694-697: Burton Birthday in Barcelona

694 – Lloret de Mar ‘ere we Come

A separate drive (car and van) back to the farm in Farnham.  We collected Maddy from work and drove to Gatwick.  We’d had limited choice of destination with wanting to depart on Thursday evening … Maddy had Friday – Sunday off work – even arriving very late in Barcelona on Thursday night (really Fri morning!), it still gave us two full days.

695 – Catching Up the Zzzz

I slept in.  And Maddy slept in majorly!  A wander around the town, lunch and then cosies on for a sun bathe.  Supper after another Sangria and a wander around the small streets.

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We lunched in the sun with Sangria …

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… followed by an ice cream at the end of the beach.

696 – Barcelona Architecure

We caught the 9.00 bus into Barcelona and followed a phone app walk to view some of the best and interesting architecture.  Fortunately M did not want to join the massive queues to go in ay of the Gaudi buildings as it was sunny.  We walked our socks off … but it was worth it.  One detour to a Sephora …. a make up store for M to spend some of her birthday money.  She ticked lots of boxes on her wish list; Tapas, Paella, Ice cream and walking Barcelona.

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697 – Home Again

A walk and coffee in Lloret and a little sun bathing on our balcony – the bus transfer picked us up at 12.30.  

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I had hung all these up!

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My stuff is just in one small plastic bag!


554-563: The Aged P’s and Portugal

554 – Friday 2nd December 2016:  Driving Day and Villa Real San Antonio

We basically awoke surprisingly OK after the excess of last night …. led astray by the Grey Gappers!  Having recently spent a few additional spontaneous nights at different places (we blame the company we’re meeting!), we had to head straight for Portugal for our rendezvous with my Aged P’s near Lagos.  We overnighted at VRSA (Villa Real San Antonio), having been told that it was a good stop over for cheap towels, bathrobes etc.  We parked in the gated aire there …. really not very pleasant and EUR4.50, as it was crowded, some rubbish and barking stray dogs if you headed one way…. all a bit derilict like the railway station adjacent.  However, it was walking distance to the town.  Essentially a few streets, selling only linen and towels.  The only other premises were cafes – we were not moved to stop and sample.  I did buy 3 small hand towels for Jez though.

555 – Saturday 3rd December:  Lagos – Turiscamp and THE AGED P’S 🙂

The Aged P’s had booked a bungalow for 4 nights at Turiscamp in Lagos and then for another 4 at Olhao … we’re stopping in Jez.  We’ve done this before, and the benefit of having them really close by is brilliant for those (all of us) that like to have a drink!  Turiscamp is extremely well run and clean.  I’ve never seen washrooms with smart tiles like here.  Don’t know how we do it, but we both pretty much arrived at the same time …   So good to see them.

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All immaculate, but given the rain there were not many users.

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Large pic, as need it for so many bottles.  Most of this is sherries … for sampling and comparing.  Tonight, we just finished a Canasta and ???, I forget!


556 – Sunday 4th December –  A Tax-ing Lunch

J here on:  One of the letters that Diane and Grahame brought was news of a tax rebate of £4k for me – an instant excuse for a good lunch out !  Excellent luncheon at a recommended fish restaurant in Lagos…..  Wines to accompany the dishes…Heavy rain most of the day !

Sherry sampling tonight was two Manzanillas and a Tio Pepe – a neighbouring motor homing lady saw the bottles on the booze bar in our van – she laughed when K said the contents had already been much reduced – by sampling !

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Prawns with garlic, salmon and swordfish … no room for pud.  We’re discovering that portion sizes in Portugal are HUGE. 

557 – Monday 5th December – Lagos

We wandered around the town centre and bought ice cream, some window shopping and some sunshine….  We even managed to loose Dad for a short while, but her turned up again like the proverbial bad penny, having already had an ice cream…

Sherry sampling tonight was the best of last night – the Tio Pepe and two Olorosso

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Even out of season, Lagos is geared to tourists.

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The market place where slaves were first traded.

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I did a couple of loads in my twin tub and turned the Aged P’s deck into a Chinese Laundry … spot the girl guide line back and forth from the eaves!

 

558 – Tuesday 6th December – Moncheekie (actually Monchique)

Aged P’s had been before and knew where to go … Caldas de Monchique – slightly bizarre spa hamlet with a nice atmosphere, built at the head of the spring, with a bottling plant and a spa hotel.  A few bars … so …early glasses of wine and uphill to a beautiful picnic spot …

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…  up to Foia, the highest peak in the Serra de Monchique.  Almost at the top we stopped for a picnic.  Mostly but great views out to the Atlantic (we thought it may be the S coast, but I checked it in the guide book).  Several cars were stopping to fill water containers from a spring … K went to investigate.  The very nice chap (38 yrs old, a site foreman who has worked all over Europe on major constructions, spoke excellent English and is home for a month for Christmas) gave me a 5 litre container to take away!  I spoke to an Irishman who has lived in London for 50 years and still has retained his inner city “Liberties”accent…

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Out to sea over humpy ground … I thought it looked volcanic (most places are!) and evidence of a recent fire.

