Caravaca, close up

The trip we made to Caravaca on Monday was brilliant for getting to see more of the town without the many people that there were for the fiesta in May. Although it was a medieval market, we went the day before a public holiday, so it was lovely and quiet and we had great weather for wandering round. The town looked so beautiful with all of the flags and bunting for the market.

We went up to the citadel and the cathedral first of all, meeting some very cute kittens on the way.

This is where the famous cross is located, in a tiny chapel at the side of the cathedral. There were no pictures allowed inside but there is a large model of the cross outside.

The cross itself is tiny, only about 8 inches high and was said to have been delivered by angels during one of the sieges in early 13th century It may also have been brought back from the Holy Land by the Knights Templar. However the original apparently disappeared in 1934 so the one currently on display is a replica. Whatever the origin the cross has meant that Caravaca is considered a holy site.

After visiting the citadel we had a wander down through the medieval barrio surrounding the area. There are beautiful views across to the mountains and you can see the old bull ring from here.

I love old Spanish cities, the stonework on the buildings and pavements is just gorgeous.

There were some derelict houses but thankfully some newly restored. It must be very difficult to do this as the streets are so narrow with no vehicle access and all the houses are on top of each other.

We were also able to visit one of the churches, with some very impressive embroidery and icons, unusually some in silver which I don’t often see.

The other great thing about the trip was getting to see some of the horse barding they wear for the running of the wine horses festival up close. There were two on display in the main square.

The above photo shows the tail decoration, which I think is made in the same way I make my Christmas ornaments, using polystyrene balls as the base.

The detail of the stitching is fantastic, not only abstract designs but wonderfully executed faces and detailed costume.

I think this one below was my favourite, it reminds me of all the Tudor costume I have been looking at recently.

Today is a little cooler and damp, after a very lovely sunny and warm week so I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon knitting on the sofa.

I have had two very enjoyable cycle rides this week, totalling 40km. I went down to the beach yesterday, where there were some wonderful cloud formations over the sea and the mountains.

I will hopefully be able to share my new knitted doll with you next week, it has been a really quick knit though doing the hair took a very long time. I re-did the plaits about 10 times! Until then I hope you are all enjoying life, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Following your dreams

I have been very lucky in my new life so far. I have been able to pass my driving test and buy my longed for camper van, travel and spend lots of time crafting, meeting so many lovely people on the way. There is another aspect to my life that I am also really loving, and that is my new role as a writer.

I have always enjoyed writing, along with reading which I loved from a very early age, and like many people I started writing novels when I was younger. However, I didn’t really have the time to devote to it before, but it has now become a big part of my life here now.

I am about half way through my first novel, at this rate the first one will take me about 3 years but there is no rush, I am very much enjoying the process as well as what I am producing. You may not be surprised to know that it is based around historical textiles, and the women associated with them. In fact I have the outline for 5 novels, all based on pieces of textiles that I have have either owned or seen in museums. As you know I am always interested in the provenance of anything I find, who made it, how did it end up here?

My first novel is based around Hardwick Hall, and the needlework of Bess of Hardwick so has involved lots of really interesting research. I have previously read a lot about Bess, but have been doing a lot more reading, of other people’s dissertations and academic papers, which has meant I have put my previous academic skills to good use.

I have also been doing a few courses to help me along the way. Last year, and earlier this year I did some on creative writing. Firstly they were with an organisation called Future Learn, who offer free courses on a large variety of subjects. The Start Writing Fiction and the How to Read a Novel were really helpful for thinking about how to structure the work and about character development.

Earlier this year I took two Creative Writing courses with the Workers’ Educational Association, the WEA. I worked for them about 30 years ago, when I was teaching in the Adult and Community sector and loved the role so it was nice to come full circle and be a student with them. They are a wonderful organisation, as the name suggest they have a long history of community education and offer affordable courses on a variety of topics. I have actually just finished another short course with them on The History of Canals, that is some research for a future book.

I have also done a little field trip to help me with the setting of the novel. One of the really useful things about doing the courses is they prompt you think about how your characters are going to come across and so I have had to build a story of their lives. I thought that the easiest way to do that was to actually visit the place that I have chosen for them to live, which is a little village not too far from Hardwick Hall, called Shireoaks.

