Thursday, 30 August 2007

Jorge III


West collides with East as the Christians drop an enormous cathedral from a great height slap bang into the middle of the Mosque, giving us Córdoba's famous 2 for 1 offer - same God, different prophets!


Another example of religious intolerance, this time in Girona province. Besalu is a picturesque medieval town where the Jewish community were hounded in this ghetto until, like the baby of bathwater fame, they were booted out with the Moors in 1492. We actually met some Sephardic Jews from Turkey (when we were in Zaragoza) who told us that they still speak Spanish there after all these years.


Apart from being constantly lost, and constantly thinking how big the cathedral was, my main memory of Toledo is of constantly singing 'You picked a fine time to leave me loose heel.'

Spain According to us and Jorge

Here's one I wrote earlier about our 'visit' to the Alhambra in Granada (The Big Pomegranate)

View from the Alhambra to the Albaicin

The Andalucian city of Granada is justifiably proud of, and famous for, the beautiful Alhambra palace, which started life a thousand years ago as an Arab fortress, once housed Ferdinand and Isabella, the first Christian rulers of all Spain, and is now a major tourist attraction.
In fact so many tourists want to visit this immense palace that a system of rationing has been introduced - only 7700 visitors are admitted on any one day. Astonishingly, in the land of non-organisation that Spain is, would be visitors are able to reserve tickets, which clearly state the day and time, in advance, and more astonishingly this scheme is administered by my bank! Anyway, Jaki, who is my personal planner, strongly advised that I reserve tickets for our visit in order to ensure that we gained access.
However being the ultimate procrastinator I totally ignored her command, and chose instead to fly by the seat of my pants, imagining that in the middle of August there would only be a trickle of tourists and we would stroll through the entrance gates within minutes of arriving.
My plan failed. There was already a queue of about 8000 people which snaked all around the outer gardens to an unseen destination when we arrived bright and early at the crack of noon. Jaki was quite philosophical about it all as she entertained the massed throng with a series of expletives, pointing gestures aimed in my general direction, and wide sweeping movements of her arms indicating the length of the queue (just in case I hadn't seen it). I swear there was a ripple of applause from the female sections of the crowd when she finished!
All however was not lost, as a hastily formulated plan B was put into action. Posing as normal tourists we would make our way to the ticket office on the pretext of wanting information, and sneak into the orderly line (or melee as it is called in Spanish) and obtain entry thus. Unfortunately I was not clad in my regulation "explorer" shorts, a khaki affair with more pockets than a snooker table, and must have appeared like a zebra in a field full of wildebeest to the security guards who, hunting as a pack, picked us off and instructed us to go to the end of the "fila".
Plan C was to beg for forgiveness and promise to bring Jaki again at a less busy time and with tickets securely in hand. This seemed to work and I taxied her off to the Albaicin, the oldest surviving Moorish quarter in all Spain, a maze of narrow, winding, whitewashed streets, and home to the "best" Flamenco artist in Andalucia. Fortunately we neither saw, nor heard him!
To cut a long story short, that very evening, I was able to sample the best Granada has to offer in the form of Alhambra Special Brew, after which the palace takes its name - El Palacio Special Brew that is!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Spook's Day in the View from the Villa House

You need to read this in a Geordie accent.

9.07 AM and Spook is having a wash on the chair. None of the other housemates are about.

10.38 AM and Spook is asleep on the chair. The other housemates are not about.

11.26 AM and Spook is asleep on the chair

3.15 PM and Spook is catching mice in the back field. She is alone.

6.19 PM and Spook is catching mice in the back field (alone)

7.06 PM and Spook is back on the garden chair. None of the other housemates are about

10.48 PM and Spook is on the Sofa. All of the other housemates are in bed

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Jaki, Ste and Jorge do Spain.

Who the Hell's Jorge? It's Jorge Tutor, who has a brilliant website of all his fantastic photos of Spain

Apart from taking beautiful photos he also appears to have an uncanny knack of always being in the same place as the rain. As he appears to have followed us around Spain on our travels I thought I'd combine his snaps with my words about some of the fab places we've visited.


