Monday, 14 April 2014

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...

Do you know what I'd do if I won the lottery - well, what I'd do after I'd picked myself up off the ground in astonishment cos' I never buy a ticket!!

I'd buy my perfect beach house, which is this lovely, but sadly neglected, little gem sitting quietly by the Platja de Sant Pol, in S’Agaró.

What do you think of my dream home?

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Xalet de les Punxes, S’Agaró, Costa Brava, Spain
It was built back in 1890's by the Estrada family, who were the big guys in town with a major-league cork business. Although way back then, there wasn't much of a town to speak of. It was designed by Josep Casals i Goday, who was part of the Catalan Modernist movement. There had been some sort of old fisherman's shack on the site, which was re-developed and turned into this zany house with spires pointing up to heaven, and something that looks like a minaret in the centre.

S'Agaro ... the pueblo down the road ...
Xalet de les Punxes, S'Agaro
Can you imagine how fabulous it would look if it were to be restored to its former glory? And the garden behind ... well I'd arrange that like one of the great Moorish gardens of the south: all lush green leaves and sweet-smelling damask roses, jasmine and orange blossom; there'd be the tinkle of running water from a little fountain, and light dancing across a lily pond. I'd have a few cunningly placed alcoves, where I could sit and enjoy the sunshine from the cool of the shade. It would be somewhere beyond amazing.

And can you imagine waking up in the morning and looking out at this:

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Platja de Sant Pol, S’Agaró

That, my friends, would be the view from my bedroom window.

S’Agaró is a bit of a jewel on the Costa Brava. For one thing it boasts a glorious sandy beach with the most wonderful fine golden sand. When the sun shines down on the breaking waves the grains of sand suspended in the water sparkle like gold dust. The beach is crescent shaped, and you can walk quite a distance out to sea before there is much depth to the water, making it perfect for the little ones.

The only down-side to all this wonderfulness is that the secret is out, and in the summer it's gets really, really busy. For me that's a bit of deal-breaker, so I'll only go there late in the afternoon during July and August. It tends to empty out a bit as the day goes by, which suits me just fine. I love people, but I hate crowds. And I hate crowds of people all jostling for a square metre of sand to lay their towels on. Life's just too short ... .

Here's a photo from last August of my boys putting to sea in their very own super-yacht. As you can see, the water is also a tad on the busy side ... .

They've got a very funky water-sports centre in the middle of the beach where you can kit yourself out with whatever kind of equipment you need.

And if you go down there these days you more or less have the place to yourself. At this time of the year it's a great beach for walking, kite-flying and, during the Easter holidays, we've been known to go for the odd spur-of-the-moment swim.

Dotted along the seafront are some acceptable restaurants ... but the best place in town is the Taverna del Mar. This gets my vote for being the prettiest restaurant on the Costa Brava. Inside it's decorated with a beautiful deep sea-blue and white colour scheme that shouts seaside chic, and if you get a table by a window you will have the most amazing views out to sea. The food is top notch with a firm emphasis on seafood as you might expect from its name and location. I've spent many happy nights of my life in there feasting with friends and family.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road
The fabulous Taverna del Mar
Also sitting regally on the shoulder of the hill on the other side of town is the hotel, La Gavina, the grand old lady of the Costa Brava. This is one of the very nicest hotels in Spain with a swimming pool terrace that is to die for. It has a salt water swimming pool - so much nicer than chlorine - and amazing views down across the bay. In summer they do open-air weddings up there on a rather splendid terrace with people taking their vows against the glorious backdrop of the bay. Back in the golden age of Hollywood loads of the big stars came here. Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Sellers, John Wayne and Dirk Bogarde have all passed this way. And for my money they've left a sprinkling of their glitzy star dust behind. It's a special place.

One of my favourite things about S’Agaró is the Camí de Ronda, the coast path, that leads off to either side of the village. I can start out in my village, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, and take this little path, up over the cliffs, down into secluded coves, past the bare, rugged rocks where the seagulls build their nests, through the pine forest and then on to the Platja de Sant Pol.

