Feliz Navidad…..

Sitting here in bed eating a raw mince pie and a raw orange and ginger cookie for breakfast 🙂 I think it is safe to say that we have officially declared it is Christmas.

Yesterday we handed out bags of mince pies and cookies to our neighbours, most of the food prep is done and walks over the next few days have been planned.

A quick whizz around Bessie later to make sure she is as sparkly as the decorations that we will finish putting up once we stop work today means that we are ready to down tools and enjoy some festive relaxation from tonight onwards.

Normal service will be resumed once we fall out the other end sometime next week!!

So, to you and yours this Christmas ‘May you have all that you wish for and may 2012 be a bright and welcoming year full of love, light and blessings’

Or as they say here in Spain – ‘ Navidad Feliz y un Año Nuevo Próspero’

 

 

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Christmas

This will be the fourth Christmas that we have spent abroad, two here in Spain and two in France several years back.

Spending Christmas away from home is an odd thing. All my internal reference points for the festive season are tied up with good old Blighty.

For me Christmas should be spent in the cold, preferably the snow (the picture above shows what my back garden looked like on the last Christmas that we spent in the UK)

Christmas shopping should be spent dashing from one shop to another trying to stay warm whilst muffled in hats, scarves and gloves.

It is about glasses of hot mulled wine and warm mince pies and roaring log fires.

Back in the UK I would have had the Christmas decorations up at the beginning of December, the tree groaning under the weight of all my sparkly and glittery baubles collected over the years. Here I have decorated the sleeping end of the caravan but won’t do the rest until Christmas Eve as otherwise Santa is in danger of being decapitated such is the fight for space!

In the UK I would have spent the day in Norwich with my best friend trying our best to do a passable impression of actually getting some shopping down but instead spending the day eating, drinking, gossiping and enjoying all the Christmas lights and cheer.

The shops here all look pretty and sparkly (I’ll have to take some photo’s) but its just not the same when you are walking around in t-shirt and sandals and there is none of the fervant rush of bodies in and out of shops that there is back home. Manana baby is definitely the order of the day here.

Being away from home at Christmas and all the trappings that go along with it means that we have to do things differently in order to not spend the time wistfully thinking of what we are missing.

Of course we still include some traditional features – this is me at the weekend when we slipped down to the beach with a flask and a mince pie to watch the sun go down and bask in the evening rays.

This Christmas will be a time for us to catch our breath and take a few days out. It will be time to reflect on our first full year of our ‘journey’ and to plan what comes next.

Much of Christmas morning will be spent on Skype with our families so we will still get to share in a little of Christmas from back home and then the rest of the day will be spent eating and chilling and enjoying the sunshine with not a hat or scarf in sight…..

I know it won’t feel the least bit like a UK Christmas but it will feel like our Christmas and I’ve come to accept that that’s ok…… 🙂

 

I love Amazon…..

Hubby and I are big Harry Potter fans (I know who isn’t!) and we are currently in the process of watching each one of them again once a week in preparation for watching the finale on Christmas Day.

We had been hoping to go and see the final film at the cinema but had trouble finding an English speaking version over the summer in Portugal. We did think we had tracked a cinema down at one point but on closer investigation it seemed that said cinema had been closed down about a millenium ago!

So we decided to wait until the Dvd came out and then I concocted the plan to watch them all in the run up to Christmas.

Buying Dvds in Spain costs an arm and a leg and so I decided to get onto Amazon last week and order it there. Amazon told me that the release date was the 2nd December and that I could pre-order it for the very reasonable sum of £8.47 + £2.34 packaging. Great I thought as I ordered it.

Over the next few days I then began to worry that we wouldn’t get it in time for Christmas as I am still waiting for my parents birthday card that they posted a few weeks ago. I think it has gone the long way around and is currently enjoying a cruise around the med!

So, you can imagine my delight when we got back to the site last night after a shopping trip to have Maria rush out with some post for me. It must be the card I said to hubby but no, Maria handed me a package from Amazon.

Surely not……I only ordered it less than a week ago…..it couldn’t possibly have come that quickly. But sure enough it has and we now have our shiny new Dvd sitting waiting to be opened on Christmas Day……..

I love Amazon……sooooo much. Never once have we been let down or disappointed by their service. They simply do what they say on the tin…….If one company can do it why can’t they all.

Oh and the best bit was that a day after I ordered it I received an email to say they had dropped the price further and that I would receive a 0.47p refund!!!

Happy Christmas Amazon……from a very happy customer.

 

Maroma – part 2

In March of this year we climbed La Maroma. It is the mountain that stands behind us here on the campsite in Iznate.

When we climbed it in March we did so from the other side to the one we look at everyday as this is the ‘ahem’ easier route; although at 6788ft easy is not something that you would immediately associate with it.

This weekend though we (well hubby actually) decided we should go and investigate it from our side of the mountain. If I didn’t know any better I would say that hubby has a slight ‘fixation’ with this mountain!!

The plan was to just climb some of it and then turn and head back as we had left it too late in the day to climb it all and more to the point after a lazy summer we are out of practice on the long walks!!

The weather was once again on our side and conducive to hiking and we set off at about midday and had a lovely few hours up on the mountainside. I can’t say that the lower parts of this climb are too different to the ones of the other side of the mountain but I am sure it gets steeper the higher you get.

We were lucky enough again to see four eagles circling overhead. I never tire of seeing these amazing birds gliding past as you get a glimpse into their world of crystal clear air and views for miles around.

Anyways, it was another lovely day out in the fresh air, walking, picnicking and chilling…….enjoy the photo’s 🙂

The walk started from the town hall in Canillas, see the small town about 1/3rd of the way up Maroma in the top picture. Canillas is a typical white washed Spanish village, all narrow streets and very steep!

Within no time at all we were looking back down on Canillas…

Lake Vinuela in the distance

Post picnic snooze……

Stunning views

Altogether now …. ‘high on a hill was a lonely goatherd lay odl lay odl lay hee hoo’

Trying out my new walking poles…..

Homemade mince pie and tea break on the way back down…

Cats and dieting….

Molly is on a diet…….which is causing her no end of grumpiness. She can’t understand how suddenly she isn’t allowed to eat all her food up and then finish whatever Oscar has left as well.

But, tough measures are called for after she weighed in at 11lbs this week. For a little tabby cat with only 3 legs that falls into the rather excessive category. So she is now on a strict three meals a day and I am having to resist the temptation to go and pick her up when she is outside so she doesn’t have to hop everywhere (I know I am probably part of the cause but I can also be part of the solution too 🙂 )

Apart from a few major grumbles last night she is being quite good about her new regime doing what most cats do when confronted with less food than usual – she is sleeping a lot . I mean a girls gotta conserve her energy when rations are in short supply!!

Whether this will work or not who knows but I have to give it a try especially given her ‘ahem’ disability. On a serious note the last thing I want is for her not to be able to get about because she is too heavy to hop around.

Of course the other option would be something like this → Hmmmm….I think I will keep at the diet for a bit longer yet 🙂

 

 

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!!