It is somewhere I always pass on the train to and from my daughter’s house and it looked like a nice place to live, with a canal as well! There is a beautiful church there, built by the Duke of Newcastle who built the chapel at Clumber that my daughter looked after in her last job for the National Trust.

On my last trip in England I visited and was able to talk to some of the local residents and see the street that I have chosen for my character to live in. They were very helpful, telling me about other sources for my research and I was delighted to find that an old photo showing the street as it was when first built.

These outhouses still exist, though the communal yards have been fenced off to make gardens.

I have also just finished another course with Future Learn about Mary Queen of Scots, as the embroidered piece I have chosen is one done while Bess was with Mary when she was under the guardianship of Bess’s husband. My current course with them is called Learning from the Past. It is a fascinating exploration of how to use historical sources for your research, so very, very useful for me.

I do so love studying, I always did really enjoy that part of my job and spent many years doing courses alongside my teaching and it is so amazing to have the time to do all this now. There are so many brilliant resources out there for free as well, I have only scratched the surface of all that there is available. I am very, very lucky to be able to do everything I have ever wanted to do, I am still pinching myself that this is my life!

It is getting a little cooler here, down the about 15 degrees during the day now, so it is nice to have more indoor things to do as well. It still seems strange to see sunny skies instead of autumn colours but it is lovely. I have cycled a total of 140 km in the last month so am very pleased with that and the cooler weather makes cycling really pleasant. As well as that there are weekly walks on the beach with brilliant views of the mountains.

I hope that you have all had a good week and are enjoying your weekend. Mum and I are off on a trip on Monday to the town of Caravaca for a medieval market. I visited in May for the wine horses fiesta but am very much looking forward to going back and seeing the castle and the cathedral so expect some bling in the next post! Until that have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Charlie, Quinn and Queenie, and a hot Christmas Craft Fair!

I thought I would just share with you a little update of some of the crafting projects I mentioned in my previous post. I have been very busy getting everything done for this week, in between my increasingly hectic social life 😉

It is so lovely to have so many things to do and people to spend time with, I really never expected this when I came here. I thought I would be mainly in my new craft space making, and instead I am out so many evenings with new friends.

First to be finished was the Luna rabbit, who I named Charlie. This was a commission from one of the people who entered the ‘guess the name’ earlier on this year. She had requested a rabbit for her grandson in neutral colours so I made one out of linen again and made him a winter and a summer outfit, all from charity shop clothes in my stash.

I was very pleased with the way that the formal shirt turned out, it was very fiddly but well worth it. I am very happy with my neat top stitching, that is getting so much better. It helps to have such a lovely new machine.

I finished the reindeer last weekend, they are probably the cutest things that I have ever knitted, look at that little face!

The draw for the reindeer took place yesterday, I sold some of the names earlier this week to friends at my knitting and sewing groups and the rest at the Christmas Craft Fair that was organised to support the local foodbank charity.

All of the names were sold and the winning choice was Quinn and Queenie. They have gone off to their new homes today. This raised 100 euros for the charity and we raised a lot more with the tombola and other stalls.

All of the patterns for the reindeer and clothes are from Little Cotton Rabbits. The reindeer pattern is a free supplement to the fox pattern, I knitted two of those last year for Ellen and Sarah and you just adjust the placement of the ears and add antlers and speckles.

The Christmas dress and jumper are both from the seasonal pattern sets and the spare dress from the textured dress set of patterns. I particularly loved making the textured dress as it looks so lovely and the yarn knits up beautifully.

The craft fair was held outside the charity shop on a rather hot day yesterday, it has been unseasonably warm here and it was about 24 degrees yesterday so I was glad that I was in the shade. Many of my friends had their crafting for sale. I bought this gorgeous mandala dream catcher for my bedroom from Gale.

Gale also had lots of other dreamcatchers and key rings, she is going to teach us some macrame at knitting group at some point.

These cute little Christmas puddings with chocolates in were made by Mary who had lots of other versions on her stall.

