Monthly Archives: May 2013

Toledo: Will I Ever Get Sick Of This View?

The short answer: No.

Taken today while torturing a very patient Brazilian guy with my horrendous Portuguese

Taken today while torturing a very patient Brazilian guy with my horrendous Portuguese

On my way back home, I took a picture of these enormous dolls (about 5m in height), which are paraded through town every year at the start of the Corpus Cristi celebration week. After their outing, they remain in front of the Town Hall  for the rest of the week, overseeing the proceedings

On my way back home, I took a picture of these enormous and rather sinister-looking dolls (about 5m in height), which are paraded through town every year at the start of the Corpus Cristi celebration week. After their outing, they remain lined up in front of the Town Hall for the rest of the week, overseeing the proceedings

Flowery Fursday

I’ve had a frustrating morning. I spent three hours watching the most interminable plod on Earth (aka Toledo’s Corpus Cristi procession, I’ve slagged it off before, see this post). Ok, it wasn’t any different from the year before – I knew full well what I was letting myself in for! – and I had some very good company, so it wasn’t all bad.

The most vexatious thing about it was that I took about a zillion photos and all of them turned out to be crap. And I mean ALL OF THEM. This is the best one (and only if you happen to have a thing for men in uniform):

Military menPathetic, right? Not that I fancy myself as possessing even a shred of photographic talent, but deleting dozens of abysmal pictures without having anything half-way presentable left to show for after an entire morning’s snapping session is a bit depressing.

But then, my day was saved by one of my new language exchange partners. She picked me up this afternoon for some practice at her house, and I took some flower pics in her garden, which cheered me up no end after this morning’s dismal defeat.

This is not a flower, but a tiny pomegranate. I'd never seen them in the early stages before, so this was a delightful find

Not a flower, but a tiny pomegranate. I’d never seen them in the early stages of development before, so this was a delightful find

Garen flowers

Pretty yellow flowers by the poolsideGarden Flowers

Garden flowers

Wordless Wednesday: Some Field in Castilla La Mancha

My first offering for Wordless Wednesday. Seems to be a new social movement. Or just a way of blogging for lazy people. The latter suits me down to the ground. I might still have a few spare windmills lying around. And now……. pssssssssssssst!!!



Toledo’s Palacial Patios

Toledo Patio BrochuresThe deal is that once year, for one week only (for the duration of the Corpus Christi celebrations, Toledo’s biggest annual event), a number of private houses open their patios (inner courtyards) for the general public to mooch around in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wasn’t intending to go this year, but then my friend Cristina, who I was having lunch with today, suggested that it would make for a fun photo hunt. And so it did ūüôā

There was even one that had been turned into a private art gallery! Unfortunately, none of the pics I took of that one is in any way presentable.

Tile Mural of Toledo

A tile mural of Toledo

Toledo Patio Toledo Patio FountainToledo Patio ArtToledo Patio HorseToledo Patio ArchesToledo Patio

I took this one a few weeks ago. It's the patio of an historic building called Casa Del Judio (House of the Jew). My friend Olga (pictured) grew up here, and her mother still lives there

I took this one a few weeks ago. It’s the patio of an important historic building called Casa Del Judio (House of the Jew). My friend Olga (posing like a good sport) grew up here, and her mother still lives there

Cristina, who I did the patio tour with

Cristina, my patio tour accomplice

Toledo PatioToledo Patios

My First Award: One Lovely Blog!

Last week, I was too busy putting up fuzzy pictures of windmills, sparkly glass lanterns and moaning about the stench in Spanish supermarkets to collect my crown, but now I’m ready to give this momentous event its full dues. I mean, who wouldn’t want theirs to be considered “One Lovely Blog”…!?

Here are the rules, and being German, I will have to follow them to the letter:

How to accept this award:
1.    Thank the person who nominated you
2.    Add the One Lovely Blog image to your post
3.    Share 7 things about you
4.    Pass the award on to seven nominees
5.    Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs

Number one is easy: Thank you, Linda, for nominating me ūüôā Linda’s blog expateyeonlatvia makes me pee my pants. If I were a better writer, at least half as funny as her and not worried about people beating me into a pulp every time I set foot outside my front door, I’d have a blog just like hers. My only complaint is that she sometimes doesn’t post anything for five days in a row. This is bad, Linda, very bad, you hear?!

Number two, also easy:


Number three… not so easy. But I’ll have a go… seven things about me:

1. I hate my toes. Crooked –¬† each and every one of them.

2. Patience is NOT my middle name.

3. I used to be really freaked out about spiders until I moved to Spain and encountered cockroaches. The season started again last Wednesday, and with a bang. Guess where I found the unmentionable? Kitchen? Bathroom…? You’d think that, wouldn’t you. As horrible as it is to contemplate, those would all be ‘reasonable’ places for them to be. But no. The damn critter was having a rollickin’ time right in the middle of my bed! Oh, it was a YouTube-worthy comedy moment I’m sure you’d all have enjoyed. I didn’t so much, at the time. (High-pitched screaming, flapping of arms, swearing, it had everything.) But I got the bugger in the end. Ha!

