Tag Archive | family

Happy Giant Cockroach Hunting!

Here in deep southern Spain we’ve got some humungous gigantic cockroaches. Now, I’m not talking about the cute, adorable little garden variety type, you know, the kind that freaks out restaurant owners and sanitation control authorities.

No, I mean we’ve got ENORMOUS, TREMENDOUS, HUMUNGOUS cockroaches. The kind that only lives in hot places. The kind that even flies, in some lands (fortunately not in Spain!).

And it also just so happens that I’ve got MAJOR GIANT COCKROACH PHOBIA too.

And how major is major?

Well, let’s just say that I will NOT EVER go to see a therapist for this, because I’ve heard that the way they make you get over your phobias is by making you FACE them, little by little.

And there’s NO WAY that I will EVER face a giant cockroach. Not even in photos! (Which is why I will not be including a photograph of a giant cockroach with this post. Sorry, guys, you’ll just have to imagine what one might look like.) (You can take a photo of the most terrifying movie monster that you can think of, and perhaps that will give you an idea.)

So, you might be wondering, what do I do when one of these ogres manages to squeeze into our humble, normally giant-cockroach-free, one-bedroom-with-a-walk-in-closet-as-the-second-bedroom apartment in da inna big city?

Well, I do NOT go chasing it around with a shoe. Or with a spray can of cockroach killer (which doesn’t work anyways). I will not go chasing it around anywhere. Chances are, I will just disappear from the room where it happens to be.

Which doesn’t do much to get rid of it, however.

Usually, I send my son to go spying on it, and demand that he report the gigantic cockroach’s activities to me every five seconds or so, so that, you know, let’s say it gets it into its enormous head that it wants to, say, live in my shoe. Well, then I will know to avoid that shoe for the next month or so, in case it’s still there.

The other night there was a giant cockroach in our kitchen. My son described its wanderings as it meandered happily about the high windows of our tall kitchen, the ones that are right underneath the ceiling and, fortunately, far away from me!

Now, it just so happens that we have a hole in our kitchen wall, a small hole. I don’t know why it’s there, it was there when we got the apartment and I never filled it up, seeing as I need a handyman’s manual just to change a lightbulb, well, let’s just say that filling up holes in walls has never been my forte.

So, we have a hole in the wall. Perhaps the former owners thought it made a great chimney when they were cooking or something. At any rate, I never found much use for it, except maybe to catch a glimpse of the sky and therefore figure out what kind of weather we were having, since the windows themselves are glazed, so I can’t see out of them (and the neighbours can’t see in, either!).

Well, the other night, we were very, very fortunate, because the giant cockroach decided to waltz through the hole in the wall.

However, the relief didn’t last long, like maybe all of two seconds. Because apparently this specimen suffered from vertigo. It got one look of what was on the other side of the hole, and jumped back into our apartment.

I then therefore took up a pole, a very handy pole that I just happen to have lying around specifically for the purpose of pushing giant cockroaches out of windows with, and I pushed the giant cockroach out through the hole again.

However, that mean son of a…… (I won’t say the word here), I mean, that bugger, is sure one mean survivor. I actually saw him CLINGING ON to the edge of the hole as if his life depended on it (or perhaps it was a she, who knows, they all look the same to me), with gritted teeth and that determined look on its face that said to me: I’m going to survive no matter what and I MEAN BUSINESS!

Well, fortunately for me, I’m equally determined to live without giant cockroaches. Even if only to save my sanity. So, my son let out this bloodcurdling shriek which told me that the giant cockroach was COMING BACK IN! And I really pushed and rammed and shoved at it big time, like it was a mac truck or something. And the creepy little…… I mean gigantic…… bugger finally took a nose dive off of the hole and down to the pavement below.

I’m sure it survived its free fall, however, and probably just scuttled off underneath a car. These things could probably fall off of the Empire State Building and still come out looking as fresh as if they had just walked off of a merry-go-round.

But at least once again we can enjoy a giant-cockroach-free home.

And for anyone else out there who might possibly be unfortunate enough to be living in a land rife with giant cockroaches, and who also suffers from giant cockroach phobia like me, I do have this tip for you, which sometimes actually works for me:

In order to kill giant cockroaches effectively, painlessly (painlessly for YOU, that is, probably not so much for the cockroach), without ever having to get your hands dirty or come within more than five metres of that horrifying being, you can use…… ta-da: SPLASH COLOGNE.

Just get a very large, cheap bottle, the no-name kind will do nicely. The only thing that matters is that it contain alcohol, be squeezable (so no glass bottles there) and that you have a large quantity of it. I just aim the bottle at the cockroach and douse it with cologne. And THAT’S IT!

This, however, only works when the roach happens to be someplace that you don’t mind if it gets covered with cologne. So if it happens to be sniffing on your favourite books, for example, or lounging away on that pile of notes that are absolutely essential for you to pass your exams, it won’t work.

However, the corner of the room (as long as you don’t have a rug) is a perfectly good location to spritz that entity with cologne. After it has agonized itself to death, you can just sweep it up and dump it into the toilet. Your hands never have to even come near that thing that looks just as ghastly and horrifying to me in death as it does in life.

