GIDGET GLAMPING – Retro Camper

Hello friends, since we are very poor at the moment (new location, building client base) we don’t have any holidays planned. Which is very, boo hoo, for us! πŸ™‚

But, we do have on order a custom-made Gidget Retro Camper. The idea is that now we are in the eastern states of Australia, there’s plenty of opportunity for us to travel around and explore, because we are veteran West Australians and haven’t seen much of the east coast. And when you come over from WA to visit, it is a week or two around Sydney, Melbourne or visiting parents in Tassie.

So, buying the Gidget is the money outlay and exploring with it should be the money saving part – camp sites, caravan parks – all a hell of a lot cheaper than hotel accommodation and flying to places.

Bondi Gidget

But the dream of the Glamper is taking a seriously long time. We finally got around to placing our order and putting down a deposit in September 2016. All communication until then (and reading between lines on their website) indicated that 6 months was the expected wait. And days before we placed the order, we had a message through Facebook that with their new and improved, expanded factory and new processes it could even be within 4 months.

Funny story that! Because now it is early April 2017 and we don’t even have a scheduled delivery date.

We have spent some time angsting about this order. Is it a scam, whatever? But they have continued to communicate and if they were running away with all our money, we’d never hear from them, I guess.

Their Gidget Glamper Facebook page is very active. There are so many of us with the ‘glamping dream – and people who ordered a couple of years ago.

Gidget’s story is that they’d only made 3 Gidgets when the video they created describing all the beauty of the camper went (essentially) viral. That’s when I saw the camper for the first time, and fell in love! That was about 2014/2015, I can’t remember. So there was a couple of years while I had it in my mind that I’d like to buy one. And all along I had the idea in my head that it was about 6 months for manufacturing.

But they were caught seriously by surprise! They were effectively a start-up company at that point – as I said, they’d only made 3 Gidgets. But that video made them famous and the orders began to pour in.

I think it was at a Brisbane Camping Show in late 2015 or during 2016 that they became even more famous – as far away as the USA. And the orders continued to come in, but they weren’t prepared to handle it. (They now have a US-based franchisee selling Gidget).

About October / November 2016 they offered a crowd funding program – if you paid for your camper up-front you’d get to the top of the queue. They needed the funding to expand and improve processing and many (I believe) have taken them up on this. We didn’t. We felt it was enough of a commitment to put down the best part of $11,000 for something we hadn’t even seen yet.

It is getting closer – I can feel it in my water! πŸ˜€ We’ve chosen a cream-coloured body, with viper red wheelguards, and Tasmanian oak woodwork.

At the moment, their Brumby version is full steam ahead in its own factory. This is their 4WD off-road version. The Noosa campers are being manufactured quickly in their own factory. But the Bondi version is waiting for the new ‘Grand Tourer’ suspension system – and they are just waiting for the parts to come from Vehicle Components, which won’t commit to providing the parts until they have a certain amount in stock.

This suspension system replaces the leaf springs suspension previous utilised by the Gidget company. Supposed to be an amazingly good thing!

A few weeks ago (in March) Gidget informed us that they were on the brink of setting the schedule, at which point we’d know our expected delivery date. They’re just waiting on confirmation of parts from the supplier.

So, perhaps by September 2017? Before it gets too hot – because our Gidget Retro Camper won’t be used by us in the summer – I can’t handle the heat. Spring, Autumn – yep. Winter – possibly. Summer – nah uh!

Bring it on. And enjoy the pictures above and enjoy visiting their website. πŸ˜€

Sorry Mark, it means Spain isn’t on our agenda any time soon. However, when I win Lotto or Millionaire Hot Seat – and I plonk myself down in Ireland for 6 months to a year – I’ll come visit you guys in Alora! πŸ˜€

https://www.thegidget.com.au/#welcome-section

Then the world …. beginning with Christmas in New York and Boston 2015!

Hi everyone!

It has already been over 15 months since we did THE BIG TRIP to Spain, Greece and Morocco! And that time has passed so quickly!

Life has dragged on – the usual things – although I haven’t been in work since we returned. So I’ve been doing a lot of volunteering – mostly taking ‘Oldies’ to their appointments, but also at the museum and some events around town. I still work with Eric at review time (December to end of March) but that doesn’t keep me too busy.

This year I’ve been concentrating on weight loss and fitness – I know, the modern obsession! But it’s important for my mental and physical health to be in the best shape I can be and I’ve let that go over the years. Eric and I intend to do plenty more travelling and have lots of adventures yet – and to keep up with him πŸ˜€ I need to be amazing!!!! So I go to Curves (a women’s fitness centre) 4-5 times a week and I’ve been meal replacing – was doing great before Christmas (lost 9kg) but sugar became my friend again after Christmas and I’m just now (this very day) getting back on track. So bring on the next 10kg loss!!

We did a couple of small trips last year – 10 days in Auckland in May and we visited Mum and Dad in Tassie in November and checked out the east side of Australia a little. Instead of flying to Mum and Dad we drove over to Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. For the uninformed, that’s just under 3,000km. The first day we did 1,600km and overnighted at Ceduna, South Australia. Then we drove to Adelaide, via Port Augusta and overnighted in Adelaide, visiting a few small towns along the way. We then had a couple of nights in Melbourne before jumping on the ferry (12 hour trip) to Devonport, where we then drove to Mum and Dad – probably about an hour?! We only spent a short week with them and then we ferried back to Melbourne and drove up the coast a little and visited Beechworth, Bright and Albury/Wodonga. On the way home, we went via Bendigo and back to Ceduna and then home. A lot of driving – I’ve said to Eric “next time, the car goes on to the train!”. But I’m not sure if he listened!! πŸ™‚

One of my long held dreams has been Christmas in New York – and this year it will happen. Actually, Christmas Day will be in Boston – but the whole Christmas festivity, lights, shows and FEEL will be happening – arrive in New York approximately 19th December; have a few days there and then train up to Boston on Christmas Eve, so Christmas Day will be in Boston and then back to New York about the 30th Dec to be in New York for New Year! TIMES SQUARE FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE!! Gotta do it! I’m very EXCITED! πŸ˜€

Luckily for me, Eric continued to work very hard this year – and we can afford to still travel! GOOD ONE, ERIC! Love you!!!

