Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Luna de miel

How many people do you know who took their mother-, father- and brother-in-law plus their two small children on honeymoon with them? Well, if you count me, then that's at least one!

In the intervening years, we cannot recall a single night we've had alone without children, friends or family. We have never really felt the need to 'escape' on our own, but - eleven years on - we do now feel we have finally had a little moment of special marital bliss to ourselves. On Sunday and Monday, we had our honeymoon at last! And it was absolutely perfect...

Having won a voucher for a hotel, *LateRooms, the sponsors of the voucher, did a fantastic job of booking and paying for us to stay in a hotel that I found on their website. We had never visited the natural park area of Cabo de Gata in Almeria but this is an area said to be the most beautiful and unspoilt of the southern coast of Spain. The chance of staying overnight in what looked like a very lovely hotel was too tempting to resist, especially as FR's parents have been staying with us and could be at home with the children.

So without much ado, we got up early on Sunday and had a delightful, leisurely journey through the provinces of Granada and Almeria, arriving at 'Cortijo el Sotillo' just after midday. And the hotel definitely lived up to expectations. In its pre-hotel days, the cortijo has been used in many film scenes, including 'A Fistful of Dollars', 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen' and more!

Lovely big room and a huge bed - very simply decorated but with everything we needed.

We were in an annexe from the main hotel - down the passageway you see on the left of the photo.

'Cortijo' is the Andalucian word for a small holding or a farmhouse.

Peluquero is a hairdresser...

Sometimes we have to go figure...!
I loved the 'organic' design of the hotel

The hotel also had stables and a riding school

Almeria is basically a desert - we saw lots and lots of aloe vera plants.

Spanish rustic style...

Plenty of space to relax...

Or find a sunny corner to take a coffee

We didn't spend ALL our time in the hotel!

Cabo de Gata is one of the few natural coastal areas left in the south of Spain and it is now protected. We have wanted to go and visit for a while but never have. The number of cars that can enter the area is limited but there are buses that go backwards and forwards all day and we were amazed to see people walking along the long, dusty track to the beaches - laden with umbrellas, chairs, bags and picnic boxes! It was a long way and very, very hot.

Looking back along the long track - with still 2kms to go!
But the view of where we were going looked wonderful!

Evidence of the history of the area where these windmills were used for grinding cereals - essential foodstuff in this arid countryside. 
(Now, Almeria is a sea of plastic greenhouses where a huge amount of fruit and vegetables are grown...seems a tad ironic!)

This is the Playa de los Genoveses. Stunning, perfect and almost empty.

We had picked a 'rather blustery day' decided to check out another beach as we couldn't actually put up the umbrella!

La Playa de Monsul. Absolutely perfect.

The rocks are volcanic and make some amazing shapes. 

A view from the beach - I was lying down at the time!

It really had been an incredibly windy day and when we returned to the hotel, we were absolutely full of sand - ears, hair, noses! We wondered if it was always like this but apparently not - and the next day was quite calm.

In the evening, after eating at the hotel, we wandered down into the pretty little village of San Jose - forgetting the camera, of course. All the buildings are very low-rise and just incredibly white! There's a lovely long walk along the front of the beach where there were stalls of jewellery, clothes, fossils and other ethnic goods on sale. But it was all very quiet for the middle of the summer season. Good for us, but probably less so for those dependent on tourists.

The next day, we enjoyed an excellent breakfast in the hotel - we ate a lot too! Well, you have to when it's been paid for, don't you?

Our journey back took us around more of Cabo de Gata and parts of the coastline of Almeria. Strangely empty of tourists everywhere - particularly in one town called Retamar, where we stopped for a while - amazed at the length of beautiful beach, the vast areas of well-maintained park in the middle of the town...and no people! Then we discovered a large (but low-rise) hotel on the promenade which was absolutely packed full of folk, in and around the large pools in the grounds. They were all Spanish families. I guess it seems easier to pass one's holiday at a place where everything is laid on, no invasive sand, no roads to cross and sun loungers in excess. Only it seemed really odd to me!