Yes, I won’t even come near a dead giant cockroach lying on the sidewalk. Something about it coming back to life and wanting vengeance, maybe?

Drooling bird

Well, just thought this animal was a bit more visually pleasing than a giant cockroach.

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Sierra Nevada Revisited


Sierra Nevada Revisited

Snow on Sierra Nevada

Signs that you live in a tropical clime:

When in order to prepare for an excursion to a ski resort tomorrow the following events occur:

    • when no matter how hard you look you just CAN’T find any scarves, gloves, hats or mittens, even when you can swear that you kept a special drawer in your apartment JUST to keep strange garments like scarves, gloves, hats and mittens, but when you look in that drawer the only thing you find is an enormous square black cap with a large golden tassel that your son wore for his graduation, ie. his graduation from kindergarten, not his graduation from university, and also 2 Santa Claus caps (probably got them at some party)

View of Sierra Nevada

  • when your son needs to take a crash course to learn how to put on the gloves that his grandfather bought him specially for his trip to the snow, because he just CAN’T figure out how to get one finger inside each glove finger, the reason being that he has never worn gloves before in his life
  • when your kids have to wear rubber rain boots to go to the snow, because they have nothing else to wear

When we first moved here from Barcelona we did decide to keep the winter gear because we said, you never know when it will come in handy. Who knows maybe one year you will do just exactly what we’re going to do tomorrow and take an excursion to a ski resort.

Or maybe one year you just might decide to go on your Christmas vacations to New York City or England or Canada. But of course we never went skiing, and we never went to NYC, England or Canada on our winter holidays.

So the winter gear started disappearing, and getting stuffed further and further back, or moved out of the way. And in the end it all disappeared forever.

Well as you can see, last month we returned to Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevada Granada

For those members of the expedition who were expecting to see snow for the very first time in their lives (ie. my youngest son) the trip was quite clearly a disappointment.

For the rest of us (or rather, for me, who absolutely HATES the cold, the wind, the frost or anything that you won’t find in the tropics!), it was quite a splendorous revelation and a very relaxing outing.

Because we didn’t find any snow.

Shadows on the Mountains Sierra Nevada

Except, of course, the artificial variety, absolutely vital in a touristic ski resort that depends solely and entirely on the presence of snow.

So now, here we have yet another sign that we live comfortably ensconced in a tropical clime, here on the south coast of Spain. As we crossed over the mountains that separate our particular Shangri-La from the cold wild north, my sons exclaimed:

“How come there are no leaves on the trees, Mami?”

Because, of course, on the Costa del Sol, trees merrily conserve their leaves all year round, and these leaves remain green.

Green forever.

Bare Trees on Sierra Nevada

So that pretty much summed up the point in going to the bother of travelling to Sierra Nevada. Because we certainly didn’t do it for the snow.

As you can see, the mountaintops were as bare, as they say here, as a bald man’s pate.

Valley Sierra Nevada

I had been feeling quite distressed because, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we had been unable to dig up any winter gear. I was expecting to endow the African vendors up on the mountains with a small fortune investing in hats, scarves and mitts from them.

Corner of Pradollano Sierra Nevada Granada

Instead, the only thing I purchased was a set of sunglasses. Very fortuitous, as it just so happened that I had forgotten mine at home. However, the friendly African merchant was on the verge of setting up an ice cream stand, so so much for that.

Telephone Sierra Nevada

Now, we really don’t know what in the world this was! But it looked so forlorn there, as well as useless, my son tried to hang it up but it kept falling down again. So we gave up on it.

Pradollano Sierra Nevada Granada 2

Truth is, Pradollano is actually quite a lovely, quaint and Swiss-like village. Its only problem is that (from my point of view, of course) it’s too cold! Most of the time, that is.

Although perhaps not this year.

Pradollano Sierra Nevada Granada

In order to find a little bit of the powdery white stuff, we had to journey up to the ski slopes, where artificial snow machines kept the ground nicely padded.

Ski Slopes at Sierra Nevada
Skiing at Sierra Nevada

And my kids could finally throw a few snowballs.

Throwing Snowballs at Sierra Nevada

Down in the village, we roasted ourselves in the sun a bit. We engaged in my favourite activity, people-watching, and observed that most were wearing T-shirts rather than anoraks.

Footpath Sierra Nevada Granada

And we also noticed that any little vestige of snow that happy skiers proudly brought down with them from the slopes, promptly formed puddles on the ground without any further ado.

Blossoms on a Tree Sierra Nevada Granada

Now, do these flowers in bloom look like something you would expect to see at the beginning of January at a ski resort, or what?

Mountain Sierra Nevada

So, I fear that, unlike in our previous journey to the mountains of Sierra Nevada a few years back, my youngest son was unable to learn the delicate art of forming snow angels. He had no experience of slipping and sliding on wet and icy mounds or trying to learn to get his “snow feet” under him.

I guess all these experiences will just have to wait till another year.

Sierra Nevada Granada 2

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Sierra Nevada, Granada

Well now that it’s cold, dark, and the constant presence of school makes organizing long journeys a chore, seems like a good moment to reminisce on old times from the past, and some wonderful trips that we took back then.