Eric the Legend faced a great personal challenge this year – by doing the Rotto Swim. This is an Open Water event from Perth to Rottnest Island (19km) and happens annually. His friend Tim (Farmanco partner) asked him to do a duo swim. So Eric started training in the pool back in about July last year (2014) and started swimming with the sharks in Esperance Bay (jokes!! – I was the ‘shark spotter’) in about November in preparation for this swim.

They completed the swim in about 8 hours and 43 minutes (something like that!). No records set, but the challenge for them was doing the swim – not being first!! And considering that there are were elite athletes participating, they were never going to be the winners. BUT Eric has such enthusiasm and can-do attitude that I only stand there gobsmacked when he takes on these things. Eric is the ‘Kiwi Butt’ in the crowd photo!!

So, we have quite a lot of travelling planned for the next 10 years! Before we become too decrepit!! πŸ™‚ I’ll write more when we have done some planning for New York/Boston and of course, while we’re there! Cannot wait!

BYE xxxΒ  (Photos below are: 1. Eric almost ready to go 2. “Here I Am” and 3 ‘Ready, set ….’ Eric is in the Kiwi speedos’

Eric Swimmer No 360Eric Rotto Swim Here I AmEric Rotto Swim

MOROCCO – Casablanca to Fes (via Rabat) – 16th to 21st November

Image

Hey everyone!

So, I’ve not been good at blogging about Morocco – have I? πŸ™‚ That’s because I’ve been pretty crook for several days and it has been hard enough just staying upright long enough every day to get to the next stop!

I’ve been planning for two years to visit Morocco and as soon as we got here I started panicking! It was mostly about the dress code – being highly conventional for women in this Muslim country. I know I’m not exactly a ‘bosum-baring’ sort of gal ( πŸ™‚ ) but still – was a top too fitting or was I exposing too much neck? Also, as we arrived at a hotel that was quite gucci and very French, I felt my normal feelings of inadequacy (particularly in a fashion sense) were hyper-inflated and I felt I just wasn’t going to fit.

That first evening, before we had met our driver or gone outside the door of the hotel, I was saying to Eric that I just didn’t want to go anywhere the next day! Such a baby!!

The next morning we met our driver Idriss. He is our driver for the entirety of the organised tour we are on with Experience It! Tours. This group works out of the US and they do ‘private’ tours – as in your group could be 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 20 …. people and only those people, nobody else will be added. So, we are a group of two. When I first inquired about booking I said that I would actually be a little shy about having all the attention of a driver for 10 days and would be happy if another small group wanted to join up with someone else; but they were clear that they didn’t do that. So, it is Eric and I and Driss – and for this last 7 days he has been great!

On that first morning he quickly took us on a quick drive around Casablanca and to the Hassan II Mosque – which was purpose built about 20 years ago under the direction of the King. He wanted a memorial for his father and something that would bring visitors to Casablanca. It can host 105,000 people for prayers at a time (80,000 outside and 25,000 inside); the walls are handcrafted marble and the roof retracts; the minaret (the needle point part of the building, like a cathedral’s spire) at 689 ft (210 m) is the world’s tallest. It is pretty spiffy all right!

Casablanca is not very attractive really – the buildings are very poorly maintained generally. I think it has to do with the fact that the city’s modern history only starts from the late 1950s, early 60s and the country has been busy establishing itself again with its own constitutional monarchy and without the French (thanks!). All of the Moroccan cities are divided into some combination of an old town and new town – the old town always being surrounded by a wall, often kilometres long.Β 

Our room at Le Doge hotel was extremely nice – as my Facebook friends would have gathered!! It was the Coco Chanel room and was in black and white with photos of Coco all over the room. Drinks at the hotel were expensive – 2 drinks at 300 dirham compared to lunch in a local restaurant for three people being only 100dh (equivalent to AUD 12).

We had a walk on the promenade (Casablanca is on the Atlantic and the Mosque is built on a promontory) and a coffee then were on our way to Fes, via Rabat!

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, is approximately 1.5 hours from Casablanca, has a population of 3 million and is where King Mohammed VI has his official residence (he has palaces in each city – Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Marrakech). We stopped at the official residence (had to show our passports) but only to take a photo of the palace entrance! WHAT? It was pouring and Driss had to park quite far away and sent us off in the rain. We got like 10 steps and went ‘this is crazy; just to take a photo of an entrance!” and went back to the car. Something we have taken pains to explain to Driss and various guides this week is that we don’t have an interest in taking photos of things that mean nothing to us – that is if we learn about it (history or a story) and have some ‘feeling’ involved then we are keen to photograph towards memory keeping. But, drive up to the palace to take a photo and then drive on? Fuhgeddaboudit!

We visited the Kasbah ofUdayas in Sale (Rabat). A Kasbah is something like an enclosed small town or fortress. This Kasbah is lived in today and the colours are very similar to the Greek Islands. We were guided by a local young fellow (who volunteered himself πŸ˜› ). It was quite interesting. A little scary because this was the first opportunity we’d had to be waylaid by someone who could help us, without actually working out a deal with us, just taking us on and it gradually turning into ‘I’m your guide’ and us deciding how to tip him!Β Photos below: 1. Typical street in the Kasbah 2. Gardens 3. Panoramic photo of the outside of the Kasbah

ImageImageImage

We also visited Roman ruins (Chella, Rabat-Sale) are from approximately 40 A.D. and one of the earliest identifiable settlements of man in Morocco (some evidence that a colony of Phoenician and Carthaginian explorers was on the site as early as the 3rd century B.C.. This was an interesting small site (unguided). We then visited the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, containing the tombs of this king and his two sons King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. It is a very good looking area – but we were dropped off and had a look (unguided) – which makes a difference because you admire, but don’t learn much!! (Photos below: Rabat/Sale – 1-3 At Mausoleum 4. Outside one of the 7 gates at the King’s residence in Rabat 5. Panoramic view of Rabat/Sale from a nearby fort)

ImageImageImage

Β 

ImageImage

After some lunch we drove for the two hour drive to Fes.

We stayed in a Riad in the Medina in Fes (a medina is the old part of town and this one dates from the 9th century. Our Riad is at the very edge of the Medina, where cars can still drive into. After just a short way the streets are too narrow and only passable by foot or donkey.Β Driss parked the car out on the street – then we had to walk through a rabbit warren of streets (keep left going in) to reach our accommodation.

