Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Winter

Sadly, we leave Spain tomorrow morning. We’ve been in the country for about 3 months and have enjoyed amazing weather, even though the rest of Europe seems to be freezing. It’s hard to drag ourselves away from the decadent life here. We’ve really taken to the whole ‘campervan’ lifestyle.

We’ve also taken to Spanish Sunday lunch in a big way. It’s such a tradition here with families of 3-4 generations getting together for lunch in the sun. We love sitting and people watching, and the kids are great. They engage with the older generation in such a natural way that we seem to have lost in Australia to some extent. I also just adore the old ladies with their perfectly coiffed hair, like they’d just walked out of the salon.
One Last Lunch

More Mog Makeover
Our camp at El Puerto de Santa Maria has been so lovely, the month has rushed by. We had intended to stay here a week. However, we have stocked up on sherry and hidden it all in the secret cupboard, which hopefully the customs people won’t find.
Storks at Church

I’m not sure if the truck will attract or repel them, but we’ve been warned to have a stash of 5 euro notes available for all tricky situations.

We arrive in Tangier Med and will spend the 1st 2 nights in a camp that has been recommended on the coast just south of Tangier. We then head south along the Atlantic coast towards Rabat and Casablanca. We are still undecided as to whether to visit Casablanca as everyone says it’s a real dump, but still there’s THAT movie…

We should arrive in Marrakech about Feb 23 and will spend 5 nights in luxury in a Riad. We’ll be desperate for a hot shower by then.

Not sure when the next blog will be as internet access might be very patchy. Stay tuned…

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Little Britain

We're back from our 2 night sojourn to Gibraltar, it really is a small piece of England, more British than the Queen.

We parked our hire car on the Spanish side and walked across the border, with no customs or passport control to speak of. We then had to walk across the airport runway to get into town, they simply close it off when a plane is landing or taking off!!!
Crossing the runway - duck for low flying planes.

First afternoon we simply wandered about the town to get our bearings. Not difficult in a place this size – population 29,000 approximately. It was strange hearing so many English accents, with a weird dialect of Spanish thrown in.

I was still craving chilli so we went to a restaurant promising green thai curry prawns. The waiter was an American who understood my need for chilli and had to beat up the chef to put chillies in the curry for us. The result was delicious.
The Rock of Gibraltar

Next morning we hiked up ‘the Rock’ - not for us a sissy chairlift, or God forbid, a mini bus. We unfortunately coincided with a cruise ship in town along with 4000 of the gold sandal brigade.  We left them behind by hiking up a steep path to the second peak, abandoning the idea of sharing the main peak with them.
View from the Rock

The views are breathtaking and of course you can see across to the jagged coastline of North Africa. Morocco beckons, we will get there eventually, just a bit behind schedule. Aah! - the luxury of time.
Views to Morocco

We also spent a bit time wandering in the tunnels that were built during the siege of 1793 – bloody amazing…

Lunch in the sun beckoned, however we walked all the way down to town. Lawrence refused to take the bus even the last kilometre – and the bus is free. First time I’ve seen a Scotsman refuse something for nothing.
C'est dur la vie

Still craving chilli we sought out an Indian restaurant for dinner – I knew there had to be one somewhere, being English. We had a fabulous and very spicy Lamb Madras, really hit the spot. Will keep me going till Morocco.

We are now back in our camp in El Puerto and finally the weather has beaten us back indoors. The sun is still shining, but we are getting blasted by a cruel wind from the north-east. You may have seen that Europe is having a big freeze, which is not affecting us that much, apart from this icy wind. Should be back to idyllic conditions again on Monday, so they say…

Anyway, you demanding blog readers, you have been very slack of late with the blog comments. All give and no take. Has the blog become that boring??? I'm sorry there hasn't been disasters to write funny stories about. A word of encouragement now and then is appreciated – end of rant.

Lawrence is now doing DIY. He has finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a confirmed water snob and is installing a water purification system – yippee!!! I think I’ve finished my refurbishing for now, will post photos shortly.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Domestic Goddess

Don’t laugh, I’m practically Martha bloody Stewart. On Friday, I cooked almost all day to stack up some meals for the weekend. I was craving some chilli, and best I could come up with was Chilli Con Carne, a nice change. We love Spanish food, but it does get a bit same-ish and it is a bit bland. Also made beef in red wine – for 2 nights.

