding down the back and sides of his head. He had a weather worn face, someone who spent his working life outdoors I imagined, he had kind smiling eyes and he wore a big happy grin on his face. He said ‘Buenos Tardes‘ to everyone, looking around the room as he did so, even looking across at us and giving a nod of his head in our direction, I took an instant liking to this chap. He sat at a table on his own but facing inwards so that he could look at everyone else, he ordered a beer and sat silently drinking it but alert and listening in to everyone’s conversations. The lady owner/waitress came back out after we had finished our meal and tapped Shazza on her shoulder, when she turned around the lady said ,’Tarte‘, which I know could, if you didn’t know Spanish, sound quite rude and offensive, fortunately Shazza understood that she was asking whether she wanted a dessert. No words were spoken between them, it was female communications, eyes lit up and both wore big grins on their faces which answered the question. Now had that have been a question put to a male customer by a waiter, there would have been two potential positive responses, the formal one, “Yes Please”, or the informal one, “Do bears shit in the woods”. The lady gestured with her hand for Shazza to go inside and make her selection, I rarely do desserts so declined on this occasion, a few minutes later she delivered a plentiful helping of a three chocolate and caramel cheesecake sort of affair with two large dollops of squirty cream, Shazza demolished it in record time and I knew she had enjoyed it as she didn’t offer to let me have a taste !! We finished with a ‘Cafe con Leché’ and drank it slowly as we were enjoying the whole ambience of this small and very friendly Cafe/Bar.

On our way back to the van we noticed that our French neighbours had returned, they were again sat watching the TV and I don’t think that they noticed us walk by. Although night had fallen, the street was well-lit, it was quiet and although we could feel the temperature dropping it was more of a chill than actually feeling cold. We snuggled down in the van, Shazza catching up on her Spanish Lessons whilst I checked Emails, News and Local Weather on my iPad, tomorrow we would drive the short distance to Ubrique…………………

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | Leave a comment

Something Fishy Going On ?

I do not think that it would be an exaggeration to say that it has been unseasonably cold here over the last week. I know it is Winter here too, but that generally means that the daytime temperatures should normally vary between 15-24 degrees(c) and the night temperatures between 11-14 degrees(c), which is perfectly acceptable in my opinion. However, during this last week and since ‘the storm’, whilst the daytime temperatures have been what we have come to expect here, nice and warm and sunny, with the occasional overcast and grey one’s, but the night temperatures have not been very nice, they have fallen to 3-5 degrees(c), meaning quite simply, that it has been pretty bloody cold to the extent where we have had to put the heating on from as early as 6pm, scandalous or what ? I was just getting ready to put pen paper to write a complaint to the UK Government about stopping the payment of the ‘Winter Fuel Allowance’ to British Expats in Spain when two things prevented me from doing so. First, I realised that I was not yet of the age whereby I was able to claim receipt of the ‘UK State Pension’ and therefore, not being a ‘State Pensioner’ was not entitled to payment of the ‘Winter Fuel Allowance’ anyway !! But, the second reason for not going ahead with my letter of complaint was that the weather changed, well the temperatures at night at least, these were now back on the rise, so it didn’t matter. The Prime Minister just does not realise how close she came to feeling my wrath, for now though she can sit back and relax again and focus on her other minor day-to-day business matters.

It was good to see the sunshine back with the temperatures during the day averaging a very pleasant 21 degrees(c), the sun setting later each evening made the days feel longer and with the slightly warmer evenings, Shazza and I were able to spend much longer sat in our chairs on the balcony and not huddled up on the sofa in front of the TV with the halogen heater eating up the electricity.

It wasn’t just the unseasonably cold weather that has impacted on us conducting our wider ‘Adventures’ this year, although to be honest, it had been the primary reason. Coming out to Spain, five weeks later than usual this year, had also been a factor as had bringing the ‘Little Fokker’ instead of ‘Wuxly’. After downsizing on our Motorhome we needed to ensure that we had made the right decision, the first and most important one being, to make sure that it would fit into the parking space within our secure complex, it is one thing believing that it would, but there is no substitute for actually trying it to confirm it, and, thank goodness, it did and a bit too late if it hadn’t !! We also needed to convince ourselves that we could still use the van for the same sort of things that we used the car for, the everyday stuff like shopping, driving down to our regular car parking space in the fishing village, collecting and returning our visitor’s to the Airport (Malaga and Gibraltar) and of course day’s out sightseeing. As I have previously mentioned, the parking at Malaga Airport provided us with a bit of a glitch, although no problems if our visitor’s were to fly in and out of Gibraltar, but we have a solution (or perhaps two solutions) to the Malaga issue !! The sightseeing trips is another area still under scrutiny, the main Coastal roads, the towns and villages, are not a problem but I have been somewhat reluctant to venture too far up into the mountains as of yet. The colder weather has come to my rescue, why go up into the mountains where it is very much colder than it is down at sea level, we come over here each year for Winter ‘Sun’, to be warm, not to freeze in a Motorhome in the mountains !! So okay, I know what you are thinking, it may also have a little to do with narrow twisty roads, through narrow twisty mountain towns and villages in a shiny new, un-dented, un-scratched, new van and, I am willing to concede, that these thoughts may, but only may, have subconsciously entered my head on the few many occasions when my beloved has suggested going out on day trips above a certain altitude, which, to me, means any height above sea level !! However, that may all be about to change, but more about that later………..

There was ‘Something Fishy Going On ?’. We have, during this current Winter period, already spent the odd night or two at the Marina in Estepona in the ‘Little Fokker’, and very enjoyable they were too. But one morning very recently, whilst we were having our usual start of the day coffee on the balcony, she says, “How do fancy having another night out in the van ?”, quite an innocent sort of question you may think, but not if you know my Shazza, she has a plan, a plan that she may, or may not, choose to enlighten me about before she actually implements it. I know that no matter what, I will have no real say in the final decision and so I am already resigned to the fact that whether I fancy a night out in the van or not, we ‘will’ be spending a night in the van, somewhere ! But I still play along, “That would be nice, anywhere in particular in mind ?” I enquire. “Well, it is going to be a nice weekend, forecast to be around 21 degrees and sunny” she says, “That sounds nice” I say, “We don’t need much, it would only be for a night” she comments. I am still no wiser as to where she is taking me to, perhaps, I think to myself, she fancies a day on the beach somewhere, a paddle in the sea, a spot of sunbathing and maybe that evening beach BBQ we never got around to having down at ‘Motorhome Cove’, now that sounds relaxing and very tempting, I was already there in my mind, reclined in my sun chair, headphones on, listening to some of my favourite music whilst she reads a book, a glass of something cold in our hands, oh yes ! “Estepona” she declares, “We don’t have to go until Saturday morning, stay overnight, go out in the evening for a meal, a nice lay in on Sunday morning then a stroll around the Market on the marina, spot of lunch then we could come back and have a lazy afternoon back at the apartment, what do you think ?”. It isn’t a question, we are going to Estepona no matter what and doing all of the above, the real, as yet, unanswered question, is Why ? I know that it should be simple, but it isn’t and as I already know, ‘Resistance is futile’. It didn’t take her long, she was dying to tell me, all I had to do was wait. “On Saturday, in Estepona, they are having their annual sardine festival” she says, I made no response, I knew she hadn’t finished, “It starts at lunch time with stuff going on in one if the parks, people in fancy dress, food stalls etc. then, at around 5pm, they have a procession down to the beach with a big decorated ‘Sardine’ which they then burn on the beach, what do you think ?” I looked at the wide beam spread across her face, “Let’s do it, sounds like fun” I said.

We parked up in a good position in the sunshine with a nice view across the sea, looking out towards Gibraltar and beyond !!

I enjoy looking at the different ‘home conversions’ on some of the nightstop locations that we share

Once the ‘Little Fokker’ had been changed from ‘Travel Mode’ to ‘Home Mode’, a five-minute task, we set out in search of the Sardine. The main events of the day were all being held in a park on the West side of the town so, after consulting the street view on ‘Google Map’ we headed in the general direction. Normally, we would just walk from the marina, along the seafront promenade into the town, however, as we had not really explored the suburbs and back streets we took a detour from our normal route and what a pleasant surprise we had, lovely little roads lined with quaint townhouses, the walls of the streets, the little secreted plazas, as well as the houses, all decorated with flowers or tiles.

Just one of my many favourite views in Estepona, it shows just how close we are to the Andalusian Mountain Ranges, a short 30 minute drive and you can be up in any number of the whitewashed towns looking down onto the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean Sea with views like the one below………

Just watching other’s enjoying an almost flat calm out on their boats

As pretty as a picture !

Estepona is full of little brightly decorated streets like this, set amongst the more modern but not as nice looking buildings.

Not quite sure what this is meant to depict, ‘Clearing one’s Mind’ perhaps ?

Little Plaza’s like this can be found in most Spanish Towns and Villages, some with elaborate decorative features to enjoy……..

Other’s are more floral. Note the public water tap, completely safe to drink from and very refreshing on hot days !!

On many of the Apartment buildings around the town, murals have been painted on the walls, it certainly made a pleasant visual change from the standard plain white. There is a tourist trail so you can follow the ‘Mural Route’ but we just sort of found a few, not that difficult to miss them really !!

