Posts Tagged ‘Holiday’

Easter 2017

This is not our first visit to this region at Easter. IMG_3809I know that we have been here at this time for the last two years, but it might be three – probably six times in all.  We like the weather here and the chance to get out and do ‘something’.

The weather at home, being what it is, means that doing ‘something’ is less likely to happen than it is when we’re here.

We’ve been here about ten days now and we will have been a month by the time we fly back.  We’ve already had a couple of good walks and explorations up in the hills behind us. We’ve had a picnic up there too.  A picnic! – I can’t remember when we managed to have one of those at home. We caught the bus up to Mijas one day and then walked back down the track via the wild-west Cabalista bar, where we ate jamón y queso. We’ve also been scootering a couple of times and we’ve been to Montemar (on the train) near Torremolinos so we could explore the park there and then walk back to Benalmadena.

IMG_3814

Apart from today (our second Saturday) we’ve been out and done ‘something’ every day.

Today, we’re resting before setting off for a few days to visit the Costa Tropical. This part of Spain is where the Sierra Nevada mountains come down to the sea and is about 130km away, about 90 minute’s drive.

More on this later (maybe)

September in the sun

As October begins and we begin our preparations to return to the UK, I have to ask: Who knew that September could be such a fabulous month for taking holidays?

Who knew!

As a child, the school’s six-week holiday was always mid/late July and all of August. Depending on the year, we might still be off school for a number of days in September, but not many. Holidays ‘away’ with parents were always limited to two weeks in late July as Huddersfield closed down for the ‘Textiles’ holiday, or in our case the ‘Engineers’ holiday. At least one week of those holidays were invariably spent in Blackpool. We did go to Great Yarmouth when I was 10 and to Weymouth when I was 11, but after that I rarely went with parents, preferring the weeks I spent camping with the scouts, and school trips.

My early working life was pretty much dictated by the same local holiday pattern before my own family life began and that meant that ‘main’ holidays were to be taken, as above, sometime in July/August.

I compounded this then by working in the education sector, where it can be difficult to take any time off work that is different to the students. So, only now that Sharon has divorced herself from ‘Education’ and we are both self-employed (both with ‘online’ work), can we contemplate going on holiday when we like. And we like September.

The very high temperatures we experienced on our journey down became somewhat muted, settling into the mid-high twenties and there were not the crowds I saw in August when I was here with Emma, Charlie and the girls. More and more snowbirds began to arrive as the month progressed and parking was a dream.img_7148

Readers will have noticed that we set off on September 2nd, stopping in Kent for the night before travelling down through France and Spain to our small apartment on the Costa del Sol. Here we were met by friends, who had also taken advantage of being old enough to leave the country in September. We spent some good times walking here and there, eating here and there and simply enjoying the glorious sunshine. For the last two weeks, Sharon and I have been here alone and that has allowed us to complete our work, to read copiously and to ‘scoot’, something we have done most mornings, along the paseo between Torreblanca and Carvajal.

And today, we depart for home. Our journey will take us to Cordoba tonight, then to Avila, where we will meet Tony and Gill who will travel by train from Madrid, where they are staying with Becky, their daughter. Then we will drive up through France staying in Boulogne on Saturday night and home by Sunday teatime.

National Day, Gibraltar

National Day in Gibraltar was good.

This annual celebration is organised by The Self Determination for Gibraltar Group.

“The Group was founded in 1992 to campaign for the recognition of the right of the Gibraltarians to Self-Determination, i.e. to decide our constitutional status, in our only home, Gibraltar”. Read more …

At its core, this is a political day, with on-stage discussions that follow a couple of hours of entertainment in Casemates Square, where a huge stage had been erected for the day (and evening)-long events to take place.

img_7049We’d arrived in Gibraltar early enough on Friday to walk in and have lunch there, before setting off to James and Michelle’s place in La Alcaidesa. After a few evening beers in the square, close to the beach, we returned and had a nice selection of food overlooking the pool (and the sea).

Graham and Sue joined us on Saturday morning and we all went into Gibraltar itself, in James’ mini-bus. The original plan had been to leave the van there and take taxis home, but he and Michelle had some work to do first thing on Sunday, so had to drive home.

James runs a company called Ultimate Rock Adventures [and Facebook]. Check it out.

We left Casemates Square as the political stuff began (today would mostly be about ‘Brexit’ and that would wind me up) and we wound our way to Eastern Beach, where we set out tables and chairs. Others, mainly James and Michelle’s family members, brought along ice, beer, wine, soft drinks and nibbles – Michelle ordered Chinese Food for 20 people to be delivered from La Linea to the border, where she picked it up mid-afternoon.img_7051

So then, much of the rest of the day was spent in the sea, sunbathing, drinking beer and eating Chinese food.  Mustn’t grumble. We were entertained by a small air display with what seemed to be two replica Spitfires, and by British Airways flights coming into land, just a few yards away – BA seemed to be the only company flying today.

