Christopher’s Pitch

Olive Bashing

Olive Bashing

In the Nets with Rick

In the Nets with Rick

After giving Mathilde and Rick a little help with their olive harvest, and laden down with freshly pressed olive oil, we moved a little further north to spend a couple of days at a campsite close to the centre of Córdoba.

Cordoba

Cordoba

The tiny streets of the old town lend themselves to exploration on bike.

Cycling through Córdoba

Cycling through Córdoba

And there are good cycleways leading in the town.

Convent of La Merced

Convent of La Merced

This old convent, its elegant facade dating from 1745 is on the route in to town. It is now used as an administrative centre.

Gardens of the Merced

Gardens of the Merced

Women of Cordoba

Women of Cordoba

There is a large park by the convent, with a statue dedicated to the women of Córdoba.

Plaza Doblas

Plaza Doblas

This is the pretty little Plaza Doblas, just beyond the gardens of the Merced.

Nia

Nia

We swung on into town, heading towards a Roman temple. The temple is just beyond the town hall where we passed a small but vocal demonstration.

Trade Union Meeting

Trade Union Meeting

Demonstrators

Demonstrators

I think these guys need a new contract. Quickly.

Greek Temple

Roman Temple

These are the remains of a temple dedicated to a Roman emperor…sorry don’t know which one.

Jesus of the Lamps

Jesus of the Lamps

There are many shrines and other religious statues throughout the old city.

Plaza Corredera

Plaza Corredera

A little further on is the handsome Plaza de Corredara, from the 17th century. This is a good coffee stop, wide enough for the tables on the side to be in full sun for most of the day…yes the sun is getting a bit low in the sky now…summer must be coming to an end.

Practise your Spanish

Practise your Spanish here

There are a few touristy shops scattered around…anyone else out there learning Spanish? I didn’t buy this…don’t want to upset the Missus.

Bridge Gate

Bridge Gate

After coffee we cycled past the Bridge Gate. Originally it served as a gate for the Roman bridge just beyond.

Triumph of Saint Raphael

Triumph of Saint Raphael

Saint Raphael is the protector of Córdoba. This statue in his honour, by the French artist Verdiguier in 1765, stands next to the Bridge gate.

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

Horses and carriages are drawn up next to the Bishop’s palace, over the road from the Mezquita, ready to ferry visitors around.

Next stop the stunning Alcazar…the Palace of the Catholic Kings.

The Tower of the Lions

The Tower of the Lions

The Alcazar is a palace close to the Mezquita, on the north bank of the Guadalquivir. For many centuries it has been a temporary residence for Spanish royalty. The palace is most closely linked to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who spent much time here, where they planned the reconquest of Granada from the Moors. After this period, the palace became centre of operations for the Spanish Inquisition, until the early 1800’s.

Under Moorish rule, the Alcazar was the site of extensive public baths, traces of which still remain.

The palace itself was enclosed by four towers, three of which remain, and high fortified walls.

Roman Sarcophagus

Roman Sarcophagus

On view inside are a collection of relics including this Roman sarcophagus, intricately carved with reliefs of philosophers. Useful companions for the trip to the underworld.

Polyphemus and Galatea

Polyphemus and Galatea

There is an impressive collection of well-preserved Roman mosaics, dug up from underneath the Plaza Carretera, where we had had coffee previously. This depicts the attempted seduction of Galatea by the cyclops Polyphemus, Neptune’s brother.

Roman Bridge and Calahorra Tower from Alcazar

Roman Bridge and Calahorra Tower from Alcazar

There are good views of the Mezquita and the Roman Bridge from the towers of the Alcazar.

On the Battlements leading to the Tower of Homage.

On the Battlements leading to the Tower of Homage.

Alcazar Gardens

Alcazar Gardens

The palace has extensive and attractive gardens. These spread around two sets of pools and include fruit groves and innumerable walkways through lines of trees and hedges.

Gardens of the Alcazar

Gardens of the Alcazar

Alcazar Palace

Alcazar Palace

Alcazar Gardens

Alcazar Gardens

Alcazar Gardens

Alcazar Gardens

The Pitch

The Pitch

There are many statues dotted around. This one depicts Christopher Columbus pitching his exploration schemes to Isabella and Ferdinand, in the hope of getting some backing. Distracted by their campaigns against the Moors they weren’t initially receptive but eventually agreed to fund him. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ferdinand the Just

Alphonse XI..the Just

This is King Alphonse, who set out to build the Alcazar, in the early 1300’s, to be both his home and a military fortress.

La Albolafia Mill

La Albolafia Mill

This is the Albolafia Mill, built by the Moors to lift water up from the river to water the gardens by their baths on the site of the Alcazar. It was ordered to be stopped by Queen Isabella because the noise disturbed her sleep. I bet she was high maintenance.

Water Mill

Water Mill

Saint Raphael on the Roman Bridge

Saint Raphael on the Roman Bridge

With night falling we cycled on to the bridge for some final shots of St Raphael as he kept watch over Córdoba.

