Calentita! 2018

Calentita, Gibraltar’s annual food festival came to town on Saturday. Started back in 2007 (before we arrived on the Rock), the festival just gets better and better, and this year, attracted chefs from much further afield.

In our early years on the Rock, we attempted to ‘do’ Calentita on a few occasions, but found it tricky with small children. Now, with older children and a bigger, more spacious format for the festival, it’s much more do-able for us as family. (You can read about our experience of last year’s festival here.)

This year’s Calentita was a special one for me, as an article I wrote featured in the specially published Calentita Press magazine.

Anyway, down to business… Calentita. Being English and having kids with us, we turned up early. Over the years turning up early for events hasn’t always gone our way (like when it seemed like the rest of Gibraltar got the memo to come half an hour to an hour later for something), on this occasion though, we were in luck. We found a prime location for a base (one of the Casemates pubs which allowed us to buy drinks from them, but bring our own food from the stalls to the table) and we managed to get served at a few of the stalls before the, at times, humongous queues formed. Win, win!

Another perk of being early meant we could have a good nosey around at everything before it got too crowded.

There was so much variety to choose from. From the biggest barbecue I had ever seen…

To gorgeous cakes…

…And lots more besides, like craft gins and food from all four corners of the globe.

And so to the food… first stop for us was the cake stall (above), unfortunately I forgot to photograph the Oreo and Black Forest cupcakes I bought. I went there early before they sold out and saved them until we got home. You’ll have to take my word for it that they were beautiful both to look at and eat!!

For our first foray into the stalls we went for meat, (the huge barbecue hadn’t yet begun serving so we headed to another barbecue stall) the Iberian Secreto of pork (above) was just melt in the mouth and these mini burgers were lovely too. They came from the Gourmet Grill stall in Casemates.

Next came the taste of Asia with Chicken biryani and kebabs cooked by the Gibraltar Hindu Community.

The Little Postcards sampled hot dogs (which were available from a number of different stalls) and these rather tasty hot waffles smothered in Nutella….

As you can see, the food came on paper plates (you could bring your own plates and cutlery if you were organised – I wasn’t) and the cutlery was wooden. This year, Calentita was free from disposable single use plastic items in a bid to help the environment.

A few drinks may have been drunk too… ;-).

The atmosphere was brilliant, busy but not overly so, and it was very friendly and there were lots of families about. Among the non-edible attractions was the Casemates stage which had performances from local dance and musical groups, although this hadn’t properly got going while we were there… I did spot a couple of rather snazzily dressed witches behind the scenes…

And in Market Place, there was a stage for chefs (some local and others from further afield like Malta and London) to carry out demonstrations for the audience of diners sitting at the nearby tables and the people queueing at the stalls.

Calentita, yet again was a really well organised event and drew large crowds to come along and sample some of the many different foods on offer.

We only stayed for about 2 hours, as by that time tummies were full and we had played Top Trumps several times so the younger members of the party were ready to head home. If we had been there without children, we would most definitely have stayed longer. I can imagine the atmosphere being lovely after sunset, as the stalls began to light up. Maybe next year…

And finally, confession time. I have lived in Gibraltar for almost 9 years and until Saturday, I had never before tasted the Gibraltarian national dish of calentita (after which the food festival is named). It’s a kind of flan made with chickpeas, and was probably brought over to Gibraltar by the Genoese fishermen who migrated here (it’s known as farinata there, although a similar dish, known as karantita is served in nearby Northern Africa).

I decided the time had come to finally sample this local delicacy. Now, I’m not sure whether I will have to return my ID card and pack up and head back to England, but I’m afraid it wasn’t for me. I’m a fan of flans and custards and quiches and this was kind of a savoury combination of all of the above, but no, I’m not sure I’d go in for another slice. I don’t know what I was expecting, but perhaps after the lovely spices of the Hindu community’s gorgeous biryani it was a bit bland. Sorry!

And so that was our experience of Calentita 2018. A great evening, a lovely atmosphere and lots of tasty treats to eat. I think it may be time to hit the Med Steps again though to burn off those extra calories, it’s beach season again after all!!!

