Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 28 February 2011

Walking Uphill

Alcalá la Real is a place surrounded by mountains and the town is dominated by the Fortress called ´La Mota´. Whilst walking around in the town itself is easy and flat, the moment you deviate from the main street, you are faced with old cobbled streets that seem to rise vertically in front of your eyes, making your knees shake just at the thought of walking up them.

Last week, Mateo and I summoned up the courage to walk up to La Mota and decided to go the most direct way from our apartment - which at first glance almost made Mateo change his mind - straight up!
And even when we got to the 'top', La Mota still towered above us.

Way, way above us.

It was a glorious walk, enhanced by the intense smell of rosemary that was in full bloom around us as we walked.

 Isn't rosemary the most gorgeous herb?

Today is Andalucia Day, so the children are off school - it's like a bank holiday in England - and so after lunch, Mateo and I set off again to go up the hill at the opposite side to La Mota. Just as steep, just as worth it to get to the top.

Looks like the path is relatively flat, according to this signpost - but don't you believe it! We'd already done the 'up' bit from the historical centre

I wasn't lagging behind, I was taking pictures.

Looking south across the town to La Mota from our vantage point to the north.

Lots of wonderful almond blossom out on the trees here - and all the houses had gardens. Perhaps this is where we should be looking.

And when we reached the top, the countryside became quite wild, rocky and windy and we could see where stone had been taken from an ancient quarry.

And here we have my beloved Sierra Nevada in the distance. These mountains are overwhelmingly wonderful - some days they look like candyfloss, others like pure ice and on others, they seem to be the clouds themselves. I love these mountains.

Looking a bit windblown - but feeling on top of the world

This is Safa - or La Sagrada Familia - the school Mateo attends. He was so pleased to see it from the top of the hill that I knew he was feeling happy there - and that made me happy too.

And it was lovely coming down the hill too!

What a lovely place is Alcala la Real!

How many lovely walks there are around us and what a joy it is to discover them.


Sunday 27 February 2011

Made me laugh

Who doesn't know Harry Potter? I suspect that most people with access to the cinema, a television, the internet or a magazine would recognise the face of the boy with dark hair, glasses and a serious expression.

Those of you who know him, his face is the face of my son, Mateo. He's not the actor who plays Harry Potter, he is Harry Potter. If you have seen photos of him on my blog, you will know that he bears more than a passing resemblance to the character.

So imagine our mirth! When my sister was over visiting last December, we were wandering around Valladolid and came across a stall that was selling Mateo masks! Lots of little Mateo faces hanging from the kiosk, together with Spiderman and Batman. How we laughed and laughed and had to buy one. (We cursed a bit that we didn't have the camera with us too, but never mind!)

This is where Mateo would like to be most of the time... bit creepy but better, I thought, than the disembodied face hanging freely!

But this is the real Mateo - lovely boy!

Thursday 24 February 2011

How can it happen?

We live in the middle of olive growing country. We are surrounded by olive oil producing mills and factories. Olives are what this place does!

So, I ask you, what sort of a person runs out of olive oil whilst living in a place like this?

Well, a me sort of person. Actually.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Happy talk

Today has been good.

I've really enjoyed my Spanish conversation classes.
I've had a one to one session with a kinesthetic learner. We went to the local supermarket and touched things and smelt things and named things and I think some of the learning will stick as result. We enjoyed each others company and the hour flew by.
I've had a conversation class with several ladies, many of whom have lived here for a number of years. They've all tried classes of Spanish before and given up because the focus was on learning verbs and grammar. So today, we chatted. Mainly in English this time but linking in the Spanish for much of what we were discussing. The hour flew by (for me!) and they're ready to come again next week.
I have met two lovely Spanish people who want to come and have English conversation classes. And they want to bring a friend too.

So I spent the morning talking to people, which is what I like to do and I got paid for it as well.

And when I got home, my bestest friend (sounds better than oldest!) has joined Facebook and asked me to be her friend. And she was online so we could have a chat.

Happy talk; happy talking.

