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This Spanish Life

My experiences living, travelling and working in Spain.

Inspections, Murals and Knees, Oh My!
29 May 2015

The past couple of weeks have been the most stressful that I can recall in a long time. In all of my ‘too depressing to be counted and stated in actual numbers so we will just say many’ years of teaching I have managed to avoid any inspections. My career has been an inspection free zone. Until now. Earlier in this school year we had to go through an inspection and now again this month we have had another inspection! Consequently the last few weeks have been a non stop, head spinning flurry of preparation during which I almost lost myself under an avalanche of ‘to do’ lists and now this week, the actual inspection week, has been packed full of stress and anxiety and even more ‘to do’ lists. I think I may have single handedly depleted the world’s Post-it reserves. 

I've also been having to go to a physiotherapist every night after school because my recurring tendonitis is playing up again. It seems to me that in the past couple of weeks if I've not actually been at school then I've mentally been at school, thinking about my ‘to do’ lists while I've actually been at the physio. In fact I'm at the physio now. I'm lying here in considerable discomfort with two strong magnets strapped to my knees! I am assured that this is beneficial for them but I'm half expecting that any minute my iPad will get drawn down towards them while I write, attracted by the magnets. Could that actually happen? Are iPads even magnetic? I have no idea and my exhausted brain won't begin to contemplate even thinking about it. 

I'd ask the physiotherapist but she already thinks I'm a bit strange. The first day that I had the magnet treatment I had asked her if there was any chance I could gain some kind of superpower from being exposed to such strong magnetism. I think my joke got lost in translation though because she looked at me with a look of such total confusion I thought she was probably trying to remember the last time she’d had to endure such a deranged patient. Yesterday I was trying to explain to her in Spanish that after being subjected to the electromagnetic zapping machine followed up by some laser treatment my knees felt like they were full of popping candy and shooting stars and was this normal? I don't think she quite knew what I was going on about and she even looked a little relieved when I gave up trying to explain and went home. I can't help but think that if I start asking her if my iPad is likely to shoot downwards due to the magnetic force field building up around my knees it just might be one question too many. I don't know the Spanish word for force field anyway. 

Any fleeting moments that don't involve being in school or at the physio usually involve me trying desperately to stay awake and attempting to reacquaint myself with my family who I rarely see these days! Sometimes, it seems to me, as I pass my boys in the hallway at school, that they look at me with a vague recognition as if to say “I know you from somewhere.” And as for Neil he is probably feeling like he's a single dad apart from in the evening when he has the pleasure of my joyous company which generally involves me being collapsed on the sofa half asleep and incoherent while he has the additional pleasure of running around after me, making dinner, washing up, keeping me topped up with cups of tea and bringing me my pack of frozen ‘knee peas’ to apply to my clicky, aching tendons.

But the purpose of this post isn't to enthrall you all with the intricacies and whirlwind excitement of this stressed out teacher’s life. No, really it's not. I know, I know, my life must seem oh so very glamorous and fun filled to you, but really, I don't like to boast. No, this post is merely to let you know, in a rather rambling, diverted way that there are some new murals in Estepona and some more in progress to boot!

I thought I should go and have a look at them and so last night after leaving the physio I decided I would pop out into the outside world for a quick visit with normality, to have a break from school and knees. I had looked up their exact location and so I thought I would go and find them after my appointment. It turns out that 8pm is quite a busy time in Estepona. There were cars and people everywhere and not a parking space to be seen. Determined to see the murals I drove round a bit and eventually found somewhere to park. It was a bit of a walk and a bit strange walking with fizzy knees but I quickly found two of the murals just next to the orchid house. One is, in my opinion, awful and the other one is amazing. The fact that they are so close together means that you can't help but compare them and for me, the high quality of one totally highlights the amateurishness of the other. 

While I stood looking at the one I liked and taking photos of it, the artist came along and started painting! It was very interesting to watch him at work but I was aware that it was getting quite late by now. My children would be in bed already and Neil would be wondering where I was, possibly thinking that I had actually left home for real this time! So I made my way back to the car on my still fizzing knees and drove home where I found my children tucked up asleep in bed and Neil busy in the kitchen making dinner. 

So you see I'm really very lucky. While I may be plagued with knee troubles, inspection stresses, permanent lack of sleep and a distinct lack of talent when telling jokes in Spanish, I have a wonderful, supportive family who put up with my absences, tiredness, aches and pains, school stresses and excessive demands for tea. 

And now at last, having travelled along a protracted, winding road which at times seemed as though it might never reach the end, we have arrived at our destination, the purpose of this post; the new murals! I don't know anything about them at all because so far there are no plaques or newspaper reports about inauguration ceremonies. All I know is I like one and I don't like the other, but I'll stop there. I've already taken up far too much of your time. So, until next time………



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Oh, What a Night!
22 May 2015

Last Friday night I had the best night ever. Well, I say ‘ever’ but what I really mean is for a long, long time. Actually I can pinpoint the exact date that I had a better night – July 11th 2014, but I'll come to that later. Since then everything has paled in comparison, until last Friday night. 

I love living in Spain but if I had to choose the one thing I miss most about being in the UK it would be going to concerts. Proper concerts by the sort of bands and musicians that I like. Not necessarily big concerts, small, more intimate ones are equally missed and I can't help but miss seeing the bands and musicians that I love play live. Here in Spain I would have to travel a long way to go to that sort of concert, often to another country. Of course there is lots of live music in my local area which is great but most of it really isn't my sort of thing. When I go to a concert I want to be able to dance from the beginning to the end. I want to love the music, I want to know the music and I want to be able to sing at the top of my voice to every song in a mass chorus with everybody else. I don't want to watch D-list bands from the 80s or 90s that are going through a ‘revival’. I don't want to pay excessive ticket prices to see bands that, to be honest, few people cared about at the time during their ‘heyday’ that are now inexplicably headline acts because they have a vaguely familiar name or because people know one (literally) of their songs. I don't want to see ageing ‘legends’ who charge a fortune for tickets to their shows. Those sorts of music events aren't for me. I can't help it, it's like avocados, Formula 1 and aviator sunglasses, I just don't like them.

