Jac & Jane visit Southern Spain and more housesitting!

Tuesday 3rd May

We’re up early because we need to take the dogs out for a decent walk but still be in Alcalá for our 10am appointment with the estate agent.  Our agent, Alejandro, is from Inland Andalucia and he has 6 properties lined up.  It’s an unusual visit in that on some occasions he has no idea where the property is and has to ask the locals and after a couple of visits he’s using Daz and MapsMe to find the properties.  Unfortunately, one property has just received an offer, so it’s been taken off the market.  The first property we see is absolutely fantastic – almost our dream home.  It’s in the middle of a village, Pilas de Fuente Soto, with a lively community spirit and it’s beautifully light and airy with a large kitchen and lounge.  It also has 4 bedrooms and room for Daz’s workshop and it’s only 115€.  I say ‘only’, in the respect of – a lot of house for the money, although we don’t have that much money at the moment.  

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We viewed other properties that I thought I’d love, but actually loathed!  The only other property of interest was a 4 storey town house in Castillo de Locubin for only 40,000 €.  Amazing property for the money.


Wednesday – we do some jobs around the house today, me strimming

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and Daz painting

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And then Spanish class in the late afternoon

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Thursday – I skip the morning dog walk and Daz says that Vinny sulked the whole way round.  This is not the first time – I asked Daz to take them out whilst I put our shopping away and he was back in 5 minutes – Vinny refused to go with him and ran home looking for me.  I remember when I first started walking with them Vinny would walk at a snail’s pace with a distinctly unimpressed air whilst looking for Des to turn up.  It took several days before he accepted me as his new walking companion; clearly Daz hasn’t been accepted because he skived for about the first 5 days of our visit!  Today more strimming and painting and haircuts.  I’ve just had all the bleached hair cut out – now über short.  Next step – dye again to cover all the grey.  Daz is dying it for me!

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Friday 6th May

The rain has definitely arrived and we have to walk the dogs in our big waterproof jackets.  No chores today.  Finally boredom propels us out the door and we head to Priego de la Cordoba and Zyrah, a tapas restaurant – sister restaurant to the Balcon del Adarve (we ate here the evening we arrived).  The tapas is delicious and we have a lovely time but we lose track of time and miss our Spanish lesson.  In the evening we drive to Cordoba to watch the horse show.

Caballerizas Reales de Cordoba

The Royal Stables of the city of Cordoba hold a marvellous exhibition in which purebred Spanish horses are the main protagonists.

In 1570, Philip II commissioned the monumental Royal Stables because he loved horses, and to create one of the best breeds in history: the Andalusian horse – purebred Spanish horse. This show is a unique chance to marvel at the beauty and magic of these animals which show different disciplines and the skill of the riders. The show is also accompanied by music and dancing which is combined with the horses’ exercises.

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Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse

“Passion and Spirit of the Andalusian Horse” is an amazing performance where the art of horse handling comes together with traditional music and dance to offer the audience 70 minutes of thrilling entertainment. The show is a perfect combination of elements of classical and Andalusian horsemanship, including disciplines such as work in hand, the traditional Spanish “Doma Vaquera” or Haute École and distinctive features such as the typical spears known as “garrochas”. All of them are linked with the equestrian history and traditions of our city.

We really loved it!


Today we head to Granada and decathlon and buy some new T shirts. Then we head to City Wok – Chinese buffet ‘eat all you can’.  We’re a bit ashamed really; we eat and eat until we’re absolutely stuffed but the food isn’t that good.  It’s just greed.

Sunday – more rain.  Today we take the dogs along the road because we pick up soooo much mud on the bottom of our shoes when we take our usual route.   Fortunately we can still do an hour’s walk and see no cars.

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Monday 9th May

It’s a day out for all today.  We take Vinny and Freddie geocaching.   We go to Alomartes and then walk up into the hills.  Thunder storms were forecast for today but we get away with just a few light showers and we find 6 geocaches which are part of a much longer route.  

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Tuesday 10th May

Rain, rain and more rain.

