Wednesday 27 April 2016

27 April : Nerja

There is nothing like returning
to a place that remains unchanged
to find the ways in which
you yourself have altered.

Nelson Mandela

The discovery that you have changed without realising it is quite unnerving. I felt it very strongly in Nerja this year - perhaps because I have stopped looking backwards at some point since our last visit. Every street in Nerja is familiar, full of happy memories of Geographers and later of holidays with MasterM and MissM, but I have new places to enjoy and new projects to plan so that my mind and my heart are looking forwards. I think that is a good note on which to end my postcards from Spain.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

26 April : Granada

We have been to Granada several times but once you have visited the Alhambra (and I was lucky enough to do so on a quiet day in January) you can plunge into the heart of this fascinating city and explore the hidden places.

This is the Monasterio de San Jerónimo which is adjacent to a modern hospital but retains an atmosphere of peace and calm which excludes the clatter of a busy city.

After you have waited in a cool loggia for the door to open you can wander around the outer cloister and visit the church. The division between past and present seems very thin because there is so little evidence of modern conveniences and everything gleams with the patina of age and use.

The decoration in the church is awe-inspiring in scale, a great statement of power and wealth. I wondered what it would be like filled with music and decided you would need a lot of singing nuns to fill that vast space.

In the end we left, glad to return to the bustle and warmth of Granada but taking with us a memory of the orange-blossom scented silence.

Monday 25 April 2016

25 April : Menu del Dia €10

Hotel Rural los Caños de la Alcaiceria

delicately chopped tomato, cucumber and onion salad tossed in vinaigrette served with fresh bread

thick soup flavoured with saffron with chunks of lamb that melted in the mouth and perfectly cooked potato just on the verge of falling apart.

fresh fillets of hake pan fried in the lightest of batter with golden chips

home made flan that made me feel a bit tearful because it was so delicious.

a glass of chilled beer to start and a small cup of strong coffee to finish.

We felt quite embarrassed when we got the bill - 20 Euros for 2 seemed far, far too little for such a feast but we thanked the owner and promised to return. Outside we waited for a large flock of goats to cross the road, their bells rattling and the goatherd flicking his stick to encourage stragglers though the gate and then we set off for the road to Granada.

Sunday 24 April 2016

24 April : Packing

Before we get to Granada can we pull into a lay-by, take some quick photos of the wild flowers, and have a heart to heart about holiday packing? I thought I was good at packing but I quickly realised that I had taken far too many clothes. I think it was partly because I have become used to taking cabin-sized luggage for weekend breaks and this time we had large suitcases for a longer holiday.

The other factor was that, miraculously, I have become a convert to the concept of the capsule wardrobe and after a year of planning my clothes (using help from wearing simple pieces in different combinations has become automatic. I have also noticed that my style has become more clearly defined and I think that this is because I no longer have a distinction between work and home clothes.

When I got home I made a list of all the things that I wore which I will use as a blueprint for subsequent holidays because dragging a heavy suitcase full of unnecessary clothes is no fun. Of course, MissM knew this years ago - is there anything more humbling than finally catching up with your children?

Saturday 23 April 2016

23 April : Carmona

The first thing that you notice when you drive into Carmona is that all of the other cars have substantial dents and scrapes. This is not surprising because the cobbled streets twist and turn up the hill, getting impossibly narrow in places and making the unfamiliar driver feel quite queasy.

When we arrived at our hotel, an old hill fort, we paused, uncertain if the car would make it through the staggered gatehouse but a man sitting on a nearby bench waved us on impatiently so we gingerly rattled across the cobbles.

Exploring the old town later we discovered a warren of streets with ancient churches, small courtyards and enticing bars.

Carmona is a bit off the beaten track but an interesting place to visit for the day if you are staying in Seville. There is an exceptional Roman necropolis where you can climb down ladders into tombs and marvel at the masonry in the massive walls.

