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)