Galway Street Music AKA Buskers 2019

Busking is what I’m talking aboot!

I’ll begin with a contemporary, bleeding obviously famous ex-Galway busker – AKA Ed Sheeran! Now, I didn’t know until I’d been in Galway a while, but apparently Ed busked in the streets of Galway before fame found him. And Galway (seems) to claim him as their own. And of course, he’s reciprocated with his songย Galway Girl and by filming his famous video here – even if he used aย Dublin Girl, Saoirse Ronan, in the clip.

I’ve paused to listen to many buskers while in Galway and have been blown away by the qualityย and youth of some musician buskers. Children, and I’m not talking teenagers or young adults, but children. Two or three of them, most likely siblings, I’d say. You know how siblings have a special complementary sound in their tone and harmony? Well, it seems obvious to me ๐Ÿ™‚ But these kids are not only singers. They’re playing multiple instruments, with skill and passion. It is amazing and what a great training ground for them.

Not only do they get performance practice, they get to experience some adversity too! I’d guess at a few – weather, getting to their spot, rejection (no coins) elation (crowd loves them), weather, internal issues (having a bad day,, one of them doesn’t want to play, got colds, mum and dad are over it) weather, hecklers (hopefully not too many of those for the children) and even, red tape.

Wouldn’t anyone hearing angelic harmonies out of the mouths of babes stop in their tracks, amazed, dumbfounded and proud for them? Anybody with an appreciation for music – and a soul – would.

There are of course lower quality performers. They may be desperately having a go, because why? Well, I can only imagine. I’m not in their shoes. I’d assume their first impetus is earning some coin. And it would onlyย be coin, because I’m talking about the ones who just aren’t any good. I’ve seen and heard a few older people especially and wondered “do they think they’re playing well?” In fairness, I think to myself, perhaps they used to be good. Maybe it is that their style has had its day, or it would hold up if they were part of an ensemble. Did their mothers always tell them they were brilliant? Do they know that they’re only mediocre, but stuff it; they love what they’re doingย and they could use the extra coin.

Who am I to judge? And I only am judging because they’reย forcing it on me by playing in the street. Everybody, anybody, should sing, play, dance like nobody’s watching. Full of joy and free of judgement. Unless you insist on sharing it with me ๐Ÿ˜€

There are some bloody brilliant ensembles and bands busking in Galway. To name two that I’ve really enjoyed are the Galway Street Club and Dead Letter Devils.

I’d describe the first as grunge, exuberant, loud, authentic, Irish and explicit. They’re on Spotify if you’re interested in looking them up. I love how their drummer uses a tea carton! I love to tap out a beat – I think I’m very good at it and keep thinking I should get drumming lessons. The musicality of banging out a beat on a wooden box blows me away. It puts a smile on my face.

Dead Letter Devils‘ Facebook page describes them asย a foot stamping mix of bluegrass, swing, old timey and just a dash of folk-punk. Another loud and out there, enthusiastic band. Love it. Looks like I can only find their music by buying a CD off them on the street. But I never stay to the end to find out how much they cost. I’m also too self-conscious to sneak in and check their collection box ๐Ÿ˜€

That’s another thing I personally have trouble with – the donation. There are so many buskers and you can’t tip them all. And I haven’t necessarily heard the entire song / performance, just appreciated what I heard as I walked by. So, what’s the etiquette?

I find it easy enough if there isn’t a crowd around the performer. But for those amazing groups mentioned above, the crowd is big. And I come along, don’t know how much longer the performance will go on for, and really want to ask how much their CD is, but don’t want to a) wait or b) interrupt the performance – or c) bring attention to myself ๐Ÿ™‚

I really hope that for these guys it is about the exposure and not (at least in this performance) about the money. Because there are a number of them in the group – seven or eight? And the money being offered has to be shared around them all. So, this is when it comes down to the opportunity to busk – the ability to gain attention and reputation, spread through word of mouth or by the serendipity of an event manager of some sort also passing by.

Last weekend I was wandering around and came upon the Galway Busker Community group in Eyre Square. Some of their members were performing, but their purpose was to entertain while bringing our attention to new by-laws about to be put through Galway Council, ‘seriously restricting’ busker rights in Galway.

Most of the contention was about lack of consultation with the busking community, and also that busking was a grassroots way for performers to be discovered.ย Galway Street Club shared on their Facebook page that because of the ‘platform of Shop Street in Galway, they and other performers have had the opportunity to perform across Ireland and Europe’. And that the Galway Council has seen this and ‘used their image and reputation in advertising in their bid for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture’ (which they’ve won!).

The by-laws include such rules as – short version:

  • Crowd Size. Must immediately cease performing if public access to or from any premises is restricted, due to a crowd gathering. So, if people have stopped to enjoy their music the band would have to stop playing – because a crowd has gathered! ๐Ÿ˜›
  • Amplification, backing tracks and use of drum kits are expressly forbidden. Amplification is needed due to the background noise of busy streets, and use of drums is an integral part of most band music
  • Censorship. ‘ … act, say, do or sing anything that may cause alarm, distress or offense …’. As the band says, this means that anybody even having a bad day who takes offence can complain and the band would be fined up to 1500 euros at any time.