We found our way to the Park but it did not live up to our expectations, I thought that there would be lots of stalls to do with the subject on ‘Sardines’, cannot think why ? Different food stalls so that we, and other’s of course, could sample the wide variety of plentiful local and fresh produce but no ! Hamburgers, Patata Frites (Chips), Crisps, Sweets, Beer and canned non-alcoholic drinks but not one Sardine Kebab, Pickled Sardine, Smoked Sardine or Sardine of any description !! As for stalls…… you could count them on three fingers !! Entertainment ? A stage, with two adult type people dressed up like clowns and walking up and down the stage shouting into a microphone, trying to encourage a pretty sparse audience of children, with their Mum’s and Dad’s, to do something ? We could not decipher what, apart from the occasional bit of hands above heads and clapping. We had a quick look around, under tables, under chairs, but couldn’t see or smell a single sardine, when I started to get bored and decided to have a bit of a hip wiggle to the music and started to clap my hands, Shazza decided it was time to go, probably a wise decision as god only knows what I would have ended up doing after a bag of crisps and a can of lemonade !!

We found a nice little pavement Cafe/Bar and sat, enjoying a more adult type non-alcoholic drink, a ‘Cafe con Leché‘ whilst people watching, as one does, it would have been rude not to. It was a little more entertaining on this occasion though, as we saw everything from Pirates, Smurfs and Various Animals walk by, and that was just the parents !! Suitably refreshed, we continued our stroll in and out of the Estepona streets and why not, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we had nothing much else to do……………………..

Estepona is not exactly a sprawling town, but a very nice one nonetheless, but it didn’t take long for us to find our way back to the main centre and funny old thing, to one of our favourite Plaza’s and Cafe/Bars so we decided to partake in a spot of lunch. As Shazza had decided that she fancied eating out later in the evening we settled for a light lunch of Cheese & Ham toasted sandwiches, which came with a side portion of crisps and washed down with a cold ‘Tinto Verano’, very civilised. At this point, as several of my readers are friends from ‘across the pond’, I should explain some terminologies that I use, as although technically we both speak English, there is occasionally a difference in the meaning of certain words, for example, we call our thinly sliced potato snacks, which generally come in packets, ‘Crisps’, whereas they refer to such snacks as ‘Chips’, whereby, ‘Chips’ to us Brits are ‘Fries’ to them, glad we got that cleared up !! We tried really hard to make our lunch extend as long as possible but failed miserably, I did suggest that we move on from ‘Tinto Verano’s’ to ‘Gin & Tonics’, however, Shazza was afraid that with several hours until the grand ‘Sardine Procession’, we may not have had the discipline to restrict ourselves to just the odd one or two, which would very likely have involved us missing the grand procession altogether and, more importantly, not being in much of a state to enter a Restaurant for Dinner later that evening, reluctantly, I had to concede that she was probably correct in her assumption. But what were we going to do for another 2-3 hours ? We made the decision to walk the short distance, thirty-minutes at a gentle stroll, back to the van, have a coffee and a power nap then return to the beach location in time for the burning of the Sardine.

We were sat in the van, enjoying our individual periods of personal contemplation, which as you know by now, such contemplations are best done with one’s eyes closed, when we were disturbed by a buzzing sound, more associated with the noise a bee makes in flight, only this was a much louder buzz. My initial, totally irrational thought, was that this was one really overweight bee, I had never seen an ‘Obese’ bee before so I went outside to investigate only to discover that we were in no danger, the noise, high up in the sky above us was from, not one, but two-winged objects, para-gliders !!

It was 4:30pm, the sun was still shining, the sky was still a lovely shade of blue and the temperature was still sitting at 21 degrees(c). The ‘Sardine procession’ was scheduled to depart the Park at 5pm and get to the beach at around 5:30pm so we locked the van and strolled back into town and secured a position, on the promenade, to get a good view of both the arriving Sardine with its entourage of drum bashers, guitar players and people dressed in their fancy dress costumes. Well the allotted time of arrival came and went, the small crowd that had amassed in the promenade, in eager anticipation, checked watches but there was no sign of the Sardine and more importantly, we could not hear any musical procession sounds to give us prior notice of their impending arrival. 6pm, nothing, 6:15pm nothing and when it got to 6:30pm we, Shazza and I, started to discuss the merits of hanging around much longer. But you know what it is like, we came here to specifically see this Event, we had been seriously underwhelmed by the earlier ‘activities’ so the only consolation was to watch the thing get burnt, but just how long do you wait ? However, ‘sods law’ would be that if we gave up our prime observation post and walked away, then the damn thing would arrive and we wouldn’t have a very good view, so we elected to stand and wait. The sun was sinking in the sky, well to be honest, it had already disappeared behind the high-rise apartment blocks, the wind, blowing in from the sea, had picked up and it was turning chilly but just as we were beginning to feel like a pair of ‘Pilchards’ ourselves, we heard it, it wasn’t exactly very musical by marching bands standards, but it was definitely a thrashing of drums and sure enough, we saw a ‘throng’ of people, a ‘throng’ is a term used to express the lack of bodies in the procession than we were anticipating !! Perhaps this small ‘throng’ had been delayed departing as they were waiting for the arrival of the ‘rent a crowd‘ coaches, which, unfortunately had taken a wrong turn somewhere in Malaga !!

This brightly decorated ‘Sardine’ does not look too happy !! I guess it already knows its fate  or perhaps, like us, disappointed at the turnout !!

It was ceremoniously escorted down to the beach !! The chap in the blue suit and red hat had obviously just finished ‘Smurfing’ !!

Then it was burnt !! The little girl in the picture looked a bit sad, perhaps she had been expecting to get a more realistic taste of smoked sardine ?

Well, it had been a day out, a warm and sunny one and although we certainly would not be rushing back again next year to see this ‘Sardine Festival’, we had enjoyed our Cheese & Ham Toasted sandwiches and ‘Tinto Veranos’ at lunch time and now we could stroll back to the Marina and enjoy a meal in one of the numerous restaurants. Shazza had fancied going for a ‘Chinese’ meal, we had not had one of those since being here this year, our favourite Chinese restaurant is actually in our marina at ‘Puerta Duquesa’, but you can’t usually go wrong with Chinese and we knew that there was three to choose from in the Estepona marina, which, fortunately, was only a five-minute stroll to where we had parked the van.

Sunday 11th February and we woke up to more beautiful sunshine, it appears that the cold snap is now over and we are back to the warm ‘Winter Sun’ that we are more accustomed to over here. There is something so nice about opening all the blinds in the van and the habitation door and letting the sunshine flood in whilst enjoying the first cup of coffee of the day. We always feel comfortable in the van and these short overnighters remind us of the days we spent ‘on the road’, albeit in the old van, it is hard to explain the feeling but it was just the sense of freedom I suppose, the peacefulness, no rush to do anything, it was as if the world just slows right down. It is moments like this that make us miss actually being in the van on an extended trip and our conversation was dominated by reminiscing about some of the other places we had woken up in on our former road trips. We love the apartment and that side of our lifestyle during the Winter but we also miss the van life and the travelling and again our conversations turned to listing the Countries that we still intend to visit when we finish working, such trips are getting closer.

We had visited the Estepona Sunday market on the marina many times and to be honest, the first time it was a pleasant experience, it is nice to just browse amongst the traders stalls, but this is a ‘Tourist’ market, lots of the usual ‘tat‘, clothes, paintings, hats, leather goods, CD’s, Jewellery etc. aimed at parting the holiday makers with their money. Unlike the local weekly community markets held in many towns and villages all over Europe, the ones that are predominantly filled with produce stalls and are there primarily to cater for the local population, but it was a lovely warm morning, the numerous Cafe/Bars were open and were already buzzing with sounds of chatter as people enjoyed hot coffee and croissants. We completed one full circuit but soon got bored, perhaps it was the familiarity with this place or perhaps we just wanted to get back to the van and enjoy being in the company of our fellow travellers, for although we knew we were only ‘playing at it’ for the time being and would be returning to the apartment, our fellow motorhomers didn’t know that. There were quite a number of vans parked up, around fifteen, a combination of British, French, German, Dutch and Swedish registered vans, we had passed the usual pleasantries with our immediate neighbours, as you do, which is another thing we missed, the friendliness and camaraderie of the nomadic community.

We started to prepare the van for our short drive home, one of the downsides of our current living arrangements is that most of our possessions are in the apartment. When we live in the van for extended periods, either when we were ‘on the road’ or when we get back to the UK and live in our van whilst working on the campsite, all our ‘stuff’ is in the van, clothes, pots and pans, cutlery and crockery, personal belongings like cameras, iPads, iPods etc. Everything has its place and we know where to lay our hands on whatever it is that we need. However, now, for short trips such as these, we need to bring what we need for our trip, down from the apartment and put it in the van and then cart it all back up to the apartment when we get back, a bit of a chore really.

We joked as we drove the short twenty-minute journey back to our apartment, “Where to now” I said to Shazza, “Should we head East to the Algarve or North to Granada ?” She looked across at me and with a sad look on her face she said, “Don’t“. Being back in the van, even for such a short overnight stop, it made us both yearn to be travelling again and, as we have done on more occasions than I care to remember, we talked about the main reason for our reluctance to just drop everything and go and do it, that reason was bloody ‘Brexit’ and the uncertainty about what impact that may, or may not, have on our future freedom to wander around Europe, without any travel restrictions, so, we ended that conversation the same way as we usually do and that was by agreeing to wait it out, hopefully that wouldn’t be too long now. Although both Shazza and I had voted in the Referendum to ‘Remain’ within the EU, the overall decision, by the UK public, had been to leave. That is what democracy is all about, we kept saying under clenched teeth, now, all we wanted was for the respective politicians to just get on with it so that we can organise our lives accordingly. Travel Restrictions, if there are any implemented, and we don’t know with any certainty whether there will be any, although personally I believe we will be treated the same as any other temporary visitor to the EU from another non-EU Country, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter, it will not stop us from travelling or visiting the Countries we want to see, it will just mean sorting out the logistics of such travel periods, so we need to be patient for just a little longer. Our Work/Life balance is pretty good right now, we only work for six months, we have our ‘Bolt Hole’ in Spain and we also have our Motorhome so, at this time we are in a position whereby we still have several options available to us, so there is no need to make any hasty decisions on our future plans, not just yet anyway.

