Thursday, 3 September 2020

Not quite but the holiday surely tried its hardest that year


It was the start of a new term in the UK so I headed off to a place I knew well but stayed in a hotel only viewed from the outside....up until now.

Until recently I had stopped at the flat owned by Mrs Fry at the other end of the bay in Torreblanca. I wanted a change and had seen the Hotel Angela as I had walked along the bay to the supermarket and Las Ramblas for a coffee and a slice of their fresh cream cake studded with fresh fruit and clear jelly. Delightful.

I suspect I had only been there a matter of a day at the most so as to gain the best prices from the sudden, and quite dramatic seasonal drop in prices, but already the temperatures were soaring and the beach was hot, hot, hot!

The beaches this end are more popular with families as it's close to the ice cream, Mac Donald's and the like, but I liked it because it was closer to the harbour, and that was somewhere I always enjoyed walking (when it was cooler that is).

I had been in the sea and on the beach for most of the day and was on my way back to the hotel. Hot and sweaty, I really fancied a shower and then retire for a few hours by the pool with a cool glass of something. Later I would take a stroll to the Chinese supermarket and pick up a can of Coke Zero and sit on the sea wall so as to watch the world go by. 

Not so long ago we were enjoying temperatures similar to this, here, in the UK. I was lying in a paddling pool designed for dogs (plastic a great deal more sturdy and to be honest good fun). My outlook this year was of bees and bumbles buzzing around the annuals in my garden bed and listened to my neighbours as they carried on with their lives.

I smiled, I knew where I would rather be and closing my eyes imagined myself lying in the shallows on the beach in Fuengirola, Puerto Cruz, Teguise or on the island of Fuerteventura.

Teguise beach, chasing fish

So much came flooding back...

 My house resembles a travelogue of places visited; I print them off on ordinary photocopy paper and paste them on my walls. It's a lovely way to permanently live my holidays, but even I can't display all the places and all the memories.

I also have a series of slides running as the background on my desk computer which change every ten seconds and it was during one of these I noticed a series of photographs I had completely forgotten.


Taken in 2016, I was on my way down to the beach for an early stroll before I had a decent coffee at the cafe along the bay.

As I took my usual route, along the river overflow, I came across a herd of goats happily grazing. Although you can't see them here, the chickens were there too with their accompanying cockerel keeping a watchful eye.

He saw me before I saw them to be honest and gave the alarm call. The hens gathered their chicks together and scurried under the nearest caster oil plant whilst the cockerel gave a menacing eye.

Being polite I skirted him and his precious group, moving quietly among the goats, who, I would add, were not in the least bit interested in me.

It reminded me of when my mother and I had come to Tenerife all those years ago and had had to shoo goats out of the way to get to the beach even then. 

I emerged from under the roadway bridge and entered the gardens; my first sight of the sea in all her glory; she was calm that day and I knew later I would be in there, enjoying the spray and the waves.

My eyes filled with the sights of Puerto Cruz, I could smell the air and hear the buzz of the bees, the crash of the waves on the black, shingle beach; what a memory to relive.

Friday, 14 August 2020

A cow and a fold up umbrella

 If there's one iconic memory which comes to mind everytime it rains or I go to collect my umbrella just in case, it's the Ale Hop cow.

It started out as a beautiful day, and by 09:30 temperatures were already moving into the 80s . I knew it was going to be a lovely one for the beach but checking my phone, I noted thunderstorms were possible later that afternoon. 

I fancied a walk first and that much-needed coffee, so wandered down to the small Ale Hop outlet not far from where I was staying and picked up one of their folding umbrellas for €8 and returned to the beach via a lovely little café for a much needed shot of caffeine.

So beach, setup, strip off, swim, stand and drip for a while and then doze in the increasingly hazy sunshine. I patted my bag knowing the recent purchase would probably be in use very shortly. I hadn't reckoned on just heavily the rain would fall, however.

Suddenly, I became aware the seagulls had quieted and the sea itself had calmed, almost muted in its waves. Opening my eyes to this change in Nature's reaction,  I looked back toward the mountains and watched thick,  black clouds rolling down towards the sea.

I'd spotted it before many other sun worshippers and they watched somewhat bemused by my springing into action; top clothes back on, pack the towel and beach wear away, take out the umbrella and walk quickly back up the beach. 

Within minutes of me stepping onto the pavement the heavens opened and we were presented with a truly tropical storm. Rain fell like curtains and the paths were like rivers within minutes. Water cascaded onto the beach and turned the hot, black sands into a soggy mud, clogging wheels on children's buggies.

I watched, brollie already up, as the people who'd stared at me moments before, scrambled to gather their stuff, throwing wet, sandy towels into bags, top clothes wet, children crying, buggies stuck, people laden with "stuff" too wet to do anything with. 

