Catalan Bay Polar Bear Swim 2016

At lunchtime today crowds of folk packed onto Catalan Bay beach in time for the annual Boxing Day Polar Bear Swim. 

This is the first time we’ve ever been to experience the swim. We’ve watched Facebook photos pour in of friends and families we know taking part. Watching them brave the nippy December sea from the comfort of an armchair, mince pie in hand. This year though, we decided (or should that be I decided) we should be armchair spectators no more. 

The beach car park was packed by the time we arrived and we ran the gauntlet with some rather maverick parking practices. With a bit of help from my Dad (thanks Dad) I was able to park up and we were ready to head to the sand.

There were already hundreds of folk in high spirits gathered at the southern end of the beach by the time we rocked up. 

At first glance at the photos you may be forgiven for thinking it was an ordinary day at the beach, but notice the lack of normal beach paraphernalia like parasols and deck chairs and the large number of Santa suits and antlers…

There was even a herd (is that the correct term?) of polar bears… or maybe they were pandas…

As the time hit noon, the brave souls (me & Littlest included) headed into the sea. It’s amazing how brave you feel when you are part of a large crowd – I would never have considered attempting it alone! I’m even a bit of a wimp in the summertime – those shells and pebbles hurt your feet as you get in and I don’t like the idea of fish nibbling my feet – ugh!

In we went… 

Deeper and deeper until Littlest decided it was too cold and wanted to get out. What a brave little soul he is though – much braver than his big brothers who enjoyed watching us from a safe (dry) distance.

Once safely deposited on the shore with his Grandma I went back in so I’d be able to say I actually went for a ‘swim’ rather than a paddle. It was brief, but it was a swim. Once on the beach and about to reach for my towel, Littlest decided it hadn’t been that cold after all so we had to go back in again for a final dip. 

So there you have it, my previous hardy swimming claim to fame was that I went for a dip in an outdoor pool in Cheshire (in North West England) on Halloween. I’m not sure whether the Mediterranean Sea on an overcast Boxing Day was warmer or colder but I’m pretty sure that on childhood holidays on the West Coast of Scotland or North Wales I’ve experienced icier waves! 

I’m really glad a did it, perhaps it will become a Postcard family Boxing Day tradition… I’ve got twelve months to work on the rest of them 😉.

Photo credits: Grandad Postcard & Eldest – thank you 😊

Convent Christmas Fair 2016

It may have been a pretty damp and grey day yesterday, but that didn’t put the crowds off coming along to the annual Convent Christmas Fair this year. For those not familiar with Gibraltar or the Convent, it’s the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar (the Queen’s representative here), so naturally there are a few royal pictures about the place…

A quick stop at security, and we were in.

The Convent Christmas Fair Committee put an awful lot of work into putting the fair on each year. It costs £2 to get in and you are accosted pretty quickly to buy raffle tickets and tombola tickets for some wonderful prizes. All of the money which is raised at the event goes to support local charities.

Up the grand stairs and into the fair….

The first table I came to was Kate Davies’ beautiful stall showcasing some of her lovely fused glass work. I have been a fan of Kate’s work for a few years now and I have several of her pieces hanging around the house from windows. I’m looking forward to going up to Kate’s shed to see her at work soon, I’d love to know how she does it!

Next I headed into the very grand dining room which had been given over to a vast array of stalls featuring all sorts of different crafts and goodies.

Craft fair regular, Debbie Yeo was there with some of her beautiful things. Debbie can turn her hand to so many different crafts. She had paper crafts, hand sewn gifts and beautifully painted items for sale.

This painted glassware and candles on Debbie’s stall are just exquisite.

My next port of call was the ‘Beyoutifully Homemade’ stall made by Sally. The talented stitcher makes cushions (some featuring Star Wars characters & Pokemon balls), bags, lap quilts, memory items using your own children’s baby outfits and recycled denim projects. She had so many lovely things she had on offer.

Not only did I make a purchase, I also got some inspiration for something else to add to my  never ending ‘To make’ list! My next stop was the ballroom…

In this venue there were some very tasty treats on offer along with many stalls representing local charities. My attention was caught by small local business Just Because Macarons…. you can see why!

There were loads of very appealing flavours on offer… ooh which to choose?

Then it was time to choose the name of the knitted reindeer on the Cancer Relief stall (many apologies to Grainne [Santa’s little helper] I only took one photo and she looks a bit browned off in it! I promise she was smiling a split second before this was taken!!).