Now, you can see some sense in what the Galway Council is trying to achieve. And although I, like so many others, love the expressionism, musicality and pure entertainment of street buskers, if you’re in business in such a tourist-centric town, you’d feel the need to be heard.

But ‘hello business’ – what is your main focus. That you need tourists in your city, in your street and then in your door. Well don’t these entertaining buskers help attract the tourist? Or are they just a pain in the butt with their noise, crowd pulling (interfering with access) and (potential) bawdiness.

I’ve twice been inside a retail business and had a conversation with staff about how awful a particular performer was on the day, with their comment being “yes, he’s always out there!”. So, if the businessman is also afflicted with a shite performer, then that’s a relevant point in the conversation.

I don’t know if Galway buskers have to audition before gaining a permit, whether they even have to apply for a permit. But there are areas in the world, including Australia, where this is a requirement and at least then you would expect an enjoyable standard.

I’m not a journalist and I don’t do real research for my light and observational writing. And so, I haven’t looked closely at the full detail of the by-laws. The Galway busking community cries ‘highly restrictive’.

At a glance, what I’ve seen looks sensible. There’s a balance to be found between creative license and practical reality. And if the busking community is correct, then perhaps the problem is really the lack of consultation and collaboration writing these by-laws, rather than the fact that they’ve come into being at all.

As a visitor to this medieval city, buskers add a festival element and entertainment value that seem to me, worth bottling. Galway City Council and the Galway Busking Community working together would be music to the ear of business, community and visitor alike.

Further reading

https://www.joe.ie/music/galway-music-irish-591663

#galwaystreetclub #thisisgalway.ie #galwaybuskers

Galway Street Club – image is not my own. Taken from thisisgalway.ie event page

Treasured Ladies, for comfort

I am a lone wolf! No, really, I am ๐Ÿ™‚

I know, this is being said from the comfort and confidence of a long marriage. I’m part of team Eric and Trish, in life and work. So what’s this about a ‘lone wolf’?

Apart from the partnership of my marriage, I regularly say ‘I’m not a people person’ or ‘I don’t do people’. Lots of my friends would confirm that.

I have friendships. Carol B and I. Bobbie and I. Sally and I. Tash and I. Deb and I. Judy and I. I’m friends with the committee team I volunteer with at Vision Australia radio. Sometimes, Heather and I get coffee. There are people that I consider friends from the olden days, but we don’t hang out anymore, so I guess they’re acquaintances now. But in the day, these were strong friendships. Maire and I. Sandra and I. Sandra was there for me when it really counted.

The only bunch, group, gang of women I’ve hung out with in recent times is my Esperance friend group – Wednesday card ladies. Jan, Joy, Lorraine, Margaret, Michelle, Julie and Yvonne to name some. The connection began at Curves, which is a women’s exercise club. And through Curves, I found the card ladies. And I’ve loved card days, but I’ve honestly thought that it was really about the ‘doing’ of card playing, and not really the relationship with these ladies. But I’m thinking differently. ๐Ÿ˜€

Now as I’ve said in a previous post, while in Galway for an extended period, I thought it a good idea to find a community group of some sort. Whether that was volunteering, or a doing activity, it didn’t matter. Just a way to connect in Ireland outside of the passive interactions with shop assistants, ticket sellers, tourist operators.

Recently I had my fifth Saturday morning coffee with a beaut bunch of ladies. And I celebrated my birthday in Galway, away from home, my husband, my children. Murphy’s Law too, I had my first emotional/lonely moments this week. I changed apartments, and was disappointed with the quality and facilities of this one. Also, the location, while probably brilliant for a family on a summer beach holiday, didn’t seem to meet what I needed. It was stark and soulless. The continuing miserable weather probably wasn’t helping. And maybe it was just the right stage of the journey to experience loneliness. For a while, the novelty of the sabbatical holds sway and then at some point you realise you’re human!

Now, it’s not like I celebrate my birthday at home. It’s really another day. If I’m lucky, my husband and kids remember. I’ll get a text or phone call from the children who are all interstate. My sisters usually remember and give me a call. Mum usually calls.

I definitely haven’t had a party since my 21st. Sandra, remember my 21st? I’d had my first child exactly one week before. This was during my first marriage and my then husband Mark, a couple of friends from the Army Reserve, Sandra and her parents, and I think my then mother-in-law gathered at our apartment. I was estranged from my own family for a little while there and so this bunch of friends insisted that I had to celebrate.

