A pre Christmas break to Spain, staying in the home of one of John and Carols house sitting clients.

December 10, 2008 early morning rush to Spain

Up unnecessarily early to catch a flight from Luton to Alicante, Rosemary is a bit of a worrier when it comes to catching flights.  Flight left Grande Britannia in the sunshine and landed in Alicante in bright sunshine, early and without the fanfare of Ryan Air.   We were met, greeted and promptly ferried to the Villa in Lliber where Carol and John were staying.  On route, we had a good view of Benidorm and Calpe rock. I do admit Benidorm is quite an impressive view when seen from a distance.

Quick settle-in and then lunch followed by a walk through the local vineyards, back to the Villa, more wine and drinks followed by Rabbit Paella cooked by Chef Jaun.

December 11, 2008 Calpe and Scamp

Today we went to Calpe for a wander around the fishing port.  Lots of fishing boats in port, nets being repaired, and a boat being filled with ice in preparation for a fishing trip.  A walk through the town took us to a lagoon with pink flamingos, and an island filled with herons.  Alas, the flamingos were a little too far off to make a good photograph.

On the way back to the car we took a walk under and partway around Calpe Penon de Ifach, the rock.  Here we saw some scuba divers in training, followed by a flying display of starlings.  On the Calpe rocks, there were a group of midgets scaling its dizzy heights.  We will be meeting them at the top on another, less windy day.

Back home for lunch, and then a visit to Chris, Yvonne and Scamp.  Plans were laid for a Thursday wine tasting and tapas lunch. Afterwards, a drink in the Hallelujah bar to meet Jim followed by shopping in the local Jalon supermarket.

December 12, 2008 Walk up from Senje

Up for breakfast at 9.00, and then out to Senje for a walk up the local hill.  The walk takes us around the back of the hill and to the top where there is a white cross.  The land around here looks terraced, but in fact, it is where the rocks have been removed and piled up in rows to allow plants to grow.  We did pass by old wells and a deserted farmhouse on this walk.

On the way home, stopped at a supermarket to buy some prawns for lunch, which were eaten with garlic and (Chris’s) lemon flavoured mayonnaise.  After a few glasses of wine, into Jalon where Rosemary & Carol went scrubby thingy shopping and the men to the local wine co-operative to replenish our stocks.  Ended up buying a bottle of sweet wine, and 5 litres of rose for a satisfyingly ludicrous price.

Back at the ranch, Chef-prepared an excellent repast of pork chops with a caper sauce, those being the female-chosen ingredients for Chef’s latest Ready, Steady Cook test.

December 13, 2008 Razor Shells

Saturday, another dry and sunny day.  Not quite what the weather forecast predicted.  It did though start to rain in the evening.

Market in Benissa

Today we went to Benissa and the local market there.  Here knitting needles (I am reliably informed they were a set of rare five double-ended 2.5 variants) were triumphantly purchased, along with the vegetables for the evening meal.  Popped into the local church where there was an excellent Nativity display.  Carol bought two poinsettias, but what to put them on?

Lunch back at the house, but it was beginning to cloud over and was getting a little cool, so an early start for the fire today.  A swift visit to Jalon revealed the ideal poinsettia saucer, miniature paella pans.  The Christmas decorations have arrived.

Supper was razor shells in butter and parsley sauce (Steve ate these in great trepidation after his last experience), followed by  Bonito with potatoes and spinach.

December 14, 2008 Nearer to Benidorm

Up again for breakfast by 9.00.  Quick drive into town to buy some black pudding and eggs, but were defeated; nothing was open at all.  So home again for a store cupboard raid, ending up eating the intriguing mushrooms from the market on toast, thin slices of fried black pudding, fried tomatoes and potatoes and Heinz baked beans, oh and of course some Cava to celebrate Sunday.

Into the charabanc and a drive to the seaside resort of Altea.  Altea is just North of Benidorm.

Saw the large boats in the harbour, a fish farm out to sea and the tall skyscrapers of Benidorm in the distance.  We walked up the hill to the church, through lots of nice, narrow, winding paths, streets and alleyways.  Arriving at the top with a rather disappointing view of the closed church.  This area was filled with rather posh shops, and lots of restaurants, and we were enticed into one such place for a glass of beer each.

