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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Sunday, 31 July 2011

It's All Bull

Tonight (Sunday) was the first night of the 'bulls on the streets' in Aielo de Malferit, a small town very near to us.

We've been to this event before and found it to be the best one around. There is lots of room for the bulls to move, and the people are very respectful of the animals (unlike in l'Olleria).

This year, we didn't see anybody get hurt (there are 3 more nights to go though) although we did hear lots of screaming from one end, so something may have happened.

One chap, who we have seen in lots of places, was excellent, making the bull run in circles around him, before diving up the wooden stands out of the way.

The stands in the background are identical to the ones we were on. Needless to say, we were right at the top, relying on the 'safety in numbers' philosophy.

Gandia Concentracion

The usual Sunday rideouts and morning meetings are called Matinals (I think Matinal is Valencian for Morning), so if there is a 'Concentracion', then this is a weekend do. Last weekend, from Friday to Sunday, there was a big meeting in Gandia. We missed the evening and daytime events, arriving for just the Sunday.

It was excellent (as usual). There was a large bbq, for breakfast baps, and the usual drinks, T-shirts etc. The only odd thing, was that if you wanted coffee, you had to queue on one side of the same kiosk that sold the cold drinks, and queue on another side for the cold drinks! Very odd! This time, there were several stands selling bikes, and a much bigger selection of stands selling clothes and other accessories.

The location was in a big park, and as we arrived, a lady was trying to swing from the children's rings on the climbing frame. A man was trying to show her how to do it, but she failed miserably. To our amusement, Paco stepped up, and swung from the bottom to the top, turned around, and made his way back, stopping en route, to lift himself upside down (using his abs)and then finishing with a grand dismount. Everyone clapped. I asked him for a repeat show later, to film, which was good, but not quite so spectacular.

This time, we decided to go out on the ride-out that they always organise. This, as we suspected, turned out to be a slow crawl through the streets, ending up with arm pump from playing the clutch! It was good though. There were loads of people lining the street, clapping and cheering, many of them filming. Had I been on the back of Ed, I would have been able to get some great photo's, but I'm not organised enough to use 2 hands to ride a bike, and take photos at the same time. However, I did manage to wave for the cameras.

On the way home, we took the scenic (bendy) route, and had great fun. The only bad bit, was as we rode over the dam. The smell was awful. A terrible sewage/sulphur smell. I have a geocache hidden near here, no wonder only a few people have bothered to find it so far!


As we left the safari park, I realised that we were well on the way to Guadalest, so, taking the scenic route, off we went.

However, what I didn't take into account, was that it was a lot later than I realised!

We got there just in time to take in the sights, before the sun set! We had a lovely stroll around the castellated village, but we were too late to go to the very top. Entry to the top is via the museum... you take a route around the museum, which then leads out to the top of the rock. It's very nice, but even if you rush, it's not a 2 minute tour! This meant that Shay and Rose missed some good photo opportunities, but then, I'm sure they didn't mind. Instead, we had a lovely ice cream, and strolled around the gift shops. We didn't bother with the 'Salt and Pepper Pot Museum' either, and the Motocycle Museum was closed too! I did apologise, but, as Shamus said, it's impossible to do everything in one day, and the safari park was great, without anything else on top.

Poor Paddy and Max were in the dark and starving by the time we got back. As usual, they sulked, but soon came around, when they got their treats!

Aitana Again

Yes, we've been to the safari park for the 3rd time this year. We thought it was the perfect place to take Shamus and Rose.

This time, Samus drove, which was ideal. He has a Mercedes van, with doors that slide back on both sides, So Rose and I sat in out seats, real safari style, with the animals sticking their heads inside! It was grest fun. We had a nice slow drive around, before having lunch, somewhat later than planned. As it was quiet, we got to touch the elephants again, although the first time around we skipped the lions and tigers.

We were too late to join the feeding caravan, but followed around afterwards, while many of the animals were still happily munching. In the event, this turned out to be a good thing, as, when we almost caught up with them, we saw that there were some 10 cars or so, so it was better to be on our own.