Well, this lone wolf keeps reaching out. It is an anomaly that I don’t understand. But I sent the message out to my Treasured Ladies and said “If you’d like to join me for coffee and cake on Wednesday afternoon between 2 and 4, please do. You have to leave by 4 because I’m going out that night.” ๐Ÿ˜€

Clear direction there ๐Ÿ™‚ I am very direct, honest and forthright. It gets me into trouble. And is part of why I think I don’t do people and I particularly don’t do women. Maybe I’ve distanced myself too much from the experience of women friendships, but I’ve believed that, in general, women are annoying.

In my experience, which is mainly in the workplace, women could concentrate on doing their job more and leave their emotional baggage at the door. It would make life at work so much easier. It is difficult for me to pinpoint what it is that bothers me about encouraging friendships with women – but theย emotional neediness and territorialism that I’ve experienced means I retreat from them.

I find men a lot simpler to deal with. Frustrating at times, of course, but I like their directness and (usually) lack of guile.

Now, have I lost a bunch of you, because I sound harder than you thought I was? Or because I’m not doing the solidarity with women thing? I hope not, because I’m sharing what I feel honestly and coming to a realisation that maybe I’ve been missing out. In the spirit of protecting myself.

At the same time that I’ve said all of the above, remember that my feelings and observations are subjective. I am not a confident woman. I’m afraid to open up to other women in fear that I’ll be judged and found wanting. I measure myself against these other women and find myself lacking. If I keep away from them, then I don’t have to worry. Don’t have to put myself out there and risk heartache.

Yet, I reached out to the Treasured Ladies – again. We only had a small turnout. It was spontaneous and they all have lives, some of them still work. But these so very generous ladies said yes and came to my place for coffee and cake. And it was lovely. I don’t have the words for how lovely it was.ย  I’m really amazed that I appreciated it so much. And you know what? They keep saying ‘thank you’ for inviting them and how they really enjoyed it. Genuinely!

This is a real eye-opener for me. Have I missed out on something special? I’m a reader and of course I’ve read a lot about women and their friendships. But it did seem that this was something that ‘other’ women did.

So, the lovely Treasured Ladies were there for me. And the following weekend, it became clear that I was there for some of these ladies. We all have stories. We all have things going on that affect us, and our interpersonal relationships. Being there for somebody to talk to, to share their concerns, to confirm that they’re not alone or crazy. To empathize with their feelings. That is something worth embracing and encouraging.

Port of Galway 2019

During August 2019, I stayed at Ce ne Mara,ย self serviced apartments right on the working Port of Galway, which according to the port’s website, has a ‘history dating back to the 10th century’.

Ebb and flow was continuous and very interesting, mainly cargo ships being loaded with a lot of what seemed to be silage (or at least wrapped hay bales).ย Corrib Fisher visited several times and is identified with ‘oil products’ on the shipping schedule I found.ย  The ship parked right outside my window and seemed to be offloading huge windmill components,ย  propeller parts. And yes, their website schedule says OT Deaal ‘type’ is ‘wind energy project’. So I guessed correctly! Coincidentally, I was on the bus out to Clifden a couple of days later and lo and behold, off in the distance, there were big arse windmills.

Irish Navy ships were also in regularly during August. I’ve seen the Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats – all named after revered Irish writers, poets – literary figures. All three ships are offshore patrol vessels, 90m in length and weighing 1,933t. I’d have loved to tour onboard, but was away the weekend they offered guided tours. Dammit!

Movement was very engaging and my imagination triggered. How long do these guys spend at sea? How often are they at home? Is Galway their home port?

My apartment had floor to ceiling windows in the living area and I pretty much left the blinds up all the time. So, at night especially, we could see each other. I kind of hope it made them feel less alone, but maybe I’m being romantic. I promise that I kept my clothes on ๐Ÿ™‚ and assumed that they were finding comfort (if any), perhaps watching my TV and not being perverts!

I’ve observed that many of the boats kept their engines going 24/7, perhaps for power? There was a constant humming and slight vibration. I did think it would affect my sleep, but funnily enough I mainly noticed when it wasn’t there. Those nights it was too quiet to sleep ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the larger ships, the OT Deaal, kept me awake because of its lights. The bridge area was quite high and floodlit and these lights came straight into my bedroom and were just too bright. I ended up moving into the lounge, pulling down the blinds and sleeping on the sofa!

I don’t know what it is, but I love watching boat activity in ports and plane activity at airports. At Albury, where I live usually, until very recently you could sit out on a bench in the sun and watch the coming and going of planes. However, they’ve now extended the terminal building and so that’s stopped. And I’ve noticed that the availability of viewing platforms at many airports is discontinued. Must be part of our security conscious culture now.

Anyway, humans seem to take pleasure in proximity to water, whether that is dams, brooks/creeks, rivers or oceans. There is something magical about being near water. Soothing, food for the soul. Lift your face and feel the breeze, the sea spray, breathe in the moisture, listen to the crashing of waves, hear the squawking of seabirds, see them lift and soar. Walk along jetties, wharfs. Wander out to the seashore, beaches, rocks – go fishing.