It is time to start heading back north now…this may be the last post.

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Posted in - Spain, Andalucia, Autumn 2015, Córdoba

Córdoba

We took the bus from La Campiña to Cordoba (€4 each, 45 minutes) while Rick very kindly looked after the Kray twins.

Calahorra Tower

Calahorra Tower

Time was limited so we took a taxi from the bus station to the Calahorrra tower, which lies to the south of the River Guadalquivir. The tower is directly across the Roman Bridge from the Mezquita-Cathedral, the cathedral within a mosque which is one of the buildings for which Córdoba is famous.

The tower was built by Henry II, who we had met earlier in the tour when we lunched with Alan and Joy overlooking his birthplace in Le Mans.

Early surgical Instruments

Early surgical Instruments

There is a good museum inside the tower, established by the ‘Foundation of Dialogue Among Cultures’ and showing the time of the tolerant Córdoba of the Caliphate, when Moors, Christians and Jews lived peacefully together. For many centuries Córdoba was a great intellectual and scientific centre. In Roman times great poets and philosophers including Seneca and Lucano lived here.
It was under Moorish domination, after 929, when an independent caliphate was declared, that Córdoba became one of the most important cultural centres in the west. The city housed a famous university, libraries and much sumptuous architecture, some of which has survived.

Roman Bridge

Roman Bridge

From the Calahorra tower there are good views across the Roman Bridge (modernised but with Roman foundations) to the Mezquita and old city.

Mosque and Cathedral

Mosque and Cathedral

The mosque in Córdoba, covering 24,000 square metres, is the largest in the Western world.

Mosque Doorway on West Side

Mosque Doorway on West Side

The imposing mosque walls are studded with square turrets and contain many ornate gates.

Orangery

Orangery

To the west of the mosque is a garden planted with a grid of oranges, cunningly kept watered by a grid of rills or water channels running from tree to tree. In Moorish times the faithful washed here before entering the mosque.

Bell tower of cathedral

Bell tower of cathedral

In 1236 Córdoba was reconquered by the Christian armies of Ferdinand the Holy and over subsequent centuries a cathedral and bell tower was built within the mosque, preserving much of the original Moorish building.

The Mosque

The Mosque

Aisles and Archways in the original Mosque

Aisles and Archways in the original Mosque

The mosque was started by Abd-ar-Rahman I in 786. There is a stunning interior of bi-colour arches on two levels. The columns were pinched from Visigoth and Roman buildings in Spain, Europe and North Africa, making the mosque a museum of first millennium architecture.

Interior Arch

Interior Arch

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

A sumptuous cathedral has been built within the mosque, which was consecrated and named Santa Maria la Mayor a few weeks after the conquest by Ferdinand the Holy in 1236. Up to the 16th century, further additions and changes to the architecture were made; cathedral construction began in 1523.

Choir Stalls

Choir Stalls

Choir Stalls

Choir Stalls

The seats have been carved in Antilles mahogany and feature scenes from the Bible and the lives of various Córdoban martyrs.

There is a massive organ within the cathedral and we were treated to a stunning rendition of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor while we were there.

After the cathedral we moved to the Jewish quarter for a tapas lunch, then walked back to the bus station. There is much more to see in Córdoba and we are planning to return.

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Posted in - Spain, Andalucia, Autumn 2015, Córdoba

The Olive Harvest

Mavis In La Campiña

Mavis In La Campiña

We have discovered the best campsite in Spain…it is La Campiña, a smallish site tucked away in the Andalucian olive groves about 20 miles south of Córdoba.

Andalucia

Andalucia

The name La Campiña translates as a region of rolling hills and fertile land.

La Campiña

La Campiña

The site is run by Mathilde, originally from Madrid who came here aged seven when her parents started the campsite, and her husband Rik, from Holland.

Malc and Carel

Malc and Carel

Malc and Carel, two fellow motorhomers and friends of Rik and Mathilde. The six of us shared home-cooked paella the day after we arrived.

On Saturday we walked down in to the Olive Groves which surround the campsite to meet the olive pickers; after a dry few weeks the harvest has started.

Ripening.

Ripening.

Black or green, they are all picked at the same time. The fruit here goes to the local processing unit to be turned in to olive oil.

The Nets

The Nets

First the ground is covered in nets, then a tractor comes along with a tree shaking attachment (don’t see many of those in Cumbria) and shakes quite a lot of the olives on to the nets.

Stripping the Olives

Stripping the Olives

Then a team of men with electric forks…clever devices with reciprocating tines…strip out any fruit still attached.

The Team

The Team

What a friendly bunch….as soon as we pitched up they formed up into a line for a photograph.

Picking up the Nets

Picking up the Nets

This guy picks up the nets and pulls the olives into a big hopper on the front of one of the tractors.

Olive Hopper

Olive Hopper

The Olive Groves

The Olive Groves

As soon as the hopper is full it gets decanted into a bigger trailer.

You will meet the olives again, a bit later in this post.

