Sunday, July 09, 2017

Wmbledon, a short week in Santa Pola, our place by the beach, Oli and Miguel in Thailand and Cambodia, Leopoldo López released from prison and other stories.

Sunday 9th July 2017

A selfie on the cliffs by the Cape of Santa Pola with Eladio
Good morning all,

It's Sunday again and here I am writing from the kitchen at home whilst the dogs sleep under my feet after their breakfast.

Today we are expecting Airbnb guests from the UK, from Yorkshire would you believe. Last Sunday we had Canadians and an Australian.  They would be leaving on Monday morning at midday for Oporto where no doubt they would enjoy tasting the port wine.  I did my 2 walks that day, one with Eladio and the dogs and another in the afternoon with Lucy. In the early evening we had a visit from my bosom friend Fátima who brought her daughter of the same name who has just come back from her second year in the US. She is now 17 and so tall and beautiful it was a delight to see her. I robbed a recent photo of the two "Fátimas" from Facebook where they are visiting Toledo together recently, as we were too busy talking to remember to take a photo.
The two Fátimas, Mother and daughter who came to see us last Sunday
Oli was home for dinner after having returned from Ibiza that day. For the occasion I made 2 Spanish omelets which we enjoyed on our patio which I dub our summer dining room. Meanwhile Suzy and Chati were trying to return to London but their plane was much delayed. I felt sorry for my elder daughter when I saw she didn't get home till 5 in the morning. Luckily she wasn't working on Monday. 

Monday saw the start of Wimbledon, the top grand slam in tennis and a tournament most of England watches from beginning to end. I know that because when I lived in England I used to watch nearly every tournament along with my family. My main interest is how well Spain's Rafa Nadal will do. If I had still been living in England my main interest would be how well Scotland's Andy Murray would do. My friend Sandra in Brussels and her Mother are watching most of the tournament so I know through them that both top seeds have got through to round 16. 

While the first matches were being played, Eladio and I set off for Santa Pola in our old Volvo car. I always want to use the new Mini but Eladio insists on the old Nokia Volvo which he says is far more comfortable. Oh how we miss my Yoigo BMW X6. But we are not complaining. We said goodbye to my Father and to Lucy who we knew would look after him well as she would look after the dogs. For once we weren't taking Pippa as dogs are no longer allowed on our beach and she hates staying alone in the apartment. I left her with a heavy heart as she is such an integral part of us. As I often say, we are not 2 but 3. But it was the 2 of us who had lunch that day on the way at a place we always like, El Mesón Los Rosales
Mesón Los Rosales on the way to Alicante.
It's one of the better road side cafés in Spain. It's about 170km from Madrid on the A3, the road to Valencia and Alicante. Apart from a good restaurant and cafeteria, it has a huge shop selling all sorts of gourmet products. I like the building too. Here is Eladio sitting down to lunch. It's by no means cheap but you pay for the quality. 
Eladio sitting down to lunch on our way to Alicante at El Mesón los Rosales
At about 17h we got to Santa Pola or rather Gran Alacant, the "urbanization" where our little flat is, some 8km from Santa Pola  and very near to the Alicante airport ,although thankfully far enough away not to be bothered by the noise. The apartment was cool, despite the heat outside. That's because it's built on a cliff top overlooking the sea. 
Our flat is built on top of the cliffs overlooking the beach
I never tire of the view of the bay of Alicante from the entrance to our flat.
Alicante bay as seen from our flat
Before going down to the beach though we had to settle in and get on with the usual cleaning rituals, unpack and put the food we had brought in the fridge. We got to the Arenales beach at 7.15. There were a lot of people but it wasn't crowded. After our first bathe we walked along the beach to the end and back and then came home. I went to the swimming pool first as I always do and love the view from there too. Dinner was leftovers I had brought with me from Madrid, after which we read on our little terrace until we felt sleepy. It was a cool night (21ºc) and we even had to sleep with a sheet over us. It was a relief from the heat of Madrid. 

