WE BLOODY WELL MADE IT – IT’S ALL OKAY!!!!

We walked into Alora up the hill, turned the wrong way and proceeded to walk up many more hills – didn’t actually find what we were looking for, but managed to walk pretty much all around the town.

Found the Chinese restaurant – got takeaway (he didn’t have English)! Went back to the ‘deli’ style shop to get supplies (because we couldn’t find the larger supermarket) but they’d closed – because we’d taken so bloody long to get around the town.

Luckily, found a smaller deli-style shop that was closing, but kindly let us in and we pretty much got everything we were looking for!!

So, good news – we have Chinese for dinner and lots of chocolate!!! PLUS food for dinner for the next couple of days.

YAY!

Also, when we got home Mark (our host) had found us a local to give us some survivor Spanish – by way of taking us on a tour of Alora and giving us a history lesson and getting us to practise our Spanish on the locals AND later on a tour of Malaga doing the same. ย Pretty cool!

xx

ALORA – WE MADE IT!

 

https://www.fincafenix.com/

Eric Nankivell builder’s labourer!

The good news is that Finca Fenix – our living quarters for the next 8 weeks does exist! Since I booked it on an internet booking site, there was always the possibility that it didn’t and that I’d been giving our money away to some ‘random’ named Mark! [Update 2020: We love Mark! We’ve kept in touch via Facebook and plan to spend a long weekend in Alora at Finca Fenix some time. We visit the northern hemisphere often enough! He is a top bloke and will make you feel so welcome!].ย 

We arrived here late on Saturday and it looks just like it does on online. The gardens are beautiful and the pool is lovely and clean and blue (and cold!!!) – inside the house is perfect for us. A main bedroom with ensuite, a second bedroom (in case we have visitors) with ensuite, a living area with dining table, a usable and very clean and modern kitchen – with internet and TV (SKY is available, which means movies in English! YAY!!!). The house is very old and Mark and Kim the owners have spent many years doing it up. It is in a Spanish/Moorish style – with dark timbers and lots of Moroccan pieces.

The downs at the moment are mainly to do with my perceived expectation of privacy. Remember I said we wanted to love, sing and dance – I actually expanded on that when in Greece to ‘maybe’ skinny dipping in our pool (ha ha) which is a big deal for me!!! Well, with the owners living upstairs most of the above is not going to happen. Yes, so far they are doing a very good job of keeping to themselves – and they usually try to be away when they have visitors (after they’ve settled us in!) but there is a difference to having a cottage and grounds to yourself for two months and having intimate neighbours!

So far, Eric is very happy because I’ve been in the pool the two days we’ve been here (I don’t do pools!) and I bought a new swimsuit in Seville the other day just for the event ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s pretty nice too!!! We want to learn Tai Chi while we are away (head space and enough down time to do it) and we’ve now started – with a session on each of our two days so far from DVDs copied on to Eric’s laptop. Boy do our shoulders and upper arms hurt!!

The weather is nice at the moment – 27 both days with 27/28 for the rest of the week – overnight as low as 18; so good sleeping too. The last month has been tricky for me sleeping – mostly to do with air conditioning and not being able to have the windows open!

We are right by a train line and under the pathway of flights coming into Malaga – but it’s okay. The trains are electric and not that noisy (I enjoy the sound of trains anyway) and planes overhead don’t bother me. It’s actually very interesting watching them take pretty much exactly the same flight path into Malaga – Eric says one of the mountains around us will be the landmark to turn at. They seriously do look like they’re flying the exact same path each time – which I find amazing, given that they are in the big wide sky, without white lines and signs!!

Mark (the landlord) gave us the quick tour of Alora when he collected us from the train on Saturday. It is so hilly!!! I have absolutely no confidence in a) walking up to our town and b) walking around our town and c) being alive afterwards!!!!

Eric had a quick ‘run’ up last night to see how hard it was – always thinking of me ๐Ÿ˜€ – and got back about an hour later. The first section is pretty much vertically up the hill – and (Ricco says) takes about 15 minutes! WAH!! Then apparently he only took another 45 minutes because he got lost!!! HA HA – Eric!!