So one fine winter’s day a few years ago, we decided to hop onto a bus (a bus because as I’ve mentioned in other posts such as this one about the Chillar River, I’m not lucky enough to own a car) and zoom off to Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevada Mountainside

Now, Sierra Nevada is a good 4 hours’ bus drive away from us, at least. So we do have to start off very early in the morning, I do say.

My son had been bugging me for ages and ages to see the snow, so at last I gave in. I myself, seeing as I hail from Canada, couldn’t care less if I never ever beheld a snowflake again in my life. But, you know, kids are kids and my son does NOT hail from Canada. So he had to go and see the snow.

Sierra Nevada PradollanoWell, leaving this lush and well-nurtured south coast of Spain was a bit like leaving Shangri-La. As we crossed over the mountain line which shelters the coast from the mean icy winds of the north, the landscape changed most drastically. At first, you immediately noticed that the trees were sporting all different colours: golds, browns, flaming orange. In Malaga trees are green the whole year round.

Then you would notice that the ground is bare: there’s no grass! The ground is all frozen!

When you get out of the bus in Granada, where you change over into the Sierra Nevada line, the biting wind really catches you off guard. The high in Granada in the dead of winter is lower than the lowest temperature you could experience in Malaga.

My son, of course, loved it. He loves anything new.

Now, if you are fortunate enough to own a car, getting to Sierra Nevada is relatively a breeze. You just have to make sure that you have chains or some other sort of tires adapted to the snow, and take off on the highway.

Sierra Nevada

But if you have to thumb your way over on a bus, like we did, well the easiest way to get to Sierra Nevada from the sheltered warmth of Malaga is by taking a bus on the regular Granada-Malaga line, and then catching another one to Sierra Nevada in the bus station at Granada. There are frequent vehicles on both routes, however.

Or you can do what we are planning to do this year, and sign up to an organized tour where a direct bus straight from the coast to Sierra Nevada is included in the package.

You can notice as you (or rather your bus) climbs up the altitudes: the air gets thin and frosty, the going gets rougher. If it’s a bad day, a regular snowstorm might even halt your progress. However, if you go when it’s bright and sunny, the temperatures might not reflect the grand and radiant sunshine, but you will have a smooth ride with no snow or ice on the road.

Sierra Nevada is a booming touristy resort in the middle of the mountains. The entire mountain range reaches up to almost 3500 m., but the resort itself, called Pradollano, is only about 2500 m. high. When you are up there, you can see all the wild mountaintops nearby, all empty and deserted and sheer and frozen, with nothing on them at all. Woe be it unto you if you should ever find yourself lost and stranded on one of those barren slopes.

Sierra Nevada Tracks in the Snow

I found it hard to believe that you could be so well taken care of and provided for if you remained within the resort of Pradollano, but take just one false step out of the area, and all of a sudden you could be fighting for your life in the midst of endless stretches of snow and snow and yet more snow.

So truly, this is one place where you must remain on the beaten track.

But not to worry. Even on the beaten track here, there are tons of things to do and see.

So my son and I threw snowballs. We climbed around and tried to construct a snowman (without much success, I might add). I pointed out how to make snow angels to my son, who had, of course, never seen one before. But he found it delightful to make a few. And this when as you can imagine he himself is no angel by far!

Sierra Nevada Bare Mountaintop

We also decided to hitch a ride up a ski lift to one of the popular slopes. It’s a great way to get a panoramic view of the whole resort and a glimpse of mountaintops hidden from the view of the resort below. You can also get to do a little tobogganing there.

Well, can you believe that when we arrived there, we had no winter gear at all. Nothing. Of course, considering that we live in Shangri-La, where cold-weather trappings are completely useless and would only occupy precious space in your wardrobe or drawer……

Fortunately, street vendors are keenly aware of the lack of preparation of Spaniards in general for weather that you must bundle up for, and you can find them everywhere, peddling off hats and scarves and warm fuzzy mitts.

Sierra Nevada Rocks in the Snow

Of course there is nothing like a mug of hot chocolate and a platter of steaming fries after a day in the snow. When you go to Sierra Nevada, the food is horrible and over-priced, but with all that cold, you do really yearn for something warm. So the best thing to do: bring your own sandwich, bagged lunch or tupperware, but save a little change for that steamy mug of chocolate, or rather Cola-Cao.

Although I might add that the temperatures, the day that we went, were actually quite balmy for a ski resort, seeing as they were a few degrees above freezing. Canada, where you won’t see the thermometers slip up even a tentative half millimetre over the freezing mark between October and April, this definitely was not!

So this year we will be taking it easy and hopping onto a pre-organized bus tour. My youngest son is coming along too, this time. He has never seen the snow. I might add that unlike his older brother, he has never bugged me to see the snow either. Just a different character.

Sierra Nevada View From Pradollano Resort

Of course, perhaps the explanation stems from the fact that he was born in the stormy throes of winter and raised in freezing Barcelona (well freezing in the winter, anyways), whereas the oldest is a late spring lamb from the south. So I guess maybe the youngest already endured all the cold he could ever want to endure growing up in the cold climes of Barcelona, while the oldest enjoyed the heat of southern Spain during his first months of life.

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Chillar River, Río Chillar

Right now that it’s raining and raining and raining, seems a nice moment to remember bright, sunny days and hot excursions to the countryside and the mountains. Not that I have anything against the rain but quite the contrary, I LOVE rain. Which is why I could never live in a desert.