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 5 Comments

Not All Sun, Azure Seas And Tinto Veranos !!

It is not uncommon to find me, either reading fellow travellers ‘blogs’, or indeed watching the more up to date modern and hi-tech versions called ‘Vlogs’ with their ‘drone’ footage, and before you shout at me and tell me that these things have actually been around for ages, to ‘me’ they are modern and hi-tech, which is why I may now officially be considered as a bit of a dinosaur still stuck in the ‘Blog’ age. First they did away with the chalk and slate to write on and replaced them with paper notebooks and pencils, then they eradicated all of that and replaced it, yet again with things they just referred to as ‘IT’, like a nameless child !! Now, having sort of found my way around ‘IT’, ‘sort of’ being the appropriate description in my case, and having learnt how to use ‘IT’ to write these ramblings, they then go and introduce something else to further confuse my non-technological mind !! Whatever happened to the principle of ‘If it isn’t broken don’t try to fix it‘ ?

I guess that I will just have to try to get this new ‘Robot’ that I have just purchased, without stepping a foot out of my front door would you believe, to write my blogs for me, that is when I have learnt how to stop ‘IT’ from whizzing around the floor hoovering. This on-line shopping business though, well it certainly saves me time from having to go out into the ‘real world’ forcing me into having to actually speak, interact and even socialise with real people !! Although, a Robot surely couldn’t really write my rambles as well as me…………. could it ? Wonderful thing this technology stuff is though, ‘Robots’ and all sorts of other smart ‘IT’ at your fingertips. I think that perhaps every home should be made to have some and I wouldn’t mind betting that, at some point in the future you understand, that they will eventually take control of all sorts of things that humans currently do, just imagine if they were clever enough to take on jobs in some, if not all, of our Industries and wouldn’t it be great if they could turn your central heating up before you get home from work on a cold night, or perhaps even learn how to drive vehicles, then humans wouldn’t have to do anything at all, ever again, we could all retire early and have the life of Riley. Who knows, one day they may even invent a pilotless combat aircraft that could drop bombs and fire missiles on unsuspecting targets thousand of feet below and miles away, who knows, one day this ‘IT’ stuff may even take over the World ? Sorry, I must have been watching too many episodes of ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Robot Wars’, I am actually supposed to be writing factual and entertaining stuff about the here and now and not Science Fiction !! So, please just remind me, where was I again ?……………

I was not intending to write another blog post quite so soon, nothing much out of the ordinary was on the agenda, no Shazza expeditions on the horizon, none that I was aware of at least, and so I was able to put my feet up and catch up on reading some other travel blogs and watch those other one’s, the one’s with the helicopter drone things with on-board cameras that you operate with a mobile phone, yes the ‘Vlogs’ !! My computer ‘pinged’ at me, it’s a nasty habit I know, but what can a dinosaur do about preventing such irritating noises, I feel sure there will be a ‘on/off’ button somewhere in the settings menu but even this has so many choices you need a menu button to guide you around the menu choices ? Anyway, the ping had alerted me to the latest publication of a blog post from ‘Steve and Deb’ ( which they had entitled ‘Holiday Music Themes‘. Now, and quite coincidentally, whilst I was perusing it, yes, Shazza has successfully taught me how to multi-task so that I can do two things at once, read and listen, so there I was, listening to a playlist of my own ‘Golden Oldies mixed selection’ the song playing was called ‘What a difference a day makes‘, which I thought would make a good title for a blog post, had I not already have used it ? But then that Eureka lightbulb moment, I had recently just published a post with lots of photographs showing the tremendous weather and views that we have tended to enjoy on almost all of our daily walks, you know, the one’s with the views that I could never tire of ? But I realised that actually, those pictures did not truly convey the full picture of what a Winter in Southern Spain can be like down here, although the majority of our Winter break here is spent in delicious sunshine, the weather can, and often does, become ‘changeable’ at a moments notice, it is ‘Not All Sun, Azure Seas and Tinto Veranos‘, just occasionally you wake up, look outside and cannot help but think, my goodness, it had been such a fantastic day yesterday but ‘What a difference a day makes

The day after our sun-drenched walk you may recall me mentioning that the ‘Works of Fiction’ had miraculously actually got a forecast right, well I guess the odds of getting at least one prediction right in every hundred or so is pretty favourable !! They had forecast a ‘Coastal Event’, no not donkey rides, kite flying, sand racing or candy floss on the beach, not that kind of event, more like strong winds up to 45mph, blowing from the East, off the sea, creating waves up to four metres high and bringing with it lots of rain, so we decided to stay at home and watch the drama unfold from our warm and protected vantage point on the balcony of our apartment. Now I have to be totally truthful at this point and tell you that, as far as large breakers go, I have seen much bigger and far more impressive big waves and gigantic ‘breakers’ in Portugal on the Atlantic West Coast, but for here, the generally much more calmer Mediterranean waters, I have to say that it did put on quite an entertaining spectacle for the whole afternoon and evening. The first sign of its arrival was the increasing wind speed, the palm trees outside always make a bit of a noise in the wind as the heavy palm leaves sway about, but this was definitely no sway Hos’e, but a good ‘thrashing’ in the first degree, a bit like watching frenzied teenagers on Ecstasy at an all night rave, jumping up and down, arms flaying in all directions to the beat of loud thumping music. Not that I have personally partaken in such events you understand, but I have seen examples of it on numerous American dramas on the television and there was a very close resemblance between them and the Palm Trees outside my french windows. Then I noticed the clouds, thin wispy one’s, at a low altitude racing across the sky, whilst above them, the thicker, heavier, darker and more threatening looking clouds just slowly lumbering across. As I looked out at the sea, it looked black and perilous, normally I would only be able to distinguish between either a calm blue sea, as still as a mill-pond, or, on a bad day, a slightly grayer, choppier sea, but now, looking out from my windows, I could see the large waves rolling in from afar and before they even reached the shoreline they were rising, as the waves peaked and curled downwards, the gigantic white horses appeared and white foam gushed from their noses like hot steam, row after row they continued to follow each other as if they were an invading army. I sat in the comfort of my chair watching this for hours, until it got dark and then all that was left were the calamitous noises of the wind, palm trees, rain on the shutters and the waves rumbling in and crashing on the shoreline, it went on right through the night. We rolled down the protective heavy metal shutters over the windows and inner patio doors, turned on our Halogen heater and curled up on the settee, drinking our hot, freshly brewed, mugs of coffee and settled down to watch more episodes of ‘Homeland’. Later, lying snug and warm in bed under our duvet, we listened to the riotous sounds outside until sleep eventually overtook us.

Monday morning arrived and although the rain had stopped, the strong Easterly wind was still raging, the Palm trees were still thrashing their heavy branches in every direction and the tall waves continued to charge in relentlessly, but the thick cloud laden sky appeared a little brighter. We had, prior to the weekend, decided to utilise part of our day by taking our usual drive down into ‘Castillon’, park up and walk into town, we had a couple of things to do, visit our local bank and then go to the furniture store to check up on the status of progress of the wooden unit, the one to house my mini-stereo and more of Shazza’s crystal glassware, which we had ordered when we first arrived here in December. They hand-made all their furniture to order and we had selected the same wood to match the rest of the furniture we had purchased when we completely refurnished the apartment in 2015. Then, we would return to the ‘Little Fokker’ and drive to the Supermarket just out-of-town to do our normal weekly shop, at least it was better than staying indoors and getting cabin fever.

Having witnessed, last year, the catastrophic floods that devastated the villages and towns all along this coastline, including our own, I knew that the large sea’s often breach the harbour walls so I was unsure about taking the van right down into the village itself. Although we had not experienced the same levels of rainfall this year that were instrumental in those floods, the height of the sea and strength of the winds looked pretty fearsome. As I drove down the hill looking at the still mountainous sea, it made my mind up for me, we would park outside of the village, away from the beach and on a bit of a gradient.

The ‘Little Fokker’ should stay out of mischief parked here. Looks a nice bright sky ?

It is only a minute’s walk, from where we had parked, to the seafront, but what a different picture we were faced with after the one we had experienced on our walk just two days earlier ………………

I was glad that I had made the decision to park where I did, sometimes you just have to go with your gut instinct !! What these photographs do not adequately reflect is the strength of the wind, it was blowing so hard that it was extremely difficult to walk in a straight line, and we hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol !! We could feel the sting, as the minute granules of sand were hurled into the exposed skin on our hands and faces, although it was amazingly warm we zipped our fleeces up, right to our necks to protect against the wind that was battering our bodies and with the roar of the sea, combined with the noise of the wind, we could hardly hear ourselves speak and we were walking, well more like staggering, side by side !! Our only respite from the onslaught was when we managed to get shelter from behind buildings, although this respite would be brief as their would be nothing between the sea, beach and us until we reached the Marina. At one point, when we did manage to speak without shouting at each other, my beloved said, “It’s quite exhilarating isn’t it ?”, my response to her is unprintable !!

I was glad that I had brought my pocket camera with me, I had anticipated being able to get some decent photographs of the stormy conditions and I was not disappointed.

