Zesty Mumma's Words

A life lived without passion is a life half lived

Archive for the tag “aging”

I Love Paris – part 2 – Ooh Lah Lah. – How Could Anyone Complain!

img_1605“Free wine and cheese for happy hour between 5.00 – 7.00pm, every night, really?” I gushed during check in at my exquisite new hotel, followed with ” I love Paris”, and so began the happiest five days of my trip. Honestly there is very little bad you can truly say about Paris, that’s why I have purposely separated last weeks blog from this one and yes I’m going to say it again Paris is amazing!

In contrast, what I’m now about to say may seem a little harsh and at this moment just want to point out I do truly love the Spanish. They are kind, generous and passionate but for the most part if something in Spain is beautiful it is either built by the Romans or Moors or by accident and don’t get me started about their food presentation. However, the French do nothing by accident, it’s all about the beauty and ascetic’s, whether it be architecture, dress or humble food presentation.

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My week in Paris was dominated by clear blue skies, so very perfect for walking, and walking I did. The main tourist paths around the city are for the most part flat and easy to get around by foot, however, if needed the metro is a useful choice with minimal difficulty and should you need help there is always someone to ask. Most French living in Paris have at least a little English and freely admit it is the international language, unlike the Spanish. I know there is a lot written about the attitude of the French but I simply didn’t find it to be true. Ok so they don’t gush all over you and sometimes appear to be growling and love to argue but they treat each other in exactly the same way!

By far my favourite mode of transport was the many bush bikes available for a small fee at docking stations around the city. Having blistered my feet walking hundreds of kilometres while wearing inappropriate shoes, the bikes were a welcomed relief. More importantly I knew I never wanted to be Lucy Jordan, who realised to late “she’d never ride through Paris with the wind blown in her hair” (it’s a Marianne Faithful, song check it out). Really, if I ever had a out of body experience on my trip it was that moment, riding to Galleries Lafayette on one of the hottest days of the year was worth the third degree sunburn I got!

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The only downside about Paris at this time (due to no fault of their own) is the confronting moment you are happily strolling along, turn left into the Rue Du Temple and come face to face with two French soldiers walking toward you with machine guns. Honestly though, even soldiers with guns walking around your neighbourhood becomes ordinary when you see it enough but I can’t imagine what it is like for Parisian’s living with the situation all the time. In spite of this there wasn’t a single point I felt unsafe in my entire week (except of course the climb up the ancient staircase come slippery slide belonging to the Appi Hotel).

Don’t go to the Louvre on a Tuesday it’s closed! A sad fact I discovered too late so ended up at the Musee D’Orsay instead, which as it turned out was the better choice. From the outside the Louvre is extremely impressive and containing such a huge percentage of this worlds history, would be no less inside I’m sure. However, from what I gleaned from others who managed to actually get inside the experience while still amazing was greatly marred by the vast numbers of other tourists they were sharing it with. The beauty of D’Orsay is the fact that there is only a fraction of the crowds compared to the Louvre yet still contains many examples of the worlds most famous works of art. Degas “la Petite Danseuse” , the beautiful bronze of a fourteen year old ballerina is exquisite while Van Gogh’s “Starry Night Over The Rhine” is breathtaking and just some of the amazing pieces on display.

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In fact the forecourt of the Louvre was actually the only place during my stay that I came close to being robbed. The involuntary response all tourist develop when viewing places of beauty, much like a nervous tick, is to drag out whatever photographic device they may have and begin snapping away. This practice can make you a clear target for those of the human race that only see dollars signs ( or in this case Euro’s) painted on your back.

Dragging the iPad out of my for the thousandth time I had barely entered my passcode when a good looking Frenchman with sparkling, broad smile appeared, offering to take a photo of me in front of the Louvre. Instantly alarm bells went off in my brain, I may not have been in Paris long but it was definitely long enough to know that the French never smile at you like that so he obviously wanted something. Thankfully I’d also seen “French kiss” enough times to know that Meg Ryan’s character had her bag stolen from the same type of slimy lothario when she let her guard down. So frowning at him I declined his offer but he tried one more time before taking his beaming smile of insincerity off to target the next hapless victim.

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Yes Paris is full of amazing buildings and museum and of course the Eiffel Tower but the other thing that it has in abundance is parks and those parks are overflowing with masses of brightly coloured flowers and succulent green grass. Having just spent eleven weeks in a baking Spanish oven where the grass (if there was grass at all) resembled dried golden wheat, I just wanted to squish it between my toes and roll around in it. You’ll be happy to know I settled for squishy toes!

