Farewell Alora, Spain

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Alora Perota Soup Day

A cosmic coincidence today – our last day in Alora!

In the bus from the train station up to town, we got chatting with some visitors (Irish and English) who had jumped on the train out of Malaga for a day trip. Unfortunately, as some road work is being done in ‘Alora Centro’ the bus only came partway, so we offered to accompany them up town.

For an hour or so we played tourist guide – handing out snippets of local info learned from Paco! One of the ladies had been looking for some sewing bobbins – her machine has stopped auto-winding (something like that) – and she has been on the lookout for full bobbins and we know where the sewing shop is! Mundane, but helpful to her πŸ™‚

They were looking for lunch, so we took them to our favourite bar/cafe and had a coffee with them and a little chat – pointed them in the direction of the famous stairs (posted in an earlier post with a link to youtube video) and said that if Veracruz Church was open when they went by that it was worth a look in!

We didn’t stay with them for lunch, because we’d already planned to have our last lunch in Alora at Casa de Correos (old Post Office) – nachos, curried chicken and rice, prawns in creme fraiche and Greek salad (all entree sizes) for a mini banquet, so we left them there! Not before one of the Newcastle ladies shared her Morocco horror story (from her 2012 holiday) – thanks for the scare lady! As we were leaving I said to her “I’m a born worrier; so, I’m going to try to ignore everything you’ve just told us!” We all had a laugh!

They travelled independently and disliked the things that most people on travel reviews seem to complain about – mainly the hard sell culture (snakes in their faces!!). Also, one of them got very sick for two weeks. They said “we were staying at hotels, so we shouldn’t have had to worry about the food.” Maybe they didn’t take enough care with hygiene? Nowhere else on our travels have we worried about antibacterial hand wash or wipes, but based on our reading we decided to get some for Morocco. It is our responsibility, so with some care and luck we’ll get through our 14 weeks travel without catching anything πŸ™‚

We had a good Samaritan moment today. Not sure if it’s clumsy to share, or not! In Los Fuentes (our coffee shop) the cook is a young Bulgarian lady and Eric has chatted with her a lot over the weeks. She’s here with her husband and child mainly because there’s no work in Bulgaria. There’s no work in Spain either and her husband still doesn’t have a job! She’s not sure what they’re going to do. So, we asked her would she be offended if we gave her some money. It was only something small for us, but hopefully a small windfall for her family.

So, today we played tour guides, collected out printing, dropped some clothes, books and one of our suitcases into the charity shop, had a coffee with strangers, said goodbye to favourite hangouts, had a lovely farewell lunch – bought our favourite lollies from the lovely old husband and wife team near Veracruz Church – we explained by sign language and pidgin Spanish that we were leaving and he shook hands with us both πŸ™‚ – and walked home to Finca Fenix for the last time!

As we walked under the ‘nun’s bridge’ we heard an Irish voice call out – looked up to see one of the day tourists. They were lost and looking for the bus! So, we had a last change to help out!!!

It feels lovely today! We aren’t sad – we are ready to move on now. Alora has been a perfect place to base ourselves for two months in Spain – even though the hills were a struggle; they are very much a part of the charm of the place!

So, on the train to Aeropuerto tomorrow and flying out to Casablanca, Morocco on the 2.30pm flight – woo hoo!!!

Goodbye and thank you Spain and HELLO, North Africa! πŸ˜€

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View from Castle Alora

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

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™‚

HOLA SEVILLA – it was an adventure getting to you! – September 2013

Eric on riverboat in Sevilla

We made a great team today, Eric and I!

We couldn’t get a definitive answer from the booking agent yesterday, so went to bed uncertain whether we had a confirmed booking in Seville – or needed an extra night in Madrid.

This meant we couldn’t let our Madrid Hotel (Vincci Soho) know and couldn’t confidently book a car hire. So, this morning after breakfast we called the agent in the UK – and after about 20 minutes the answer was that we were definitely booked into Seville tonight (Monday).

So, okay – quickly hire a car and off we drive approximately 530 km – on the wrong side of the road!! We got some directions from Europcar – but Eric was nervous! A miracle! He was driving slowly and cursing heaps – I had my eyes on the road and my finger nails embedded in the dashboard! πŸ™‚

Actually, the only really scary part was getting out of Madrid. Once we hit the A4 it was a direct route – with the biggest challenge being not getting off accidentally. We were brave enough, after a couple of hours, to jump off the highway for lunch.

Then we hit Sevilla – and holy guacamole! We just followed the traffic, pretty much. We were looking for signs, but since most street signs in Spain are written on buildings – and we were in large entry roads with no buildings; we had no idea where we were AND we didn’t have a Seville map. We had a printout from Google Maps with step by step directions into Seville and our hotel – but for coming in from another direction!

Eventually we found somewhere to park and Ricco ran off and got help. He got directions (to the other side of the city) and found ourselves in narrow cobblestone streets – mostly one-way.

I stuck my head out and asked for help ‘por favor’ and our hotel was about 20m up ahead! Great news!! Except that before then we hit a 4-way intersection – where our road ahead suddenly was coming our way … and we could only turn left. So, after we held up the traffic for a while ( πŸ™‚ ) we got back around the block to the hotel! YAY!!!

We didn’t have a booking!

They cancelled our 3 night booking because we were no-shows last night and the last they’d heard from the agent was that we were rescheduling for arrival on 18th September – day after tomorrow! The agent confirmed our booking was still okay – so, the good news is that they had a room available; the bad news is that we may lose out on 100 euro. We’ll talk to the agent tomorrow. It was our own mistake in the first place – so we aren’t too stressed at anyone.Β The room is okay, we aren’t on the street, the receptionist is very nice – we went out and found pizza and beer for a late dinner – simple and yummy!

So, Eric is busy putting together a tender on a job that has come through, while I write this up. It’s 11.30 pm and we are knackered – we’ll sleep in a little and the next adventure will be driving through Seville to drop off the car!

The ‘laugh out loud’ moment of today was when I was navigating and looking at the map said “if we take the wrong turn, we won’t be heading in the right direction!” πŸ™‚

Buenas Noches, Amigos xx

Day 1: Preparing the way

Hello readers – at the moment probably only Lori! πŸ™‚

Saturday 18th May and we are deep into the planning of our ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure – 14 weeks travelling mostly in Spain.

So far we have decided where we will be based – Finca Fenix in Alora, Andalusia for 8 weeks. We’ve planned some side trips – 10 days in Greek Islands, 9 day walking tour in Andalusia, 11 days in Morocco and long weekends in England, Ireland and Istanbul.

This will be an opportunity to get away from normal everyday and take time to look inside, ponder the future now that the children aren’t the priority, get to know ourselves differently – what else would we like to do, visit other parts of personalities that haven’t been explored because we’ve been totally caught up in being working parents for 22 years.

We want to sing, dance, love, cook, move. explore, visit long lost relatives and rediscover friends, encounter other cultures and make new friends – get to know each other better and have fun. Finding a way to help in the local community would be a good challenge also, as we have spent our whole lives working and focusing on our family and not looking outside of ourselves.

Outside our comfort zone – personal growth will be valuable.

Bye for now! Lots of love ….