Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zahara de los Atunes, Cadiz, Spain - Last Few Days

We spent Saturday relaxing by the pool and the beach. We tried to book the Morrocan restaurant in Veher but they were fully booked. It is a long week-end in Spain with Ascension Day on Monday 15th. This time we made sure to leave early enough to catch the sunset in Trafalgar. We even knew where to park now! It is a long walk out to the lighthouse. There were lots of people there. The sunset was beautiful. To crown it all a micro-light plane flew by - I think I just caught him!

Sunset at Cape Trafalgar, Uploaded by M+MD

We decided to head back to Zahara for dinner. When we got there it was hopping - Saturday night and every restaurant had people waiting. I guess we have settled in too well to the Spanish time-keeping. We decided to cut our losses and try for a restaurant nearer home or maybe just some pasta at home. We managed to find La Sal restaurant and we had very nice Sea Bream.

View over Atlanterra and Zahara, Uploaded by M+MD

Sunday we lazed and packed. We took a drive into Zahara to get a few last minute presents. We drove behind the hill at the end of our beach. There was another beach and some stunning Villas. There was also a stunning view back to Zahara. I went down to the pool and the beach for a final swim. As I was swimming the sun was setting into the sea - it was very pretty. I took lots of photos. We finished packing and ate and got to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunset Zahara, Uploaded by M+MD

Monday morning we set off at 8.30. We were in the airport with lots of time to spare. A great holiday - now back to work to-morrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Zahara de los Atunes, Cadiz, Spain - Week Two

Dear Lisa
It's Saturday again. We've had an interesting week. Just 2 days left. It has been a very good holiday. On Sunday last we headed off to Portugal to visit Gerry and Cath. It was a four hour drive - but motorway all the way. They had a lovely spread laid on for us whe we arrived at 2.30 (Spanish Time - 1.30 Portugese time) Gerry grilled a whole Sea Bass on the grill. it was as big as a salmon and very tasty - even Senan liked it!
Gerry and Cath's Heaven, Quinta da Lago, Uploaded by M+MD.

We lazed around, I swam in the pool. They have done an amazing job on the basement. They have tiled it and finished the Walls. There are 6beds down there and it's cool, and air conditioned. But best of all (says Senan) there was a piano. Senan disappeared down there and was very happy.

Later we went down to down to Quinta shopping where we had a drink and something to eat in the D Lounge. We finished up in De Barras of course. We didn't stay too late. The next morning we got up around ten and had breakfast. Our plan was to head back and stop off in Seville for lunch. Before we left we talked to Maeve on Skype -she is in San Francisco working. She was amazed to see the Dobeys in Portugal!

It was less than 2 hours to Seville. It's a big city. We found an underground car park near the Cathedral. It was not too hot for Seville - only 38 degrees! Katy had done the research and under her instructions we found a lovely Tapa bar. There was ordered 8 dishes and we were very well fed. The bar was called Enrique Becerras.

After lunch we walked back towards the Cathedral. Mark said it was spectacular - it is the second biggest Cathedral in the world. As we got around to the entrance at 4, it was just closing! It was very hot and the rest of Seville was closed too. We found the main shopping street and there were a few shops open. So Katy and Mags got to work doing what they do best!

After 5.30 most of the shops started to open and the place was not longer deserted. We found the main department store and we all got in on the shopping act. I discovered that visitors could get a card which entitled them to an additional 10% discount. As it was sales time there were some good bargains. I didn't go too mad but bought shorts sandals and a tee- shirt.

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Uploaded by M+MD

By the time we were finished shopping it was after eight and we though we better eat again. The bars and Cafes in Seville had a very interesting cooling system for those sitting outside. Attached to the awnings were a system of narrow pipes with nozzles every 3 feet or so. Every 30 seconds these nozzles would hiss out cool water vapour. It looks like dry ice. A bit weird, but probably effective we were not very hungry and just wanted a snack. We sat out side under the awning with the nozzles keeping us cool and damp.

However we had broken one of Katy's rules "never eat in a restaurant where there are pictures of the food"! It wasn't great but would have been OK were it not for a "natury" intervention. Something landed on Senan's shoulder and ran across his back. Senan went "aargh - what's that!" Mags went "oh Jesus, what!" and jumped up. In the meantime Senan brushed it off and said "There it is". The waiter was already in hot pursuit - it hid under a chair, he stamped on it once - it still moved, he stamped again... Crunch, it was no more. If it wasn't a cockroach then it w a first cousin. It looked a bit too skinny - but I didn't get a good look. The crunch sounded about right. Mags was totally freaked out and had to leave to walk around. Senan was in shock and I had to finish his burger! We finished up our drinks and left quickly. We didn't leave a tip!