Paris is of course a Mecca for travellers from all over the world and rightly so, however for one group of visitors it apparently does not live up to their imagination thus causing such severe disappointment that they suffer a breakdown. The Japanese are the main sufferers of a debilitating illness called Paris Syndrome ( no that isn’t the all consuming fear that Paris Hilton would once again be the constant source of news for the worlds media). This relatively new mental disorder is characterised by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations and feelings of persecution.

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The Japanese often picture Paris as a land of their dreams; the land of beauty, culture and sophistication. However,  thev soon find the dizzy heights of their imagination does not fit with reality. French women aren’t as stick thin as models, they don’t wear high end designer cloths around the street and Paris isn’t as sterilely clean as they imagined . To add insult to injury, the fluctuating rhythm and harsh tones of the French language create the impression that the French are rude, as a result the Japanese government is forced to repatriated a number of their citizens home every year. There is even a hotline set up for suffers so they can get help quickly!

All I can say is no city on earth is perfect but Paris comes as close as you can get!

Tips

  •  When in Paris walk walk walk – breath it in, immerse yourself in it, experience it!
  • Parisian supermarkets sell great salads, sandwiches and readymade meals at good prices

The Wonders of An Undiscovered Oasis

My first taste of the Med is wind swept and turbulent but is a nice change from a Huelva summer. No extreme heat, no showering three to four times a night just to sleep. I think the fact I survived a Huelva Summer needs an award now I come to think of it. A large balcony in the apartment we have rented is that reward and a perfect place to let the constant

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Mediterranean breeze help me recover and feel cool for the first time in two and a half months. Our apartment is located in San Pedro de Alcantara, that’s on the western side of Marbella as many English would know. The reason I say that is because in the years since I left Great Britain as a child I have never since been surrounded by so many English, the Marbella/Malaga coast is little Britain and there is an advantage in that; menus, signs etc all with English translations.

As it is the Costa Del Sol you would be right in thinking that most people come for the beach but even here there are surprises waiting to be found. Just twenty kilometres down the road from San Pedro and five kilometres off the motorway lies a small rural community called Manilva, a pretty enough little area, though quite dusty now at the end of a long dry summer. Hidden at the end of a dirt track is a little known historic site that is still used today.

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The Hedionda Banos (Banos meaning baths) is a Roman bathhouse set at the bottom of a small hill. The first recorded mention of the mineral spring that feeds it is in 63 BC when the baths were constructed. The original condition of the pool is remarkable and I’d like to see if some present day structures could last as long. The water itself is crystal clear and cool but not cold as is the creek it runs into. There is a slight sulphur odour but it isn’t as bad as some of the hot springs I have been in and is not uncomfortable.

The healing properties of the water were quite well recognised, apparently Ju Ceasar bathed there to heal a herpes infection (yuk) and ordinary Romans went to cure themselves of scabies ( double yuk). I’m sure 2000 years is enough to flush the water! I can’t confirm the healing power of this beautiful place but I do know there are very few tourist spots in the world that compare for history, ambience and it is free ( for now anyway). I must say that I felt pretty darn good when I finally got out and sat in the sun. On the day we were there a local was even playing a handmade flute, so if I closed my eyes I could actually imagine I was back in Roman times, obviously I wasn’t a plebeian but rather a patrician (not explaining you have to look that up).

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The really amazing thing about this unique spot is that it is virtually unknown, I’m not saying that when you go the you have the place to yourself. However, when you consider the crowds of holiday makers visiting Spanish beaches in August the fact that for the majority of time we only had to share the pool with a maximum of ten people and that wasn’t the whole time. There were more people wandering around but not swimming. Even a search of the Internet reveals very little information and if you have forgot the name it is even harder to find.

With a stream constantly filling the baths another stream must run out, this water meets a small creek about fifty metres away. The limestone rocks it is exposed to before it gets the creek has an interesting effect on the water. The once crystal clear blue water suddenly becomes a milky blue. This is not unpleasant but just interesting. A walk further down the creek reveals another relic of the past. A small Roman bridge over the creek, as picture perfect as could be.

 

This is a special place in the world and I hope it remains so. As we were leaving a backhoe arrived and begins clearing reeds turning the water in the small waterway running out of the baths muddy brown. I am reliably informed that large roughly sawn block of stone were neatly placed on the sides to avoid erosion so I am sure the water has now returned to its original clarity.