The adventures of Blizzard the bunny 

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin. Here’s the tale of Blizzard the bunny.

On Sunday afternoon, the Postcard family enjoyed a lovely Sunday lunch together in Queensway Quay marina.

We decided to put off going straight home, so we went for a wander into the Alameda Gardens to show the boys the Green Men.

It had been a very grey day, but as the sun was going down, it poked through the clouds and we had a really lovely half an hour or so in the leafy glade.

As we headed for home we found two ladies with their young daughters standing by one of the flower beds pointing. As we approached, we saw what they were pointing at, 3 rabbits. A white one (below) …

…and two brown ones. Along with a cage, which was left with the lid off and a sack of food.

The bunnies had clearly been abandoned as they were right next door to the Alameda Wildlife Park (which has some rabbit inhabitants). One of the ladies called the police to find a number for someone to come and collect the rabbits. We waited for well over half an hour and no one was coming and it was getting increasingly dark.

We decided that we would try to catch them and get them into the cage before it went dark – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see them (especially the brown ones). The white bunny was very docile and sat for quite some time under a clump of dead flowers so was easy to pick up. The other two, however, were having a whale of a time running free in the undergrowth and they scarpered. Spotting an exit point from their location into the slope behind and through the trees and brushes beyond.

After more time passed waiting for someone to show up, we decided to take the white bunny home with us rather than leaving it out in the stormy rain which was forecast for Sunday night. We must have been quite a sight walking along the road with a rabbit cage!

Poor bunny, fancy abandoning a lovely creature like that?

I feel at this point I need to  make something clear… I am NOT an ‘animal person’. I had several goldfish and a 1/4 share in a grumpy arthritic blue and grey budgie (called Nicky) as a child, but that did not make me particularly fond of creatures up close and personal. I can appreciate the beauty and elegance of a cat and I can see the merit of a pet dog (if you have the time and room and desire for one) but I’m happy as I am thank you very much.

So, just to recap,  we went out to lunch on Sunday and came back with a very quiet, furry lodger.

Once back at our house, the bunny (who had now been named Blizzard) got a bowl of spinach, clean litter and hay,  and the empty water bottle on the cage was refilled. The cage was placed next to Bunny Postcard’s run so they could get to know each other…

I’m not sure that Bunny Postcard was too impressed with the new arrival!

Sunday night went ok, but by Monday morning, there was an almighty racket coming from Blizzard’s cage. I was witnessing some completely new rabbit behaviour. Thumping. Every minute or so, Blizzard was thumping his/her back leg against the floor of the cage in a very aggressive way. A quick Google search revealed this could mean a whole host of different things, fear, anger, threat, territorial dispute, upset etc. Well the poor rabbit had just had a very upsetting 24 hours, abandonment, being caught by strangers and brought to a strange house with a rabbit already in residence.

On Monday morning, I returned to the Alameda Gardens and visited the wildlife park. The lady there had been alerted to the the bunny situation by the police and had actually seen one of the brown escapees running through the bushes close to where they were last seen. Sadly, this is not the first time that animals have been abandoned outside the park when it’s closed.

She told me that one morning, they had arrived to work to find a cage of ferrets which had been abandoned and left overnight in a stormy wet weather. How can you do that? Anyway, the main reason for my visit was to see whether they had room for a new addition. The short answer is no. They are not an animal shelter although they do take in exotic animals seized by Customs. Looks like we may be adopting a bunny.

Next stop, the vets…..

I can now reveal that Blizzard is a girl (may need to rethink that name). She appears healthy, although a little overweight. She had a treatment for fleas and parasites, a pedicure (as her claws were a little long) and a scan to check for baby bunnies (eek).

So far there is no evidence of babies, but as bunny pregnancies only last a month, the vet couldn’t rule it out. We have to return in a fortnight for a second scan and then we can get her injections done.

