Hola again Hola

How time flies when your having fun. One week down and it’s been a bit of a whirl. Theres been a visit to The Alhambra. My first of 2018 and there are 3 more booked all with friends who are staying over the next few months. A trip to the Botanical Gardens in Malaga. Trips to the coast. Oh and the garden.

It’s amazing how quickly the garden changes when there has been a bit of rain. And a bit of sun. And a bit more rain. There has been both. So what’s new in the garden? Loads.

Well the Dodonae viscosa purpurea is looking mighty fine. The colour now is fantastic especially when the sun hits the plant. The leaves are awesome. Flowers insignificant. And it self seeds like crazy.

I believe this to be white lilac. The week before we arrived it was a bit on the colder side. Now the sun is out the lilac may start to unfold its glorious scent. I hope so.

My mother would never pick lilac to bring into the house. Our neighbour always said bringing lilac into the house meant bad luck. So I don’t either. Superstitious? Me? Never. I just get an ear worm – if she’s not saying ‘ your not like your father. He tidied up as he goes along. In the garden. In the kitchen’. Now she’s saying ‘ don’t pick your lilac! I always told her it was an old wives tale. So why am I listening!

I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

There are still some seed heads on the Jacaranda tree. Funny looking things these seed pods. A real hard brown outer shell. Slowly opening like a mussel shell. I’ve just noticed a couple of green seed heads there too. The tree is a beauty but is on the large side. Note to self check for pruning back and when. Not a job for me though. Ladders. Me. Heights. Never.

The aliens are still doing well. It was interesting to go to the Botanical Gardens Malaga this week and to see many plants there which we have growing in the garden here. Not on their scale though – the Botanical gardens are huge and I have a feeling a bit of a blog may be coming on that trip. There were loads of photos.

So Plecatranthus It is Adds a bit of colour at this time of year and spreads.

I have had my eye on this plant Pyrostegia venusta – Brazilian Trumpet Vine – every time we go to either Nerja or the garden centre. Both have magnificent specimens. This one is the Nerja one and is mighty impressive. The colour is just amazing. The friend staying bought me one and planted it against the white garage to replace the bougainvillea which is not doing very well at all. So it’s planted. Fingers crossed. It generally is pretty rampant.The Australian wisteria is out in full force. A glorious colour and a huge attraction to the bees. Its growing over the gate into the garden and its a riot of colour. The colour purple. I had never seen it before we bought this house but I have now also bought a pink one. I have found out that there is a UK stockist Fibrex Nurseries who has said it is in their conservatory section and it would be ok in our London sheltered garden. ( the wonders of twitter)For london I’d go for the purple as its more striking. A bit more show off. It will replace a Trachelospermum which has died. My fault entirely. Hands up. I shall be ordering from Fibrex before we return to the Uk.

Osteospermum. What to say. Other than they are out in force and spreading. Lovely flowers. A few different colours. All welcome. Gotta love a self seeder.

The succulents are starting to flower. Please don’t ask. I don’t know! .

Its been a real bit of trial and error for me in this garden. I certainly am out of my comfort zone but its fun and I am loving it.

Last time I was here I planted this leptospermum. (Tea tree) Still looking ok. So far so good. Such pretty flowers.

Oh. What to do with the lavender. I love it. But its a but sad in places. Before xmas i cut some back really hard following advice from the twitterati. Do you know what? The ones I cut back are doing well. If only I had the courage to do them all. Maybe after next weeks visitors I will take the plunge.

We did s bit of clearing and pruning this week and came across these lovelies hiding underneath. Gorgeous little things aren’t they. In Spain. Being Welsh you have to love a dadfodil. A leek. A bara brith and a welsh cake. In no particular order. Well. The cake may come first.

You will know I am a fan of Peter Nyssen This year they delivered my bulbs to Spain. Allium. Freesia. Chionodoxa. All planted and the alliums are pushing through at various stages. The first of the freesias has opened and the rest have big fat buds. I am so excited to have all of these bulbs here and I am grateful to Karen yet again for her advice.

