Trip Start Dec 11, 2009
10Trip End Jan 26, 2010
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After a late night and a full meal we didn't sleep well. Up and a light breakfast before completing packing and checking out. Guess what - it's payback time!! It was pouring with rain and the temperature was around 12 deg, can't cope with this !!!!
We caught a bus through the soaking and gridlocked streets and eventually arrived at the airport where, because he was now late, the driver set off back for the city before we could gather our cases and get off the bus. My Spanish isn't good enough to express "Just a chuffin minute pal" but a few panicky shouts caused him to stop and dump us off right in the middle of the airport bus lanes.
Our hire car was ready and we collected a Seat Leon, which I was pleased at because I've fancied trying a Seat for some time. Out of the airport and before my sat navorah properly calibrated it (her) self we missed a turning and had a 10km detour in the opposite direction. Once sorted we headed north on a very wet autopista.
Clear of Alicante we switched to a main road, which runs parallel to the autopista but doesn't have any tolls on it. A brief lunch stop in a wet Altea and we arrived in a very wet and now windy Javea around 4pm. A quick drive round to familiarize ourselves and thankfully it didn't seem to have any horrendous new building works. We found our hotel, which was next to the main beach, 'The Arenal' and settled into our room. We have a balcony that looks over this sandy bay. It's blowing an absolute gale, the sea is white and the palm trees are being blasted in the wind. The temperature is now down to 8deg, so we are trying to empathise with you guys at home, honestly, sort of !!!!!!
An easy supper in the hotel and then a good night's sleep.
Friday 8th January
Our task this morning was to find an apartment for our stay in Javea and we contacted a couple of agencies and went to look at the property, our primary consideration being heating. Outside the hotel the biting wind hit us and the temperature was..............3 deg !!!!!!!!! We drove along the sea front where enormous waves were pounding the beach and had scattered layers of pebbles across the adjacent road. We checked out a few apartments but nothing perfectly fitted the bill and we're still looking.
We did some touring round in the cold but now slightly sunny afternoon, which had warmed up to 6 deg and started to refamiliarise ourselves with the area. On the estate alongside the Montgo, which runs inland out of Javea, I had seen a fabulous house being built on our last visit, so we went to check it out. It was still not completed, so I guess money was tight around here. The builder was there working on it and came to encourage our interest in it. "How much?" "1,450,000 euros" came the reply. We complemented him on his creation and proceeded on our way, maybe not this week then...?
The sea was still raging when we returned to the hotel and the sun was illuminating the spray being blown off the top of the surf in the opposite direction in great golden plumes, an amazing sight.
Saturday 9th January
A very dull and very windy day which felt drastically cold, although the temp had risen to 5 deg!!!
We had made contact with an owner in England, who had an apartment in Javea and her agent here had contacted us. We met at the apartment, ideally located near the port but it was cold. We tried to get the blown air heating working but gave up. The agent said she would see what she could do and contact us again.
We spent most of the rest of the day in the hotel keeping warm, only venturing out for supper at night.
The hotel was one of the Spanish government owned 'Parador' chain, which are mostly old castles or great buildings. In Javea it was a reasonably modern building constructed in an arc at the side of the Arenal bay. Leaving the lift and walking towards the end of the floor towards our room felt like walking along the curved corridors of the starship 'Enterprise' and you could imagine the "Red Alert", "Red Alert", warnings being given. At other times the steady walk to our room induced a 'Peter Kay' style walk as we sang "Is this the way to Amarillo?", complete with actions. Don't know what the security guard made of that but we didn't get thrown out. "Huh, Ingleses - Tontosos, Locos!!!!!!!"
Sunday 10th January
A cloudy start with a very cool breeze. The bay had settled down a bit but there were still rollers coming in, which had tempted out the local surfers. By midday we had some blue skies but the temperature was only 9deg (OK sorry, perhaps I shouldn't complain!) We drove out of town and towards 'Cap de la Nau', which is on the most easterly tip pointing towards the Balearic Islands and from the cliff tops we could see Ibiza in the distance. There were several big container ships out on the skyline but no sailing yachts, which was surprising on this ideally windy day. This leaves another marina full of inactive boats. I wonder if there's a market for 'boat walking', you know like taking someone's dog out for a walk? "Hey mister, we'll give it a run for you. Keep everything ticking over." Might be worth a try ????
When we were last here I spotted an apparently abandoned little villa, tucked away close to the nearby 'Cap Negre' and my curiosity got the better of me, so I had to have a look. Yes, it was still there and still dilapidated, just needing some (serious) work to bring it back to life. I was musing that at least it wouldn't cost 1,450,000 euros and my inner constructive urge was starting to show itself, when a determined arm dragged me back to the car. Yes......, but......, just suppose.........!
We returned to town along the twisty country road and as we rounded a bend a car was coming at us on our side of the road. As I braked he swerved over to the correct side and I noticed that he had a British registration..........bloody tourists!!!!!! We stopped at the Arenal beach for a mid afternoon coffee and now there were TWO yachts out in the bay and some small dinghies from the local sailing school. So there is some (winter) nautical life here then.
Returning to the eastern coast area we visited a small beach and walked along the shingle shore in the sunny breeze. It was pleasant but now getting cooler in the late afternoon and we had an appointment with the apartment agent, who had now got the heating working. The apartment had warmed up a little but with the current cold, changeable weather we wanted somewhere definitely warm. We arranged to return tomorrow to see if the system would warm the place up overnight.
Back at the hotel we continued the search on the internet for a small apartment to rent. This was taking up more time than I expected.
Monday 11th January
A dull day, temp at 7 deg and after a late breakfast we went looking for a dentist as I'd lost a filling. I remembered seeing one on the Montgo road and we found it and made an appointment for tomorrow.