We just wandered around, getting pleasantly lost down alleyways, listening to sounds of church bells and dogs barking.

This is the Spain that we love and it is why we return every year.

Friday 22 April 2016

22 April : Croquetas

On the mountain road from Ronda to Carmona I spotted a couple pulling a giant thistle plant and placing it carefully in a sack. The thistle was almost as big as they were and I wondered what they were planning to do with it. Later that day we had lunch in an outstanding restaurant overlooking the vast plain. We sat inside where it was dark and cool and watched the tables of elderly men silently eating their way through numerous courses and pausing occasionally to call for another bottle of wine. I started with croquetas, delicate white sauce miraculously covered with the lightest coating of crisp crumb. Spanish croquetas have infinite variations - these incorporated wild thistle, a local delicacy.

Thursday 21 April 2016

21 April : Ronda

I have wanted to visit Ronda for so long and it did not disappoint. Not a place for people suffering from vertigo but full of charming little alleyways, squares and astonishing views over the plain. In one tree lined square we sat and watched a small group of musicians tune up before a concert. The young guitar player leaned against the fountain and tried out a couple of chords while his friend flicked at the base of his drum. Eventually they all wandered towards the church followed by assorted mothers, grandmothers and excited children. It would have been nice to follow them but we were hungry and it was time to eat.
[The first photo was the view from our bedroom]

Wednesday 20 April 2016

20 April : MrM and the Roadster

Thank you for waiting patiently for me to re-emerge. MrM decided that I needed a rest cure and took me away to explore Andalucía. I have a few postcards for you to enjoy - little vignettes of Spain in April - so pour yourself a glass of chilled rosado and imagine that you are there with us.

To begin : the best part of the holiday by a country mile was MrM's face when he explained that he had taken a cheeky upgrade at the car rental desk. We had to buy some baseball caps (to prevent premature hair loss) which made us look very irresponsible but please don't tell MasterM or MissM.

Saturday 9 April 2016

9 April : Shells

Beach Scene
Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)

The Little Boy Next Door has just returned from two weeks in France and I sit on the doorstep while he shows me his shell collection with a detailed explanation of where each one was collected. Two urchin shells, a mermaid's purse, a razor shell, sundry crab claws and a miscellaneous assortment of small shells later I am suitably impressed. In a grandiose gesture he gives me an oyster shell to keep. I protest that this is far too generous and will spoil his collection and he agrees and takes it back. Then he rummages around in the bottom of the box and produces a battered bivalve. "Here. You can can have this instead. My little brother found it and I don't like it. Also, if you take it I can shut the lid properly." Meekly I accept my bounty.


Thank you for your comments on the last two posts. Much appreciated - especially the tips for insomnia. I'm getting back on track but have been rather side-swiped by tiredness this week. I need to go and live on the equator. 

Wednesday 6 April 2016

6 April : Sleep

Sleeping Beauty
William A. Breakspeare

So. BST-lag? Is it a thing? Or is it just me? Please don't laugh but I have been really struggling with sleep since the clocks went forward. My body seems to have got in a complete muddle. I think it is because I had a very strict routine going where the alarm went off at 6.30am every day and this worked a treat all through the winter. Now I can't get to sleep at bed time and when I finally get to sleep I can't wake up. I'm starting to look like a bit part player in a House of Horror film. Has anyone got any advice before I start main-lining chamomile tea?

Monday 4 April 2016

2 April : Blanket

Do you remember that I started knitting a gift for Jenny in January? I finished it yesterday, wrapped it carefully in tissue paper and posted it off. I see so many wonderful knitted projects on my friends' blogs that I feel a bit self conscious about displaying my own work so this is the only photo I have. It is a large blanket based on a Debbie Bliss pattern and it felt so soft and warm while I knitted away thinking of Jenny and the fun we had when we worked together. Every stitch in that blanket was knitted with love and I hope that it keeps the newest little cartographer cosy. Sweet dreams!