The Last Time

This is a week when everything is being done for the last time.  The weeks have flown and I can’t believe that I am counting down the days now until I return home.   Poor weather is forecast from Friday for a few days so it perhaps will make this parting a bit easier.

Some faces have begun to disappear over the past few weeks and farewells are being said all over the place with promises of “I’ll be be back in October/November.”  Apartments for next winter’s escape from the weather are being viewed, bartered for and booked in some cases.

So Sunday was the last time I will be going to the Fuengirola market that runs parallel with the beach and is in sight of Miramar.  The last time that it is until later in the year hopefully when I might think again about my negative response to the stall-holder who wanted to meet me for a coffee.   It’s not too far a walk to the Sunday market from my apartment but then nothing seems to be too far from my apartment in this busy square.

We met the others in the square on Sunday, which was full of Spaniards, lots of families and lots of children who were all lunching out together in the brilliant sunshine.  Umbrellas were set up for shade and even La Farola’s was open for lunch when they normally close on Sundays.  Enquiries elicited the information that it was Father’s Day here which was being celebrated in style.

Our group for coffee was smaller than usual but it was another bubbly day as two friends were departing for Madrid next day en route to their home.    So their remaining Cava was consumed by all in the clear plastic champagne flutes which have made a regular appearance the past three Sundays.  Elainea happily chilled the Cava in her cafe’s fridge.  How many businesses would do that I wondered?

The Salon Varietes Theatre are presenting ten days of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.  I went along Sunday night to the lovely little theatre, which in days gone past was a cinema.  The plush red seating is just okay but what was more than okay was the performance which was simply excellent.  The narrator, I think, has been a professional actor at some time in his life, and some of the others too, but this was mainly an amateur cast which belied the standard of the show they put on.

I am told they make everything themselves, all the backdrops, all the costumes, as like all theatres these days, funds are tight and they depend on local support.  I loved every minute of this show and could not single out anyone as being above anyone else.  They were simply delightful and excellent.

There’s another F.O.T.A. here, but so different from Fota in Cork.  Here the letters stand for “Friends of the Theatre Association” and I will definitely become a member when I come back later in the year.   Their forthcoming social events include a monthly lunch, a four day trip to Donana Park and Jerez de la Frontera, a Fashion Show in La Farola Restaurant, with lunch, and a Valparaiso Summer Ball.

I wandered along as far along as the marina yesterday.  It was another beautiful cloudless day.   I watched huge dumper trucks depositing load after load of sand, replenishing what has been eroded by this winter’s storms, the worst winter since 1952.   It has not all been wall to wall sunshine and when it rains it definitely knows how to rain.  You could not call it “a soft day.”  Locals hope that the weather has settled after each stormy day but it does not appear to have settled yet, although when the skies open up to a clear pristine blue, and the few feathery clouds have evaporated, like childbirth, you forget what it is to have an inclement day.

Later as I walked up from the beach following the signpost for Dunn-es Stor-es, so I could find my way back to my square, for the first time I encountered the local refuse service in operation, so I was able to see how the system worked.  The tiny bins that are dotted strategically around this town hide cavernous bins underground.  They are electronically raised and operated much like a remote control car to be emptied.   The bin lorry stands alongside as one of the men controls the elevation of the bins and they are then emptied into the lorry.

Such an efficient way of coping with refuse.  The small bins at street level each have a different purpose.  And there is no charge to the person depositing the refuse, which is all sorted out whether it is paper, plastic or organic waste.  So there is no dumping of rubbish anywhere around the town.  The streets are cleaned regularly as are the pathways and squares.  Residents wash the pavements outside their homes. (This used to happen when I lived in Edinburgh).  And the beach is regularly cleaned by a large squad of men and women as they sift through the sand removing what has been discarded by the previous day’s sun worshippers and what has been washed up overnight.

What “Last time” will today bring?

 

 

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Taxis and Security

Moroccan taxis are in different colours.  The yellow taxis can take no more than three passengers and a small child counts as a passenger.  The method of hailing a taxi is standing at the corner of a road as the traffic is flying past and attempting to get a taxi to stop and pick you up.  This can take an awfully long time.   There are also white taxis and white and blue taxis.  They generally differ in that they have more seating and four of us hopped into a blue and white taxi which had three other passengers plus the driver.  We were allocated the back three seats and the grand-daughter happily sat on her mother’s lap, chatting away to the two women in front of us.