Monday 21 February 2011

Mad about Granada

OK, we actually live over the border in Jaen, but we're pretty close to Granada - the province - and Granada the city is nearer to us than Jaen the city. So we think of ourselves as living in Granada.

And today, we discovered another part of it that we really did like.

Remember a few weeks ago, we went into Granada to get new passports for the boys and met a wall of bureaucracy and a lot of road works? (Actually, I don't think I mentioned the roadworks but the whole of the 'south circular' was being dug up in order to put an underground Metro system in, which I don't really think Granada needs, but then, they didn't ask me, did they?)
Well, today, all went super-smoothly (up to a point and within context) and we came away with two new Spanish 'pasaportes' for each of the boys - it only took one and a half hours and the involvement of five 'officials' all of whom failed to tell us - until it was handed over - that we'd paid for a five year passport but Mateo's would be invalid when he reaches 14..... next year....however....we moved on and out.

In the expectation of things taking a while and as we'd had to take the children out of school anyway (the boys were delighted that they had to sign their passports AND have their fingerprints taken... I told them they'll have to be good from now on)..we'd brought a picnic. We like picnics.

Being so close to an area that looks so interesting everytime we've driven past, we decided to take our picnic to the lake at Beznar in the Lecrin Valley. There are about six or seven villages around this area, which is on the right of the motorway driving down to the coast, whereas the Alpujarras are to the left. They are different as chalk and cheese!

Gentle hills and plots of land full of orange and lemon trees were all around us - we stopped and collected handfuls of lemons and picked oranges up from the roadside. We even drove over some. From the motorway, we wound down a sloping road towards the lake - which is actually an embalse or pantano (reservoir) - and which today was turquoise and glistening in the sun, with a strong breeze whipping up some impressive waves across the surface.

And it was set up perfectly for picnicking, with tables and things for the children to play on and we were the only ones there.

This has to be one of my favourite pictures of all time

This little den became a centre for story telling - imaginations were running absolute riot. Never short of a good story to tell, Mateo used to lead and the others followed - now, they all can hold their own in the dramatic development of an idea.....

I wasn't listening - it was too windy - but suddenly, they saw the camera focused on them and sadly, it broke the spell of their game. I have no doubt though, that today was a very good day and one they will remember!
We'll come back here.

Going on 5000

Small numbers compared to many bloggers but I cannot believe that I've had almost 5,000 visitors to my own blog!
It seems strange thinking back to those first early posts where I was terrified of someone actually reading what I'd written ... now I check my stats daily and am delighted with the number of lovely comments from people all over the world who pop in to see what we are up to.

Some of you are people I know and love and have spent much of my life with but I also feel now I have some other, new and wonderful virtual friends. And it's a really good feeling.

Being naturally sociable, I find myself very buoyed up by the network of people who pop into my life - unseen but whose presence is both felt and appreciated. Anyone who blogs will know exactly what I mean!

Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting. Thank you for being there - much appreciated.

Saturday 19 February 2011

On request

Ruy asked me today if I'd make scones. I had made some a few weeks ago, using up the last of the self-raising flour and caster sugar that had come all the way from England with us. Despite searching high and low, I haven't found either item anywhere in Spanish shops, so I had a go with substitutes (plain flour with baking powder and demerara sugar) and I didn't use the buttermilk suggested because I haven't seen any of that either.

I'm pleased with the results.

This is my recipe book - the original, Scottish recipe adapted after checking out what Delia had to say.

Delia rarely gets things wrong and is a true goddess unlike other pretenders...

I don't do detail but this isn't a recipe that needs much explaining. Delia says buttermilk instead of the milk and adds an egg. I used an egg and about 2 tablespoons of milk to milk the ingredients together.

Working in my rather small kitchen, space is at a premium with the hob doubling as a worktop.

(Note how badly the oven fits - but at least I have an oven!! )

And happy to find I had brought my Granny's rolling pin with me - lots of memories.

Turned out nice, golden and light.

We enjoyed them with raspberry jam and some rather runny cream and they disappeared quickly whilst still warm....

Simple pleasures.