Sherry sampling tonight was the best Olorosso of last night and a Cream and Moscatel.  Think we may have hit the Perdro Ximenez too!

 

559 – Wednesday 7th December 2016:  A Move East and a BBQ

We packed up from Turiscamp in Lagos and headed east to Olhao.  Whilst the Aged P’s bungalow was larger it was dark in side with dated decor … but it did have a great patio for a BBQ.  Sherry sampling tonight was a free for all, drinking up the ends of a lot of bottles!

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560 – Thursday 8th December:  Tuk Tuk Tavira and THE SEA BASS

Tuk Tuk treat was a Piaggio scooter driven rickshaw – electric power – Joachim was our very well informed guide – a one hour tour gave us an excellent potted history of Tavira…

Lunch at an Irish pub “The Black Anchor” turned out to be the most spectacular meal of the Aged Ps visit.  we’d only stopped for a drink thinking an Irish bar is not going to present the best of Portuguese fare, but how wrong were we – melon, parma ham, sea bass, veal, garlic prawns and fish cakes……..xxxxx  and wine… definitely worth the positive Tripadvisor post from K – and the same for the Tuk Tuk tour…..

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The Roman Bridge – called so due to its shape.

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Outside the free to enter small castle on one of the three hills … a garden and tower inside with views.

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We all just fitted in … and Oscar, who some unaccountable fear of my father (a dog friendly person … has to be … he’s dog sat, walked and fed all my other dogs), even lay quietly under his legs.

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561 – Friday 9th December:  Estoi and Milreu

Estoi promised much – and didn’t really deliver! A Pousada hotel (SLHW – “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”) built from an old palace – the guide books were out of date – the much vaunted gardens were shut and having rebuilding works – from what we could see, they were very early stages in this.  After a fairly brief walk, we selected a small cafe bar for lunch – and the resulting food was not very good!  On our tours, there have not been many places where we have experienced disappointment – not  a bad result in 20 months of full-time travelling…

On our way out of town, we looked for the Milreu Roman ruins – and guess what – we didn’t stop to even look having no signage to help us find them.    

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No entry here … 

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Very little to see garden wise, but you can see the impressive building of the Pousada behind.

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Square where we had the rubbish quality lunch … a nativity scene under the tarpaulin. 

 

562 – Saturday 10th:  Olhoa and a BBQ

Olhao town on Saturday has a bustling market – Grahame drove and found free parking near an carpark full of motorhomes.  Lots of caged birds, turkeys and chickens on sale – is Christmas coming soon?  K not tempted to buy a gooble cock and fatten it up!  We let Oscar off for a good romp along the seafront. A bit later, we found – guess what? – a cafe bar – for a glass of vino tintos!  Only one – as we had planned a BBQ for the afternoon….at chez Jez. 

I fired up the Weber (invented in Chicago – as was the Ferris Wheel – no obvious connection to Portugal – just nice to keep our reader informed…) with lumped charcoal from the Murco Fuel Station on the Gloucester Road near Almondsbury… will you get back on topic, James please!  OK so I won’t describe the ‘twigettes’ I used for kindling, then….  

Chicken and bits – and wine – for 4 ‘OS’ folks – no, not Ordinance Survey people – just ‘Old Soaks’!  No Sherry … tonight was a Port night.  White as an aperitif and a good red after.

Reasonably early to bed – Grahame and Diane will leave for a few days in Faro in the morning…and then back to the UK winter wonderland – just imagine readers – they have to wait a whole month before their next holiday in the sun in South Africa!  Life’s a real bummer…

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Faro is off to the left.

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Yes, mother is at the coffee again … all this caffeine really is not good for one!

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If not a pet turkey, how about a canary?

 

563 – Sunday 11th December 2016:  A Dry Day and Cleaning

After a nice week with K’s parents – outings and dining – we decided to have an alcohol-free day!  Yes, really!!!   Although we had not warmed to the campsite, as it is a bit higgledly piggledy laid out with lots of permanent caravans and campers, we decided to stop another day.  We’ve never seen so many huge Concordes and Carthegos … Nordic countries were well represented.  Today was van cleaning – our campsite has very sandy soil which seems to want to spread itself all inside our Jez home …  We had a ‘dry’ BBQ – unheard of!

You may notice our ‘booze bar’ is greatly reduced in quantity… but the produce was hugely enjoyed …

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549-553: Ma Sherry Amour

549 – Sunday 27th November 2016: Cadiz

Cadiz – free overnighting on a vehicle packed seafront….nice beaches for walking – and a stroll around the town – Moorish influences – lots of bodies surfing and boogie boarding – not for us and definitely not for doggyboarding!

Glasses of vino blanco and tapas by a very warm cafe … nice quiet night when the traffic died down.

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The view of old Cadiz a few metres from our parking.  The dots in the water are surfers and body borders … all wearing wet suites!  Cadiz is picture perfect.

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Moorish influences.

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J and Oscar kept cooling off in the shade.

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We’d stopped off for another glass overlooking this beach.  The young men had a guitar and were crooning some lovely harmonies.

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‘Not guilty’ look?!

