Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Germans won, to Santander and back, my summer holidays begin, off to see Sandra and Jeffer in Santa Pola, the MH17 air crash in the Ukraine conflict zone and other stories.

With my soul mate Sandra on the beach in Santa Pola this week
Hi again friends and readers,

Here I am in Santa Pola quietly writing from our pad near the beach.  I thought I would not be writing a post this week as we are here with friends but we are all having a quiet moment right now so I thought I should at least get started and finish when I get home on Tuesday.

As usual let me start from where I left off. That was last Sunday.  We spent the afternoon by the pool which is when the heatwave in Spain took off and became unbearable with temperatures in the very high 30’s.  Olivia had friends round including Rocío who brought Inda her black Labrador.  I captured them on camera by the pool in this photo.
Olivia and her friends with Elsa and Inda cooling off by the pool at home the Sunday before last
That evening most of the world sat down by their televisions or in bars to watch the world cup final in Brazil between Germany and Argentina or, if you wish, Europe against Latin America.  Oli, Miguel and I went out to get food for dinner for the occasion and they took me to an Asian eatery in Majadahonda called “Xinito” where we got all sorts of exotic food to take away.  We got back just as the match had started and which Eladio and my Father were already watching.  

The press and internet had a field day when they woke up to the fact that the teams both had a Pope from their countries.  I loved some of the jokes and the picture below in particular.  However I later read that Ratzinger dislikes football, preferring piano music and theology and would not be watching the match. As to the Argentine pontiff who is a professed football follower, the popular Pope Francis, he wouldn’t be watching it either preferring to remain neutral although his aides who would be watching it were keeping him posted on the results.
The two Popes playing against each other hahahaha
You may want to know which country we were supporting.  Well, here we were divided.  My Father being quite a Germanophile was of course supporting the Germans.  Miguel was supporting them too, not because he is a Germanophile but because he admires their football.  Eladio, Olivia and I were supporting Argentina and my Father guessed the reason as being because of the “hispanidad”. The Germans won in the end as you already know by scoring just one goal in extra time, the same way Spain did 4 years ago in South Africa. Being brought up in the 50’s and 60’s I am not one for German domination, so wasn’t too pleased with the result.  Of course I promptly forgot about it the next day whilst our richer European neighbours were celebrating in a similar way to Spain 4 years ago.

Whilst the football match was panning out, the Spanish socialist party were eager to see the results of the voting for a new party leader.  The rather vintage Alfredo Rubalcaba had stepped down after their disastrous results in the European Elections.  They had no clear candidate to follow in his footsteps and three unknown figures, at least to me, contended for leadership.  A young man named Pedro Sánchez won but it seemed to me there was more interest in the football in Spain than in his winning. 
The new head of the Spanish socialist party, Pedro Sánchez
One of the reasons I quickly forgot about the football was that I had to be up early the next day to take a flight to Santander, that wonderful elegant Spanish town on the northern coast.  I was going there on a site inspection trip to find a suitable location for a big corporate event I am organizing there at the beginning of September.  I was there quite early and decided to work from my room until the girls from my events agency, Cristina and Gloria, joined me in the afternoon.  It was raining when I arrived but just a few hours later the sun came out and there was time too for a long walk on the beach, the Sardinero, which I love because of the green and mountainous backdrop.
The Sardinero beach in Santander
Once we had found the perfect location we went out for dinner to La Posada del Mar in the port area (Puerto Chico) after which we walked back to our hotel along one of the loveliest coastlines in Spain. 

Whilst I was in Santander I learned that Spain’s great hope for winning this year’s Tour de France fell and had to abandon as did Christian Froome, England’s great hope too.  Now it looks like the Italian Nibali who earned his yellow jersey on English soil will probably win, unless Spain’s other hope, Alejandro Valverde, now second in the general classification upsets him which seems very unlikely.
The moment Alberto Contador had to abandon the Tour de France
The big news that day in the religious world, or rather the C of E (Church of England) was that the bishops’ Synod had finally voted for women to become bishops.  Now that is good news for women.  Pope Francis please take note is all I can add.

The next day I was up early, determined to be on the beach by 8 in the morning for a long walk and swim before we had to catch our plane back.  It was lovely and warm in Santander, some 23ºc so it was shocking to arrive in Madrid where it was nearly 40ºc.  Getting off the plane at Barajas airport the heat felt like a sauna.  

I had missed Olivia on the TV on Monday but managed to watch her on Tuesday evening with Eladio and my Father.  She did a report on how elderly people should cope with the extreme heat which was very appropriate because of the heatwave this week. Their main danger is dehydration which is why Eladio insists that my Father drinks water as much as he can.  Later Olivia had to report on the first men’s underwear fashion show to be held in Madrid!!
Olivia having a bit of fun reporting on a men's underwear fashion show with the Spanish actor Eloy Azorín
On Wednesday Fátima my friend came to spend the day here to work with me like we had done a week or so again.  Wednesday was the last day before my holidays started last Thursday although they wouldn’t start until after lunch.

Thursday morning was hectic.  It was the company second quarter results and I had to go into the office for a meeting at midday but I also had to pack to go to Santa Pola with Eladio after lunch where we would be joining our friends Sandra, Jeffer and his 15 year old daughter Isaline who were staying there for a fortnight.  The news about Yoigo came as a surprise, it seems our mother company is looking at alternatives to our future which of course will lead to a lot of speculation all round. 

Determined not to let the news bother me, once I had left the office and was home, my thoughts were on our journey to Santa Pola.  We had lunch with my Father and left the house at about 16.30.  We drove in the extreme heat thankful for the air conditioning remembering the times when we would drive to Alicante in the 80’s when we didn’t have it and the dual carriageway didn’t exist!  We were at our flat at about 20.30 and found a wonderful welcome party there.

Sandra, Jeffer and Isaline welcomed us into our own flat and we felt like guests.  They had made a marvelous dinner and were obviously very well settled and enjoying the place.  We nearly always go on our own so this time was going to be great with their company as we all get on so well.

It was that night that we learned the terrible news of the crash of the Malaysian airlines flight MH17 which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.  We learned also that it had been shot down on Ukraine soil either by the Russian or Ukranian rebels.  Some 300 people lost their lives, nearly 200 of them being Dutch.  It is a terrible story for Malaysian airlines after the lost plane a few months ago which has never been found, but even more terrible is the fact that it is probably the first commercial airline to be a victim of this kind.  The news goes on and has astounded the world. 

On Friday morning Sandra and I went for an early morning walk, as I would do every day.  We went to the lighthouse on the cliff tops from where you can see the island of Tabarca.  The views are out of this world and the walk gives you energy for the rest of the day.
 A photo of the light house on the cliffs with views of the island of Tabarca where I went on my early morning walk this week nearly every day when we were in Santa Pola.
We spent the morning by the pool at our apartment enjoying the views of the sea. 
The communal pool at our apartment with lovely views of the sea
Later we had lunch at Vista Bella, a modest little place which serves quite good rice dishes and here we introduced our friends to “arroz a banda”, a type of paella.
Jeffer trying Arroz a Banda for the first time (at Vista Bella)
That night we had dinner at home.  Afterwards we all went for a midnight walk on the beach which was one of the highlights of our holiday.
Walking on the beach at  night was great fun
The next morning Jeffer joined Sandra and I on our early morning walk to the lighthouse which was probably the warmest morning of our stay and we all came home rather hot and bothered.  Thankfully it was the only “hot” morning.
Sandra and Jeffer on the early morning walk by the lighthouse
It was on Saturday that I learned to play “seven” a great card game which I enjoyed playing with Jeffer, Sandra and Isaline.  Eladio, not being a card player, preferred to read his book. We went for another walk on the beach that day after which we came home and had to queue for a shower.  Our little flat has three bedrooms but only one bathroom, its main drawback. However we were very civilized and in the end it wasn’t a problem. That night we had a dinner date at our favourite restaurant in the area, Maria Picola on the road from Santa Pola to Elche. 
All dressed up for dinner arriving at María Picola
Our friends immediately fell in love with the place too.  We were greeted by the owner and waiters like old friends and shown to our lovely table.  Then the owner surprised us by coming and thanking me for writing about his restaurant so favourably in my blog.  That really stunned me.  He was so happy with my posts that he gave us a plate of the most exquisite local red prawns, fished in Guardamar on the house.  There and then I also decided to write a review on trip advisor which I have just done although it hasn’t yet been published.  Maybe we will get another plate of prawns next time for the review.  Who knows?

Our five days at Santa Pola with our friends was going past very fast and suddenly it was Sunday.  That morning Jeffer, Sandra and I went down to the beach at 8 in the morning for a long walk and swim; at least I swam. That was just glorious.  Later on our way back to the flat we bought some rather disappointing “chocolate con churros” for breakfast.  I must say I really enjoyed our breakfasts with our friends at the flat.  If you know me, you will know that breakfast is my favourite meal of the day.

We spent Sunday playing “seven”, reading, lounging around and at the pool.  As our friends had treated us to dinner at Maria Picola we decided to invite them to dinner that night, this time at our second favourite place, El Varadero in Santa Pola.  It’s a lovely place but the food is nowhere near as good as at La Picola.  Once again we had an excuse to dress up and go out which I think we all liked. 

After dinner at El Varadero, we left our shoes in the car and walked across the road to the beach and again enjoyed a midnight walk on the beach all together.  The photo illustrating this week’s blogpost is of Sandra and I on the beach by El Varadero.

And yesterday Monday, was our last day in Santa Pola but it was the very best day of our stay.  Being an organized person who tries to get the most out of every day, I seemed to be the organizer of everything we did together.  My friends joked and said I was like a “boot camp” monitor or organizer with my daily programmes which had us all laughing.  In fact we spent a lot of time laughing together which was what made our stay such fun. 

Yesterday I wanted to take my friends on a trip down memory lane to the places where my adventure in Spain started when my Aunty Masha and my parents bought village houses for a song some 25km inland in that area in my beloved Bolulla and in Callosa de En Sarría. 

First we took them to Guadalest, a picturesque village in the mountains some 12km from Callosa.  It has a little castle at the top with the most magnificent views of a reservoir with turquoise coloured water.  Here there are lots of lovely shops too.  In fact it is quite a unique place.  For the record it was the place where the first picture Eladio and I have as a couple and which was taken there in the summer of 1980. On our way up to the castle, a kind fellow tourist took a photo of the five of us and here it is.

The five of us at Guadalest
The next item on the programme was a visit to Algar (Fonts de Algar) and the waterfalls in a valley some 2.5km in between Callosa and Bolulla which is surrounded by mountains.  Although the area is very arid this is a fruit growing area where I remember being bowled over as a teenager coming to the area for the first time and seeing lemon and orange trees and also “medlar fruit” (nísperos), the fruit that Callosa is famous for. When we used to come to Callosa and Bollula in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Algar was one of our favourite places.

Here we took a table for lunch at Don Juan by the pool and had a dip whilst our lunch was being made.
Sandra at the pool in Algar
Then I allowed some “siesta time” for the excursionists before we would head for the waterfalls and bathe in the freezing cold water.

In the old days there were far fewer people and the entrance to the waterfalls was free but not so anymore.  Going into the river and swimming in the freezing cold water to the biggest waterfall at the beginning of the trail is perhaps the best experience.  It is so invigorating to go under the water which is like an incredibly powerful shower of freezing water where you find it not too easy to breath. A perpetual rainbow is formed above the waterfall which is a pleasure to your eyes.
The main waterfall where we all swam at Algar yesterday
We then walked up the trail to the next waterfall and next natural pool where people were diving into the water.  Only Jeffer and Isaline dared to do that whilst we looked on.  Then you climb up even further and come to a bigger and colder natural pool where we all swam.  We then came down again and all of us swam this time in the first waterfall. I remember my first experience there as a teenager with my brother George and cousin Sasha and I told Isaline she would remember her time at Algar all her life.  In fact she loved it so much she didn’t want to leave. 

But the programme had to continue and next on the agenda was a visit to nearby Bolulla, that village I consider mine and where our Spanish adventure started more than 40 years ago.  But before leaving, we all wanted to buy some of the wonderful fruit sold at Algar by a couple from Bolulla who I have known since I was a teenager and where Eladio and I buy fruit every time we visit Algar.  For the record this was where Eladio tasted nectarines for the first time in his life.
The couple who sell fruit in Algar and who are from Bolulla.  I have known them since I was a teenager
Very shortly we were in the pretty and sleepy little village of Bolulla where we parked in the main square by the only supermarket.  My friends immediately fell in love with this little village and I was so happy to share it with them.  We walked to my Aunt’s house in Calle Mayor and greeted old neighbours sitting out in the street and who remembered me.  I only had to say I was the “sobrina” (niece) of Sra Maria (how my Aunty Masha was known in Bolulla) and they immediately knew who I was.  We greeted many people and then found our way to the new bar (La Era) owned by the current mayor.  Here we asked for drinks but then found we were all hungry and suddenly we were having the most magnificent dinner possible with all sorts of different “tapas” the owner served us.  The bar is a modest little place but the views of the mountains, fruit trees and roofs of the houses were what I liked most.
My beloved Bolulla as seen from the restaurant La Era
We couldn’t believe that the bill for dinner for 5 only came to 35 euros! Later we wandered out and took a walk by the empty river bed from where you can see my Aunt’s old house and which brings so many memories back. 
Bolulla as seen from the dry riverbed
All in all we had a most wonderful day.  I loved sharing the trip down memory lane with our friends which I know they enjoyed as much as we did.  We were back in the flat by about 11pm and guess what we did when we got back?  Yes, you guessed right, we carried on playing “seven”. 

And suddenly it was Tuesday and our last morning.  I went on my last morning walk with Sandra and after breakfast all together it was time to pack and head home.  Sandra, Jeffer and Isaline will be returning to Brussels tomorrow. 

Now I am home and writing my blog from my desk and I am already missing our friends and the flat.  However tomorrow I am going to London to spend a whole week with my older daughter Suzy which I am much looking forward to. 

So now I must stop writing, publish this blog and then pack for tomorrow.  Meanwhile here are more photos of our wonderful 5 days by the beach with our friends.  We hope we will spend part of our holidays again with them next year, hopefully in Montrondo if the new house is ready by then. 

Cheers then till next time,


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