Canning

On Monday night we went to an old favourite, Salon Canning where there is a lovely Milonga. The room has an old parque wooden floor which was amazingly very clean and very slippery. The dance floor is square and is surrounded on all four sides by tables and chairs with burgundy tablecloths. In between the tables are aisles for the tangeros to circulate around the room and give the cabaceo (a nod or sometimes just a raised eyebrow) as an invitation to the seated ladies to dance. One wall has a great mural of a photograph of people dancing there. When we arrived in true Buenos Aires style we were escorted to a table. During the night a band played with a lovely singer. He was good but the band were not that polished but it didn’t matter because you could see they were all thoroughly enjoying playing the music. The singer actually sang tanda breaks which meant people had to continue changing partner. I think this was a good idea as often when live music comes on the women asked up dance to the whole set whereas those who were not don’t get a chance to dance to the live music which is always a pleasure.

I saw an old man with white wavy hair who I danced with in 2007. He is Flaco Danny’s brother and is a fabulous dancer and danced waltz perfectly. He was there as dapper as ever.

Within about 20 minutes of the start the dance the floor was packed with everyone dancing the same way and progressing around the floor anti clockwise maybe moving only 6 or 7 metres in the whole tanda which would be an average of 10 to 12 minutes. So progression was very slow and you have to dance in a circular fashion and on the spot, like sardines in a can, perhaps that was why they called it Salon Canning!

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Malcolm in the middle

In the middle of Avenida Cordoba is a place called Villa (pronounced veeshja) Malcolm. We walked from our apartment to the Sunday night Milonga where we had arranged to meet Andres and another old friend Analisa. Last time I was there is was full of nuevo tango dancers not following line of dance and we didn’t enjoy it at all but Andres suggested it for a Sunday night and said it has now returned to traditional tango salon dancing. As the current trend back to traditional tango salon proves, the best (in my opinion) always prevails!

On meeting Andres and Analisa it was suddenly as if we have never been away for so long and it was great to chat with our friends. With the milonga too, some things never change, the dance floors here are still as filthy! As I danced around on our first tanda I could feel the sandy grit under my shoes when I moved. Note: If you don’t feel the dirt it means you are picking your feet up when you step instead of ‘feeling the floor’ a phrase drummed into me by Andres years ago.

After a few tandas Ken was off in search of pastures new! In traditional Buenos Aires style Ken gave the cabaceo to a few followers who he had watched on the dance floor and who in his opinion danced close embrace tango salon well. Every woman he asked up danced well but surprisingly each and every one he danced with turned out to be German or American. It was only when Analisa arrived that he danced with an Argentinian woman. She was delighted to dance with Ken again and be named the ‘primera portena’. Meanwhile I was on the floor with Andres and it was lovely to dance with him once again, the last time we danced together was at El Jardin in Malaga in 2010 when Andres and Genoveva visited us.

As the title of this blog suggests there were very few dancers in the middle not observing line of dance, so it was a pleasure to dance line of dance alongside everyone else. Long may it continue.

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Booked it, packed it, declared it?

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I am on the white knuckle ride in a taxi flying at 130km an hour on the autovia towards Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires and despite my nerves as we swerve, hoot and brake very hard all I can feel is relief at getting through customs without having my almonds confiscated! After a not so enjoyable flight with Iberia from Madrid (what no in- flight entertainment????) we were presented with a customs form to complete that said no fruit, vegetables or plants. So there ensued a debate about whether a nut is a nut (not on the prohibited list) or a fruit. Ken’s argument was it’s called a nut, no problem if it was a fruit it would be called an almond fruit wouldn’t’ it? Or my argument is it grows on a plant so could be a fruit. Well I of course visualised being charged with something and locked up like a drug mule. In the end after having photos and finger prints taken at passport control (not just us thankfully) and all our baggage xrayed in customs there was no problem, so I can make almond milk for Sara and I to enjoy while we are here.

Sara on asking her consultant would there be a problem going to BA, was met with laughter as he said “you are more likely to need to go to hospital as a result of the traffic!” He is so right, even though we are not virgin travellers to BA you forget just how crazy the driving is. Eyes closed and seat belt on is my recommendation.

So thankfully arriving in one piece and with all our baggage (well at least one thing we can be thankful to Iberia for) we checked into our loft apartment with surround sound TV and music on the roof terrace, argentine asado (barbecue) and fantastic views over the park which is buzzing with life and beautiful Jacqueranda trees.

So what next? What else? Tango, only tango. Eat, sleep, drink tango. Sleep I hear you say? Forget that, tango all night, every night and maybe some during the day too. Heaven!

