Monday, May 29, 2017

Flores de primavera

A month has passed since I enjoyed my 50th birthday present from my fellow bungalow girl - a manky, muddy (usually lives in my gardening trug), used factor 30 sun-cream.  Or rather a flight from Southampton airport to Alicante!  Happy dance.  Didn't like to tell her that I would have been happy with a new linen scarf.......

Yellow Cape Marigold (?) growing on the mountain
Bright pink Hottentot-fig growing in the garden of the villa  
Red Valerian everywhere
Hibiscus growing at the villa

In Spain we mostly -

- enjoyed 26 degrees on arrival after scraping the car's windscreen in Salisbury!

- talked so much on the flight that Sarah managed to leave a pair of reading glasses in the pouch on the aircraft.  We found them in lost property at Alicante on our way home but they had been crushed and run over by something heavy!

- Drank rather a lot of Sangria (hic)

- tried charity shopping, Spanish style.

- saw Curry Plant, Lavender, and Fennel growing wild and in abundance.  

- did a bit of gardening (busman's holiday)

Downsides to going to Spain in April are that the weather can be rather cool (we like swimming in the sea every day and comparing mozzie bites) and it can be a bit too quiet.  But the upsides are that we could go out all day and we could do a bit of gardening at the villa without suffering from sun stroke!  AND, I saw Spring flowers that I had never seen before.....

Flowers at the villa -

Aloe Vera
Another pic of my favourite, the juicy looking Hottentot-fig
The multicoloured, fruit salad colours of Lantana or Spanish Flag

Wood spurge
Coris Monspeliensis - looks like thyme
The spikey Carlina Corymbosa  (this was on Montgo)

Easter Saturday - about 23 degrees.

Easter - we have never seen the beach look this busy

I couldn't wait to get away from the crowds and walk up my favourite mountain, Montgo.

Giant fennel (on the left) is a member of the carrot family

That evening we visited the Old Town to have a look around the food and craft festival.  It was really busy but we managed to find the locally brewed Javea beer which was rather drinkable.

'Feria de Artesania, Xabia'

Easter Sunday - drove to Altea on Sarah's hated wiggly, narrow, busy road - the N332.  The motorways, on the other hand, are always empty because the Spanish will not pay the toll charges - bliss.

Altea is gorgeous

Fantastic views from the top of the town

I loved the little narrow streets with white washed houses

Oh, this is a random Spanish chap who wanted to try my hat on!  Suits you Sir!

Monday - 

Playa del portet, Moraira - we had a paddle but the sea was freezing!

Again, I like to get high up and I had seen that there was a walk to a tower.  The hardest thing was actually finding the path!

Nearly killed Sarah by dragging her up the enormous hill in the heat

but it was worth it for the views.  You could see as far as Benidorm.

And here is the tower - Torre de Guaita de Cap d'Or

Back down to Moraira town and harbour

The castle

Tuesday - we (eventually) found a gorgeous, quiet walk near the Old Town in Javea.  The Spanish aren't very good at sign posts!

Spotty green skirt from a Javea charity shop and new Spanish hat.

Lavender in abundance

Ermita de Santa Lucia - 17th Century and 164m high

Stunning views from the top

In the evening we watched the sun go down with a cocktail at our favourite bar on the Arenal.

Wednesday - a lot cooler, only 17 degrees.  We drove to Denia (with flask of coffee) to try and find the entrance to the Montgo Natural Park (we couldn't find it on our last visit!).  We found the right road this time without too many u-turns.  The walk starts at the little church.

Ermita Pare Pere

The Spring flowers on the mountainside were beautiful.

Field gladioli - Wow!
Some kind of blue flax maybe
Rock rose

Haven't got a clue what either of these plants are!

When we got back down to Denia it was so quiet, out of season.

We were the only people having lunch at a little cafe in a square 'Tasca Carme'

We then climbed another hill to the castle (it had been too hot to look around on a previous visit). There were hardly any people there but it was quite cold and windy.

The view of Montgo and the streets of Denia from the castle

Back for a spot of (cool) gardening at the villa.  I found that the Agave had a huge stem coming out of it which I had not seen at other times of the year.

The agave is a native of Mexico.  The flowering stem appears when the plant is about 10 years old and can reach heights of up to 26 feet. After flowering, the plant dies. 

Thursday - still cold.  This isn't on!  We had a coffee and people watched in the old town.

Small slab of apple cake and the traditional Bombon which is coffee with condensed milk - yum!

We saw the market for the first time - amazing fruit and veg.

We then drove on the windy, mountainous N332 (again) to Teulada.

Teulada was quiet too - hello?

The Ermita de la Divina Pastora in Teulada is 16th Century

Which way?

Then back to Javea for an icecream (indoors!) whilst we watched the surfers and the waves crashing.

Back home.

As Sarah peeled my fingers off the chair in the departure lounge of Alicante airport I tried to gird my loins for leaving.  I have to say that when we landed in Southampton and drove home I was amazed at how green and lush the countryside looked but I'm still in love with Spain.......even when it is cool and cloudy!  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring - getting down and dirty

The last couple of months I have:

- Had really bad hay fever (the evil rape seed).
- Become obsessed with any programme featuring Alex Polizzi.
- Discovered that I can move a tonne of top soil by hand - I am a strong and powerful woman!
- Been whipped in the face by dog wood.
- Had dog wood up my nose.
- Been ensnared by 10 foot long brambles.
- Been stung by nettles.
- Fallen over in flower beds.
- Got RSI from overuse of secateurs and loppers.
- Seen a red kite, hares (multiple) and a badger in the village.

It's been all about gardens - visiting and working in them.  

I have swapped chasing bad debtors and sitting at a computer for wrestling with bind weed and ground elder full time and don't my knees know it! I have never worked so hard in all my life or ached so much.  I appreciate so much more - being clean, putting slippers on, bed, weekends.....  

I do look like Stig of the Dump but life is simpler, quieter and less hectic.  I no longer have a car, I no longer peruse online clothing websites and add to cart.  When it is dry I garden when it rains I clean the house, make big batches of soup for the freezer or bake cake.  

In March we visited Fonthill House Gardens, one of the gardens open to the public in the National Garden Scheme.  It consists of formal gardens with mixed borders, woodland and an organic vegetable garden.  The whole estate consists of 9000 acres.


Fonthill House Gardens - It was a grey and cold day

Magnolia - Royal Star

Oooo, I love a sweep of lawn.

We kept warm in the greenhouse

Quite a view

Wouldn't mind living in this little estate cottage in the woods

Nobody in the pool today.

Now I am gardening full time I have had to ramp up the calorie intake - obviously.

Sarah made rolls - these also froze quite well

I made banana and walnut cake which is good to stave off hunger pangs

The garden at home has been colourful


Sun, green - oh yes

It must have rained this day - celery, carrot and ginger soup

Oh, and this day - chocolate muffins


We both had bad colds and coughs.  Probably the shock of leaving a heated office for the first time in 14 years and gardening at 8.30am in the morning when there is a hard frost on the ground!

This was the cathedral in all it's glory when we attended a concert that we were supposed to be singing in.  Cough, cough....

More gardens - 

This time Corsham Court.  I was very impressed and would like to go back and visit the house one day.

The gardens were designed by Capability Brown and extend to 17 acres

The blossom and daffodils were amazing


Beautiful Viola 
- but once sniffed your nose becomes desensitised and you can no longer smell it!

A late treat for Mother's Day

The weather was perfect

This lady, wearing a bright red dress and hat looked very glamorous

Don't know who they are but they look content sitting in the sun

Apple blossom

Sham Ruin - a folly built by John Nash around 1797

Fritillaria Lutea in our garden - we saw these at Corsham Court too.  Bit droopy looking for me.

I prefer upright flowers like these tulips - Blue Diamond

This is a new tulip for us this year too - Monte Carlo

It has been gorgeous!

I am not the only one to be excited by the longer days, sun and (hopefully) warmer days to come. We are sure that Eddie must have been a street dog from Athens in a past life.  He lies on the drive all day, following the sun and only comes in when it gets dark.

Eddie, the 10 year old puppy

I'm off to don my wuzzy bottoms, wack the heating up and watch Alex Polizzi in some sun drenched Italian town wafting in a vest top and linen trousers.  I bet she doesn't do her own gardening.

'In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt'.

- Margaret Atwood