So there you have it, we now have another girl bunny in the house. We can’t put them together yet, as they need to get to know each other a bit first. So after 2 weeks of being side by side, we will try putting them together in neutral territory (vet suggested the bathroom) to test how they react.

I will keep you posted on Blizzard’s progress and ours…

Sunday Sevens #36 19.6.16

Queen’s Birthday bank holiday

We had an extra bank holiday on Monday which you don’t get in the UK. To celebrate the Queen’s official birthday in June, we get a day off. It’s not just because it was a special birthday this year – we always get one. It also marked the beginning of summer hours at school. On Tuesday the little Postcards finished at lunchtime and will continue to do so until term ends in four weeks’ time – that means my crafting time has been severely depleted but the plus side is I don’t need to make any more packed lunches until September! 

Dressmaking class


The invisible zip is IN. I’m really enjoying making this skirt, firstly because it’s to be worn at two family weddings next year (nice occasions which are a long way off – so no pressure) and the fabric’s so easy to sew. It’s crisp and the seams look so neat plus it doesn’t fray. The lining on the other hand…. the less said about that the better!!

#7000 woolly hearts for Yarndale challenge


You may remember a few months back I hooked up some woolly hearts and sent them to a lovely lady known as @bonnies_little_crafts on Instagram. She lives in the town of Skipton which plays host to the Yarndale festival each September. This year she has set herself (and anyone else who wants to get involved) the task of crocheting 7000 little woolly hearts to give away to visitors to her home town when they attend the yarny festival this year. I started my second stash this week while the little Postcards were splashing about in the pool.

A prime ministerial visit


Thursday saw an historic moment in Gibraltar’s history, David Cameron became the first serving Prime Minister to visit since Harold Wilson. Sadly a huge rally which had been planned to raise the issues facing Gibraltar with regards to the EU Referendum had to be cancelled following the horrific events in Leeds which led to the death of mother and MP, Jo Cox. 

Security was extremely tight around town for the few hours he spent on the Rock with police officers stationed on most road junctions. This was the scene outside the Rock Hotel where the PM held talks with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo and other local politicians. I never knew there were so many machine guns in Gibraltar before this!

A bit of painting

It has been ages since I got my paints out and I had a spare few minutes on Friday before picking the boys up from school, so had a go at a few more freesias. This is going on a special birthday card for a very special lady. 

A weekend away


On Friday I did something I’ve been looking forward to for ages, I got on a plane on my own and came to visit my Mum and Dad. I’ve not been back to England since August last year and I’ve really missed seeing my family. The trip had been on the cards since January but kept being put back for various reasons. Finally the day arrived. It was worth the wait! It also coincided with Father’s Day. I am able to spend it with my Dad for the first time in years. 

Fish


Nothing says home to me like my Dad’s aquarium. It’s been bubbling away in the my parents’ dining room since before I sat at the dining table studying for my A-Levels. Once home to tropical fish and beautiful blue striped Neon Tetras (my favourites) these lovely goldfish are now in residence. The noise of the pump has been a constant soundtrack to mealtimes back in my childhood home. 

Wherever you are this Father’s Day, I hope it is a happy one for you.

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series devised by Natalie at  Threads & Bobbins blog.

Ahoy there! A tall ship calls into port


On Sunday we had the chance to set foot on board the deck of a real sailing ship. The Jean de la Lune had called into Gibraltar on it’s voyage north to Southampton and lowered it’s gang plank to allow anyone who was interested to come and have a nosey around. As we have a pirate fan in the Postcard family it was too good a chance to turn down and we joined the queue of eager visitors on the North Mole quayside.

Jean de la Lune, a 110ft tall wooden Brigantine, was built in 1957 in Brittany in northern France, and was originally intended to be one of the last French fishing boats to be built without an engine. Her career as a fishing boat saw her have an engine fitted some years later but it came to an end in the mid 1970s.

During the last 40 years, and after a significant refit to convert her back into a sailing vessel she became a charter boat with sleeping accommodation for a crew of 4 and 12 guests.