There was an elderly robed man in the front seat adjacent to the driver and he asked to be dropped off in the middle of a town.  We got dropped off parallel to the beach at Martil a popular holiday resort which was bereft of its usual throngs of holiday makers.  The golden beach at Martil is long, straight and flat .  This particular day, by the time we had eaten in one of the local cafes, dark clouds were rolling in across the Mediterranean and the waves were huge frothy mountains crashing on to the beach.  The grand-daughter was content with a thirty second run across the sands with her mama.  We retraced our footsteps to return to another cafe as the storm and heavy rain grew closer.

My journey to the airport yesterday in the taxi which picked me up in good time at the hotel, was different from the other times I had travelled to Tangier airport from Tetouan.   The plan was that the taxi driver would take me to bid farewell to the grand-daughter and family but I realised that we were going in the wrong direction.  A quick phone call to the daughter-in-law, who then phoned the taxi driver, sorted that out and we made a circular loop around a roundabout and headed back up the other side of the dual carriageway.

Farewells said, the taxi driver headed along the same route and soon we were on the other side of Tetouan.  It was the speed of the vehicle that alerted me to the fact that there were hairpin bends on the first range of mountains.  I had never noticed them before and I can only assume at the speed the taxi was driven, that the driver had another customer to pick up as I was in fine time for my flight.

There was same tent that I had seen on my arrival at Tangiers airport (incidentally spelled Tanger on the roadsigns) and I was asked for my passport and tickets but the tickets were on my phone.  The uniformed security man must have considered me as not a terrorist as I was allowed to go into the airport without showing him the details on my phone.  There was even heavier security in the airport.

Air Arabia are the first low cost airline to service Middle Eastern countries but they weigh and measure every bit of luggage.  Some passengers had to pay at the check in desks to put their overweight hand luggage in the hold.

From there we went through more x-ray machines, and handed over passports, boarding card and the completed information slips with our personal details.  I joined the shortest queue in front of two booths which were both manned but the other queues with only one booth manned still moved quicker.  There were police and what turned out to be non-uniformed officers everywhere and some people were questioned and taken off I don’t know where.  I would say it would be a hard job to get anything illegal through Tangiers airport which is really reassuring.

What I didn’t expect when we landed at Malaga airport, over an hour late with no explanation, was that the same level of security would be there.   Of course I was forgetting that I was travelling from a non-EU country and there were the same plethora of checks and x-rays and a separate sectioned area for people coming from outside the EU.

Brexit yes voters remember that when you are travelling into Spain in future.  You won’t just stroll through as an EU citizen with nothing to declare.

There was even a large beautiful Alsatian dog, a lovely fellow, who I stupidly went to pet. I suddenly remembered my days when I worked in a place where peers of the realm were regular visitors and that these dogs were doing a job.  You should not pet them.

Luckily I had no illegal substances on me.   As we arrived so late I missed a great lunch with the others which ended with caramel vodka.  But I am sure there will be other opportunities to get together.

 

