Wednesday, 31 August 2011

War games

While we were driving around Cantabria we stumbled across something very interesting. Heading from the motorway into unknown territory we found a small town called Los Corrales de Buelna and saw, flying from every lamppost, these:

Never one to waste an opportunity to use my camera and find out about local celebrations (which in Spain can range from spectacular to bizarre!), we went to see what was going on.

The Guerras Cántabras, or Cantabria Wars, have been held every year since 2001. They are organised by the local people from the town and they literally set up camp and stage the wars that took place between the Romans and the Cantabria clans during the Great War from 27-25AC.

Cantabria clans' camp
The camp is reconstructed with every detail of how life would have been then and the people dress in costumes of the time. The festival starts with the arrival of the Roman troops in the capital, Santander. There are re-enactments of battles which were fought, celebrations which were held and the final moments, held at the remains of a real Roman amphitheatre, when the Cantabrians, rather than surrender to the Romans, all poisoned themselves so the Romans when they arrived had nothing to conquer.

Clan hut with every detail

Interior of hut
The festival is held from the last weekend in August until the first weekend in September and is recognised as a local festival of touristic interest on a national level. I was told that foreign visitors go every year to follow the activities and many return. Our visit was just before the festivities began but we were fortunate enough to talk to one of the 'clan' members that had taken part with his family since the first year. He told us that they had gone from 200 people taking part to over 2000! They take it very seriously and see it as a way to preserve the history and culture of their region.

Rome wasn't built in a day!
I would have loved to have stayed and really get into the atmosphere of it all, especially when the campfires were lit, but time was against us - perhaps next year!

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Contrasting countryside

Spain is a country of amazing contrasts: between regions, local traditions and, not least, the countryside. From the dusty, arid sizzling south to the lush green of the cooler north. This weekend we headed north.

Heading north
It was extremely hot last week in Madrid, so a visit to the north was enthusiastically welcomed! It's incredible how the countryside changes before your eyes - to the north of Madrid the land is still flat and dry but once past Burgos (about 2 hours north) the differences are very apparent.

The regions that run along the top of the country, from Galicia above Portugal to the Basque Country and the French border area, are beautiful. They are steeped in tradition, the architecture is unique and the land sweeps from the deepest of valleys to the high mountain peaks. There are also rugged coastlines and sandy beaches.

We headed from Madrid to the region of Cantabria - how nice to see a river-bed with water actually running along it! This is almost impossible in August anywhere south of Madrid!

The wonderfully green fields, trees and the dry stone walls reminded me of England and came as a refreshing break from the intense sun and heat of the capital.

We came across a traditional reenactment of a mediaval battle, a beautiful village and picturesque valley and some interesting displays of rural life. But more about those during the week!

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Something to think about....

- I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages
 and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood,
 and I - I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference. -

                                                                                - Robert Frost

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

How did the horses cross the ocean?

It's not a joke so no punchline I'm afraid! and it's really not an issue that most people, even those with horses, need to look into very often. But the truth is that there's a lot more involved in moving horses, especially long distance, than you may imagine.

"You're taking us where?"
The journey itself needs careful planning. Every stage needs to be thought out and an itinerary written up with each stage, stopping point, distance and time to be travelled. Of course the stopping points need to be organised before and confirmed to make sure that the horses will have somewhere to stay and that they are expected. Then there is a vet certificate for the horses and for the disinfection of the trailer and finally a certificate from the regional department of agricultural and the acceptance of the equivalent department in the region where the horses are to be taken. I'm not sure if this is in every country but we had to do the same to bring the horses from France to Spain as we did to take them from Tenerife to the mainland.

Our carriage awaits!
Then to take them by cargo ship to the mainland we had to do the paperwork for the transport company and customs - and then more customs paperwork once we arrived in Cadíz! The good thing is that it's all experience and next time, although I imagine it'll be the same, we'll know exactly where to go and in which order each part has to be done.

The cargo ship takes approximately 3 days from Tenerife to Cádiz and, fortunately for us, it was a new ship and the accomodation was perfect. The meals were provided by the ships' chef and we had permanent access to the horses during the whole trip. There wasn't much else on board except for the dining room with a seating area and a TV but to be honest we were more than happy to spend the time with the horses and time passed quickly.

Our departure was on a Friday afternoon and we arrived in Cádiz port on Monday morning. The horses were calm when we arrived and we then had to make the journey to the riding club in Madrid.

It's a lot to organise and we were constantly supervising the horses during the trip but there is no greater satisfaction than having them with us - so it was definitely worth the effort!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Home sweet home

I'm back! And in every sense! I hope that the posts will start to be as regular as before (thank you for being so patient!) and that the mumblings start to rumble again; and I'm also back home. After 10 months on the island of Tenerife our time there finally came to an end and we started the process of packing up and moving home. Where is home? In the heart of the Spanish mainland, Madrid.

Moving is never easy and it doesn't get any easier even if it's necessary, not my 'real' home and done on a pretty regular basis. There never seems to be that much stuff until it's time to get it all in boxes and suitcases. It all fitted in the car on the way over so surely it'll all fit in on the way back.....!

Our moves are usually a bit more complicated as we also have to move two horses and a cat - oh yes, a real travelling fair! The horses have to be organised from start to finish as they have to travel by boat and it's a 3 day journey from Tenerife to Madrid (more about this tomorrow). So we need to plan stopping times and to make sure that they have hay and water and then there's the paperwork, oh the paperwork! Spain is notorious for it's red-tape but when it comes to moving horses, it's a world apart. So the horses and hubby went by sea and me and my faithful cat, Miss L., flew home.

It's a lovely feeling when I walk through the door and everything is I remember it. Ten months have passed but at the same time it feels as if I never left. I feel happy, relaxed and comfortable. There's a lot to do as time has passed and things need to be seen to but it doesn't matter because I'm home. It seems that this time we'll be here for at least a month so I can organise things properly and get them how I really want them.

It's hot here at the moment, hotter than Tenerife, and we've just had a heatwave - it got to a sweaty 38ºC (that's 100.4ºF!!) but a thunderstorm seems to have sorted it out and it's now generally around 31ºC (87.8ºF) at midday. The best time to get anything done is early in the morning or last thing in the evening - the heat at lunchtime makes it difficult to do anything!

Our time in Tenerife was fun and we have many lovely memories, as well as a few new numbers on the mobile phone, but it's necessary to keep looking to the horizon. I love to think back to things I've done and places I've been and especially the people I've been fortunate enough to meet, but today and the days ahead are where I have to focus. The future is always uncertain but there's a certain excitment for the journeys and adventures that lie ahead - more nomadic tales to tell!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Out to lunch

My wonderful intentions to keep posting as usual during the month of August floated gently out the window! There's a lot going on at the moment and I just find it difficult to find the time to sit down and organise. So for this I deeply apologise. I will try and get here as often as possible and hope that normality returns sooner, rather than later!

For the moment I am going to tantalize the tastebuds with a recommendation for lunch. Be warned, this is not the place to go if you don't eat meat! There is nothing but meat on the menu. It's called Bodegon Campestre and can be found in La Esperanza in the north of Tenerife, just north of Santa Cruz, the capital.

From the outside it looks the same as many other restaurants that can be found along the winding roads that run from village to village. But inside the decoration is typically rustic. The walls are wood panelled and all types of farming and kitchen utensils hang from the beams. The tables and wooden and the seats are stools or long wooden benches. The plates are blocks of wood!

Wooden plates
The starters include every type of sausage imaginable as well as a few different cheeses and salad. And then come the main courses! For me, the main course is more than sufficient on its own and I always pass on the starters. And I chose the most delicious sirloin steak!

And hubby had the T-bone steak....

And these were accompanied by a salad and 'papas arrugadas' (wrinkled potatoes) which are typical in the Canary Islands. They are whole boiled potatoes which are cooked with their skins and plenty of salt. They are cooked until the water evaporates leaving salt on the skins and a wrinkled effect.

'Papas arrugadas'
It's certainly best to go with an appetite as the servings are generous and the prices are very reaasonable - which is always appreciated!

Hasta pronto!