Well, today (5th October) is Soup Day in AloraDía 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 ( 🙂 ) 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 🙂 ) 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 🙂

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!


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!]. 

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 🙂 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 😀 – 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 🙂 ) 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


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! 🙂 )

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!)