31 Dec 2011

500 Wishes for the New Year

Ha! I'll bet you thought with that title I was going to spring this massive list of wishes/hopes/desires for the New Year on you, right? Don't worry, I may be one for overly long posts (sorry!), but I wouldn't put you through that! ;o)

Nope... it's just that as I was pondering on what to write now that we're on the cusp of a new year, I happened to notice that this is my 500th post! Woah! Major blogging landmark! Sure, a lot of those posts were mostly filler (like the Photo a Day I tried to do during the first half of 2011), but I think I've gotten some pretty decent stuff out there. Looking back I think I'm most proud of the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon which I hosted for World Oceans Day for the past 3 years (and will again in 2012! you've got 6 months to think on that). I'm also really happy with my Fishy Friday posts which I am determined to start up again! I need to think a bit more on their format though... should I continue telling fishy tales from the aquaria I've visited? Or should I go for a more scientific format? What do you think? Related to that, I started sharing some of my Diving adventures with you this year, as a result of my finally being able to take my own photos underwater (and you all know how much I LOVE photography!). Sadly I think I only got a couple of posts out because the Hiking posts all of the sudden demanded my attention! I have to teach these two favourite hobbies of mine to play nice with each other... and get back to the diving posts as they will remind me of the summer as we move into the coldest part of the year. Then there's been the fun of sharing some of the typical Spanish madness (like the Hogueras in Alicante) with readers from around the world! It's also been a hoot taking a trip down Christmas memory lane with you this month! It might not be over, since Christmas for me (and Spain!) doesn't end until January 6th! But the continuation of those posts will depend upon my being able to find more photos! My mom kind of lapsed in her photo album duties for a few years in the early '90s, so we have to go digging through photos in envelopes to find them! oops! :p

Hmmm... I'd better watch out or my musings on my blog's past will take over this post!

I wanted to take some time and look back on 2011, ponder my life... but my life just wouldn't give me the time to do it! These holidays have been so busy with all the celebrations and family visiting, I've barely had any time to even prepare the few classes I had to teach! Woops! So much for reflection! Even now I've just got 2h to get my overnight bag packed, get a shower and get dressed etc. before I head out to my parents' for a low-key New Year's Eve dinner with some neighbours. After the clock in the Plaza del Sol in Madrid strikes the twelve gongs of midnight and we eat our twelve grapes (for good luck in the new year), I'll be heading out to the next town over to meet up with my friends for a night of FIESTA!!! Which will end with me snoozing on a friend's couch so I don't have to worry about driving home in the wee morning with all the other people who shouldn't be driving either... All this has been put together in a bit of a last-minute rush... none of us had any plans other than family dinners... but a few days ago someone proposed meeting up tonight and we all just woke up and said YES!!! I'm doubly happy because it gave me an excuse to get myself a Christmas gift from my grandmother (she always gives her grandkids some money to spend on themselves), a lovely dress I've been eyeing for the past month. Each time I went into the Corte Inglés looking for a Christmas present for someone else that dress would just call to me, and I was like "no! I'm not going out this year, I don't have an excuse to buy a new dress!". Well, now I do! And I did! :o)  (to be fair on myself, I only buy a nice dress like this once every 2-3 years. The previous one has done one New Year's Eve and 2-3 weddings). Want a glimpse?

Still can't believe this redhead is going to wear RED tonight! :p

So, no thinking or contemplating or reflection for me tonight... except when I lose myself in the music. Which I love doing and haven't in months!

One thing I did read today has caught my attention... Kim at Snug Harbor mentioned being inspired by a friend to think of a word for the New Year, instead of a list of Resolutions. The idea is to let that word guide you throughout the new year (I found another post online explaining it very clearly here, very interesting!). I've been pondering two candidates which just seemed to cry out to me: discipline and letting go. The first as in self-discipline, I know what I have to do to get my life back on track, both personally and professionally, but I seem to be lacking the self-discipline to actually do anything about it... But I also need to learn to let go of the clutter in my life (both physical and emotional baggage). This is something that is very hard for me to do. But I did knock one thing to the side of the road this year and I felt so much lighter after and I haven't regretted it once! I'll think on both some more. Not now, I now only have 90' left to get ready! oops! :p

As for the world ending in 2012... I share this:

Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! :o)

28 Dec 2011

Christmas Feasting and Playing

December 28th... a day for hearing really weird things on the news... things that you should double (and triple!) check before you believe them! For example: Iker Casillas - star goalkeeper and captain of the Real Madrid and Spain's World and European Champion National Football team - announced that he was retiring from football. YIKES!!! I heard it on the radio, he announced it on his Facebook profile, it must be true! Regular news broadcast on TV at lunch time... and the sports section starts with the presentation of Spain's new Davis Cup (tennis) Captain: Alex Corretja (yay!). Not a word about football? In this country? Impossible! So what about that massive news flash I heard on the radio?! FOOLED YOU!!! 

December 28th is the Día de los Santos Inocentes in Spain. Traditionally it's the Day of the Holy Innocents in the Catholic Church, in honour of the children massacred in Bethlehem by Herod's order (with Mary, Joseph and Jesus just barely escaping to Egypt). But in Spanish an "inocente" is also what you call someone who is naive, easy to fool or trick. So this day has become the equivalent of "April Fool's Day" in Spain and Latin America! Not so much tricks as fake funny news and jokes. Or sticking a white paper doll on someone's back. In any case, don't believe anything you hear until you've verified it! :p

Today was also the 4th Day of Christmas, and in my family the 3rd day of leftovers! Or is it 4th meal? I've lost count! My Dad totally overdid it this year with the feasts... I think he's loosing his sense of proportion... Not that I'm complaining, Christmas leftovers are the best kind!

It all started on Christmas Eve with the crazy 15 kg (33lb) turkey my Dad had ordered (to be fair he asked for "at least 10kg", just got more than expected)... for 6 people! (the 2 year old doesn't eat enough to count) I think it was even bigger than my niece! But at least it gave my Dad a chance to show off his fancy new oven he's been smiling about for the past 6 months! :p

24 Dec 2011


Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a ¡¡¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!!! from sunny Alicante. I hope it's filled with joy and you're surrounded by your loved ones. Best wishes!

Christmas Trip Down Memory Lane: the mid '80s

I've been trying to divide up these Memory Lane posts thematically... the "just me" years, the "Saudi years", but I've found so few photos from the 4 year period in the mid-'80s (specially Xmas 86 and 87, there have to be more photos somewhere!) that it seemed a bit silly to split them up!

We start with Christmas 1984, our first back in the U.S., when we were living in Potomac, Maryland (my dad worked in D.C.), only an hour and a half away from my Grandmother in Purcelville, VA and my Uncle, Aunt and cousins in Leesburg, VA. So that means big family Christmas at last! Well, for Christmas Day -American style-, since we still had our big meal just us on Christmas Eve -Spanish style-. I think it's the first year I went carolling -around our neighbourhood, with my dad playing the guitar-

23 Dec 2011

The Belén, a big Spanish Christmas tradition

Kim from Snug Harbor Bay asked me a while back about difference between Christmas in Spain and the US. Well that's a question for another post (I'm still trying to figure it out!), but decoration-wise I'd say the biggest difference lies in the holiday centrepiece in one's home: the Christmas Tree (in Anglo-Saxon/Celtic tradition), or the Belén (for the Latin community i.e. Spain, all of Latin America and I think Italy as well). You'd call it the Nativity Scene or Crèche, but that word is too small for us! Belén is the Spanish name for Bethlehem. We don't just recreate the Nativity in the Stable, we go for the whole town!!! When space allows it of course. ;o)

My mother shares memories of setting up the Belén with her Grandmother in Altea (small town up the coast). She remembers that for a long time before Christmas kids would save the silvery wrapping paper from chocolates and candies to use as part of the construction material for the Belén. And they would get bits of coal from the train tracks... Now most everything needed for the "construction" is bought in the supermarket.

When we lived in Mexico we had lots and LOTS of space to set up the Belén, now in a somewhat overstuffed apartment it can be hard to find just the right spot. This year I set it up (over at my parents') on a table under a window on the balcony, close to the tree (for extra effect with the twinkle lights!).

That table seems a bit "blah"... let's put in a background!

18 Dec 2011

Mission: possible? Hiking up the Puig Campana!

