Non-cultural pursuits, pursued

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We haven’t ‘actively’ pursued culture in Spain (I guess) having really wanted to absorb the culture by living in it!

Of course, we have visited some churches and castles, done some guided tours (including with our friend Paco; probably the best!) learned some local history and enjoyed some day trips. In the last two weeks especially we’ve just ‘been’ here in Alora!

This three month break has also been about escape and relaxation – and for me, books and movies MEAN escape and relaxation!

Funny thing is that Eric doesn’t usually read a lot (although more than when we first met) – usually at Christmas – and it has been great to see him enjoying reading and it has amazed me today to realize how many books Eric and I have read in the last couple of months!

Usually I buy Eric books at Christmas time that he reads immediately before he gets busy with review season, but the rest of the year he doesn’t have much time for it, although he occasionally picks one up!

So far, Eric has read eight Jack Reacher novels on the kindle, the new Roddy Doyle, a Jeffery Deaver out of the Alora cupboard and the Atlantis Lost and Leonardo da Vinci we bought in Santorini – 12 books so far!! FANTASTIC!

At the same time, I’ve read nine Jack Reacher novels on the kindle, both the Santorini books, Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’, Daniel Silva’s ‘The Fallen Angel’, two Dean Koontz ‘Frankenstein’ novels, Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’, two John Sandford’s and 2 W.E.B Griffins, Tampa and The Stalking of Julia Gillard – so I’ve managed 22 books so far and I’m on number 23! YES! Perfect!!

It took us almost two months to get to the movies – we couldn’t work out how to see English speaking films for ages, because we didn’t have any Spanish. When we worked out that we wanted VO, VOS or VOSE films we then realized that movies don’t start in Spain until about 10 or 10.30pm! So, that put us off! Eventually here in Alora we recognized the versions we needed and that on Saturday and Sunday they had afternoon and early evening sessions. So, now we’ve seen THOR, Ender’s Game, Gravity, About Time, Captain Phillips, Prisoners (a waste of life!) and The Butler. Not good enough for holidays and it won’t get better from here because we have a full itinerary for Morocco – so no more films!

However, this drought of movies was relieved by the presence of ‘Big Beast’ – access to Mark and Kim’s movie drive!!!

Astonishingly we didn’t actually watch as many shows on this as we might have – we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones – Eric loved it – but I was bored by the second season :). We watched three Matrix movies and Skyfall. We also did have SKY TV, so we watched lots of news, old Star Trek, British quiz shows, auction shows, Come dine with me – lots of shows we wouldn’t watch at home – and only in the evenings, when we were at home!

Plaza Mayor was the place for us to go and see movies. This takes two trains – Alora to Victoria Kent and then on to Plaza Mayor – about an hour. I think Plaza Mayor has been created for shopping, eating, cinemas and the game arcade.Β So, it became our Saturday excursion – and if we had time while waiting for the train we’d play Guitar Hero at the arcade – which has given me the desire to have an Arcade Game Guitar Hero at home πŸ™‚

Last Saturday I played four songs at medium level and was highest scoring on three and second on one song. I LOVE IT – makes me think I’m a muso!

So, in this time of repose from real life and experiencing cultural diversity we’ve had plenty of down time and enjoyed less-cerebral pursuits.

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Costa del Sol – Benalmadena and Fuengirola – November 2013

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Trish, Eric and Bele at Blankko

On Tuesday we had the experience of eat at Blankko Restaurant Lounge Bar in Benalmadena, which is along the Costa del Sol, near to Torremolinos (which whenever I say, see or hear that name a voice in my head sings “Torremolinos! Torremolinos!” – some old movie? We went with Mark and his friend Bele (German and living in the UK). Mark drove us out from Alora – which was an adventure by itself, Mark! xx

Being at Blankko was very much like re-visiting the Greek Islands – a white building and white furniture, high on a hill (lived the lonely goatherd!) overlooking the Mediterranean – breathtaking views! The water views in the Greek Islands AND Esperance are better, but this is the Mediterranean AND you don’t get that at home!

You can see all along the coast line down to Fuengirola and up to Malaga (and beyond?). What is very evident looking at the coastline is the density of the holiday apartments – this IS the Costa del Sol! Luckily for us there isn’t a high occupancy rate right now, out of the summer season. It would be a nightmare come true to be booked in at Torremolinos in peak of summer with streets and beaches ‘bumper to bumper’ with people!

Good decision we’ve made in general to visit Spain in Autumn then!

In general, the weather has cooled off! It will be a miracle if we get into the pool again (miracle = Eric pushing me in!). However, on Tuesday we went off to lunch (Eric and I – not our companions) dressed warmly with backup scarf and rain coats in our bag, just to swelter in 28 degrees! The day before Eric and I caught the train to Fuengirola, which is the town at the end of the line on the coastal route from Malaga. We only visited for a day out; to get out of the house, visit the coast (which we hadn’t done yet; not high on our priorities since we LIVE on the coast!). The forecast said 23, with 18km/hr winds and cloudy. So, again we dressed for ‘cold’ weather (this is all relative guys! It’s been higher than 27 degrees most days we’ve been in Spain; we’ve just spend 2 weeks in the UK and Ireland where it’s about 11 and 12 degrees ‘freezing’ and in our house at the bottom of the mountain ‘in the shade’ it is actually quite cold too!) only to spend three hours walking up and down the foreshore – looking for shady spots! Must be that transitional place where the weather doesn’t really know what it is doing yet!! (Sitting at our favourite bar/cafe in the sunshine in Alora – writing this – it is currently 28 degrees) This is clearly a weather story!!! πŸ™‚

So, back to Blankko – it was Mark’s special treat (Mark, our host at Finca Fenix, Alora) as he is off to the UK for a couple of weeks and won’t see us again before we leave for Morocco. It is extremely generous of him – he is a very lovely and gracious host! Drinks for an hour in the sunshine with the ocean views and then into the ‘shady’ outdoors eating area for lunch.

