A Travellerspoint blog

Are you a fatty?

Cruel question? Not really. I certainly wouldn’t take offence if asked. “Yes, I am,” I’d answer straight away. I’d also add that it was my own fault. We fatties only have ourselves to blame. Yes, there are some that have genuine health issues and it isn’t their fault.

I’m fat. I’m not going to polish the fact & call myself ‘overweight’ as that sounds more polite. Many people who carry more than their fair share of body mass call themselves that. I guess it comes down to the fact that being overweight can be just a mere pound or two! We lull ourselves into a false sense of security.

We are fat own weakness; our inability to say ‘no’. We are the ones who put that cookie or chocolate in our mouth along with all those unhealthy titbits we feed ourselves during the day. We’re the ones who take that second helping for fear of offending. The only thing we offend is our body. No one forces us. See, I told you it’s our fault.

Plain & simply, I am fat. I’ve known it for awhile now & so have my clothes!! For some time I’ve been wanting to do something about it.

“I’ll start a diet tomorrow,” I tell myself. Of course, tomorrow never comes & so the diet is never started. I’m always talking the talk! Got the books, got the walking shoes..... but just go on talking the talk!

Several weeks back I discovered the wonderful Joyce Meyer on the God channel. She is a wonderful speaker. I listen to her preaching on how we can live out the Bible. She tells how can control our own lives; how we can be positive & there is nothing we can’t do.

“Yes, I can do something about being fat,” I told myself one day. I can control what I eat & I can say ‘no’ to my eating disorder. In my opinion fatness is just as much an eating disorder as Anorexia.

I walk five days out of seven now. I never did before. It wasn’t that I was a couch potato although I very much looked likes a sack of them. It was just that my lifestyle is a sedentary one. I write, read, paint.... I also suffered from ‘clean plate’ syndrome & I liked a large glass or two of red wine with my meals. Get the picture?

So, I walk. Not only is it doing me good but it’s my time to walk & talk with God. We sort out my problems & put the world to rights.

I joined Weight Watchers on line. I use to go to WW meetings when I lived in the UK. Their points system was wonderful & I lost a stone. I was my ideal weight. That was over three years ago. I gained that stone again & two more! Three stone to lose but I’ll do it. My determination has set in. Lodged in my brain is that new winter coat from El Corte Ingles that I am going to buy myself at Christmas. I don’t look at the three stone as a whole. That would be foolish. I think week to week. I’m only half way through my second week. Ok, I hear you say. It’s all a novelty. I’m three pounds down already; a bag and a half of sugar! So that’s three pounds less that I have to lose. All you other Fatties out there, you can do it; that is if you really want to. If you are happy being fat, that’s fine. I’m not & I’m doing something about it. I’m not just walking the walk but talking the talk too..........AMEN

Posted by SpanishRos 07:07 Comments (0)

Caffeine calls.....


For any coffee indulgers, the Asturian hills are a caffeine lover’s delight. Almost every pueblo has a bar or three. Paredes is no exception and has two.

On a very hot Thursday afternoon at the end of July coffee called. When doesn’t it?

The camino to Paredes is a scenic one as it meanders through hills caressed by an abundance of woodland. Flora lovers will relish in the variety of vegetation found along the way. Somewhere near Brieves a buddleia bush hangs over the road aping a willow close by. Hydrangeas are ten a penny, a rainbow of purples, mauves and pinks. Fields of maize swayed in the gentle summer breeze. Beans climb their poles grasping on to their string that keeps then upright. Paredes is busy. Half a dozen cars are parked; busy for Paredes! The bigger of the two bars serves Menu del Dia offering typical Asturian fare. Its lunch time and five of their tables are occupied. The father is tending bar; the mother apparently is the woman sweating away in the kitchen whilst their teenage son earns his keep waiting tables. Their efficiency rivals that of the Ritz.

The sun is at its highest and we seek refuge in the coolness of the bar. We order our coffee. The coffee beans intoxicate the nose, mingling in the air with the aroma of the Asturian fabada stew wafting from the kitchen. Perching on our wooden stalls we enjoy the cool breeze that strokes our arms and face; a contrast to the almost baking temperatures outside. My knees feel chilled as I press them against the icy chill of the pink & white patterned tiles that form the front of the bar. My eyes look upwards from the tiles & catch the coloured reflection of the diverse selection of exotic branded bottles. The rainbow colours bounce from the polished chestnut wood counter back into the air, mingling with the muted rays of sunshine drifting through the open doorway.