All of the things on this Christmas fundraising stall were made by patients who use the centre, their families and the centre’s many wonderful supporters. They have a craft club once a fortnight and the items made during the sessions were used to fill the stall. Among the lovely items on sale were doggie treats, human treats (including the most wonderful rocky road bites – I accidentally ate a few before the family came home – whoops) and handcrafted decorations and toys.

Alas, it was time to head home in time to pick the Little Postcards up from school. It was a brilliant fair again as always. I went early-ish so didn’t see it at it’s most busy. From previous experience I know it gets really packed when the schools finish for the day and the queue to visit Santa in his grotto can get quite long. I took Littlest Postcard last year and he was a little bit unsure, so I didn’t repeat the trip this year.

So what did I buy? Well sadly, quite a lot of it will be going into Christmas presents to people who may read this, so I can’t share too much…. But these mmm… I can’t wait to try one of these. I doubt very much they will stay in their packets much longer. Just need an excuse for giving the boys a treat…. Mint Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Minion flavour macarons. (What do Minions taste like I wonder?)

And this lovely crayon roll made by Beyoutifully Homemade will be going in the post to a special little man we know.

So that’s it for another year. I hope you enjoyed this trip to the Convent Christmas Fair, I’m very pleased to say I have officially begun my Christmas shopping – well I had got a few bits and pieces already but it’s the big push now from here on in.

Jingle bells…jingle bells… I wonder whether the guard made it in to see Santa? 😉

If you would like to see last year’s post about the Convent Christmas Fair 2015, you can find it here.

We 3 Kings … Gibraltar Cavalcade 2016

  
 The Three Kings Cavalcade on January 5th marks the end of the Christmas festivities here in Gibraltar. In it’s 59th year, it still draws the crowds out on a wet January evening.  

 There were fewer people out this time than our previous experiences, perhaps some had been put off by the torrential downpour which started an hour or so before the scheduled start of the procession. That worked in our favour as it meant little people didn’t get squashed nor did they need to be hoisted onto shoulders to watch the passing floats (hurrah for that says my back!). Thankfully the rain stopped in time and me stayed dry too. 

 One of the staples of Cavalcade is the handing out of thousands of free sweets. Previously it was traditional for those taking part to throw sweets from the passing floats, the result being that you often got pelted by boiled sweets and toffees hurled by over enthusiastic kids. Which is kind of fun, but also kind of dangerous. With Health and Safety in mind, last year (I think) the decision was taken to stop the throwing of sweets and instead hand them out at the start of event. So along came Minions, Disney Princesses and Ninja Turtles scooping buckets of jelly sweets and chocolates out of the back of a pick-up truck!

Cue a blurry photo of one young man’s stash. When his hands were full, another sweetie distributer stuffed a load into the hood of his coat!   
  

Next came the Gibraltar Regimental band:  
  And a few familiar faces, though I don’t remember Yoda being taller than a Storm  Trooper!  
Now for the main event: the first floats contained the three main men, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior: 

    
 Apologies for the blurry photo! This year, the Kings had new floats, last year and for many years previously they rode on artificial ‘camels’ which looked rather uncomfortable. Once upon a time, I believe, real camels were shipped in for the event. 

The Cavalcade is always on 5th January, the day before Epiphany. This was a completely new experience for us when we first arrived from England but across the border in Spain this time is incredibly important as it’s when Christmas presents are given and received, not on 25th December.

  Hot on the heels of the Kings came Miss Gibraltar 2015, who’s just back from the Miss World Competition in China. 

 Then came the community floats. This year 8 were entered. The majority were created by community groups like Scouts and youth clubs but this year a family entered their own float in support of the event. The one above featured the nativity and was put together by St Bernard’s Church.

 These Sumo wrestlers and their comedy dancing raised giggles from the crowd, they were jigging to the beat of these ninja drummers:   A dragon was tamed too! 

Ninjas were obviously a key theme as right behind was 1st/4th Scouts having a Ninja Turtle pizza party.  
The floats meet at Casemates Square earlier in the evening in order to be judged. There are different categories and prizes available.  

Inside Out was the theme of this family float. Then the procession was punctuated by a pipe band. 
 They played Christmas carols and had really funky glowing drumsticks. 

 The 75th Anniversay of the Evacuation of Gibraltar was marked by this float: 

 And Peter Pan and the Disney film Up were inspiration for these. 

