autumn equinox

an equinox is the moment in which the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the center of the Sun’s disk  which occurs twice each year.  today the equinox is due around 8pm – its the official end to summer and the start of autumn.  lots of cultures celebrate the equinox, including the mexicans for whom it is a big time of year.   i feel so sad for all these hurricanes and earthquakes that have affected parts of the world – we may complain about the rain and the grey days, but at least we are relatively free of these intense forces of nature.

on an equinox, day and night are of approximately equal duration all over the planet. they are not exactly equal, however, due to the angular size of the sun and atmospheric refraction. the word is derived from the Latin aequinoctium, aequus (equal) and nox (genitive noctis) (night).

beaches in Andalucia

we are on our annual family holiday in Vejer and September is a perfect temperature…. we have had the house 22 years now, watching our little one grow from one to 23 years old and still loving the area and especially the beaches.

one of my favourite beaches in andalucia is El Palmar – popular for surfing in the winter and the local beach to our village of Vejer de la Fronterra;   its quite a long beach and the waves can be strong, but the sea is fresh and exhilarating.  we tend to go to the far left of the beach which is a little bit quieter, but if you go towards Conil, there is a much more younger audience and lots of surfing and cafe and bars to choose from.

Zahora, hidden away, this natural beach is within a bay, so a bit more sheltered than the wider open beaches and is perfect for children;  however, when the tide goes out, its very shallow with lots of rocks, and a long way to walk out to swim. friends have noted that its like a Caribbean beach; if you walk up towards the lighthouse from Zahora, you will reach Manguete beach – a beautiful wild beach with nothing built on it – access by this road is more difficult as its an unmade dirt road, but well worth the journey. In the summer months, there are lovely Chiringuitos, pop up beach restaurants, but they tend to only be there from mid June to mid September.

Cabo de Trafalgar, is the famous beach from the battle of Trafalgar, totally unspoilt with nothing built on it – lots of kite surfers frequent this beach when the conditions are right for surfing – a finer sand its completely unspoilt and during the summer can have fewer waves for swimming as it is in a cove like position; the next beach along is Canos de la Meca   a smaller hippy beach, again a bit sheltered, but very busy in the summer – only worth going to out of the busy August period; the sea can be less wavy as there is a ridge in the sea that breaks the waves –  the far end is rugged with cliff tops but also attracts nudists, again wilder with no buildings built on it.  

Zahara de los Atunes is a  fishing village by the sea with a long windswept rugged beach, popular in the summer with tourists – there is a lovely bit by the old town and a long stretch further down towards the newer apartments;  we like to eat in the hotel Don Antonio and then sit on that part of the beach after and watch the sun go down, but if you stay in the old town, our other favourite restaurant la Taberna de la Campero.

Yerbabuena beach, just at the start of Barbate and next to the pine forest is a beautiful setting, especially at this time of year. There are a couple of chiringuitos there in the summer.

Conil is more built up than the other beaches, but has a fantastic long wide beach and the sea is perfect for wave jumping – again, the end nearest Vejer has a bridge that takes you to a wilder non built up part, but the other end has 2 fantastic eating places right onto the beach, La Fontanilla.

Bolonia is a great beach with the added attraction of some Roman ruins, dunes and the odd cow or horse stepping out on the seafront; – if you go left its quieter with cafes on the cliff top, right are the ruins.  Tarifa is hip, young and a magnet for windsurfing and kite surfers, but also has the wonderful dunes nearby;  between Tarifa and the dunes is the beach Valdequeros, which has a fun beach bar.

Calas de Roche are a series of coves, seven in total, accessible only by walking from the road 10 mins, and down steep steps, but they are really beautiful and wild beaches, surrounded by fossilised rocks. the waves are quite strong, but if you paddle around the rocks there are lots of pools to step into. there are no facilities for food, but in the nearby marina there are a couple of spanish style restaurants, El Pastor and El Nautico de Conil

La Barossa has more hotels around, more built up, but again a fabulous long beach; San Lucar de la Barrameda is an old fishing village by the sea, famed for its seafood – its one of our favourite towns in spain – not at all trendy, just full of locals from jerez and seville searching for the famous prawns.  Seek Bajo de Guia and eat at casa Bigote – classic traditional food that is always of a high quality.

www.andalucia-house-vejer.com

The Queen and I, a swimming adventure

I read this absolutely lovely piece by James Stuart, owner of the wonderful Califa Hotel in our town in Andalucia – he is embarking on a swim to Africa from Tarifa and he writes some beautiful stories about the coastline and his adventures. To continue reading the whole short story, go to my Guest Writers page, where I add little vignettes of life through words from several writers.