Other than the baths I honestly couldn’t say that I would consciously plan to return to the Costa Del Sol. A playground for the English in particular it may be and I haven’t disliked my stay but it just didn’t stand out for me, with the exception of the Hedionda Banos! However, always a swimmer the fact I could swim in the Mediterranean Sea without a single fear of sharks, not that it stops me at home but you are always conscious that they are there, was a nice thing.

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I nearly forgot, we found the best homemade Tapas at a small bar attached to an Italian restaurant callrd Pavarotti ‘s on the water front at San Luis De Sabinillas. Tapas can be hit and miss it’s designed to be nibbles with drinks. Accordingly it can be as simple as a piece of cheese or a bowl of olives with you drink but it can also be taste test of main meals. AT Pavaottis it was the later and at €1 a plate it was a bargain, epspecially when a glass of red is only €2.

The only other advantage of staying in this area is the proximity to Gibraltar and therefore Africa. It is so close, twenty five kilometres to be exact which means you can have a day trip to Morocco. The return ferry only costs €67 but as most of Spain, United Kingdom and the rest of Europe are on holidays you need to book in advance, which I didn’t do and that’s all I am going to say about that!

Tips

  •  Don’t go on holidays to the Costa Del Sol in July or Augus
  • If you do, make sure you book a return ferry to Morocco at the same time you book accommodation.

 

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It’s Twistn’ Time, Twisting By The Pool That Is!

Finally my time in Huelva Province has come to an end and I am on the road again, not that I am sad to be moving on but having spent over two months in this relatively peaceful backwater, it is not with out some melancholy and sense of fondness. The two hundred and forty seven kilometre journey to San Pedro De Alcantara takes me from the far western edge of Andalusia to the most Eastern side, the playground for most of Northern Europe, especially Britain. In Australia we have the Gold Coast, the US has Miami but Spain has the Costa Del Sol.

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The road from Sevilla onwards takes a steadily climbing path to the Serrania De Ronda mountain range. Dotted here and there amongst the fields are the remains of castles and fortresses, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly we humans become jaded to the point of being dismissive of something truly magical when there is abundance. I can be just as guilty of this flaw.

Having never planned to come to Spain (that’s a whole other story) I hadn’t done a lot of research about the country. So the fact we were now heading into a mountain range that extends to the coast and  whose higher peaks quite obviously experience at least a smattering of snow in winter, was a total surprise. The mountains themselves are sharp and jagged with a sparse covering of vegetation while the valleys and lower slopes are dotted with the now familiar “Pueblos Blancos” or  white villages.

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Our first stop on the trip was a small village of Sentenil De La Bodegas. Built on a valley floor, it is famous for the house that are built under overhanging cliffs. Having experienced an Andalucian summer I totally understand the genius of this building method, just not so sure about winter but then I suppose there is always a cozy fire to sit by.

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We arrived at Sentenil via a narrow country road that wound its way through quaint fincas filled with olive groves and black pigs that feast on acorns, whose meat Spanish farmers cure to produce the famous Spanish Hamon. So quiet and idyllic the journey I was unprepared for what awaited us. Being a little insulated in Huelva from the influx of tourist to Spain at this time of the year it was a steep learning curve when we arrived in Sentenil. Parking in every village in Spain is difficult on a normal day, the narrow streets were never meant for the 21st century. The fact that it is summer, only about fifty kilometres from one of the biggest tourist destinations in Europe and a Sunday made it impossible, so we parked at the entrance to the village and walked down the hill. I really shouldn’t have had the second drink with lunch cause the trip back up wasn’t pretty!

Under the overhanging rocks the temperature drops dramatically, a great protection in the August sun. The actual name of the village comes from a Castillian word meaning “seven times” and refers to the fact that it took  the Catholic Spanish seven sieges to defeat the Moors and capture the village, the cliffs being so effective as a defence.

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The dramatic mountains of this range are matched by one village in particular, Ronda, the home of modern bull fighting in Spain. Precariously perched on top of a narrow ravine, the houses appear to be teetering on the edge. This is also a Mecca for tourists and any thought that you may be able to experience the glorious vistas should be dispelled, “it just ain’t gonna happen my friend”.

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The “New Bridge” at Ronda spans the El Tajo canyon and is the draw card for most of the tourists. It is very impressive from which ever angle you look and definitely worth the trip. However, I am reliably informed that the rest of the year is nearly devoid of sightseers and with many better photo ops.  Ronda too has a Moorish background and suffered greatly during the Spanish Inquisition. Interestly, to escape the persecution many Arabs escaped to the Huelva area and began new lives there.

Like most mountain towns the air in Ronda is clear and I can imagine crisp in winter, though not quite so in August. There are many amazing restaurants that sit on the edge of the gorge but unlike other tourist destinations are very reasonably priced.

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Taking the main road once again we continue rising up into the Siera as it winds around the mountain sides before the decent down to the coast.  I was struck by just how close the mountains are to the sea, with a clear view of the Rock of Gibralter and Jebel Musa, a mountain in Morroco. The closeness to sea reminds me very much of the kiakoura on New Zealand’s South Island but that is where the similarity ends.

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The Rock of Gibralter with Jebel Musa, Morocco to the left.

The Costa Del Sol is Australias Gold Coast, Miami in the United State or any of the other amazing beach destinations around the world that have been loved, in many ways, almost to death. Not that it is unpleasant, just filled with resorts, housing estates and shops for kilometre upon kilometre but the Mediterranean is blue and it has no sharks so I am looking forward to that.

So in the words of the inimitable Mark Knoffler  in “Twisting by the Pool”

We’re going on a holiday now
Gonna take a villa, a small chalet
On the Costa del Magnifico.       (That’s code for Costa del sol)
Where the cost of living is so low
Yeah, we’re gonna be so neat
Dance to the Eurobeat
Yeah, we’re gonna be so cool
Twisting by the pool

See ya next week.

 

 

 

 

 

Step out of Your Comfort Zone and feel Alive

Learning to drive  a car for most people comes during teenage years and offers your first taste of freedom from parental constraints. I however didn’t get my licence till I was thirty two! Living in a coastal village it was easy to get myself around town on my bicycle; work, shops, beach, everywhere. Friends still remind me of the massive amount of grocery bags that could often be seen dangling from the handle bars.

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Even when my children were born I still had no motivation to get my licence. “Why do I need it, I can walk with the pram, it’s good excersise,” I told myself. Not until we moved to a rural property did it quickly became apparent that me getting my licence was indeed a necessity.  Now many years later and thousand of kilometres of driving under my belt it is unthinkable for me to imagine living in a world without my licence.

Then I came to Spain two months ago and couldn’t possibly imagined driving around the countryside. As I’m sure most are aware, like the Americas, European countries (except the United Kingdom) all drive on the right hand side of the road and therefore so does Spain. For those of us that learnt to drive in the 30% of countries that do so on the left, the thought of even attempting to make the switch is inconceivable.  I even get confused when  I am asked to give directions, I inevitably choose right when I mean left and visa versa. The thought of me hurtling down a Spanish motorway at 120 km an hour was never on the cards, but then the weather got hot!

When I say hot I mean baking oven, burnt to a crisp, hard to breath and not only did my friends husband have to work but my friend had answered a question wrong when renewing her Australian licence online. The Australian government, ever scarred of fraudsters and illegal immigrants, doesn’t give you any chances and refused to allow my friend to complete her renewal online. This left us unable to go for a swim without Victor. In an act of extreme desperation Selena asks me about five weeks ago if I wanted to drive. I thought she was joking at first but she was deadly serious. I was quite impressed with her courage I must say but the fact the beach is actual only ten minutes, four right hand turns and one left hand away might have had something to do with it.  My confidence however, was not so easily strengthened.

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Which brings me back to the reasons I didn’t drive till I was thirty two, basically I was scarred. I know I said all that other stuff about not being necessary etc, but the honest ” face yourself in the mirror” truth be told was; I was scarred. When I first turned out of our street on the road that took us Mazagon I felt like I did in those days when I was learning to drive. Nothing is natural, you have to be reminding yourself constantly of what you should be doing. I even developed my own mantra, ” keep Selena in the gutter” which translates ” the passenger is alway on the right”.  It felt like the car was driving you not the other way around.

After a relatively short time I ventured further a field, Zara, Sfera and many other Spanish clothing brands decided it was time for sales and we weren’t missing out on that. Then a couple of weeks ago we drove to Sevilla (about an hour away) to visit yet another group of Roman ruins. This time I had to travel on the motorway, which I would like to point out has a speed limit of one hundred and twenty kilometres an hour, ten kilometres faster than  Australia. Since that day driving on the right has suddenly become second nature and I am pretty chuffed with myself.

I even drove a friends car in Portugal, which has a very old, narrow and poorly maintained road system, when the friend I was with wasn’t feeling well. The fact she quickly recovered after I took the wheel could’ve had something to do with the fact I have a heavy lead foot and she suddenly realised that I had only been driving on the right for a matter of weeks.

