Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sex is good for injuries

What a cracking good match. If you were lucky enough to watch Manchester United vs Barcelona last night you had a real treat (but surely if they had seen it they would know that - Ed). MU had to win to progress to the final of the Champions League and what a match it was. It was end to end stuff with the majority of the pressure from Barcelona. Fantastic.
The other semi-final, between Chelsea and Liverpool, will be played tonight and my mouth is watering at the prospect.

Staying on a football theme, this article about Ronaldo getting caught out with transvestite hookers was funny. What really made me laugh was his explanation that it was all down to psychological problems linked to his knee injury. Yeah, and my back hurts, but I doubt if Jan would see it that way.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Leave well enough alone

See what happens when you start messing about with genetics!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Super fit?

That's it. As if to confirm what people already know, I put shorts on for the first time today, became an official expat (it would need to be 50C before a local thought about shorts) and confirmed the arrival of summer. It was not a pretty sight and sent Jan into fits of laughter! Despite Jan's ridicule and having been inundated with requests for a photo, I include one above.

Shortly after that 'the boys' turned up out of the blue for tennis. I'd forgottten that we'd discussed it, but I was secretly pleased because it meant that it delayed some of the jobs that I'd planned to do. We hadn't actually played for about 5 months so it was a bit of a shock to the system, further compounded by the fact that one bod didn't show so we had to play two on one. Still, it was very good exercise and fits in perfectly with the new lighter, perfectly formed and healthier me. For the first time in months I got a sweat on (the last time was when you thought about getting out of bed! - Ed).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Padre Pio

Knowing the area quite well because it is only 30 minutes from Foggia, where my mother comes from, and in particular the veneration given by the locals to Padre Pio (or Saint Pio to give him his more recent name) I have a problem with them digging him up and then putting his body on display. If I understand correctly, what you can see is a mask and not his actual face. You might as well be looking at a wax effigy. This is nothing other than gruesome. What's the point?
The last time we were there, in San Giovanni Rotondo, I couldn't wait to get out of the place. I drove my mum there because she wanted to make a pilgrimage, fair enough, but when I saw the hundreds of stalls selling cheap, tawdry, tourist tat, it made me feel very, very angry. (Sort of Jesus in the temple? - Ed)

The visit however was not without a very spooky side. By way of background, I had a Catholic upbringing, was taught by Jesuits, but I am not at all religious. I also never stop to pick up hitch-hikers. Leaving San Giovanni, we were turning a corner to drive down the mountain side when I saw a grey haired old lady wearing typical black mourning dress, grey crinkly stockings and struggling to carry two large bags containing water bottles, with additional bottles under her arms. I would have struggled with it, never mind her. She wasn't asking for a lift but she obviously needed help. In the blink of an eye I asked Jan if we should stop and before she had time to answer I pulled over and asked the lady if she needed a hand.

She climbed in the back and sat silently whilst I attempted to put her at ease. I chatted to her in my less than perfect Italian and by way of explanation told her why we were there and why we spoke imperfect Italian.

She responded by saying that she lived at the foot of the hill, that her well had run dry and that she needed to get some water for cooking and cleaning. I felt sorry for her and inside was glad that I could help. She also said that she had visited England once and how much she liked it. I thought that it was a strange comment because she looked so impoverished and you would never have guessed that she would have travelled abroad.

In order to keep the conversation going I asked where in England she visited and she replied that she worked for a short time in the north of the country. I asked where and she said Harrogate, my home town. Laughing at the coincidence I asked where she worked and she replied in the maternity ward, at the general hospital. I asked when and she replied between March and April 1976.

I have never been so spooked in all my life. The hair, quite literally, stood up on the back of my neck.

My son James was born on 3rd April 1976 at Harrogate General Hospital.

She was there at that time and in some way she would have contributed to his birth. By some massive twist of fate I was able to say thank you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Proud grandparents 2

For the second time this evening, we are a grandparent again! At 22.30 Paula gave birth to Kate, Ben and Paula's first child, and our third grandchild. Good effort guys.

