31 Dec 2012

Wonders of the Alhambra

Yay! This Blogger ap will let me put more than one photo! I don't know how I could have chosen just a single shot from this morning's magical 5h!

The Alhambra is most definitely one of the most beautiful places in Spain!!! It's my 5th visit and it never disappoints! Will tell you all about after I return home and sort through all the photos and video. ;o)

Bright Christmas tree

In Granada they set up a nice tree!!!

30 Dec 2012

Testing, testing 123...

Just checking what it's like blogging with my new "toy"! (I got half an iphone for xmas!!!)

If this works ok I'll share a few moments of a New Year's Eve in Granada with you!

This photo is a shot from the car of the Cathedral in Guadix, a small town where we stopped for lunch on our way here. Lovely! But unfortunately closed.

25 Dec 2012

Merry Christmas!


I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas! For the first time in 6 years my parents had all their daughters under the same roof at Christmas so for my family it's been very exciting!

Best wishes for the rest of the holiday season! With all the family craziness going on (my kiwi sister came with her boyfriend and one of my cousins from Virginia is here so we're going to be busy showing them around Alicante and Granada!), I'm probably going to be even more absent that usual from the blogosphere until after 12th Night! (aka Epiphany or 3 Kings Day in this part of the world!). With a bit of luck I might be able to get up a few Christmassy posts... ;o)

Happy Holidays! :o)

15 Dec 2012


... there lived a HOBBIT.
"Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
Although the movie doesn't start with them, the famous first lines of The Hobbit are said by older Bilbo as he writes them down in the Red Book. :o)  And last night it sure was a delight to revisit Bag End with the elder Bilbo and young Frodo (Ian Holm and Elijah Wood) as they prepare for a very special birthday party! I've been giddy as a schoolgirl all week just at the thought of dipping my toes back into the waters of Middle Earth, so it didn't take much to get me to go on opening day or choose to see it in 3D! ;o)

12 Dec 2012

12h12 12/12/12

Ding, ding, ding, DING!!!

At the time of this posting it will be exactly 12h12 on December 12th 2012 (in Alicante)... So if you just look at the numbers that's 12 12 12 12 12. Lots of twelves! :p

Just a random moment to laugh at the numbers... although maybe I should head out and buy a lottery ticket ending in 12? ;o)

Will be back for regular blogging as soon as I finish with my weekend photos... I spent it in Belgium visiting fabulous friends! Got to see some snow, eat lots of yummy food, go to a concert, hang out in the Christmas market and drink mulled wine and buy about 3 kgs of chocolate to bring back home for gifts! :p

19 Nov 2012

Home Sweet Home

Ouf! That was a crazy-scary-stressful-intense week and I am SO glad it is over!

My dad's operation went beautifully (according to the surgeons). Triple bypass using a long vein from his leg for two parts and the third, the big one, with an artery from the breast (apparently we have an artery back there we don't really need!). Doctors did it in just over 3h and my mom and I were there to see him enter the ICU right after. Was really weird seeing him all plugged in and asleep. Good thing he was asleep 'cause he had a tube sticking out of his throat and connected to a ventilator! Very freaky to see your dad in a scene straight out of House or Grey's Anatomy... He ended up spending 2 1/2 days in the ICU, drifting in and out of sleep and bored out of his mind when he was awake. We were only allowed to visit from 12h-12h30 and 18h-18h30. Not much. The first day he kind of kicked us out after 20' by saying "good night", but on the second he was cracking jokes and sharing some crazy dream about being a spy (I knew I shouldn't have taken him to see Skyfall and Argo just before all this!).

happy to be out of the ICU

Friday at noon we finally managed to break him out of the ICU (ok, we had the doctor's permission) and get him to his regular hospital room. Exciting since a) he got his glasses back, b) there was a TV -just in time for the Davis Cup final!-, c) he wasn't "plugged in" to anything anymore so could get up and move around (carefully) and d) there was an extra bed for my mom to sleep in and keep him company! :o)