Mark insisted we have three courses. We have the restaurant dining down to a main and sometimes a dessert – but I think that’s part of the long and relaxing social eating thing that I don’t do very well πŸ™‚ The food was lovely – company excellent and ambiance ‘warm’!!

Thank you Mark and Bele!

A really good thing about travelling by car to the restaurant, away from the foreshore and centre of town, is that we get to see and enjoy the back streets and homes around the town – not just the tourist locations.

When we trained into Fuengirola on Monday it was very interesting to notice the coast coming into view and being amazed at the tourist accommodation. Block after block of high-rise apartments!

We googled Fuengirola before leaving home and decided on a couple of sights we might pursue and found a restaurant that had a good review – amazing views and great food!

So once we hit Fuengirola we fund the tourist bureau, got a local map and noted where the places where and set off towards the beach. We walked for so long!! We visited the port area and then walked one way along the beach, which thankfully had a good promenade and we didn’t have to tackle the sand! We couldn’t see public loos anywhere, so visited Burger King (Hungry Jacks to Aussies) and bought the token coke (didn’t want to spoil our appetites for our splendid upcoming lunch).

At some point we decided to check street numbers because we knew our lunch spot was at number 86. We were at 32 and kept heading in the same direction (leading to zero). After a while we turned around and slowly (enjoying the view and marvelling at all the oldies sunbathing) made our way back up the street – back past Burger King and the port – and we walked and walked – where is it?

Finally, we found it – Plankstek Restaurante & Pizzeria – comfortably furnished restaurant with stunning bar and nice sea views! The nice sea view was alright! Yes, across the road was the sea – between the car park on the left and buildings on the right.

The food was acceptable, but really just a cafe style okay. I laughed because I’d already ‘prepared’ Eric that it might ‘cost a bit’ because it sounded like such a nice place. Funny really!!

This feels like such a negative story :(, but it’s not supposed to be. I guess when just seeing the ocean OR having it in sight while you dine is a novelty, then the descriptions in reviews are accurate. However, we come from Australia (particularly from Esperance) where an ocean view includes colour and movement – surfers, boats, fisherman, sail boats, ships, kite surfers, islands, jetties, wildlife and pristine sands going off as far as the eye can see – on beautiful, clear blue seas!

We did feel it was a good day out – one of our objectives was to get some exercise, which has dropped of in the last few weeks. I think three solid hours of walking counts as having achieved that. AND our meal was substantial and left us with no need for an evening meal.

Visiting a Costa del Sol holiday spot was worthwhile for perspective and we always enjoy the train trips!! The trains are quick, clean and on time, with not a hooligan in sight!!

So, we’ve been sitting at our coffee shop for a couple of hours now; it’s probably time to head home. We’ll be back up town later for Paco’s Spanish class. The shops are all closed for siesta, so I’ll have to look for those shoes I want this evening! Ciao!

P.S. Paco’s Spanish class wasn’t on, because now that Paco has a full-time job he can’t do everything!!! WHAT? Not good enough Paco! πŸ™‚ xxx

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Trish and Mark at Blankko
DSCF2567Foreshore at Fuengirola, Costa del Sol

IN DUBLIN’S FAIR CITY

 

I wanted to stay there!! – (above Florrie with Trish)

I’d had a taste of green, soft, Irish, sights, sounds, colour (grey) πŸ™‚ pubs, food, Grafton Street, O’Connell Street, Ha’penny Bridge, Stephens Green, Trinity College (again; wish I could go there!) visiting Florrie in Fourth Avenue, buses cleaner than in the 80s, bus out to Celbridge, three storey bookshop (Grafton Street) cakes, Butlers chocolate/toffees, RAIN, green, green, green – great for the soul!!

It felt like home – in my genes; in my cells!

I love Australia for all its faults, but the one thing that really kills me is the landscape! This won’t gell with many of you because lots of the people I know are attached to the land, particularly in country Australia. It’s a harsh and unforgiving landscape and for me it eats at and attacks the soul. It is the most stressful part of living in Australia. When is this alleviated? Early in the growing season when suddenly everything is green; for a second! Some people may cultivate a luscious garden, but with a lot of toil and use of precious water. It’s a lot of work finding the ‘soft’ in the Australian landscape.

Of course, this is very personal to me and everyone else is entitled to feel differently!

I didn’t need to SEE anyone; I could have just BEEN. And that is probably what I needed to stay there for.

I made the effort to catch up with some family; but not many were available. Anyone in touch with me on Facebook has known for about two years that we were going to be visiting in 2013. There were two particular relatives that I was surprised were unavailable and one old friend (but her father has recently passed, so understandable). The old boyfriend is a worry! Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t end up together. He couldn’t make a decision and in the end I said “it’s obviously not high on your agenda; we’ve only a few days, so don’t worry about it!” Funny thing is that he hasn’t said anything to that, but still comes on line on Skype every day, so he hasn’t disconnected.

The voice in my head is saying “dude, you weren’t really fussed if you didn’t catch up with anyone – except for Florrie – so it doesn’t matter” But of course it does! Even anti-social gits like me want to be wanted! (People, you know me! I’m private and reserved and not a people person – it isn’t me!)

So, we did catch up with some relatives – one lovely girl totally unknown before Facebook contact – Pamela; daughter of Aunty Teresa (and therefore cousin). Pamela is so gorgeous! She is loud and funny and articulate and Irish – and so welcoming!

