Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Second Season.....

Three days of misty gloom, low cloud covering the hills and.....rain.  It's just not acceptable here in Spain!  Yes, Autumn has arrived with a sharp change in the weather over the recent few days. Although, thankfully, it's back to blue sky and sunshine today.

Our French freind, Patrick, has been and gone, returning to the Limousin last Wednesday. He was lucky with the weather for the most part. While here, he had one day of greyness, which we tried to temper by taking a trip over the Contraviesa and down to the coast for a few Sol-Y-Sombres and Tapas.  The cloud remained but the trip was enjoyable and it stayed dry. Before crossing the hills of the Contraviesa, we stopped for a drink in the small town of Torvizcon, where this guy, looking suitably roguish, turned up on horseback:

The Contraviesa, terraced hillsides of Almonds & Olives

J & Patrick & Jack, of course
Just by Torvizcon is this wonderful hill. I call it Toblerone Mountain, for pretty obvious reasons:

In the background lies the small hippyish town of Orgiva. From here we carried on over the hills to the coastal town of La Marmola, a small place which is blessedly clear of tourists for the most part, and remains a small Spanish family sort of resort.

La Marmola, a small Spanish town on the coast with a great seafood restaurant

Jack pottering on the beach in pursuit of sticks, a favourite with him. The cloud doesn't dampen his enthusiasm

On the following day the weather was back to normal and we trundled over to Granada, taking the scenic route over the local mountain pass, La Puerto de La Ragua:

At 2000 metres, it was a tad fresh but pleasant and there are no shortage of signs, guides and information around the place, though the main cafe-cum-info centre was closed, it being October!:

Main Info Centre

Good panels and trails etc.

The new sort of Renault 4 type thingy. It has been great, so far!
As we reached the other side, we stopped at a Mirador, with this huge acreage pf Solar Panels spread across the plain:

Off to the right was an equally impressive range of wind turbines - never my favourite, but the Spanish here have certainly gone for alternative energy.

There were also a number of info panels dotted around the site, with small inset panels (pewter/silver coloured) in braille, explaining the scenery to be viewed from the site. Seemed a bit odd to me, as what can be seen if blind? Though, no doubt, for partially sighted, these would be a great bonus and the general thought/sentiment behind them must surely be praised:

We then carried on downhill to a bar where we generally stop for coffee and beer, at La Calahora:

From there it is a short run to the town of Guadix, famed for its cave-houses, which dot the landscape surrounding the place. This is a particularly pleasing example:

Granada, about thirty minutes further off, is always an interesting town, and I'm sure Patrick liked what he saw of it:

We wandered around the Albacin area, close to the Alhambra, with its tight, twisting lanes and tourists:

The Alhambra itself was given a miss. It is expensive nowadays to visit and when we checked online there was but two tickets left available for that day anyway. Still we were overlooking it:

While rambling through the Albacin, we came across a solitary, old belltower, and a terraced  house with these orante and intriguing ironwork window shutters:

All in all, Patrick seemed to enjoy his sodjurn in Spain and, indeed, is even considering moving down to the area and renting a place for a few months, possibly in the early New Year.

J returned to London/Kent yesterday but will be back next Monday for another seven days. She has now only about twenty more working days to go before retiring. Thank God!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I Can See Clearly Now.....

Yesterday was the first day that we could see the Med in the far horizon, beyond the hills to the South, from the roof terraces.  Since arriving back here, in high Summer mostly, there has been a haze on the horizon over the sea. But that seems to have evaporated/lifted today. As a result we can see boats, merchant shipping of various sizes, seemingly cruising between the hills! Bizarre outlook and one we remember from our previous time down here.  I doubt I can capture the image on camera because of the distance and the poor quality of both the camera and my own photographic skills!:

The tiny white speck near the centre is a boat, taken at about 18:00 yesterday evening:

In winter, when the air is clear etc., we used to be able to see the Riff Mountains in northern Africa in the far distance. So this clearing of the air must be something that happens each year as winter approaches, whereas the heat haze over the coast builds up throughout Summer and creates a veil of something or other.