I hook up with the path just above the harbour in Sant Feliu. It takes me over the cliff where I can look back and see my village and its harbour wall below:

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Sant Feliu harbour
At this time of the year wild flowers bloom in profusion. Spanish lavender, with its big blowsy flowers, grows everywhere, and wallflowers cling to the faces of the cliffs. As you walk along the path you brush against wild rosemary releasing that lovely aromatic smell that always makes me want to go home and roast some lamb for dinner. Little white rock roses, with starry yellow centres are everywhere, and unlike normal roses they don't have any bothersome thorns.

Then you can chose to take a detour down the steep, stone steps to this little hidden cove. It's a good place to sit and think as the sunlight dances across the water illuminating the rocks beneath.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...

The path goes up and down, steps, steps and more steps, but they're all worth it, because around every corner there's something stonkingly, jaw-droppingly beautiful to look at.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...

I mean, just look at the mesmerising colour of the sea in the photo above. I've done nothing to it, no Photoshop jiggery-pokery, nothing at all to change the saturation or the temperature.

This hillside was covered with Spanish lavender. It smells divine as you walk through it in the hot sunshine, and on the rocks below a colony of sea gulls are guarding their nests, calling out into the still air as they watch the water below for any tasty morsel that they can swoop down and catch for their hatchlings.

Keep on going and you'll come to Platja de Sant Pol. Just before you hit the sand you'll find some great rock pools, where you can hunt for aquatic mini beasts if that's your scene. My son, Emi, is a big fan. Here he is, net in hand, Maxi the wonder dog by his side.

And if you keep on going across the beach, you'll pick up the Camí de Ronda coast path again just below La Gavina, the famous hotel.

On this side of town the path becomes broader, there are fewer steps and it feels more like something that's been developed for the guests of La Gavina to take a pre-prandial stroll along in their dressed-for-dinner finery. That's not to say that it isn't beautiful: it is, but it just feels a little bit more suburban.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...

It winds around coves and rocks, and past some seriously expensive real estate. Lots of people come here for a run, or to walk their dogs.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Camí de Ronda

I love the Costa Brava pine trees, which look particularly wind-blown along this stretch of the pathway. They smell wonderful as the hot sun beats down on them, and, as the summer progresses, the local children make a play to collect their pine nuts.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road

Camí de Ronda
There are plenty of shelters, viewing points and benches to sit on and admire the scenery.
S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...

Camí de Ronda
The path meanders round the cliffs until it reaches the Platja Sa Conca, a wonderful beach which usually has bigger waves than Platja de Sant Pol. A word of caution: the sand drops away more dramatically here and the beach, in profile, is quite strongly concave so it's a bit more challenging for swimming in. Watch your little ones carefully if they aren't confident swimmers.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Platja de Sa Conca

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road
Platja de Sa Conca

If you fancy some tamer water there's a stretch at the far end of the beach that is a little more protected by the rock formations that jut out into the water. There are lots of huge rocks in the water, but you can avoid them as they stand out clearly against the sandy bed. The sand down that end is finer and much better for building sandcastles with.

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Platja de Sa Conca

S’Agaró ... the pueblo down the road ...
Platja de Sa Conca

This beach gets pretty busy in high summer as well, although maybe not quite so much as the Platja de Sant Pol. With its bigger, rolling waves it's a great spot for collecting sea glass. There's a little cafe beside a pyramid climbing frame at the side of the beach, which is a good spot to grab a sandwich and a cold drink.

We can happily spend the day here, jumping in and out of the water, playing beach football, gathering sea glass, making friends with the multitude of children who play on the climbing frame and exploring the rock pools. It's all very relaxed and family friendly.

And then, at the end of the day, we'll retrace our steps along the Camí de Ronda, tired, sun-kissed, wild-haired and ready for dinner.

Bonny x

Also shared with  P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday

Friday, 11 April 2014

Random Friday: 5 random facts for the weekend ...

This week we have enjoyed the most glorious spring weather with brilliant, blue skies and tonnes of sunshine. It's been perfect: not too hot, and not too cold. And we've spent as much time as possible outdoors ... yippee... which has made us all very happy. I hope you've had a good one too, wherever you've been.

Views from sunny Sant Feliu de Guixols, Costa Brava, Spain

So here are my five random things for Friday.

1. Beach-combing rocks! We don't get many sea shells along this part of the Costa Brava, but what we do have in abundance is sea glass: little crystal gems created by the careless dumping of glass bottles into the Mediterranean. They go through the spin cycle of the churning seas and come out, broken down, smoothed off and totally desirable. Emi and I have spent many happy hours ferreting our little bits of discarded sea glass in a competition to find the prettiest piece.

Here's what we've collected so far:

Now for a serious question: what do you think we should do with them?

At the moment I have them in a little dish in my bathroom, where I can admire them when I'm soaking in the tub. I've thought of putting them in the bottom of a glass vase when I've got some flowers to display, or I've thought of trying to drill them, and attach them to one of those chain curtains that we use in summer to let the sea breezes in and keep the sand flies out.

If you've got any good ideas, please let me know.

2. We've had a whale of a time looking for sea creatures in our favourite rock pools. And we've found some pretty amazing little beasties.

This is our favourite cove for rock pooling:

And we pretty much always have it to ourselves, which is something that baffles me. How can anyone walk past something so beautiful without sitting down for a moment to soak up the total gorgeousness of it all?

And here is Emi, hard at work:

Now how'd you like our toad? He's a bit of handsome dude, isn't he?

Emi liked him so much he wanted to take him home. But we have a strict rule when we go rock-pooling: all the little critters have to go safely back into the water when we've had a look at them. And Mr Toad was strictly off limits: not to be touched at all. We did, however, meet a few of his tadpoles, swimming around in the brackish water, who spent some quality family time in Emi's bucket aquarium.

There were loads of little hermit crabs, wandering around like aquatic cuckoos in borrowed shells. Emi persuaded a proper crab with dangerous-looking pinchers up a pen, and into his bucket; a feat that was accompanied by a fair amount of nervous oohing and aahing on my part. We saw loads of prickly sea urchins, but decided to leave them where they were. We scooped up a couple of tiny, little skinny fish that were almost transparent, and a couple of shrimp. Next we added a few sea snails to complete our aquarium. Then we sat back and admired what we'd found.

3. Did you know that in Spanish and in Catalan they have individual names for each of the winds? It seems downright poetic to me that the North Wind should be called the Tramuntana, rather than just the dull, old North Wind. How boring are we, us unimaginative English speakers, who can only manage an iteration of the cardinal points from which the wind blows by way of a name for it? BORING with a capital snore!

Here they are, the lovely names of the winds in Catalan.

4. Meanwhile Maxi, the wonder dog, has been learning some new tricks. He's mastered the spiral staircase that leads up to our attic, which is no meant feat for a pooch as the gradient and the twist are not very quadruped-friendly. The only slight snag is that he simply can't manage the descent, so he has to sit up there and howl until someone comes to his rescue. Who knows, maybe next week he'll master the principles of aerodynamics and learn how to hang-glide his way back down again ... .

It's show time!
5. There are loads of little lizards here. We've always admired them in previous years, but this year it's feeling like an epidemic. Luckily they're harmless little fellows, who hide out in places like the harbour wall and come out to sun themselves when they think the coast is clear. Emi is very keen on them, and adopted one, called Bean, as his pet a few years' ago. The other boys he was playing with had wanted to kill it, but Emi, to his credit, intervened and carried the little guy home in his cupped hands. We let Bean live on our terrace, where he had a very happy life running up and down the walls and rewarded our hospitality by eating lots of sandflies.

They're beautifully camouflaged for the local granite stone aren't they? A high-flying bird would be hard-pressed to spot them.

So that's all from me for now.

All the very best for a lovely weekend,

Bonny x

PS this article was shared on Random Five

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A striped cushion: cushion makeover part 2

Would you like to see my latest cushion? I've been knitting away like crazy on the beach as I keep an eye on Emi and Maxi playing in the sand.