I am having some success as well this year with foxtail lilys. I planted six. Five are up and reaching for the sky. The sixth maybe too. I just need to remember where I planted it. I know. I know. Labels dear boy. Labels. I can’t wait to see those towering spires when and if they flower.

Its also good to have a someone else cast a fresh eye over the pots. My friend Michael was here for a week and he made some suggestions. About the plants and the pots. Michael and I have been friends for over 30 years. I met him when he first moved to London and met him for lunch. His first words to me were ‘ooh allo’ and thats been his name ever since. Ooh Allo Mike.

So we have had a bit of a move around and it looks better. Its not the end. There will be more moves. I probably wont be moving a lot by the time I’ve finished. Iv already rolled down the bank once this week and trust me. Its not a pretty sight. Me. Not the bank. Anyone need a garden roller?

We have been having Spanish lessons. Ooh. Its been a hard slog this first week – one to one tuition for an hour a day. Three days a week. With homework. Ian is a glutton for punishment. He’s doing two hours a day.

So today i said that I would pop to the garden centre to pick up some liquid fertiliser whilst he had his lesson. On my own. Oh dear. With no Ian to stop me I filled the car. 3 Clivia – an awesome plant. One I first bought 20 years ago from my neighbour and friend Clare who opened a shop. A trained horticulturist and ex Blue Peter gardener she introduced me to quality plants. Clivia was one of them. Cornish daffodils another.

I added 3 lavender just in case – 4. Agapanthus as you can never have too many. Some iris. A lovely one called burnt toffee. Iris don’t seem to have done well here this year but I’m going to plant them but just not sure where yet. Two new Hardenbergia – why two I don’t know as I really only need one. And two sweet little pots for the garden tables.

I couldn’t hide them. The car was full. The accountant in Ian couldn’t help but say. ‘How much’?

The Clivia are planted. Two of the four agapanthus planted. The rest are soaking. Oh. Did I mention a brugmansia. Because I bought one. When we were clearing last week I found one. I know. How can you lose one? Not only did I find one. But I knocked the top off. I’m sure it will come back. More crossed fingers then. Great for my arthritis.

Ian has been the foreman this week. He has taken more interest in this garden than he ever did in Somerset. He loves the cactus, The succulents, the big palms and yuccas and has suggested- yes he has suggested – that we head to Torrox to go and see the large palms and the cactus as he has earmarked a spot for one. I’m practicing.

‘How Much?’

It’s not all about the garden 

Being in Spain isn’t just about the new Mediterranean garden. Though at times that’s how it feels. It’s all new to me. The plants. The soil. The weather. Oh. The weather. I do like a bit of sun. But not in July or August. It’s too hot. And I never thought I’d say that!

But there have been visitors. Which I love. Which means we have to explore. And explore we have over the last 6 months. Trips to the Alhambra. Twice. Trips to the coast. Numerous. A trip to Malaga.  Oh. The trip to Malaga. Where  I parked in the car park of Cortes de Ingles. And walked into the old town. And where I couldn’t find the car in the car park when I got back. Had to retrace our steps back through the store. You could smell the fear. A hire car. Whose registration I don’t know – yes it’s on the key fob I know but in the panic I forgot. We eventually found it. After half an hour. By which time I was ready to cry.

So we bought a small house in Andalucia. In Competa. Up a long  and winding road. In the hills. By now you will know it has a garden. A lovely Mediterranean garden which I have bored the pants off everyone with twittering instagramming and generally talking about it. Even in my sleep. A style of house I didn’t want. I wanted a town house. A terrace. No garden. No pool. A walk to the bar. To the cafes. Which is the total opposite to what we bought.

Casa Verano Eterno. – House of Eternal summer.
We were also due to be based in Frigliana another white washed village  but the owners of the B&B we had booked cancelled a few days before. Not  because  we are bad guests but because they had a family crisis.

So Ian did his research and we booked into a fantastic B&B in Competa –Casa b Run by Carsten and  Bente who’s hospitality and breakfasts are incredible.  But  being based in Competa it gave us a lot of time to explore the town.  

The view at Casa B
Where is  Competa? I asked the same question to Ian when we booked to visit in March. It’s just over an hour from Malaga and and hour and a half to Granada and the wonders of the Alhambra. It is the jewel in the crown of the whitewashed villages. It’s breathtaking on first sight. Surrounding by the mountain ranges and is that type of place which you would say has a lovely feel. Which it does. The town has everything you could want. Great places to eat. Pharmacies. ( important when you get a swollen eye!). Bakeries. Fruit shop. Great places to eat and watch the world go by.  Wine shop with lovely local wines.  An amazing ironmongers. A petrol station. A kitchen shop ( heaven for me) and excellent friendly service from everyone. The Estate Agent we used  has guided us through the first 6 months with a general ease.

Competa

In August every year is the Noche del Vino – the night of wine. It’s an enormous annual  event in the town and there is a lunch cooked and prepared in the Plaza de Vendimia.  The  grapes are crushed by the Mayor and the lunch is served – Migas.  To be honest. It looked a bit like gruel. It’s olive oil and fried breadcrumbs. Add plenty of local wine to wash it down. Which is good. We were wimps and didn’t stay up to watch the flamenco dancing. There’s next year.


It is a lovely  white Andalusian town. High on the hill. And with its own lonely goatherd. Where the man and his goats wanders across the hills from side to side. You can smell them before you see them. A whiff of goat is not to be forgotten. Ever. And I love it. Hugely. The town. Not the smell of goat. Which I don’t by the way. The mountains are high. And no. I haven’t had a Maria  Von Trapp moment  running up the hills. Singin I am sixteen going on seventeen. More like 60 going on 70. If I could get up the hill in the first place.

Eau de la goat
I can usually be found in the square of a lunchtime. At my favourite place Casa Paco. Or in the evening to be fair.  Or at any time of the day. It’s friendly.

Plaza Almijara Competa


We are lucky to be able to get to the coast in no time at all –  should we wish to. Which we do occasionally.  Thrty minutes  down the wiggly road you get to Torre de Mar.  A long beach with a very long promenade. Which in the summer is busy. And I mean busy. Out of season it is lovely. Much quieter and the cafes are still cooking their sardines on the beach in boats on coals.

Torre Del Mar
Edit
Sardines cooked on the beach
Beach umbrella for one

Down the opposite road from the house. – the windy road rather than wiggly – you get to Nerja and further beyond the Costa Tropical. That’s a new one on me. Costa Del sol. Costa Brava yes. But never Costa Tropical. I was taken for supper to a lovely restaurant La Barraca on the beach at playa de Cantarijan. In the summer the beach and restaurant is only accessed by bus down a hugely steep hill. At night you can take your car down. I’m not sure I will. It’s very steep. Oh. And it’s one of the areas famous nudist beaches. We went at night. And ate. Fully clothed. Me. Naked. With mozzies. Never. The food and beach is great.

Restaurant La Barraca

It’s in a natural park and there is the fear of fire. You can drive down in the evening. I keep meaning to take a ian there. Maybe  next time.

We hadn’t explored Nerja much until I had a friend staying this time. To be honest it was complete noseiness on my part. Some friends have said they are coming to Nerja early in 2018 and if we were here we should meet up. So i went in search of their hotel. And found a new part of the town I didn’t know was there. Lanes of Tapas Bars and a nice long beach.

The beach at Nerja

The boys are back in town
Nerja

Ian has a weird desire to go to Torelominos. Which we will do. Just for a look – it has nothing to do with the IKEA close by. Honest.

There are hidden gems we have yet to explore along the Costa  Tropical. To explore beyond Malaga on the Costa del Sol. There’s MIjas. There’s Marbella. Worth a visit when we have friends staying. 

There have been a couple of trips to The Alhambra . Visitors say ‘are you sure you want to go again ‘ the answer is always yes. It’s an awesome place to visit and its a bargain. A day visit with entrance two the Nasrid Palace is one €14.95 euro. The Nasrid Palce is awesome and I want to go and visit at night.  The visit is worth it just to see the beauty of that palace. This weekend we visited in the rain. And boy did it rain. 


But the skies were kind to us and we had enough of a clear spell to do the outside.

The drive to Granada is easy and we have earmarked a weekend to stay overnight and explore the town. It looks fabulous. It’s too much to do The Alhambra and Granada town in one day. Unless you are on a tourist trip doing the whole of Eure in a week. Which we are not.

Granada a view from The Alhambra
Of course i have managed to look at the gardens at The Alhanbra on each visit and i have done a bit of a blog already about my August visit. Link to that is here.  A friend has reminded me about the Botanical garden in Malaga. That’s been added to the list. That’s what I love about social media. People tell you things you didn’t know. There are some gardens open in and around Granada so some forward olannning is needed for next year.

This visit  the  general life gardens at the Alhambra  remained colourful but the flowers were going over. I do think that even when not picture perfect the flowers look good. I was still surprised at the planting. In August I thought that the planting looked pretty English.  There were plants I hadn’t seen in a while. Some my parents had grown in the 70’s. Those tall red bedding salvias for one. A lot of orange tagetes. Some plants I want for my garden next year not the previous two but a fabulous euphorbia that was fantastic against the orange. 


There was an abundance of agapanthus the flowers of which I had missed. Come to think of. It. There were no seed heads to be seen when we were there this time.

Colours in the Alhambra gardens Nov 2017
Malaga is interesting as well We will be there for New Year and apparentky they decorate the town at Xmas. Will be interesting to go and see. My friend Helen and I did the Cathedral this time and it was interesting. Shame my pictures weren’t which was disappointing. Must have been all that incense wafting about! There is always a next time.  But at about €6 Euro it’s a bargain.

Street in the old town Malaga

The colours of some  of the houses in the old town are fabulous. We need more time to explore. The Picasso Museum is earmarked for the December trip. As long as I’m not Picasso’d out. I have seen a fair few PIcasso exhibitions these last 18months  but I’m sure the museum here should be fab.  If not there will be more Tapas time.

What  I also find interesting here is the cost of entry into the places of interest. By interesting. I mean how inexpensive it is to vist. Unlike many in the UK.  We have two days in Seville with friends at New Year  which we are all looking forward to. We are so liucky that there is so much within easy reach to visit. Cordoba is on the list for 2018 as well. We have yet to decide whether we drive or let the train take the strain.

But I pinch myself regularly just as to how lucky we are to have such wonderful opportunities.  I didn’t expect retirement to be so exciting   So varied. And such fun

So. It’s not all been about plants. There has been food. Tapas. Of course. An amazing Paella at El Pilon,  a lunch of avacado and spicy prawns at Casa Paco. Food to fuel the gardening. I can’t help myself.

Paella at El Pilon
Toasted avocado and spicy prawn at Casa Paco
For me learning a new language is hard. Last week I learnt a few phrases to introduce my friends to the waiter at the restaurant that we use. A lot. All was well. He understood what I had said. Corrected one word. Then bingo. He replied and my face was like a rabbit in the car headlights. I got the first and last word of the sentence. Nodded my head said Si a lot. And smiled. They need to speak to me like some peiople speak to them. Slowly. Very slowly. BUT I am determined to get there but be prepared for some disasters. Ian is doing brilliantly and we are both looking to arrange one to one conversational classes when we are there. 

I am so looking forward to the next 6 months. the garden is already showing the start of the growth of the bulbs – back to the garden – I know.  it’s exciting to see what will come through.  I have planted alliums. Freesias. Every time I return something new is in flower. In fruit. We have Seville to look forwards to. A trip to Malaga –  suppers with friends. Another season. 

No doubt I’ll let you know. 

Driving over lemons. 

When I mentioned to some friends Matt & Clare  at my favourite local breakfast haunt Petitou in Peckham that we were looking at a place in Spain Matt said that he had recently recommended the  book Driving over Lemons to his daughter. A book that was sitting on the book shelf at home. It reminded me that I had read the books some years ago and thought I’d go back and read them again. I’ve started and they are wonderful and particularly relevant to the new adventure we find ourselves having. 

