These have been the most manic 12 days that I have had in a long long time and I am absolutely buzzing! On the Friday the advance copies of my book arrived and on the same day Findley was offered a place at his first choice university. Time for a double celebration, and boy we celebrated well! By Sunday the paperback was on sale and on Monday the ebook was on pre-release with sales of both shooting straight to the number 1 spot on Amazon. Since then it has stayed at the top and has sold in places as far flung as Australia, America, Namibia, Germany, and Spain, and has gathered some stonkingly good reviews. I have been overwhelmed at the response and am very very happy. Who would have thought anyone would have been interested in my life!
My lovely family, concerned that Findley’s success had overshadowed my book release, decided that I needed a celebration that was my own and threw me a surprise party this Sunday so it’s been a week of eating, drinking, interspersed with a load of book promotion and late night messages to and from my editor who is currently trekking her way around the Far East. Yesterday I took a day out. Feeling the need to ground myself for a while I took myself off for a nice relaxing visit to my brother who I haven’t seen for a few months.
When it’s cold and miserable outside sometimes all you need to bring back the sunshine are good friends, good food, and a few good laughs. Lunch yesterday in our favourite local restaurant with our favourite local people.
We are back in Spain and to say it’s a bit nippy is an understatement but the sun is bright and we manage to find a few warm corners. The journey here was a bit of a nightmare. Just out of Santander we picked up rain, then sleet, and then snow. At one point it was a total whiteout and we followed the snowplough for about half an hour. I have to say, it’s impressive the way Spain deals with bad weather. Snowploughs line the motorways and are out clearing the roads at the first sign of a snowflake. The traffic keeps moving. We just take it easy and occasionally even a Spanish driver slows down.
Because of the weather we didn’t arrive until 3am but as we opened the big gates and pulled into the drive the cats came running towards us clearly excited that the feeding station was about to be open for business again. I’m completely convinced that cats have a 6th sense. We look after a bunch of strays while we are here but we’ve been away a couple of months and expected them to have forgotten us and disappeared however as we stepped out of the car we were surrounded by a clowder of kitties and had to manoeuvre an obstacle course to get into the house! Don’t they know they were meant to be asleep? We could barely keep our eyes open.
In the morning there was no chance of a lay in as we were woken by mewing, meowing, and howling as they called for their breakfast.
It’s good to be back. Mother nature has been kind while we’ve been away. All the moggies are plump and healthy as are the oranges and lemons on our trees. The fruits are sweet and so full of juice that their weight is bending the branches of the trees until they touch the ground. We have lemons as big as footballs, more O.J. than you could shake a stick at, and the olives are fat and ripe for the picking. It’s going to be a good harvest.
A few G&Ts in there, or how about a Bucks Fizz anyone?
“Dear January, December has been very kind to me so you have been put on the back-burner for a little while. I promise to make it up to you.”
December started well. We had just returned from Spain and almost immediately set off again, this time in the opposite direction to Germany. It was Christmas market time and the start of our regular trips with Chrystal and Charlie. The first to Aachen (by Eurostar) and the second to Nuremberg. The train journey was fun and made a nice change from the stress of our usual budget airline. Picnic on the train, a bottle of bubbly. Very nice.
Aachen was very good but we didn’t get to see the market. Chrystal and I went shop shopping on the Saturday and then found the next day was the first Sunday in Advent and the market was closed. We’ve been in Germany before at Advent and the markets have always been open so this was unexpected. A bit of a disappointment but we more than made up for it in Nuremberg.
Arrival in Nuremberg and nicely tucked up in our comfy hotel we were excited to find all our favourites just a few steps away. Galeria and Bar Fusser opposite which meant saving lots of leg miles as we were backwards and forwards with shopping and didn’t have far to stagger after dinner. Despite this we still walked our feet off exploring bright and sparkly shops and even brighter and more sparkly markets. Colourful stalls designed Alpine style jostled side by side wafting out wonderful Christmassy smells, food stalls selling mouthwatering bratwurst, lebkuchen, and gingerbread, the heady smell of the gluhwein (mulled wine) everywhere, and all around people wrapped up warm against the winter weather drinking Christmas out of china boots. Under the cathedral a choir sang Christmas songs on a stage that had been erected for the occassion and above the Christkind with her golden robes, the traditional giver of gifts, looked down. Wonderfully exciting!
We had a day to spare so Charlie suggested that we went to Rothenberg ob der Tauber. Oh my! What an experience that was. Firstly we went on a double decker train – upstairs of course (what children we are!) – and then travelled through fairytale forests with mysterious tracks disappearing into them before arriving at what must be the prettiest town in all of Germany. Most of it is medieval with cobbled streets, towers and turrets, and narrow windy lanes with houses placed haphazardly going off in all directions. Storks nests perched higher up on tall buildings adding to the overall atmosphere and appearance of the town. Walking through the fortifications into the town is like stepping back in time several centuries. On the corner of the town square is a huge Kathe Wolfart shop, a Christmas shop and museum that is open all year round. The enormous nutcracker standing outside inviting passers by into a treasure trove. The town is magical. It rained all day, that horrid fine rain that soaks miserably through everything, but nothing, absolutely nothing, could take away the beauty of this place or our enjoyment of it. We need to go back. In summer.