Tracy and Isla had a beautiful selection of knitted and crocheted toys and clothes.

I bought one of Edith’s gorgeous candle holders last year and this year bought some of her crochet pot holders that match my kitchen.

Lynne and Linda were manning the donations stall.

I also bought these amazing hand embroidered silk handkerchiefs from Vivien, who selling them on behalf of a friend. They are so delicate and I plan to turn them into some gorgeous outfits for the Barbie dolls. I am going to spend a little bit of time in my atelier over the next few weeks getting back to Barbie haute couture.

I have also been cycling, the sky was so clear this week and the views across to the mountains have been wonderful.

My latest knitting project is Rainbow Rascals from Dollytime on Etsy. The picture below is from her website.

I love the bright colours of these dolls and have previously knitted her little snowmen. They are a very easy knit as the legs, head and body are all knitted as one piece and that includes the stripy jumper. I am looking forward to making some cute skirts to go with them. I’m not sure where these will go as they might just be kept until next year for Christmas boxes for the local charities.

I have about 6 weeks now until I go off on further travels so am looking forward to lots of lovely adventures on my bike and knitting and stitching on the sofa! I hope that you are all having a lovely time whatever you are doing. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Dressing Fancy

As you may know by now I love a good costume and nothing makes my little heart happier than going to events where others feel the same. Whether it is Steampunk, Medieval or just a chance to dress up in something, I love the sense of freedom it gives you, and the creativity that people display in what they chose to wear.

I think it is interesting that most of my friends still enjoy what we might consider pursuits that are for children, not adults. They love dressing up, fantasy games, board games, model making and painting, and costumed dance and drama. I think these are very vital for our mental health, they keep us in touch with our carefree inner child, and they give us the opportunity to spend time with like minded people.

I have been updating my podcast list on my tablet as I have been doing lots of machine sewing recently and I love to listen to podcasts or watch sewing vlogs while I do that. Two of my favourite are on the history of Fashion, called Dressed, and one about fancy dress, called Dress Fancy. They are both well worth a listen. I have just discovered two recent episodes on the history of lace on the Dressed one so will be listening to those soon.

One of the things I love about Spain is the opportunity to dress up at the many fiestas here. I love all of them, whether it is Moors and Christians, the traditional dress at religious parades and the many different ones celebrating local events. The Benidorm one that I went to this week started some 40 years ago as an extra day after a 3 day festival honouring local saints. One of the bars offered free food and drink for anyone dressed up that day and it grew from there. It is estimated that 30,000 people come for the fiesta which makes it the largest fancy dress party in Europe, perfect for me!

I went with one of the local coach companies and met some friends there. As they were doing Steampunk I bought an outfit from England. This worked well and I got lots of compliments on my hat, although the temperature did get up to 29 degrees so may have to think of something cooler for next year 😉

What was wonderful to see was the many groups who had come with a theme, it was so crowded that I didn’t get chance to get pictures of everyone but there were many crews from Top Gun, Wizard of Oz characters, plus many Elvises, a few Rod Stewarts and at least one Freddie Mercury.

The 1960s was a popular theme as well with some brilliant outfits like this silver one.

Disney is always a popular choice and this Malificent was magnificent.

Henry 8th was there, with just the one wife, a beautifully dressed Anne Boleyn.

As I was leaving the main area I bumped into B1 and B2 from the children’s video series Bananas in Pyjamas. My children loved this when they were little.

These cleaning ladies were wonderful, even down to the cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.

The gnomes had excellent patchwork waistcoats on.

These Morris dancers spent a lot of time doing performances for the crowds.

This couple must have spent hours on their amazing Avatar face painting.

I think one of my very favourites was the three girl bikers, loved their sequinned helmets!

Many of the groups had a travel theme, there were ships captains, airline pilots and a group of stewardesses dancing in front of the bar we were at.

It was just absolutely brilliant to see everyone dancing and enjoying themselves, all the more precious after the last couple of years, when at times I think we all thought we would never be allowed near more than 5 other humans again!

I ended the afternoon with a trip down to the beach for some food and a cool off and watched the sun go down so I was able to take some arty shots there.