On the way back, we stopped off at Calpe in the hope of viewing the flamingos from a nearer spot.  Rather difficult to get near the water’s edge from that side.  Ended up Steve walking down to the rushes on the edge, not seeing the flamingos.  Drove around to the other side and found the little pink beggars had already flown off.

Home and back to the warm fire, with a Sunday evening roast of chicken, potatoes and flat and the red mottled beans form the market (which had lost their stripes in the cooking).  Early to bed, but Steve undertook a little bit of nighttime photography first – but of views, nothing else!

December 15, 2008 Riverside Walk in Jalon

Very cold today, the thermometer was at two degrees this morning.  When we got back at mid-morning, it still had not risen above 10.  The day was mainly sunny, though there appeared to be some threatening clouds in the distance.

Today we walked along the river from Jalon, hoping to cross over the river to Alicalali for a drink in a bar.  We eventually found the crossing over the river, only to give up because the water was a little too deep and would have come over the tops of our boots.

The walk took us through lots of vines, olive groves, orange groves and almond groves.  There were some other trees, such as carob, but others were unrecognisable.  The place was teeming with birds, including a hoopoe, an egret, chiffchaffs and Crag Martins.  Some intriguing climbers were on some of the oranges.  They had very large seedpods one of which had sprung open to reveal a multitude of tiny seeds each with a parachute attached.  Parasites?  Who knows.

We retraced our steps back via the Hallelujah Bar to the supermarket and stocked up on more essentials such as gin & manzanilla sherry.

Tonight the meal is some excellent pork meat balls cooked by the Chef.  At least I hope so, as I have blogged before eating!!!

December 16, 2008 Conejo en Salsa de Almendras

Tuesday was a damp and cold day, drizzled most of the day, clearing up a little in the evening. Rosemary and Carol visited the market in Jalon, finding it rather wet and cold. John and Steve went to Benissa for the evening provisions, meeting up with Rosemary and Carol in the Hallelujah Bar for beers and coffee. 

Chef was on form today with and excellent rabbit stew in an almond sauce (Conejo en Salsa de Almendras).  Nothing was left over for the dogs or cats.

December 17, 2008 The Bernia

Today was a lovely bright sunny day.  So time for a walk, this was a circular walk around a ridge of rock called The Bernia.  The Bernia overlooks the resorts of Altea and Benidorm, you get an excellent view of the ridge from the N70 motorway.  The walk is 8km and graded medium-high has quite a bit of scrambling and walking on scree slopes.  For one reason or the other (ie Rosemary), it took us 5 hours and not the estimated 3.5 hours.

The walk starts up from a car park by a café and goes up a rough track passable by cars.  Off the track are several remote houses, and even the odd British caravan parked on a plot of land.  At the head of the track is a spring (water) filling station.  Seems the Spanish are into drinking natural spring water from the hills.  There was a Brit, and an Austrian filling up their car with numerous 5-litre containers of water.

From now on the walk went into a narrow path, going up the hill until it reached the rock face.  Here we walked under the ridge slowly up the slope, clambering up quite a few steep pitches, and even having to use the occasional assistance of ‘hands’.  At the northern edge of The Bernia, you take a natural tunnel under the rock face.  This tunnel is about 30 yards in length, and three feet high.  Passing through the tunnel, downwards, you enter out into a large cave overlooking the coast, Altea and Benidorm.  Shortstop for our packed lunch, drink of water and Robin feed.  Despite the lovely day, the conditions were rather too hazy to get good pictures of Benidorm.

The walk now headed South West under the cliffs of The Bernia.  This part of the walk was mainly on the level, OK first going downhill a little and then uphill so that we could cross over The Bernia at the far end.  Some parts were a little tricky, again having occasionally to use the hands, crossing short scree slopes.  The Spanish also have a tendency to mark the path well where it was obvious, and then forget to mark it where the route divided into several possible tracks.

On the way, we met one other walker walking the route in the opposite direction, who spoke to us in French and mysteriously suggested I slow down.  There was a herd of goats halfway along the track, including two babies.

