Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 30 January 2011

To Mojacar and back

Mouthwatering lemons from the tree!

We had property to view! It was going to take us 3 hours to drive to see it so a visit to the seaside was a necessary inclusion in the journey. Looking on the map and reading up what guides had to say, Mojacar was the obvious beach location to head for.
As well as the property, we wanted the chance to see the countryside on the far east of Granada province moving across the border into Almeria. A rather nice looking road (on the map, it looked meandered a bit, it had mountains to the south of it, there was green around it and little villages dotted either side... it looked nice - as an avid map-gazer I know what I mean -) which I persuaded Cesar we should take rather than the autovia. Now we have no GPS, I am back to official map reader and navigator again - hurray!!
This was roughly our route if you like that sort of thing:

I say roughly because I checked it out on ViaMichelin then decided that we wouldn't do steps 1-4 as suggested, which took us on the now familiar road towards Granada - instead, we cut across country eastwards to the motorway (A44-E902), south to the next junction, then took the little orange road towards step 5. It was better, I think.
Views along the way would have been stunning - of the Sierra Nevada - except it was very misty and damp and we couldn't see much at all.
Not until we got to Guadix (5) when the clouds disappeared and we got a good view of this gorgeous town - all red stone against the snowy backdrop - and I had a pang of remorse that we didn't pursue this as our base...until Cesar reminded me that there were no school places for the children and no places to rent at the time we were looking...ah, that was why!

We felt 'at home' between steps 5 and 6 as this is where we spent our wonderful week in the cave at Bacor Oliver. We waved at Mount Jabalcon and at the house that we didn't buy - 'Cortijo Zorro' - well, at the land that is visible from the motorway.

For the first one third, the road from 6 (Baza) to 10 (Albox) (- I guess 7, 8 and 9 are somewhere behind 10) was absolutely gorgeous! We loved it and saw lots of villages that we want to explore in the future. From then on, we were increasingly less impressed and then we hit Albox and from there to 12 and the motorway that leads down to Almeria, we didn't like. We continued on to a little place high up in the mountains to view the house that in the pictures looked perfect but which in reality was totally unsuitable, However, it had some fantastic land to explore and the owners were a remarkable old English couple who were most entertaining. We had a very pleasant visit - politely making it clear that their house wasn't what we were looking for; I would hate to have raised their hopes of a sale unnecessarily.

Although we could see the sea from the mountain, we were told it would take us around 40 minutes to get there and we were ravenously hungry for our picnic, so we stopped in a strange but wonderful spot to eat.

We were overlooking a quarry, with the sea just visible, surrounded by herbs - thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender - and the smell was totally sense-tingling!

After we'd eaten, we gathered a few fallen fruits from nearby trees and which also gave off a scent that was almost 100 times stronger than we were used to - the lemons in particular were sensational! Scoffing mandarin oranges, we headed off for the coast and found a deserted beach in the currently empty seaside town of Garrucha, just north of Mojacar, where the Mediterranean was producing gently crashing waves.

As the sun began to sink behind the mountains, we headed off to see what Mojacar was like. I had imagined it - not sure why - to be a moorish red stone town so was surprised to see a totally white hill village - gobsmackingly white, gobsmackingly hilly! This is a photograph taken from the because I didn't manage to take a photograph myself as we arrived - too gobsmacked!

Inside, Mateo and I pondered at what point a hill becomes a village? Although from a distance, the hill was the most obvious feature, once we were 'inside' we were obviously in a village...

Mateo thought this was what Lindworm Castle must have been like. (Lindworm Castle is a place in 'The City of Dreaming Books' by Walter Moer - if you like odd, you will like this!)

This image is from the book - illustrated by the author - and I see what he means but perhaps Mojacar wasn't quite so 'pointy'...

