September 2011 -

Just a place for my old thoughts

Monday, 26 September 2011 11:21 am

After four airports and 30 hours we're home safe and sound thanks to Serena picking us up from the airport.

I'll get some pics posted tomorrow.

Can't talk...relaxing
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 4:57 pm

How do you describe having a Spanish villa at your disposal and a hire car at the door. Good friends, stunning weather and local wines and food.

Simply brilliant.

Since saying farewell to Ken we have stuck with our routine of 1xMonument, 1xShopping & 1xBeer... or there abouts.

We have ticked off most of the things we saw last time plus two trips to the best beach in the world. It has white sandy beaches, lounges to rent with umbrellas and a bar. It can't get much better. Yes, there are more beautiful beaches ... we went to one today, but everyone in the car will need therapy when they get back due to the knuckle clenching drive required to reach it, on the upside there was a dude wandering the beach selling cold beers which did the drivers nerves a world of good ... but that still doesn't beat the best beach in the world.

Sunday, 25 September 2011 5:35 pm

Sounds (and looks) very relaxing! :)

Sunday, 25 September 2011 5:35 pm

The beach that is, not the driving!

Saturday, 17 September 2011 8:34 pm

Ok, we have landed in paradise and it has a kitchen. After our flights from Seville we ended up in Menorca airport where Ken mets us, looking exactly the same as two years ago, and ushered us to the hire car. They leave them in the car park, unlocked with the keys and the parking ticket in the visor. Apparently car theft is low in Menorca.

From there it was a short trip to the villa and time to open some wine. Mat and I made a dash to the shops for more supplies and soon I embarked on making spaghetti pomodoro which took way too long to prepare. Fortunately if you deprive people of food long enough they'll eat anything so by the time I served it was all good.

Today we headed into town for a quick look around and a drink. Ken ordered a grande beer for me which was bigger than Deb's head. From there we went for groceries and then a lazy villa afternoon before I cooked paella for everyone.

I love having a kitchen again and having it in paradise is pretty cool.

Sunday, 18 September 2011 8:52 pm

Sounds amazing and wish we were there with you guys!

Mum & John
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 1:02 am

Looks like paradise, wish we were there. Out of hospital sore but not sorry.
Keep on enjoying your holiday.

Love Mum & John

Saturday, 17 September 2011 7:24 am

On the road again. After our rest we headed out for a walk into the old jewish quarter of town. It was hot...and taking everyone for a tour probably wasn't the best idea but we did find a plaza with a cafe open so we avoided the worst of the heat with a few cold beers, and tapas. They brought out a frypan of what looked like chunky fried bread crumbs with bits of garlic and, I think, pork bits.

It was supposedly a local specialty so we all tried a spoon full but ultimately left it. The next beer and tapas was anchovies on bravis sauce. Now I should say that on the trip Deb and I have found a soft spot for the little white anchovies stored in vinegar. They are very good. But your traditional anchovy still tastes like a nasty little hairy fish.

That night we were so full from all the food that we went to bed without dinner. We got packed and ready for the early train ride to Seville the next day. We did open the half bottle of red from France that we have been lugging around to find it was terrible. Unlike every other bottle we purchased so our bating average isn't too bad.

We made the early walk down to the station with enough time for coffee in the station cafe and then a short wait out on the platform for our fast train. They are cool and can get up to 160km an hour. Racing across the Spanish landscape of parched fields and endless olive groves that stretch to the horizon.

Arriving in Seville around lunchtime we got a taxi to the hotel which dropped us in a little plaza. We then spent a minute or so exporing up these beautiful little alleys before Debbie had he presence of mind to ask directions. Basically 'lopes' streets keep the same name not matter where or how they wind, just as long as they keep going. The hotel was lovely and the staff service was outstanding. The most friendly and helpful so far I think.

We headed out for lunch at a cafe down the street from the hotel and then into the Alcazar palace and gardens for our monument fix for the day. We had missed out on tickets to see the Alhambra in Granada but as it turns out many of my memories of the architecture from the last trip actually comes from the Alcazar. It was stunning with Debbie constantly saying "Wow, wow...just wow" as we walked through the palace and the gardens. Then back to the hotel to shower and change ahead of booking tickets to a local flamenco show. It was funny, after checking a couple of the local flamenco places we stumbled back onto the same place we had been to on our first trip. The show was equally good using a very serious, solemn, form of flamenco that leaves you a little sad.