We had dinner with Pamela on our first evening in Dublin at the North Star Hotel. Pamela was more excited at the recent refurbishments (I think πŸ™‚ ) than catching up with her Aussie cousin (and Eric!!!) It was a really nice evening; easy. Like when we caught up with Rachel in the UK – no awkwardness at all. Thanks Pamela!

They say Dublin is a village – and here’s proof! We were staying at Cassidy’s Hotel in Upper O’Connell Street and went walking down to Grafton Street and surrounds, and who do we run into? Pamela! Just finished work and on her way to the airport for her visit to Glasgow. When you’re in a city (of approximately 1.5 million) where you don’t expect to meet someone you know and suddenly there’s a friendly madwoman waving at you (sorry, I mean friendly woman waving madly! πŸ™‚ ) it feels awesome! Just as it did when we first met at the Spire on the Tuesday (newest favorite meeting place in Dublin) – hello, friendly face waving!

We grew up knowing the Byrne side of the family (mum) much more than the Shelleys (dad). I think that’s probably normal – women make the effort to keep the social familial stuff happening and it (again) makes sense that it’s easier to do that with your own family than the in-laws. Add to that, the Shelleys are very private and keep to themselves a lot – we don’t know the Shelleys very well.

Pamela is a Shelley and not only are we alike in our attitude and likes – we knew we were Shelleys!! As we’ve lived in Australia most of our lives anytime we’d say ‘it’s a Shelley thing’ we mostly mean’t as in the six of us! What I realized, beginning with Pamela is that the traits we recognize as Shelley are across the board – being reserved and private, being at the top of the list!

We caught up with Davy Shelley (uncle) too – travelled by bus out to Donaghmede. I remember Davy and his lovely wife Emily from my visit with them in the early 80s. Davy is a widower now and instead of inviting us to his ‘bachelor pad’ we visited with Tracey (cousin) her daughter Hannah and little Alex. AND that was easy too! He is lovely and from the moment I spoke to him on the phone, I could hear my dad! They laugh the same, make the same faces – dad has more hair!!! LOL πŸ™‚

Even though most of his kids live close by they still keep to themselves a lot – although Davy is clearly proud of them and close to them all! It’s beautiful seeing the loving relationship he has with Hannah, who is a very lovely girl! Thank you Davy and Tracey for the very warm welcome; we loved it! Davy and I have been ‘friends’ on Facebook for a little while. Now we know each other and it will be a warmer Facebook friendship!

As I said earlier we were closer to the Byrnes growing up and although we couldn’t catch up with Greg and Emmett (best bud cousins in childhood) we did visit with cousin Kevin and his wife Fiona and children Philip, Rafe and Roisin – and with aunty Florrie and her husband Frank.

Last I knew Kevin he was (virtually) a snotty nosed kid. Put it this way; I was a self-absorbed teenager and he was a child!!

But Kevin and I have been in touch for a while through Skype and he was quick to invite us to visit; and we did! On the Thursday evening we were out in Celbridge, Co Kildare having delicious lamb shanks and mashed potatoes (Kevin had mash duty; because apparently he does it best!) followed by Bailey’s cheesecake (say no more Fiona!). It was all yummo – especially because the spuds had spring onions in and since I’ve been a mother I pretty much haven’t had potatoes with onions – because the kids all had fits!

Kevin is clever and well informed and we had a really great night. I’d want you on my quiz team any time dude! You and Fiona were generous and welcoming hosts – we also loved how the house was geared up for Halloween!

Kevin then went out of his way to collect us in the morning to take us on a whistle stop tour of Celbridge and district on his way to work in Dublin. Celbridge is famous as the home of Arthur Guinness (founder of the famous brewery) – and the countryside is lush!!!! Drool!

This only makes for a warmer long distance friendship for us and the Kevin Byrne family!!

However, the most important person for me to catch up with in Dublin was my Aunty Florrie (mum’s last sister) and her husband Frank. Probably because she’s my Godmother too (I don’t know) we were always closer to Florrie. We knew and loved Kay very well and knew Evelyn and her boys Greg and Emmett too. I was apparently very close to Greg as a small child and was definitely in love with him as a teenager πŸ™‚ We knew Paddy (Kevin’s dad) and Johnny and their kids too, to a lesser extent. We didn’t know Nelly O’Brien and her family well at all, but then I think she was an unusual Byrne in that she was reclusive. She never came out (that I can remember) and as I said earlier, it’s the women who drive these things.

So, regardless of Florrie being the last Byrne aunty or uncle left to visit, she was and would always be the magnet for me in Dublin. And she’s not well and quite frail – of course she is getting older (no ages here; it’s against Shelley law!) but Florrie was always full of life and she has no energy for life left in her. It was fantastic to be able to visit with her now. Unless some miracle happens, it will be the last time!

She was asking after ‘her Patty’ (mum) and her Von (my daughter) who I think she remembers best as a child of four, not as a child of 12 (might be a misconception on my part). Florrie seemed as delighted to see us as we were to see her and Frank.

We caught up with them as soon as we got to Dublin on the Tuesday (straight to the hospital) and again for several hours on Thursday before going out to Kevin and on Saturday for a couple of hours, before flying back to Malaga.

It was very sad at the end, with Florrie very aware that it was almost definitely the last time we’d see each other 😦

Frank is her rock – and a devil!! I have lovely fond memories of Frank from my teenage years; but Frank is his own worst enemy. He’s very much “I don’t give a fuck!” about pretty much everything – fuck you, fuck them, fuck the dog, fuck the world – and then gets everyone offside, which is very sad from the outside, but he would just say “I don’t give a fuck!” Except that he does; about Florrie, about kids (especially his nieces and nephews) and animals. Maybe not grown-ups – but many would say he’s still a big kid himself, so no wonder!