A great day. Thank you James and Michelle.

We toodled back up to our place in Fuengirola on Sunday, unpacked the car (which took a while) and began to settle in ready for our trip home, early in October. On that trip we will take in Cordoba, Avila, Hendaye, Vouvray and Boulougne.

http://www.visitgibraltar.gi/event/national-day-2016/569

 

Seville

The drive to Seville from Elvas was fairly uneventful, we cut out as much of the motorway as we dared, but even that, when we joined it was quiet. We had two coffee stops, one in a very quiet road side bar, where I tried to hold a conversation about the weather with the girl serving (who said she was learning English) and another at the busiest rest stop you’ve ever seen – manic.

img_6978We also stopped at a town called Monesterio. This town seems to celebrate itself as ‘ham town’, with statues of ham and many ham shops in abundance. I’m guessing that as this is the Iberico ham region that the hams they celebrate here are amongst the finest produced in Spain. The town certainly has an air of quiet confidence (affluence even), with houses that are well kept, streets that are clean and shops that are busy.  We were simply looking for the monastery so didn’t stay for too long – but once again we were unable to find exactly what we were looking for. All streets seemed to lead away from the monastery.

Then, I found Seville to be THE most frustrating city.

They certainly sacked the town planners early in Seville’s existence (which, in the main was a good thing). What exists now is a maze of streets, roads and alleys that wind around in no particular order, going in no particular direction, but which produce a surprise around every corner.

Some of the buildings here in Seville are magnificent.

img_6999Our hotel was just outside the major road that circles the city, so getting ‘in’ required some delicate map work. Thank Goodness for my Maps.Me App http://maps.me/en/home which is simply GPS and doesn’t need internet connection. The tourist map given by all the hotels (and the tourist office) simply lies!  We were lost so often using that map that we had to resort to the Maps.Me App quite often. In fact, having clicked the hotel as a destination, we had to use the App to find our way back three times!  I have never seen so many tourists asking other folks the way to a, b or c – or, walking face down looking at their own phone Apps.

And yet, what a beautiful city! Some of the ancient architecture is sublime. See the Cathedral and the Torre del Oro and the Plaza de España. All gorgeous well maintained pockets of history. But also look and see some of the more modern structures, e.g. The Plaza Mayor, with its Las Setas de la Encarnación canopy.

iberico_hamIf I were to come again, I think I’d like to be more centrally situated – perhaps arriving by train or bus and have a full-on internet connection, so that I were able to find out more about each building (etc.) that I saw – when I saw it.

Now onto friends in Alcaidesa – ready for Gibraltar Day  (10th September)

http://www.jamon.com/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/travel/17journeys.html?_r=0

 

Into Spain

We had a good start to the day and had a relaxed and uneventful drive down through south west France (via Angouleme) and arrived in Pamplona just after four pm.

As we came off the Bordeaux Rocade and headed south, we noticed that the heavy roadworks we’d encountered last year were finished; or pretty much so, there were still bits around the Bidart area, so the drive was fairly easy. Also, to be remembered, there are no trucks on the roads on Sunday. However, every single rest-stop along the route was packed with trucks, laid over for the day. Driving down here on Monday mornings must be very interesting!

We asked Patrick, our new TomTom Go 5100 SatNav to take us over the Pyrenees to Pamplona and the route was a delight. As you rise higher you note that the trees have all taken on their autumn colours and look beautiful. The variety of colour adds another level to the normal views up here. Wonderful.

We spent the evening wandering around the town and eventually settled for a beer and some pinchos in one of the many bars there. See [Trip Advisor – link to follow].

The hotel car park (now seemingly typical, as I write this in our Salamanca hotel) was a very tight squeeze, especially as we were two floors underground. But we made it out without incident and were on our way just after nine. We stopped at a motorway station for breakfast and at another for lunch. These are much (MUCH) better than ours at home. For example, lunch (at a hotel/restaurant behind a Repsol petrol station) cost us €7.50 for two tapas, one pinchos and two bottle of water (one ‘con’ gas and one ‘sin’ gas). And we were full!

We arrived in Salamanca just before 3:00pm and spent siesta time in the room.

IMG_6933Our drive was pretty uneventful. You spend some time dropping out of mountains and then enter countryside that is flatter and even in some places, tree lined. This journey brought home something I heard some years ago when an Italian friend said that she always thought grass “was yellow”. No green grass at all here. At all.

