Home is where the heart is… 18/6/2020

Who would have thought that we left Alicante and have now been back in the UK for two and a half weeks…. what a strange transition but Hattie is now back in her favourite place, in a field with lots of space to keep a healthy social distance from others…. !

After doing a final shop to ensure we had ample store cupboard food to get us through a couple of weeks worth of quarantine if necessary – family were on call for fresh food top ups! – we made sure everything was secure, did a last burst of cleaning …. and I managed to break the hinge on the bathroom cupboard door…. just what you need the day before you set off!  Thankfully we still had some wood filler (and time) to fix it again…. that’ll teach me to do the cleaning!

We set off from El Campello, Alicante at around 7:30am on Friday 29th May and despite the heat, had an excellent journey, arriving at Berriozar just after 5pm…. 9 hours driving and about 40 minutes worth of refuelling, driver change overs/pee stops and lunch!

After a warm welcome from the guy working at the garage, a quick refuel of both Diesel – the cheapest we have probably bought in about 30 years coming in at about 75 pence a litre – and LPG, we parked up at the Aire and found that we had it to ourselves… very unusual for a Friday night. It just goes to show that people were respecting the government advice in Spain and not travelling as much as they would normally have been… to a certain degree at least!

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Bit by bit the road soon filled up with locals who were tending to their allotments which was really nice to see,  the odd motorhome also came and used the service point, looked at us quizingly, waved and disappeared off again. We had a very quiet night on our own, filled out our French forms for travel and even cooked up a kedgeree once the temperature had started to cool down!

Day 2 and the alarms were set for 6:30 and it was a stunningly beautiful morning to drive down from the mountains and cross into France – it was even a lovely temperature until about 8:30am!

We were fully expecting delays at the border but were pleasantly surprised as we were greeted by 5 police per toll booth – they had set up the border control just after you pass through – and they reviewed the forms, asked a few questions and sent us on our way with a smile… bonus!

As we weren’t sure what the situation would be for travelling through France and we were covering long distances in a short time scale, we decided to stick to toll roads.  It was an expensive option – the whole journey from the border through to the tunnel cost 250 euros in tolls – but it was easy travelling, avoiding any diversions and town centres and there were very few cars on the roads.

It was nice to see the odd French motorhome travelling – which at the time were only allowed to travel within 100km of their home – and then surprisingly to find two motorhomes already parked up at the Aire we had chosen for our overnight stop.

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It was a lucky little find as we weren’t sure if we were going to be allowed to come off of the toll roads … even luckier as it only had three spaces – we squeezed in the middle! Located in Vouvray on the Loire which is just east of Tours (GPS n 47.409 e 0.796723).

With the temperature still up in the 30’s we opened everything up, baked some rolls for sandwiches, cooked dinner and settled down to a glass of wine and another quiet night.

Day 3 and we both woke even earlier than the last couple of days so decided to get up and get on the road … it was going to be a long day whichever way we look at it!

Once again it was a beautiful morning and we had managed to pass Le Mans by 8am as the roads were dead…. the additional beauty of travelling on a Sunday!

We had booked on the 18:30 eurotunnel train but by 8am I had changed it to the 17:30, then later in the morning I changed it again to 15:30 as we were making such good progress.  We actually got to the Eurotunnel at 13:40 and after a bit of a chug through passport control as they were going through a Polish van with a fine tooth comb, then a full look through the motorhome – inside and out – we were on the 14:20 train on our way to Folkestone.  It’s amazing how efficient they were – couldn’t fault the service at all.

After a quick stop at Tesco’s to refuel and being distracted by a plane landing at Heathrow – haven’t seen any in months! – we were parked up in the sunshine by 16:30 thinking about a beer and gin and tonic…. a long day but we couldn’t have asked for it to have gone more smoothly….

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It was lovely to wake to birdsong and a cooler temperature to what we have got used to over the past few weeks, although a little strange getting back into the rhythm of normality – the legs didn’t particularly want to go for a run on Monday morning having not really even walked for three days.

After breakfast, on Monday morning we walked over to Keith’s mums to pick up the car and found ourselves doing an impromptu supermarket visit and having a picnic on her front lawn – can’t beat a baguette, slab of cheddar and a pot of coleslaw – whilst waiting for the breakdown services to come out….. embarrassingly a flat battery but from the sound we thought it was the starter motor so didn’t even think about trying to jump start it!

It was all good though and my mum even got an impromptu visit as we decided to take the car for a little run … win, win!

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We haven’t eaten any meat for the last three months which hasn’t been specifically planned, just the food that we have cooked and fancied has been mostly vegetarian or vegan.  However knowing that we were coming back to the UK, we both fancied a good bacon buttie and oddly, we fell upon ‘Sausages’ and ‘Bacon’ whilst out for a walk! I think they must be someones pets so we held back, however it was very kind of Paul and Carly to bring us round some delicious smoked back bacon from the farm shop ….. just don’t tell the pigs!

We had been keeping ourselves to ourselves for a the first couple of weeks even though we weren’t required to quarantine but we were doing the supermarket shop. The first couple of visits to the supermarket were a little odd, just getting used to no face masks, gloves or handwash but it was good to see that most people kept their distance and respected each others space…. it was the ones with the masks who seemed to be the worst!

This last week we have started to see a few more people and found it really strange to actually be socialising with others after so long.  We even managed to have a BBQ in my brothers garden on Sunday as with my mum we were 6 – It was lovely!

It has been lovely to get back in time to make the most of some of the incredible seasonal fruit that we have in the UK…. in the last two weeks we have had Rhubarb from Keiths mums garden and we found some gooseberries in Waitrose – yum!

Cooking new things has been a little limited simply because we were working our way through the storecupboard and freezer bits that we bought and made in case of quarantine,  although we have managed to squeeze a few new recipes in as follows:-

Keith bought a new toy (Bamix) to replace the broken manual mixer and the old electric hand mixer we had which is amazingly quick and efficient.   So far it has been tried and tested on a few things, although todays expirement on whisking up chickpea meringues went a bit wrong… and the cooking was even more of a disaster – I think we may need to remove the oven and fridge for the clean up effort!

We have also found ourselves a new friend…. he is a little owl – yes, that is his name, but he is also only about 5 inches tall – and he seems to come visiting early evening.  The other day I managed to get a photo, although he was about 35m away hence it isn’t very good.  After which though he came closer to the motorhome and stood about 5m away looking in the door, went up on his tip toes, tilted his head a little … very cute!

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Coming Home…. 26/5/2020

Who’d have thought that we’d get to 47 days on the photo challenge?  I thought that I would have run out of ideas a while ago but I think we all did well, although I am afraid that we took our last photo yesterday…..I’ll have to think of something different in the future to keep amused!