Waterfall Chillar River

However, the rain does make fun excursions and hiking hard. So now is the moment to curl up under the quilt and nostalgically relive old photos of fun times from the past – that is, this summer.

One of the places we visited this summer is the CHILLAR RIVER near Nerja, in the south of Spain.

Bridge Over Chillar River

Lots of people go there, it’s quite a popular spot with both locals and foreign tourists. Well foreign tourists who don’t mind a little bit of roughing it out in the country, that is. No relaxing and romantic joyrides in horse-drawn carriages here!

Entrance to Bridge Over Rio ChillarIf you have a car, you are really in luck! You can drive right out to the beginning of the trail and save your energy for enjoying the beauty of the area.

And if you don’t have a car, then cry!

Okay, then after you’ve had a good cry, you can still be glad that this is one route you don’t have to miss just because, unlike about 90% of the population, you are not fortunate enough to own a vehicle of your very own. You can still go there by foot.

Which is what we did.

Banks of the River Chillar

Either way, the way to arrive, is:

From the town of Nerja, walk towards the river. The river is at the entrance to Nerja if you are arriving from Malaga. It is very close to the bus stop, so even if you must use your little legs, they won’t get very tired.

If you are lucky enough to count on the services of your very own car, please do give me a call, and give us a lift the next time we go out there to the Chillar River!

Although the very most fortunate among us could probably hitch a ride with one of these horses!

Horse 1 River ChillarOkay, on a more serious note, if you arrive by car you can also go down to the dirt road that follows along the river, on the Nerja side.

Either way, all you have to do is go up this dirt road. It’s very clear and straightforward, no danger of getting lost. The road winds along the river all the way to the top. By car it’s maybe 15 minutes. But if you’ve got to patter patter it all the way, it takes about an hour.

You will know that you have arrived when you reach a very large clearing where, chances are, a ton of cars are already parked. Here you must get out of your comfy vehicle and start fording the river. Fording the river is lots of fun and the only way to walk along it, so I thoroughly recommend that you come with water shoes. Plastic open sandals, that still wrap around the foot and therefore don’t fall off, are ideal.

Road Along the River Chillar

Now all you have to do is go up the river and enjoy the scenery.

An Archway by the River Chillar

Along the way you might encounter a variety of mysterious tunnels and archways.

Tunnel by the Chillar River

This, on the other hand, is actually a garden on someone’s property, though it might be hard to believe or discern.

Garden Rio Chillar

The “parking lot” is actually nestled within the confines of what was once a lofty and powdery white marble quarry, although I believe it is no longer in use as such. At any rate, you can see the very high mountains of powdered alabaster soaring overhead and engulfing the entire clearing with its bright shadows.

Marble Quarry Chillar River

These quaint steps carved into the stone lead to a tiny shed, I have no idea what this shed is used for or what it is.

Carved Steps by the River Chillar

And now, at very long last (or at least you can say at very long last if you arrived by foot, of course if you drove your vehicle up to this point, it would have been nothing but a short breeze for you) we reach the entrance to the actual river itself, the entrance to the Chillar River.

Entrance to the Chillar River

Clearing Rio Chillar

Following the Chillar River

This, I believe, is or once was some sort of rustic hydroelectric power plant, although it’s very small. Perhaps a water mill would be a more appropriate name. At any rate, we didn’t climb up to have a good look.

Electric Plant Chillar River

Archway Over the River

Yet another mysterious tunnel. My son actually went in there, he’s a little mite!

Secret Tunnel in the Chillar River

Clear Waters in the Chillar River

Here you can see that the water is so crystalline clear (but I wouldn’t drink from it!) that it looks like a spotless white immaculate path. But actually, all that is water underfoot.

More Chillar River

When you reach this gorge it’s a magical moment: because it’s the moment when…… your son’s sandals break! Which was very opportune, however, as it was getting late.

Gorge Rio Chillar

Time to return home, as you can tell by the inexorably lengthening shadows in these last photos.

The Sunlight Through the Trees by the Chillar River

Dancing at Malaga’s Annual Fair (And Roller Coasters Too, Of Course)


Malaga Fair Entrance Castle

So now it is true that some time has passed since the event of this post. But, well, it’s always nice to look back and remember: fond memories, exuberant summer nights, amusement rides, ferris wheels and dancing till the next sunrise. We’re talking about: the Malaga Fair.

The Malaga Fair occurs in August. So why am I writing about it now, in October? Well, because I didn’t have time to write about it before (seeing as I was too busy zipping about to places like La Linea de la Concepcion, which you can read about in the following post, or Barcelona).

And also because, as I said at the beginning of this post, a little bit of nostalgia never hurts!

Malaga Fair Lights

Now that everyone is all settled down in their workplaces or school desks, it’s a good moment to linger over those simmering days and balmy nights when you were free. No schedules to run after. No traffic jams. Just good fun all night long.

At the Malaga Fair.

Malaga Fair by Night

In Malaga the annual fair, which as I mentioned before happens in August, takes place in 2 locations. On the one hand, you can boil and broil a bit at the Day Fair which is located in downtown Malaga. This year we didn’t go, because unlike the majority of people I work during the summer. Hence no daytime photos.