She worked as a charter vessel taking scuba divers around the Western Isles of Scotland and in the mid 1980s she set sail for the Caribbean to help with the efforts of the Operation Raleigh charity. Jean de la Lune is now registered as a sail training ship on which people can learn how to sail.

Crowds of folk took their turn to have an explore during Sunday’s open day and there were lots of wannabe pirates on board. There was actually an offer to join the boat for the next leg of the journey from Gibraltar to Portugal – I resisted the temptation (although it would be a real adventure). The little ladders up and down to the different decks are very steep – I wouldn’t fancy attempting to negotiate them with the ship pitching and rolling on the high seas!


Our own little pirate very much enjoyed having a look around, although he wasn’t too keen about climbing aboard at first, preferring to suss it out from the quay before committing. The temptation to ring the ship’s bell and have a turn with the steering wheel was too good to miss.

Jean de la Lune has now left Gibraltar and is due in Porto, in Portugal at the weekend. After that, her next port of call is Southampton. If you fancy finding out more, check out the  website for details.

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No 9: A trip on the cable car 

Hello there, I’ve not taken you out for a stroll for a few weeks, so I thought it was high time we went for another explore around the place I call home. A few weeks back, my parents came over for a visit and we took the opportunity to do a few of the touristy things in Gibraltar which we haven’t done for a while. 

When we first arrived in Gibraltar, we used to frequently take a trip up in the cable car to the top of the Rock and take a leisurely walk down the roads on a Sunday afternoon. When we were suffering from homesickness it felt almost like we were in the English countryside on a summer’s day (well if you don’t look too closely at the olive trees and other Mediterranean vegetation!). 

We hadn’t done that for a while so one weekend day during their visit, the whole Postcard family accompanied by the Grandparents bought our tickets for the cable car and went for a ride.

I took this photo of a poster at the cable car base station. Not the best map I’m afraid and there’s a nice bit of product placement on the modes of transport but it gives those of you unfamiliar with Gibraltar a clearer idea of where we went. 

To the right of the centre of the picture is the label Alameda Gardens that was the subject of my Stroll around Gibraltar No 7 and is right next to the cable car base station. Follow the line (or cables) from there up to the Upper Rock and that’s the destination for the cable car.

The photo above shows the main entrance to the Alameda Gardens as the cable car begins its ascent up to the top of the Rock. I’m afraid I didn’t get the chance to take too many pictures as it was rather busy and we were packed in a bit!

It also just takes about six minutes to rise from the base station to the summit, during that time it’s very easy to get transfixed by the view, trying to spot out familiar sights, schools, houses and parks which we visit regularly.

It was such a lovely day and we had a slightly hazy view of Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar ahead.

And then we arrived!

Of course there’s no show without punch, and naturally the moment you step off the cable car, the apes are waiting to pounce and one did. A tourist on our trip up carrying a plastic bag full of food got off behind us. An ape used our eldest’s head as a springboard to grab the bag. It was all over in seconds and so quick I didn’t even see it despite being about a metre away! 

There are many signs warning you not to take food up to the top, and to keep your bags closed and not to feed the apes etc etc, but of course there are always a few people who don’t bother taking notice and then get a fright when their sandwiches or sweets get pinched!

It’s well worth taking your chances with the apes though, because check out the view! This is looking north, to the left of the Rock you can see the Gibraltar airport runway and beyond that is La Linea de la Concepción the nearest Spainish town to us.

I can’t make my mind up whether Gibraltar looks smaller or bigger than it feels from up here, a bit smaller I suppose because it’s all so tightly packed. Down below us here in this picture is the town centre with M&S, British Home Stores and all the delights Main Street has to offer. Also Commonwealth Park, Morrisons supermarket, St Bernard’s Hospital, several schools and housing for thousands, not to mention the cruise ship terminal, a new marina for dozens  of small boats and offices for countless businesses.

Beyond Gibraltar in this picture shows Campamento (which lies beyond La Linea) and the delightful oil refinery at the head of the Bay of Gibraltar.

The apes are clearly unimpressed with the view – they get to see it every day after all. A bit of mutual grooming and flea picking is far more preferable!

Down on the eastern and less densely populated side of the Rock you can find Catalan Bay (home to a fishing village and the Caleta Hotel) in the picture  above, and Sandy Bay, home to a retirement village and a few holiday homes, in the one  below.

After taking in the views and admiring our home from above, we decided to begin the leisurely walk down the hill  and homeward bound. In order to get down though, you have to walk through one of the official ape feeding stations where they get their fruit and veg 5-a-day from the conservation workers who look after them and keep them healthy.

For obvious reasons this is a big hot spot for tourists and we had to negotiate quite a few taxis and tourists stopping to take photos, so I thought it would be rude not to pap a few of the performers myself.

It’s so much easier walking downwards than climbing up!

We were really lucky to have a lovely warm day for our ramble down the Rock, almost like a British summer’s day. This really is my favourite time of year in Gibraltar, not too hot and not too wet!

Despite there being a fair few other visitors to the Upper Rock that day, it didn’t take us long to have the meandering roads down to town to ourselves, it was so peaceful.

This little chap was making the most of the sunny weather and was doing a bit of sunbathing on a rock as we passed. I have seen quite a few lizards (or geckos – I’m not entirely sure what their correct title is) so far this spring, it’s so nice to see them out and about, scuttling away into the undergrowth or into cracks as soon as they sense they are no longer alone!

There was a fair bit of flora on show as well as fauna, these strongly perfumed wild freesias were in abundance and have been for weeks now, although they are less common in the last week or so, there were also some beautifully scented lavenders in flower too.

  

And finally, do you remember this picture from my Stroll around Gibraltar No 6: from sea to summit (in the rain!)…  

 

…well, it was a much clearer day when we took our trip up the cable car – just look at the view now!!

Thank you so much for joining us on this stroll down the Rock, do pop back again soon!

A day trip to Ronda, Andalusia 

Ronda is a small city in the mountains just an hour or so inland from the Costa del Sol. On our trip along the coast last week, we decided to take a drive inland and up the steep winding mountain roads to explore this fascinating place. I have visited several times before but it was a first experience for the rest of the Postcard family. We were blessed with clear blue skies and warm sun, and the old town centre was looking it’s best for us.

As you can see, the town centre sits astride a deep river gorge which drops 100 metres below (not a great place for vertigo sufferers) and is dominated by the rather misleadingly named Puente Nuevo (or new  bridge) which was completed in the 1790s.

On each side of the bridge, the buildings line the gorge, holding tightly to the edge. Imagine washing the windows of those! Not for me thank you!

  
Aside from the beautiful old New Bridge, the main tourist attraction, as in many Spanish towns is the bullring. This one is thought to be one of the oldest in Spain and holds a museum dedicated to the ‘sport’ and its history as well as to the Matadors as well.

Not being fans of bull-fighting we chose to sidestep what was on offer here and walked past it onto the gardens beyond and the most impressive view.

A hop, skip and a jump through the small gardens and you open out onto a viewing platform and balcony which isn’t for the faint hearted. But my, the views are stunning.

The buildings down below looked so far way!

It’s only when we were a short distance away and looked back to see where we’d been standing that we realised what we were standing on…. very little! Holy moly I wouldn’t have been so keen to lean on those railings and poke my camera lens through had I seen this first – probably for the best!

Then we headed across the bridge…

… which was thronged with tourists (apparently Easter is a very popular time to visit Ronda)…

…and pootled along the road taking in the beautiful architecture.


I hope I’m not boring you here, but those who are familiar with my blog will know I’m rather partial to old buildings!

Just get a load of these gorgeous old windows and doors with their wonky shapes and well worn appearance. Check out this pair of door knockers!

We ended up in a beautiful square with more than its fair share of churches. It so happened that we arrived dead on midday and all the bells in the various steeples started chiming. Each one was louder than the next as they fought to out do one another! It sent the roosting swifts flying out of the eaves of the old church roofs in panic. It was quite a thing to experience.

  
 

It was so pretty – and noisy!

  
  

Our return to the bridge and our carpark in the more modern part of Ronda took us up some lovely alleyways. Presuming they were too narrow for traffic, imagine our surprise as we were forced to jump out of the way for a horse and carriage which was coming towards us carrying tourists! I didn’t catch that moment on camera as I was too busy grabbing children and hauling them out of the way!

  

This building caught my eye, it’s a hotel – isn’t it beautiful?

  
I had been really looking forward to visiting Ronda again, and it didn’t disappoint. We spent a few hours there wandering about and getting a bite to eat. Ideally it would be a perfect grown-ups only weekend away destination as not only are there many interesting museums to explore, the countless shops we walked past on our way from and back to the car park looked really worth investigating. Little legs were feeling the strain though, so we though it best to make a move back to our home for the Easter holidays before the complaints got out of hand. Perhaps one day…

  

I would highly recommend a visit – there’s so much to see. My only advice if you aren’t a fan of heights – don’t look down!

  

 

Sunday Sevens #25 3.4.16

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series created by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins. It features seven photos from the past seven days, if you fancy joining in pop over to her blog to find out more.

The joys of a kids club 

And relaxxxxx! This week, we took advantage of the school holidays and drove along the Costa del Sol to just beyond Marbella for a fantastic week. We stayed close to the resort for most of our stay as it had many of the things we needed, a park, an indoor family pool, peace & quiet, easy access to the beach for walks – and best of all, a kids club. 

Most days, one or two of the little postcards decided to partake in the entertainment it had to offer for an hour or so, and twice, yes, twice all three spent an hour there AT THE SAME TIME! That mean time off for Mum & Dad – hurrah for holiday!
 

Nocturnal chess 

Also on the resort is this giant chess set, it really captured the imagination of our youngest and we had regular chess matches under the tutelage of our eldest (I haven’t got much of a clue about chess I’m afraid). The nocturnal one we played on our second evening was the most exciting for the littlest grand master.

Beach walk

 

We were blessed with beautiful weather – what better thing to do than have a leisurely stroll along the beach. It was so nice. Only one child fell into the sea (fully clothed) so I see that as a victory.

Dragon blossoms

 
Very close to where we were staying there was a beautiful tree covered in a blossom which looked like little dragons. I have never seen anything like it before – it was just beautiful and against the deep blue of the March sky, it was stunning.

A trip into the mountains   
We didn’t stay put completely at our holiday base for the whole duration of our stay. We ventured out to the shops at Marbella and on Wednesday took a drive up into the mountains to visit the beautiful town of Ronda (more on that coming soon).  It was so nice to escape to a place so totally different to what we’re used to. Long winding roads climbing up through forested areas and past rock falls, the valleys stretching out below us and huge birds of prey circling in the skies above. It reminded me a lot of holidays to the Highlands of Scotland (apart from the weather – sorry Scotland).

Crochet on the beach 

  

Ooh get me with my holiday nail polish! Well, as you can see, so far this week I have filled my cosy stripe blanket sized hole with two new projects. A rainbow coloured scarf and a magenta amigurumi dinosaur. The latter began life on the beach this week after the happy news that a friend of mine delivered her healthy baby girl this week. Will I get it done in time to give to the new arrival before she takes her driving test? Watch this space!! 🙂

Sunset on our last night…  

 
We are safely back home in Gibraltar now after our lovely Easter break away from home. We didn’t really stray that far, you can actually see Gibraltar in the picture above (which was taken from our resort). If you follow the horizon from the left of the shot, the first ‘lump’ (apologies Gibraltar) is the Rock and our home. We did give her a wave regularly to remind her we would be returning soon. And here we are, another week done, another family holiday to look back on and it’s back to school tomorrow. 

It’s a milestone for me, because our littlest postcard begins 5 days of full-time school tomorrow. So for the first time in almost 12 years, I will have five full days per week, child-free. Imagine that? I guess I’ll have to do a bit more crafting then… Until next week, have a great one!