Friday, November 27, 2009

ADIOS, ESPANA!

Beautiful sunset along the Costa del Sol.



Wet, wet, wet. That pretty much describes our last day in Spain. Fortunately for us, we had planned to spend the day lazing around and enjoying the hotel facilities, so the day wasn't a total waste. Lynette and I checked out the gym and did an hour of stretching at the aerobics room. The instructor was so good-looking it was hard for the ladies to focus!

Time to say Adios to a lovely vacation in Spain.


View from the bus on the way to see the horse show.


Yesterday evening we caught the famous Andalusian horse show at El Ranchito in Torremolinos, Malaga. We had heard so much about it, but the show turned out to be one big yawn. Many in the audience kept looking at their watches, so I suppose I wasn't the only one disappointed with the show.


I felt really sorry for the poor horses who, I'm sure, were loathe to entertain tourists like us. Good thing for them the show is only once a week, and it was the last show of the tourist season.


The show package included dinner at Restaurante Romeral del Rocio. We were hungry and impatient to try our first Spanish dinner. If the horse show was boring, the dinner was a joke. We were served a bun (no butter), plain salad, tomato soup and a slice of cake for dessert. For the main course Lynette and Peggy had like three spoonsful of rice with raisins, some thin slices of potatoes and even thinner slices of pork covered in gooey sauce. Mine was worse as I had opted for vegetarian. My platter had five thin (1 mm?) slices of cheese in lieu of the pork.


Our smiles do NOT reflect the quality & quantity of the food served. Note the colourless platter.

To think that we paid 46 euros (that's RM230) each for the horse show and dinner. If not for the flamenco dancers, the evening would have been a total let-down.

The flamenco dancers saved the evening for us.



Pedro, our tour guide for Gibraltar and Granada, and Gabreilla, our guide for Alhambra.


Mary, a Filippina residing in Fuengirola, helped us with directions.

My nightly routine - blogging on my new netbook in our hotel apartment.

Well, our vacation in Spain has drawn to a close. The cold season has just started with rain and grey sky the whole of today. I'm looking forward to be back in hot and humid Malaysia.
Thanks, Belle, Moon, Ansgar and Marcus for making this dream vacation possible. Next stop in a week's time - PHUKET, THAILAND.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A STEP BACK IN TIME AT ALHAMBRA

A panoramic view of Alhambra with the town of Granada in the valley below. Note the clear blue sky.


Yesterday we signed up for a day trip to Alhambra in Granada. The route took us through undulating country - hillslopes covered with olive trees alternating with green fields of asparagus. Pedro, our tour guide, told us that the asparagus grown here is unique to the region and specially farmed for laboratory research on finding a cure for prostate cancer.

Part of the Gardens

The camera just can't quite capture the beauty of Moorish architecture.

Imagine this was sculptured 700 years ago!

Explaining how this lacquered piece was done.


The narrow alleys of Medina lined with stalls selling arts and crafts. (Click on image to enlarge.)


The deserted streets during siesta time from 2-5pm.

More pictures tomorrow. Too tired to write much, but enjoying every minute of my Spain vacation. The countdown has begun - tomorrow's our last day here. We are leaving for London on Friday, and then it's back to Kuala Lumpur.
For now, it's "Buenas noches" or "Good night".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE VIEW FROM GIBRALTAR

Gibraltar with Spain in the background.


Lynette, Peggy and I must have taken at least a thousand photos over the past few days. But they can never do justice to many of the spectacular sights we have seen so far. Our trip to Gibraltar today is a good example.
Our bus took the scenic route along the Costa del Sol. Apparently there are three nudist beaches here. Pity none of us had our binoculars with us!

The high rise apartments take away some of the majesty of the Rock, don't you think?

Inside St Martin's Cave.


Our tour guide, Pedro, and our bus driver, Martin, kept us in stitches with their terrific sense of humour. They are true professionals - no matter how many hundreds of times they have made this trip their enthusiasm rubbed off on the tourists in their charge. If only more people took such pride in their work

Time out for fish and chips in Gibraltar's main square.

Monkeys everywhere - all looking for food.

Posing for the camera with Africa (Morroco) in the background.


Two words for roads in Gibraltar - STEEP and NARROW.

The weather has been lovely so far - lots of sun and clear blue skies every day. We start off early tomorrow at 6.30am for Granada. The highlight of the tour is a visit to the AlHambra. Will post more photos after the tour.

Monday, November 23, 2009

SNAP SHOTS FROM SPAIN

Alighting from the train at Malaga terminal.


Lynette, Peggy and I took the bus into Fuengirola yesterday, and from there the train to Malaga. All the along the bus route, at every stop, I saw only senior citizens boarding the bus. It was the same in town. It did make me wonder if Spain had an ageing population. It was only when we got to Malaga did we finally see young people hanging out at the mall.
Believe it or not, many of the city streets are lined with orange trees!

This morning we visited a market very similar to our pasar malam - lots of stalls selling clothes, snacks, shoes, watches, costume jewellry, handbags and toys. Leather is very popular here. With the cold season coming, many of the stalls were doing brisk business selling winter clothing.
Benches everywhere to rest your tired feet.