Off now to get some food and then meet our old friend Andres Tanguito Cejas at our first of many Milongas.

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You are what you eat!

Our almonds and a glass of my home-made almond milk

Our almonds and a glass of my home-made almond milk

In answer to my question “do these pills make you put on weight?” a nurse once very sternly replied while pointing into my mouth ‘it’s what goes in there!’  Well that told me!

You are what you eat is my lasting impression from one of our most recent guests who came to stay for a week of relaxation, reading and of course Argentine tango lessons. He was a scientist and a qualified nutritionist.  I was pleased to feed this couple with all the home-grown fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and local fish supplies but they always emphasised ‘no dairy’.  Their entire persona and energy for the entire week they stayed with us was inspiring.  Now, I have noted that some 65% of our customers this year were in 55-65 age bracket and I would say all well-educated with scientific, teaching, IT and engineering careers and almost all had a ‘no dairy’ diet and vegetarians but with fish. One of our dearest friends has managed to prove against  difficult odds that a healthy vegan diet does work.

Living here in the mountains of Andalucia with our abundance of almond trees gives me the luxury of  a constant supply of almonds with which I make almond milk for most of my requirements but I just could not resist a cup of Yorkshire tea with a tiny amount of fresh milk especially first thing in the morning.  I am also very fond of cheese so still had local goats cheese as an occasional treat.

I have been almost diary free for a couple for years now but Ken was still a milk drinker.  So, much to my surprise after our last guests left Ken announced he was going almost dairy free.  I say ‘almost’ as we have our own hens and so we will not rule out home-grown fresh eggs.  Despite his initial doubts, Ken is now a convert to natural oat milk in cereal and coffee and has replaced his beloved Yorkshire tea and milk with just hot water, rooibos or green tea.

It has been three weeks now and we don’t miss it at all.  If anything I feel better, what’s more we drink tea with less or no caffeine.  All my allergies to pollen and house dust have virtually disappeared which was a surprising benefit.

Do we miss milk?  Answer no.  Though of course fresh milk will still be available for guests who like it!

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Costa Del Golf Apprentice

Golf Casa Media Luna B&B Ken golfing July 2013 003 Ken golfing July 2013 004 Ken golfing July 2013 012 Ken golfing July 2013 014After almost twenty-five years of reasons for not starting to play golf, of which the top of the reason list was ‘no free time’, I guess now that I am living here in Andalucia, this reason cannot be my trump card.  All my family in Ireland play golf and their motivation for visiting the costa del golf is high, so in January this year while visiting Ireland they gifted me a complete set of golf clubs with clear instructions to learn the game in four months for the May golf holiday they were all planning.  Now hearing the surprise news of a planned family golf holiday was shocking enough but getting a heavy bag of clubs just one day before my Ryanair flight to Malaga was even more shocking.  My first golf lesson then was the expensive and long process of checking in a set of golf clubs on the Ryanair website and my second lesson was the guilt when the Dublin taxi driver kept informing me that ‘it was well for some swanning off to the sun to play golf ’. I had not played one game of golf yet and it felt like I was in a minority outdoor recreation group.

Back in Spain I joined a golf society at Antequera Golf Club which is situated in the mountains north of Antequera and only 40 minutes drive from Casa Media Luna.  On my first day in early February I was informed that this golf course is one of the hardest courses in Spain.  It really was a baptism of fire with zero score and twelve lost golf balls.  I now know what ‘lake balls’ are!  Determined to improve over the weeks ahead I set about watching golf tutorials and listening to all the advice from society members as I played every Tuesday.  I also spent about twenty minutes every day practising at home. I am hooked and really look forward to my Tuesday game of golf.

Ken golfing July 2013 013After five months my score averages between 20-24 and the loss of just a couple of golf balls.  Last week I went with Erika for a game and got 9 points on the first four holes. Erika was indeed a good buggy driver/lucky mascot on the front nine with 14 points but the 10th hole picnic broke the magic spell, this is my excuse for the sum total of 3 points on the back nine.

Ken golfing July 2013 010Over the Summer months the society have organised away days in Anoreta Golf Course and at the Parador Golf Course in Malaga. I guess this will be a further test of my progress!

We now have two sets of golf clubs at the house for hire by guests, so save yourself the cost and hassle of bringing your own clubs and come to stay at Casa Media Luna.  We Ken golfing July 2013 017can give you information about local courses, book games and even be your guide on the course. With a number of different courses inland and on the coast within driving distance of Casa Media Luna you can be assured of a few good games of golf.

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Turkish Tango Delight!