 

550 – Monday 28th November 2016:  Rota

K bought some Oscar food – our special hound is on an 80/20 grain free diet and the nearby pet store stocked some – yay; Oscar will be able to eat for at least a month more!  He also tried on a waterproof jacket … in keeping with his ‘girl’s blouse’ personality, it was shiny black plastic with a red trim  – very fetish … sadly he is so stocky the belt would not go around his middle.

Our van exit might have been difficult – we were sandwiched tightly between a scooter and a car – but thankfully, the scooter had moved just in time and Jez has a tight turning circle.  Off we went to our next adventure.   En route we had blowy beach walk at El Puerto de Santa Maria – one of the Sherry towns.  The parking was right on the beach and looked perfect EXCEPT there were no services and our toilet was now full.  We discussed options … could we manage without using the toilet … common sense and modesty prevailed.  Can’t stop here then … onto Rota where there are motorhome services.

On our arrival at Rota, K did a van internal cleaning and Oscar and I cleaned the van alloys.  Our kind Liverpudlian neighbour helped me to check the engine oil level.  We met Sarah and Mac – and Rockydog!  Something clicked immediately between us – and post-prandial drinkies were arranged for 8:00 pm. Lots of chats and some few glasses of vinocollapso – and lordy lordy – K and S discovered they both play Crib (and have husbands that won’t) – arrangements were formalised for the next evening by a bilateral treaty….  we’re stopping here another night then!  

Somnovinoque ensued around our two vans – until the am…

 

551 – Tuesday 29th November:  Bike Ride and CRIB

Somewhat miraculously, we dragged ourselves out to run after a lie in at goodness knows what time – 10:00/11:00 am… the running had a restorative effect.  Clune brekkie and we had planned to have a walk into the town – when our new friends M and S (M&S?) offered us the use of their bicycles – kindness personified!   They even suggested they would Oscar-sit for the duration – a new adventure for Oscardog.  We cycled off (not looking back) and had a wonderful ride along the beach promenade and lunch in the town square.  See photos of K’s lunch – one of the best she has had in Espana…

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Revoltos!  Honestly, that’s what it’s called.  Scrambled eggs, with onion, topped with a caramelised slice of goats cheese, marmalade toasts and salad – all drizzled in an unctuous Balsamic … YUMMY.    Free pudding 🙂  And yes, that is a hair of the dog Sherry – an Olorosso Dulche.

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Our lunch took place in a pretty square to the tickle of a fountain … very warm 🙂

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Sarah and Mac … comparing wild camping spots.

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Rockydog … we would happily have had him for Doggy Day Care … permanently.

On our return, we collected a now much animated Oscar from Doggy Day Care … he’d been quiet and just lay under a neighbouring van.  Good to know … we will start leaving him more often now.

The much planned crib game took off at about 5:00 pm – accompanied by glasses of sherry – how very British – we didn’t have cucumber sandwiches – not  cricket bat in sight, either.  Crib continued post-prandial again in the MS and Rockydog’s van – much hilarity and lots of shouts of “and one for his knob!”  Crib lovers will know that this has nothing to do with the male appendage – but the ladies shouts were so vigorous that Mac and I wondered???   A bit less vino than the previous night was a good idea …. we managed to sample some Muscatel, Tio Pepe and then the remnants of a bottle of Pedro Ximinez.  

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Oooer …. what shall I discard?

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552 – Wednesday 30th November: Sanlucar de Barrameda

We were all sad to leave Rota and our new friends – we all hope to meet again – “Hasta Pronto” indeed…. Probably on our Scottish summer tour.

Onto Sanlucar de Barrameda – we squeezed Jez into the last official parking pitch – of about 12 vans.  Off to town we went to explore.   Sarah had announced to Mac that she would go dry for the rest of the month … K had nobly risen to the challenge … it was only one day and best to start with an achievable target!  Now when in Sherry country – you must (?) drink the local produce, don’t you know, readers?   Noble ambitions out of the window.  We rose to the sampling task manfully/womanfully.   Two local Sherries – Manzanilla, consumed, followed by a bun to soak it up, followed by one in another bar on the way home … we both needed the toilet was our excuse!  How’d you do Sarah?

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Manzanilla – very light and dry, like Tio Pepe.

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A really pretty town square with lots of different architectural styles.

553 – Thursday 1st December 2016:  A BIG ‘Grey Gappers’ Booze Day

It rained during the night so no morning running for us.  A sherry tour was identified for 11:00 am – Oscar had to stay in the van for 3 hours, another first-ish for him.  Early for the tour, K got chatting to some bloggers she has been following – thegreygappers.co.uk.  Karen from London and David from – Foxrock in Dublin – a few miles from my home in Dun Laoghaire!  Small planet?  Excellent tour, although the guide’s English was superb, it was heavily accented and meant we only got the gist of her explanations.   Photos again – we loved the cellar known as “The Cathedral”, which is where the Manzanilla is made.  It has earth floors under the barrels, cool winds in one side and warm winds in the other …. the perfect conditions to make the Manzanilla.  In another cellar, the floors were stone and as the castle backed onto it, there were no windows for the warm / cool air combo.  This wine here was made in exactly the same way, but not having the perfect conditions for Manzanilla, it produced only a Fino!  The whole of this cellar was bought up by Tesco and sold as their Finest Fino.   Interestingly, the Barbadillo Sherry house is still family owned.  And retired staff have an area where they congregate and drink … free wines / Sherries …. 