A Riad is original accommodation (most likely a home) that has been redeveloped for tourism – in this case an old home. It is in the Moorish (Arabic) style with ‘inside balconies’ – that is they look out over an internal courtyard, rather than out on to the street.

Our room was gorgeous – our bathroom was well appointed, but old!! I went from ‘what an incredible building and what a beautiful room’ to ‘I’m going to die’ quite quickly, because we soon realized that due to the inward facing rooms there are no external windows. I can’t sleep without the window open!! Add to that, our room was on the ground floor and close to where people passed a lot and opposite the dining area (courtyard) and the staff kept closing our big doors, to protect our privacy! Therefore when it came time to sleep I was stressed out, because I’m mildly claustrophobic and a) didn’t have a window for fresh air b) felt ‘locked’ into a room and c) didn’t see the escape route! I was amazed that I did sleep in the end, but I didn’t awake refreshed! Too bad; but not a third world problem? πŸ™‚

Our full Β day in Fes was spent mostly with our guide Abdul in the Medina. About 300,000 people live there and it is very old with winding streets, fresh food markets, craftsmen (and artisans) working with metal, wood, dyeing, tannery and carpet making. We visited an old school still in its original condition, including an area for learning that doubled as the prayer area (including the niche pointing to Mecca – called the Mihrab – and is from where the teacher and Imam lead prayers. Also there was a courtyard with a fountain where the children would clean themselves before praying.Β 

Also in the Medina we visited the oldest (believed) university in the world – and founded by a woman; we visited a museum in a building that used to accommodate travellers in caravanserai – the only one that accommodated people only, as the animals were stabled in a nearby building (as opposed to others bringing the animals inside!).Β 

There is a woman’s co-op in the Fes Medina overseen by the government that sells handmade rugs and carpets (Berber) – made in their homes. It is housed in an original Medina home renovated to its original style, which is good because everything you see on the outside looks like crap!! I had been wondering what the insides of homes might look like – and this gave a good idea, although it had been restored to its original condition and not many homes were going to look that good!

We were given the sales spiel – didn’t feel like a hard sell until the end. They gave us mint tea while they showed us lots of beautiful rugs. We ended up buying one – small enough to carry home. These ‘original’ rugs get better with age (apparently) so hopefully it is going to age gracefully with us and become a beautiful part of the furniture!!

Many of you will have seen photos of the dye pots of the tannery in Fes – the outdoor shots of large ceramic pots with either a creamy lime-wash-type substance or colours (dye). It’s pretty smelly! As you enter they hand you a bunch of mint to put under your nose, in case it is too strong for you. It wasn’t too bad that day and is apparently a lot worse in summer (which I can imagine!). After explaining the tanning process you have the opportunity to purchase leather goods – mainly bags and jackets. Because we’d unexpectedly blown our budget by buying our ‘one of a kind’ rug, I couldn’t buy the backpack I’d been planning on – maybe in another town, when the card is recharged! (Photos below: 1. Original school 2. Tannery 3. View of the inner courtyard of Riad Myra (Fes))

ImageImageImage

Food-wise; dinner last night was vegetable soup (delicious) tagine chicken and lemon and a honey and almond iced dessert. Breakfast consists of a variety of carb choices (:)) flatbread, pancakes, cakes, porridge, yoghurt and fresh squeezed juice and coffee. Lots to choose from (at our table; not buffet).

For lunch on this day we ate in a ‘typical’ Moroccan restaurant and had a selection of Moroccan salads – cooked carrots, potatoes, cauliflow and peppers and tomatoes with lots of olives, yellow beans, green beans, zucchini (first course) shish kebabs (beef and chicken) seasonal fruits (pomegranate, oranges and some grapes finished with mint tea and a biscuit – WAY TOO MUCH FOOD! This was only the beginning and something we’ve struggled with. Quantity at every meal and richness (AKA oily) of the food – not the spices, that’s okay.Β 

These first few days were pretty great and smelly (:)) and I was SO tired. It was a full start and when we were supposed to eat out at a local restaurant in the evening we declined. I’m a bit like that though; at the end of a busy day, once I’m in I am just not interested in going back out!Β 

Tomorrow we are out to visit Volubilis (Roman ruins from 3 A.D.) and Meknes and the following morning we leave Fes for a couple of days based out of the desert town of Erfoud (over the middle Atlas mountains) and down to the Sahara!

Good night!!

xxx

Farewell Alora, Spain – 15th November

Image

Alora Soup Day (above)

A cosmic coincidence today – our last day in Alora!

In the bus from the train station up to town, we got chatting with some visitors (Irish and English) who had jumped on the train out of Malaga for a day trip. Unfortunately, as some roadwork is being done in ‘Alora Centro’ the bus only came partway, so we offered to accompany them up town.

For an hour or so we played tourist guide – handing out snippets of local info learned from Paco! One of the ladies had been looking for some sewing bobbins – her machine has stopped auto-winding (something like that) – and she has been on the lookout for full bobbins and we know where the sewing shop is! Mundane, but helpful to her πŸ™‚

They were looking for lunch, so we took them to our favourite bar/cafe and had a coffee with them and a little chat – pointed them in the direction of the famous stairs (posted in an earlier post with a link to youtube video) and said that if Veracruz Church was open when they went by that it was worth a look in!

We didn’t stay with them for lunch, because we’d already planned to have our last lunch in Alora at Casa de Correos (old Post Office) – nachos, curried chicken and rice, prawns in creme fraiche and Greek salad (all entree sizes) for a mini banquet, so we left them there! Not before one of the Newcastle ladies shared her Morocco horror story (from her 2012 holiday) – thanks for the scare lady! As we were leaving I said to her “I’m a born worrier; so, I’m going to try to ignore everything you’ve just told us!” We all had a laugh!

They travelled independently and disliked the things that most people on travel reviews seem to complain about – mainly the hard sell culture (snakes in their faces!!). Also, one of them got very sick for two weeks. They said “we were staying at hotels, so we shouldn’t have had to worry about the food.” Maybe they didn’t take enough care with hygiene? Nowhere else on our travels have we worried about antibacterial handwash or wipes, but based on our reading we decided to get some for Morocco. Unfortunately, my ‘you know whats’ will hit in the next day or so and I’ll be visiting a lot of random loos – I’ll be taking extra care!! It is our responsibility, so with some care and luck we’ll get through our 14 weeks travel without catching anything πŸ™‚

We had a good Samaritan moment today. Not sure if it’s clumsy to share, or not! In Los Fuentes (our coffee shop) the cook is a young Bulgarian lady and Eric has chatted with her a lot over the weeks. She’s here with her husband and child mainly because there’s no work in Bulgaria. There’s no work in Spain either and her husband still doesn’t have a job! She’s not sure what they’re going to do. So, we asked her would she be offended if we gave her some money. It was only something small for us, but hopefully a small windfall for her family.

