Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
latest posts

Around Algorfa

Algorfa is my home. It’s a lovely pueblo, with lots going on. This page is all about what’s happening around Algorfa, and the surrounding areas such as Benijofar, Benejuzar, Almoradi, Quesada and Rojales. Let me know if you need something publicising, and I’ll do what I can.

Lo Crispin Old Boys trounce Algorfa Young Guns!

Algorfa

On a hot June Morning, the moment everyone – well almost everyone – in Algorfa had been waiting for arrived. The Mayor, Manuel Ros Rodes, challenged the Lo Crispin Walking Football team to a match against the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) to kick off the annual Fiesta Fortnight.

While Algorfa’s finest – or rather those who could be persuaded to show up on the promise of a barbecue – battled it out on the pitch, the WAGS (wives and girlfriends) from both sides encouraged their teams to give of their best. And although the players outnumbered the supporters, what the WAGS lacked in numbers they made up for in decibels.

Lo Crispin’s captain Mike Cooper – aka Cooperman – was awarded the honour of refereeing the game. It was a big ask, given the budding Neymars who threw themeselves to the ground at the drop of a hat, and the general flouting of rules by kicking the ball higher than regulations allow and the sheer speed of the ‘walking’ pace. Still, it was a compliment to his refereeing skills that Cooperman only elicited the occasional comment of, ‘árbitro, ¿dónde están tus gafas?’ (Where are your glasses, ref?). And nobody questioned his parentage either, so all in all a Good Show by the Ref.

After a hard-fought game and some very bad acting in the penalty box, the Lo Crispin men emerged the victors, beating the much younger Ayuntamiento side by 6 goals to 2. I mentioned to temporary Captain Red Ray that it must be a change for him to be associated with the winning side, being a Manchester United supporter. Tears filled his eyes, and he said my remark was way below the belt. If only Ray had been the drama coach, the lads may well have picked up some extra penalty shots, because it was a pretty convincing performance.

Chatting to Cooperman at the post match barbecue, his pride in his team’s efforts was palpable. This was the third match between the Lo Crispin boys and the Ayuntamiento, and the second victory for them. When you consider that the Algorfa Ayuntamiento side had two players from the local league team, and the minimum age for the Lo Crispin lads is 55, it certainly was a creditable performance.

Lo Crispin Walking Football team practice every Monday and Thursday from 10.00 am in the Algorfa sports stadium, as well as playing in matches around the southern Costa Blanca. Check out their Facebook Page for more details, or drop into the Lo Crispin Tavern to find out more. If you’re not yet 55, ask if you can be a guest player, like young Josh – 15 – who played a blinder. It’s all about having fun in the sun with our Spanish neighbours, and you’re guaranteed a good time with the Lo Crispin lads. See you at the next prestige game.

Blossom time in Algorfa

Here in Algorfa, spring has definitely sprung, and it’s nothing to do with the date, or the clocks ‘springing forward’ an hour. It’s the bursting out of blossom everywhere that confirms that the long, cold winter is giving way to the balmy days of spring.

It does get cold here in Algorfa, although at least we haven’t had any snow this year. Last year, on 18 January, the Torrevieja area experienced the first snowfall almost in living memory. The last time snow fell on Algorfa was way back in 1927, so everyone – including Yours Truly – was out there taking photos and videos for posterity.

On 11 March, we headed off in the motor home to a rally, and when we returned home 5 days later, our garden was a riot of colour. There was beautiful pink blossom on the nectarine tree Tony had grown from a stone, and our orange tree – which had yielded the last of its fruit just a few days before we left – was bursting with blossom. It looks like we’re in for another bumper crop later in the year.

Paddy loves to run in the orange grove at the bottom of our road, and there, the fragrance of orange blossom is heady and intense. I now know what mind-blowing truly means. On top of all this, the jasmine which climbs lazily from our garden to the terrace is in full bloom, and again, the fragrance is overpowering, especially at night.

The jasmine plant was a moving in present from Glenys and her husband John 10 years ago, and we’re so pleased that she is staying with us and can experience her everlasting gift in all its glory. Every autumn Tony cuts it back ruthlessly, and every spring it rewards us with even more beautiful blossoms. He’s taken a couple of cuttings, which have also flourished, so we now have a wall hanging of fragrant white flowers cascading from the terrace ceiling down into the garden.

One of the few things I miss about life in the UK is the spring flowers – the daffodils, crocuses and primroses, springing up in the hedgerows, or flourishing in carefully tended gardens. Granted, we have several varieties of daffodil growing in the garden thanks to Tony, but it’s not quite the same.

That said, spring in Algorfa has its own special beauty, and it’s wonderful to step out onto the terrace in the morning. We can smell the orange blossom and jasmine as we enjoy our freshly squeezed orange juice, made with oranges from the very trees that are now assailing our senses with the fragrance of their blossom. And we know that this wonderful aroma promises a bountiful harvest in the autumn.

Walking up to the Red Chilli for lunch last week, it was breathtaking to see the beautiful splashes of yellow on the many mimosa shrubs on the new road from Algorfa to La Finca. So we have our own beautiful yellow spring flowers right here. I’ve seen mimosa in Devon and Cornwall, but not in such profusion, since it’s happier in hot climates.

Blossom time in Algorfa is truly magical. Try walking instead of driving, so you can see and smell the flowers in all their glory. And take a camera with you, to remind yourself how wonderful spring in Algorfa can be.

So lucky to be in Algorfa in spring – or any time, for that matter!

 

If you’re a regular reader and you’re sick of hearing me say this, I apologise, but it’s true, so I’ll say it again. I am so lucky to live in Algorfa. I’d never even heard of the place until we were shown the home we bought back in 2007, yet now I can’t think of any place in the world I’d rather be. Well, sailing the Carribbean with George Clooney might come close, but even then I’d rather he made the trip to Algorfa, just in case the Carribbean was a let down.

It was brought home to me yet again when I took Paddy for his customary jaunt in the orange groves. As I walked sedately after my mad mongrel, the smell of orange blossom filled my head.Judging from the quantity, the bees are going to feast royally this year.

Mount Escotera was looking sharp and clear too, with a few clouds assembling over the peak. I love this time of year, when ‘My’ mountain isn’t obscured by a heat haze, and you see different colours depending on the direction you approach from. I have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of the mountain, and every one is different. I never tire of the view, which is just as well, since we can see it from our garden and terrace.

When Paddy had exhausted himself chasing rabbits, we headed back for home at a much slower pace than on the outward journey. Just as we climbed the incline above the groves, I spotted something in the middle of the road. It looked suspiciously like a snake, and indeed it was, so I approached it with caution. Incredibly, in the 9 years we’ve called Algorfa home, I’ve never seen a snake locally, although most of the neighbours have. This one was around a metre long – or 3′ 3″ in English money, and I had no idea if it was venomous or not, so I kept a sensible distance. Luckily Paddy had spotted a lizard enjoying the last of the sun under a nearby bush, so I was able to get a couple of decent photos without worrying about either or both of us becoming snake target practice.

I’m not brilliant at identifying snakes, so I posted the pics on Facebook, and it was identified as a Ladder Snake, which is apparently harmless and also a protected species. It’s native to Spain, Portugal and parts of France and Italy and it gets its name from the markings on its back, which look like the rungs of a ladder. Apparently they grow to around 160 cm, so the one we saw was probably a teenager in snake terms. Good job Paddy was so fascinated with the lizard, because protected species or not, there might have been one less of them if he’d spotted it.

I love the fact that a simple walk with Paddy can bring me so close to Nature at its best, and yield such great photo opportunities and material for the blog. So I’ll say it once more – I am so lucky to be in Algorfa in spring. Okay, I’m missing the hedgerow flowers and green fields, but my adopted home has its own brand of spring beauty. And I bet George Clooney would agree with me!

Algorfa in spring
Mount Escotera -‘My’ mountain – looking beautiful in the spring sunshine

The Park of Nations – A little bit of country in the heart of town

Yesterday I took my friend Glenys into Torrevieja for the day. The plan was to walk along the seafront  and out along the boardwalk before enjoying a drink in the beautiful surroundings of the Casino, but it was very windy out there, and it wasn’t down to the chickpea and potato stew we’d had for supper the night before. So, what to do for two ladies in town? Normally it would be shopping, but Glenys has bought so many new clothes she thinks she might need a private jet to get her home, so she didn’t want to be tempted. Then I thought about the Park of Nations. I haven’t been there in ages, because they don’t allow dogs, and I thought – correctly – that it would be more sheltered down there than on the seafront.

If you’ve never visited the Park of Nations, maybe it’s time you did. It’s a huge green space, right in the heart of Torrevieja, between the CV90 and the N332.  The park is dedicated to the nations of Europe, and if you think the shape of the gardens and the lake is a bit unusual, that’s because they are laid out in the shape of the map of Europe. The flags of all the nations fly over the huge 6,000 square metre lake which is the centrepiece of the park.

On the lake you’ll find geese, ducks and other water fowl. They’re not shy either – they’ll get up close and personal, and even pose for photos. If you’re really lucky, you may even see turtles basking on the rocks or swimming languidly in the clear waters of the lake.

The fact that chickens, peacocks, geese and ducks stroll freely around the park is the reason for the dog ban, although being Spain, it was openly flaunted by a senora with two Yorkshire Terriers. Still, at least she picked up their downloads, which is something to be grateful for.

There’s a fairly new children’s playground, donated by the local Rotary Club, and at one end of the park there is a beautiful section of topiary. As you stroll through the park, you’d never guess you were between Torrevieja’s two main arterial roads. It’s a real oasis of calm in the middle of the bustling town.

Look out for various exhibitions and events through the year, but in any case, take a stroll around this beautiful park some time soon when you’re in Torrevieja. If nothing else, you’ll get some great pictures.

[amazon_link asins=’B008CSDV8U,B06X9B5WBB,B071S93QLT’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’saninspa-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’b0224d71-89a4-11e8-ae7e-5beef709a73a’]

A morning in Almoradi

We’re lucky to live in Algorfa for  lots of reasons. One of them is the range of markets right on our doorstep. There’s Zoco on Sundays, Benijofar on Tuesdays, San Miguel and Algorfa on Wednesdays, and Almoradi on Saturdays. It’s been a while since we visited Almoradi, with its huge market that winds through the streets, so we headed there with our friend Glenys on Saturday.

Needless to say, we bought lots of fruit and vegetables. At 80 cents a kilo, Almoradi has the nicest – and cheapest – sweet potatoes (boniatos) I have seen anywhere. And we picked up some lovely orange and yellow peppers for €1 a kilo. I was making a ratatouille for Saturday evening, so they provided extra colour, sweetness and texture to the dish.

The biggest attraction in Almoradi though is the church plaza with its amazing ‘doughnut’ trees. At one time, the huge ficus trees were just left to grow as they wanted, and they formed a canopy over the plaza, but around 15 years ago, the local council decided to tidy them up and trimmed them into the intriguing shapes you see now.

Some of the trees have street lamps going up through the centre, giving them a rather eerie appearance at night, and if you look up through the centre of a tree, your imagination is likely to take you on a very weird journey. The view has been colourfully described as ‘alien tentacles reaching towards a white hole in space,’ and indeed, on first view, the trees do look as if they come from another world. In the evening, the birds roost in the trees, and you can hear them singing during the day  as well, even over the hustle and bustle of the Saturday market.

The church dedicated to San Andres Apostol is a magnificent building, although the rococo style of decoration may be too ‘over the top’ for some tastes. The church will celebrate its 500th anniversary in 2015, so look out for special events in the San Andres Fiesta in November. The great earthquake of 1829 totally flattened Almoradi, and it had to be rebuilt, but there has been a church on the site for half a millennium.

On the way out of Almoradi, we called in at the new Mercadona on the Poligono for essential weekend supplies – mainly cava and bread. We really enjoyed our morning in Almoradi, and it’s so close to Algorfa too. We were home within 10 minutes.

If you don’t know Almoradi, maybe it’s time to get acquainted. A word of warning though – if you go on market day, look out for the mujeres with their shopping trolleys. The streets are narrow, and it’s difficult to keep out of the way.

El Zoco Market

One of the great things about living in Spain is that you can shop at a market every day of the week if you want to. And in Algorfa, we have two, right on our doorstep. There’s the small street market in the heart of the pueblo on Wednesdays, and there’s the much larger El Zoco Sunday market, which is situated just off the Torrevieja Norte exit of the AP7, on the San Miguel – Algorfa road.

If you’re wondering about the name, a zoco is an Arabian market, of souk, and there were a lot of them in Spain before the Reconquest by the Christians. That sounds exotic, doesn’t it, and there are some exotic purchases to be made at El Zoco. Think herbs and spices, incense burners, various sorts of honey, exotic orchids and majestic aloe vera plants.

And there’s the ordinary stuff like socks and underwear, clothes, toys, kitchen ware, leather goods and shoes. And don’t forget the wide range of fruit and vegetables, produced by small  independent growers without the aid of chemical pesticides. So you’re getting organic produce without the mark up.

One tip to bear in mind is it’s best not to eat before you go to El Zoco, or any other market in Spain for that matter. The produce stall holders are so proud of their wares they insist on you sampling them – and we’re not talking small samples either. All the produce stalls will have large chunks of melon, orange, grapefruit, grapes, peaches, and all manner of stuff for you to try. And the cheese and ham stalls will also be offering tasters t00.

When we first went to the market, we made the mistake of eating breakfast, so we didn’t have room for the tasty morsels on offer. Some of the stall holders take it as a personal affront if you don’t sample their wares, so in the interests of preserving amicable Anglo-Spanish relations, we never eat before heading for the market these days.

You can get some great bargains at El Zoco. Last week I went with my friend, Venessa, and she bought a lovely pair of knee length boots for €15, a huge bunch of gladioli for €6, along with fruit and vegetables at silly prices. I bought two unusual, made in Spain presents for my soon to be born grandson, some sheepsking mittens for just €3 in readiness for my trip to the UK, fruit and veg and a pollo asado (roast chicken) for lunch. At just €5 for a chicken large enough to feed the 3 of us – Paddy lovels pollo asado too – it would be rude not to!

What I love about Spanish markets is that you can buy stuff you’d never see on English markets. There’s a bodega where you can stock up on wine, port and other alcoholic delights, and there’s a huge stall devoted to different sorts of honey. You can even buy pets, although I’m not really comfortable with that idea, given the huge problem with abandoned dogs and cats here. And the produce stall holders don’t mind if you pick over their fruit and vegetables to get the tastiest morsels. In fact, it’s pretty much compulsory here – they give you a funny look if you ask them to choose for you.

I buy most of my clothes and shoes from the markets, and it’s rare that I pay more than €10 for either. In fact, one of my favourite dresses, which always draws compliments, cost me just €3 from Rojales market, It was a long, multi print cotton dress which I picked up at the end of my first summer in Spain, when they were clearing stocks ready for the winter fashions.

Never pay the asking price – except on the fruit and vegetables and food stalls. I managed to get a Euro knocked off each of my purchases for the new grandson, and I always ask for discounts if I buy two of the same items. For example, I bought two unusual wine accessory sets as Christmas presents, and saved €3 by buying two together. When I added up the savings I’d made by haggling, I’d saved €8 on prices which were already ‘muy barato’ (very cheap). ‘They can only say no, so have a go’ is my motto on the markets.

It goes without  saying you should always keep an eye on your cash and cards at the markets or any crowded places. My strategy is to keep a load of coins in my pockets, so I don’t need to keep pulling out my purse. And I have a special ‘market bag’ which is deep, with thick straps that can’t be slashed through, and press stud fastenings at the top. Make life difficult for the pickpockets, and they’ll leave you alone and look for easier targets.

When you’ve shopped till you dropped at El Zoco, there are plenty of places where you can make a pit stop for refreshments. If you’re hungry, you can feast on and English breakfast, German bratwurst, Spanish paella, Norweigian fish, and pretty much anything else that takes your fancy. If you haven’t already sampled the delights and soaked in the atmosphere of El Zoco Market, maybe you should put it on your list of things to do around Algorfa,

The delights on our doorstep

This afternoon, Tony and I took Paddy for his usual walk and romp on the waste ground. We took the camera too, because since I started Sandra In Spain, the camera goes everywhere with me. It went to the local Indian restaurant on Tuesday, and it went to El Zoco Market this morning. Both of these will be reviewed soon in this section.

My friends are complaining, because if we go out to eat,they can’t get stuck in until the food is photographed,  and if we go shopping, they reckon I look like a holidaymaker, taking photos of anything and everything. So the numbers on the Christmas Card List may go into freefall soon. Oh well, it will save on postage costs -you have to look on the bright side, don’t you? But I digress.

We decided to walk to the top of our street – Calle Rafal – then turn right and walk along Calle Alicante to the cul de sac overlooking the golf course. It was a lovely clear afternoon, and the views over the golf course to the orange groves and the Sierra de Callosa mountains were stunning. And all this is within five minutes walk of our home. We are so lucky to live where we do. I would have loved to have included some photos of Paddy bounding around the waste ground as if he were in the Grand National, but the boy was so quick, by the time Tony had lined up the shot, he was well out of it!

I just point and hope for the best, but Tony has to have it right. Still, you have to admit, he’s taken some cracking photos of our walk. A word about the boots and the walking stick. I have not been struck down by immobility, I was just holding it for Tony while he took the photos. Asf or the €6 Primark boots, I realise they are not very elegant, but they have thick soles and I can bung them in the washing machine – good plus points when you’re walking on waste ground.

Mount Escotera – ‘my’ mountain!

'My' mountain. taken from our terrace. Not a very clear view, but still beautiful

‘My’ mountain. taken from our terrace. Not a very clear view, but still beautiful

When we first viewed our property on La Finca in July 2007, our property finder Sue opened the persianas (shutter blinds) to the patio doors on the terrace and we stepped outside to view what was soon to be our garden. While Tony was enthusiastically checking out the olive tree and the plants, I glanced to my left – and fell instantly in love.  You’ll notice I do that a lot of ‘falling instantly in love.’ but ladies, there’s no need to lock up your husbands. It’s things I fall for – particularly Spanish things. But I digress.