Confused

Confused

I certainly am as I find myself saying ‘Hola ‘ and ‘Gratias’ in Chams Hotel, Tetouan, Morocco.
The waiter asked me at breakfast if I was Spanish.  I replied, ‘No.  I am Scottish. Ireland is my home but I am staying in Spain at the moment.’   He shook his head and looked confused.   I am too.
I have no Arabic and my little grand-daughter has little English  but I am now referred to as ‘Mimam Nanny Carol’.
She is a gorgeous little girl, as bright as a button and is already almost there with, “One, Two, Three, Four, Five; Once I caught a fish alive.”
I thought security was tight at Tangiers airport.  It is equally as tight at Chams Hotel.  I, and everyone who enters the hotel, have to walk through an x-ray machine, the same as you walk through at airports.  There is security outside the hotel too as there is always a man pacing up and down with security written in capital letters on the back of his jacket. He watches the cars that park in the hotel’s parking area immediately in front of the hotel.
The hotel reception area overlooks a very busy road. I am so confused I was trying to work out if the traffic went in the same direction as in Ireland.  The clue is the steering wheel of the car I am sitting in whilst writing this.  It’s on the wrong side for Ireland. The others have gone into the phone shop as the grand-daughter is a mobile phone wrecker.  I would not be surprised if she was on commission from the mobile phone shop or has shares in one of the companies.  The daughter-in-law’s sister, whose car this is, will be glad that I chose to stay in the car as the driver of the car that was parked immediately in front is as good at reversing as I am and was on the point of front-ending this car   I beeped the horn when it got too close for comfort so no damage done there.  Almost like being back in Sri Lanka again where tooting was as common as breathing.
Chams hotel have very amiable staff. My mattress was too hard.   It was akin to sleeping on a wooden board.  So they changed not only the mattress but the whole bed.  This second mattress is still an orthopaedic one, made for younger bones than mine, but only another night to go and I am back to my latex memory foam mattress in Fuengirola.  I really appreciate the comfort of it.
The hotel has not been conducive to a full night’s sleep.   I was wakened at 4.3o am the first morning by the sound of someone falling out of bed on to a wooden floor in another room. Then there was a toilet  being flushed and someone had a shower and finally there was the sound of doors closing. I could only assume someone had an early start so went back to sleep.  The phone beside my bed woke me again at 7.30 and as soon as I uttered a sleepy ‘Hello’ the voice at the other end said ‘Sorry’ about half a dozen times.  I turned over but only for fifteen minutes or so as there is a building site to one side of the hotel – the side my neat little balcony looks out on.  Work starts on site at 8 am so I gave up and switched the mobile on and started my day.
The cleaning ladies in the hotel are dressed as if they are entering an operating theatre. Complete with white trousers and white coats similar to doctors’ coats, they even have their hair covered in white too.  They are mostly middle aged women and terribly pleasant and we smile a lot and I say ‘thank you’ or ‘gratias’ as they go about their chores.
The waiting staff in the restaurant are all men, neatly clad in white shirts and black trousers.   I got a flask of boiling water this morning. They have one of these new gadgets that you can fit adjacent to a sink which have made kettles redundant.
I tried to use this myself and get a cup of boiling water for my Lipton’s teabag but what came out of the tap was a funny colour for boiling water.  One of the waiters rescued me and with a flourish discarded my cup with the pale orange liquid – goodness knows which button I had pressed – and he headed to the kitchen.  He returned triumphantly with an insulated jug full of clean boiled water that looked just like water when he poured it out.
There are no kettles in the bedrooms in Moroccan hotels, no teabags, coffee sachets, or milk and sugar and no complimentary biscuits.  So I savour the morning cuppas in the restaurant.   I do like my tea to be made with boiled water.  I still can’t work out what the pale orange liquid was – confused?   I am every bit of that.

My flight left 15 minutes early

My flight from Malaga to Tangiers left fifteen minutes early yesterday.  There was only one man left to board after I had settled in my aisle seat.  As soon as he had his seat belt secured we were taxi-ing down the runway.  I hurriedly checked my watch as we were due to depart at 16.10 and it as only 15.55 and thought my watch was wrong, but I noticed other passengers doing the same thing.  It is only a 45 minute flight and we landed early too.

Really as soon as we were up in the air we seemed to be coming down, or maybe that was because I was sitting beside the most interesting pair of friends.  Both had permanent homes in Spain, one only a year or more and the other for about 20 years.  The lady sitting next to me was very well travelled and indeed had been taken to Morocco as a chid of six years.  Her love of the country was evident as she had furnished her Spanish home with many hand made treasures secured during her time living there.  She was on a trip to find more such items.  She said she didn’t really ‘need’ any more things but ‘want’ was a different matter and she had booked a 30 kg case in the hold for her return trip.

Tangiers is a small airport and I had forgotten about the form you have to complete as soon as you enter the airport and had no pen in my handbag.  I must remember to have one on me for the return journey as you have to complete another form on exiting the country.   There were many other people like me and thankfully those who came equipped with a writing implement waited patiently whilst the borrower had completed his or her form.  It is only personal details, name, name at birth, passport number, destination and where you are staying and reason for the visit.

When you go through security the official checks the form and stamps your passport.  (I am running out of pages on mine and I only renewed it two years ago so I will have to stay home a bit more.)  Next you collect your luggage and everything has to go through another security x-ray system.

The currency is dirhams and I changed money straight away although the girl at the exchange counter tried to sell me a credit card so I could get a better rate.  Apparently you get a better rate if you use one of the exchange shops in the cities or so I have been advised.  I really don’t know.

There were very few people when I got through to the area where there are cafes and shops which was strange and different from my last visit.  Two years ago there were lots of people waiting for family and friends.   Luckily I walked outside to sit on a bench.  On the other side of an open area I could see small white marquees and people standing.  Vehicles were parked along the road and officials were guarding an entrance to what was the previous car parking area and drop off point.

I didn’t expect my daughter-in-law or cab driver to be there as we had landed about thirty minutes earlier than the expected time.  However the cab driver is a wise and experienced man and had insisted on collecting my daughter-in-law earlier than she planned.  He knew this flight often lands ahead of time.  Have you ever heard of a flight leaving early?

