I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Monday, 23 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 18 & 19

Thursday 19th January

We had the noisy night that we expected with the usual racket from the waves being louder than usual.  Also, the rain ran off the flat roof in front of us poured through a drain hole and spurted out onto the road – Spanish water torture!  (Please excuse poor quality of the photo.)

Bob and Ingrid had a much worse night than us with the noise as they also had the rain thundering down on the motor home roof.  They left us late morning to go up to Mojacar Pueblo to their campsite.

I had a lovely Facetime session with Robert and Tobyn and took these photos.

Tobyn – “Hey Daddy who’s that?”
Daddy “It’s Granny”.  Tobyn thinks – “hm haven’t seen her for ages!”
We went to La Cabana for tapas and were the only idiots to venture out in the awful weather!  We left Muffin in the car and went into the main restaurant as we knew it wasn’t going to be a day for sitting outside!  We then went mad and took a trip to Lidl in Garrucha – Victoria can’t say that we didn’t show her the sights while she was here!  In fact it was just like any old Lidl and we shan’t bother to go again!  We then called in to the Mercadonna for more wine supplies – those Spanish fairies had been at the wine bottles last night again!

In the afternoon we cut into our custard apple fruit or should I say our Chirimoya.  It is a very strange fruit with huge pips and by the time we had taken the pips out there wasn’t really much left to eat.  I’m afraid it was consigned to the bin.  Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men.  It is generally thought to be native to Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia then transported to the Andes and Central America. Today, cherimoya is grown throughout South Asia, Central America, South America, California, Hawaii, southern Europe, East Africa, Kisii in particular and northern Africa.  Useless information I know but then it was raining today!

After watching a film we settled down and watched three episodes of Downton Abbey – only three more to go now and we will have finished the whole lot.

Friday 20th January

I reckon today was worse than yesterday though it wasn’t supposed to be – I think it rained all day.

Victoria and I went up to the churros café and enjoyed a churros and hot chocolate, with the rain coming in through the roof of the café!

We went collected Ingrid and Bob’s and then went on to Turre.  I wanted to show everyone the market.  What market???  I reckon there were only about 15 stalls there.  I think most of the fruit and veg people were there but only one clothes stall.  We couldn’t even muster up the enthusiasm to have Indian tapas.  We called in at the bakers and then moved on to Mojacar Pueblo to, hopefully, find some lunch.  Of course we couldn’t sit outside any cafés as it was far too wet and couldn’t go in as we had the dogs.  We did find some gifty shops though.  The Pueblo looks lovely and we will definitely go back when the sun is shining.

While we were in the gift shops I realised that I had left my purse in the car but when we got back it wasn’t there.  I knew that the last place I had it was in the bakers so we went back to Turre.  The people in the bakers don’t speak English so I got Google translate to translate I have lost my pink purse (!) but they hadn’t got it.  After a lot of confusion with Google we managed to find the local police station but it hadn’t been handed in.

We returned to the apartment with me feeling very sick.  I then had to cancel my Euro debit card but there wasn’t much I could do about my driving licence and fortunately, there wasn’t much money in the purse.  

This photo was taken from the apartment during the afternoon.

In the evening we met up with Ingrid, Bob, Sue, Andy, Roly and Bev and El Gaucho for Victoria’s last meal.  They cook genuine Argentinian steak (or so they say) on a barbecue and they were delicious.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Day 17

Wednesday 18th January

Brrr!  It was cold today.  On a normal January day the locals, be they Spanish or ex-pats, all walk around wearing hats, scarves, fur boots and thick coats.  Today, even us hardy Brits, felt the cold.  Goodness how the locals managed!

We drove down to Carboneras to have a proper look round.  We looked for the Tourist Information and bought a book on the area and a good map.  I also bought a very unusual pot.  It is an Amphoras de Mar piece.  These are pots which are put on the seabed just off Carboneras and left to age for 3 to 5 years using a fully natural accelerated aging process.  Each piece is unique and carries a numbered certification with a plaque accrediting its origin and a parchment with historical information about the amphora model.