Our tour guide seemed to warm to our little group and produced a few extra bottles for us to try.  We started with dry wine, dulche wine, Manzanilla, Cream … sparking and finally a EUR36 bottle … think I may have missed a couple too!   Our guide explained how she gives people that are new to Manzanilla their first taste in a wine glass, as against a Sherry glass … we got to compare and it DOES taste and smell different.  Even the viscosity seemed different … try it at home.

By now it was all of about midday and one was then let loose in the shop … and we bought some more Sherries for a taste test with the Aged P’s.   This was a mark of things to follow…  No prizes for guessing what happened next – so no need for answers on a postcard!   Lunch with D and K – once we had liberated Oscar.  He was patiently watching out for us perched on the driver’s seat.  Sherries served at Il Colloseo restaurant near Jez – K and D had biked into town from their bivouac some kilometres away… Lunch started at about 1:00 pm and lasted for about 3 weeks, it seemed!   Hugely enjoyable conversations – David was baptised in UCD church where my parents got married – more coincidences – D had a record shop (in the good old days of vinyl) in Dundrum – around the corner from Olivemount Road where I lived as a child – Amelia – you will remember our home there.  Post lunch drinks continued in our van until about 8:00 pm – our new friends bravely biked back in the dark to their home – we knew Karen wasn’t looking forward to the journey – but they messaged us when they arrive back safely…

A brief walk for Oscar – we were abed by 8:30 pm!!! When did that ever happen before – not since childhood, methinks… there is a bit of a child in all of us.  K:  since the double ’ 3′ afternoon in Nijar for me!

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One of the smaller lorries bringing the ‘must’ in from the country. The grapes are picked by ‘hoards of hoary handed expert pickers’ – quote from the small museum – try saying that fast after a couple of Sherries!

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Barrels are not replaced; one is on its side being repaired.  The wood is American White Oak and used to be used as ballast on ships coming from the States.  To get up the river by Sanlucar, they off-loaded this and the sherry houses ‘harvested’ the free wood.

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The Manzanilla Cathedral.

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The wine has a 9 stage rotation – wine is taken from a newer batch and added to an older, whilst not disturbing the yeast wall between wine and air.  The movement of wine from one barrel to another used to be done by a pipe and a man who had to suck on it and swallow a little each time … day in day out.  Wonder how their livers coped?  This octopus machine replaced the men; multiple tubes for automating the moving the wine from one barrel to another.

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Our guide – she joined us for a tasting when the EUR36 bottle came out.

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This pic pretty much says it all …

 

 

547-548: Gib – A Sort Of British Experience!

 547 – Friday 25th November 2016:  Teeming Rain in Gib

We woke in Zahara and checked the weather forecast, given the rain was catering on our roof.  Terrible weather right across Spain – we were not going to be able to out run this one until it blew over after the weekend.  Having wanted to do some more walking around the Pueblos Blancos, but not relishing the idea of being sodden and cold, we aborted the hills and headed for Gibraltar.  We know we will have to come back to this area of Spain … how many times have we said that?!

Our mifi also seemed to die … we have been expecting Three to cut us off at some point.  We had rudimentary parkings for Gib from the apps I use, but could not easily verify them.  But hey ho – off we set.  We arrived in a large flat tarmac, gated (security guard) car park all of a few mins from the border.  We can live with the expensive EUR 18/ night.  The Rock is an impressive sight as you approach:  Greeks and Romans believed it was one of the Pillars of Hercules – the other being in Morocco.  We donned wet weather gear … well some of it as the waterproof trousers were deep in the garage, deep in a box and we did not fancy unpacking it in the rain.  It was Noah territory … floods, puddles and just plain wet.  We walked to the border around the corner and showed passports twice … once they were retrieved from a plastic bag to keep them dry.  In fact, every thing, was in plastic bags … phones, wallets, us … but not Oscar!

Through the boarder controls, we slid our way across the run way which projects into the sea.  By this time I, (K) was having a sugar low from insufficient food (and a skinful last night), so we slid into the covered apex of the first restaurant we came to and ate.  Blood sugars sorted, we headed up Main Street … post office shut which we needed to send back a pair of J’s glasses for repairing under warranty.  I ‘encouraged’ the boys to walk as far as the Governor’s Residence … Oscar shakes regularly to remove the rain and wears a hang dog expression … J hunches shoulders and grasps the opportunity to turn about when eventually proffered to him!

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Crossing the runway.

Initial impressions?  Not great.  Being sodden does not help.  A few high street names, but mostly jewellery and booze shops as duty free so cheaper than the UK, but I’m not sure if things are not cheaper than Spain.  Some dated red Post Boxes and telephone Boxes are about as English as it gets.  Most of the natives seems to speak a heavlily accented Spanglish.  The children coming off the school bus looked inbred and I wondered if it was a special school.  Later back in Jez drying out, we decided to abort Gib tomorrow – J muttered something about it not being much different to Boroadmead (B shopping area) in Bristol.  We slept to the heavy rapping of rain drops on the roof.  

