Sunday, 19 November 2017

Altea, Spain – Days 25 to 32

Brian, Richard & Jackie hard at work
Not really much to report on the last week, we've worked hard jet washing the floor tiles in the garden followed by sweeping up the mud and mess, painted our side of the big wall between us and the neighbours and varnished floor tiles in the entrance hall. The hand rail was delivered for the pool steps on Monday, a moment of personal triumph, the delivery man rang first, to check someone was in and for directions to get here. He had no English and speaking Spanish on the telephone without being able to wave my arms around is much, much harder, than a face to face conversation!

Start of the Sierra de Olta walk
We went out for a walk to the Oltas on Wednesday thinking we'd give Elizabeth peace for packing, but we were back much earlier than expected. Following the timings in the guide book we were pretty much bang on, in and then up to the first summit. After that however he gave an hour and a quarter to walk 600 metres to the second summit, after we'd already done most of the ascent! 

Heading up Broad Gully with Calpe and the Penon behind
We'd had the excitement by then anyway, as we were walking back from the first summit we'd met the Google streetview man, photographing the trail, so you never know, in time we may be on streetview. This however is not the first time we've met the streetview man, the first time was in the painted desert in Arizona in 2014 and it still doesn't appear to be on the web, so we are not holding our breathes!

Brian on the south summit
Carolyn popped round in the afternoon, to drop off her Christmas cards to be taken back to the UK. Her twin granddaughters had been born a week before, so she was looking slightly frazzled. Hospitals work slightly differently here, apparently, nurses provide medical care, but anything else is provided by the family, so she had been taking it in turns with her son, being in the hospital to feed Amy and the twins and provide whatever assistance they might need. Along with looking after 6 year old Isabella..... it was lovely to see her and give her some 'normal' time, though we couldn't even offer her a drink, as despite taking food in for Amy, she had ended up feeding herself in the hospital canteen, and got food poisoning!

The Google Streetview man
Apart from that, other socials have been lunch at Dagmar and Michael's, a delicious BBQ of rabbit and secreto pork, another Chinese meal, this time in Albir with dad's bridge partner Alan and wife Vera and Elizabeth's bridge partner Lynne and her husband Gerald. Then, on Thursday, a lunchtime trip to the fish restaurant in Calpe with D&E and Jane and Michael before D&E headed off to the UK on Friday. 

Panorama of the Bernia Ridge from Sierra de Olta north summit

Plot of our walk:
Consequently we are now home alone again, looking after Pepa and the house. Yesterday we had a chilling day, went and got the Saturday Telegraph for news and crossword which we had with a cooked brunch, before garlic rabbit and Strictly! Today however, back to jobs, but we are round at Jane and Michael's for dinner so don't have to worry about feeding ourselves. Our excitement this morning was a call from Will, the Dutchman who owns the house next door (the Dutch equivalent of Terry Wogan apparently). They also left on Friday morning, but he had managed to convince himself that he hadn't turned the heating off. A fairly major problem as they might be back for New Year, if not it might be April! He had of course turned the heating off, but it did give us the opportunity to have a little look at their house, which started off originally the same as this one, and the one the other side, but over the years they have all been modified. Interesting to see other people's architectural ideas.

At Dagmar and Michaels. LtoR: Richard, Elizabeth, Dagmar, Michael & Jackie
The Bernia Ridge from Dagmar & Michaels. The very left hand (low) summit is the only one we haven't yet done
The setting sun from the balcony
Elizabeth strikes a pose
Elizabeth dressed up and posing for a photo on the new pool steps
Unfortunately Richard, who was taking the photo, couldn't get Elizabeths camera to work so had to have a lesson
Pepa cat sneaks down the steps to get a drink of water as the pool is filled
The pool is finished!
Pepa inspecting our work
Home alone with Pepa

Friday, 10 November 2017

Altea, Spain – Days 18 to 24

Jackie abseils with Mascarat gorge and the Bernia Ridge in the distance
Another week here in Spain and numerous bottles of wine and beer have been drunk and plenty of good food. It’s been hard work as well (I have the blisters to prove it), but mixed in with a bit of play in the form of mountain walking, rock climbing and socialising with friends and family.