Back in town we visited yesterday's flat, which had been heating overnight. Warmer but still not comfortable to sit in through January nights and we turned it down. I was being extra cautious because on our last visit here four years ago, we rented an apartment with, supposedly, under floor heating and it turned out it had only ever been used in summer. We turned up in early January and the heating didn't work because it was silted up. We had to spend the first night in a hotel because it was so cold. The agent and owner bought some fan heaters, which we moved into whatever room we wanted, trying to keep warm. Afterwards the agent, who had been paid for the booking, said it was all the owner's problem and she wouldn't repay any of the rental money. This was the previous lesson that was now driving me to ensure that we were comfortably warm.
More emails, some apartments not available, some 'will contact me back' (yeh, but don't hold your breath'). As a tourist abroad you're fair game and just a source of income - Live With It !!!!!!
Supper and no more progress made -hoh, hum.
Tuesday 12th January 15
Breakfast and then we continued looking for an apartment, that was our master plan in staying here. I never expected that it would take so long and what was becoming more evident was that Javea was a summer town and the apartments were not built for winter use. This was a good pointer for any future long term plans.
We visited a couple of estate agent / rental companies, who make their money out of the housing market and one simply referred us to their website. "Excuse me, I'm stood here and I want to rent somewhere from you and pay you money". "Well, if you look on our website and see what there is!" This was common amongst many companies, who were having a nice life out here in the sun and ....work?.... work?......sorry old boy C.B.A (Can't Be Ars*d). Literally - If you want to use our 'services' then you do the chuffin work for us!!!!!!
A dental interlude interrupted the search and it was obvious that the long period of lack of dental treatment when we were travelling had taken its toll. My Dutch dentist explained the scale of the problem and we decided to tackle it as much as we could whilst I was here. He fitted a new filling in the time he had for my appointment and said he would contact me if any cancellations came up.
In town and apartment hunting again. Another agent was more helpful and we explored the short term, 'long term' rental and went to see a villa out of town. Nice but a way out, especially at this time of year. They say God loves a tryer ........................ye Gods, we're trying!!!!!!
Wednesday 13th January
A showery morning and on the beach council workmen had moved in with jcb's to clean up and reshape the sandy beach after last weekend's battering. Slightly dull and showery but the temp was slowly rising (11)deg. After breakfast we had an appointment to look at two apartments near the sea front. Both good and both had radiators, worth considering.
Dentist phoned. A cancellation and he would see me Thursday morning.
It was still dull and breezy and on the small shingle beach we could see great bowls of pebbles sculptured out by the big seas the previous last weekend. Walking round the north side of the beach we climbed the rocks to look out over the now calm sea. On our return we noticed the slipway had been attacked by the stormy seas and had ripped chunks of six inch concrete, each over a metre square, off the base and hurled them several metres up the slope. Impressive.
A stop on the cliffs overlooking Granadella and then a drive back into town, passing through a district that still had water pouring down the roads from the rains last weekend.
Another apartment between the beach and the town. Modern, well fitted out and it had underfloor heating. Instant decision - we'll take it for two weeks. Progress - at last.
Thursday 14th January
A sunny and for us early start. The sunrise was just coming over the 'Cap de Sant Marti' to the south east and causing the whole sky to light up in a rosy pink aura over the silhouetted Balcon area. The Arenal bay was calm and already the council men were working on the beach. We needed an early breakfast before I went to the dentist, involving two hours work on the preparation for a crown, including a colour match as to what shade I wanted the new crown - never got that before.
Back to the hotel just in time to complete packing and checkout. Drove to the rental office and completed the apartment rental procedure and then settled into the apartment. Two bedrooms, heating, two bathrooms, heating, nice kitchen- oh, did I mention the heating? (Am I getting old or just appreciating creature comforts more???)
We knew where the nearest supermarket was and went and stocked up on basics - bread, wine, butter, cheese, wine, veg, wine and brekky cereals.
After shopping it was late afternoon and I shot off to the dentist for another three hour session and the preparation of two more crowns. I left feeling exhausted and punch drunk.
Cooked a (very soft) cauliflower cheese tea (without cornflour, cos we couldn't find any) and the use of a dodgy microwave but hey come on, independence comes at a price!!!
An easy night plodding through the limited tv, especially feeling for the people of Haiti at this time and then an early night.
Friday 15th January
A reasonable night's sleep adapting to another strange bed - I wonder if Casanova had that trouble (OK, yeh, I wish!) A sunny morning and a plain cereal breakfast, accompanied by English tea bags, the last survivors from our house in England.
We had an appointment with the wife of my new dentist to view a villa that she owned (everybody owns something, somewhere out here) in the Montgo area. The impressive Montgo is a massive chunk of rock that sits on the Sierra Montgo hills that run from the 'Cap de Sant Antoni', above the harbour in Javea, in a westerly direction inland. The south facing estate is where the seriously expensive houses are, as they are close to town and face south, thus catching the best of the sun all year round. This is where my million and a half euros house is, whatever else I don't have, I do have taste - just look at my choice of wife (that should earn me some brownie points!!!!)
The villa was old and needed some work and I struggled to switch off my 'creative' brain but it was on a slope with a tiered garden, swimming pool and a 'naya', the outside covered patio area, giving fabulous views over the valley below and to the mountains to the west. Yes, this one will go in the 'to be considered' list.
We drove back to town and I needed to check the tyres as the Seat 'SA' ( smart alec) monitoring system warned me that a tyre was low in pressure. I wonder how long before automatic navigation comes in and you just have to say "Supermarket please" and then just sit back and chat till the car delivers you there?
Tyres done, we had to drive ourselves to the supermarket this time for some top up shopping. There's been a swing to tourist customer requirements here since we last stayed. Heinz beans, tomato sauce, magnum's (and even Australian wines - here in Spain? Is that allowed under EU rules???) John, they've even got 'Speckled Hen' - Get yourself over here boy !!!!!!!! Although this 'Paradise' is still in creation - as I couldn't find any Ruddles, so maybe a little more patience is still required??
I prepared lunch in the apartment whilst Norah chatted to our next door German neighbour, maybe a little concerned at these new English neighbours.
An easy afternoon sitting outside on the patio in the 18deg sun (sorry guys) and watching a robin work his way down the gardens along his patch.
