Monday, August 13, 2012

Home again, off to Santa Pola and back again, the hottest day of the year, the Olympic Games and where my sentiments lie and other things.

Monday 13th August 2012

In Altea on Thursday evening in my favourite summer dress bought in Sanxenxo

Hi everyone,

I am writing this week’s blogpost from Santa Pola.  It is Monday and we are all ready to go home, but are waiting for the gas man and cannot go until he comes. So this is a great time to catch up with my blog.

No sooner had we been back from our holiday in Galicia and Asturias and our time in Montrondo, we were off again, after only a couple of days at home.  Truth to tell I would have preferred to stay at home but Eladio insisted we come here, to our flat in Gran Alacant near Santa Pola (Alicante area) as we do every year.  It was mostly to see that the flat was ok, do some spring cleaning and mend the apparently broken washing machine.

So we here we came on Tuesday after a lovely family dinner on Monday night.  I treasure these family meals when we are all together as now that Susana has left home, they seem to be few and far between.  That night we were joined by Olivia’s new friend Miguel who lives in Valencia.  I should add for the record that Olivia is spending the week with him there after having driven to the Spanish Mediterranean capital last night.  That means, of course, I won’t see her for another week.

Eladio spent Wednesday morning mending the washing machine, successfully I must say.  Then on Thursday the gas man came to inspect the installation and gave us bad news, the cooker was leaking and needed to be changed.  Thus we spent the whole morning scouring the internet for an establishment that could sell us a gas cooker and also send a plumber to install it; a difficult task in August in Spain.  However we found a solution very nearby and the next day, Friday the cooker was installed successfully.  Bad news came on Saturday morning when it didn’t work.  We had someone from the shop come and being a weekend nothing could be done until today, Monday.  Then the plumber came again this morning and it has now transpired the gas had been cut off.  So here you have us waiting for the gas people to come and turn it on again.  

So, most of the week here has been spent on these tiresome projects.  But not all.  Let me tell you then about the less tiresome parts.

On Wednesday afternoon, we finally managed to get to the beach.  Eladio always prefers to go in the late afternoon but that is when the sun seems to begin to hide behind the clouds.  This has been the tradition ever since we bought this flat in 1999, the year my Mother died and the year I lost my job with Motorola.  So this year, I was determined to spend whole days on the beach, as we used to do when we first met.

The plan to do so on Thursday just didn’t work out though.  We went to dinner to our favourite little place in Santa Pola, the María Picola restaurant on Wednesday night and believe it or not I was sick all night with a migraine and felt a wash out the whole of Thursday.  I can only think it was the heavy dinner of “arroz señoret”, or too much wine or a combination of both that gave me such an awful night.   I experience nights like this every now and again and I am sure they are provoked by the wine.  But as that only happens 8 or  times out of 10, I am still not considering giving it up. 

Our favourite restaurant in Santa Pola, María Picola

Thankfully I was better by Thursday night when we had a dinner engagement some 80km away in Altea, the half way mark between Gandía, where our friends, Irene and Tomas, were staying, and Santa Pola.  Driving to Altea made me think of my beginnings in Spain and also when I first fell in love with Eladio.  You see, Altea was where we had our first “dinner out” as a couple and often we would visit the pretty old town called “Altea la Vieja”.  Today, as then, it is very chic and upmarket unlike nearby "common as muck" Benidorm. The only downside to Altea is   the beach has no sand and is made of pebbles but for some strange reason this never seems to have hindered its popularity.

We were to have dinner at a place recommended by Irene and Tomas, “Chiringuito El Cranc” right on the Olla Beach as the pebbly beach in chic Altea is called. 

El Cranc restaurant in Altea

Here we had a little time on our hands to walk around and take some photos before the sunset.  The photo that illustrates this week’s blog was taken that night and I love it.  Eladio captured my high spirits as I stood on the beach with the small island of Altea behind me.  I think Eladio was feeling equally happy when I took this photo of him also on the Olla Beach.

Eladio on the pebbly beach in Altea on Thursday night

Our friends soon joined us and we sat down to a memorable meal together.  My choice that night had a lot to do with my past too.  I chose lamb chops, something you will only know is typical in the Alicante region, if you live here or are very familiar with it.  Most people of course will choose fish or rice but not me. 

Tomas, Irene and Eladio at El Cranc in Altea on Thursday night

We agreed to visit our friends on the Sunday at their lovely flat right on the beach in Gandia, on our way home to Madrid.  However that was not to be, because of the problems with the gas.  Hopefully we will meet up with them in Madrid in September and be joined by Gerardo, Irene’s brother and his wife Vicky.

As we were finishing dinner, we saw Usain Bolt, winning the 200 metre men’s race at the Olympic Games in London.  The same Jamaican had won the 100 metre race too and I couldn’t help thinking what a coincidental surname he has whilst being the fastest man in history.  Well done Usain Bolt.

Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world

On the subject of the Olympic Games, we have been watching and following some of them since they started but it has been here in Santa Pola where we have done so most.  That’s probably because we spend most of our time in the lounge where the TV is.  Great Britain has done exceedingly well with countless numbers of gold medals.  This year’s games have seen their best performance since 1908 or so I read.  Not so Spain who only garnered 17 medals, just 3 of which were gold.  I can only conclude that the country that hosts the games has a huge competitive advantage.  So what I have watched or enjoyed most?  I loved the synchronized swimming as I did the gymnastics.  I wish I had seen the 100 metre race live but am glad I didn’t see the Basketball final yesterday between the USA and Spain, commonly called here the NBA and the ÑBA.  The latter being a reference to the Spanish players in the national team who play in the NBA.  The match was very close and it was the 4th Olympic final between the teams and as always it was won by the NBA.  

I missed most of the opening ceremony but did manage to watch part of the closing ceremony yesterday which was amazing if a bit eccentric with nuns on skates and similar.  What I loved best was the Union Jack shaped stage it happened on; so clever.

The closing ceremony of the Games was amazing, very eccentric and I loved the Union Jack shaped stage.

The Union Jack has been a central part of the Games and is core of course to the GB brand but now even more so.  I have even seen girls wearing union jack bikinis here at the beach in Santa Pola!  

On the topic of the Olympics I have only realised now that they are over, that it is thanks to the Games that I have finally realised where my sentiments lie and those sentiments are with my adopted country, Spain.  Referring to the basketball match, an American friend living in Spain, who, at the beginning was on the NBA side, wrote to me today and said: “watching this match as a US and Spanish citizen wasn’t easy.  Deep down, I really wanted the Spanish team to win”.  To which I replied: “I wondered. I have the same predicament as a UK citizen but having lived here for so long" That I was more interested in the Spanish results proves where my sentiments lie and I know now that they lie in and for Spain but it took the London Olympics for me to finally realise that”. I had been thinking about this all through the Games.  My cousin Zuka, seeing one of my posts cheering on Spain, wrote that it was only natural that I should be supporting my adopted country.  Zuka, who like me is half Russian, was born in France and now lives in England.  I asked her who she was supporting, France or England.  You can guess what her reply was: England.  It’s funny this question of where your sentiment or loyalty lies and as I know now, it is not always to the country you were born in.  I wonder what you think about this.  

But now back to our stay in Santa Pola. On Friday I finally got my day at the beach.  We even had lunch there, a miserable sort of hamburger but still lunch on the beach. 

Eladio on the beach at Santa Pola

Friday, by the way, was the hottest day of the year in Spain.  Thankfully, although the temperatures were high here on the coast, they were counteracted by the very welcome breeze, so common in this area called “Levante”.  I was very glad that day, not to be in one of my favourite towns in Spain, Córdoba.  A Yoigo shop owner there, posted a photo of a street thermometer on Facebook which reflected what must be a record: 53ºc.  As someone mentioned in a comment on my post, these are Dubai temperatures.  Sure they are.

The temperature in Córdoba on Friday the hottest day of the year

Saturday was spent on the beach too, but this time we left earlier so as to get ready to go out.  On Saturday we had another dinner date, this time at Jackie and John’s very Spanish home near Pinoso, deep inland the Alicante province, although actually they live in a small hamlet in Murcia, just across the border of Alicante.  Jackie and I go back a long way, to our childhood in Bradford, so I love meeting up with her, albeit only once a year. 

Jackie in their new kitchen garden, overlooking their  very Spanish house

John prepared a gourmet dinner.  You may have noticed, a lot of my English girlfriends’ partners are good chefs and take care of the cooking.  And here come to mind, Kathy’s Phil, Gill’s Simon and now of course Jackie’s John.  He made homemade Indian bread (nans), hummus and the Greek cucumber spread the name I cannot remember, as well as huge tomatoes stuffed with rice and roast quails.  I brought the puddings from the English supermarket here, Quicksave.  So after dinner and on their lovely sun roof we enjoyed a slice of bakewell tart and a very naughty but nice snowball.

It’s a long drive to their home, so we soon had to break up the party and conversation which with them inevitably leads to the difference between living in the UK and in Spain, and leave, as it was pitch dark and we were not sure we wouldn’t get lost on our way back. You may think why that would happen these days with a sat nav and of course it normally wouldn’t except for the fact that our friends live in such a remote location, their address was not even on our sat nav.
We were home, very late for us, past one in the morning. Thankfully, despite the wine, I did not get a headache.  Thus we were able to spend our last day, yesterday, Sunday, on the beach too.  This time I prepared the food and made some delicious tuna fish sandwiches, called “bocadillos” here. 

I enjoyed every moment of yesterday, fully aware that it would be our last day on the beach of this holiday.  However it won’t be quite the last as at the beginning of September I will be off to Santander for the annual telecoms conference.  Eladio will be coming with me and I hope we can get at least one more day on the beach there.

On our last night, yesterday, after our day on the beach, because we couldn't cook anything at the flat as the new cooker was not in order, it was the perfect excuse for a last dinner out.  We went to María Picola again.  This time I had just one glass of wine and a gazpacho and a salad, no rice this time.  Thankfully I had no headache during the night either and felt fine this morning.
Finally the gas man came and we left Santa Pola at around 14h.  I am now writing from home, after having said hello to my Father, Ivanka and our darling dogs, Norah and Elsa and of course, after having unpacked.  I just cannot get on with life when I come home if I don’t unpack first.
The girls are not at home.  Suzy is at her flat and Olivia has gone off to Valencia as I said at the beginning.  Whilst we were away and, as is the norm, they had another great summer party in our absence.  Thankfully I have seen no traces of it, probably mostly thanks to Ivanka's diligent cleaning.

A picture the girls sent me of the party they had in our absence!

So here I am, at home again and at the end of this week’s blog post.  But not for long my friends, as on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow, London is calling.  Yes, I will be going to that wonderful city for a reunion three days with my friends from University, Adele, Sandra and Sue.  For the record I haven’t seen Sue since just after we left Nottingham.  She is now living in Australia.  As you can imagine, we have a lot to catch up on and wow is it going to be a great girly reunion.

You will hear all about it next Sunday.

Meanwhile, all the best my friends,

PS You can see the rest of the photos of our trip to Santa Pola here.

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