His recovery has gone so well the doctors even discharged him a day early, today! Now we just need to keep an eye on him so he doesn't over-exert himself this week. His sternum needs time to knit back together after being sawed in half... Problem is he's not the most patient of patients! :p He already plans on heading off to choir practice tomorrow morning with his guitar!!! pfffffft!!!

showing my sister (via Facetime) that his guitar skills are intact

Thanks everyone for your well wishes! :o)

And in case I don't have time to stop by again (this will be another insane week running errands for my parents and cooking the main meals -including Thanksgiving dinner, a challenge!- since my dad's not allowed to), I hope everyone has a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! My family definitely has something BIG to be thankful for this year. :o)

13 Nov 2012

Two VERY scary words: B----- S------

As in Bypass Surgery.

Anyone know anything about it? Someone who's been through it? How they did after?

My dad's going in for it today... and I've been kind of silently freaking out about it for days.

Good points: it's preventative (as in "let's fix this before it causes a problem" and "how on earth have you not had a problem yet with those coronary arteries so full of lesions?") and his heart is super strong (anybody who knows him could have told you that doc!) and everyone says (starting with him) he'll be tearing up the tennis courts again in no time.

Bad points: they're going to frakking stop his heart!!! And plug him into a machine!!! And grab some piece of vein from the leg and stick it in place of two (or three) of his coronary arteries!!! But before all that they're going to cut through his sternum with a saw and crack open his chest... NOT GOOD!!! >:(

Like I said. Freaking out.

10 Nov 2012

Windy hike up the Sierra Ventos

Rainy day Sunday today. Which hereabouts translates into cancelled hikes! Yes I know, in other parts of the world people hike rain or shine or snow or wind... but it rains so rarely here the locals are a bit allergic to atmospheric water! Add to that hiking trails involving bare-faced (so slippery when wet) rocks and "dry" riverbeds and hiking in the rain becomes a teensy bit dangerous...

Oh well, if I can't hike at least I can write about it! I'm behind with my posting again (yeah, I know... no comment!). This hike was two weeks ago and I hadn't even gotten around to selecting and editing the photos for my Facebook album! I've got people impatiently asking me about them since I'm kind of the CEA's unofficial photographer! Woops!

I don't think I've ever been as happy to put the clocks back an hour as I was two weeks ago because it meant being able to sleep an extra hour on a day when I had to leave the house at 7h30 to go hiking! We all met up looking a lot more awake than usual and ready to hit to trail and enjoy the sunshine, albeit a bit surprised by the cold wind that was blowing something fierce! Thank god for layers! I had a long-sleeve on over a short-sleeve merino shirt, originally planning on hiking in short sleeves once we got going, but instead I eventually put on my polar fleece on top of it all and was wishing I had taken my windbreaker! Stupid me for not looking more carefully at the weather forecast (I just noticed sun and 14ºC, ignored the wind info). I've learnt my lesson, next time windbreaker gets stuffed into the pack!

7 Nov 2012

Random Movie Ramblings

On Sunday I went back to the movies with my Dad.  And I realised that was 3 times in 8 days (with The Impossible a week before)... how obvious is it that we're big cinema fans? :p

Anyhow, we went for Argo (directed by and starring Ben Affleck). It's about the hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Something I have no memory of whatsoever (I was 3), but my dad remembers quite well. This movie is about the 6 hostages who escaped the Embassy when it was overrun and found refuge in the Canadian Ambassador's house (spy daddy Victor Garber, yay!). It's about the CIA guy (Affleck) who was crazy enough to go and get them out by pretending to be making a Hollywood Sci-Fi film that needed to film on location in Iran. I thought it was an excellent film! Very well made and acted, and very tense even though we know the final outcome (history and all that). Both my dad and I really enjoyed it! As usual I'm sure they played with and stretched the actual timeline and historical facts to fit the storytelling needs, but I'm fine with that (I'll go digging around online later to do some fact-checking).