A tiny town in Cuenca, dominated by this 1300 year old castle, which is now a Parador. We had dinner there and provided the evening's entertainment for the 200 residents of the town - all sitting in their garages - as we walked from one end of the village to the other (roughly 15 seconds)


You've now realised we're doing an alphabetical tour? Zaragoza was my kinda town. It had a park down by the river Ebro with a dog exercise area with a bar in it!! Good thing we took Lucy with us. I have fond memories of her paddling around in this fountain one hot August night with the temperature's nudging 38 degrees.

During the civil war a bomb dropped right down one of those towers on the Basilica and didn't go off when it hit the bottom. Another miracle, though somewhat less believable, depicted in the Basilica is of some peasant boy who woke up one morning to find that his amputated and buried leg was now back to its original position next to his other leg. Why can't we have miracles like that these days?


As historically monumental in Spain as the Battle of Hastings is to the British, Covadonga marked the first battle won against the invading Moors (the baddies) on the 700 year road to reconquest.

Needless to say a vision of the virgin appeared to the King of the Visigoths (the goodies) before the battle. A shrine has been erected there and the water in the spring where the virgin appeared is revered as the Holiest in Spain. This mattered little to our Lu who, drier than a dead dingo's donga, waded in scooping up mouthfuls of Holy water as she splashed about. Not sure if we could return to Covadonga?


On Spain's green Atlantic coast, Asturias has got it all. It's Switzerland with a coastline and no punctuality. Mountains and beaches, surf and turf, hiking, biking, bears and boars. The best beef in all Spain is reared here and some of the finest seafood is available in the coastal towns and resorts. Strangely, I still have a perfect memory of Jaki carrying me home after 3 bottles of cider. (er, she's never let me forget it)

Monday, 27 August 2007

Un Paseo con Marli

Or Marli's morning walk.

Every morning, bright and early, shine or shine, Marli and I set off straight after her breakfast for our morning stroll. Join us today on our scenic tour of San Jose's hinterland which involves crossing only one road!

First we pass Dani's paint shop and then up the cart track.

Then comes the difficult bit. Is it the left fork or the right? Well done Marli, it's the right. (Marli, a la derecha chica)

From here on it's climb time all the way to the top. Marli the mountain goat takes it all in her stride.

At the summit there are wonderful views of San Antonio and Marli's backside

Should we carry on and go for the big one, Ibiza's highest mountain?

Nah! Another day. It's downhill all the way now as we amble through the woods

Stopping only for a good sniff round near the old well

Before we hit the path back to civilisation as San Jose is known in these parts

and at last reach our street

Now I can get my breakfast!

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Won Ugly

Not a pretty game, but we won. (as my mother would have predicted if I'd bothered to ask her)

James Roby has just scored Saints' first try (the telegraph)

Maybe it was the red and white tinted spectacles through which I viewed the world of San Jose last night as everything was perfect, just perfect.

Picture this, a warm summer's evening, all the village's bars and restaurants with full terraces - people chatting, eating and drinking. A big display of folk dancing on in the packed church square - easily viewed from my bar stool at Raco Verd. A little later about 200 hikers met and set off from there on the 'full moon' walk through the countryside to San Antonio.

Marli enjoyed it too!

Friday, 24 August 2007

Sofrit Pages

Let it be known that today is the fiesta of San Bartolome. That means a day off and fireworks for the good people of San Antonio. The poor people in San Jose have to work and as we'd done a full morning and it was tippling down, Jaki said let's go for a menu del dia somewhere. We went to San An, where Es Ventall had a special holiday menu del dia featuring everything Ibicenco. Country salad, sofrit pages and greixonera.

Here's my Sofrit Pages, potatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, chicken, lamb, chorizo and black pudding. Just the pick me up we needed on a wet August day.

The Boy, The Tree and me.

May I formally introduce 'the boy' Charlestonworth Flyguy III or Charlie to one and all?