Tah-dah! Here it is, sitting on that very boring, beige sofa that I was complaining about a while ago:

Do you remember my little Astrakan cushion of a couple of weeks' ago? You can see how I made it here: Astrakan cushion.  I'd always intended to pair it with a matching, contrasting cushion. So what do you think? Don't they look good together? I used the same grey yarn in the grey stripes, so that it looks as though the two cushions were intended to be together.

The good (and, for me, slightly alarming) news is that after two cushions I've still got a shed load of that cheap-as-chips chunky wool. I don't know how many cushions we need on those boring, beige sofas, but, at this rate, I may have to knit a matching carpet as well to use up all of my stash!

Now, if you'd like to make a stripy cushion, the good news is that it's about as easy as falling off a log. No, seriously, you don't even have to stay awake to make this one.

My cushion this time was slightly larger than for the Astrakan, as I wanted it to sit taller and wider with a view to having the Astrakan lean against it, but with both still visible. This cushion measured 25" (64 cm) x 16" (41cm).

I started by casting on 85 stitches on size N, 5.5 mm circular knitting needles with an 80 cm (30") string between the two needles. Given that there are so many stitches it seemed easier to work on circular needles, but using them to do straight rows.

I did 14 rows of plain knitting (garter stitch), but knitting into the back of the stitch to make the fabric, tighter and stronger, in the grey wool to start off.

If you use a different sized cushion I suggest that you cast on the number of stitches you think you need (doing fractions of the 85 stitches for 25" or 64 cm) and then knit a couple of rows before checking that your tension and calculation are actually delivering something the right width. In fact it's a good idea to do this even if you're making the same size cover as I've done here as different people knit with different tensions.

Then I changed to the lime yarn, and carried on with alternating knit and purl rows (stocking stitch), changing colour on a right side row, and darning the loose ends in as I went. Please be careful to always, always change colour on a right side row and start the stocking stitch section on a knit row, otherwise you'll get a funny join row that will look different. A right side row is a row, where the side of the work that will be on show when you've finished is facing you. At the beginning, when everything is just garter stitch, it doesn't much matter which side you chose for the right side (garter stitch is reversible), but it's important to be consistent after that point.

I did 4 rows of stocking stitch (alternating rows of knit and then purl stitches), and then changed back to the grey yarn and did 2 rows of garter stitch (plain knitting). Before changing back to the lime. I carried on in this fashion making random stripes until my work measured 16" (40 cm) and then I cast off. If you plan on doing two striped sides for your cover you should keep a careful note of which colours you use for each row so that you can replicate the same design for the other side - otherwise it will look a bit strange if the two sides' stripes don't correspond. I didn't bother with any note-taking because I'd planned on doing the reverse side plain grey so matching was never going to be an issue for me.

The alternating garter stitch for the grey and the stocking stitch for the lime created a really nice texture, with the grey plain knit stripes standing out, slightly raised from the flatter lime knit and purl sections.

I did the back side of the cover in plain garter stitch, which enabled me to bomb through it really quickly. I cast on 85 stitches and just kept knitting into the back of the stitches, as before, until my work measured 16" (40 cm) and then I cast off.

I sewed the two sides together with the cushion in the middle. And hey presto that's all there was to it. Really easy; super simple!

Happy Wednesday!

Bonny x

Monday, 7 April 2014

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...

We made it! After all the palaver over passports, we made it ... back home to sunny Sant Feliu de Guíxols on Spain's Costa Brava. If Ireland didn't exist I'd have to call this God's Own Country!

Sant Feliu de Guíxols

It's a pretty perfect sort of a place with a horseshoe beach that's protected by the harbour wall from the open sea beyond. There's a monastery that they tell me was founded by Charlemagne (I have my doubts on that front, but, hey, let's not allow the facts to get in the way of a good story). An ancient rocking stone stands on a hill outside town, which the locals used to wobble when they wanted to tempt the fates. There's a working harbour full of boats, a colourful food market, a casino decorated in the neo-Mozárabe style, elegant town houses aplenty, an eighteenth century hermitage, an ancient hospital and a handful of truly splendid eateries. What more could anyone ask for?