Incidentally, most shops are closed from 2.00pm to 5.00pm for siesta, and closed on Sundays too. Back home, businessmen would be counting their losses if they were to follow the working hours here in Spain!


I've never seen so many seniors all waiting for the bus.


It was interesting browsing through the knick-knacks and bric-a-brac at the market. Nobody bargains here. Shoppers have to be on the alert for pickpockets. One of the ladies had her purse stolen whilst browsing at a stall. We were later told that this happens quite often at crowded places.

On the bus to Fuengirola.


So far we haven't seen much variety of food like back in Malaysia. Sad to say, some of the people we had approached for directions were not very helpful. Some had an attitude problem. I hope it's to do with the language barrier, and is not the norm of the people here.


I love the nothing-can-stop-me spirit of the elderly in this city.

Not easy to decide when there's simply too many to choose from.


Tomorrow we are heading to Gilbraltar for a day trip. More updates after that.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

HOLA FROM ESPANA!

View from the balcony of my apartment at the Marriott Beach Resort, Marbella


Greetings from sunny Spain! After a 14-hour flight on AirAsiaX and a cold wet night in London, it's wonderful to see clear blue skies again. Everything is so expensive here, like 5x what we pay back home. Am staying in Marbella, Malaga. English isn't spoken much here, so have to rely on my little Spanish guide book for help.


Will share more over the next few days. Got to catch up on some sleep...zzzzz....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WHEN YOU LOSE A LOVED ONE....


Coping with the grief of losing a loved one is not easy. At our age, many of us would have experienced the pain of bereavement, whether it is the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling or a friend. With the passage of time, most of us find the strength to get on with life. But there are some who are so consumed with grief they are unable to function on a day-to-day basis. If unresolved, their grief may result in poor health, depression and even suicidal tendencies.

Last Saturday I attended a talk on grief counselling by Edmund Ng. Edmund is the founder of GGP Outreach. Its tagline is "Grace to Grieving Persons". Having gone through personal loss himself, Edmund was able to speak with conviction and credibility. His audience comprised mostly grieving spouses.

Having lost my dear sister three years ago, I could relate to everything Edmund said - the guilt, the blame, the bitterness and regret that a grieving person experiences when he loses a loved one.


Edmund Ng delivering a talk on "Helping Your Children Grieve Properly".

Here is a summary of Edmund's Do's and Don'ts for the grieving person.

  1. Allow yourself time and space to rest after the funeral activities are over.
  2. Accept help from your friends and relatives.
  3. Acknowledge that it takes time to heal the pain.
  4. Find an outlet to channel your thoughts away from reliving the loss.
  5. Take charge of your emotions.
  6. Be patient with your children. They are trying their best to cope too.
  7. Look after your health.
  8. Know that you are not alone. Seek a support group or a counsellor.
  9. Re-connect with other people.
  10. Remain active.
  11. Maintain a well-balanced diet.
  12. Don't fall prey to temptations like drinking and taking drugs.
  13. Don't make hasty decisions.
  14. Find strength and comfort in God.
  15. Keep a journal and record your thoughts and feelings.


Self-help from books.

For more related articles, click here. GGP Outreach will be holding its annual dinner on 13 December 2009 to honour widows and widowers, and give them some financial assistance. Admission is by invitation only. To get an invitation card, call 012-387 8668.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BY COACH TO SINGAPORE


The year-end school holidays start this Saturday 21 Nov and ends 3 Jan 2010. If you are planning to make a trip down south to Singapore with your school-going children or grandchildren, and don't want to spend a bomb on air-fares, may I share my preferred mode of transport to Singapore?

Unless time is a factor, I usually take an express coach. Over the years I've tried Aeroline, Nice, First Coach, Transtar and Odyssey. My favourite remains First Coach for several reasons:

  1. Low fares - RM115 (return) KL to Singapore, RM45 KL to Singapore (one-way).
  2. Clean, spacious and comfortable with adjustable seats.
  3. Co-drivers.
  4. Courteous & friendly service.
  5. Online booking available.
  6. Choice of 6 trips daily.
  7. Centrally located terminals and offices.
  8. Choice of terminals - Bangsar or Bandar Utama.
  9. Change of travel dates allowed - at least 2 days before departure.
  10. Individual screen for video & audio entertainment.
  11. Light snack & bottle of drinking water on board. Also free hot beverages at terminals.
  12. Copies of The Star for reading.
The travel time of 5 hours may put off some people who would rather fly. But really, you save only one hour by plane. I spend the time listening to music or watching a movie or two. But mostly I read, reflect or cat-nap.
There's a 20-minute stop midway for passengers to grab a bite or take a leak. If you don't fancy the spicy food at the stalls, it's best to pack your own snacks.


Almost like a shopping mall with full facilities!
You can choose to eat....

or pick up some fresh local fruits....
or shop for handicrafts.
I've never seen public toilets in Malaysia looking this clean!
The rest stop at Pagoh.

The Christmas season has already started in Singapore. With the city streets all decked out in fancy lights and festive decorations, and with sales and special events everywhere, this is the best time to be in Singapore.