We then tried to find the seafood place we had been to on our first trip to Seville but discovered that it was closed, and potentially gone. Oh well, we made do with one a little further back up the street. My fish were just was good though as I remember from last time though. All oily, salty and delicious.

We then made our way back to the hotel ahead of a quick drink and then off to bed. This morning we slept in and let Debbie and Mat explore on their own before meeting up at midday for the taxi to the airport and the flights to Barcelona and then onto Menorcia.

I certainly wasn't ready to leave Seville, it is potentially the most Spanish of the cities with its tapas culture, bars and flamenco. The architecture is outstanding and the city very easy to explore. It was somewhere we spent only a day and a half last time so only 24hrs this time was definitely to short.

But we are very much looking forward to Menorcia and seeing Deb's great cousin Ken again. A few days to relax by the pool, explore the island and its beaches and get to cook again.

Being surrounded by all of the awesome produce and not being able to cook is killing me. I am so looking forward to having a fridge, a stove and a base for a few days. Roll on Spain!

deb's mum
Sunday, 18 September 2011 1:14 am

The Villa looks exactly the the same,wonderful, say Hello to Ken for me.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 12:47 pm

Madrid was great fun in that Madrid kind of way. We have settled into a pattern of seeing a monument, having tapas and then doing some shopping in the evening before dinner or more tapas.

We had an early train ride down to Granada yesterday and spent the day re-finding all the bars and shops that we remembered. It is always good, like this morning, to be walking along and suddenly go..."I remember this!".

Debbie and Mat got up very early and went up to the Alhambra to try and get tickets. They only release 6600 per day so by the time Deb and I went up an hour later they were sold out.

Instead we just headedup into the old town and generally spent the morning riding the little buses that zip through streets that are only a mini bus wide.

We did find my favourite tapas bar in the whole world for a wonderful lunch before coming back for a snooze to see off the hotest part of the day.

Thursday, 15 September 2011 1:08 am

Amazing pic - absolutely love it!

deb's mum
Thursday, 15 September 2011 1:48 am

Looks wonderful. you look fantastic!!!!

Madrid and thoughts back home...
Monday, 12 September 2011 4:59 pm

Got news from home that Mums op has gone well and things are looking good. It is a little weird to have JT and I worlds apart and learning how things are going via the web but I guess times progress.

We have left the tour with Intrepid and are now on our own. The first day was spent doing washing, moving hotels and collecting Deb and Matt from the airport.

They have done much better with the jet lag than we did and made it to 11pm the first night and midnight last night.

We hit the night markets last night and saw the Prado gallery. Today we saw the Royal Palace and an Egyptian temple that had been moved brick by brick to Spain.

Tons of tapas, beer and dinner with Flamenco have ensued. Tomorrow we have and early start and a transfer to Granada.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011 12:23 am

Tapas, beer and dinner with flamenco sound very cool. How can I be enjoying wine in the Napa Valley and still be jealous...? ;)

The tour is over...let the holiday begin
Saturday, 10 September 2011 10:43 am

Just a quick update. We have finished the Intrepid trip here in Madrid and have now checked into our new hotel that we booked ourselves. It is very nice and a world improvement on the places we have been staying.

We are just about to head out for a quick beer and then to the airport to meet Debbie and Mat who have just flown in.

I'll do a longer post this afternoon.

Oh, and happy birthday to me!

Mum & John
Sunday, 11 September 2011 5:51 am

Again happy birthday to you. Just to let you know I have my op at 10 am tomorrw thw 12th.
John will let you know if there are problems but we don't expect any. Love to both. xxx

JT and Jason
Monday, 12 September 2011 4:47 am

Happy Birthday from San Francisco Big Bro! :) xo

Monday, 12 September 2011 12:33 pm

Hi Danny,
Just to let you know that your Mum has come through her operation and according to the surgeon everything went well. I'll keep you upto date with any changes.
Glad to see you are both having a nice holiday. I have let JT know the position with your Mum.
Best wishes

The pictures as promised
Friday, 9 September 2011 2:16 pm

The claim to fame of Segovia is the 2100 year of auqueduct that cuts through the town. It is an amazing site no matter what angle you are looking from.