Given that down near the Costas, there are acres of plastico, invanderos, used by farmers to grow fruit and veg crops in high quanitities, I've always believed that they are a significant threat to the environment and their continued use should be outlawed by the EU. In effect, I think - but I'm no scientist!! - they create smog and cannot be good for the much bedraggled ozone layer:

Plastico in abundance:

Flying into Almeria, and to a lesser extent, Malaga, you pass over acre upon acre of these shimmering but dusty heavy-duty polythene affairs.  From the air they can appear quite entrancing, sparkling in the sun. In reality they're dusty and unpleasant, real blots on the landscape.  Those who buy their cheap(ish) Spanish fruit & Veg from UK supermarkets will undoubtedly be feasting on the stuff produced in vast quantities here. There's always a  price to be paid, I suppose! 

We had a quiet day apart from catching Charlie, who was due his update shots at the Vet. Over the past few days, he's had a hard time of it: two other cats, who live around the area, have twigged that there's a window  open (for Charlie) and the prospect of grub held within the house.  His Nemesis has been seen indoors, and chased off by J, while Charlie himself hid at the furthest reaches under a bed in one of the spare rooms. And two nights back, I got up for a Pee, found Charlie had returned so fed him and closed the windows at about 3.30 am.  Later, at 06:20,  I awoke to the sounds of a cat growling nearby and, recognising the sound as not being Charlie, got up to investigate. In the lower bedroom, I found Charlie having a stand-off with an unhappy looking Siamese Cross, a local cat that has a strangely truncated tail.  I had to force it into a corner then grab the thing to release it outside. So Charlie had probably been feeling a tad threatened all night as I slumbered peacefully. The cat food had certainly taken a bit of a pasting!

Charlie hissed at the Vet and J, who pulled him from his cage for treatment, but was pretty placid for the rest of the visit. He seems always to be the same in these circumstances.  But he was glad/relieved to be back home and free again, I'm sure:

The weather here seems set fair for a while to come. It's all so different to life in Sweden.  I can see why many Brits do become seduced by the thought of living in Spain.  Blue skies, wall to wall sunshine and pleasant temps, make for a tempting lifestyle.  We, however, still prefer France so hope to return to the Charente whenever we can afford to make the move!

We did a major shop down near the coast, so are now well stocked with fresh milk and decent bread, plus lots of other useful gear, including cheap Brandy.  I've become very partial to a cafe con leche with a tot of brandy each mid-morning. J prefers her Brandy as a tot on the side, I like it in the coffee - much more civilsed for a morning drink! And at  about 5 to 7 Euros a litre, who wouldn't!  I'm sure some of the Hebrideans could take to this sport happily, especially in winter!

On the way down to the shops, we pass this weird confection, with cars etc., as sculptural parts:

And a bit closer to home, in the hills near the small town of Ugijar (don't try saying this with a mouthful of fruit and fibre), we occasionally see this little beast. An original survivor from the 1960s:

The day was rounded off by our nearest neighbour, Jose Torro - what a name! - preparing to make his wine. After the recent debates down at the bar, we were rather surprised to find that he had set up his squideging processors in the area where we usually park the car in front of the house. Having watched the operation and the processes involved, particularly the cleansing aspects of the containers, we can only hope he doesn't offer us a drink in the near future!:

Sunday, 9 October 2011

I've Got Peaches By The Pound.....

Yesterday was a bit of a shock to the system.  It was cloudy for most of the day, with temps struggling at about 18 degrees or so. Luckily/happily normal service has been resumed today with glorious bright blue sky and sunshine: temp about 27 or so. Not too bad for the first week in October.

The view today at about Noon:

J arrived on Thursday morn having driven down from the ferryport at Santander. Her drive was uneventful and went smoothly, albeit taking about ten hours to complete!  Tiring. We went down to the bar for a late breakfast of Toastada with Tomato and Cheese, cafe con leche and followed up with a few beers.  The barman, Moyse was still in a fine mood. The dancing bug clearly holds him in its sway at the moment!