Love you Frank (seriously!) and there’s always a place in my heart for you!!

Love you too Florrie and God Bless!!

One of the sad things about my family being just “us 6” here in Australia is that I don’t have a strong sense of identity – who I am and where I come from!

I am a Dubliner! That’s where I feel most myself. I love and adore my Eric and my children. I like being an Aussie. But a long genetic history rooted in Ireland is what makes me who I am!

The people I’ve met who have said I’m not Irish – because I’ve spent most of my life in Australia – can go and jump – in the Liffey!! πŸ™‚

I flew out of Ireland wishing the next three weeks were to be spent in Ireland; not in Spain, which probably explains why I’ve been feeling down for the last week or so!

TΓ‘ mΓ­le blessings a thabhairt duit (a thousand blessings to you)

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Trish, Pamela & Eric

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Eric, Davy & Trish

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Frank, Trish & Florrie

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Kevin, Trish & Fiona

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[Update] In January 2014, my Aunty Florrie died. And although this was very sad to the entire family, I’m so glad that I got to see and hug her before she passed. She was in pain and ready to go, even in the October. I think of Florrie often and even from as far away as Australia, she is loved and missed. God Bless Florrie! xx

HELP ME RONDA, HELP, HELP ME RONDA!

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A couple of weeks ago Eric and I visited Ronda – a town built over the El Tajo gorge 100m deep, with a strong Moorish history taking it back to the 12th century.

For days before and after our visit we had the lyrics ‘help me Rhonda’ buzzing around in our brains! It was driving us crazy – and honestly right now (just talking about it) it is echoing in a maddening way!! HELP πŸ™‚

It was a good day out. You can catch a train from here (Alora) leaving at 10.30 and arriving at Ronda by 11.55, with stunning views of El Churro on the way (google it!). The train departed for Alora at 16.50, so it wasn’t long to enjoy the town. We had an idea of what we wanted to see and the first step of our plan was to visit the tourism office – partly to use their loos!

So, we walked up town from the train station, through the Plaza de Socorro (which is a good square for meeting people and eating) to what we thought was the tourist bureau. It was a Parador right at the Puente Nuevo, next to the Puente Nuevo interpretation centre (a teeny booth, just big enough for a teeny man!). Paradors are usually ‘hotels’ built on existing old properties – such as castles or farms – so you get to experience the architecture and atmosphere of the historical building, but modernised. You are allowed to walk through the Parador even if you aren’t staying there and it is gorgeous!

So, unfortunately it wasn’t the tourist bureau and therefore there weren’t toilets. Eric asked the teeny man where they were and he said ‘McDonalds’!! I could not believe and was so ashamed ( 😦 ) that the first place we visited in historical Ronda was Maccas! And of course, not only would my moral compass not allow me to use their toilets without buying something, but they had signs around saying ‘only for customers!’. No wonder, if the teeny man was directing everyone to their shop!!

So, we got chips and a McFlurry πŸ™‚

Then we worked out where to visit:

1) Puente Nuevo is the newest bridge (1793) passing over the amazing gorge, on both sides of which Ronda is built. One side is the historical Moorish part of town and the side we started on is the modern area (hello Maccas!) Before going over the bridge we walked around on Paseo Ernest Hemingway and Paseo Orson Welles, which allow spectacular viewing of the gorge and the older town on the opposite side.

Pont3 Nuevo Ronda

Ponte Nuevo

There are 3 bridges at Ronda – the others are Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) from the 16th century and the Puente Arabe (Moorish Bridge) from 11th or 12th century.

2) Palacio de Mondragon (town museum) – we got lost finding it, but that’s okay because it is such a picturesque neighbourhood that it didn’t matter. In fact, we almost gave up, but it was one of the few places I’d decided on, so we persevered – and it was beautiful. It is a restored Moorish palace stemming from the 12th century and is now the museum of Ronda (and we’ve been avoiding museums) but the building itself is stunning and worth the visit.

Palacio de Mondragon

Palacio de Mondragon (alarmy.com)

3) Palacio del Rey Moro (Palace of the Moorish King) with gardens and entrance to mine (Arab fortress) (from 13th century). The mine goes deep deep down (only Eric went underground and he was knackered when he got back. Moaning and carrying on – sounded a lot like me! πŸ™‚ ) He thinks the elevation was about 300ft (100m) straight down and then back up! Lead to a lovely clear stream at the bottom.

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Casa (palacio) del Rey Moro

4) Banos de los Arabes (Arab baths) 11th to 12th century. This is an apparent ‘must see’ and if you’ve never seen any other archeological digs or ruins before ‘go for it’, because for me it was a little bit “YAY” – an old ruin ( for the entry fee) and was doable in about 10 minutes.

Banos des Arabes (Ronda)

Banos Arabes de Ronda (andalucia.org)

It was interesting to see how the baths worked – cold water from two nearby streams and drawn by buckets from a well, pumped by horse power ( πŸ™‚ ) then poured into a reservoir over a furnace, then piped through the baths. They had a cold room, warm room and hot room.

There were steep steps down from the street where the Moorish castle is down to the baths, which meant a steep climb back up to the street – but yikes, even more steps to get back up to the main drag leading to Puente Nuevo and back to new Ronda.

This sounds like we didn’t really see much, but in all the running from place to place we enjoyed Ronda. The gorge is stunning, the bridges over the gorge (how the hell did they build them?) the streets in and around old Ronda were beautiful – buildings, windows (railings) balconies, trees and flowers and lots of lovely tucked away eateries. Lots that we said ‘we have to go back there’ to, but time flew and we ended up having a quick and not very satisfactory lunch at the Castle Cafe; there were so many other nicer places!!