I was busy taking photographs when I heard my name called and realised they were waiting for me.  Security is so tight that no-one is allowed to enter the open area beyond the road other than people who are actually travelling.

So we set off on our hour’s trip across the mountains to Tetouan.   It was a beautiful evening and the Moroccans were out in force making the most of it. They were sitting on grassy knolls in the sunshine on the mountain sides and on grass covered areas as we got closer to the city.  Families were walking along the roads as whole families and everyone seemed to be out enjoying the sunshine.

I haven’t seen my granddaughter here since she was one and she was three last October so I had a lot of time to make up.  I came armed with a beautiful pink princess dress determined to make a lasting impression.  And I did, but more of that another time.

The other side

Just as the odd driver will brave the traffic coming up Market Street, Skibbereen, so they can cross from Drinagh Hardware to Drinagh supermarket – the odd Spanish driver will ignore no entry signs.

I have only seen a couple of incidents here to be fair.  And both were female.  Maybe they had children to collect or had some other reason.  I wondered why heads were turned yesterday as I came out of the square at the driver of a large black car gamely trying to reverse into a space far too small having come up the street the wrong way.  Maybe they were visitors and didn’t know where they were going.

The narrow streets here are mostly one way and some even have a notice saying only permitted vehicles allowed.  Permitted vehicles mean vehicles owned by residents in the street.  There are cameras which record the vehicles using these streets and there’s a fine of €70 for vehicles not recorded as permitted to use them.

I had wondered when waiting for the bus at the stop across from the police station where all the people were coming from out of a half glass building.  I asked a girl the other day and she indicated that there was an underground parking area.  There seem to be several of these around the town and there is an underground car parking area underneath the building I am in.

I noticed a Garda van as I crossed Church Square yesterday.  Then as I walked down to the seafront a police car raced past me at much more than the speed limit, with all lights flashing and sirens screaming.  I stopped and waited as I didn’t know what I was walking into.   The police car stopped in the narrow one-way street, blocking any further access.  There was a woman, dark haired, slim, mid-forties shouting at the top of her voice and gesticulating towards the narrow road which ran at right angles to the left of the street I was on.  She was terribly upset, sitting on one of the wrought-iron benches which are liberally set around this central part of Fuengirola and along the beach front.

The policeman stood by her listening – well the whole street couldn’t help but listen to her and her language was Spanish.   I noticed she didn’t have a handbag.

By the time I passed the policeman and the woman there was a queue of cars behind the stationary police vehicle which still had its lights flashing.  Eventually one driver beeped his horn (rather bravely I thought) but the driver of the police car moved off and parked half way across the pavement at the entrance to another side street.

This whole town centre is like a grid with a criss-cross of streets which I am told means you cannot get lost.  I have managed to get ‘lost’ a couple of times, but have kept going and have soon found myself on the right road again.  With the beach to the south side and the main road through town to the north everywhere I need to be is somewhere between the two.

There’s an Italian ice cream shop which serves delicious but expensive ice cream.  There I sat in the shade enjoying a double vanilla cone watching the world go by.   Lovely to see all the families enjoying the sand and the sea.   Scott or Scottie has Scoffers restaurant/cafe right next door to the ice cream parlour.  He was closing up as at this time of the year he only opens from 10 am to 4 pm.   He’s from near Livingstone, (between Edinburgh and Glasgow) an ex-Arsenal player and was a footballer for about five years until injuries put him out of the game.   I asked Scott what was going on as there were other police cars patrolling the sea front road.

‘There’s been a spate of handbags stolen today,’ he explained.  ‘There was a young French girl sitting there,’ nodding to the chair beside me, ‘and she was breaking her heart earlier today.’

Every time I go to any of the markets the stall holders have warned me to hold on to my handbag and I have the habit now of closing my hand over the zipped opening.

So yesterday was like paradise.  Lovely blue skies and it was really hot – a bit too hot for some.  Children were playing in the sand and others swimming in the sea and the whole image was idyllic.  But for some it was such a distressing day.  The Finnish lady I met at Jesus’s told me she had a shopping bag which she laid beside her whilst she picked up a shoe in a shop to check the size – for only a second or so – and when she turned her shopping bag had gone.

Now I have left my purse with credit cards and notes on the counter by the window in Skibbereen Post Office and driven around town before I have realised it was missing.  Racing back to the Post Office and parking on a double yellow line I ran up the steps as fast as I could, and there it was waiting for me.  No one had touched it.   How lucky am I?  I know my experience is not unique and many others have benefitted from the honesty of people in West Cork yet some will have experienced the other side.

