Friday, July 24, 2009

José Padial - Fotógrafo de la Cueva de Nerja

I mentioned in a previous post that Roma and I visited the Nerja Caves while on holiday earlier this month in Spain - I should have also mentioned that at the same time there was a photographic exhibition on in the centre of Nerja marking the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the caves and some photographs taken by at the time by a local Nerja photographer - José Padial. All of the literature and labels at the exhibition were in Spanish which was a pity because there was a lot of English speaking people at the exhibition. I bought the (Spanish only) booklet at the exhibition - it is excellent as it has copies of all the photos (black and white) shown in the exhibition. While the photos themselves tell a story, I wish I could read Spanish to get full value. Definitely an enjoyable follow-up to visiting the caves themselves.

The caves were discovered in January 1959. As this was an event that occured in the same year I was born I will be on the look out for other interesting things that occured that year (and maybe blog about them).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Computer

Our five year old Dell Precision Workstation finally gave up last week and I decided to get a new computer. The workstation worked really well and lasted a long time - so I went for the same idea again. We got a new Dell Studio XPS - 12MB memory and 2TB hard-disk. Expensive, but I hope will last at least another five years.

It is awkward to be without your main computer - I have been able to use my laptop from work, and our broadband connection is still available through our WLAN. I was very fond of our old computer. Before it died I managed to backup almost everything onto a portable hard-drive. Needless to say we have a lot of media files and documents which take up a lot of space. The old computer can be booted in safe mode, so I will keep for a while in case I forgot something.

I am having good fun setting up the new computer. It connected to the web straight away, so I was able to download and set up things like iTunes and McAfee no problem. A pity I can't simply copy applications - e.g. I don't have the CD for Paint Shop Pro and can't re-install it. It is very fast - copying files is very quick. It is far more powerful than we need at home, but will not need to be upgraded for several years.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quick Reviews

At the weekend we called into a few restaurants and cafes - here's some quick reviews of each:

Cafe Rua, Spencer Street, Castlebar
Cafe Rua is a deli/cafe just a few doors down from Roma's old house in Spencer Street in Castlebar. It was also close to the apartment where we stayed while in Castlebar. My first visit was for two coffees as the apartment had no supplies of food. On our last day we went there again for a late breakfast/early lunch. We had delicious sausage, cheese, and chutney toasted sandwich for €5 - very tasty and good value. Cafe Rua - recommended.

Portofino, Tucker Street, Castlebar
On Friday evening Roma and I went out to dinner with Angus and Fiona Bourke to Portofino in Castlebar. The restaurant was very quiet, but we had a splendid meal. I had oysters for starters - the thing with this is that I got a big plate with lots of ice and shells. With six oyters there is really very little to eat - I could have eaten two dozen! I had delicious red snapper for main course - really well cooked and presented. Certainly worth visiting again when next in Castlebar - recommended.

Coady's Linenhall Street, Castlebar
While out for a walk Roma and I popped into Coady's of Linenhall Street for a quick pint. This was an extremely quiet place with only a few other people present having a jar. We were alone in the lounge and despite nice surroundings the place was devoid of atmosphere and we left after one pint. Like a lot of pubs, business is very slow and I suspect that it will not be around for long if this recession keeps up. Coady's is also a Funeral Director - 'nuff said.

Achill Sound Hotel
While at the wedding of Elaine and Olan, Roma and I stayed at the Achill Sound Hotel. This brought us back many years as we used to call into this hotel for lunch while on holiday in Achill when the girls were young - mostly on rainy days (which happened a lot). The hotel is basic, but comfortable. When we came back late after the wedding the front door was open and our key (along with several otehrs) was left on the front desk for us - nobody about! There's not many places where you'll find trust like this. If you want cheap accomodation in Achill, but still like a hotel, give this a try. Don't expect much, but it is clean and comfortable.

Wedding - Elaine Maher and Olan McCarthy

On Saturday 11th July, Roma and I attended the wedding of my colleague at NCI Elaine Maher to Olan McCarthy. Elaine is a native of Achill Island so we looked forward to a weekend in Mayo which we split between Roma's natiive Castlebar and Achill. We were slightly late for the wedding mass in Bunnacurry Church due to being stuck behind about 10 vintage cars between Newport and Achill - 30-40 KPH all the way!

We had a great ceremony with Elaine looking great (Olan too!). The priest was very amusing and interesting, and the wedding mass with excellent choice of music was very enjoyable.

After the mass, the wedding photos took place inside the church as a storm had already started outside - it was the worst weather many had seen for some time. The wedding cavalcade took a long detour in pouring rain past Elaine's house in Dooniver. The Reception was in Alice's in Achill Sound. We had a great evening, nice food, and I even danced a little bit. The room as extremely warm and I sweated quite a lot. Every now and again I went outside to cool down - the wind and horizontal rain were still pelting down. Roma and I were staying in the nearby Achill Sound Hotel, but it was a difficult walk back to the hotel in the gale force wind - we ruined two umbrellas.

Best wishes to Elaine and Olan - I hope they enjoy long life and happiness together. Thank you to you both for inviting us to your special day - we really enjoyed ourselves.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nerja, Spain – Part II

For the last part of our holiday in Nerja we continued the relaxed style of holiday-making. I have read a second book, Peter de Rosa’s “Rebels” (review on Amazon later) which I much enjoyed even though it dramatises the events of 1916.

I am writing this post two days after arriving home, so I am working from memory. Roma and I visited the Cuevos Nerja (Nerja Caves) – it was only when we got there that we realised we had been there before. Nevertheless, these caves are well worth visiting as they feature spectacular columns of stalagmites and stalactites, including one reputed to be the largest in the world. We also enjoyed the wonderful viaducts, both old (for water) and modern (for motorway).

On Friday we visited Frigiliana. We had also been there before, but were keen to revisit again. There are lots of arty type shops and we had a great look around. We didn’t buy much, though Roma bought some clothes and I bought a fridge magnet and a dangling ornament to go with the many others in our conservatory at home. Frigiliana is set in beautiful hilly surroundings and is well worth a visit.

For our final day we decided to go to Burriana beach. The sea was nice and cool, but the sand was scorching hot due to the very hot day – we burned the soles of our feet walking the short distance from our sun-loungers to the water. It was quite crowded and a crying baby close by made our stay there a testing one for my tolerance of crying babies (which is getting lower as I grow older). Burriana beach is also well served by bars and restaurants – we adjourned to the H2O bar for a welcome cider afterwards. An arriving motorbike group (most on Yamahas and Suzukis) made we wish I had my Harley with me. We spent a lot of time in the evening packing for returning home before heading out for our last dinner out.

Our return home on Sunday started early and we were on the road by 9.15. I missed the turn for the airport at Malaga (I was looking for the car hire building) – otherwise the drive was fine. Malaga airport was very busy, with more flights it seemed for the UK and Ireland than anywhere else. We bought some obligatory duty-free. On the flight I watched “The Wrestler” for which Mickey Rourke got an Oscar nomination. While he was very good, the film wasn’t great – but it passed the time (I got to see it all this time). Kate picked us up at the airport and I was glad to finally get home. Cloud and rain greeted us – we estimated that the temperature was 20C lower in Dublin than in Nerja. No need for sun protection here.

Overall it was a very pleasant, if lazy holiday. Vicki and Aoife were great company for one another, while Roma and I very much enjoyed our time together. This was the first time we had gone to the same place on a holiday abroad – Nerja is a nice place, though I will remember mostly barking dogs and crying babies. Food is good, though not excellent, but good value also. I felt that I had not been ripped off once while I was there – for me a good experience. I think I would like to go back some day, but there are loads of other places to see and experience.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Nerja, Spain – Part I

I am spending the first week of my holidays in Nerja with Roma, Vicki, and her friend Aoife. We arrived here on Sunday 28th June after a pleasant Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Malaga. Aer Lingus provide free movies on this route – there was a selection of 13 to choose from on small screens on the back of the seat in front. There is a credit card slot, but it was not necessary – what would Ryanair have done? I mention the movies because even though they were free to view they were all switched off with about 20 minutes of the flight remaining. I was watching Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino” and it was cut short with I’d guess about 10-15 minutes to go – I’m still wondering did old Clint kill all the bad guys.

Nerja is a peaceful place, though there are a lot of noisy scooters around. We were here before in 2004 – the villa (right in the middle of the Google Map above) we stayed in that time backs onto the garden of Villa Los Leones where I am now. We have our own (small) pool and the villa is nice and comfortable. So far I have been taking it very easy. I have been working on my tan despite using mostly factor 30 sun protection. I have also read Wilbur Smith’s “Assegai” (I’ll review this separately later) and have started Peter de Rosa’s “Rebels”.

We have had our evening meals out – a mix of Spanish, Caribbean, and Italian food so far. Despite the Recession there are a lot of Irish people here, and Nerja seems relatively immune from recession. Most things are relatively cheap here with meals out being good value compared to Ireland. (As I write this I just got a text message from Joe telling me about flooding in Dublin last night and that it is still raining.)

Roma and I took the laptop to a WiFi spot yesterday to check out on the latest Pharmacy news from Ireland. She took the decision to terminate her contract with the HSE over the recent changes in drugs payment schemes – already over 850 pharmacies have done the same. There is trouble ahead. Health Minister Mary Harney has been very stupid in bringing in these changes now – she should have waited for “An Bord Snip” to report and bury these cuts along with all the other ones that are certain to come down the line for everyone else. Instead she has called the Pharmacists’ bluff and they are responding by resigning en masse. What’s Plan B Minister?

I have this laptop with me to spend some time on working on my book – so far I have not done this. I will today as I am way behind where I expected to be – every little will help, so I’m determined to get at least a little done. This morning I got up at 8.00, but dodged getting down to work to write this post which I’ll publish later in a WiFi enabled café of which there are loads around here.