At one point, a dad with 3 children stopped in front of us, and the little girl (6?) threw a carrot at some zebras and camels. I was a bit cross, because you are not meant to feed them yourself. However, one of the camels obviously thought this was ok, and he wanted one too. He climbed up the small bank and followed the little boy around the car, in search of a carrot. The boy (about 8) ran around the front of the car, and around the side (towards us now) absolutely terrified. His face was a picture! The dad disappeared from view, as he reached down to grab his 2 year old by the arms, he then ran all the way around the car (being chased by the camel) to the drivers side, opened the door, and literally threw the child in, as his two older children ran away into the park screaming. Dad jumped into the car, and drove off, (I'm not sure how he didn't sit on the smallest child!) leaving the bewildered 6 and 8 year old in the park! The camel obviously realised he wasn't going to get any more carrots, so he wandered back to the other animals, as dad stopped a few hundred yards away, allowing the crying children to get back into the car. Hilarious! (They obviously breed them tough in Spain, as a little later, the 3 children were out of the car again!)

When we went through the lion enclosure, all 5 males were looking magnificent under a tree, but, since I wasn't allowed to have the door open (although I was slightly tempted!) it was impossible to get a good photo. I'm still astonished at just how big adult tigers are. I think their feet are about as big as my head! Beautiful animals.

Yes, I do think that they should be in the wild, but many of these have had poor beginnings, and being here, with this level of freedom, is certainly much better than being in a normal zoo. A really good day out, certainly worth the €17 entry fee.

As we walked around the Daktary park at the back, there was a zoo keeper with the pythons. He offered to put it around Shamus's neck and he happily agreed. Afterwards, he looked at Ed, and asked if anyone else wanted a go - I knew Ed wouldn't but I leaped forward at the chance. It was really heavy, and felt very strange as it crawled around my neck. I could feel the muscles moving, but the scales themselves didn't rub against me as I expected. A brilliant experience. After we had had a go, there was another group of adults nearby, but they all declined the offer! The keeper put the snake on the floor, and one of the men dared to poke it, then they were a bit braver, and touched it. I'm not belittling them, 12 months ago, I would have been the same.

In the back, there was also a baby tiger, which had been abandoned by it's mother. At the moment, it was in with the racoons, so it had someone to play with. I would have loved to take it home, but it wouldn't be very practical!

Long Time Friendships

After several false starts, some friends of Ed's were finaly able to make it, and stay with us for a while.

They actually travelled via France, Andorra and Barcelona, before staying with us for a few days, then goin gon to Oriheula to visit someone else. Then, they were going to Germany to watch the F1! Quite a trip.

On this basis, it was hard to decide what to do with them! In the end, we had a day at Xativa, and a day at the Safari park (again). That was plenty, for such a short trip.

As we strolled around Xativa, it was market day, which was nice. We were able to meander nicely, and even went inside the church. I had never been in before, and had no idea that it was also considred to be something of a museum. It was perfectly fine to walk around and look at things. As were ran out ouf time, and were asked to leave, the curator asked if we had been upstairs. Sadly not. Apparently, it is possible to walk all around, including right up into the bell tower. I will have to go again, prefereably not 1/2 hour before it is due to close!

We went for a coffee in the Avenue, and watched the world go by. In this case, it consisted of watching a traffic warden towing away illegally parked cars. Very funny. Just as the crane parked in front of it one, ready to tow it away, someone ran out of a nearby building, and jumped in, driving off and parking elsewhere. The warden then went on to the next car, where the same happened again. Eventualy, he managed to pick up one car, to the (presumably) horror of the unsuspecting owner. I managed to add to the entertainment, by spilling my entire drink down my new white top! Thankfully, I had ordered 'horxata' a milk drink, and not orange or coffee. A visit to the toilets, where I rinsed my top under the tap, and then blow dried it with the hand drier, and all was well again!

We then went up to the castle, but didn't walk around as it was too hot. We simply admired the view and had another drink at the castle cafe. We did consider a trip up with the tourist train, but I don't think it is value for money, so we drove up instead. This was fun, as they have changed the road layout in the old town, so we went a bit wrong, but that just added to the day's entertainment.