Like the rest of Europe, it's harvest time here with Apples, Pears, Figs, Peaches, Lemons, Peppers, Beans and much more being picked and plucked each day by those locals who have a patch of scrubby campo/garden land. Wheelbarrows are the usual mode of transport for the proceeds.  The next crop will be the Chestnuts - vast numbers of trees hereabouts - which some still gather for free food, then presumably the Oranges, which grow virtually wild in places, Olives and Almonds. The latter in the early New Year, I expect.  Taking this as a sign of local climate change, I cropped our Chilli and Pepper plants, leaving the Toms on the vine to take fresh as and when needed:

There was a heated discussion on the bar terrace on Saturday evening about the prudence of picking grapes for wine now.  Opinion seemed to be that it was a tad too early for this annual ritual though some weekenders who have a florist shop down on the coast are apparently picking this weekend.  Their optimism caused debate and much clucking and dismissive tutting.  'Nothing will come of it....mark my words......' seemed to be the general view.

The strangest feature seems to be the second Spring look of the hillsides. They seem to be greening up again, almost Spring-like in their colours as Summer gives way to Autumn.  Trees are also beginning to shed leaves or turn yellow as the temps drop at night. Still no frosts, though, unlike Sweden where our old stomping ground is already experiencing sub-zeros in the small hours:

Autumnal feel to the campo behind the house today:

But the far hillside is looking greener than ever:

The field behind the house has some lovely old Apple trees which are heavy with rich, red fruit. But nobody is collecting this bounty!  The rest of the patch is farmed well by near neighbours yet they seem to have no interest in this crop!:

In a week or two the village holds an annual Castagne/Chestnut walk which starts at the Fuente just outside the house and wanders uphill, pausing briefly for drinks and snacks, before following the Acequias and Chestnut trees lining these Moorish irrigation channels high above the village.  We have been on it once before some years ago and will probably undertake it again this time round:


Jack had an unfortunate experience a few days ago as we sat at the bar with our beer and Tapas: he was stung on the jowel/lip by a wasp. It didn't seem to cause him any pain but clearly irritated or itched for a bit. His right jowel also became quite swollen for a few hours before returning to normal:

Not particularly notable here, but it was thick and swollen on close inspection:

In addition, one of the Friday regulars at the bar, a guy who lives near us and who always has a cafe con leche followed by a stiff G&T chaser each Friday evening, offered to buy Jack - to our astonishment - but recanted when he learned how old he is (12 years) and that he was deaf!  Not that he would ever be for sale!  I'm sure Jack would have been unimpressed by the suggestion anyway!

Despite the general Autumnal feel of the place many flowers are still doing well on the verandas and balconies of many of our neighbours:

We have a good French friend coming down for a break next week. He's currently en-route from his home in the Limousin to Blanes on the Costa Brava, where he plans to spend a week playing cards - Tarot, a much loved French institution - competitively before coming on down here. He is bringing me a load of Sirops - dilutable Froggo stuff that I cannot find here in Spain and rather like - and lots of  French Vin Rouge!  He's a Guitar and Banjo player, recently retired college lecturer, and at times a quite off the wall sort of guy. Always good fun and not at all your typical Frenchy!  We'll take him down to Granada as, although a lover/enthusiast for Roman artefacts and archaeology back home,  he will almost certainly want to visit the extraordinary Alhambra. We're looking forward to seeing him again.

J is busy making more marmalade this afternoon, using some Sevilles we had in the freezer, though it will soon again be time to get another load.  Maybe this time we'll simply nip down to Seville itself and see if we can pick them up at a local market in January!:

And finally, I spotted another mug on a fellow bloogers site:  http://gzandco.blogspot.com/
where Gwynneth has an online store for her splendid handmade pottery: Etsy 
GwynnethRixon, and just had to buy it in case I damaged one I bought from her a short while back:

They may not be identical, but they are twins!: