Sunday, 30 November 2014

When the Rain in Spain was a Tornado

With bad weather promised for southern Spain, no-one expected the force of nature it experienced.
The Canary Islands (on the BBC World weather) were completely covered and I feel sorry for those who had expected wall-to-wall sunshine.

Malaga on mainland Spain last week, a little bird told me, was under three feet of water at one point. It also had heavy hailstones bouncing down the streets.

West of Malaga, there was an orange alert. By all accounts, Torremolinos (near Fuengirola) was hit by a tornado which left a trail of destruction behind it.

East of Malaga, the sea was ferocious as it battered the beaches, bringing with it sugar cane sticks which apparently had been washed down the once-dry river beds to the sea.

As the storm blew itself out, sunshine returned to bathe everything in its warm glow.

We have visited Spain a few times now, and Nerja in particular is a wonderful, unspoilt area. Backed by mountains it turns its face to the sea to provide a tranquil scene.

 More in ORANGES: A Journey in paperback or multiple eBook formats.

Rosalie xx

Friday, 21 November 2014

Flavours of Granada

Blending the old with the new.

With the Sierra Nevada dominating it, Granada stands proud and timeless in what is now the Province of Granada in Andalucia, southern Spain. Approaching from the south you are treated to a backdrop of the snow-capped (if you are lucky) mountains as you travel through the newer and more modern part of the city.

We have visited Granada more than once as part of our recent frequent visits to Nerja on the coast. This period of rejuvenation in the warm sunshine and sea breezes of the Mediterranean Sea have helped us to re-focus in the hurly burly of life.

On our first visit to Granada, we were fortunate enough to be able to see something of the city as well as the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens. Now, the booking system in place means that you have a timed slot for the Alhambra Palace which could make it difficult to do everything in one day.(Saga now offer the Alhambra as an optional tour and the representatives, who live in the hotel, organise the trip around the time-slot.)
Everything in one day? We have visited four times now and still not seen everything. 

As you walk into the centre of the city along the wide tree-lined boulevard, where old mingles with the new, you will find a wonderful modern department store called El Corte Ingles which has always proved to be a good meeting place as well as a good place to part with a few Euros. A little further along is the historic centre with the Cathedral and Royal Chapel where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are buried.

Meander along and, rounding a corner, you happen on a collection of ancient, narrow streets huddled together to form a bazaar type of market The golden, mellow stone is welcoming. The collection of shops, and goods on display hanging from every available space, take you back in time. 

Round another corner and you come to streets where the buildings rise high into the sky - the balconies giving a taste of how life was lived in times gone by,

Venture into the main thoroughfare and on one intersection, with traffic zooming around, is a huge monument depicting Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus as she hands him the letters of authority to go out and discover the New World. This, you must understand, was in the fifteenth century.

Along the riverside are tree-lined walks and seats to rest your weary legs.  There is so much to see and  Granada is very easy to explore but it is hard to get a flavour in a few short hours. The answer is the very new City Tour Train.

Granada City Tour Train.

This is a greatly updated version of the 'Little  Train' which you see in so many tourist spots. It has been built specially for Granada and the narrow streets of the old quarter - the Albaycin. If you have already visited the Alhambra Palace, you will have a different perspective as you trundle along the wooded hillside paths with the fantastic views over the city. With about eleven stops and a hop on-hop off system it is a fantastic way to get around the city. Follow the link above to read more about this fantastic city.

Read more on Granada and other parts of Andalucia in ORANGES: A Journey which, although a fiction story,is based on real settings. 

Rosalie xx

Monday, 20 October 2014

Blinking in the sunshine.

A change of focus as I go out in the world. 

The last few weeks have seen me diverting from my usual activities as I abandoned the comfort of my comfy chair and well-organised desk in what I call 'my cubby-hole.  I went over the county border out into the community to deliver a series of workshops to young entrepreneurs - or as I called them - the tycoons of tomorrow.

I am impressed with the support which Flintshire, through various initiatives, are providing for those who have dreams and want to start their own business. I take my hat off to all of them.