I am slowly but surely building up a portfolio of trees in the district that I have scaled in order to rescue Charlie boy. I added another yesterday (mid bbq) when Jaki shouted that a podenco (local hunting dog) was chasing the boy round the back field. To cut a long story short, after I'd run around like a headless chicken looking for him, Jaki found him atop the tall carob tree where she'd last seen him. Anyway, I climbed up, got him down and he ran off.

Here's my tip. if you are running round in a field like a headless chicken and climbing tall carob trees, ensure that your footwear is a little more robust than a pair of Birkenstock sandals.

Supermarket Charcoal Shocker

After a whole month's dearth of charcoal the shelves of big SYP were at last replenished yesterday. This could possibly have been just a lucky coincidence as the summer rainy season appears to have started at the same time.

As you can see, we used the charcoal on our mini, two-person bbq bucket yesterday evening, which was some consolation for the disappointment of my encounter with acres of empty shelving at SYP. The list of essential items missing from their normal spots is so long that it'll be easier to list what they did have.


Thursday, 23 August 2007

Pommy Bashing

Remember these?

Yup. Pomegranates, a rare and somewhat fiddly treat when we were kids round Chapel Street way - everyone standing about with needles and red juice all down their shirts - a bit like crack addicts but different.
These days, round our way, they're everywhere, and in such abundance that folk just let them drop off the trees.
Some facts.
Pomegranate in Spanish is granada, just like the city.
In French it's grenade, after which the explosive hand-thrown weapon is known because of its size and filling.
The drink grenadine which is used to make tequila sunrise is made from pommies.
In olden times it was used as a cure for tapeworm
How's that?

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Garden Invaders

Isn't it great when Spanish super efficiency and excellent customer service just occasionally work in your favour?

Coming back from our early morning walk today I spotted somebody pruning our olive tree. As I got nearer I saw that our garden was awash with men, cutting, pruning and generally tidying up. It was next door's gardeners who had unwittingly got the wrong house and started work without bothering to inform anyone that they were there.

Needless to say, they scarpered when they realised where they should really have been.

This little incident almost made up for the non-appearance of the guys who were supposed to be coming today to replace our boiler from the water solar heating system. Apparently the wagon with the crane needed to lift it onto the roof had broken down. As we've only been waiting since the first week in June another few days won't hurt.

This archive shot shows the old boiler and my new 2.4 metre dish being installed. I have nightmare visions of either the old or new boiler coming hurtling down from the crane right onto my dish or pergola. Should I worry about this?

Friday, 17 August 2007

Clinton Baptiste

I'm getting the word..........................................Nonce.
Apparently there actually is a place called Nonce. Steve the Builder rang us yesterday to say that he was in Nonce, France, so that's how we know!

In other non-related happenings this week, we solved our chair problem by buying a couple more chairs to provide vitally needed dining seating in our appartment's private garden.

This now brings our sitting at a table dining capacity to 32. Ironic that we mostly sit on the sofa, eating as we watch the telly.

We've had a couple of meals out this week at different ends of the financial scale. At Es Ventall we splashed out €34 on a three courser with wine, and last night we spent a €ton at Can Berri Vell in San Agustin where groups and groups of would be diners were turned away for not having the foresight to make reservations.
Even Can Curt and the Bar Berri were chocker last night. We ended up in Can Bernat listening to the band in Raco Verd and watching groups of people still getting turned away from El Destino at midnight.

So desperate were people to get into the village, that there were some bad examples of parking to be seen! (So what's new?) This car, is half on the pavement and half on the zebra crossing. The building in the background is the local police station!

We actually did very well to stay out until midnight as we'd spent 3 hours stacking two tons of logs in preparation for winter.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Hay Sardinas

Just taking a break from my busy holiday schedule to post an update.

We really found out what holidays in Ibiza were all about yesterday. After having driven as far as possible on the island without repeating myself, we arrived in Cala San Vicente to find that we were the last to get there. It was packed, noisy from the forced entertainment programme at one of the hotels where the big spending Italians stay, and absolutely stank of boat fuel. We stayed long enough to put suntan lotion on and then went home.

Our planned picnic then took place down at our new favourite Es Codolar, which with about 4 miles of beach between 30 0f us was quiet enough for me to sleep the whole afternoon away to the sound of the waves.