Tuesday was Independence Day in the US, not that I have ever celebrated it but I know just how important it is for Americans. Well that day, I had my own independence and was up at 6.30. After my first coffee (note I an incapable of starting the day without one), I set off for what would be my daily morning walk, to the Santa Pola Cape cliffs and lighthouse with amazing views of the sea and especially the little island of Tabarca. 
The view of the little island of Tabarca as seen from the cliffs of the Cape of Santa Pola
I had the whole place to myself and couldn't stop taking photos as the views are breathtaking and there was great visibility that day.
On my cliff top walk on Tuesday morning
The cliffs are very steep and for someone like me who doesn't like heights I don't like to get to close to the edge in case I tumble down hahaha.
The edge of the cliffs
I was back for breakfast with Eladio which we had on our little terrace. It has sea views which is one of the reasons we chose the apartment but these days the trees in the garden are so high they obstruct the view. Later I read the news on my tablet as did Eladio. We both use our mobile phone hot spot to connect our tablets to internet which is really a very neat little invention.

We bought the apartment at Gran Alacant in May 1999, the year my Mother died. The funding came from my severance pay when I left Motorola. It's our little place by the sea but we don't go very often, especially since we built the house in Montrondo. In fact we hadn't been there since last August. We had a daunting task ahead of us as we had decided to do some serious spring cleaning (shouldn't that be summer instead of spring?) mainly in the kitchen and pantry. There was so much junk and old food I wanted to get rid of, not to mention the need to clean all the cupboards and shelves. Eladio concentrated on cleaning the windows and I got down to jobs that I should have done years ago. I'm ashamed to say there were even packets of pasta which had dried up and had maybe been there for 18 years hahaha. It took us nearly 4 hours to do the complete kitchen, the whole of the bookcase in the lounge, windows, floors and surfaces and we would leave the pantry until the next day. In the end I filled more than 4 bin liners and was very satisfied with the work done. I hate cleaning but I do like the satisfaction it gives you of a job well done. We even threw out the old rugs and removed the oilcloth from the dining room table and now I want to upholster the three piece suite. I'm not quite sure what colour to choose. I would like  it in off white but that's easily stained. What would you suggest for the colour of the material?
The lounge of our apartment. We got rid of the mat and oilcloth and now I want to change the sofa cover. What colour do you suggest?
I can't remember what we had for lunch but I know our routine afterwards. We had a siesta, read on the terrace, I had a cup of tea and then we went down to the beach. The sea was a bit rough and as I didn't want to spoil my hair I didn't go in but Eladio did and enjoyed it.
Eladio coming out of the sea on the beach at Santa Pola
After a long walk to the end of the beach and back, about 3.5km, it was time to go home as it was already 8 pm and we had a restaurant booking that night. I do love the long days in the summer when it is light until 10 at night. After a swim in the pool which again I had to myself, I headed back to our apartment to get ready to go out for dinner with Eladio to a new place I had found on internet.
The view from the swimming pool at Gran Alacant.
That night we went to a place called Vintage which is actually the Santa Pola Sailing Club which we had never been to and we loved the location.
Sitting down to dinner on Tuesday night at the Santa Pola Sailing Club (Vintage)
The food was excellent and we ordered too much. The piece de resistance was the monk fish and shrimp paella. We could only eat about half of it and took the rest home for lunch the next day.
Delicious monk fish and shrimp paella at Vintage on Tuesday night
I had wine that night as I also did the night we arrived and amazingly it did not give me a headache the next day. Once I realised I wasn't getting headaches I drank wine each night. Maybe it's the area that agrees with me better than Madrid. In any case it was great to be able to indulge a little and enjoy my meals with delicious red wine; something I always miss.

