Saturday, 24 November 2007

Home shopping in Lliria, lunch in Segorbe

The sights at Segorbe

Being Saturday and being sunshine and rich blue skies means time for a little exploring. Today we started with a shopping trip to Lliria, some 20km north of Valencia on the motorway towards Ademuz. We came across Lliria and indeed its British supermarket, Spainsbury's (yes that's right, Spainsbury's - I cannot believe the lawyers have let that one get away) through the British friend of a Spanish friend who assured us that this was the supermarket to get all those 'hard-to-find' products from good old Blighty. He turned out to be as good as his word, for Spainsbury's did indeed stock all those essentials from Marmite and PG Tips to Christmas puddings and custard powder (as well as those other traditional British ingredients including Chicken Korma and Tikka cook-in sauces!). It turns out that Spainsbury's does home deliveries just like like its UK nearly-namesake - we might be clicking some more online orders soon!

View of Segorbe looking across from its castle

Then, aiming for the town of Segorbe, we drove cross country on one of the most stunning mountain drives so far (there have been several and they've all been stunning). This trip included some of the windiest roads we've driven for a while and from the village of Gatova onwards, the roads were narrow and look like they've hardly been resurfaced for many a year. The scenery was breathtaking - similar in parts to the red rock canyons of Sedona in Arizona. Along the first part of the drive, the roads had very definitely received a recent investment - considerable sums. However, the most interesting aspect of this was, to us, the fact that a cycle path, several kilometeres in length, had been buit alongside the road - some 20 metres or so away - painted green and with white markings along its entire length. Apparently the cycle path serves no useful purpose, since for all the time we drove alongside it, I saw only one cyclist making use of it - and around 100 other cyclists competing with the cars on the main carriageway.

Chris and Jo believe that they are the first British children ever to drink from all 50 'Fuente de los 50 Caños'. Is this a legitimate Guinness Record?

Arriving at Segorbe in the late morning, we were treated to pleasant late autumn weather (similar to recent visits to Requena) which though brightly sunlit, was mitigated by the coolness associated with being at a higher altitude than Valencia (though still probably somewhat lower down than Requena). A brisk walk up the hill to the incredibly helpful Oficina de Turismo to get our bearings (plus town map and colour booklet guide of places to see) and we were off to discover what was left of the town's castle. The views from the top are stunning throughout the 360° sweep. We stopped at the small Bar Valencia in the town centre for an excellent menú del día and then off back down the hill to discover the Fuente de los cincuenta caños - 50 taps out of which permanently gush the town's natural mineral water. The fifty taps represent each one of the fifty provinces of Spain. We saw several people filling their plastic bottles and water carriers while we were there - before Chris and Jo got the bright idea of sampling the produce of every one of the fifty taps - before getting back into the car, soaking wet, for the 50km toilet-less trip back to Valencia! A very pleasant day out, and having missed the town's current 'foodie' celebration - I Muestra Gastronomica de la Seta y el Cordero which is coming to an end, and arriving at the wrong time of year for its most famous annual shindig, Entrada de toros y caballos (entry of the bulls and horses), I can feel one or two return trips in the offing.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Batman (and woman!)

Any experts on bat removal out there? How does one deal with a bat in the bedroom at 7am on a Sunday morning... on the ninth floor?

Well, this is a problem in which, as of this morning, we are now experienced! Liz awoke to the sound of frantic flapping and a black blob squeezing it's way through the gap in our bedroom window. The blob, once successful in its attempt to enter the bedroom, promptly fell to the floor and scurried under the bed to continue flapping... at which point, Liz's own flapping awoke me too! "I don't want to worry you, but there's a bird in the room!", she said. Not quite fully conscious at this point, I soon was as I saw the blob scurry across the bedroom floor. "It's a bat!", she said. "Er... throw a towel over it to stop it moving!", I said. At this point, a video camera would have been useful to capture the comic element of the situation. Having thrust the towel across the bat, we decided it must have been seriously injured during its arrival in the bedroom as it was no longer moving. We then scratched our heads trying to work out how to get the bat back outside without having to touch it (secretly, I was wondering how I was going to convince Liz to do the deed!). "Get a cardboard box and a piece of flat card!", I said, vaguely remembering seeing this trick done on TV, though probably not by Paul Daniels!

The method: Now, don't try this at home children (unless you need to rid your bedorom of a panicked bat!). With cardboard box suitably trimmed and a sheet of flat card at the ready, carefully slide the card under the towel whilst gently dropping the cardboard box on top of the whole pile. Don't panic and scream when you hear flapping and scratching coming from under the box and especially when you see bits of wing and leg protruding from the edges of the temporary cardboard cage, because you really are bigger than the bat and believe it or not, the bat is more panicked than you will ever be! Ending up with a bat in a box, you will the realise that, being situated on the ninth floor of an apartment block is not the easiest (or safest or most honourable) way to release a potentially damaged bat back into the wild. Being 7am (well probably 7.10am by the time you having finished panicking and scabbling around with towels and bits of cardboard!), and not yet having dressed for the day, is not the ideal situation to find oneself with a bat-in-a-box! Thus the method at this point is for one's wife and children to get dresed rapidly and after gingerly assigning responsibility for the cardboard cage over to the rest of the team, to retire gracefully to the shower.

The rest of the bat rescue team then took the package downstairs in the lift with the strains of Born Free ringing in my mind, whilst listening to Liz's fading instructions as the lift descended, "Be careful not to nudge the box or all three of us will be trapped in this lift with a panicked bat flying around us!"

Having reached ground level, the box was carefully placed on a flower bed at the front of the apartment block and swiftly opened, at which point the bat fell out, dusted itself off and flew away, hopefully never again to be seen in our bedroom!

Apologies for those of you who were looking forward to the photographs or video - this is one of those emergency situations where, in the heat of the moment and whilst running for cover, we were unable to locate cameras for this breaking news story. However, the children have drawn their own pictures and will be recounting the entire episode to Blue Peter in the hopes of winning their Gold Blue Peter Badges for saving an endangered animal.