At the weekend, we cycled through the olives to San Sebastian de Los Ballesteros for wine and tapas.

Ready for planting

Ready for planting

There has been a long dry spell and the farmers are waiting for rain before they plant for next year.

Cafe in San Sebastian

Cafe in San Sebastian

 Santaella

Santaella

On Monday Mathilde drove us to Santaella, the quiet town close by, which has been the centre of this agricultural region for many centuries.

As with much of Andalucia the town was a Moorish settlement at the beginning of the last millennium. The minaret by the church at the top of the town marks the site of the old mosque.

Minaret

Minaret

Bishops's Crest

Bishops’s Crest

Bishops's Crest

Another Bishops’s Crest

We looked round the church which was built around the mosque in the 1400’s. There are many different coats of arms around the church, each representing a different Bishop of Córdoba and reflecting the long time spent converting the architecture to a form which the catholics here would be comfortable with.

Old Arabic Gilded Wooden Roof

Old Arabic Gilded Wooden Roof

There is a very well preserved roof from Arabic times.

Santaella Church...Arabic Flooring

Santaella Church…Arabic Flooring

And much other evidence, such as this tiling in 8 pointed stars, of the Moorish origins of the building.

Procession Figures

Procession Figures

Every Easter there is a week of processions, and these figures of Jesus, Saint Mary and other saints are carried round the streets for all to see.

For Processions

For Processions

This is the ceremonial coffin, carried by 16 men under the covers, which carries the figure of Jesus on the Easter processions. Apparently there is generally also a bottle of brandy or two, hidden beneath the draperies, to sustain the figure bearers.

Town Hall Santaella

Town Hall Santaella

Mathilde took us on a tour around Santaella.

Santaella

Terrace of Circle de Labradores

Next to the Town Hall is the Circulo de Labradores or ‘Working Man’s Club’, built by the landowners for their workers. In the event however it was used in the old days mainly by the land owners….the workers were too busy working to use it…

It is now a cafe and we went in for coffee. There is a terrace much decorated by ceramic pictures and poetry, supplied by a group of local artists and writers who used to meet here.

Church/Minaret at Santaella

Church/Minaret at Santaella

Terrace for los Labraderos

Terrace for los Labraderos

Coffee in Santaella

Ready for the Coffee

Mathilde and Peter in Santaella

Mathilde and Peter in Santaella

Garlic Factory

Garlic Factory

After Santaella, Mathilde took us to Montalbano de Córdoba. This is another small town, about 10 km from La Campiña. First stop was a quick look around a garlic processing plant, where we tasted black garlic…bulbs which have been heated enough to preserve them and produce a dark, crumbly texture. Delicious.

Pedro Ximenez Bodega

Pedro Ximenez Bodega

Next stop was the Bodegas del Pino in Montalban where they turn locally grown Pedro Ximenez grapes into a variety of delicious wines. They make a sweet dessert wine here which is particularly nice.

The picture above shows the old grape presses.

Tasting from the Vats

Tasting from the Vats

Yummy

Yummy

Mathilde

Mathilde

More Tasting

More Tasting

We had to try some more…it would have been rude not to.

Olive Oil Works

Olive Oil Works

We moved on to an olive oil processing plant to see what happened to the olives we had seen picked a few days before.

Olives

Olives

First the olives are tipped in to a big hopper.

Olives on the way in

Olives on the way in

Olives on the way to being washed and de-leafed

Olives on the way to being washed and de-leafed

The olives are conveyor-belted up, blown (to remove the leaves ) then washed.

Centrifuges

Centrifuges

After crushing, the paste is centrifuged to separate out the oil.

First Press

First Press

This is the end product; a lovely bubbling geyser of first press, milky, extra virgin olive oil.

Tasting the First Press

Tasting the First Press

Mathilde had bought some bread and we dunked it in the fresh oil and scoffed away. Absolutely delicious.

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Posted in Autumn 2015, Santaella

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Bells of Iglesia Padre Jesus

Bells of Iglesia Padre Jesus

Lady Tennyson

Lady Tennyson

Following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Tennyson and a few other tourists, we have just spent four days in Ronda…an amazing town perched on top of sheer cliffs, deep in Andalucia. We stayed at Camping El Sur, a good site about a mile to the south of the town. It is quick to walk or cycle in…the old town is about 20 minutes walk away.

Puerta de Almocabar

Puertas de Almocabar and Carlos V

Occupied since neolithic times, the town was a Moor (Muslim) stronghold for many centuries. These are the gates through which you enter the old town from the campsite direction. Just behind the walls here is the church of the Holy Ghost.

Altar...Church of the Holy Ghost

Altar…Church of the Holy Ghost

For a euro you can walk into the Church and climb the tower on its south wall.

View From Church of Holy Ghost

View From Church of Holy Ghost

There is a good view of the Almocabar and Carlos V gates and walls from the tower.