On the Sunday night, we went to our local for a meal. He does a wonderful Sunday menu for just €6, which includes a selection of 3 starters (yes, you get all 3, not just 1 of the 3), then a main meal, and a sweet. Drinks are not included on this menu, but who's complaining at that price? On this particular day, he had fresh sardines, and Rose said that they were the best she's ever tasted.

School Reunion

Every summer, for a very (very) long time, a few of us have gone out for a lovely meal, and cemented our friendship from the 70's! Last year, everyone came to Spain but this year we met near Stafford.

There was the eternal 3, Alison, Tracey and myself, along with Tina, Janet and Penny (we hadn't seen Penny since we organised a big reunion at Tracey's parents house).

I was lucky enough to be able to stay overnight at Alisons, so, Mum agreed to drop me off in the centre of Stafford, and Alison picked me up there. As we waited in the car park, Mum asked me what Alison drove - I had no idea at all - a big, dark, estate car of somesort probably. Just then a white sporty number went by, with a blonde driving. Mum flashed her wipers at the car, but nobody noticed! Yes, it was Ali, in a car befitting her managerial status!

We had fun drinking while getting ready (true chav style) and desparately trying to help Tina negotiate the traffic jam that is the M6 on a Friday evening. She arrived with just enough time to change before the taxi arrived.

The taxi had set off from Stafford, via Old Croft Road in Walton-on-the-Hill (where we all went to school) and picked up Janet and Penny, then into Rowley Park to pick up Tracey, and was then comming to get the 3 of us from Penkridge before taking us all to Brewwod for our meal. As the driver pootled along, the 3 of them chatering away, Tracey asked where he was going, "Brocton" was the reply from Janet. Tracey pointed out that Alison had left there some 25 years ago and now lived in Penkridge! The poor taxi driver must have wondered what he was in for. After a scenic route to Penkridge, he drove up the lanes, with Tracey giving him directions. She then pointed out which drive to go up.

At this point - Alison's phone rang. It was Tracey, but she couldn't hear Ali. It was relly funny, we were laughing as Alison kept shouting 'Trace' down the phone, but it was pretty pointless. She could hear Tracey shouting 'Ali' as she was looking around. There was some level of confusion, when Alison then heard another voice... Tracey was at the wrong farm! She had turned up one drive too early, got out, and was wondering around the wrong house, looking for us. She noticed Ali had a new kitchen, and had changed her carpets, but thought it very odd at the lack if furniture upstairs (the property in question belogs to a single man) even the bathroom was different! When she got back outside, there was a strange man outside the barn, asking what she wanted. Thankfully, he knew/understood what had happened, and put everyone right. The funniest part, was that we had heard this over the phone, so we knew what had happened, before they arrived just a few minutes later! We were all laughing to the point of tears, as we drove to the restaurant.

We had a lovely meal. It was an italian style restaurant, with a glass of wine included in the price of the meal. The food was excellent, but, as Tracey ahd ordered 2 bottles of particularly good wine, the house wine was a bit of a disappointment (a little unfair - as there was nothing wrong with it, it was just the comparrison that made it seem poor). I had had enough wine by the time we got our 'free' glass, so I casually moved my glass next to Alison's empty one, she didn't notice, and casually drank mine. Penny saw me do it and was quietly laughing.

The restaurant was meant to shut at about 11pm, and the taxi was due to pick us up later from a different pub. At the end of the meal, the girls all insisted that I go to the toilet. What? I didn't need to go, but they made such a fuss, that I went. When I tried to come back, Tracey made me stay in the corridor. What on earth were they doing? I wondered if they were juggling my share of the bill (with me being poor), but I wanted to tell them that it was ok, I could actually afford it this time! Eventually, I was allowed back (but not before I had confused the staff, by waiting outside an empty toilet cubile!), whereupon I was presented with a beautiful Pandora necklace, to celebrate my 50th birthday. It's not for a little while yet, but I will be the only one of us that hits it this year, the others all being 1962 babies! (hmm, Janet isn't actually 49 yet!) We also had a bottle of champagne to celebrate, that staff keeping the restaurant open especially for us. I cried, as I hadn't expected anything like this at all. (It turned out, that as Mum and I had walked around Stafford that afternoon, we had almost passed Tracey while she was buying my gift - had I looked into the relevant shop and seen her, I would certainly have gone in and joined her and possibly helped her choose it - presumably 'for her sister'!)

