Winter hikes…..

Back home in the UK hiking in the winter invariably looked like this ↑ Crisp, ice cold days with snow on the hills, wrapped up in layers of warm clothes, woolly hats and gloves.

Walks were brisk with short breaks for refreshments washed down by flasks of piping hot tea or coffee.

On Saturday we went for a hike in the Monte De Malaga Parque Natural and within minutes of setting off up the road I had shed down to a sleeveless t-shirt and was wishing I had worn my shorts.

Our picnic was taken at a more leisurely pace with a post feast doze in the sun……..bliss :)

Walking through pine forests with their scent wafting through the air was intoxicating and with the view looking out across the sea obscured by hazy sunshine it was difficult to remember that this was the end of November and not the middle of the summer.

Hiking is one of our favourite outdoor pass times and we would be fools to pass up the chance to indulge in such gorgeous conditions.

Hope you enjoy the photos…..

I love finding little properties like this perched up in the hills. With some TLC this would make the perfect retreat center…… :)

Claustrophobia…..

For the most part I love living in my little caravan…..no actually love doesn’t seem the right word. I adore living in my little caravan. A whole year on and I can still say that I am a very happy bunny and that living in such a small environment hasn’t worn thin.

Unless it rains and I am confined to barracks that is. Then the story is very different. When the rain clouds form my mood darkens and I can feel myself fighting the urge to break out and run free.

This weekend the weather was vile. Non stop thunderstorms from Saturday morning until late last night. We had to dig emergency channels around the awning to stop it flooding and then spent the rest of the weekend holed up inside as the lightening and thunder reverberated off the mountains and shook the caravan and all that was in it – including us.

It was too horrible to venture out and so I had no choice but to grin and bear it. By last night I was crawling the walls and could no longer contain my anguish. Everything was crowding in on me, I felt I couldn’t move, my chest was tight and I was having trouble breathing. Hubby did his best to calm me down and we sat and watched Harry Potter to take our minds of the raging storms outside.

This morning we have awoken to clear blues skies and although it is really windy I am  immediately happier as it means I can be back outside if I want to. We have dried out the awning and moved everything back into its right place and calm and order rules again.

I am not a girl who likes to be contained. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this past year is how much I love to feel free; how much I love being in nature and living a very simple life. I have thrown of many of the constraints that modern living tries to tie us down with and my heart really does soar because of it.

However, I can’t throw off mother nature. She is raw and powerful up here in the mountains. When she roars and rains then you know about it. She is the boss and she is teaching me that there are times when I have to respect that there is something stronger than me in the world and be contained. It is a humble lesson to learn but as with all lessons that are sent to us it is one that I need to accept and live with.

So, next time it rains and we are confined indoors for a few days then I hope I will deal with it in a much better and calmer way…….

I’ll let you know how that one goes….. :)

 

Spanish Stray Dogs…..

Stray dogs are a big problem here in Spain and it is heartbreaking for an animal lover like me to see so many animals wandering around looking hungry, cold and generally fed up. My natural reaction is to round them all up and look after them all.

Of course I can’t as I only have a small caravan, two resident members of royalty (aka the cats) and a husband who isn’t so keen on dogs (due to a scary dog biting incident in his youth that is best not mentioned)

So, I am doing the next best thing and helping our at a dog rescue center on the 6th December.

Spanish Stray Dogs are organising a group of us to go and take blankets, food and lots of love and attention to these gorgeous animals and hopefully make them feel a little more comfortable. We will be cleaning ears, grooming and treating them with essential oils.

Los Borrios kill shelter where we are going ( I have yet to pluck up the courage to ask why it is named such) has room for 50 dogs but at the moment has 100 so it is overcrowded and noisy. Imagine how confusing and upsetting that must feel to a little animal.

With Christmas coming please spare a thought for these poor animals and maybe instead of buying cards this year donate just 5 euros to help buy some food. Then email all your friends instead and let them know what you have done and encourage them to do the same…..It’s easy to do, just click on the link on the website (Spanish Stray Dogs)and follow the payment instructions. Its all secure and above board and these doggies would really appreciate some loving thoughts and actions this Christmas.

I will take my camera with me and post the photo’s when I get back. I know it will be heart wrenching and I fully expect to fall head over heels in love with all of the four legged residents but am hoping that our visit will help in some small way.