A really lovely day out. I have had a very sociable week this week and so am going to have a very quiet one next week. After today the reindeers will be completed, the rabbit has already been delivered, so my next post will be sharing those pictures.

I have signed up for a couple more Future Learn courses as my Mary Queen of Scots one ends this coming week, and my online History of Canals one ends the week after so wanted to have something else to keep the brain active. Oh and I have finally got my guitar, courtesy of my aunt, I did my first lesson today.

I played guitar whilst at primary school and loved it so this was another of my things I wanted to do in retirement. I am just using some apps and You Tube videos at the moment but enjoyed getting back to it this morning.

I will be finishing off the Christmas ornaments for family this coming week as my stitching project and have a new knitting project to share with you in the next post. I hope you are having a lovely time whatever you are doing, have a great weekend, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Galicia – wine and pilgrims

The most famous thing about Galicia is probably the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, with pilgrim routes from all over Europe ending here at the tomb of St James. The area is also very famous for the wine that is grown here, particularly the white wine as the climate and the salinity in the soil gives it a unique flavour.

We had seen many vineyards on our previous trips and on the fourth day went to the town of Combados, which grew rich in the medieval period on the profits from wine. We were not expecting such a grand square where the palace was but it was stunning, with the church on one side and rows of beautiful shops and houses on the other.

There was an option to go on a little train tour, which most of the rest of the group did, but we decided to just have a wander round so we could pay closer attention to the gorgeous buildings. We even got to have a little peak in the palace wine cellar.

We did see a cute wine shop and bar but didn’t get anything there as the morning ended with a visit to a small vineyard and a tasting of some of their wine. Not only was it very nice but also came in a very pretty bottle, so I bought some as gifts.

The final day was one of the highlights of the trip, to visit the cathedral at Santiago. It was stunning, but I think the most amazing thing was watching the groups of pilgrims come into the square and seeing the expressions on their faces when they had finally finished. It was so moving.

There was time for a wander round the city streets, with lots of bars, shops and cafes displaying their wares in a very artistic manner, look at this for a display of ‘pulpo’, (octopus). There was also a little tribute to the Queen’s Jubilee in one of the bookshops.

We also encountered a couple of locals who were portraying St James and a medieval pilgrim and inviting people to have their photo taken with them. The costumes were brilliant and they were very popular with the tourists.

A truly wonderful end to our trip. It is an area I would love to return to, I do say that about most of Spain though so we shall see how things progress over the next few years. There are so many other places I want to see as well. Our next Spanish trip is to Cordoba in November and we have also just booked to go to Venice for Mum’s birthday next year in April which is very exciting!

I have to spend some more time next week getting my UK tour for 2022 sorted. I have booked my first two campsites for my first solo driving trip from Worcester to Whitwell which covers about 10 days. I have lots of other events apart from camping and also want to catch up with friends who I first met 40 years ago when I moved to Huddersfield to start my degree. It seems amazing that it was that long ago.

I will be back with a final crafting update next week, it is all progressing well so far, although I am definitely not going to be making any more costume in 30+ degrees again. It is completely my own fault as I should have done the costume first, then the camper cushions. There has been some blood, as I got myself stuck in the skirt once and the pin bit me 😦 a lot of sweat, but thankfully no tears during the making of this outfit.

Hope you are looking forward to a nice weekend whatever you are doing, my friends in the UK are also having really hot weather so I hope that you have a good time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Galicia, where rain is art!

Our second day of the tour was a bit wet, which was actually quite nice. Even though I love living in Spain and not having to deal with endless Yorkshire rain, especially getting soaked at the bus stop, there is something lovely about dramatic grey clouds and misty scenery.

We visited the city of Pontevedre first thing and as I was walking across one of the squares, in my sandals, two builders asked me in Spanish why I was wearing those when it was raining. I was able to reply in Spanish that I was English, so was used to rain, which is when one of them said, ‘ah, in Galicia, rain is art’. I think that is a lovely way of thinking about it and certainly means that the scenery changes all of the time.

The city was really surprising, the exterior of the city looks very modern but inside there are beautifully preserved squares and buildings, very reminiscent of Caceres with their shields on the walls.