Do you remember the Nursery Rhyme from your childhood, ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat On The Wall, Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall..

Well, and honest I have not been drinking, look at the photo above, centrally in the picture, at the end of the harbour wall being battered by the waves, can you see Humpty Dumpty as he slips into the water ?

Hard to believe, looking at some of the above photographs, that they were all taken in ‘colour’ !! Unsurprisingly, the Marina Cafe/Bars were pretty quiet, apart from a few hardy souls drinking their ‘Americano’, ‘cappuccino’ or ‘Caffe Con Leche’ sheltered behind the protection of the heavy PVC awnings with their large opaque plastic windows, they didn’t have much of a view other than the unusually choppy waters from within the Marina basin itself, the aggressive rolling of the moored boats as they bumped and bashed alongside each other, the different sized and shaped fenders protecting them from getting severely damaged and listening to the multiple clanging sounds of the chainwork on the sailing yachts tall masts. We did not join them, time was knocking on and we needed to get to the bank before it closed, the banks over here, during the Winter months, do not re-open after Siesta and our furniture store would not re-open again until 4.30pm, we did not want to have to hang around waiting, on another day, a warm sunny one, we may have been happy to have whiled away a couple of hours sat at one of the beachfront Cafe/Bars, but not on a day like this !!

The walk from the Marina, along the promenade and into the town, was much slower than usual as we were fighting to keep upright and when some of the extremely strong gusts of wind hit us we had to try to stop ourselves from shoulder charging each other. It was a great relief to reach the town boundary where we were able to get off the promenade and walk up to the main shopping street where the banks and the furniture store were located, the wind was behind us, helping to blow us up the slight incline. The bank was almost devoid of customers when we entered, it was nice to get inside out of the elements and to be able to unzip our fleeces, we had worked up quite a sweat with the physical effort of our walk. It was a very brief relief though, as it did not take us long to conduct our business, the young male bank teller was quite cheery and we engaged in a brief exchange about the weather, it was a good job his English was exceptional as my very limited Spanish vocabulary didn’t even cover this simple everyday routine conversation, sometimes I really feel genuinely ashamed of myself for not applying myself to learning more of the language. Shazza is much better than me but her expertise in the language is associated more to the domestic shopping requirements, general day-to-day pleasantries, days of the week, names of the months and numbers, but in comparison I am absolutely abysmal !!

Next, the short walk to the furniture store, that is what we call it but in reality this, as I may have mentioned previously in earlier ramblings, is more of a ‘one-stop shop’ for any household essentials, it sells everything you could ever need to furnish a house, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom, Gardens, Electrical Items and they also provide a kitchen design and installation service and they sell Pots, Pans, Glassware, Crockery, Cutlery, Soft Furnishings etc. All the furniture, Chairs, Settee, Tables, Beds are all hand-made and they are all of exceptionally good quality, so quite literally everything under one roof, it had certainly made life easy for us three years ago when we were kitting out the apartment at the outset, and again, they all spoke perfect English, which goes some way perhaps to explaining why lazy so and so’s like myself don’t have the inclination to learn the language !! “Hello Eric, Hello Sharon“, Ballinda was her usual happy and cheerful self, I am always impressed at how she remembers our names, it isn’t as if we are regular weekly or monthly customers here and she must see dozens of customers every week. We returned the greeting and asked if she had spent Christmas and New Year in France again, with her parents who still live there, she confirmed that she had. Then it was down to the business at hand, namely the anticipated delivery of our furniture, she checked her invoice file and then picked up the phone and called what I guessed was the place where they built them. “Yes, it is ready” she said, “It will be delivered today“, “Do you know when ?” I asked, “Wait one moment” she replied, then disappeared. She returned just a few moments later and said, “It will be delivered between 6-7pm“. This is not unusual because it is within their normal working hours, the majority of shops in Sabinillas re-open after Siesta at 4:30pm and then remain open until 8pm, in fact all of our previous furniture deliveries were during the evening, we thanked Ballinda and said our farewells, now that we know each other is it quite acceptable to speak with less formality, so instead of ‘Hasta Luego‘ (See you later or Until Later) a simple ‘Luego‘ (Later) suffices, then it was back outside into the maelstrom of wind. All that was needed now was to fight our way back to the ‘Little Fokker’ and drive to the Supermarket, but we decided to brace ourselves against the elements first and go back to the seafront promenade to see what, if any, devastation had been caused by the weather.

Fortunately, other than a few weather-beaten canopies and broken palm branches, there appeared to be very little major damage and we walked, in a crab-like manner, back to the van. I expected, being in a high sided vehicle, that the ‘Little Fokker’ would get some battering from the gusts of wind as we drove along the coast road to the Supermarket, but it didn’t happen.

Whether it was just that it was Monday and everyone was back at work, or, due to the extreme weather conditions, everyone had remained locked up in their own sanctuaries, but the Supermarket was pretty much devoid of customers, which actually made the usually mundane chore of shopping, well mundane for me at least, unusually, quite a pleasant experience. I am still however a little confused though between what constitutes a big shop ? Every time we go shopping, Shazza repeatedly states, “We don’t need a lot today, only a few bits“, but we always come out with four of those large re-usable shopping bags, all full, heaven help me when we have to go and we do need to do a ‘big’ shop !!

It was nice to get back, having carted two bags each from the car park up to the apartment, I was then able to slump in my chair on the balcony as Shazza prefers to unpack the bags herself, not that I complain, it gives me a great excuse for not cooking as by the time I have asked the questions, “Where do you keep this, where did you put that, what cupboard or drawer is the tin opener, frying pan, saucepan in ?” she usually decides that it is quicker to do it herself, it works every time !! Some days, like this one, it feels like we have been very productive, a good bit of exercise with the walk, essential business conducted and the shopping.

We wondered when the piece of furniture would arrive, would it be nearer 6pm or later, nearer 7pm ? As it turned out they were pretty punctual, I was waiting for a call on my mobile phone stating that they were at the external security gate and could I let them in. We do have an electric gate button in our kitchen, linked to a phone and video camera, but it has never worked and as we spend little time here in the grand scheme of things, we haven’t bothered to get it sorted, which can be a bit inconvenient as it means that I have to leave the apartment and walk to the post room, located by the outer security gate, and press a button inside to allow visitor’s, or delivery and maintenance people, access to the inner sanctum. However, at precisely 6pm, I know that because I had heard voices out in the hallway and had looked at the clock, then came a knock on the door, it was the delivery men with our piece of furniture, they had tailgated someone in through the outer vehicle gate, oh well, saved me a walk. The new unit had been protectively wrapped in swathes of cardboard and polythene, these people do not just dump it all on you and leave, they bring it in, unwrap it, assemble it (if appropriate), check it all works, in this case, checks that the cabinet doors are all aligned and that they open and close correctly, check that the interior light in the centre cupboard worked, checked that it sat level on the tiled floor, in this case our’s needed a minor adjustment of the feet then, they collect all the packaging and take it away with them, a sterling service. The last time that I had actually seen my mini-stereo system was when we had packed it away in its box in the Summer of 2013 when we had sold our house, since then it had been stored in Shazza’s mums loft, so I had my fingers crossed that no bits were missing and more importantly, it worked !! There weren’t and it did, it was one of those systems that had a radio, AM/FM and DAB, a CD player and an in-built Hard Disc Drive (HDD). Prior to selling my vast collection of CD’s I had downloaded all of them onto the HDD and now I could spend hours, days, weeks even, just listening to all my music again. The only downside was that in the period it had been in storage, we had purchased, on-line, more music, but this was downloaded onto our iPads, so now, with my very limited technological know how, more a case of ‘know not’, I will have to see if there is a way of getting it transferred from iPad to the HDD on the stereo system, but there is no great rush to do that.  I also had to try to remember how it all worked, but it soon started to come back to me and once I had a play with the remote control buttons it was like we had never been parted. Tuning in the radio and assigning stations to pre-set channels was a little more problematic as I already had UK radio stations pre-programmed, which obviously didn’t work over here, it wasn’t as simple as pressing the ‘Delete’ button on the remote, I only know that because that is what I attempted to do, however, trial and error, in fact several trials and errors ! then I remembered that old adage of, ‘If at first you don’t succeed’………….Scream at it, Curse it, Scream some more !! and eventually it worked, well actually it was not wanting to lose face that really made it work, after several unsuccessful attempts, Shazza, who had been irritatingly perched on my shoulder, peering at me constantly, chimes up, “Do you want me to have a go ?” the phrase, Red Rag to a Bull, sprung to mind. “It’s alright sweetheart, I think I have sussed it out now, but thank you” I replied, through clenched teeth and trying to disguise my irritation, but really I was thinking bugger off and find something else to do whilst I decide whether to take a hammer to the damn thing or just throw it off the balcony !! But perseverance, aided with a lot of male chauvinist pride, won the day and eventually our favourite Spanish radio stations were stored. Shazza then proceeded to fill up the cupboards with her glasses and the centrally lit portion became the alcohol storage bar for the Gin, Whisky, Brandy, Bacardi, Port and my various collections of Jack Daniels.

Have I ever mentioned that we are not really big drinkers !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 10 Comments

Views From My Perspective ?

In many of my ramblings I often mention ‘our’ walks and, occasionally, add a photo here and there but I guess it must get monotonous for other people, when reading, time and time again, how we walk from ‘Castillon‘ through the ‘Marina‘ and along the Promenade into ‘Sabinillas‘ and how we will ‘never tire of these views‘. Additionally, I tend to complain a great deal about how the ‘Works of Fiction’ get the forecasts so consistently wrong, ‘So what is new ?‘ I hear you shout.

So, for this post I thought that you may want to share, if only visually, our, almost daily, walks, then you can look at the ‘Views From My Perspective’, and perhaps understand why I keep going on almost endlessly about them. We need to decide what to wear, if the ‘Works of Fiction’ are to be believed, we can end up, either over or under dressed, too cold or too hot, which can make the experience uncomfortable. a look at the ‘Works of Fiction’, over the last couple of days, forecast temperatures of only 15 degrees(c), cloudy and overcast with wind speeds of 18mph, we dressed appropriately, shoes and socks, jeans, sweaters but both days turned out to be 21 degrees(c), clear blue sky, sunny with the slightest of breezes !! For this walk, the ‘Works of Fiction’ once again has forecast a cloudy overcast day with a temperature of 15 degrees(c) and 15mph wind !! However, when I look out of the windows on our balcony the view is good, I can see the freight ships on the horizon quite clearly and make out the mountains on the coastline of Africa, there are clouds, but the sky is mainly blue and the sun is shining. The sea looks a bit choppy so there is a bit of a wind blowing so I decide on Jeans rather than shorts but a tee-shirt should be the right call !!

The car park in Castillon is relatively quiet, no other Motorhomes here today and with it being too early for the lunchtime brigade, there are only a handful of cars so we are spoilt for choice. The good thing about our ‘Little Fokker’ is that we can reverse it into a parking bay, between the lines, taking up no more than the one space, giving the local police no excuse for moving us on or to issue us with a ticket? Now down from the hill and down by the sea it feels warm in the sunshine, the sky is lovely and blue, although there are still the occasional smatterings of white fluffy clouds, the wind is blowing from the South though, across the sea, so we need to put our sweaters on, made us glad that we brought them with us as a precaution!! We head off along the promenade and decide to spend a little time having a wander around the Marina moorings to look at the boats, large and not so large !!

The small local fleet of fishing boats all moored up, these are the one’s I see from my balcony, operating close to the shoreline, the larger trawlers that I watch which operate a little further out to sea are based at the Marina just up the road from us in Estepona.

You do not have to own a large luxury yacht to moor here !!

The lighthouse building, which also accommodates the Harbour Masters Offices as well as the Showers & Toilets for those that moor their sailing craft here.

Looking back across the bay from the Marina, towards the former fishing village of ‘Castillon de la Duquesa’, I can see the ‘Little Fokker’ just where I had left it, parked in its usual position in the car park, just in front of the fenced play area and next to the beach.

Now tell me that this view is not amazing ?

Walking back from the harbour entrance towards the Marina with its variety of shops, Cafe/Bars, Restaurants and the Apartments above them that encircle the marina moorings

Up from the Main Street of the Marina onto the next level, more shops, even a ‘English Butcher’, that tells you something about the residents ? Cafe/Bars, Restaurants galore, ATM Machine, Estate Agents etc. etc.

In comparison to other Marinas along the Costa’s, Duquesa is relatively small, but there are Cafe’s, Bars, Shops and Restaurants in nooks and crannies all topped by the apartments !!

More Apartments, these just outside the main part of the Marina complex

We always enter the Marina from the tradesman entrance as it were, along the promenade, but this, officially, is the front door

We do not always stop at the Marina for a drink, coffee or otherwise ! There are plenty more watering holes to be had along the promenade and in the town, so we continue our walk, through the Marina car park and back onto the sea front promenade towards Sabinillas.

These are some more of the luxury ‘front line’ apartment complexes that overlook the promenade, beach and sea. Luxury meaning €300k upwards !!

One of the many beachfront Bars and Eateries. Restaurant inside and then outside a beach front patio where you can enjoy eating or just a cooling drink

Back on to the promenade again and sorry! but I cannot help saying it yet again “I will never tire of these views”

Across a wooden footbridge that spans one of the several storm drains. It is a feeding frenzy as the fish fight for a bite of the crust that someone has tossed into the water.

It almost looks as if you are on a Desert Island with this solitary Palm Tree !! The tyre tracks and footprints tend to give it away though ?

The main promenade approach to the South side of the town

It may be Winter out here but still nice enough to sit on the beach and watch the waves break on the shoreline !!

At this point, Shazza is getting bored with me keep stopping to take pictures and I am walking too slowly for her. So we agree that she can ‘steam’ ahead at a much faster pace, she is heading for a set of free Gym equipment way beyond the North side of the town, she uses these walks as part of her exercise regime, we will meet back up at some point and have a well-earned drink.

Another one of the ‘Plazas’ and more apartments. Nice in the quieter months but these particular ones overlook a primary school, noisy playground and also in Summer, day and night, this Plaza is full of people and noisy !!

As you can see from the advertising, this, once fishing boat, is now where they cook the fresh sardines on a wood fire, hence the sand inside the boat !!

Even the birds needs to cool off and rest after a spell of fishing

These boats on the beach are proper fishing boats, launched from right here on the beach each morning. The fishing nets are cast quite literally just off the beach and when walking down by the shoreline you can often see the shoals of fish that they are hoping to catch in their nets. Stunning views !!

Still heading down the promenade but this is the start of the row after row of Cafe/Bars and Restaurants. Yes we even have a ‘Burger King’ but no ‘McDonald’ or ‘KFC’, thank goodness !!

Little Cafe/Bars down the side streets amongst shops, town houses and apartments.

Last year, in the floods, this part of the promenade and the Palm lined grass Island all got washed away. They have made a nice job of repairing it

This fisherman’s cottage is still lived in, the promenade, Cafe/Bars have been built around it

Lovely decorative ceramic wall tiles on the outside of some of the fisherman’s cottages

They don’t have far to go to work each day !! This is one of the brighter coloured boats, the majority are either blue or white !!

Still walking down the promenade towards the Northern part of the town. I still haven’t seen Shazza coming back yet !!

Another Plaza, this one with more free Gym equipment, a covered seating area and a children’s play area, very nice

The children’s play area and more apartment buildings overlooking it and the sea. Most of the locals live in apartments but not all look as nice as these particular one’s !!

A few flowers in pots can brighten up the limited outdoor space of a balcony

Nice Ornate tiling around a ‘public’ drinking tap, completely safe to drink the water here.

It isn’t as if you could get lost here, but the information board shows First Aid Points, Car parking nearby and of course the location of Public Toilets

Well, this is as far as I intend walking and that empty chair is very tempting but if I happen to inadvertently end up doing some ‘Personal Contemplation’ (Always best done with one’s eyes closed) then Shazza will not see me !! She has gone well beyond this point but I will sit in the lovely warm sunshine on a bench on the promenade and just wait for her to re-appear. She can take as long as she needs, I am in no hurry !!

She eventually came back and we now had the difficult decision on choosing which hostelry to sit at and enjoy a much-needed cool drink. We were tempted to go to our favourite beach front Cafe/Bar, however, a new Cafe/Bar had just opened, located just down one of the side streets, so we opted to try it out, it was another Tapas Bar so although we had decided not to eat out on this occasion, we could check out the menu, and prices, for another day.

We sat at a table in the sun, although there were tables in the shade if, unlike us, you are not sun worshippers. Still, it had nice, if somewhat limited, beach and sea views.

So, suitably refreshed with a cold glass of ‘Tinto Verano con Limon’ it was time to do it all in reverse and make our way back to where we had parked the van. We could always vary the route but why spoil perfection, the best route with the best views ? The ‘Works of Fiction’ were not completely wrong on this occasion, the strongish wind had required us to wear sweaters, but that was all that it had got right about, it had been another day of hot sunny weather, 21 degrees(c) and not the forecasted 15 degrees(c) and near cloudless blue sky, believe me, even here that 6 degree variation makes a heck of a difference.

Hopefully, in my future blog posts, whether that be this year, next year or the year after that, when I will undoubtedly use those words, “I will never tire of these views“, you will understand why !!

As a bit of a footnote, I have written and published this particular post just one day after our walk. For the last three days the ‘Works of Fiction’ have got the forecast wrong, not that I am complaining when it it is wrong in our favour you understand, but today, it forecast 13 degrees(c), rain from 13:00 and a ‘Coastal Event’ with large waves and high winds in excess of 40mph, it got this one right and it is actually quite spectacular to watch it all happening from the protection and warmth of our balcony !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 8 Comments

Different Shades Of Grey ?

In order to prevent any misunderstanding, or indeed, any great disappointment, I need to clarify, right at the outset of these current ramblings that the title, and content, of this particular ‘post’ are in no way related to any ‘other’ publications with a similar sort of title, so if your ‘search’ engine on your browser has brought you here and you were actually expecting a ‘different’ sort of stimulating read, you may want to press your ‘back’ button. Alternatively, now that you are here, you may just want to continue reading, who knows, you may enjoy it !!

With the departure of the last of our ‘guests’, for this year at least, who it appears, when packing their travel bags, inadvertently took the sunshine and hot temperatures with them, we could now clean the guest bedroom and bathroom and close it off, one less job for us to do when we commence our final clean and lock down in around four weeks, before we too have to leave and head Northbound once more.

I still cannot explain what possesses us to check the ‘Works of Fiction’ on a daily basis, considering that they are so consistently wrong, but we do, just habit I guess !! One of the weather ‘Apps’ we tend to consult does have a map, which provides us with a localised rain radar overview, which very usefully can also be expanded to provide a much wider geographical area. I have to say that whilst this too has limitations on its actual accuracy, it does appear to be a ‘little’ more reliable than it is with its actual temperature and wind predictions. It is nice when it gets it right though, for example, one morning it showed rain over the Northern Coast of Africa, Gibraltar and the Southern part of Spain just about 10 miles South from us and that the Wind was blowing from a Westerly direction. From my balcony, sat on my chair and looking through the french windows I could see the dark clouds to the South, over the areas in question, and I could actually watch the rain, which looked more like a mist cloud, as it moved quite slowly from the Atlantic Sea and across into the Mediterranean. One moment I can see the large freight ships on the horizon and the next they are gone as they disappear into the grey fog. The whole picture changes right in front of my eyes, one minute I can easily distinguish between the blue colour of the sea and the grey cloud above it, the next it just all sorts of blends together, there is only the merest hint of a colour change, darker grey clouds in the sky, ‘slightly’ lighter shade of grey which is the sea, then I hear the whistle of the wind as it intensifies in speed and passes across, outside the windows. For a brief moment the suns rays pierce an opening through the blanket of cloud, the fog lifts, the horizon is viewable again and the sea and sky once again are easily discernable, but almost in the blink of an eye the cloud identifies its ‘achilles heel’ and slams the opening shut on the offending daylight, once again I am looking out into the eery greyness and see nothing, but I know the freight ships are still out there, moving slowly and silently, unless, unseen and unheard, the monster which lurks in the deep grey fog has devoured them !!

The greyness outside has a strange way of pearcing the fabric of my bricks ‘n’ mortar sanctuary, as my own mood also becomes grey and a bit sullen. For some inexplicable reason, my thoughts suddenly turn to returning to the UK, even though that is still several weeks away. Oddly enough I am not gloomy about returning to work, or even to our new site in North Devon, in fact quite the opposite, we are actually quite excited at the prospect, having now been promoted to ‘Wardens’, we are both looking forward to actually managing our own site. No, the grey mood is something that always seems to effect us, whenever or wherever we are on holiday which is nearing its conclusion, wether that be the end of what used to be a month of Summer touring in Europe in the van, or the end of our fortnights holiday in a five star all-inclusive resort in Jamaica or Mexico, back in the days when we had led ‘conventional’ lives, so I guess that I should view my sullen and gloomy mood in a more positive light, as an indicator that I must be enjoying myself, if I was not, then I would probably be looking forward to returning.

This years Winter break at our ‘bolt hole’ has been, in a lot of respects, similar to our two previous years, but there have been some differences. Of course it has been four  to five weks shorter due to having the operation on my knee, but the other difference was in leaving ‘Wuxly’ behind and coming over in the ‘Little Fokker’. One of the main reasons for down sizing the van was for our ‘future’ plans, the day we decide to hang up our gardening gloves and retire properly, then we would be able to combine our wanderlust desire, to recommence our ‘on the road’ travels and tour Europe and still utilise our ‘bolt hole’ in Spain whenever we wanted a break from travelling without having to first go back and change vehicles, like we had to do when we had ‘Big Momma’, at 9 metres long she was just too long to park at our ‘Bolt hole’. So, at the point we retire we are very likely to only require the one vehicle, the ‘Little Fokker’, spacious enough to cater for our needs when using it on extended touring but also small enough to park in our apartment complex car park, to use it as an everyday vehicle, to go to the local shops and Supermarkets, to go out sightseeing or just visiting other local towns and/or beaches, collecting and returning visitors to the Airport, an all purpose sort of vehicle really and of course, having just one vehicle to maintain would naturally provide a monetary saving, we would only have to pay for one lot of Vehicle Road Tax, Vehicle Insurance, Service and the annual MOT, an important factor on the budget once we are on a ‘fixed’ income from our pensions. However, this was all good in theory but what about the realistic practicalties ?

Whilst we continue to choose to work, keeping both vehicles is for practical reasons. When on our site we live in the ‘Little Fokker’ and attach an Awning to provide us with useful living space. Whilst we do have a ‘Drive Away’ inflatable awning, it is still much more convenient, whilst we are working, to just jump in the car to go and do the shopping or to do the bank runs, pick up bits and pieces for site maintenace e.g. Taps etc than it would be to keep disassembling the awning and manouevering the van in and out of our Wardens compound. The car had also proved useful in Spain, although it was not really a comfortable car for long journeys, to be fair it was not intended for such purposes but coped with them very well, but once at the bolt hole it was good to for getting out and about, not just for the local shopping or short drives in to Sabanillas or Estepona, but also for longer trips up into the mountains along narrow, steep and twisting roads and along narrow roads in many of the small towns and villages, the question was, how would the ‘Little Fokker’ cope ?

Well it was certainly a much more comfortable twelve-hour journey in the van, for both driver and passenger and of course it provided all of the on-board facilities we required, including not having to find somewhere with the necessary facilities for a ‘comfort’ break, if you get my drift ? We could stop and put the kettle on and make a freshly brewed cuppa and even have made ourselves something to eat. Although on this occasion, having a shorter period, we were in a hurry to get straight to our ‘bolt hole’, we could, on future trips, take our time in getting down, so instead of using the more expensive ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Bilbao or Santander, we could use a cheaper crossing and travel down through France, staying on Campsites, Aires or Wildcamping en-route. As for the parking issue when at our ‘bolt hole’, well there was no issue, a big tick in the box there and more positives when it came to doing the weekly shop at our local Supermarket, parking at the bottom of our hill or in the former fishing village when we went for our frequent walks along the promenade to the Marina or into our local town. We had used it to spend a couple of nights away from the apartment, which we enjoyed, and had researched locations of other ‘Aires’ we could use in towns and villages in the mountains not too far away from us, which we hadn’t yet explored and also some around the Coastline North of Malaga. However, the main ‘negative’ relating to the van, was the collection and return of visitors from Malaga Airport, although this would not be an issue for any guests arriving or departing from Gibraltar Airport. We did have a solution, other than hiring a car, as we had done recently when returning my mother to the Airport, we could Park at a shopping mall, not far from the Airport, for free. This mall had a railway station just outside, the trains stopped at the rail station located at Malaga Airport (Just two stops on the train). We had used this parking area last year when we had a full day sightseeing in Malaga followed by watching the turning on of the Christmas Lights. If we chose this option it would of course mean man handling luggage on and off the train, through the shopping mall and to and from the car park which is not as convenient as taking the car right to the Airport and parking it in the multi-storey right opposite the passenger terminal, however, it was a perfectly viable solution. My only other concern was using the van for day trips to unknown locations, moreso the small villages and towns up in the mountains where we know, from experience, that much of the public parking is in underground multi-storey car parks, not suitable for Motorhomes. There are lots of places where we already know we could get to and also where Commercial vehicles have to access, but I am thinking of the places we haven’t yet explored, even in a car, so although my rational logic tells me that we would probably manage just fine, my irrational logic screams at me, new van, narrow streets, potential for scratches and dents, getting stuck, Insurance paperwork, more unwanted brown trouser moments, so right now, I have a phycological reluctance to want to attempt it in the ‘Little Fokker’, which, in the grand scheme of things, will severely restrict our current ‘Adventures’. The stupidity of this irrational logic is that when we are travelling, on our future retirement trips, through numerous Countries, that we will undoubtedly encounter such issues, as we had done previously in ‘Big Momma’, a tag axle vehicle that was three metres longer, and we just dealt with it and survived, we had no other option !! Perhaps it is an age thing ? Not the age of the van, but me and my age !! Perhaps it is just due to the prolonged absence of actually being on the road doing extended touring ? Will the longer I leave it make it a bigger issue when the time does come or will I just take it in my stride again, like a duck back to water ? Do not get me wrong, I do not have sleepless nights worrying about these things, but these are the kind of thoughts that sometimes enter my head when I am just sat in my chair on the balcony, gazing out upon the greyness, the kind of things that I often refer to in my ramblings, not as problems, but more as solutions to issues that are waiting to be discovered.

I allow myself a smile, there is a saying that goes “A trouble shared is a trouble halved”, well, when I started this current rambling the Sea was dark grey, the Sky was a light grey and my mood was somewhere in between the two, but having lifted my head, the sun is now shining, the sky is blue and the cotton wool ball clouds are white, I can see things clearer now that the mist has cleared !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 10 Comments

Not What It’s All Cracked Up To Be ?

Having enjoyed our longish walk out to the Watchtower, and our paddle in the sea on the way back, the following day started a bit dull, weather wise that is. We both needed a rest day especially as during the night, whilst we were asleep, someone had crept in and chained two lead weights to my lower legs, making movement extremely difficult and slow !! Shazza’s neck and upper arms were aching, I wonder what could have caused that ?

Whilst we drank our morning coffee on the balcony, feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves with our self-inflicted aches and pains, we had the usual conversation about what we were going to do for the rest of the day. “Absolutely nothing” was my immediate response, “Good” she said, and then followed up her somewhat brief retort with, “I think we should have a rest day“. I interpreted that as a Shazza statement, rather than a question, which to me meant that no response was required, also, I was firmly of the belief that my own brief statement had summed up my intentions quite succinctly. I will never be able to fathom the female logic, the words that come out of their mouths do not always work in unison with the thoughts that are going around in their heads !! Only a few seconds had elapsed since she had spoken, and I may be getting old but my memory isn’t fading quite that fast just yet, so I can distinctly remember her last words being ‘Rest Day’, but then my beloved comes out with, “Shall we go and do the weekly shop ?” How can this activity be considered restful I was thinking to myself, I would have to walk down from the apartment with these leads weights attached to my legs, drive to the Supermarket, push a shopping trolley around every single aisle in the store, perhaps the same aisles several times, subject to how she had compiled her shopping list, load all the shopping into several bags and carry them to the van, drive back and then carry heavy bags from the car park up to the apartment, can she really be serious ? This certainly bears no resemblance to my understanding of doing ‘Absolutely Nothing’ !! There is a limit to my passive and easy-going nature but sometimes, on occasions, and granted these are very rare occurrences, when I do feel that I just have to put my foot down………..

The Supermarket looked fairly quite when we entered through the large sliding doors !! me pushing the shopping trolley, my beloved walking ahead with shopping list at hand. Believe me, I had attempted to put my foot down, honestly, I really had, but my resistance had been met with, “Well, if you want to eat !!“, she was holding all the cards really, it would appear that I had been dealt another bum hand !!

At least by the time we had done the shopping, carted it up to the apartment and put it all away we could then relax. We had our lunch out on the balcony, all windows closed to protect us from the 27mph wind, the sky had brightened and the sun was attempting to burn its way through the cloud, with little success really, however, it was warm enough and we spent the afternoon and evening doing ‘Absolutely Nothing’. The following morning felt like every other morning out here, our own version of ‘Groundhog Day’, the coffee on the balcony, the usual brief discussion about what ‘we’ were going to do, unusually though, on this occasion we agreed to agree !! We had pre-booked a table for 7:30pm later that evening for our ‘Lobster Event’ dinner at the Belgian Cafe/Bar in town, we had decided to walk down rather than drive, just in case we both wanted to have some falling over juice with our meal. We agreed to leave the decision, on whether we walked back ‘up’ the hill, until after the meal to see how we felt. So, for the remainder of the day we would remain in the apartment and just potter, Shazza wanted to catch up on her Spanish course, I had Emails to catch up on, so another rest day in the apartment it was.

I have now come to terms with the fact that my knee is probably not going to get much better than it is right now, certainly not back to how it used to be, I was no longer in any real pain from it, just the occasional ache when I forget about it and try to swivel around on my feet, rather than actually lifting my leg and turning, or going up and down steps and inclines, movements which are normally second nature which you do without thinking and which normally wouldn’t present any problems, however they do now. However, walking, whilst no longer painful or awkward, there is still an irritating discomfort which can vary in intensity on a daily basis for no apparent reason, but hey, things could be worse, the local bars could stop serving ‘Tinto Verano’ !!

Walking along the promenade into town we realised that this had been the first time this year that we had come down during the evening, it had been a common practice over the last couple of years, sometimes just to walk and have a drink in one of the numerous bars on the Marina or to have a meal in one of the multitude of eateries. It was always a very pleasant experience, looking at the lights twinkling in the distance from the small villages and towns up in the mountains or along the Coast, listening to the sound of the waves as they gently broke onto the beach a few metres away, the warmth of the evening air and the gentle breeze rustling the palm leaves that lined our route, exchanging pleasantries with people who passed us along the way, the glow of the different coloured neon lights from the shops, bars and restaurants. Yes, this just oozed the relaxed feel good factor and as always we savoured the moment, it reminded us of what our lives were all about now, yes, I know we were still working for part of the year, but it was that work that provided us with the means to not only fund this extended Winter break every year in our ‘bolt hole’ and enjoy the lifestyle, but which also provided the financial means to add to our ultimate ‘Escape Fund’, the day when we decided to take the step into fulltime ‘retirement’ because although we often hear the expression ‘You could be dead tomorrow’, there is also the chance, if we maintain our health and well-being that we could also be alive and active for very many years to come !!

We were not the first to arrive at the Belgian Cafe/Bar, however, we were the only single couple, the others were in groups of six. We received the usual friendly welcome from our hosts and were shown to our table. We had a choice, the initial cost was just for the Lobster dinner, which would come either chilled with a seafood sauce, chips and salad or with a ‘Thermadore’ sauce, we elected for the chilled. For a small additional charge of €13 we could make it a three-course, Fried Camembert with Cranberry Compote or Prawn Pil Pil as the starter and warm Apple Strudel with Ice Cream or Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce as dessert, also included was a bottle of wine, red or white, well it would have been rude not to wouldn’t it ?

We were drinking our pre-dinner G&T’s when another couple came and sat down at the table next to us, we offered the usual courtesy, in the host language of course, we smiled and said “Buena’s Tardes“, they replied “Hello“, so at least we knew than any further conversation would be a lot more flowing. Not only were they English but they were from Shazza’s neck of the woods, Doncaster, so that served as the initial ice breaker. Now there isn’t a lot to actually say about the meal, it was all very nice and for once the Lobster had not been overcooked, my first two experiences of Lobster, one with the ‘Thermadore’ sauce, had not been pleasant experiences, so this was going to be either third time lucky or the last Lobster I would ever ‘pay’ to eat again. The main body had already been split ready to just extract the meat, however the legs and claws were on the plate as a DIY experience, they provided what were basically ‘nut crackers’ and the small two-pronged forks, the sort you use if you have ordered ‘snails’, to dig the edible bit from the shell. Overall it was a nice experience, the ambience was good, the meal may not have been a gastronomic experience with the ‘WOW’ factor, but that isn’t a criticism, we both enjoyed ourselves, but as far as all the hoo-hah goes in relation to ‘Lobster’, in my opinion it is ‘Not What It’s All Cracked Up To Be‘.

It Looked Okay, apart from the sprinkling of boiled egg on the top, what was that all about ?

We had got to know Tracy and Darren quite well over the four hours we had spent eating our dinner and chatting with them, but it was more by coincidence than design, that we each paid our dues and departed at the same time. We were headed in the same direction, towards the Marina, so we walked together. We heard some music and chatter coming from the street just one block back from where we were walking, we looked down and saw a bar that looked quite busy with some overspill into the street, we decided to investigate, as you do, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was just a smallish bar with a couple of ‘live’ singers, as opposed to a disco, they were quite good and singing 70’s and 80’s English pop hits. We ordered a round of drinks, only because it would of course have been rude not to !! and for the record, my very first JD & Coke since being out here !!

One for the road !!

I think it was one of those bars that remained open until the last customer departed but we were not up to a ‘all nighter’ so we finished our drinks and continued our walk to the Marina. We had considered just going for it and walking back to the apartment, even doing the hill ascent’, after the G&T’s, Wine and JD & Coke’s we would have just floated up anyway, however, it was already 1:15am and we were tired so we took the easy option, a five-minute taxi ride !!

The following morning, a little later than usual, for some unknown reason ? and it was Groundhog Day, again !! but we were both feeling a little lethargic and agreed to have another lazy day. Now I have this phycological thing, if I know that we are not going out then my mind goes into total relax mode, I don’t have to rush to do anything but more importantly I can sit and just chillax, I start to formulate what I am going to write in my next blog post, if I have anything to write about that is, I may even start drafting a few lines, pausing for thought now and again, gazing out of the french windows upon the sea vistas, write some more, etc. etc. However, if we have agreed to go out then the conversation turns to ‘When’ and ‘Where’, so I do not even attempt to concentrate on the blog or anything else really, I just sit, checking my watch every so often just waiting for the allotted time to drag myself out of my really comfortable balcony chair, get ready and go out to wherever. So, you can imagine, I am well into my Phycological Chillax mode, the sun is shining, the sea is blue, there is nothing much for me to do………. oops ! I very nearly burst into a rendition of a Buddy Holly song there !! I am well into the construction of my next blog post, in my mind at least, when a voice disturbs my thoughts, “Shall we go out, it seems a shame to be stuck inside when the sun is shining and it is so hot” my beloved says !! And so it starts, “Where do you want to go ?“, “I don’t know, just a walk along the promenade” she says, “How far do you want to go ?” I ask, a reasonable sort of enquiry I thought, “What’s the matter, don’t you want to go out ?” She says with a bit of sharp tone in her voice. Now Believe me when I tell you that the answer to this is not as easy as a simple ‘No‘, neither is it really a question, well not one that is ‘genuinely’ going to give me any real option, no, there is only one correct answer to this, if I know what’s good for me that is, so the only answer to her question is of course, “If you want to“. I know what you are all thinking, ‘Eric, are you a man or a mouse ?‘, all I can say to you is, can I squeak to you about that after I have eaten my cheese sandwich !!

We drove down, not to our usual parking spot in ‘Castillon’ but just down the hill to the bottom by the beach, it would only add-on another five minutes to the length of our walk, deep joy !! The walk started off as a struggle, it wasn’t just my lethargy about doing it at all but to make matters worse I was having a bad knee day which I hoped I could walk off, I didn’t. Through the village, through the Marina and right along the promenade to what has become our favourite beach bar, well for this season anyway. We appear to be accumulating a lot of ‘favourites’ to our growing list !! However, once there, it was nice to sit down, the sun shining down upon us, the beach, the lovely blue sea, bliss. The waiter came over and Shazza ordered a bottled water, he looked at me and before I could open my mouth to speak he said, “Tinto Verano con Limon” to which I simply replied, “Si, gratias“, perhaps we may have been frequenting this Cafe/Bar a little bit more regularly than I had realised !!