AND, I’ve been painting again. We (the royal we) decided that the white cupboards looked so good that I should continue what I started in France. Of course this time, I had to sand back what I already done (decided to use acrylic paint for longevity) and then sandpaper the wardrobes and bathroom door. Lawrence of course declared “I’m hopeless at sanding!”. This in reality means “I hate sanding” – geez, most people love it…

Anyway, bless him, he did get on MoJo to go and buy me an orbital sander, plus more gin, both essentials for interior decorating. I’m sure Martha drank plenty of gin.

The Mog is starting to look a bit brighter, and I like putting my stamp on it. We are very happy living in our 2.5 metres by 4. Amazing what you can get used to. We’ve been shopping again though, this had to stop as we really are at capacity now!

We are still in El Peurto de Santa Maria, simply because the weather is great, the sun is shining, the wine is cheap, and we get 2 weeks free if stay 4 weeks.
Arcos de la Frontera

As car hire is so cheap, we are basing ourselves here and touring around. 22 euros a day gets you a Kia (which unfortunately didn’t included a working handbrake, that must be an optional extra). We drove up to Ronda for 2 days nights via the ‘white towns’ and the Sierra de Grazalema. Stunning country and beautiful towns set in dramatic locations.

The 'new' bridge, Ronda
Ronda of course is the jewel, with its deep gorge running through the town, and lovely winding streets and white houses. We stayed in a cute 6 room hotel and just wandered around the town. We had our Australia Day lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking the gorge. L had roast kid (again!) and I had slow roasted lamb shank. We accompanied this with a Rioja Crianza 2000. Another memorable meal.
Australia Day lunch

We stopped in Grazalema on the way back. This is the prettiest town I’ve seen in Spain so far, set among steep rocky mountains. We stopped into a tiny shop and bought some local produce, olive oil, sheep cheese and jamon.

Lunch was in a roadside café. 7.50 euros for the ‘Menu del Dia’. Huge delicious entrée eggy thing, followed by oxtail for L and a chicken dish for me. Both absolutely delicious. Amazing value!! Dinner was a piece of cheese..

Next week, another cheap car, hopefully with working handbrake, will take us to Gibralta for one night. From what we’ve read, there really isn’t anything much to see apart from a bloody great rock. It’s really the novelty of a tiny British outpost in south of Spain.

Today after painting we walked to the beach and had beer and seafood in the sun!!!

Larry, Barry and Mo

Our friends Mo and Barry left last week to head to El Rocio, before going onto Portugal to meet their daughter. We had a farewell lunch, and hopefully will catch up with them in France.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Following the Blog

A few people have asked me how they become followers of my blog. It's pretty simple.

Click on 'Join this Site' on the right hand side and then 'follow this blog'. It may ask you to create a google account, but all you need to do is click on that button and it's automatic, and then you're done! 

You'll then receive emails when I've made new entry. Up to you, how you do it. I'm very happy for people to just log in as and when, as that way I can see how many hits I get!!! So far, I've had 4,300 hits!! Seems like a lot...

We are still in sherry country, and sun continues to shine. We've one rainy day but it didn't bother us, just read books and went for a walk. We've been onto Jerez for a bodega tour and lunch with new friends Barry and Mo (our current neighbours). 

So much sherry, so little time...

Yesterday we took to ferry to Cadiz, a lovely town to wander around and, yes you guessed it, we had lunch in the sun!!! No, we don't get bored of it... Tomorrow we'll go into Sanlucca for more sherry tasting, the speciality being Manzanilla, Lawrence's favourite.

The cycling around here is fabulous. Cycle tracks go in either direction along the waterfront and into town, so the bikes are really well used, and hopefully working off the sherry and seafood.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Normal Service Has Resumed for 2012

Yes, I know, it’s been more than 2 weeks since our last update. However, you must realise that this is an indication of us having a marvellous time and little inclination to spend time writing about it, however we are now back in our yellow truck having a vino blanco and some yummy cheese.

