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Percolated happiness coming right up

It’s a drip feed, isn’t it? Happiness I mean. Not just happiness, all feelings, all emotions. A sort of osmosis from outside influence.

Peer pressure

We are so easily swayed these days, by adverts, by song lyrics, by reading a book or watching a decent film. Open your Facebook account and be instantly irritated by someone you have never actually met, feel emotional and sad at someone else’s bad luck, or warm and fuzzy from a cute kitten/puppy video. We’re all total suckers for it, really.

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#GoPositive

So there I was, minding my own business, when HAPPY MELLY suggested I get happy for a week; Go Positive they said. Easy, I thought. I’ll just post ‘nice’ things, and curate some positive stories. I can do that. Simple.

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Hard work

It’s not, actually. My social media (personal and pages accounts) are full of some really bad shit, and I hadn’t truly taken note. I found myself SEARCHING for good news stories, and really, it was pretty trying. Forget the newspapers and media pages for a start. My ‘friends’ do like a good moan! Avoidance of😦 reactions is also harder than you think.

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So, I gaily skipped and scrolled past the RIP posts, the dead dog posts, the FFS posts and the general angst. No Angry, Sad, or even Like  (your angry mood)  responses from me – nuh-uh. I’m not on your bus, sister.

Feelgood factor

Then something odd happened. I found my finger hovering back over those Bad News stories, looking for something positive to say. That’s better, I thought. The OP would ‘like’ my comment, and I’d feel even happier.

 

9 September at 11:27 ·

All done and not a word of thanks from management. Not even a goodbye. Thankfully students were grateful for my efforts. #wontbeback

 

Comments

 

Carol Byrne The students are the important ones, your raison d’etre. Good that they were grateful 🙂

Like · Reply · 1 · 9 September at 12:33

 

I started to do the same OFFLINE. What’s all this? A new me? No, probably not. That would take some sort of miracle.

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But a slow, drip-feed of happiness? Yes. like the best coffee, a sort of percolated happiness. It tastes pretty good too…want a cup?

Wabbit Wabbit – Sustainable gift shopping

I’m enthusing about a newly discovered treasure trove of Fair Trade products, and although tempted to keep it a secret for myself, have decided you should all know about Eighteen Rabbit Fair Trade.

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You’ll already know I’m a bit of an eco-warrior, and am published regularly for the likes of eco-companion, that sustainable travel deliverer of dream destinations. But of course, it’s all about a lifestyle change for the better, and when I want to surprise someone with a gorgeous gift and can’t swing the finances to a holiday, then I forage for the best in eco-friendly gifts online.

Recently, I discovered Eighteen Rabbit, and also found great gifts with a real conscience. Sold!

Privileged reviewer that I am, I was over the moon to receive their  list of review-able goodies, and chose a Recycled Tyre Slim Wallet, as a gift for Stan the long-suffering Man.

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Promptly dispatched to Spain, well wrapped and encased in gift-ready tissue, the wallet arrived, and I was amazed at the excellent quality, craftsmanship and overall tactile beauty. Price? Ridiculous. Just £12. He was delighted, it’s so strong too, perfect for all those bits and pieces he carries around, you know what blokes are like…!

Not just a wallet, there’s a backstory too, let me, or rather Eighteen Rabbit,  tell you…

What: These wallets have the cold, smooth look and feel of leather, but are actually made from refashioned rubber inner tubes. A masterclass in craftsmanship and sustainable innovation. These wallets are available in five different colours, but are all slightly different – a true one-off!

11cm x 9cm (folded) with long internal zip fastening, 3 card holders, small zip and 2 inner pouches. How: Made from recycled rubber inner tubes and cement sack.
Who: These wallets are exclusively available in the UK through Eighteen Rabbit thanks to a partnership we have developed with Cratfworks Cambodia, who work with disabled and impoverished artisans affected by war, poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Why: Buying these wallets helps to cement a new trading partnership between Britain and Cambodia benefiting people affected by war and poverty.