A fly tickles my arm as he rests for a millisecond as he takes a break on his way to who know where. The bar is a visual delight. Corncobs and clogs hang, often from the same rusting nail. A small imitation of a grandfather clock keeps time, ticking in unison with the popping of the wine corks as the proprietor keeps his customers satisfied. On the menu today is the Asturian faba stew. The pungent aroma wafts through the open door that leads to the kitchen. A chorus of chinking china & clinking cutlery reminds us how busy the kitchen is on this hot, sweltering day. We tell each other how grateful we are to be sitting close to the cooling breeze created by the twentieth century fan that looks so out of place in this bar that could have leapt out of a Dickens classic. Chorizo & shoulders of jamon sway on their hooks over a counter of antiquated tins of food stock reminding us that the bar doubles as the local ‘tienda de comestibles’. Interspersed with the cured meats are other hooks from which hangs a selection of wicker baskets. A plastic terracotta pot stands in front of the bar containing a selection of handcrafted wooden walking sticks reminding us that the pueblo, like so many others, is inhabited by an aging population.

The proprietor pauses to chat. He remembers us from previous visits. There are three other English couples who have bought houses in Paredes, he tells us. Does he know Graham, who we know from going to teleCentro, we ask him. Oh yes, they are good friends. Graham, it seems, eats at his bar quite often. He turns to a couple who have entered to settle their bill. He takes the proffered notes & opens the antique, rusting register that appears even older than Dickens would have been! The coins inside jingle, out of tune with the creaking rattle of the machine.

Coffee finished, we bid ‘adios’ promising to return when the caffeine urge beckons. Won’t be too long...........

Posted by SpanishRos 07:06 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

why be an ex pat?

Two and a half years ago my partner and I became ex patriots when we moved to Spain. At that time I hadn’t considered what makes an expat. What do they expect from their new home? Why do they become foreigners abroad?

When we moved to Spain we wanted to integrate. We’d toured the country extensively in the past and knew we wanted to live in Spain. We wanted to live in what we call the ‘real’ Spain. We wanted to live in a Spanish community, immersing ourselves in their way of life and culture.

Our home is a two hundred year old farmhouse in a small rural community. Our culinary table is very Spanish. We grow our own vegetables as our neighbours do, shop where they do and go to the local fiestas. Our neighbours are very sociable and imitations for coffee are ten a penny. Great for making new friends and practicing the language. We’re learning the language as we go along, making many mistakes as we do. Our efforts in communicating earn us compliments, another cup of coffee and more friends.

Close to us are two other English couples live in our vicinity. They too have chosen to become expats. The difference is they don’t ‘live’ here; they exist! They live in isolation. Not only are they living in houses where their nearest neighbours aren’t that near. They don’t socialise. OK; so we aren’t all the same. Some people like to be alone. But living alone, not even venturing to the nearest village or bar they might just as well be living on an anonymous desert island. One neighbour is no longer referred to the pharmacist who speaks English. Rightly so. In the four and a half years they have been living in Spain they can hardly muster anything other than a ‘si’, ‘no’ and gracias. Another neighbour relies on a Spaniard who speaks English to do her translating, despite the fact she has two lessons a week. If both these women made the effort to get out and socialise, they’d have no trouble trying to speak the language. They aren’t here for the weather. Our northern climes are the same as those in the good ol’ UK. So what are they here for? They are living lives around their house; just going to the supermarket where they can put their wants in their trolley without uttering a word. They don’t have to even speak when they pay. They can do just that in Liverpool, London, Westward Ho! or Hunstanton and a thousand other English towns.

I find myself wondering just why they became expats. Why are they here? That leads me to wonder if they have something to hide; now there’s a thought!

Posted by SpanishRos 07:43 Comments (0)

The Prize of Geocaching


One Wednesday afternoon in mid May found half a dozen of us engrossed in the internet. Loles asked for attention. She spoke with the speed of a locomotive as most Spaniards do.

“Did you understand any of that?” Paul asked.

“Not, really. Something about the day of the internet. She said something about groups and a course,” I replied.

“We don’t need to go on a course. I’d not be able to understand it anyhow,” Paul said, returning to uploading some of his photos to Flickr. I nodded in agreement.

Loles came over & plonked herself down beside us.

“Entiendes?” she asked.

“Un poco,” I replied.