Argo was definitely MUCH better than the movie we went to see on Thursday: Skyfall, the latest 007. Boy was that... bland! Basically a transition film to introduce a new set of Bond people/actors for the next films. I was kind of bored during the first half of the film. It just seemed to move from set piece to set piece with no purpose, no guideline... An interesting villain but uninteresting Bond girls. Then it got better when M (the ever fabulous Judi Dench) got much more to do than her usual arguing with Bond. In fact the element that most surprised me was the fact that I was in a packed cinema (like during The Impossible the previous week), with kids/teens seated on either side of us plus behind and in front! The film itself I pretty much predicted everything way ahead of time. Even if you're a big Bond fan, you might want to wait to rent the dvd...

Just before Skyfall we got the trailer for Lincoln... looks really good! Plus a friend in Missouri who got to go to an advance screening said it's excellent, she even called Daniel Day Lewis for the Best Actor Oscar! So I'll definitely be there when that shows up on screen! Although we won't get it in Spain 'till mid-January. Fingers crossed I get a chance to see it in English!
Question: is there a Lincoln anniversary coming up? Or has there been one? That's 3 movies in a couple of years... ok one he was the victim (The Conspirator) and another was a loopy Vampire hunting one (better than I expected), but still...

But what really got my adrenaline pumping was the trailer preceding Argo: The Hobbit!!! Can't wait!!! If possible we're going to watch that all together after a family lunch on Christmas Day in Valencia (in English, yay!). We know they've filmed the whole thing... are they really going to spread it out over 3 years like Lord of the Rings?! *sigh* Apparently the titles of the three will be The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (1); The Desolation of Smaug (2) and There and Back Again (3). Time for me to re-read the book (plus the appendices of The Lord of the Rings for the extra stuff) and try and guess where they'll be splitting the story...

Question: has anyone seen a movie called The Words? Starring Bradley Cooper. It's playing here and caught my interest. I'm hesistating on wether taking my dad (or having him take me) to see that one or Looper this weekend. It will be his last visit to the movie theatre in a month probably (more on that another day)....

4 Nov 2012

Halloween and Todos Santos

Most years I don't do anything around Oct 31st - Nov 1st, but this year both my American and Spanish sides got to enjoy some of the "traditional" Halloween / All Saints' Day (Todos Santos) action! 
A friend of mine decided to do a big Halloween dinner on Wednesday (Nov 1st being a holiday we have no worries about staying out late on Halloween!) and I offered to bake a cake:

Yummy pumpkin Jack'o'Lantern cake with pumpkin icing!

While I was baking it groups of kids from my apartment complex kept showing up trick'or'treating (globalisation!), and they got me in the mood for putting together some kind of costume for the dinner so I went digging around in my closet and came up with this:

When I got to my friend's house I discovered that her boyfriend (who loves cooking) had outdone himself! He went online looking for ideas of Halloween food...

Care for a severed hand or some slightly burnt intestines? No? Well how about a delicious bat, ghost, mummy or spider? ;o)

The pumpkin cake went along very well with these chocolate spiders:

Not only did it all look disgusting amazing, it was delicious! :o)  

 We definitely had a blast!

Then the next morning I got together with my parents and Grandmother (she's visiting from Valencia) to visit my great-grandmother's grave in Altea (where my mom was born) and leave some flowers.

three generations

Then we walked along the beach at la Olla a bit and had lunch nearby.

It had been very windy so the waves were fun to watch:

That structure behind me is what's left of an old machine gun bunker from the Spanish Civil War (in case of attack by sea). Here's a closer look:

All in all a great 24h! :o)

27 Oct 2012

Movie Magic: The Impossible

What's impossible about the movie The Impossible is to walk out of the cinema without having shed a few tears! Go ahead, try it. I dare you! (be sure to stock up on kleenex). Seriously. A crowded room full of noisy people (including lots of popcorn munching teens) in minutes went dead silent, the only sound to be heard gasps and sniffles. And applause when it ended. My heart is still racing!!!

You probably have no idea what I'm talking about since this film won't hit screens in the U.S. until November and the UK until January so I'd better give you some more info! For starters the reason we got it in Spain a month before anyone else is because it's a 100% Spanish film, although most people won't realise that seeing as how it was filmed in English with international stars (Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and a lovely cameo by Geraldine Chaplin). Although as usual I was stuck watching it dubbed in Spanish! :p But look at the names involved behind the camera and they're all Spanish! Plus part of it was filmed here in Alicante (I just learnt that online)! Oh, and just for stats: it broke all box office records in Spain for biggest weekend opening 2 weeks ago, and although since then it's been playing on 2 screens in my local cinema, one show per hour, the room was still packed! :o)

21 Oct 2012

Random Sunday Ramblings

It's been a very quiet Sunday for me. Pretty much a quiet weekend (with a couple of exceptions)! Which is fine by me when a) I'm dealing with a blasted cold and b) the weather is uncharacteristically icky (grey skies and rain all weekend!). Today it's just been me, my computer, my sofa, the TV and a box of kleenex. And a bit of organising around the house just to feel productive. I was supposed to go hiking today, but it got switched to another weekend because of the weather (hiking in rainstorms here can be dangerous, not to mention it rains so rarely that most people in Alicante are a bit "allergic" to rain!). Big sigh of relief!

Do you have a "go-to" movie for when you're feeling under the weather? I've got a couple, but my favourite is definitely The Princess Bride! I don't know how many times I've seen it, but each time I enjoy it all over again. Big smiles, laughs and plenty of quoting! I've been thinking about it for over a week now, and finally popped it in the machine today! I could share oh so many clips from this... but I'll leave you with my all-time favourite cinematic duel atop the Cliffs of Insanity:

8 Oct 2012

Return to the Sierra Helada a.k.a. the "Cliffs of Insanity"

Almost exactly one year ago I met up in Benidorm with a friend and his hiking group to do the cliff-trail of the Sierra Helada / Serra Gelada park. It was only my second hike after a long period of inactivity and it was so gruelling I named it the "Cliffs of Insanity" when I blogged about the trek (please don't tell me you don't know where the name comes from, you'll make me feel very old!). Later, when talking with people from my usual hiking group, I discovered we were a bit nuts to have done the trek in both directions (as in round trip)... considering there's a conveniently located bus with stops near both ends of the trail!!! So people usually park the car in either Benidorm or the Albir, hike the trail and then catch the bus back! *smacks forehead*

Sierra Helada Park between Benidorm and the Albir

8km trail, we did 12km -7.5mi- (to bus)
It was a gruelling hike, but as I wrote back then well worth it for the fabulous views! However I had no intention of doing it again any time soon... until my regular group, the Centro Excursionista de Alicante, put it on the calendar as the inaugural hike of the season! Considering we only have one hike programmed per month, no way was I missing out! As the date got nearer (last Sunday) I was a bit worried because of the weather issues (massive storm two days before, with rains Thurs-Sat). What would the conditions be like up there on the cliffs so close to the edge? I needn't have worried. The storm cleaned up the skies beautifully, pounded down the dust on the trails... and left us with an absolutely GORGEOUS day to go hiking along the Mediterranean! Intensely blue waters and skies (punctuated by fluffy white clouds) alongside golden cliffs surrounded by green vegetation... what more can one ask for? Oh, and since we started out pretty early the light was perfect for photography most of the morning! :o)

gazing across to the Puig Campana on the way up to the antennas

4 Oct 2012

Around the Sierra Aguilar, First Hike of the Season!

The days of the calendar just slipped by unnoticed this past month... and before I realised it Fall had arrived! And that means HIKING SEASON!!! Although some crazy folk still hit the trails under the blazing summer sun, most slightly more sane folk wait for the change of seasons to head out again with a lower risk of dehydration or sun stroke. ;o)

Even so, on my first hike back we were a pretty small group, just 20 people hopped on the bus organised by the "Trenet Senderista". One of them was my Dad! I managed to convince him to join me for my first hike of the season (he hasn't come since last February, or was it March?)!

It was really nice to be headed back up into the mountains and Alicante's greener "backcountry" between the towns of Relleu and Sella,

2 Oct 2012

In Alicante when it rains...

 ... it POURS! :o( 

Welcome to the meteorological event known locally as the Gota Fría, or "cold drop". It's a weather phenomenon that happens every few years along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and one that has everyone on edge every year when September morphs into October. Basically it's this huge rain storm... of the kind that drops more water in a couple of hours than we typically get in a whole year! It happens in years when the atmospheric temperatures drop much faster than the sea temperature (i.e. when the air cools down quickly but the sea is still warm). Very humid warm air at the sea's surface rises and cools too quickly when it reaches the cooler layers of the atmosphere, resulting in an intense rainfall accompanied by high winds. In many areas this also results in flashfloods along usually dry riverbeds...

Meteosat's satellite image Friday Sept 28

Bridge on the A-7, image from rtve.es
This year the consequences in Alicante itself weren't too bad since we'd already had an afternoon and a night of "light" rain which moistened the hard ground making it capable of absorbing some of the storm rain. In other years when it hasn't rained before a "gota fría" the ground is so dry and hard it can't absorb any water (acts like concrete!) and the water just rushes along downhill... But in the southern part of the province there was some serious flooding, and in Murcia (100km south of us) a section of the highway (a bridge) fell apart and in some towns homes are destroyed and people dead. So again, we got lucky in Alicante. (Our last really bad one was on Sept 30th 1997, I was "trapped" up on Campus and couldn't get home).

When you watch it all from the safety of home it's quite mesmerising really... I spent a long time just leaning at the window listening to the rain and trying to make out any sign of Alicante or the Mediterranean through the curtain of water.

That and watching the swirling water in the street below us...

It was amazing how, once the storm neared its end, the rain cleared up quite quickly! Just leaving us with signs if run-off in the nearby beach (muddy waters) and gorgeous skies over the castle:

Alicante = Mexico! (from diarioinformacion.com)
The video at the beginning was taken towards the end of the storm (18h40), although it rained for another hour or so it wasn't too bad. It started raining during lunchtime, and as it got worse I thought "so much for poor Ridley Scott and his movie!". Yeah, remember my post last Thursday when I was all excited about that filming sequence downtown? And I was going to go check it out? Well around here if you value your life when one of these storms starts you STAY PUT! So I spent the rest of the afternoon with my parents (had gone over for lunch), alternating between watching the storm and watching TV, before heading home in the evening. But it turns out it takes more than a little rain to stop Ridley Scott! They had the Ayuntamiento all decked out as a Mexican court house and shot some scenes just before the storm hit, filmed the stuff with Michael Fassbender inside while it was pouring down outside, then finished up when the rain ended! I'm sad I missed out, but oh well! If you want to check out a few more pictures and video (and get details if you can read Spanish) here's the article in the local paper.

Oh, and this is what one of our beaches (the Albufereta) looked like on Saturday:

In fact, that happens almost EVERY time we have a big rainstorm (they just keep rebuilding the beach). Why does this beach keep getting destroyed by the storms? Because it's at the mouth of a dry riverbed! Once upon a time (as in when the Romans lived here) this used to be a small bay where a river met the sea, with a Roman harbour and a Roman settlement on a nearby hill. Weather patterns changed, dams were built... the river dried up, the beach formed, and that was that! Except whenever there's a heavy rainstorm (and not just during a Gota Fría) the water finds its way back down the river bed... and during a Gota Fría, well it's much worse! In 1997 this bridge was under water...

We needed rain in Alicante... but not that much all at once! On the plus side for me, we had beautiful skies as a result and Sunday's hike (more on that another day) was absolutely gorgeous!!! ;o)