Off to Tangiers in the morning for a very special reunion.   So excited!

 

 

Little Marias

I am learning so much about this culture.  Little Marias are the elderly women, mostly those who have very little, but these are the saintly women who donate to those who beg on the streets.

Begging sounds the wrong word as the women stand at a street corner, perhaps, with their empty palm in front of them.  Some say a few words to a passerby but I have never felt pressured to give to any of them, male or female.

I have seen a Little Maria give a plastic carrier bag of food and others give a few coins.  Their reasoning I am told is that these women have nothing but they have children to feed and care for.

There’s a man who sleeps in a sleeping bag under the cover of one of the entrances to my square.  I am told he is Scottish and also that he has a dog.  I have never seen the dog because the dog is asleep with his master under the orange and grey quilt.   Local cafe owners place food, wrapped in tinfoil by the sleeping man and sometimes there is coffee or tea, I assume, in a polystyrene cup.

There’s a very well-dressed lady who begs near Dunnes or the main road on the way to the bus station.  One wonders what has reduced her to this as she is so neatly dressed one would expect she worked in an office or something similar.

I don’t give to any of them as I never have money in my hand and won’t open my handbag or purse in the street.  My way of giving is going into Lux Mundi and buying a coffee or something in there as all profits from any involvement goes to feeding the thirty or so homeless people they care for every day.  Going on an outing with the U3A, a coffee morning, a social night, a quiz, a concert – all profits are donated to Luz Mundi to carry on their good work.

The group, who have kindly included me, have a lunch in Danny’s pub on the first Monday of each month.   One of the ladies who is health and safety qualified prepares all the dishes and we pay the princely sum of €3 for a main course and €2 if we want seconds.  There’s a good number turn up for this and last Monday was so hot I was glad to sit inside the pub. There were a crowd of Danish people outside the pub enjoying the clear blue sky and sunshine.   There is always a raffle afterwards and almost €100 was raised which is to be split between a local charity for children with disabilities and a connection in Africa.

There are people doing good everywhere but they don’t make the headlines.

 

I am now on the countdown to leaving this lovely place and heading home.  It’s been a traumatic time as over a couple of weeks I lost two of my oldest friends and that has been hard to come to terms with.  It’s easy to say remember the good times and we did have many good times.  But the sense of loss is hard at times.

Forty years ago we were so full of energy and the party spirit when we arrived at one of the late friend’s house in Edinburgh, her nine year old Catholic-educated daughter would open the door and say, ‘You’re here again!  It’s not fair!  I will never get to school!’  And she never did whilst we were there partying the days and nights away.  Happy memories.

 

Andalucia Day

Andalucia Day started on the Costa for some on the Thursday night as offices and businesses closed their doors gearing up for the celebrations which were planned for the run up to the day itself on February 28th.

This is as I understand the meaning of the day – The Day of Andalucía (Día de Andalucía), also known as Andalucía Day, marks the anniversary of a referendum held on February 28, 1980. A large majority of voters supported this referendum for Andalucía to become an autonomous community in Spain.  (It continues by saying that people spend it quietly with their family and friends – there was nothing quiet about the celebrations we encountered. – It was party time all the way.)

The celebrations started on 24th and there definitely was a party atmosphere around town.   Lots of children were dressed in the costumes of their heroes and for an evening the whole square reverberated with the happy noise of children playing.  Boys running non-stop and the little girls playing happily away.

We came across a stage set up on Church Square as we made our way to the Salon Varietes Theatre for the Sinatra/Buble tribute concert.   Obviously we had missed a major event.  Then another day there was music playing in the park across the road, near the town hall and the police station, with lots of families out for the day.  There was some kind of graded race going on with traffic cones used to divide the lanes for racing.  There was a party atmosphere and everyone good-naturedly enjoying the festivities in the sunshine.

Is it the sunshine that makes people so happy here?   There are some disgruntled people we have come across, but to be fair they are way in the minority.   One of the older bus drivers was a not a happy chappy the other day we were waiting at the bus square.  I expect he is tired of explaining the same thing to the tourists time and time and again.   He sounded really frustrated.

But you have to weigh that poor man with the other drivers who patiently wait whilst you extract the right coins, or wait for you run to the ticket office to buy your bus ticket.   One of the younger drivers keeps a bag of sweets by his side and will offer a sweet to any children who are passengers, when he gets the parent’s approval.   We didn’t have parents with us so we approved for ourselves to have a sweet, much to the amusement of the driver.