As evening fell, Seville continued to come alive. It was getting cooler as we strolled through the street back towards the Cathedral. As we walked passed the Cathedral the doors were open and these were people streaming out. We had a good look in - but it was closing again! Next time!

Just outside the Cathedral there was a quartet playing classical music, we sat on the steps and listened. We were tired now, it had been a long day and we were ready for home. After some hassle driving, due to a lack of roundabouts in Seville we managed to get on the right road. We eventually got home after one pm. A successful road trip completed.

Ready for Home

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Tuesday we just relaxed. The wind picked up and the forecast was for 3 days of hot windy weather. Nobody went to the beach so the pool was pretty full. But we we're ready for relaxation. Tuesday evening we headed out to Cape Trafalgar to see the sun set. However we were just too late. However we parked up and walked part of the way out across the dunes. The wind was whipping the sand up - it was wild, but fun. We then walked into the local town (Canos de Meca) looking for food. We found a nice looking restauraunt. We struggled with the menu - but just when we thought we were sorted it seemed everything we wanted was not available. We walked out. After some searching we eventally found a place that was fine - but very slow. Again it was after midnight when we got home.

Cape Trafalgar
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Cape Trafalgar
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Wednesday, another windy day at the pool. By late afternoon we were feeling a little stir crazy so we headed to Jerez, the home of Sherry which is about an hour away. It is a lively town.
Jerez, Uploaded by M+MD.
We decided to go for a restaurant with pictures again - but a lot of them had pictures - it was pretty good. I got a Paella, which looked just like the picture and tasted ok but was a little shy on meat! The others were happy enough. We were debating Tangiers - will we, won't we. We had heard that we would be hassled. We read up about immigration control. There were mixed reports about the trip. We were told it was interesting, but some said that they ran out of it and couldn't cope with the hassle. After changing our minds about five times we finally decided to go the next day, Thursday. It would also put down the last one of the windy days.

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Uploaded by M+MD

Uploaded by M+MD

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So Thursday morning we were up at 7 to catch the 9 am ferry. It was just 45 minutes drive to Tarifa, but we had to park and get tickets. We were on the boat by 8.40. They had a Moroccan passport control station onthe boat. We queued up and had our passports stamped by 8.55 - we hadn't left yet - so far no hassle. the trip across was pleasant the boat didn't leave until about 9.15. It's just a 35 minute crossing. Most of them slept - I walked about and took a few photos.

When we landed it was pretty straight forward. When we walked out of the terminal building there were a number of "official"? And unofficial taxi and tour guides. We managed to shrug them off.though they all said "it's very difficult to make it on your own"; "there will be hundreds of kids hassling you"; "there are junkies everywhere"; "it's Ramadan, everything is closed and the people are very angry"; "the Medina (old city) has a thousand streets". For 50 euro they would take care of us. For 70 euro they will bring us on a tour of the city and country side and show us a good restaurant to eat. We stuck to our guns and continued on towards the city. Just when we thought we had escaped them all there was one guy still walking beside us. "that is the Medina over there" just where the map had said it was! "I am Ahmed Ben Ali, I am 50 years old. I am not a tour guide, I will be your security. There will be 1000 mosquitos you need one mosquito to help you." We unfortunately had started to talk to him, so he stuck to us like glue. We walked into the Medina, he was right, everywhere was closed. Then we realised that there was a 2 hour time difference and that it was just 8 am - of course everything was closed!

With great difficulty we managed to give him the slip. He had started at 50 euro for 3 hours. We said that we just wanted to wander on our own. He said, "no sir - it is too difficult - there are hundred of kids, there are junkies, you will get lost". As we walked he reduced his price. I the end he was down to 4 euros for 2 hours! We said no thank you. In the end he said "you are just cheap tourists F*** off". We were only too delighted to F*** off and finally so did he!

We wandered through the medina, we found the high point with a great view out over the harbour. It is an old rundown typical Arab Medina. We walked through the residential area for a while soaking in the atmosphere and the smells (mainly not that pleasant). At around 9am we ventured into our first shop. "Welcome I am Hassain, have a look - no hassle." There was no hassle - everything was a special price, 3 euro. When he heard we were from Ireland he said "Stephen Carr, (footballer) he is my friend, many times in my shop." It was the usual market fare - leather bags, camel saddles, sandals, slippers, kaftans and so on. We said goodbye and said we might be back. He knew we wouldn't but was very courtious. We found a cafe in a little square called the Petite Socco or little souk. There we sat and had fresh orange juice and coca cola. By now it was 10 am and the shops were beginning to open.