Just to keep you in the loop the above are some of the photos that I have posted over the last couple of weeks – Clockwise from the top left, Strength, Clouds, Abstract and Eyes…

 

It is difficult to believe that we flew back to Spain from the UK to get back to Hattie over ten weeks ago. Who would have predicted the events that have taken place since then? Yet here we are, still in Spain with things slowly starting to open up again.

Our area of Alicante did eventually pass to Phase 1 last Monday (18th May), although many people are starting to push the boundaries that little bit further every day as they are beginning to tire from the rules and restrictions.  To be fair some of the rules are a little odd and allow for people to bend them if they are so inclined… you should only be going out to do exercise between 6-10am or 8-11pm, however you can go out at any point in the day to have a beer or coffee.  You are only allowed to walk a maximum of 1km from your house, yet if you want to go and meet a friend for a drink or lunch – you can travel anywhere within the province …and the list goes on!  They do seem to do be something right though as the numbers have dropped off both for new infections and deaths – let’s just hope it stays that way…. Keith thinks it is the temperature!

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With the transition to Phase 1, the Campsite/Area where we are staying opened up its doors to anyone from within the province last Monday. It was looking pretty quiet until Thursday with only a couple of additions however, we grew to 20 over the weekend – almost twice as many as normal – needless to say, most only stayed the weekend and we are now back down to 11 again!

The only other dramatic change is that people can now go and eat/drink on terraces which made me smile as on the first Monday morning, Valor Chocolate had opened its terrace on the sea front and there wasn’t any social distancing going on there… all the tables were full despite it supposedly being only 50% occupancy.

Spain has also introduced obligatory mask wearing in all public spaces where you can’t guarantee that you can stay 2 meters away from someone… including when doing exercise.  Well, that has changed our running route!  We have waved goodbye to the seafront for this year and will now just be running round the block which is far quieter and partially in the shade which is an added bonus! …. it’s quite a big block so not really a huge sacrifice.

All is good though and although it isn’t spring as we know it – we have been surrounded by the most beautiful purple blossom on the trees over the last few weeks….apparently Jacaranda (Thank you mum!)

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The aches and pains have started to die down following our initial runs outside and we are back to 80-90% of our distance now so hopefully it won’t be long before we are fully back to normal.

To ensure that I threw myself back into it fully – and just so I get used to the British weather – I opted to go out on a very wet, rainy morning a couple of weeks ago having completely forgotten what the roads are like round here for drainage.  Needless to say that it was pretty much like running in a river, I know that they are trail running trainers but I don’t think they have ever had the water over the top before!  Thankfully everything had fully dried out by about 4pm once the sun had come out!

Back at the beginning of lockdown we had tried to get hold of our Nut and Seed stall in the market in Alicante but they didn’t reply, however I tried again a couple of weeks ago and finally we have nuts….. and seeds!!  Delivered to the door at no additional cost on the same day – that’s service for you!

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We havent been cooking a huge amount of new recipes over the last couple of weeks but have been playing around a little with an old favourite ….Cheesecake to make it socially distancingly acceptable!

It was Carol’s birthday and I just didn’t think it was right to have one big one… especially if she wanted to blow out a candle!  The recipe works really well and only takes 16 minutes to cook!

Keith also found a recipe for a Vegan Curry Burger that he liked the look of from one of the professional footballers which he tried a few weeks ago.  The taste was good but the consistency was lacking to say the least and it wouldn’t have been something you would want to see on your plate. However, with a few changes and this time, he got the recipe sorted!

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and then there was a delicious Cabbage, Blue Cheese and walnut salad which we ate with flat bread…. very tasty

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And I have finally written up the recipe for the Veggie Lasagne I make… although to be fair I tend to just use the vegetables that are in season/we can find.  It is an old favourite and happened to be a rainy day so why not….

And now it is finally time to go home, back to the UK.  The weather is getting a little too warm for us here in Spain and we have found somewhere safe to stay so we booked our train last week and will be back by the end of the month. So our next blog will be from greener pastures and hopefully I will be able to find some seeded bread flour as I have pretty much run out now!

Up and Running….. almost – 9th May 2020

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After a long while waiting we certainly can’t complain about the weather…. or maybe we can as we are British and its done a U-Turn and been a bit too warm!  No, only joking – we had a couple of days of 30 degrees a week or so ago but now it has settled down to about 25 degrees during the day and 18 degrees overnight, which is do-oable with the windows open…. any warmer and sleeping is hard work even without too many mosquitos buzzing around!  On that note, you’ll be pleased to hear that there don’t appear to be too many – I am seriously hoping I don’t live to regret saying that – however, I have only inadvertently managed to squash one mosquito so far this year on the lovely white fluffy walls…. so that is twice in two years – not too bad I guess, although we definately need to work out where the magic spray comes from as if it takes blood out of white fleece, it can do anything!

Not a huge amount to report on over here over the last three weeks but the time does appear to be flying by despite us feeling like we aren’t doing a huge amount…. although we have nearly completed all the tax returns which a bit of a feat!  I have started to have strange dreams though, waking up one morning thinking that I was still doing my squats (just to be clear, I am talking about the exercise and it wasn’t a typo) in my sleep… must be something to do with the amount of time we have spent without going out much!

We have been keeping up the photo challenge and despite a handful of slightly more difficult days… including yesterdays VE Day photo (above), it is fair to say everyone is doing an amazing job and the photos are good fun!

A few of my photos from the last couple of weeks – going clockwise from top left Colour, Perspective, Spring Plants and Flowers, Black and white and Buttons – are as follows:-

The good news is that last weekend the Spanish government agreed to let people start doing a little exercise outside.  Inevitably, everyone has gone a bit crazy and are not only pushing the boundaries but also, a large percentage of people appear to have taken up running suddenly…. that’ll get the physios back on their feet again!

As much as the government had obviously tried to plan for everything (ahem) it really wasn’t a very good move to start the outdoor activity on a Saturday of a bank holiday weekend with Mothering Sunday when it was 30 degrees… we probably bore the brunt of it as we are by the beach but people were definitely not thinking about social distancing….. just getting on the beach and dipping their toes in the water!

So, unlike the UK,  Spain is allowing people to go out in age groups –

  • Between 14 and 70 years old are allowed to either do exercise (run, cycle, skate, surf, etc. but not swim) between 6-10am or 8-11pm. Alternatively you can walk but if you choose to walk, you can only go 1km from your home.
  • If you are 70+ or if you are high risk, you are allowed out to walk (no exercise) between 10-12am or 7-8pm – again only within 1km of home.
  • Children under 14 are allowed out with a parent and a toy … bike, scooter, etc.(up to 3 per parent…. children that is, not toys) within 1km of home for a maximum period of an hour.