The Queen and I, a swimming adventure by James Stuart

My original title for this site was ‘The loneliness of the long distance swimmer’, stolen of course from Alan Sillitoe’s famous story about a young lad whose prowess at running takes him on a mental escape from the reality of the institution he lives in. Loneliness in the water is an irrevocable part of swimming great distances where the activity becomes an entirely solitary pursuit, even when accompanied by others in the water. Head down, arms churning, the roll of hips, the turn of the head, the deep suck of breath, the slow exhalation under water and only very brief glimpses of sky relieve the monotony and loneliness of the challenge. Talk is impossible, contact pointless.

Yesterday I took my swimming adventures to a whole new level with a 10,5km. solo swim from Atlanterra to Barbate. It’s an almost arrow straight stretch of beach running south east to north west from the edge of the cork oak studded Sierra de la Plata, past the village of Zahara de los Atunes and then along an almost endless empty stretch of coast lined with golden sand and scrubby palmito bushes. I took a companion of course, just to have a conversation with. I find this is the easiest way to break up the heady wet loneliness. In the past I’ve swum with Ernest Hemingway (“this is man’s stuff, you’re not made for defeat, you can do it”), Winston Churchill (“If only I could keep my cigar alight I might become a tad proficient at this game”), Charlie Chaplin (who swam with great proficiency and inevitably we ended up talking about women and sex), Enid Blyton (I switched her off before she became too polemic – she started asking if we might meet gypsies on the beach in Barbate), Sean Connery (James? Look here young man, we can talk about anything but just not about you know who) and even on one memorable occasion a teacher from school whose name I couldn’t remember – I spent an hour trying to get an answer from him as to why he always wore a sharp ironed crease in his jeans.

The Queen was very much in my mind as I slipped in to the morning stillness of the grey green water. She’d died the previous day, news about her was everywhere, I’d even been asked by a local newspaper wanting the reaction of the British community in the province to her death. What could I say that hadn’t been said by tens of thousands before me? Somewhat irreverently I said that I preferred licking stamps with the Queen on them than licking stamps with King Charles on them. Probably won’t be published.

to read the rest of this story, go to the Guest Writers Page.

photo courtesy of James Stuart.

Chichen Itza

Getting around Mexico is pretty easy – we thought about hiring a car, but in the end we decided it was not much more expensive booking a driver or taxi to take you around. Its just over one and half hours from Merida to Chichen Itza – one of the main Mayan sites that you must visit, especially if you are in the area of Merida. we booked the Hacienda Chichen – a lovely peaceful hotel only 10 mins drive from the ruins – set in beautiful tropical gardens within the jungle area. It’s an old style colonial building with little houses dotted around the grounds, with swimming pool and areas to walk around. The trees are some of the most incredible that I have ever seen. Food at the hotel is perfect – light Mexican food and apparently all the vegetables are grown on site – we actually saw the mangoes, papayas, almonds growing o the trees in their vegetable garden plus all the lovely chickens – now I know why there are a lot of chicken dishes on the menu!

One of the reasons we stayed there was to get up early and be the first at the archaeological site when it opened at 9am – but even though we got there for 9am, there was already a queue and you could see the coach trips starting to come in. Luckily its such a big area, you can find peaceful quiet spots to sit, contemplate and be in awe of what had been achieved over a 1000 years ago. I don’t know much about the Mayan culture, but it’s fascinating learning about another culture. Be warned, its very hot and although there are shady parts, the main pyramid is quite open, so take a hat or like me a parasol. I bought a white umbrella to shield from the direct sunlight – it’s a nuisance to carry, but if you get a folding one, it really does help protect from the 35 degrees heat.

There are 2 sections of the site – the older Mayan part with the main pyramid and the later Mayan buildings, which had much more variety of buildings – actually my favourite part as a lot of it is still surrounded by its original jungle of trees and plants, so felt more in situ. You must also see the 2 cenotes – water caverns that the Mayans worshipped for water and is one of the reasons they set up towns around this source. I would say 2 – 3 hours is enough time to stay, especially if you are in this 35 degrees heat. July/August is actually rainy season in Mexico, but generally it rains quite hard for 1 – 2 hours, then clears up. Occasionally there is a storm with thunder, lightening and more persistent rain lasting longer – it actually cools the air making it more bearable, but watch out for the mosquitoes.

summer solstice

today is the longest day of the year and the shortest night and is officially the start of summer.