The Flintshire Enterprise Club /Dragon's Den Cymru offers support and engagement to people of all ages. The two groups which I met over three weeks were all at different stages of development in their fledgling businesses.

The purpose of the workshops was to guide them on how to deliver an effective talk or presentation.

I have to say, that I personally learned a lot. The two groups were diverse with the second group hoping to present their business to the forthcoming Dragon's Den Cymru.

I was also impressed that the Community Centre which I visited had a link with the school which adjoins the building. The IT suite was brilliant with the computers being linked into wide screens. (I first came across this collaboration when I started to visit my local gym and pool where nearby schools have full use of the pool and activity facilities.)

I try to inspire others to push back their boundaries but I have to say that these young people - of varying ages and abilities - inspired me. All I can say is 'thank you'. It was good to get back 'to the coal face' so to speak.

Rosalie xx

Read my article on LinkenIn

Friday, 10 October 2014

Precision Timing in the Pool

Weighing up the obstacles.

My twice weekly visits to our local leisure and activity centre go on, tempting though it is to skip one or two.
Monday is Aquafit day for me . It is on my planner as a fixture to be treated as an appointment. The exercises, although appearing to be gentle - well they are really - actually feel quite strenuous. There I have just contradicted myself! Twisting and turning, stepping forward and backwards through the water is not easy. The water flows around you as you march forward and then, on a shout from our Instructor, we go backwards with the water still flowing forwards. We march to the front, turn and march left, turn and march to the back wall, turn and march to the right before turning back to the front. We do contortions in the water; contortions which would be impossible for most of us out of the water. All good for the joints and mobility. And, I must say, working.

All good fun, especially when the polystyrene dumb-bells  come out of the netting. Now they are really hard work but it is a testimony to their effectiveness that I find them easier than in July. I am enjoying the lively music. I didn't enjoy this week though as the water was decidedly cold. Not just cooler than normal but a 'Brr' when you step in and submerged further down the pool. I didn't stay long; worried about standing in cold water for such a long period. (I think that they have been having problems.)

Onwards to later in the week for my gym and gentle swim session.

Dressed in my special blue activity trousers, bright pink t-shirt emblazoned with Centre Wings Andorra 2010 in silver on the front, and my polka dot blue lace up pumps, I feel ready for business. ( When enquiring about footwear for the gym and protesting that I didn't like trainers, I was curtly told 'it is not a fashion show'! I can be fashionable and sweaty can't I? I don't have to look scruffy simply because I am going for a work-out do I?)
The state-of-the-art gymnasium is wonderful. The lively music is encouraging; there are slots for iPlayers etc.; there is a choice of TV channels on the machines which have screens where you can set an exercise programme. Not wanting to develop muscles like Popeye, I set the weights for strength and mobility - keeping them lowish and something how I used to have them ten years ago. No, let's be honest - low!

The scales which I assume are accurate give me a lower reading than our digital ones at home. I am encouraged, albeit falsely but encouraged all the same. At least they are not higher!

To the pool.

When I first started in the pool in July, it was fairly empty in the general swimming slot in the afternoon. (General swimming means that it is for any age and you can go whichever way you want to and not keep to lanes as in the lane swimming slot.) In my case this means across the lanes as I have to be where I can touch the bottom and not drown.

As the weeks have gone by, along with the water getting cooler, it has got busier with some very strong swimmers.

So there we are readers, As these strong swimmers are racing up and down, I am keeping my eyes peeled for an opening to 'paddle' across in safety and not get mown down under the watchful eye of the lifeguard.
Yesterday, the water was surprisingly and thankfully warm again. Ready for the off, to my right I could see a silver head powering down the pool, arms trusting in the air before slicing through the water. Then to my left, I saw a black head bobbing up and down as another hulk  made light work of powering up and down in an underwater breast stroke. Two ladies swimming gently along while they chatted, laughingly looked on.
'I will get mown down if I am not careful', I commented.
As one passed one way and one the other, I spied my chance and moved off hoping to get across before they caught me up on the return journey! It really was a work of art. 