Good Coffee Stop

Good Coffee Stop

Jardin de la Muralla

Jardin de la Muralla

Just past the church, hidden around a corner, is this small cafe, with a delightful terrace and great views over the countryside.

Jardin de la Muralla

Jardin de la Muralla

Perfect for the first coffee stop of the day.

Puente Nuevo..the new bridge

Puente Nuevo..the new bridge

Ronda is split in two by the El Tajo gorge which divides the old town in the south from the Mercadillo, or market town, to the north. This is the new bridge (new is relative…built in the 18th century), which joins the two towns.

El Tajo Gorge

El Tajo Gorge

The River Guadalevin runs through the El Tajo gorge….this is the gorge to the east of Ronda.

Casa de San Juan Bosco

Casa de San Juan Bosco

One of the many old houses worth visiting is that of San Juan Bosco, on the west side of the old city. There are elegant interiors and a pretty terrace, much be-tiled in an Islamic style, with stunning views over the gorge to El Mercadillo and the surrounding countryside.

Bosco Terrace

Bosco Terrace

Terrace at Casa Bosco

Terrace at Casa Bosco

Casa Bosco

Casa Bosco

Hemingway

Hemingway

Hemingway’s bust adorns the plaza just by the bullring over the bridge in the Mercadillo. He spent much time in the old city and based his novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ on events here in the Spanish Civil War.

Iglesia del Socorro

Iglesia del Socorro

A little further on from Hemingway is the Plaza de Socorro, home to this elegant church and a number of restaurants…it’s a good place to sit and refuel.

Lunch at Casino Restaurant

Lunch at Casino Restaurant

The Casino restaurant overlooks the Plaza Socorro.

Plaza del Socorro

Plaza del Socorro

This handy pigeon perch is on the Plaza de Socorro.

Ice Cream Time

Ice Cream Time

Also a good spot for an ice cream. And a lie down, if you are a terrier with old town overload.

Eugen

Eugen

This is Eugen, brilliant spanish guitarist who played on the Plaza Maria Auxiliadora, close to the Bosco house, while we rehydrated in the cafe here. We bought some of his CD’s to remind us of the trip.

Restaurant Casino ..Accompaniment

Restaurant Casino ..Accompaniment

Another local musician; he was playing in the Restaurant Casino, on the Plaza Socorro.

Eco Transport

Eco Transport

This seemed a civilised way to get around. We hopped aboard one of the carriages for a leisurely drive around the old town.

Lady Nia in her charabanc

Lady Nia in her charabanc

The last time we were on one of these together was our wedding day. (Before any one comments…this wasn’t because we were married before the internal combustion engine had appeared).

Viewpoint

Viewpoint

This is the viewpoint in El Mercadillo, just behind the bullring and close to a good woody bit to let the Krays off in. There are good views over the gorge and live music each time we walked by…harp and pan pipes today, accordion yesterday.

Arab Baths

Arab Baths

There is a good walk down from the Jardins de la Muralla coffee stop, outside the town’s walls, to the Arab baths to the east of the old town. Built on the site of preexisting Roman baths, the sophisticated hot pools were for the use of travellers before they entered the town.

The Krays

The Krays

Colin and Penny weren’t allowed in to the baths; we took it in turns to go in. Pity…Penny would have loved to dig up some old Roman bones.

Arab Bridge, Arab baths behind.

Arab Bridge, Arab baths behind.

Just next to the baths is the Arab Bridge (also known as the Roman bridge) to El Mercadillo, at a much lower level than the New Bridge.

The Old Bridge

The Old Bridge

This is the old bridge, just above the Arab Bridge (confused yet?..we were).

Palace of the Moorish King...Gardens

Palace of the Moorish King…Gardens

Palace of the Moorish King...Gardens

Palace of the Moorish King…Gardens

Walking up from the Old Bridge, on the Old Town side of the gorge, you come to the Palace of the Moorish King and Gardens. The palace is closed for renovations but the garden is worth a visit, as is the ‘water mine’ which is a vertical shaft sunk down from the gardens to the river 80 m or so below. 300 steps lead down to the water and provided a water supply in times of siege.

Water Mine

Water Mine

Slaves on the steps formed a human chain to pass water bags up to the thirsty townspeople.

From the Foot of the Water Mine

From the Foot of the Water Mine

Walking down the steps you eventually come out, not unexpectedly, at the foot of the gorge.

Cafe Goyesca

Cafe Goyesca

This is the Restaurant Goyesca, close to the Place of the Moorish King, and home to some excellent tapas.

Tapas

Tapas

More Tapas

More Tapas

Even more Tapas

Even more Tapas

Tapas again

Tapas again

Xijara Walls

Xijara Walls

Another good walk is along the Xijara walls to the east of the old town.

Xijara Gate

Xijara Gate

The gate is in the Moorish style.

We have eaten so many tapas that we won’t be able to get through any more gates if we stay any longer, so we are moving on now, in the direction of Cordoba.