So, a perfect gift, a solid sustainable story with a happy ending, and the promise of lots more browsing and shopping when you enter the Eighteen Rabbit site…I do like the look of these Messenger Bags…

Do you shop with a sustainable mind? The advantages of presenting someone with something that’s all about more than just the latest label brings more satisfaction than you might imagine. Go for it – change your gift-shopping ways today – visit Eighteen Rabbit and see what’s inside…🙂

 

 

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Review: Hotel Rural Laroles

*Unpaid, unsponsored independent review*

Last week we had the pleasure of first night of the season at Teatro Entre Todos and their summer ’16 project of Me Vuelves Lorca. This project (similar to the famous Minack) situated in the Alpujarras is a resounding hit with locals and far flung admirers of greaspaint, footlights and theatre.

Last year we attended the opening night, and also Lorca’s Blood Wedding, and were swayed once again, choosing to see another Lorca piece, La Casa de Bernada Alba, a sad play performed with dignity, outstanding talent and a few wry laughs by the amazing Tribueñe Teatro from Madrid.

The great value ticket price included a bottle of wine, so, not needing to be asked twice, we decided to ditch the thought of a drive home, and booked a night at Hotel Rural in Laroles. Checking the reviews – as you do – on Trip Advisor, we were happy to see so many rave reviews, particularly mentioning Ramón, the host. So off we set, the promise of some tapas, dinner, and a night watching Lorca unfold under the stars.

The host with the most

Ramón greeted us warmly, and as we were the first to check in, showed us ALL of the available rooms, and asked us to choose. He can talk! Hotel Rural may be 2* but it was a 5* 10/10 for a friendly welcome. He deserves all those great reviews, for sure.

The Hotel

The hotel is clean, in fact it is amazingly spotless. The rooms are spacious enough, the usual furniture + a desk, chair, 2 large single beds zipped together, with really comfortable mattresses. WIFI available. Double glazing with 2 sets of doors, a mozzie screen on the balcony (mountains breed midges!) and air conditioning. The bathroom was spacious, modern, well appointed and came with sachets of gel and shampoo (but no soap!) I did spot locally made soap for sale in the lobby.

There’s a terrace, a cosy sitting room and a dining room.

Dinner time

We ordered a pre-theatre dinner, and it was a case of “what would you like?”, rather than “this is what I have.” We agreed on some slow cooked chicken in Champagne, a salad and drinks, and set off to explore  – read beers and tapas.🙂

After a rest in the quiet, airy room, we partook of the delicious dinner, which was impeccable. Served with that crisp and fresh salad, and potatoes cooked in a tasty stock, we also had 2 beers and a glass of wine. Total bill €20 – amazingly good value, there was so much we simply couldn’t finish it.

We left the next morning after a great sleep, waving away offers of breakfast as were in a rush – we’re always in a rush – but with hugs and promises to return. For the next theatre production, of course…..Just ONE night Ramón😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Riad Review. Les Bougainvilliers, Marrakech.

It’s a little bit of an anomaly, to review a Riad, because in general they tend to be special places as a rule, but a recent visit to Riad Les Bougainvilliers in Marrakech proved that some are just better than others. (What was that marketing campaign? If Carlsberg made Riads…)

Trundling our cabin baggage through the Medina at 8pm was a pretty hairy experience, it was Ramadan, the day’s fast had just finished, and as mopeds sped past us on the hot, clammy, narrow streets, and people called out to each other, we felt a bit frazzled after a long day. A flight from Sevilla, preceded by a morning in Córdoba, and then the beautiful madness of Marrakech.

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Arrival

Reading our minds, or perhaps just our lost looks, a local guy asked if we were looking for Les Bougainvilliers. We were promptly hustled up alleys, twisting and turning before being deposited at a large wooden door in a terracotta coloured street that looked like all the others. In reality, as we discovered later that evening, it’s perfectly placed, just a few steps from Jemaa el fna square.

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Total calm

Amal – beautiful, gentle Amal – efficiently swept us inside, and into another world. Everyone will tell you the marked difference between the mayhem of the Medina, and the calm oasis of a Riad, but this was like closing a door on another world. Inside, Les Bougainvilliers is as calm as a south pacific ocean, as sweet as an unfurling flower. Soft music in the background, the hint of some spiced essence, a trickle of water, and total, complete calm. It is decorated in a classic, elegant style that befits the magnificent building. Everywhere, Bougainvillea tumbles over balconies, and the rooms are spacious and individually decorated. Sitting at the marvellous breakfast*, I remarked to my husband that there wasn’t a single thing I would change, I simply could not find a criticism – and believe me I tried!

