Orihuela, Spain, 3rd - 10th June 2014

Hard as it was to believe, at 5.30 am on the 3rd of June a drunken plan hatched the previous Christmas came to fruition. We were on our way to Bristol Airport with Murray and Viv, to join Geoff and Marylin in their home in Orihuela, Spain.

Being too many for one car at the other end, we collected our hire car at the airport and had our first crash course in rapid-fire Spanish, discussing the various dents and scratches with the friendly employee, who had perhaps had a little too much coffee that morning! More by luck than judgement we arrived at the appointed spot from which Geoff would guide us through the maze of scenic country lanes to their house and arrived in time for tapas (Spanish style snacks) and a wonderful first night dinner, followed by much silliness involving harmonicas and crazy dancing. This was to set the tone for many evenings to come!

Welcome Tapas

Uh-oh, Geoff's brought “Monika”!

There was little chance for the girls to recover as Marilyn convinced them that joining her daily 8.30 am cycle ride with Kim would be a really good idea. On the following day the boys were persuaded too and Phil and Christine ended up in the second group outing, there being only three bikes. Although we had to brave the higher temperatures as the sun climbed in the sky, Geoff's route took us via the café for a little refreshment, before taking us on a quick tour of the town of Orihuela.

By day three only Marilyn and Christine were resolved enough to continue the daily workout with Kim!

At least try to look enthusiastic girls!”

Touring Orihuela with Geoff.

Murray had promised to cook his signature paella, a special recipe from his Spanish friend Juan. Eagerly he set to work over the huge paella dish on the special paella cooker in the garden. The results were spectacular in spite of, or perhaps because of the alcohol consumed by the chef during the cooking process! He wasn't the only one indulging, as we discovered when we found Geoff lurking in the nearby shrubbery with a silly grin on his face not to mention the later, now customary shenanigans!

The chef needs refreshment

I'm helping the chef, honestly!

Murray's delicious creation......


Next day we took a longer tour of the town of Orihuela, involving, naturally, a café stop. With so much consumption of both food and alcohol taking place, it was convenient that we discovered work-out playthings for big people in the town park and the girls leapt into action.

Our siesta was interrupted when a fire on a property neighbouring Geoff and Marilyn's house became out of control in high afternoon winds and the fire brigade were summoned to the rescue!

Our next big adventure was a trip to Murcia. We parked the cars at a shopping centre on the outskirts of the city, early evening, and headed down town on the tram. Our plan was to see the sights of the city and enjoy the bustling Friday night atmosphere of the locals out strutting their stuff. We would follow this with a visit to a tapas bar, a favourite of Marilyn and Geoff.

Go for it girls!

Of course, to get in the spirit we had to stop for an aperitif first. Viv fancied a gin and tonic, which probably cost more than the five beers put together, but was worth it just for the showmanship shown by the waitress. A generous measure of gin was poured carefully down a long handled spoon to join the tonic and what amounted almost to a fruit salad, waiting in the a glass, which could have housed a small goldfish! Viv was happy all evening long!

We were taken on a tour of Murcia where the streets were thronged with locals out and about, in typical Spanish style. Our tour took in some local landmarks, some amazing architecture and some really handsome policemen! (Photos of whom will not be posted as the photographer doesn't want to get arrested next time she's in Spain!)

On the tram to Murcia

Tapas in Murcia

Eventually we found our way to the tapas bar, which was so busy, it was impossible to hold a conversation above the noise of the other revellers. Liver or “higardo” was the house speciality and was delicious, the atmosphere was wonderful.

As we wove our way back to the tram, it was decided ice cream was in order. What we hadn't realised, as Marilyn led us to the bar where she'd eaten delicious ice cream before, was that this was no ordinary ice cream. In fact, it was goat's cheese ice cream, which tasted basically like goat's cheese in ice cream form. Opinion was divided about it's merits, Viv and Marilyn tucked in, enjoying every mouthful. Christine bravely chomped her way through all of the portion she was supposed to share with Phil, who in turn, made a run for it to a regular ice-cream parlour we'd just passed, returning with a pistachio ice-cream and a big smile!

Tapas in Orihuela

Next day we headed to a large market at a town on the way to the coast and acquired some Spanish leather goods and scarves. We followed this up by a walk on the crowded beach and a seafront sardine lunch.

We'd had so much fun on Friday night in Murcia, that on Saturday we decided to do tapas all over again in Orihuela. With Christine secreted in the boot of the car, as only Marilyn had gamely volunteered to drive, we headed into town. Again we had fun, partly as instead of glasses wine we were brought and charged for bottles and just couldn't bring ourselves to leave them undrunk. One tapas bar led to another, where the girls switched to coffees. The boys, however, stuck with beer and proceeded to attempt to make conversation with every customer in the bar! I'm sure those poor people had been enjoying their dates before we arrived!

Phil was conspicuously absent from the next mornings visit to a craft fair in Orihuela, as he nursed his hangover at home, unsure if he was even sober enough to drive!

After checking out the local crafting talent, we visited a museum, former home of a famous Spanish poet whose name was as unknown to us visitors beforehand as it was forgotten afterwards! (Is that a cry of “Philistines we hear?) We then had a personal tour of the neighbouring church-cum-school by a very attentive guide who took us under her wing.

Phil had surfaced, much recovered by the time we returned home for a delicious lunch of prawns cooked alfresco on the paella stove

Partying till the bitter end!

Early morning view from the Verandah. Still a bit smokey!

It was hard to believe that our week was almost up. Our last day took us on a tour to an impressive monastery with stunning views over the plains.

On our return trip we headed to sample “Menu del Dia”, the set menu, at a local restaurant popular among passing truck drivers, usually a good sign. We were not disappointed when for 8 Euros each we had salad, a starter, a main course, dessert and a drink and could hardly walk back to the car. Another siesta was needed before our last night's home-made tortilla.

It was a long time since any of us had eaten, drunk and laughed so much in a week and it was sad to be heading home but perhaps our livers were grateful! Well done Geoff and Marylin for putting up with us for a week! See you for the next reunion in Wales.

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