We'd wanted to get to Javea to start our overseas investigations, take some time out and figure out our next moves. Talk started on where, what, why and when, until at 5pm we had to go inside because the sun was going down and it was starting to cool down. 'Could you cope with this???' mmmmmmmmmmmm - 'phone a friend Chris ???'
After tea we drove to a small English bar in town, where I had seen from the local paper that a live music duo was playing. A very enjoyable evening followed and it was 1.30 when we eventually got to bed.
Saturday 16th January
We had arranged a return visit from Norah's sister, who caught the tram up from Benedorm and we picked them up from Denia. On a bright sunny morning we took the twisty coast road back and drove along the Sierra Montgo to the 'Cap de Sant Antoni'. There are viewpoints near the lighthouse here and we could look out over the whole Javea bay with the calm sea twinkling in the sun.
We stopped off at the beach for a sandwich lunch, which was disappointingly poor and then off for more sight-seeing round the area. An afternoon brew and then a walk round the port, where a fabulous inland sunset lit up the sky. There was just time for a coffee near the port beach before a drive to Gata to catch the 7.30 tram back.
It goes dark now around 6.30 and returning from Gata on the dark country road we wondered about tea. For once we succumbed to fish and chips from a little English chippy at the end of the Arenal.
Sunday 17th January
Today was the Festival of Sant Antoni, the Spanish patron saint of animals and we were woken by the loud bangs of a type of thunderflash around the area. I drove to find a Sunday newspaper, our once a week effort to keep in touch with the UK. Whilst parked a section of the local band of bass drum, two snare drums, a cymbal and a pipe player processed along the front with a donkey in tow. Returning from the port the police had already started blocking off the roads and I was forced into a detour.
Walking along the marina to the outer breakwater, we passed by a landslide where a long section of the cliff face, supposedly weakened by the recent storms, had collapsed and left the road to several houses now deposited some thirty metres below in a pile of rocks, sand, tarmac, garden wall and electricity pylons. That's going to take some fixing up.
Monday January 18th
A dull cloudy day, not very warm, at least after the last two days sun. After breakfast I checked the car as we had not used it yesterday. The 'low' pressure tyre had gone flat and I changed it for the 'emergency' tyre that all cars seem to have nowadays. A trip to the local garage and I found it contained a tyre repair centre. The tyre received a proper vulvanised patch repair, whilst I waited and the mechanic refitted it to the car. Cost - 13 euros, not bad.
We decided on an easy day, as I had a 'colour' check at the dentist's at 2pm (it being too dark the other night when I finished my treatment). The dentist's was opposite the Montgo, whose summit was shrouded in swirling cloud. The afternoon remained dull and cool and we stayed in the apartment.
Tuesday 19th January
Dull and breezy. We called at the rental office to chase up our request for help with the faulty washing machine in the apartment, as well as the faulty tv, which could only receive Spanish channels. They explained they had tried to phone us but couldn't get through !!!! A visit for tomorrow morning was promised.
There is an-ex pats society in Javea and I had made contact with them years ago on our previous 'information gathering' visits here. They meet Tuesdays at a local Irish tabern and there we renewed my subscription to the monthly newsletter and chatted about the changes to and the current situation in Javea. The tabern wifi gave us a chance to catch up with our emails.
I fancied lunch out of town and we drove to look for a little bar near the Montgo that I remembered from a previous time. It had new owners and been revamped into a comfortable lounge restaurant and here we ordered tasty sandwiches and spent the afternoon using their wifi on UK research, emails and updating the blog, supported by further cups of tea.
Driving back to the apartment I called in at the local SEAT garage to check on a left over warning light from the recent tyre problem, which just needed to be reset and I had not understood this from reading the Spanish drivers technical manual - must try harder!
We prepared tea in the apartment and then, after briefly struggling with the Spanish tv channels, some of which had very poor reception, we spent the evening reading - very relaxing.
Wednesday 20th January
Very windy overnight and a cloudy morning, that soon developed into warm sunshine.
For the 10 am appointment the agent turned up at 12 noon - this 'manana' syndrome must be contagious!! He replaced the microwave, couldn't open the washer door but resolved the problem by breaking the catch and couldn't get any more or better channels on the tv - so a usefull morning then ! He took away washer and digi box and promised to return in the afternoon - sometime.
A quick shop, sandwich lunch, easy afternoon. All getting very mundane here. Agent returned with replacement washer, so at last we could wash some clothes and then again later with the same digibox, which gave us CNN news and every German channel you could wish for!
In the evening we returned to the bar in town, where a singing duo were appearing and had another pleasant evening.
Thursday 21st January
Again a windy night and then a slowly brightening morning. I had another dental appointment and dropped Norah off at the weekly local market in town. After a two and a half hour session we met at the apartment and went to the little bar on the Montgo for lunch. Norah stayed there whilst I returned to the dentist for a follow up session - eeeh, it's all jolly good fun being on holiday !!!! We finished the afternoon sitting in the sun at the bar and further discussing the future - conclusion was that the limitless options available to us just needed to be whittled down - a lot.
Tea back at the apartment and then off out again to the local cinema for the weekly showing of English version films - oh, what a hectic social life we've entered into!
Friday 22nd January
Cold night but bright and sunny day. Morning spent housekeeping, washing and sorting out mobile phones. After a quick shop we sat on the patio in the warm afternoon sunshine with a 'pick and pike' meal. Most pleasant.
Saturday 23rd January
Eeeeeeh, nostalgia !!!! I'd seen an advert in one of the local English papers (that are very good for news, info, gossip and generally what's going on around the 'Costa Blanca') about a sixties (In this case - yes, but it refers to the nineteen sixties) music concert featuring Dave Berry and Wayne Fontana. That should jog a few (grey) memory cells! Although I loved 'pop' music, I went to hardly any gigs during my wildly (un)misspent youth and I now phoned for tickets for this one - nothing like making up for lost time is there???