So, today we played tour guides, collected out printing, dropped some clothes, books and one of our suitcases into the charity shop, had a coffee with strangers, said goodbye to favourite hangouts, had a lovely farewell lunch – bought our favourite lollies from the lovely old husband and wife team near Veracruz Church – we explained by sign language and pidgen Spanish that we were leaving and he shook hands with us both πŸ™‚ – and walked home to Finca Fenix for the last time!

As we walked under the ‘nun’s bridge’ we heard an Irish voice call out – looked up to see one of the day tourists. They were lost and looking for the bus! So, we had a last change to help out!!!

It feels lovely today! We aren’t sad – we are ready to move on now. Alora has been a perfect place to base ourselves for two months in Spain – even though the hills were a struggle; they are very much a part of the charm of the place!

So, on the train to Aeropuerto tomorrow and flying out to Casablanca, Morocco on the 2.30pm flight – woo hoo!!!

Goodbye and thank you Spain and HELLO, North Africa! πŸ˜€

Image

View of Alora from the castle (above)

Β 

Non-cultural pursuits, pursued while in Spain

ImageImage

We haven’t ‘actively’ pursued culture in Spain (I guess) having really wanted to absorb the culture by living in it!

Of course, we have visited some churches and castles, done some guided tours (including with our friend Paco; probably the best!) learned some local history and enjoyed some day trips. In the last two weeks especially we’ve just ‘been’ here in Alora!

This three month break has also been about escape and relaxation – and for me, books and movies MEAN escape and relaxation!

Funny thing is that Eric doesn’t usually read a lot (although more than when we first met) – usually at Christmas – and it has been great to see him enjoying reading and it has amazed me today to realize how many books Eric and I have read in the last couple of months!

Usually I buy Eric books at Christmas time that he reads immediately before he gets busy with review season, but the rest of the year he doesn’t have much time for it, although he occasionally picks one up!

So far, Eric has read eight Jack Reacher novels on the kindle, the new Roddy Doyle, a Jeffrey Deaver out of the Alora cupboard and the Atlantis Lost and Leonardo da Vinci we bought in Santorini – 12 books so far!! FANTASTIC!

At the same time, I’ve read nine Jack Reacher novels on the kindle, both the Santorini books, Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’, Daniel Silva’s ‘The Fallen Angel’, two Dean Koontz ‘Frankenstein’ novels, Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’, two John Sandfords and 2 W.E.B Griffins, Tampa and The Stalking of Julia Gillard – so I’ve managed 22 books so far and I’m on number 23! YES! Perfect!!

It took us almost two months to get to the movies – we couldn’t work out how to see English speaking films for ages, because we didn’t have any Spanish. When we worked out that we wanted VO, VOS or VOSE films we then realized that movies don’t start in Spain until about 10 or 10.30pm! So, that put us off! Eventually here in Alora we recognized the versions we needed and that on Saturday and Sunday they had afternoon and early evening sessions. So, now we’ve seen THOR, Ender’s Game, Gravity, About Time, Captain Phillips, Prisoners (a waste of life!) and The Butler. Not good enough for holidays and it won’t get better from here because we have a full itinerary for Morocco – so no more films!

However, this drought of movies was relieved by the presence of ‘Big Beast’ – access to Mark and Kim’s movie drive!!!

Astonishingly we didn’t actually watch as many shows on this as we might have – we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones – Eric loved it – but I was bored by the second season :). We watched three Matrix movies and Skyfall. We also did have SKY TV, so we watched lots of news, old Star Trek, British quiz shows, auction shows, Come dine with me – lots of shows we wouldn’t watch at home – and only in the evenings, when we were at home!

Plaza Mayor was the place for us to go and see movies. This takes two trains – Alora to Victoria Kent and then on to Plaza Mayor – about an hour. I think Plaza Mayor has been created for shopping, eating, cinemas and the game arcade.Β So, it became our Saturday excursion – and if we had time while waiting for the train we’d play Guitar Hero at the arcade – which has given me the desire to have an Arcade Game Guitar Hero at home πŸ™‚

Last Saturday I played four songs at medium level and was highest scoring on three and second on one song. I LOVE IT – makes me think I’m a muso!

So, in this time of repose from real life and experiencing cultural diversity we’ve had plenty of down time and enjoyed less-cerebral pursuits.

Image

Image

Β 

πŸ˜€

Costa del Sol – Benalmadena and Fuengirola – 4th & 5th November

Blankko 1

Trish, Eric and Bele at Blankko
On Tuesday we had the experience of eat at Blankko Restaurant Lounge Bar in Benalmadena, which is along the Costa del Sol, near to Torremolinos (which whenever I say, see or hear that name a voice in my head sings “Torremolinos! Torremolinos!” – some old movie? We went with Mark and his friend Bele (German and living in the UK). Mark drove us out from Alora – which was an adventure by itself, Mark! xx

Being at Blankko was very much like re-visiting the Greek Islands – a white building and white furniture, high on a hill (lived the lonely goat-herd!) overlooking the Mediterranean – breathtaking views! The water views in the Greek Islands AND Esperance are better, but this is the Mediterranean AND you don’t get that at home!

You can see all along the coast line down to Fuengirola and up to Malaga (and beyond?). What is very evident looking at the coastline is the density of the holiday apartments – this IS the Costa del Sol! Luckily for us there isn’t a high occupancy rate right now, out of the summer season. It would be a nightmare come true to be booked in at Torremolinos in peak of summer with streets and beaches ‘bumper to bumper’ with people!

Good decision we’ve made in general to visit Spain in Autumn then!