 

548 – Saturday 26th November:  Up Ze Rock and Rugby

What’s this? … The skies are clearing.  This was not the forecast.  We decided to both go into Gib, back through the border control and across the run way.  J to post his glasses, me to see if I could buy a lens cap for my camera and do a ‘can’t get this abroad’ shop in Morrisons.  We ‘got into’ the garage and retrieved waterproof trousers … and set off.  Now, Oscar only likes to do his business on grass and is a pain on the lead until he has emptied … trying to get him to walk in a straight line is neigh on impossible and he becomes NOT popular with regulars trying to get across quickly.  Ho hum.

J got his glasses posted (Aged P’s, if they make it to Rothbury in time, another small item for your suitcase!) and then we did the cheese (no cheese on the plate!) full English Breaky.  Well J did … I just helped with the odd mouthful!  

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A regular feature recently seems to be that if we see a hill with a castle / church etc on top, we need to climb it.  Rain’s holding off, so up the Rock we go.  Blinkin steep in places, but great views across to Morocco and along the coast.  Gibraltar looked like a model village.  There were not many other people walking it; most take the cable car.  J has eschewed cables cars since reading about the Chamonix cable car failure in the summer, when people here helicopter winched off or stayed there overnight!  Near the top we encountered the first of the Barbiary Apes.  On the viewing platform, they were civilised and left us alone.  A little further up, one saw Oscar and came screaming out of the trees snarling with long curling teeth warning Oscar off … think Sarbre Tooth Tiger for the fangs.  Now I was not being naive, perhaps a little, I knew dogs and apes are not a good mix, but I guess I’d assumed that the residents were used to tourists et al and would keep a distance.  Once we got to the top, and aw more of these flea infested buggers / baboons, J stayed back with O and I carried on to the top.  

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The Moorish Castle with the Union Jack … the water way below is really busy with container ships and ferries.  Little did we realise that there was still a long way up to go!

The walk up did improve my impressions of Gibraltar (amazing what a lack of rain can do).  Street names reflect the military outpost history:  e.g.  Tank Street, Camp Street.  On the way up the free to enter Siege Exhibition described conditions during the 3 year siege; there were actually 17 sieges in total.  

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Discipline was tight.

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This one did not show his teeth.

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The runway we crossed from our parking.

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Old military installations at the top.

After our knee crunching descent we lunched … J and I have a great partnership … I ate the prawn and hake stuffed aubergine in tomato and cheese sauces (Yummy – I will try to recreate this one) and J ate my chips.  Don’t feel sorry for him, he’d had a full English!

I’ve not been using my camera since I lost the lens cap and broke the UV filter, so we asked in one of the many (tax free) camera shops for a 46mm lens cap.  No lens cap, but a filter at £20.  No thank you, I’ve ordered on on eBay for £10 which will be with me in a week … quick chat out the back in Spanish … suddenly the price dropped to £10.  Yay!    A big shop at Morrisons was a bit surreal … lots of Spanish speakers … rucksack and a couple of bags filled.  J waited outside with O and chatted to a Hungarian busker who was trying earn enough for a holiday to Morocco.  A lady came up and asked him (the busker) if she could empty her wallet into his hat … he did not say no!

One of the reasons for heading to Gib this weekend was to find a pub showing the Ireland v Australia rugby game … a super pseudo Irish bar, hostess moved us closer to the TV, turned up the volume and we sat and quaffed wine watching a really good game.  

Back at the van, we were pleased not to have left Gib this morning … we did some shopping, climbed the Rock (not many can say this) and watched an excellent rugby game.  But we don’t need to come back!

 

 

544-546: Steep Dried in Pueblos Blancos

544 – Tuesday 22nd November 2016:

Those of our readers (are we up to 7 yet? – Terry Wogan had 21 million listeners – we will settle for 21 people for us…) – who read our adventures in “Castelbellissimo” in Siclia will know about this slightly misadventure…. Our brave SatNav CoPilot ‘Colin’ brought us to Sentinil via a narrowing hill road (when will we learn?) – I was driving and getting more nervous by the second.  Sure enough our proposed parking didn’t appear and we were faced with a turning manoevre that didn’t quite suit a 7+ metre motorhome.  A 7 point turn became a 7 point turn (am I repeating myself?) and with K directing, we retreated sadly from NavSentil… No dings or dents – good!  Shame as the town sounded interesting with houses sheltering under the overhanging rock.  To Olvera next – my best way to remember the name is to think of Basil D’Oliviera – south African cricketer who played for England during the Apartheid era – banned by South Africa – 1960s (if I’m wrong – please correct me – anyone?).    

Good parking at Olvera – EUR7 incl. electricity – we met a German couple whom we had previously encountered at El Torcal … ‘small world’ we shared in German.

Coffee in Olvera – chatting to a resident gent from ’God’s own country’ – Wales! – wake up, Bronwyn…  lots of good local advice on walks and weather – more heavy rain in the next week – are we back in Brizzle?  The rain in Espana falls mainly on…. US!   In said bar, we partook solo cafe!  Honest.  Dray day1 of 2 planned.