Wednesday 11th May

Today starts dry so we take the opportunity to weed more flower beds and have a general tidy up because Jac and Jane arrive tonight.

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We head off to Spanish class just as the heavens open – yes more bloody rain.  9.15pm we head off to Malaga airport to pick up Jac and Jane.  We thought Jac was going to cancel because she’s been really poorly with Labyrinthitis. This means she has no balance, feels and has been sick and is headachey.  It is an inner ear virus.  But she’s coming!!!!!!! It’s so great to see them, it’s been 7 months and so much has changed.  Jac is no longer with Trax and has been on a health kick since January and has lost 3 stone.  Fabulous!   Meanwhile Jane has been working so hard at the nursery, the sailing club and the house catering functions.  We don’t get to the house until the early hours of Thursday morning.


Thursday 12th May

The weather is dreadful so we all walk to the local bar Meson de Caliope for coffee and tapas.  It’s pretty busy.  Eventually we head home and decide that a visit to Alcalá la Real is the best plan. So we explore the castle.

This magnificent castle dates back to 727 when the town was under Muslim rule. It was later expanded.  The castle was badly damaged in the 19th century when battles were fought with France and it was thereafter abandoned. The three rows of fortifications are still in evidence.  

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We enjoy the views from the castle and then head into town.  We visit the Cafe Bar el parque and enjoy some lovely tapas.


Friday 13th May

Today we head to Cordoba and the patio festival.


The Courtyards Festival reveals Cordoba at its most festive, where the streets are filled with the sounds of flamenco and the scent of jasmine and orange blossom.  During the days of the Festival, the residents of the old part of Cordoba proudly throw open their courtyards, specially decorated for the occasion with pots of geraniums, carnations and jasmine hanging on the whitewashed walls.

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After visiting a number of patios we stop for tapas in Restaurante el Paseo Iberico –  Iberian Pork, eggplant and fried squid. Then a little more sightseeing.  We visit the Alcazar, the gardens and the Roman bridge.

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The Alcazar (of the Christian Kings) features a castle, its delightful gardens and a moorish bathhouse. This is a very popular monument.
A Muslim Alcazar once stood where the Episcopal Palace is today – this building was reformed in the Baroque period and was recently reconditioned in order to house the Diocesan Museum. Alongside this museum, the Exhibition Palace occupied what used to be the Church of San Jacinto and the Hospital of San Sebastian, an outstanding construction opposite the Mosque featuring a portico that stands out among the Gothic jewels in Cordoba. Inside, in the Romero de Torres hall, one can admire interesting 16th century frescoes.
Despite originating from the Christian era, these gardens are typically Moorish in design with ponds, fountains and aromatic plants. Adjacent to the gardens are the Royal Stables which extend to encompass the Gardens of the Campo Santo de los Márties.
The castle is almost a perfect square in plan of 4.100 square metres. It was rebuilt in 1327 by King Alfonso XI. His aim was to bring European Gothic architecture to the town. The castle walls connect the four (now three) corner towers by walkways or allures protected by battlements with prism shaped blocks.

Outside the main castle walls the gardens occupy 55.000 square metres. It is certainly a very relaxing place to wander. There is a wide variety of plants, palm trees, cypresses, orange and lemon, trees to be seen which overlook stone fountains and large ponds. Originally the water was brought in by an aqueduct from the Sierra Morena and the great Albolafia waterwheel in the River Guadalquivir nearby helped with the supply. The large ponds were added in the 19th century.

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Saturday 14th May

Today it’s Granada and the Alhambra and segway tour.

The Alhambra was so called because of its reddish walls (in Arabic, («qa’lat al-Hamra’» means Red Castle). It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, to the west of the city of Granada and in front of the neighbourhoods of the Albaicin and of the Alcazaba.