I was so impressed with the transport service arrangements for people with disabilities.  Again at the bus square there are lots of travellers going in all directions.  One lady’s husband was in a wheelchair as he had no legs.  She called to the driver of the regular Fuengirola to Benalmadena bus to lower the bus ramp.  The driver did better than that as he motioned for her to step back and wait.  It is a busy street but he maneuvered the bus to align at a right angle to the pavement and then operated the ramp which provided a flat access for the lady to push the wheelchair.  I was still on the bus when they left and he repeated the procedure calmly and efficiently.

The group who have kindly included me had organised a lunch in one of the pubs up the road for Andalucia Day.   It was timed for 2 pm and everyone but myself and a couple of others was seated at the long white paper covered table when I arrived on time.   There must have been a score of us, all nationalities sitting eating together to celebrate this national day.

We started with salad and there were chunks of fresh white crusty bread in wicker bowls on the table.   I can’t remember all the dishes, but there was a steel bowl with sizzling prawns, delicious altogether and cooked to perfection, calamari, a beef stew, small round balls of pork flavoured with parmesan, a local white fish, and peppers in a flavoured oil so tasty.  The dishes were passed along the table until everyone had their fill.  It was a wonderful way to sample the local delicacies and the meal stretched over a couple of hours as old acquaintances were renewed and new friends made.

Everyone saw to their own drinks, or rather whoever was nearest the bar ended up as the barman and the princely sum of ten euros each covered this meal which sum allowed a huge tip for the staff.

And last Sunday we celebrated Wyona’s birthday in style in the square at Elainea’s in brilliant sunshine.  The group meet for coffee at lunch time on Sundays and as the coffee glasses were drained, a dozen or more plastic champagne flutes were put together and filled with Cava.   We’re celebrating another special birthday this Sunday – so you know where I will be on Sunday afternoon and what I will be drinking.

 

 

A week on the Costas

Life gets in the way of keeping up the blog and what a busy week it has been.  But today I met a remarkable Irish woman in her 90s who is blessed with beautiful skin, wit, and a mischievous twinkle in her dark brown eyes.

She has not long given up cycling and her bike, although passed into another’s ownership, sits in what I now consider ‘my square’ as a reminder of her adventures of not too long ago.   She is well loved and well cared for and her two carers, one Polish and the other Rumanian treat her with respect and gentleness.   To the amusement of her carers, they can ask a question in Spanish to which she might reply in English and when asked a question in English might reply in Spanish.  She is fluent in both and the Irish Gaelic.

We are forecast heavy rain tomorrow and there was some rain today, just enough to keep the dust down.  Other than that it has been a blissful week with clear blue skies and many enjoying the beach, families swimming and building sandcastles and others boarding – is that what you call it when you propel yourself along on a board? – and more just enjoying the rays.

The boardwalk along the sea front is traversed by every man and his brother.  As well as people of all nationalities and shapes and sizes, gear and garb, there are dogs of all shapes and sizes too.  The Spanish do love their dogs and their four legged friends are walked each morning and evening.

You would see ‘designer’ dogs too, and yesterday I even spotted an enormous black great Dane, poor fellow, plodding along in the heat of the midday sun.

Spaniards are extremely well dressed.  Mostly they wear highly polished shoes, tights or stockings on the ladies, dresses, skirts and smart jackets and coats and leather handbags.  Their personal grooming is exact with polished and painted nails, obviously professionally manicured, and hair and make-up done to a standard which would have Marion Creedon Hegarty’s approval.

The men predominately seem to be good looking but before anyone makes any smart comment I haven’t really been looking at the men and neither am I looking for one.

I love ‘my square’ and today ate at Jesus’s.  His son is an opera singer and has just gone off to France where he is booked for about six weeks.   The coffee in Jesus’s is sublime and I think the best in the square.   I had his home made pate today and it was divine and came so artistically presented with tiny slivers of fresh orange and strawberry, cumberland sauce, onion and cucumber, and a basket of miniature toasties.

From what I understand and it was a tripartite conversation he has cooked either for the president of Finland or someone terribly important in Finland.  There was a Finnish couple who have a home here and a Dutch woman who like me is escaping the worst of the winter at home.  The Finnish couple were terribly impressed with the photograph Jesus showed them of the person he had cooked for.

The Dutch lady had pre-ordered her vegetarian paella.  Jesus insists on having at least one day’s notice so he can prepare it properly.   It looked to be an absolute feast and the Dutch lady had half of it to take home for tomorrow’s lunch.

Everything is cooked fresh and to order so you might have to wait a spell, but as Jesus demonstrates, he doesn’t need to go to the gym to keep fit.  He does enough exercise just working.  He was especially busy today as usually he has a son who helps him but was on his own as a number of regulars arrived for lunch.  You could tell they were regulars as  he kissed the women on each cheek and shook hands with the men.  (I am not considered a regular).  Jesus has developed his own lasagne, which doesn’t have any lasagne pasta but is layers of vegetables interspersed with salmon and a mushroom and cheese sauce, all prepared with his own fair hand.

He cooked a chicken curry for the Finnish lady and a different dish which consisted of potatoes, vegetables and fish in a bowl shaped pan which doubled as a serving dish from which the Finnish man helped himself.

He was out of apple cake so offered tiramisu which he said would be better tomorrow as he has just made it.  It was wonderful and the Scots, Dutch and Fins made short work of it.

 

 

La Farola & Miramar

La Farola restaurant opened its doors yesterday after a week or more of activity.  Chairs and tables have been stacked in the square in the open.  Workmen have arrived each morning and have sat outside smoking and chatting until someone arrived with a key.  It has not been a frenzy of activity at least for observers but with the numbers through the doors there has been a great deal achieved.

It’s been a mixed up week weatherwise.  We haven’t had snow or ice but just about everything else that you can imagine.   It keeps you alert, I remember being told, the erratic weather.

Wednesday was a beautiful day, perfect for the Malaga open topped tour bus.  But we had a night of thunder and lightning and heavy showers.  Yesterday’s rain sent us and half the tourist population to the huge Miramar shopping centre.  Thankfully we declined the offer to be directed to Miramar along the beach as if I had been fit enough for the walk we would have been drenched half way there as huge dollops of rain arrived out of nowhere.

The bus took us to the centre and we huddled with half the other passengers under the bus stop canopies whilst the brave and foolhardy raced for the entrance.    Those who entered through the car park had to wade through the gathering water at the entrance as drains failed.

Whilst we waited in shelter, we spoke to a couple from Toronto, Canada, who were from Glasgow originally and had gone for two years to Toronto 53 years ago and only returned to Scotland to visit.

Eventually the rain abated sufficiently for us to cross over the road, ignoring the designated crossing areas and choosing the quickest path we could.

Miramar is huge, reminds me of Dubai airport with its spacious halls, gleaming floors and light fittings and hordes of people.  It is mostly upmarket designer stores although there is a Penneys and there is a discount supermarket.

Buses were equally packed on the return journey home and our bus was filled to standing capacity before we left the first stop.

We had watched the activity all week in front of us and realise now that La Farola own the whole ground floor of the square opposite.  We were told it was to open for the first time last night and we were not sure if they were actually open for business.  The stacked tables outside were as they had been all week.  We called over to discover behind the bougainvillea covered arches there is an inside restaurant with seating for sixty or more.  We were asked if we had booked and the waiter looked disappointed when we replied in the negative but he did find us a table.

What a treat was in store.  The food was simply excellent.  I had home made chicken liver pate, smooth and rich, with melba toast and cumberland sauce.  There were another three side dishes, capers, sweetcorn mixture and onion.  Margaret’s prawn cocktail was a very generous portion and both dishes were beautifully presented.

My grilled sole with plain boiled potatoes and vegetables was cooked to perfection but Margaret faced an upward climb with the huge size of her grilled sea bass which was again accompanied by potatoes and vegetables.  Steadily we ploughed through the food, too delicious to leave more than the skeletal remains.

I chose the creme caramel for dessert ducking out on the blueberry cheesecake as I had by then eaten more at one sitting than I have for a long time. Margaret had the tiramisu.   Half a bottle of wine was included with each set menu.  Margaret had the red and I opted for sangria believing I would be charged for it and for the bottle of water I also ordered.  The bill was €18.95 each, just the charge for a meal from the set menu with no extras charged.    I should add the set menu has more choices on it than I have ever seen on a set menu.

The setting in the restaurant is what I would imagine is traditional Spanish decorated in deep colours.  The seating is very comfortable and at no time did we feel we were being hurried.   The musicians who played were traditionally dressed, in superb quality local costumes and livened up the atmosphere in the restaurant although it was never dull or quiet as there were around 50 diners inside and some of the tables were re-set to accommodate later arrivals.

La Farola is open as I write at almost 3 pm our time and there are groups of people at the outside tables enjoying lunch in the open air and in the sunshine.  Some have huge linen sun parasols giving them shade from the sun which has come out into its own beating down from a clear blue sky.

Happy days and how lucky am I.