He wants me to be brave and go for a walk with him soon – as it’s in the evening now (about 6.50 pm). The only reasons I’m considering this are a) chocolate b) something with icing on it c) icecream (there’s a theme here ๐Ÿ™‚ ) d) we need coffee e) and something for dinner AND f) if we take too long to get to know our local ‘white’ village, we’ll never do it!!!

This post is going to go up before some others I’ve started writing but not posted yet – because then you’ll be up to date with where we are now. The others will be random ‘stories’ – Eric wants to do one on toilet flushes around the world! Seriously :)!

I’m checking into a couple of things at the moment. We are booked to visit Harry Potter world in Watford next weekend (but I think it is too soon after arriving in Alora) and we are trying to visit Rachel, Rachel and Becky while there – so I’m going to get the ticket date altered to Friday 18th October, if possible. Also, I’m just checking where exactly the Alhambra Palace is – so we can plan how to get there. We will travel some by train while we are here – and when necessary hire a car. I think getting to Granada for the Alhambra might be a car hire adventure.

Malaga our nearest city is easily accessible by train, so that will be an cool ‘day out’ coming up soon.

Well, I’d better wrap up – as my tummy is saying ‘STARVING’ and I’m sure Eric’s is too – he’s just being a gentleman and giving me time to psych myself up for the hill!!!

Love to all! Trish xxx

BEST LAID PLANS – 14th September

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Well, I’ve had our eight weeks in Alora booked and paid for – for months!

I emailed Mark at Finca Finex today to confirm we’re arriving tomorrow night – and got an email back saying “Yikes! You’re here tomorrow? We have you coming on the 22nd” – a week away! So, suddenly as we are just about to catch our flight from Athens to Madrid – all we have booked for a week is a night in Madrid!!

That’s okay! Although it hits our budget, we looked for accommodation in Seville and book three days from 15th Sept to 18th Sept, still leaves three days until we can check into Alora, but we don’t want to commit for a week until we see a) what the hotel is like and b) what there is to do in Seville.

Then we go to book the train from Madrid to Seville on 15th September – no train available until 17th September!! That puts a spanner in the works!

At 2pm this afternoon, I was a little stressed because we will get into Madrid airport at 10.45 pm and Eric insists we get the metro to the hotel – about an hour – then we will wander around for a while finding our hotel (google maps says 6 minutes; but it is the middle of the night in a strange city – I’m allowed to be dramatic! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

When we wake the next day, we have to work out how to get to Seville OR how to change our ‘super cheap’ Sevilla accommodation to a couple of days later and stay in Madrid.

BUT THEN – not only are there no train tickets, but they are between $107 and $167 EACH! Cheaper to hire a car it seems; we’ve seen prices suggesting $35 AUD for 3 days! BUT, we’ll be driving out of Madrid on the wrong side of the road, with no practise! Bummer!

So, I was a little stressed at 2 pm. Then more stressed at 3.30 – when we realised we’d booked the wrong date for Alora. Then we found Seville accommodation, so less stressed by 4 pm, THEN mega-stressed at 4.50 (just as taxi driver arrived) because we don’t know how to get to Seville!

About to board our flight and Eric has been googling on the super-slow free airport WIFI – no solution yet!

I need a Hungry Jacks Whopper – chocolate won’t do it!!!

Airfare Madrid to Seville will be approx $450 AUD (blows the budget) – checking car hire prices again.

So, our Greek sojourn was excellent and our new Spain experience has begun with some challenges. Here’s to some satisfactory solutions (aka we don’t have to sleep at the side of the road, hitch-hike, get mugged and/or murdered!!)

I’ll let you know how we go! (OBVIOUSLY we survived, because I’m writing this – but more detail to come!)

YAMAS! ๐Ÿ™‚

LAST DAY IN SANTORINI (AKA Thera, Calliste and Strongyle) – 13th September

Sitting under the arches of an outdoor sitting area, in comfy rounded wicker chairs by the pool. It’s about 3.30 pm and we are the last of our tour group, as the others flew out this morning.

We leave on the hydrofoil ferry at 7 pm. Luckily for us we had a whole extra day here. We took time to go back to Oia (pronounced ee-ah) which is where Atlantis Books is – and one of my important reasons for visiting Santorini. We visited Oia earlier this week to see the ‘best’ sunset. Like the ‘best’ sunset in Mykonos, in Fiji, Mauritius – add your ‘best’ sunset here! This was followed by dinner – and we’ve had some beautiful evenings for outdoor dining here – apparently it has been quite windy prior to our arrival. We found Atlantis Books then, but were with other people and couldn’t stop.

Was the picture in my head up to the reality? No! But that can happen. It was in a white and blue building – TICK. There were a lot of books – in several languages – TICK. There were book quotes painted on the walls and cute cat signs around and it was in the kind of disarray that made it hard to find things.

We thought it would be exciting talking to the shopkeepers. Unfortunately, they seemed jaded (two Italian girls). I don’t know if they would have been more animated if we were Italian – or if they hadn’t only just got out of bed.

They literally sleep in the shop! We gave them plenty of time to open up – didn’t arrive there until about 10.45 am, but although the fans were running and we could see the power light on the EFTPOS machine, it didn’t seem open.

Eric tried the door and a scantily clad (knickers and t-shirt) girl scooted across the window (he was a happy chap!) at his eye level (the entry is downstairs and he is 6ft +) and said they would open soon. He asked ‘before 12?’ and she said ‘oh, should be!’

We weren’t the only ones waiting and places don’t open early in Greece, but usually by 10 am.

In the shop you can see their beds above the books – one girl clambered back up to her ‘bedroom’ while we were there. AND the boss was still in bed – as we discovered in the philosophy and Greek section when a deep coughing noise emanated from the bed above our heads!

We did buy books – only two – Atlantis Never Lost and a biography of Leonardo da Vinci. Eric commandeered the Atlantis book (I had already started it!). Apparently, there is a theory that the ‘lost’ city of Atlantis is below Santorini – lost when the original island of Strongyle erupted in 1615 BC, creating Santorini.

We will get into Athens tonight (Friday) at about 1 am and fly out to Madrid on Saturday night at about 8 pm. We’ve booked one night there and thought perhaps we’d spend a couple of days before catching a train – but we are eager to get to Alora and settle into our Spain idyll.

So, this week in the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini has been great (especially Santorini) but it has been very expensive. They are the two most expensive Greek Islands. The Trafalgar tour we were on covered accommodation and breakfast daily – one highlight dinner each in Mykonos and Santorini, a walking orientation tour in Athens and both islands and a lovely tour manager, Kerri, to guide us, give advice and coordinate the ‘optional’ excursions.

So, between eating (40 to 70 dollars each time) excursions and some shopping – our budget is blown (ha ha). We’ll have to get supplies and hunker down in Alora for a week or so, to get back on track.

Won’t be hard – we are looking forward to ‘not’ sightseeing and not running to a schedule! ย Yamas! ๐Ÿ™‚Image

OMG! Athens!!!!

Hey everyone! A quick one ….

Made it safely into Athens – and so far we are having a great time!

Trafalgar Tours sent a driver – and he was very friendly and articulate. Pointed out important areas of town, where the metro was and shopping. Spoke of the history and the economy. He was great!

Got to Zafolia Hotel and the staff were very welcoming and proactive – gave us maps and highlighted where we were in relation to city centre – and how to get to the metro (without us asking). I mentioned that I’d sent an email about the possibility of having dinner on the rooftop (roof pool garden) for my birthday, but hadn’t heard back. Instead of ignoring or deflecting – they asked us about that and called us in our room soon after to say they’d sorted it and it was good to go. The rooftop garden is open until late – but only for snacks and drinks, not dinner. So they’ve put in great customer service effort so far.

We grabbed a late takeaway coffee from across the road (great coffee!!) and ย touched based with reception about the internet – then he wrote down for us Greek for ‘thank you’ ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ – because it’s all Greek to us!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Also, our lovely friend Rachel in the UK organised for a birthday card and prezzie to be at the hotel when we arrived – so lovely of her! xxxx

We have the whole of tomorrow (Thursday) to wander around ourselves before we join the Trafalgar Tour tomorrow night. We’ve planned shopping and maybe a pedicure/manicure for me!!! I’m wearing sandals a lot – and my feet look like shit!! ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve just got to check what our Athens day with the tour looks like and we’ll then go see stuff we aren’t covering with them.

I’m attaching some photos now! I’m sorry I don’t take a good photo – enjoy!!!

Kalinixta (good night)! xxxx

Finding the magic – the Joy in Life!

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My first Sangria!

OK, it’s official! I don’t know how to have fun!!

Although this post comes hard on the heels of our Milan post – I’ve put off writing about the next 8 days because I want to write cheerfully – about the joy, the discoveries, the mystery and the magic.

I’ve been ‘dreaming’ of how different it’s going to be, how different I’m going to feel.

Hong Kong to Barcelona was the ‘getting to Spain part’ and that was ‘ho hum’, but that was okay because the real journey would begin once we got to Barcelona. We are in Barcelona for 9 days (including Wednesday when we depart for Athens). We looked at doing Spanish conversation classes here, so we were more prepared when we got to Andalusia. However, we could only find classes that were full on, scheduled over several weeks (once a week kinda thing) which didn’t really suit our timing.

So, basically Barcelona feels exactly how I didn’t want our Spain visit to be – a tourist destination. You MUST visit Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum, Guell Park, Barri Gotic, do a bus tour, visit the beach, eat tapas and drink sangria – tick, tick, tick to all of the above; which is all the mechanics done. It doesn’t capture the “Je ne sai pas!” I’m seeking. The people factor and ‘we are not just rats on the tourist wheel’. This part of the trip feels like ‘money not well spent’ and is like almost every other touristy holiday we’ve ever done – visit mandatory tourist attraction, exit via mandatory attraction shop – although, travelling light means not buying gaudy attraction souvenirs!! ๐Ÿ™‚

See why I didn’t want to write anything?? I don’t like to be a whiner, but at the same time it is practically impossible for me to pretend things are any different to what they are!!

It has been great living in an apartment in a typical Barcelona street – right on the edge of the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). It has been good to have a nodding acquaintance with the nearby grocer. We’ve walked a lot! With 2-3 hours most days – finished off with a climb up five flights of stairs to our apartment – my bones ache!!

Living in an old city is a great experience. Everything is old and dusty and sometimes a bit smelly – but still very clean.

When we were dropped off by taxi a few streets from our place – at 10pm – and began our walk, it was a little scary. This small street lead to a smaller street, then an even smaller (narrower) one and our street – lots of people wandering around and lots of rubbish bags in the street. We were like “where are we?”

After a couple of days we asked Graham (the owner of our flat) “what’s the deal with rubbish removal?” and he informed us that every night after 8pm you put your rubbish on the street (don’t worry if someone breaks open the bag and rummages through it looking for finds) and after 10pm the rubbish man collects it. So, the streets are only rubbish strewn after 8pm until it is collected. During the day it all looks fine and dandy. First impressions, hey?!

We’ve probably had four meals out. I don’t advise visiting the cafes that advertise their wares with big and tacky coloured photos – the food was just as tacky!

We’ve had the crazy waiter who taught us to ask for the bill in Catalan (El compte si us plau) and the lovely waitress who told us that was the Catalan – we speak Spanish in our establishment – but also that in Catalan they say ‘Merci’ for thank you – so, Catalan is very similar to French.

In Spanish, asking for the bill is ‘La Conta, por favor”.

We went back to our favourite restaurant tonight – can’t remember the name! The slapstick duo who welcome you in (and try to bring in customers off the street – lots of competition) were great. One is a Japanese-heritage Catalan and the other an Indian-heritage Catalan and they played off each other nicely – the Indian declaring that he was the attractive one who got all the hugs and kisses and the Japanese chap was a drain on the establishment!! Also, their menu style and the fact that they spoke good english made our tapas experience much more enjoyable – I’ve also discovered I like Mojitos more than Sangria!! Oh, by the way, I haven’t turned into a drunkard! One drink lasts the meal – contrary to my ‘drunk on Sangria’ adventure last week (shared on Facebook) – and where me drunk just means giggly and more chatty – that was ONLY because the drink came in such a big-arse glass!! I didn’t want to waste it! ๐Ÿ™‚

We also went to hear Manuel Rodriguez (Spanish guitarist) play at Palau de la Musica – a small but gorgeous concert hall just down our street. It was a nice show – he is very talented and it was only for 1.5 hours; but that was plenty of time to enjoy a performance made up entirely of guitar playing. He didn’t really show any personality until the encore – when he played a very long piece made up of a well-known romantic melody that he continually interrupted with snaps of adverts, ringtones (like the famous one out of Love Actually) Bond music, rock songs, beatle tunes, etc. He introduced the piece by saying that he loved playing music – but sometimes got distracted too easily and ruined his romantic intentions. You kind of had to be there (I tried to find it on You Tube, but no luck) but it was very funny and extremely clever!!

So, it’s Monday evening. We’ve been out to do some shopping and gone out to dinner. We leave for Athens on Wednesday, where we have a day of our own before officially joining the Greek Island tour (Trafalgar). We are really looking forward to that!!

Buenas noches and adios – for now!! xxxx

Welcome to Milan!

Trish & Eric Milan

We arrived in Milan – first stop in Europe – through the quickest and possibly most informal passport control ever!

We met our driver – and he was probably the most dour Italian I’ve ever met! No hello; no smile; no handshake – what?! Anyway, the car was lovely.

You know how we might have some idea of Italians (and maybe the French) being crazy drivers – well this guy thought he was Fabrizio Barbazza! He was doing 130km/hr in no time – 145 km/hr in the 90 zone, 80 in the 50 zone – went through the toll booth (30km) at 70km/hr. He drove in the middle of two lanes to handle the bends and – apparently – in the fast lane, you just drive up the person in front’s butt until they move over – indicators not required!

Had a couple of hour nap then across the road for a cappuccino to keep us going – as we only had one day in Milan – before catching the train to Barcelona.

Milan loves books! In just three blocks there were several bookshops – lots of choice, well set up – and stationery – I love notebooks (right Tash and Lori?!). Best of all was the 4-storey bookshop across the road from our hotel (Hoepli International Bookstore) – books mostly in Italian, of course – but I was in heaven! In five minutes I had three books I wanted to walk out with but in the spirit of travelling with carry-on only, our budget (and it was only our first day in Europe) I stuck with one book and two packs of cards (need two for canasta) with Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Homo Vitruvianus (circa 1490) as the picture. I loved that positive feeling of books being loved and alive in Milan!

We set off to the Duomo (magnificent cathedral, with such amazing detail and craftsmanship) and generally wandered in and around Piazza del Duomo. We came to the Museo del Novecento and saw there was an Andy Warhol exhibition, so decided to take a look.

Had a fun moment trying really hard to get in (Uscita means exit!) and then walked and walked through this museum looking for AW and ‘only’ finding Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani and such legends. Eric and Trish, Art Barbarians, do Europe’s museums. We have no artistic taste at all – I’m going “Eric, look at the names of these artists. We should be paying attention!” Eric’s going “We don’t ‘have to’ anything – I like this one!” (He also seemed very surprised at how small the penises were – big bounteous blokes with tiny willies!)

We hurried through and thought we’d missed it, but they made it the last exhibition you had to go through and it was great! The iconic Campbell Soup prints, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and the 10 Jews series.

Back out in the Piazza (900 years of history) we engaged in conversation with a black African man from Senegal. He was selling children’s books (African stories) written in Italian. He didn’t have any in English. I said “no thanks, I can’t read Italian”. He said “Buy them as a souvenir of your visit”. I asked “How are African stories for children, written in Italian a souvenir of my day in Milan?” He responded with “People buy them anyway, to support me earning a living”. We bought one (maybe can donate to Esperance library?) – and as we walked away I said to Eric “Well, that was our first ‘sucked in’ experience for the trip. We’ll have to watch that!”

We had a lovely meal at a street cafe (during a thunderstorm) watching passersby – the Milanese were very fashionable. I can’t believe the heels on those girls – on cobblestones! I also loved the t-shirt ‘I love shopping’ – it looked very fashionable – and I really wanted it (even though I don’t like shopping) but Eric said “no”! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The other thing that was done very well was how they covered their restoration work – instead of just ugly scaffolding and tarps – they created advertising boards with pictures of the completed product. So, for example, the part of the Duomo they were restoring had a picture of what it would look like and almost you didn’t realise they were working on it.

We had a really enjoyable few hours wandering in Milan – capped off with Eric doing a very entertaining juggling act when he slipped on wet cobblestones in his thongs, did a crazy dance and managed to not fall and also keep hold of his gelato!

Good one Eric! xx