The Alhambra is located on a strategic point, with a view over the whole city and the meadow (la Vega), and this fact leads to believe that other buildings were already on that site before the Muslims arrived. The complex is surrounded by ramparts and has an irregular shape. It limits with the valley of the river Darro on its northern side, with the valley of al-Sabika on its southern side and with the street Cuesta del Rey Chico on the eastern side. The Cuesta del Rey Chico is also the border between the neighbourhood of the Albaicin and the gardens of the Generalife, located on top of the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol).

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The first historical documents known about the Alhambra date from the 9th century and they refer to Sawwar ben Hamdun who, in the year 889, had to seek refuge in the Alcazaba, a fortress, an had to repair it due to the civil fights that were destroying the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada then belonged. This site subsequently started to be extended and populated, although not yet as much as it would be later on, because the Ziri kings established their residence on the hill of the Albaicin.

The castle of the Alhambra was added to the city’s area within the ramparts in the 9th century, which implied that the castle became a military fortress with a view over the whole city. In spite of this, it was not until the arrival of the first king of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed ben Al-Hamar (Mohammed I, 1238-1273), in the 13th century, that the royal residence was established in the Alhambra. This event marked the beginning of the Alhambra’s most glorious period.

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We enjoy our tour but Jac starts to get bored and then so does Darren.  They switch off their commentary and start messing around whilst Jane tries to disown us and becomes teacher’s pet, feigning interest and asking questions whilst we all have giggling fits.

After our Alhambra tour we have time for a quick lunch before it’s time for our Segway tour with Play Granada. This is the blurb from their website:

“Take the plunge and ride if you want to feel Segway Granada in a very cool way and without sweating a single drop. See more in less time, save your energy and go high to visit the old Arab district of the Albayzín and the gypsy quarter, the Sacromonte.

This tour gives you the chance to let yourself go through the cobblestone streets and the inner parts of the heart of the city. What is more, you can go deeper into the neighborhoods with our sweet guides, whose local perspectives will make you feel Granada like home, leaving aside the typical places where everybody goes.”


We carry out some training in a small square by the central church then we are let loose on the streets.  

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Our guide has us wizzing along roads and paths and we see some amazing views. Daz and Jac are racing and continually overtaking!!  Then Jac and I start messing around and Jac doesn’t spot the red light and nearly rear-ends Jane, hysterical.  Jac doesn’t want it to end so has a tantrum instead.  

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The Segway tour is brilliant and we have so much fun. To finish our day we walk around the cathedral and find a lovely square to enjoy a well deserved G&T.

Sunday 15th May

We’ve had a busy few days so today we have a nice slow start and we all take the dogs out.  We take them up the ridge so that Jac and Jane can admire the views and all the beautiful wild flowers.

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 Then we head to Priego de Cordoba and after a relaxed walk around this beautiful town we head to Zyrah, the tapas restaurant.  The food is fabulous and we have a lovely relaxed meal and this is a treat from Jac and Jane. We even order every dessert on the menu to share!!  Lovely!  Thanks guys!

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Monday 16th May

Jac and Jane leave this afternoon so we have a lazy morning reading and sitting in the brilliant sunshine and enjoy a cooked breakfast from Daz. At the airport we sit and have a final coffee together then we say goodbye to our friends.  It’s been fabulous to see them and we are very grateful for their friendship, thanks for coming guys!!   


Tuesday 17th May

We don’t do much today, just relax and catch up on our sleep.


Wednesday 18th May

Some last minute chores and a big tidy up – we think Des and Chris will be back tomorrow. Then we’ll be off back to Portugal and the bike. We are also hoping to go sea fishing with Mark and Paula before starting cycling again.  It’s been a relaxing month on the housesit, but time to move on.  It’s given us some ideas for when we decide to settle, and maybe we will be back in the area one day.


Housesitting Venta Valero 17th April to 1st May

Sunday 17th April

After our late night and long drive from Olhão we’re pretty tired so we have a lovely lie in and finally manage to drag ourselves out of bed.  This is only our second housesitting job since we started our ‘biking phase’.  And actually I think it’ll be a nice, restful phase.  We don’t need to cycle each day, nor do 5 hours labour, nor sightsee.  In fact our responsibilities are fairly straightforward, we have Vinny and Freddy (dogs) and Eddie and Izzy (cats) to look after and some chores if we want.  