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Posted in - Spain, Andalucia, Autumn 2015, Ronda

On the Road Again…..Lorca

On the Road Again

On the Road Again

La Torrecilla

La Torrecilla

After a few great weeks at Marjal we have moved on; Mavis was getting itchy wheels. We spent last night at La Torrecilla, a small site about 7 km outside Lorca, which is about 70 miles down the A7 from Marjal. Nia tucked Mavis nicely in to a small pitch by the reception.

Heading in to Lorca

Heading in to Lorca

There is a good cycle track all the way into Lorca. We packed the Krays in to the dogcart and set off just after we arrived on the campsite.

Lorca

Lorca

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

We had lunch in a small restaurant on the Plaza d’Espana, surrounded by old Spanish buildings. The church behind us, well swaddled in scaffolding, is the collegiate church of St Patrick.

Menu del dia

Menu del dia

I had the salmorejo, a cold vegetable soup with bits of ham, egg and chorizo floating in it. A bit like Gazpacho, delicious. And then the tuna (atun, handily an anagram of the english word). Nia had the Absetasygambas which was a sort of eggy prawny thingy, and the steak.

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

Ayuntiamento

Ayuntiamento

There are picturesque old buildings all around the plaza. The ayuntiamento, town hall, must be the place to get married in Lorca. We saw 3 brides whilst we were eating. One was quaffing a beer in our restaurant in her finery, not sure if it was before or after the event. Probably before ‘cos we didn’t spot the groom.

Alfonso X "El Sabio"

Alfonso X “El Sabio”

This is a statue of Alfonso the Wise, on the Plaza next to us…we will meet him again.

Friendly Policia

Friendly Policia

BP14 - 2 (1)

After lunch we cycled up a very steep hill to Lorca castle. Half way up I met these two friendly coppers on guard (against what?) who kindly kept an eye on my bike while I walked back down to give Nia a hand to get the torpid terriers up the hill.

Alfonso Tower, guarding the east end of Lorca Castle

Alfonso Tower, guarding the east end of Lorca Castle

The castle was well worth the climb. Pinched from the Moors a few hundred years ago it looks out over Lorca and the mountains in the distance.

Siege Engine

Siege Engine

This is a mock up of an old giant catapult or ballista, used to chuck rubble at castle walls. It sits next to the Espolón tower which guards the west of the castle.

Inside the Espolón Tower

Inside the Espolón Tower

On Guard

On Guard

2012 Earthquake Damage

2012 Earthquake Damage

There was a big earthquake in 2012 which unsettled the tower…built by Alfonso X in the 1200’s at the same time as the other great tower, which was named after him.

Sword Sundial

Sword Sundial

Nia the Wise

Nia the Wise

A7

A7

Looking east this is the A7, just before it enters its tunnel under the castle.

Time to go back to Mavis. Afonso's tower behind me

Time to go back to Mavis. Alfonso’s tower behind me

By 5 the sun was getting low and we set off back to the campsite. There is a good viewpoint for the castle on the way down.

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Posted in - Spain, Autumn 2015, Lorca, Murcia

Don’t Trust a Woman with Eyeballs in her Bag.

Petanque competition

Petanque competition

There was a Petanque competition last week, open to all, which we had a go at. You can just see the orange cochonet or piglet that Nia is aiming for in the foreground. We failed to figure in the prize list but had a lot of fun throwing the boules.

Prize giving

Prize giving

The prizes were doled out in the bar that evening; our Welsh friend Les won the first prize. It was a Thursday night which is the BOGOF evening at Marjal and the bar was busy. The moustachioed man dancing a jig just beyond Nia is Olaf, one of our Dutch friends.

Barbecue at Paco's

Paco’s

The next day, our lovely neighbours Adrian and Jan took us out to a Spanish restaurant..Paco’s..at Rojales. It was packed with locals, always a good sign, and the food was scrumptious. There is a large barbecue within the restaurant where you can watch the food cooking. Sadly Adrian and Jan have just gone back home…nothing to do with us parking next to them we hope…

Paco's...Starters

Paco’s…Starters

Ad and Riet, our Dutch friends, also came along.

Evening Walk

Evening Walk

We had a walk alongside the ponds in the nature reserve that evening.

Dolores

Dolores

The next day we cycled through Catral and on along a cycle track to the town of Dolores. There is a lovely Moorish style church in the centre.

Dolores Local

Dolores Local

The Krays attracted a bit of attention. This guy was here with his family enjoying a stroll about town.

Outskirts of Dolores

Outskirts of Dolores

Butterfly at El Fondo

Butterfly at El Fondo

We cycled back through the El Fondo nature reserve. There are always one or two Marsh harriers flapping lazily about here, over the reeds, and loads of flamingos and egrets.

Egret

Egret

Birthday Ice Cream

Birthday Ice Cream

Nia’s birthday was celebrated with some of our Petanque friends at a Chinese restaurant in Guardamar, a town about 15 miles down the coast. After a few delicious courses Nia was given a birthday ice cream, complete with candle (and a present of a fruit bowl) by the proprietor, seated for the pic next to Nia.