When I looked to my left, I got my first view of Mount Escotera, one of the highest mountains in the Sierra de Callosa range. As mountain ranges go, it’s small but perfectly formed, rather than big and beautiful. It runs for 4.6 kilometres along the River Segura, surrounding the town of Callosa, after which the range is named. The mountains are formed from limestone, so there’s no vegetation on them, but the changing colours as the sun hits the peaks from different directions are amazing to see.

At its highest point, the range is 572 metres high. Mount Escotera is the most visible peak from Algorfa, which is around 20 kilometres from

Mount Escotera, seel from Callosa de Segura. Photo credit JESUS FRSANCO

Mount Escotera, seel from Callosa de Segura. Photo credit JESUS FRSANCO

Callosa. The village nestles in the foothills of the range.

Because I can see Escotera from my terrace, I call it ‘my mountain,’ and that’s caused a bit of dissent here at La Finca over the years. One friend, who goes one better than me and can see it from her roof solarium, told me it was actually HER mountain, because she’s lived here longer, and she has a better view than I do. I wasn’t having any of that – she didn’t even know what it was called, but my superior research skills soon solved the mystery. I told her she was an Unfit Mountain Mother if she didn’t even know what her child was called.

My friend Bev was more difficult to deal with. She not only knew the name of the mountain, she’d been hiking on it as well, so she thought that gave her possession rights. When I told her she was also an Unfit Mountain Mother for trampling on her baby, she said the best mothers were those who were tactile with their children. Don’t you just hate it when people have an answer for everything? That’s my job!

wine bottle 002In the end, we decided we’d share parenting duties, and when Bev moved to a larger house at San Fulgencio, I congratulated myself that I finally had my mountain to myself again. But the gods conspired against me. When we visited Bev and Alex in their new hacienda, the first thing I saw from the dining terrace was – my mountain! And it was up close and personal too. They have a wonderful view, and they can just sit there looking at it all day if they want to. It was all I could do to stop myself from stamping my foot and screaming ‘It isn’t fair!’

Finally we have reached a compromise though. The San Fulgencio side of the mountain is Bev’s, and the Algorfa side is mine. Although I did assure my mountain that I was only pretending to let Bev have it for a quiet life. Sneaky, aren’t I?

The oranges groves on my back doorstep

Around Algorfa

Until we viewed our property on the huge La Finca Urbanisation, I’d never even heard of Algorfa. However, as soon as we walked through our garden apartment onto the terrace, and saw the Sierra de Callosa mountains and the orange groves winding their way down to the village two miles away, I knew that Tony and I had found our dream home in a perfect location. I’ll be telling you a lot more about Algorfa and the surrounding area, but for now I want to tell you about my own haven of peace and tranquility, which is the beautiful orange groves on our back doorstep.

In April and May, the smell of the orange blossom as you stroll down the back road to the village is overpowering. And once the bees arrive for pollination purposes, you wouldn’t believe the noise they make. Locally, it’s known as the Algorfa Roar, and if you happen to be around at the time, you’ll understand why. The hum of the bees builds into a crescendo of sound that can be heard for miles around.

And of course, there are the birds singing and flitting from tree to tree, and the rabbits running through the avenues and finding the safety of the warren if any dogs are around. In spring, if you kep your eyes peeled as you walk past the groves, you may even see a couple of hares, up on their hind legs boxing.

Come October, the oranges start to change from green to – well, orange. However, they are still hard to the touch, but by the end of November they are ready to be picked and eaten, although it will be at least another month or so before the commercial harvest begins. And the fruits will keep coming right through until the end of March.

The custom is that, if the groves are fenced off, you’re trespassing if you go in there, but if there is open access from the road, you can go in and walk your dog, and even pick a few oranges straight from the tree, as long as you’re not too greedy. The large, thin skinned Valencian oranges that grow in our local groves make wonderful fresh orange juice – sweet, but with just a hint of sharpness, and so juicy that just two oranges will provide us with a large glass of juice each to start our day.

I love to take my dog Paddy into the groves in the early evening, let him off the lead and watch him bound with unconfined joy along the avenues, sometimes chasing rabbits, but more often than not just enjoying being alive in that perfect space. While Paddy scales the almost vertical terracing that separates the different levels, I stroll along the ridges, loving the peace and tranquility, gazing out over the mountains, and watching the colours of evening chase across the sky as the sun sets. It’s my haven, and it’s right on my back doorstep. Aren’t I the lucky one?

Google+