Proud grandparents 1

That was interesting. A week ago we met a Dutch couple, who were thinking about moving to this area, so we invited them for aperitifs and to meet our Dutch neighbours Hans and Janni. I've never quite figured out the whole aperos thing. You invite guests for 'drinks' and 'nibbles' and inevitably the time extends over into the dinner period so you end up having to feed them something quite substantial or see them go home hungry. Dieting the Jan and Alex way! As Jan spent quite a few hours preparing the vast array of nibbles, why not just invite them for lunch, dinner or whatever?
Anyway, Hans mentioned that he had seen Max's 'child' recently. If you remember, back in November, I caught Max in flagrante delicto, cheating on Minnie with the village slapper and we have often thought about any offspring. Well, if it's true, we are now proud grandparents.

The loss of a friend

I don't normally post soft, sentimental, mushy pieces about losing friends, but this is a touching story about life, death and friendship, and one that really touched me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A potent brew

With one short sharp thrust, summer has hit with a vengeance. The daytime temperature hit 25C today so I uncovered the pool. Bryan had previously worried me with stories about several pools that he had recently seen where the water had turned dark green but when we uncovered ours it was still in good order. I'd been keeping an eye on the water temperature even though the pool was covered because as everybody knows, algae doesn't grow below 12C. Ours had got to 14C so I suspect that we opened it up just in time. Now the fun hard work begins, because even though it has a cover, which we installed as a safety measure, dirt will still pass through into the pool because of the small mesh in the cover which prevents water accumulating.

I hope you're paying attention because I'm not going to say this again!

As I've got older, wiser but more to the point lazier, I worry less about maintaining healthy, balanced water and make up a chemical cocktail that kills all known germs and some that haven't been discovered yet. So much so that I recommend swimming in a full deep sea divers outfit as long as you understand that my 'special brew' will take the first layer of paint off any protective clothing.

Enjoy your swim!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How big is yours?

When Jan said to me that 'small can be better', is this what she meant?

Nice people

The other day, at his usual (cocktail) hour, Alain, the village artist, popped round to ask a favour. Could I take a photo, for his archive, of a picture that he had just sold?
Last night was the visit to his studio (above), to sink a couple of bottles, and to take the pictures. Alain and Christianne aren't wealthy, but they are without doubt the most hospitable and generous of all the villagers, and we are proud and pleased to call them friends. Whilst it can be a bit daunting (because I know that I'll regret the drink later) I really enjoy visiting them. Throughout the visit you see a procession of nice people, some sober and some not. (You fall into the not category - Ed!) Tonight we met sober Jerome, who was missing his top four front teeth, and who was paying a friendly visit because he was popping into the village fruit and veg supplier nearby. A delightful and interesting man.
Conscious of the fact that Jan's eldest Ben is about to become a father for the first time and I suppose conscious of the fact that, against my better judgement, I bring him cheap cigarettes from La Jonquera whenever we go to Barcelona, he gave us a signed print of a recent painting as a present for the happy couple. Isn't that kind?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This morning we left Minnie at home and took Max for his annual vaccinations and check up. A sort of quality time excursion with our eldest. He was very, very good, treated the vet with lots of affection and made us proud of him. She even suggested that with his looks and temperament we should think of breeding from him. I noticed that she didn't suggest that to me. Still, I've got broad shoulders. (It's your broad stomach that's the problem! - Ed)
As Jan said when we got home, 'it's like going to a parents' evening and hearing lots of wonderful things about your child.' Bless!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chateau de Saint-Privat

Yesterday, along with thirty or so other brave (and waterproof) souls we attended a private viewing of Chateau de Saint-Privat near the Pont du Gard. It's not a very well publicised place and we didn't even know that it existed. The weather didn't put you in a very good mood. It was cold and wet and I didn't really expect to have to walk around the gardens. However, what was remarkable was its situation and access. To get to it you had to drive right under the Pont du Gard, which is closed to all traffic with the exception of visitors to this château, and follow the river beyond for about 2 kilometres.
Its history goes back to Roman times with the existing structure being started in the 8th century. So pretty old then! In order to avoid your eyes glazing over, I won't pretend that I know any more (so you can stop reading from a crib sheet - Ed) and suffice to say that if you want to visit a crumbling, part occupied, private piece of French history, with lots of historical significance then this is the place for you. In fact I'd say get there quick because it won't be long before a developer with about 20 million to spend gets in there and turns it all into a very posh hotel.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I don't normally 'do' political jokes, mainly because I empathise with anybody trying to run a country. At best you are only going to please half the population but more importantly I don't want to turn this blog into political propoganda.

It's like having the England football manager's job. Who would want the job when you have 60 million people, who all have an opinion and who all know better than you do, breathing down your neck?

This joke from CC did however make me snigger.

An Israeli doctor said, 'Medicine in my country is so advanced, we can take a kidney out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in six weeks.'

A German doctor said, 'That's nothing! In Germany , we can take a lung out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in four weeks.'

A Russian doctor said, 'In my country medicine is so advanced, we can take half a heart from one person, put it in another, and have them both looking for work in two weeks.'
The English doctor, not to be outdone, said 'Hah!. But we can take an arsehole out of Scotland , put him in 10 Downing Street and have most of the UK looking for work within twenty-four hours!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When or when not to guess

I've never been afraid of instruction manuals or asking for directions. It's probably my female side manifesting itself, but there you go.

When we first met, Jan commented that she had never before been out with a man who would stop and ask for directions. In normal circumstances I would have made a smart ass reply but it was still early days in our relationship so, unusually, I let it go. My logic is, 'if you don't know, find out.' Don't sit there guessing.

It reminds me of an incident in a previous life when I would visit branches throughout the UK and was usually driven by the local AVP or Supervisor. This particular time I was in unfamiliar territory and we were driving from one town to the next. Time was tight, it was late in the day and I fancied a drink. My sense of direction told me that we were driving in the wrong direction which wasn't going to address my urgent needs. I asked the so called intelligent man who was driving and whose patch it was if I could look at his map.

'What map?' he said.

'The bloody map you should have in your car if you haven't got a clue about where you're going,' I screamed in his ear.

We stopped at the next garage and bought one.

Anyway, we were at a friend's holiday home the other day and we had to ask the local chauffagist to come and show us how to get this central heating system working properly. It was a big, complicated oil fired system and we only had half the instructions. It was apparent that he was guessing as he twiddled with all the knobs and buttons. He didn't look once at the instructions that I waved in front of his nose, and in the end I downloaded a complete set of instructions off the internet and did the job myself.

Don't get me wrong, even with instructions it can be difficult. Jan bought a Black and Decker Dustbuster the other day and because it was raining and she was bored she read the instructions. You'd have thought that with their vast experience of selling a myriad of products B&D would have learnt something by now.

I quote:

"Identifying Your Product

The model design can be determined from the suffix codes used in the catalogue number. The following catalogue numbers are described in this manual: NV19XXY/NV24XXY/NV36XXY/NV48XXY/NV60XXY

The suffix code XX corresponds to the following designs:

00/99: stick handle, no accessories supplied

03: loop handle, supplied with crevice tool and brush tool

The suffix code Y is used to identify the range of colour options. The suffix code Y represented by the letter N is used with NiMH battery."

We decided that we didn't really want to identify our product and would guess instead! It was however a nice sunny day.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Aaaargh, get me outa here. Another day of heavy rain and it's also bloody cold. When is this awful, crap weather going to end? The day temperature isn't usually too bad but we're still lighting a fire at night. It's the middle of April and the pool should be starting to warm up by now. In previous years, Jan (the fool) has been in the pool by the end of April but so far this year I still haven't uncovered it.

The weather has obviously got to Jan as well because, at lunch, she served up a bowl of parsnip soup. Normally she only serves soup during colder, winter months. But, and it's a big but, this was no ordinary soup, it was a Janguedoc soup (very droll - Ed), made by hand with only the finest ingredients. Parsnips from Nimes (OK so I'm guessing here), onions from the Cevennes, potatoes from someone's garden, a pinch of curry powder from Sainsburys and chicken stock from, er... a chicken. And very, very nice it was too.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Growing old gracefully

If you want an example of how not to grow old gracefully, this has to be it.

Anyway, to celebrate yesterday's weight loss we popped into the cafeteria, just next to Carrefour in Nimes, at lunch time and munched our way through a big plate of steack haché and chips. No pudding mind you!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The great weight loss myth

I returned to see the diabetes specialist today and frankly, I wasn't looking forward to the experience. I was very pissed off after the visit 30 days ago and I didn't feel that things had changed much. I expected a rough ride. Not so. Dr J was really pleased. I'd lost 2.5 kilos. Naturally I pretended that I'd tried really hard, changed my diet and took much more excercise. It wasn't until later that I twigged, I hadn't actually lost that much weight, it was just that I was heavier than normal when I last when to see him and, by some miracle, my weight had returned to 'normal'. This gave me an idea. If you want the doctor to be pleased with you, wear some extra weight under your clothes at the first visit and then slowly reduce the weight each time you go thereafter. He's happy, you're happy, everybody's happy. Sorted! (You are such a prat - Ed)

I must admit that I thought that I'd lost a little bit of weight, because my pants kept falling down, but Jan disagreed so it left me in some doubt. Anyway, I was right and to celebrate the success I bought a big cream donut!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chez JuJu for a beautiful lunch

Jill and Harry (above) joined us for a little treat today with a trip to Chez JuJu, over near Salin de Giraud, for lunch. JuJu isn't isn't cheap, but frankly there is nowhere, that we have found, that cooks fish like it. It first came to our attention when it was mentioned by William (though he couldn't remember the name), then we saw it featured on Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey, his trip down the Canal du Midi and onto Marseille, by barge.
As usual, Madame asked us to chose our fish which they sell by weight. She had sea bass, dorade and turbot on offer and whilst that was cooking, we ordered tellines with aioli to slurp on. As you sit in the dappled shade, Monsieur cooks the fish simply, right next to you, in a wood burning oven and, with a couple of bottles of picpoul, you feel that life just doesn't get better. It doesn't.

Sated, we drove over to the wilderness and the nearby etangs to discover that the flamingoes have returned in force. Excellent.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's only a little prick

Two blood tests today. One this morning a jeûne and the second about two hours after lunch. I feel like a bloody pin cushion. It's actually quite difficult to get blood out of me because the veins in my arms are very deep (er, or maybe because you are very fat - Ed) so Dr Dracula had a few goes this afternoon trying to avoid the gaping hole that he left this morning.

I have to say that I like the way that French health care has it's services spread out. For a blood test I simply turn up, no appointment necessary, at one clinic, for an x-ray I go to another, and appointments generally run smoothly.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Will the real Steve please stand up

Something very surreal happened this morning. 'Steve' phoned to say that he couldn't make it. We chatted for about 10 to 15 minutes about all kinds of things and then I put the phone down. As I shut off the phone, Jan, who was sitting nearby, said 'which Steve was that?' In a blinding flash of comprehension I realised that I'd been talking to one Steve, thinking that I was talking to the other.
Yesterday I'd invited Steve H to dinner and invited Steve G to play tennis. In the seconds before the incoming phone call I'd been thinking that it was a bit windy to play tennis, and for that reason, when I answered the phone I thought that I was talking to Steve G, and carried on the conversation appropriately.
In the split second that you adjust to a voice I even considered that Steve G had a very similar voice to Steve H. The caller also mentioned his dog called Rolf and I thought, "Bloody hell, they've both got a dog called Rolf."
Anyway with the benefit of hindsight I had this bizarre conversation with the 'wrong person' and most of the words seemed to fit in place. I still didn't twig when the conversation got round to BA. I though, one works for BA and one obviously flies at lot with BA. How stupid can you get?
Even when I mentioned the wind, Steve G (actually Steve H who was coming to dinner) thought that we were going to eat outside. There were so many obvious clues and I still didn't twig. I'd got it into my head that I was talking to one person and couldn't shake off that belief. Maybe it's the feminine side of me coming out! (That was uncalled for - Ed)
Very strange. Steve H, I sincerely apologise. Jan giggled away for hours afterwards.
Interestingly on the news this morning they mentioned a one stop injection for Alzheimers.
Later in the morning, at the market in Sommieres, I met Steve G who said that he couldn't make the tennis. Bloody hell, turned down by two Steves in one day! Spooky!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fiat lux