Primrose Hill is is famous for pagans and druids to visit on summer solstice. The hill’s position to the north of London, offers a great view of the city, and makes it a prime location from which to “charm” London.

As well as Stonehenge another place that is frequented is Parliament Hill – was once known as Traitors’ Hill, as during the English Civil War, it was occupied by troops loyal to the English Parliament. The hill is not, as the name might suggest, home to the Houses of Parliament – though it seems possible that its name, together with its ability to give good views over London, was used by the Druids. Many Druids now believe that the hill – known to them as the Llandin, from a Welsh name signifying a “High-place of worship – is part of a sacred grid. A ley line between here and the White Hill in the Tower of London is to them the Midsummer’s day azimuth – the line in which the sun rises on Midsummer’s day.

With the Tower of London, we have come to the third primary location of “Druid London”. For example, in 1956, the Ceremony of the Spring Equinox was renewed at the Bryn Gwyn or Tower of London. The site was, of course, the primary royal residence for much of Britain’s history. It remains connected with the tradition of sacred kingship, through the presence of the nine ravens.

I am sure Stonehenge would be an amazing place to celebrate with its mythical stones.

in spain, its celebrated on 23rd June and is celebrated by people gathering around a bonfire, eating and drinking and teens jumping over fires.

Exhibitions

I always seem to see exhibitions all at once – and then nothing for ages – but there is so much to see at the moment. All the exhibitions are so very different, some poignant and full of messages, others showing the dark side of the artists’ personality, and some just portraits. I find that paintings that are pretty or nice to look at with no obvious message can be criticised for being frivolous – for me art can be so many ways of self expression – it shouldn’t be judged whether its serious or not. Art is there for everyone to appreciate – we all have our own tastes….

Louise Bourgeois ends tomorrow; in intriguing mix of art pieces – some very dark and abstract, some feminine with a twist, some delicately put together with pretty textures and shades. Her personal life experience obviously had a great impact on her and this is very interesting to see. The Hayward Gallery is the perfect space to show her work.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are beautifully painted stories about fictitious people, either from found images or from her imagination. They speak identity and representation and are colourful and almost graphic in style – at Tate Britain. I particularly love the characterful clothes.

Also at Tate Britain is Walter Sickert, which I absolutely loved – dark, mysterious, his images of naked women in Camden are challenging and must have been controversial at its time; he liked to picture everything theatrical from performers in music halls, individuals from the newspaper articles – he definitely liked to paint real people at work.

Whistler’s women in white is romantic depictions of women dressed in white, and especially the model Joanna Hifferman. her red hair went onto influence the pre raphaelites and their style of portraiture – at Royal Academy. wildly romantic and ethereal – I too have taken to wearing white dresses …..

At the Whitechapel we can revisit the artists studio from 1920 – 2020 – an interesting curation of works from lesser known artists to Picasso, Schiele and Bacon. its celebrating a century of image makers and artists through their studio. Some are actually painting in their studio, some are actual mock ups of their studio – its a loosely named theme, but is an interesting mix and gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of artists in one exhibition.

Postwar Modern at the Barbican brings together an amazing display of paintings, sculptures and photography from 1945 -1965. This is an incredible body of work put together – and introduced me to some amazing artists and photographers previously unknown.

There is so much to see in London at the moment; its definitely inspiring looking at the real paintings – we recognise so many of them from postcards and books, but actually seeing art in life is the best thing. Purchasing a national art pass allows you to visit galleries at half price, so if you are going to see a few, it maybe worth it. I now buy a gallery membership for my friends’ birthday presents, it gives them so much pleasure to be able to visit freely, so worth putting on your birthday list.