A leisurely breakfast and we set off in the bright morning sunshine, heading southwards on the N332. A quick diesel stop, as we had covered 756km (460 miles) on three quarters of the tank of fuel since we started driving three weeks ago. The diesel price was almost 1 euro a litre and it cost 45 euros to fill the tank. The SEAT, 1.9 tdci was doing well and I quite liked driving it, comfortable, reasonable room, lots of extras and it drove and held the road well.
At the fuel station Norah took over and we carried on the coast road, with not much traffic and only slowing as we passed through the towns on the way. We passed Benedorm and then Alicante and decided to stop for lunch at 'Santa Pola'. The town was reasonably quiet but all the side roads and car parking spaces had been taped off by the local police. There was obviously some event taking place but with hardly any people around it just looked like an enormous crime scene. Strange. We circulated round the town, loking for somewhere to eat and finished up back on the N332, still hungry.
Onwards and we passed several large inland lakes that were used for salt production - anyone need some salt? Although this salt was for culinary use rather than road gritting. At the edges of the lakes were small flocks of colourfull pink flamingos, bending their long necks to sift for food, as they waded along through the water. We decided to try 'Torrievieja' for something to eat and drove into this enormous urban sprawl, one of the first English settlements in Spain. It wasn't high skyscraper rise, like Benedorm, but a vast area of compacted little boxes, up to six storeys high. Goodness knows what the population density per square metre is here. "It's accommodation Jim, but not as we know it!!!"
Again nowhere to park and nowhere to eat, so we continued south. The main road all along this area was being upgraded and the roadworks were quite extensive, presumably to cope with the enormous amount of summer traffic along this part of the coast. Not far away and we arrived at 'Punta Prima', our destination and 180km from Javea. It was now 3pm and we had a quick lunch at one of the many, accessible, tourist cafes. We found the venue for tonight's concert just down the road and having got our bearings, decided to continue driving to explore this south east corner of Spain.
The road ran slightly inland from the coast and the few towns around were outweighed by big commercial areas. In the towns the population seemed to be more South American or North African than Spanish. We had noticed a few years ago when we passed inland from here, that there were great areas of 'plasticulture', vast tents made out of plastic, that covered the valleys and hillsides and were for tomato growing. Maybe this population were the labour for this industry?
We eventually arrived at 'Mar Menor', a huge, fifteen miles long 'lake' that had a very narrow beach strip on its outer edge with the Med. In the distance we could see dozens of high rise buildings (hotels?) constructed along this coastal strip and the local airport was receiving flights from Europe. In the late afternoon it was going cloudy and a cool breeze was coming in from the sea.
It was dark when we got back to the concert venue, a big hall above a restaurant and we took our seats at one end of the rows of tables, reasonably close to the small stage. I noticed that there were no amps or drums but quite an involved electronic system controlled by laptops.
The concert finally kicked off at 8.30, the laptop sound system burst into action and Wayne Fontana wandered onto stage. You remember people from the photos taken at the time and this white haired, wrinkly rocker was a far cry from the image in my memory banks - I just presumed everyone would be the same as Cliff Richard and not have irrecognisably aged - maybe Cliff's Portugese air had something that the Spanish air doesn't? Anyway, good performance and it was enjoyable to hear the songs of my youth - maybe that was what most of the audience had come for. We are finding that when we go to events out here that we are usually the youngest around - does my self esteem no end of good!!!!!
A break and then Dave Berry - 'Mr Spider Fingers'. He had had some better air and was more recognizable and gave a very good performance - still quite the showman. We enjoyed the show but I guess I must be old fashioned enough to think that live, rather than canned music is better but I suppose that costs and the toll of time means that there aren't many of these guys still around and active. Mmmmmm - anyone want to start a showband with an ageing neverwas, who still has the audacity to think he can cut it ???????
We picked up a pizza and set off back at 11.30, thankfully the night was clear and dry. In the roadworks we missed the sign for the motorway and slogged on to Alicante on the mostly unlit coast road, finally picking up the AP7 autopista and, arriving back in Javea at 1.30am. It was 'A Grand Day Out' and we felt satisfied that, apart from enjoying the concert, we had stirred ourselves and gone out and done something.
(OK - memory time. Wayne Fontana (and the Mindbenders): hits - 'Game of Love', 'Um Um Um Um Um Um' (No - I'm not making it up!!!!!) and 'Pamela'.
Dave Berry (and the Cruisers): hits - 'Little Things', 'Crying Game' and 'Mama'.
Now, what was that comment about 'Short Term" ????????????
Sunday 24th January
Definitely a late start and after walking down to the port for the traditional Sunday paper, where it was cloudy, very breezy and starting to shower we spent the day in the apartment. Showers turned into rain and then to a heavy downpour as the day progressed. It was cool enough for us to have to put some heating on - what, here in Spain?? Another pick and pike tea and an early night, whilst the rain continued its downpour.
Monday 25th January
Still pouring down and after a late start we ventured out to see the apartment agent to extend our stay for another couple of weeks here. We drove up to our bar by the Montgo for lunch and an internet session, only to find they don't open on a Monday - Aardvarks! Ok, after a drive round to further explore the area, including a visit to 'Jesus Pobre', a tiny village that had been doubled in size with the excessive building of rows of apartments, completely out of keeping with the old village but presumably cheap because they were on farmland away from the coast, we returned to Javea. We went to 'Bert and Ernies' place, a little café bar overlooking the port beach and so called
The river that ran through the town had grown from its normal non-existent state to the size of a small stream, the first time we had ever seen any degree of water in it. After a visit to the harbour, where the fishing fleet was returning in the showery afternoon and also the fast marine rescue boat was on his way back in from somewhere, the rest of the afternoon was spent in the apartment. We ventured out into the windy and showery night for supper near the port.
Tuesday 26th January
A very stormy night with the wind howling round the apartment block and the rain pouring off the roof above as the Spanish normally don't use gutters. The temperature gauges in town showed 11.5deg, which can't be that bad.
Our apartment agent phoned to say that the apartment was only available to us for one week, so a rethink was necessary. We set out to look for alternative rooms and visited the river, which was now a torrent and stirred a nostalgic feeling of respect in my canoeist's heart. On the beach near the port, huge waves were crashing in and it was a fascinating sight watching the waves battling against the river flow as it poured out into the sea. Over towards the harbour the great waves were beating against the marina wall and exploding over the top.
A follow up call from the apartment agent told us that the flat was available after all - what was it about left and right hands?
We drove along the coast and called in at a couple of bays to watch the storm roll in and at one a plucky cormorant was out fishing, oblivious to the waves surging over him.
Out to our bar near the Montgo, whose peak was covered in dense cloud, for lunch and an internet session.
A quiet evening in the apartment, where we caught up with the Spanish news dominated by high snow falls and torrential rain causing flooding, quite a bit of it near to our region. Listen - the 'Rain in Spain' definitely DOESN'T 'stay mainly in the plain'.
Wednesday 27th January
Another wet but not as windy night, led to a very showery but still breezy morning. The temperature was now 9 deg and if anyone mentions global warming to me I'll blob him one!
Sorted out the confusion with the apartment agent and we're here until the second week of February. Lunch in an internet café, where we started to investigate flights home.
By mid afternoon there were slight glimpses of blue sky, so we went for another drive to explore the area. By 5pm it had clouded over again, was starting with heavy showers and becoming breezy. We'd headed inland and everywhere, including the roads, had areas of flooding and there were many collapsed walls and bankings along the road sides.
We arrived back at the apartment just as it was going dark, about 6.30pm and had an easy night in.
Thursday 28th January
"Hello Muddah....(dum dee dum), Hello Fadduh....(dum dee dum),
Here I am at....(dum dee dum)......." - Yes it was to do with Spain wasn't it??
Well that got you off to a singing start - If you don't know what I'm on about, don't worry.................It's a generation thing !!!!!!!!!
After days of bad, stormy weather we awoke to a cool but DRY day with a cloudy start that gradually developed into sunny, blue skies. We decided to have a drive to 'Moraira', the next town down the coast.
We parked and walked down the smart shopping street towards the beach and after crossing a small park arrived at an inland lagoon. On the way Norah spotted a large dog, "It's a Bullmastiff", a breed that my family had kept when we were youngsters. I couldn't resist and wandered over, where I was greeted enthusiastically by this big fellow wanting to play. A quick chat with the lady owner and I returned to our nature watch.
The lagoon was fed not only by a small stream but also by water bubbling up from underground. Hence this freshwater was surrounded by marsh plants, especially tall reeds where sparrows flitted amongst the stalks and moorhens wandered in and out of the water, sharing the pickings on the bank with pied wagtails.
"Look, Look!" came Norah's excited cry, "It's a Kingfisher!" We'd brought binoculars with us and there, clung on to a near vertical reed stem was a gorgeous blue kingfisher. We'd spotted some large, tench like fish in the water and our hunter was obviously used to this patch as he moved from stem to stem. He landed on one overhanging reed, paused for a few seconds and then dived into the water, emerging with a small fish - fabulous.
His breakfast completed he zoomed away and we lost sight of him. Walking round the lagoon onto the breezy sand we came across large ducks on the far side and spotted a couple of turtles, sunbathing on a maintenance platform.
On along the beach, we came to the rocky base of a large watchtower and climbed the steps to look over the bay and marina. The rocks were covered in seaweed debris, an aftermath of the recent storms. As it was now 1.30 we decided to treat ourselves to lunch, sitting outside a small restaurant in the sunshine overlooking the calm sunny sea and with a great view of the 'Penon I' Ifach', the great rocky outcrop off the coast from 'Calpe' in the distance. Very pleasant and certainly made up for the last few abysmal (and seemingly unseasonal) days weather.
After a very leisurely lunch we sauntered down into the marina, where the usual multitude of hibernating pleasure craft lay moored in tranquil inactivity.
A slow drive back to Javea where the fishing fleet had started to arrive with today's catch. The landing dock has the delivery and auction room on it, complete with an ice making plant and a retail shop, where you can buy fish literally 'straight off the boat'. A crowd of local people (and several hopeful, neighbourhood cats) were queued for today's catch. The boat docks and the boxes of fish, prepared by the fishermen on the way back (to the accompaniment of a big flock of seagulls, buzzing like bees round a hive) are wheeled in, logged and slid on to a moving conveyer belt. They pass before the tiered gallery of buyers and each box halts at the auction spot under a big tv screen. The fishing boat, catch description and weight is displayed and then the 'auction' starts by the screen scrolling down a bid value until one of the buyers presses his button and the bid stops. It's a case of holding your nerve as the price comes down, the longer your nerve holds the lower the price bid but someone else could beat you to it. The buyer's name flashes on to the screen, a ticket is automatically printed out and drops on the fish box, the conveyor rolls and it all starts again. Very slick and very efficient.
My observation was that there does seem to be some very small fish landed and sold. Today there was a box of small octopus delivered and it was the last in the line to be sold. The boxes are approx two feet six long by fifteen inches wide by 6 inches deep and this box was full. On the top of this box a couple of octopuses (octopi???) were clambering to escape and as the box shuddered towards the auction spot one managed to get over the top, onto the conveyor shelf and dropped to the floor - "The force is strong in this one, Obi Wan." The box rumbled on, was sold and loaded on to a pallet for shipping. I waited quietly, hoping to intervene and try to help him escape to the harbour, tantalisingly just outside the door nearby. The group of buyers left the gallery, talking distractedly to each other as they walked off. Maybe...........except that the last buyer was on his own and spotted this marine Steve McQueen trying to make his 'Great Escape', scooped him up and dropped him in the crate with his compadres. Aw, shucks........!
The auction area emptied and 'Steve' was still not beaten. He started again to climb over the top of the box. I clenched my fists and my teeth, willing him on. If he could just get out of the box again and lie undetected somewhere. I couldn't actively intervene with the sold box, as it would have been stealing but if he was abandoned, as left over debris that needed clearing from the floor, well? The place was deserted and he was nearly there when a stacker truck came whizzing in, scooped up the pile of pallets and shot off to dump them in the back of a refrigerated van. Multiple Aardvarks!!!!!! I walked out of the room feeling more than a little sad, as I have seen octopus many times when diving and they are an incredible creature. I must admit that I shall still eat octopus, which I enjoy but maybe now I'll have even more respect for them!