So last Sunday was THE hike, the one I've been kind of worried about all season since I saw it on the Centro Excursionista's calendar of activities: hiking up the Puig Campana, Alicante's second highest peak (1410m above sea level, ~ 4625 ft). Possibly the toughest hike you can do in this province (at least that's what I'm told). Anybody who's visited the northern coast of Alicante (or driven down the AP-7 on their way north or south) has seen this mountain, it's very recognisable. For starters it's big. Kind of dominates the highway and the view back behind Benidorm. Then there's that big cube-shaped hole in it. Seriously! See for yourselves:

Puig Campana behind Benidorm, seen from the island

I won't go into the various and sundry legends as to how that happened (a kick from a giant, Roland slicing it with his sword...), I'll just tell you that they all end up with the missing mountain chunk flying through the air and ending up in the bay just in front of Benidorm (and geologists say the shape and type and age of the rocks are a good fit).

In any case, it's a mountain that I've been conscious of since my earliest visits to Alicante in childhood, and one that I rarely gave any thought of hiking up because I've always been told it's very gruelling and difficult.

still not convinced I want to do this in my present physical condition (or lack thereof)

Here's a map of the route so you can kind of have a visual in your mind of where we are as we go around. Basically we circled the mountain clockwise along the PRV-289, starting at the southern tip just above point 1. At point 4 we left the main track for the mountain peak track, and then returned down it to continuing the base circuit. All in all about 16 km (~ 10 miles) and a climb of about 1250 m (~ 4100 ft). I apologise in advance for the large number of photos, after several days of weeding through them I just couldn't bring myself to delete any more and still tell a full story! :p

13 Dec 2011

Christmas Trip Down Memory Lane: the early '80s

The early '80s were the "Saudi Years"... celebrating the season half a world away from family, in a place where Christmas isn't even a holiday! They were also the years during which our family kept growing, giving me two younger sisters to tease and torment (and take care of) for the rest of our lives. ;o)

So we start with Christmas 1980 in Riyadh, when I discovered that Christmas trees came out of a box and had to be assembled!

You remember that "intruder alert" I mentioned in the previous Christmas post? Well here's the result of that big "bump", another bright little redhead (who to this day still sighs whenever she sees pictures of her "Dumbo" ears!):

8 Dec 2011

A sunny hike around the Sierra de Olta

Well this Sunday was the complete opposite of the previous one weather-wise! Gorgeous sunshine and temperatures near 20ºC (68F) in the middle of the day! A perfect day to hit the trails! :o)

This time I joined up with a new hiking group, one I'd found mention of online last Spring, but could never manage to get hold of! Finally someone in another group helped me locate them and after a couple of weeks I finally joined one of their hikes! They're called "El Trenet Senderista" (the hiking train) because originally they would take people up the on Alicante's small coastal "narrow-rail" train and then start the hikes at the train stations. Now they go by bus. Not as "romantic" but much more practical (plus it allows them to pick up people at several points along the route)! The downside of this group is the fee, 15€ each time I want to join a hike? Once in a while ok, but if I went every week with them, ouch!

Sierra de Oltà, seen as we approach from the North on the bus

7 Dec 2011

Christmas Trip Down Memory Lane: the '70s

Care to join me as I latch on to the Ghost of Christmas past and visit my past Christmases while I prepare for the jolly season?

Let's start at the very beginning (after all, it's a very good place to start!):

Yeah, I know... you can't see me anywhere in there, right? Well look again! But with an ultrasound this time! (it seems they were already "in the know" having recently gone to the doctor to check up on a little "constipation" problem...) ;o)  They fled north to spend the holidays with the family in Virginia, apparently fed up of the "fake Christmas trees" on the grass in Panama... :p

On to my first full Christmas experience... rocking the bell-bottoms in Virginia (visiting from Minneapolis)!

6 Dec 2011

Happy Saint Nicolas!

Look what I got in the mail yesterday from a wonderful friend:

merci Kyt!!!

Yummy Belgian chocolate!!! Just in time to celebrate Saint Nicolas today! :o)

What's that? You didn't know today was Saint Nick's day? The original guy behind Santa Claus? Well, I did! You can't have lived in Belgium and NOT know it! Saint Nicolas is a very big deal for kids in Belgium, northern France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands... He comes to their house (and their grandparents' and other family members' houses) and leaves them candy and cakes and toys. It's a good thing the kids never stopped to ask why he doesn't always show up on his day (Dec. 6th, not an official holiday) but conveniently drops off his packages on the closest weekend... ;o)

5 Dec 2011

Why did the salmon cross the road?