Love in all its guises

I popped down to Benalmadena on Sunday afternoon.  I was supposed to meet a couple of friends at Elaineas in my square, but when I couldn’t see anyone around I headed off to catch two buses just so I could have a roast dinner.  It’s more than just a roast dinner.  There are seven different vegetables, carrots, roast parsnips, caramelised onion, red cabbage, cauliflower cheese and whole beans, and a choice of roast lamb, chicken or beef and roast and creamed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and a jug of gravy as good as I make myself.

There was so much on my plate that I took a plastic container home and had that for dinner last night.

It was a wild and stormy day on Sunday after a night of torrential rain and thunder and lightning storms – not what you kind of expect when you conjour up an image an image of the Costa del Sol.    The storm had abated landwise as I set off but the seas were so high that the frothy foam was sweeping over the walkways adjacent to the beaches.

I walked up the road to catch the first bus that would take me as far as the bus station to catch the 120, which passed Benalmadena.   I checked carefully and I had just missed the No 1 but the number 4 was due in about ten minutes.   Chatted to an English woman who had failed to see the timetable but had watched me take note.  Well I didn’t take note carefully enough because the allotted ten minutes passed and no bus arrived.

I looked at the timetable again and sure enough the service was listed as Sundays and Bank Holidays.  Then I realised that it was highlighted in yellow and found that the yellow relates to summer season and summer we are not.

As the next bus was not due or fifty minutes according to the regular timetable I saved my 1.15 euro bus fare and walked to the main bus station.

I was just in time for the bus there and was glad to get out of the blustery weather.  Blustery was not what you could call the weather when I got off the bus in Benalmadena opposite McDonalds.  The weather was mad.  The huge waves rolling in were vicious and frightening with the force of their intensity.  I pressed the button to stop the traffic so I could cross the road and was almost thrown into the oncoming traffic.  Really scary stuff as I had to hold on to the lamppost to stay upright.  I would have loved to take a photograph but couldn’t risk getting my phone out of my handbag.  Goodness knows where it might have ended up.

McDonalds was devoid of people – well there were some customers I could see but it was a different story in Horizon which was packed.  Oliver – (he is the most unlikely Oliver as he is as Spanish as they come) – put me at a table close to the door and the corner of the marquee that covers the front half of the restaurant – as I had not booked.

The gale was such it was lifting the weighted corners to the rear of me so I asked Oliver and one of the two beautiful waitresses could they move me further away from the door as soon as a seat became available.  Everyone who came in or out released another blast of cold air into the restaurant and even though all the indoor heaters were blasting out hot air they were not sufficient if you were sitting where I was.

A couple came in after me and were seated even closer to the entrance. He was tall and she was petite and slim.  Even though she had a jumper and scarf on within seconds of sitting down she was complaining she was cold.   He was well built and it would explain why initially he didn’t feel the cold, but eventually it penetrated and overhearing my request they followed suit.  I thought he was going to explode when a group of four walked out leaving the door wide open to the elements but in fairness I think a gust of wind blew the door ajar again as one of the women kindly came racing back to shut the door more firmly.

We were moved to the tables they had vacated and sat in comfort once more.  The lady continued to say it was not right and the man placated her and diverted her attention by asking what she wanted to eat.  We soon were chatting amiably and it turned out that they had been travelling for some months and were to be in the ‘warmer climate’ and away from the cold of the UK for another six weeks.

By this time I had realised that the poor lady was suffering from senile dementia.  She was years younger than me, poor girl, and her husband covered up at times when she made some outlandish remark.  I heard all about what she had worked at and worked very hard and successfully at for years until she had become ill; about her children, all girls, who were wonderful to her and her beloved grandchildren.   She was a sweetheart and whilst the mind may have become confused I would like to think that what was left was the most loving and gentle nature and that she had been like that all her life.

She was certainly reaping the rewards of a life well led, as all the caring she had bestowed around her was being heaped on her tenfold.  Her husband, and it was a second marriage, explained about having to have her hair cut to tidy it up and the lady who usually came in to do it when they were at home in the UK would be annoyed that the Spanish hairdresser had changed the style.  The Spanish had made a good job of her hair and the style suited her elfin face – if you think of an Audrey Hepburn-shaped face.

We continued chatting, the lady smiling all the while and contributing to the conversation when she could.

As I got up to leave and head west along, she smiled at me and blew me a kiss and said, ‘You are beautiful.’   But she was the beautiful one, just a sweetheart of a woman.   Her husband has to cover up for her every day of their life and at least she is still as gentle and as loving as I expect she has always been.   Love does come in many guises and, thankfully, does overcome many obstacles.