By the way, don’t ever pee or poo in public here…

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Misty view up to the church and Arab castle .. bit of a theme may develop here.

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Love the flower pots against the white wall.  Church was shut; we suppose they did not reckon anyone would venture out with the clouds coming in. 

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And the mist sure folded in.

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On the viewpoint by the church … never seen a sign like this before!  There must’ve been a ‘need’!

545 – Wednesday 23rd November 2016:

After congratulating my gorgeous daughter Sarah on her xxxth birthday, we set ourselves to a long walk on the Via Verde – a never quite opened railway track. 22+ km later, we returned to our Jez-van.  Oscar just about reached our van – and promptly dived into his bed and went ‘sparko’…  Tired but fit, only for K to do some laundry (twin tub out!), sweep the floors, groom Oscar and me to do something (?)… Another alcohol-free night – and ‘vino-free-somnoque’ sleep…and tomorrow also… 

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View from our parking at the start of the Via Verde here.

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Scenery changed and became more agricultural (other than olive groves), but always with distant hills.

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Please explain this:  cattle shelter under the tree and churn up the mud to form the inner brown ring.  Why is there a bright green circle just before the normal dried earth?

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Lots of tunnels; longer ones lit.  Typical view as you emerge:  just lovely.

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On the return Oscar collected a stick.  When he has a toy, out of our reach, he always does his happy dance.

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No, you’re not having it … you might promise to throw it for me, but your aim is so bad, I’ve no idea where it may land.

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I’m off with it … it’s mine!  All mine!!  And I’m still doing a happy dance.

 

546 – Thursday 24th November 2016:  

Wednesday night bed at 10:30 – woke at 9:30 am (???) – exercise benefit – yes!  Algodonales, home of a famous guitar maker and mecca for para gliders.   Coffee – and chats with a young English couple – slightly self important man who explained his crowd funding to support his ‘I’m a different sort of sportsman … I walk for days and then paraglide down and save damsels in distress from nasty Moroccans who were beating her up …. glory glory.’  Are we self important?  “To ourselves we must be true…”  

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Algodonales – heading up to the top of the town for the views.

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View over the town, and I reckon that distant hill town is where we’re headed … not sure about the roads though, but won’t tell J!

Zahara, not Sahara Desert, and parked after only 3 hairpin bends :).   The steepest mountain town we have visited on foot – climb up to El Castillio – even Oscar was breathing heavily.  At the castle, which was open to the public with no fee, and the the battlements were open to … air and the drop –  K had to grasp Oscar sharpish from going over the edge …  back on the lead matey!  El Castillo – mega high – more superlatives (?).   3 weeks in Espana and we haven’t even touched the surface… Roll on the rest of this wonderful country!  The more of Espana we see, the more we are hugely enjoying it… 

We have booked on to the Inverness Scottish Motorhome rally in June 2017 – Margaret and Shirley take note….. as people seem keen.

The most amazing sights over the valley and reservoir below – don’t think we’ll slide into them!.  Cafe and our first glass of vino for some 3 days, actually two calendar days, but J calculated it is some 66 hours – not counting … much!   Lessons here, fellow motorhomers?  Enjoyed just the same… 

Parking on a slight slope, but agin with wonderful views.  Chocks out, van slipping a bit; it does not seem to rest easily on chocks and creeks when we move?!   Sleep may be interupted be some slippage – maybe the earth moving?  K: It does all the time, darling!

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Yep, that is where we’re going, and I’ve not satellite viewed the roads.

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The route up to the castle.

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Mega wow.

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Can just make out Jez.  Later to be joined by a NL van.  It looks as if we’re in the valley, but the scenery drops away from here.

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The ledge Oscar tried to catapult!  K was looking out, so O thought he would too!

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No friendly barman offered to let us and Oscar inside, so we were layered up, but still managed two glasses each and the most amazing roasted and salted almonds.

542-543: Ronda – 3 Bridges & 2 … Gates

542 – Sunday 20th November 2016:  Ronda

Joy!  Back to morning running after a few weeks off – Oscar towing K backwards as per usual – the Olympics seem a bit further away, somehow – but ‘hope springs…’ A mere 2k, but it’s a (re)start…little green shoots and all that…  

We’ve seen this in a few places:  a grid with roads, pavements, street lighting and even bins … but not all blocks yet built on … obviously at one time the town councils were optimistic about the economy.  We’ve also spotted very large car parks virtually in the middle of nowhere.  Any ideas why on a postcard to ….?

Next stop Ronda after lunch – for those of us from a more mature generation (not K, of course) the Beach Boys “Help me Ronda, help help me Ronda…”.  K has just found this on iTunes – ‘course I know it!

We parked up at a car park in the ‘new town’.  Cold, damp and blowy did not deter us.  Up and down and down and up (not down and out!) – we circumnavigated the old town walls and the nooks and crannies – (I stopped myself from writing ‘cooks and grannies…).

The temptation of cheap very good local wine creeps upon us, as we took shelter in a bar for a couple of glasses before supper – we are definitely going dry.  Tomorrow!