A word of advice too from my experience so far; when in a city if there is a square or street recommended to tourists for eating – especially if they have large and gaudy signs with photos of the food (if the photos look cheep and nasty then potentially the food will be) then don’t go there (or at least don’t have very high expectations!).

There is so much nicer food to be had away from the tourist bustle. Sometimes it’s scarier (perhaps you don’t have the language – and the tourist spots usually have English on the menus) but if at least once you try to eat where the locals eat – it is well worth it!!

So, it was a lovely day out in Ronda; perhaps a little rushed, but it was great that the train went straight there from Alora and we were home again by about 6.30pm.

We then took the opportunity to eat at the Manhattan Bar right near the train station at Alora. As it sounds, it isn’t exactly Spanish, but it had been recommended and is only open 3 nights a week and as it’s by the station the only time we are likely to be near it is at the end of a day trip.

There’s no Spanish food in sight, but I did welcome their delicious fish and chips with tartare sauce (mmmm). I think Eric had nachos. Plain, straight forward and familiar food. We have tried to avoid doing ‘safe’ food while travelling, but I don’t enjoy the tapas experience, especially when in local restaurants where a) I have to work out what the choices are and b) I don’t know how it works at this restaurant. It’s because we don’t speak Spanish – even though we’ve picked up some. Our fault, of course; we should have made more of an effort before we got here!!

So, that was our Ronda day trip – finished off by dinner and a walk home in the dark. Yes, along that railway track (no lights) and climbing around the gate. Oh! There was a smelly dead chicken on the track, that luckily we’d seen earlier, so knew not to step on it!

Adios a todos; hasta pronto! πŸ™‚

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SOME TIME LAST WEEK I SAID TO ERIC ‘WE COULD JUST GO HOME” – October 2013

What are we doing here?

In earlier blogs I said we want to laugh, sing, dance ….

In my imagination I thought (and spoke about in passing to Eric – who clearly wasn’t paying any attention!) that we would find a second hand (cheap and working) guitar. Eric would play tunes more often (all the time) and I would sing along with him. At home, he only occasionally picks up his guitar – I thought this was because he was always working OR thinking about work. Also, he likes to spend his downtime with me – so if he is playing his guitar, he is not with me!

He’d also love it if I sang with him as he played. Makes sense! I can sing … and enjoy music; but inexplicably, even though Eric is the one person I can be myself with and trust the most in the world – I’m shy!! Back to that deep seated problem I have where I don’t want to look foolish OR make mistakes – even in front of my sweetie!

Sometimes Eric is playing to himself and I’ll be pottering around OR even reading – and I’ll start singing in the background, particularly doing harmonies! I do excellent harmony!!! But if Eric says ‘that’s great’ or ‘come over and sing this one’ or ‘join me’ I won’t. He has learned to not say anything.

Now he’ll come to me later and say “I love it when you do harmonies. I’m so amazed how you can do that and I wish you’d come and sing with me!”

So, I thought in Spain we’d find Eric a guitar; he’d play for himself, I’d get over myself and join in with him AND he could start teaching me how to play the guitar. When I said to Eric “we need to look out for a guitar for you” he said “I’m not that fussed. I don’t have a burning desire to play guitar”.

I was so surprised, but apparently Eric enjoys tinkling on his guitar every now and then, but has resigned himself to not ever being very good at it. And three months isn’t long enough to become an expert!

So, with one sweep of his ‘not really that interested’ broom, a large part of my vision of what eight weeks in Alora, Spain looked like was wiped out.

I’m very conscious of how much I do or don’t do and achieve or don’t achieve is down to me and I’m not blaming Eric’s lack of need/desire to play music or practice his skill for us not achieving this.

So, a couple of weeks later we’ve arrived in the UK for a whistle stop 5 days in England, then 5 days in Dublin and I say “okay, I’ve been keeping an eye out everywhere we’ve been in the last 8 weeks for a musical instrument shop or secondhand shop for a small guitar for me, so that you can teach me chords and I can learn to accompany myself. Eric shows great surprise at this “oh, I didn’t realise, why didn’t you say?”

So, we were in Horley and there is a guitar shop and I find a lovely small steel stringed guitar that I fall in love with, costing about 150 pound. The young guy in the shop was very helpful and lovely and if you’re ever in Horley and want to buy a guitar – go and see him! He described the differences between nylon and steel strings – mainly to do with the sound (more classical versus more grunt) and helped with sizing, because I have small hands.

We went away to consider the purchase – pros and cons.

The first con was that we’d bought all ‘best and cheap rate’ flights for our three legs (Malaga to Gatwick, Cardiff to Dublin and Dublin to Malaga) and had said we’d only do carry on and no checked baggage. If you wanted to check in luggage it was possible, but for approximately 60 or 70 euros.

Ryanair is the most pedantic You can have 10kg each carry on BUT it has to be in one piece of luggage – no laptop bag, no handbag, no duty free shopping unless they are INSIDE your carry on bag. This made it difficult to see how we could justify the expense of buying a guitar in Horley.

The pro for buying this particular guitar is that forever more when I play it, I will always remember buying it in my friend Rachel’s village!!

Of course, while we were pondering this decision we discovered that our credit card had temporarily run out of money and so the potential to buy was no longer an option.

So, we decided while away in UK and Ireland that we would look for a guitar in Malaga when we get back. Ideally finding something secondhand would be good (for our budget) but since a) I want a small guitar (therefore choice) and b) it’s hard enough to find a musical instrument shop in Malaga (due to language) then it will be hard to find a secondhand shop too.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, we’ll find one tomorrow ….. when we visit Mal-a-ga!!!!

We hope!!