Malaga Fair Cute Cottage

This is one of those weird set-ups that they like to put out on the streets. It’s a fake cottage designed to imitate the old country-style farmhouses with traditional Andalusian décor that used to dot all the mountainsides. You’re supposed to pose inside this cottage with your typical flamenco costumes and get your photo taken – for a price, of course.

At the Day Fair, people put out bars and stands on all the streets in the centre of the city. You can enjoy typical southern fare like crispy fried fish, chorizo and other sweetmeats on rustic brown bread. You can have a treat of paella, or indulge in some sumptuous seafood delicacies.

Flamenco and Gypsy


And of course you can listen to flamenco and dance (although the muggy weather lends itself quite a bit more to siesta-ing than dancing).

Everyone dresses up in traditional Gypsy costumes to go the fair. Women wear long dresses with lots of ruffles and gentlemen (and little boys) get all got up in vests and wide-winged black hats.


Although I was unable to take a picture of people sumptuously attired at the Day Fair, I did manage to capture a glimpse of what some of these Gypsy costumes are like during the night.

Malaga Fair Kiddy Ride

And at night is when all the fun begins!

Malaga Fair LightsPeople come to life at night. Not surprising, because the daytime temperatures (at well over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 40º Celsius for people sitting around here in Spain) on a typical summer’s day, as you can also discover here in this hot post) cause everyone to wilt and faint.

The night-time fair is set up on the extensive fairgrounds at the edge of the city. You can walk there, like I do, because the night absolutely URGES you on a stroll to take the cool breeze! But if walking isn’t your style, or you live on the other side of town (or outside town), there are frequent buses the whole night long from every neighbourhood and neighbouring town.

Malaga Fair Castle Entrance

There are lots of things to do at the night-time fair. The kids and I are wild about the rides, and that is the only thing WE do there!

Malaga Fair Ride

There are at least 4 or 5 different roller coaster rides. My oldest and I love roller coasters, so you can find us on top of every one of them at some point.

You also have water rides, spinning rides, bouncing rides. And kiddy rides. For my little kid. Roller coasters and bouncy things just aren’t up his alley, but kiddy rides? He’d get onto 50 if he could!

Malaga Fair Kiddy Ride

If velocity and thrills just aren’t your piece of pie, you can still enjoy the ferris wheel. It’s very tall, and the views from the top are utterly breath-taking. Malaga at night, with its dazzling neon, spread out all underneath you at a bird’s eye’s point of view.

Walking Around Malaga Fair

A lot of people, however, aren’t into any sorts of rides. They are into food and drink. Concerts and dances. And they certainly receive their fill in the hundreds of little tents (casetas) where typical fare is served, beer is guzzled, wine is tasted and lively music sparks up the atmosphere the whole night long.

Malaga Fair Castle Tower


La Línea de la Concepción

Well the time has come for a new travel post! This time we’ll visit a little corner where tourists never go.

Yes I know I said that about Barcelona, and then ended up still putting up photos of touristy places anyways. Well what can I do? Pretty much ALL Barcelona is quite touristy and there is something worth seeing in just about every corner of that enchanting city.

However this time round we WILL indeed go someplace a little off the beaten track. So I thought we’d go to La Línea de la Concepción.

The Rock of Gibraltar

So, where in the world is that, you might be saying. So yes, that is how far off the beaten track it is.

No tourists, no tourist attractions. Just a tiny, humble little fishing village. Well a fishing village with a MAJOR petroleum refinery, perhaps.

Even so, you may have passed through La Linea at some point in your life. If you’ve ever been to Gibraltar, then unless you arrived winging over by plane from the UK, you’ve been to La Linea.

Gibraltar The Rock

La Linea earned this name by being the borderline: the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

For a long time ancestral rivalries between Spain and England kept this borderline closed. You couldn’t enter Gibraltar by land. The Spanish government re-opened its access to this rock in 1985 as part of its measures for gaining entry into the European Union.

Gibraltar CannonGibraltar Coat of Arms






Gibraltar is a fully sovereign, self-governing British overseas territory, which means that its citizens, in addition to being Gibraltarian, of course, are also British nationals. All of its internal affairs are locally governed, but the British government oversees everything and the Queen of England is its head of state.

Gibraltar Garden

However, this is not a post about Gibraltar, which, being strong, famous and a popular tourist destination, can pretty much hold its own in the world.

Today it was my intention to speak, rather, about La Linea.

A good percentage of the population of La Linea depends on Gibraltar to bring bread into the household. This is the case of my friend in La Linea too, who works cleaning homes and yachts on the rock.

Nonetheless you will still see a good many fishermen casting out their lines on the beaches, especially at dusk, or taking out to the seas in their little boats.

La Linea and Africa
You can see how close Africa is in this photo. That long strip of mountainous land across the way there is Africa. Looks like you could just swim right out there, right?

Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of aspiring African immigrants, it isn’t that easy. There are very treacherous undercurrents in that little strait!

Unlike Malaga, La Linea is small and quiet. Most of Malaga is filled with tall buildings. Most of the homes in La Linea, by contrast, are small one- or two-storey houses built the traditional way, square-shaped and without a sloping roof, with an interior patio.