Spanish conversation

I'm very excited because next week I going to start giving Spanish conversation classes!
They will be held at the local English Centre - Conexions - a centre that has grown up following the production of a lovely magazine called 'Olive Country Life' and which now boasts a very useful and inviting space including a cafe, a shop, a library, a computer centre and internet access. In addition, there is space for people to meet, chat, hold sewing and other interest sessions. What Diane, who runs the centre, told me is that people want to learn to speak Spanish but get put off by more formal teaching where they are expected to learn verbs and write things down. So we put up a poster and I've been delighted by the number of responses we've had thus far.

My Spanish is quite good (though I struggle to remember to use the subjunctive and still can get my '-a' and '-o' endings muddled) and as Cesar's parents speak no Enlgish English, I have been conversing in Spanish for many years.
I love talking to people, I love to help and to teach and so I can't think of anything better than to put these things into practice together! My experience at work - where I often delivered both impromptu and planned training sessions - will stand me in very good stead here. I am really looking forward to our first class on Tuesday.

Because of this forthcoming event, I have been listening more carefully to conversations going on in the street and around. I had to laugh yesterday at the local supermarket at the exchange between the checkout girl and a customer.  The lady in front on me, having loaded up her shopping and paid, was studying her receipt carefully. I'll translate what I heard:-

Lady: You've charged me for two lots of yogurt
Checkout girl: You must have bought two lots of yogurt
Lady: Listen, sweetheart, if I bought two where are they? I don't remember buying two.
Checkout girl: Well, they'll be in your bag.
Lady:  Where?
Checkout girl:  In one of the bags - I don't know, I didn't pack them.
Lady: Well, I don't think I bought two.
Checkout girl: You'll have to look.
Lady: I'm not going to empty all my bags out again. Don't you know if I bought two?
Checkout girl: I can't remember everything people buy!
Lady: No, but don't you know if I bought two?

During this time, the girl had checked out my items and told me how much I owed, taken my money and given me my change and so I felt obliged to leave without hearing the final outcome of the discussion. I wonder whether the yogurts were discovered or not? Did the checkout girl know really? How long would it take to convince the lady one way or the other?

I'll never know. However, at least if our conversation classes feel a little repetitive or inane to start with, I won't worry too much.

Friday 18 February 2011

Another side of Alcala

Never judge a place until you've explored it.

We were getting a bit 'underwhelmed' by the invariability of the landscape around Alcalá - probably after being wowed by the Alpujarras - and so today was a real eye-opener.
We had gone to view a property that was about 10kms outside Alcalá la Real town centre going roughly north-east to Frailes, then out another few kilometres to a little hamlet called Los Rosals. Frailes didn't seem at its best - not pretty as often described - but as we drove out to the property, the landscape and the scenery really started to change.

Ver mapa más grande

For a start, there was snow on the ground. It has felt cold again this week here in town and we have had to resort to jumpers and the heating on once the sun disappears. Don't let anyone tell you that Spain is always hot! Parts of it can be very, very cold. Even in Andalucia. Specially in Alcalá la Real!

Another house not for us!

But I digress - snow was quite thick on the mountain tops and had also fallen recently on the ground around the house we went to see. (No... it wasn't what we were looking for!) But the countryside around it was glorious and wild.
A smattering of snow across the landscape

No olive groves here

Ruins of some old farm in the middle of this land
OK - it doesn't look much but we now know we need new tyres on the Volvo..

We drove on north on a road from Frailes over the top of an impressive mountain, where we saw lots of sheep and goats grazing and the odd white farmhouse dotted around. We want to come back soon with bocadillos (scrummy sandwiches made in crusty bread) and to go walking around - perhaps to find the tracks of jabali, (wild boar) but hopefully not to come face to face with one - I don't know if they are dangerous but it's as well to be careful. There are many in the hills around here.

It was a bit scary to discover that the tyres on the Volvo were definitely not up to driving on snow. Not at all. We didn't come close to having an accident, I'm glad to say, but we had to stay very securely on the clear tracks on the road - we tried getting out of the way of one car but as soon as we moved onto the snow, we just went nowhere!

Just as we were wondering how much higher the mountain went, we got to the top and started down the other side. Almost immediately, the snow disappeared and we had another view of the landscape - still minus the olive groves - and with lots of native trees around.

