Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Spain Week One - day two

Monday April 28th 2008

Moorish Farmhouse, Orgiva, Spain

Another add-on to today's schedule with the start of the life coaching classes - the first day of "learn to relax", our stress management plan. So a very busy start to the day, with a trip down to Orgiva for bread and pastries first thing, followed by our second yoga class (at which I remembered a clock and so timed things better). Then brunch and the first theme class.

We have not yet really got a good idea of how much our guests will be wanting the life coaching or whether they will be more interested in sight seeng or crashing out by the pool. But today's class seemed to go as well as we hoped.

PM we have an interesting conversation with the head of a small PR firm who has seen our adverts, looked at the website a little and is keen to act for us. We had not really thought we woud go the route of employing a PR firm, but some parts of the marketing have proved very tricky for us (e.g. getting editorial coverage) and it seems that this is basically the service that we are being offered. They are preparing a detail proposal over the next week or so and I will have a ponder on it then.

While Linda teaches another Pilates class, this time with four locals, I prepped the paellas for tonight. The first is our regular meat and seafood paella, with chicken, prawns and chorizo. But the second is yet another variation on our vegetarian paella, this time featuring artichoke hearts, leeks and broad beans for a first time. We like to think that this is another showcase meal by us and is, as we thought the other night, clearly something that we can do to a better standard than the local restaurants. Nigel and Zoe came round again and we seemed to get their thumbs up for it. So things continue to progress well we think.
Paella night - a slightly chilly evening as we ate later than usual (10:00pm or so)

First full day . . . .

Sunday April 27th 2008

Moorish Farmhouse, Orgiva, Spain

Our yoga and pilates start today, though we do pitch today as a bit of a transitional day. So I have now taught my first official Well Being Break's yoga class to our guests and Zoe. All the participants are beginners and that does add a little tension to how I feel, but after a slightly nervous start when I kept forgetting my own breathing, things seem to go pretty well, though I did overshoot in time by about 20 minutes. Tomorrow I will have a clock with me.

The only major change in plan was that we couldn't hold the class on the grass under the lemon trees as there was too much dew overnight. So. like Linda, I am doing my classes in the courtyard. I was very pleased with how it went and the participants also seemed happy. Zoe has done quite a bit of yoga and she was also very complimentary. So an ok start for me. Zoe has plans to invite loads of local friends to attend the classes with Linda and myself, which would be good.

Meanwhile Linda had prepared brunch which I thought was really nice - lots of fresh fruit, muesli, yoghurts, cheese, pates, etc. Afterwards I took Paul and Meg down to Orgiva for a quick walk round so they could get their bearings, and then they were off into the mountians to visit Pampaneira and Trevelez, the latter of which is several thousand feet up. Meanwhile, Linda and I have time for a bit of relaxation and the it is time to re-group and prep for dinner.

Linda's class attracts two locals. Across the valley in Tablones there is a fiesta taking place and a very concerted blast of fireworks went off about a quarter of the way into her class. I bet there aren't too many Pilates teachers who have had to suspend a class for a minute or two while a firework display finishes.

Tonight's meal is a little simpler than last night. The escalivida left over from last night (which tasted even better), followed by fish with a homemade pesto topping, rice and salad and a fruit platter with raspberry coulis for dessert.

Much to our relief, our guests have had a good first day and seem very pleased. So that is promising.

First day of our first break

Saturday April 26th 2008

Moorish Farmhouse, Orgiva, Spain

So our first week's break starts today, and it is far to say that we both have some nerves. Have we thought of everything? Will people like what we are offering? Will it turn out to be a success or not?

Linda does another exercise tape while I ponder on the yoga course for the week and continue to work through al the boxes sorting things out a bit.