Perhaps I should brave a little deeper? I must have done it once to get my ten metres badge when I learned to swim many years ago in adulthood. But that was in the Plas Madoc leisure pool and I don't think it went as deep! The only consolation is that I am not the only one to use the width but children have an excuse and they never cease to amaze me with their fearlessness. It is good to see how much use the nearby schools make of the pool facilities with swimming times dedicated to them.

Now, back to website updates.

Rosalie xx

Monday, 29 September 2014

An Autumn Sunday in Snowdonia, North Wales.

First things first - lunch at the Waterloo.

Last week my lovely husband planned a day out for us on an unexpected free Sunday. In truth, he was thinking of the inner man and where we could find a good Sunday lunch to match our usual eaterie The Golden Lion, Rossett, Wrexham.

'What about Betws-y-Coed? We could go to The Waterloo Hotel and Lodge.' 
I was all for it as it was some time since we had headed down the A5 into the mountains and the gateway to Snowdonia. 
Turning off the A483 onto the A5 at Chirk, we were once again awed by the sheer beauty of the vista which opened up before us. Having traversed bridges over the Dee and Ceiriog rivers we had forgotten how high up we were and, as we turned, the whole Dee Valley to Llangollen was spread out below with the mountains in front. 
'Isn't that a wonderful view!  Aren't we lucky to live here? Do I always say that?' I ended.
'Usually' came the dry reply.
With precision planning we arrived just after 11:15am hoping for time to look around the village before lunch. Parking up at the Waterloo we went inside to check if we needed to book a table and immediately saw a familiar face.
'Hello,' Megan greeted us. 'Long time no see.' 
After catching up for a minute, we wandered off into the village. It was lovely and warm and the shops around the old railway station were busy. Actually, the trains still run through here and in one cafe, if you wander through to the back, you find yourself on the station platform. The water was still tumbling over the rocks as it flowed down from the Swallow falls.

Back at the Bridge Restaurant at the hotel, we opted for a table in the new conservatory. Although we had eaten in the 1815 bar on our last two weekday visits, we hadn't had Sunday lunch here for a while. Not since our GWOCGB regional motorbike meetings re-located to the coast. We were so impressed with the whole experience from the staff  to the beautiful newly re-furbished restaurant to the excellent food cooked to perfection. Compliments to the chef. A review is on Trip Advisor.

The Hidden Lakes - not of Italy this time - but Snowdonia.

Afterwards we continued along the A5, passing a lake on our right, into the Snowdonia National Park. The mountains reared up all around us. Clothed as they were in varying shades of vegetation, they were a colourful contrast to the blue sky and sunshine casting dappled shadows on the lakes. At Capel Curig, we turned down to Bedgellert for our favourite ice cream shop. Sitting on the wall in the warm sunshine, we chatted to biker friends who had the same idea. afterwards we continued towards Caernarfon, passing one or two more lakes on our left. At this point Mount Snowdon was on our right. Before  Caernarfon we headed down the road which would take us around the other side of Mount Snowdon, through Llanberis and the slate quarries, passing another lake on our left as we headed back to the A5 at Capel Curig. 

At Llanberis, the huge scarred mountains lay still; quiet now from the noise of quarrymen mining the slate for which Wales is famous. I often wonder how deep is the lake here and how far down into the bowels of the earth miners would have had to go as they met their master's demands for more slate. Above the lake, the many platforms blasted out of the mountain cascaded down to the water. Llanberis was busy with walkers and tourists.
Back on the A% main Holyhead-London Road, we once again passed an old coach, on display, which passengers would have journeyed on  in olden times.

Reaching Betws-y-Coed, we pulled in for a comfort stop to find the area around the craft shops and cafes overflowing with tourists, parked cars and many bikes and bikers. My husband was in his own little heaven as he drank in the sight of all the different bikes.

A wonderful day at the end of summer. One to put in the memory box of treasures.


PS. You can read more about the slate quarries around Llanberis and Caernarfon and the life and struggles of two families in The Widow Makers Trilogy by North Wales Author Jean Mead. They really do bring the area to life.