We had a guided tour, with poor Jose having to stop and wait as people went off to look at a beautiful chemist’s shop with a gorgeous tiled floor, or an interesting drainpipe!

I am sure he is used to this but it was a bit like herding cats 😉 At one point I nearly joined another tour group by mistake as I was trailing behind taking pictures.

In one of the churches there was another icon like the one we saw in Caceres with lights from her arms. There were also some very stunning doors, I particularly liked these white ones which were very unusual.

Our later stop was to visit one of the very interesting things that I had spotted on the journey in. At first I thought they were little roadside shrines, as most have crosses on them, but they are actually grain stores, designed so that rats and mice can’t climb up the legs.

The village of Combarro has a lot of these at the back of the houses and one street has been turned into a lovely row of shops and little bars, where you can sit, often underneath the barns, and admire the sea view. We bought some gorgeous cream liqueur from one of the shops and got a chance to go and have a look upstairs at the balcony. The house had been beautifully refurbished and there was a great view across the misty estuary.

Most of the afternoons on the rest of the week were free time so we went to the beach near the hotel that afternoon for a slightly mizzly walk. The scenery was stunning and there was a little costal path out to the edge of the estuary.

It was lovely to see so much beach, our local beach is suffering from the effects of global warming as the tides are getting higher every year. Now there is only a very narrow strip of sand between the bars and beach houses and the sea, which will mean that the summer visitors will have to go elsewhere for access. They have also had to remove all of the sun beds and umbrellas that we used to rent for the day. It is is very clear reminder of the power of climate change, sadly our favourite beach bar will probably be gone in a few years, or we will all be paddling to get to it.

It is a bit cooler today and we are due thunderstorms, I will be be using the inside time to finish the last few bits of the Steampunk outfit. I then have to try and make a bustle of some sort so that will involve some fabric fettling and experimenting as have not made one before. It is difficult to take pictures of the outfit as I haven’t got a mannequin anymore but will take some of the hat and jacket at least and then get some good ones when I wear it in July. I am so happy to have finished it, only 18 months in the making 🙂

I hope that you are all having a nice time wherever you are, and happy Summer/Winter Solstice to you. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Another ocean

One of the exciting things about being in Galicia was the chance to see, and paddle and swim in the Atlantic, rather than my usual Mediterranean. Of course I have been in the Atlantic before, from the UK,but this was a different coastline so still exciting.

Last year I read a fascinating book about the history of the Atlantic by Jeremy Black. It was a really interesting mix of the history of sailing and exploration, as well as economics, such as the laying of the first telegraph cable and links between migration and empire. There were various points on this trip that I was reminded of that book as we were in the area where Columbus’s ship that sailed to America in 1492 was built.

The coastline is very different to ours, the mountains come down to the sea and there are lots of rocky inlets, which makes it very beautiful. The area is also quite industrialised and on the first day of our tour we visited the city of Vigo.

There were great views from the old fort, destroyed by Frances Drake during the 1500s, (sorry about that Spain!). The area has been turned into a park and there were lots of people enjoying the views over the port and inlets.

The area is very dependant on seafood for its economy, with lots of mussel beds. When we stopped for a coffee we took the opportunity to make friends with some of the live crabs on display in a local restaurant window.

Vigo was full of wonderful old buildings, the city went into decline in the 1990s but is now being extensively restored and it was great to see so many apartment blocks that are being refurbished. I loved the grey stone in the city as well.

There was a very different architectural style with lots of covered walkways, I think due to the climate as it rains a lot more here. It reminded me a lot of visits to Italy.

After Vigo we had a trip out to the island of La Toya, which is famous for its healing mud, used in lots of soaps and cosmetics. The island is full of very expensive apartments and a spa complex. There is a donkey sanctuary here as it was found that the mud helps the donkeys recuperate as well! There was also a little chapel which was completely covered in scallop shells, the symbol of St James.

Half of the island is a nature reserve with some amazingly tall pine trees. Mum was very taken with these, and with how green everything was. As she has not left Spain for three years she is very used to our dusty and quite bare landscape.

A quick stop at O Grove for my first paddle in the clear cool Atlantic was followed by a very exciting stop.

We were viewing a little Romanesque church on the headland, next to some Celtic ruins, when someone spotted dolphins off the rocks.

Sadly no pictures of those as they were too quick, you will just have to trust me that they were by the rocks in the picture above. The scenery was stunning as the sun started setting with the clear turquoise sea. A brilliant end to a very lovely first day in Galicia.

Life in La Marina continues to be wonderful, and very hot, it is 32 degrees today. The local charity shop on the way back from sewing group has been having a 1 euro sale so I have got some more cool clothes in the last couple of weeks to add to my Spanish wardrobe. Unsurprisingly I have never needed this many summer clothes before 😉

I have been working on the Steampunk jacket this week, as the hat is now finished so I am making very good progress. We have lots of social events coming up over the next couple of weeks as it is my 60th birthday soon. I am having a series of afternoon teas, drinks and meals out to celebrate that before flying back for some re-enactment events the first two weekends of July. It will be brilliant to catch up with everyone, some people I haven’t seen for three years due to the pandemic, so it will be an amazing time.

I hope that you all have a lovely weekend ahead, I will be back with more of Galicia soon. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Another country

Galicia really does feel as if it is another country as it is so very different from anywhere else I have been in Spain. This is partly to do with the climate, as it rains a lot so the area is very lush with forests and vineyards. All of the houses have beautiful gardens, many with large vegetable plots.

The architecture is very different as well, due to the climate. The houses have sloping roofs, dormer windows, covered terraces and traditional balustrades and fencing made of the local grey stone, rather than our ironwork railings. Many have crosses outside to protect the houses from the local witches.

It is also a very long way away, 13 hours driving time on the coach each way, passing through many different regions. It is a journey of 1000 km and is actually further away than it would be to drive to France. As it is so remote compared to the rest of Spain it has a very different feel and a different language, closely related to Portuguese as the area we went to is very near the Portuguese border. The country was originally part of Portugal and has a long and fascinating history, if you want to read more this blog has a useful summary.

One of my ambitions for retirement was to see more of this beautiful country and I have certainly achieved that this year. This map below shows where I am, near Alicante, the blue star. Since last Nov I have been to Caceres, the orange star, Granada, the red star and now Galicia, the purple star. This coming Nov I will go back down south to Cordoba which is near to Seville.

The journey was wonderful, passing through the wheat fields, vineries and castles of La Mancha, on to the vast plains of Castile and Leon, before reaching the mountains and forests of Galicia. We were very happy to just sit and watch the scenery and think about places that we would love to go back to one day in Katy.

There were also many different varieties of cloud to admire, Mum and I love clouds and there were a vast array over the plains and fields, including some stunning low lying ones between the mountains.

We left nearby Torrevieja from the coach pick up at 7.15 in the morning and arrived at our hotel at 10.15 at night, 15 hours later with the rest stops we had made. To our great delight our hotel room had a sea view. One quick dinner later and I was on the terrace with a glass of red wine, listening to the waves with this amazing view.

It was equally lovely the next day as well.

The hotel helpfully had an ariel photo on the reception wall and it showed the hotel in relation to the peninsula it is on. The hotel was just off the main road that you can see at the bottom left, minutes from the beach.

We were staying just outside Sanxchenxo, in a region known as the Rias Baixas. These are the estuaries of the Atlantic and the region is full of wonderful islands just of the coast and beautiful beaches with such fine white sand. We were just north of Pontevedre on this map which meant that everywhere we went involved travelling along the estuaries.

This is the first time I have ever been on a coach trip where you stay with the group all week and have daily tours out together. It was a really interesting experience, there were certainly some characters in the group, (great material for my novel writing!), but we met some really lovely people who all enjoy travelling.

I have split the trip up into a few blog posts as there were so many interesting and very unusual things to see so will be back soon with some more lovely Galician delights.

The Steampunk outfit is going well. I have the cuffs to fit onto the jacket and the top of the hat to stitch and then it is just the skirt to sew which is hopefully a simple process 😉 There are only 19 days now until I return to the UK to pick up Katy and start my adventures there! I am so excited and looking forward to an amazing summer. I am nearly at the first anniversary of my retirement and I have had such a brilliant first year, it has exceeded all of my expectations and I just keep getting happier.

I hope you are all well and happy in your lives. Thank you all so much for reading my blog, it is very much appreciated and I am thrilled every time I get a new like or a new follower. I now have 396 followers and last year had 16,490 visitors which is just mind blowing. Whoever you are, and wherever you come from, you make me very happy! As always, until next time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks a million for visiting 🙂

La Marina Wildlife

Although I live on what is called an ‘urbanizacion’ it is very rural and not urban at all. The word just means residential development and there are many in this area. To one side we have the mountains, in front of us is the sea, and behind us endless farmland. I have never seen so many artichokes in my life 😉 and that is why we have such lovely fresh, and cheap food in our local markets.

I have posted previously about the verdes, the green areas in between the housing blocks, and the lovely gardens that many people create there. Most of the verdes are natural though and they are lovely to walk though. I usually chose that route to my Mum’s house, in the hope that I can spot squirrels who live in the more forested ones.

The squirrels here are very different to those in the UK, they are neither red nor grey in colour but a beautiful brown with cream stomachs, and are very tiny and nimble. Apologies that my pictures are not that clear as I was using zoom but I found this great blog with some clear pictures and lots of information so this close up is from there. They have such cute ears as well!

They are a species of red squirrel but are a lot darker and their coats can appear black. The Spanish word for squirrel is ‘ardilla’ (the double l is pronounced as a y).

The very wet weather in March, (where we actually had rain here for about 3 weeks!), has meant that the more open verdes have been transformed into the most gorgeous wildflower areas.

There are so many lovely yellow and purple flowers that have bloomed here, lots of varieties of what look like daisies and a small purple bell shaped flower which covers large areas. You can see that one on the top left of the above picture.

I love to explore the farmland on my bike, as well as great cycle trails there are also the ‘caminos’ which are the rougher roads into the farmland area. Often these run along the ‘azarbes’ or irrigation channels. There are amazing views out towards the mountains.

This week I came across a wetland area on one of the fields where one of the irrigation channels had pumped water onto the field and flooded it. Whether this was deliberate or not I don’t know but it had created a wonderful habitat for birds.

As well as a large flock of ‘gaviotas’, seagulls, there were also white egrets, which we see often here on the azarbes. There were also a few darker egret type birds with a wonderful dark purple plumage under their wings. I think they might be a glossy ibis from my research, this site has some great close up pictures which is where I got this one from.

We also have little lizards that I encounter on my bike rides or walking around, they are far too quick for me to take pictures of but I love to see them!

A little further away we also have the salinas where the flamingos live. I was very excited the other evening as a whole flock of them flew over my house while I was sitting on the terrace. I have seen a few flying over before but never as many of this and it was an amazing sight. No pictures sadly 😦 as the camera was inside.

I did take these ones of the sun setting over the salinas on the way back from Caceres last year. They always look amazing when there are clouds. They are are often a pinky grey colour in the sunlight which is why the flamingos come as eating the sea creatures there turns them pinker. These salinas are some of the best places to see flamingos in Europe. I love the fact that the Spanish for flamingo is ‘flamenco’ 😉

I am really enjoying finding out more about all the birds here, my sister is really into birds and so I have got more used to looking out for unusual ones. Many of the salinas are bird reserves now, as they are no longer used commercially for the salt.

It really is a lovely area to live in, so different from my gorgeous moors and reservoirs of Marsden but still with the same all important access for me to rural areas.

I am looking forward to more nature exploration in the autumn, it will probably too hot in June to go far on the bike so I will be planning lots more cycle routes for when I get back in October. I have also started planning where I will spend January and February next year, nothing confirmed yet but I am very excited!

Meanwhile there are cushions to be finished, the hand stitching is taking a lot longer than I envisaged but I am hoping to done this weekend, so will be able to share that soon. I hope that you have lots of nice things planned for the weekend as well. Do have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

For the love of God

Our final coach trip recently was to the little town of Gandia, further north again so through the same wonderful mountains as the trip to Javea, and a little inland.