It was going dusk and we dropped of at 'Bert and Ernies' for a coffee and watched the rising full moon develop over Javea bay, its soft, clear light beaming across the calm, shimmering waters, as the main act on stage to the supporting coloured, flashing marine lights and the background intermittent rotating beam of the lighthouse on the top of Cap de Sant Anoni. A very peaceful setting, which would have been 'perrfickk' without the cool evening breeze that had now developed - but hey, that's just being picky isn't it??
A stroll to the cinema for the weekly English film finished off an extremely pleasant day and we walked back to the apartment, our breath condensing in the cold night air. Thankfully the under floor heating was on (I'm most impressed with that) and we could walk barefoot on the smooth, warm, marble floor - "Oooooh Betteeee - I'm getting all goosebumps!!!!!"
So - "Been a good day.... (dum dee dum), "Gee that's better................"
Friday 29th January
A fine but breezy day and we decided to walk to the breakwater past the marina and engage in that most unmentionable of pastimes, dare I say it?? - SUNBATHE. Seated against the outer wall overlooking the 'Tango' area, we slowly peeled off layers until........... (Hey come on, it's not a bloody Barbara Cartland novel!!!).... we were comfortable in shirt tops - no woollies!! The sun glistened on the sea as a couple of cormorants dived in the shimmering blue-green waters, seagulls noisily buzzed the nearby Cap de Sant Antoni, a pair of terns patrolled the breakwater and a great white egret picked his way along the shore line. We relaxed and chatted, building up reserves of energy and sun in preparation for the busy time we will face on our return to the UK.
Walking back to the port from the breakwater we passed the area of the recent cliff collapse, where a little more road, wall and cliff face seemed to have fallen away following this week's storms. The local newspaper reports that it will cost 2.3 million euros to repair so at least the local economy will benefit !!!!!!!
An easy afternoon with a 'pick and pike' tea on the patio before we ventured out at night for. OK.....first one to guess wins a million euros. You've got no chance - Bullfight ? canned music concert ? pub crawl ? cinema ? (no - pay attention, that was last night!), star gazing ?........OK, OK, I win. We went to 'Concert de Claveci'. See told you you wouldn't get it. A what?? - A harpsichord concert! OK I know my rantings about canned music seem a bit strong but this wasn't a backlash.
We walked into the old town and went to the 'Casa de Cultura', a modern centre with a small basement auditorium. Senor Alvarez was very good, playing a range of fifteenth century music that ended with a Bach toccata. Once you adapted to the 'tinkly' sound, the music was very pleasant if a little simplistic but did have some complicated passages. This was highlighted further when we looked at the new harpsichord at the end of the performance. It was built of wood, including the keys, which when pressed down cause a narrow rod next to the tuned tensioned wire to be pushed upwards. There is a tiny piece of plastic (the only plastic in the whole instrument) that sticks out of this moving rod at right angles and this 'striker' is pushed past the wire, plucking it almost guitar style. There is a lever mechanism at the side of the inner housing that can be moved to cause the piano key to lift two such rods at a time, simultaneously plucking the one wire and creating a fuller effect sound. Fascinating and as Michael Caine says " aind not a lot of people knaow thait!"
Our high society event over we had a quick look at the historic area around the old church, all of which has been effectively smartened up and improved since our last visit and then a walk back to the apartment in the cool night air.
Saturday 30th January
A very windy night but a cool bright start. Easy day today and not much doing. (Cos I can't keep up with all this frantic excitement, it's not good for my nerves!!!!!)
We'd picked up a local tourist information 'What's On' sheet and saw that there was a horse event on Sunday morning and when I called into the centre on Thursday to ask for details they, er, didn't know anything about it. "Come back at weekend and we'll find out" was the promise. So early Saturday afternoon, when most of the locals aren't working and the place was busy with tourists, I called in at the T.I. for my information and found.......they were shut! If the Spanish government wanted to save millions of euros I could do it for them at a stroke by closing down the Tourist (lack of) Information network.
A little shopping and then a 'pick and pike' tea in the late afternoon sunshine. In the evening we watched the end of 'Mary Poppins', in Spanish. Intriguing.
Sunday 31st January
A breezy, sunny morning and as I walked to the port area for our constitutional Sunday paper, the temperature sign, usually situated as part of the green cross outside pharmacists, was reading 16deg. That's better!
Not fancying cooking we drove to the Arenal beach and ordered an English breakfast at the Austrian café. Bacon and eggs, Sunday papers and Andy Murray battling bravely on the tv - it was just like being in the UK (If I don't mention the weather, sorry).
We drove into town to try and find our horse event but there was no sign at all. We continued out of town and drove on to the end of 'Cap de Sant Antoni', near the lighthouse and sat on the top of the cliffs in the sunshine, looking out over Javea bay, where several yachts and motor cruisers were out on the calm, shimmering sea. This was a really tranquil spot and we stayed there for about three hours enjoying the peace and quiet.
Returning to the port we walked out along the breakwater and fed the fish on the inner marina side with left over bread. Reaching the lightbuoy end point, we again sat for a while before walking back. A refreshing drink near the port and then we drove to check out a restaurant for an evening meal. The one I fancied had always been closed every time we were here and last week we had been to see if they were open this time? YES - but only Friday, Saturday and Sunday at this time of year. That's Ok. We arrived today and there was scaffolding all round the place and a "Closed for holidays until 25th February!!!!" NOOOOOOOOOO - Aardvarks.
OK, there was another restaurant near the port that we'd also fancied so we'll fall back to 'Plan B'.
