Monday, 29 February 2016

Spain 2016 - Not Andalusia Day

I got my days mixed up and thought today was Andalusia Day but it turns out it was yesterday. It is one of the 2 holidays that are exclusively Andalusian (the other is Maundy Thursday). The area we are staying in, Southern Spain next to Portugal, including Seville, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Huelva, is the autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain called Andalusia. The name comes from  the Arabic, Al-Andalus, which in turn means "Land of the Vandals" ( a Germanic Tribe who occupied the area).
Because we thought today was a holiday we headed across the river to Portugal and decided to explore the coast.
We stopped in a little place with a huge parking lot full of RVs. The beach had lots of people walking and the beach cafes were full.
RVs or caravans are everywhere. Some communities create a place for them. They need a good road in, a large parking area, preferably by the beach and would probably appreciate a place to get water. In exchange the community gets a population of retired holidayers from the Northern areas of Europe, who will shop at the bars, cafes, restaurants and grocery stores that might otherwise have to close in the winter season.
Caravans also are to be found anywhere they can find a parking spot; lookouts, parking lots, vacant land.
Miles of sandy beach.

Next stop was Cacela Velha. We parked outside the village and walked in, great views over the tidal flats from the area around the church.
Farming some kind of shellfish.
The inside of the church was simple and peaceful and
you can see the sea through the door.
The little castle was closed but there were information boards around that Mum and I read. The town had quite a Moorish history and the castle was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and rebuilt in 1759.

This modern sculpture seemed quite out of place between the church and the castle.
Mum and I decided we wanted to come back and sketch but in the mean time we wanted to continue down the coast.
We drove down into this area of what we thought were beach huts (you would rent them and use them to store your beach stuff and you would change there, for the beach).
Upon closer inspection we found they were being used by fishermen to store their gear and freezers for the fish.
The town was Cabanas and the name was derived from the huts that the tuna fishermen constructed to store their gear during the early 18th century.
Looking further we found a lovely sea front area with restaurants and a walkway along the harbour.
It was lunch time. Dad had a pizza, I had a seafood salad and Mum had a Mediterranean salad. A bottle of wine came free with every 2 meals.
Mum and I had dessert and we all had coffee and it came to about $20 each, including tip. We'll be back.
We all walked a little, after this large lunch, on the convenient walkway.
A man walking his lamb down the street. No leash or anything.
The big modern fishing boats have huge plastic bins to sort the fish into but these old wooden boats have movable wooden slats that can divide the deck for sorting.
The harbour was predominately working fishing boats. Just one recreational boat, a huge blue trimaran.
We drove back to Cacela Velha, parked where Dad could birdwatch over the marshes and Mum and I walked back in.
Its a very pretty little village with whitewashed houses with coloured trim and
fancy chimneys.
Mum sat and sketched while I wandered down to the beach on a pathway next to the castle.

There appears to be a coastal path here, not just down to the beach but along the edge of the dunes. This shrub was just coming into little white flowers.
These daisies are also growing like weeds, everywhere.
I took lots of pictures of this piece of the castle wall as Mum plans to paint it
and I sketched it.
Although the church itself, built in the 12th Century, is pretty simple, the carving around the door has some interesting (and odd) symbols.
A bull with...... a stethoscope? ear buds?
A weirdly distorted head.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Spain 2016 - Los Perros Espanol and cajun shrimp

It was a stay at home day today, we try to interchange them with driving days, so the start of this blog is for
who spends most Sundays training and/or supervising dogs.
Caught in the act. Nicola took this picture of a garbage hunting dog in El Rocio. He was more interested in the garbage than the treats in her pocket.
Dachshund in Seville. (I did have room for him Pam)
Puppy (I think) snoozing in a sunny street, Punta del Moral
German shepherd guarding the hair salon (which is never open) in Punta del Moral.
Joined by his little Yorkie street level guard.
Dog among the oranges in Sanlucar de Guadiana.

We have been hearing a cat meowing, loudly, in the apartment building. The sound reverberates in the cement garage and staircases.
So to compensate for all the perros here's a gato too.
Mum and I popped over to El Jamon to make sure we had what we needed before tomorrows bank holiday. There were 23 large fishing boats in at the wharf.
At El Jamon (the grocery store in Punta de Moral) we were behind a man in line who had at least 6 dozen eggs, 60lbs of potatoes, a huge bag of peppers etc. We were thinking; a restaurant or a very large family but we later saw him load them on to one of the fishing boats. They are gone from the wharf, we assume out to sea, all week so they have to eat.
They seem to be, quite often, named after a man and woman, perhaps the couple who own them. The names also often start with Nuevo implying they had an old boat.
These are up high and dry, even at high tide, and I like the Octopus logo.
I took a long walk along the beach front pathway, stopped after about 5km for a cafe con leche and vino tinto and then returned.
For those of you who think I have been neglecting the culinary component of this blog, we went looking for something different to do with shrimp and made this recipe for dinner tonight. It was a hit and we will do it at home too.

Cajun shrimp and cream sauce over pasta.

Marinate a pound of cooked shrimp in 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic (minced). Sprinkled with cajun spice, for at least half an hour. Warm through in a frying pan with the marinade.