We live, high up on a cliff facing out over the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, and on a good day, like today, you could almost believe you'd died and gone to heaven.

Many of the villages along this part of the Costa Brava turn into ghost towns when the tourists go home at the end of the summer, but not our village. Our village is a proper village all year round. It's got its own beating heart made up of the lovely people who live here all the time. And I am honoured to be able to count a number of them as my friends and family.

So, shall I show you around? Would you like to see this perfect pueblo of mine? Come on! I'll give you the grand tour ... .

Sant Feliu de Guíxols faces the sea. For generations the Guixolencs have been seafaring folk. They've had an important ship-building industry since forever. They still have their own fishing fleet that puts to sea every night (except Sunday). Over time the sea has shaped how people have lived here, what they've done to earn their daily bread, and it has also played a part in shaping their fears and nightmares. Down the years countless mothers, wives and daughters have anxiously scanned the horizon, searching that line where the sky meets the sea, looking for some sign of the ships that would bear their loved ones home.

This constant preoccupation is reflected in the little hermitage of St. Elmo, which sits high up on a hill on the other side of town. It's worth making the effort to climb up there as the views back down to Sant Feliu and out to sea are breathtaking. Looking back over the rooftops yesterday afternoon we saw the snow-topped Pyrenees in the far distance. Meanwhile, on the beach below us, people stretched out lazily on the sand, soaking up the rays in their bathers. The hermitage is dedicated to Saint Elmo and the Virgin of Safe Journeys, the patron saints of mariners, pilgrims and sailors. In my mind's eye I can easily conjure up images of the worried townsfolk who, over the years, have slowly made their way up that steep hill with the hot sun beating down on them, to pray for the safe return of the people they held dear. Perhaps they said a Rosary as they went up; perhaps tears were shed when hope was turning to despair. Whatever the way of it I have no doubt but that the little hermitage was an important part in many a personal pilgrimage of the people who lived in its shadow.The present structure dates from 1723, but there's been a hermitage up there since 1203.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...
The Hermitage of Sant Elmo
Originally Sant Feliu de Guíxols was a walled city, walled to keep the bad guys out. And the bad guys? Who were they? Well, to name but a few, there were Barbary pirates, the English, the French, the Austrians, the Spanish, even - depending on when you dropped by. But the one thing that all these bad guys had in common over the centuries was a propensity to arrive by sea. So the city fortified itself with strong walls, and the people looked cautiously out over the waves, keeping watch for their enemies.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...

That's not to suggest that the Guixolencs were passive victims of history: no, absolutely not; nothing could be further from the truth. They built ships in their wharves and on the sands in front of their town; many of their number were successful generals and sea captains and, when they got a chance, they got rich on the booty of their captured enemies. One famous Guixolenc pirate Captain, Jeroni Basart Morató, known as El Rufo, captured 4 English frigates in 1782. El Rufo was well regarded for his exploits and, when the Napoleonic Wars broke out, he was given command of a small fleet of 6 corsair ships, manned by his fellow Guixolencs, who spent their days cheerfully sallying out to attack Napoleon's vessels.

Ship-building on the Sant Feliu beach in the eighteenth century

The sea remains important to the town, although these days most of the invaders are tourists who arrive by aeroplane, rather than corsairs who arrive by sail.

My pueblo ...
The harbour with the old sanctuary for the ship-wrecked (the small terracotta building on the cliff top)
Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...
The harbour, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
Go Barcelona! Football's a serious business over here ...

And, as you can see from the Barcelona Football Club crest painted onto the bow of this fishing boat, football is a big preoccupation here, and it's really not a good idea to support Real Madrid ... or Chelsea ... or Bayern Munich.  The motto of the Barcelona Football Club is més que un club, more than a club, and that is certainly true. For the people living here it's a totem of their culture, and of Catalan pride. Everyone and their dog is a fanatical Barça supporter. Just before Barcelona play a game the streets empty and an eery stillness descends. When the broadcast coverage kicks in I can sit outside on my terrace, listening to the progress of the game which echoes around the empty town in cheers and the wails whenever a goal is scored for or against the team. And then, when they win a big game, the whole place goes mad. I don't mean sing-a-song happy; I mean gridlocked with drive-by cavalcades of ecstatic people waving Catalan flags and honking their horns; I mean fireworks exploding and throngs, multitudes of people singing and making enough happy noises to wake up their ancestors in the cemetery just outside the city limits.

