Raku Pottery firing – 13th November

I had tried pottery in California so when I saw that the Hobby Centre was running a special Raku firing I decided to sign up and try this technique.  The clay for raku must be able to withstand a higher firing temperature than normal.  I made a plate and a small bird from a mould.  The glaze I chose had oxides in it and any unpainted areas would turn out black because of the smoke that is created when the piece is taken out of the kiln and put in an enclosed receptacle with flammable material.  All very technical!

On the day of the firing, we prepared the drums with wood shavings.  The gas fired kilns were heated up to 1200C and then we waited…  My plate didn’t turn out to be as oxidised as I’d hoped and my wee bird had a bit uneven crackling.  Still, that’s the magic of raku as it’s unpredictable.  I’ll try again next spring as we can’t fire up in the winter months.

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New Year’s Eve 2015

nye (1 of 1)

Our friends Denise and Phil from England are due to return to the UK for good in January. It’s not going to be the same without them as we share similar interests and often go out on a Sunday afternoon to listen to live music.  I usually meet Denise once or twice a week for coffee in town.  I met her through our Meetup group and had emailed her suggesting that we meet as we had the same name! Phil is a contractor at NXP and they will be returning to live in Hampshire. I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.

De Bruut in Daalseweg was open for dinner so we met for our last supper together.  Then me and Bill went on to Katherine and John’s house for Hogmany and their neighbours had an informal firework display.  A lot better than standing on a street corner afraid of the idiots setting off their fireworks!

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Javea – 26th – 27th December

Another long drive from Lorca to Javea. The motorway runs past built-up areas like Benidorm.

Our last night in Spain.  Again, in a Parador and this time we had a balcony looking over Arenal beach in Javea (or Xabia in Valencian, a dialect of Catalan). The building is from the 1960’s I think, and has beautiful gardens bordering the sea.  After checking in we dashed across the road to Tosca, a restaurant I’d booked for lunch.  I’d chosen it from an online review and we were not disappointed!  We had a wonderful 3 course lunch with wine and it was wonderful to sit in the sun and look out over at the beach.  Later, we walked along the beachfront which had many bars and restaurants.

The next day we walked to the fishing port of Javea which is less touristy. It was here that they used to ship the raisins until the trade diminished in the early 20thC.  Before leaving for the drive to Valencia airport, we decided to eat lunch again at Tosca since it had been so good!  From Javea, we drove up through the Montgo National Park via Denia where the Ibiza ferries depart.

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Lorca – 24th to 26th December

We arrived in at the Lorca Parador  at 3pm after a 4 hour drive from Cuenta.  Part of the route was on a twisting road until we reached the motorway that runs along the coast past Murcia.   The parador is on top of a hill, next to the Lorca castle which was constructed as a fortress between the 9th and 15th centuries. The parador is only a year old so quite the opposite to Cuenca.  Everything is very modern and fresh.  As today was Christmas Eve, we were welcomed with a glass of Cava.  We had booked the special dinner for this night – it’s more important than Christmas Day and the hotel was very busy.

Our room looked out over the city and there were lots of comfy sofas in the public areas of the hotel where you could enjoy the views.  The parador also had a swimming pool and spa area which was one of the reasons for choosing it.

On Christmas Day we checked out the pool, which had a lovely view over the city.  During the construction of the parador, ancient Jewish baths and a synagogue were discovered and they have been incorporated into some areas of the hotel – you can see the excavated walls in the dining room.

Before leaving the parador to travel to Javea, we visited the old castle and climbed inside one of the Moorish towers which had been recently damaged by an earth quake 3 years ago.

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Cuenta – 22nd to 24th December

We had a tapas lunch near the Plaza del Torico before leaving for Cuenta.

Our first Parador of the trip was in a former monastery.  We paid a bit extra to have a room with a view of the famous ‘hanging houses’ of Cuenca and it was well worth it. To reach the old town, we had to cross the Puente de San Pablo a rickety metal bridge that spans the valley.  We had 2 nights here and had paid for half board.  Unfortunately the restaurant, although a splendid room, was very quiet and I don’t know where everyone else ate at night!  The food was OK but not very exciting and after eating mostly tapas in the evening in Valencia, just too heavy.