I was up at 6.30 the next day and already was receiving messages from Olivia. On Wednesday morning she and Miguel were embarking on an adventure holiday to Thailand and Cambodia. They seem to have a penchant for the Far East. Before she left, my Father reminded her that Cambodia used to be a part of "French Indochina". France once owned Vietnam, Cambodia (later called Kampuchea) and Laos. But that was a long time ago. I'm not sure Oli knew that or remembered the Pol Pot regime with his awful Khmer Rouge army who nearly killed all the inhabitants of the beautiful country. One film portrayed that dreadful civil war and is etched in my memory. It is called "Killing Fields". Remember? Thankfully today Cambodia is at peace but no doubt what's left of its older generation remember. And here they are at Barajas airport waiting for their plane to Doha in Qatar. They flew on Qatar airways which worried me a bit as Qatar is much in the international news these days for the animosity of neighbouring countries because of its support of terrorism.
Oli and Miguel about to fly to Doha on route to Bangkok

I wished them well and prayed they would be safe.

Again I was alone on my walk that morning to the cliffs. There were flowers everywhere, especially bougainvillea which unfortunately never survives the winter in Madrid. Here is a collage of the flowers I saw and love, including hibiscus. 
There are beautiful flowers at this time of year in the Alicante region.
They smelled beautiful too. What didn't smell nice were the huge dustbin containers along the pavement. Spaniards are not good about dealing with rubbish and many people just leave odd bits of furniture next to the containers and the whole scene could be something you would  more normally view in Morocco or India. It drives me mad. 

I came back to find Eladio making our breakfast. We love our breakfasts in the apartment, both making it and eating it. Here he is in the middle of the preparations with a big smile on his face.
Eladio making breakfast at our apartment.
After our first meal of the day and reading the news on internet, we got down to the herculean task of cleaning and tidying the kitchen pantry; something we hadn't done for years. Another few bin bags were filled that morning too and taken to the nasty rubbish containers on the street outside. We both felt very pleased with ourselves. Now our apartment was looking a lot better. It's funny how important cleanliness and tidiness are to me. I remember my Father saying when I was a child "cleanliness is next to godliness". I'm not sure about that but it certainly is pleasing to me. 

In the early evening we went down to the beach. By then Miguel and Oli had arrived in Doha. Oli told me they were in Dubai but I knew they were in Doha as they were flying on Qatar Airways hahaha. They were happy to land there and stretch their legs although I'm not sure how much Miguel stretched his as he had a small sprain on his ankle after falling during an open swimming competition recently. In any case here they are smiling at Doha airport before taking their next flight which would take them to Bangkok.
Miguel and Oli at Doha airport on Wednesday on their way to Thailand.
Little did they know their flight to Bangkok would be delayed by 3 hours. Thus they were shattered when they arrived in the Thai capital. 

Our day continued and we read and bathed on the beach as well as going for a walk to the end and back. That night we had another dinner date. We were going to our overall favourite restaurant in the area Maria Picola. It had been closed for nearly 3 years and I rang on the off chance to see if it had reopened and was very pleasantly surprised to hear it had on 1st June last. We've been going there for at least 17 years and know the owner and waiters and just love the romantic terrace and setting, not to mention the food. It was great to be back. We had missed it. The owner  told me he had closed because he had been ill. Thankfully he is better now. But the waiters had changed as had the chef.The food was lovely as always but I could tell the chef wasn't as good as the previous one although I was too polite to say that to the owner. 
María Picola restaurant on the road to Elche from Santa Pola
We reveled in being back and I took lots of photos of the beautiful terrace with its miniature water fall. We were practically the only diners as I suppose word hasn't got out that it's open again. I have done my bit by correcting the information on Tripadvisor and writing a review on Google Places. 
The terrace at María Picola
As always we ordered the bread and ali oli and home made tomato sauce for our pre starters. We ordered so much I was only able to eat one piece:-(
The typical bread or toast with ali oli and tomato dip so typical of the region. 
It's very typical of restaurants in the area to serve it before a meal, but none does it as well as María Picola. We had lobster salad for our real starters and I had suckling lamb chops for my main dish whilst Eladio went for fish as he always does. All in all it was a wonderful dinner and a trip down memory lane. What a romantic restaurant Maria Picola is. I do hope it remains open for years to come and that we can go back time and time again. 