I haven’t taken a photo of mine as it is all wrapped up and very fragile but this photo shows what they look like.

We had a coffee and then wandered into the town square where there is a castle along with the Town Hall. 

Victoria and I went round the castle – Richard stayed outside with Muffin as dogs aren’t allowed inside.  It wasn’t very impressive as it has been rebuilt so everything looked new.  There were a lot of glass doors around which we found strange.

San Andrés Castle is known locally as Castillo de San Andrés.  In 1559 Philip II of Spain handed the area to the Marquis del Carpio with the mandate that he build a castle there. The Marquis however choose not to build a castle straight away but when the Berber and Barbary pirates started raiding the Andalusian coasts for goods and slaves, a string of watchtowers were built along the coast. When sighting a pirate ship the watchmen would alert the local towns; the woman and children would seek refuge and the men would rush to the coast to counter attack the pirates. Most towns however were situated too far from the coast for the men to prevent the pirates landing on the shore.  This was the main reason for the building of San Andrés Castle by Don Diego de Haro in 1577. It was garrisoned by one captain and 27 soldiers, whose families were the first inhabitants of the village of Carboneras.  In the early 20th century the castle was abandoned, at the same time the town was almost uninhabited due to economic emigration. In the mid-1970s the town began to get a new life but the castle had fallen to ruin. In the early 21st century San Andrés Castle was restored.

We found a tapas bar where we had a beer and tapas.  The waiter brought us over a piece of paper with all the different types of tapas on it and we had to choose what we wanted.  It was a good idea for us as we were able to do some translating on the phone!

After lunch we went down to Playa de los Muertos which is a lovely beach and, I believe, a nudist beach.  There weren’t any naked people on it today!

During the day I had been messaging Ingrid (keep up – they are our friends and neighbours from home) as they were on their way to see us.  They managed to take a detour but finally got to us.  Muffin was so pleased to see his friends, Hazel and Pierrot. 

As it was cold and late they decided to leave the motorhome opposite the apartment for the night.  Victoria made a wonderful paella – it was as good, if not better than the one we had in the Spanish restaurant!  I had bought some paella seasoning in the market which really made the dish.

After a rather boozy evening Ingrid and Bob, with dogs, departed for their motorhome.  They were in for a noisy night!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 15 & 16

Monday 16th January

We are convinced that we saw a gam, herd, mob, pod, run, school, shoal, troup or flot of whales passing through the bay while we were having breakfast.  Sadly, we don’t have any binoculars but there were definite spurts of water and some black fin like objects in the water.

Richard went off to play with his friends!  Well they went off Go-Karting to be fair.  This left Victoria and I to our own devices.  We started off by going to the Parque Commercial to visit the shops.  There is a very nice gifty sort of shop that sells lovely pottery and of course I had to buy a couple of bits.  It was then back to the apartment where we dumped the car and walked up to La Cabaña for wine and tapas.  It was so hot and we had to smile when the owner, George, told us that he was going to go to the UK to get some cold weather! 

We walked back along the beach and decided to go back to the apartment, grab a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses and go back to the beach so that Muffin could do some swimming.  Once we got to the beach I threw the ball into the water but Muffin didn’t see it going so didn’t follow it.  So, did we lose the ball or did one of us go in and get it?  Victoria gallantly offered to go in, so stripped off to her knickers – oh yes she did put on a spare t-shirt that I had taken – and went in.  It wasn’t very deep, for her anyway, but it seemed to spur Muffin on to go in and get his ball.

After that Muffin was backwards and forwards and seemed to love swimming with someone.

We managed to persuade Muffin that enough was enough though it did take some persuasion!  This photo is Victoria’s arty shot once she was allowed out of the water!

Richard came and joined us, bringing another bottle of wine and we watched the sun set behind the hills.

Victoria and I were supposed to be cooking a paella but for some reason, hic, we didn’t!  Richard gave up with us and took us out for dinner back to Kukis where Victoria and I had lovely chicken on skewers.