At the far end of The Bernia was a fort, a Bastion.  The fort still had a few intact arches.  Here the walk became easier as we crossed over the ridge and then headed back down to meet up with our car.

Back at the Villa, Chef prepared a lovely chicken dish with some of the largest chicken breasts we have ever seen.  Later in the evening, we were entertained by one of the cats, Jake, drinking water out of the tap.

December 18, 2008 Wine Tasting

Another sunny day, even slightly warm & no one complaining of leg ache.  John & Carol’s friends Barry & Irene popped in en route to southern Spain in their camper van.

Today we took it easy and went for a wine tasting at a boutique winery in the valley. This was arranged by Chris & Yvonne from Jalon who came with us.  A German Peter Arnold and his English wife Helen ran it.  He was an experienced winemaker, having worked in Germany for 10 years, and then created a new winery in South Africa where he worked for 12 years.

His winery had a very small vineyard of Shiraz, capable of producing 600 bottles.  Most of his wine production was from bought-in grapes from the area.  We tried several wines, a Rosado, three red wines and two whites, and eat some very good tapas.

On the way home, we stopped off and filled up our water bottles from a spring nearby.  The idea was to go back to Chris & Yvonne’s for coffee, so we were a tad perplexed when they weren’t back when we (after our spring diversion) arrived.  Seems a local ex-Pat taxi driver had not managed to stop when they did.  We tore ourselves away from them and Scamp the dog and went home via the supermarket.

Back at the ranch Chef prepared another Paella, this time with chicken & prawns; yummy.

December 19, 2008 Hill side fort

Today we drove to Alicante airport and dropped John off.  He was having to flying back to England after his mother’s great friend had died very unexpectedly leaving us and Carol. On the way back we (ie Carol) negotiated a number of roundabouts out of Benidorm at La Nucia on the way to Guadalest.

Guadalest is a hill top fort and village with wonderful views down the valley towards Benidorm.  It’s a pretty village, a bit touristy, but still well worth the visit.   Beneath the village there is a man made lake.  I do wish the Spanish in these towns spent a little more money trying to hide away their power cables and TV aerials.  There was one street, which looked quite nice, except for the plethora of cables.

Back home again for a late lunch on the terrace in sunshine.  R&C did a spot of gardening until it turned chilly.

Supper, sausages, that’s Sausages, not Walls.  And just for those you look back at this biographical log, a couple of mean eyed cats.

December 20, 2008 Market and Calpe luncheon

Today was our last full day in Spain.  Once the menagerie had been sorted out we headed into Jalon for the rastro (aka flea) market.  The market was one large car boot sale along the river bank and the riverside car parks.  A large mix of market stalls, selling goods from Flamenco dresses & shoes, through skimpy panties & anatomy covers (red ones said to be luck on Christmas Eve), records to any old junk.

Before heading back to the house, a coffee at the Halleluiah bar, and a quick visit to Mas y Mas to buy the evening snack type meal.  Whilst there Steve spotted half a piglet for 25 euro. Carol was taken by this and bought one as an incentive for John to come back and BBQ it.

Quick release of the dogs and cats, then we were back down to Calpe to eat at one of the restaurants on the harbour front.  Today it was definitely tee shirt weather; so sitting outside was a pleasure.  First choosing the restaurant is quite difficult, there is quite a high-pressure sales force pressing you to enter their restaurant, ours plied you with free Sangria and fish cakes.  We went for the inclusive menu, which was a starter, main course and half a bottle of wine for under 10 Euro.  Rosemary chose battered artichoke (she’d half thought it might be buttered), Carol and Steve had the deep fried mini squids.   For mains Steve ate Sole, while Rosemary and Carol ate grilled Hake; all very good.

Only slight problem with the restaurant was the continual visits of the watch, sunglass, belt and purse sales people.  They did make a rather rapid retreat when a policeman appeared.  We watched some Spanish girls try on glasses, inspect the bags and so on.  The one girl attempted to teach the others how to use a fan.

After the meal, we walked down the promenade looking for the mermaids in the rock, Chris had told us about.  The man of the party ably spotted these again.  Top score for the observation power of man.  Women probably are chatting too much to see anything.

A quick stop of for tea in a local sea front café; proper Tetley tea, and hot, but then it was run by an English women.