Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Company's comin'

This is how it goes down in our home.

Somebody is coming for dinner,
for a visit,
or for some reason or another....
The point is they are coming "chez nous"...
which means
call out the broom, the vacuum, the cleaning agents, you name it,
there is work to be done.

It is a certain type of panic that washes over me.
All those little jobs that I have been meaning to do move to the top of a rather long and daunting list.

I become obsessed with the "must-do list'.
The problem is that the "must-do list" did not officially exist until now...
well, other than a random fleeting idea of some design detail I might want to add or adjust in our home.... but you know,
in the future,
down the road,
on a rainy day.

I lose control of my ability to reason and be logical, it is like there is this whistle blowing in my head and it all has to get done....NOW.

We joke around here about the dinner party clean-up before and after.
The, "why did we bother getting so obsessed about cleaning up as the kitchen is a mess all over again...."

I head to the grocery store and stock up on flowers.

I find myself in the ditch gathering lupins by the armfull. 

I haul out the sewing machine to make a new curtain for the washer and dryer
because my favourite yellow and white version is stained and really not camera-worthy.

And then of course there is always Jack,
he is a big boy and although kind and gentle,
his size can be rather imposing.

Sometimes Jack heads to the kennel which he loves, lots of dogs, free run of a large country property and usually a rather long play date that requires 3 days of sleep to recuperate.

But not this time.
He was typical Jack, intimidating when our guests arrived but
calm and laid back once he felt properly introduced.

So, I am being somewhat mysterious I know.
But, I will remind you of this rather cryptic post in about a year.

Let's just say,
our company was lovely,
creative, interesting and inspirational.

I saw our home through a different perspective.

And now, I am hoping to put away my rain boots
and pull out my flip flops!!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Here I Go Again

Well, my mother would say that the polite thing to do is to
simply say sorry.

I cannot really explain my absence and perhaps it is not a big deal anyway
but life has this way of twisting and turning and well.... happening.

This is my favourite time of year really.
Everything is coming to life.
It may seem late to some of you but our lilacs just bloomed
and I have been putting them everywhere.

I have been getting up early in the morning
and enjoying the sunshine that streams through the house
giving this wonderful effect enhance by all the green outdoors.

Jack seems to be sleeping more these days....and those legs....oh boy, he is so much bigger than we ever expected.
Sort of like having a teenager around again.

With our kids moving on we are learning to adjust and make decisions about what our future looks like.
The empty nest affair.

So, with that in mind, I am changing jobs.
An opportunity has come my way and I am going to be spreading my wings.
It is a bit of a risk but I figure the clock is ticking and the time to take risks is now.

 I realize that I am going to treasure these dinners with our children when they happen
since they are fewer and far between.
Actually enjoy having a mess to clean up after a dinner with my family.

And I am looking forward to some down time this summer outdoors
and the opportunity to get back here now that things are settling down.

Please excuse the poor quality images but I had posted these via my iPad on my Instagram
and thought it would be nice to share them here too.

I will be back!
Hope you are all ready for a wonderful summer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Madrid, Spain

I know, I am jumping ahead to the end of the trip.
But, it seems that I am missing some photos for Nijar and Alicante.

Nijar was our pottery location and this is just one example of the the bowls I bought and of course my little rock collection from Nerja.

Alicante was in our travel itinerary since we were in Spain to visit our daughter who is finishing her university studies in spanish at the local university.
We wanted an opportunity to see where she was living and get a feel for what life is like for her there.
Alicante ended up being a fabulous 3 days for us with great food experiences, a dinner at a restaurant called El Portal Taberna
which I cannot recommend enough....fabulous place with a great ambience.
We also had an opportunity to invite a few of her friends over for a dinner that we prepared for them with food from their local market.

We also dropped our car off here since we did not feel we would need it in Madrid.
From Alicante we took the high-speed train to Madrid at 6 a.m...... a tad early but we wanted all the time we could get in Madrid before flying out on the Monday.

Somehow we were able to travel first class with a really good deal which was cheaper than economy? Strange, I know but hey we were not complaining when we got our lovely breakfast served with tomato purée and olive oil and nice bread and a spanish omelette and chocolates.... LOVED it.

So Madrid....well Madrid is spectacular for some many reasons.
First, architecture.
I could not get enough of these shutters....oh I want shutters!!

Second, fashion.
Everyone is dressed so well....seriously, I came home and studied the difference and it is definitely obvious that we are somewhat lazy here in North America about fashion.
One of my friends attributed it to our love of yoga wear and sneakers and "comfort".