In general, the weather has cooled off! It will be a miracle if we get into the pool again (miracle = Eric pushing me in!). However, on Tuesday we went off to lunch (Eric and I – not our companions) dressed warmly with backup scarf and rain coats in our bag, just to swelter in 28 degrees! The day before Eric and I caught the train to Fuengirola, which is the town at the end of the line on the coastal route from Malaga. We only visited for a day out; to get out of the house, visit the coast (which we hadn’t done yet; not high on our priorities since we LIVE on the coast!). The forecast said 23, with 18km/hr winds and cloudy. So, again we dressed for ‘cold’ weather (this is all relative guys! It’s been higher than 27 degrees most days we’ve been in Spain; we’ve just spend 2 weeks in the UK and Ireland where it’s about 11 and 12 degrees ‘freezing’ and in our house at the bottom of the mountain ‘in the shade’ it is actually quite cold too!) only to spend three hours walking up and down the foreshore – looking for shady spots! Must be that transitional place where the weather doesn’t really know what it is doing yet!! (Sitting at our favourite bar/cafe in the sunshine in Alora – writing this – it is currently 28 degrees) This is clearly a weather story!!! πŸ™‚

So, back to Blankko – it was Mark’s special treat (Mark, our host at Alora) as he is off to the UK for a couple of weeks and won’t see us again before we leave for Morocco. It is extremely generous of him – he is a very lovely and gracious host! Drinks for an hour in the sunshine with the ocean views and then into the ‘shady’ outdoors eating area for lunch.

Mark insisted we have three courses. We have the restaurant dining down to a main and sometimes a dessert – but I think that’s part of the long and relaxing social eating thing that I don’t do very well πŸ™‚ The food was lovely – company excellent and ambiance ‘warm’!!

Thank you Mark and Bele!

A really good thing about travelling by car to the restaurant, away from the foreshore and centre of town, is that we get to see and enjoy the back streets and homes around the town – not just the tourist locations.

When we trained into Fuengirola on Monday it was very interesting to notice the coast coming into view and being amazed at the tourist accommodation. Block after block of high-rise apartments!

We googled Fuengirola before leaving home and decided on a couple of sights we might pursue and found a restaurant that had a good review – amazing views and great food!

So once we hit Fuengirola we fund the tourist bureau, got a local map and noted where the places where and set off towards the beach. We walked for so long!! We visited the port area and then walked one way along the beach, which thankfully had a good promenade and we didn’t have to tackle the sand! We couldn’t see public loos anywhere, so visited Burger King (Hungry Jacks to Aussies) and bought the token coke (didn’t want to spoil our appetites for our splendid upcoming lunch).

At some point we decided to check street numbers because we knew our lunch spot was at number 86. We were at 32 and kept heading in the same direction (leading to zero). After a while we turned around and slowly (enjoying the view and marvelling at all the oldies sunbathing) made our way back up the street – back past Burger King and the port – and we walked and walked – where is it?

Finally, we found it – Plankstek Restaurante & Pizzeria – comfortably furnished restaurant with stunning bar and nice sea views! The nice sea view was alright! Yes, across the road was the sea – between the car park on the left and buildings on the right.

The food was acceptable, but really just a cafe style okay. I laughed because I’d already ‘prepared’ Eric that it might ‘cost a bit’ because it sounded like such a nice place. Funny really!!

This feels like such a negative story :(, but it’s not supposed to be. I guess when just seeing the ocean OR having it in sight while you dine is a novelty, then the descriptions in reviews are accurate. However, we come from Australia (particularly from Esperance) where an ocean view includes colour and movement – surfers, boats, fisherman, sail boats, ships, kite surfers, islands, jetties, wildlife and pristine sands going off as far as the eye can see – on beautiful, clear blue seas!

We did feel it was a good day out – one of our objectives was to get some exercise, which has dropped of in the last few weeks. I think three solid hours of walking counts as having achieved that. AND our meal was substantial and left us with no need for an evening meal.

Visiting a Costa del Sol holiday spot was worthwhile for perspective and we always enjoy the train trips!! The trains are quick, clean and on time, with not a hooligan in sight!!

So, we’ve been sitting at our coffee shop for a couple of hours now; it’s probably time to head home. We’ll be back up town later for Paco’s Spanish class. The shops are all closed for siesta, so I’ll have to look for those shoes I want this evening! Ciao!

P.S. Paco’s Spanish class wasn’t on, because now that Paco has a full-time job he can’t do everything!!! WHAT? Not good enough Paco! πŸ™‚ xxx
Blankko 6

Trish and Mark at Blankko
DSCF2567Foreshore at Fuengirola, Costa del Sol

IN DUBLIN’S FAIR CITY – 22nd to 26th October

Image

I wanted to stay there!! – (above Florrie with Trish)

I’d had a taste of green, soft, Irish, sights, sounds, colour (grey) πŸ™‚ pubs, food, Grafton Street, O’Connell Street, Ha’penny Bridge, Stephens Green, Trinity College (again; wish I could go there!) visiting Florrie in Fourth Avenue, buses cleaner than in the 80s, bus out to Celbridge, three storey bookshop (Grafton Street) cakes, Butlers chocolate/toffees, RAIN, green, green, green – great for the soul!!

It felt like home – in my genes; in my cells!

I love Australia for all its faults, but the one thing that really kills me is the landscape! This won’t gell with many of you because lots of the people I know are attached to the land, particularly in country Australia. It’s a harsh and unforgiving landscape and for me it eats at and attacks the soul. It is the most stressful part of living in Australia. When is this alleviated? Early in the growing season when suddenly everything is green; for a second! Some people may cultivate a luscious garden, but with a lot of toil and use of precious water. It’s a lot of work finding the ‘soft’ in the Australian landscape.

Of course, this is very personal to me and everyone else is entitled to feel differently!

I didn’t need to SEE anyone; I could have just BEEN. And that is probably what I needed to stay there for.

I made the effort to catch up with some family; but not many were available. Anyone in touch with me on Facebook has known for about two years that we were going to be visiting in 2013. There were two particular relatives that I was surprised were unavailable and one old friend (but her father has recently passed, so understandable). The old boyfriend is a worry! Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t end up together. He couldn’t make a decision and in the end I said “it’s obviously not high on your agenda; we’ve only a few days, so don’t worry about it!” Funny thing is that he hasn’t said anything to that, but still comes on line on Skype every day, so he hasn’t disconnected.

The voice in my head is saying “dude, you weren’t really fussed if you didn’t catch up with anyone – except for Florrie – so it doesn’t matter” But of course it does! Even anti-social gits like me want to be wanted! (People, you know me! I’m private and reserved and not a people person – it isn’t me!)