Oh and my favourite prawn tapas bar in the world.

Piggies and Madrid
Friday, 9 September 2011 2:03 pm

The last night in Segovia we went out for suckling pig as our last night dinner. They bring out a whole piglet and then cut it to bits with a dinner plate before smashing the plate on the floor...a very cool display.

We then had a very early start at 7am for the trip to Madrid. Returning to a town that I love with a massive street tapas culture has been awesome. We took the group out for tapas atour favourite prawn (gambas) place which was as good as I ever remember.

The rest of the afternoon has been spent bumming around tapas bars and making the most of it.

I promise that some pictures will follow.

San Sebastian Rocks!
Wednesday, 7 September 2011 10:20 pm

The first Spanish town we have been is San Sebastian. The train in took us through the back streets and through high density housing. You could tell from the look on some faces that they weren't sure they we're going to like spain. Then we hit the pintxos bars. Pintxos is a northern spanish type of tapas in which all the food is layed out on the bar for you to help yourself on an honor system.

Along with beer and prices considerably lower than France we had a ball. Christina, our guide, had intended to take us on a city walk but instead it turned into a pub crawl. We ended up getting the last bus back to our hotel at midnight. Not bad for a 6 hours of food and beer.

We took the next day very easy with a late breakfast, a little shopping and some sun baking on the beach. Then more tapas and drinks into the evening.

San Sebastian is a pretty amazing town. It also seemed to be full of Australians which made us cringe a little when we heard the accent. Let's just say they aren't as culturally sensitive as our group. Although it was fun to hear one waitress teaching a couple how to order beer properly before she would fill their order.

From the beaches to the old town with its little streets and dozens of tapas bars San Sebastian was definitely a highlight. Deb even found her own favourite tapas bar.

Mum & John
Thursday, 8 September 2011 11:24 pm

Love the duck. Checking each night and enjoying your holiday with you. Happy, Happy, Happy 40th birthday, keep on enjoying your holiday.
Lots of love,
Mum & John XXX

Having a moment in Luchon
Sunday, 4 September 2011 3:28 pm

We're back in the hotel room with another bottle of the same wine and another slab of the cheese we had at lunch. Turns out it is a local specialty made with raw cow, goat & sheeps milk. Being raw we will NEVER get it at home but I will definitely be getting cravings for it.

Lunch in Luchon
Sunday, 4 September 2011 11:20 am

Ok, we're in Luchon which is a spa town and gateway for hikers and skiing depending on season. So we sort of felt obligated to at least try to walk somewhere. The weather has been a little overcast and we can't find any consistency between any of the weather services. So we got up early to shop for lunch with the intent of hiking somewhere nice. The weather was a little rough but we decided on a 6 hour hike with the understanding we could bail out at 3 hours and head back. So with a pack full of cheese, fruit lollies, water, bread and ham we set off on our walk. It involves walking out of the town so there's quite a lot of street walking before you get into the hills. We where setting a cracking pace and then it got steep and rocky. We where walking to a town called Sode which you could simply drive to along a nice winding road but we instead took a track which cuts straight up the middle. I was pretty screwed by the time we reached the first town having pack our 1+ kilo lunch. That had taken about 1.5hrs so Deb and I called it quits and decided to walk back down via the road. The group decided to keep going so I wish them all the best and hope to see them tomorrow.

We walked back to town and I dropped Deb at the hotel and went up the street in search of wine, a combo knife/cork screw and more crusty bread. 8.22 for a slab of stunning local cheese and a bottle of wine. Outstanding.

So we sat in our room, with the windows open eating our wonderful lunch and looking at the stunning scenery.

Not bad for having carried most of it up and back down a mountain.

JT and Jason
Tuesday, 6 September 2011 11:23 am

Sounds like you guys are having a great time! Have a glass (or two) for us. :) xo

Say cheese!
Saturday, 3 September 2011 8:41 pm

After our forced march in the heat last night we headed back to our rooms for a much needed shower. Then after a restorative beer we headed out to a place for dinner called Auberge de Gabarre which has a fixed menu each night. The owner/waiter is a complete character with a penchant for touching the women at the table. We were quickly seated on the terrace and ordered wine but started with the local 'black wine' which is a bit like a less thick port but with all the sweet rich characteristics. Definitely something to get the appetite going at the start of a meal.