She knows we have a basic understanding of Spanish; enough to have a basic conversation and to get by with our daily business. I can often understand more than I can speak, which Loles knows.
Speaking slower & clearer, she confirmed that May 17th would be the Day of the Internet. She explained that she was asking people who used teleCentro if they would like to take part in a geocaching day.

I looked at Paul quizzically & he returned my look. Loles nodded, noting our puzzled looks. I understood most of her explanation. She then showed me a site on the internet in English so that I could understand geocaching more fully.

Seemingly, there are more than 700,000 caches hidden in over 100 countries across the continents. A cache contains a stash of inexpensive articles, along with a log book. A series of coordinates lead you to the cache. You’re welcome to take an item as long as you replace it. Signing the logbook records your visit.

“We’ll give it a go. It sounds like fun,” I smiled insanely. This time Paul nodded.

“It’ll be fun,” he said. “We’ll be integrating and practicing our Spanish too.”

This time I nodded.

Sunday morning arrived & we headed to Brieves with eager anticipation. We were introduced to our team mates, Jose, Amelia & Berto. After a quick introduction to the GPS we were off. We followed a series of clues whose answers gave us the next co-ordination that we programmed into a hand held GPS gadget. An hour and a half later, we were back at teleCentro. Not only had we made new friends, we’d found a new hobby; eccentric as it might be.

The clues had revealed much of Brieves. It’s a typical Asturian village with a population of just one hundred. It’s characterised by its seven ancient stone arches and immaculate horreos used for storing grain. Each house displayed pots of vibrant red geraniums. Although small, the pueblo is a labyrinth of narrow lanes. It possesses two chapels that boasts a deep Catholicism. It’s close by the Rio Esva whose waters are famed for its salmon fishing. A small tributary runs through the village serving an old mill that’s still in use today.

Having bid ‘Hasta luego’ to our newly found amigos, we retreated to the nearby bar. Reflecting over a well deserved cup of coffee, we decide we’re hooked. It’s a hobby that we can incorporate with our existing love of walking & travel.

Now, what was that website......?

“Felices,” Loles said, greeting me with a bigger than normal smile, on the 12th of July.

“Igualment,” I replied as the previous day Iniesta had delighted Spaniards everywhere by scoring the only goal that took the Spanish team to their first world cup glory.

Loles looked puzzled, then realised I didn’t know what she was talking about!! Nothing new; I rarely know what people are going about but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying life.

Seemingly I had won a prize for participating in her geocaching day as part of the International Day of the Internet some weeks previously. Exactly what for, I’m not sure. We’d just gone along & enjoyed ourselves. I said to Paul that maybe it was because we were the only English that had taken part. Despite not being fluent in Spanish, we’d worked as a team with Jose & Amelia. We’d supported Loles. Maybe that was the reason, we’ll never know. However, I did feel chaffed.

Thursday morning arrived. We walked the 15 minute walk to the village school in Munas where we’d agreed to meet Loles. It was easier than trying to direct her along the single lane back tracks that lead to our house. We had a vague idea as what to expect from the day but nothing more. Paul & I just planned to expect the unexpected, enjoying what fate threw at us.

We travelled along the E70 A8 autopista towards Gijon towards Villaviciosa, a town we’d bypassed many a time & never ventured into. I’m never quite sure why, but the name always suggests bushes of buddleia to me. Yeah, so i have a vivid imagination. The town was attractive in a typical Spanish way. We just skirted the centre, finding a sandy, stone floored car park that was only a third full. Close by was a back street bar where we took our refreshment break. Paul & i had already agreed we were going to pay for Loles; after all we were using her petrol & she needn’t have nominated me. It felt right to treat her.

For some reason Loles thought I didn’t like the toilets in the bar. I’m not sure why; I can use a hole in the ground anywhere! However, I appreciated her thoughtfulness. She proceeded to take us to the Alsa bus station to see if theirs were any better. I’d already done a wee in those of the cafe. But I went through the motions & thanked her for her consideration.

Then on to Cobranes where the ‘presentation’ was to be. We had half an hour to spare which gave us the chance to walk along what passed as the main street of the village. Cobranes is located in the central eastern part of Asturias known as Oriente. It is surrounded by grasslands, wooded valleys & indigenous forests that make a natural landscape of quiet & rural tranquillity. There are a number of marked nature trails around the numerous paths that offer breathtaking views over the surrounding mountains such as the Picos de Europa, Sueve Mountains as well as those of the Redes Natural Park.