I know it's not everyone's idea of great music but I love bands like Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction. Loud music that I can jump around to in such a way as to pose a potential hazard to anyone in my immediate vicinity. I love loud, boisterous, a little bit rough and a little bit edgy type concerts. Did you know that I once saw up Kurt Cobain’s jumper from the front line of a Nirvana concert? You didn't? And did you know that another time I was given a quick flash up Courtney Love’s dress as she was carried over my head having stage dived at a Hole concert? No? Well I did! Sometimes I felt like the third person in their marriage, I really did. But I digress.

Anyone who knows me even the slightest bit knows that my best, most favourite band in the whole wide world is Pearl Jam. I LOVE Pearl Jam. LOVE THEM! Keep it under your hat but I have a bit of an obsession with them. Have done for many years. And so it caused me huge, uncontrollable excitement in August last year when I saw that a Pearl Jam tribute band called Alive were going to be playing just down the road at a venue in Estepona port! Oh my life! I could hardly contain my joy! Tribute bands, done well, can be great. Close your eyes while they are playing and you can be transported to another place. It can be the only way to hear the songs you love played live when in reality the actual bands themselves wouldn't come to play anywhere near you. Anyway to cut a very long (and previously documented) story short, I went, they were amazing, I had a ball, I returned home happy, I made Facebook friends with some of the band and I looked forward to them announcing their next concert. 

Fast forward some months (8 to be exact) and Alive finally announce that they are returning to Estepona on May 15th! Cue much excitement, jumping about and anticipation of another great night out. Hurrah! I hastily grabbed my calendar prepared to instantly cancel any plans that fell on that very date only to remember that silly me,  I'm a mum of young children, I don't actually have any plans! 

So May 15th rolled around and I set off, suitably excited, to meet Carrie, my friend and fellow Pearl Jam fanatic. Carrie and I have become rather a double act of late haven't we? She's featuring in rather a lot in my recent blog posts. Like me you're possibly thinking of her as the Muttley to my Dastardly, the Dougal to my Father Ted, the Spit to my Bob Carolgees. Anyway, after chatting over a beer or two at Carrie’s we headed out to a bar in the port. Carrie knows almost everybody in Estepona and this bar was no exception. We bumped into a group of people that she goes to football with, all very lovely and happy and chatty. We shouted at each other while trying to make ourselves understood over the loud music, we danced about quite a bit and we drank beer. It was all very pleasant indeed. After a while I was approached by one of the men who had been standing on the sidelines. The conversation went a bit like this – 

Him – “Hello.”
Me – “Hello.”
Him – “I like you.”
Me – “Oh. That's nice.”
Him – “Do you like me?”
Me – “Oh, erm, well I don't really know you.”
Him – “You're very pretty.”
Me – “ Well, thank you, that's a lovely thing to say.”
Him – “Do you think I'm pretty?”
Me – “In English we say ‘handsome’ for a man.”
Him – “Do you think I'm handsome?”
Me – “Oh, erm, well, erm, yes I, erm, suppose so.”
Him – “I like you.”
Me – “Yes, I know, you said.”
Him – “Do you like me?”
Me – “Oh, I think we've done this bit already.”
Him – “I like your eyes. Your eyes are beautiful. You're very pretty.”
Me – “Yes, I think we've done this bit already too.”
Him – “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Me – “Yes I do.”
Him – “That makes me sad.”
Me – “Oh. Oh dear.”
Him – “I would like to be your boyfriend. Would you like me to be your boyfriend?”
Me – “ No.” 
Him – “I like you. I like you a lot.”
Me – “ Yes, I know.”

This conversation carried on for some time until I noticed that, thank the Lord it was nearly midnight! It was time to go to the concert! Escaping the stalker like attentions of my peculiarly intense admirer we went off to the bar where the concert was going to take place. We paid for our ticket to get in, went to the bar, bought some beers and waited for the band to begin. The singer came over to say hello and he told us that they would be going on in 5 minutes! Yay! But wait a moment! No! Surely not! Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Mr Intense approaching. Oh for goodness sake! What was he doing here?!

I was about to find out. He walked over. 

Him – “I like you.”
Me – “Really? Again?”
Him – “I like your eyes. You're very pretty.”
Me – “Yes, you said.”
Him – “I want to be your boyfriend. Can I be your boyfriend?”
Me – “ No. No you can't.”
Him – “You have lovely eyes.”
Me - “Yes, you did mention it before.”

Suddenly the band came on. There was a sudden outpouring of noise as the guitarists started to play, the drummer joined in and the singer started to sing. Carrie and I immediately jumped up to dance. I didn't notice Mr Intense leave but luckily he did. From the moment the band started their first song to the moment they finished the 27th and last song, we sang, we danced, we drank more beer, our hair got knotty and bedraggled, we glistened with sweat and we had the best night. The perfect night. Afterwards we stood outside talking to the band and drinking, perhaps unwisely even more beer until almost 5am at which point tipsiness and tiredness dictated that it was time for us to call it a night and shuffle off back to Carrie’s. 

With my ears ringing, my poor tendonitis plagued knees a bit popped and clicky, my head a bit spinny and squiffy and with a huge smile on my face I fell into bed. Rather ambitiously I tried writing a Facebook status update on my phone about how much fun the night had been but I must have fallen asleep before posting it. This was not a bad thing because there, waiting patiently for me to click on ‘post’ my late night status update was still there on the screen in the morning. It read ‘Hbd a grdet gihnr! Love parel jam! Ned to g’’. 