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It’s the epitome of understated, classical décor, and has a palatial feel without being aloof. That’s the real secret appeal of Les Bougainvilliers – you will feel as though you are at home (but perhaps a much nicer home!).

Select staff

The staff are clearly hand-picked. Nothing is too much trouble. They are there to hand you something just as you are in the process of thinking about it…like magic. They’re friendly, completely efficient,  but never overbearing. They really are perfect, all of them, from the smiling cook (those light, airy crepes!) the friendly girl who cleans (she would put Martha Stewart to shame) the Hammam lady who not only took a layer of skin away from me, but fixed my dodgy knee. Special mention to gentle, helpful night-concierge Moncef, and the aforementioned Amal, graceful, warm and pretty unbeatable at her job. Honestly, we would have packed them up and taken them home if it were possible.

We enjoyed an upgrade to the senior suite (see below) after the first night, so managed to enjoy 2 rooms, each containing their own individual style and calm space.Even the rooms at Les Bouganvilliers have personality!

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Well done to Phillipe the friendly, personable owner, you really have a royal winner amongst Riads – our score for Les Bougainvilliers? You already know that one. 10/10.

Notable points

High points: Staff, Breakfast, Rooms, Roof terrace, Great value, Location.

*Breakfast: Fresh OJ, tea, coffee, flatbreads, crepes, pancakes, fresh fruit, jam (2 types) honey, butter, cheese.

Contact

Raid Les Bougainvilliers. 5, derb Ben Amrane | Riad Zitoun Lakdim, Médina, Marrakech, Morocco.
**Call directly for availability and the best price: Phillipe
Tel. : +212 (0)524 391 717
Fax. : +212 (0)524 391 717
Mobile. : +212 (0)661 170 222 / +212 (0)666 40 60 60
Email : Bougainvilliersresa@yahoo.com**

 

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10 top tips for Gibraltar Music Festival 2016

So you’re going to the best European festival of the year? Great choice! Gibraltar Music Festival is in its 6th year, the very first festival in 2012 had Jessie J as headliner, and it was such a success that the festival has grown beyond expectations. Last year was the first 2 day event – with huge acts such as Paloma Faith and the Kings of Leon rocking the Rock. This year -2016- the first names have already been announced with more to come very soon, but we’re already looking forward to seeing the Stereophonics and Jess Glynne, along with many more artists.

Not been before? Well, from a seasoned GMF-er, here are my 10 top tips to get the most from the festival.

1.Book early. Yes, it’s an obvious one but tickets for this event sell out FAST. If you want a particular ticket; general, VIP, one day or both – then get in there and book now. KiDS UNDER 12 GO FREE!

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2. Think about travelling there. Last year GMF laid on a special pick up service for those coming from one of the resorts on the nearby Spanish coast – read the guide to Travelling to the Festival and save yourself a headache. Don’t even think about parking in Gibraltar.

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3. Sort your hotel out sooner rather than later. Places to stay on the Rock are limited, and La Linea fills up fast, so get booking too.

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4. Factor up. It’s HOT there, and September is usually warm and sunny. Long days watching bands require SPF in high doses, so bring the factor 50 and layer it on. Lip salve with a high SPF factor too.

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5. Wear a hat! It’s no fun squinting at a stage, so bring a hat and plonk it on your head, you’ll be glad. Like me, you might look silly, but at least in one way, you’ll be cool🙂

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6. Be shady. Sunglasses, of course, are a must.

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7. Be prompt.  Get there early – queuing for entry whilst your favourite band are up first is disastrous, as happened with us last year, my 16 year old sulked all day after she missed Union J.

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8. Sit it out. Bring a blanket for later on if you want, BUT, sit on the fringes of the festival. Don’t spread it out in the middle of the ground in front of the stage or you’ll get walked on or danced on.