Tuesday 17th January

Victoria and I went to the supermarket first to stock up on wine – did someone drink it all yesterday??

It was then a visit to the Imperial Playa for a pizza.  Cathy and Martin had recommended it and said that we needed to go at lunchtime as they did half price pizzas – they also joined us for lunch.  It really is a glorious location and the pizzas were good too!  Sadly, a dark cloud came over and it got a bit chilly so we paid the bill and went across to Café Moca for coffee and cake.  As we came out of the café last week I noticed the cakes in the chilled display!  I had toffee cheesecake which was really scrummy.

We watched the weather deteriorate through the afternoon.   This was a screen shot I took yesterday morning of Thursday’s weather forecast!  Poor Victoria :-(

We braved the elements and went to Garrucha to see the fishing boats come in and the fish market that follows. 

Before the auction we walked to the water’s edge to watch the boats coming in – it was quite choppy out there – I know I would have been sick if I had been aboard.

Watching over the fishing boats is a statue of a woman and a child.   We thought it might be the Madonna and Child but I can’t find any reference to it.

We also found a cat hiding in the rocks.

By the time we got back to the harbour things were beginning to happen.  Boats were beginning to come in and unload their catch.  They didn’t seem to have caught very much – about 10 to 12 boxes each.

We went in to look at the auction – no-one seemed to mind tourists wandering around. 

The fish go down a conveyor and stop under an overhead box which, I guess, has a camera in it.  The auction runs in reverse.  The price starts high and then comes down – pretty fast.  The buyers then press their remote at the price they want to pay.  The overhead box spews out a ticket which goes in the fish box and the box is then loaded along with the others the buyer has bought.

The prize catch is the Gambas Roja.  This type of prawn is considered to be one of the most delicious shellfish in the Mediterranean.  The prawn exists in small numbers. Its breeding and fishing area is very limited, and it is known as the “Garrucha prawn” because the limited fishing area is precisely just off the coast of Garrucha.

Just as I was about to leave the auction hall I noticed a commotion and an eel, which was still alive, had jumped out of its box and was on the floor. It was duly put back in its box where it made another bid for freedom before having another box put on top of it!  Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of it rearing its ugly head!

As we left Garrucha we saw one of the Gypsum ships being towed backwards into the harbour.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 13 & 14

Saturday 14th January

We had a rather late start but we were in no rush though we did see a nice sunrise.  It was then housework – the apartment was beginning to look a bit of a mess!  I tidied, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen while Richard did the vacuuming.  The place looks a lot better now.  We have been here two weeks now and not really done anything in that time!

The housework blitz was because my daughter, Victoria, was flying out today to join us for a week :-)  The flight was late leaving Gatwick as they had to de-ice the aircraft wings and that was at almost midday – it must have been mighty cold there!

We left the apartment about 2.30pm and I tracked Victoria’s flight all the way.  As it was late leaving we weren’t too sure what time it would arrive as the tracker was saying 2 hours 50 minutes which is the scheduled time but the pilot had filed 2 hours 13 minutes.  Just as we arrived at Almeria Airport Google popped up and said that the flight was due at 15.40.  We walked round the corner of the terminal building just as the flight landed – 15.40 exactly – good old Google!  But wait a minute – I hadn’t asked Google about the flight!  It had actually come up with Victoria’s name and flight confirmation number – its quite frightening how much Google knows about us!!!!

Victoria’s suitcase was 6th onto the carousel so she was through pretty quickly.  It was so nice to see her even though we had only been away from home for 17 days!  Muffin went berserk when he saw her as she is his third favourite person in the world!!  He was then allowed to sit on her knee all the way home instead of being in his crate.

We called in to the supermarket where Victoria found a suckling pig – we didn’t buy it!

We went for a quick walk on the beach when we got home before having chilli and baked potatoes for dinner.  Victoria wasn’t impressed – she said that she has come to Spain for Spanish food not chilli!!