I decided not to share it.

So that was my best night ever! Well, my best night ever since July 11th 2014. Ah yes, July 11th. A day filled with happy memories, for that was the last time I saw ‘Pearl Jam’ in concert during a fun filled, jape packed weekend away in the UK. But that's another story…….



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'Dog Clay Afternoon'
13 May 2015

Last night I had a new experience. Potting! Not the planting things in the garden kind but the making things out of clay kind. My friend Carrie had invited me along to participate in ‘Art to the Rescue’ a couple of weeks ago. ‘Art to the Rescue’ is a clay sculpting competition that has been organised by Totem Ceramics to raise money for various local animal charities. 

When I initially received Carrie’s text a couple of weeks ago asking me if I wanted to join in I knew it would be fun but I was a little unsure because I had never sculpted anything out of clay before. Yes, I've made plates and bowls and other less complicated objects but never a thing that had to actually resemble something if you know what I mean. I reassured myself with the thought that I had two weeks to prepare. I had time on my side! I could watch online tutorials for beginners that would reveal the secret to sculpting a prize winning dog out of clay while my friends would look on in awe. Furthermore I could study my own dog in close detail so that I could model a faithful homage to our beloved family pet, perhaps even creating a future family heirloom that would be passed fondly from generation to generation. Oh yes! This was going to be great and it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that I would discover a hidden talent! I might even win the competition! My sculpture could grace the front pages of the local papers. I would become well known among the arty types and would be forever known as the one who sculpted a prize winning dog on her first go. I would be the darling of the sculpting world. I might even one day, not too far in the future, be able to make a fortune from my passion, my gift! I was going to become a temperamental, creative type! I would have smudges of clay on my face and a wooden modelling tool artfully holding up my fashionably unkempt hair which was styled into a carefree, just thrown together bun. I would spend my waking hours sitting at a potter’s wheel forming wondrous, lovingly created and widely acclaimed marvels out of mere lumps of clay, all the while tucking tendrils of hair behind my ears that had tumbled rather alluringly from my bohemian tresses. (I had given this quite a bit of thought)

"Yes!” I texted back enthusiastically’ “Count me in!”

Fast forward two weeks. It's Tuesday morning. It's the morning of the competition. I haven't prepared at all. While getting ready for school, in between drying my hair, slapping on a bit of mascara and brushing my teeth single handedly while my other hand is scrolling through image after image, I hastily Google ‘clay dogs’ to study my options and gain a bit of inspiration. I find a couple of pictures that look vaguely achievable and print them out. Ok, so I'm a bit off track with my sculpting strategy. My dream of achieving sculpting fame and fortune, of creating a heartfelt tribute to our family dog that would bring a tear to the eye of anyone fortunate enough to behold it has meandered considerably off the path, but all is not lost.

After school I head off excitedly to Totem Ceramics with the printed picture folded up in my bag. Outside the gallery I meet up with the four others who are on our little ‘team’ and we go inside. There in front of us are shelves displaying the other competition entries. Shelves full of disconcertingly lifelike, detailed clay dogs that are sitting there taunting us, challenging us to even consider trying to make anything quite so artistic. 

These were my rivals. 
The competition. 
And they were good. 

We walk through the gallery and into the studio at the back where we sit at our places around a table. We are greeted by the very lovely lady who has organised the competition and who runs the gallery and gives pottery classes in the studio. We have to fill in a form with our contact details and the number of our competition entry. I'm number 25. There is a box to tick if you want to keep your model and have it fired rather than it being recycled for somebody else to use after the competition. Rather ambitiously and feeling that perhaps I'm tempting fate I tick the box. My dog and I are destined to be joined together forever. Then we have to nominate the charity that we want our 10€ entry fee to go to. We all choose Adana. After that we are each given a 1.5kg cube of clay, a very quick lesson by the lovely lady on how to join clay along with a sobering warning that we MUST hollow out any overly thick pieces that we use for our models because anything that is too thick will explode in the kiln with such force that it will annihilate itself as well as wiping out every other clay sculpture that's in there too. Yikes! Then we are told we have just 2 hours to complete our sculpture. Yikes! And no extra time will be given! Yikes! 

Feeling rather like I'm on a cross between ‘Countdown’ and ‘The Great British Bake Off’ I nervously begin. 

I fish my printed picture out of my bag, study it momentarily and then start to make my dog’s face. I surprise myself somewhat by making something that doesn't look completely unlike a dog’s face and so feeling a bit buoyed up I continue on to make his ears. Soon after, while I'm making the dog’s body, one of the pottery experts from the studio walks around the table, watching what we are doing. This makes me feel even more like I'm on ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry have just wandered up to my table to inspect what I'm doing! Nodding sagely as he observes us in turn he then returns to the back of the studio. I carry on.

After about an hour I find that I've done as much as I can to my sculpture. While I am now sure that my dream of being a world acclaimed sculptor has slipped away, I do see that my dog actually does resemble a dog! Feeling a bit more confident now and seeing as I still have another hour I decide to make another one! This time I will make a puppy, a miniature version of the one I have already made, to play alongside its dad! This one is a bit trickier to make for some reason and for a long time I just can't make my puppy’s face look right, especially the eyes. It resembles what I would imagine the love child of Stephen Merchant and Marty Feldman to look like. Oh, wait a minute, the laws of biology would suggest that these two couldn't make a love child, but anyway, you get the idea. With time ticking away I'm tinkering away with my clay tools desperately trying to get the face right and I'm getting perilously close to running out of time! 

