Farewell Alora, Spain

Image

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˜€

Image

View from Castle Alora

Non-cultural pursuits, pursued

ImageImage

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.

Image

Image

πŸ˜€

Costa del Sol – Benalmadena and Fuengirola – November 2013

Blankko 1

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

Blankko 6

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

HELP ME RONDA, HELP, HELP ME RONDA!

Image

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.

Casa del ReyMoro

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™‚

Image

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™‚

ALORA, SO FAR!!

Image

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

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

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!].Β 

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜€ – 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 πŸ™‚ ) 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

Image

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! πŸ™‚ )

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! πŸ™‚