One thing I was looking forward to when my children grew up was not having to go away during the school holidays. However two of them decided to become teachers. When my son asked if we fancied going to Spain for half term I leapt at the chance. I am pleased to say I have managed to pass on my love of history and languages.
He wanted some late sunshine and suggested a visit to Malaga the southernmost large city in Europe. The southern Coast of Spain is known as the Costa del Sol, sun coast and is only about 80 miles from the north coast of Africa. I had never stayed in that part of Spain but my daughter, my son’s twin, spent three months in Seville working in a primary school as an English language assistant with the Erasmus scheme a couple of years ago. We loved the photos she sent us of Andalucia.
We were able to get a last minute Easy Jet flight from Bristol and my son found an apartment to rent close to the sea.
Malaga is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was probably founded by the Phoenicians about 700 B.C. and seems to have kept the same name with slightly different spellings for over two thousand years. Now it is the sixth largest city in Spain and the fourth largest in terms of economic activity. It has over six hundred thousand inhabitants. Today Malaga is a large cosmopolitan city with a good public transport network, lots of shops restaurants and best of all a long sandy beach. The cathedral is known as the one armed lady as curiously one tower was never finished. I was surprised at the large number of parks and trees. I think this year has been unusually rainy which meant that everywhere looked very green which I had not been expecting.
Antonio Banderas and Pablo Picasso were both born in the city. The airport is named after Pablo Picasso and there is also a Pablo Picasso Museum.
The centre of the city has remains from the Roman, Arabic and Christian Era.
The city has a Roman amphitheatre which was only rediscovered about a hundred years ago.
The Moors occupied Southern Spain for about 600 years until 1492: The same year as Columbus sailed to America. Malaga was an important city and the Alcazabah (the Kasbah) which was their fort and also the site of a palace for the Nazerini family is very interesting and suprisingingly well preserved with lovely gardens and thick walls. It is surrounded by palm and pine woods.
A combined ticket for the Gibalfaro and the Alkasbah costs about 5 Euros. The Gibalfaro which is higher up the hill can be reached on the city hop on hop off bus or by a steep climb. At the top you are rewarded by beautiful views over the city.
I also learnt a new Spanish word abuelita (little grandma) as I was climbing up but we made it.
I got the idea for this post from a cyber exchange with an American blogger. She wrote a post about things she loves about the fall. At the end she asked her readers ” what do you love about the fall?” I answered “burning the guy on bonfire night”. She quickly sent back a shocked reply asking “is there a typo in your comment?”
I am taking a blogging course and today’s challenge is to “write a post aimed at a particular reader containing at least one element you have not used before”. So here goes…
I realise that visitors from overseas might not know about bonfire night and how and why we celebrate it on November 5th each year.
Every year in England on November 5th, people light bonfires and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes.
Fifty years ago when I was young, children would make a dummy by stuffing some old clothes with straw and then beg for “a penny for the guy” for a few weeks before November 5th . (My mother did not approve of this so I did not join in). Most families would save up dead leaves and other garden rubbish and have a big bonfire and fireworks in their garden. Mothers prepared hotdogs and toffee apples. This was long before men learnt how to barbecue. Excited children saved their pocket money for sparklers, Catherine wheels, bangers and rockets.
In England it is now more usual for people to attend public firework displays with better health and safety regulations. Children often still have some smaller fireworks at home. Fortunately they are no longer allowed to buy fireworks or beg for pennies. If you go outside you will see fireworks being let off long into the night and some people still make a guy to burn on the bonfire.
What is the story behind bonfire night?
On the 5th of November 1605 a group of conspirators tried to blow up the houses of Parliament when King James 1st was visiting to open the new session. The conspirators wanted England to return to Catholicism. They even managed to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar. Luckily for the King they were betrayed when one of the plotters wrote a letter to his friend who worked in the house of commons telling him to stay away. Guy Fawkes the unfortunate man who had been left to light the fuse was discovered. The rest of the plotters were arrested and executed as well. Later The king ordered that bonfires be lit to celebrate his narrow escape and this has become an annual event.
if you click the first line of this post you will find a You tube video of a well known nursery rhyme which commemorates this day which was originally known as treason and plot day. It is now usually called Guy Fawkes night or simply bonfire night.
Please to remember
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
A few weeks ago I received an exciting e.mail from Silver travel advisor, a website for the mature traveller. I learnt that I had won a twinkling Thames cruise aboard the paddle steamer Waverley and a night bed and breakfast at the Croydon Hilton in the monthly draw. The prize was provided by Just Go Holidays
PS Waverley claims to be the last ocean going paddle steamer. She was launched in 1946 to take passengers for cruises on the Scottish lochs. Her name comes from a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Originally she was owned by the LNES railway company and provided excursions for rail passengers to Scotland. However these excursions became less popular as more people bought cars and train travel went out of fashion.
PS Waverley is now owned and operated as a charity by a preservation trust who have lovingly restored her. They take her around the British Isles, spending the Spring in Scotland, before moving down to Liverpool and later the West country before sailing on the Thames in the Autumn. My husband sailed on her about fifty years ago when she was much newer but this was my first time on board.
We opted to make our own way to the hotel in Croydon. I had never stayed in a Hilton hotel before as I normally opt for budget travel and was not sure what to expect. The hotel was very good but not as swanky as I expected. I was quite glad I was not spending my own money. Coffee in the bar was £4.00 a cup and wine £8.00 a glass. I was able to catch up with an old school friend who lives in Croydon for coffee before we met the rest of the coach party. We were taken by coach to Graves End where we embarked on PS Waverley for our evening trip up the river Thames to central London
The Thames estuary has been transformed in recent years and is now home to several hundred seals and even this month a beluga whale. I was hoping to see some marine life but was unlucky. We opted to have a meal on board and were able to eat a very good curry while sailing past the docks at Tilbury. We then had a chance to look at the well polished and beautifully maintained engines before going out on deck to listen to a commentary on the sites of London.
I was amazed at the size of the Thames flood barrage and pleased to see Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. We also sailed past the Millenium dome now the O2 arena and Canary wharf. The cruise ended at Tower Pier.
Tower bridge was opened so PS Waverley could sail underneath which made us feel quite important.
After a night at the hotel and a very good full English breakfast we went by coach to central London. We met our son who teaches in London and strolled round Hyde park admiring the variety of bird life including the noisy parakeets, waterfowl and herons. The three of us enjoyed traditional wood cooked Pizza at the Serpentine restaurant which I thoroughly recommend.
If you want to find out more about the river Thames or London I can recommend these two books. (disclosure if you click my links I get a small bonus).
Free Wills Month brings together a group of well-respected charities to offer members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their wills written or updated free using participating solicitors in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The scheme covers simple wills only, including ‘mirror wills’ for couples. In the latter case, only one member of the couple has to be 55 or over. If you need a complicated will (most people don’t) you can still have this done but may have to pay a top-up fee.
An up-to-date will written by a solicitor will ensure that your wishes are respected and will avoid causing legal complications for your loved ones after you are gone. Free Wills Monthmeans what it says. There are no catches, although the organizers hope that you will choose to leave a donation to charity in your will. There is no obligation to do this, however.
To take part in Free Wills Month click through to the website https://freewillsmonth.org.uk/ and fill in your details. You can then pick a solicitor from the list of companies taking part and contact them to book an appointment. Appointments are limited and on a first come, first served basis, so call as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
You can also download a free Will Planner PDF, to help you plan your will prior to your appointment.
Legacies are a very important source of income for charities with some charities relying on legacies for up to 50% of their income. There are also tax advantages for leaving a legacy to charity in your will.
October reading list
To keep with the theme of this post I would like to recommend a book I have been reading after stumbling upon it in a charity shop. In Grimm tales for young and old Phillip Pullman introduces us to fifty of his favourite fairy stories collected by the brothers Grimm in the early nineteenth century including such favourites as snow white and Cinderella. Phillip Pullman is a master story teller and these tales work on two levels either to be used as bedtime stories by an adult or read by an older child . They also have enough commentary and notes to entertain an adult. The book does not have pictures and some of the original stories are a bit gruesome for a young child.
The single ladies of Jacandra retirement village
This is a copy of a review I wrote for Net Gallery. The book is available on kindle and is due to be published in 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton
It is very unusual to read a book with a protagonist who is nearing eighty. Peggy a widow has settled into Jacandra retirement village in Australia and has reconciled herself to a life of wearing beige, and days filled with aqua aerobics, doctor’s visits and committee meetings.
However her life is turned upside down when her thrice married friend Angie moves into the village. Angie has very different ideas about ageing and sets about organising a fashion show and karaoke evening. Can the single ladies find love and friendship before its too late?
This is a very life affirming book and the characters leapt off the page. The writer is a G.P. so I also felt it presented a realistic picture of ageing gracefully or disgracefully. I felt I at least wanted to visit Jacandra retirement village.
Disclosure I received a proof copy from Net gallery.
This year my daughter is teaching in a village school just outside Prague. She has introduced her pupils to the game “Simon says” and it has quickly become a firm favourite. For those of you who have not played it, the teacher gives a list of instructions and you have to obey those that have the phrase “Simon says” before them and ignore those that don’t. It is good for teaching a foreign language as the children have to listen if they want to win the game.
These are a few of my “Simon says visit.. ” places in Prague.
The dancing house
The buildings in Prague were largely undamaged during the second world war. However one American bomber pilot got lost on his way to Dresden and damaged a building in the heart of Prague. The Croatian architect Vlado Milunic and the famous Canadian architect Frank Gehry were commissioned to design a new building and in 1996 the dancing house was opened. It is now a hotel with the Fred and Ginger restaurant on the fourth floor.
The Prague Astronomical clock
The famous astronomical clock on the town hall probably dates back to 1410. Though extra features were added later. As well as the time, days of the week and months it shows the signs of the zodiac, and the phases of the moon. On the hour figures emerge including a skeleton, vanity worshiping his reflection in a mirror and greed counting his money. There are also the twelve apostles and the Christ child. We were unable to see it when we visited Prague but work is supposed to finish by November 2018.
The John Lennon graffiti wall
For a long time this was the only place in Prague where graffiti was allowed. I come from Bristol home of Banksy and must admit I wish sometimes our local council would adopt a similar policy.
A dancing bear
Prague has always attracted tourists and one of the popular street acts would have been a dancing bear. When I was in Prague I saw the more traditional brown bear but my daughter spotted this polar bear.
A questionable sculpture
I am not sure what I can say about this sculpture. It is outside the Franz Kafka museum and is called Piss. The pool represents a map of Czechia. You were able to text a message by phone and the men would “write it”.