There’ll be less than 3 weeks left in Spain to learn some chords; but with still 2 weeks travelling in Morocco (no reason I can’t practice chords in the evening). If I can get a handle on chords and simple tunes in the next 5 weeks, I’ll be set up for continuing playing when back in Oz.

I need to find some more energy and anticipatory excitement from somewhere. Morocco will be amazing!!! It’s the next few weeks in Spain I’m not sure about!

Love to all! xxx

MONEY TROUBLE – CONTINUING SAGA! – October 2013

This last 3 weeks in Spain will be interesting. I don’t know if I have lost interest now or whether it is just that I’m socialised to death from catching up with too many people the last couple of weeks – and the stress of all the money stress. You know how stressful it is when you don’t know what is happening with the money.
I slept most of yesterday and today – I think that’s a reaction to something!
I’m trying to pay finals on Morocco. I emailed them last week to say “guys, I haven’t heard from you about paying finals. Are you still emailing my home account, when I gave you all my travel details (including email)?” They emailed back ‘oh yes, you’re right – that’s exactly what we are doing!” So they’ve been emailing me about finals and haven’t heard.
Now we are communicating, but we are having issues with our credit card paying the balance. I called the bank and they said ‘yes’ there’s a hold on the account – from when they queried the Western Union transfer as a possible overseas fraud, but we’ve taken off the hold now and it should all be okay.
It wasn’t!
So I emailed them again and they said ‘sorry – the hold wasn’t completely off – but it should be good now’. It still isn’t. I just got a message from the tour group saying it has been declined.
So, I’ve emailed the bank again (pain in the butt being in Spain and being too expensive to call them) and said ‘guys, it’s getting desperate. These guys will think I can’t pay for my trip!”
Let’s see what they say now!
So, hopefully tomorrow we’ll have our act together again and go out to Malaga for the day; maybe Cordoba later in the week. Mark (Alora) says that Cordoba is worth a visit – and easily done by train!
BUT, I need to have that Morocco leg finalized – otherwise, what are we going to do for November? πŸ™‚

BUS TO CARDIFF – 20th October

Rainbow UKAFTER DEBACLE OF NO MONEY – AND NOT BEING ABLE TO COLLECT CAR! Set to tune of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’.

On the bus and saw a rainbow up ahead – my juices must still have been flowing!!!

Β  Somewhere over the rainbow, our hotel

4 hours into the future, Cardiff means we’ll sleep well

We woke up this morning, blissfully unaware

Of the chaos awaiting, car hire and credit card hell!!

We walked up to the counter smiling, here’s our reservation booking – car-now-please!

The lady wanted ‘driver’s license and 200 pound deposit – bank-cards-only!

We began crying and snarling; girl apologised

Sorry sir, it’s company policy; rules by which I must abide!

Is there an-other option? This strongly sucks!

No, and it’s not our problem; okay lady, you can get …. stuffed!

MONEY TROUBLE – the adventure!!! – October 2013

We have been seriously stuffed for three days!

Firstly because we had a run of charges on our pre-paid credit card and didn’t top it up fast enough AND then because we didn’t know about the 200 pound security deposit required (to only be paid with an international credit card).

So, we had Harry Potter tickets booked for Friday 18th and worked out which trains to catch to get there (HP booked for 10am and ticket said if we were late they couldn’t guarantee entrance). We caught the first train from Horley to Clapham Junction but the number of people getting on the bus to Watford Junction was amazing (rush hour) and about 20 people were left on the platform – including us!!!

So we caught another train to Shepherd’s Bush (from which we could catch the next train to Watford Junction (don’t you love that name – WATFORD JUNCTION!!) but when we got there we realised that there was a wait for the train AND then it would take about another 40 minutes. We didn’t have 40 minutes +, so we decided to catch a taxi.

We knew this was an extravagance (maybe 40 pound?) and tried not to notice it getting higher and higher – until by the time we got there, it was 91 pound!!!! That’s approximately $180 AUD folks!!!

So crying on the inside but smiling on the outside, we handed over our cash (because his EFTPOS machine was broken) and kindly he’d reduced it to 80 pound. We knew it was a waste of money and not something we’d happily do every day – but we had resources and we had to be there by 10am. It was 10.07!!

We were waiting in line at HP and realised that some people were just buying their tickets on the day! What the??!!! I guess it isn’t peak season, so they were able to do it AND of course they weren’t fussed that we were late. We could have called them and turned up an hour late and it would have been okay!!!! 😦

So, we enjoyed Harry Potter – it was very well done – and luckily (phew) didn’t feel the need to buy lots of merchandise and caught the train to Victoria Station. We’d planned on doing a Charles Dickens walking tour of London, followed by a quick run into Harrods (in the many times we’ve visited London we haven’t gone in) and then high tea at the Atheneum! Cool!! But when Eric went to use his card to call home – the operator said there wasn’t enough money on the card! And that was when we learned that we had only the cash in our pockets – and we’d blown 80 of it on the bloody taxi!!

SHIT!!

We quickly calculated what was happening for the next few days (this was Friday). Saturday at Rachel’s. Sunday collect car and visit Becky and on to Cardiff. Monday at Dr Who in Cardiff. Tuesday drop car off and fly to Dublin. All accommodation paid for, car paid for, flights paid for and Dr Who paid for – all we needed money for was eating and sightseeing.

So when we visited Rachel and Andy we got our courage up and asked for a loan. It was embarrassing because as I said on the ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS blog, I only know Rachel from a Mauritius holiday and Facebook penpalling! BUT thankfully Rachel said yes immediately. That gave us 200 pound in our pockets.

Then when we turned up to collect our car rental at Gatwick to drive and visit Becky in Poole and on to Cardiff (which we had paid for online) – we couldn’t collect it because we didn’t have an international credit card with us! We’ve been travelling with only our prepaid Currency Card.