Apparently because it was confused by the flooding in Washington State last week! Click on it to go to the YouTube page for more info.

Definitely WEIRD!!!

3 Dec 2011

Monthly Movies: Fall 2011

Hmmm... for some reason I haven't been able to keep up my Monthly Movies this year! I keep playing catch-up by writing about several months at a time like I did with the Summer Movies. Not good... I need to get into the habit of signing in and writing a quick something about each movie when I get home right after having seen it, 'cause otherwise when it comes time to write the post I don't always remember what I wanted to say! This Fall it hasn't helped that I haven't been too inspired by what I saw on-screen, and those I did really enjoy I told you about in Movie Magic or Madness posts. Anyhow, in an attempt to get things back on track, here's a brisk run down of the movies I've seen this Fall. They include some spy tales, romance, drama, fantasy, period drama... Let me know if you've seen them and what you thought of them!

Sharing some music

I just want to say thanks to one of the blogs I follow - e-clecticism - for bringing a fabulous little music video to my attention! It's a brief history of the world (from the Big Bang to the Space Age and beyond) in stop-motion animation, and it's the music video for the song "Thick as Thieves" by Canadian Kalle Mattson, a group I've never heard of before... but I'm listening to the album this song is from right now (Anchors) and I'm loving it! Added bonus to a new (for me) musical discovery? Well they've got the album available for free download right now on their website! :o)

So here's the video, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! ;o)

And here's an interview I found with the group's lead singer-songwriter Kalle Wainio.

2 Dec 2011

La Fábrica de Sueños - Lotería de Navidad!

You know Christmas is on the way in Spain when the advertisement for the special Christmas lottery finally airs! I've seen it twice in the movie theatre so far, and it's lovely! It's a short film that metaphorically tells the tale of the Lotería de Navidad. They say the Lotería de Navidad is a "Fábrica de los Sueños" or "Dream Factory" whose doors open so that the dream-hunting children can go out and reach every city and town in Spain (or further afield since Spaniards living outside of Spain frequently have their family members send them a "décimo"). The children collect the dreams and bring them back saying that our dreams are what bring the lottery to life, a lottery which will fulfill many peoples' dreams.

I wrote in detail about Spain's famous Christmas lottery (celebrated yearly since 1812!) two years ago, if you missed it or want a refresher on an major piece of Spanish culture then you can find it here (plus Wikipedia has a great entry here). This year's film is as moving as always, with a haunting melody, but I kind of miss the bald guy from years gone by! Whenever I spotted an Observer on Fringe they always reminded me of him. ;o)

If I buy a ticket (or two) this year it will be from some non-profit association which tags on a couple of extra euros to the sales price to help with their fundraising (traditional here, we - the Biology students association - did it in University to help raise funds for our trips), like that of an animal shelter where a friend of mine volunteers or my hiking group.

1 Dec 2011

December's finally here!

I smell Christmas in the air! :o)

Well, ok, maybe not really... but I want to! I want to do something to help me start feeling festive, and it's not as easy here in Alicante as it was in Belgium with all the decorations in the streets and the music and most specially the Christmas markets!!! I miss the smells, the sounds, and yes, even the chill in the morning! All signs that Christmas is fast approaching.

The signs can be found here as well, but only in the TV-ads or in the supermarkets. Those have decked out their special holiday sweets, with tables overflowing with various kinds of turrón and polvorones and mazapanes... a sugary heaven! ;o)

Turrón anyone? (read more here)

The poinsettas are also out en masse. Both in the supermarkets, street markets and plant shops... Maybe I should try and keep one alive this year? ;o)

Nochebuena - Flor de Pascua - Poinsetta - Rose de Noël... however you want to call it!

I didn't do anything Christmassy here on the Blog last year. Too busy wrapping up my classes (and playing in the snow) before leaving Belgium to spend the Holidays with my sister in New Zealand. Two years ago (so Christmas 2009) I had a "12 Days of Christmas" series up which was a lot of fun! Then in 2008 I did a series of posts on Christmas traditions that I didn't quite finish (only managed to talk about Spain's Christmas lottery, the Christmas feasts, and New Year's resolutions), so maybe I'll work a bit more on those this year? Dunno yet... I'll think of something!

I've also got to clean up / organise this apartment and pull out the Christmas decorations! And start shopping for gifts! I'm always running late on those...

