|Dinner at Nou Manolin in Alicante to celebrate our 33rd anniversary on Sunday|
It is actually Monday 22nd August and I am writing this week's post at the crack of dawn. Whilst everyone is asleep I am sitting in our lounge at the flat in Santa Pola with my cup of coffee and waiting for sunlight.
On Sunday morning we were up early to enjoy the beach before the crowds came. We were down there by 8.45 and it was empty which is how we like it best. That day the waves were very strong and the red flag was flying which is most unusual here.
|Eladio on the empty beach last Sunday|
A lady called Gail had written to me about my Aunty Masha, my Mother's youngest sister who is buried in nearby Alfaz del Pi and who died in 2008, the last of the family saga. She told me her granddaughter aged 4 had died of cancer the day after my Aunt of and that she was buried just beneath her dressed in princess clothes. She went on to say that she had searched for information on my Aunt and had read my blog where she discovered she was a real Princess (Her Serene Highness) which pleased her a lot as the child was now together with one. This must have been the entry in my blog that she read. You can read it here to know more about my fascinating Aunt.
She also told me that she now puts flowers on my Aunt's grave. Imagine! How lovely. Of course I wrote back immediately. Thank you Gail for writing and for this gesture.
|My beautiful Aunty Masha, my Mother's youngest sister (Her Serene Highness Maria Andreivina Lieven. Just after she escaped from Bulgaria - Paris 1959.|
I had no idea what it meant, looked it up and found "Her Serene Highness". He explained that it is the title next down from HRH! Fancy that. It seems to be used in Germany, the Baltic Countries and Russia. It was an extraordinary conversation and this man, I know, will help me when I finally write that book about my Mother and her family. He also wrote to me about our most famous ancestor, Princess Dorothea Lieven. She was not actually a Lieven but married one. and thus became a Russian princess. She was the wife of the Russian ambassador in London and had much political influence at the time. According to The Telegraph in a recent article "she slept her way to the top".
|Princess Dorothea Lieven, our most famous ancestor, painted by the British artist Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1813|
|Aunty Gloria, my beloved Father's sister, who died in an air crash on 23rd May 1971 on a flight from London Gatwich to Rijeka (Croatia) together with all her family.|
I have written back of course and am keen to get Iva's reply if only to find out what really happened in the last minutes before the plane blew up upon landing that fatal day.
The last message was also about Aunty Gloria and her family. They lived and were buried in Ickenham, a small suburban town outside London near Ruislip and Uxbridge. A lady called Jenny who lives there wrote me this message:
A while ago I was searching on the web for the Orchard family as I have lived in Ickenham since I was 4 and vaguely remembered the tragedy that befell your family. There is a beautiful window in St. Giles Church dedicated to them.
Of course I know they are buried there and I remember the church vividly which played such an important part in the life of Aunty Gloria and her family. After all her Father, my Grandfather, Canon John Lloyd was a vicar. But I didn't know there was a stained glass window dedicated to them. I wrote back and Jenny kindly said she would take a picture of it and send it to me.
|St. Giles Church Ickenham where Aunty Gloria, Uncle Derek and my cousins Jacqueline, Michael and Antony are buried|
The messages touched my heart enormously. But of course life went on. It was our anniversary and I had booked a table for dinner at Alicante's most famous restaurant, Nou Manolin. We decided to go early and enjoy a walk on the Explanada on the sea front before going for dinner.
|By the replica of the Santisima Trinidad ship which fought in the battle of Trafalgar. Alicante port|
|The port of Alicante|
|Eladio, Dolores and Toño on the Explanada in Alicante on Sunday night last|
|The brass band playing on the Explanada in Alicante last Sunday|
At the end of the Explanada comes Alicante's most famous and oldest park, the Canovás Park (a famous Spanish politician) where there are some amazing ficus trees with endless roots and branches.