And as we continued our journey back along the coast, leaving Almeria behind and reaching Granada province, we felt as though we'd been away for an age! The last hour or so of the route was very well known to us and after the barren and unearthly landscape of Almeria, it seemed friendly and comfortable.

Our honeymoon was very special but even better than for most, we were coming back to all our family - who were just over the moon to see us again!

Seems only right to finish with my photo of the recent 'supermoon' - and couldn't it just be a moon made of honey - la luna de miel - a honeymoon.

Any honeymoon stories to share??

* This is an independent review of the hotel and is not connected to the prize I won through LateRooms. They have not asked me to publish anything and my voucher has had 'no strings' attached.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Second Runner Up takes a break...

Remember I won a prize (second runner up) with my little piece on Alcala la Real? Well, this week, my lovely in-laws are here on a visit. They love our place - how could they not? And they are more than happy to stay at home and look after the children (or vice-versa) whilst FR and I take a short overnight break at what I hope will be a very nice hotel in Almeria.

I had thought it might be nice to go to Granada and stay overnight - nice and easy - but FR had the excellent idea of going further afield to a place we have intended visiting for a while but which would certainly require an overnight stay. And with five of us and a dog, we'd kept putting it off.

Cabo de Gato is considered one of the last 'wild' areas of Spain's southern coastline. This hotel, called 'Cortijo El Sotillo' has been converted from the original farmhouses just ten minutes walk from the beach and it looks absolutely wonderful, boasting 'green' and ecological qualities and the guest reviews recommend the breakfast. It has riding stables and a swimming pool though we are going mainly to explore the area.

I shall, of course, report back with photos on whatever our little adventure provides us with. I am rather ridiculously excited about it all! Fingers crossed it all works out very nicely. We can count on the thumbs of one hand, the number of times we have stayed together in a hotel, FR and I. (Don't know about you but for me, that's just the once!)

Saturday 20 July 2013

Wrong fellow for 'Othello'

I was indulging in my favourite Saturday morning pastime this morning, having got dear old FR back in bed with me and the children still fast asleep - zonked from a week by the sea - oh yes, it's nice to get things back to normal.

I was, of course, listening to Radio Four with my earphones in to block out the snores from my bedfellow and thoroughly enjoying listening to Lenny Henry's inimitable enthusiasm and vocal range, when the host of 'Saturday Live' - the Reverend Richard Cole, (a man who can match just about any guest's anecdotes with one or more of his own) shared a memory that made my sleepy eyes fly open in amazement. 

The two men were talking about being in their 50s and chapters of their lives. Lenny Henry has done a wide range of things and I've always rather liked him. He started out as a stand up comedian, is a wicked impersonator and has a big, unmistakable personality but he has acted as well, recently taking on Shakespeare a few years ago with Barry Rutter's Northern Broadsides theatre company with whom he played Othello at the West Yorkshire Playhouse to considerable (and quite surprised) critical success. He's now playing in 'Fences', an American drama set in the 50s ... I haven't seen it or heard about it, so I won't even attempt to describe what it's about other than to say it sounds interesting. He is a wonderful chat show host because he can really talk... 

Richard Coles is a true Renaissance man, giving even Stephen Fry a run for his money, I would say. A quick glance at his Wiki page indicates the range of his talents and interests. Whereas I almost always like everything Stephen Fry says, sometime, the Right Reverend's tone grates on me a little and he tends to talk as much as the guests and I sometimes think he should just stop being clever for once.

However, his little comment this morning made me immediately awake and at the same time, back in the 70s again. They were discussing how things had changed in the theatre during the last 35 years...Richard remembers going to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a performance of 'Othello' where *one of the very last actors to be 'blacked up' to play the title role was Donald Sinden. Lenny, knowing - and impersonating - this plummy, hammy actor to a tee, asked what the performance was like. With heavy understatement, Richard Coles said 'let's say it was memorable'. 

Well, I was there in the audience when Donald Sinden played the part. We'd taken a coach from my college in London to see a couple of plays one weekend. And Richard Coles is quite right. I have no idea what the other performance was, but I will never forget the gasps from the whole audience as 'Othello' pranced on stage and uttered his first lines in a voice that almost took our breath away. Talk about over-acting...the following sounds were of stifled giggles. It was unsupportable and, being a dreadful giggler, I had tears rolling down my face and ate about three tissues in my attempt to establish some self-control. Eventually, there was no alternative - I had to leave. 

