Week 490

Sunday, 13th May, 2018

Sunday – a day of rest and we are not going to the gym today. Newspapers, football, Formula 1 and correspondence. The temperature has been quite warm – 16C/61F – and weakly sunny.

Junk Stone Mail

I don’t know if I have ever written about this before but I am an addict for mail – snail or e. I love it. If I hear mail coming through the letterbox, I am the first to get it. Pauline knows that I must be allowed to open the mail whoever it is addressed to. I make no distinction between significant and junk mail. Mail is mail! Equally, I don’t ‘unsubscribe’ from junk email. I like to browse and delete. I hate the idea of missing out. For that reason, as you can imagine, Sunday is not my favourite day because there is no post. Until today.

Today, I discovered that we had received ‘junk’ mail of the most unusual kind. Outside the door on the garden path was a stone collected from the beach. It had been written on with an inscription that said:

Made to make a stranger smile. Hope it worked.

Love from Helen Joy from Empower Hypnotherapy.

Of course it didn’t work. I don’t need or have interest in Psychco-babble of any sort but it does amuse me greatly. I even bothered to check this out on the internet and found it here – Empower Hypnotherapy. It’s obviously gibberish but good luck to those who pay for it.

Monday, 14th May, 2018

Nice, sunny and warm Monday. Put the bins out. Cut the lawns. Set up the automatic watering system. We are off to Gatwick in the early hours of Tuesday morning so Pauline has been ironing and packing.

EasyJet – We’ll be the judge of that!

We’ve done ‘Check-in’ on line as well as download our ‘Boarding Passes’ to our phones. I must admit that I always like to have a hard copy printed out and in my bag just in case. We fly at 9.00 am so our drive to the airport is an uncomfortable time of 5.00 am.. We will drop off our bags and head for a Lounge (My Lounge or No1 Lounge) at North Terminal to wait for our flight. Our seats are pre-booked each way so nothing has been left to chance. We’ve got ‘speedy boarding’ and  ‘extra legroom’. Now we have to weigh our cases to ensure neither exceeds the 15kgs. We are taking our exercise clothes as well as everything else but it should be straight forward. We’ll probably be in bed by 10.00 tonight so we get about 6hrs sleep. At our age, we don’t adapt to early starts as well as we used to.

Tuesday, 15th May, 2018

Up at 3.00 am and out at 4.30 am on the most glorious morning one could imagine. The sun was rising in a mild and red tinted sky. We drove to Gatwick North Terminal Long Stay Car Park. Even at 5.30 in the morning, the carpark bus was packed with prospective travellers. Everything is automatic in the airport. We had chosen our seats and checked in on line. We went to automatic bag drops, printed out and attached our own luggage labels, went through passport control and into the Aspire Airport Lounge. Orange Juice and coffee but not too much. I never use aircraft toilets!

5* Valencia Palace Hotel
We’ve chosen a really good hotel.

Down to Gate. I have to say that EasyJet have hit a sweet spot over the past couple of years. We took one of the first ever EasyJet  flights from Athens in the 1990s. It was thought of as cheap and unreliable.  We used to rely on British Airways and Olympic Airways in those days. Now, British Airways  feels rather tawdry for short haul and our experiences of EasyJet flights has been well priced, efficient, on-time and comfortable. It is great not to be badgered with airline food nowadays, isn’t it?

The  app on my phone contains my Boarding Pass, tells me which Gate to go down to, whether we are on time or, as recently, early. It tells me which baggage carousel to collect my cases from when I arrive, where to get a taxi from and what’s worth seeing at my destination. I would really recommend it.

Taxi from the airport – just €25.00 for a 15 km trip through the centre of Valencia. It was a fascinating introduction. Our hotel is opposite the Orchestral Centre and the separate and architecturally delightful Opera House in the huge and beautiful park. Throughout the park and throughout the day, young and old walk, jog, run, bike, do outdoor gym work on public equipment in the open air. We were there on a Tuesday evening as hundreds trooped out of the latest Beethoven Recital – training for the mind and emotions as all around others trained their bodies, This is a place of wonderful, modern architecture created for people and their lives now.

Wednesday, 16th May, 2018

A hot and sunny morning. After Breakfast, we set off walking across the city to the Central Market. Why don’t we have a market like this. Every fish known to man is on display at reasonable prices. Scores of butchers, Vegetable sellers, Nuts and Olives, Dried Pulses, everything we love is available here. Some people eat to live and others live to eat. We are most definitely the latter.

Food production, markets and cooking tell one so much about a culture. It provides endless fascination. Of course, those who eat to live see it as a mechanical process reduced to calories and nutrients but come to Valencia and see the excited crowds vying for air-cured hams and beef, for loins of fresh tuna, for myriad choices of olives and olive oils , for herbs in huge bunches, for the most amazing, local tomatoes looking more like star fruit.

Back to the hotel after it seemed like we had been walking all day. Now for a swim. The roof top pool is enclosed during the ‘winter’ with a removable glass roof. We had been amused to see Valencians walking around in jumpers and heavy coats in spite of a temperature of 26C/79F under clear blue skies and scorching sun. I’ve heard of “Ne’re cast a clout til Spring is out” but that’s ridiculous. Well, in the hotel pool, it is still winter and the glass roof remained on meaning a humidity to blow your head off.