Cook 1/2 a chopped onion in 2 tbsp of butter.
Add 2 cloves of garlic (minced) and 6 diced mushrooms. Cook a few minutes.
Mix in 2 tbsp of flour, stir it in.
Add gradually, 1/2 cup cream and 1 cup milk, stirring constantly to mix.
Add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sauce over pasta with shrimp on top. Grated Parmesan on top if you like.
The "bite" of the cajun shrimp was a nice contrast to the creamy, cheesy sauce. The recipe made enough for 4. Mum said we made enough for Nicky, pity she wasn't here.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Spain 2016 - Spanish side of Guadiana and Sanlucar

Having spent all day yesterday inside due to the wind and rain, we decided to get out of the apartment today even though wind and rain were still in the forecast. We drove up the Spanish side of the Guadiana River (not close to it as there isn't a road close to it), through Villablanca and San Silvestre de Guzman (both pretty whitewashed villages) to Sanlucar de Guadiana.
We ate our picnic lunch facing a small farm plot - orange trees, grape vines, chickens and 3 sheep with 2 lambs.
He was having lunch too with his little tail wagging like crazy.
We had a coffee in a restaurant right beside the river and then I did a little exploring.
I wanted to get up to the windmills above the village.
The town wharf packed with boats and more on mooring buoys out in the river.
Looking across the river at Alcoutim, on the Portuguese side, where we were 2 days ago.
On the way up to the windmills I passed a trail marker. It looks as if it goes along by the river and hopefully I can come back on a nicer day and walk some of it.
I had fun taking pictures of the windmills from a variety of angles, but as you can see, the weather was deteriorating and it started to drizzle.

As the wind and rain picked up I took refuge in that little doorway in the windmill.
The view from my little refuge. I could see a band of clear sky coming so waited about 20 minutes and then it stopped and was sunny and beautiful for the walk back down.
Clear blue sky but you can see the next storm bank on the horizon. Don Quixote would have tilted at a similar windmill as I looked them up on the internet and the ones at La Mancha look just like this.
The next 2 hills along the river had ruined windmills (or watch towers?)

I walked back down the hill and met Mum coming up. She had taken refuge in the car so both of us had escaped the worst of it.
Great weather for ducks
Back in the car we tried to get to the fortress above the town. Unsignposted, so we wiggled our way up there with guesswork
It had been renovated to the point that it looked new and we could see no indication that we could get inside, just walk around, but it was way too windy for that.

Great view of the river and the two villages. You could see why it had been built there.
Drove back and stopped at Sonrisa, on the beach, for a glass of wine before heading home for supper.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Spain 2016 - exploring the Portuguese side of Guadiana and Alcoutim.

Pouring with rain today, cold and windy, so its a day to stay inside with the heaters on and read or play on the tablets. I am a day behind in my blog posts so this allows me to catch up.
While Nicola was here she found a book of driving routes, in the bookshelves. Yesterday we followed one of them up the Portuguese side of the river to Alcoutim. We drove across the wonderful bridge and took the first exit to the North. The road must have been built since the book was written and we had to get off it to get to the villages beside the river.
The landscape quickly changed to bumpy hills covered in Umbrella Pines and these;
Cistus shrubs. They literally covered the hills with white flowers.
Even prettier up close. While stopping to take a close up I also noticed these other flowers.
Smaller so you don't notice like the Cistus and on a stem that looks like Rosemary (but doesn't smell like it)
Also these, on a 3 foot stem with leaves like a lily, along the sides of the roads.
Flat areas by the river were being used for small farms; citrus, olive, vines and vegetable plots.
Just North of Alamo, near Montinho das Laranjeiras was a Roman Villa (Nicky had found out about this one too but we had gone to Italica instead)
The area was fenced off but the gate was open. The building walls have been reconstructed so you can see the layout. It is assumed, based on articles found there, that the few houses were a trading post to exchange local merchandise with those from North Africa and other Mediterranean countries. The Guadiana is certainly navigable here and much further up river too.
Sailboats moored on buoys in the Guadiana, near the Roman Villa site.
We continued to follow the road North, beside the river, through small villages and past lookout areas with RVs parked in them. We tried to drive into one village as the book said there was a cheese shop but we couldn't find a road in wide enough for the car (even with the wing mirrors in).
First stop in Alcoutim was to look at the church. This side faces the river
and across the tile roofs and chimneys to the Spanish village on the other side, Sanlucar de Guadiana, with its fortress on the hill above.
So plain after Seville Cathedral
but still some interesting details; around the door
and at the roof.
From here we could see how to get to the castle through the narrow streets and drove there next.
The castle had a display area with artifacts since the Romans. It was built to defend the border and police smuggling.
There was a short movie about the region and a display of "Timeless Games", stone game boards that had been found in the castle. They were made with lines carved into slate or holes in the stones and small carved games pieces like checkers. There were multiple examples of the 6 Islamic game boards (one was Tic-Tac-Toe), it must have been a boring post most of the time. The best part of the castle though is its views from the walls.
Looking back at the church we were just at.
Two old windmills on the Spanish side.
Modern windmills on the hills.
A huge boat at the town wharf below.
We drove down into town and ate a picnic at the wharf.
Looking across at Sanlucar. We will probably go there for a drive and look across at this wharf.
We had a very quick coffee as Dad was illegally parked on a crosswalk, and then drove back home.

On the way back onto Isla Canela we passed a huge herd of goats.
The shepherd (here on his cell phone) and his 3 dogs were keeping them off the road.