View from the top of the village

Comparing this to Salobreña, where we went a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by how much more of a tourist area this part of Spain seemed. This was Saturday, it was a beautiful sunny day and there was hardly anyone around. In Salobreña, families were out and about, the bars were full and people were clearly living in the area. In and around Garrucha and Mojacar, the few people we saw were English (of the retired type) or French and Dutch in big motorhomes parked up near the sea. There were very few Spanish families out walking and many of the bars and shops were closed up - not just for Saturday afternoon - presumably until the tourists arrive in their droves. This is quite rare - Spanish people like walking about and do it a lot!

The journey gave us a lot of food for thought as we drove back - into the sunset as it happens - and at risk of appearing too self-satisfied, have to admit we had yet another really lovely day here in Southern Spain.

Friday, 28 January 2011


One of Romy's presents was a lovely drawing kit - very clever!

Romy is now 7. I am not amazed that she's reached seven years old already - I am amazed that she's only seven years old. Not only does she stand as tall as a nine year old, she's very grown up for seven and since she was just six, we've thought of her as 'nearly seven'. And now she is - and very pleased about it too.

We don't feel we've been here long enough to have had a big party as she still doesn't know the names of all the people in her class but Romy was philosophical about that despite loving her big birthday parties in previous years. The school say bring in cake and juice for all class and they make a crown for the birthday girl or boy to wear all day. How fortunate that last Friday, our landlord arrived with an oven - it sort of fits in the kitchen and as long as we don't use the washing machine at the same time, it works fine too. I am happier now I have an oven, definitely. And I was able to make cake again! I made one on Sunday and by Monday evening it had all gone. Romy and I set to on Wednesday afternoon to make her one to take to school and the instructions I received were very precise - it had to have strawberry jam inside and chocolate on top. (And I had to be able to cut it into 21 slices.)

She was very pleased with the result.

In fact, she's had a lovely birthday despite the lack of people around.. (oh and no cake on which to put her candles as I felt that yet more cake this week might not be 'a good thing'. We improvised by putting the candles in the lasagne and singing before we ate - and exactly five slices of the school cake came back, which was just enough for one piece each anyway.)
Colour a bit odd on this one because it's from a video snapshot - we were so hungry that we didn't stop to take photos! The lasagne wasn't blue, honest!

It was so lovely to see her running out of school with her crown on. How adaptable children are; how lovely to know that they are capable of being so happy.

And it got better because when we'd eaten and the shops opened again, she went to choose her very own hamster - and she's picked a good one! He's so cute and has a sweet little cage with a house and a wheel and other things hamsters like. As yet, he's unnamed though there have been a few suggestions - Paws, to go with the turtle, who is Jaws; Fluffy Button(?); Honey (not very original but quite descriptive) .. we'll see what sticks!

 One sleepy hamster after a whole evening playing!

Ruy has been hankering after a white rat for a long time and we've resisted - for a whole host of reasons - but now he's seen the hamster, he thinks he'd rather have one of these. I'm so glad - I have nothing against rats, I just prefer hamsters.

Cesar and I had spent the day looking at houses around the town - not that we fell for any of them but good to have a comparison starting point. More later - we're off to see another one tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Granada and the Alhambra

Last week, we went to Granada to try and get new passports for Mateo and Ruy. We failed in our original objective but had a wonderful day.

Outside the police station
The beauty of the place was everywhere and I took a lot of photos. After our fruitless visit to the police station, we went up to the Alhambra and managed to walk all the way round the outside, down to the city, back up the other side, a quick venture inside the walls (we don't think we should have done that without paying the entry fee, but it was getting late, no one stopped us and it seemed like a good idea!) before making the 40 minute journey home again.