Birthday Massage

Birthday Massage

After the meal we were all treated to a massage….Nia first as birthday girl. I didn’t get the man’s name…he spoke no English…but he was very good and worked on a few other necks around the restaurant after he’d done us.

Heather

Heather

Heather getting the works.

John

John

Les, Heather, John, (Heather’s partner, snooker expert and head handkerchief wearer) and Alex.

Les

Les

Les, petanque champion, who very kindly drove us to the restaurant.

Nia with new friend

Nia with new friend

Vick and Alex, recently arrived from the UK, had come along with their two border terriers. The hounds had stayed in their car whilst we ate but young Alfie got a cuddle from Nia after the meal.

Ad and Rite

Ad and Riet

A couple of days later our Dutch friends Ad and Riet took us out for a Spanish meal in a converted barn at La Herradura restaurant at Los Montesinos, near Torrevieja.

Singers at La Herradura

Singers at La Herradura

There was a live Spanish guitar and drum accompaniment to the meal. The guitarists took turns at singing and then the man on the left did a few unaccompanied songs. It was a brilliant, breathtaking, performance which at its first note completely silenced the hubbub of eating and chatting in the room.

Spanish singer

Spanish singer

Cava...on the house..

Cava…on the house..

Half way through we were all treated to Cava on the house. It is a lovely feature of dining in Spain that at some time in the meal you will be given a drink which doesn’t feature on the bill. Often you will be presented with a large liqueur once the bill has been paid.

Adrian and Nia

Ad and Nia

English Market at Marjal

English Market at Marjal

On the Saturday we dropped in briefly to an English market being held on Marjal plaza (cactus anyone?) then cycled east to Elche which is a biggish town ten miles away.

Bike Track Elche

Bike Track Elche

There is a good bike track in the middle of the main road in Elche, which leads to a long park running alongside the River Vinolopa, which runs through the town.

Elche

Elche

The river bed has been concreted and at times of low rainfall, as now, water only flows along a small central channel. The dry river bed has been extensively be-muralled.

Elche Park.

Elche Park.

Halloween

Halloween

We walked around the Halloween celebrations at Marjal that evening.

Odd Lady handing out eyeballs

Anyone fancy an eyeball?

Nia had thoughtfully loaded her handbag with chocolate eyeballs which she handed out to assorted zombies, angels of death and other creatures of the night.

Halloween at Marjal

Halloween at Marjal

Not everyone fancied a fresh eyeball…the little guy in horns on the right gave the offering some careful consideration and then politely declined the gift.

Strange Woman with Eyeball

Strange Woman with Eyeball

Selfie Opportunity

Selfie Opportunity

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Posted in - Spain, Autumn 2015, Catrall, Valencia

Hot Dates

Sunbeams

Evening Sun

Rain over Valencia

Rain over Valencia

The rain in Spain does get down to the Med sometimes…I was up at 6am yesterday morning to furl the awning. We had an early thunderstorm and I didn’t want Mavis to blow away.

Padel

Padel

The sun came out after a bit and Adrian and I went for a knock around on the Padel courts. Padel is a bit like tennis but played with smaller bats and on a court which has some perspex walls which you can bounce the ball off…something like squash. Best played in doubles, we’ve had a few good games now and met a few other ex-pats.

The Petanque Queen

The Petanque Queen

We are playing Petanque (boules) several times a week. The idea is to get the boule (heavy metal ball) as close to the cochonet (small round target ball, aka the piglet) as possible. The other players are a mixture…French, Dutch, Belgian, Swiss, German and so on, so its a right mixture of conversations. We often don’t know what’s being said….probably just as well. I think the guy in the picture is advising the Petanque Queen (her in the white hat) where to place her boules. He’s a braver man than me.

Pimientos

Pimientos

Catral Market

Catral Market

v
Catral Market

Catral Market

Catral Market

Catral Market

On Saturday we cycled in to Catral for the market and picked up some rather nice stuffed olives, some five star pickled onions and a selection of other Spanish delicacies.

Hot Dates

Hot Dates

We cycled back along the side roads, past these date laden date palms and then through the tiny village of San Felipe Neri.

Church at San Felipe Neri

Church at San Felipe Neri

Flooded Fields

Flooded Fields

Irrigation in Spain can be low tech…often they open one of the large sluice gates which are dotted around the countryside and just flood the fields. These egrets are taking advantage of a free cold bath in a field by San Felipe.

Los Caballos

Los Caballos

On Sunday we cycled to La Marina, a small town on the Mediterranean coast about 15 miles away. We passed these ponies dozing by the roadside.

Las Cabras

Las Cabras

And a herd of goats munching their way across the countryside.

The Med

The Med

We had a nice downhill bit for the last mile before the sea.

Lunch at Pinet

Lunch at Pinet

We turned left at La Marina and had lunch in a shady restaurant overlooking the sea at Pinet Marina, a little further east along the coast.

Pinet Beach

Pinet Beach

In the distance is the coastal town of Santa Pola.