People have clearly been attracted to the movement at this port, in my observation. They stop and look. Taking photos, smiling and pointing.

So far in September there have been a couple of cruise ships in, although they must be too big for the port as the passengers were shuttled in via tenders.

I’ve moved on now from the docks of Galway Port and onto Salthill. I’ll miss that little oasis, but you know it will keep on going without me. Since the 10th century? And hopefully, well into the future.

NOTE: If you enjoy my Trish’s Place for Travel, you may also enjoy my blog Random Thoughts with Trish.

Interesting Port of Galway stories (if interested).

https://www.thejournal.ie/galway-port-expansion-delay-3-3563580-Aug2017/

https://theportofgalway.ie/history-of-the-port-of-galway/

https://theportofgalway.ie/

Sugar is not my friend

March 2018 and I had gastric sleeve surgery. I’ve lost 32 kg or approximately 5 stone.

Initially, 3 major things happen with sleeve surgery.

  1. You lose 60% to 80% of your stomach
  2. You can’t eat more than one cup of food at a sitting
  3. You lose the hunger hormone (Ghrelin) and (apparently) the hormone that helps you to crave sugar (this only lasts for up to 18 months)

After surgery, you spend some time getting used to the new condition. You spend up to 2 weeks on liquids. 2 weeks on pureed food. 2 weeks on soft food. Then you can move on to real food – 1 cup at a time.

I’m on a three month ‘sabbatical’ in Ireland. Leading up to the trip I had concerns about how to enjoy an extended time on holiday without eating. Because a huge part of holidaying is enjoying the food. Perhaps, somebody else cooks it.ย  The day seems punctuated by food stops. There is different food to try. In Ireland, it might be delicious sausages, black and white pudding, scones (with jam and cream) soda bread – lots of bread – and potatoes!

For a sugar girl, there is also a huge range of new and delicious bakeries! There is a tourist store called Butlers, who are mainly about chocolate, but it is their toffees that call to me.

Two or three months before leaving for Ireland, my sugar need returned. It calls to me. I eat mindlessly. I think to myself, ‘I didn’t enjoy that’. Regularly, I’ll buy what it is that I want and eat a small amount and throw the rest away. A waste of money and world resources (that were required to produce the sugar product) and an addition to landfill. But personally, it is better in the rubbish, then inside me.

It is easy for some to say ‘just don’t eat it’, ‘don’t buy it’. I lost my weight all on my own. Just do it. Well, all I have to say to you is ‘blah, blah, di, blah, blah’! Put some real words into that, whatever floats your boat, that mean ‘piss off’!

Sugar is the devil for me. And I’m actually intelligent enough to know that I don’t need to eat it. My surgeon confirmed that ‘it is a disease’. Both the sugar craving AND the inclination to put on weight. It could have been alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or sex. Take your pick. Mine is sugar.

I have been eating sugar. So far, I’m not putting on weight. The size 10 jeans are still loose. It isn’t just about weight gain for me though. There is a connection between sugar intake and inflammation and my joints struggle.

We have guidelines for eating after gastric sleeve surgery.

  1. Fluids. Last drink 30 minutes before eating. Don’t drink for 60 minutes after eating. I use this rule to ensure that when I eat the proper food – breakfast, lunch and dinner – I don’t lose the nutritional benefit. Because you see, the stomach is small. You can only eat small amounts. So make them nutrient dense (protein first).
  2. Because the stomach is small, the food isn’t going to be there for long before it is time to evacuate to the intestines. If you drink while the food is in the stomach, you a) dilute the nutritional benefit and b) wash the food out of the stomach before your body has had time to absorb the nutrients.
  3. Nutrients. Your body will struggle to absorb enough nutrition. So choose well. Give it time to be absorbed. Take multi-vitamins forever!!!
  4. Sugar. Don’t eat it. Most people will suffer (and not just about putting weight back on). Most likely your body won’t like it and you’ll suffer ‘dumping syndrome’. What is that?

Dumping syndrome is the reaction of your body to either:

a)ย  Food having progressed too fast from your stomach into your intestines; or

b) You had a meal heavy in sugars/starch.

Dumping syndrome can result in bloating, lower abdominal cramps, diarrhea, lightheadedness or fainting.ย  Pretty uncomfortable, but your body’s way of yelling “WHAT THE HELL!”

I’ve been either amazingly lucky, or pretty well behaved, because I just haven’t had much trouble. I have had some occasional lower abdominal pain – and I’ve been able to immediately say ‘I pushed that meal a little. It was a little big.” If I eat a little too much sugar I feel hot and bothered. Waving a piece of paper in front of my face. Just like in menopause! ๐Ÿ™‚

But really, I just haven’t had much trouble. I’ve breezed through it. I haven’t felt too deprived. Eric and I share most meals out. And at home, my meals fit very easily on a side plate.