I remember spending a pleasant few hours in Stratford after that before come coming back on the bus to London. The general impression seemed to be that it was **'an amazing' performance - no one else had left and I remember feeling a tad ashamed of myself at the time - as if I lacked the critical facilities to properly judge a professional performance. But now, of course, being older and more confident, I wonder that the whole audience didn't start booing and laughing until this travesty was off the stage. The Emperor's New Clothes springs to mind...

But memorable indeed it was - and how NOT to do 'Othello'....or anything else for that matter in my opinion!

What's the worst or most memorable performance of a play you have ever seen?

Post script.
* Ben Kingsley was blacked up by the RSC in 1985 too...
**Having thought a little bit, a few more memories have emerged and I have to admit that the rest of the cast were pretty good. I liked Suzanne Bertish as Desdemona and Iago was played with real grit and daring by Bob Peck. It was just Donald that spoilt it for me.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Puntos suspensivos...or, time to relax.

A week to myself...what to do?

Well,first of all, after dropping off my lovely family at the airport to spend a week with FR's brother in Mallorca, I pootled off, with a sense of absolute freedom, to IKEA - which is just a stone's throw from Malaga airport.

I bought some storage boxes for my new bedroom shelves - more of which later as they're not finished yet - some new chopping boards, a watering can, some new plates and candles. That's all. Good start, I thought.

Now on day four, I've managed to do all the backlog of washing and ironing; I've REALLY cleaned the kitchen, the lounge and the bathroom but haven't had the energy to tackle the bedrooms yet. I've diligently watered all the plants, including the potatoes - heaven help me if they take a turn whilst FR's away - early morning and late evening. Darwin and I have been for some lovely walks and I'll be doing my usual teaching during the week - I still have a few classes in the mornings, for which I am truly grateful. And I've had total freedom in my choice of viewing on the new TV - and oh, I did enjoy 'Sense and Sensibility' again!

But is it sod's law that a particularly breezy moment on Saturday afternoon managed to bring down the wire that held the curtain awning above the kitchen door, the green awning that is strung outside Mateo's room AND the shady awning that acts as our summer carport? Sod's law indeed as there is no way I have the strength or the height to fix any of them back again. I have managed to take down the curtain awning and have pinned the green one to the ground with stones so that it doesn't flap about and take off but I can't do much about the carport shade - that will have to wait. Til FR gets back, of course.

What I have really been enjoying is cooking and preparing food just for myself and have discovered a particularly summery and delicious salad - baby spinach leaves, beetroot and orange segments, sprinkled with a lemon and ginger couscous. Today, I think it will be fresh tuna and asparagus with a little more of the couscous...

I have thrown caution and good taste to the wind too and spent the week wandering around inside and outside the house in a bikini. FR certainly wouldn't mind if I did it all the time but foolishly, I feel very self-conscious and always have but I'm glad to say I've found it a very liberating experience. It's possible that rather flabby and baggy skin looks marginally better in a lightly tanned state but I will not post photos for you to judge this statement. For someone who really believes that body image is all wrong these days, I struggle to be honest with myself and to 'walk the talk'. And I've been thinking about this recently... possibly more about being honest with oneself in a future post...(lots of 'puntos suspensivos' in this post hence the title. Shame on me that I could only think what these were in Spanish, not English. I mean, does anyone ever stop to call these things 'ellipsis' or 'suspension points' - or do you think 'dot dot dot' when you put them?)

And this week, I remembered to buy some batteries for my camera. Hope I've managed to capture the peace and quiet and the sense of being completely relaxed in these photos...

Breakfast, lunch and dinner under the vine...

...which is coming along rather nicely after the initial frost scare!

New plates from IKEA.  And local, organic tomatoes...

Always somewhere close...

My favourite salad. And olive oil from our friend, Paco.

Breakfast, Andalucian-style.