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9. Er, loo roll. There won’t be any as the day goes on,  baby wipes in a travel pack are your best friend.

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10. Beer o Clock? Don’t drink like a loon. The heat and the long hours require plenty of water along with your beer intake. Remember to snack too – there are loads of great value food stalls on site. Just load up your wristband and there’s no fumbling for cash either.

Lastly, have a brilliant festival! See you there, and say hello, I’ll be the one in the silly hat🙂

joshme

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Eco Travel Envy!

Wish list or bucket list, whatever handle you have for it, we all have at least one, don’t we? At least when it comes to travel…hang on, just dreaming of a bikini body to go with those sunset dreams…zzz. Sssh, don’t wake me up just yet.

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If you know me at all well you’ll also know that I champion the sustainable lifestyle. From my slow-food Spanish recipes, to our s-l-o-w lifestyle here at the top of the mountain and our Spanish idyll.

I already run a team of bloggers and write for the lovely Simon and the organic beauty suppliers, Mypure Natural Beauty, you’ll find all my powder and paint reviews over at my other blog.

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Fitting nicely with that are my articles for Eco-Companion, who drive home the wanderlust for sustainable, ecological travel. That’s our long term dream, to see the real world, eschewing resorts and 5 star bland boredom for the roar of lions in the wild,  a safari eco-lodge, and far-away unforgettable experiences.

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Trouble is, if you start to browse the eco experiences, projects and amazeballs getaways over at Eco-Companion, then you’ll also have to open a bottle of wine and settle down for the night, there are so many to drool over and choose from.

*Note to Max – the site really needs an addiction warning plug-in.*🙂

Meanwhile, join us over on the blog, our travel journal with stories of current wildlife and eco news, and tips and hacks to help you travel more sustainably. We’re a nice bunch really, come over for a chat soon. Another warning. There are also seriously cute pictures of baby animals.🙂

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Spanish Road Trips: Happy in Valladolid

Lovely though it is on our mountain way up in the Alpujarra, sometimes we need to come down and go exploring, and see more of Spain! Usually its a quick weekend in a nearby city to soak up some carbon monoxide and culture, or if I stamp my feet I can wangle a relaxing coastal chill-out; the pebbles of the nearby Costa Almería or Costa Tropical rounding off my laptop shoulders and returning my smile.

No 1 Son was over from wet Wales for Easter, and because he turned 21 recently, and also happens to also be the No 1 UD ALMERÍA fan, we opted for the next available away match as a getaway destination. Having browsed the fixtures, that turned out to be Valladolid. Unfolding the map and hopping into the car, we discovered one sure thing. It’s a blooming long way!

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About Valladolid

Valladolid is the de facto capital of the Spanish region, Castile and Leon. It supposedly had at one time the highest number of Franco’s supporters living there, but I may need citation on that! However, don’t allow that fact to put you off – or perhaps turn you on…as you’ll see, we encountered some fabulous folk.

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With a population of half a million, first impressions are of an northern industrial town (indulge me, going all Billy Bragg there🙂). Rows upon rows of dingy rust coloured high rise flats, it looks a bit depressing after the calm, flat and green La Mancha landscape we were lulled by, on the way ooop north. But then again, it was raining, hard. It would all look better in the sunshine.

I’m not going to go all Wiki on you, but you can read more of the facts here if you wish. However, the strong links to the Catholic Monarchs, Columbus and Cervantes are of more than passing interest.

Heading past the stern exterior, we drove on without a problem – a well-signed one way system that’s easy to navigate –  straight into the centre, following the rail line, and into the Old Town, where we had booked some accommodation (see below). Brimming with history and superb renaissance architecture, we perked up, even if the weather did not. But I’m Irish, and sure what harm is a soft day?🙂

Sightseeing

You’ll love Valladolid for sightseeing. Be prepared to walk and crane your neck a lot. Top of our list – and possibly yours –  will be Casa de Cervantes (where Quixote lived) Christopher Columbus Casa/Museo, the Cathedral, the National Sculpture Museum and although we didn’t go in, there’s an interesting looking Oriental Museum too. The Plaza Mayor is a great meet-me-if-we-get-lost spot, and looks amazing at night with all of the buildings around the square, illuminated.