Sunday 15th January

Victoria and I were up quite early as we wanted to go to Villaricos to the market.  It seemed to be a slightly bigger market than last week but with less people there.  We found a stall selling secondhand fleeces for €4 and came away with four!  We stocked up on fruit and then made our way back.

We had arranged to go for a Sunday roast to Kukis – a restaurant owned by Brits and just a short walk from the apartment.  We met up with Roly, Bev and Sue – poor Andy wasn’t feeling well so didn’t join us.  The roast was excellent and rather large – still we all managed to eat it and a pudding. 

Once again Victoria wasn’t impressed with the English food!  The trouble is, what is Spanish food?  We looked it up

Tortilla Española – Spanish omelette
Gambas al ajillo – garlic prawns
Tostas de tomate y jamón – tomato and ham on toast
Patatas bravas – fried potatoes in sauce
Pollo al ajillo – garlic chicken
Cochinillo asado – suckling pig
Pisto - ratatouille

I did offer her the suckling pig but she declined.  We bought Tortilla Espanola in the supermarket and we are going to make our own paella. 

We took Muffin for a walk on the beach and he found a rather large stick.  

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 11 & 12

Thursday 12th January

Today we signed on the dotted line for an apartment for January and February 2018!  We have managed to get the very one we wanted though it is booked from March 1st but that’s fine with us.  It is in Oasis de Mar II and has a sea view, lots of outside space and TWO bathrooms!  I am really excited about it :-)

We then went caravan site exploring!  Friends and neighbours, Ingrid and Bob, are in their motorhome near Cadiz and are planning to come and visit us on their way back home.  There is a site in Mojacar but it doesn’t look brilliant and doesn’t take pets which rules it out straight away.  We looked at two south of Mojacar and at one came across a crowd of Brits who go there every year to get away from the British winters.  They were all sitting drinking wine under a fluorescent light which read BAR – this was attached to the back of a motorhome!

It was then north of Mojacar to look at three more.  The first one at Vera is split into two – textile and nudist!  We took the scenic route to the third one.  I was using Google Maps to direct us and I kept changing the route making it longer and longer – it is quite a clever system if you want to go the long way round.  However, one road petered out on us so we had to turn back!  The site at Los Gallardos was OK but it does appear at all these sites that everyone is very much on top of each other.  The last site was just out Mojacar Pueblo and the best of the five.  I have made my report so will now have to wait and see what Ingrid and Bob decide to do.

We passed through a huge vegetable/fruit growing area and were amazed at how the volcanic area has been cultivated.  This is a very big orange and lemon growing area and I had a real yearning to pick an orange off a bush but Richard wouldn’t let me – said he didn’t fancy visiting me in a Spanish jail!!

With leaves 
……. without leaves
We saw a large hill with a white building on top

On investigation, I found out that it was a volcano, the Cabezo Maria which emitted several lava flows through the Vera basin.  It would appear that this happened during the late Miocine period – in other words 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago.  Richard reckons we don’t have to worry about it erupting again!  The little building on the top is a shrine and local legend says that there’s been a shrine up there since the early 15th century, when the conquering Christians went about putting up crosses and churches on any high point. An ancient shrine was certainly there in the 19th century, and was partially rebuilt by locals in the 1930’s, but it then fell into disrepair.  Apparently, there is an audioguide which you can listen to on your phone as you walk up the hill and this says that Manuel, a local shepherd married to one Maria Toribia, used to graze his sheep up there, until on the 12th of August 1427 he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. This started the tradition of the annual pilgrimage from the village to the hill and lead to the building of the first shrine in 1507.

We returned to Mojacar and then walked up to La Cabana to meet Sue, Andy, Wendie and Barry for tapas.  It was really quite hot and I felt overdressed in a blouse.  There were even people sunbathing on the beach.

 Friday 13th January

Friday is market day in Turre.  We took ourselves off and wandered up through the market and then I did my shopping on the way back.  Mainly fruit but also some paella seasoning and shoes for Richard.