Parque el Fondo

Parque el Fondo

We cycled back through the El Fondo nature reserve. It was a bit hot for the Krays but they ran for a bit.

Adrian and Jan

Adrian and Jan

We’ve had a few evening drinks with Adrian and Jan, our neighbours. Colin is trying to persuade Adrian to feed him tapas, using the jumping up and looking cute technique.

Sunset

Sunset

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Posted in - Spain, Autumn 2015, San Felipe Neri, Valencia

Walking on Water

Crevillent

Crevillent

We have put down roots for a few weeks at Camping Marjal near Alicante. It is a good cycling spot with lots to explore. This is generally a pretty healthy lifestyle. Except when you fall off your bike, which I managed whilst trying to pull the Kray’s cart (normally Nia’s job) through a gap slightly narrower than the cart a couple of days ago.

The picture above shows Crevillent in the distance; it is a town in the hills about 6 miles away that we cycled to. It was a bit of a slog up there against the wind and gravity but a lovely downwind freewheel back.

Pomegranites

Pomegranates

The road to Crevillent is lined by pomegranate plantations. Also solar panels…there is a solar farm en route.

Solar Farm

Solar Farm

Sunrise at Marjal

Sunrise at Marjal

There are a lot of palm trees about here. They are apparently under attack at the moment by palm weevils and we see piles of burnt palms from time to time.

Market at Almoradí

Market at Almoradí

On Saturday we cycled with our Dutch friends Adrian and Rite, who we met at Petanque, to the market at Almoradí, a town a bit to the west.

Banana Shopping

Banana Shopping

This is me shopping for fruit and veg, with my stylish fluorescent cycle pannier. Luckily the colour goes well with the bananas.

Frocks

Frocks

There is much to buy here. Sadly we weren’t in the market for flamenco frocks that day.

Fans

Fans

Or fans.

Church at Almoradí

Church at Almoradí

There is a pretty church here which is surrounded by trees cleverly pruned into hollow discs…hard to describe and difficult to get the full effect in a photo.

The Bride

The Bride

We spotted this bridal party heading churchwards.

Tapas at Almoradí

Tapas at Almoradí

We stopped for a few tapas. The two guys on the table at the back are a retired Belgian lorry driver and his wife who kindly shared their table with us. He has an apartment at Torrevieja, about 25 miles away.

Cycle Home from Almoradí

Cycle Home from Almoradí

We wobbled back to Mavis, replete.

Flamingos at Parque Natural el Fondo

Flamingos at Parque Natural el Fondo

On Sunday morning we took the Krays for a walk around the local nature reserve and watched the flamingos doing their clever walking on water trick as they land.

Sunday Lunch at Catrall

Sunday Lunch at Catrall

Our next door neighbours here, Adrian (yes…the campsite is full of Adrians) and Janice are a lovely couple who have reserved a pitch here for a year. Adrian drove me to the local supermarket in his souped up mini cooper on our first day here for a stock up on grub and other essentials. For Sunday lunch we went to a Chinese restaurant in the next town…Catrall…with Adrian and Janice, and Rite and Adrian.

BP11 - 20

Donkey Parade

Donkey Parade

It is a long bank holiday weekend in Spain her at the moment and this donkey cart parade swung by whilst we were scoffing noodles and spring rolls.

Bank Holiday Weekend

Bank Holiday Weekend

The campsite is full for the holiday, with thousands of Spanish kids zooming about on scooters and bikes, like guided missiles, (or as Nia said, unguided missiles) in all directions. Its a really nice atmosphere.

Dawn at El Fondo

Dawn at El Fondo

I got up early to snap the flamingos at el Fondo. They kindly positioned themselves in front of the rising sun for me.

Flamingos

Flamingos

Flamingos

Flamingos

BP11 - 26

Egret

Egret

There were also a lot of Egrets, egretting about.

Fast Food

Fast Food

And a few rabbits scurrying here and there.

Today has been very hot, in the thirties. Nia did the washing and it was dry almost before it was hung up. I cooked…barbecued pork in a salsa/paprika marinade with a tomato and avocado salad, dressed (OK splashed with) home mixed balsamic dressing. Yummy? I couldn’t possibly say.

Plans for Tuesday….Spanish lesson in the morning then a trip to Catral for a bit of shopping.

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Posted in - Spain, Alicante, Autumn 2015, Catrall, Valencia

Petanque with the Pros

Mavis at Camping Valencia

Mavis at Camping Valencia

With bad weather breathing down our necks we left Capbreton early on Friday morning and headed south through Spain. After 385 miles we paused for the night outside Camping Valencia. You could park inside the site for 16 euros or outside for 6…we went for the cheapskate option and planted ourselves just outside the gates, handily close to some good dog walking and a petanque pitch. We had a quick game of boules before supper. It had to be quick because the Krays kept running off with the boules.

Torros

Torros

You know you’re in Spain when you see a Torros. These giant bulls crop up here and there by the roadside.

