Valencia and Sierra Calderona: Part 1, Spain

Olocau, 9-11.12.16. Part 1

View from the house

My wonderful hosts, family Anniss, live in the small village of Olocau on the edge of the stunning Sierra Calderona national park.

The walk to school – stepping stones.

On my first day (Saturday) we walked to the nearby Iberian settlement which has recently undergone major smartening for the tourists (signs, wifi, new dark brown metal safety fences on top).

There were trees I have never seen before: carob, persimmon, pomegranates, plus oranges and lemons, and flowering cacti.







And the higher we climbed, the more magnificent the views.

There are bulrushes and giant versions of my house plants!

The sun shone (although they had recently suffered 2 weeks of unusual and torrential rain and were to have a repeat after I left).

On Sunday we sunbathed on the terrace and put up Xmas decorations…outside!

On Monday I visited the elegant and colourful city of Valencia, and once more the sun kept me company.

Nuestra Señora de los Descamparados

The facades are particularly attractive.

I loved the Jardin de las Hésperides (free to enter), beside the Botanic gardens (which you have to pay for – how I appreciate the Edinburgh ones being free), and an interesting exhibition (also free), in which I particularly enjoyed the work of Carmen Van den Eynde and Toya Legido.

Toya Legido

El origen del mundo

Carmen Van den Eynde

Triptico con rosas

I liked the simple churches:

Although I had to admire the interior of San Nicolás and the small part of the Catédral which I didn’t have to pay to see.

The fisher of men and elaborate ceiling of San Nicolás

And the font and artwork of the Catédral

Even the ticket office at the art deco station is impressive.

Here I sat in repose, with my tin of mussels for lunch.

I came across the Ceramic museum towards the end of the day. It is so close to the cafés and other buildings surrounding it, that it’s hard to get a good photo.

Overall one very attractive city!

The ruins above Olocau

Las Matas, Spain

Happy days with Barry and Maria José just north of Madrid (Las Rozas area) 7.12.16, 8.12.16


Beautiful Madrid scenery. 

I arrived in Madrid at 6am after a broken night on the bus. (We stopped at services at 2, lights on and announcements made!). When I arrived it was dark, and I whiled away a few hours in a just-opened câfé until kind Lucia had woken up and I could collect my bag which she had been guarding for weeks.

Of the many journies I made, only one Spanish bus (Madrid-Léon) was late (and I was so keen to get there early). All the others I took on my many trips up and down the country, were on time, relatively affordable, and efficient. Many had a toilet, and also free wifi so I could write my blog while I was between stages. Indeed,  if I’d been able to work out the logistics, I could have watched films, and charged my phone on board too! I took one Bla Bla Car but generally found them very difficult to book online, and the driver didn’t say more than one word to me. The trains were all modern and made announcements in English as well as Castillian and the local dialect. Passengers on British trains eat constantly, but here there are no food trolleys or buffet car, not on the Vittoria-San Sebastian or local trains anyway.


Rather disturbing sculpture by Antonio Lopéz outside Estación Sur / Atocha Madrid.

I was invited to stay at Lucia’s house in Madrid for a while and have a cup of tea, which I gratefully accepted and then left to meet Barry at Atocha / Estación Sur. He’s a South African Shiatsu practitioner who has been living in Spain for quite a while, and a contact given to me by Rebecca.



More public art at Atocha (can’t find name of sculptor). 

We met beside the tropical garden inside the station and I was fascinated by the turtles swimming, climbing, and sitting on top of each other.


Hard to see in this photo, but there are 100s of small, swimming turtles in an indoor pool.

Barry and I went on a local train (like the Cercanias shuttle to Aranjuez, this was cheap and stopped at all stations), and he pointed out the herds of deer standing proud in a park on the left as we made our way north in the same direction I had come a few hours earlier.


I am so lucky to be staying at friends’ houses with beautiful grounds and pools.

We arrived in the sunshine and walked to their gorgeous and predominantly self-built house which is big enough for a large Shiatsu room AND a teaching hall.


During the time I was with Barry and his partner Maria José, we had satisfying, long discussions about the positive effects of Shiatsu; Barry’s interesting life (born Kirkcaldy, bought up in South Africa, moved to Bulaweyo, travelled to London with £100 in his pocket…works as a magician as well as Shiatsu assistant /teacher etc); language (Maria José is a linguist and Spanish literature tutor, now learning Greek); Spanish politics and much more.

We had a fascinating walk in Torrelodones (I left my camera in the house so no photos) along what was planned to be a coast-to-coast waterway. There were sweet smelling shrubs, wild asparagus, and the chunky rocks I was going to become familiar with when walking in the bottom half of Spain, but which landscape is so different from the verdant Galician countryside I was used to.

We visited an artisan deli and bought manchego and Portuguese custard tarts; and I sampled the most delicious food: fresh tomato salad, pumpkin soup, pasta made from an ancient form of wheat (not spelt) and homemade pesto, all sourced locally from farms they have visited. I exchange Shiatsu for these necessary comforts.


Las Matas station – photographed for the sake of contrast with the countryside I prefer. 

Two days later I was back ‘on the road’ through Madrid to Valencia. Every time I moved between places, I found the numbers of people and vehicles, the noise and busyness, very hard to manage. What I hoped were old anxieties and prickly, protective behaviour, resurfaced quickly in response.


Sunrise from Las Matas

To be sure I was leaving with more stimulating memories. It’s amazing that all the people I have stayed with so far were unknown to me beforehand. Bar one, they have been Shiatsu contacts from many sources and more kind people you couldn’t meet.


Taken from the bus – beautiful scenery through the tinted window at top speed.