 

Casa de Cervantes is FREE on Sundays. It has as a fantastic book collection of editions of THAT book from all over the world. The rooms are restored as per in Cervantes’ time. The Columbus museum is modern and interactive, and more about the discovery of the Indies than the man, not hugely interesting if you don’t speak at least a little Spanish.

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The parks, open spaces and many-spired skyline and bustling streets of city life in Valladolid are as interesting as the guidebook sights.

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Best Bars

Head for the Plaza Mayor and you’ll probably find it difficult to get round all the bars there, as they’re numerous. Prices are more than reasonable, so although you may pay for tapas, it’s no more expensive for a round than it is with free food back here in Granada, the beer is cheaper and we drank Estrella Galicia which seemed to be served everywhere.

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To watch a match, head to the Be Bop Bar (Plaza de Martí y Monsó) where the glamorous owner will chat you up and keep the party stoked. We were there to watch El Clasico (between Real Madrid and Barcelona) so it was a busy and fun night!

Afterwards, you’ll have no trouble finding a Gin Joint and someone to sing you a song…

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Shopping

The pedestrianised streets are a pleasure to shop in, where you can buy a purple Valladolid home shirt, or explore the boutiques nested between the usual big-name brands. For inclement weather – which I suspect is a lot of the time – there’s a large shopping centre just outside Valladolid, the Rio Centre.

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Food

Meaty! It’s all sausage and a bit of a meat-feast in Valladolid. Los Zagales de Abadía was recommended to us, as both a bar and for it’s award-winning tapas. It’s certainly different! We found it a little overpriced, slightly pretentious and not particularly tasty, though the presentation was phenomenal. It’s all smoke and mirrors. For example, a well known chocolate Spanish cake bar was replicated as a rolled up fried bread slice with Morcilla and cream cheese sandwiched in the centre. I’m still nauseous at the thought!! It has, however, won many national awards, so perhaps I am just a foodie-heathen. Have a look if you’re in town. Anyway, the sizzling lamb chops were delicious…

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You may wish to browse the Trip Advisor list of Top 10 best restaurants in Valladolid.

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Folk

I can’t emphasise this LOUDLY enough. The words solicitous and friendly were perhaps invented just for the happy people of Valladolid. They are so NICE. Shops, bars, on the street for directions, they’re a matey, polite bunch. The girl at the take-away artisan croquetas shop on Plaza Espana almost came home with us to cook them, she was so helpful – and they were delicious. The main tourist office has super friendly Sonja, who wants to chat and take you all over town. Smashing place to visit – with welcoming and warm, sociable people. Even at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, where as away fans we are used to being segregated, we were all sitting together. It says something about the friendly atmosphere of Valladolid.

Where we stayed

We booked La Pintada, a second floor spacious apartment in an old walk up, right in the centre of things on Calle Nogal. Sleeps 4, fully furnished, centrally heated, spotless, quiet, everything perfect *apart from the communal WiFi, so be prepared for that*.

Urbano –  the owner –  has an office on the same street, is super-friendly, will mark everywhere of interest on a map for you, and is well worth calling if you want a home-from-home with a lot of space in the city centre.

We paid €200 for 2 nights.

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Where you might stay

Let’s look at prices for a weekend in May, one night for 2 people.

Booking.com

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Annual Ferías and Fairs

Here’s a list of 2016 dates for the annual Valladolid shindigs and fiestas.

 

Bring home…

Ribera de Duero wine, quality Sheep cheese, chocolates and elaborate little cakes.

Would we return?

Yes – we would. Valladolid – despite the long drive for us – is one of those easy to explore, friendly small-enough-but-interesting cities to return to. You won’t feel swamped or lost, and you’ll love exploring it and getting to know it a little more each time you go.

And the footie? Meh. We drew…but remember –  UD Almería, nunca se rinde!

7 signs of Spanish springtime

For the rest of the world, springtime and the definition of any season is officially marked by  the Astronomical or Meteorological seasons.