Some of you followers are getting a bit demanding so it’s been good penance for you to go without for a while!!

We left our wild west town of El Rocio on December 29 and headed to Bonn to spend New Year’s Eve with family. It was hard to leave the sun and head for real winter. Bonn however was not so cold as expected and I had a new PUFFY coat to keep me warm.  The puffy coat is a marvellous thing for a girl from Perth.  NYE was spent eating delicious baked ham cooked by the wonderful nieces, Livy and Elinor, followed by a venture out into the cold to watch mad Germans letting off fire crackers all along the Rhine. We felt it appropriate to drink Sekt at midnight in the cold cold air.
By the Rhine on NYE

Next stop was Berlin. Initially planned just to catch up with my niece, we had the added bonus of seeing my sister, Pip, who flew from Oz to aid her daughter who had broken her arm ice-skating on Xmas day. Any excuse for my sister to travel to Europe!! It was so great to see family in such an unexpected place and to explore Berlin together.

Berlin was really cold, so the puffy coat became my best friend. We had a bit of rain but not so much as to dampen our spirit. There’s always a bar that is warm and dry.

We spent most of our time wandering around the main sites, following the path of the wall, exploring museums and tributes to all those that suffered at the hands of the Nazis and the east /west division. Berlin acknowledges all the trauma of those years so well and with such taste and compassion. Lest we forget.

Highlights included the dome above the Reichstag and the dome of the “Dom” or Cathedral, the first with a view of the parliament, the second a view of the domain of that parliament.
Sisters at the Reichstag

We ate well, but being German, the food was really hearty and too much for our waistlines. The last night saw us in a wonderful restaurant in the Nikolai Viertel (a characterful quarter) having a brilliant farewell meal of wild boar and venison accompanied by wonderful wine (Mosel, and Spätburgunder from Baden).

Our next destination was Seville, having left our yellow truck there in the hands of Antonio, who kept it safe and did a bit of work on it (the hot water system).

We had booked a hotel in town for 2 nights to have a look at Seville before picking up the truck and heading south but we fell in love with the town and decided to stay for 4 nights. God bless off-season prices.

Seville is everything you imagine it to be. Orange trees lining the streets, Spanish, Moorish, Mudejar architecture, wide wide streets, often pedestrianized, so pleasant to walk around. Of course there is the world’s largest church!! This was once a mosque and has the usual catholic reclamation cathedral added. The square metreage total is vast but most of that is the original Mosque, now a courtyard.

The real surprise in Sevilla is the Alcazar. This was once a Muslim stronghold and wonderful Moorish palace. The palace itself rivals the Alhambra for its size and beauty alone. To wander through its many halls is to behold a glimpse of sheer genius and artistry, with lovely vistas to the wonderful gardens. The best of it was the lack of tourists, which allowed us to really appreciate the beauty and peace of this place, which we weren’t afforded in the Alhambra.
Alcazar in Sevilla

We decided that my birthday celebration should be in Sevilla so Jan 11 was declared to be the day. We had seen a lovely and interesting looking restaurant the day before and decided that was it. We were not disappointed in the ex-Roman bath underground vault, which provided us with a sensational meal.

Entrée: Carpaccio of ostrich with rocket and parmesan for me (possibly the best thing I have ever eaten), and for Lawrence revuetlos con patates y bacalao (eggs, fish and potato).
Main: Confit duck with bitter orange sauce for me (French food in an Italian restaurant in Spain) and for L roast leg of kid (that could have fed 5 people).

Wine wise we are so spoiled here. We had a delicious albarino blend to start and a 1999 Gran Riserva Rioja, followed of course by PX dulce (my new love).

The whole meal was 130 euros, we would have paid that for the Rioja alone in Sydney.

The weather gods also smiled on us in Sevilla and the sun shone every day – it’s tough to have the pressure of eating and drinking in the sun for lunch each day, thinking it might be the last; the rain must come eventually…
Typical lunch in Sevilla 

We are now in El Puerto de Santa Maria, just south of Jerez – the sherry capital of world.

More to come…