Oh, I know my saying that that will raise a few eyebrows but there is a real sense of style on the streets of the Spanish cities that I visited,
from smaller cities to the capital of Madrid.

Even the children are so carefully put together.
We kept noticing all these children with bows in their hair and colour coordinated outfits.
This was a Saturday in the park when I came across these two children all decked out.

Third, food.
Of course I am a lover of seafood so that was never a problem for me.
Ham, is perhaps a little more prevalent than I care for but that was not an issue either.
We loved the markets and the fresh assortment of cheeses, fish, meat and veggies.
And we had fun experimenting with the local treats such as.... Churros with chocolate dipping sauce.

We also found a cute restaurant that we loved so much named, Bar Galleta
We had breakfast there one day and dinner there the next.
Creative use of old book pages in the bathrooms.

Finally, the markets.
We had lunch our first day in the San Anton Market which ended up being my preferred market and it was very close to where we were staying in the Chueca neighbourhood.
Our second day we went to the San Miguel market which is much larger and also much more crowded. Actually you need to get to this market really early otherwise it is wall to wall people.

Our third day we got up and went to the El Rastro market.

I would recommend walking down through the market and then coming back up on the edge of the market so you don't miss all the off beat little stores and as well as the artist alleys and the antique courts etc.
Lots of people by 11 a.m. but 10 o'clock was not too bad for getting around to see all the stalls.

Madrid felt like a place I could go back to and explore further.
Actually Spain is a place I would love to go back and visit and get to know better.

On a final note, we were watching a procession of people one day in the streets of Madrid speaking out about some government issue but what struck us was the group of people following at the end of the procession...... street cleaners.
Every city that we were in had people cleaning the streets... late at night, early in the morning... it was quite something, quite impressive.

Spain, thank you.
Until the next time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nerja, Spain

Day 3, 4 and 5

Well, with all signs of jet lag out of the way
and a new found appreciation for the Spanish lifestyle
we packed up the car and headed to Nerja.

The drive kept us all pretty quiet.
I am sure we were obvious tourists to passing cars,
with all of us so busy wrenching our necks from one side to the other...
"oohing and aahing" 
at all the beautiful landscapes that seemed to appear like magic at every turn in the road.

The road to Nerja is one of mountains,
olive trees as far as the eye can see,
and bridges upon bridges linking up the rugged terrain.

Nerja, which is apparently a holiday destination for people from a variety of countries
is very much about beach, food and relaxing.
We also quickly realized that the place we had rented on VRBO
was part of a complex that consists probably of vacation-only properties.
And we learned that they rarely rent out for such a short stay
so were not quite prepared for some of the amenities lacking in the apartment.

But, all part of the road trip travel mentality!!
You just ....figure it out and deal.

Nerja, Spain

We were so enamoured by our drive from Granada that we did not really put the pedal to the metal
so we arrived towards the end of the afternoon.

We had already planned on cooking our own meal with some local foods
and enjoying dinner on our large and lovely terrace with a nice bottle of local Spanish red.

Plus this was our first opportunity to buy up some of those FABULOUS tomatoes...
green and red, somewhat striped and oh sooooo sweet and delicious!!
We had a feast of tomato and zucchini ribbon salad, fresh bread and roasted chicken!

It was such a nice change to sit under the open sky and eat our lovely meal
sipping some incredibly cheap but delicious Spanish wine.

The view was appreciated and the solitude was quite nice after our busy few days in Granada.
The weather was not beach-worthy weather but we were okay with that since we were not parked in this location for long and had no intention of handing over our very white Canadian bodies to the spanish sun.

The walk down to the beach was a short pleasant path through beautiful gardens.
Of course the girls adopted a "leg-up" pose for photos,
something we saw many young girls doing at the Alhambra when posing. :)
Why not?

So, make note of three Canadians walking with sweaters and coats
and the two on the left who were actually Europeans in bathing suits....
hmmm....I had been told that you should not wear sandals unless you want to be spotted as a tourist.
I wonder about the bathing suits?

Oh, and the beach is a stone beach but the stones are these beautifully polished and worn down stones that are so soft to walk on and incredibly smooth.
Of course I collected a handful to add in to my pottery that I knew I would be buying when we left Nerja. (you will have to wait to see that)

So, Nerja is home to some famous and amazing caves that were discovered by 5 boys in 1959.
One of those "boys" opened up an open-air restaurant named Ayo's on Burriana Beach
which was located just below us.
His specialty?    Paella, of course.

