26 Feb 2012

Movie Madness: time for the OSCARS!!!

So tonight is another one of those random nights in which I kind of wish I was living across the pond again, just so I could participate in and enjoy the madness that is the Academy Awards (a.k.a. the Oscars). I used to enjoy the show (and rooting for my favourite films) quite a bit, but since moving to Europe I've rarely had the chance to indulge in the craziness... 9h time difference with L.A. and the fact that it's on Canal+ (pay extra) definitely put a damper on any celebrations... So in Spain people don't really pay much attention to the Oscars. Hell, most people don't really pay any attention to the Goyas either (Spain's equivalent). I've only done anything Oscar-related here my first year in Uni when we organised an Oscar pool at the dorms and stayed up to watch it! (but of course, any excuse is a good excuse to stay up and party, so lol!) I've managed to stay up and watch it on a few other occasions, including once in Belgium... but this is the first time in like forever that I'm participating in an Oscar pool, albeit long-distance! My aunt's sister's family in the US apparently do this every year and since we've been communicating a lot via Facebook lately (we met last year in Paris, big coincidence our both being there at the same time) and discovered we have similar tastes (books, movies) and she invited me to join in! It gives the proceedings a bit of an added thrill for me. Fun! :o)

Unfortunately I'm not as well prepared for the Oscars as I have been other years (too many movies I haven't seen yet: Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, Albert Nobbs, Hugo, Beginners...), the Academy's upping the number of films in Best Picture category complicates things, and later release dates in Spain don't help (Hugo just came out this weekend)! So I kind of figuratively flipped a coin in some categories while filling out my ballot, but here are a few I did give a bit more thought to... I have no way to honestly judge who "should" win, so I'm just saying who I would vote for if I had the chance, plus who I think might actually win it (if different).

24 Feb 2012

From Finestrat to the coast: sun, water, almonds and Romans!

So two weeks ago I mentioned I was desperately trying to decide which group to go hiking with... it was a tough call 'cause both my usual groups were going to spots I'd already been recently, and both had their pros and cons (snow? almond trees?). In the end the choice turned out to be simple, because the Trenet Senderista changed their destination! The weather forecast for that weekend implied some intense cold in the interior of the province (crazy Siberia weather front!), so the guide chose to stick close to the coast... as in right alongside it! (well, for part of the hike at least). So, repeat a hike or try out a new spot (even if a much less challenging one)? No brainer, I'll go with the new one! There's so much to see in this province, it's too soon to start repeating hikes! :p

After being picked up in several spots around Alicante, San Juan, Campello, Benidorm (advantages of having a bus available!), the bus dropped us off near the main road heading into Finestrat, a small town at the base of the Puig Campana (the alternate hike I had been contemplating was a repeat -albeit shorter route- of the climb I did up that peak in December).

We hiked around there for about an hour, definitely not following any regularly marked paths as far I could tell... our guide lives in Finestrat so he knows the random criss-crossing paths around here like the back of his hand! I thought I might be forgoing the pleasure of almond trees this close to the coast, when lo and behold, yay!

21 Feb 2012

Cold and windy hike along the Sierra Els Plans... a.k.a. my first "3000m" climb!

Ok, so not really a climb up a single 3000 m (9842 ft) peak, but we did make it to three different peaks that were each over 1000 m above sea level and 3*1000 = 3000, right? ;o) Yeah, yeah, I know... not the same! Particularly since we didn't climb up 1000 m each time (the whole hike had an approximate cumulative climb of 900 m - 2952 ft.) But it was our running gag for the day, how we were these fabulous mountain climbers making it up our first 3000m! lol! :D

We (the Centro Excursionista de Alicante) started out at 788 m above sea level from the town of Torremanzanas, whose name is a bit of a cheat since in English it would translate as "Tower of Apples" but there is no tower and there are no apples! It's an erroneous Castilian transliteration of the Valencian/Catalan name La Torre de les Maçanes (which probably means the Maçanes -name of some family?- Tower, but if there ever was a tower, it's gone!). The town is kind of surrounded on its northwestern side by the Sierra Els Plans which is part of the climatological frontier between the greener (i.e.*slightly* rainier) interior and the more arid coastal part of the province of Alicante. Our objective was to climb to the highest peak Els Plans (1330m), then walk along the (wide) ridge to the secondary peak called La Xamarra (1224m) then head back down into the valley and up a neighbouring third peak the Montagut (1081m). And for once I've got an altitud/distance profile of the hike to share!

Oh, and as the title of this post implies... it was COLD!!! It was the first day of a Siberian weather front that stayed with us for another 3 weeks (leaving snow in some of the local mountains) and which still hasn't quite decided to leave, a full month later! It was barely above freezing when we started out, it did get warmer throughout the day thanks to the sun, but there was a constant breeze/wind that had me wishing I had brought a pair of thermal pants to wear under my hiking pants! BRRRRR!!! First time in Alicante I've hiked with so many layers...

18 Feb 2012

Book Report: The Hunger Games trilogy

Warning: these books are highly addictive! If you pick one up and you have the other two at hand, be prepared for several very short nights! Or in my case if you're discovering your new Kindle be warned... when you reach the final page of The Hunger Games you will see the following:
"You've finished. Before you go...
More by this author
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
Mockingjay (The Final Book of the Hunger Games)"
I dare you to NOT click on the link to Catching Fire! When all you want is just a glimpse into how things proceed... and it's just a couple of bucks... what's the harm? And it's downhill from there... And repeat said proceedings once you reach the end of Catching Fire.... I think I read all of them in 3-4 days? Dunno, was a week ago and they all just kind of melded into each other! (they're also part of the reason I've been missing from the blog-o-sphere, too busy reading!)