As the week has gone on people have gone out earlier, stayed out longer, strayed further from home and generally you are seeing groups merge bit by bit.

I went for a run on the first morning and over cooked it…. not only because I hadn’t run for the 7 weeks of lockdown but also as I had been returning from injury before this all started, so 9km later although the adrenaline was running high, the calves were rock solid (forefoot running)…. I just got a little too excited about it all and paid the price as couldn’t walk or climb stairs easily for a few days….Ok, lets just say I am starting to get back to normal now… eight days later – that’ll teach me, I may start to increase the distance a little more slowly next week!

As our ‘time slot’ is a bit odd, we haven’t really been out apart from the odd run and the normal supermarket visit. The morning slot is when we do our exercise and by 8pm we are eating and chilling for the evening, so not much else has changed.

Spain’s easing off is in four phases and we had thought that we would be passing to the next phase this coming Monday (11th) – but alas no, they have obviously been hiding something from us.  The next phase would have meant that the Aire would have opened up again to Spaniards who live within the province to 50% capacity but still with the services remaining closed, terraces in local bars and restaurants would have been open up to 50% capacity, we could have met with up to 10 others for social activity and would have been able to travel slightly further afield to get food from shops and markets.  At least we can now see how the other areas deal with the little oddities – they still plan to keep the age groups and times but also open bars and restaurants…. so does that mean that you can only go within your allotted time slot, or is that in addition? Not one for us to worry about currently as it’ll be at least another week before we can progress forwards.  It doesn’t effect us much anyway as we don’t have any plans to go running to the local bar or restaurant, or meet up with groups of friends, although it would have been nice to go into Alicante market to buy some nuts and coffee beans!

We will keep up with our twice daily 45 minute walk by the motorhome, morning exercise – which hopefully will include running along the promenade a little further next week if my calf muscles allow it – and our supermarket trips, we are happy and don’t need anything more and are going to start stocking up on the wine in light of a potential homeward journey in the next few weeks.

As Keith pointed out to me, we are about to enter week 9 of lockdown which means that we flew back from the UK 8 weeks ago tomorrow, and not through any particular reason but just as it has occurred, we haven’t eaten any meat during this period.  It is fair to say that when we see a recipe or a photo for something meaty looking amazingly delicious we salivate, however we do the same for Vegan or Veggie food too – we both admit that we are looking forward to a good bacon butty though !!

So, apart from a mix of old recipes we have been cooking up a few new ones as follows:-

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  • Gigantes with Tomatoes and Kale– A bit like a quick stew although still full of flavour.  Goes really well with a bit of soda bread to mop up the sauce
  • Soda Bread– cooked on the pizza stones on the BBQ and it worked really well
  • Sticky Aubergine Fried Rice – one pot dish with loads of flavour…. got to love ginger and chilli though!

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Let’s see what Boris announces on tomorrow and whether we manage to progress from Phase 0 to Phase 1 next week…. keep smiling !

Day 35 of Lockdown… 18/4

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Well, time is flying by and it is probably pretty much time to start painting the forth bridge again! The rain is dirty and the wind is bringing lots of Moroccan dust with it so I think we are set for another round of deep cleaning next week when it looks like the weather may perk up a little!  It’s not that bad really, the rest of Spain has been suffering with torrential rain and flooding which on top of the restrictions must be really hard – we have just had a few slightly wetter days and should look on the positive side as it should mean that the reservoirs in Spain are filling up again… surprisingly they are still quite low despite the winter we have had!

The pollution levels are down and the wildlife are on line to take over the world again ….. its got to be a good thing, I can only hope that it will last when we finally get through this and things start going back to normal.  Many cities have announced schemes to implement more cycle routes to encourage people to cycle to work rather than use their car and hopefully now that a far larger number of organisations have seen how their workforce can work remotely effectively, they will let them do so which will also reduce the traffic on the roads going forwards.

As it has been difficult to get hold of certain foods and people haven’t been able to get out to restaurants or order quite as many takeaways – perhaps people will have started to cook a little more and be creative with the ingredients they can get, producing less wastage… despite the disgusting initial huge quantity in the first couple of weeks of lockdown in the UK. The question is whether as a nation we will be eating healthier after this or whether we will have surrounded ourselves with an extra ‘layer of comfort’ around the waist…

No surprises to most, we have been cooking even more than normal if that is at all possible – looking for new recipes to try.  It is fair to say that some have been more successful than others, but that is what its all about!

These last couple of weeks have seen a mixture of foods including the following new recipes

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We also decided to help Pilar – the lady who runs the site we are on – celebrate her 60th birthday.  Normally we would have gone out to celebrate but as we are in full lock down we thought it would be nice to give her something to take home and eat…she’s not a big cook but loves her food!

In good traditional British style we made her a big fish pie that she could heat in the oven and some baby Bakewell Tarts to go with a lovely bottle of Ribera del Duero wine…. I think it was a nice surprise! The bonus was that we got the big Bakewell that was ‘ahem’ a bi- product of the babies!!

Although the State of Alarm was extended for an additional 3 weeks and the ten days of ‘no non-essential work’ coming to an end following my last blog – nothing much else has changed here, the exercise routine is still the same and we are clocking up the miles by walking forwards and backwards next to the motorhome.  We won’t actually know how to walk in a straight line for more than about 5 meters once this is all over, although we will be experts at walking backwards!

The police were out in force over Easter along with Army support – I even got stopped in the supermarket car park and asked where I was coming from – I was so taken aback by the question I said I was going back home.   When they repeated the question and asked to see my proof of purchase – despite having a large, heavy rucksack on my back – I was a little surprised.  Thankfully they didn’t ask me to empty the rucksack out as they would have probably argued that 4 bottles of wine weren’t actually essential foods…. the rest of the fruit and veg obviously would have been!

The police and army presence over Easter weekend was in place to stop the Madrilanean community coming to the coast to visit their ‘holiday’ homes.  Despite the helicopters and roadblocks some still got through, although many were apparently given a large fine (something in the region of 1500 euro) and sent back to Madrid again.

So, although we are 35 days down we are hoping that there are only seven more days in the current state.  We are being optimistic and although we fully expect the government to extend the state of alarm past the 26th April, we are hoping that they will announce a slight change to the restrictions, possibly allowing people to go out on their own for a little bit of exercise.  We will however just have to wait and see and stick with our current routine for now!

For those of you haven’t seen, I have started a lockdown photo challenge for anyone who wants to join in – top of the page was the initial ‘Welcome’ photo, the above left is ‘Something beautiful from the Bathroom’ and above right, ‘Hardware’.  Each day I post a challenge on facebook and I have been enjoying seeing everyone’s photos…. as well as having to think up something from around our ‘home’ too to fit in.  If you want to join in, please feel free to do so – if we aren’t connected on facebook just drop me a note and I will add you.