In April we went to Istanbul for a 6 day break and while we were there we went to a milonga every night. I have to say after dancing tango in many new cities over the years and sitting patiently waiting to be asked to dance and if lucky getting the odd dance I had low expectations of getting any dances in a strange city.  However, in Istanbul I was pleasantly surprised, I have never ever danced so much at any milonga and lost count of the number of men who asked me to dance. It was a sheer delight to dance with so many new people.  I asked a woman who organises one of the milongas how she trained them all so well (joking of course) and she said in all seriousness “it’s just Turkish hospitality”.   In every milonga we went to I was asked up for tanda after tanda and we were welcomed and invited to sit at a table with others.  With Buenos Aires a bit far away for our purse strings to stretch every year, our new annual pilgrimage to our new tango ‘Mecca’ will be to Istanbul!

For anyone visiting soon here is information about the milongas with comments about the ones we visited:

Monday:

1. In Sultanahmet very close to sea below Blue Mosque. At Armada hotel (only milonga on side of Blue Mosque) very nice. It cost 20TL to get in and includes one drink (can be alcohol) and a plate of fresh fruit.  Water provided in carafe to drink.  We were welcomed and taken to the best seats!  Address Ahirkapi, Sultanahmet.  Tel: 905 326 648 836. From 9:00-01:00.  They dance tango salon line of dance.   Here is a link to the hotel so you can find it: Armadahotel

2. Milonga el Huracan. TangoNoa. Cafe Krepen Halep Psj. 140/6. Tel: 905 323 255 421.  Not far off Istikal Caddesi, Beyoglu.

Tuesday:

1. My House milonga.  Org: Tangoist. Add: Siraselviler Cad. 35 Taksim. Tel: 905 325 234 119. Near Taksim Square.
2. La Cumparasita. Org: Hayati Tekin. Add: Ortaklar Cad. 40/1 M.koy. Tel 905 322 441 993.
3. Libre Tango Milonga. Org: Ozgur-Deniz. Add: Topcekerler sok. 24/1 Taksim. Tel:905 558 243 203. Not far from Istikal Caddesi.

Wednesday:
1. 333.  Org: IstanbulTango. Add: Siraselviler Cad.33/3 Taksim. tel: 905 322 637 161. Tango Nuevo. Not far from Taksim Square.
2. Milonga Dinamica. Org: Tangog. Add: Istiklal Cad.Halep Pasaji Kat4. Tel: 905 325 622 622. Off Istical Caddesi.
3. El Abrazo. Org: El Encuentro. Add: Bahcesehir Unit D Blok Teras Kat. Tel: 905 325 832 824. Near sea front.
4. Tiyatro Cafe. Org. TangoTurco. Add: BKM Grisi Besiktas. Tel: 905 323 258 078.

Thursday:
1. Tangopoint run by our Facebook friend ‘Milongator’ Güralp Diner. Add: Point Hotel, Topcu Cad.2. Taksim. Tel: 905 323 444 545.  This is reputed to be the best milonga in Istanbul but when we got there it had been cancelled on that occasion.  It is on a high floor with fabulous views of the city.

2. Caminito.  Org: Tangomio. Add: Atif yilmaz Sk.9/3 Taksim.  Just off Istikal caddesi between the shopping centre and a Mosque.  10TL each to get in. Starts 21:30.  Small place. Tango salon.

Friday:
1. Levent Tennis Club. Org: Tango Turk (same as Monday). Add: Akasyali Sok. 34. Levent. Tel: 905 326 648 836.  On Metro but hard to find and not near tube station so a taxi is recommended. 20TL including a drink.

2. Olivia Gecidi 2A Asmalimescit. Tel: 905 327 322 816.
El Tango Clasico. Add: Topcekerler,sok. 24/1 Taksim. Tel: 905 558 243 203. off Istikal Caddesi.
3. Tangolic. Add: Istical Caddesi 112.Kat4. Galatasaray. Tel: 905 353 030 922.

Saturday:
1. Baila Traditional. Org: Baila tango. Balo Sok. 1/5 Taksim.  Just off Istical Caddesi. From 21:30. 10TL. We went to this milonga in a dance studio on the top floor of an old building with a disco on every other floor.  The milonga is in the attic. The wooden floor sloped one way so interesting for your axis at times!  Friendly mixed levels but all did line of dance. Tel: 905 079 552 726.

2. 333 milonga (details as above).
Milonga Istanbul. Org. Tango jean. Add: Suslu Saksi Sok 14. Taksim.  Tel: 905 322 933 920. Near istikal Caddesi.
3. Milonga de Temprano. Org: Tangomio, Atif yilmaz Sk.9/3 Taksim. same as Thursday night.
4. Milonga a la Turca. Tangog.  same address etc as on Wednesday night.