Jackie, Jane, Michael, Elizabeth and Richard enjoying pre-dinner drinks
There’s been a pretty dramatic downward shift in temperatures this last week though, still mainly sunny with a few partly cloudy days, but a cold wind making daytime temperatures between about 17C to about 22C and night times into single figures of 8 or 9C so, although it’s still hot in the sun in the daytime, gone are evenings of sitting outside after dark and, last night the first fire was lit in the lounge. The bonus of this though is that the cold wind is the result of a low pressure sitting over the Alps bringing the first fairly heavy falls of snow onto the ski resorts, so it’s looking good up there. We’ll keep an eye on that and head up there when it’s all open.

Richard looking nervous as the builders unload their materials
Jackie and her dad peering over the balcony
The hard work on the swimming pool has been continuing, the earlier wire brushing of the old grouting was not sufficient in certain areas so serious scraping to get the old grout and mould out all the way round the curve between the walls and the bottom was required using various screwdrivers to get in. Taking into account that the tiles are less than an inch square there was a huge amount of screwdriver work needed.
And they are off with the first bricks in place
Back, shoulders, fingers, stomach muscles and skin on fingers all suffering, but the job is done, the re-grouting done and briefly looking good before the builders turned up on Wednesday to build the new steps to give easy access to the pool. They have worked amazingly quickly and, as I write, they are virtually finished having built five steps, re-plumbed one of the water jets and tiled in two days – impressive work! All that’s needed now is a new rail to be fitted once it arrives. Interesting for me to watch and the balcony gives a great overview of how they are doing, but they probably didn’t much like being watched. I attach a few photos of their progress as I’m sure our readers will be very (yawn) interested (is that the time?).

Jackie and I went for a coffee in town with Elizabeth leaving Richard in control at home
Its all going on!
Anyway, we’ve been out on a few walks into the mountains and the cooler but sunny weather is really ideal for energetic walking (but sunscreen is still required) and even out rock climbing in direct sun is no longer a problem, maybe a bit hot in sheltered spots, but nothing to complain about, it’s almost perfect weather for that.

But they make amazing progress. Here he is repiping the water jet
Bit of an incident on today’s walk, I quite fancied a steep walk up from Algar up to do the west summit of Pena Severino, which is the very last, relatively insignificant peak on the Bernia ridge, which we’ve never done. It’s not actually part of the ridge, but is a separate much lower point, but I really want to tick it off. Jackie thought an easier walk to see the waterfalls at Algar might be nice, which I’ve also never seen and quite fancied. The falls are very touristy and relatively short, but are worth the €4 entrance fee, so I agreed to that and then casually mentioned that we could continue up the mountain path towards the Pena Severino summit afterwards if we fancied it…

Still the same day and now he's rendering
Nice waterfalls, cool but sunny day, too cold for swimming in the pools but really quite nice looking, and very few people about (apparently they are packed with tourists in the summer months). The arboretum was relatively uninteresting, but a pleasant walk and it finished at a picnic area all shut up for the winter, except for the very excited, but very thin black cat that ran up to us for fuss and to see if we had anything to eat. We hadn’t, except for some brioche that we’d taken for a snack, but she seemed quite happy to eat anything we gave her and wanted as much fuss as we were prepared to give. A nice moment and she seemed quite happy when we left going off to patrol her empty property, so hopefully she’ll managed to feed herself and possibly her babies that it seemed she might have somewhere judging by the look of her.

And today its the tiling. The finished pool will have to wait until the next blog
So the incident occurred after we left the waterfalls and headed off up the hill towards Pena Severino on the mountain path. We reached a path junction and there ahead were a big group of beehives (don’t know what you call a collection of beehives). Jackie went to have a look, standing 20 or so feet away but, after a couple of minutes several bees came after her and no matter how much she swatted and ran away they were not to be deterred, following her quite a distance until one managed to get into her hair and stung her.
A scrambly walk over the Bernia
I managed to pull the sting out, but a big red circle appeared in her hairline with a smaller white circle and, right in the centre, an angry looking red point. That was the end of the walk as we thought we ought to get down as fast as possible just in case she got any sort of reaction. She didn’t, we got back down, went and had lunch at a bar by the waterfalls and headed back home for an afternoon beer on the balcony and a look at the workers finishing off the tiling on the swimming pool steps. The mark on her head has gone, she’s fine and the western summit of Pena Severino is yet to be done!

Lunch on the balcony with Jane and Michael
The socialising has also been in full swing here, from Sunday lunch on the balcony with Jane (Elizabeth’s sister) and Michael, a fabulous all you can eat seafood buffet in Albir with R&E, followed by a dancing show and a live two piece band where we were able to do some ballroom dancing (what a pity we didn’t take the dance shoes, but we managed anyway), fabulous Chinese meal with R&E and Richards half-sister Dee and partner Robert and, this Saturday, lunch at Dagmar and Michaels. All very pleasant.