I have also taken up my mothers challenge and started to do some writing again…. watch this space and I will see if I can pull together our travels through food into something that is worth publishing!  Just a message for my mother….. you possibly should have kept quiet as you are going to be first on the list for proof reading!

For the first time in a few weeks we lost another Dutch van today, and tomorrow our close friends Tedo and Yvonne (also Dutch) are heading home too…. although completely unconnected – so we will be just eleven sitting it out…. tick tock, tick tock…..

Stay safe and stay home…. we will get through this!

Settling in for the longhaul… Day 18 of lockdown – 1/4/2020

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?? not quite what would spring to mind at the moment but all the same the days do seem to be going really quickly – perhaps we are just getting old and slowing down, therefore each task we do takes eight times longer than normal….

So, the good news (I think) is that we are still here.  We are now 13 motorhomes (5 Dutch, 4 Brits, 1 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Italian and 1 Danish) as the last German left on Sunday morning at the crack of dawn (especially as the clocks went forward an hour).  Currently – or at least until the government changes it mind – we are all safe to stay for as long as we need, although we did have to sign a disclaimer to say that we took on all risk and costs associated with us staying here should we become ill…. lets just hope it doesn’t happen!

Spain has passed the 100,000 contracted cases and 9000 deaths – not good at all.  The majority of cases are still in Madrid, Cataluna and the Basque region but innevitably there are cases everywhere and it is obvious that many more than those recorded actually have the virus, so it is all about restricting movement and trying not to come into contact with others as much as possible.  Spain implemented its next level of lockdown from Sunday night at mid-night, restricting commuting to any un-essential work place.  It has named the specific roles that are allowed to continue and they are focussed around emergency services, food and pharmaceuticals – anything else has been put on hold until 9th April and the government has dictated that the employees will continue to get paid BUT, the employees MUST make up the lost hours within this calender year…. harsh!

You’ll be pleased to know that the supermarkets are pretty much back to normal now and you can find flour, tinned tomatoes, beans and pasta pretty much everywhere… and you rarely need to queue to go in either.  Everyone is just taking this in their stride and getting on as much as they can within the restrictions.

We are all continuing to applaud the amazing people who are keeping the counrty going and putting their lives at risk on a daily basis at 8pm – it is an amazing athmosphere even where we are which isn’t built up – people are out on their balconies clapping and whistling, emergency vehicles sound their sirens… a proper community feel.

The official song of the Covid-19 over here is ‘I will survive’ which is changed to  ‘Resistere’ (I will resist) in the Spanish version.  We have been enjoying the original version until today when they have obviously brought out a ‘charity’ update as a collaboration… not quite the same unfortunately….I guess the least of our problems!

Spain has been experiencing the strangest weather over the last few weeks, the 31st March was apparently the coldest day recorded for nearly 100 years and last week they said was one of three times in 100 years that Alicante has said 7 consecutive days of rain.  To be fair, it didn’t rain all day every day but we have now had another week on top of this with very similar weather and it is snowing in Madrid and up North… certainly wouldn’t want to be travelling back at the moment through the mountains.

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Just for those of you who are concerned about out sanity, we are keeping busy, Keith has started to do a bit of weeding and we have offered to paint the wall next to us if they can find the paint and tools – no sign yet but it has been raining alot!

We are keeping up with our exercise in the morning and a couple of 30 minute walks on the spot a day, and have now finished cleaning out the rest of the cupboards – both internal and external.  The only other casuality that we found was a can of tonic that had a hole and leaked.  Thankfully it was inside a plastic box with other cans of tonic… it just means that the rest of the cans are now rusty and I need to drink more gin to get through them – life is hard but it helps when focussing on playing the board games which have also started to come out the cupboard again.

Lots of cooking but only one new recipe this week which was a daring move – Short Crust Pastry.  Apparently the pastry that contributed to the UK’s best pie in 2017 (the pie in question was beef and stilton).  I was intrigued as the pastry didn’t contain egg so thought i’d give it a go on top of our Squash, Goats Cheese and Spinach pie and was pleasantly surprised…we will definately do it again although next time I will try it with the herbs.

This morning we were honoured to wake to it being dry which was unexpected so got out for a bit of a static run, joined by our local fan base of goats and sheep for breakfast – what more can you ask for?

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Day 9 of Lockdown ….. 24/3/2020

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Rather than wait another month, I thought I would give you an update on Spain and how isolation is going.  Until a couple of days ago I hadn’t realised that the Spanish isolation terms were even more vigorous than Italy… I had wondered why the numbers were still increasing at such a great rate.

We are both well and we are all adhering to the isolation rules – including Hattie! There are now 14 motorhomes left out of 64 so keeping your distance isn’t a problem and in fact our neighbour who was two spaces away from us has moved further down …. might well be something to do with the cough I have developed …. joke!

The weather has been less than Spanish over the last week, the worst of which has come today as it has been blowing up a gale and we have pretty much spent the whole day inside but we have managed to have the door open and spend a bit of time outside the rest of the week, albeit in jumpers!

Each day has been a learning curve and we are evolving our approach but trying to keep a routine to get the exercise in first thing in the morning to help kick the day off to a decent start.  We have started to try building in a bit of running on the spot to the exercises and also, later in the day – yes, I know it sounds strange – we go for a half an hour ‘Walk on the Spot’ together.  Well, you have to make things work for you within the limitations you have…. today, we have managed to do two walks in the motorhome whilst raining – all we need now is a fake dog and we’ll be well away!

We have also completely stopped going out 30m apart to the same supermarket as quite a lot of people have been stopped by the police. Instead one of us will go to one supermarket and another to a different one, or if there isn’t any shopping to do – throw out the recycling …. anything to get a little bit of fresh air and stretch the legs without being in contact with people.

It is interesting to see the different supermarket’s approach – Mercadona is our closest and pretty much every time either of us have been, it has been quiet and you can walk straight in and they have most of the produce, although today was an exception.  Consum has a one in one out policy and everyone must use hand sanitiser before they go in.   The queues go round the block but everyone waits patiently, 1m apart for their turn to go in and it is very well managed.

Then you have Carrefour which I haven’t quite worked out their policy yet as when I went the other day I had to queue for about 30 minutes and they then let 100+ people in at the same time which kind of defeated the object.  Keith said it was one in one out yesterday though so hopefully they have now got themselves sorted.

The good news is that stock levels are reasonably good.  At the beginning the supermarkets lacked store cupboard goods – flour, rice, pasta, tinned vegetables and tomatoes, beans, tissues, etc but these seem to be mostly back on the shelves now, although they may dip depending on delivery day as I am sure they are still trying to catch up with themselves.  Mercadona is a bit of an unknown as their stock levels seem to be lower than the other two and today was the worst I had seen for fruit, veg and yoghurts…. but we are doing fine and finding plenty of food to feed ourselves on!