As well as twitter I use Instagram. A lot. My camera was a purchase not long after my father died and was a more expensive one than I would normally buy. But I’ve loved it. Never far from my hand it enables me to snap away. That’s why the pictures of Ian are always of him ahead of me. Firstly he hates pictures and there are very few of us together. Secondly. I am always hanging back snapping away happily. This and that. 

I digress. But only a bit. 

A fellow instagrammer commented on some of my recent Andalusia pictures and said that it was like Driving over lemons. That had me smiling. Two mentions of lemons in such a short space of time.  I almost gave myself a squeeze with delight. Rather than usually having a face like I’ve been sucking a lemon. 

It’s all about the citrus. Oranges and lemons. Lemons and limes. 


Andalusia is indeed special. Has beautiful scenery. Mountains. Great light.  Long and winding roads  where motion sickness pills may be required. Just to get to the bottom of the hill. Zig zag roads. Twisty.  The road from  Competa to Torrox Costa a roller coaster of a drive. There is Coastline. Beaches. Mountains. Natural parks. People. ( back to the horse rider again). Tapas. Wine. The attitude of don’t do it today if it can wait for a week.  Maybe not next week. But a week. You can’t be in a hurry in Spain. Unlike London where we are always rushing. Here there. So it’s a glorious difference and a great adventure to be starting.  Part time. Not full. I need no convincing. 

The mountains are spectacular surrounding  the Andalusia Towns and villages. There was snow on the mountain tops in early March when  we were last there. Now its all gone.  With bright blue skies. And a moon. Oh and heat and a mosquito. Or two. 



The white washed towns and villages hang onto the side of the mountains. Pristine. White. Narrow streets – steep and winding. But making you want to see what’s around the corner. At the top of the steps.  Breathless. Both in body. And spirit!  Ian ahead of me As usual. Striding to get to the top. Me just striving to get to the top. Eventually. 


The white washed town of Competa rolling down the mountainside. Beautiful. White. A pretty spectacular sight as you turn the bend on the road from Malaga. 



Dramatic skylines over Competa. 

I have found my Spanish’ Petitou. Casa Paco is situated on the square. Is friendly. Always busy. Now to try and order in Spanish. Or spanglais. I can ask for the bill. For toothpicks. Say hello. Ian is better than me. We both have apps on our phone trying  to learn. If you see Ian on the tube. He’s not talking to himself. He’s learning his verbs. If you see me. I probably am. 


Town squares to people watch. Eat Tapas. Drink wine. 

Just down yet another long and winding road is Torrox Costa and then onto Nerja . Nerja with its restaurants. The beaches. Glorious torquise sea. Rocks. A coastline. Sea air. A slight detour to Frigiliana  another white washed town nesltling on the hillside. But more touristy – has tour buses. Tourists. Like us. Except we have driven. 

So back to Competa.  On a clear day you can see down to the coast a 45 minute drive away. Probably quicker if I am not driving. Slowly. Ignoring my co driver saying. Ooh look at that.  Sorry Ian. All I can look at is the road ahead. 


The villages have these amazing doors. Original and painted in vivid colours. Or left to the old wood which is  equally striking, 

These are known as the hanging houses in Competa. There are literally hanging on the cliffl looking   pretty  moorish lit up at night. 

I wonder if i can get a part time job. The goat man with his herd of goats. Who walks them around the town and mountainside.  Ian unimpressed with my sound of music rendition of ‘High on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. He hasn’t heard the yodelling bit yet.  You smell the goats before you see or hear them. And the man has a whistle that they seem to understand. A bit pied piper to me . The downside for the part time job. That suit. I’m not sure it would suit me. 

These plants are lethal. They seem to have taken a dislike for me. Big time. I swear they see me coming and jump out to scratch my arm. Badly. My hand was swollen after getting stabbed by one of these. But they along with the palms are beautiful and majestic. 

More great views across the mountains. 


I wish I had shares in white paint. Every house is white. The churches are white. Some of the streets are white. But I don’t have a head for heights. 

I am looking forward to further forays into the surrounding villages. A trip to Granada. To Córdoba. To Malaga old town. A train trip to Sevilla. Oh. There will be pics. Lots of them. But not of me. Maybe of the back of Ian’s head. Of plants. And definetly of a horseman riding by.