We have driven through Spain to Aranjuez, which is a town about 30 kilometres south east of Madrid.
It used to be a royal town, and in the 18th century the King and Queen spent each Spring here.
There is a huge Palace in the centre of town that is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
It seems that no expense was spared, and the interiors are incredibly ornate and imposing. Unfortunately, photos weren't allowed, and as it was very quiet when we visited we were closely followed by security guards, so couldn't sneak even a single image.
We also took a look at the royal barges that have their own separate museum. Apparently the royal family used to go hunting along the river, shooting game on the banks without even having to move from their cushioned seats. They also had a barge that followed closely behind them that was filled with musicians, so that they could listen to the latest tunes and operas as they floated along.
Think of it as being just like an expensive in car hifi system.
Ps, they had some interesting tastes in statues and photo four shows Bacchus, possibly the god of gluttony and drinking, having a very nice time.
Wednesday, 30 March 2016
We have driven through Spain to Aranjuez, which is a town about 30 kilometres south east of Madrid.
Sunday, 27 March 2016
We walked the other direction along the coast today, right to the very furthest point in photo one. It was a lovely warm morning and it took us about an hour and a half each way.
We arrived in Mazarron when it was fairly quiet, but it soon filled up.
There was lots of Spanish families out enjoying the sunshine and the weekend Easter break. They were sunbathing, padding, cycling, promenading and roller blading all around us.
We stopped for a great lunch at a beachside restaurant and just take in the relaxing atmosphere.
Friday, 25 March 2016
We had a very tiring day today as we went on an outing that I devised myself.
It started with an easy cycle ride along the coast, parking our bikes at the little seaside resort of La Azohia. We then set off on a hike.
Last year while out walking nearby, I disturbed a snake that shot past my feet at great speed. I jumped in the air and swore very loudly, but I am sure that my reaction time was much slower than his.
To avoid the worry of a similar situation where it might leap straight up one of my legs, I have gone for the jeans option. Daz doesn't have the same sort of imagination as me, so has gone for shorts.
We marched up hill and down dale, lost the path for a while and scrambled down a steep slope with very sharp rocks and slippery gravel underfoot.
It was good fun though and we found the path at the bottom of the hill. We then hiked up a really steep slope for our picnic stop at the halfway point.
Feeling suitably refreshed we headed off, did the second half of the walk and made it back to the bikes.
All that remained was the short cycle along a quiet road back to the campsite. I was in front and heard a loud rustling at the side of the road, and just had time to see a giant snake slithering away into some bushes.
Possibly the word 'giant' is pushing it a bit, but I class it as a lucky escape.
Sunday, 20 March 2016
Took a short bus trip up to Vélez-Málaga. It is a very Spanish town with little tourism.
Currently it is gearing up for the biggest event of the year - the Easter celebrations.
We had a look around and followed the route of some of the huge parades that are due to take place in the next few days.
We also went inside the church which was beautifully decorated. It was very peaceful and a little bit comforting.
I also bought a lovely chocolate priest from a cake shop, and felt really bad when I had no choice but to bite his head off. Surprisingly, he was filled with a strange white mushy, sugary concoction - similar to ice cream but not cold. Quite pleasant though.
Thursday, 17 March 2016
First day of the year on our bikes today, and we went for a nice medium sized ride along the coast to Nerja.
The sun shone all day, the roads were nice and quiet, and thankfully not very hilly.
We had a lovely lunch stop with a chilled glass of cava and then back the way we came.
We both now have a touch of sunburn and slightly sore bottoms, so we will leave it a day or two before we get the bikes out again.
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
We caught a bus along the coast today to Malaga, mainly to do a bit of shopping, but also to visit the Pompidou Centre.
We were in Malaga last year on the day before it opened, so we were looking forward to getting inside the building this time.
The entrance is dramatic and is underneath a multi coloured square box that reflects light all around the inside of the building.
All of the exhibits are on loan from the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and I surprised myself by actually liking some of the pieces.
In the main hall an installation called 'Ghost' consists of 102 sculptures in aluminium foil taken from body moulds. I was quite taken with it, and found it very moving to see the empty shells and dark interiors.
Best of all though was my chocolate muffin in the café. The waitress disappeared into the kitchen with it and appeared a few minutes later with it elegantly placed in the middle of a large bowl. She had then carefully piped red jam and cream swirls all around it. I thought that it was much more artistic than quite a few things that we saw in the museum.