We even tried out a new curry recipe yesterday, found on Jimmy and Jamies Friday night dinner from 2017 when they had Joanna Lumley in …. Aubergine Kuzi– a really nice change using ground almonds, tomato paste and yoghurt in the sauce rather than coconut milk/cream or tinned tomatoes.

We are taking advantage of the time that we have got and giving Hattie a good clean – each day another couple of cupboards or lockers are ticked off the list.  Keith has been doing most of the cleaning to be fair but I emptied out the under floor storage area yesterday which is where we keep most of our tins, wine and fruit and rather embarrassingly found an escaped satsuma…. or what was left of it.  It had obviously tried to jump ship to join the gin but hadn’t quite made it so was quite dehydrated!  Thankfully no damage done but just highlights we need to check and clean that storage area a little more often!

Dealing with the rumours/unknown has actually been the most difficult thing over the last week as you are constantly waiting for something to happen – we have both now stopped thinking about everything that is flying around unless it is on a government website and then we take a view.  The rumours of the police shutting off the facilities on sites were true however – we knew that they had already closed the toilets, showers and communal areas at several other sites close by but the police hadn’t been on site until Saturday when they cordoned off all communal facilities telling everyone that they had to stay on their own pitch…. sensible some may say but others still chose to ignore the instructions.

We had already decided to go back to using our own facilities a few days beforehand when we saw that the government had told all sites to close communal areas and it doesn’t cause us a problem as long as we can still fill up with water and get rid of our waste – which we can.

Unfortunately several people didn’t understand why this was necessary and were still trying to treat this like a holiday – needless to say most of these people have now left and gone home.

Life is restrictive but you can still keep happy and healthy, eating well and doing exercise.  Spain’s death rates from the Virus are still on the increase but we are only 9 days in to the lock down so I expect that we have a few more to go until the line starts to level off.  We are all in this together no matter where you are and all we can do is relax, do what they ask and remember that there are people in a far worse situation than us.  On the plus side, look at what this is doing to the environment and let’s hope that once we get through to the other side everyone will take note and make some changes to make the world we are living in a better place.

Last Wednesday we found out that the Spanish government planned to close all short term campsites, holiday accommodation and hotels as of 26th March at mid-night.  We have been told that we are considered a long term site as we are self sufficient and that they will be able to stay open – however, with everything that has gone on over the last couple of weeks we aren’t taking anything for granted and will wait to see if we get a knock on the door and are told to leave.

Happy isolation everyone and leave the loo roll on the shelves if you don’t need it!

Locking down…. 17/03/2020

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It’s been a busy few weeks since my last blog and how things have changed. We had planned on a couple of weekends back in the UK to celebrate birthdays and then back to Spain to stock up and head on our travels with Hattie to explore pastures anew, alas our adventures have been halted for a while – how long, we shall just have to wait and see….

We decided to book a quick weekend back to the UK to celebrate my mum’s birthday which was at the beginning of February, taking both mum’s out to a tea tasting and champagne afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason’s in London.

We were lucky with the weather as the three previous weekends had seen torrential rain and storms with huge delays and cancelled flights. The weather was actually pretty good for us, although as it was half term which we hadn’t appreciated – we had the French Air Traffic Control being on strike ….again!

Someone was definitely doing their best to try our patience as although we all managed to get in and out of London unscathed, most of the underground (and overground) either had major works and were closed, or had severe delays.  Even Green Park station shut due to over-crowding as we were walking towards it.  Needless to say it was a lovely day, the tea tasting which was ran by a very knowledgeable tea sommelier – yes, there is such a thing – was excellent – we all learnt a lot and the Champagne afternoon tea wasn’t too bad either. A lot of cake was eaten – maybe too much if there was such a thing!  Its nice to be able to do something different and spoil the mums every now and again…. although we don’t want them to get too used to it!

Whilst in the safety of my mums kitchen we tried out a recipe I have been looking at for quite a while but hadn’t wanted to risk doing it in the motorhome for the first attempt…. and I am glad I didn’t!

The Snake…. or apparently the real name is M’hanna  was a recipe from Jimmy and Jamie’s Friday night programme. Very impressive to look at and absolutely delicious – combining barley, squash, onion, garlic, apricots, dates and lots of other delicious things into a rolled up filo parcel.  Although it was very tasty, it was really messy and you need to work quickly as the pastry dries out – impossible to do unless you have about 2 meters of straight work surface…. so a big ‘no’ in the motorhome!  Although there may be an adaptation coming soon as a simple pie as the flavours were worth an attempt at a variation!

On a similar scale of impressive looking cooking – ha ha – I can’t claim any ‘impressive cooking’ – I also revisited the Salmon Monster which I haven’t done for a while – this one is motorhome friendly though!

Salmon fillet topped with spinach and a salmon and cream mousse encased in puff pastry – simple, delicious and always looks impressive!

In preparation for our departure on the 26th March we started to stock up on staples as we had run all of our stock down – obviously some kind of subliminal forsight, although we were down to our last two rolls of toilet roll which was potentially a bit of a disaster!  This did mean however that when the Spanish cleared the supermarkets out last weekend while we were in the UK things weren’t too bad for us on our return and as the Spanish dont eat much fruit and veg we are pretty sure we will be able to eat over the coming weeks!

We also recently decided to invest in a pressure cooker to help reduce the amount of time required to cook beans and experiment with other recipes.  We haven’t done a huge amount of pressure cooking yet but are looking for suggestions if anyone has any! So far we have cooked up quite a lot of chickpeas and black beans – as we use these mostly – and we also tried a new recipe for ‘Eat the Rainbow Black Bean Soup’ which is pretty good – definitely one to be repeated.

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We had planned this last trip back to the UK about five months ago as it was to celebrate Keiths’ birthday with his family.  With the flights and cottages booked we set off last Thursday morning (12th March) conscious that although it was looking like ‘lockdown’ was on the horizon we assumed we would be able to get to the UK and back by Monday (16th) before there were any restrictions… a little naive apparently.

The journey over to the UK went smoothly and we had a lovely meal out with my mum, brother and family on Thursday night at a great Italian in Old Amersham called Zaza – just in case anyone is in the area.

On Friday morning we then set off to do the shopping and down to the place we had hired for the weekend just outside Chichester to meet up with Keiths’ family for the weekend.