I really could just sit at this location for hours, the views themselves were just so amazing and quite relaxing however, as well as watching the beach fishermen, the boats passing by, people walking on the sand there were also the birds, mainly the flocks of Cormorants that frequented the rocky outcrops, but also large Seagulls. They would circle above the sea and then dart like an arrow into the water, they would be out of sight for a few seconds then they would appear back on top, sitting on the top of the water whilst they devoured their freshly caught meal, then with a few flaps of their wings they were airborne again and then repeated the process, I have seen this many many times but I am still mesmerised by it. One thing that struck me about the Seagulls, well two things really, the first was the sheer size of them, but the second was the fact that you never saw them sitting on walls where the restaurants were, they never harassed people or dive-bombed them trying to steal food or ice creams like they do all the time in seaside locations in the UK. These Seagulls still flew out to sea and caught their own fresh fish, perhaps the Spanish one’s haven’t acquired the taste for fish covered in batter or served with a side portion of chips ? Whatever the reason, it was good to watch them hunting down their prey naturally, unlike the bloody sparrows who were so used to human beings feeding them that they had the cheek to hop on tables whilst people were still eating their food !! Unfortunately, with the sun beginning to lose some of its heat, it was time to take the long walk back to where we had parked the ‘Little Fokker’, the return leg being as much of a struggle as the outward one, I was really pleased to get back to my sanctuary, the comfort of my chair on the balcony, a hot mug of coffee and my sea views, wonderful !!

Sunday may be a day of rest for some, but not for me. There was no need for replaying Groundhog Day as we had already decided, several days previously, that we would return to our favourite beach front Cafe/Bar and have Sunday Lunch, Spanish style, and when it comes to do anything with food, my Shazza does not forget such conversations or arrangements. The good news was that I was up for it this time, and the knee felt good. Sundays are Spanish family days, even when the weather is a bit overcast they are all out but on a hot and sunny day, like today, they are out in force. We think there may be three good reasons for why the promenade is always busy on a Sunday, the first being that it is obviously the weekend however, a lot of families live in apartment blocks with little, or no, outside space. The Spanish towns have lots of open spaces, Plaza’s, and lots of Children’s play areas and these are always crowded, but we also believe that lots of families, who live in the numerous whitewashed villages and towns in the mountains, come down to the sea and the warmth, it can be up to seven degrees cooler in the mountains than it is down here on the Coast. It adds to the ambience of the place, it feels lived in, unlike many of the more summer tourist coastal resorts which can feel like ghost towns during the Winter months. We have observed, over the three years that we have been here, that the British contingent eat lunch generally between 12-1pm and the Spanish usually between 2-4pm, which appears to work quite well for the Restaurant’s and the Cafe/Bars. Because of that, we knew that parking tended to be difficult if you left it too late, so whilst we wanted to eat to the Spanish time we needed to make sure that we got down to our usual parking location in good time.

Fortunately, we timed it right and we had a choice of parking spaces at our usual location. The promenade was already busy and we took a gentle stroll through the Marina and headed on into the town. It was easy to identify the permanent residents, from the temporary visitors like ourselves, all of the ‘locals’ were wearing thick sweaters or jackets, well it was only 21 degrees(c) which is between 15-20 degrees colder than their broiling Summer temperatures !! Unusually, we found ourselves having to weave in and out of the masses, children on bicycles and scooters, people with dogs on leads and slower pedestrians than ourselves. Although it was a little blustery in the wind, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and absolutely cloudless, scarred only by the several dissipating vapour trails from the jet aircraft that passed thousands of feet above us. After a very pleasant stroll along the sun drenched promenade we arrived at our beachfront Cafe/Bar, we were able to get our favourite table position on the terrace and ordered our drinks whilst perusing the menu, which was all in Spanish, but with our limited understanding, aided by a few photographs depicting some of the delicacies on offer and the assistance of Hose the owner come barman come waiter, with his near perfect English, we made our choices.

Paul and Debs arrived on Monday morning, it was good to see them both again, although we have kept in touch via Skype and Text, it was nice to see them both in the flesh again, so to speak. There was a lot of catching up to do and this started immediately over lunch, on the balcony of course !! The sun remained shining, the sky was lovely and blue and so we were keen to get out and show them around the place we refer to as home. Of course there were a couple of mandatory stops to quench our thirsts !!

A Drink in the sun, first liquid refreshment stop on the Marina, well it had to be done, would have been rude not to !!

We had walked from the apartment, down the hill, through Castillon and the Marina and into Sabanillas and down to our favourite Beachfront Cafe/Bar before doing the return journey. That evening, Shazza cooked dinner and we spent the remainder of the evening talking, drinking, watching a bit of television and just more chatting, it was late by the time we all retired !! The following morning, after a decent lay in and breakfast, it was more of the same, the weather forecast promised yet another hot and sunny day with 21 degree(c) temperature and clear blue sky, what more could we ask for. The long walk the previous day, combined with the hill walk down and back up again, had taken its toll on my knee, not disastrously so, but enough for me to decide that the walk would commence only once we had driven down and parked in Castellon. After a brief stop for coffee we continued our walk and decided to head for the Watchtower again, it provided an opportunity to walk, part way at least, along the shoreline and for Debs to get some nice photographs to add to her own personal travel album.

I think the smile sums it up perfectly, Life’s a Beach !!

I know that it is nice Shazz, to have this kind of Life in the sun, but after a while do you not think that you would miss the wet English Summers, the Cold and Stormy Autumns and the Bleak Winters ? And get fed up of trying to have serious private conversations without men hiding behind bushes listening to what you are saying ?

Is that Gary Lineker and that ‘Bay Watch Babe’ Pamela Anderson ?

Whilst Paul and Shazza were engaged in their deep and meaningful conversation, Debs and I were busy with our cameras taking photographs of the landscapes, scenery and the Cormorants. We then walked back along the beach to Sabanillas to a little Cafe/Bar in a small Plaza away from the promenade and enjoyed a ‘Menu del Dia’ lunch in the afternoon sunshine before walking back through the Marina to Castillon where we had parked the car, I was glad that Paul had driven us down, I would have really struggled if we had to have walked back up the hill !! We spent the rest of the evening and night sat on the balcony talking, Shazza disappearing occasionally to cook some pre-prepared Tapa’s style snacks. The following morning, after breakfast, it was time for Paul and Debs to leave us to continue their road trip of Southern Spain, they were headed for Granada, around three hours drive North. It started off as a dull and quite cloudy and overcast sort of day, but probably not a bad driving day for them, we, on the other hand had elected to have a lazy day. It was really good seeing our friends again, being able to spend a good couple of days in warm sunshine, chatting and generally catching up but now we had a little over four weeks left before we too would have to commence our drive North to catch our ferry and return to the ‘real’ world again……………..

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 4 Comments

Just Picture This !!

We awoke to yet another bright and sunny morning with a forecast of clear blue sky, 19 degree(c) temperature and only a 4mph wind blowing from the North East, a mere breeze down here compared to the usual stuff we get down along this coast in Winter, normally anything from 15mph to 25mph. So our morning conversation on the balcony over our first coffee of the day was relatively brief, we were going out for another walk, but not just the usual route, today our plan was to try to get as far as the ‘Torre de la Sal‘, an old watchtower perched on the cliffs just beyond the beach at Caceres, we had walked there before in previous years and even further on one occasion. We would park in our usual place in the old fishing village, walk from there, through the Marina, along the promenade into Sabanillas, stop at one of our favourite beachfront Cafe’s for ‘Coffee and toast’ then continue, beyond Sabanillas along Caceres Beach and up to the watchtower, with a few brief stops for Shazza to utilise several of the exercise machines along the route, I of course would have loved to have been able to join her in this exercise activity, but what with my knee and all that………………… ?

However, rambling (Of the verbal variety) about a ramble (Of the physical variety) would not, I think, be very interesting to read,  but, potentially, it would be a bit more interesting, me thinks, if you were to see some of the wonderful scenery for yourselves, so enjoy…………….

First stop, a bit of sustenance for the journey, coffee and toast, at one of our regular beachfront Cafe’s

The watchtower we are heading for, looks pretty close eh ? The wonders of a zoom lens !!

They even construct bridges to traverse obstacles like storm drains !!

They even provide decent footpaths, no need for hiking boots here !!

“Are we nearly there yet ?” No !!

This was Exercise Stop No. 2 Keep up the good work Shazza, you know I would love to be doing it as well, but……… !!

One to add to the ‘Lottery Win Bucket List’ or as Shazza refers to it, the ‘Never in a month of Sundays’ list !!

Exercise Stop No. 3 !!
Bet their isn’t many Fitness Centres that offer views like this ?

“Are we nearly there yet?”
Yes !!

Some very nice looking homes, something else to add to the ‘Lottery Win Bucket List’

Don’t think my knee is quite ready for these just yet ?

“Yes !!” She exclaimed
“I hadn’t said anything” I thought to myself ?

Our personal bodyguards, happy that we had arrived safely, waved us goodbye

Looking back to whence we came, on the far left of this picture !!

Sometimes a lucky snap can provide a decent photo ? These birds had just taken flight from one of the rocks, enlarge the photo and you will see it much better !!

This view, no matter how many times I see it, always leaves me gobsmacked. In the foreground (Right) is Spain, then just behind is Gibraltar and to the Left, Africa !!

What’s this ? A paddle boarder checking his Sat Nav ???

Obviously Happy he was heading in the right direction, off he goes again

Perhaps having second thoughts !!

Never far away from a watering hole !

Crystal clear water !!

Clear enough to see these little fella’s !!

Time to head back but this time, along the beach

You just don’t know how good that cold water on my feet feels !!

The mandatory selfie !!

These little fella’s were comical to watch. As the wave came in they would run up the beach, as it receded they followed it down to catch whatever it was the tide had brought in. They repeated this all the way up the beach remaining just in front of us.

I trust you enjoyed your walk with us, now, there was just one thing left to do ……………….. ?

Cheers !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 6 Comments