As we sat there celebrating, our taxi home drove past the window! We had already paid, so we raced out, and down the street to the other pub. Half way there, I realised that I had forgotten my bolero jacket, so I had to run back. Thank goodness I had flat shoes on that time! Alison had managed to attract the driver, and we all jumped in. All of us very merry and happy. What a laugh on the way home! We had a different driver this time, and he was killing himself listening to us. He was really lovely and joined in with many of the comments. He didn't stand a chance - 6 women against 1 man!

It was terribly sad to separate at the end of the night. I didn't get a chance to see much of Tracey. Normally, she spends some time in Spain in the summer, but sadly not this year. Never mind, we will be able to make up time next year.

"It's Raining Again"

After a wet spring in Spain, it was naturally time for a wet summer in the UK. Boy, it hammered down. We even got bits of hail! It was just like being at home!

I actually had to go out in it this time though (normally, if it's raining in Spain, I just stay in - the big advantage of working from home). On the Tuesday, Jess and I popped over to Stafford. Obviously, we had the roof down. Sadly, as we approached Stafford, it looked rather grey and rain seemed imminent. The traffic kept moving, so we were a bit concerned when the drops started to fall. I'm sure everyone was laughing at us, as we approached a roundabout with the roof down, and rain falling, but thankfully, it was the entrance to estate we wanted, so Jess was able to drive very slowly and put the roof back up, just as it really started to come down. (The car has to have the handbrake on to put the roof up or down, so she was a bit naughty, and put it on 1 notch as she crawled along.)

On the Wednesday, I had to go to the bank, and she literally stopped outside it, and I ran inside. I got wet within just a few feet. The problem was, I then had to run to the carpark and find her. I did have a brolly, but boy, it was tipping it down!

Yes - I know it rains everywhere, but I now have the luxury of (usually) being able to avoid it!

".. pair of Roller Skates"

I managed to blag a cheap flight to the UK in the beginning of July, which was a great opportunity to see everyone. Although initially booked for a school reunion, it was very timely, as my dad had been very ill just beforehand, and was now recovering at home.

Sadly, Tim was busy working and then away for the weekend so I only saw him for a few hours. Jess, although working most of the days, had Wednesday off, so she decided to take me shopping, and roller skating!

What a laugh. It was a long time since I'd been on a pair of roller skates... probably 35 years! (Although when the children were in their teens, I do remember going around an artificial ice skating rink in Birmingham as part of their Christmas Fayre.)

As a very early birthday present, I bought Jess a new pair of skates, which meant that I was able to wear hers. Oh joy! For starters, I had to re-lace them, goodness knows how she had ever managed to keep then on her feet before. With great trepidation, I launched onto the floor. A bit wobbly and scared, but I did manage to keep upright.

The place was just outside Derby town centre, and was held in what appeared to be an old warehouse. Upstairs was the skating venue, and downstairs was a pool room. Excellent. Dad's could go and play pool, while their children were upstairs! Actually, it was quite good. There was a bar and a disco, and everyone was enjoying themselves. Some people were really good, and others were just wobbling around.

There were even a few games organised; a tentative game of Dodgeball, and a game of Tag. The dodgeball was a soft football, thrown at the participants (if it hit you, you were out) and the tag, consisted of trying to get from one end to the other - if you were tagged, you became a 'taggee' until there was only 1 person left. Needless to say, we sat on the side and watched, not being up to speed (literally) yet.

It was a fun night out, for very little money. (And after 3 weeks, my blood blister has finally gone!) Yes Jess, I WILL go again if it fits in.