What a fantastic hotel and cottages – highly recommended. We had two cottages next to each other for the 11 of us and 3 dogs, cooking a cassoulet on the Friday night and ate in their restaurant on Saturday.  It’s only a few miles from West Wittering beach so there was a dog walking trip down there on Saturday morning and then we all met for lunch in Chichester. Keith and I walked in along the very wet and muddy canal… little did we know this would be the last of our ‘freedom’ for a little while!

We had obviously been following the news but were still convinced that it wasn’t going to affect us until we heard that a couple of flights to Alicante had been turned around mid flight on Saturday and they announced complete lockdown from 8am Monday morning.  Concerned that we may not get back to the motorhome we took the decision to move our flights forward by 24 hours, arriving back late on Sunday instead of the Monday. Not ideal, but we were concerned that they may turn non-nationals away following the 8am lockdown meaning that we would possibly have 4-6 weeks + before we could travel into Spain – something they have now put in place.

Saturday nights birthday meal was nice despite the evolving news. It was a bit of a joint celebration – Paul (Keith’s brother) was 46, Alex (Keith’s nephew) was 25, Keith’s 50th and it was also our Wedding Anniversary so in addition to a lovely meal, there was also some cake (Of three different varieties I may add!) to help the gin, wine, beer, whiskey and cider – amongst other beverages – go down!

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Without too much of a hangover – obviously the quality of the alcohol – we woke and had the best breakfast anyone could ever wish for. It was lovely to be together but also Paul had bought Sausages, bacon, black pudding and eggs from the farm shop he works at…. all mopped up by Liz’s home made bread.  That definitely helped us on our way for the day!

A great weekend, despite being a little dampened by the media.  Liz dropped us back at Gatwick en route which unfortunately meant we didn’t get to see my mum again on Sunday as originally planned but we made it back into Spain before non – residents were turned away…. lets just say that Keith will never forget his 50th birthday!

I am not sure anyone really appreciates what lockdown is until you are actually in it. Keith and I knew roughly what we were coming back to and that it was going to restrict our movement but it was our choice to return as we wanted to be back in our ‘home’ rather than unable to get back.

We are now on day two of ‘lockdown’.  No-one is allowed to go anywhere together unless one of the people is dependent on the other.  No-one is allowed to go out on the streets unless they are going to work or to get necessities from a food shop or pharmacy.

Yesterday we walked to Carrefour – 30 meters apart….it felt a little like a bad smell was following me around – you would have thought I would be used to it by now as he’s been there for the last 20 years!!

You need to have ID on you at all times and a valid reason to be on the street, if you don’t have one and you are stopped – and they are stopping people frequently – you will get fined or put in jail.

We can’t go for a run or do our exercise outside the gates any more…. those nice Lebanese guys who honked every time they went passed are also quarantined so won’t be missing our morning routine! Yesterday we were able to do our HIIT by the boules pitch which is inside the site but we will see whether they stop us doing that at some point as we have heard that police are also coming on to some campsites and asking people to get inside their motorhomes.

The streets are empty and all shops, bars and restaurants are shut that are not critical to day to day necessities – i.e. no clothes or electrical / hardware shops are open either.

The Campsite isn’t accepting anyone new but if you are here you are allowed to stay and as there was a mass exodus on Saturday, they have spaced everyone out to every other pitch.  As a very kind gesture they have given us all free electricity until the pandemic is over.

It’s going to be interesting to see how everything pans out over the next few weeks/ months but we are just going to take each day as it comes and keep healthy and happy. Currently we are planning to stay put – despite the grey skies and rain that we have had these last two days! – but we may change our mind and it is still possible for us to travel back to the UK as it is our country of residence but we cannot travel anywhere else at the moment.

This morning it was raining so Keith did his exercise inside the motorhome and I managed to sneak 20 minutes exercise in between the rain showers outside before we went to Mercadona to get some of the other bits that we needed. Unlike Carrefour, the stocks of everything (except fruit and veg) were very low although I am sure they will stock up at some point later this week.

We are lucky as we have lots to keep us busy and in fact today dusted off the Boules set and played a bit just to move around and get some fresh air.

Let’s see what the next few days bring …. I understand that there is a little bit of sunshine is on the cards!

Oh and I nearly forgot with everything going on at the moment – I received a message a couple of weeks ago to say that my blog had been nominated for the sunshine award – how lucky am I… and how amazing is that – thankfully it is on content rather than grammer…. or at least that will be what my mum will say!!

I want to say thank you for the nomination which was from another keen traveller and blogger who enjoys beautiful places as much as we do.   I can only hope that I manage to continue to make people smile and motivate you with our passion for travel and food amongst other things.

 

Storms and sunshine…. 19/2/2020

Storm Gloria hit Spain with a vengeance back in the middle of January but thankfully the damage to San Juan was more visual than long lasting.  The winds were high and the rain was torrential closing all the airports in the region for nearly 48 hours.  Just 20km inland the snow fell so hard it cut circulation on all the main roads for 48 hours, cutting some towns off completely – something unheard of down here, although a minor interruption to daily life, almost embarrassing when you look at the damage that has been done elsewhere over the past month.

It has though, taken a month to clean up the beaches…. probably because Easter isn’t round the corner like it was last April when we were here and it wasn’t really going to have an impact on tourism – just shows where priorities are.

A huge amount of damage was done however to the fish farms which are just off the coast, thankfully the one that Nuria (Pilar’s sister) works at came out with minimal loss… just a few fish that jumped the nets when the waves got high.  Other farms lost 18 months worth of fish and the locals are benefitting from their loss… day and night they are lined up along the beach hoping to catch a biggie!

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The weather has got better though – we even had a bit of a heat wave a week ago when the temperature got up to 26 degrees during the day …… ridiculous for February! Although, all we have been able to do over the last couple of weeks is watch the news and sit helplessly whilst the storms attack the UK.

So, we have been focussing on finding more new, interesting recipes, trying out new restaurants, catching up with friends and slowly starting running again…. ah yes – it is a slow process, two steps forwards – one back but there is progress.

I thought I would try and detail the new recipes differently this time as it does just end up sounding like we are constantly eating… which is true, but we don’t just look for new recipes – we have repeated a lot of the good ones that we have found in between times as well!

The new recipes this month are as follows:

  • Smokey Tempeh Fajitas with a Mango Slaw (above) – although I am normally very anti mixing sweet and savoury, this worked out really well and although not particularly photogenic, is a definately repeater if we can get good ripe Mango.
  • Mac n Cheese (below left) – the Vegan version with a really nice ‘cheese’ – if you can call it that – and nutty sauce
  • No Tuna Pasta Bake (above right) – I put this next to the Mac n Cheese as they are very similar dishes in principal (Pasta, cheesy type sauce and a bit of veg) but the sauces taste completely different – both really tasty but the bake is far nuttier.