When I chose to take this Solo holiday  I did so for a variety of reason, one in particular was the opportunity to put myself into uncomfortable situations and find answers. Truly driving on the right hand side of the road was one of those situations for me and surprise surprise, I found I could not only do it but do it comfortably. The thing about human nature is that it is easy just living our life in our usual routine and we have a measure of happiness. However, if we choose to push ourself, step outside the everyday, suddenly you feel alive. Each little achievement makes the blood flow and gives you confidence.image

That was my pep talk for the week, now for Portugal. To say Portugal is special is an understatement. I have been across the border a few times during my stay in Palos and noticed that inspite of the similarities with Spain it is also quite different. This trip took me a little further along the south coast to the exquisite Praia de Marinha. This section of the coast and hinterland is called the Algave. It features not only amazing beaches but the remains of lairs of Portuguese smugglers and pirates from a world long disappeared. These bandits notoriously laid in wait for Spanish galleons returning from American, laden with gold and other cargo

Southern Portugal has many resorts  for Northern Europeans but if you venture beyond this artificial world you find the rustic lifestyles of the people is still very authentic and simplistic. My only regret is I didn’t find any surf to photograph for my son and friends but that is further round on the west coast.  I really only scratched the surface of that beautiful country and what I saw I loved, this is definitely a return destination!

Tips

  •  Never leave your home country without an international licence – you just don’t  know when you will need it.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, you just might surprise yourself!
  • Try Portuguese flame grilled Tuna- it’s like no Tuna steak you have ever tried before!

 

Being a Mum Can Be Bad For Your Health

The woman in front of me looked stressed, her eyes glanced from the pile of eighty five gram tins of tuna she had piled onto  the conveyor belt, past me to grocery aisle behind us. She was careful not to look me in the eye, as is if there was some unknown shame she was trying to hide. Along with the tuna there were other tell tale signs, a three litre container of milk, a twelve pack of jam filled donuts attractively package in a cellophane covered white cardboard box and a jar of no name peanut butter, this woman was a mother.

Now, let me tell you, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I too am a mum.  Her face told the whole story, it was nearly five o’clock, she was still at the shops and she hadn’t prepared tea. Oh the panic attack of it all. I remember those days, the anxiety I suffered if I was still at the shops at that time was intense. As mothers we often placed huge expectations on ourselves. If we don’t get it right our kids will be failures. If we’re late for one dinner everything will come tumbling down. Aaarrgh!

“Have you forgotten something, do you want to go a and get it, I can wait?” I could see her mind ticking off all the things she should have grabbed. It was no skin off my nose I had all the time in the world. I live alone, my children have grown and left home.  What’s more I am finally cured of  that awful panic, but it took a long time.

“No that’s okay, it can wait” she said but her eyes still held that haunted look.

“Your worried about getting home aren’t you?” I couldn’t help myself.

“yes” she said hesitantly, embarrassed at the thought that her  secret was revealed.

“I know that look, your worried that the kids are at home and nothing is done? I remember feeling the same way” As soon as I spoke I could see her physically relax, amazed that someone knew how she felt.

In nursing homes they have a term for dementia patients who go a bit loopy at the end of the day. They call them sundowners. The funny thing is it is often women and it happens at that time of the day when everything gets crazy, kids come home, your trying to cook, there’s homework and fighting, very busy. Those poor old women are probably suffering post traumatic stress syndrome simply because they to were mothers.

I turned to this mum and told her the best advice I could give her.

“I have one thing to tell you, don’t stress, they will survive. If they have to have a can of tuna and a glass of milk for tea, it’s not going to kill them. Just don’t stress.”

First Sign of Ageing – Jimmy Barnes doing a Telsta Ad

Horror of horrors on the TV, Jimmy Barnes doing an ad for Telstra. I mean Jimmy Barnes – What Was He Thinking and do you know what the worst thing is, it makes me feel really old and I don’t like that at all. It’s just not rock n’ roll is it?

Where is his cheap wine and a three day growth? Maybe that’s the problem, the wine wasn’t that cheap anymore and manscaping costs a lot to accomplish these days. Why do these figures of our youth keep letting us down? When did he become respectable? Next he’ll be doing an album of classics with slick back hair and a tuxedo – Whoops he already did that.

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The days of me sitting on a huge speak beside the stage at a Cold Chisel concert may be long gone, but I don’t need to be reminded like this. What can I say it is just cruel!

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