It was such a fabulous spot to stop for lunch!
We all loved it, cheap and the Spanish version of all you can eat for 6.50 Euros.

As I mentioned earlier, Nerja is home to spectacular caves.

I placed an arrow in the far right image so you could get a sense of scale.
That was a person viewing the caves from a higher landing.
In the middle is Andy, happy to step in for a photo "op" given that the girls were getting most of the camera time. :)

The caverns apparently stretch for approximately 5 kms
and are all basically made up of giant stalactite and stalagmites.

It is a beautiful testimony to the the statement  Nature is the Best Artist.

We held on to these images as we piled back in the car and buckled up on our way
to Alicante....
We were also looking forward to our planned stop in the small village of Nijar.
In Nijar the girls had big plans to purchase some pottery to bring back with us....
Andy was just hoping there would be a good spot to park himself for some serious people watching.

See you in Nijar!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Granada, Spain

I remember endless slideshows by my mother
of us as children,
family trips,
or places of interest.

I am sure that if blogging had existed in those days
then she would have been doing just as I am about to do....
share those memories through images.

So, as promised, here goes.... our trip to Spain arranged by locations.
Everywhere we stayed was either part of the airbnb system or in one location, part of vrbo.

Day 1/2/3: Madrid to Granada by car

Our daughter picked us up at the Madrid airport in a car that she had rented in Alicante where she is studying. My first impression unfortunately was established in the Madrid airport which is a somewhat frustrating location due to a lack of internet and the difficulty in finding somewhere to grab a bite to eat and a much needed coffee. Since she had issues with the car we had a few hours waiting there before her arrival.
BUT.... hey, I can usually shake those things off
and once out of there,
we were happy to get on to the right autoroute heading down to our first stop, GRANADA.

Our place in Granada was fabulous and perfectly situated.
The tiles in our first home away from home were stunning and different in all areas of the apartment.
I could not get over the detailing and time that would have been given to laying these tiles...beautiful.

We walked and walked and walked in this city.
The streets are beautiful, the architecture is stunning
and the people seem to have a  joie de vivre
that makes you envious of their lifestyle.

Since we were there at Easter we enjoyed countless processions every day and evening.
It is very hard to describe this experience.
The music, the dress, the sheer weight of the display being carried by people hidden beneath is somewhat mind boggling.
This was definitely a highlight for all of us.

Granada is one of those cities where things are happening all day long.
We spent our days exploring
the narrow streets of the the city
and our nights laughing about our adventures
while drinking wine and eating tapas in our favourite tapas bar.

Of course, prior to going, we searched out restaurant possibilities
which I strongly recommend you do when traveling on a short trip such as ours.

The streets are lined with tapas bars and restaurants
so you really need to know what you are looking for.

If you like to wander then you simply check out what others are eating....
if it looks good
then you just try hard to get a spot.
Don't be surprised if you are standing on most occasions.

Our favourite find in Granda was Taberna La Tana....
if you like wine, then this is the place for you.
They take great care in finding the wine that suits your taste.

There are over 400 wines to choose from and each glass comes with free tapas.
We ate here every night and were lucky to get a place inside as it is very small... two tables and the rest is seating only at the bar.
Many people were sitting outside in the street on the curbs or standing.
The wine was fabulous,
the tapas kept getting better
 and we all had plenty of wine and tapas for 10 euros each.

And of course Granada is home to the Alhambra.... breath-taking and spectacular.
We got tickets for the 8 a.m. entrance.
It is so well-planned that you never actually feel like there are too many people walking through the site as the same time as you.
Definitely I would recommend the earliest time as it was quite hot by noon
be sure to get tickets that give you access to all areas.
The palace is a designated World Unesco Site so the entry is very controlled
but as you can see we were certainly not feeling crowded as we strolled through
this magnificent palace looking at the beautiful walls, ceilings, fountains and architecture.

Granada in general is a very lively city.
Shopping is great if that is your interest,
food is fabulous and the people are out....all the time....

I think that was something I found myself commenting on a lot.
Children were out with families later at night than the norm in North America
but they seemed so happy and such an important part of the family's evening.

The streets are filled with people socializing,
sharing a drink and food,
obviously within a much looser legal system
that allows them to spill out of the tapas bars
and on to the streets.

Definitely we left Granada wishing we could stay longer....
we were on a road trip after all
so we packed up and headed off to the coast.

Little did we know when we left that morning that the drive we were about to experience
would be absolutely breath-taking...

Next stop....Nerja.

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