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  • Lentil and Mushroom Stew – I could eat this every day, proper comfort food served with sweet potato, what is there not to like?  Really quick and simple to make as well
  • Pumpkin and Blackbean Soup (Below left) – A random recipe that I found with tomato and coconut and fancied trying and it had the same effect on me as the chickpea curry below…. absolutely delicious and so quick and easy to make
  • Chickpea curry (above right) – why oh why have I never made a curry before with tomatoes and coconut? This is the most delicious recipe using our base curry paste and although it goes really well with Chickpeas, you can add prawns, chicken or whatever you fancy and I am sure it would be equally tasty…. no going back now – this is the curry of choice!
  • Fresh Artichokes – well, they were in season here and there were loads of them in the market so I thought I would give it a go.  I found a recipe to eat them raw with freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Nice but a lot of faff to peel and prepare for not a lot of veg

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  • Vegan Lasagne – Absolutely delicious but this isn’t too different from my normal vegetarian lasagne apart from adding lentils to the mix and the cheesy sauce being vegan – I prepared it the day before for the Spanish guys and it worked really well though.

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  • Vegan Balls – well what more can I say.  My meat balls with a pasta sauce but with quinoa and black beans instead of meat.  So light and tasty… just a little bit messy to roll into balls!

I know there are more savoury than sweet but that is just the way it has been this month…. one of the Spanish guys is on a bit of a health kick/diet and the other looks like he has put on weight so I thought I’d try and cut back!

We have been out a few times to eat in the last month and found a lovely little restaurant in central Alicante called El Bokao which is just near the market and the ingredients (as well as the food) are fantastic.  They do a lovely set menu – which we have ended up opting for both times we have been and I have even ended up eating the pate – which considering I normally can’t  tolerate liver is a huge compliment for them!

And just leaving the food aside for a minute, as my foot has improved we agreed to join Pilar and some friends on a walk near Guadalez which is a picturesque – but way too touristy – village in the mountains about 20km in land from Benidorm.

The walk was mostly flat around a lake which on a clearer day is apparently an incredible green.  Unfortunately for us it was a little overcast but we still managed to stop and enjoy a picnic half way round and enjoy the tranquillity and beautiful Almond blossom that is in full bloom at the moment.

A quick trip back to Blighty…. 16/1/2020

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I had been holding off on updating the blog as by now, most people know I update it just before we make a trip somewhere to bring everyone up to date…. and this time our trip back to the UK was supposed to be a surprise so I didn’t want to ruin it!

Sharon and Steve – Keith’s sister and husband – celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last week and the kids, if you can call them that, organised a surprise party to celebrate and we thought it would be rude not to join in!

Amazingly, it remained a surprise and Vicky, Felix, Alex and Lauren pulled it off flawlessly – a lovely afternoon / evening.

As we were back in the UK we managed to catch up with the rest of both families, it was a little like ping pong between houses but it worked pretty well all in all, despite illnesses – not us, but others around us.

We set off on the tram to go to the airport just as the sun was rising, roughly the same time as when we are doing our exercises in the morning but as I don’t normally have my phone with me to take a photo I thought I would share the natural beauty that we are lucky enough to see each day…. although as the sun actually poked its head through the cloud it was even better but we were already on the tram and couldn’t take a photo

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As is always the way when we get to Alicante we have been a little more static than usual, so the blog is even more limited to food than travels and new places. We have been walking a lot more though as my foot injury was on the mend until a couple of weeks ago with the help of a good physio, massage and exercise.  Unfortunately I did something to set it back just after Christmas and although it has been improving, recovery isn’t as speedy as I would like.  I hadn’t had the chance to get back to the physio until today but already feel so much better despite the pain he inflicted upon me!

Since my last blog, we have continued our gastronomic Vegan adventure – well, we think so anyway – and have even dared extend some of the recipes out to our guests, the Spanish included… although we have alternated with meat dishes as we don’t want to scare them too much!

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Before Christmas we tried out recipes for a lovely Vegan Bolognese (above) which uses butter beans and some really easy (and tasty) lentil burgers that we cooked on the BBQ that actually stay together, rather than the majority of veggie burgers that fall apart and between the grill. Although that said, we would still would cook them on the hot plate/griddle rather than the wire mesh ….. just in case!

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We have started to frequent a different stall for our fruit and vegetables in the market and although more expensive the quality is fantastic.  A few weeks ago Keith decided he fancied trying a pork and pineapple satay recipe, so we bought a pineapple from said stall…. which turned out to be the most expensive pineapple we have ever eaten – but worth it!  It was delicious, so sweet and juicy but it was nearly 10 euros!  Apparently something to do with being picked from the tree when ripe, then flown in… probably wrapped in cotton wool (or perhaps gold)! We will definitely be buying one again but may just keep it to ourselves!  The Pork and Pineapple satay skewers were delicious by the way!

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We also tried to do Mushroom Wellingtons but I chickened out of making individual wellingtons when I realised I had made too much filling, so just made it into a pie …… which was also pretty tasty if I don’t say so myself!

We opted for the stuffed peppers for our first experiment on a couple of the Spanish guys – there were three invited and one dropped out when we said we were doing vegan! –  the two who came were convinced there was meat as the flavour and texture was so full. We then tried out the Vegan Enchiladas on them, which despite being a little too spicy for their taste buds (they are light-weights) were a huge hit….even the sweet potato queso sauce!  It’s one of those recipes which has lots of parts but once it is constructed you can leave it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. It is not only full of fantastic flavours but also one of those one dish wonders that means you don’t have much washing up afterwards as you have done most of it beforehand!

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For those with a sweeter tooth, we also found some delicious (and really easy) Vegan cookies…. or at least that is what they call them.  They are basically a mix of nuts, dates, oats and chocolate – what is not to like!

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With so many new recipes over the last couple of months, we have had two non-repeaters. Maybe just our taste but all the same something wasn’t quite right. It was a shame as we were both really excited to try a recipe we found for a Mango Stir fry but it just didn’t work…. not even going to post the recipe! The second was BBQ Plantain – or perhaps I should say BBQ Cardboard – all I can say is that we obviously didn’t put enough Salt/Flavour or anything on them as even when dunked in a huge amount of hummus they still tasted like cardboard.

The weather has been kind to us over the last month and although it has been pretty cold over night these last couple of weeks (going down to about 4 degrees) the sun has been shining during the day raising the temperature to around 17/18 degrees.

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So, not wishing to break our tradition of a BBQ on Christmas Day we found some lovely – albeit pretty large – steaks at our butchers in the market and cooked them alongside baked sweet potato and BBQ Brussel Sprouts.… yep, we found some in the market and with a marinade it worked and they were delicious – possibly the maple syrup helped!!