Out for dinner and a leisurely walk to the restaurant in port area, where we were given a table in the front window looking over the beach. Our order taken and as we chatted I glanced out of the window towards the sea and saw a great red ball just above the darkened horizon. The time was around 8pm and I was looking eastwards, so I knew it wasn't the sun. Puzzled I looked back around the interior of the restaurant for anything that could be reflecting in the glass. Nothing. I was so intrigued by this that I had to go outside and look and then realized that it was a blood red full moon that was climbing up from the horizon, lined with streaks of thin cloud. It was an absolutely amazing sight and as it slowly rose into the sky, it cleared the clouds and developed into a brilliantly illuminated sphere, with all the craters visible with the naked eye. As we ate dinner it lifted higher and illuminated the bay. Mesmerising.
A very good meal finished, we strolled back through the streets and passing an 'English' bar called in for a nightcap. The Yorkshire barman and his colleague were playing ten pin bowling on a Nintendo Wii system and whilst I've never been a big fan of electronic games (OK, so I was hooked on 'Space Invaders' in another era) this looked interesting. Norah was bursting to have a go and jumped at the invitation. There was some effect of the way that you controlled the 'paddle' in your hand on the resulting performance on the screen, quite cleverly done really.
Eventually we tore our (her) selves away and returned to the apartment after midnight. It was cool and the wind was getting up again but there was not much cloud, which gave us a starry night. Quite a good day.
Monday 1st February
A bright but cool (late) start and as the morning progressed it started to cloud over.
Internet work in a very friendly local café that we'd found and then an easy tea in the apartment.
We decided to go and look for a repeat performance of the fantastic moon rise that we'd seen last night and wrapped up to venture out into the cold, breezy night. There were very few people around as we walked along the promenade towards the port. We waited..............and waited but no moon tonight. We were getting cold and called for a coffee at 'Bert and Ernies' before turning in. Oh well, better to have seen it once than not at all, I guess it just made it more special.
Tuesday 2nd February
A sunny day and around 9deg. We decided to have a drive inland into the mountainous region, so headed north to 'Pedreguer' and then west along the narrow CV700 through 'Pego' and up into the hills. It's similar to the English Lake District but without the lakes. There are great ranges of hills with valleys in between them and the few roads inland slowly meander their way up and out of each valley until it joins the next.
The extensive areas of terracing were covered with great orange, olive or almond plantations over their steep hillsides, although here they were harvesting the oranges. We'd seen along most of the coastal area that the smaller orange growing areas had been neglected and the fruit left to ripen and fall off the trees, leaving the ground carpeted in oranges. I don't know if it's a question of economic scale but it seems an awful waste.
At 'Planes' we turned onto a minor road leading to a great dammed lake, where cormorants were fishing on the surface and on the emerging river below. Not surprisingly the lake was full after the excessive recent rains.
We emerged out of this section at 'Cocentaina', a city that seemed to be built across the junction of three gorges and had great bridges linking the city. Turning south through 'Alcoi' we could see the snow covered tops of the inland sierras (mountain ranges) that lined our return route. We'd stopped for petrol and sandwiches and after we'd crossed extensive roadworks, taking an extension to the north south autopista across valley viaducts and through the mountain tunnels, we turned east towards the snowline up a road lined with snow poles but thankfully no snow.
A quick stop for lunch and then on the twisty main road to the coast, which was not that wide. I think the roads here are not necessarily graded by their standard but by the importance of the towns that they connect. This was another real driver's run, especially when we turned off as the road went south and we continued east, eventually emerging at 'Calpe'. It was an easier run then along the coast north through 'Moraira' and back to Javea.
Supper was just a few tapas at a bar near the port.
Wednesday 3rd February
Another cold night and we spent the late morning and early afternoon at our internet café 'Cortado', where a friendly English couple had a steady clientele of expats. We'd thought of heading north for a few days when we left the apartment next week but research seemed to point that at this time of year it would not be seen at its best and many places would be closed.
Thursday 4th February
A reasonably early (8am) start for us and a very wet and windy day.
We'd arranged to go to a pensions seminar at a large hotel inland. On the way we called in at the dentist to see if we could have further treatment but as he had just returned from holiday he was fully booked until next Friday.
The pensions event was run by an international finance group that we'd made contact with many years ago and it was a good opportunity to update ourselves. Current laws and recent changes in pensions were explained but as is usual everyone's circumstances are different and therefore specific but it was a good guide.
At the seminar we made contact with an English couple who had come out here nine years ago and after talking to them they invited us to their house, which was inland from the coast on the road towards the mountains. We followed them in the pouring rain to their lovely villa half way up the mountain, which was unfortunately shrouded in mist but after a coffee and a house tour, the weather had started to clear and we could see a little of their views to the coast and over the flat inland plain, which had a large area of rice growing fields.
Friday 5th February
A message from the dentist that he had a cancellation slot for lunchtime, so this time it was Norah's turn for treatment. One thing I didn't mention was that as you lay in the dentist's chair and gazed at the ceiling, there was a flat screen tv fastened above you and I'd mused at the wonders of technology as you'd never have done that with an old crt tv. Intriguing - I suppose it's OK as long as he doesn't show a comedy or anything that would involve a change in facial expression!!!
The weather was now dry but a cool 12 deg and we spent the afternoon in the English Café Cortado on internet work, which was now centred around our return back to the UK.
A late afternoon visit to the port area for a coffee and on the way I called in at the Tourist Information office to attempt to get further information on the Carnaval that I'd seen advertised for next week. Waiting in turn whilst an English couple were dealt with for accommodation, the man asked the TI girl where he could get a copy of the free English newspaper that is printed here. She was dumbfounded (so no change there then!) and I intervened with the info. We chatted and they were looking for accommodation in Javea, so I suggested we went to our car where I had my copious notes from our search four weeks previously. Info passed to them, Norah and I continued to 'Bert and Ernies' for a relaxing coffee. Supper was a (soft) pasta.
Saturday 6th February
A bright and sunny morning and we walked into the port and out to the breakwater, where we enjoyed the sun and the sea view until late afternoon. Walking back round the breakwater to the inner marina side, we 'fed the fish', which were sheltering in the rock base and under the moored boats, with left over bread. A very relaxing pastime.