Eventually I put down my tools and resign myself to having made a puppy that doesn't really resemble it's father at all. In the real world the daddy dog would be on ‘Jeremy Kyle’ demanding a paternity test and questioning where on earth this strange looking puppy had got its bulging eyes from. But I've done my best. I can do no more. I'm out of time and I'm in need of a nice cup of tea to soothe my nerves. 

I emerged from the studio feeling as though I had really accomplished something. I had turned a lump of clay into two dogs! It was great fun too and I'm definitely going to go back to Totem Ceramics to make something else. Maybe even another sculpture!

If you would like to enter the ‘Art to the Rescue’ competition and help raise money for one of the twelve animal charities that are involved then go and visit the very lovely people at Totem Ceramics. The competition is open until the end of this month. It costs 10€ to enter, all of which is donated to your chosen charity and there is an optional fee of 5€ if you would like to keep your sculpture and have it fired.

You will find the studio at C.C. Costasol which is on the N340 between San Pedro and Estepona. Or give them a ring on 952 887 364.

One word of warning though….

…..don't make your entry too good, I've got my eye on the first prize! 

 

 



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Estepona art trail - part 4
07 May 2015

Hello again! Let's continue on the art trail! Below you will see the rest of the murals, continuing on from my last post. In this the final instalment, well at least until more murals are created or until I locate the ones that I haven't yet been able to photograph, you will see some of my favourites. There are some really great ones here!

I hope you will enjoy seeing them too!

 

11. 'Una Flor de Futuro'

'Una Flor de Futuro' can be found on Calle Nuestra Señora in Barriada Los Remedios. This mural is by Jose Fernandez Rios and was inaugurated in November 2013. The artist intended for it to be not just a very lifelike representation of a flower and the sea but also for it to appear as a mirror. Just a few metres away on a roundabout in front of the mural is a sculpture of the same flower also created by J.F Rios but in this instance made of metal. If you stand in the correct position it does indeed appear as though the sculpture is reflected in the mural.

 

13. 'Dia de Pesca'

'Dia de Pesca' was created in January 2017 and can be found in Barriada Isabel Simon. This is the second mural by Jose Fernandez Rios and it is one of the biggest murals in Spain, measuring 100sq.m and covering 6 walls of an apartment block. As with ‘Una Flor de Futuro’ the effectiveness of this mural is dependent on you achieving the optimum viewing position. The mural recreates the sequence of a fisherman casting his line and catching a fish. When viewed from the correct angle the 6 independently standing walls come together to create a fantastic trompe l’oeil effect that plays with perspective. 

 

14. 'Azul y Plata'

'Azul y Plata' was inaugurated in April 2014 and can be found on Avenida Libertad in the Barriada Blas Infante. It depicts a seabed scene which includes sculptures of fish, jellyfish, sea urchins and seaweed made out of galvanised steel. The mural was created by the Moraga collective which is made up of inmates of the prison in Alhaurin de la Torre. It took 3 months to create and 3 weeks to put up. It is the first in the route to include a sculpture in the mural itself.

 

15. 'Azul y Mar - Emociones Liquidas'

'Azul y Mar' is located on the wall of the Conjunto Residencial Jardines del Carmen on Calle Guadiaro. It measures 60m.sq and was created by the artist Antonio Javier Infantes Lopez who is originally from Estepona but has lived in New York since 2007. The mural was inspired by his longing for Estepona and it depicts the sea, water, blue sky, horizon, light and reflections that symbolise Estepona. It is made of wood and acrylic paint and is coated in a resin that protects it from the elements. 

 

16. 'Keep On Tracking'

‘Keep On Tracking’ was inaugurated in July 2014 and is often mistakenly called Keep On Trucking. On some of the guide maps it is labelled as such but on the plaque beneath the mural it is clearly named ‘Keep On Tracking’. The mural can be found on Calle Mantilla in Barriada Mar y Sierra and was created by the artist Juan Abia Dam, also known as Nano4814, in collaboration with Fer Frances. Nano4814 is one of the best known street artists/graphic designers. The mural took a couple of days to create and it combines figurative and abstract art, featuring flat cartoon like characters and abstract elements.

 

17. 'Angel, El Buceador'

'El Buceador' was created in August 2014. The mural can be found in Barriada Tres Banderas and it is a work by the French artist Eric Aman whose art work is featured in cities all around the world. It is in a modern style and it depicts a young man dressed in a swimsuit complete with snorkel and face mask ‘breaking through’ the wall of the building. It cost 7000 euros to create. 

 

18. 'Salartij'

‘Salartij’ is located in Barriada Blas Infante and is the second mural by the Moraga collective comprised of inmates from the prison in Alhaurin de la Torre. The name is a reference to the animals which are depicted on the mural. The two salamanders are each 5m high and are made of metal fixed on to the wall of the building. It was inaugurated in September 2014. 

 

19. 'Regando El Jardin'

'Regando El Jardin' is the third mural by Jose Fernandez Rios. It was inaugurated in November 2014 and is located on Avenida Andalucia in Barriada de las Fuerzas Armadas. The mural which covers a wall measuring 240m depicts a child watering a tree. In typical J.F Rios style this mural is an optical illusion and it looks as if the girl is watering a real tree that appears to be planted in the street. The combination of the pictorial and lifelike elements create an eye catching image and the artist intended it to symbolise his hope that the future generation will respect and care for nature.

 

20. 'Aires de Musica'

'Aires de Musica' is by the artist Blanca Larrauri and is situated in Plaza San Fernando. It depicts a variety of musical instruments and musical notes in tribute to the work carried out locally by the ‘Banda Municipal de Musica’ on it's 75th anniversary. 

 

21. 'La Poda de la Buganvilla'

'La Poda de la Buganvilla' is the fourth mural by Jose Fernandez Rios. The mural measures 300m2 and it is the biggest vertical murals in Spain. It was inaugurated in April 2015. Once again J.F. Rios has created a hyperrealistic design that plays tricks on your eyes. It features a very lifelike portrayal of a gardener caring for the bougainvillea, so lifelike in fact that it appears as if the gardener is real. It took two weeks to create and on completion the mural was presented to the children who attend the school on whose walls it is painted. The building is located in the playground of Victor de la Serna school on Avenida Lorenzo.

 

22. 'La Huerta de Irene'

'La Huerta de Irene' was inaugurated in April 2015 and is a work by local artist Encarna de Hoyos. The mural is located on Avenida Andalucia, next to the Guarderia Los Pitufos. It measures more than 40m2 and is the artist’s tribute to the agricultural history of Estepona. 

 

Out of all of the murals my favourites are 'Regando El Jardin', 'Dia de Pesca', 'La Poda de la Buganvilla' and 'La Casa de la Buena Gente'. They were murals that I was looking forward to finding and they certainly didn't disappoint when eventually I saw them. I'd be interested to hear which of the murals are your favourites, please share your views via the comments box below. 

 

So, until I manage to locate the last two elusive murals or until a new mural is inaugurated that is the end of my Estepona art trail. I hope you have enjoyed seeing the murals as much as I have enjoyed finding them all. 

And it only took me 5 months!

 

 

 



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Estepona art trail - part 3
01 May 2015

Hmmm. It's been some time hasn't it? Four months more or less since my last Estepona art trail post. It's not that I haven't been looking, I have and I do have some excuses for being so rubbish with my lack of art trailing posts which I shall list now -

1. I did actually find a couple more murals while out and about on my bike over the past months but to be honest I didn't really like them and so I wasn' too inspired to write about them. I won't tell you which ones they were because somebody reading this (assuming there is anybody reading this!) might have thought, 'oh I do love that ________mural!' and then I would feel terrible that I had rubbished it. 

2. This one is a bit embarrassing. I got a bit disheartened at my lack of mural discovering while employing the 'cycle around and see what you find' method and so one day, not too long ago, I gave in and went to the Tourist Office in Estepona. I picked up a couple of the mural maps, determined to find them all especially a few that I had seen pictures of and thought were fantastic and really wanted to see in person. However, map reading is not one of my talents. Despite having two maps (one in big print!) with most of the murals marked on I still failed to find any more. 

3. I've been a bit busy with other things - children, work, writing other things, reading my book, drinking too much tea, spending too long on Facebook and Twitter, you know the sort of thing, sometimes other stuff just gets in the way.

So those are my excuses. Make of them what you will.

But one day my friend Carrie and I decided that after a few months of talking about it and not actually doing it we should go on a collaborative mural hunt and find ALL of the murals in one big cycling session! So we met up one Thursday a couple of weeks ago and set off armed with our maps. Rather wisely we decided that Carrie would be the map reader due to my map reading troubles, so thank you to Carrie for her invaluable navigational skills and also for thinking to bring sweets to fuel our cycling mission. Our approach proved to be successful, we found them all! Well, most of them. There are a couple more obscure ones that I'm still trying to find but here, in their almost entirety, are the wall murals of Estepona starting with the earliest and finishing with the most recent mural.

 

1. 'La Venus'

‘La Venus' can be found in the Barriada Mar y Sierra. It is 120 m2 and is by Ana Cecilia Salinas. It was created in September 2012. If you look closely you will see that the artist has included a representation of the statue known as ‘La Venus de Estepona’ which is a clay Venus dated 5000 years ago which was found in Estepona!

 

2. 'Estepona Bermeja'

‘Estepona Bermeja’ is in the Barriada de Los Televisores. It was created in January 2013 and is another work by Ana Cecilia Salinas. It is 30m high and the red tones that the artist has used in the mural are intended to reflect the famously red earth colours of the Sierra Bermeja mountains.

 

3. 'La Casa de la Buena Gente'

‘La Casa de la Buena Gente’ is by Conchi Alvarez. It is in Barriada Tres Banderas, measures 80 m2 and it was inaugurated in January 2013. I love this! It is one of my favourite murals and one that I was looking forward to seeing having previously seen photos of it in the paper and online. The mural is a trompe l'oeil  created over four storeys of a block of flats and it depicts people looking out of windows and on balconies and features some actual residents of the block. The artist wanted the mural to be an interactive experience and she has even published a book about the mural and its creation. This one is great!

 

4. 'Pasen y Vean'

‘Pasen y Vean’ can be found in Calle Goya and is a collaborative work by local artist Elena Aguilera with Alejandro García and Manuel Aguilera. The theme of the mural is the circus world and the artists wanted to present a sense of the elegant movements of trapeze artists performing in a circus tent. It is painted in oils and acrylics and was created in February 2013. 

 

5. 'Almas del Mar'

‘Almas del Mar’ was inaugurated in April 2013 and was created by Blanca Larrauri. It is located in Avda San Lorenzo and the mural is a tribute to Estepona’s seafaring history. It is made up of 3 maritime scenes – boats returning from fishing, fishermen sewing nets and boats moored in the harbour. 

 

6. 'Tiempos de Claridad'

‘Tiempos de Claridad’ is another mural by Ana Cecilia Salinas, created in May 2013. This mural is intended as a tribute to the natural scenery of Estepona and has been created in two perspectives. It can be found on Avenida Andalucia in the Barriada San Isidro.

 

7. 'Estepona Siglo 21'

‘Estepona Siglo 21’ is located in Plaza ABC. It was created by Nestor Prada García and it was inaugurated in June 2013.

 

8 & 9. 'Madre Amorosa' and 'La Mirada de un Niño'

‘Madre Amorosa’ and ‘La Mirada de in Niño’ are both by the artist Francisco Alarcon and are located on Calle Terraza in Barriada Primavera. The murals are on two walls which are next to each other and were created in July 2013. Tones of grey, white and black have been used exclusively on both and it was the artist’s intention to honour the mother figure on one side and to highlight the importance of learning, personal development and creativity in children on the other. 

 

10. 'Fundacion Antonia Guerrero'

‘Fundacion Antonia Guerrero’ is a work by Joaquín Fabian Aguilera Diaz and it was inaugurated in October 2013. The mural is a tribute to Antonia Guerrero and her work to improve the education of women in Estepona. It is created in paint and relief and it depicts a girl going up the stairs of Los Remedios church. The doves which can be seen at the top of the mural represent the liberation and freedom of women.

 

To be continued.......



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Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Pedals.
23 April 2015

This evening I decided to try a new cycling route. Well, to be more accurate I decided to go further along a route that I had been along only once before. This route involves cycling uphill into the countryside out behind the Selwo area of Estepona. After a while the road turns to an uneven, rocky track that winds alternately uphill and down. If you go far enough along you find that the track continues on through a tunnel. The one other time that I cycled this route I had turned back immediately after going through the tunnel because it spooked me a bit. It's not a long tunnel but it’s gloomy, it has graffiti sprayed all along the walls and it's a tunnel! In the kind of movies I watch nothing good ever happens in tunnels! I've seen more than enough horror films to know this! Today though I decided to keep going.

I went through the tunnel and carried on along the track. The scenery was lovely, there was nobody else around and I was surrounded by trees and birdsong and greenness and nothing else. At times the track split into two and each time I chose one of the forks randomly and cycled on along it. After a while I thought perhaps I should think about turning back. I had come some way, it was getting late and the sun was starting to sink lower in the sky. But then I noticed that the track just ahead was a nice, long downhill slope and I thought I might cycle down this bit and see where it ended up. So I did. 

I freewheeled down, bumping over the numerous ruts and potholes, enjoying building up some speed. When I reached the bottom of the hill I looked around. I was still surrounded by only trees and countryside, nothing else. I hadn't seen another person for the whole time I had been travelling along the track. Then up ahead I noticed a sign indicating that the track was about to reach a dead end and so I thought I would cycle to the end just to have a look. Maybe it was a dead end for cars but not for bikes and it just might lead somewhere interesting. I started off again and hadn’t gone far when in a clearing just in front of me I saw a car parked. The boot of the car was open and there were two men standing at the boot with their backs to me, oblivious to my presence. In that instant I got the impression that they had just dropped something big and heavy into the boot. My over active imagination immediately conjured up images of gangsters, guns and a dead body.

Bringing my bike to a sudden stop I turned around as silently as I could, cursing the loud crunching of the stones under my tyres. Without pausing to turn around to see if the men had turned around and noticed me I quickly set off back the way I had come. I didn't want the men to know that I had seen them or that I had observed whatever it was they may have been doing. My heart was racing as I imagined all sorts of possible ominous scenarios that might result from them realising that I had witnessed their actions. I cycled speedily away, pedalling like the wind in an attempt to put some distance between me and the men. I covered ground quickly but then there it was in front of me, the steep, rocky track that I had flown down mere minutes earlier and which now ascended before me threatening to slow down my escape. 

Swiftly changing gears I pedalled uphill as fast as I could. Looking ahead it seemed like the hill stretched on forever but I carried on. The muscles in my legs were burning from the effort of speeding up the rocky slope and I was breathing heavily from my compulsion to keep going. Occasionally I would hear the sound of a car behind me and instinctively turned around in a panic but each time I realised that it was just a car travelling over the toll road bridge that towered up high behind me. I continued along on constant alert for the sound of people or a car coming up behind me until I finally reached the tunnel. 

Contrary to my sinister tunnel stereotype I passed through the tunnel without incident and emerged back into the reassuring daylight. I carried on going uphill and down until at last in the distance I could see the point at which the track turned back into the road, that oh so welcome road that went past houses and urbanisations and that promised a return to normality and safety. My legs were so tired but I pedalled as fast as I could until I reached that beautiful Tarmac. From there it was all downhill to the roundabout at the top of the hill close to where I live.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I was almost home!

There was no ‘just when you think you're safe….’  last minute terror. I had made it home safe and sound, without incident or drama. Except perhaps for that of my very over active imagination and my troublesome tunnel-induced paranoia.



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Ruta de la Poesia
17 April 2015

                      

Out and about on my bike in the old town of Estepona last week I noticed some interesting plaques on the walls along one of the beautifully quaint little streets. Continuing along the street I saw a few more and carried on my way until eventually I came to a small, narrow and very steep square, signposted as the Plaza de Manuel Alcántara. The square itself is very pretty and has some fountains in the centre which run along the middle of it. I took some photos of the square and plaques, struggling to keep hold of my bike which was trying its best to roll down the steep hill while I was doing my best not to drop my camera! I think the passing pedestrians found my clumsy efforts rather amusing to watch! 

On returning home I looked up some information about the Plaza de Manuel Alcántara. Now one of the things I love most about Estepona is that there are always new things to stumble upon and explore and today was no exception. I hadn't previously been aware of the ‘Ruta de la Poesia’ but it turns out that the plaques I had seen are a significant part of it. They contain extracts from the poems of Manuel Alcántara and I also read that a few other poets have plaques on this Poetry Route too. Something to look out for next time I am out and about on my bike! 

The square, inaugurated in September 2013 to celebrate the life and work of the poet who is from Málaga is another improvement implemented by the Mayor of Estepona, José María García Urbano. Manuel Alcántara, now in his 80s was present at the inaugural ceremony and it was reported that he felt very emotional and honoured by this dedication. The Mayor responded with the words,"Si hay un malagueño que se merece el reconocimiento público que conlleva denominar con su nombre una plaza pública de nuestro municipio, ese es, sin lugar a dudas, Manuel Alcántara". 

The square is well worth a visit if you are in Estepona. It is located at the intersection of Calle Botica and Calle Sirena. 



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A visit to the new orchid house in Estepona.
09 April 2015

                            

Last weekend we went to the new orchid house in the Botanical Gardens in Estepona. While the orchid house is finally finished and open to visitors the gardens surrounding the orchid house are still in development. I have cycled past the site several times during its construction and so it was great to finally get the opportunity to see the building up close  and to go inside. The opening ceremony took place on Saturday March 28th. At the moment entry is free and so when we went there was quite a queue and we had to wait for 10 minutes or so to get in, although typically, when we came out there wasn't a queue at all! That always seem to be the way for me! The woman on the door told me that when they do start charging for entry tickets will cost around 2 or 3€ but if you're like me and you love a freebie you should go now and save yourself some money!

Inside it’s pretty impressive. The big glass dome is as amazing from the inside as it is from the outside and the visitors follow a winding path that leads them through the beautiful displays of orchids. You follow the path in a circuit from the entrance all the way around to the exit. Now I didn't count them all but I was told by the very informative woman on the door that there will eventually be almost 8000 different species of orchid there and that these have been carefully selected so that there will always be flowering displays throughout the year . Also there is a fantastic 56ft high waterfall that you walk behind and then you go over a small bridge continues to lead you on your way in front of the waterfall, across the pools of water at the bottom from where you continue on the path up through even more orchids. 

I went with my mum, my partner and our two young children. The children enjoyed it immensely. Admittedly they didn't appreciate all of the orchids but they loved the waterfall and the bridge and they enjoyed following the path up and down and around! We were only inside for about 15 minutes although obviously you could linger for longer if you wanted to take a closer look at the orchids. 

I can imagine it being quite difficult to park there. We were very fortunate and managed to find a space right outside but the surrounding roads were lined with parked cars and spaces were very few and far between. I have heard that the parking is to be developed though and that more will be provided eventually but at the moment it's a bit trickier to park.

We were all very impressed with the orchid house and once the outside gardens are finished I think it will be an even lovelier place to visit. It is expected to receive more than 100,000 visitors per year and if you would like to be one of them then you will find the orchid house close to the end of Calle Terraza.

 



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Climbing the sand dune in Bolonia.
01 April 2015

 

Today we we did something that we haven't done since having our children. We climbed the sand dune at the far end of Bolonia beach! I don't quite know why we haven't taken the children up there before now, because after all it is an ideal place for two boisterous boys to burn off some energy. They are currently going through what I think of as a ‘bundle’ phase, because they spend most of their time bundling on top of each other and rolling about on the ground while trying to smack each other's bottom and shouting “bottom, bottom!” Consequently any location that has very wide open spaces, relatively few other people within a 100m radius and lots of opportunities to roll around on the ground is an ideal place for us! 

To get to the dune we parked at the far end of town, near to the Baelo Claudia Roman ruins. Parking there is limited and a bit of a ‘find whichever small space you can to squeeze your car in’ experience and we ended up having a bit of a minor altercation with a family in a campervan as we both vied for the same space but it was resolved almost amicably when I bounded across to say hello and cheerily offered the rather grumpy, muttering campervan  family the space and we went off to find another. Having found a new ‘space’ and parked lopsidedly in the middle of a grassy, puddly, uneven bit of land we set off to begin our adventure. 

The weather was very strange in Bolonia today. As we drove there we noticed a thick blanket of cloud just over Bolonia! As we passed by we saw that Tarifa was bathed in glorious sunshine, Punta Paloma was also sunny, in fact everywhere was sunny except Bolonia which was grey and chilly! We weren't discouraged though and actually it was advantageous because as I remember from the last time we climbed the dune, about 9 years ago, it was quite difficult climbing it in the heat of the sun. I also seem to recall that we were hungover on that particular day too which wouldn't have helped, but those were our pre-children days when we seemed to do most things at the weekend with a hangover. Now, in our post-children days we just do everything in a constant state of extreme tiredness! But anyway, I'm digressing!

Now then, where was I? Oh yes, climbing the dune in the cloud. We had gone along the wooden walkway from where the car was parked until we reached the base of the dune. Looking up to the top of the dune from the beach you realise just how high it actually is, and climbing on sand isn't the easiest thing in the world. We started off full of enthusiasm, the boys running on ahead and throwing themselves down the steep sides of the dunes, running, rolling and bundling and generally getting covered head to foot in sand. As we got closer to the top Henry needed more coaxing as his energy levels depleted which resulted in him throwing himself down in the sand and refusing to move from his comfy, sandy nest and eventually we had to carry him some of the way as his little legs were tired and we feared we may never reach the top otherwise!

As we made our ascent we came across all sorts of different people. There was a group of three French lads with their bikes which they had pushed up to the top and were attempting to ride down some of the very steep slopes with various degrees of success! There was a small group of tourists being given a guided tour and we eavesdropped on what the guide was saying as he pointed out some interesting, little known places that could just be made out in the distance. There were other families with children and dogs leaping around excitedly, people sat on their own reading on the peaks of the dunes and groups of people who had set up windbreaks, deckchairs and picnic tables in the troughs of the dunes and who looked like they were set to spend the day there. 

When we finally reached the top we sat down for a few minutes and admired the views before we all ran and rolled back down again. We tried surfing down on a bit of plastic that we found but it didn't work, even when we tried sending little Henry down. So instead we continued rolling and running, frequently needing to coax Henry back up from where he was contentedly lying flat out in the sand refusing to get up again. I ended up carrying him back and I felt like I'd had a very thorough workout by the time I reached the wooden walkway again! 

 

On reaching the walkway we emptied our shoes of the abundance of dune that had collected inside them along the way and then attempted to de-sand the boys which proved to be a job almost too big, even for expert de-grubbers like us to handle! Brushing off as much as we could and making a mental note to stick them both in the shower when we got back to our hotel we set off to a nearby chiringuito to get some lunch. 

 

We had a fantastic afternoon climbing the dune and we decided that next time we would take our dog Joey as he also enjoys our favourite family pastimes of running and rolling and ‘bundling’! If you too like to roll/run/bundle then I would encourage you to climb the dune too. Or if you are wanting a more leisurely, sedate, calm walk (lucky you!) then I would also encourage you to climb the dune! And while you are there, if you hear repeated, increasingly weary calls of “come on Henry! Up you get!” or “come on Henry, you can't lie there all day!” or “come on then Henry, mummy will carry you!” travelling to your ears on the wind from across the dunes then it's more than likely that we are there too! 



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Things to love about Estepona
25 March 2015

If the thought of 21 km of stunning coastline, set to an awe inspiring backdrop of a dramatic mountain range, all wrapped up in 325 days of glorious sunshine each year sounds like your idea of heaven then Estepona will surely capture your heart as completely as it has captured mine. 66000 happy residents can't be wrong! Estepona is a town moving forward and with many developments (planned, under construction or already implemented) aimed at making this wonderful town even more so. 

Just what is it about Estepona that makes it so attractive?

Estepona is fortunate enough to have its own micro climate, thanks to its position, nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja mountain range. This ideal location explains how the town can boast a highly desirable average of 325 days of sunshine each year. However an abundance of sunshine is not the only aspect of Estepona that makes it such a great place to be. There are many things to be appreciated here. 

Estepona has numerous beautiful, well maintained beaches some of which have been awarded Blue Flag status. From the picturesque coves dotted along the coastline, such as the popular Playa del Cristo, to the endless stretch of golden sand of Playa de la Rada in Estepona centro, there are beaches that cater for all tastes. Estepona is also home to Costa Natura beach which was the first official naturist site in Spain. The paseo is an ideal place for a walk and it also caters very well for families. A large playground complete with a variety of swings, slides and climbing equipment can be found mid way along the paseo. There are many chiringuitos along the whole length of the paseo, tempting you in with the delicious smells emanating from the sardine boats. The views of Gibraltar and Africa just across the water can be surprisingly clear on fine days.

The Sierra Bermeja mountains offer another amazing view but this time from a much higher vantage point. Los Reales reaches its peak at 1449m. It is a noteworthy mountain range because it is quite rare for a mountain to reach such heights so close to the sea. It is only 10km inland. You can take a scenic drive up the ascending road to the refuge, which only takes about an hour and from the refuge you can walk a short distance further to the peak itself. For the more adventurous there are walking routes that you can follow and for the less adventurous, you can explore around the refuge itself which is a great spot for a picnic, especially with its breath taking views. 

Estepona has a working fishing port where you can watch the fishing boats return with their catch. The adjoining Puerto Deportivo is home to many bars and restaurants, as well as being the site of a very popular market on Sunday mornings. The marina itself is a wonderful place to look enviously at the boats moored in the harbour, or even to hire a boat if you are up for some sea bound fun or just for a considerably more sedate stroll. You can wander out to the small lighthouse at the end of the pier and watch the boats sail in and out of the harbour before returning to the marina with your lungs full of rejuvenating fresh air and stop off for some welcome refreshment at one of the waterfront bars and cafes. 

The town has been subject to a major rejuvenation plan known as the 'Estepona, Garden of the Costa del Sol Project'. One impressive feature of this is the 'Ruta de Murales Artísticos'. Attempting to locate the murals scattered across the town is an entertaining and unique way to spend an afternoon. The Tourist Information centre has a map that you can use to help you find them all. This series of wall murals was implemented by the local council and was started in September 2012. The murals are painted on the sides of buildings, transforming them into massive pieces of art. It was initially hoped that they would not only rejuvenate some of Estepona's neglected neighbourhoods but also become a tourist attraction, putting Estepona on the map as a cultural destination and they certainly have done that. The murals are definitely a big talking point. 

Furthermore, currently in development is the new Green Lung Botanical Park which is due to be finished early in 2016. It is going to feature a huge glass dome which will be a 15000m3 glass orchid house. This will be divided into two sections, providing optimal growing environments for orchids and other plants. One section will recreate the natural environment of South America and the other will recreate that of SE Asia. As well as incorporating a small lake and a waterfall, it will eventually be one of Europe's largest orchid houses. The huge dome is currently being constructed and it certainly looks very impressive. 

Estepona also boasts a pretty town centre. One thing that I love about Estepona is the fact that it doesn't have a huge, faceless shopping centre full of the usual big brand shops. Instead its shopping streets are lined with a wide variety of small, independent shops and cafes. If you venture off of the main street and along some of the smaller back streets you will be rewarded with the discovery of some quaint squares edged with cafes, which are a perfect place to sit, have a drink and people watch. 

It perhaps isn't a widely known fact that in the early 1990s Estepona was the original choice for the new Euro Disney resort. It eventually lost out to Paris of course and I for one am glad that this was the case. Estepona is a small, friendly town with a charming personality. If Euro Disney had been built here then the town would have been changed beyond recognition and its personality very likely lost.

If you have never visited Estepona then why not come and see what all the fuss is about? If you have been to Estepona or perhaps if you are fortunate enough to live here, then lucky you! You have experienced one of the gems of the Costa del Sol! 

 



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