 A local laser shooting company brought up the rear of the Cavalcade.

 And that was the Gibraltar Cavalcade over for another year. Thanks to the organisers and the weather for giving us a great evening out.  

 Time to head home and start getting ready for school beginning again on 7th. 

New Year in Andalusia

 
I hope you have had a good start to 2016. We headed a few kilometres along the coast from Gibraltar into Andalusia for New Year. We were blessed with beautiful weather as you can see from the pictures, and it is a really beautiful place. The above photo was taken at Nueva Andalucía on New Year’s Eve.    The two big (and rather obvious) differences between Gibraltar and it’s closest neighbour are space and greenery. When 30,000 people live in such a confined strip of land it can get quite intense sometimes. I do love Gibraltar but having grown up a few miles from rolling countryside and with a front and (small) back garden, I find I need to get away every now and then.  

 
We stayed in an apartment in the hills above the bustling town of Puerto Banús. The seaside town is famous for being a millionaires’ playground with it’s marina full of posh boats and posh cars. Apart from a meal at the Hard Rock Café and a quick look at the shops we stayed away from the razzmatazz though and did our own thing. We woke on New Year’s Day to the most glorious weather and decided to get a bit of fresh air and walk along the coastal path towards Marbella.  

 We weren’t the only ones who chose to stretch our legs that afternoon. There were people walking, scootering, roller-skating, cycling and Segway-ing along the wide promenade.  

 I was happy on foot but our two youngest sped off on their scooters to burn off a bit of energy. Their destination was this bridge across the Rio Verde. The summit in the background wearing a cloudy hat is Sierra Blanca. 

It’s a great bridge, perfect for scootering. It’s wide and smooth so you can go fast, is made of wooden planks so it makes a great noise as you fly across it and has a great slope to zoom on giving your Mum palpitations as there’s a flight of stairs at the end! 

 It’s set in great surroundings, the Rio Verde on one side. Where sea birds were enjoying the calm waters. 
 And the sea on the other side. 

 Beyond the river the beach stretches on towards Marbella. Even though it was the first of January there were some people basking in the winter sunshine.

 Our walk ended here as hungry children demanded food so we turned around and headed back towards town. We have promised ourselves we will return and walk further next time. 

  

January 2nd brought with it rain and cloud – we were so glad we’d made the effort to have our walk in the sunshine when we did. We explored a market which appears in the streets around here each Saturday.  We have managed to get caught up in the market by accident a few times in the past when trying to drive through these roads. This time though, we were on foot and ready for a mooch about.  

 Apart from some nice plant stalls and a few artisan craft stalls in the grounds of the bullring we were a bit disappointed with what was on offer. 

 There were thousands of fake designer handbags and sunglasses to choose from as well as cheap toys and a few electronics. I’m afraid it wasn’t at all what we had hoped for. 

 After the anti-climax of the street market we decided to regroup and try an alternative outing so we hopped into the car and headed east along the coast to Benalmádena and the Butterfly Park there.    Standing high on a hill and in the shadow of a stunning Buddhist Temple, we found the Butterfly Park. It didn’t disappoint.  

 From the moment we arrived we spotted them. Bigger than the palm of your hand and in every colour of the rainbow. I’ll let the photos tell the story here…    

      We listened to a talk by a member of staff who told us about the life cycle of the butterflies and moths there and showed us the most amazing array of cocoons and newly hatched butterflies.       Then came the fun part… Firstly our littlest got to feel a cocoon (and it’s metamorphosising inhabitant moving). Then he got to have a sleeping moth on his hand…  …then we all did. That was a big step for me as,although I love the beauty of these creatures, the idea of having one on my skin was erm not really my cup of tea. But I couldn’t leave being the only one not brave enough to try it – so I did. Yay me!  

 There were other creatures there too, this big lizard and a wallaby, both of which wander freely about inside with the visitors. We really enjoyed our trip and would recommend it, although for a family of five it cost €42 so it wasn’t cheap. It was a lovely tranquil place. 

 Once our visit was over we couldn’t help but go across the road to admire the amazing view west over Fuengirola.  Today we packed up and headed home, we were given a pretty send off with a rainbow by the side of the motorway.  And we were soon home… Ah there she is! Our lovely Rock.  Until next time, thanks for stopping by 😊. Thanks also for all the likes and lovely comments, it’s great to hear from you.
  