Mid-morning I had a trip to the big superstore for fresh things and the remaining things we have remembered. There is a strange sequence of bollards all the way to the coast which I later learn is a traffic calming scheme in place over the weekend. It didn't seem to have calmed the traffic much to me (and would cause the people coming to us some confusion I thought)

We were not really sure when our guests would arrive as they were coming down from Madrid where they had been staying with friends. With no sign by 4:00pm, Linda and I set about the prep for that evening's food - just so we kept busy and helped the nerves. So, our first people actually arrived just after 6:00, having had a good journey and not had too much trouble finding the farmhouse itself.

Nigel and Zoe joined us for dinner tonight - one of our best meals we think and which should set us up very well for the rest of the stay. So we had some tapas (including the marinated mushrooms that I really like, and the fiery chilli prawns) followed by chicken with peppers and escalivida (a Spanish roast vegetable dish) and topped off with berries and a chocolate, honey and cream sauce. Plus a selection of local wines. Hopefully this sets the tone for what we are trying to do wth food this week.

So our first guests are here and we are officially off and running . . . . .

A day of rest . . .

Friday April 25th 2008

Moorish Farmhouse, Orgiva, Spain

So both of us have had a really tiring few days and so has very few plans for today other than get a good amount of rest and get ready for 42 days of work in a row!

So lots of unpacking, sorting out boxes (which were not really packed in a very user friendly way, with all sorts of stuff all over the place). Linda managed an exercise video this morning to get her going again.

It turned out that today would be the hottest day of the year so far with the temperature moving into the low 30s. As so often happens in such circumstances, I stayed outside a little too long and have a slight pink hue as a result. So easy to overdo it slightly when it feels so nice to be out. 30 minutes less and it would have been fine

So a nice bit of reading this afternoon and a few hours chilling out.

Late afternoon we finally made it out and got to the other side of Orgiva to a shop that sells local pottery. So we will be serving food on the new stuff we have acquired, which looks really lovely.

Back home and we manage to cook nothing more complex that a risotto - we have been cooking these for the last few months and they have become some of our favourite food. Tonight is a simple asparagus risotto. But from tomorrow we will be cooking much more complex dishes. I am actually really looking forward to this bit of the breaks.

Friday, 25 April 2008

First full day in Spain

Thursday April 24th

Moorish Farmhouse, Orgiva, Spain

A fantastic night's sleep after two days of "sleeping rough". No rush to get up and going first thing, but as the sun rose over the mountains to the east, I was inspired to find our new camcorder and take a few minutes footage outside. We are really excited about using the camcorder over the summer and plan to create a number of clips of the various properties we are staying at, the local sights and even some of the classes.

It was market day in Orgiva, the local town, this morning and I had a quick call in on the way out to collect Linda at Malaga airport. I was able to get another 10 minutes or so of film of the market. But I have to admit, we really don't know anything much about making this sort of thing, and I can tell it is probably a lot trickier than it looks.

The drive down to Malaga to meet Linda was uneventful. Since we were here last year it almost seems like there are even more polytunnels. The other way along the coast towards Almeria has become swamped with polytunnels that have transformed the local agriculture as well as the view.

Linda had a late night last night finishing her admin after her last sessions at Active Pilates. She got to bed about 12:30 and was up again at 3:30 to get her cab to Oxford and the coach to Gatwick. Her journey to Malaga went fine, but she was pretty tired.

We stopped off for an hour at the supermarket at Motril for a first shop up and then back to Orgiva and a small amount of unpacking and rest.

We went out for dinner at one of the small restaurants in Orgiva that had been closed last time we were here. Linda had a vegetarian paella, but we are sure that we can do better than this (and have scheduled paella for Sunday night with our guests).

Travelling to Spain . . .

Monday April 21st to Wednesday April 23rd 2008

Travelling through France and Spain


A day of packing and final admin, transferring files to the laptop, paying the remaining bills we have before we leave. The Land Rover is pretty full but does look like it will be able to accommodate Linda and Emma’s additional luggage in mid-summer. But there is just the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that we are taking too much stuff.