Also, remember that these dogs can be re-homed anywhere so if you are looking to give a dog a loving home then maybe consider one of these babies.

On our recent stay in Portugal we met a Dutch couple who had the most gorgeous dog with them. Turned out they had adopted her from Malaga over the internet. The first time they met her was when they went to pick her up at Rotterdam airport. It was love at first sight for all of them and absolute prove that it can work.

So, please go and visit Spanish Stray Dogs and support these gorgeous doggies this Christmas…….

Thank you

Helen xx


 

Our journey back to Spain – the final installment!!!

The following morning after a fitfull night’s sleep from all of us we awoke and re-discussed staying where we were. In all honesty neither of us was totally happy with spending a month or possible more in what was a just a glorified car park…..

Hubby went off the speak to the owner to clarify some of the prices – i.e. was vat already included in the electricity tariff or was this extra. A reasonable question seeing as we are on a budget and the monthly rental was quite high here.

The owner took umbridge at being asked questions about the cost telling hubby that he didn’t like being asked ‘silly questions’. We were also being asked to pay up front for the month, which we have never had to do before and hubby simply asked if we were to leave before the month was out then would we get a rebate.

Anyway to cut a long story short it would seem that clarifying prices is a no go area at this particular campsite and something the owner simply can’t tolerate!! We were told to pack up and leave which was something of a shock but also quite a relief and we after a super fast pack up time we were both actually really glad to be out of there. Can’t say the same about the cats who were not best pleased to be back in their cat baskets yet again.

But where next??

The only other campsites that we knew and more importantly knew the location of were back down in Torre del Mar near to where we camped when we first arrived last winter.

There are two campsites on the beach and so we headed to 40 odd miles back down to them. The first was absolutely heaving with only a few plots free. It was too busy and too many dogs and other cats on site so we ruled that one out.

The second was a possible as a quick walk around site showed it to be about half full. I went and spoke to the reception who gave me the prices which were way over our budget. We tend to balk at paying more than we did in rent back in the UK. Also the wifi was only working on half the site and although I was told it was being repared in the next day or two but that would have meant taken a leap of faith that it was and after the last few days neither of us was happy to do that…….so, also no good.

We had only one more option and that was to return up into the hills to camping Rural Iznate and the site that we had spent 5 months last winter.

Half an hour later Gigi had managed to pulll us all up the long steep climb and we were once again back in the familiar mountains and were being greeted warmly by Maria the site owner, Eric and his wife Cindy and Danny and his wife Su all permanent residents of the site.

Kisses and hugs over and all caught up on the happenings of the summer we breathed a sigh of relief as we drank in the fresh air and stunning views once again.

Daisy Duke the little site cat that I had fed all last winter and been heartbroken at having to leave appeared almost instantly beside herself to see us and the bowl of tuna that I produced for her. :)

We are a bit further around the coast than we had wanted to be but the peace of mind of being on a site that is familiar and friendly is worth more than that.

So at last after a mammoth journey we are settled back in again. They have upgraded the system for the showers since we have been gone which means that we have piping hot water every morning. They have also changed the pay structure and we are now on a meter for electricity. Strangely it means that we are paying less than we were last winter…….go figure.

I’m sure there is a moral to this tale somewhere but I’ll be darned if I know what it is – other than not to go traveling with a caravan maybe!!

Our journey back to Spain – part three….

Hope you are all still with me…… :)

The next day we were up and off by 9.30 to drive the 120 miles down to Estepona. Again everything went well until we hit the part of the day when we had to find the campsite.

We have yet to find directions; either in guidebooks or from the campsites own websites that get you to the actual destination and we spent another stressful hour or so trying to find ‘Club Tropicana’

Estepona and the whole coastline was a lot busier that I had thought it would be and the campsite was set back just a little way from the main dual carriageway into Marbella so a lot of road noise.

The campsite itself had too many plots crammed in which meant that only a few of them would actually take our caravan and its awning. The wifi was poor and there was a lot of feral cats so after careful consideration and the use of their wifi to sort out Plan C we decided that this was not for us.

The next option was a very small site 16 miles inland run by and English couple. I had emailed them previously but they came back a little pricey. Still we had no other options and so after a few phonecalls and directions we found ourselves in their village and they came to meet us (although not before we had taken the wrong entry onto the autoroute and started heading back towards Gibraltar – ahem…a 20kn detour later and twice through the same kiosk at the toll and we were back on track!!)