Marjal Plaza

Marjal Plaza

We had made friends with Kris and Nico…two guys in a smart new Charisma…on the site at Valencia and they had recommended Camping Marjal. We made this our next stop. It is a biggish site about 2 hours down the autoroute, just past Alicante. There is a lot going on here and we will probably put down roots here for a few weeks. We are on a good south facing pitch, fully serviced with water, electricity and drainage, and all for the ACSI rate of €16 per night.

Walkway through the site

Walkway through the site

Camping Marjal is impressively landscaped with palms and other exotic flora scattered about.

The Pool

The Pool

There is a great pool…we had a dunk yesterday.

Heffalumps

Heffalumps

Complete with elephants…

BP10 - 9

Tortoises…

BP10 - 8

And crocodiles.

The Pitch at Camping Marjal

The Pitch at Camping Marjal

The temperature gets up to the low thirties by the afternoon…its hard…sometimes you can only lie down and sip cold beer…

Nature Reserve

Nature Reserve

On Sunday we cycled out to the nature reserve at El Fondo, about two miles away.

We left the bikes at the entrance and walked around the ponds on these cool walkways, watching the dragonflies.

One of the locals

One of the locals

Ronnie and Reggie taking me for a walk.

Ronnie and Reggie taking me for a walk.

Olive Branch

Olive Branch

The olives are prolific hereabouts.

We went along to the petanque club yesterday and had a couple of games. Everyone who wants to play puts one of their boules into a big box then Jean-Claude…the French pro who organises the petanque…pulls boules out at random to decide who plays who. A bit like car keys in an ashtray at a wife-swapping party. Nia met a nice Dutch couple and I played with the formidable Jean-Claud…a bombing expert. Bombing is the technique whereby the boule is lobbed in the air to descend on the opponents boule, to knock it away from the piglet (the little ball in the centre of the court which everyone tries to get close to). Enough about petanque…its easier to play then explain…

BP10 - 13

There are a couple of public holidays coming up next Friday and Monday and Adrian…our next door neighbour…has offered to take us shopping to stock up with grub so I may go with him to the local supermarket this afternoon. I will go along to the basic Spanish class this morning, so thats today pretty much planned. The Krays have been fed and walked and are now snoring their heads off.

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Posted in - Spain, Alicante, Autumn 2015, Valencia

Stuck in the Mud

Reggie and Ronnie go for a Swim

Reggie and Ronnie go for a Swim

Mimizan Plage, a few miles down the coast from Biscarrosse, is very nice but they don’t let dogs on the beach. Luckily there is a good bike ride south through the forest which brings you to a dog-friendly beach. The Krays went for a splash.
Mimizan Plage aire was a bit pricy at €14-50 so we weren’t all that impressed overall and moved on the next day to the large aire at Capbreton, one of our favourites.

Sunset at Mimizan

Sunset at Mimizan

We made the mistake of setting the satnav to shortest distance and Snoopy (as we refer to our snooper satnav) took us through the tiniest streets he could find for the final five miles. So we unwound in the traditional way…a walk along the beach in to Capbreton once we were parked, and a restorative in the first cafe we found.

Rehydration at Capbreton

Rehydration at Capbreton

The waitress kindly snapped us from the seafront boardwalk

Two's company

Two’s company

We spotted this pair practising for the next doubles surfing tournament.

Capbreton Beach

Capbreton Beach

This is the beach that leads from Capbreton to the aire.

Graffiti at Capbreton

Graffiti at Capbreton

There are a few scattered remnants of the Atlantic wall on the beach, recycled into doodle pads for graffiti artists.

Sunset at Capbreton

Sunset at Capbreton

Facing west, there is always the chance of a good sunset from the beach here.

Today, Thursday, we cycled in to Capbreton, then along a long canal to the next town, Hossegor, then back along the coast to Capbreton harbour.

Harbour at Capbreton

Harbour at Capbreton

Digger driver looking for new Job

Digger driver looking for new Job?

As we cycled alongside the harbour we watched this stuck in the mud excavator being hoisted aloft by a massive crane.

Unstuck

Unstuck

The Audience

The Audience

There was a good turn out to watch the entertainment.

En Route to Hossegor

En Route to Hossegor

This is the waterway that leads from Capbreton to Hossegor.

BP9 - 15

There are some lovely old buildings along the path to Hossegor.

Cycle Path to Hossegor

Cycle Path to Hossegor

Sections of the cycle path are on elevated wooden boardwalks.

Capbreton

Capbreton

Cycle Path in Capbreton

Cycle Path in Capbreton

Clearly marked and well-surfaced cycle tracks abound here.

Storm Clouds Gathering

Storm Clouds Gathering

I went out in the evening for a sunset shot but clouds are gathering in the west. The forecast is not good for a few days. Tomorrow we will head further south and plan to stop for the night just south of Pamplona. Time to dust off my Spanish books.

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Posted in - France, Aquitaine, Autumn 2015, Capbreton, Mimizan

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