4. I like to collect inspirational quotes. My most valuable source of worldly wisdom is the US Grocery Manufacturer Association’s daily newsletter. Here are three of my faves:

– Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. (Isaac Asimov)
– Experience is a good teacher, but she sends terrific bills (Minna Antrim)
– If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal. Not to people or things (Albert Einstein)

5. I have a fear of driving. I think it may be genetic, like my toes. I do, bizarrely, possess a license, but I haven’t really driven since passing my test, and if you put me behind a steering wheel today (at gunpoint, otherwise forget it), I’d be incapable of even starting the blasted thing.

6. I like some a few people, but I’m not gregarious. Socialising in groups, parties, noisy bars… meh! Put me at a table with coffee, cake and ONE humanoid creature with at least half a firing brain cell, and I’m happy as a clam.

7. I will do ANYTHING to get out of having to attend a wedding. And, I’m proud to say, my strategy is working a treat. I’ve only showed up to two in the past decade. (One of them ended in a spectacularly acrid divorce, while the other (phew!) is careering quite happily along the potholed road). Rumour has it that my main reason for leaving the UK in the autumn of 2011 was to dodge Will & Kate’s big day.

Number four: Nomination time!

Choosing seven was really, really, really hard…and I’ve recently started following a whole bunch of new blogs that I haven’t quite gotten a sense of yet. I’ll keep some back for the next time (if there is one).

expatiallymexico: This is an undisguisedly blatant attempt to get Kristin posting again. I love her blog. She’s been taking a break since April due to some frivolous extracurricular activity… giving birth or something… but that’s enough of that now! (OK, she did post last week). We demand more stories about shrines dedicated to evil bridge demons and maids who clean the kitchen cabinets with ground up chalk. NOW!

lovinglanguage: If you’re into languages, you’ll like this one. This blogger, who sounds like he has just about the busiest life on Earth, still manages to post something astoundingly intelligent and motivation-boosting at regular intervals, whilst learning Somali and Farsi on the side.

foodjunk: If you’ve got a liking for wacky (and highly suspect) snack foods, this guy will hit your spot. Be warned: He’s rather prone to going off on tangents… but he’s allowed, seeing as he’s ready to put his own life in danger for your entertainment by preparing – AND EATING! – the contents of an original box of 1980s stripey Jell-O.

jacksjottings and pommepal: A joint nomination to those two bloggers – an amazingly energetic couple in their 70s who travel around Australia in their caravan named Matilda. Currently house sitting in Tasmania, if I’m not mistaken.¬† Great photos, too!

confuzzledom:  Brit living in Germany. Posted a picture of a cracking home-made cake recently. Followed by a cross-stitched one. Gets my vote any day.

conjamon:¬† A family of British ham aficionados who’ve recently moved to Spain. I don’t think they’ve killed anyone/each other yet.

travelwithintent:¬† Her posts about her travels have brought back many pleasurable memories of places I’ve also been to, including some of my favourite spots dotted around London where I lived for ten years. Cakes feature frequently.

Number five: about to do that now…

Toledo Gets Ready For “The Corpus”: A Pretty Lantern

Saturday is the perfect day for gratuitous photo posts. While I was out today, I spotted this rather charming glass lantern.

Toledo LanternToledo Lantern Close-Up

The lantern is part of the decorations put up for Toledo’s biggest annual event, “The Feast Of Corpus Christi”, which is due to happen next week. As I have expressed before, I’m not a huge fan… here’s a short back story post, if you are interested.






The Weekly Don Quixote – Meet The Wicked Windmills!

Last Sunday, Maria and I took a trip to Don Quixote’s infamous public enemy number one: The Windmills. Before moving to Spain, I assumed Cervantes had just made them up, but the ‘ferocious giants’ his anti-hero battled against really do exist, and they are none the worse for wear!

Said windmills can be found not far from Toledo, about a half hour drive away, stuck on a hill by a small town called Consuegra. The town itself… erm… how to put this delicately… has not much to commend it, but this set of ancient pre-industrial buildings was definitely worth the trip. Each one of them even has a name.

Consuegra Windmills


As a backdrop, Consuegra has its merits...

As a backdrop, Consuegra has its merits…

Maria taking a break

Maria taking a break. We were in our winter coats – in the middle of May! And it was very windy, as you’d expect…
The sign on the right-hand side of the door is the windmill’s name plate

WindmillsFor the other posts in the Weekly Don Quixote series, click here.

Who Eats The Most Fish? And Why Do Spanish Supermarkets Smell So Bad…?

If you ask any German living abroad what food they miss most, they will tell you bread. For the Spanish, it’s fish. They are puzzled when they arrive in countries like Germany or the UK and can’t find sixty different types of crustaceans laid out in all their colourful glory at every supermarket fish counter. The paltry fish offering in the UK and Ireland is particularly disconcerting to a Spaniard, because on an island, there surely should be lots of fish…?!?

Spain has the second biggest per capita fish and seafood consumption in Europe –¬† In 2012, they managed 28kg (down from 33kg in 2007, as a result of the economic crisis). The Portuguese chomped their way through 47kg, and Taiwan, the world’s leading consumer, clocked an incredible 85kg per capita. The UK mustered just 13kg, Germany 9kg (about the same as Australians) and the US a meagre 5kg.

Fish CounterEvery Spanish supermarket features an enormous fish counter, situated a hair’s breadth from the entrance. So, the very first thing that hits you as you enter is an overpowering stench of fish. Now, if a UK or German supermarket decided to follow this strategy, it would be out of business in a week. Personally, I love fish, and I do enjoy gazing at Spanish supermarkets’ vibrant fish displays, but the smell turns my stomach every time.

In UK and German supermarkets the (comparatively) miniscule, sterilised and deodorised fish counter is usually situated somewhere at the back. And, in striking contrast to the Spanish scenario, as you step through the sliding doors, what usually floods your olfactory system is the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread. In German supermarkets, it’s the bakery that’s almost always by the entrance.

This is no accident – it’s is how grocery retailers in Germany and the UK entice shoppers into the store and attempt to ‘enhance the shopping experience’ of the weekly trolley trudge. (Translation: they try to make you hungry so you buy more. Works well with bakery, not so much with fish, though …).

Despite the delectable wafts emanating from the bakery section, however, there’s no proper baking going on in there. Oh no. Every twelve minutes, some gawky seventeen-year-old wrapped in a blue hairnet bungs a tray of factory-made, pre-baked ‘baguettes’ in the oven, and hey presto, the glorious smell just keeps on permeating the aisles. The fish never stood a chance.

Do any of you have any (wh)iffy supermarket observations to share…?

OK... maybe not ALL the fish is pretty...

OK… maybe not ALL fish is attractive…

[For data source click here]

Proudly Hosting “Lady Button Monday”

Today, I’m doing a stand-in for my dear friend Lazooligirl, who is taking a creative break from her blipfoto blog (translation: she failed to turn up a good enough pair this week).
[Note to my confused regulars: Just read on…]

Mondays are eagerly awaited by Lazooligirl’s three subscribers, because it’s the day of the week celebrated as ‘Lady Button Monday’ (or LBM, to use the local shorthand) in Lazooliworld.

So, without further a do, here is this week’s titillating offering, heralding from a caf√© in Lavapi√©s (Madrid), where this exotic beauty flashed her sumptuous breakfast options right at me.

I'm not some hussy, you know. I'm a Pirate Queen. Doing a bit of moonlighting as a menu card. Only till I get enough dosh together to have Midshipman Van Buttercup's tattoo lasered off my behind. If Cap'n Jack sees it, I'm toast.

I’m not some hussy, you know.
I’m a Pirate Queen.
Doing a bit of moonlighting as a menu card. Only till I get enough dosh together to have Midshipman Van Buttercup’s tattoo lasered off my behind.
If Cap’n Jack sees it, I’m toast…

I realise that I’ve upped the stakes significantly where photographic standards are concerned, honoured blipsters, but don’t be too hard on our beloved lass Lazooligirl. Her bird masterclasses remain unrivalled. (We won’t mention squirrels, she’s still practising, and she might get all of the paws into the frame on her next attempt.)

Here’s the link back to her journal, so you can give her all the heart-warming commentage she deserves.

Rest assured that operations will bounce back to normal for the next LBM.

The Weekly Don Quixote – Performs A Vanishing Act ‘√Ā La Toledo’

Here he is, trying to clamber over the wall in an attempt to help Sancho Panza, who's being bounced around on a table cloth. Just don't ask me which chapter of the novel corresponds with that scene...!

Here he is, our hero, trying to clamber over the wall in an attempt to come to the aid of Sancho Panza, who looks none too happy being bounced around on a table cloth. Just don’t ask me which chapter of the novel corresponds with that scene…!

It’s a tile mural, and the photo is crap ūüė¶¬† And there is a reason… sigh.

I stumbled across this by chance a few weeks ago, and took a picture, not knowing whether I was ever going to use it for anything. As you can see, the left-hand-side was being hit by the mid-day sun at the time, with the other half in the shade – impossible to fix, unless you have a PhD in Photoshop. And I can barely hit the snap button on my teensy camera while holding the blasted thing steady at the same time.

A couple of days ago, I tried to return to the spot to take another pic in better light conditions, but… it wasn’t there! OK, the mural is still *somewhere* out there – no more than ten minutes’ walk from my house, in fact – but it’s not where I thought it was.

That is what happens all the time in the old town. When I first moved here, a friend (who had also just arrived) and I used to joke about Toledo’s “disappearing shops”, how they were there one morning, and gone the next, when you needed to buy something, because you’d taken the wrong turn. Yet again. My Teutonic punctuality-pathfinder programming is in perpetual melt-down mode.

After a year and a half, I thought I’d finally cracked it… only to get caught out again by bloody Don Quixote. Ahrgh.

Here’s the link to The Weekly Don Quixote series.

Ceramics, and, in particular, tile making, is a traditional Spanish craft. Here are a handful of pictures I took of the stunningly beautiful Museo De Santa Cruz, which is well-stocked with ceramics and whose walls feature many impressive tile murals.