All scrambling up the beach attempting to move against the soggy landslide of sand as they sunk into it. Children screaming, people fighting to get everything up a narrow flight of steps, getting stuck, getting soaked, children crying louder as they are now wet through and getting cold.....mothers shouting, fathers yelling, hunting for car keys. Boots opening, belongings thrown in, doors opening and screaming, crying children pushed inside, still in beachwear with black sandy feet and hands. Inwardly I grinned.

Today, I packed the brollie into my bag and remembered; that was last year.....what a different year that was.

Monday, 10 August 2020

A cartoon with many memories

When I was travelling alone to the flat in Torreblanca I relied on the television for company in the evenings.

Most of it was in Spanish and I desperately wanted light relief from feeling lonely and feeling overheated. It was a big flat and was on the top floor of a block mainly occupied by Spanish families with a few flats still in the hands of UK residents who would come over for 3 or 4 months at a time. I was fortunate as the two flats on the same floor as me were invariably empty when I came. The families had children and were in the UK enjoying term time, rather than on holiday, so the place was eerily quiet.

Very little of the TV was in English as I said but there were two channels I loved; it didn't matter I didn't understand the words, I could follow it like a toddler, by watching the action in the cartoons.


Since the old lady who owned the flat died, I've not been back and I'm not even sure the family still own the property, but when I came across this cartoon, memories of the flat came flooding back.

Some of them were good, the beach only a matter of 5 minutes away, the corner shop where I was able to get my immediate needs and the supermarket, along the sea front, where I could get a bus back with a full load of shopping to see me through the week. 

Catching the bus, remembering the adage 'Number 1 is not the one',  up to the shopping centre on the outskirts of town and wandering down by the river to another beach which never seemed to be as crowded as those closer into town.

I remember sitting watching a cartoon and being aware of a cockroach with hobnailed boots running across the living room floor and taking ages to be caught and killed. Cleaning out the kitchen because a plague of ants had come up the pipework under the sink. The awful smell of sewers because the heat of the day had evaporated the water in the toilet traps, sink traps or bath and allowed the smell to seep back.

I remember the ability to go out when I wanted and sit on the balcony all day if  wished. The very efficient air con throughout the house and having to empty the big water containers and send the excess water down the sinks, toilets and bath.

I remember the frogs croaking into the night in the creek which ran down the side of the block and looking out on a lovely pool, surrounded by bougainvillea, Seville orange and oleander trees.

I watched an Olympics out there, a major athletics competition and numerous other high level sporting events, all in German or Spanish.

It was a beautiful flat and I have many really good memories of being out there; all brought back because I saw a cartoon on the Freeview channel, YAAS  for the under fives.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Sleepy tranquility, a place to hire a car

The ship docked, but I had had a ring side seat watching the island come into view. Slowly rising from the sea, steep cliffs gave way to inlets and caves which appeared deserted. The mists of morning were still rising but the sky was leaden and although we were in the Canaries, the day did not look promising.

So we berthed alongside and after the obligatory wait to clear customs, we were given the all clear to disembark. I couldn't wait. The town nestled into the valley between two sets of imposing hills and I was intrigued by it. There really wasn't enough of it to get lost in so I wandered and it was glorious.

The tower illustrated in the magnet is called Torre del Conde, and was one of the first buildings I saw. Sitting in  its own small garden, it was really interesting and the ironwork, impressive. It dates back to the 1400s and is the remnants of a fortress, which, I presume, was created to fight off pirates.
I wanted to see it all and we were only stopping until about 16:00 so I had a shorter day than usual; I had to be back at the latest 15:30 and that would be pushing it as that's when the gangway is lifted.
So, cardigan on, camera out, I headed into the town square....via the beach because I just had to have a paddle. I wish I had longer, this is an island I would hire a car. Google told me of a day trip to see the island and it looked fabulous.

  • Parque Natural Majona; a rugged natural park featuring forests, rivers and endangered animals.
  • Torre del Conde; 14the century fortress tower
  • Archaelogical museum of La Gomera
  • Roque de Agando; 4,100 ft volcanic rock jutting out of the jungle, with nature trails around its base
  • Garajonay National Park; wildlife rich, anchient laurel forest nature reserve with nature trails and a visitors centre
  • Playa Valle Gran Rey; a beautiful beach on which to chill out
Sadly, I was too early to hire a car, I didn't have my driving license with me and the tour would have been too long for our stop....never mind.

So I waited in the town square with a cup of coffee and watched as the market set up and opened, the buskers came out to serenade the tourists and examples of the specialised whistling which allowed people to whistle conversations from one hill top to another was explained by people dressed in full Canarian costume.

I may not have made the tour of the island, but I had a wonderful morning and afternoon in San Sebastian, looking around the market, the back streets and of course the small fishing port.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Flåm, a pearl in the fjord

Imagine travelling up a long fjord with steep cliff edges and precipitous waterfalls. Ominous but small rock falls cascade from the upper reaches and small tinned houses cling to the feet of the cliffs with their toes in the water. Brightly painted in greens or red or blue or canary yellow, they stand out as bastions against the natural world. No room for a car, no road necessarily connecting them, each has their boat moored up outside, ready for that visit to the shops, to entertain, to fish, as a commuter vehicle and to take the children to school.