On our first full day we explored the old town and especially liked the Cathedral which was built in 12thC.  It had many side chapels, reliquaries and the sacristy had fantastic carved reliefs on the cupboard doors. The view from the back of the Cathedral of our parador was great. We walked through the town to the highest point and had a few drinks in the sunshine.

I had taken a photo of a ceramic plaque advertising Hendricks Gin outside a bar, La Edad de Oro and later that night we returned to find it stocked over 300 gins!  They also had 12 or so different tonics.


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Teruel – 21st to 22nd December

Teruel is half way to Cuenta so I thought it would be a good overnight stop.  It turned out to be one of our favourite places and we wished we had spent 2 nights instead of only 1. We stayed at Hotel Los Botanicos next to the City Hall and La Escalinata a fantastic mudejar inspired staircase built in 1921.

Teruel is regarded as the “town of mudéjar” (Moorish-influenced architecture) due to numerous buildings designed in this style and hence it is a World Heritage Site.

Mausoleo de Los Amantes, houses the mummified bodies of Isabel de Segura (a wealthy woman) and Diego de Marcilla (a poor man who battled at Crusades to earn some money with the intention to return to get married with Isabel) whose love ended tragically. This story is known as los amantes de Teruel and has inspired writers (for example Hartzenbusch) and an opera composed by Tomás Bretón.  The mausoleum is attached to the San Pedro, a notable mudéjar church (16th century) with a tower similar to that of the cathedral.

As well as the many mudejar towers, there are many Art Nouveau buildings. This occured because Teruel was very wealthy from textile manufacturing in the early 20th Century and so the wealthy had their houses/shops built in the latest style.

We ate very nice food in Teruel – it’s famous for its jamon and chocolate and we had fantastic basque style pinchos at La Barrica.

We also managed to see a free guitar concert of about 12 guitarists in a historic quadrangel.


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Valencia Day 4

We visited  the Cervellon Palace. Fernando VII signed the Constitution here in 1812, as did María Cristina her abdication. Isabel II also lodged here, and it has been the centre of many important events.

Then on to the Beaux Arts Museum to see their collection of Sorallas.  They don’t have so many considering he was a local and many of his best beach scenes were painted around Javea which we were going to visit later in our trip.  Madrid has the best work housed in his own home and which we visited last year.

Late afternoon and time for a horchata at Horchateria.   We were quite familiar with Mexican horchata in California but apparently it is made from rice while in Spain,  it is made from tigernuts,  Originally from Valencia, the idea of making horchata from yellow nutsedge (tigernuts) comes from the period of Muslim presence in Valencia (from the eighth to 13th centuries). It is often served with fartons which we also tried.  The shop was covered in tiles inside and out.

We returned to the City of Arts & Science to take some photos of the buildings at dusk.

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Valencia Day 3

We visited the Ceramic Museum today. The exterior is adorned with rococco putti and alabaster statues. The museum is within the former Palace Marques de Dos Aguas which dates from the 15th Century but was ‘refurbished’ in 1740.

La Lonja or Silk Exchange. was started in 1492 and is one of the few remaining late Gothic buildings in Spain.  It’s opposite the Central Market.

We tried paella at a recommended restaurant Raco del Turia near our hotel.  Typically Valencian it had rabbit and snails.

That evening we attended a concert at the Palau de Musica. It was the Cinematic Symphony Orchestra and they performed many famous theme songs from such movies such as Out of Africa, Bridge over the River Kwai and Star Wars.

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Valencia Day 2

Today we rented bikes from the hotel and cycled the length of the Turia Gardens that was formed in the former riverbed of the river Turia which was drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood in 1957. The old riverbed was turned into a picturesque sunken park.

We cycled under old and new bridges (one by the Valencian engineer Calatrava). The park has exercise stations so there were lots of people running, doing yoga etc.

We had lunch at the beach and on the way back marvelled at the City of Arts and Sciences which has many buildings designed by the Valencian, Santiago Calatrava.  The buildings are best seen at dusk.

That evening we attended a concert by Nes a local blues/jazz trio at the University.

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Christmas Trip to Spain – Day 1 Valencia, 17th December

Five nights in Valencia at the Hotel Dimar. Perfect location for bars and restarants but still easy walking to the main sights.

Hotel close to Mercado Colon, recently renovated and now full of restaurants.

Best meal of the trip was a three course lunch at Mons for 12Euros – panna cotta to die for!

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