Dinner for everyone, including the other tables present (around 40+ dinners) was a soup, then a choice of cheese quiche or terrine for entrees, then a choice of roast pork with garlic mash or roast lamb with white beans and then cheese and then finally desert of fruit tira misu, chocolate mousse or marinated fruit. It was one of the best meals of the whole trip.

The interesting thing was that the owner would bring out a large soup tureen and put it on a table of say two, after they had served themselves he would move it to the next table. Everyone got part the this amazing shared table. All cooked by one woman and served and waited by one man. Fantastic.

The next morning we had a late start and went into town to check out the markets. The fresh food and produce looked awesome but we had to contend ourselves with more pastries before boarding a series of trains and a bus to get to Luchon.

This town is at the entry to the Pyrenees and a huge location for skiing during winter and hiking during summer. The weather may get the final decision but the plan is for a 6 hour hike tommorrow. So in my best tradition we went out for cheese fondue tonight...and it was good. One of the other guys on the trip Matt had never eated fondue so it was great fun to share it with him. Let's see how I feel about the hike tommorrow morning.

And here's the crowd at the Cahors dinner.

Friday, 2 September 2011 5:11 pm

We got the washing done this morning during which time we had plenty of time to get some shopping done. The stores are loaded with tons of gifts and of course duck products.

We then grabbed a bus then a train to get to Cahors. Christina took us for a city tour in the 30 degree heat. The town is quite pretty if run down slightly around the edges. The claim to fame is the city being on a pilgrim trail with a massive medievel bridge crossing the river being a point of much pilgrim interest.

Two for two and my Birthday month
Thursday, 1 September 2011 8:46 pm

Ah, the start of my Birthday month...and what a start it has been.

Ok, so this is our fifth Intrepid trip. It should be pointed out that on each previous trip certain activities that seemed like a good idea on a paper become more like prison punishment in reality. Like the 'biking through the rice fields' that saw us in 38 degree heat and 90% humidity riding through asthsma inducing rice fields. Or the island camping on which we were unable to identify the meat in our dinner but did find that sand under a sleeping mat packs down into a concrete like consistency when you lay on it long enough.

So it has been with much pleasant surprise that the bike ride earlier in the week and the canoeing today went so very very well. We slept in this morning and then headed out to find coffee and pastry ahead of our trip to the river. Sarlat has many wonderful bakeries so we are really spoiled for choice. We then headed back to the hotel for the bus ride down to the kayacing companies river side starting point. In no time we were issued with life jackets, paddles and a boat. It was funny that the guy working there was from the Gold Coast so we chatted for a while with him before everyone piled into their boats and headed off. The trip was lovely, the water was like glass, the weather was perfect and the scenery was outstanding. We stopped halfway along at a beautiful little town for lunch and then jumped back into our boats again for the last hour of paddling. By this stage it was starting to get pretty hot so it was with some relief that we found a bar just at the top of the boat ramp. Our guide did mention that the town was of some significant historical value and had some stunning scenery yet we were in a bar. Fortunately it is hard to hold the moral high ground when you have a 500ml beer sitting in front of you. As it turned out though Deb did brave the heat and walked to the top of the town and took some awesome photos. After that it was a quick bus trip back to town and a well earned shower.

We then headed out for a walk and then dinner. The area is famous for its duck fois gras and confit so its hard to find anywhere that serves anything else. The shops are stacked with every concievable type of canned duck product, from fois gras to duck breast.

It's not really a local dish but a couple of places do have cassolet which is a duck and bean stew...and pretty awesome, so I had to order that. Deb has scallops but they were not as good as the ones we had in Tours which was a shame. My cassolet on the other hand was insane it had so much duck and duck fat that you just knew that a dietitian somewhere was crying. I ended up getting an extra set of cutlery so Deb could help me try to eat it. We then just stopped for a coffee and headed home.

Early tomorrow will be laundry and a walk around the city. Now though is time to sleep off the duck fat.