Hallelujah! About three months ago the large volet in the lounge broke, in the shut position. A very non-repairable break. It has been a long, long three months, whilst we tried to claim on the insurance (the bastards) and then waited whilst it arrived from Switzerland. This brute is 4.5 metres long by 2 metres high and obviously represents a major source of light into the room. It's amazing how used to the light you get and, whilst the weather has been pretty miserable for the last couple of months, the room has been very, very dark and dingy. So much so that when Eric (the blind volet man) took down the old volet this morning, and light streamed in, it was if a weight had been taken off our shoulders. The smile that broke out on Jan's face was a joy to see. Job done.

Record long jump from a kneeling position

Yesterday, on a beach in the South of France, a new world record for the long jump, from a kneeling position, was set. This picture was taken just before the attempt.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's a flaming cheek

I can't hold it in any more. This rubbish about lighting an Olympic flame in Greece and then running with it, 'around the world', is such an unbelievable load of old tosh. Has anyone stopped to think about how stupid it all is? Has anyone taken a serious look at the lighting ceremony?

As far as I know the Olympic flame idea was invented in the 1920's. It is supposed to represent the theft of fire from Zeus (a fairy story) and the torch is lit in a pathetic, ridiculously serious ceremony by several women dressed up to look like Greek 'maidens' (another fairy story because they are all over 15 years old) and was popularised by one Mr A Hitler at the 1936 Olympics. Not really a trend setting role model for us all, unless you're called Max Mosely.

Just to be serious for a minute and as a point of interest, I thought that I should point out that the flame is transported from one country to another using a Garforth GR6S Flame Safety Lamp. (Thank you. Not many people know that - Ed)
It's about as far removed from reality as Druids prancing around in their togas at Stonehenge. These people are all barmy! It's all a load of bollocks and should be stopped immediately. And don't get me started on the corruption surrounding our 'sports royalty', the IOC.

Then someone has the nerve to talk about Olympic ideals. The Olympic games are a four year political and commercial extravaganza with many athletes popped up to the gills with drugs and hoping not to get caught. Bearing in mind that they measure wind speeds, wouldn't it be more sensible to measure drug speeds. The games are about as 'realistic' and believable as a Popeye cartoon, which I find infinitely more enjoyable. Now call me a cynic if you want but, when I'm in charge, things will change!

The great terminal in the sky

As if the fiasco at Heathrow Terminal 5 wasn't bad enough, this happens. I must admit that I laughed out loud when I read the son's comments about losing the baggage of a dead person. It would appear that, in his opinion, it's OK to lose your bags if you live through the flight but unforgivable if you don't!
Is it just me?
Question: If the flight is full, who has to sit next to the body?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How wrong can you get it?

I hate religious souvenirs. Most of it is cheap tat. The picture above just proves my point. It doesn't get cheaper, tattier (or funnier) than that.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Suffering from 'grass is greener' syndrome, or maybe just because it was raining, we both felt a little deflated as we neared home. Still, we were missing the dogs and would pick them up shortly, so we had something to look forward to.
We had really enjoyed the last few days in Spain and we missed friends, the sunshine and the vibrant atmosphere of Barcelona and Sitges. Montpellier or Nimes come nowhere near in terms of 'buzz' (well they are hardly comparable - Ed) and it's the first time that I've felt like that for a long time.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Never leave your friends behind

This picture, taken by Jan, shows AJ and myself strolling on the sea front at Sitges. To quote AJ, "Ryanair brought us here, but gay air took us there!" Is it any wonder that Sitges has a reputation for gay love?

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Another early breakfast this morning, before we set off for the Torres Vineyard in nearby Pacs. The vineyard tour was all very swish, with multi media presentations and a train ride, a bit like Universal Studios, but frankly it was a little bit boring. The best bit was the tasting at the end (now there's a surprise - Ed) where, for a small charge, you could try any of the wines they make.
One of their single vineyard wines, Mas la Plana, was selling for over 50 euros per bottle. Given that I was never going to buy any, I decided not to be seduced and concentrated on finding something a bit more affordable.
After a couple of false starts, Jan and I settled on a tempranillo, Celeste, from one of their estates in Ribera del Duero. Job done.

A vegetarian option

Right in the middle of Sitges there is a shop that sells nothing but cured ham on the bone. It was probably lost somewhere in translation, but they didn't really get the joke when I stuck my head around the door and asked if they had anything suitable for a vegetarian?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

El Cangrejo Loco

On the way to the train station this morning, the taxi driver, in incomprehensible Spanish, tried to convince us about free train travel between Sitges and Barcelona. Frankly I thought that he was just winding us up but blow me, he was telling the truth. Tell the lady at the counter that you wanted to go to Barcelona and she gave you however many tickets you wanted. The train was packed!

I used to hate the thought of tourist bus tours but I've changed my mind. I was wrong - the most difficult words to say in the English language. (You can't even try and be humble, without being a boring pig - Ed). We arrived at Barcelona Sants station and right outside was the tourist bus. An hour later, after visiting the Olympic Stadium, the Port Olimpic and all stops between, we broke the journey just near the cathedral. We found that they were shutting up shop for a few hours. What a bummer. For goodness sake we can all walk around a church without anybody being there. Anyway, we walked up La Rambla with a short detour into the Boqueria, the best indoor market in the world, before we got onto another bus (on the red route) for a quick trip up to the Sagrada Familia. By 14.30 we were all 'cultured out' so it was down to the Port Olimpic and a long, wonderful lunch at El Cangrejo Loco (The Crazy Crab), Moll de Gregal 29, 93 221 05 33, and to meet up with Jan's eldest son, Ben, and his heavily pregnant wife Paula (above). Recommended. A great day!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Another night, another bed

The whole purpose of this short break to Sitges (just south of Barcelona) was to meet up with friends who hadn't recently visited Barcelona before. Over one too many sherbets last New Years Eve, Jan offered to look out for a good hotel deal, let them know and we could meet up for a bit of a laugh.

Having only spent one night at La Nina we had to pack again because we moved onto the Melia Sitges this afternoon. However not before we'd checked out the train times to Barcelona and investigated a tour bus. The new hotel is a bit of a monster and was obviously dumping rooms, out of season, which is why Jan got such a good deal. The reason we had to stay at La Nina last night was because they were full, so they had obviously done a good job at shifting the rooms.

Straight after lunch we drove for 20 minutes up to El Prat airport (Barcelona) to meet the incoming party. (They were obviously thinking of you when they named the airport - Ed). Because i get complaints about constantly talking about food, I won't tell you that we ate at Fragata on the sea front and had a very good meal. That's it, that's all I'm going to say!

A clever idea

I don't remember having seen this before. How many times have you tried to pour wine and dripped water all over the table cloth. This simple idea is a napkin with a hole in the corner, meaning that you can more easily hold the bottle with the napkin, prevent water drips from the ice bucket and drips from the wine. Cool! (It doesn't take much to keep you amused - Ed)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hotel La Nina in Sitges

After reviewing the bill for yesterday's lunch and now having had a similar lunch, but this time on the sea front at Hotel La Nina in Sitges, I have to say that the meal in Sa Rascassa was expensive. Ignoring the wine, the comparative price for the two meals was 102.60 euros at Rascassa and 70.54 at La Nina. The meals, both at lunchtime, were very, very similar and frankly the quality at La Nina was much, much better. La Nina, right on the sea front, has to compete hard with lots of other restaurants in the area but Rascassa had no competition nearby. There is quite a difference in room price between the two hotels (70 euros and 129 euros) but the quality of La Nina is way, way higher. La Nina cost 27 euros more overall but also includes air conditioning, wifi at no charge in the room, a fabulous sea view from the room (above) and a swimming pool. I have long wondered about finding that little bijou hotel, well off the beaten track and comparing it with something more salubrious. Salubrious wins hands down for me.

My kind of breakfast

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are having breakfast at the White House.

The attractive young waitress asks Cheney what he would like, and he replies,

"I'd like a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit."

"And what can I get for you, Mr. President?"

George W. looks up from his menu and replies with his trademark wink and slight grin,

"How about a quickie this morning?"

''Why, Mr. President!" the waitress exclaims. "How inappropriate ! You're starting to act like President Clinton," and then she storms away.

Cheney leans over to Bush and whispers..."George it's pronounced 'quiche.'

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hostal Sa Rascassa

It all started a few weeks back when I was leafing through the Sunday papers and noticed an article about the best beaches in the world, or somesuch. Being a beachy kind of person, but hating sand (you figure it out), I'd always fancied a sexy beach. The type you get in remote Caribbean hideaways. Anyway, blow me, but the writer mentioned one on the Costa Brava so I mentioned it to my beloved to see if she was interested. We had already arranged to drive to Barcelona this week, to meet friends (AJ, Holly, Chris and Annie), so my beloved thought what could be better than breaking the journey, for a night or two, on an idyllic beach in Spain.

Hostal Sa Rascassa (, was the hotel mentioned, so she booked. Oscar, the English speaking proprietor, told us that the hotel was full on Thursday but had a room free on Wednesday. OK, said my beloved, not wanting to miss a trick, we'll come on Wednesday, set off a day early, and sort the rest out later. I should also point out that the restaurant is closed for dinner on Wednesdays, out of season, he said, so she booked for lunch.

We didn't leave the house until 09.30 and this put pressure on the journey because I felt that arriving around 13.00 we might not get in for lunch. This was with my French hat on. What I'd forgotten was that the Spanish don't start lunch until much later in the day and despite driving my nuts off, and arriving at 13.15, we found that the restaurant didn't open until 13.30.

Oscar greeted us at the door and, in perfect English, showed us the ropes. The article had given a great boost to his business and business was booming. He was a happy man.

The hotel is set at the end of a narrow road, in a small idyllic, quiet bay, a couple of kilometres from Begur. The five rooms were simple, and comfortable rather than luxurious. You can eat either indoors or outside on the terrace, which is where I'm writing this guff under a banyan tree (you wouldn't know a banyan tree if you were hanging from it - Ed) and choose from a simple menu with a good choice of meat or fish. Apart from the usual, I don't have a great Spanish wine knowledge, but Oscar sorted me out and advised on a Do Pla de Bages, Abadal, Picapoll, Blanca, which was inexpensive and fabulous. Three out of five for the food but five out of five for the wine.
Whilst we were discussing the wine a small plate of large green olives appeared. Now my favourite olives are the one stuffed with anchovy. They’re so sweet and the taste combination is, for me, fantastic. These were similar but they weren’t stuffed they just had the same taste. It turns out that they had been soaked in an anchovy flavoured liquid, were therefore much cheaper to buy, just as flavoursome and you got to munch on whole olives. Excellent.
After a nice starter of chiperones and calamares, I followed with baked Dorada whilst Jan had sardines. Both were good. Frankly, the puds were not too good, but this was more than offset by the excellent wine.

So where was this flat, sun kissed, warm, rocky beach that had so attracted us? We set off to explore by following the coastal path for a short distance but it certainly wasn’t in sight of the hotel and, because the whole cove was deserted, there was no one to ask. There were plenty of rocks, some dropping straight into the sea and, in my opinion; they were mostly too dangerous to swim off, but nothing as described or as shown in the article.

If you fancy a relatively inexpensive seaside break, out of season, then this is delightful. Cala Aiguafreda, which is where the hotel is situated, is accessed by a steep road that meanders down and around a craggy pine covered cliff face until it meets the sea in a beautiful and relatively unspoilt little cove. Recommended.
I'm sorry if I've mispelled anything but I presume that because I'm in Spain the spell check thinks I'm Spanish and tells me that everything is spelt incorrectly. You figure!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mas de la Barben

Harold and Peter stopped off at Mas de la Barben yesterday afternoon to taste some wine, something that I've been meaning to do for ages, so last night's dinner turned into a bit of a wine tasting. The vineyard is situated half way between home and Nimes and looks very impressive from the roadway.

Harold found two very good and very reasonably priced wines. Now I'm definitely going to go.

The downside to the meal however was that I woke at 04.30 with my head buzzing and that horrible sensation when you can hear your carotid artery thumping away and it won't go away. Bum.

The last few days has seen a lot of laughs but this morning both families returned home and we were very sad to see them go.