I’m travelling on my own. I’m eating out. There is no such thing as a small meal at restaurants. Even entrees can be pretty big. Even though I know better, I feel guilty or wrong if I Order a meal without a drink. I can’t drink and eat for the nutritional reasons mentioned above. But I also can’t eat and drink, because I don’t have enough room! One or the other!

There are so many good sweet options all around me. I’m buying something every single day. The Gourmet Tart Co is too close to me and sells nice homemade biscuits, small (luckily) chocolate eclairs, scones. They also luckily sell beautiful wraps and reheat meals, like chicken pasta or beef bourguignon.

Butlers – fuck off!

Marmalades (small bakery) – actually, the only two times I bought their delicious looking desserts, I discovered they aren’t sweet enough. But their coffee is the nicest so far. YAY coffee!

Cocktails – my special treat when Eric and I go out (which is rare) – has to go back into the box of ‘very special treat’. Not, you’re on holiday for three months, so you can have cocktails whenever you go somewhere ๐Ÿ˜€

Six small meals, with a focus on protein, supported by vegetables.

There is no room in there for sugar. But I’m finding the room. I don’t eat all that I buy. I drink my water or berocca all around that sugar, to hurry it out of my system. I hope that’s doing the trick.

So, I’m owning up. This continues to be my struggle.

I don’t need any lectures, or helpful advice. Because I’ve been here for a long long time. I know that I should avoid sugar, but it is everywhere. And I’m not good at saying ‘no’. Even though, most of the time, I don’t even enjoy it!!

SUGAR I made myself at a baking class

GIDGET GLAMPING – Retro Camper

(original post)

Hello friends, since we are feeling poor at the moment (new location, building client base) we don’t have any holidays planned. Which is very, boo hoo, for us! ๐Ÿ™‚

But, we do have on order a custom-made Gidget Retro Camper. The idea is that now we are in the eastern states of Australia, there’s plenty of opportunity for us to travel around and explore, because we are veteran West Australians and haven’t seen much of the east coast. And when you come over from WA to visit, it is a week or two around Sydney, Melbourne or visiting parents in Tassie.

So, buying the Gidget is the money outlay and exploring with it should be the money saving part – campsites, caravan parks – all a hell of a lot cheaper than hotel accommodation and flying to places.

Bondi Gidget

But the dream of the Glamper is taking a seriously long time. We finally got around to placing our order and putting down a deposit in September 2016. All communication until then (and reading between lines on their website) indicated that 6 months was the expected wait. And days before we placed the order, we had a message through Facebook that with their new and improved, expanded factory and new processes it could even be within 4 months.

Funny story that! Because now it is early April 2017 and we don’t even have a scheduled delivery date.

We have spent some time angsting about this order. Is it a scam, whatever? But they have continued to communicate and if they were running away with all our money, we’d never hear from them, I guess.

Their Gidget Glamper Facebook page is very active. There are so many of us with the ‘glamping dream – and people who ordered a couple of years ago.

Gidget’s story is that they’d only made 3 Gidgets when the video they created describing all the beauty of the camper went (essentially) viral. That’s when I saw the camper for the first time, and fell in love! That was about 2014/2015, I can’t remember. So there was a couple of years while I had it in my mind that I’d like to buy one. And all along I had the idea in my head that it was about 6 months for manufacturing.

But they were caught seriously by surprise! They were effectively a start-up company at that point – as I said, they’d only made 3 Gidgets. But that video made them famous and the orders began to pour in.

I think it was at a Brisbane Camping Show in late 2015 or during 2016 that they became even more famous – as far away as the USA. And the orders continued to come in, but they weren’t prepared to handle it. (They now have a US-based franchisee selling Gidget).

About October / November 2016 they offered a crowd funding program – if you paid for your camper up-front you’d get to the top of the queue. They needed the funding to expand and improve processing and many (I believe) have taken them up on this. We didn’t. We felt it was enough of a commitment to put down the best part of $11,000 for something we hadn’t even seen yet.

It is getting closer – I can feel it in my water! ๐Ÿ˜€ We’ve chosen a cream-coloured body, with viper red wheel guards, and Tasmanian oak woodwork.

At the moment, their Brumby version is full steam ahead in its own factory. This is their 4WD off-road version. The Noosa campers are being manufactured quickly in their own factory. But the Bondi version is waiting for the new ‘Grand Tourer’ suspension system – and they are just waiting for the parts to come from Vehicle Components, which won’t commit to providing the parts until they have a certain amount in stock.

This suspension system replaces the leaf springs suspension previous utilised by the Gidget company. Supposed to be an amazingly good thing!

A few weeks ago (in March) Gidget informed us that they were on the brink of setting the schedule, at which point we’d know our expected delivery date. They’re just waiting on confirmation of parts from the supplier.