Glimpsed on the walk back to the car park

In the arab streets - lots of souvenir shops


Corner of the cathedral

Exploring around the Alhambra

 Ruy in mid-game involving medieval warriors - much battling and sword clashing

Castle walls

There was lots of water around - we felt chilly and the air was very damp

Keeps things cool in summer though

I love this tree

The new city emerges from between two old high walls high up in the Alhambra area

Looking back up to the Alhambra from the city

In between newer building you glimpse older doorways and facades

City level entrance back into the walk up to the Alhambra

The three strange round objects are pomegranates, which in Spanish are called granadas..possibly hence the name Granada. (The name could also be derived from the Moorish 'Karnattah' but I like the fruity option best.)

Feeling the stretch - it was a long climb up!

An entrance to inside the walls beckons..

And suddenly we found ourselves inside with other tourists - so that's where they all were!

Inside looking outwards
Strange, isn't it. I much preferred the outside walls, with no other people around, where we really felt the history than inside, where there were more people and officials on all the entrances with ticket checking machines and miserable faces and the gift shops and signs everywhere. We didn't stay inside long but continued the climb up the hill back towards the car.
And apart from not getting the passports (- the boys needed Spanish birth certificates, despite having brought their English ones and their English passports and the Libro de Familia that Cesar spent ages getting from the Spanish consulate in Manchester, where all the birth details are recorded....we were told we'd have to go to Madrid to get the birth certificates and it would take six months (!). However, a couple of phone calls when we got home and the consulate in Manchester says they will send us formal certificates in couple of weeks. We will learn from this that we will have to use both systems (English and Spanish) to make progress through some of the awful bureaucracy here.) Where was I? Ah yes, what a wonderful day we had anyway!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunshine in Salobreña

This weekend, it has been very cold - not just here in Alcala la Real - but in all Andalucia and Spain in general. The weather reports have been for snow and we've seen frozen fountains in Valladolid on the news. And as we were sitting in our heated piso, still thinking it would be nice to have a fireplace and a glowing fire - we saw flakes of snow floating past our windows.

Last weekend, however, was warm and sunny and we set off to visit the Mediterranean coast - out of interest and in the name of research, you understand! Here are a few pictures of our findings.

Plenty beach for having a picnic in January

Lots of tiny pebbles that will just about make a castle when using the salad container
Perfect for recreating a stone age village and troglodite homes

A joint venture - Ruy was off finding bigger stones for building purposes

Worth staying to see the sun go down
How wonderful the sea is and how I love to be beside it. How lucky we feel - not just for this lovely day but for everything that we've done and seen in the past few months. And still excited about what is yet to come.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Montefrio, olive oil and ancient tombs

Montefrio is right in the heart of olive groves and from these olives comes some of the best olive oil in Spain. In the town, an old olive press stands plaza at the bottom of the hill. Note the three huge stones that revolve to crush the olives - a technique that has been, on the whole, superseded by the modern method of using a centrifuge to extract the oil.

We stopped off at an olive oil mill and managed to get a peek inside one where about 10 of these machines were churning out the greeny-golden liquid. The smell was overwhelming but delightful.

Cesar casts his eagle eye over his purchase - you can see how cold it has been around here by the cloudiness of the oil in the container. It soon gains its proper colour when it's warmed up a little.

And this is the view of Montefrio from the bottom of the hill!

I had a happy time snapping at some of the wonderful sights.


Design of this wonderful XVII church is based on the Agrippe in Rome.
After wandering through the town, we headed out towards a neolithic village marked on the map. On the climb up yet another hill, we came across this ancient burial ground full of stone tombs. It is indicated that it is well over a thousand years old. We weren't sure if the people were very small in those days or whether many of the tombs were for children.

Remarkably well preserved and some helpful information in unusually good English that was most helpful to me.

We didn't make it to the ancient settlement because at the very top of the hill was a new farm - not indicated by our charming hand drawn map of 1995 - where there must have been about eight farm dogs who took great exception to our visit and chased the car - perhaps they weren't Volvo fans either - and made it clear that we would not be getting out to walk along any footpath nearby!

This was the point we retreated down the hill and found our lovely tapas bar mentioned earlier - so all in all, an interesting visit to Montefrio.