Emigration to the Americas forms an important part of Cabranes’ history, much of which is highlighted by the beautiful, traditional homes of the Torazo Indians. Cobranes also celebrates the feast of the Virgen del Carmen with a traditional procession & colourful bouquets on the last Sunday of August.

Cabranes boasts its fame of high quality Asturian gastronomy. Beans are the pitu de caleya then there are the sausages & honey. It focuses though, on the rice pudding & borona. Every year there are festivals of rice pudding in Santa Eulalia (second Sunday in May) & Boron in Torazo (first Sunday of June).

It’s natural splendour & serenity couldn’t be done in thirty minutes. The need for a return visit has been embedded in our minds.

Due to start at midday, the ‘ceremony’ started with Spanish punctuality at a quarter past the noon hour. It was an occasion to celebrate the investment being made into the internet in the province. It will be many years before broadband reaches mountainous pueblos like mine but heaps of money is being poured into the advancement of a fast speed internet access reaching all the areas of the province. Who knows what time will bring?

A couple of dignitaries spoke for some fifteen minutes. Paul & I were pleased we were able to grasp the gist of what they said. Then there were the presentations; just four! Two certificates & two prizes. I was awarded one of the prizes! It was a hand held GPS geocaching system. I was thrilled as after the geocaching event in Brieves we’d said we’d like to do more of it but the basic ‘thing’ costs around 50$ which is money we couldn’t warrant taking out our budget for something so frivolous. Who says God isn’t good?

Loles took a photo of me receiving my prize. She said I looked nervous; I was just relieved that no one had asked me any complicated questions in Spanish I couldn’t answer!

Tummies rumbling we decided that it was time for lunch. Loles said she knew of some inexpensive places in Gijon, the provinces largest city. This industrial port has been much rebuilt since the Civil War when it was bombarded by the Nationalist navy. The city’s most famous son is Gaspar Melchor de Joellanos, the 18th century eminent author, reformer & diplomat.

There are many bars & restaurants in Gijon all competing for business. The current financial situation is keeping all their prices low as they vie for business. We found a pleasant bar opposite the Isabella Catolica, an area of tranquil parkland in this otherwise concrete jungle. Menu del Dia was just 5€ 90c. I was adventurous & chose marisco soup, albadongas & flan.

Then followed a walk along the promenade. The beach was crowded which I found somewhat repelling. I know of many more serene beaches in Asturias well away from civilisation. There were several dozen, colourful, stripy changing tents reminiscent of the 1920s. They just gave the whole beach a somewhat comical postcard feel.

On the way out of Gijon, we circled a roundabout which had a topiary horse in the centre jumping over a fence. It was a reminder of the horsey connections that Gijon has. There was a big exhibition centre close by that shows many equestrian events.

Tums satiated & bloated bellies walked back to normal it was time to hit the autopista back to home.

Posted by SpanishRos 07:36 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Is there really-----?

A friend recently e mailed, telling me some things she was thinking about. I started asking myself the same questions & questioning my own personal beliefs.

The first thing she asked herself was ‘is there really a heaven?’ If so, she pondered, does your soul go there when you die? Oh yes, most definitely there is a heaven. Ask many people what they thing ‘heaven’ is, and they point to the sky. To them heaven is something high above the clouds which they are unable to describe. All they can tell me is that heaven is up there, where God lives. When I die, I believe my soul will become a source of energy that God will use for the better good wherever he sees fit..

To me, heaven is on earth & is something easily attainable. I can live in heaven every day as long as I do the right things. I am already living in a world created by God. To live in heaven all I have to do is follow the word of Jesus. I read my Bible daily in conjunction with Bible Alive. I watch the great Joyce Meyer each day & listen to her preach. Less than an hour out of my day; that’s all. Every day I commend my life to God. I control my thoughts, words & deeds so that I resist the Devil & his works. Yes, I have days where nothing goes right. We all do. The secret is for you to take control & not the Devil! Think about it.

My friend also asked herself why men start wars. They start them because they have let the Devil into their hearts & minds. The men who start wars are jealous & greedy men. They are selfish & can’t see beyond their own nose. All they are concerned with is their own wants & desires.
They are weak men who are easy prey for the Devil. We are all individuals with different ideas, feelings & needs. We need to be tolerant & understanding of each other. Respect each other.

Kick the Devil into touch.

Belinda Carlisle once sang ‘Heaven is a place on earth.’ Go figure........

Posted by SpanishRos 07:58 Comments (0)

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