So, we did catch up with some relatives – one lovely girl totally unknown before Facebook contact – Pamela; daughter of Aunty Teresa (and therefore cousin). Pamela is so gorgeous! She is loud and funny and articulate and Irish – and so welcoming!

We had dinner with Pamela on our first evening in Dublin at the North Star Hotel. Pamela was more excited at the recent refurbishments (I think πŸ™‚ ) than catching up with her Aussie cousin (and Eric!!!) It was a really nice evening; easy. Like when we caught up with Rachel in the UK – no awkwardness at all. Thanks Pamela!

They say Dublin is a village – and here’s proof! We were staying at Cassidy’s Hotel in Upper O’Connell Street and went walking down to Grafton Street and surrounds, and who do we run into? Pamela! Just finished work and on her way to the airport for her visit to Glasgow. When you’re in a city (of approximately 1.5 million) where you don’t expect to meet someone you know and suddenly there’s a friendly madwoman waving at you (sorry, I mean friendly woman waving madly! πŸ™‚ ) it feels awesome! Just as it did when we first met at the Spire on the Tuesday (newest favorite meeting place in Dublin) – hello, friendly face waving!

We grew up knowing the Byrne side of the family (mum) much more than the Shelleys (dad). I think that’s probably normal – women make the effort to keep the social familial stuff happening and it (again) makes sense that it’s easier to do that with your own family than the in-laws. Add to that, the Shelleys are very private and keep to themselves a lot – we don’t know the Shelleys very well.

Pamela is a Shelley and not only are we alike in our attitude and likes – we knew we were Shelleys!! As we’ve lived in Australia most of our lives anytime we’d say ‘it’s a Shelley thing’ we mostly mean’t as in the six of us! What I realized, beginning with Pamela is that the traits we recognize as Shelley are across the board – being reserved and private, being at the top of the list!

We caught up with Davy Shelley (uncle) too – travelled by bus out to Donaghmede. I remember Davy and his lovely wife Emily from my visit with them in the early 80s. Davy is a widower now and instead of inviting us to his ‘bachelor pad’ we visited with Tracey (cousin) her daughter Hannah and little Alex. AND that was easy too! He is lovely and from the moment I spoke to him on the phone, I could hear my dad! They laugh the same, make the same faces – dad has more hair!!! LOL πŸ™‚

Even though most of his kids live close by they still keep to themselves a lot – although Davy is clearly proud of them and close to them all! It’s beautiful seeing the loving relationship he has with Hannah, who is a very lovely girl! Thank you Davy and Tracey for the very warm welcome; we loved it! Davy and I have been ‘friends’ on Facebook for a little while. Now we know each other and it will be a warmer Facebook friendship!

As I said earlier we were closer to the Byrnes growing up and although we couldn’t catch up with Greg and Emmett (best bud cousins in childhood) we did visit with cousin Kevin and his wife Fiona and children Philip, Rafe and Roisin – and with aunty Florrie and her husband Frank.

Last I knew Kevin he was (virtually) a snotty nosed kid. Put it this way; I was a self-absorbed teenager and he was a child!!

But Kevin and I have been in touch for a while through Skype and he was quick to invite us to visit; and we did! On the Thursday evening we were out in Celbridge, Co Kildare having delicious lamb shanks and mashed potatoes (Kevin had mash duty; because apparently he does it best!) followed by Bailey’s cheesecake (say no more Fiona!). It was all yummo – especially because the spuds had spring onions in and since I’ve been a mother I pretty much haven’t had potatoes with onions – because the kids all had fits!Β 

Kevin is clever and well informed and we had a really great night. I’d want you on my quiz team any time dude! You and Fiona were generous and welcoming hosts – we also loved how the house was geared up for Halloween!

Kevin then went out of his way to collect us in the morning to take us on a whistle stop tour of Celbridge and district on his way to work in Dublin. Celbridge is famous as the home of Arthur Guinness (founder of the famous brewery) – and the countryside is lush!!!! Drool!

This only makes for a warmer long distance friendship for us and the Kevin Byrne family!!

However, the most important person for me to catch up with in Dublin was my Aunty Florrie (mum’s last sister) and her husband Frank. Probably because she’s my Godmother too (I don’t know) we were always closer to Florrie. We knew and loved Kay very well and knew Evelyn and her boys Greg and Emmett too. I was apparently very close to Greg as a small child and was definitely in love with him as a teenager πŸ™‚ We knew Paddy (Kevin’s dad) and Johnny and their kids too, to a lesser extent. We didn’t know Nelly O’Brien and her family well at all, but then I think she was an unusual Byrne in that she was reclusive. She never came out (that I can remember) and as I said earlier, it’s the women who drive these things.

So, regardless of Florrie being the last Byrne aunty or uncle left to visit, she was and would always be the magnet for me in Dublin. And she’s not well and quite frail – of course she is getting older (no ages here; it’s against Shelley law!) but Florrie was always full of life and she has no energy for life left in her. It was fantastic to be able to visit with her now. Unless some miracle happens, it will be the last time!

She was asking after ‘her Patty’ (mum) and her Von (my daughter) who I think she remembers best as a child of four, not as a child of 12 (might be a misconception on my part). Florrie seemed as delighted to see us as we were to see her and Frank.

We caught up with them as soon as we got to Dublin on the Tuesday (straight to the hospital) and again for several hours on Thursday before going out to Kevin and on Saturday for a couple of hours, before flying back to Malaga.

It was very sad at the end, with Florrie very aware that it was almost definitely the last time we’d see each other 😦

Frank is her rock – and a devil!! I have lovely fond memories of Frank from my teenage years; but Frank is his own worst enemy. He’s very much “I don’t give a fuck!” about pretty much everything – fuck you, fuck them, fuck the dog, fuck the world – and then gets everyone offside, which is very sad from the outside, but he would just say “I don’t give a fuck!” Except that he does; about Florrie, about kids (especially his nieces and nephews) and animals. Maybe not grown-ups – but many would say he’s still a big kid himself, so no wonder!

Love you Frank (seriously!) and there’s always a place in my heart for you!!

Love you too Florrie and God Bless!!Β 

One of the sad things about my family being just “us 6” here in Australia is that I don’t have a strong sense of identify – who I am and where I come from!