All packed up and ready to go!

I am ready to leave for Portsmouth around 4:30. The initial mileage on the Land Rover for our journey is 123,593. I think I’ve got everything, but am bound not to have!

The ferry port is pretty quiet when I arrive. I have a couple of necessary purchases for the car, things like headlight adjusters, warning triangles and a GB sticker. On board and the lounge I have booked a reclining seat in is also pretty quiet. Armed with my sleeping bag and some spare blankets, I don’t wait very long before trying the get to sleep, laid out on the floor in front of several seats. I barely noticed the ferry start moving and was probably asleep by 9:30.

The adventure begins . . . . .


A good night’s sleep on the ferry. I woke at about 6:30 and the ferry was stationery outside St Malo. The sea was extremely calm, barely any waves at all. I didn’t fancy any breakfast and stayed reading in the lounge as the ferry inched into port and docked exactly on time.

Driving on the right hand side of the road always takes a few minutes to get used to, and driving a U.K. car on the right hand side is even odder. But St Malo was pretty easy to get out off and I was soon on a dual carriageway heading towards Rennes, the first major city on my route down through France, that would take in Nantes, Bordeaux, Bayonne, the Spanish border, Madrid, and Granada. Maybe 1,750km in all.

Leaving the ferry at St Malo

My plan was to drive for three hours then have a one hour break, repeating this for as long as possible through the day. My first stretch takes me around 250km. I listened to five albums by Kate Bush, and had some problems at the toll booths when I couldn’t reach the ticket machine from the right hand seat, and could work out which buttons to push. But overall it was going ok. It was a misty morning in northern France, the sun only just beginning to break through as I stopped for food at a service station at Poitou Charante. Food at French service stations is supposed to be very good and I was not disappointed by the chicken and ratatouille that I had.

From there it was onwards to Bordeaux and then Bayonne with an hour’s stop for some sunbathing in the late afternoon sunshine. I crossed into Spain at about 6:30 and past the foothills of the Pyrennees which were obviously getting some heavy rain from what I could tell. By now I was listening to the first four Cat Power albums.

A car park made for sunbathing . . . .

Several hours later and I have passed Burgos and was wondering where to stop for the night. By now I had travelled over 1,000km and was beginning to wonder about staying in a hotel, rather than my original plan of sleeping in the car. The terrible meal I had at an “Autogrill” service station may also have sapped by resolve. As it got dark I reached the town of Lerma and parked in a small car park on the edge of town with no one else around, had a quick chat to Linda, rolled out my sleeping bag across the front seats and was asleep in about 2 minutes


Not a bad night’s sleep though I did wake up a few times when I got into some really uncomfortable position across the front seats. It rained most of the night and the end of the sleeping bag was quite damp where the rain had come through the partially open window. And then after just five minutes driving this morning I passed what looked like a really nice hotel that would have been perfect late last night. I stopped for some breakfast there and was a bit annoyed that I hadn’t just gone the little way further. But at least yesterday’s drive got me two-thirds of the way to Orgiva and made it pretty certain that I would get there today – so i wouldn’t have a second night in the car.

I was surprised to see snow on the hills as I approached Madrid. I had always assumed that Madrid was really hot all the time and didn’t have any high mountains. But apparently it has its own skiing resorts!

South of Madrid the landscape opened up to wide plains and clearly a very sparse population. Lunch was at a cafe by the side of the road – a small piece of fried steak, chips and a really badly cooked green pepper.

Lunch south of Madrid

A brief stop approaching Granada

Eventually I reached the Granada turn and it was not long till the snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Neveda appeared in the distance. As I passed through Granada I got the occasional view of the Alhambra Palace low on the horizon - a quite magnificent sight.

The snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains above Granada
Orgiva with the snow-covered hills behind
I turned off for Orgiva at the Lanjaron turn and made it to Nigel and Zoe's late afternoon. Beautiful weather - the temperature is already into the high 20s. The pool has only just been filled and is a little cool but should warm up quickly. And the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada are still covered in snow which is pretty strange given the temperature in the vallies. Aparently Nigel and Zoe were skiing last week nearby.
After a couple of beers, it was time to unload the huge about of stuff we have and try to get some of it sorted out before meeting Linda tomorrow. A frozen pizza and another beer from Nigel and Zoe is absolutely perfect. I managed to stay awake till around 9:00. Great to be in a bed again!

Yoga Teacher Training course - nearing the end

Saturday April 19th and Sunday April 20th

Yoga Teacher Training Course, Victoria London


It is our penultimate weekend of the yoga course and we are all beginning to focus on the final assessment in three weeks time. Today is something different though - our elective presentations. This is a piece of research on anything to do with yoga which we present to the class and then take questions on.

First up is Rhea talking about Chakras and who wants to go first as she is then off straight after to the Midlands for her cousin's wedding. Rhea has emailed me a few times over the past weeks discussing her elective plan and she has been a bit worried that it won't go well. I had said I would try and ask some easy questions to get a discussion going and so fill the time. But in the end she didn't have any time issues at all and it all went really well.

But afterwards it became apparent that Elena and Rhea had different ideas about Rhea missing tomorrow as well. Elena obviously thought the wedding was today and hadn't realised that Rhea would also be missing tomorrow's Pre-assessment (mock exam). Elena was obviously not happy about this and was seemed to suggest that Rhea wasn't really ready to take the final test if she didn't do the practice version tomorrow. Rhea got quite upset about this as she has found the course pretty difficult anyway and anyhing that reduces her confidence is bad. But they are going to try and work something out next week instead.

I was up next for my elective on the theme of Buddhist and Yogic approaches to meditation and how these diferences resulting in very different ideas of each when the West came in contact with each. If nothing else, this is educational about the history of each in the West. Overall the presentation went as well as I would have hoped. Elena seemed very happy with it. But then again, I should be able to do this sort of thing well, given my educational backgroud, etc.

Next up was Tracey on "Yoga and Running", which contained a lot of really good anatomical information, and then Sarah on Complementary medicine and Eve on Yoga for lower back pain. So a very different set of topics. Overall I thought everyone did a pretty good job.

My last overnight stay in London tonight and I have a tiny room in a hotel near the Natural History museum. Not enough room to practice my class for tomorrow, but I do have time to run through it all and I am feeling ok about it.


A last minute change of family travel plans means I won't be able to stay all day at Yoga today - after Elena's comments to Rhea, that might not be a good thing. But Elena seems ok about it and I will be first on today for our practice classes.

Elena has also got a couple of people from the February course as well as husband Rod to attend today's pre-assessment. So it promises to be a very challenging session.

I did some more work this morning on my opening sections which I think improved things and though I was nervous at the start, things did start to fall into place mid way through and I was pretty happy with the overall effect. As I had gone first, this meant that Elena would have a large number of other more-general points to make that the later participants would have to try to include or take account of. So the review of my class was quite long and detailed but I didn't feel that any of it was too bad.

I will make one or two changes to the final version, but by then, I should have actually taught a few classes and so it should be settled down quite well.

Next up was Tracey, who did a particularly tough sequence, but who is already a really good teacher and so was really good today.

By now I was beginning to get a bit tight on time but I did want to see at least one more class and so stayed to watch Sarah do hers. She was quite nervous and went very red-faced at one point, but again things settled down nicely and she did a good job. Everyone agreed that her voice is just lovely for teaching yoga (while mine isn't I'm sure)

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay to see Eve or Rhea (who had changed her plans about attending the wedding to be here today) Both are finding this last bit of the course rather tricky and it would have been good to see in that Elena would have had lots of tips for them. But my change of plans couldn't be avoided.

So now is is just three weeks till the real test and I have lots of practicing to do to be fully ready