On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me…

  
I escaped this afternoon for nearly two hours away from the video games, toys and being beaten over the head with a cardboard tube light saber. I used my time wisely to burn off a few calories consumed over the past week or so and set off for a walk up the Rock. It was a bit blowy to attempt the Med Steps so I settled for the less treacherous western side along the roads used by the many taxi cabs and tour buses which ferry tourists to the summit daily.   As I strode purposefully up this great Rock a tune was turning over in my mind, a festive tune, known in our house as ‘A parsnip in a pear tree’ (The Twelve Days of Christmas).

A few new lyrics started popping into my head too, if you don’t mind a little festive corniness read on….

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: a most amazing view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: two cable cars and a most amazing view. 

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: 3 taxi cabs, two cable cars and a most amazing view. 

  
On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: 6 stalagmites (and the rest!), 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing  view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: 7 winter flowers, 6 stalagmites, 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view.

 On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me the Mediterranean Steps, 7 winter flowers, 6 stalagmites, 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me 9 road signs, the Mediterranean Steps, 7 winter flowers, 6 stalagmites, 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing  view.

  On a a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me Hercules’ Pillar, 9 road signs, the Mediterranean Steps, 7 winter flowers, 6 stalagmites, 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me: postcards from Gibraltar (sorry I couldn’t resist!), Hercules’ Pillar, 9 road signs, the Mediterranean steps, 7 winter flowers, 6 stalagmites, 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view.

  On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me dozens of Barbary apes, postcards from Gibraltar, Hercules’ Pillar, 9 road signs, the Mediterranean steps, 7 winter flowers, 6 stalagmites, 5 cannon rings, 4 boats in the harbour, 3 taxi cabs, 2 cable cars and a most amazing view!

Happy Christmas!

  
Hello and happy Christmas to you, I hope you are in a healthy and happy place as you read this. I have read so many profound and touching posts online recently pertaining to Christmas and I do not have the words to do this great season justice. I am also acutely aware that for many people this Christmas will not be the happy one which many of us will share because of illness, loss and difficult circumstances, please know that you are thought of and not forgotten amongst all the tinsel and frivolity. Instead of waffling on, I will just leave you with some images of Christmas for us here in Gibraltar. 
 Advent candles at St Andrew’s Church of Scotland. This vivid tree in a courtyard off the beaten track caught my eye.Every year we visit the ‘Crib’ (or Nativity as we call it at home) which is displayed under the Parliament building at the Piazza. It has twinkly stars, running water and moving figures and tells the story of Christmas.  

  I am so grateful for the fact I still get handmade Christmas cards home from school – they are so precious.
 Wishing peace, health and happiness to you this Christmas x  

Christmas makes

  

 I always like to make things in the run up to Christmas, this is a selection of things I’ve produced in past years. This year has been no different – I’ve had loads of great ideas but unfortunately not enough time to see them through!  

I have been inspired by so many beautiful Christmas crafts over the years, but none more so than home made wreaths. So last summer, when I was on holiday back in England a made a few crafty purchases with this very thing in mind… polystyrene wreaths. 

First of all I had to start crocheting a stripy cover for my bland base. I settled on a Frozen kind of colour scheme of blues, turquoise and silver. It was great to be making something small again after so long on my blanket WIP lately. A big advantage is that you can take it anywhere, like on the school run!


Once it was long enough to go all the way round the base, I sewed it together using all the scrappy ends.

Nearly there…

Such a satisfying little pile of endy bits!

Here’s the covered wreath in daylight.
 

Now time to adorn it. I used a pattern for some snowflakes from Simply Crochet issue 37.
  

Now to arrange them. Time for a celebration cup of coffee I think!  

 

But it looks a bit plain, I reckon it could do with a bit of bling.

  
And here’s the finished product! 

Apologies to my fellow crafty bloggers who may read this as though I’m trying to teach my Gran to suck eggs (though I don’t believe she ever did that 😉 ) but I find the process of making things and the broken down stages of crafting very interesting. I like to read posts like this, file the info away for future reference and add it to my ever growing list of ‘what I’d like to make nexts’.  

In adition to the wreath, I’ve had a little stocking production line going. Using this cute Christmas sock pattern by Le Monde de Sucrette. 

   

And I’ve completed my first ever crochet hot water bottle cover!

 
I just wish we had another couple of weeks before Christmas so I could finish all the other things I’d like to make! How are you getting on with your Christmas makes?