And we could see for miles

Eventually, we rounded another bend and met the olive groves again.
Olives are beautiful trees and their little leaves have an almost silver glittering effect. Their trunks grow gnarled and wide and the wood from an olive tree has to be the very best you can get.
Jaen produces 70% of all the olive oil in Spain and I love olives, olive oil and olive trees but I don't like what the olive growers have done to the land around here and the damage it has done to the wildlife - the intensity of the planting has driven much of the wildlife away, destroying natural habitats for many species and consuming lots and lots of water.
And I realised that I was missing the sound of different birds, evidence of small animals and seeing sheep and goats grazing on the land around. I also know that there is a slowly increasing awareness of the need for less intense production, an emphasis on organic farming and a shift in where the subsidies are being focused.
Jaen has lots of wonderful natural park and sierra to explore, most of it further east from where we are but I am so glad to have found a still wild and wonderful corner of our own that we can get to know and to watch it changing in the seasons that are to come.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

What I've been knitting

Mainly hats.
Modelled here by Ruy

Large beany, now worn constantly by Cesar

Romy's pink topper

And one for Ruy
I've done another too, for me in some lovely wool that my sister bought me for Christmas. Good timing too as the weather has changed again back to chilly and a bit cloudy.

I found the pattern in a knitting magazine but had problems when I tried to follow it - after three attempts, I realised there was an error and so worked out the proper pattern from the picture.

Wonder how many other people tried, failed and gave up because of an extra - and unnecessary - K2 instruction?

Not me - and I know I'll be knitting more of these little lovelies.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

WbtA - part 3. Chocolate bliss in Pampaneira

As we were driving between Orgiva and Pitres, we passed one of the more famous villages in the Alpujarras - often described as the prettiest - one of a three that overlook the Porqueira Gorge along with Bubion and Capileira, which are higher up the mountain still.

Clearly it had a more touristy feel to it than Orgiva and Pitres, with shops displaying the locally- made rugs and terracotta, along with t-shirts and Spanish bulls, but in a gentle way. We had promised the children an ice-cream in Orgiva but were met with looks of credulity there - heavens, it was only February! Far too early in the season to be stocking ice-cream! No one had any at all, not even the little supermarket. However, Romy was not going to give up so easily and made a thorough search of the shops when we arrived in Pitres - and finding them all closed only increased her desire to eat ice-cream. She was very hopeful when she saw more encouraging signs in Pampaneira.

Look at the pavement!!
The village was so beautifully clean, with gorgeous pavements. Have you ever stopped to look at pavements? In Huddersfield, they were made from lovely local sandstone and dotted by globs of chewing gum, dropped over the years and trodden flat, almost impossible to remove and now almost impossible to distinguish from their original resting place.
Here in Alcalá la Real, the pavements are tiled in red and white square patterns and are impossibly slippy when it rains - as it is doing just now.

In Pampaneira, the pavements have little shallow channels running down the middle. Bear in mind all the streets were on a steep incline and that above us were the might, snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, obviously the channels were for the water that must come through the village as the snow starts to melt.

Get ready to jump out of the way of the water, Romy!

As well as finding ice-cream here, we also found the most amazing chocolate shop. The children tried to steer me away from it, thinking I would be upset that someone else had done exactly the thing I wanted to do. But my curiousity was greater than my envy.

A glimpse of something wonderful going on!

I went in - or rather down, because it was below street level - and before long, was chatting to one of the people who worked there, telling him all about my own love of chocolate making.

He invited me into the workshop to have a closer look at everything and it was all I could do to stop myself rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in! (I did ask if I could work there but they had enough people already...)

And the smell was delicious. And all those lovely bars of different flavoured chocolate, all stacked up on shelves - that was when the envy hit a bit, I confess. Ah well, it was food for thought.

Whatever else Pampaneira has to offer, for me, it was one of the most lovely chocolate shops I have ever had the pleasure to visit - not for its sophisticated creations because there were few of those, but for its attention to flavour and quality and its willingness to let the passers by see how it was done.