In the evening we walked into the old town for tea and found a smart tapas bar near the church. The young lady waitress, referred to as 'Carmen' from the menu took our order and we needed a little explanation, so Norah asked in Spanish what this and that were. "English", asked Carmen? "Yes". "Well this this and that is whatever" in clear English pronunciation. "Your English is good" says Norah "Where are you from?" to which 'Carmen' replies, "Berkshire". Oh well, that explains it then!!!!!
The reason for going to the old town was that there was a concert in aid of Haiti in the church, as there is no concert hall here and as with most evening events in Spain it did not start until 9pm, even in winter.
The church was full and the music was from several groups of singers, choirs, guitar groups and even a brass quintet. It ended with a group of around thirty musicians dressed in colourfull
A leisurely walk back downhill to the apartment in the cool midnight air ended a pleasant day.
Sunday 7th February
I walked out to the port to buy the traditional Sunday papers at the crack of, well, 10am in bright sunshine and with 19deg showing on a nearby pharmacy sign. "Muddah, Fadduh, Gee that's better!!" The 'English' newspapers are printed over here and you can buy most of them - haven't found a 'Bury Times' yet though.
I detoured round by the beach promenade and the sea was like a mill pond with several yachts and small boats slowly meandering out for a Sunday sail - fabulous. My goal was a small bread shop near the cinema, one of the few shops that opened on a Sunday and after picking up a French stick for a salad tea, I spotted some fresh 'empanadas', the Spanish version of a Cornish pastie which looked very appetizing. So I settled for some of those, 'cos the Cornish don't deliver at weekends and strolled back to the apartment.
After a leisurely breakfast, updating ourselves with all the exciting news from the UK, I suggested we spend the day on the beach. Now it must be the way I tell 'em 'cos Norah immediately agreed and we packed food and drink and drove out into the warm, late morning sunshine. I'd seen a report that a tiny, previously inaccessible beach had been opened up by a road down the cliff. We arrived and signs warned that it was closed due to rock falls - so a bit more work needed there then!
Plan B was for 'Granadella Beach', a pleasant drive down a steep, twisty cliff edge road passing through a small forest. A few people were sat on the pebbly beach (there are few sandy beaches here) and we joined them at one end where the waves were gently lapping onto the shingle. It didn't take long for Norah to change into shorts and sit contentedly reading a book - now this is what it's all about and not bad for February.
I sat enjoying the sunshine and mulling over the state of the world, watching a small Yorkshire terrier excitedly scamper back and forth on the edge of the water chasing the seagulls, who would swoop low over the water and then wheel round and back again. I don't know who was chasing whom. A group of four scuba divers entered the sea on a training exercise and later a large, very smart motor cruiser came in and anchored up for lunch - now that's a nice way to spend a Sunday.
We munched our empanadas, assisted by a little black pup only a few weeks old who hadn't yet got the hang of moving out of the way when the waves rolled up the beach. I sat for a while and then went for a walk round the beach and up onto the cliff tops, scrambling over the steep, rough rocks until I could sit looking over the end of the bay and out to sea. Several boats were leisurely passing, whilst out at sea great container ships passed near the horizon. I think they must be out of Barcelona or even France, heading for the southern Mediterranean.
I wandered back and as the sun started to go down, putting us in the shade, we moved to the other side of the beach to maximize our rays intake. It eventually started to go cool as an evening breeze developed and the sun sank down behind the cliffs and we reluctantly left.
It was still daylight and we dropped off at 'Bert and Ernies' for a drink and bumped into the couple I'd helped on Friday at the Tourist misinformation office. They were still seriously engaged in finding alternative accommodation and after swapping stories and information, they came back with us to look at our apartment, leaving just as it went dark (around 6.30 at the moment).
A pick and pike tea, channel hopping on the tv between CNN international and the Spanish stations, completed a very enjoyable day.
Monday 8th February
Our nearby café was closed so we went to 'Bert and Ernies' to use the internet, stopping on the way to check out hotels, as we had to leave the apartment on Wednesday. Internet set up and we played with different combinations aimed at getting us back to Alicante airport for Sunday morning. One complication was that it was Valentines weekend coming up and apart from the lack of rooms available, they were all hiked up in price. Eventual decision was to go back to the Parador here in Javea for three nights and then drive down to Alicante, to the previous hotel, for Saturday night. Sorted.
Whilst we were in an organizing mood we also booked a hotel back in the UK, as we were going to need a base to start searching for somewhere to live after our hasty pre Christmas flight. A start on familiarizing ourselves with the current rental situation in Greater Manchester completed the exercise and by late afternoon we decided to give our brains a rest.
It had been cloudy all day and by the afternoon had started to rain. Never mind, we decided to go for a drive and chose another area slightly inland, passing through groves of oranges, lemons and almond trees as we climbed towards the mountains. Following the recent sunny days, the almond
An easy tea in the apartment and an early night.
Tuesday 9th February
A bright and breezy but slightly cooler day, 16deg. We drove up to the end of Cap de Sant Antoni for a view over the bay and found a sheltered spot in front of a wall on the cliff top. Here we spent a couple of hours admiring the spectacular view and talking about our next move(s). I wanted a photo of us in front of the Montgo and flagged down a couple who were walking past. Photo taken and a quick chat revealed they were from Holland but he had been a lorry driver and had a friend in the UK who lived at Leyland but before that they had visited the friend at his previous home in somewhere called 'Bury' – mmmmmmmm. what was it about a small world???
Mid afternoon and we returned to 'Bert and Ernies' for a drink before shopping for a last (cooked) meal at the apartment. Tempted by some steaks in the local supermarket, we added extras and returned to the apartment for an easy afternoon. A leisurely dinner was spent watching some of the slides from the "Other Way", invoking many memories and definitely more pleasant than struggling with the Spanish tv.
Wednesday 10th February
Because of an entry size problem the 'Javea' entry will continue under the next entry as 'Javea contd..'