Archive for October, 2014

29 Oct 2014

Life’s A Beach

2 Comments Galway, Ireland, Mallorca, Spain
 

I am siting in a cold kitchen in Galway, Ireland, drinking a mug of hot tea with lemon, warming myself against the sides of the mug and trying to will some feeling back into my feet. The room is silent except for the chatter of Paul’s teeth. I look outside. The sky is a singular shade of dark grey. I am thinking about writing about Galway. But I can’t, not yet. Not with my thoughts flicking back to those last few days in Mallorca — memories of water and sun, sun with heat, and water to swim in, not squelch through.

I sigh and shake my head and follow Paul out the door for another pint of Guinness!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

20 Oct 2014

Decadent Daze

1 Comment Mallorca, Spain
 

Cala Molins

Someone told me Mallorca has more than 300 beaches and so far we have seen only a dozen or so. Who are we to argue? At this rate it will take us a long time to see them all. Some of them are pebble beaches, others white sand, and others are practically inaccessible; you need to scramble down rocky cliffs and off ledges. They have one thing in common in that they are all stunning.

For late October, the weather has been amazing — 28 plus degrees every day for the last few days. The locals are all shaking their heads and saying ‘when is it going to end’ and taking to the beaches en masse.

Last weekend we drove north and managed six beaches, a couple of dozen mussels, gambas (prawns) galore, an octopus or three, several small schools of fish, and by Sunday afternoon we were beginning to look like beached whales ourselves.

 

 
 
 

Cap De Formenter - sometimes the only way in is by boat

 

Cala Formenter - under the pines

 

Head over heals for Mallorcan beaches

 
 
 

 

 

In our pathetic quest to work off the aquarium we had consumed, we trekked through the S’albufera de Mallorca wetlands out near Playa de Muro, stopping at hides along the trail and birdwatching, all the while rubbing our bellies, groaning and distended, yet at the same time thinking about our next meal.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

You are never far from anything. Massive coal-fired power station humming in the distance. Can you feel the serenity?

 

 

13 Oct 2014

My Girona (to the tune of My Sharona)

3 Comments Girona, Spain

My my my my Sharona — actually I think it was 'Ay Ay Ay Ay' and Mexican but never mind

I am playing catch-up from Mallorca where I have been for a few days, however I couldn’t skip giving Girona a mention. That 70s ‘The Knack’ song finally left my head and now as I type this blog it is back to haunt me again – my my my, my Girona …

Coming in to land at Girona — the cheap Ryanair hub airport where most people then take the shuttle bus direct to Barcelona, it is easy to skip Girona as a destination in its own right — I was immediately struck by the greenness and the mountains. It was a refreshing change from Malta’s harsher landscape.

My (insert preferred deity), it is beautiful!

The old town has all the charm of Granada’s Albaicin, however it gives the appearance it has been swept clean. There are tourists and students but it never feels stifling. The buildings are, for the most part, beautifully preserved without feeling overly gentrified. It is one of those cities that simply begs you to explore. There are stairways and corridors, churches and parks and some wonderful squares. It is best explored without a map. We found new discoveries around every corner. Oh but what a frustrating experience; Paul wanted to stop in at every little wine bar and restaurant.

In the end, exasperated, I left him at Zapanzar, an excellent Basque Pinchos bar (where you select your food from the counter and your bill is tallied at the end by the number of toothpicks left on your plate … Oh I am sure I have told you this before!). Paul was attempting the Guinness Book Of Records entry for most Pinchos consumed, while I took the camera and went for a stroll.

On my return, I promptly hopped in his pocket, only to be met by a sharp and rather painful surprise; a bunch of twisted and splintery toothpicks. Ouch!!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

07 Oct 2014

Things That Go Bump In The Day And Night

2 Comments Malta

The week started on a sombre note. The hustle bustle of Malta was overwhelming; the traffic, the people, when all we wanted was some quiet time. Then we heard about the bungalows on Comino. The last time we were on Comino it was only for an afternoon and we thought it was just a rock, a place to moor the boat and go for a swim. On the other side of the island there is a hotel and a small complex of seafront bungalows. Comino was the perfect antidote.

We caught the 25 minute ferry ride across and waited outside the designated spot – a toilet block at the top of a hill. A short while later an old Mazda Bongo van rocked up. We clambered in. Once the sliding door was slammed shut we were off. Comino is JUST a rock — solid limestone. The old guy behind the wheel gripped it with determination. He knew what was to come. The track was rutted limestone and the Bongo van hurtled and bumped and bounced across it, like it had no suspension. Up front was a family of three, with a girl of about 17 squealing, reaching across for non-existent grab handles, bouncing out of her seat, while her parents clutched each other in sheer terror and also bounced from their seats. We bounced from ours. The roof was hard and it did not yield to Paul’s skull – ouch! But with our squealing we were speechless. No one said a thing and driver simply drove faster. When we arrived the door slid open. The girl bolted out first. Then she turned back to face us and stuck her head in through the doorway. She had a Cheshire Cat grin. She only had one thing to say – Schumacher!! We all laughed and stepped out, relieved to be on terra firma again.

Inside a Bongo van - mid bounce. I know why he has the cross hanging there.

 

Paradise

 

Early morning Comino

 

Comino is JUST a rock.

 

View from the bungalow. Gozo island in the distance.

Comino is amazing. There are no cars except for said loco Bongo van. In the mornings before the boats arrive, Comino is beautiful, peaceful and quiet, only a few over-nighters and a million tiny green lizards darting along the rocks. The water is clear and warm. We spent hours swimming under natural bridges, through caves and simply wading in the lagoon. Bliss!

As quickly as it came, it was over. Back to Malta, the traffic nightmare. Narrow roads, lack of regulations, agitated people, oversized buses, ad hoc roadworks, compounded by tourist drivers in rentals who haven’t got a clue. On some of the roads you have to close your eyes to the oncoming traffic — watching as opposing mirrors kiss is not good for the heart.

And in a nice segue, there are Segways. At the suggestion of a friend we booked a trip on Malta’s new X2 off-road Segway Tour at the Dingli Cliffs. If ever there is a combination for disaster, this is it. And in another segue, not so nice this time, the owner of Segway, a Brit, was testing one of these very same Segways at some cliffs near his home a couple of years ago, when he plummeted off the edge to an unfortunate ending. If you don’t know what an off-road X2 Segway is, think of a death trap and you will come close. In a controlled environment these things are great. But across limestone tracks, with obstacles, on roads shared with all above-mentioned crazies in Malta, Segways are NOT a good idea. It is only a matter of time before something really bad happens.

 

Look Ma, no hands! Segway X2 death trap.

 

It is not their speed that makes them dangerous, because they are not fast. It is the way they operate. Everything is counter intuitive. They are unlike any car, motorbike or bicycle. For example, as happened on our tour, when you see the person in front of you get the speed wobbles and suddenly stack it on the main road, directly in front of oncoming cars, you immediately crouch down in order to minimalise impact. Unfortunately on a Segway, crouching down is the absolute worst thing you can do. It sends the Segway hurtling forwards at maximum pace. What you should be doing is leaning backwards. It was a near miss luckily. When we peeled the woman in front of us off the road, patches of her skin still stuck to the road. She was close to tears. Elodie our lovely tour leader was quick to the rescue with her first aid kit and soothing French accent, assuring us all everything was okay. It happens all the time, she said and proceeded to tell us some horror stories. We fell for her dulcet tones and climbed back on our Segways, some of us more frightened than others. The dirt track that is only six or so metres from the edge of the Dingli Cliffs saw Paul freeze in his tracks and ungracefully dismount (fall) from the Segway and walk across to the cliff’s edge. It’s safer that way!

Dingli cliff road in a rare traffic free moment

 

Dingli cliffs

 

 

01 Oct 2014

Farewell To A Friend

Comments Off on Farewell To A Friend Malta

Passing over Greek Islands en route to Malta

This blog may have started as a small dopey-eyed cynic’s view of the world but over the years it has morphed into something more, a diary of sorts. Sometimes I look back over the past posts and laugh. Other times I simply shake my head. On occasion, I have spied Paul perusing the blog trying to remember exactly what it was we did yesterday!

—–

As weeks go, last week was a shit one. We arrived in Malta to terrible news. A very good friend passed away in his sleep. Alex was only 46, but already he had lived several lifetimes. He achieved more than most of us dream of doing. He could regale everyone with his excellent gargantuan roasts, ensuring we were all well catered to in the wine department as well. He always had stories to tell. He could build a mean bonfire. He collected friends with ease — he was universally well liked. He couldn’t walk fifty metres down Geraldton’s main street without someone recognising him and coming over for a chat.

He was a “glass is half full” sort of guy, even when the glass was patently empty. He was a “can-do” sort of guy as well. He approached everything with gusto and made work appear effortless, much to everyone’s envy.

A few years ago we were in a restaurant — Alex, Peter, Paul and I. Behind us there was a similar setting of gents dining. They were older, much greyer, but they were having an equally spirited lunch, full of laughter and no doubt tall tales. We joked that would be us in 20 or 30 years. Alas it was not meant to be.

Farewell friend — you will be sorely missed by many.

 

Alex waiting for a bus (that never came). La Herradura, Spain 2012

 

Breakfast at 'the Prov', Geraldton 2011. L-R - Alex, Paul, Richard and Peter.