I do love our trips to Germany. They are exciting and fun and just good family time that get the run up to Christmas off to a good start. My favourite time of year. The house is warm, it is filled with the lovely inviting smells of pine, cinnamon, warm apples and baking, and there is a lovely buzz in the air.
Since the New Year there has been a lot of excitement in the Roberts household as the word from the publisher is that my first book is due to be released in March. Just 2 months away! The cover is decided, formatting done, and everything is on schedule for launching onto an unsuspecting public. Are you ready for this? Watch this space – I’ll keep you posted.
We have been on our travels again. We were going back to Spain to have the house re-rendered and repainted and just as we were about to leave we received an invitation from Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio in the Rioja region to an end of season grape stomping party. Who are we to refuse an invitastion like that? Also, the date of the party was 2 days before our ferry home so it was a perfect opportunity to catch up with José Camára who we had met in May this year just as he was about to open his own winery.
Outside Bodegas Lecea tents and stalls had been erected selling food and locally made goods, a cross between a hippie fair and a German Christmas market. We picked up our engraved glasses and tickets for 4 glasses of wine each and had a wander around.
Food or wine? Dilemna.
A few wines, a bit of shopping and then onto the grape stomping. This was a on a much grander scale than our big red bucket but just as messy and as much fun. The grapes were piled in a huge cement vat and while we ‘trod’ from above some poor guy shovelled the vines below continually stacking and piling them back up on top. As the juice squished between our toes the stomping was messy and sticky on our legs we were having so much fun, but spare a thought for the poor man beneath us, he was getting covered all over!
Thank you Lecea, you put on a good show. It was a fantastic day.
The following day we met up with José in his new winery Bodega Del Tesoro in Cuzcurrita del Rio Tiron. As we drove into Cuzcurrita all we saw were what looked like really small, really old, run down houses. We drove past several times before we realised that these were the entrance to the winery. These places really are unique. The house fronts disguised the entrance to caves and cellars. Inside they were huge! When José bought his winery it was derelict and in just a few months he has made a miraculous transformation. It is amazing inside and his wine is absolutely first class.
José had just bought another winery next door which he plans to turn into a wine bar. It looks like we’ll be coming back. Good luck José, you really have created something very special.
Thanks to the heavy rains this winter we have had an absolute glut of fruit. We’ve given loads away, frozen heaps, eaten tons, but there’s only so many figs a body can eat, right? We had got to the stage when friends would run when they saw us coming with a carrier bag so we decided that we would have to try something different or they (the fruit, not the friends) would all have to go on the compost. So, after air and oven drying pears, making fig jam and chutney, and eating them in various forms of yogurt, I scoured the internet, begged recipes from friends, and set about making our own hooch. I made 2 types of pear vodka (one spicy, one sweet), preserved figs in brandy, and then cast a beady eye towards the grape vine.
For the first time ever our grape vine was struggling under the weight of fat, succulent, pendulous clusters of juicy sweet black grapes. It was crying ‘help me!’ every time we passed by. So, buoyed up with the knowledge gained from our trip to the Rioja region earlier this year we decided to have a go at making our own wine.
We bought a big red bucket and set out early before the sun got too hot chopping off the ones in the camino before setting about the garden. We filled a 25 litre bucket!
Within minutes it was wheelbarrowed into the house to be trod. Yes! a bare footed stomp to extract every ounce of juicy sweetness. My mum would have had so much fun with this. I was chuckling at the memory of her laughing as the grape skins squelched between my toes and I sank lower and lower into the bucket. It was as much fun as you thought it would be mum.
Right now it’s fizzing and popping away in the bucket and smelling absolutely wonderful! I wonder if the family will be brave enough to try it at Christmas.
This is my first attempt at blogging. I’m very new to this so please be patient with me for any mistakes, mishaps, or general ditziness.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I am married to Adrian, have 2 daughters (with spouses), and 3 grandchildren who fill my life with love and laughter. Somewhere along the line we made the crazy decision to buy a wreck of a house in Andalucia and so now we flit between our permanent home in the UK and our happy place amongst the olive groves of Southern Spain. I am in love with both places. Spain, the country, her people, the culture, art, food, and wine hold on tight to a huge chunk of my heart. I absolutely adore Spain. Other things I like? Well, I love travel, cats, foxes, Christmas, snug winter evenings by a roaring fire, and family time. Adrian will tell you that above all I like swearing at the computer when I get things wrong (which I frequently do.) That’s me in a nutshell. Oh, and I write.
This has been an exciting week. On Monday we had a few friends over and it turned into an impromptu party. Isn’t it amazing how spur of the moment things turn out to be the most fun? We had a great time, and then on Wednesday I was offered a formal contract to publish my first 2 books. Excitement doesn’t begin to cover it.
We’ve not had time to sit and reflect properly on what it all means as we’ve been busy with builders all week. We now have hot running water in the caseta, a toilet that functions without our feet needing to be in the shower, and a monstrous structure on our roof! It’s all good.
I will be blogging about our life here in Spain, our travels, food, lifestyle, and sharing adventures as they happen. I hope that some of our travels may inspire others to make similar journeys. Life should be fun, don’t take it too seriously.
Thanks for dropping by, please call in again soon.