Ps, it also tasted pretty good too.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016
We caught a flight from Nottingham to Malaga yesterday and picked up our lovely van. He had enjoyed his long holiday over the winter, was very pleased to see us again and started first time.
Today we drove along the coast to Torre del Mar. Last year we collected stamps from various campsites and we have enough points for a free five night stay.
What a great start to our journey, and we have picked an excellent spot - sunny and near to the bathrooms.
We headed to the beach this afternoon, but it was completely full, and with not an inch to put a sun bed.
Instead we found a park with a brilliant swing. The age limit was 55, (probably), so we had a lovely time whizzing up and down.
Fortunately there was no children around so we didn't have to share.
Sunday, 13 March 2016
Yet again we are inside a concert hall, this time it is in Nottingham. The tickets were a really good price, and Darren got the middle two seats on the front row.
Surely they must be the best seats in the house - or so we expected.
However, once we were in our seats our faces were less than six feet away from the conductor's shiny shoes, and the singers towered way above us.
With our heads tipped back we could see all of the action, and the singer on the left sang with his mouth so wide open and pulled such funny faces that I could have see how many fillings he had.
The concert was by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and we were expecting it to be full of well known classics.
Unfortunately it wasn't, but it was very lively with a lot to look at as well as to listen to.
We recognised Carmina Burana which was written by Carl Orff, and is the music to the Old Spice advert.
The section we knew lasted for about three minutes, but the actual piece went on for over an hour. I did start to wonder if it was ever going to end, but eventually they repeated the Old Spice section as a finale, and then it was over.
Friday, 11 March 2016
We spent the last two days in Birmingham.
Most of the time we watched the All England badminton tournament and cheered on the very few English competitors.
I borrowed a giant racquet, and stood about hopefully, but all of the players turned up so I wasn't needed as a last minute replacement.
We cheered on both the first and second seeds in the men's singles competition and, in a bombshell result they both lost, so maybe we were an unlucky omen.
We also had a bit of free time this morning, so went to visit what is supposed to be the biggest tourist attraction in England, (outside of London). Apparently it attracted 1,800,000 visitors last year so we wanted to add an extra two for this year.
It is called the Library of Birmingham, and basically it was large building with a lot of books inside. What more can I say!! Well I was hoping for more.
We were in and out in 27 minutes and that included a lot of marching up and down stairs. There was a glass elevator, but it was out of order, escalators awaiting repair and a secret garden requiring pruning.
We didn't look at the books - perhaps we got our priorities wrong.
Friday, 4 March 2016
Another busy day yesterday, and we went straight from the cycling to the opera. We went to see The Magic Flute at the Coliseum, and sat on the dress circle front row, just to the side of the stage .
Obviously, we wouldn't have paid full price for this luxury, but many months ago Darren bought two 'secret seats'. This meant that we didn't know where we would be sitting, so thank you to the management for their excellent choice for us.
The opera was very confusing although it was very cleverly done. The time flew by and the craziness of the story didn't really matter. Beautiful singing by the Queen and a very entertaining bird catcher called Papageno. Also I liked the bits where the whole orchestra stood up and used their sheet music to pretend to be birds.
It doesn't sound good, but you had to be there to appreciate it.
Ps, finally, a little mention has to go to baby Rex. Darren has just become a great uncle and here they are meeting for the first time. Thanks to Deni and Mark for making all of this possible!
The world track cycling championship is being held in London this year and as we arrived I practiced a winning celebration on the exercise bike outside.
It was a bit of a cheat really as I have never learned how to balance without holding on tightly to the handlebars, haven't put in any winter training and obviously haven't been picked in the team.
Once indoors I was pleased to find that we had an excellent seat, right behind the start line.
All of the cyclists were supported on their bikes before the gun was fired, and here is a slightly painful looking example featuring the rather well known cyclist - Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Very soon the cyclists were whizzing around the track with the crowd cheering wildly for the British racers. It is easy to take hundreds of blurry shots, so I have just included one example.
Brad and the boys won their heat this afternoon, but unfortunately at the evening session, when we were elsewhere, they only managed second place behind a fantastic Australian team.
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Chinese new year was a few weeks ago, and lots of the lanterns and illuminations were brought over from China and set up in Chiswick, West London.
Me, Daz and his mum caught the underground over to see them, stopping off for a lovely Turkish dinner on the way.
Here we are in silhouette in front of the giant swans, although there was also herds of giraffes, pandas, deer, monkeys and kangaroos, to name just a few.