We booked the car with a booking agent online with our prepaid card – but when we went to collect were advised that we also had to pay a refundable 200 pound security deposit, but that this can only be paid with an International Credit Card (attached to your bank accounts)! Not prepaid currency cards and not cash – we could have had 1000 pounds in cash and it would have made no difference!

Therefore, our plan to drive to Gatwick to Dorset to lunch with Becky and then on to Cardiff that afternoon couldn’t work. We luckily had enough cash to buy a bus ticket direct to Cardiff, where we had two nights accommodation booked and paid for. It seems ridiculous!

We have ID (passport and driver’s license) but we most likely won’t be able to hire a car in Dublin on Tuesday either (which we weren’t able to, of course) because of this problem.

I wanted to bring our Mastercard as well – for emergencies – but Eric said “No. It defeated the purpose of having bought a prepaid card – nobody getting hold of our card attached to a real banking account if lost/stolen, no scanning it at shops/ATM”.

The ticket seller at National Express (buses) said ‘it happens all the time!’ So, it’s not just us eejits!!

We had to decide (for both timing and cash reasons) not to visit Becky – which was very sad because we were so looking forward to it and since Becky and Joe left Australia to return to the UK last December, they are now expecting a baby. Joe has done up the nursery and of course Becky looks preggers!! We were really looking forward to seeing where they live and eating in their local!

For financial reasons the best decision was to head straight to Cardiff where we had 2 nights accommodation already paid for. The bus cost 105 pound for the two of us, which left us less than 100. Transfer of funds into the prepaid card was already in progress, but takes 2 to 3 working days to process, so potentially we wouldn’t have any more money until Wednesday (and it was Sunday).

We talked to Von that night about maybe using Western Union to send some instant cash – and she got that happening. But the next exciting money adventure was that the bank decided to ‘freeze’ our credit card in case it was a fraudulent payment out of our account to an overseas business – because they didn’t know we were overseas and because Von used our bank account but with her name and details. ALARM BELLS RANG AT BANK WEST!!!

It was all sorted and on Monday we got cash out. Our new BFF in Alora, Mark of Finca Fenix was offering to send us money immediately – but of course are his guests and we didn’t feel at all comfortable letting him help us. It was crazy! We had money in our bank – but we were living on ham and cheese sandwiches!!! πŸ™‚

We hit Dublin airport on Tuesday morning assuming that the money wouldn’t be through to our prepaid until Wednesday – but checked it out at the ATM anyway and BONUS we had money again!!!

MORAL OF THE STORY IS: DO NOT LET YOUR PREPAID CARD RUN OUT OF MONEY and bring the bloody REAL CARD with you in case of emergencies – a message I need to pass on to our travel agent to pass on to their customers!

Reminds me …. better check what the balance of our card is now!

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS! – October 2013

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On this day in Surrey in the United Kingdom, Eric and I met up with Rachel and Andy at their lovely home.

We met Rachel and her mum Sue in Mauritius four years ago, when we joined the same day trip and we offered to take a photo of them. They were staying at the HIlton further down the beach; we were at the Sands and we organised to meet up with them to eat at a local Indian restaurant (delicious food) and they joined us for drinks at our hotel on another evening.

After that day we only caught up a couple of other times, but I thought I’d found a kindred spirit in Rachel!

On the surface we aren’t that similar. Rachel has a big personality and a passion that saw her actively and intensely pursue a Β career (in the police) that had not been available to her as a youngster, due to entry requirements. So, in her late 30s and after a 21 year Admin job in high end retail she had completed all the testing and interviews and was waiting for confirmation she had made it!

They said “YES” but it took another two years of waiting due to cutbacks; and as the queue of successful applicants grew – Rachel worked full-time while “volunteer policing” to improve her chances of getting in. Finally, two years ago she got her ‘dream’ job and I was as proud of her as if I’d done it myself (or was her mother, sister, best friend …..)!

So, what do we have in common?Β At the same time that I ask that question, I feel that if we had grown up together OR lived in the same town, we’d be buddies! As it is, through the wonder of Facebook and email (basically the internet) we are modern day pen pals – often though in ‘real time’. And we both love to get snail mail – and try to write or send small prezzies a couple of times a year!

In planning our holiday there was a magnet pull from Surrey, UK and it would have been seriously disappointing if we hadn’t caught up.

When we met, there wasn’t any awkwardness! The four of us talked and laughed the afternoon away. Andy cooked a simple and delicious meal and made a lovely cheesecake (hello Cheesecake buddy πŸ™‚ ). Rachel had to work in the evening and pushed on as long as she could before she had to chase us out!!!

We had a great time and it was easy and comfortable. Andy was lovely with these strangers that Rachel had brought home!

Rachel is the woman who had a dream and went for it, with the loving support of her ‘rock’ Andy. Eric has always been my rock and will support me in whatever I want to do. Perhaps I need to decide what that is – and go for it πŸ™‚

Thanks guys for a great welcome and a fabulous afternoon! xxxx

P.S. Thanks for the lend of 100 quid! That is part of the next frustrating and dramatic (da dum!) story – to be blogged soon!

xx

ALORA, SO FAR!!

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Well, today (5th October) is Soup Day in AloraDΓ­a de las Sopas Perotas! Perotas are what the people of Alora are called.

Each year Alora celebrates their not so distant past when country labourers would eat Soup Perota – which is a quick and easy and cheap way to keep your body energised.

Starting in about 10 minutes (12 noon our time) there will be free soup tastings with trimmings such as olives – there will be street entertainment, stalls, flamenco dancers, workshops etc. Apparently most of the bars (where you go for tapas) will offer a free bowl of soup.