This makes it a very hot place in the summer, because there is no shade!

There isn’t that much to do in La Linea, I found. Unlike Malaga, it isn’t bustling with a lot of exciting places to visit.

La Linea Beach

There are a few parks. One of the really nice ones is the one inside the City Hall grounds. It’s enormous, with different sections including, of course, a large playground for kids. Which is pretty much the only thing you will notice if you travel with kids.

This time we didn’t enter Gibraltar, although we visited it few years ago. So if you are on the look-out for these 2 little mites that you can see in these photos, running around somewhere on the streets in your visit to Malaga, rest assured that they are hardly little mites anymore!

They still play in playgrounds though, and very happy to do so I can assure you!

In the summer it is almost impossible to do anything during the day in La Linea. Except move around on the beach.

At night is when most of the action takes place.

La Linea Nightlife

I personally would not like to live in La Linea. The people aren’t particularly friendly. I took my friend’s gigantic dog for a walk – to give you an idea of just how gigantic it is, when it stands on two paws, which it does quite frequently (it probably thinks it’s a baby) it’s as tall as I am – and as I approached a little shop for a bottle of water the owner exclaimed irascibly: “That thing isn’t entering my shop!”

So it was my son who entered the shop for water instead. (Yes, he’s hardly a little mite anymore. Even sports a moustache now!)

There are many thieves in La Linea. And a lot of drugs too. So not a good place to raise kids, especially teenaged ones. Even my friend has sent her teenaged children to Marbella to receive an education, so that they can move around in peace and avoid the harassment of La Linea bullies and drug traffickers right at the doors of their high schools.

Well I suppose I should like to end on a more positive note about this little town.

La Linea Ornate Door by Night

You can observe a feeble attempt at nocturnal photography here. I don’t really have the equipment for that, though. Here this was an attempt to portray one of those typical, stately, larger colonial-style homes that grace many parts of town. However at night without proper lighting I’m afraid its majesty is all lost in the shadows.

In spite of some local tiff-taff because of the drug dealing, for the most part it is a nice, humble, peaceful place to live, where the residents mind their own business and don’t get into a lot of hot water (except on the beach, of course, with its balmy waves). You won’t see lots of protest marches on its streets the way you would in larger metropoles.

There are also no major gangs wreaking havoc. Not a lot of street violence. You can walk around town at any hour of the day or night and expect to be left in peace.

Gibraltar Sitting on the Cannon

Hot Muggy September Nights

Tonight was just one of those lovely hot muggy late summer nights here on Spain’s sunny southern Costa del Sol. At midnight we were still enjoying temps of around 30ºC. (that’s 90ºF. guys). So we went out for a midnight stroll by the sea, stopped for some frozen yogurt (it was definitely NOT frozen!) and kids spent a whole hour dashing about the park. How kids can run for one hour non-stop and still be fresh as roses is one of life’s grand mysteries.
Red Roses

We returned home along the seaside promenade. Beach restaurants offering typical fried fish and wood-baked sardines on a stick – a Malaga specialty – at discount prices now that it’s September. But there was no one about to take advantage of this bargain. It was Sunday night, girls and guys gotta go to work, kids have school. So no late nights anymore. Not even when it’s hot and muggy and lazy.

We watched a pussy cat playing with its dinner, a poor little freaked-out, death-pale lizard. A glowing cruise ship or ferryboat took off for Africa on the other side of the darkness. And that was it.

So this is my life, fellas. No bells or whistles. No Indiana Jones exploits on a daily basis. Just a pleasant walk in the “cool” night breeze and school runs in the early morning.

Beach Bucket

The Barcelona That Tourists, Well, Some Tourists DO See: Barcelona II

All right, so, as promised, here at long last comes Barcelona II.

We left off Part I with this intriguing photo:

What intriguing photo, you’re probably asking. That’s just a short, stubby palm tree sitting in some super dirty, icky, muddy water.

Yes, but…… Where?

In Barcelona, of course!

In this lovely park, the Ciutadella, where we went for a ride in a little rowboat.

Ciutadella Barcelona

Our expert oarsman, ie. my best friend’s almost teenage son, kept pushing our little boat into the palm bushes, which were sticking out of the water in the middle of the lake.

Here you can see a panoramic view of the lake with its myriad pretty little palm bushes all sticking up out of the murky waters.

Ciutadella Barcelona

Note how low these bushes hang out over the water. Now imagine spending the greater part of your visit to this park ducking around underneath these bushes, in your little rowboat that your friend’s almost teenage son persists in pushing out underneath these bushes.

I said in the previous post that Barcelona had more famous monument look-alikes to boast about. I don’t think it will be necessary to label what famous monument this is supposed to resemble:

L'Arc de Triomf

To its credit, this catalan city has nationalized this version by dubbing it with a local, non-francophone name: L’Arc de Triomf.

It’s a great place for kids to play, and to ride your bike, rollerskates or skateboard around. A lot safer than its Gallic version, I do admit. A friendly, family-oriented open area in the heart of downtown.

Well, occasionally it is nice to get away from the typical tourist haunts and strike out to virgin lands. This is an example of what Barcelona can look like outside of Barcelona.

Rubi Barcelona

No, here it isn’t raining, even though it looks like the deluge I described in the previous post, Barcelona I but never succeeded in capturing in all its drama.

Sabadell Waterfall

This is just a waterfall – from underneath.

Now moving on to more familiar, touristic haunts. Here is a vestige of The Mysterious Barcelona.

Pont del Bisbe Barcelona

Everyone takes photos of this beautiful and mysterious covered bridge in the Barri Gòtic. Nonetheless there is nothing ancient about it, in spite of its appearance and architecture, since it was built at the beginning of the twentieth century (in 1929, actually, so I guess still sort of the beginning). It was named for a bishop, el Pont del Bisbe, as a tribute to him even though said bishop was only assassinated during the Spanish Civil War, after the bridge was already constructed.

People in Spain are always saying that Christopher Columbus POINTS, and of course he is always pointing towards America. This is why he points:

Colon Barcelona

Although in reality he is actually pointing towards Italy and not out over the Atlantic.

I wonder if he is indicating the way to Genova, out of nostalgia perhaps.

Whenever I see these lovely waterfront homes by the port, I always wonder what it must be like to live in one of them. Must be luxurious to snuggle snoozily into your eiderdowns as you gaze out through your bedroom window at the famous marina, and at the envious tourists staring awe-struck up at you as they fantasize about your idyllic life.

Barcelona Waterfront

Finally we mustn’t forget that immensely privileged chalet in the country where some of my friends now live.

Garden Barcelona

It isn’t their own home, however. But what a marvel, to be able to actually rent such a quaint and tranquil little dig in the middle of the forest.

Sure beats living in a 50 m.² (500 sq.ft.) 1-bedroom-with-a-walk-in-closet in da inna big city!

Of course, no visit to Barcelona would be complete without an exhaustive up-and-down along its busiest pedestrian thoroughfare, the famous Ramblas.

Ramblas Barcelona


Barcelona Smiling Lobster

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Hello everyone! Well I thought I’d take a little break from Barcelona and report a bit about some neat places to visit and some fun things to do right here in good old Malaga.

But if anyone out there happens to be eager to learn more about Barcelona or see more sights from that city, don’t worry. I’ll be getting back to Barcelona and its mysterious bush (you can check out a pic of Barcelona’s mysterious palm bush in the following post, if you haven’t already done so) again in the near future!

Today I felt like talking about wildlife safari parks. There’s an on-going heated debate about how ethical zoos are. Well, I personally don’t feel that safari parks belong in the same category as zoos, because most animals are roaming (relatively) free in a safari park, as opposed to zoos where they are in cages.

Also, I find that safari parks tend to be quite dedicated to the task of taking care of endangered species and bringing up orphaned babies that would otherwise have died.

You can see an example of some cute little animals that Selwo safari park, right here in our own Estepona near Malaga, has rescued here in these photos:
In case the text is not too clear here, the sign says that these are the Barbary Macaques – small, tailless monkeys from North Africa that are famous for living wild on the Rock of Gibraltar – that were rescued from private individuals who had smuggled them into Spain from North Africa, where they live wild, and were keeping them as pets. They are an endangered species and as such should be taken special care of.

This is one of the Barbary macaques living at Selwo safari park.

At Selwo you can take a jeep, similar to the ones used in real safaris in Africa, that will carry you on a tour of the entire park. It’s not only strongly recommended that you take the jeep rides, the park is so large that it would cost you a great deal of effort to cover it all on foot, and take several hours.

Another reason for riding on the jeeps is because there are areas which can only be entered by jeep. The animals that inhabit these zones are living there quite peacefully and happily, and the continuous presence of a bunch of confused tourists gaping and meandering about would be most upsetting!

We go to the safari park every year. We like to ride on the jeeps all around the park to the furthest corner, and then walk back to the entrance.

If you don’t feel up to the hike, which takes around perhaps 3 hours, depending on how long you like to stop to admire the animals, you can always ride the jeeps back to the entrance too.

But walking back is a lot more fun!

Part of the path on the return trip involves crossing over 3 fairly extensive hanging bridges, similar to the ones you can see in Indiana Jones movies.

They might look a bit creaky, and I know they do freak some people out. A guy who went with us on the jeep, a strong, young, hip, macho type, nonetheless refused to get onto the bridge and turned around and hitched a ride back to the entrance on another jeep.

But if you do that you will miss out on so much.

My oldest son likes to ride on the camel every year. The irascible guy that trains the camels is always kicking on the poor dromedaries to get them to rise while they are deeply absorbed in a much-deserved rest.

I tell him he should be nice to the camels and caress them, but he just snorts at me. I feel sad for these camels. Personally, I think that the park should get rid of the camel rides, or at least get a nicer fellow to take care of them.

But I guess that wouldn’t make any money for the park.

We come to Selwo every summer for our annual safari pilgrimage. This was the newborn baby elephant last year.

This is the baby elephant this year. As you can see he’s bigger now, older, and he isn’t babied, coddled or cooed over as much by his elders anymore.

Baby elephants are very precious, because mother elephants can only have one baby at a time, and she lives her private communing with her baby during her pregnancy for 22 months.

Selwo safari park holds Europe’s largest wild aviary housing hundreds of birds of every species you can imagine. Here are a few of its inhabitants:

















Although it might seem like a simple, easy task to photograph these plumed friends, especially considering how large some of them are, really, it isn’t. It depends on their mood and your luck. Mostly they prefer to hide way out in the trees or bush.

This big guy was literally drooling over my son’s food.Drooling bird

Hungry bird












And this one actually succeeded in snatching part of his meal right out of his poor little hand.

Not the first time birds steal his food, however. He reports to me that sometimes while he is eating breakfast at school in the yard, the local seagulls will swoop down lovingly to accompany him, bearing away his sandwich in the process.

The Barcelona That Tourists Never See, Part I

Well, it appears that I’ve been sort of absent for quite a bit of time now. But that is because we have been busy travelling around. You know, it’s summertime, everyone’s on vacation.

So I expect that at this time of the year, lots of blogspots pop out with all sorts of travel tidbits and enviable descriptions of the most exciting holidays you can imagine. Postcard-perfect photos of exotic beaches in the Caribbean (or in the Seychelles, or in the south Pacific), cultural tours around venerable European capitals.

So I’m just going to pile on yet another such post to the list of travel posts popping up lately on blogspots around the world. But well, I’ll try and give it a twist. So I won’t be putting up the same old photos of the same old tourist sites that you can dig up in about a thousand travel guides already or find dotted around all over the internet.

Instead, I’ll try and put up photos of places that tourists won’t see and will never go to.

So here is the first such post (more coming up later I hope teehee!):

“The Barcelona That Tourists Never See, Part I.”

Our trip to Barcelona was fairly long, over a week. I lived in Barcelona for 6 years, so running around the typical tourist mill wasn’t really on our agenda.

Instead, I took the kids to see the places where they spent their earliest childhood years and sent them back on a nostalgic stroll through memory lane. My son re-visited his old pre-school. He said it looked a lot smaller than he remembered it!

These stained glass windows are perched on a fairly normal family home on a fairly normal street. You don’t need to be the proud proprietor of an architectural wonder in order to display something so beautiful and offer your family the possibility of enjoying such a delightful sight every day.

I wanted to take the kids to the countryside where they used to collect snails (after my son got over a major snail-slug-ant-and-every-other-bug-with-more-than-2-legs phobia), but surprise of surprises, we got thugged on the head by a freak summer storm (aka hurricane, cyclone, monsoon maybe?) that lasted for several hours. We took refuge at the local suburban train station:

Well, you can’t really make out the rain too much here, but then again it also wasn’t pouring cats and dogs yet. We thought the worst was about to pass. Well we could think again, the worst hadn’t even arrived yet at the time of this photo. But since I had no intention of spending an entire, precious day cooped up in a tiny little rural train station (quaint as that might sound), in the end I plunked a plastic bag over my youngest son’s head and we set off. My son felt a little ridiculous though, as he sort of looked like a walking white shopping bag.

So, what my kids remember most about their childhood home now is the lowly but spectacular train station.

This storm turned out to be of such a magnitude that apparently many localities got flooded and it made big headlines on the national news. We even got friends and acquaintances calling us up to find out if we were okay, or if by some chance a tidal wave had swept us all out to sea.

So, what does this photo have to do with The Barcelona That Tourists Never See? Well not much, actually, it’s just a lamp that’s hanging on the ceiling of a friend’s favourite dug-out.

But I can assure you that tourists never see it.

So, so much for our journey down memory lane.

However, there is so much more to do and so much more to see in Barcelona, that we weren’t put off by a little bit of unexpected climatic conditions.

The Palau Nacional de Montjuïc or National Palace of Montjuic. Well I said I wasn’t going to stick anything touristy onto this post, but this is such a beautiful location, the Plaza de España in the centre of Barcelona. Besides which I’ve been surfing around a bit on the net and no one else has made quite exactly the same photo of this monument.

No, actually, other people have uploaded much more beautiful, professional, slick photos of this monument onto the internet.

This palace sports a gigantic and stunning water fountain (called Fonts Màgiques or Magic Fountains), which nonetheless doesn’t show up here on this blog, because when we were there the fountains were dry and barren.

However, when the fountains are running, they are the centre of a most exquisite and magnificent light-and-music show, where the enormous sprays of water are displayed in all their glory reflecting a choreography of coloured spotlights that dance around in harmony following the melody of a musical soundtrack.

If you ever get the chance to pass through Barcelona just when they happen to be putting on one of these shows, I thoroughly recommend that you check it out. It’s free, and the show lasts for quite some time.

The only problem you might have is if you go there with a baby (like I did), and your baby is the crying, plaintive type, and gets bored and restless real easy.

The columns of the Palau Nacional at sunrise.

Barcelona likes to flaunt imitations of famous international landmarks. So here is Barcelona’s version of Venice’s Piazza San Marco:

Next week, I shall regale you with yet another monument wanna-be.

Well, The Barcelona That Tourists Never See, Part II should be coming up. In the meantime I’ll end this post with a couple of intriguing pics, of places tourists never gape over:

And in the next post I’ll reveal, what in the world exactly is that anyways? And where is it? (Hint: it’s sticking out of water. It’s just that the water is so murky it doesn’t look like water.)








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