Monday, August 8, 2011

a mans desire for chorizo

Inspired, somewhat, by Rick Steins trip to Spain, but more by the desperate need for pork based products, Peter turned to me at 6.30am on Saturday and said: 'fancy going shopping in Spain?'

How spontaneous. I love it.

Well, after we'd worked out that the reason it would take 4.5 hours to get to (the Sat Nav adds an hour as once you're over the boarder the rest of Europe is on a different time, durr) we headed off to Caceres.

We're told that many an ex-pat cross the border to stock up on food and drink, not because it's cheaper really, just because it's different and there is a lot more choice. As soon as you get over the boarder (now just a sign post saying Espana, the old boarder control and tourist office a relic of the past) (in the photo), you notice a change in the landscape. Gone are the lush hills and valleys of Portugal, and hello to the vast plains and burnt earth of Spain.

The boarder clearly follows the edge of the mountains, with Marvao the last bastion of Portugal, complete with a fortification set deep into the rock.

This region of Spain, Extremadura was dry....I know that that the rain is suppose to stay on the plains but at 30 degrees there was no rain today. So after a rousing verse and chorus of 'The Rain In Spain' I started to notice, there cannot have been rain here for ages, the ground is hard and unyielding, you start to feel sorry for the bulls resting under the cork oak and olive trees. The cork oak trees turn red, in embarrassment, where their bark has been stripped recently to dry out and make our wine corks. But at least the fields have animals in them, our region of Portugal has a distinct lack of farming animals. Like Londoners starved of the country side we pointed out sheep, cows and hurrah donkeys!

After just 3.5 hours driving, we arrive in Caceres, the World Heritage site, no less. Well a World Heritage site it may be, but parking is still a pain in the bum.

Heading straight for a butcher, Peter began the 'great pork purchase' with a cheeky chorizo or five. But adding that hour means that all the shops were about to close, ahh yes the
famous Spanish 4 hour lunch time when the whole of Spain closes. So, we did as the Spanish do - headed out for lunch.

You forget when you are in Portugal (or England for that matter), the Spanish eat differently to us, their restaurants are not sit down affairs (on the whole), but stand up tapas bars where you spend 20 mins just taking a drink and eating a tapas. Well, the beer was so cold (why can't the Portuguese get cold beers right?) served in chilled glasses (not sucked out of a bottle) that we stayed in the same place and ate some of the nicest jamon I've ever had.

We headed for the old town, where the towers from the Muslim period still stand. It was deserted...Of course it was only 3pm on an August in Spain - everyone was still at lunch! So we had the old town to ourselves more or less. Neater than Toledo, the city, set on a rocky outcrop in the middle of the plains is really impressive.

We've been told that recently the town has undergone a revamp with the main square being cleaned and repaired....well they did a good job. On top of the city looking over the plains you get a real sense of being in the middle of no where, in the middle of the plains with just land as far as the eye can see, with no other notable features on the landscape. Why put a town here in the first place - those medieval guys were crazy.

Tummy filled, heritage done, we headed for the modern equivalent of the church - the supermarket! The real point of the trip and a chance for Peter to wallow in the rows and rows of hams, cheeses and chorizos. He actually asked me to leave him alone for a while!!!

So, 124 euros down (yep we went a bit nuts) we headed home, back through the plains, across the boarder and into Portugal.

It is amazing what a mans desire for chorizo will do. 7 hours of driving for some tapas and a trip to a supermarket! But, for someone that's lived on an Island all their life (England and then Jersey) there is an element of making a trip across a boarder and driving into another country just because you can!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Visitor

First and foremost, having visitors is fantastic, but, it can be a funny thing. I mean, catering for someone elses likes and dislikes, I mean, do you visit cities, go swimming, walking, museum visiting, go shopping? And hell on earth is when the weather is bad....what on earth do you do then. Somehow watching 8 hours of Glee only works for some very special people (and I include myself in that special category).

Being a non parent, there is always an element of excitement tinged with a little horror when we have children come visit. From stopping the dog jumping up and biting them ('he doesn't mean it, he's just being friendly' I say) to catering for non spice eating, non chicken eating kids (well, Peter does that bit).

But, we always have a lovely time when the kids come visit, and this time was no exception. Much joy had by all, although on the Monday after they left I did find myself asleep on the sofa at midday and undergoing a day of doing nothing - just because I could!

Lots of swimming, sunburnning etc had. In fact I am now the proud owner (well not that proud) of crow’s feet sun tan lines where my eyes were screwed up against the sun. I always laughed at my step-dad who got these, now the time has come when I get them too.

There is something about being a parent that you just get used to the noise, demands etc. It's the same for all parents, I think, but not being one, you hear everything, want to please the kids all the time, feel guilt if you tell them off and they cry, etc etc. When does the gene that parents seem to have kick in and suddenly you don't hear everything, are happy to say 'play on your own' or not feel guilty if the kid cries? I suppose it is the same gene that makes you want to have kids in the first place? !

It's a funny thing about moving away from friends and family. I've done it twice now. It is funny how you drift away from some friends when you are not in their pocket at home, how staying in touch becomes too hard with the barrier of needing to write to people instead of meeting for a glass of wine after work. The people you thought would be first out are never the ones who come and visit. But lovely Team WD have now been out twice in two years and I for one hope they come back next year again!

More visitors planned for August and September, first some Cutty Sarkers coming to visit, then some new Porto residents (I hope) then my Mum, Step-dad and Sister. It's an open invite, so when you coming?