We went to see the Ducal Palace, which dates from the mid 1300s and is very closely linked with the Jesuit order of monks and with one of its most famous Dukes, Francis de Borja, in the mid 1500s. Francis wanted to become a monk but had instead to take up his family inheritance. After the death of his wife he joined the church.

The palace is spectacular and has some amazing tiles. Much of the artwork relates to the story of Francis Borja and his family. The family were related to the infamous Borgias, and the notorious Rodrigo Borgia who was a pope in the 1400s. There were some great inspirations for crafting patterns in the tiles and woodwork as well, that window shutter has a fantastic quilt block design on it!

There was also a little bit of textile interest from the 1500s, the family crest and a priest’s robe.

The ceramics were of many different styles and this painted panel had some wonderful detail, I assume the striped flowers are tulips which I know were very popular from the 18th century.

My favourite room was the wonderful Neo-Gothic chapel, the artwork in there was just stunning. It reminded me of the decoration of Cardiff Castle and Castle Coch, which is decorated in a very similar style. The ceiling was amazing, I do love a starry ceiling!

This was one of my favourite paintings, I do love representations of nuns and she looks so peaceful.

The altar was beautiful as well, the painting around the cross was so delicate.

Such a beautiful place, I could have stayed there for hours looking at all the detail.

The later part of the tour covered the later baroque style rooms, wonderful ornate wood and plaster work and some very impressive ceilings. The guide explained that they were actually painted canvases rather than some Sistine Chapel style mammoth ceiling artwork.

This picture was so sweet and I love the ornate frame. Something like this would be great for blackwork!

The palace went into decline as the family in Spain died out and in the late 1800s it was bought by the Jesuits and restored. It has been a national monument since 1964 and is well worth a visit.

We had time to have a very nice lunch in the old town and admire the cathedral and the town hall.

We also made a quick visit to the museum, which was based in the old nunnery and hospital. There were some beautiful pieces of medieval art there as well that had been collected by the order.

I am very tempted to try and link this order, which unfortunately I forgot to record the name of, with life in medieval England as I would love to add a flower head dress to my nun’s outfit.

Although I love the paintings themselves, it is the detail in the backgrounds that is the most interesting part for me, such gorgeous architecture and landscapes.

There were also some musical angels, I really love these depictions and have only seen them here in Spain.

These were a group of interesting and very unusual reliquary heads, there were about 10 in total.

I am very much enjoying being able to explore much more of Spain, this is such a fascinating country and I am planning to read much more of its history over the coming months. I have read quite a lot about the civil war period, but less about the 1400 – 1600s so will be concentrating on that next. The history is very interesting in comparison to that of the UK, in terms of the many separate kingdoms that existed. The relationship between Spain and its empire is also something that I would like to read more about.

It is lovely to go out and practise my Spanish as well. I am still studying every day and when we go on trips get lots of opportunity to use it. One of the things that I am finding is that I can now understand a lot more. I listen to what people are saying around me and it is starting to slowly make sense which is brilliant and makes me feel as if I am making real progress.

It has been unseasonably hot here, 33 degrees earlier this week, which is more like July weather, so I have been to the pool three times this week. Between 5 and 7 they have half price rates and it is virtually empty so I have the whole pool to myself to swim. So far this week I have done 150 lengths which I am very pleased with. I have been able to take my bike out as well and have been doing some more off road exploring.

I have also been busy with my writing, I am half way through a new writing course with the WEA which is centred on Place and Identity. I am finding the exercises that we do really helpful in stimulating different aspects of the novel writing. I start another creative writing course with them in a couple of weeks, with the same tutor I had in January.

I am so, so happy that I spend my time at the computer doing fun things now, in previous years May and June was all about marking thousands of words of dissertations and essays. I still can’t believe I never have to do that ever again 🙂

I hope you are enjoying life wherever you are, I will be back soon to share some more crafting with you, I have been doing a little bit in between all the adventuring 😉 In the meantime, have fun, take care , stay safe and thanks for visiting.