I am a Dubliner! That’s where I feel most myself. I love and adore my Eric and my children. I like being an Aussie. But a long genetic history rooted in Ireland is what makes me who I am!

The people I’ve met who have said I’m not Irish – because I’ve spent most of my life in Australia – can go and jump – in the Liffey!! πŸ™‚

I flew out of Ireland wishing the next three weeks were to be spent in Ireland; not in Spain, which probably explains why I’ve been feeling down for the last week or so!

TΓ‘ mΓ­le blessings a thabhairt duit (a thousand blessings to you)

Image

Trish, Pamela & Eric

Image

Eric, Davy & Trish

Image

Frank, Trish & Florrie

Image

Kevin, Trish & Fiona

xxx

HELP ME RONDA, HELP, HELP ME RONDA!

Image

A couple of weeks ago Eric and I visited Ronda – a town built over the El Tajo gorge 100m deep, with a strong Moorish history taking it back to the 12th century.

For days before and after our visit we had the lyrics ‘help me Rhonda’ buzzing around in our brains! It was driving us crazy – and honestly right now (just talking about it) it is echoing in a maddening way!! HELP πŸ™‚

It was a good day out. You can catch a train from here (Alora) leaving at 10.30 and arriving at Ronda by 11.55, with stunning views of El Churro on the way (google it!). The train departed for Alora at 16.50, so it wasn’t long to enjoy the town. We had an idea of what we wanted to see and the first step of our plan was to visit the tourism office – partly to use their loos!

So, we walked up town from the train station, through the Plaza de Socorro (which is a good square for meeting people and eating) to what we thought was the tourist bureau. It was a Parador right at the Puente Neuvo, next to the Puente Neuvo interpretation centre (a teeny booth, just big enough for a teeny man!). Paradors are usually ‘hotels’ built on existing old properties – such as castles or farms – so you get to experience the architecture and atmosphere of the historical building, but modernised. You are allowed to walk through the Parador even if you aren’t staying there and it is gorgeous!

So, unfortunately it wasn’t the tourist bureau and therefore there weren’t toilets. Eric asked the teeny man where they were and he said ‘MacDonalds’!! I could not believe and was so ashamed ( 😦 ) that the first place we visited in historical Ronda was Maccas! And of course, not only would my moral compass not allow me to use their toilets without buying something, but they had signs around saying ‘only for customers!’. No wonder, if the teeny man was directing everyone to their shop!!

So, we got chips and a McFlurry πŸ™‚

Then we worked out where to visit:

1) Puente Nuevo is the newest bridge (1793) passing over the amazing gorge, on both sides of which Ronda is built. One side is the historical Moorish part of town and the side we started on is the modern area (hello Maccas!) Before going over the bridge we walked around on Paseo Ernest Hemingway and Paseo Orson Welles, which allow spectacular viewing of the gorge and the older town on the opposite side.

There are 3 bridges at Ronda – the others are Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) from the 16th century and the Puente Arabe (Moorish Bridge) from 11th or 12th century.

2) Palacio de Mondragon (town museum) – we got lost finding it, but that’s okay because it is such a picturesque neighbourhood that it didn’t matter. In fact, we almost gave up, but it was one of the few places I’d decided on, so we persevered – and it was beautiful. It is a restored Moorish palace stemming from the 12th century and is now the museum of Ronda (and we’ve been avoiding museums) but the building itself is stunning and worth the visit.

3) Palacio del Rey Moro (Palace of the Moorish King) with gardens and entrance to mine (Arab fortress) (from 13th century). The mine goes deep deep down (only Eric went underground and he was knackered when he got back. Moaning and carrying on – sounded a lot like me! πŸ™‚ ) He thinks the elevation was about 300ft (100m) straight down and then back up! Lead to a lovely clear stream at the bottom.

4) Banos de los Arabes (Arab baths) 11th to 12th century. This is an apparent ‘must see’ and if you’ve never seen any other archeological digs or ruins before ‘go for it’, because for me it was a little bit “YAY” – an old ruin ( for the entry fee) and was doable in about 10 minutes.

It was interesting to see how the baths worked – cold water from two nearby streams and drawn by buckets from a well, pumped by horse power ( πŸ™‚ ) then poured into a reservoir over a furnace, then piped through the baths. They had a cold room, warm room and hot room.Β 

There were steep steps down from the street where the Moorish castle is down to the baths, which meant a steep climb back up to the street – but yikes, even more steps to get back up to the main drag leading to Puente Nuevo and back to new Ronda.

This sounds like we didn’t really see much, but ain all the running from place to place we enjoyed Ronda. Th e gorge is stunning, the bridges over the gorge (how the hell did they build them?) the streets in and around old Ronda were beautiful – buildings, windows (railings) balconies, trees and flowers and lots of lovely tucked away eateries. Lots that we said ‘we have to go back there’ to, but time flew and we ended up having a quick and not very satisfactory lunch at the Castle Cafe; there were so many other nicer places!!

A word of advice too from my experience so far; when in a city if there is a square or street recommended to tourists for eating – especially if they have large and gaudy signs with photos of the food (if the photos look cheep and nasty then potentially the food will be) then don’t go there (or at least don’t have very high expectations!).

There is so much nicer food to be had away from the tourist bustle. Sometimes it’s scarier (perhaps you don’t have the language – and the tourist spots usually have English on the menus) but if at least once you try to eat where the locals eat – it is well worth it!!

So, it was a lovely day out in Ronda; perhaps a little rushed, but it was great that the train went straight there from Alora and we were home again by about 6.30pm.

We then took the opportunity to eat at the Manhattan Bar right near the train station at Alora. As it sounds, it isn’t exactly Spanish, but it had been recommended and is only open 3 nights a week and as it’s by the station the only time we are likely to be near it is at the end of a day trip.

There’s no Spanish food in sight, but I did welcome their delicious fish and chips with tartare sauce (mmmm). I think Eric had nachos. Plain, straight forward and familiar food. We have tried to avoid doing ‘safe’ food while travelling, but I don’t enjoy the tapas experience, especially when in local restaurants where a) I have to work out what the choices are and b) I don’t know how it works at this restaurant. It’s because we don’t speak Spanish – even though we’ve picked up some. Our fault, of course; we should have made more of an effort before we got here!!