Their site was down an unmarked road with several different properties and lots and lots of very sad looking guard dogs; all chained up and all barking their boredom and unhappiness.

The site was very basic, just a hardcored area, one bathroom and 5 plots. The couple were very friendly and although it was a little austere we decided after testing the wifi that we would stay a month and see what the electricity prices came out like as we were being metered for this.

So, we popped into the village for some take out beers and retuned to the site for tea.

Tired and frazzled we called it a day ready to unpack and set up camp the following morning……but when the dawn broke all was not well…….

Come back tomorrow to see what happened next!!

Our journey back to Spain – part two

Day two was actually good fun as we went into Sevilla to do a spot of sightseeing.

After a late start we headed for the bus stop and the 11.30 bus. This turned up at 11.20 and the driver (female) jumped off the bus and ran off down the road. We stood patiently at the front of the bus to await her return.

She reappeared a few minutes later and as we asked for our tickets she lurched the bus forward and we were off.

Hanging on for dear life as we were thrown around a roundabout she tried to multitask driving the bus whilst operating the ticket machine and looking for our change…….I got the giggles as I often do when I get nervous and we hurried to our seats before we hit the dual carriageway and our certain death if we were still standing……

A white knuckle ride into Sevilla followed which was so fast that we didn’t even know that we had crossed the river and were near our destination – a mean feat as the river is a wide as the Thames in London.

Once our feet were back on solid ground we enjoyed a lovely day wandering around Sevilla. It is a lovely city with plenty to do and lots of gorgeous architecture and historical buildings.

Enjoy the little mini tour below…..

Government buildings

The old tobacco factory

More government buildings

The cathedral

What a shame they stuck a satellite dish right at the top on the statue of Christ!!!

Sevilla is full of lots of plaza’s like this…
The river

So, after a restful day sightseeing we returned to the campsite for an early night in preparation for our last day of traveling – or was it…..

Tune in tomorrow to find out!!!

Our journey back to Spain – part one

I think it is safe to say that things rarely go to plan when you put me, hubby and two cats into a car and then hitch a caravan onto the back of it!

Now it’s not that we don’t plan for our travels as we do. Campsites are selected and rejected until we find something that suits most of our criteria. Maps are then printed off and cross-referenced with the main map in the car.

Provisions are made for the car and the cats fed, watered and toileted before they go into their cat baskets with the added precaution of a bed liner incase of accidents. A liberal amount of ‘feliway’ (the cat version of rescue remedy) is then sprayed around said basket and the back of the car to calm them. Not altogether sure it works but gives me peace of mind to use it!!

With all this organisation you could be mistaken for thinking that our journey back to Spain was a smooth one but my friends you would be wrong; oh so very wrong………

5 days, 7 campsites, 3 ‘accidents’ courtesy of Oscar and many arguments later we are only just waking up without the dread of another day in the car.

So what went so wrong…………

We left Portugal in a blaze of sunshine and a flurry of farewells and headed off to the border 20 miles away to fill up with petrol. Less than 5 minutes down the road I realised that Oscar had had the first of his 3 indiscressions but being an old hand at traveling with cats I managed to sort the situation and by the time we arrived at the petrol station he was fast asleep.

The journey down to Sevilla went well with us sharing the driving and joking and singing away to our favourite CD’s.

Trouble began as we tried to locate our campsite. Unfortunately road names on the maps didn’t correspond with road names in reality and there were junctions where there shouldn’t be and basically it all went belly up.

Trying to navigate when you haven’t really a clue where you are with a 37ft rig is a stressful experience for all concerned but somehow I managed to get us to the right place. We were on a small dual carriage way and coming down the wrong side for where the campsite should be. As we passed the sign I could see that there was a big steel gate to the entrance which looked locked up.

Hubby parked up and I ran back to investigate. Not good news……the campsite was derelict :(

Onto plan B and the only other campsite our side of Sevilla which very luckily was in the same town.

The luck stopped there though as after two rounds of the directions in the camping book we were no closer to finding it.

It was getting late and so we pulled over to decide what to do. Our only real option was to carry on down to Cadiz; another 100km and stay at the same campsite that we had in May.

