Housesitting Venta Valero 17th April to 1st May 2016

Housesitting Venta Valero 17th April to 1st May 2016


Sunday 17th April

After our late night and long drive from Olhão we’re pretty tired so we have a lovely lie in and finally manage to drag ourselves out of bed. This is only our second housesitting job since we started our ‘biking phase’. And actually I think it’ll be a nice, restful phase. We don’t need to cycle each day, nor do 5 hours labour, nor sightsee. In fact our responsibilities are fairly straightforward, we have Vinny and Freddy (dogs) and Eddie and Izzy (cats) to look after and some chores if we want.

Izzy left, Eddy right.






Awww cute…


We should have good weather and this area is beautiful and there are some areas we’d like to explore, so I really think this will be a lovely interlude in our travels and of course we’re going to have visitors – Jane and Jac are visiting and we’re really looking forward to their visit.

We sit down to breakfast and Des immediately starts telling us about electricity usage (cheap and expensive tariffs during the day) and one thing leads to another with regards to the various aspects of ‘housesitting’. I think perhaps he’s a little anxious, I know Daz used to suffer with ‘travel anxiety’ when a trip away was imminent, and now he’s started with the ‘briefing’, it seems it’s not going to stop even though we’re still trying to eat our breakfast.

They’re not leaving until Tuesday so we’ve got 2 days to absorb the information we need. We think we’ll be OK – well I hope we are and certainly we need to ensure the 4 pets are in fine fettle when Des and Chris return.


Tuesday 19th April

Yesterday we met Anton and Ricardo, 2 Dutch men who live about a kilometre from here. Well Anton is there full time but Ricardo is still involved in other things including plans to open a studio in Marbella for Lomilomi massage.
Lomilomi is the word used today to mean “massage therapist” or “Hawaiian massage.” In the Hawaiian language, the word used traditionally, called lomi, means “to knead, to rub, or soothe; to work in and out, as the paws of a contented cat.”


We also take a trip to Alcalá la Real and Des and Chris make sure we know where everything is. Alcalá sits on the slopes of La Mota, a hill in the Sierra Magina. This is commanded by a large Moor fortress around which, until some centuries ago, the settlement revolved.

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Today Chris and Des depart for the UK and we take another trip into Alcalá. We do a big shop, visit the estate agent (we’ve decided that getting the estate agent to show us some properties will be fun, informative and give us greater insight into the area and fulfil my nosy neighbour ‘side’). We also go to a hardware shop Des pointed out yesterday for paint. We spend ages trying to explain what we want and then discover he doesn’t sell paint – thanks Des.

A bizarre event yesterday – Peter, the Belgium volunteer in Olhao with us, complained about pictures of him on our blog, quoting European Law ‘we need permission to take pictures and to publish them’. We had to remove the pictures. It seems when we moves to Brazil (this is his MISSION!), that he wants to disappear completely and I quote:

“In a few years when I leave Europe, i want to disappear from the world… to find peace in the south of America or Africa without leaving records of me on the internet…”


There are some words that spring to my mind to describe ‘our friend Peter’ but I’d have to reach for my book of International Law for the definition of libel…….


Wednesday 20th – Friday 22nd.

It’s been a quiet few days. On Wednesday we had heavy rain and by common consent declared it a duvet day. We’ve also had 2 Spanish lessons with an ‘interesting’ group. There’s about 11 of us. Some don’t seem keen on completing homework nor contributing in class; we wonder why they want to pay for the class if they don’t want to do any work. Daz and I have finished watching Billions and Nightwatchman and now we’re watching Tom Kerridge and his search for a top pastry team and Masterchef. After the rain on Wednesday the weather clears and we do some chores between our dog walks. Friday Prince died and Wednesday it was Victoria wood. So sad! They were both so young.


Saturday 23rd April


We visited the Colomera Reservoir and took Freddy for a walk.

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Then on the way back Daz spotted a cave on the map (Cuerva de Malalmuerzo) so we detoured and walked up to it. Unfortunately when we got to the entrance there was an iron gate across it!!

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Later when we googled it, it turns out it’s got lots of prehistoric painting in the many galleries and ‘rooms’. What a shame we couldn’t get in. Back at the ranch the olive tree pruners come to prune the 22 trees Des has on his land. This will tidy up the trees and give Des some fire wood!!


Sunday 24th – Friday 29th April


We spend all week at the house. Our only excursions are to our 2 Spanish lessons in Alcalá and out to dinner on Friday (but more of that later).

Our first dog walk of the day is gradually getting longer as we explore further afield. We’ve soon find a good route that follows at the base of a ridgeline. This takes us about an hour but the views are incredible and the spring flowers are in flower. We’ve also seen a badger, dead unfortunately. The walks later in the day are much shorter.

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We’ve also been doing some chores – some for the blog – updating maps and spreadsheets and some for Des – but we’re taking it easy and not working too hard. We’ve also been learning our Spanish vocab for our lessons.

Friday evening we go to a restaurant recommended by Des and Chris’s neighbours – Ricardo and Anton. The Casa Piolas in Algarinejo and we have the 14 course degustation menu. Fabulous – each course a work of art with its own story (a lesser story because our Spanish is minimal as was their English – such a shame). And each course tasted amazing especially the dark chocolate and pate – delicious!

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Saturday and Sunday

Saturday we take a trip to Almedinilla. Almedinilla is a village and a municipality. The area surrounding the town itself is full of archeological finds dating back to the Iberiains with remains from Phoenician and Greek activity and significant leftovers from the Roman occupation of the peninsula. There is even a necropolis and Roman villa complete with mosaics. Inside the village of Almedinilla there is a Museum of History (Museo Histórico-Arqueológico) in the heart of the old Village by the little bridge. This part is near a deep ravine where the road twists out and small man made caves can be seen in the rocks.

We walk through the town admiring the flowers and the view into the river gorge. We stop for a drink and lunch and become absorbed watching the housemartins ( there are so many of them) swooping up and down and going off to collect material to build their nests. We see them perched under house eaves with the beginnings of a nest. The swallows’ efforts are far more advanced in comparison.

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Sunday we head to Cordoba. This is the last day of the May Crosses Festival. It is actually more than a festival – it is also a contest, with 40 or so Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and neighbourhood associations competing for prizes for the best-decorated cross from the Ayuntamiento (town hall).


The May Crosses Festival (Cruces de Mayo) is celebrated in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America and Spain. And in Spain, the festival holds special importance in many parts of Andalucia, but especially Córdoba, which has the most famous celebration.


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The May Crosses Festival celebrated in Andalucia is probably one of the most interesting festivals, not only today, but in historical terms. As legend has it, St Constantine’s mother, the much-venerated St Helen, is the founder of this festival, which shows special respect for the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
As the story goes, in the fourth century AD, St Helen went to Jerusalem in search of the cross, after her son Constantine dreamed of a cross that would help him win a battle he was losing at the time. He ordered his troops to build him a large cross, which they then carried into battle and conquered their enemy. This inspired a family conversion to Christianity and a search for the real cross, led by St Helen. She found three crosses, and to establish which one was authentic, she carried out tests to see which could perform miracles. Only one of them did, healing the sick and even bringing the dead back to life. St Helen then became a champion for the cross, urging people to continue worshipping even after her death.
And so this veneration of the cross is the motive for the May Crosses Festivals that are celebrated in so many countries.



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We’re surprised to discover that Cordoba is absolutely heaving with people. We wander the small streets looking for the crosses and enjoying the beautiful sights we discover as we turn into another alley. With each decorated cross we find, there’s also a bar and tapas run by the neighbourhood who decorated the cross. We also climb to the top of the Roman gate to enjoy the views. We’re absolutely stunned by how beautiful Cordoba is. Very impressive! We take lunch in one of the many busy restaurant bars, and although Daz’s dish of grilled Iberian Pork is delicious (becoming a firm favourite!) my salad is decidedly dodgy, most of it from a can and with some very wet lettuce at the bottom. We decide to complain, so after Daz has memorised a couple of choice words we call the waiter over… well we certainly got our message across and the waiter is very apologetic. He offers a new salad but when we decline he instead takes it off the bill, we are both impressed that we were able to communicate our displeasure and get a result in Spanish!!


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