The science behind the seasons

What’s the difference?  Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth’s orbit in relation to the sun (taking into account equinoxes and solstices). Meteorological seasons are based on the yearly temperature cycle and calculate the meteorological state as well as timing with the calendar to determine a clear and definitive transition between the seasons.

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Spain is different

Got that? No, nor me. It’s far simpler in Spain – and as we all know: Spain is Different.😉

There are 7 clear signs that Spring and warmer weather have arrived – Spanish style. It’s like the flick of a giant imaginary switch. Perhaps you recognise these signs, or perhaps you know a few more? Let’s see…

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Changes afoot

The floor tiles INSIDE the house change from icy polar old to reasonably warm overnight. You’re no longer in danger of losing your toes from severe frostbite for misplacing your slippers. Hey, bring on the flip-flops. Ah, I see, you never took them off… Time to paint those toenails.

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Raising the Parasols

Parasol – the clue is in the name of course. Into storage go the patio heaters, up go the parasols. Bars look alive with busy terraces. Yes, hold that comment,  I know they have outside terraces all year round down there on the coast, but we’re at the top of a mountain🙂

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Hearty stews be-gone

Bowls of spicy, tasty Callos and pig’s innards are whisked away, and tapas is replaced by little mounds of Russian Salad (which incidentally can be either a soft and creamy delight or a splendid saucer of cat vomit).

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You ate THAT?!

Wash that down

Red wine? No Camarero, mine is a Tinto Verano – ropey red over ice topped up with lemonade and splash of Martini if you’re lucky. Very refreshing it is too…

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The smiling Cura

Ah yes, the Vatican’s best envoy, the Parish Priest, has a noticeable spring in his step, and he’s wearing a slightly creepy benign smile. Why? It’s the start of fiesta season – which means a substantial leap in the number of congregates, and a louder jangle of coins in the collection basket.

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Step talk

A better gathering than Mass. The scrubbing of front steps and the scraping of chairs means the start of ‘doorstepping’ season. From the plaza to our front door is a 3 minute walk but it can take 3 hours with a delicious stop or twenty to sip the proffered wine and (literally) chew the fat. . politics, religion, football, farming and family are discussed at length.

Besides, how on earth would anyone know anything without the front step gossip? Sheesh. Yep, that’s my step.🙂

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The Birds and the Bees

Big blue carpenter bees, chatty and fat Swallows, busy Housemartins, they all back, and they’re all keen to start a new family. Sit back, pour another Tinto Verano (don’t wait for summer) and just enjoy springtime, in fact ANY time, in Spain.

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Spanish exploring for spring

Hey – it’s warming up, isn’t it? It’s always a bit later here at 1115m in the high hills of Andalucía. But there they are.Those first clues – the floor tiles underfoot don’t make you flinch as you climb out of bed, orchids showing up and showing off in the campo, jasmine buds tentatively unfurling in the garden, and the birds getting, well, all jiggy. Speaking of our feathered friends – the Swallows are back on our terrace this week, having made their long journey back to us – they’re looking fat and well, and are always happy to chat while we hang out the washing.

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Speaking of journeys, we will set off this weekend to Valladolid, ostensibly to watch UD Almeria get totally obliterated by the local football team, it’s part of the 21st birthday treatment for The Boy, currently here on his Easter break from student life in Wet Wales.  We also booked a stay in Toledo on the way back – love it in that hill top walled city of swords and Kings, El Greco, and from what I remember – great cake! Expect plenty of photo fodder on our return.

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Himself and myself will be celebrating a wedding anniversary of many moons this June, so we have decided to mark the auspicious occasion (we don’t, normally) with a trip. He suggested Rome  – I meh-ed a bit and  shrugged. Then we both thought of magical Marrakech, considered it for about, oh, 2 seconds, and promptly booked bargain flights and a splendiferous Riad to go with them. I cannot wait. A stopover at Córdoba  (ida) and Sevilla (vuelta) will complete the trip.

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A weekend in May before that, to wish my mother a happy birthday and take her for a G&T, will complete my tinker travels for the first half of this year – I was there in January but she’s getting on and I am a bad, careless and vagrant daughter.

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So, sit down here beside me, and tell me; how is your spring shaping up?