Paco, our nice local guide – more about him later – says that in his opinion the soup tastes horrible ( πŸ™‚ ) but the trimmings are delicious!! He says you have to put the soup into context – if you’d been working all day hard in the fields, then a hearty bowl of soup at the end would probably taste delicious too!! But just having a bowl of soup down the street? Nah!

Eric is outside helping our host and a mate do work around the yard – trimming back hedges and getting the wood ready for winter (yes, they have winter here too!!). The guys are both expat Englishman (nearly said POMS, but I think my pommie friends might take offense πŸ™‚ ) and say that the festival is just an excuse to go downtown and chat a lot while you have beers – the locals call it ‘talking’.

We are imagining that it will be like Esperance’s Festival of the Wind. You go down town and say ‘Was that it?” – now I’m offending my Esperance friends!! Lo siento!

Alora is proving tricky for me and I’m not really sure how to get the best out of it!

The hardest thing is that before you do a thing, you have to get into town – and it is straight up the mountain! I’ve done it probably a dozen times by now, but it’s not getting easier. My muscles are up to it – but I’m struggling to breathe. Admittedly that is only on the first leg into town – the very first part is practically vertical and it eases off somewhat until the last leg which is not quite as vertical. Once we are in town there are lots of hills, but mostly they are quite gradual and doable (cruisy!).

Also, walking on the flat streets is no problem. But seriously, just knowing that I have to get through the hills first is doing my head in. Nobody would enjoy walking into town if they know they are going to spend the first 15 minutes struggling to breathe!

We’d been told that there is a track leading to the train station (for getting into Malaga) that runs down the side of our property.

In the first week here we went to find it – and all we found was a marshland! There are concrete watering pipes all along it and they leak badly (not used for irrigation anymore) so they’ve made it very wet – on that day we turned back.

But there is another track right along the train line. There is a large and padlocked gate blocking the way! We have been ‘very naughty children’ and climbed up the side of the track (it’s on a hill, surprise!) and around the gate and then the walk into the train station is a piece of piss!!

I feel like I’m breaking the law – and when the first time we did this the train came by while we were negotiating the way down, I was worried that they’d call the police on us πŸ™‚

There are two good things about this new track – the first being that when we want to catch the train, it is only a 25 minute walk on a very reasonable track and all on the flat. And now, when we want to walk into town we can take this track and catch the bus from the train into town, which takes about 10 minutes. There is a local bus at the station each time a train comes in, because the walk into town is (you guessed it!) up a fucking great hill!!!

Last Sunday, we walked down to the train station (the long way – being up the massive hill into town, then up the other big hill further into town, then looked down the mountain to the train station (no footpath) and so walked down to the train on the busy and winding mountain road (eek!) – because we needed to know how to walk to the train station, seeing as how our ‘track’ was actually a marshland – and about 3 hours later (yes) we got back home.

As it was a Sunday (everything closed) all we achieved was finding our way to the station and back!!

So, now that we’ve found the easier way into town (and the bus only costs us 1.50 Euro each) I think I can make the trip into town more easily and with a lighter heart – we still have to walk home the normal way, but since that’s all downhill (the vertical downhill part is tricky) – it’s all good news!

The first week here we mostly stayed close to home – with some trips into town. This week we did a tour around Alora with a local man – Paco – who is very educated and 28. He is currently unemployed, due to the trouble that Spain is in. He teaches Spanish to visitors and takes people on tours of Alora, Malaga and other areas when requested. He is very nice and the idea was to teach us ‘survivor Spanish’ and make us practice it in coffee shops, etc. He didn’t really do that part so much. Mostly he took over in the coffee shops!! But once we did that tour around Alora – he took us into shops and showed us good places for things and introduced us to people – Alora didn’t feel so scary!

The trip into Malaga was very quick – but basically instead of us trying to work out where everything was and orienting ourselves, he was able to show us the main sites (including the Alcazaba Castle – originally Moors and built-over by many different regimes, including Phoenicians, Romans and Christians – like all the castles here!!).

The really great thing about Paco guiding us around Alcazaba is that it is not set up to be helpful to English speaking tourists. Their signs are all in Spanish, the lady at the ticket office had no English and if we were just wandering the grounds ourselves, sure we’d be going “ooh” and “aah” – because there are some gorgeous things to “ooh” and “aah” about – but we wouldn’t have learned anything about the history of the place! Paco couldn’t believe that there are no jobs for educated people like him (he is a qualified teacher) and yet the tourist sites don’t have English speaking staff. Before he was unemployed he used to take visitors for guided tours – but just for fun! Now that he’s unemployed he can’t do it for fun anymore – but to put some money in his pocket! Fair enough too!!

Our castle here in Alora (from where Eric took the photo of town above) has some parts that are inscribed as old as 79 AD – so there is a good long history here too!

Okay, so now that our departure time for the Soup Festival is coming up – I’d better go and hang out the washing, have a shower – you know the ‘boring everyday stuff’, so that I’m ready when Eric is!

BTW – tomorrow we are going to adventure to Plaza Mayor on the train (pronounced Platha Mayor) to go to the cinemas. The movie doesn’t start until 6.30pm (the English ones are on late; although 6.30 is early for Spain. During the week the movies don’t start until about 10pm – only on the weekend can you see films from lunchtime onward!) The adventure part is changing trains and arriving in a new town and finding the movies!!! AND making sure we have a train to catch back to Alora later that night – it is Sunday timetables you know!

Ciao for now! Hasta luego!

Trish xx

P.S Photo above was taken from up at the Castle in Alora. This is a ‘street’ just made up of lots of steps. There is a ‘famous’ (here anyway) car advertisement that was filmed here – car going down the stairs! Quite a long time ago (I think) and if the following link works, you can see for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s7Ij28gT4M