On Thursday Oli and Miguel finally arrived in Bangkok, exhausted I should add. It's a very long journey and it was very hot when they got there as it would be throughout, both hot and humid as is typical of the area.
Oli in Bangkok on Thursday
It should have been hot and humid in Santa Pola too but it wasn't as the temperatures went down for a short cold spell and rain threatened. On my walk it was overcast and there were spots of rain but the real rain wouldn't come until Friday. That morning we went to the Thursday open market practically opposite our block of apartments. Most of the stuff on sale was pretty cheapo and nothing took my fancy. It was the fruit and veg we were interested in. And here I had a field day choosing which summer fruit and juicy cherries to buy.
At the market on Thursday morning choosing fruit and vegetables. 
These were the remarkable cherries I got and I now wish I had bought more as we finished them far too soon. I just love thick juicy black cherries. They are my favourite fruit.
The thick black juicy cherries I bought at the Gran Alacant market on Thursday.
I also got flat peaches, red peaches, apricots, a disappointing cantaloupe melon, as well as some fresh runner beans which we would have for lunch. Before returning home with our provisions we stopped for a naughty but nice ice cream at the ice cream parlour opposite our apartment. Here I indulged in my favourite flavours; pistachio and coconut. 

Instead of going to the beach in the afternoon, we went on my walk to the Santa Pola Cape cliffs as it was too overcast for a swim. The photo illustrating this week's post is of the selfie we took there. In the afternoons there seem to be lots of visitors to the Cape cliffs but I far prefer it at 7 in the morning when I am practically the only one there. My fitbit was happy with me that day when it recorded a total of 14km in steps during the day. Maybe it was alright to have the ice cream then hahaha.

On Friday morning Oli was whatsapping us from 6 a.m.. It is of course 7 hours ahead there. We were surprised to hear they were already in Phnom Penh and enjoying their hotel room there. It had a marvelous swimming pool. Here's a photo of them in their room with the pool just by it.
Oli and Miguel in their hotel room in Phnom Penh on Friday
It was very overcast on Friday morning and I escaped the rain by a few minutes. It would rain on and off all day. In other parts of Spain the rain was torrential, especially in Madrid where it is unheard of at this time of year. So you see the rain in Spain doesn't only fall on the plain hahaha.

It was better weather in London than in Madrid that day. There was a piece of news from London that day that tickled me pink. Suzy would have laughed and I did when I heard that Rafa Nadal went shopping to Tesco. Imagine. He of course had to battle with the frustrating self service checkout which practically does not exist in Spain. He was helped out by a British fan who couldn't believe what he was seeing and went straight to the rescue. Later Nadal would thank the fan, Nick Roberts,  on Twitter and of course the news went viral. I'm sure Nick will never ever forget this funny episode and I shall always remember it too when I enter a Tesco where usually Suzy comes to my rescue at the self service checkout hahaha. I'm hoping there will be news of his winning Wimbledon for a 3rd time and that going viral too but in the meantime I enjoyed this little tit bit of news from the Tournament.
Rafa Nadal being helped by a fan at a Tesco self-service checkout somewhere in London this week
Friday was a stormy day in other ways too. The G20 summit started in Hamburg among riots from anti Donald Trump demonstrators. Trump was to meet Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel and I couldn't help but notice the thick lines on her face.  It can't be an easy job and I often wonder how she can go on and on and on, like Margaret Thatcher once did. I do hope, on the other hand, that Trump does not do so and something happens soon for him to be ousted from the White House.  The wife of the President of Poland, Agata Kornhauser must have thought exactly the same when she bypassed him without shaking his hand, instead reaching out to his wife, the First Lady who is so much in his shadow. That man has to be stopped and soon. The picture became viral too and I much admire the Polish First Lady for the gesture. 
The Polish First Lady shakes the hand of the US First Lady totally bypassing the latter's unpresentable husband, Donald Trump. 