So, perhaps by September 2017? Before it gets too hot – because our Gidget Retro Camper won’t be used by us in the summer – I can’t handle the heat. Spring, Autumn – yep. Winter – possibly. Summer – nuh uh!

Bring it on. And enjoy the pictures above and enjoy visiting their website. ๐Ÿ˜€

Sorry Mark, it means Spain isn’t on our agenda any time soon. However, when I win Lotto or Millionaire Hot Seat – and I plonk myself down in Ireland for 6 months to a year – I’ll come visit you guys in Alora! ๐Ÿ˜€

https://www.thegidget.com.au/#welcome-section

Then the world …. beginning with Christmas in New York and Boston 2015!

Hi everyone!

It has already been over 15 months since we did THE BIG TRIP to Spain, Greece and Morocco! And that time has passed so quickly!

Life has dragged on – the usual things – although I haven’t been in work since we returned. So I’ve been doing a lot of volunteering – mostly taking ‘Oldies’ to their appointments, but also at the museum and some events around town. I still work with Eric at review time (December to end of March) but that doesn’t keep me too busy.

This year I’ve been concentrating on weight loss and fitness – I know, the modern obsession! But it’s important for my mental and physical health to be in the best shape I can be and I’ve let that go over the years. Eric and I intend to do plenty more travelling and have lots of adventures yet – and to keep up with him ๐Ÿ˜€ I need to be amazing!!!! So I go to Curves (a women’s fitness centre) 4-5 times a week and I’ve been meal replacing – was doing great before Christmas (lost 9kg) but sugar became my friend again after Christmas and I’m just now (this very day) getting back on track. So bring on the next 10kg loss!!

We did a couple of small trips last year – 10 days in Auckland in May and we visited Mum and Dad in Tassie in November and checked out the east side of Australia a little. Instead of flying to Mum and Dad we drove over to Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. For the uninformed, that’s just under 3,000km. The first day we did 1,600km and overnighted at Ceduna, South Australia. Then we drove to Adelaide, via Port Augusta and overnighted in Adelaide, visiting a few small towns along the way. We then had a couple of nights in Melbourne before jumping on the ferry (12 hour trip) to Devonport, where we then drove to Mum and Dad – probably about an hour?! We only spent a short week with them and then we ferried back to Melbourne and drove up the coast a little and visited Beechworth, Bright and Albury/Wodonga. On the way home, we went via Bendigo and back to Ceduna and then home. A lot of driving – I’ve said to Eric “next time, the car goes on to the train!”. But I’m not sure if he listened!! ๐Ÿ™‚

One of my long held dreams has been Christmas in New York – and this year it will happen. Actually, Christmas Day will be in Boston – but the whole Christmas festivity, lights, shows and FEEL will be happening – arrive in New York approximately 19th December; have a few days there and then train up to Boston on Christmas Eve, so Christmas Day will be in Boston and then back to New York about the 30th Dec to be in New York for New Year! TIMES SQUARE FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE!! Gotta do it! I’m very EXCITED! ๐Ÿ˜€

Luckily for me, Eric continued to work very hard this year – and we can afford to still travel! GOOD ONE, ERIC! Love you!!!

Eric the Legend faced a great personal challenge this year – by doing the Rotto Swim. This is an Open Water event from Perth to Rottnest Island (19km) and happens annually. His friend Tim (Farmanco partner) asked him to do a duo swim. So Eric started training in the pool back in about July last year (2014) and started swimming with the sharks in Esperance Bay (jokes!! – I was the ‘shark spotter’) in about November in preparation for this swim.

They completed the swim in about 8 hours and 43 minutes (something like that!). No records set, but the challenge for them was doing the swim – not being first!! And considering that there are were elite athletes participating, they were never going to be the winners. BUT Eric has such enthusiasm and can-do attitude that I only stand there gobsmacked when he takes on these things. Eric is the ‘Kiwi Butt’ in the crowd photo!!

So, we have quite a lot of travelling planned for the next 10 years! Before we become too decrepit!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll write more when we have done some planning for New York/Boston and of course, while we’re there! Cannot wait!

BYE xxxย  (Photos below are: 1. Eric almost ready to go 2. “Here I Am” and 3 ‘Ready, set ….’ Eric is in the Kiwi speedos’

Eric Swimmer No 360Eric Rotto Swim Here I AmEric Rotto Swim

MOROCCO – Casablanca to Fes (via Rabat) – 16th to 21st November

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Hey everyone!

So, I’ve not been good at blogging about Morocco – have I? ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s because I’ve been pretty crook for several days and it has been hard enough just staying upright long enough every day to get to the next stop!

I’ve been planning for two years to visit Morocco and as soon as we got here I started panicking! It was mostly about the dress code – being highly conventional for women in this Muslim country. I know I’m not exactly a ‘bosum-baring’ sort of gal ( ๐Ÿ™‚ ) but still – was a top too fitting or was I exposing too much neck? Also, as we arrived at a hotel that was quite gucci and very French, I felt my normal feelings of inadequacy (particularly in a fashion sense) were hyper-inflated and I felt I just wasn’t going to fit.

That first evening, before we had met our driver or gone outside the door of the hotel, I was saying to Eric that I just didn’t want to go anywhere the next day! Such a baby!!

The next morning we met our driver Idriss. He is our driver for the entirety of the organised tour we are on with Experience It! Tours. This group works out of the US and they do ‘private’ tours – as in your group could be 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 20 …. people and only those people, nobody else will be added. So, we are a group of two. When I first inquired about booking I said that I would actually be a little shy about having all the attention of a driver for 10 days and would be happy if another small group wanted to join up with someone else; but they were clear that they didn’t do that. So, it is Eric and I and Driss – and for this last 7 days he has been great!

On that first morning he quickly took us on a quick drive around Casablanca and to the Hassan II Mosque – which was purpose built about 20 years ago under the direction of the King. He wanted a memorial for his father and something that would bring visitors to Casablanca. It can host 105,000 people for prayers at a time (80,000 outside and 25,000 inside); the walls are handcrafted marble and the roof retracts; the minaret (the needle point part of the building, like a cathedral’s spire) at 689 ft (210 m) is the world’s tallest. It is pretty spiffy all right!

Casablanca is not very attractive really – the buildings are very poorly maintained generally. I think it has to do with the fact that the city’s modern history only starts from the late 1950s, early 60s and the country has been busy establishing itself again with its own constitutional monarchy and without the French (thanks!). All of the Moroccan cities are divided into some combination of an old town and new town – the old town always being surrounded by a wall, often kilometres long.ย 

Our room at Le Doge hotel was extremely nice – as my Facebook friends would have gathered!! It was the Coco Chanel room and was in black and white with photos of Coco all over the room. Drinks at the hotel were expensive – 2 drinks at 300 dirham compared to lunch in a local restaurant for three people being only 100dh (equivalent to AUD 12).

We had a walk on the promenade (Casablanca is on the Atlantic and the Mosque is built on a promontory) and a coffee then were on our way to Fes, via Rabat!

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, is approximately 1.5 hours from Casablanca, has a population of 3 million and is where King Mohammed VI has his official residence (he has palaces in each city – Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Marrakech). We stopped at the official residence (had to show our passports) but only to take a photo of the palace entrance! WHAT? It was pouring and Driss had to park quite far away and sent us off in the rain. We got like 10 steps and went ‘this is crazy; just to take a photo of an entrance!” and went back to the car. Something we have taken pains to explain to Driss and various guides this week is that we don’t have an interest in taking photos of things that mean nothing to us – that is if we learn about it (history or a story) and have some ‘feeling’ involved then we are keen to photograph towards memory keeping. But, drive up to the palace to take a photo and then drive on? Fuhgeddaboudit!

We visited the Kasbah ofUdayas in Sale (Rabat). A Kasbah is something like an enclosed small town or fortress. This Kasbah is lived in today and the colours are very similar to the Greek Islands. We were guided by a local young fellow (who volunteered himself ๐Ÿ˜› ). It was quite interesting. A little scary because this was the first opportunity we’d had to be waylaid by someone who could help us, without actually working out a deal with us, just taking us on and it gradually turning into ‘I’m your guide’ and us deciding how to tip him!ย Photos below: 1. Typical street in the Kasbah 2. Gardens 3. Panoramic photo of the outside of the Kasbah

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We also visited Roman ruins (Chella, Rabat-Sale) are from approximately 40 A.D. and one of the earliest identifiable settlements of man in Morocco (some evidence that a colony of Phoenician and Carthaginian explorers was on the site as early as the 3rd century B.C.. This was an interesting small site (unguided). We then visited the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, containing the tombs of this king and his two sons King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. It is a very good looking area – but we were dropped off and had a look (unguided) – which makes a difference because you admire, but don’t learn much!! (Photos below: Rabat/Sale – 1-3 At Mausoleum 4. Outside one of the 7 gates at the King’s residence in Rabat 5. Panoramic view of Rabat/Sale from a nearby fort)

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After some lunch we drove for the two hour drive to Fes.

We stayed in a Riad in the Medina in Fes (a medina is the old part of town and this one dates from the 9th century. Our Riad is at the very edge of the Medina, where cars can still drive into. After just a short way the streets are too narrow and only passable by foot or donkey.ย Driss parked the car out on the street – then we had to walk through a rabbit warren of streets (keep left going in) to reach our accommodation.

A Riad is original accommodation (most likely a home) that has been redeveloped for tourism – in this case an old home. It is in the Moorish (Arabic) style with ‘inside balconies’ – that is they look out over an internal courtyard, rather than out on to the street.