April feria

I am so missing visiting spain with its wonderful traditions and colour. its about this time in Vejer de la Fronterra that the annual  april feria occurs 10 days after Easter.  Easter, or Semana Santa as it is called in Spain is such a big occasion , more important than Xmas, with its evening street procession carrying the statues of Jesus  on Good Friday and  Easter Sunday bull run in the narrow streets, it is a sight that you never forget. The feria, that follows is a mini version of the seville feria, which if you have never seen is just spectacular, horses and carriages,  flamenco dresses and full of colour and splendour;  vejer’s feria is held in the new town, which is only 15 mins walk from my house, but mainly consists of a few casitas (tents for eating drinking and dancing) and an enormous fairground!  but for 4 nights there will be numerous flamenco shows and horse riding events.   the local school children clamber on their floats and there is a procession through the old town to the new town – there are so many festival days in spain, you need to check the calendars before you go so that you can watch them – there is a feria in almost every town in spain at some time of the year – its what makes Spain a wonderful country still steeped in tradition and fun.  sadly due to the pandemic, it will have been more than a year of disruption – so I am not even sure what celebrations will be happening;  I am so hoping that by the end of the year, life will resume as it used to be……

IMG_0572
IMG_0574

feria11Apr2013_0196
11Apr2013_0198
11Apr2013_0173
11Apr2013_0179
11Apr2013_0185
feria11Apr2013_0189
IMG_0573

Easter eggs

I always remember these eggs that talented artist Mary Mathieson, made for our ilovegorgeous shoot several years ago.

Barrier Reef Dress, Sea Green, 698
Harliquin Dress, Sea Green, 482
Harliquin Dress, Sea Green, 487
Barrier Reef Dress, Sea Green, 685_1

Easter is a Christian festival and for Christians the custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. The first eggs given at Easter were birds eggs. These eggs were painted in bright colours to give them further meaning as a gift. We still paint bird eggs today but usually only chicken eggs.  my daughter loves to paint eggs, but you do have to be really gentle or they will easily break.    you need to pierce a hole at either end blow out all the liquid inside the egg, use for scrambled eggs, or bake a cake!  then perch your egg on a barbecue stick or on a chopstick and paint with acrylic paints.  you can always thread pretty ribbon through the holes and hang them – they look pretty cute. 

Southwold Pier

i love piers, there is something romantic, dreamy and nostalgic about them……

I am lucky to have Southwold so close to the cottage – its the perfect seaside town with its long sandy beach, beach huts and pier, fish market and harbour, plus a sprinkling of good restaurants and shops.   I hope to get to the cottage a lot more in 2020;  you can rent it directly through my website limeblossom cottage. 

I recently discovered the little neighbouring village of Wangford, hidden from the A12, its a tiny village with a great grocery shop and pub, the Angel Inn.  Suffolk is full of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Rye

now that Robert is working at weekends, we have decided to explore parts of UK that we have rarely visited. we asked a friend for a recommendation of a hotel and ended up at the Gallivant on Camber Sands. Typically the weather was grim, grey, cold and drizzly, so we first headed for the ancient town of Rye – a very pretty town, up and down steep cobbled streets. we parked by the quay and ambled around the street. I have never seen so many gift and vintage shops in one little old town – the good thing was that there were no chains on the main street.

my favourite were Merchant and Mills, an emporium of cottons in so many colours and patterns, it really made me want to get my machine out and learn to sew. They also sell so many useful gift ideas, such as little sewing kits, great array of scissors, and lovely patterns to make workwear style clothes.

I bought some lovely vintage towels from Soap and Salvation, a lovely old chapel selling a mix of vintage and craft style objects; there are a great church beeswax candles from Puckhaber and handwoven rugs and baskets from Rae. Also delicious hand made chocolate from Rye Chocolates we ate lunch at the Fig, nice and healthy. there are a lot of places to choose from, so it depends how you feel on the day. Mermaid street is a lovely old street that looks like a film set – one tip, don’t wear heels whilst walking around, the cobbles were difficult with boots on as quite uneven.

Gallivant hotel is a 10 min drive away, right by Camber Sands – a short, but steep climb over the dunes takes you to the vast beach. The tide was out when we arrived, and there was the typical film crew on the beach, but it really is a beautiful sandy beach

Its worth a drive to Rye harbour, watching the boats come in – there is a pub there to grab a drink and a bite to eat, strangely selling Greek food, rather than fish, which is what you would expect. you could get fish and chips. Just 10 mins away is Westchelsea beach – a pebble beach, but much easier to reach from the roadside.

its definitely a great day trip out; we stayed the night at the Gallivant, where the food was very good, dinner and breakfast. I even managed to do an early morning yoga stretch class – there are 2 daily classes plus and meditation walk on offer. Its pricey, but I think that all hotels in the UK seem highly priced at present; Jeake’s House looked quite quaint in the old town of Rye. it really is a breath of fresh air, taking you away from the despair that we seem to be surrounded by at present.