So, that was our Ronda day trip – finished off by dinner and a walk home in the dark. Yes, along that railway track (no lights) and climbing around the gate. Oh! There was a smelly dead chicken on the track, that luckily we’d seen earlier, so knew not to step on it!

Adios a todos; hasta pronto! πŸ™‚

Image

SOME TIME LAST WEEK I SAID TO ERIC ‘WE COULD JUST GO HOME” – 29th October

What are we doing here?

In earlier blogs I said we want to laugh, sing, dance ….Β 

In my imagination I thought (and spoke about in passing to Eric – who clearly wasn’t paying any attention!) that we would find a secondhand (cheap and working) guitar. Eric would play tunes more often (all the time) and I would sing along with him. At home, he only occasionally picks up his guitar – I thought this was because he was always working OR thinking about work. Also, he likes to spend his downtime with me – so if he is playing his guitar, he is not with me!

He’d also love it if I sang with him as he played. Makes sense! I can sing … and enjoy music; but inexplicably, even though Eric is the one person I can be myself with and trust the most in the world – I’m shy!! Back to that deep seated problem I have where I don’t want to look foolish OR make mistakes – even in front of my sweetie!

Sometimes Eric is playing to himself and I’ll be pottering around OR even reading – and I’ll start singing in the background, particularly doing harmonies! I do excellent harmony!!! But if Eric says ‘that’s great’ or ‘come over and sing this one’ or ‘join me’ I won’t. He has learned to not say anything.

Now he’ll come to me later and say “I love it when you do harmonies. I’m so amazed how you can do that and I wish you’d come and sing with me!”

So, I thought in Spain we’d find Eric a guitar; he’d play for himself, I’d get over myself and join in with him AND he could start teaching me how to play the guitar. When I said to Eric “we need to look out for a guitar for you” he said “I’m not that fussed. I don’t have a burning desire to play guitar”.

I was so surprised, but apparently Eric enjoys tinkling on his guitar every now and then, but has resigned himself to not ever being very good at it. And three months isn’t long enough to become an expert!

So, with one sweep of his ‘not really that interested’ broom, a large part of my vision of what eight weeks in Alora, Spain looked like was wiped out.

I’m very conscious of how much I do or don’t do and achieve or don’t achieve is down to me and I’m not blaming Eric’s lack of need/desire to play music or practice his skill for us not achieving this.

So, a couple of weeks later we’ve arrived in the UK for a whistle stop 5 days in England, then 5 days in Dublin and I say “okay, Iv’e been keeping an eye out everywhere we’ve been in the last 8 weeks for a musical instrument shop or secondhand shop for a small guitar for me, so that you can teach me chords and I can learn to accompany myself. Eric shows great surprise at this “oh, I didn’t realise, why didn’t you say?”

So, we were in Horley and there is a guitar shop and I find a lovely small steel stringed guitar that I fall in love with, costing about 150 pound. The young guy in the shop was very helpful and lovely and if you’re ever in Horley and want to buy a guitar – go and see him! He described the differences between nylon and steel strings – mainly to do with the sound (more classical versus more grunt) and helped with sizing, because I have small hands.

We went away to consider the purchase – pros and cons.

The first con was that we’d bought all ‘best and cheap rate’ flights for our three legs (Malaga to Gatwick, Cardiff to Dublin and Dublin to Malaga) and had said we’d only do carry on and no checked baggage. If you wanted to check in luggage it was possible, but for approximately 60 or 70 euros.

Ryanair is the most pedantic You can have 10kg each carry on BUT it has to be in one piece of luggage – no laptop bag, no handbag, no duty free shopping unless they are INSIDE your carry on bag. This made it difficult to see how we could justify the expense of buying a guitar in Horley.

The pro for buying this particular guitar is that forever more when I play it, I will always remember buying it in my friend Rachel’s village!!

Of course, while we were pondering this decision we discovered that our credit card had temporarily run out of money and so the potential to buy was no longer an option.

So, we decided while away in UK and Ireland that we would look for a guitar in Malaga when we get back. Ideally finding something secondhand would be good (for our budget) but since a) I want a small guitar (therefore choice) and b) it’s hard enough to find a musical instrument shop in Malaga (due to language) then it will be hard to find a secondhand shop too.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, we’ll find one tomorrow ….. when we visit Mal-a-ga!!!!

We hope!!

There’ll be less than 3 weeks left in Spain to learn some chords; but with still 2 weeks travelling in Morocco (no reason I can’t practice chords in the evening). If I can get a handle on chords and simple tunes in the next 5 weeks, I’ll be set up for continuing playing when back in Oz.

I need to find some more energy and anticipatory excitement from somewhere. Morocco will be amazing!!! It’s the next few weeks in Spain I’m not sure about!

Love to all! xxx

Β 

MONEY TROUBLE – CONTINUING SAGA! – 28th October

This last 3 weeks in Spain will be interesting. I don’t know if I have lost interest now or whether it is just that I’m socialised to death from catching up with too many people the last couple of weeks – and the stress of all the money stress. You know how stressful it is when you don’t now what is happening with the money.
I slept most of yesterday and today – I think that’s a reaction to something!
I’m trying to pay finals on Morocco. I emailed them last week to say “guys, I haven’t heard from you about paying finals. Are you still emailing my home account, when I gave you all my travel details (including email)?” They emailed back ‘oh yes, you’re right – that’s exactly what we are doing!” So they’ve been emailing me about finals and haven’t heard.
Now we are communicating, but we are having issues with our credit card paying the balance. I called the bank and they said ‘yes’ there’s a hold on the account – from when they queried the Western Union transfer as a possible overseas fraud, but we’ve taken off the hold now and it should all be okay.
It wasn’t!
So I emailed them again and they said ‘sorry – the hold wasn’t completely off – but it should be good now’. It still isn’t. I just got a message from the tour group saying it has been declined.
So, I’ve emailed the bank again (pain in the butt being in Spain and being too expensive to call them) and said ‘guys, it’s getting desperate. These guys will think I can’t pay for my trip!”
Let’s see what they say now!
So, hopefully tomorrow we’ll have our act together again and go out to Malaga for the day; maybe Cordoba later in the week. Mark (Alora) says that Cordoba is worth a visit – and easily done by train!
BUT, I need to have that Morocco leg finalized – otherwise, what are we going to do for November? πŸ™‚