Our room was gorgeous – our bathroom was well appointed, but old!! I went from ‘what an incredible building and what a beautiful room’ to ‘I’m going to die’ quite quickly, because we soon realized that due to the inward facing rooms there are no external windows. I can’t sleep without the window open!! Add to that, our room was on the ground floor and close to where people passed a lot and opposite the dining area (courtyard) and the staff kept closing our big doors, to protect our privacy! Therefore when it came time to sleep I was stressed out, because I’m mildly claustrophobic and a) didn’t have a window for fresh air b) felt ‘locked’ into a room and c) didn’t see the escape route! I was amazed that I did sleep in the end, but I didn’t awake refreshed! Too bad; but not a third world problem? ๐Ÿ™‚

Our full ย day in Fes was spent mostly with our guide Abdul in the Medina. About 300,000 people live there and it is very old with winding streets, fresh food markets, craftsmen (and artisans) working with metal, wood, dyeing, tannery and carpet making. We visited an old school still in its original condition, including an area for learning that doubled as the prayer area (including the niche pointing to Mecca – called the Mihrab – and is from where the teacher and Imam lead prayers. Also there was a courtyard with a fountain where the children would clean themselves before praying.ย 

Also in the Medina we visited the oldest (believed) university in the world – and founded by a woman; we visited a museum in a building that used to accommodate travellers in caravanserai – the only one that accommodated people only, as the animals were stabled in a nearby building (as opposed to others bringing the animals inside!).ย 

There is a woman’s co-op in the Fes Medina overseen by the government that sells handmade rugs and carpets (Berber) – made in their homes. It is housed in an original Medina home renovated to its original style, which is good because everything you see on the outside looks like crap!! I had been wondering what the insides of homes might look like – and this gave a good idea, although it had been restored to its original condition and not many homes were going to look that good!

We were given the sales spiel – didn’t feel like a hard sell until the end. They gave us mint tea while they showed us lots of beautiful rugs. We ended up buying one – small enough to carry home. These ‘original’ rugs get better with age (apparently) so hopefully it is going to age gracefully with us and become a beautiful part of the furniture!!

Many of you will have seen photos of the dye pots of the tannery in Fes – the outdoor shots of large ceramic pots with either a creamy lime-wash-type substance or colours (dye). It’s pretty smelly! As you enter they hand you a bunch of mint to put under your nose, in case it is too strong for you. It wasn’t too bad that day and is apparently a lot worse in summer (which I can imagine!). After explaining the tanning process you have the opportunity to purchase leather goods – mainly bags and jackets. Because we’d unexpectedly blown our budget by buying our ‘one of a kind’ rug, I couldn’t buy the backpack I’d been planning on – maybe in another town, when the card is recharged! (Photos below: 1. Original school 2. Tannery 3. View of the inner courtyard of Riad Myra (Fes))

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Food-wise; dinner last night was vegetable soup (delicious) tagine chicken and lemon and a honey and almond iced dessert. Breakfast consists of a variety of carb choices (:)) flatbread, pancakes, cakes, porridge, yoghurt and fresh squeezed juice and coffee. Lots to choose from (at our table; not buffet).

For lunch on this day we ate in a ‘typical’ Moroccan restaurant and had a selection of Moroccan salads – cooked carrots, potatoes, cauliflow and peppers and tomatoes with lots of olives, yellow beans, green beans, zucchini (first course) shish kebabs (beef and chicken) seasonal fruits (pomegranate, oranges and some grapes finished with mint tea and a biscuit – WAY TOO MUCH FOOD! This was only the beginning and something we’ve struggled with. Quantity at every meal and richness (AKA oily) of the food – not the spices, that’s okay.ย 

These first few days were pretty great and smelly (:)) and I was SO tired. It was a full start and when we were supposed to eat out at a local restaurant in the evening we declined. I’m a bit like that though; at the end of a busy day, once I’m in I am just not interested in going back out!ย 

Tomorrow we are out to visit Volubilis (Roman ruins from 3 A.D.) and Meknes and the following morning we leave Fes for a couple of days based out of the desert town of Erfoud (over the middle Atlas mountains) and down to the Sahara!

Good night!!

xxx

Farewell Alora, Spain – 15th November

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Alora Soup Day (above)

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 roadwork 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 handwash or wipes, but based on our reading we decided to get some for Morocco. Unfortunately, my ‘you know whats’ will hit in the next day or so and I’ll be visiting a lot of random loos – I’ll be taking extra care!! It is our responsibility, so with some care and luck we’ll get through our 14 weeks travel without catching anything ๐Ÿ™‚

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 pidgen Spanish that we were leaving and he shook hands with us both ๐Ÿ™‚ – 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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View of Alora from the castle (above)

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Non-cultural pursuits, pursued while in Spain

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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 Jeffrey 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 Sandfords 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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 – 4th & 5th November

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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 goat-herd!) 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!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

So, back to Blankko – it was Mark’s special treat (Mark, our host at 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx
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Trish and Mark at Blankko
DSCF2567Foreshore at Fuengirola, Costa del Sol