At this point I noticed a man walking towards the car. Being the suspicious Londoner that I am I hissed at hubby to lock the doors. Of course he did the opposite and opened his door to speak to him. ‘Are you looking for the campsite’ the chap said ‘ yes’ came the eager reply from hubby.  The chap then proceeded to give us directions off around the next corner and within 5 minutes we were pulled up in front of Camping Villsom with big relieved sighs on our faces……….

An hour or so later with food in our bellies, beer in our glasses and two happier cats curled up on the bed our first day of traveling drew to a close.

To be continued……

The tooth fairy works overtime around here!!

Well, our convivial drink out yesterday was an interesting experience.

There were 5 of us as Siebo had also invited the other couple on site at the moment; Leo and Margaret from Holland.

We arrived at 4pm and got ourselves settled into a bench seat and ordered 5 beers. There were three old guys already in residence all with flat caps and all staring in our direction. Two of them got bored of us after a short while but the 3rd continued to stare around a wall at us the whole time we were there it was a little disconcerting as he only had one eye!

By about 5pm the place was heaving. Flat caps were bobbing about all over the place and I swear there was only about 6 teeth among a dozen or so of them. The tooth fairy must be run off her pretty little wings here.

The highlight was one old guy arriving in what is apparently a traditional shepherds coat – see picture above. It is a fur gillet with large epillettes but the best bit is that it is much longer at the back like a cape. The picture doesn’t do it much justice but was the only one I could find.

Leo wondered aloud if the old guy wanted to sell it and I couldn’t help but think that some of my ‘fancy dress’ loving friends (Ludley and McCann step forward) would have gone mad for it! I’m sure close up it would have smelt less than desirable but it didn’t stop us from doing our own bit of staring.

When we left after three beers each we had to fight our way out it was that busy and the atmosphere was certainly very ‘convivial’

We will be heading off at the crack of dawn tomorrow to make it down to Seville before tea time. Due to the weather looking wet and windy over the weekend we have decided to stay in Seville until Monday to let the worst of it pass. Towing a caravan in the wind takes nerves of steel and we really can’t be bothered with it.

So, an extra day to look around Seville before we get back on the road for Estepona on Monday…..

See you on the other side!!!!

 

A farewell convivial!!

Siebo came and invited us for a farewell drink this morning – or as the dutch say a ‘convivial’.

So, we are going into Evoramonte and his local at 4pm this afternoon. I’m guessing the early start is so he can be home in time for tea (or at least I am hoping so!!)

This is the same local where the average age of clientelle is around 150, where no women dares to enter and where the old boys favourite pass time is to get tanked up and then play chicken by teetering on the edge of the pavement just as you are about to drive by.

I can’t wait!!!!!

Me thinks that there will be no need to get dressed up in my finest either :)

 

 

 

 

Club Tropicana

After a bit of searching we finally found a new campsite back in Spain that ticks almost all our boxes (we are a bit pinickety!) and it is called ‘Camping Parque Tropical’ which we immediately renamed ‘Club Tropicana’ in hommage to one of our favourite (ahmen) Wham tracks from the 80s…..

Being a baby of the late 60s the music that influenced me most was 70s glam rock – David Bowie was and still is one of my all time fav’s and most of the music from the 80s.

When I was 19 my best friend and I went on a 2 week holiday to Ibiza. It is a blurred and hazy memory of too much alcohol followed by long lazy days sleeping it off on the beach!

On one evening we went of on an organised trip to Ku the biggest and most famous nightclub on the island at the time. It was famous because it was where George and Andrew aka Wham filmed their video for the title of this post.

I’m sure my 40 something self wouldn’t think much of the extortionate prices and questionable atmosphere but the mere fact that the boys themselves had strutted their funky stuff on the very same dance floor was enough for my easily impressed 19 year old self. Lets face it everything looks rosier after a few vodka and oranges – I was very sophisticated back then!!

Our new home that we will be embarking for in a few days is just across the road from the beach and a few miles down the coast from Estepona.

We are looking forward to the move as the long hot summer here has given way to what looks to be a wet and windy winter. At the time of writing the rain is pounding down and I fear we may be floating out of here like a modern day Noah’s arc………

And in the interests of ‘entertainment’ I managed to find a photo of said holiday to Ibiza!!

Don’t know who the girl on the left was!!!