OK, I have to tell you that the olives are not the local ones for which this area is particularly noted throughout Spain but are in fact a delightful recent find in our local Lidl! They are Kalamata olives from Greece - the one thing I have really missed since living here. I bought almost the whole stock! Making my mouth water just to look.

Long, long walks in the countryside and the evening sunshine...

Feeling chilled.
And finding the time to write a blog post at last has been a real pleasure - I try not to feel guilty when I don't write but it's something that bugs me a little. I have been thinking about trying a blog prompt - something that inspires a blog post if the inspiration seems lacking - but I think I'll stick with blogging about just being here for the time being and only when I have enough time and inclination. I am rather enjoying the sense of indulgence that is surrounding me just now...

What do you like doing in those precious moments of peace and quiet when the only person you have to please is yourself?

Saturday 6 July 2013

In the 70s...

For many reasons this last week or so, I should be feeling very, very young. This is despite having had a birthday which proves I have clocked up well over 50 orbits around the third rock from the sun (as Mateo might put it). I'll tell you why in a moment...

It's definitely summertime here. It's very hot. The living is rather easy as long as you know how to manage the day. It has been around 38 degrees centigrade today ( that's just topping 100 degrees in  fahrenheit) and all jobs where we have to venture out have to been done before the heat of the day really kicks in and definitely before about 2 o'clock. And then, we have to come inside our nice cool house, batten down the hatches and chill out indoors, with windows closed against the heat until around 8pm. And then the children go outside and have water fights until it goes dark and we continue with whatever jobs we have to do that require going outside. We are eating lots of watermelons, drinking gallons of water and enjoying tzatziki, couscous and gazpacho most days for lunch.

I know that England is due a heatwave right now and that temperatures are well up in the high 70 degrees fahrenheit - 24 degrees centigrade -  in some parts. And that brings me to my blast from the past.

Who remembers the heatwave of summer 1976? It was a wonderful summer for me as I was in the Lower Sixth at school - which then meant the year with no exams - a teenager with a fantastic group of friends and lots of amazing parties. And that summer before I went into the Upper Sixth and my last year at school really was a hazy, lazy one.

By pure coincidence, my children - and Mateo in particular - have a strong preference for music from the 70s and our days are ringing to the sounds of Queen, Supertramp, Camel, Deep Purple, Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd. It's an absolute joy to me! Although much of my youth was spent playing in orchestras and that I am serious lover of orchestral music, the progressive rock bands of the 70s were more than just a backdrop to the parties I went to. I really love this stuff and am delighted that Mateo has found it for himself and taken it so much to heart.

Whilst a lot of rock music is loud and the vocals are often high and 'tense', it's not all inaccessible stuff - just try a moment or two of this extract from 'The Snow Goose' by Camel - it still gives me goosebumps when I listen to it...stick with it until the wind quartet starts! An excellent live performance all round.

Ah yes, takes me back!

And in addition to finding a shared love of music from the 70s, our new television - via YouTube - has been providing us with a lot of laughs as Ruy and Romy have been indulging their great pleasure in watching old episodes of 'Dad's Army' of all things!

I thought I had probably seen every single one of these programmes, either at the time of their original screening, which I watched with my Granny and Grandpa on the evenings when my parents were out working in the fish and chip shop we had when I was young. And if not then, surely I had seen all the repeats during the 80s and 90s...but no, there have still be a few gems that I hadn't seen before and today has had me sniggering and laughing at the Home Guard playing a cricket match against the ARP wardens. It's been a useful starting point for a history lesson too - at one point, Romy asked if Hitler was an American...

Life in the 70s was great fun as I remember it in general. For me, there was a freedom as I grew up and a feeling that the world was my oyster. There were grants to go to University and I never doubted that was what I would do. There were Saturday jobs for teenagers in the shops in Bradford city centre. I had friends with cars and we went all over and did all sorts of things - including things that we probably shouldn't have done. There were also strikes and black outs and racism; there was Edward Heath and James Callaghan; David Bowie and Bay City Rollers and Disco; there was a lot of hair and some bizarre fashions - and towards the end of the 70s, in the year I went to University in London, there was Margaret Thatcher, Arthur Scargill and the miners.

What do you remember?