Finally, Shops!
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We had met none of the 100's of boys or junkies. In fact all day we were only hassled one more time. hat was because we walked back out of the Medina and as we went in a different gate we were approached by a "guide" who fed us the same rubbish. However when he asked us where we were from we spoke to him in Irish and he soon gave up! The old town is pretty small and after another hour we had pretty much seen it all. It was getting busier and there was no shortage of shops. The shop keepers bargained but never hassled. I think the secret is to get past the key entrance points where the hasslers hang out. After that it is easy to wander around without too much hassle. We sat down at our cafe again and watched the world go by until around 12.

We decided that we would head back for the 1 pm boat. We made just a couple of purchases and we happy to leave the noise and the dust and heat. On the ferry we got something to eat - it was a long time since breakfast! The ferry back was very rough, the wind was blowing and the fast ferry lurched from side to side. Katy had to return some of her luck in a sick bag! But the ferry crossing was only 40 minutes so it wasn't too bad. An interesting African adventure.

Back in Europe!
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Back in Tarifa we found a good Italian restaurant and we we're back in the apartment before six. The wind was gone and that was a relief!

Pool, Uploaded by M+MD

Friday we lazed around the pool. In the afternoon Katy and I went to the beach for a swim. Again we travelled to Cape Trafalger to catch the sunset. However it was hazy and the traffic through Barbate was slow. So we could see the setting sun from the car, but we decided to drive around to a local hill town called Veher. There was some sort of festival going on. We found parking with difficulty but it was a lovely old town. It took us a litle while to find the maisquare. But when we did there was a stage and a band setting up. We got a seat at a restaurant at the edge of the square. The food was very good and we sat and watched the band for a while. We also saw a Moroccan restaurant recommended by our exchange. We will book it for tonight and go back to Trafalgar for the sunset - maybe third time lucky.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Zahara de los Atunes, Cadiz, Spain - Week One

Dear Lisa,
It's Saturday and we've been here in Zahara de Los Atunes for almost a week. The apartment is lovely. We have plenty of space, two different balconies with views of the sea. We are slowly settling in to the pace of life in southern Spain. That means you get up late - nobody moves much 'til about 11 in the morning. This makes sense when you see that nobody goes to bed until after mid-night. You won't get food in a decent restaurant until after 9 in the evening and even then you will dine alone! Everything happens later. Lunchtime starts around 3pm - at least that's when people leave the pool or the beach. They return around 5 or 6 until sometime after 8 when they start to get ready to go out.

Zahara de los Atunes, Uploaded by M+MD.

So we have been trying to settle into the same rhythm. There are benefits - it is too hot to sit in the sun in the afternoon, so it makes sense to go to the beach at 5. Even then it is still very warm - but the burning sun is less intense, the water is still warm and by 7 it is still very pleasant - even with a breeze. By 8 the breeze makes it cooler and it's time to put onn a tee-shirt or go home.

We have managed to settle into this pattern - getting up about 11; wandering down to the pool around 12.30; heading back for lunch around 3; heading for the beach around 4.30, finally we have managed to wait until after 9 to head out to eat. Though by the time we hit the restaurants we are ready to eat and we are usually leaving the restaurant as the local holiday makers are beginning to fill the tables.

The Pool

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On the Roof

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This is a very Spanish resort. We have heard English, German and French voices just once or twice. Even in the supermarket we only hear Spanish voices. Of course, we have no Spanish worth talking about - though we manage through this handicap. The younger Spanish will speak some English - but others have had no need to learn or use it. What are we like! It's hard to believe that someone would come to Ireland on holidays without a word of English - they certainly couldn't rely on much help in their native tongue from the locals! But we have managed to do the equivalent. It is all part of the adventure!

Zahara Sunset, Uploaded by M+MD.

Yesterday we had our first real day trip. We headed 30 kilometres down the road to Tarifa - the bottom of Europe. Africa is just 35 minutes away across the very narrow Straits of Gibraltar. We might take the ferry to Tangiers next week. Tarifa is the kite-surfing capital of Europe. It was quite a sight to see the hundreds of kite-surfers on the beach. The old town of Tarifa is charming to walk around and we found a good restaurant in the middle of it.


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Lunchtime Tarifa

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On the way home we called into Bolonia beach which is famous for it's sand dune - just a little too famous because after waiting in a queue for the car park for 15 minutes it was clear that we weren't going to get in! So we went home to our own beach instead - just as good even if there is no sand dune. Anyway it's much to warm to be climbing sand dunes.

Sunset behind Trafalgar from Zahara Beach, Uploaded by M+MD

To-morrow we will drive the four hours to Quinita de Lago in Portugal and stay the night with Gerry and Cath. More about that later.