Spain during October

Dick and Irene Craig
Thu 10 Nov 2011 13:39

We dropped John off at the airport in Alicante about 6pm on Wednesday, 5th October, hopefully with recharged batteries and ready to face the slings and arrows of life back in Blighty.

Thursday morning Brett, the guy who is responsible for the chaps who tend our garden, came along for a chat. We need to cut down three conifers just beyond the pool area as they are growing against the wall and causing damage. The big almond tree at the end of the garden needs to be pollarded; it is shading several of the bougainvillea plants which grow against the wall separating our garden from the adjacent plot. I had hoped to plant a number of jacaranda and mimosa trees in that area but there is insufficient space for them to be able to grow and spread so have agreed to just have two mimosa trees planted. He is also going to replace the grapefruit tree which has died because the gardener strimmed the bark off the trunk of the young plant.

The grass has suffered during the heat of the summer. I don’t irrigate and although the grass is a creeping variety, not at all like an English lawn but quite hardy, there are a few brown patches which I am sure will recover once we start to get a decent amount of rain.

The rubber tree at the front of the house has a big crack in one of the two trunks as well as two of the boughs. I don’t know how or when this occurred but it will have to be cut off to around a metre in height. I am hoping that the resulting stump will put out shoots and form a bush-like shape and that the shaded branches attached to the other trunk, will also sprout some shoots. Whatever the result, the cracked side of the tree will have to be dealt with.

The weather was still good when Jan and Henry arrived. We visited a couple of our favorite restaurants while they were here, as well as a few that had been recommended by friends from the bridge club. Eating at lunchtime was the norm which gave us plenty of time to play bridge with them most days. We spent a couple of nights in Barcelona at the Holiday Inn Express. Other than the fact that they were able to add a lot of points to their Holiday Inn premier account, I could not recommend the hotel.

Barcelona was great fun. We went to see La Font Magica, a choreographed display of fountains, music and lights. We arrived just after 9pm, as advised by the receptionist at the hotel. Unfortunately it was all over when we arrived and although Dick and I have seen it before, on two separate occasions, Jan and Henry missed out.

We ambled along the Rambla admiring the “human statues”, before walking around the

La Boqueria market, which sells an amazing selection of fruit, vegetables, air dried ham, fish, meat etc.

Since the beginning of 2011, there are only a maximum of 15 authorized points where accredited “human statues” may perform, within the hours of 10am to 4pm and 4pm to 10pm. The selection of the thirty “statues” takes place annually.

We visited the Cathedral de Barcelona where you were permitted to light an electric candle as well as sponsor a stone. The ducks swimming on the water were quite unfazed by the workmen engaged in artistically enhancing the central garden.

After breakfast, we waved farewell to our friends, who spent another three fantastic days in Barcelona and we drove back home, through the constantly changing countryside, admiring the hills, the mountains, the vineyards, the orange groves, the sea views, as we journeyed southwards..

The sun was still shining when Terry and Wendy arrived at Alicante airport a couple of days later. Like Jan and Henry, they have visited us in Spain on several occasions and we were able to frequent some of the restaurants that they remembered fondly. The weather remained fine and after four or five days, we drove them to St Nazaire d’Aude, near Narbonne, France. Terry and Dick took turns to drive the car , mainly on motorway, a total of around 700 kilometres; traveling through the Penedes wine region in Catalonia, north east Spain, famous for good quality wines.

We stopped and ate a hearty meal at lunchtime; knowing that being Sunday, there would be no shops open where we might buy food, so took with us enough to provide a snack for that evening.

Next morning we went with them to pay their water bill. This hadn’t been paid for an unconscionable time because it had not been sent to the correct address. Having explained to the appropriate authority why the payment was late, the fine was cancelled. That afternoon two chaps arrived at the house, to turn off the water supply. The production of a bill stamped paid, resolved any potential problem. What timing!

This property is on the market and while we were there, they received an offer to purchase from a couple who wanted to move to the area in order to take advantage of the local English school. As part of the sales procedure, it is necessary to ascertain the size of the area which will be inhabited. This is done in order to check the adequacy or otherwise of the insulation in place. A man arrived and by standing at one side of the room and pointing a gadget at the far wall, he was able to read the length and breadth of each room. Other than paying for the privilege of having the check done, any work related to improving the insulation will be the responsibility of the purchaser and not the vendor.

We drove up the winding roads to Minerve, a picturesque village with cobbled streets, situated on top of the gorge carved by the River Cesse, and located in a naturally strong defensive position. However, during the Cathar Crusades, following a siege of many weeks, by Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, on 22nd July 1210, 180 Cathars were burned at the stake because they would not renounce their faith. Today, only the “candela” an octagonal tower, is all that remains of the castle.

The car rolled backwards on the “magic road”; an optical illusion caused by the layout of the surrounding terrain where a slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope.

We visited Narbonne, founded by the Romans in 118BC, strolling in the sunshine, alongside the 5kilometre beach, towards the marina, before returning to a splendid fish restaurant for lunch.

The timing of our visit was most fortuitous because on our last evening, when the roof leaked, in addition to strategically placing buckets to catch the rain, Terry was able to put into motion, arrangements for the leak to be fixed in his absence.