Even so, we did a good 30 mins swim. We had the pool to ourselves which was nice. After that, we went up to the roof garden and sat in the sun with a bottle of wine and some olives once again on our own in peace and quiet. We are in the city but undisturbed by roaring traffic and noisy crowds. That is just how we like it.

Thursday, 17th May, 2018

No real sign of fishing in this fish-mad city.

Up for what is only the second breakfast this week and already we are begging for mercy. How do people cope with breakfast every day? Anyway, we force ourselves and then start a long walk in hot sun down to the port and the beach. Actually, it was a fascinating 40 mins walk past schools, supermarkets, restaurants, greengrocers, estate agents etc.. We had to stop and look in many places and even tour round a couple of supermarkets to see what produce looked good. Food is so important in life. You will all remember the famous Oscar Wilde observation: After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.

Valencia parks are beautiful.

We stopped at the port for a drink and a rest before walking back to our hotel for a swim. Actually, while we were there, we got in to a conversation with a Scottish couple and watched three, Valencia teachers working their socks off trying to control about 40, Junior School kids on an outing round the port on a boat. Rather them than me. I’d be amazed if one of those kids didn’t end up in the water even if it was just me pushing them in.The morning’s outing had accrued 13,000 paces without feeling arduous at all. This is such a people-friendly place with such soft and gentle planning that walking is a delightful, leisure exercise.

Our last night. Tonight we are going out for Tapas and a walk in the warm air before packing for our return to Sussex tomorrow. It has been so enjoyable and absorbing that we have already pledged to return and spend longer next time. But there are so many places waiting to be explored. How will we fit them all in?

Friday, 18th May, 2018

Valencia (Manises) Airport

Up early and down to BREAKFAST. I can’t take any more FOOD! When we are leaving a place. however lovely, we don’t like to linger but get on and go. We settled our bill in Euros cash and went outside to get a taxi. A 30 mins drive to the airport cost just €15.00 and was delightful.

Valencia Airport is deceiving. From the outside it is, like all the others, a fairly conventional, concrete structure but inside it is delightful. Of course, it is helped by not being over used. It is, after all, only the 10th busiest airport in Spain. Having said that, it is very well appointed and slickly managed. It has the best Business Lounge – Sala Joan Olivert – we have been in and we have used a large number over the years. It looks as if it has been newly designed and furnished with USB charging points in the sides of all the chairs, fantastic wi-fi speeds and delicious free food and drink. We were there for about an hour reading our iPad papers when a message came in on the Easyjet app to say the plane would be about 15mins late arriving and expressing profuse apologies. It also informed us of a new Gate No. to go to for Boarding.

As we went down to Gate, I spotted someone I thought I knew but couldn’t place him. He was absorbed in his phone messages and I probably stared a bit too long trying to place him. Suddenly, I realised where I knew him from. We watch Saturday Kitchen on television and Matt Tebutt has replaced James Martin as presenter. This was Matt Tebutt with a small Research/Production team. He also presents another programme which we are fascinated by – Food Unwrapped. I was amused that he was flying on an economy, Easyjet flight and I was just chatting to Pauline about it as we took our seats at the front of the plane. Who should sit down immediately behind us but Matt Tebutt and his party.

The flight was fantastic and the journey so short. We have spent most of our adult lives doing interminably long ‘short haul’ flights to Greece, Cyprus and the Canaries. Our early flights to Greece in the 1980s were all over 4hrs long. It felt like forever. This flight was just under 2hrs and it was a dream. I even had the energy to photograph the snow on the Pyrenees as we passed over. The world is a wonderful place from above it. You suddenly realise how lucky birds are.

Back on terra firma, our bags came out together and very early and we were off to get the bus to the Long Stay carpark. Just as it was about to leave for its circuitous journey, a panicking woman leapt on and told the driver she had left her passport in her car and had to get there and back in 20 mins before her flight closed. In spite of looking totally bored with his repetitive route, the driver was fantastic and he leapt into action as well as arranging another to follow him and take the woman back to airport terminal with her passport. Ordinary people can be so impressive sometimes.

Saturday, 19th May, 2018

Up early and out without BREAKFAST. What a relief! We had to do our weekly shop at Sainsbury’s and Tesco. In warm sunshine, shopping can be a delight. The supermarkets were surprisingly quiet at 9.30 in the morning. We zipped round and go home to find television was being dominated by a royal wedding.

What is wrong with these people? How can poor, struggling people lose their hardships by sublimating them into the idolising of a group of people who will never know their struggles or sense of deprivation. I understand the establishment encouraging this ‘bread & circuses’ approach to bolster their own position but why do the disenfranchised fall for it? To people like me of a vehemently anti-monarchy, pro-republican persuasion, the whole thing is incomprehensible. It leaves one thinking, as royalty are fawned over by the impoverished classes, that they get what they deserve. However, I am not defeatist and care to dream of a better future.

Village Humps

We live on the edge of what once was a small village. It is expanding rapidly and exponentially. With expansion come people and cars. The clogged up roads are becoming a big, political issue in our local politics. Traffic-calming measures since before we arrived have included chicane-type barriers to allow flow control but the increased pressure of cars has made these pinch points a serious area of frustration. After endless debate, the chicanes have been taken out and replaced by speed bump/humps that fit in to a 20mph – 30mph limit through the village. It has taken weeks of upheaval but is finally finished. Of course, many are still complaining. That’s villages for you!

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