According to Google, "Flåm is a village in southwestern Norway, in an area known for its fjords. It sits at the end of Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the vast Sognefjord. The dramatic Stegastein viewing platform juts out high above the Aurlandsfjord. South of Flåm Harbor, the 17th-century wooden Flåm Church lies in the valley. The Flåm Railway offers valley and waterfall views as it climbs to a station on the Hardangervidda plateau."

As we approached Flåm we were told there was very little there save the railway station, a few large shopping areas, some souvenir shops, a series of cafés and a very large, hanger like shop filled with Icelandic and Norwegian clothing.

One other delight was a large garden area with park benches, a large camper van car park, decent toilets and a small beach area to swim from!!
Oh, how I dearly wish I had my swimwear with me, but coming north I didn't dream I would be able to swim in the fjord, knocking on the door of the Arctic circle as I was.

I paddled.

Sitting down on the sand I enjoyed a barmy hot day wiggling my toes in the warm sand and watched the water sports. A family came into view from further down the fjord. It made me giggle as I saw them coming into sight, it reminded me of the three bears......first was daddy bear standing on his board with a toddler sitting cross legged in front of him, next came mummy bear with a papoose kneeling on hers and finally two smaller boards with younger siblings sitting on theirs. They teach them young here. A splash and a whoop and three young girls run into the water. They play chase me and swim furiously back and forward as if running, playing tag around the paddle boards and others, enjoying an inflatable float.

I visited the large clothing outlet and was both amazed by the goods but also their prices! Come with money if you fancy a jumper. I'd already bought a gorgeous cardigan from one of the llama stalls outside, a snip at £60! Glad I did because in here I would pay anywhere from £120 upwards.
Having little currency remaining I sort out where the magnets and such were in this superstore, finally seeing these. Sorting the best nose I could find, I bought this one. Wrapping it carefully I hoped it would make it back to the UK and home via GWR.

view from the train

getting off to look at waterfall

Kjosfossen falls

Monday, 22 June 2020

Amsterdam; canals and fascination

Getting off the ship was a delight as we wandered along an airline style gangway towards the main terminal. Down a set of stairs took us into a massive arrivals and departures hall, with tickets machines and booths to one side, rows of seats in the middle and souvenir stalls to the left.
I turned round and looked at the arrival/departure tunnel; that's what I'd be looking for on the way back. Today I was footloose and fancy free, no trips, no deadlines, just me, a map and a pair of feet.
mm, I'll look at those on the way back.
One last turn round to make sure I knew the departure tunnel..
.. and I was out onto the concourse working out my left from my right, "ahr, the railway sheds, that way.."
If you've been to Amsterdam you'll know it's just streets around canals in a ratio of 1:1, so much of the time you're going over bridges, under railway arches, spotting coffee houses. I was aiming and the central region, I wanted to see the real Amsterdam not the one seen on photos.
Some parts, especially around Dam Square had the feel of Soho in London before it was bulldozed and sanitised.
All around De Wallen and the side streets towards Primark weren't pristine, in fact they were like London, dirty with many vagrants. Marijuana shops were everywhere, in bars, cafes and speciality shops intermingled between boutiques, chemists and fashion chains. Everyone seemed chilled, er, wonder why, and people respectful. Yes, old London with a slightly different language mix.
I headed for Stationsplein, where the Visitor's Centre was and picked up a ticket to go onto the canal for an hour cruise.
The weather wasn't sun and heat, but it was dry and although it threatened rain, it failed to materialise. 
Everyone was given a pair of disposable headphones and we plugged into the commentary,  choosing our language first of course. It was fabulous! If you go to Amsterdam, put one of these tours on your To Do list, it wasn't expensive and our captain was great!

Barge living is now THE way to live. Well, to be honest, by comparison with house prices, 1.3million euro is a snip, especially when you can pretty much guarantee your floors will be horizontal, mooring ropes depending, and there's little chance of sinking, maintenance depending of course.
Time for coffee. 
I had enough coinage for that and a small amount of retail therapy. I headed back into the backstreets and hunted out a few shops, bought some lipstick (using it still) and a eye-pencil sharpener. Memories. When I use them, they came from Amsterdam. Oh, I bought shampoo too, lasted well and beautiful smell.
Mm, a nice retail exploration. 
Time? Yikes!! Departure was coming up fast and it takes half an hour to walk back. I had a final coffee, the ubiquitous loo stop and then back to the ship.
As I got back to the departures lounge, the man with the fridge magnets was beginning to pack away. I gestured, wait, wait, selected 3 and paid with the remainder of my currency.
Skipping up the gangway, back on board, I'd had a brilliant day. I'd not visited one tourist destination, I decided I'd do that when I returned, but had looked at houses, boats, shops and the people who spent their days living there. 
Really fascinating. My type of travelling experience