Late again …. ah well, never mind! Last episode of the blog we had just got back from the Alpujarras. It wasn’t long before we were off again, this time for a short city break in Barcelona. We had lovely house sitters, with whom we have met up again since for lunch, while they were still in the area.

We flew to Barcelona from Murcia, then caught a bus into the city centre and walked to our hotel which was near the marina and very comfortable. We had just 4 nights there. I am glad we went and we managed to see and do quite a lot but really cities are slightly out of our comfort zone (particularly N) and also, unbeknown to us when we booked it months ago, it was a double bank holiday week so it was absolutely rammed! We thought Naples and Pompeii were crowded but this was on another level!

Aperol Spritz goes a long way to helping when you are out of your comfort zone! Passing time while we waited for our entry slot into Segrada Familia. We had bought our entry tickets at the hotel the day before and there were very few left.

The following 20 photos are of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Unlike any cathedral we have been in before. Gaudi or Gawdy? I’m sure I’m not the first to voice that! And still not finished almost 100 years after his death!

M admires the Organ ..

We watched peregrines swooping around these towers.

Casa Battlo, another of Gaudi’s whimsical masterpieces previously known as the house of bones. We didn’t go inside, the queue was insane!

The next few are taken from Park Guell which we travelled to by metro and bus, again we had bought tickets in advance and when we first arrived it all seemed fairly quiet after the day before but that soon changed!

We bought this piece of art from an artist in Park Guell and had it framed when we got home, the back of the iconic wavy seat can clearly be seen.

We had a cable car ride up to Montjuic, the hill overlooking the Mediterranean and the marina. And got panoramic views of the city from the mirador.

View from the Cable car up to Montjuic

After the Barcelona trip, we had a visit from friends Jill and Graham Budd and their pooch Burtie. They came for a couple of nights and stayed in their motorhome. It was a convivial visit as usual and as you will see from the photo, still warm enough to sit outside.

Jill and Graham came to stay, shortly after we returned from Barcelona I introduced them to Squaredle, here’s Jill getting very frustrated! And Poco sat on the table to watch!

Christmas and New Year came and went unmarked really apart from gifts from neighbours; having chosen to live here we can’t share these times with family but we did all speak to each other on the phone. Richard and Aoife spent their Christmas in Ireland with Aoife’s mum. Andrew and Alana and the three children were at home in Bolton but all poorly so it was a bit of a non event for them too.

I had a medical appointment on 8th January and as soon as that was out of the way we headed off to spend just over a couple of weeks in Portugal in the motorhome before it was due for its service and MOT (called ITV here in Spain) at the end of January. We got back just over a week ago from a very pleasant almost 3 weeks away.

En route to Portugal we overnighted here, Montefrio which has the only round church in Spain, Iglesia de La Encarnacion,
In the round church, they hadn’t yet removed the illuminated Nativity display. The church was actually closed to the public that day but when I expressed disappointment, a kind verger went and got his keys and let me in.

Whilst I was at the church, Nigel climbed up higher to discover what was left of Montefrio’s castle.

Tombs (for the gentry) carved into the castle’s cliffs – with provision for shelves, dating from 16c.
Information board pertaining to the castle of Montefrio

Next and final stop in Spain was at Alcala de Guadaira just to the south east of Seville where we walked by the river and then visited another castle.

The boys loved being able to charge around after being cooped up in the camper for two days.

As we walked round the ramparts we had a feeling of being watched!!!! That’s Poco in the rear window of the camper watching our every move…..well at least while he’s watching us he’s not chewing anything!!!

The Spaniards make free use of cast concrete in preserving their castles
My turn to be spied upon!

From the ramparts we looked down onto this funky bridge! You can see the whole of the dragon in the image at the top of the blog.

The church ruins at Niebla, allegedly collapsed by the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in 1775. And a stork returning to its nest.

We finally arrived in Portugal, rewound our watches by an hour and sought out our old haunts. At the beginning we had a few rainy and dull days but generally we had very fine weather, warm and sunny and lots of beach walks. We visited quite a few of our old haunts and introduced Poco and Ditto to a number of Belle and Dash’s favourite places. We met up with birding friends Angela and Nigel Genn and their dog Ellie and had lunch with them the day we arrived. Speaking of birds, we didn’t go out of our way to see anything in particular but it was a welcome sight to see azure winged magpies and storks again, neither of which we have in our area.

Monchique, highest point in the Algarve (3000′) for our first 2 nights and this
was our best view!!
At Alvor lagoon, we spent many a night here in past holidays before the ban on overnight camping was introduced and before this shoulder monster came crashing into our lives!
Shoulder monster
Shoulder monster
Alvor lagoon
Gulls. But not just any old gulls, these are Audouin’s Gulls.
We had to be told, too …. 🙁

Dunlin, winter plumage
Black tailed Godwit
Oxalis in full bloom at Figueira, invasive but pretty!
“Lovely sand innit, Poco?” Each time we arrived on a beach, Ditto did his whippety typical spinning around on the spot and then running in circles thing. We had to rest him some days as he occasionally showed signs of discomfort from his back injury.
Boca do Rio in the Western Algarve, once a favourite overnight spot but no longer allowed between 10pm and 8am. Spent a few days here this time on the beach and walking on the cliffs.
Our all time favourite beach, only accessible on foot so usually fairly quiet, Figueira.
Someone had some patience! We came across this model ship made from plastic water bottles on the board walk at Meia Praia near Lagos.

On our way home, we stayed at two more interesting places, photo’s below.

The first was the preserved remains of Italica; the city was founded in 206 BC by Publius Cornelius Scipio, Africanus, as a place to recover wounded troops as well as a place of residence for its war veterans. It was the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. With the emperor Augustus, the city developed, coming to differentiate what was called the nova urbs. A new city that came to have sewage, services…that is, one of the most advanced cities in the Roman world at the time.

Looking down on the amphitheatre
Looking up to the tiered seating which had a capacity of 25,000!

We then travelled a couple of hundred kilometres nearer to home to another archaeological site of great importance. Over the Sierra Nevada and east of Granada we stopped overnight at this spot.

Sunset the evening we arrived
Next morning’s view from the windscreen.

Intending to explore in the morning before we set off for home, our plans were scuppered by the arrival of two abandoned dogs. Just after breakfast, a car arrived with a young couple in and I noticed two dogs running around it, one of whom from a distance was the image of Ditto. I went out to speak to them and found out that they were local (ish) and had come to where we were parked for a walk. On the road about 5 kilometres away were these two dogs sitting in the middle of the road. They got out of the car to move them out of the way and the dogs had then run behind their car and followed them all the way to the car park. They were both painfully thin, obviously abandoned and were starving and thirsty. We gave them both food and water and in the meantime the young couple phoned the police for advice about what to do with them. Every time they opened their car doors they jumped inside! No doubt eager to retain their first taste of kindness in a long time. I only managed to photograph the boy.

Ditto number 2!

We were extremely tempted to bring home the male who was the spit of Ditto but in the end our heads ruled our hearts when the young man acquired a place for them both in a rescue centre. Off they went and home we came with heavy hearts.

Weather reports from home while we were in the Algarve were of similar weather, including some high winds and judging by the debris around the garden and some fencing damage we could see how strong the winds had been. Then, like in Portugal an unprecedented warm spell arrived about 10 days ago with daytime temps of 23 degrees! This is continuing since we got home. We now have a glut of oranges so the juicer is on overtime and we have given a bagful to friends up on the camper park.

Anyone for oranges??

Our visitor calendar is fairly sparse this year so far, just friend Philippa arriving for a few days in late April which is now firmly on the calendar. Now that Richard and Aoife are back in the UK and Ric has to travel to Germany quite often for work, he has to watch his Schengen allowance so that he doesn’t overstay his 90 days in the E.U. So they can’t commit yet to a visit to us at the moment. BREXIT….the gift that keeps on giving!

As I type, the weather has changed a bit, it’s overcast and cooler but still dry. It’s scheduled to pick up again with more sunny days to come soon, so we are going to pop away in the camper again for another week or so now that it has been serviced and passed its ITV. This time inland to a birding spot near Albacete.

Hasta Luego todos.