Izzy left, Eddy right.






Awww cute…


We should have good weather and this area is beautiful and there are some areas we’d like to explore, so I really think this will be a lovely interlude in our travels and of course we’re going to have visitors – Jane and Jac are visiting and we’re really looking forward to their visit.

We sit down to breakfast and Des immediately starts telling us about electricity usage (cheap and expensive tariffs during the day) and one thing leads to another with regards to the various aspects of ‘housesitting’.  I think perhaps he’s a little anxious, I know Daz used to suffer with ‘travel anxiety’ when a trip away was imminent, and now he’s started with the ‘briefing’, it seems it’s not going to stop even though we’re still trying to eat our breakfast.

They’re not leaving until Tuesday so we’ve got 2 days to absorb the information we need.  We think we’ll be OK – well I hope we are and certainly we need to ensure the 4 pets are in fine fettle when Des and Chris return.


Tuesday 19th April

Yesterday we met Anton and Ricardo, 2 Dutch men who live about a kilometre from here.  Well Anton is there full time but Ricardo is still involved in other things including plans to open a studio in Marbella for Lomilomi massage.
Lomilomi is the word used today to mean “massage therapist” or “Hawaiian massage.” In the Hawaiian language, the word used traditionally, called lomi, means “to knead, to rub, or soothe; to work in and out, as the paws of a contented cat.”


We also take a trip to Alcalá la Real and Des and Chris make sure we know where everything is.   Alcalá sits on the slopes of La Mota, a hill in the Sierra Magina. This is commanded by a large Moor fortress around which, until some centuries ago, the settlement revolved.

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Today Chris and Des depart for the UK and we take another trip into Alcalá.  We do a big shop, visit the estate agent (we’ve decided that getting the estate agent to show us some properties will be fun, informative and give us greater insight into the area and fulfil my nosy neighbour ‘side’).  We also go to a hardware shop Des pointed out yesterday for paint.  We spend ages trying to explain what we want and then discover he doesn’t sell paint – thanks Des.

A bizarre event yesterday – Peter, the Belgium volunteer in Olhao with us, complained about pictures of him on our blog, quoting European Law ‘we need permission to take pictures and to publish them’. We had to remove the pictures.  It seems when we moves to Brazil (this is his MISSION!),  that he wants to disappear completely and I quote:

“In a few years when I leave Europe, i want to disappear from the world… to find peace in the south of America or Africa without leaving records of me on the internet…”


There are some words that spring to my mind to describe ‘our friend Peter’ but I’d have to reach for my book of International Law for the definition of libel…….


Wednesday 20th – Friday 22nd.

It’s been a quiet few days.  On Wednesday we had heavy rain and by common consent declared it a duvet day.  We’ve also had 2 Spanish lessons with an ‘interesting’ group.  There’s about 11 of us.  Some don’t seem keen on completing homework nor contributing in class; we wonder why they want to pay for the class if they don’t want to do any work.  Daz and I have finished watching Billions and Nightwatchman and now we’re watching Tom Kerridge and his search for a top pastry team and Masterchef.  After the rain on Wednesday the weather clears and we do some chores between our dog walks.  Friday Prince died and Wednesday it was Victoria wood.  So sad!  They were both so young.  


Saturday 23rd April


We visited the Colomera Reservoir and took Freddy for a walk.

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 Then on the way back Daz spotted a cave on the map (Cuerva de Malalmuerzo) so we detoured and walked up to it.  Unfortunately when we got to the entrance there was an iron gate across it!!

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Later when we googled it, it turns out it’s got lots of prehistoric painting in the many galleries and ‘rooms’.  What a shame we couldn’t get in.  Back at the ranch the olive tree pruners come to prune the 22 trees Des has on his land. This will tidy up the trees and give Des some fire wood!!


Sunday 24th – Friday 29th April


We spend all week at the house.  Our only excursions are to our 2 Spanish lessons in Alcalá and out to dinner on Friday (but more of that later).

Our first dog walk of the day is gradually getting longer as we explore further afield.  We’ve soon find a good route that follows at the base of a ridgeline. This takes us about an hour but the views are incredible and the spring flowers are in flower.  We’ve also seen a badger, dead unfortunately.  The walks later in the day are much shorter.

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We’ve also been doing some chores – some for the blog – updating maps and spreadsheets and some for Des – but we’re taking it easy and not working too hard.   We’ve also been learning our Spanish vocab for our lessons.  

Friday evening we go to a restaurant recommended by Des and Chris’s neighbours – Ricardo and Anton. The Casa Piolas in Algarinejo and we have the 14 course degustation menu.  Fabulous – each course a work of art with its own story (a lesser story because our Spanish is minimal as was their English – such a shame).  And each course tasted amazing especially the dark chocolate and pate – delicious!  

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Saturday and Sunday

Saturday we take a trip to Almedinilla.  Almedinilla is a village and a municipality. The area surrounding the town itself is full of archeological finds dating back to the Iberiains with remains from Phoenician and Greek activity and significant leftovers from the Roman occupation of the peninsula. There is even a necropolis and Roman villa complete with mosaics.   Inside the village of Almedinilla there is a Museum of History (Museo Histórico-Arqueológico) in the heart of the old Village by the little bridge. This part is near a deep ravine where the road twists out and small man made caves can be seen in the rocks.

We walk through the town admiring the flowers and the view into the river gorge. We stop for a drink and lunch and become absorbed watching the housemartins ( there are so many of them) swooping up and down and going off to collect material to build their nests.  We see them perched under house eaves with the beginnings of a nest.  The swallows’ efforts are far more advanced in comparison.  

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Sunday we head to Cordoba.  This is the last day of the May Crosses Festival.  It is actually more than a festival – it is also a contest, with 40 or so Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and neighbourhood associations competing for prizes for the best-decorated cross from the Ayuntamiento (town hall).


The May Crosses Festival (Cruces de Mayo) is celebrated in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America and Spain. And in Spain, the festival holds special importance in many parts of Andalucia, but especially Córdoba, which has the most famous celebration.


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The May Crosses Festival celebrated in Andalucia is probably one of the most interesting festivals, not only today, but in historical terms. As legend has it, St Constantine’s mother, the much-venerated St Helen, is the founder of this festival, which shows special respect for the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
As the story goes, in the fourth century AD, St Helen went to Jerusalem in search of the cross, after her son Constantine dreamed of a cross that would help him win a battle he was losing at the time. He ordered his troops to build him a large cross, which they then carried into battle and conquered their enemy. This inspired a family conversion to Christianity and a search for the real cross, led by St Helen. She found three crosses, and to establish which one was authentic, she carried out tests to see which could perform miracles. Only one of them did, healing the sick and even bringing the dead back to life. St Helen then became a champion for the cross, urging people to continue worshipping even after her death.
And so this veneration of the cross is the motive for the May Crosses Festivals that are celebrated in so many countries.



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We’re surprised to discover that Cordoba is absolutely heaving with people.  We wander the small streets looking for the crosses and enjoying the beautiful sights we discover as we turn into another alley.  With each decorated cross we find, there’s also a bar and tapas run by the neighbourhood who decorated the cross.  We also climb to the top of the Roman gate to enjoy the views.  We’re absolutely stunned by how beautiful Cordoba is.  Very impressive! We take lunch in one of the many busy restaurant bars, and although Daz’s dish of grilled Iberian Pork is delicious (becoming a firm favourite!) my salad is decidedly dodgy, most of it from a can and with some very wet lettuce at the bottom.  We decide to complain, so after Daz has memorised a couple of choice words we call the waiter over… well we certainly got our message across and the waiter is very apologetic. He offers a new salad but when we decline he instead takes it off the bill, we are both impressed that we were able to communicate our displeasure and get a result in Spanish!!