How do you plan on preparing for Christmas?

30 Nov 2011

Hiking in a Cloud atop the Sierra de Bernia

Well that was different! I was wondering when Alicante would catch up with the rest of the world season-wise, and it turned out to be now! I can't say I mind much having to put on a few extra layers... I actually prefer the weather to be cooler when I'm out hiking rather than warmer (within reason). In this case instead of just my merino t-shirt, I also had on my merino long-sleeve shirt and a fleece-lined wind-stopper vest as well as a merino beanie on my head. I even pulled out the gloves at one point, but just for a little while! ;o)

It was particularly hard getting up at 7h30 this past Sunday for the hike, my whole body was begging me to stay in bed and continue recuperating from Saturday's Thanksgiving extravaganza! Yes, yes I know, the big turkey day was supposed to be Thursday, but what else can you do when you live in a country where it isn't a holiday? When my mom gets home from work she just wants to eat and rest (not necessarily in that order), so no way were we go to submit her to the crazyness that is a Thanksgiving feast! Then there's the fact that we've never celebrated Thanksgiving with "just" the family, it's always been a friends and family deal, probably because we only lived close enough to our American family to celebrate with them for a couple of years and so made up for it with dear friends who are like family to us! And of course, we're back to Thursday being a work day! ;o)

So, up bright and early for a hike, still stuffed like a turkey. Wait! Did I say "bright" and early? Hmmm... let's make that dark and cloudy and kind of scary! As the bus we were on got closer and closer to our chosen mountain, the Sierra de Bernia, part of me was going "gulp! get ready to get wet!" (plus thinking I finally had a reason to be lugging around my rain jacket in my backpack).

southern face of the Sierra de Bernia

Nice cloud huh? Just sitting there. Right on top of our mountain. >:(

24 Nov 2011

Movie Magic on Thanksgiving: The Help

My Thanksgiving has been un-food related so far, unless you count the grocery shopping for Saturday's feast when my family will be celebrating our own version of Thanksgiving (which as usual involves having lots of friends over). It's hard to do a full-blown turkey dinner when it's not a holiday and you have to consider people's work schedules and general fatigue. So while we're outside of the US, Saturday it is!

My sister flew in from England this morning to join us for the holiday, and after lunch we kidnapped our dad for our own father-daughter holiday tradition (any holiday will do): going to the movies! The selection was a bit limited, but I managed to twist their arms a bit and get them to agree to seeing "Criadas y Señoras" a.k.a. The Help. I felt that at the very least, it being an American holiday and all, we could go see a movie depicting life in the US in the not-so-distant past. I think the fact that it was an earlier show than our other option probably weighed more in my favour... but they were glad in the end! 

All three of us (my sister, my dad and myself) really enjoyed this movie, although my dad did say that in a way it was a bit depressing. I found it to be disturbing... the society it depicted, the people's mentality, their ignorance... Although intellectually I know about all this (racism, social differences, sexism, education etc.) having studied it in school, observed it in other films, emotionally it still feels like a punch in the gut. How could people seriously think and behave like this? And I'm not just talking about the treatment of the black servants, but those suburban women so disconnected from reality were just as scary to me! Separate restrooms because of disease transmission? Seriously???

For any who haven't seen it (came out in the US in August, should be out there on dvd soon), it's the story of Skeeter, a young white woman who comes home from college back to Jackson Mississippi with dreams of becoming a writer (while all her mother wants for her is a husband and kids) and who wakes up to the realisation of how people in her social circle treat "the help", particularly the black maids who raise their children (and raised them as well!). She decides to write a book about these maids' lives from their own point of view and manages to convince two of them to share their war stories with her, in spite of their fear of possible repercussions. We're in the early 1960s, beginning of the Civil Rights movement, and those involved are terrified of what could happen to them (at the hands of the KKK and others) if they were known to be participating in this project. It's both a horrifying, moving, poignant and at times funny tale with some wonderful women brought to life by some amazing actresses, particularly Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer who play Aibileen and Minny. And any scene Minny is in is unforgettable!

On this Thanksgiving Day I am very grateful that society has changed so much, that the world depicted in this film feels so alien to me that I barely recognise it, and that there were men and women brave enough to stand up and help bring about an end to this discrimination.