About 5:30pm we set off to explore the city. Salamanca is very old and one of the first in Spain (as far as I can find out) to establish a university. This becomes obvious as you tour the city, with man ancient buildings given over to educating youth. After tiring ourselves out walking, we sat in a bar on the Plaza Mayor and enjoyed the antics of others. Then we moved along, grazing on tapas/pinchos in two delightful bars. Pork tongue indeed!

Favourite place today ‘Restaurante La Espada’

Setting off

As stated in the itinerary’15, our 2015 summer holiday plans include a trip through France and Germany to explore the Romantic Road, Bavaria and the Alsace – with a week long stay along Bodensee. It will be a road trip, accompanied by Joanne (Sharon’s sister) and Mike (Joanne’s husband). Joanne speaks German fluently, so that will help.

Edeficio Alessandra

In April, Sharon and I went to Spain and stayed at the apartment for just over a week, which was just perfect. The weather was good to us and it was great for me, after my trip to Indiagot to keep moving :-).

We managed to eat at Las Islas a couple of time, something we’d been unable to do on previous visits, because they close from October to Easter and out visits have been over winter.

We’re currently in Catterick and will set off tomorrow morning to drive down the A1/A11 etc. to Folkstone and then on the EuroTunnel to Calais, where we will stay Saturday night. More from me later, as we go along.

Orleans to Reims

The cathedral at Orleans

Orleans

From Cahors we drove up to Orleans. We drove part of the way on ‘A’ roads and part of the way (most of it really) on toll-free motorway. The rain had returned, so the driving (which we shared) was mostly stressful and hard work. The hotel, when we arrived at it was even harder work!

I’d booked the Comfort Hotel just south of the city thinking that it would be a convenient (if longish) walk into the city. And at a bargain price. The best things I can say about it is that the bed was comfortable and the receptionist spoke English.

Orleans was closed for the day!

We drove into the city (walking was impossible on the motorways and auto-routes that cross the river) and wondered around for an hour (avoiding trams and the odd car) before having coffee in one of the very few restaurants or bars to be open. This was situated right in front of the cathedral, which appeared to be the only place of interest to be open on a Sunday. Surprised?

The only place available to eat that night, unless we were prepared to drive back into the city (we weren’t) and risk restaurants being open, was a Buffalo Grill situated at the end of the trading estate that housed our hotel. 

Bison burger (see the bison?)

I had a bison burger, Sharon had a bison kebab (it was described more elaborately than that but it was … a kebab with bits of bison on it). Both were very tasty, and certainly better presented and cooked than the burger we’d been forced to choose in Cahors last night.

I don’t know if anyone reading this is familiar with French burgers, but you have to expect a little redness about the meat. Tonight’s and last night’s were no exception.

Reims

Tram and cathedral in ReimsOn Monday, we drove on to Reims. It was a roundabout way to Calais, but we’d liked the city each time we’d visited previously and Sharon had managed to find a non-chain hotel right in the middle of the city. It also gave us the chance to call in at Pithiviers (pretty much closed) and to try and see Fontainbleau (couldn’t get parked!) en route.

We conveniently parked in the huge car park situated under Place Drouet d’Erlon, the main street and stayed in the Hotel Le Crystal. This was another traditional ‘French’ hotel with slightly faded grandeur but with excellent facilities. Like the one in Cahors (and the one I will mention for our final night in Calais) it was clean, had comfortable beds, new, clean linen and staff that were helpful and patient (although they spoke English, they still gave me a chance to converse in pidgin-Sugden French).

Unlike the Comfort Hotel in Orleans, the advertised WiFi worked well and I was able to upload some of the photographs I had taken.

Fountain, Reims

We did our usual walk around, checked out the easily accessible sights (cathedral mainly) and tried to choose a venue for our evening meal. Sadly, like Cahors, Reims has become a bit more ‘Blackpooly’ than it was the last time we visited – probably eight to ten years ago. The restaurants are not as traditional as we’d expected and many are simply drinking joints with plastic menu food. We found one that looked traditional ‘ish’ and to be fair the food here was splendid.

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I asked for the Aperitif Gourmand as a starter and Carré d’Agneau as a main course. Both were superb (although the started was a little larger than I’d expected). The lamb was perfect – I’d been asked if I wanted it a’point, but declined, asking for saignant instead. Ratatouille and pommes dauphnoise accompanied this dish. Sharon had a fresh tuna salad which looked splendid and which she assures me, was splendid! We’d thought to have dessert elsewhere in the town, but everywhere just looked ‘plastic’.

We declined breakfast in the hope that we would find a boulangerie or cafe en route to Calais …