|The Canovas park in Alicante with its amazing giant ficus trees|
|The man blowing giant soap bubbles in Canovas park in Alicante|
|Toño catching one of the bubbles|
|Dinner at Nou Manolin in Alicante last Sunday|
|Kiosko Peret on the Explanada in Alicante the most famous ice cream parlour in the area.|
|Ice creams at Peret in Alicante on Sunday night.|
On Monday morning I was up incredibly early at 6 a.m. It is a time I love, time to begin the day on my own with a big mug of good coffee with foamed milk. As always I read the news with my coffee and I was delighted to hear Spain had garnered 3 more medals on the last day of the Olympics in Rio which was on Sunday. They got a total of 17 but most importantly 7 of them were gold; 2 of them by women in what are considered the kings of sport; athletics and swimming. It was perhaps Spain's greatest performance at the Olympics since they were held in Barcelona in 1992.
|Spain's women's rhythmic gimnastics team who got the silver medal|
|Toño and Dolores with their 2 small children on the beach in Benidorm in July 1980|
|Eladio and I - the first photo of us together in July 1980 in Guadalest. I was 23 and he was a 35 year old Spanish Catholic priest|
We left at 10.30, having waited for the annual plumber visit to sort out the water problem here. He did the best he could; the problem being the scale in the plumbing of the whole block of flats. Our first stop would be in Callosa. To get there we went on the road from Benidorm to Callosa passing many well known places from my teenage years in Spain. Particularly lovely is the view of Polop from the road. Eladio stopped for me to take this great picture.
|Polop de la Marina, breathtakingly beautiful view from the mountain road|
We reached Callosa, that small town of my youth where I first came when I was just 15 in 1973, There's nothing special about the town but it has so many memories for me; I consider it a part of me.
Before visiting my parents' house in Calle de las Flores, we stopped at the Jijonenca Ice cream parlour which serves the best horchata "(milkly looking cold drink made from tiger nuts) in the world. It also makes the best turrón ice cream I have ever tried.
|Horchata from La Jijonenca in Callosa|
Here I am outside it for old time's sake.
|Outside La Jijonenca ice cream parlour|
It was a quick walk to my parents' old house, past familiar streets and the old bakery where we would buy bread every day.
|Calle de las Flores. Our old house was number 3, the second on the left going up.|
|Sitting outside our old house in Callosa|
From the old house we carried on down the main street to see one of the town's most interesting landmarks, the old washing house. It was built in 1934. We used to go and sing there at night and during the day women really did do their washing; no longer so of course.
|The old washing house in Callosa which has been lovingly restored.|
|View from the road from Callosa to Guadalest|
|The 4 of us at Guadalest|
|The view from the top of the small village of Guadalest|
Algar, or rather Las Fuentes de Algar (the fountains or really waterfalls of Algar), is an emazing gorge with waterfalls at the top in between Callosa and Bolulla. Today it is very commercial and exploited but when we first came in 1972 it was only really used by the locals. George, Sasha and I couldn't afford to pay the swimming pool entrance fee at Casa Marcos, so would head for the natural swimming pools among the rocks by the main waterfall where the water is freezing cold. But times have changed and instead of walking in the heat, we came in a BMW and went for lunch; unthinkable there. We always go to Don Juan which serves some great rice dishes. Our favourite is "arroz a banda", similar to paella but with no seafood to shell. This was the arroz a banda we had there on Monday.
|Arroz a banda at Don Juan in Algar on Monday|
|The swimming pool at Algar (Don Juan)|
The most spectacular part of the "fuentes" is the first big waterfall. This is where Eladio, Toño and I would enter first and it was a huge adventure as it always is.
|The big waterfall at Las Fuentes de Algar, we swum practically under it.|
We then walked up into the mountain to climb up to more natural pools and waterfalls. I read later that the water comes from the river in Bolulla and is much used in local irrigation of the fruit grown in the area.
|Bathing in one of the natural pools at Algar|
|Buying locally grown fruit from the Bolulla couple in Algar on Monday|
|The road that passes Bolulla. The entrance to my Aunt's flat in Calle Mayor number 10 is just past the tree in the photo.|
My favourite street is the one I call Calle de las Flores but it has another name which I think is Rincón Coco. Here Eladio and Toño are walking down it on our tour around the small village.