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The Plaza de Toros … every town has one, but this dates from 1785 and is bull fightings spiritual home.  Ronda’s bull fighting claim to fame is that it was here that a family of 3 bull fighters developed the art of modern bull fighting … on foot.

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Square in the urbano sector where we found a covered outdoor bar area for a couple of glasses of the red stuff.  A Spaniard at a neighbouring table told us that Oscar is very like his Spanish Breton dog … we googled a pic:  same ginger and white colouring, but a little more pointer than springer in his head.

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Two literary geniuses … well I chuckle when J writes the blog.  The figure is Ernest Hemingway.  Both him and Orson Wells loved Ronda and have streets named after them.


543 – Monday 21st November 2016:  Ronda Twoo and “Umbrella Wars!”

Heavy rain all night, so a noisy one.  Having a large rear end (garage!), our beds are nearer the roof than in Chardonnay.  Rain sounds even more like conkers hitting the roof!  We set off in time though, to make it before the TIC shut for lunch.  I had the very large Spain map in the back pack as I wanted to know about the suitability of the roads for Jez if we were to wander the Pueblos Blancos (white hill towns).  The immaculate and slender lady spoke the most excellent English (and without any trace of an American accent) and produced a much better map of the area (needn’t have brought the back pack after all).  She indicated the roads which were best explored on a bike. All the other roads, she assured me, had bus routes, so we’d be fine.  Supplied with a Ronda map and directions to a camera shop, we set of for La Ciudad across the Puente Nuevo … we could not walk anywhere near here in a straight line as:

  1. Oriental tourists block any direct route with their selfies or ‘funny’ poses for picture taking
  2. So many stopped to coo over Oscar.  J may remember how many pix were taken of him!
Ronda, like so many of the towns was Moorish and built on rocky impregnable outcrops.  It was the capital of an Islamic statelet until 1485.  Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ tells how, early in the Spanish Civil War, the fascists were clubbed and flailed by towns folk, who then ran them off the rock to certain death below.  This was based on real events, although the perpetrators were from Malaga, not local, of course!  We wandered the narrow white streets; glimpses of the cloud over the hills and nearby valley.  We found houses, museums and churches that we could have paid to go in.  We know we would have found some very interesting, however, we would have had to take turns and the costs start to mount.  We elected to spend our pennies on a cheap Menu del Dia …. take note … we strongly recommend Bar La Farola in the ’new town’… EUR9 for a starter, main, bread and a drink – 4 choices of food for each course … all home cooked good basic fare.  We were all set to eat under the dripping canopy (heavens had opened again) as we had Oscar, but the waiter (Maitre D) called us inside, moved a chair and indicated the corner for Oscar to lie in, unseen by others.  Nice – we were very grateful and the rain intensity increased.  What set this lunch and venue apart was the people watching.  Locals in and out, sherry glass after glass consumed …  The waiter was totally on top of every situation:
  • gently evicting the drunk who slid in
  • handing over a forgotten plant as one guest planned to leave after half a bottle of Tio Pepe (no food!)
  • carefull balance of greeting regulars without being over familiar 
  • shutting the door to stop customers getting a draft and 
  • smoothing ruffled feathers as one customer flounced out with his umbrella as another customer, who just arrived, had obviously commented on it dripping over the floor …. this we dubbed “Umbrella-gate”.
We had to join in … two glasses of wine, followed by two sherries … each.  Followed by a third on the house one as we paid the bill.  Spanish measures are not mean!  And today was supposed to be a dry day!  Tomorrow is another day!  Oh, and we stopped for a glass and a sobering coffee on the way home … actually we both needed a pee (but that’s our excuse!)

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The view from near our parking.

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No. 1:  The Puente Nuevo:  C18th crosses the …

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100m deep gorge.  Don’t look down James!

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Very typical of the houses in this area: white exterior and nearly every window and door has some form of wrought iron work.  Buildings picked out with an acre colour.

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Santa Maria la Mayor:  Christian church, again built over Muslim.

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Again … we found the outside of the old city walls – untrodden by most tourists.

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And looking up see how the houses are built into the rock.  We read that in a number of places that the rock is having to be shored up and repaired.

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We walked across the Puente Arabe (No. 2) to take a shot looking up the the Puente Viejo (No. 3) … that’s all three bridges that join La Ciudad (old bit) with the newer.

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No, this really is not one on the way home!  Actually no sherry here, so we had a Marie Brizzard and an Amoretto.

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My bull, no bull!

Having got back to the van, I left my boys snoozing and headed out to the large super market nearby … just to buy nappy sacks to use as poo bags for Oscar … unsuccessful, but I came back with a large bar of chocolate and a bottle each of of Tio Pepe and Pedro Ximinez … both now in the fridge for another day.  I then headed out to buy a replacement UV filter and lens cap for my camera (dropped and lost) … unsuccessful here too, but came back with a twin electric hot plate for when we are on hookup … saves our gas and I can cook outside.  So on both trips I did not get what I intended, but bought what we really really needed!  Sorry, Aged P’s the camera kit has not been ordered on eBay for you to bring to Faro in December.  They are both small and light … honest!  Along with everything else you are bringing out for us!!!!