No tour of Sant Feliu de Guíxols would be complete without taking a turn around its fortified Benedictine Monastery.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...
The Monastery

It's a truly ancient pile. There's been something on this site since Roman times. The oldest part of the existing structure is the Porta Ferrada, which was only discovered in 1931 when they were doing some fix-up work to that side of the building. It's a mysterious wall that they think was once part of some Carolingian abbot's or prince's palace. Its origins are lost in the mists of the time, but you can see the influence of the then-Muslim south in the keyhole shaped windows that are typical of the Mozárabe style (the style that was carried north by Christian refugees who fled the lands to the south that were controlled by the Moors). They're not sure exactly how old it is, but there's some consensus that it probably dates from the tenth century.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...
Porta Ferrada, Monastery of Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Inside the Monastery is the city museum, which chronicles the history of Sant Feliu de Guíxols from the earliest times to the present day. There is a gallery featuring the works of the more eminent Catalan painters from the area, and there are a number of temporary exhibitions. The Baroness Von Thyssen has a house, just outside town, on Punta Brava. From time to time she allows them to stage exhibitions of paintings from the Von Thyssen collection at the museum.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...
Views of the Monastery including St. Benedict's arch, which is all that remains of an outer wall that used to encircle the monastery and the famous Porta Ferrada (bottom right)

The hills around town are forested with cork trees and pine trees. They're wild and untamed. And sitting on the shoulder of an enormous hill is the Pedralta. Isn't it magnificent?

It's a humungous boulder balanced on an outcrop of granite boulders. Do you see it, that great big heavy one on top? It weighs in at 101 metric tonnes, and sits 17 metres off the ground. They planted a cross on it in 1890. Well, in the old days, a man, any man, used to be able to shimmy up there and rock it. It was regarded as a bit of a hoot by the locals to scale the column and push it back and forth like a giant stone rocking horse. What can I say? It was all a bit mad.

But then, one stormy night in 1996, a terrible gale hit the hillside ... and the great rock came crashing to the ground. It was a matter of civic pride for the Guixolencs to bring the cranes in and restore it to its former position. However, health and safety regulations being what they are these days, the wise men in the department of town works decided that they'd pour a tonne or two of concrete into the mix to keep it in place with the result that the great rocking stone no longer rocks.

It's still a lovely place to go for a walk. It's a wilderness. There's a strange, primitive atmosphere, and in the middle of the pine trees and the cork trees you'll find the little hermitage dedicated to the Virgin of the Ascension.

Hermitage at the Pedralta

Back in town we should also check out the old hospital. There's been a hospital in Sant Feliu de Guíxols since the early 1300's. It was first recorded in 1305 in the last will and testament of a local woman, Blanca de Mordenyac, who bequeathed a bed and a blanket to the hospital. At first it stood outside the city walls to prevent the spread of disease. However, as civil unrest spread, a new hospital was built inside the city walls for protection. Work on the present building started in 1595 and finished in 1602. It's seen victims of malaria, plague and leprosy pass through its doors, although the lepers would have been dispatched pretty quickly to a leper colony. Casualties from the Wars of the Spanish succession, the Napoleonic wars and, more recently, the Spanish Civil War have all been ministered to here. If walls could talk, these ones would have a few gory tales to tell ... .

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...
The Old Hospital
The town also has a casino, La Constància, originally built in 1889 in the Mozárabe revival style that became popular with the Catalan Modernist movement. You can see the Moorish influence in the keyhole shapes of the windows of the upper floor, and in the minaret-like tower in the centre.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...