We have been entertaining quite a bit – as we are always looking for guinea pigs!! –  the Spanish guys, some of the neighbours and we also had another couple who we have got to know quite well over the last few weeks over for New Years Eve who shared our Lentil and Aubergine Moussaka – well, it was only the day before and we had already arranged what we were cooking so they didn’t have much choice…. despite Sally not being very keen on aubergine and tomatoes it went down pretty well, perhaps helped by the reasonable quantity of excellent Cava and wine that was drunk!

BBQ Ribs

Having mostly caught up on the washing and shopping yesterday and today we managed to squeeze in another new recipe on the BBQ before the weather changes this weekend – BBQ Seitan ribs…. tasty, although the recipe I took it from doesn’t quite work as the marinade is too liquidy.  I have updated the recipe inline with what I will do next time as I think it is definately worth another go – despite the plate looking a little ‘orange’!

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Settling in …. 15/12/19

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The rest of the journey went smoothly with the temperature briefly rising enough for us to not actually turn the heating on for a couple of nights – well…. it didn’t go down below 10 degrees which for the previous couple of months in the UK has been unheard of!

We were keeping an eye on the weather as they had been threatening a lot of rain – and snow – however, we were lucky and the route we took, although wet in parts was pretty good despite the Somport tunnel already having over half a meter of snow at the side of the road.

We opted for the toll road to cross over from France into Spain as earlier in the year when we avoided them the traffic was horrendous. It cost us 55 euros but saved us a good hour/hour and a half and all the stopping/starting which we felt was worth it.

Once in Spain we stopped overnight at the same two places as earlier in the year – Berriozar and then Teruel before finally getting to San Juan Playa, Alicante on Thursday 28th November – welcomed by sunshine and famliar faces which was lovely.

After a lovely walk along the seafront and a good nights sleep we woke to sunshine, ate our breakfast outside and got on with the first round of washing….. It was going to be a few days of catching up and chores!

With our Spanish friends away for the weekend in Madrid we took advantage of a free weekend to go out to a few bars in San Juan on our own taking in a few glasses of wine and tapas – finishing the evening with a spectacular ‘Brazo de pulpo’ – Octopus arm – which was served on a bed of mashed potato and onion … absolutely delicious….so good I almost forgot to take the photo!

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The wonderful weather unfortunately only lasted a few days before we got our monies worth of wind and rain…. a little ironic that we managed to do our exercises outside in the UK right up until the day we left and then we arrive in Spain to be restricted to the motorhome for two mornings…. it did only last four days though so I think we will cope!

 

Just before we left the UK a couple of people mentioned the film ‘The Game Changer’ to us and finally, on the journey down here, we managed to watch it – really interesting!  If you haven’t already seen it and you are interested in food, exercise and nutrition as a whole, I highly recommend it as it certainly opens your mind…. so much so that we have been experimenting!

Before I start – to all of our friends and family, don’t worry – we don’t plan to go completely Vegan…. we would miss bacon, cheese and steak too much – but we are definately converted to a more plant based diet …. maybe 80/20!

We started thinking about different sandwich fillings as we do eat alot of cheese and fish and came up with a really tasty Mushroom Pate which although I initially tried using Girolle mushrooms, is actually better with a mix of button and chestnut mushrooms, onions, walnuts and a lot of garlic!  As before, I have linked through to the recipe on the name if you want to give them a go.

We then tried a Butterbean and Sun dried tomato pate…. also absolutey delicious as both a dip and a pate.  This one uses slightly less garlic but has a real tang as it uses the juice of a whole lemon.

And then finally the flexible ‘Soyrizo‘ – Chorizo made out of TVP which is textured vegetable protein.  Having only ever had Tofu once before which I thought tasted like cardboard, it is fair to say I was a little apprehensive about trying any of the soya based ‘supplements’ but TVP soaked up the flavour from all the spices and provided a real depth to it.  We made a batch and have put some in the freezer as it can be used in wraps, paella, chilli sin carne, stuffed peppers or many other dishes.

Meanwhile the huge amount of brie and camembert that we bought in France is actually starting to pong alot …. so we have starting to dip into those as well… I did say 80/20!

After success with the sandwich fillers we thought we would start experimenting with main meals…..  the first of which was paella using some of the Soyrizo – not sure I will go back to normal chorizo now for the paella as it provided a huge amount of flavour withough the high fat content.

Also using TVP, we tried a Chilli sin Carne – I wouldn’t have known that there wasn’t any meat – except for the fact that we normally use chunks of meat for our chilli instead of minced meat – you don’t need to cook it for anywhere near the same length of time as meat yet it provides a huge depth of flavour by soaking up all the spices.

Our final new recipe this week also using TVP wasstuffed peppers which used a combination of rice, TVP and black beans and once again a huge success… definately to be repeated!

We also tried a couple of recipes with Seitan and Tofu… they had a lot to live up to!

The first recipe was a Quinoa and Seitan fajita bowl which was a light and refreshing meal with lots of vegetables as well as more black beans…. a very popular ingredient!

And finally this morning we had No Huevos Rancheros which used tofu as well as guess what …. black beans… its fair to say that we have had our fair share of fibre over the last couple of weeks as well all the other vitamins and minerals that we need!

We have had meat and cheese in between but it has been 80% plant based – Keith has even been trying out different types of Soya milks… although we have decided to stick to the Skyr type protein yoghurt that we like!

All of the meals we have had have been full of flavour – probably because they use alot of spices – and delicious. Neither of us have felt hungry or lacking in energy, in fact we both feel like we are sleeping better and have higher energy levels if anything!

We are going to continue to try out more recipes and see how it goes but the balance is key for us – we have had friends over and cooked a huge spatch-cock chicken as well as eaten out… not going to give up the things that we enjoy!

The first batch of mince pies have also been cooked – this year using Waitrose’ Amaretto mince meat which was absolutely delicious…. a muffin tin, a gin glass to cut the bottom and an egg cup to cut the tops – perfect!

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The foot has been to see a physio as although it is a little better, I am now up to ten weeks of pain and it would be nice to know that there is a possibility that I won’t have another ten ahead of me!

The physio was excellent – and cheap at 30 euros an hour – and although it has been subjected to a huge amount of pain whilst a metal tool was being pushed into the nerve between the toes, he also did a bit of acupuncture and ultrasound and told me to buy some toe seperators to help provide the inflamed nerve space to breathe….. ha ha – maybe I should think about painting them whilst I have them !

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Fingers crossed though – I will be on the road to recovery now that we know what it is – its just a matter of time and errrrrr patience – something that most of you know I don’t have a huge amount of!

The weather is looking reasonably good over the next week or two so fingers crossed the foot will get better, we will be able to have a BBQ for Christmas and we will continue to get the beautiful sunsets that we have been having over the last few days.

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