And this was lunch, what about that for a leg of lamb!
Must finish it’s almost time to open the early evening, pre-dinner wine and crisps and watch the sunset, before wrapping up and lighting the fire!

A little scramble on our walk

It was worth it for the view from the top!

A view of R&E's house from up high. Their house is dead centre of this photo, but you can hardly see it amongst the trees

About to go over an edge on the way down

Looking down from my belay on a climb with Jackie preparing to climb

I'll just enjoy the view while she messes about down there!

Jackie abseiling back down

The Algar waterfalls today

The Algar waterfalls. Very touristy but a pleasant hours stroll

The waterfalls from a distance

Here's the very thin black cat in the deserted picnic area that really wanted to see us

The beehives on the mountain path just before they set upon Jackie

And this was the sting I pulled out of her head

Views on the way back down. I call this art!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Altea, Spain – Days 12 to 17

On top of Sierra Helada with Benidorm behind

Sunday we had guests, John, Carolyn and Jack the chocolate Labrador. They are a lovely couple who we have enjoyed spending time with on our last few visits here. They are grandparents to a six year old and are imminently to become grandparents to twin girls, to their son Jonathan and his childhood sweetheart Amy, who live in the village. As if this wasn't hard enough work, Jack is never left alone. We have tried to persuade them we could care for him for a day or two just to have a break before the babies arrive. Although Carolyn is keen John is taking some persuading. We did all have a lovely day though the clock change had done for us all, Elizabeth actually rang Carolyn and said we were ready early and if they were too... they were so thankfully they came early and we could all start on the nibbles, though Jack still didn't understand why they were so late taking him on his walk.

Brian & Richard doing serious pool scraping and grouting
Grouting the pool started in earnest on Monday, and went far too well, when they came to rinse off on Wednesday they discovered that on the curve at the bottom more old grout should have been removed, so Brian is now on serious scraping duty, and may be for some time!

Tuesday, a day off, so we headed up hill on foot, the car still being in the garage. Part road walk and part into the hills a good bit of cardio workout to stop Brian bleating. We did finally get the phone call that the car was ready, but only after dad and Elizabeth had gone in their separate directions to bridge. Can't get it Wednesday, the Day of the Dead, so everywhere is shut, so Thursday. It doesn't matter we didn't need it, you just feel lost without it!

Walk from the house up the hills towards the Bernia (with helpful labels)
We had been entrusted with dinner having elicited jealousy from father about the garlic rabbit I'd cooked when they were away. Elizabeth however had decided that she didn't want her chicken contaminated by rabbit so salad for her, which may have been a mistake, a whole garlic bulb gently fried to flavour the oil before being consumed with gusto did leave the three of us, and the house smelling of garlic! Brian tried his hand at something new, a fatless sponge, Swiss roll, perfect to use up the remainder of the cream and the last few raspberries from Sunday's pavlova which went down very well.

I call this art!
Approaching the Albir via ferrata
Yesterday we collected the car and headed off to a new Via Ferratta very nearby. We discovered the other thing we have forgotten, cycling gloves normally used for via ferratta but stored in the loft under cycling! Fortunately Aldi triumphed with two pairs of gardening gloves for just over €4 so with the scissors from the first aid kit in the car to cut off the top of the thumb and forefinger to ensure no catching in the special carabiners we headed to the start. 
On her way up the via ferrata. Spot the hoops up to the left
Fortunately we hadn't spent a lot of time or money as the whole thing took less than 10 minutes! Once at the top we joined the main path and continued up to the top to the masts on the hill overlooking the sea. This is the top of the sloping rock that we could see on our climb with Charles. It was pleasant enough and got the heart pumping again, so he's back in the pool today, scraping away with a screwdriver, while I may be headed off to Iceland to pick up a gammon to take to France. Well you can't get them there and a little taste of home is sometimes just what you want.... Just to prove it's not all glamour here!
Looking up the via ferrata. It is only a short route, but quite exciting. Note the outward leaning last part above Jackies head
Lunch on the summit of Sierra Helada

View from the summit of Sierra Helada, with helpful labels from me!

On the beach at Altea (with helpful labels from me) We were in search of an ice cream after our via ferrata and climb, but failed. Went back to the house and had a beer on the balcony instead