If you don't believe me, here's a shot Jaki was lucky enough to get when she dropped the camera.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Stone Me!

Two flat ones and a packet of gravel please

My view of Es Codolar yesterday. Drinking beer on the beach helps!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Dear God of Rugby

Your punishment was swift and merciless. If I promise never to say a bad word about the French ever again can you see to it that Saints beat the Catalan Dragons at Wembley this year?

The Man Eating a Hotdog

Holidays in the sun, part 1.
Blog date 12.8.07
We're on holidays in Argate once again so Jaki suggested we can the planned sardine bbq and go out for a quiet night on the town. So off we headed to San Antonio's lovely church area and the bar Es Verro, cheek by jowel with the bar Don Quijote.
You may remember from previous posts that they share live music on Sundays when clients in both bars can enjoy the band playing under the giant walls of the church. Another nice thing is that DQ's is a mere bar so clients boozing there can order food from EV next door!
We relaxed with squid, thai chicken, chorizo and biscay style cod a bottle of chilled white and some alhambra special brew while behind us in the craft market, for reasons unknown to us, there were lots of women from Spain's deep south dressed in traditional tight spotty dresses.
As we finished we could hear the strains of music wafting up from Cafe Babel just beyond the church.
It was the same samba combo we'd seen a couple of weeks before, so I treated Jaki to a G&T there before we went home.

So what has a hotdog got to do with this tale? Well, the bar Es Verro is named after San Antonio's landmark statue The Shouting Man which isalso known as The Man Eating a Hotdog!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Oooooh. My grapes.

Our lane has become a cornucopia of plenty recently. There are carobs, almonds and grapes everywhere.

Talking of wine, our friends the Posh-Taylors (yes they even have a double-barrelled name) are in La Belle France at the moment fraternising with the natives.

Posh-Taylor Blog

But not to be outdone we found ourselves surrounded by 'los froggos' in Raco Verd the other night. We'd gone to watch the aptly named 'Second Hand' trot out a load of Deep Purple riffs and Black Sabbath feedback to an appreciative crowd and the only seats left were next to the hor-y-hor-y-hors. These elegant big spenders had arrived en masse to share a bottle of wine and two small bottles of water and all 8 of them had spread over two tables. Throwing their money around like a man with no arms didn't end there though because they'd ordered a small plate of cold ham between them - the waitress only had to make two extra trips for more forks as the feeding frenzy began. To cut a long story short, after much fiddling about for loose change between them all, they decided to pay the bill - it can't have been more than €25 - with a credit card! Is it any wonder that bar owners here love the English. We might not bring a fortune on holiday with us, but we don't half do our best to spend it.

Footnote. Any Francophiles offended by the above may merely substitute any of the following nationalities for the word French: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian (though there would obviously only be an espresso coffee between the 8 of them)

Monday, 6 August 2007

The Great Ibiza Oregano Famine

In stark contrast to Blunt's Beautiful Bounty and my copiously stuffed fridge, the shelves at the supermarket on Sunday morning would have passed the most stringent of health inspections as they were totally uncontaminated by any foodstuff.

'It's problems of transportation,' lament the staff.

'Joined up thinking problems,' say I!

No transport problem in the world an be the cause of a total absence of oregano from the shelves for a month now. Christ alone knows how long the deodorant shelves have sat waiting to be restocked and why oh why in the midst of bbq season is there no charcoal to be had?

An empty shelf

Footnote. There are ample supplies of firelighters on the shelves, but then, with nothing to set fire to, what can we expect?

Saturday, 4 August 2007

You're Beautiful

Update for my fan from Indiana - Blunty's manager Todd Interland will be here in August so stay tuned for a fridge full of his leftovers!!!

it's true.............warbled one hit (so far) wonder and new Ibiza resident, James Blunt. Jaki went clearing up at a bbq party he'd been to the other night and returned with a fridge full of beautiful beer, wines and spirits (and smoked salmon) that had been left behind.

Thanks James.

We already had the dog food in the fridge!