17 Feb 2012

Hiking off the beaten track between the Xorret de Cati and Rincón Bello

Still running three hikes behind on these posts... I seem to get out on hikes more often than I have time to write about them! :p

This was the second time (of the 3 hikes I've done with them) that the guy in charge of the "Trenet Senderista" took us on a hike that included a fair bit of "off the beaten track", by which I mean not following "official" marked paths or anything... just a trail through the vegetation (or crossing fields to go join a different trail). And I LIKE IT!  Even if it means having to be twice as careful about watching your step, as one lady learnt on this hike...

started at Hotel, followed "red" towards the left until "caserío" then took a ravine round a mountain and finally came up to Rabosa for lunch

Sunday January 22nd, 9 a.m., we all piled into a bus (and a van, way too many people on this hike!) and head west out of Alicante, straight towards the mountains you can see behind the city (the Maigmó), a drive through them until we reach the Xorret de Catí, a gorgeous recreational area with lots of hiking trails through trees and fields and over mountains, some choice mountain climbing spots, and a hotel and campground for those who want to spend a night. Locally it's famous for having hosted the end of an "etapa" (relay?) for the Vuelta Ciclista de España on several occasions (Spain's famous cycling race, one of the three "biggies" with the Tour de France and Giro de Italia).

Shortly after we started our hike we came upon an almond tree with a single blooming branch in the middle of a field. I just love these flowers (pink this time!), so of course I had to stop and take a few photos! ;o)  (click them bigger)

10 Feb 2012

Desperately trying to decide where to hike this weekend...

So I'm still running behind on my hiking posts, been a bit busy with class preparations and other "real life" stuff (not all of it fun, except for the movie outings, love those!), and right now I'm really wracking (is that the right word?) my brains on where to hike this Sunday! I've got three options, although one of them isn't really an option... a friend from Valencia will be going with his hiking group to spot in the northern part of Alicante and wants me to join them... but a 90' drive there and then back all by myself means too big a gas expense for me on my lonesome. :s

So I'm trying to choose between my two regular groups, both of which are going to a place I've already been! 

  • The Trenet Senderista is going to hike around the Reconco, which was my first hike in September with the Centro Excursionista. On the plus side it's a nice area, there could be more almond trees in bloom (always on the lookout for those this time of the year) and if the forecast is correct it should be cold but sunny and not too much wind. It will be a decently long hike (about 15 km I guess) and not too leg-breaking (they don't climb the peaks). On the down side this is usually a large group (bus) which means plenty of time waiting around and well, it's COLD!!! That and an hour's break for lunch... brrr!!!
  • The Centro Excursionista de Alicante is going to climb the Puig Campana again (we did it before Christmas), but this time it will be a shorter hike (45' to the beginning of the tough climb instead of 2h, then straight back to the cars instead of walking all around the mountain) since it's a family outing (regular hikers will bring their kids). Although no matter how much shorter, that tough climb is just as tough as it was in December... On the plus side, the weather forecast shows chances of rain tomorrow which could mean snow up there (fun!), and there's the fact that I didn't get a view from the top last time (in theory you can see Ibiza!) so second time's the charm? On the down side, should be much colder because will be windier and there definitely aren't any almond trees around there to look forward too... ;o(
What to do? How to choose? Any words of advice? In any case, this should result in a hiking post with much fewer photos than usual (is that a sigh of relief I hear?) since I've already done both in detail... ;o)

5 Feb 2012

Monthly Movies: Jan'12

One of my local movie theatres, the Yelmo Puerta de Alicante, is finally showing current movies in VOS!!! (i.e. orginal language with Spanish subtitles). Just one session per day of the four sessions each movie is showing (so you've got to work around their schedule), but that's better than the nothing we had before. And I've been so enjoying these performances un-dubbed! I hope they keep it up! :o)  So this January I got to play in a Zoo, cringe at some incompetent bank robbers, watch a criminal mastermind match wits with a genius detective, lose myself in a performance without words, catch glimpses of Britain's recent political history, and watch a man reconnect with his family and his roots.

3 Feb 2012

Hiking to the Cabeco d'Or... and discovering it's greener than I thought!

Is it really February already?! When did that happen? Where was I??? I guess busy with classes, hiking the trails or lost in my new Kindle (that thing should come with a disclaimer! "Warning: having a Kindle will result in many sleepless nights due to excess reading" or some such thing, lol!). In any case, I'm way behind on my blogging! I've barely even been able to keep up with what you guys are writing, let alone organise my thoughts (and my photos) to write my own posts! Time to fix that!

So three weeks ago I finally managed to hit the hiking trails again, heading out for the second time with the group "El Trenet Senderista" on a gorgeous sunny January day... which didn't feel at all like winter! In fact, in spite of what you see in this photo I spent most of the hike in short sleeves! (I will admit to both shirts being Iceabreaker merino shirts so warmer than a regular t-shirt).

We started out on the Sierra de la Grana, near Jijona (where the turrón comes from!), and were off for a ~16km to the Cabeçó d'Or which you can actually see behind me in that shot (lighting's not great since the camera focused on me). For me the novelty this time, was a special hiking companion: