Tuesday, 31 March 2009

April Fools Day

Tomorrow is April 1st, and the beginning of a brand new month... but also...

"The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fools' Day
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves do know
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment."

- Poor Robin's Almanac (1790)

So, what is April Fools Day and what are its origins?

It is commonly believed that in medieval France, New Year was celebrated on April 1st. Then in 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, changing New Year to January 1st. With no modern communications, news travelled slowly and new ideas were often questioned. Many people did not hear of the change, others chose to ignore it, while some merely forgot. These people were called fools. Invitations to non-existent ‘New Year’ parties were sent and other practical jokes were played. This jesting evolved over time into a tradition of playing pranks on the 1st of April.

Others believe that the origin began with celebrations at the Spring Equinox.

The custom eventually spread to England and Scotland, with widespread observance of the custom beginning in the 18th century.

April Fools Day has now developed into an international festival of fun, with different nationalities celebrating the day in a special way.

In England, tricks can be played only in the morning... or else you youself become the April Fool!

The English, Scotch and French eventually introduced the custom to their colonies in America. A favorite joke was to send someone on a "fool's errand"... for example, "go and buy me some tartan paint"... heh heh heh

In France and Italy, if someone plays a trick on you, you are the ‘fish of April’. By the month of April fish have only just hatched, and are therefore easy to catch.

Children stick paper fish to their friends’ backs and chocolate fish are found in the shops.

In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts for two days! The second day is called ‘Taily Day’ and tricks on this day involve the bottom (or the ‘tail’ in informal speech). Often a sign saying ‘kick me’ is stuck onto someone’s back without them knowing.
In Spain and Mexico, similar celebrations take place on December 28th. The day is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod in his search for the baby Jesus. It eventually changed to a lighter commemoration of innocence involving pranks and trickery.

In 2008 the BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series 'Miracles of Evolution' had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, (which is still available on Youtube) which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet.
Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they "spend the winter basking in the tropical sun." A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.

In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop! It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the corporation diplomatically replied, "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

- Rachel x

Saturday, 28 March 2009

I'm A Lumberjack And I'm Okay

The weather changed dramatically yesterday afternoon, and the skies suddenly turned to a foreboding grey,

and by the time my husband and I left for our local pub in the evening, the rain started to spit - and then teem down upon us! So an extra beer was in order to warm us through, naturally, heh heh heh...

So turning my thoughts to sunnier days this week, the villa in front of our apartment block decided to have a "trim"...

and the lumberjacks were called in to fell some of the pines, and generally tidy up a bit, ready for the coming Summer season.

There was huge amounts of buzzing and roaring of chainsaws as you would imagine,

and a pile of limbs and branches grew steadily on the ground,

and were then neatly chopped into more manageable pieces!

Finally the truck came to take the wood; I would imagine someone would be very happy with that amount of logs and kindling for their fire! especially maybe in one of the inland or mountain villages, where mornings and nights are much, much colder than here right on the coast.

Friday night brought a gorgeous sunset, with endless peaches and cream stretching across the mountains as the sun slowly faded away,

which later turned to the most spectacular purples and pinks,

- isn't Nature beautiful! -
and eventually settled into a misty mauve, spreading all along the coastline.
Thanks for visiting today - and please come back soon! I'm making a chunky tortilla this afternoon, for my husbands' and my supper, so I'll save you a slice x

Friday, 27 March 2009

Summer (Season) Is Coming!

This morning I was woken by a phone call from my husband, to tell me that the people who are filming the 3rd series of the ITV comedy "Benidorm" here in town at the moment, are looking for more extras - according to an agency scout who came into one of our local bars yesterday.
I pointed out to my hubby that I had already turned up for the casting day a couple of weeks ago and heard nothing... but the scout had apparently said that they may have taken down some people's telephone numbers wrongly, plus a lot of people have stopped turning up for filming, due to other work commitments/being fed up with long days spent hanging around doing nothing, etc etc...

So! I pulled some clothes on, ran a brush through my mop, and rushed down to their current place of filming... they were setting up a scene in a place that I know to be a tapas bar, but had become a burnt out "Mo's Mobiles" shop for the day! There didn't seem to be anyone around in charge, so I plucked up courage and asked a member of the film crew if they were looking for any more workers... but he didn't know anything about it, and said they weren't filming any scenes using extras for the next 2 or 3 weeks at all!

There was no-one to leave my details with so I mosied on back home... oh well, I enjoyed the walk down there and back, and the sun on my face, but ultimately came away empty-handed which was a bit disappointing! Work here is very thin on the ground at the moment due to the economic climate, and the poor Euro rate against the pound, and I could have really used the wages... But so it goes.. it just clearly wasn't meant to be!

On a cheerier note, the views out to sea today are beatifully misty and alluring...

but inland the sky is clear as a bell, and the Puig Campana mountain stands out in sharp relief against the sky and the many high-rise apartment blocks below,

...as you can see from this zoomed-in pic, the "small chunk" the mountain has missing, is probably large enough for a small crowd to stand in, if you were actually up there! The mountain stands at 1,410m high and has many hiking and climbing routes around and up it.. if you dare!

Across the road, the staff at the hotel have been busy, and yesterday they were jet-washing their pool area, ready for the coming season,

the building is currently closed except for weekends, and any guests that have booked for this accommodation are being sent to one of their sister hotels in the local area.

The ladies were very productive with their washing and what looked like vacuuming (!) methodically clearing away all the silt and mud that the Winter brought,

but as you can see the terraced area around the pool is looking a bit sun-damaged and flaky,

and I really don't think there's much that can be done for this waterslide, as the sun has just faded it to weak blotchy pastels, rather than the bright hues it once was!

Today however, has brought a fresh coat of aquamarine paint for the whole area, which I think makes it look a lot fresher and more attractive,

and I'm sure their next job will be to drain and refill the pool, as there are definitely some undesirable green areas lurking under that bridge!

There is a definite feeling of Summer approaching in the air today - yes Summer, although I know some of you who read my blog would be happy just for Spring right now! - and with the whoops and cheers I can hear from nearby swimming pools, and the gentle breeze blowing through my wide-open windows, long may it continue! ... and may some of the sunshine and warmth come your way soon too!

Rachel x

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

ABC Wednesday - J is for...

For today's ABC Wednesday, I would like to introduce you to the pretty little town of Villajoyosa, known locally as La Vila, which lies just 10km south of Benidorm, where I live.

The town's name is a matter of interest, and also one of controversy - as depending what literature you read, it either means "joyous town" or "jewelled town", in Spanish. I tend to believe the meaning is jewelled town, as the houses are famously painted many jewel colours, as you can see above... also the word in Spanish for jewel is joya, which of course is very close to Villajoyosa!

The 16th century Gothic church, which sits on a hill inside the old walled town, was designed as a fortress as well as a place of worship, and there is a legend that St. Martha rid the area of dragons long ago - with her fan and bucket!! Before this, apparently the townspeople were reluctant to settle in the town... for fear of the dreaded winged beasts!

Villajoyosa is still a very important fishing port, with a busy harbour and afternoon fish market selling the freshest of the daily catch. In 1860 the port recorded the second highest number of boats registerd in Spain.

The houses are painted in the most gorgeous vibrant colours, and this is so that in olden days, the seamen could recognise their homes straight away, after being away at sea for a year or more. If a white flag was flying from their house, good news awaited the seafarer... but if the flag was black, a death had occurred in his absence.

The town has 3.5km's of palm-lined beaches - this is Centro beach above - but there are also many little coves with calm, transparent waters, which are perfect for learning to windsurf or scuba dive.

In the last week of July the town really comes to life when it celebrates its' famous Moors and Christians festival - a re-enactment of the defeat of the Algerian pirate Zala Arráez who came to ransack the town in 1538. The celebrations have now been held for the last 250 years! For seven days almost the entire town dress up as swashbuckling, gaudy, Moorish pirates or heroic Christian defenders to re-enact the valiant defence of the town. Spectacular fireworks, and lots of delicious food and drink abound for everyone.

The town is also well known for its' chocolate factory, which makes the hugely popular Valor range (which is sold in Harrods of London no less) and there is a large variety of chocolate bars, drinks and sweet things to take your fancy, including bars using the local turron, which is a kind of sweet nougat made from honey and almonds, and is produced in hard and soft varieties.

There are also many Valor shops in the area, selling all manner of delicious confectionery delights - especially around this time of year, with Easter just around the corner... mmmm, choccy Easter bunnies, come to me!

On Thursdays, the town hosts its' weekly street market which is always worth a visit, as it is choc-a-block full of fresh fruit and vegetables, clothes, ceramics, arts and crafts... well, everything under the sun really! To top it off, it is held right along the pretty seafront, so after your bargain hunting, you can sit down in one of the many frontline restaurants, and enjoy a delicious seafood dish for lunch - maybe the town's popular salt cod - and wash it all down with a foaming cold glass or beer, or wine. Hic!

All in all, this colourful little town is definitely worth a look if you should ever be in the Costa Blanca... for its' food and drink, its' history, its' winding old town streets, and of course the glorious clean beaches and views out to sea.
I hope you have enjoyed this ABC Wednesday post, please post a comment if you have as I love reading them - and if you follow this link below you can also become part of one of the most interesting, fun weekly things to do on the Internet! :-)

Monday, 23 March 2009

Outdoor Delights

As it is yet another gloriously sunny day today, I thought I would take the opportunity to explore the outdoor area of my apartment block this morning... I only moved into this building three months ago, but in the depths of Winter it was far too cold and windy to go out exploring - even in Spain!
The pool and gardens are located on the 1st floor,which actually makes them 4 floors up - as we have 3 storeys of parking above the Reception hall, then Floor 1 - so there are nice views all around, from being that bit higher up.

To reach the pool you can either take the steps, or meander up this rather delightful rampway, studded with boulders and plants,

and looking behind you to the boundary, there are several tall trees and bushes,

and many, many pines,

which are quite often full of coal tits - my kitchen window, which is at the side of the building, overlooks some of these pine trees, and I often get a cheeky chirping visitor on my window ledge chattering away to me, which is always a welcome sight!

Before you ascend to the pool area, there is a large tiled area called the solarium - which is of course a word we use in English, but with a slightly different meaning - normally for a place filled with artifical sun, thanks to tubes of UV light!

The walls and borders have been tended well, and I liked this emerald green ivy left to run wild and free,

and these soaring spiky cacti clumps,

..which up close look like something out of a sci-fi movie!

but are very pretty, in their own arid way, all the same.

Looking up to the Sierra Helada, I could see this crucifix which looks out over the town and across the sea beyond, which is lit up on a nightly basis - crosses are actually very common on top of hills or high places, in this very religious Catholic country.

Tops of tall buildings quite literally pierced the sky! and seagulls whirled and swooped overhead - you can just about see them as tiny blurs in the top right hand corner!

On the uppermost level I finally found the swimming pool, with more tiled areas for sunbathing,

and today the porter was jetwashing it down, ready to fill with water for Summer - there are no notices up telling me when that might be however! - but very often in Spanish residential properties the pool is filled from May 1st; whereas touristic properties rarely have their pool empty - ready to tempt guests at any time of the year!

There is a little scrubby lawn in this area also - although I always find the grass too dry and scratchy to sit on over here - but this clump of small palms was pretty,

and these much larger ones stretched up into the sky creating a focal point, if not much shade from the beating heat of the sun!

I wandered down the ramp again, admiring the borders as I went, and was impressed with how well the whole area is looked after, and what a nice peaceful feeling there is even though we are only a few streets away from the main hubbub of the resort,

and as I have no idea of any plants' names whatsoever (!) I shall just let you enjoy this collection of (what I think are) succulents,

and this cabbage-looking splash of red which caught my eye,

and this spiky green monster all tangled up in its' own leaves, like me on a bad hair day! LOL... ;-)

These taller flowers added another welcome splash of colour, amongst the sandy coloured stones and vivid green foliage,

as did this incredibly thorny looking fellow - armed and ready, with his sweet red bloom to draw you closer -

and I thought this little pot-and-palm arrangement was rather charming,

complete with stones and miniature flora.

I found the whole outdoor space very pleasant indeed, and I shall no doubt enjoy the odd hour or two down there in Summer - or even some time soon! - flicking through a magazine, or listening to some music with my face turned towards the sun,

but in the meantime I left these lofty pine trees sunbathing instead, while I went back up to my apartment to make lunch for my husband and I...
I hope that you enjoyed my little jaunt, and please drop by again! Sangria anyone? x