And there you have them: my highlights of sunny Sant Feliu de Guíxols. I hope you've enjoyed the tour, and that maybe one day, in the not-too-distant future, you'll drop by and see it for yourself. 

Sant Feliu de Guíxols ... mi pueblo ...

Hasta la próxima,

Bonny x

P.S. This article was shared with Mosaic Monday and Our World Tuesday

Friday, 4 April 2014

Random Friday: 5 random facts for the weekend ...

This week has been really busy. It's taken me an awful lot of time to get very little done. I don't know whether I was broadsided by the onset of my son, Emi's, school holidays or whether there was some sort of sedative in the cloud of red dust that arrived in London from the Western Sahara at the beginning of the week. Whatever the way of it my car looks like it's just done the Paris to Dakar rally, and I'm running on a fixed go-to-bed early setting.

I hope that you've had a productive week and that everything's going well at your end.

Here are my five random facts for Friday.

1. Emi finally got his passport. Hurrah! We had to wait for two and a half hours at the Irish Embassy just to pick it up, but given what was going on around us that didn't seem so bad. Ladies were crying, men were shouting with anger and children were running amok as their parents slowly lost the will to live. The hands of the clock travelled around its face, the sun went by outside, and still the people waited ... and waited ... and waited in the passport queue. It seemed as though no one's passport had been printed when it ought to have been. All around us holidays were being ruined, plans for family get-togethers were withering and dying on the vine and business trips were being postponed. It was not a happy place. The Irish government's budget cuts were very much in evidence. The Embassy was under-staffed, and I felt sorry for the poor people on the other side of the counter who, through no fault of their own, were having to deal with so much unhappiness.

OK! OK! So I've got nothing to do with the random facts ... let's just say it's a random photo!

2. Armed with Emi's passport we were free to blow town and head for Spain. First thing the following morning we caught le Shuttle, sped through le Tunnel under the English Channel, arrived in Calais and bombed down the French motorways to cross the Pyrenees into Spain 12 hours' later. It was a great trip with a few stops here and there for coffee and a closer look at the odd thing that called out to be investigated. Maxi and Emi kept one another entertained in the back seat and our Spotify play-list lasted the course.

The Costa Brava ...

3. Meanwhile back in London they've been excavating a plague pit under Charterhouse Square. Since they exhumed Richard III from under a car park in Leicester we've all been on tenterhooks to see who they'll pull up next. These days Crossrail are busy digging all over the shop to put in the infrastructure for their high-speed trains. Last week one of their tunnels made the news when it was unknowingly sunk in a forgotten cemetery for victims of a plague outbreak way back in 1348. Archeologists had long suspected that there was an unaccounted-for burial site somewhere just outside the old city walls, but they'd been looking for it in all the wrong places. Everyone got very excited and the forensic experts started to examine the bones. And it was amazing what those old bones were able to tell them. The people buried there were poor folk, from the bottom end of the social scale. Somewhere in the region of  forty percent of them had come from other places to make their lives in the Big Smoke. Their skeletons spoke of how they'd been accustomed to hard, manual labour. A few bad summers with failed harvests had left them malnourished, weakening their immune systems and making them more susceptible to infection. Many of them had rickets. Most tellingly of all they found traces of the plague bacterium still in their teeth, and concluded that this was how they'd met their ends.

4. And now back to sunny Spain, where ... its raining!! ... Argh!! Where has the warm embrace of the Mediterranean sun gone to? The forecast promises that things will get back to normal weather-wise tomorrow - and not a moment too soon if you ask me!

5. So to celebrate the return of normal spring weather, Emi, Maxi and I are going rock-pooling tomorrow. It's one of our favourite things to do over here. There are lots of little beasties hiding out in the pools, and Emi is always enthusiastic about having a look at them. Maxi is very happy to spend his time just running around in the sand, so he'll probably go chasing up and down the beach trying to catch the wind. And, if there's a sea breeze then maybe we'll bring our kite to do a bit of wind-chasing as well.

Emi's super-cool kite

Whatever you're doing, and wherever you're doing it, have a great weekend,

Bonny x