|Eladio and Toño coming down my favourite street in Bolulla|
I should also include here a tidbit of scandal. When I was 18 I fell in love with a young medical student from the village further up the road, Tárbena. He was very good looking then. His parents were dead against it as being English I would of course never have lived there. They made our relationship impossible and broke my heart in the process. Meanwhile they married him off to a young girl from Bolulla with a decent level of education to compensate for losing me. I heard the marriage didn't last but I wasn't surprised. Today he is the Mayor of Tárbena and when I googled him I was horrified at the image and very very happy I never married him hahaha. The girl serving us at dinner that night was a beautiful young Romanian. She had married a man from Tárbena so we had something in common. I told her of my failed first romance but of course she knows who the man is.
At 9 pm the fiesta procession was about to begin. How exciting and emotional to be there to be part of it and witness it too.
|The church in Bolulla is magnificent. It is from here that the procession starts with all the village joining|
|The procession in Bolulla on Sunday night|
The procession ended at the church with some sort of short mass which ended with the words and shouts of Viva España, Visca Bolulla. Toño, Dolores and Eladio told me the priest was from the Opus Dei. That maybe also explained the playing of the Spanish national anthem at the beginning and end of the procession.
Then it was time to mingle with the crowd and to talk to our friend and neighbour, Francisco, also known as "el sacristán". His Mother was called Elvira and always wore black. She would sit at her door by her house on my Aunt's street and would greet us every morning saying "¿vais a la playa?" (are you going to the beach?). At the time I knew no Spanish and only understood the word "playa" so we ended up calling her "playa" hahaha. When the girls were small and we stayed at my Aunt's house it was Francisco, an orange grower, who once took Eladio out to his orchard to pick oranges in his old tractor at the crack of dawn. He has always remembered and so have we. It was nice to see him again.
|Eladio and Francisco from Bolulla reunited after so many years|
What a day, so crammed full of memories and emotions. I went home still feeling nostalgic but happy we did that trip down memory lane once again. I keep going back there, like a criminal to the crime scene. No doubt we shall go again next year. I definitely want to to take part again in the haunting and magical nightly procession around this beautiful little village, the village of my heart. Goodbye Bolulla. See you again.
Tuesday was to be our last day in Santa Pola or rather the last morning as we would be leaving after lunch to drive home. You see on Thursday I would be travelling to London for the next stage of my August holidays.
We got the most out of the morning. We were down at the beach by 9.15
|Eladio setting up our beach equipment on our last morning in Santa Pola|
We stayed until 11.30 when the crowds began to arrive. Once home which is a few minutes' drive, we had a cup of coffee at the Antiu Xixona ice cream parlour opposite our flat. Then it was time for my last bathe at the pool.
|My last bathe at the pool on Tuesday morning|
|The view from the pool at Gran Alacant|
The drive takes 4 hours and we were home by 9 pm. Only the dogs greeted us as Salud and my Father were asleep in their beds. Pippa was over the moon with joy to see us (well mainly me), Norah cried and Elsa jumped up all over us. As always the best thing about coming home is sleeping in your own bed.
I was awake on Wednesday morning at 6.15 - my body clock is such a bore - I was appalled to read there had been an earthquake in central Italy.
The day was spent quietly. The dogs were delighted to be taken on their morning walk again and even at 9 in the morning it was already very hot. I had a nail appointment at 12 and whilst at Centro Oeste shopping centre bought some comfortable looking sneakers for walking in London. I would be flying to London on Thursday 25th August and would be home again on Wednesday 31st. Eladio, my Father and the dogs I'm sure would miss me.
It is now Wednesday evening and I have decided to publish this post mid week so as to write a separate one on my trip to London starting tomorrow. Thus I will be free of blog writing whilst spending time there. I intend to visit Ickenham to see my Aunty Gloria and her family's grave at the church there; St. Giles. I rang them this morning and they said they would open the church for me this Friday. That will be a very sad trip. But more about it in next week's story.
Meanwhile, all the best to you all and thanks so much for reading my blog. It means a lot to me,