We stayed inside most of the morning only venturing out when the rain halted to go to the new Carrefour in Santa Pola for a few provisions. It was a disappointing branch with very little variety. We then drove to the town centre and as usual had difficulty parking. We walked up the main street to the castle square and I thought what a boring little town it is. I looked inside some of the clothes shops but found nothing inspiring.  Once home we stayed inside all day as it rained non stop. 

Saturday came and the rain went. So I enjoyed a relatively sunny walk to the cliffs and back before coming back for breakfast. We were leaving that morning which always entails a lot of chores such as washing the sheets and towels and hanging them out to dry until we return. Before leaving I went to the English supermarket across the road, Quicksave, to get some confectionary for my Father. I did not indulge myself on any bounties or turkish delights after all the dinners and ice creams hahaha. 

We left at around 11.45 and as soon as we were on the road we got messages from Olivia who was visiting the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia with Miguel. It is the largest religious monument in the world and was runner up the new 7 wonders of the world. It was originally a Hindu temple but has been a Buddhist one since the 12th century. I would love to visit it one day.
Oli and Miguel at the amazing Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia on Friday
She sent us lots of photos and one I particularly liked is of her kissing a stone face which is part of one of the walls of the enormous temple. It's great isn't it? She told me their guide had suggested it.
Oli kissing a stone face at the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.
Just as we were approaching our place for lunch, yes once again the Mesón de Rosales, I read with joy that the Venezuelan leader of the opposition, Leopoldo López had been released from prison in Caracas. He is Venezuela's most important political prisoner and had served 7 years of his unfair 14 year sentence. He is now under house arrest but at least he is out of prison and with his family. 
Leopoldo López just as he was released from prison yesterday in Venezuela

It coincided with the trip to Venezuela of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the ex socialist Prime Minister of Spain who has been in diplomatic talks for years now with the Chaves regime, now under Nicolás Maduro. I would like to think he was instrumental in the release of Leopoldo López. The free and democratic world rejoiced with the news yesterday as I did. 

Leopoldo López must have been given a wonderful meal for lunch or dinner when he arrived home yesterday. We certainly had a wonderful lunch that day at the Mesón Los Rosales when we chose suckling roast goat for our meal. 
Delicious roast suckling leg of goat for lunch yesterday
It was delicious even though I know my vegan daughter Suzy would not approve. It was also rather large and I couldn't finish it, nor did I have any room left for a dessert. In fact it would keep me going until the evening when neither of us had much appetite for dinner. 

We were in Madrid by just after 5 pm and there was no sign or rain although the temperature was lower than usual at just 21ºc. It was great to see my Father and Lucy and the dogs and to be reunited with little Pippa.  In order to keep my fitbit happy, I joined Lucy on the afternoon walk although I didn't really fancy the exercise. 

And today is Sunday, the last day of the tales of this week. I was up early as usual and glad to have slept in our own bed or at least in our bed of our main home. That does sound pretentious but it wasn't meant to be so. It was also great to wake up with Pippa and give the dogs their breakfast. 

Eladio spent the morning mowing the lawn and cleaning the pool for the arrival of our Airbnb guests. I was much looking forward to hosting people from God's own country (aka Yorkshire) They are from Morley near Leeds so we will have much in common. I, for my part, inspected their rooms for any stains on the linen or stray hairs (hahaha) in the baths and also cut fresh flowers from the garden for their rooms. 
Fresh flowers from the garden for my Airbnb guests from Yorkshire
Oli and Miguel, meanwhile, had made their way back to Bangkok and were flying to the north of Thailand to an area called Chiang Mai in the north which I have never heard of. I look forward to more photos and to following their trip vicariously. 

The week coming will be quiet and we have no particular plans. But of course you will hear about it in next Sunday's post.

Meanwhile, all the best to you all,


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