We met up with the rest of the gang at an Indian Tapas bar.  Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t eat Indian food as it doesn’t agree with me.  I tried to ask for a rice tapas but the guy didn’t understand me.  However, he suggested that I have chicken masala which I did and enjoyed.  I did have a slightly odd tummy but that’s all – I will try again next week.  The gang is getting bigger especially as Paul has his brother and niece staying at present.  (Thank you Andy for the loan of your photo).

We returned to the apartment for the siesta before taking Muffin for his daily ball throwing expedition on the beach.  It was really lovely and I had a paddle - the water was rather cold at first but after a while it was quite warm.  

Friday, 13 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 8, 9 & 10

Monday 9th January

We are definitely coming back to Mojacar next year so have decided to find our apartment now.  The one we are in is OK but the balcony is very small and even though we have a lovely sea view the sun goes off us about midday and the apartment is very dark and can be chilly.  So today we started our search.  We would like 2 bedrooms, maybe 2 bathrooms but not necessary, large outdoor space which gets the sun most of the day (nowhere really gets it after 4pm here) and of course dog friendly. 

We went up to the Parque Commercial where we had lunch and then went across to visit Coastal Properties.  The girl in there suggested Oasis del Mar which we rather discounted straight away.  We then went to two more agents with the last one taking us to see two apartments.  The first one was lovely and we would have been more than happy to have stayed there but it didn’t have an oven – only a hob, which is crazy!  The second apartment wasn’t for us but it did get us interested in the development which was Oasis del Mar!  It was then back to the apartment to mull over what we had seen.

Tuesday 10th January

We were up VERY early today – 7.30am.  Betty was flying home and Sue was accompanying her so 12 of us met for breakfast at Cafe Moca, which is run by Brits, so we had a good old English breakfast :-)  It also gave us a chance to say hello to Roly and Bev who had arrived yesterday.  If you are a regular blog reader you will know that we met them last year and did the River Wey with them and Sue & Andy.

The best part of our early morning was the sunrise – it was amazing.

We said goodbye to Betty and au revoir to Sue and then we started our apartment search again – bring on Escape to the Winter Sun!! There are lots of apartment agencies and each one has its own apartments – none are duplicated.  We had arranged with Roly and Bev to meet them at La Cabana for tapas along with “home alone” Andy!  We met up with Andy but Roly and Bev never made it!  Still the tapas was good.

We were both tired and on our return to the apartment Richard fell asleep whilst reading his book so I went and laid on the bed and before I knew where I was it was an hour later!

Wednesday 11th January

Muffin always comes up on our bed while we are having our “early” morning tea and he rather blends in with the sheets!

Spot the dog!
We had arranged with Coastal Properties to view a couple of apartments in Oasis del Mar II.  There are two Oasis developments – I and II, with II being slightly newer.  However, the apartments in both blocks are almost the same – seen one seen ‘em all!

I had done a lot of online research and found that Coastal Properties had number 32 on their books which looked absolutely perfect.  Sadly, it was occupied so we couldn’t view it but we had a look at the outside aspect and it looked perfect. 

We walked across to the Lemon Lounge where we had a coffee and mulled things over.  (I do love the café con leche in Spain.)
It’s a bit difficult to see but it was almost 40°in the sun today
I chased up a couple of the agents who hadn’t responded to us and then did a further online search and came up with another perfect apartment but this was an internet booking.  I emailed the owner immediately asking if the apartment was vacant for next year and how much it would be.  Finally, during the evening, I got a reply asking if I was muddled as I was asking for January 6th and it was already January 11th!  Daft chap didn’t look at the year and said that the cost would be 50% of the online price.  As the online price didn’t mention the winter and mid term lets I replied asking – it’s 3pm on the 13th and he still hasn’t replied!

In the evening 7 of us went to a very nice restaurant called Sensations.  They do a menu del dia (menu of the day) for €12. The food was excellent for the price and a good time was had by all.