I don’t know if it was the two espresso coffees, the copious booze, half the large bar of chocolate or what, but I was totally wired last night.  Lying in bed awake and alert enough to hear through the barrage that was rain on our roof, a car pull up at about midnight.  Peeking out the habitation door blind, I spied on two lads … getting it on together…. the car was all fogged up, so i couldn’t have seen much even had I wanted to!   ‘It’ can’t have taken long, as I then heard them chat for a bit and drive off.  

The next visitor was the dumper truck (they seem to do waste collection every day and at all times around here).  I heard a bit of a bang, so again peeked out of the window to spot a semi naked German descending from the ladder from his African off road motorhome, closely followed by his nightie clad dressed wife … the refuse truck had reversed into them – knocking their high-off-the -ground bike rack totally askew.  It was still teeming, so once they had persuaded the truck driver to come and inspect his work, they went and put some clothes on .  They had to wait for about 30 mins for the local Police to arrive … all the while running the refuse truck’s engine!  We waited with them … no chance of sleep!  About 2.40 the incident report was finally completed, and the police car and truck departed.  So this must be “Bin-gate”.  We finally got some shut eye, and I did not get up till nearly 9.00 a.m … can you wonder?  

Two bin lessons learned here for wild parking:

  1. Do not park near bins as refuse trucks may empty them at any hour waking us up, and 
  2. said refuse truck may reverse into us.

But what a fabulous couple of days:  El Torcal, Antequera and Ronda.  It just keeps getting better.  Hope the weather does too.

540-541: El Torcal – An Andalusia MUST do.

540 – Friday 18th NOVEMBER 2016:  Wow and double WOW!

First of all, thank you Margaret for spotting my date errors … we are in November but I was dating posts October!  Age?  Alcohol?  

Now, I was driving (J here) up to the Sierra El Torcal mountains, thankfully… This enabled me to NOT look at the extremely sheer drops off to the passenger side!  Narrow roads, plenty of sharp bends – Jez (and us) coped very well indeed – and as we saw on the road to Vesuvius – the roads got much wider as we approached our car/van parking destination, due to the expectation of bus loads of tourists.  This may be the case in high season, but even in November, there were good number of cars and coaches.

The photos give a good indication of the beauty to come for our walking tours.  Our afternoon perambulation was only a couple of hours long and – the “Wow” factor came out immediately. Best mountains we have seen since the Dolomiti in northern Italy over a year ago! “Wow after wow” around every corner, again and again. We almost ran out of superlatives – when did an Irishman run out of words?…

Some beers and wine, peaceful evening (do we have any other kind?) – and I continued learning by heart the rest of “The lake Isle of Inisfree” poem by W  B Yeats – my all time favourite.  Only one verse left… “I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore”.

Lovely quiet parking (free) for the night with only a small number of neighbouring vans for company.  K had read that overnighting here was OK, but being British, she went and checked.  ‘But of course’ was the warm answer … just keep inside one bus bay.

 

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The route up was pretty spectacular … I (K) was able to ooh and aah – J was too focussed on getting around the bends and not over the side of the road!

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And this was where we were headed – that limestone ridge.

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What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Leisure by William Henry Davies

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A well deserved beer.

451 – Saturday 19th November 2016:  Down and Up and Antequera

AM – we set off for what we planned to be a 4 hour El Torcal walk – letting Oscar free of his lead as we had done the previous afternoon…  we quickly encountered a Spanish family who told us that dogs must be kept on leads at all time while walking in National Parks – we hadn’t seen any signs but they told us there are poisonous snakes around and other wild animals and it is the local law – so no chances to be taken there.  A pity because we curtailed our walk to about 2.5 hours instead – the scenery was just as spectacular, but different so the yesterday afternoon… as we were quickly through the limestone escarpment and the views opened up and fell away from us.

We will definitely be back to El Torcal – and we recommend it to anyone visiting the south of Espana.  It really is a MUST SEE, but only receives a paragraph in each of our guide books.

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The morning sun on the rocks by our car park.

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J was up in time to catch the sun rise.

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And off we go again.

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Meet the locals.  We’d heard their bells last night in our car park.

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Ephemeral mist over the distant hills.

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A restored shepherd’s  hut.

After lunch we drove a short way to Antequera to a free van parking last at Antequera – with services – brand new – lots of other motorhomes – on a fairly busy street but still quiet at night time – other than the barking dog, which was finally strangled  / shot by a neighbour at 2.20 a.m.

We wandered around and quickly found a …. bar.  Then another and another and had a dish each for supper.  Antequera we liked.  Not touristy, sensible prices … again some fine buildings and fabulous views.

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Plaza del Toros – now the museum – dedicated to bullfighting.  Sadly shut.

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Waiting for wine number 1.

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Supping wine number 2.

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C16th Arco de los Gigantes…  

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…The way into the castle and church plaza with views.  And wine number 3 and 4!

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Wandering around, we found the outside of the castle walls.  Punters had paid to walk along part of them, but knowing how dogs would not have been allowed, we did not even attempt entry … wonder how few visitors discover this view of the walls though.