I hope all of you who are celebrating the holiday have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones! :o)

15 Nov 2011

Hiking up the Sierra del Cid

These hikes are definitely getting harder! Which makes me wish for the umpteenth time that I could do them more frequently (this group, the Centro Excursionista de Alicante, does one a month) so as to train my legs and have those climbs be a bit less painful! Fortunately I've gotten a few more clues as to options for that so fingers crossed! ;o)

Last Sunday we climbed the Sierra del Cid, so named after the heroic exploits in the region Spain's most famous medieval hero: Ruiz Diaz de Vivar, el Cid (you might have seen him under the guise of Charlton Heston). Here's the mountain with such an epic name:

Sierra del Cid seen from La Rabosa

Hmmm... I just realised that when zooming in on the photo I can trace most of our trial! In the centre of the flank you can make out like a beige snake... it's a cemented path (v. steep!) that we followed part of the way up, before cutting across to the left through the trees and the up along the flank until we reached the pass (Paso del Contador) between the smaller peak to the left and the main body. There were quite a few very steep climbs to get up there, particularly the last one up to the peak!

12 Nov 2011

Volvo Ocean Race sets off from Alicante

So last Saturday the magnificent sailboats participating in the Volvo Ocean Race set sail from Alicante. Their nine month trip around the world started out on a gloriously warm autumn day with magnificent winds, deep blue waters and a very scary sky. Watching them zipping over the waves in Alicante Bay was mesmerising, and something of an adrenaline rush!

I've been meaning to write about the Volvo Ocean Race for a month now... but October was an incredibly busy month what with extra work hours and helping out with the Volvo's environmental education project (remember that beach clean I told you about?). Damn! I hate being late to the party! But this was a big deal in Alicante and I'm not going to let it disappear in the haze of post drafts waiting to happen. Better late than never, right?

Volvo Ocean Race trophy, winners inscribed on the bars
First things first! What is the Volvo Ocean Race? For those not involved in the world of sailing and regattas (which would be me! Never heard about this until it started in Alicante), it's a round-the-world yacht race (used to be called the Whitbread Round the World Race) that takes place every three years, typically departing in from Europe in the Fall (Oct-Nov) and then heading round the globe with about 8-9 stopovers until the final destination about nine months later. The 11-member crew spend up to 3 weeks on-board between each stopover, working round-the-clock in 4h shifts. Talk about intense! I got to see inside one of the sailboats (was asked not to post pictures of the interior, sorry!) and there really isn't much space to do anything down there other than sleep (in hanging cots that can be tilted closer to the hull if the boat is leaning too far to one side), work the navigation post or prepare a feeze-dried meal. Even the toilet is just there for show, typically they just use the bow of the boat, as in the sailing days gone by of the 19th century... More on the history of the race on Wikipedia, or the official Volvo website.

11 Nov 2011

Movie Magic: Tintin comes to life!

Can I take a moment to gloat that we got this film 2 months before the US?

Ok, moment taken. It's such a rare occasion, particularly in a big-name film like this one, I just had to enjoy it! ;o)

It took me a bit of convincing (read emotional blackmail) to get my regular movie-going partner in crime to agree to this one because a) animated films haven't been his cup of tea in years, and b) in his words "Tintin isn't part of my culture, it's very much a European thing". Well sorry Dad, Tintin may be primarily a European cultural reference, but Hergé's famous reporter has blazed his way across the globe with his comics having been translated into more than 80 languages (and more than 350 million copies sold - thx Wikipedia). Sure, I may have read through the whole collection -several times- in high school (any French Lycée worth its salt has a decent BDthèque -comic-book library-, and Tintin wouldn't be missing from it!), but someone got me copies in English as well... who might that have been? For the record, he says it was my mom, which would explain the ones in Spanish as well... I have an odd multi-lingual comics collection. Back to the non-Gringo thing... I do have several friends in the US who were very familiar with Tintin, including one who was something of a Tintinophile. He went so far as to have someone translate the dialogues in the comics that were in Arabic, Chinese and Russian just to verify that they fit in with the story and weren't random gibberish made to look like another language! And hey, even Bart Simpson is a Tintin fan! Although being very much a part of European culture I guess would explain why the movie got released 2 months ahead on this side of the pond...

6 Nov 2011

Technicolour Sunset

Fall has only just really hit us this past week. Temperatures have finally dropped to below 20ºC during the daytime, a storm has been going on and off for several days giving us high winds and quite a bit of rain but most specially: clouds!

What's the big deal with clouds? Well Alicante summers are very hot and hazy with nary a cloud in the sky (must be why all those tourists flock to our beaches) which can be rather boring if you like a little texture on your horizon! Fall means the return of storms and storms bring clouds. Lovely fluffy clouds, more dense stormy ones... you name it, we got it! And there's nothing better than a cloudy sky for a beautiful technicolour sunset!

Alicante's castle glowing in the light of the setting sun
20' later from the other end of the bay

These are our Fall colour! Our trees don't go all gold and bronze. They stay green and either lose their leaves or don't. So we depend on the sky to bring some bright colours into our lives. :o)

4 Nov 2011

Hiking the cliffs of insanity in the Serra Gelada

Ok, well maybe not quite the Cliffs of Insanity, but it sure felt like that when I was pulling myself up them a few weeks ago! :p

So this was my second hike of the season. I got invited by a friend to join in with the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia's hiking group as they made an incursion into the province of Alicante (their other hikes are a bit too far for me to go). They planned on hiking through a park that I've been meaning to visit for years, the mountain/cliffs that separate the bays of Benidorm and Altea: the Serra Gelada / Sierra Helada Natural Park. 4900 of the 5600 acres of this parc are marine environment, so some day I've got to find a dive club that will take me exploring beneath the surface.

Benidorm, the Island and the cliffs of the Serra Gelada seen from the sky

I waited for the rest of the group at the Toll booths just outside of Benidorm, then we made our way into the town and up to the cliffs looking over the Playa de Levante. We parked the cars in a dirt lot and then hit the trail... starting straight away with a pretty steep climb that had me out of breath pretty fast! I fact I was so worried about being able to keep up with the others that I didn't actually take any pictures until we made it to our first rest point at a lookout overlooking the bay!

27 Oct 2011

Keep the Oceans Clean! starting with Alicante's Postiguet Beach

For the past month or so I've been helping out as a local contact to organise a beach clean here on Alicante's main beach, the Postiguet, and yesterday was the big day! The event was part of an initiative called Keep The Oceans Clean!, a global environmental campaign organised by the Volvo Ocean Race and a group of artists (who happen to be surfers) called Skeleton Sea. The purpose of this programme is to raise awareness of the problems posed by the long-life trash floating around in our oceans, piling up on our beaches...  A beach clean will be organised in each of the 10 stop-overs of this incredible round-the-world race, hoping to get as much local participation as possible, starting here in Alicante!

25 Oct 2011

Join me in a few laughs...

... at my own expense! ;o)

We all need a few laughs from time to time, so I thought I'd provide a few for my blogging friends. I don't know anyone (including myself) who hasn't laughed while watching this:

Trust me: NOT easy staying up in that thing! And the more time goes by the more tired you are and the harder it gets! But it's so much FUN!!! I was laughing my a$$ off, and breathing heavily, when I got out of there! Oh, and the chuckling you hear in the background of the video? My dad making fun of me!

24 Oct 2011

Colourful hiking in the Font Roja

I had to get up at a shockingly early 6h30 yesterday morning, for my third hike of the season. What's that? THIRD hike? I only remember you telling us about ONE (Cumbre Reconco), did you invent the second? Nope. Second was a stunning hike along cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, but have been too busy to write! I wanted to start with this one while it's fresh in my mind and will take a step back in time for hike #2 soon. ;o)

So, back to business. 8 a.m. rendez-vous with the Centro Excursionista de Alicante at the bull ring, wait around for people (including myself, oops!), and then pile in the 12 cars (yikes!) and head inland to the Parque Natural del Carrascal de la Font Roja. About an hour north (inland) from the city of Alicante, it's one of the province's hidden treasures, which doesn't get as much attention as the beaches do. Covering about 2500 acres (of which 1300 are private property), it's got one of the best preserved Mediterranean forests in the region (albeit a relatively young one since a forest fire destroyed most of it in 1840), dominated by the eponimous Carrasca (a.k.a. Quercus rotundifolia), accompanied by other members of the oak family. Its Northeast-Southwest alignment (along a mountain ridge) results in distinct climates on the Northern (shady, quite a bit of rain, rich forest vegetation) and Southern (more sun, much drier, vegetation dominated y shrubs/bushes) slopes.

We got to the park around 9 a.m., and found it to be a very chilly 14ºC! Thank heavens for layers! But the early hour, the chilly air and the threatening rain clouds from the night before all combined to give us some gorgeous skies as we started our hike down below the Sanctuary:

20 Oct 2011

España vs Scotland - the World Champions come to Alicante!

October 11th, 2011...
So, where were we? Ah yes! Dudes in skirts invaded Alicante!!! And why? All to see a beautiful trophy in a glass case? I don't think even the most ardent fans would fly all the way down here just for that (although the added incentive of the local beaches and sunny weather might help). Nope, they were all here to witness their teams' final qualifying match for the 2012 European Football Championship! What were the stakes? Well for Spain a matter of pride, hoping to win all their matches in a qualifying phase for the first time (something very few countries have done) and maintain their winning streak in Alicante (they've never lost here!), but for Scotland the stakes were much higher: a loss would mean farewell to their dreams of playing in Poland and the Ukraine next summer.

Now, although it might seem otherwise from the number of posts on the subject, I am NOT a big football fan! Except when the national team is involved... then I go kind of crazy... particularly if it's a World Cup year (see last year's football madness, lol!). ;o)  In fact, I've only been once to see a live football match, and that was a big final in Mexico D.F. 16 years ago with a friend who insisted I had to see a live match (and we had a blast!). Although I've often thought it would be fun to go see another match with a group of friends, I haven't really done anything about it. The best time would have been last year when Alicante's local team - the Hercules - was in 1st Division and the best teams in the country all came to play here at some point, but I was out quite frequently so nada. But the Selección comes to Alicante for the first time in 10 years?!?!?! There's NO WAY I was going to miss out on joining in in that fiesta with the reining World Champions! Add to that the fact that my dad had never been to a live football match (American football I'm guessing yes), and we were all set to make a father-daughter adventure out of it! :o)

He looks excited doesn't he?

We walked into the Rico Perez (the Hercules' stadium) barely 5' before the match started and of course the place was packed and the ambiance fantastic!

12 Oct 2011

More dudes with skirts! Football fiesta in Alicante...

So, no guesses on the reason for the Scottish invasion? *sniffles* I'd hope at least someone on this side of the Atlantic would have chimed in... after all, similar events were taking place in a dozen or so cities around the continent!

I'll give you a few more clues and let's see if you can't figure it out before the end of the post...

Number one, although lots of them were turning crispy red on the beach or downing bears on one of Alicante's many terraces,

many more were to be seen hanging around this place:

Ok, yeah... that's in Spanish and it translates as "World Champions - Welcome to the Club Selección", Selección as in Spain's national football team (soccer for those on the other side of the pond). So why were Scots hanging around a place dedicated to Spain's current darlings? Well, among the many tents set up on this Esplanade on the harbour, most people (including lots of Spaniards) came to line up and go in here:

Yes dear, that man is wearing a sheep on his head! lol!

10 Oct 2011

Invasion of dudes in skirts!

Check this out:

Saw quite a few guys decked out in skirts wandering around town this morning! (and yes I know they're called kilts, but I'm just giving you an Alicante reaction... that of most people 'round here!)

Let's see if anyone can guess the reason for this Scottish invasion? ;o)

3 Oct 2011

Movie Madness: The Three Musketeers

I don't think there's any other way to classify this one than under Movie Madness, because the latest outing of my all-time favourite swashbucklers is definitely more than a bit mad!!!

I've been seeing this poster hanging up in my local movie theatre for almost a year now:

(warning: some spoilers ahead)

2 Oct 2011

Favourite Summer Moments 2011

One thing leads to another... in this case reading a post over at Snug Harbor Bay which led me to the Outdoor Blogger Network and their Goodbye Summer photo prompt, which got me to thinking about my wonderfully busy summer this year! I was way too absent from the blog this summer thanks to / because of "real" life keeping me busy and away from my computer screen! Which resulted in a lot of photos and a lot of adventures I wanted to blog about but haven't had the time... So consider this a summertime "greatest hits" and preview to one or the other future posts. ;o)

Summer in Alicante started off as usual with the Hogueras de San Juan

"Official" Hoguera 2011 (more here)

and I got to enjoy a couple of mascletàs from real close! ;o)

Then there was the travelling...

crossing the Atlas mountains in July

fun with henna tattoos for a Berber wedding