Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Blossom Trail

It’s that time of year to witness the almond blossom. We always love a drive into the mountains to see this colourful site. It doesn’t take long to drive from the coast to the vastly different mountain scenes. You can easily be transported into another world in about 20 minutes. We take a picnic and marvel at the terraced layers of colour which vary from reddish hues to succulent pinks, depending upon the variety and the height at which the almond trees grow. We travel north of Segorbe and take the exit to Altura and head toward Alcublas (about 25km) on the CV-245. The journey between the two is full of contrasts and there is a handy picnic area about half way, not far from the Santuario Cueva Santo. In one moment you’re on the edge of the mountain (about 1000m) and in the next you have wide open spaces either side of you looking down upon vast valleys with miniature villages in the distance. Watch out for the odd unsigned Miradors (viewing sites). In addition there are quite a few places to pull over when you’re clear of the winding roads. Hovering birds of prey, which look like hawks eye their prey, provide fascinating entertainment.

The small town of Alcublas has a lovely little font from where the locals collect the mountain fresh water. We’ve done this a couple of times now and it is really refreshing, especially on a hot summers day. Drive back to Valencia via Lliria and you can take the mixed view of almond blossom and orange groves lining the sides of the road.

Go on take a trip before it disappears for another year.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

I said that I would keep you updated as to the Spanish classes at the EOI Sagunto.  Well I`m really enjoying them. You have to work hard with two four hour classes per week plus homework from each class.  Here is an example of one of the pieces I`ve done so far:

Un lugar que me gusta mucho es El Río Subterráneo de San José. La cueva se encuentra en el término Municipal de La Vall d’Uixó dentro del Parque de la Sierra de Espadán. Fui con un amigo y disfrutamos a bordo de una barca. Nos embarcamos con seis personas y un guía, y por 15 minutos nos deslizamos sobre las tranquilas aguas donde hay iluminación ambiental dentro del agua o en las piedras. La iluminación hizo un espectáculo dramático, especialmente dentro del agua porque estaba clarísima.
El Río Subterráneo de San José es navegable y es el más largo de Europa. Después del viaje desembarcamos y fuimos a pie durante unos minutos por un caminito con iluminación ambiental y una música de guitarra al fondo. Por último, subimos al barco otra vez e hicimos una ruta diferente para volver. Cuando terminamos la visita del Río miramos los recuerdos en las tiendas que hay allí. Además, si quieres puedes comer en un restaurante dentro de una cueva.
Pero, recuerda, ten cuidado con la cabeza.
A mí me gusta este sitio porque la visita es muy interesante, divertida y relajante. Hay que visitarla porque es muy instructiva para toda la familia.

Paul Stretton-Stephens,

Click the links above to take you to the posts that link to the topic.

More places to enjoy around the Sagunto area can be found here on the Spanish Class Blog

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Medieval Moments in Sagunto

We’ve just had a Puente, that’s when a public holiday is a day away from a weekend and the day in between, in this case the Monday was also given as a holiday, making a nice long weekend. This last Puente incorporated two holidays, one being our regional Valencian Day The 9th Octubre and the National holiday on the 12th Hispanic day (otherwise as Columbus day). That means we got Monday the 11th too. Nice!

By coincidence we relatives staying over with us and we chose to visit the medieval market in Sagunto. This event is held in the old part of Sagunto town with old cobbled streets leading up to the amphitheatre and Roman Fortress of Sagunto . These are both well worth a visit another time.

The market was full of marching musicians, mainly drummers, bring out the ear plugs, dancers and stall after stall of jewellery, toys, ornaments and FOOD, FOOD, FOOD, oh and some home made wine (casera) and lighter refreshments of course. Stall holders dressed for the occasion in medieval fashion and rides for the kids were equally of medieval type, one with a medieval wench pedalling the ride mechanism.

Seated on ancient looking benches we ate a hearty meal of Moroccan kebab and bakura, (fried vegetables with spices and flour), wine flowed and our visitors practiced their linguistic skills.

A lone lady, with two adoring pooches sat outside her house selling homemade chutney’s, jams and plants. We got talking to her and it turns out that her house was part of the old Jewish quarter and the only one that wasn’t ransacked in the roman invasion, way back. The reason for its salvation was that it was a jewel house, where predominately they prepared jewels which the romans evidently had a fondness for. She also told us that a new tourist information office had just opened in this quarter with new small museum nearby. We might check this out one weekend. I’ll let you know. If you happen to be in the area next year, make a visit, you’ll love it.


Thursday, 30 September 2010

YouTube drive to 'crowd-read' Spain classic Don Quixote

Have you read it?  Well if not, you may get an insight into this piece of Spanish literature another way.   The BBC has reported that:

The Royal Spanish Academy has invited people around the world to record short chunks of the classic novel Don Quixote and upload them to YouTube.

Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote is often described as Spain's most famous novel - and yet few have ever read it.”
You can either participate in the ‘crowd-read’ or see the results by visiting a special youtube page at


Sunday, 12 September 2010

A night out in the City of Valencia, Spain

As we parked near the Puente de Aragon (or Pont d’Aragó) we wondered where to explore this time?  We decided to make our way to an old covered market that is now full of bars and café’s, the Mercado de Colón. It has a bustling atmosphere and is a great meeting place.  After a well deserved wine and beer we headed across the Gran Via del Marqués de Tur¡a, towards the Canovas area.  Here we walked and took in the ambience finally deciding to eat at a great Spanish Tapas Bar, Rincon de Roberto in Calle Conde Altea.  It is well worth a visit.  We sat at tables on the pavement the street, the menu was well arranged with a wide selection and the service was excellent.  Our palm heart salad, steamed mussels and kidney dish to follow were, should we say exquisite!  Oh, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the wine menu!

We’ll definitely be going there again and hope that you do to.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Renewing your driving permission here in Spain

Now I know that a lot of ex-pats avoid registering their UK driving licences when they are here in Spain but it’s the law. After 6 months residence here you have to register your existing licence or change it for a Spanish one.

Interestingly, you don’t have to notify the DVLA of your change of address to one here in Spain.  Indeed they won’t process it.  So you end up driving here in Spain with a driving licence with a UK address upon it that you don’t live at?  Bizzare!

Here’s what the DVLA  say on their web site:

If you move to another country, you should check with the driving licence authorities there for information about driving and exchange of licences. You don't need to notify DVLA of a change of address when moving to live abroad.

As soon as you hit 45, and every five years thereafter, here in Spain you have to go to the Office that deals with all driving issues the (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico) get some forms and do the following:

  1. Obtain and complete the forms form the driver’s desk. Permiso de Conductores
  2. Obtain a medical certificate at a Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizad. Here in Valencia there are many in the streets surrounding the Jefatura.  I chose the Red Cross Centre (Cruz Roja Española) just around the corner on Calle Jerónimo Muñoz because the fee that you pay helps their organisation.  The test that cost 48 euros went something like this:
    1. The first part of the test consists of aptitudes psicofísicas. This is where you get asked general questions about your health and get to undertake a couple of exercise on a computer to test your judgement and aptitude to react.  In the first test there are two roads and each has a black line on a screen. You sit with a tap like knob in each hand which you turn to keep black lines in the middle of the road.  The roads curve left and right, independently of one another and you have to keep the black line in the centre. Much like a 1980’2 basic computer game.  It takes some concentration though.  The second is again on the screen where a horizontal tube leads to a rectangular box.  A ball travels down the tube towards the box and you have to imagine that when it has past behind the box (you can’t see it at this point) you calculate when it would ave emerged at the other end. When you think it is just about to emerge you press a red button.
    2. The second part is the eye test, which is basically just that.  Mine was without my driving glasses that are a low prescription.  I was told that I can legally drive without them.
    3. The final part is a questionnaire with a doctor about health issues, they take blood pressure and a hearing test in a booth with headphones.

You get issued your certificate there and then, get some copies and return to the Jefatura’s office.  Once there pay your taxes (tasas) in this case 22.22 Euros.  The assistant print the payment and returns your forms to you with a number to get them processed at another point in the building which in this case was upstairs where I waited for about 10 minutes and here you will need you NIE and passport.

Be warned though, some of the staff on the drivers desk when you first enter the building are not aware of what to do if you are a foreigner, especially from another EU member state.  They are more knowledgeable with south Americans.  One lady I spoke with didn’t even know that the UK, England was in the EU which was worrying?  And if you don’t speak fairly good Spanish get some who does to go with you.

Here’s a useful web sites which translates fairly well with google translate:

The government web site portal: The Dirreción General de Trafico

All in all I think that the medical is a good thing and the doctor actually told me that the UK has proposed a more stringent one than all of Europe!

Well, all I have to now is renew my passport. I’ll let you know how that goes soon.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hospital differences - The Spanish way

Sitting in a hospital waiting room I couldn’t help myself writing some of the differences encountered here in Valencia.

Here’s the picture.  We’re booked in for a 0830 a.m. appointment – the earlier the better when you have to fast – and we get there for 0800 a.m. just so we can find our way around on this first time visit.  We read the appointment card and tried to relate it to the board with information regarding all departments (some in Castellano and others in Valenciano) and the floor level that they are on. Okay, found it laboratorios on the appointment card and the same on the board with the level.  Great, off we go.

We get there and find that these are the actual laboratorios where they do the analysis etc. And we just walked in.  We ask where to go and are given directions to somewhere with no name, no signs and a queue of people asking the same question.  Are we in the right place?

Interestingly the staff seemed oblivious to our merry throng’s plight and just tells us all to sit down and names will get called out.  But, we’re all thinking, not if we’re in the wrong place they won’t.  After calling out a couple of dud names the staff start to call up the gentle throng one at a time.  Some were sent somewhere else and others miraculously, us included, are indeed in the correct place.  We get seen 15 minutes before our allotted time and we’re away for breakfast in the hospital cafeteria.

A table of jean and white coat clad stethoscopes are eagerly tucking in to their breakfast. Patients start to dribble in to feast on huge glazed croissants and coffee. I order two Americanos’ and the guy serving looks at me and decides that each cup merited two sashes of sugar as opposed to the obligatory one.  I hand them back and in disbelief he insists that I have them as I have no milk and the coffee would taste bitter without it.  By now the cashier was commenting too that it would taste better with the sugar. Who I am to argue with hospital catering staff? Perhaps it was a new health initiative?

Oh, and whilst I was in the queue I couldn’t help noticing that beer, San Miguel was in fact advertised as on sale in the Hospital Cafeteria.  No doubt wine was not far away either. I wonder what the NHS would think of this?

Fed and watered, well coffee’d actually we head for appointment number two.  We know where it is and decide, as we are half an hour early to wait outside and do some writing.  After five minutes someone see’s us, we’re in and out in five minutes. WOW in the UK we’d still be sat there hours later.  Good one Spanish health authority. Two appointments and out before the second should have started.  A good start to the day.

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