Thursday, September 28, 2023

Road trip along the Spanish coast

Good morning, dear Blogger friends.  Our first weekend in Spain culminated in the start of a road trip.   When I Googled for a map, I found several write-ups about the beautiful places we visited. I also noted the various tour prices. And again, realized how generous Rose and Pete were. 

Along the route, as we approached Tarifa, we passed hundreds of wind turbines.
Tarifa is a Spanish municipality in the province of Cadiz, Andalusia. Located in the southernmost end of the Iberian Peninsula it is primarily known as the one of the world's most popular destinations for wind sports. 

We arrived in Bolonia around 2pm. We were booking into a self-catering unit. Bolonia is a coastal village and beach in Tarifa municipality in the province of Cadiz, in Southern Spain. It's on the Atlantic shore and the beach is known as Playa de Bolonia (Bolonia Beach). The ruins of a complete Roman town are the most famous yet uncovered in Spain.  

We checked into our accommodation and as we'd not had lunch yet, we drove to a restaurant on the beach. Once we'd been shown our table and placed our orders, the waitron brought a basket of breadsticks and chewy chunks of ciabatta. Spain has a selection of breads endemic to the country. Empanadas (which we had been served at the Tapas bar in Mijas); Rustic Spanish Bread (I bought a loaf at a bakery later that week); Mollete bread (a Spanish bagel) and my favorite, Pan con tomate. The latter is made with any day-old bread, lightly grilled and topped with tomato salsa. All bread starters are served with a bowl of balsamic vinegar mixed with olive oil.  

Absolutely delicious!

The next morning after breakfast at a nearby restaurant, Rose drove us to the city of Vejer. More beautiful Mediterranean atmosphere to soak up.
Posing against the backdrop of Vejer 
Celia, Rose and me

 I don't think there is a country in the world, that doesn't have a commemoration of our late leader, Nelson Mandela.

Celia and I under a park sign honoring Nelson Mandala

Since ancient times, Vejer has been characterized by a combination of agricultural and livestock farming activities on its land, whether on large estates, medium-sized farms of even the so-called Hazas de Suerte. 

 Because of its unusual position, Vejer was an enclave for Southern Europe's oldest civilizations. (the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans) and served as a defense against the 
Iberians of the interior as well as protecting the commercial factories and tuna fisheries established by these settlers on the coast. 

As early as 216BC when the Roman reigned ended in Spain, the Arabs conquered Vejer. 
When the Christians arrived in the 13th century,  
Ferdinand III, "the Holy', captured the town for the Kingdom of Castile, and Vejer and its castle became a border fortress in the face of the Moslem forces, In 1250, hence the addition of "de la Frontera" ('on the frontier') to its name. The king gave control of Vejer de la Frontera to Don Alonso Perez de Guzman, founder of the ducal house of Medina Sidonia, insisting that he respect the rights of its inhabitants, whom the king had declared to be "exempt from the tasks of farming and cattle rearing', conceding them the privilege of using "all the land, water, hills and woods in the town'. These wishes were respected by Perez de Guzman´s successors until the 16th century, when the Duke and Duchess went against them, which led the inhabitants of Vejer to sue the house of Medina Sidonia before the king, who decreed that all rights should be returned to the townspeople, along with the freedom to use common territories, land which is known today as "Hazas de Suerte" ('Plots of Fortune') and still enjoys the same status.

From Vejer, we traveled down to the coast to Zahara. Another beautiful town. We passed many luxurious homes, gardens and lodges which we guessed may be owned by the likes of Brad Pitt, Carlo Alcaraz, Morgan Freeman and more.
Celia and I pose against a beautiful seascape 

We ,who hail from the Southern Hemisphere, were fascinated by the late setting of the sun. 9.30pm is more than two hours later than the sunset in midsummer in South Africa. The sun sets so late in Spain because it is in the wrong time zone! It is on a similar line of longitude as Swansea in Wales and its clocks are set to Central European Time. 

That night, back at our accommodation, we had supper and then walked down to the beach to watch the sun setting. 

Rose captured this stunning sunset over the sand dunes
 and reflected on the lagoon surface 

The next morning, we set out for home and in Gibraltar, Rose turned in for me and Celia to see the monolith which I'd only ever heard about. 
Celia and I with the Rock of Gibraltar as backdrop!

After our holiday, the first day back in South Africa, was spent at Angus and Amanda's home in Bloemfontein. That night the children had a dinner to welcome us back. Ilse (Amanda's older sister - she who arranged our travel itinerary, including the flight bookings) asked me what the highlight of my trip was. Without hesitation, I said: seeing the Rock of Gibraltar close up! 

Meanwhile, back in Spain, we still had seven days of holiday with Rose. 

I'm on my way to a Weigh-Less seminar this weekend, stopping off to stay over with Gill (Grant's aunt) in Howick on Friday night. I will try to post when I get a few minutes. I'll spend Saturday night with my SIL, Shelley, and the next day she is taking me along on a guided bird walk. Whoopee. I will have great photos for future Saturday Critters with Eileen! 

Until then ...


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Heritage Day

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Once again, I was able to attend church. It's a long weekend here in South Africa, which you can read about here. Tomorrow, Monday is a holiday. The Valley accommodation is full, including my two holiday homes. 

That means my Sunday was freed up and I went to church...

In Swahili dress! 

Great was the reception when I walked into the church. When the priest, Fr Vimba, arrived from the sacristy, he said: Good morning and Happy Heritage Day. 

And the lay minister, John, said: And Jo wins first prize!

Fr Vimba and lay minister, John, prepare the communion sacrements
The priest or Eucharist minister says: 'The body of Christ “, and you, accepting the wafer with cupped hands say "amen:  say “amen”. You place it in your own mouth. After that you say a prayer of thanks while kneeling in the pew.

If you look at the man standing this side of the rail, he is leaning on the exact center beam. This particular part of the rail lifts up and is normally folded back on the rail to the right (where the lady in striped dress is kneeling) The person who collects the offertory, when finished in the congregation, takes the little velvet bag to the priest, who accepts it and places it on the altar. Afterwards the priest says a special prayer offering our offerings to God. 

Meanwhile the man who had handed over the money, picks up the the rail and places it on the other rail, closing the gap. However, the rail has a dowl (peg) at the end, this fits into a round hole in the fixed rail. 

Two weeks ago, as I reached the rail, which happened to be the center section, in order not to kneel too quickly, I leaned on the rail with my weight. The rail had not been "clipped in" firmly; it shot outwards and downwards.  Jenny, my friend, had knelt just after me and grabbed me around the waist which prevented me from falling face first at the priests' feet. No damage done, but quite a commotion to cause at such a solemn part of the service!  

Today, no such near misses, as I was third at the rail and way before the center. After the service, I spotted that Elizabeth was dressed in true Zulu fashion. Phyllis, a friend of mine from Parkrun, insisted we pose together outside the church. 

Elizabeth and I celebrated Heritage Day is true style. Next year I intend to be in Zulu dress. I've been here for seven years, so it's about time!

Driving through town after the service and popping into the supermarket, I saw that all the Zulu ladies were in traditional dress. 

You have all heard me write extensively about Thandiwe, my houselady. She and I are a formidable team when it comes to our holiday accommodation. Thandi has several sisters, one of who is Mavis who works at Thokosiza Lifestyle Centre at the entrance to Champagne Valley. 

Mavis, who speaks impeccable English, in the early days (circa 2016), was invaluable to me when I needed to communicate with Thandi. Now it's a whole lot easier. Thandi understands my Zulu and even helps me with pronunciation of certain words. 

Mavis has also managed a upmarket shoe brand outlet in the center for the past 19 years. Soon after Grant's passing, when I started to sell Avon, I left a brochure with Mavis, thinking she could order from me. Great was my delight when, within a week, Mavis sent me orders from the other employees working in the center. She has continued to sell Avon for me, and I love her dearly. 

Today, after church, I had to deliver Avon to Mavis. As I approached the store along the paved walkway, Mavis spotting me from the shop, started cheering! She, who was also dressed in Zulu tradition, was applauding my Swahili outfit! 
Mavis and I have been friends for more than seven years. She has always shown me respect and I appreciate this beautiful lady so much

As far as I could make out, I was the only European who dressed for Heritage Day today.

The next image is especially for Sandra, Madsnapper  who correctly guessed that I have a ring for most outfits. Apart from the two Tanzanite stone rings on my left ring finger and a 24-carat gold ring on the middle finger, the rest are all dress rings. Many I buy from my own supplies (Avon) and the large stone rings are the ones my sister, Rose gifted me. 

As much bling as I can fit on my 70-year-old fingers!

Um, as you can see, my nails need topping up. This appointment is for Thursday this week, two days before a very important event in Durban. You will be reading a blog about this...

And yes, already I'm considering my outfit! LOL! 


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Woodland Kingfisher and spider's nest

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. A quick insert between our Spain holiday posts. 

With summer iminent in the Southern Hemisphere, I am hearing all manner of birds in the garden. Early one morning, last week, as I walked onto the veranda, I heard a Kingfisher call, looked across the fence between me and Ron and John, and spotted a Woodland Kingfisher on a shrub.

Of course, I dashed back indoors to grab my camera...

I knew the bird had spotted a meal

The bird had fluffed up its feathers

Woodland Kingfisher - a medium sized bird; electric blue-backed Kingfisher with a distinctive bi-color bill:  red above and black below
The weather was very dull but I hope you get the idea of this glorious bird who is a regular summer visitor to our collective gardens
On a sunny morning earlier that week, I spotted this spider's nest 

Viewing nature in my own garden!

I'm linking to Eileen's Saturday Critters here


Friday, September 22, 2023

Meeting new friends

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Yes, we were spoiled by my dear sister and BIL while on holiday in Spain. Rose and Pete picked up all the tabs: all outings, restaurant visits, trips were gifted to me and Celia. With the rate of exchange, we surely appreciated this generosity. But as I know my sister, this is also the order of the day when her grown up family and teenaged grandchildren from the UK visit Granny and Oupa in Spain.

As we arrived home after our day at the Butterfly Park, Rose went straight into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Celia and I (two tired tourists) dived onto an electric recliner each, which we know as Lazy Boys. Within minutes Rose arrived with iced cold juice to keep us going until supper! 

The life of Riley!

Every morning, as we emerged from our respective guest rooms, Celia and I were greeted by an English breakfast, freshly baked croissants (all by Rose) and complemented with juice, which Pete had squeezed from Seville oranges. 

Absolutely 5 star.

Freshly squeezed orange juice, sliced fruit and croissants from the oven, were the starter to our breakfast feast! 

Then it was time to hit the town again. Rose and one group of her friends always meet on Fridays for a coffee and a chat.

Celia and I meeting Rose's lovely friends

Getting this group photo taken was quite a challenge.  At a table behind us were two men and a lady. Rose approached the table to ask if one of them would mind taking a photo of us. The men turned their backs on her; the lady, who seemed very shy, said timidly, she would take it but had never used a Smart phone camera before. You can imagine how we all assured her there was absolutely nothing to it. Rose showed her where the camera function was and said she would see the image appear on the screen. We ladies got into our positions, and with shaking hands, the lady pointed the camera at us. Lifting her chin and peering downwards at the screen, she frowned and pressed something with her fingers. 

We as a group relaxed. Our photographer, looking very stressed by now, asked Rose to check if she had taken the photo. She hadn't.

Rose opened the camera again and showed her where the shutter would appear which she needed to press.  Once Rose had returned to the group, we all posed again; the lady focused and pressed where Rose had indicated. 

Letting out a collective sigh, we ladies relaxed again while Rose checked. Taking the device from her, and nodding that she had done well, Rose thanked her, and she returned to her friends behind us. 

Rose whispered to us that she had activated the video function; we still didn't have a group photo! 

The trio behind us left and two young girls sat down at another table nearby. Rose asked if one of them would take a group photo of us. Once again, we ladies all sat up, sucked in our tummies and smiled.  Click!

We had our photo! 

Back home, when Pete returned from the office, he said he'd like to take us ladies out for dinner!

With our wonderful hosts, my sister Rose, and BIL, Pete. 

After a selection of dishes which we shared between us, the hostess brought us a decadent dessert

Hot chocolate brownie served with cream and ice cream. 
We shared this treat as well

The Saturday morning ladies. 

I was fascinated by Angie, the blonde in the middle. Absolutely gorgeous, she was flamboyant and oozed confidence. My eyes kept returning to a huge dress ring on her right index finger. I had seen displays of these rings in the market stalls. But starting at €25, these baubles were out of my budget. Later at home, I told my sister how I had admired Angie's ring, she went to her bedroom. She emerged carrying a small jewelry box placed on my lap.

Opening the box, my eyes boggled. 

Celia took two of the dress rings set with stones which left  eight rings. My sister told me to enjoy...
What a lovely selection of dress rings which I got to bring home!

That night Rose gave us an itinerary of the road trip she'd arranged...


Thursday, September 21, 2023

First three days of treats

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Thank you all for your kind comments about my trip to Spain. Just a note here: This trip was in May this year. I have taken this long to post about it but at least I am now...

It was so lovely to meet up with my sister and BIL After a light supper at their home, we all retired to bed. Celia and I to have the first decent night's rest in 30 hours!

The next morning Rose had booked us in at a five-star spa resort on a golf estate. I especially enjoyed being massaged by the underwater pulsating spouts in open air pools overlooking the fairway.

The spa was in the most exquisite setting. We emerged thoroughly spoilt and totally relaxed.

On Wednesday, Rose drove us "around and up the mountain" to the old town of Mijas. The three of us strolled through the marketplace soaking up the Mediterranean atmosphere of  market stalls, dripping with handmade jewelry and festively adorned ponies all surrounded by bleached white buildings with flower bedecked balconies and stairways.

From Mijas, which hugs the mountainside, we looked down on Fuengirola and the ocean beyond
At midday the Spanish dancers came out to entertain the crowds
Pony rides in the Mijas marketplace
The stairways and balconies (see behind the pony in the above image) are decorated with potted plants and flowers.

Celia and I outside a miniscule chapel on the hill. Do we look typically touristy or WHAT! 

My sister didn't leave a stone unturned to treat us to every unique experience possible. After the dancers and spending Euros at the market stalls, Rose booked a chocolate making workshop for us.
We really made our own bon bons and chocolate slabs!
You can imagine how popular this type of activity is. Just after midday. we were slotted in between two school groups of 12 children respectively.

After the chocolate workshop, Rose took us further along the town square. We ladies spotted and entered many ooh - ah shops! You can always hear women browsing and shopping together. They home in on a rack or shelf saying ooh look at this. The next lady will oblige by casting her eyes on the delightful object for sale and say aaah
The ooh-aah shops!

Our spoil was rounded off with lunch at a tapas bar.

All in all, the day in Mijas surpassed our expectations. We arrived back home at Rose' apartment, laden with gifts for our children, pleasantly replete and physically tired.

The next day Rose treated us to a visit at the Butterfly Park of Benalmadena. The butterflies and brightly colored birds flit around between the tourists walking along the pathways.

Vividly colored butterfly 
A joey was an entertaining sight for the children 

A brown butterfly alighted on my sister's handbag

Celia resting in the shade, while I took photos

I was fascinated by this green variant of the Streletzia (a South African flower) in the park

Another dollar (or many dollars); another day on our wonderful Spain trip.

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The flight to Europe

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Yesterday I posted about the start of our trip to Spain.
Between us in South Africa and our first stopover in Europe, we had a 12-hour flight. 

I hadn't been out of the country (or off the ground) since 2015, so it was with some trepidation that I faced this trip. However, as you can see from the photo of me and Celia on the KLM flight, each passenger had a TV screen. This was my salvation. After dinner, Celia popped a sleeping tablet, donned her eye mask and leaned back on her curved travel pillow and slept. 

I plugged in the earphones which the flight attendant had given us with our sleeping rugs and started scrolling through the movie options. I like romantic comedy; I like family focused movies; I like feel-good movies; I like chick flicks. I binge-watched movies from 11pm until 3am when I decided it was prudent to turn off the bright screen as everyone around me was asleep.

Now, before you ask, what about avoiding DVT (deep veined thrombosis); I never sat still for long. Our seat was the fourth row from the back where the toilets were situated. Further back from this was an open space before the galley from which the air hostesses served our meals.  At regular intervals, I got up and walked to the rear of the plane. There I would pace up and down in the open space; flex my left knee backwards, gently bend the right knee and stretch my back muscles by peering through the low porthole at the vast dark sky below. 

Half an hour before the plane was due to land in Amsterdam, the head flight attendant came to my seat to tell me that an official with a wheelchair, would meet me as I left the aircraft.

A friendly young Dutch lady (whom, when I asked, told me her name was Eva) wheeled me through the tunnels to the arrivals hall with Celia trotting alongside.  Here she handed us over to another friendly young Dutch lady, named Famke (yes, I asked after introducing myself and Celia to her!)  who helped us onto a eight-seater electric car. 

After taking the first (of many) photos to mark every experience of our holiday, the young lady set off with us across the vast Schiphol airport

As we whizzed from one vast hall into the next; through arcades lined with shops and restaurants, I remarked to Celia that we would have been severely challenged to find our way around IF I had two good legs. On crutches, this would have been a nightmare. 

We finally stopped in the boarding lounge. Famke asked Celia for our passports and air tickets. While we waited, she checked us in; handed over our boarding passes and showed us a coffee shop where we could wait for our flight to Spain.  

Before we let her go, I asked Famke if she understood, when Celia and I spoke Afrikaans. She replied in the negative. I told her that although we couldn't speak Dutch, we could understand almost all that we had heard on the airplane and on the airport.  At that moment a young lady walked past wheeling a trolley. Famke called to her colleague who passed her two small, wrapped packages, who, in turn, handed us each one, saying, try these...

Our introduction this national treat! A stroopwafel is two waffle-like wafers sandwiched together with caramel syrup. They were crisp, sticky and absolutely delicious!

Although it was a six hour wait, by the time we had settled in a booth with a cup of coffee, we had just under four hours till take off. 

In retrospect, while reminiscing on our Schiphol experience, I realized that we had not seen any males driving the electric cars. In fact, we didn't see many men in a work capacity at all. The jobs were being executed solely by young Dutch women and the system ran like clockwork.  

By late afternoon, we boarded the KLM flight and were on our way to Spain! 

Landing in Malaga, once we'd disembarked, a man with wheelchair stopped me and gestured for to sit in it. He parked the chair (with me) against the wall and strode off across the vast hall. Celia and I watched him disappearing into the distance... 

After waiting a minute and then another, I took my crutches off my lap, hoisted myself onto my feet and told Celia we would walk to the luggage carousal. (I'm not sure whether the wheelchair assistant ever went back to find me...)   We collected our cases and walked to the exit where my sister and BIL were waiting. 

As we saw Rose and Pete, I raised my crutches in greeting  and together Celia and I shouted: Africa has arrived!

What a reunion: Rose and I last saw each other in 2005 when I visited her in the UK. This was the first time Celia (who was exhausted - see her expression!) met my beautiful sister and BIL.

Rose drove us to Fiengerello, where they lived

Along the way we stopped. Pete bought water for me and Rose and for him and Celia, Coca Cola


More to follow...