Sunday:
1. Ponte. Org: Tango Suerte. Add: Istical Caddesi, 185. This is in a cafe on top floor of a shopping centre with spectacular views even from the loo!  As you go in the security guard spots your shoe bag and escorts you to the top floor! Starts 20:00.  Entrance 25TL includes a drink and as much free water as you want.  Table service.   Good standard.

2. Cordial. Org: Contact Tango. Add: Istikal caddesi, 12 Kat 6. Tel: 905 335 113 866.

Tango Shoes:
Turquoise: turquoise-shoes.com.  Defterdar Yokusu no 22A, Cihangir.  Open 14:00-19:00.  Shoes 220TL about £80.  Online shop: Turquoise

Necmi Usta: For a great experience go to shoe maker Necmi Usta, Place was called Mis Han on left of street called Mis Sok just off Istikal caddesi near Taksim Sq end.  It is number 13 5th floor.  Very nice quality hand-made tango shoes. You can have any colour in any style combination for around 160 Tl £60. Online shop: Binicideri

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A Hard Days Graft!

grafting 2013 008We have so many almond trees here, I reckon over two hundred that it is impossible to knock and collect all the almonds when they are ready.  The eighty Kg. of almonds we knock, de-husk and shell are enough to supply us with our almond milk and nuts for the year.  We also have some yellow and red plum trees and two apricot trees  but we would like more.

grafting 2013 013In February Ken started up the chainsaw and completely trimmed back three of the nearest almond trees. When he had finished cutting and trimming all that remained of the trees was the trunk and a few new large branches. It was not a very pretty sight when he had finished as you can see from the picture.

grafting 2013 017After the cutting it’s a waiting game for the new almond shoots to grow again. This takes about four to six weeks but sometimes no new branches grow back and the almond tree eventually dies which I think has happened to one of the three. When the new almond shoots were about half a metre in length with lots of fresh green leaves, Ken cut a healthy shoot from the red plum tree grafting 2013 005and one from the apricot tree and started to graft the red plum onto one almond tree and the apricot onto the other. To do this you need to tear off all the leaves from each of the almond shoots and trim back the bark skin of the tip of the almond shoot about 10cm. Then he tore away the leaves from the red plum shoot and cut off a tube of approximately 10cm of the bark/skin that grafting 2013 010has a new bud on it. A bit like when you trim off a piece of the sheathing on an electrical wire.  He then slid this tube of red plum bark down over the tip of the almond shoot to a tight fit. He did this on about ten almond tree shoots and completely removed any remaining almond shoots. He did the same process with the apricot grafting.  In theory the apricot or plum bonds to the almond tree and when the bud grows into a new branch it will bear the fruit of the apricot or almond.  Now we are waiting to see if the grafting will succeed and move on to more fruit grafting on our almond trees. Then maybe a fruit stall in the local market!

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Head above the clouds

Glacier Hat 005 Hat 013 It really is a great feeling to wake up at sunrise and walk out onto the terrace and see this view as the sun rises. Living in the mountains of Axarquia at the height of around 700 metres lends itself to day-time and night-time panoramic views but every so often there is a ‘wow moment’ which makes  us run for the camera.

On this particular morning the cloud stretched out across the valley below like a giant glacier, it looked incredible.

I now know what Lucy and Jorge Orta’s “Cloud: Meteros” in St. Pancras Station, London, meant with their aim to “unite people inside the station with the world outside”.  I was certainly united with the world this morning.

Hat 008

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On the Bosphorous

Istanbul 031 Having always wanted to go to Istanbul and after Turkish Airlines introduced a direct flight fom Malaga we decided to go for a five day break.  We had a great time and found the Turkish people to be extremely welcoming and hospitable whether we were in a shop, on the street or at a milonga dancing tango. The tango? well, there is so much to say, I will dedicate my next blog to it.

Istanbul 046There is so much to do and see in Istanbul, it is hard to pick favourites but here are our top ten unmissable things:

  1. Drink apple tea
  2. Eat Turkish delight with pistachios
  3. Visit a lokantasi and try fabulous chickpea, okra and authentic donner and sish kebabs
  4. Visit the Blue Mosque and Hagia SophiaIstanbul 078
  5. Visit the old city walls of Constantinople
  6. Shop and take tea in the Grand Bazaar
  7. Eat fresh mackerel sandwiches by the Bosphorus
  8. Visit the 3rd most sacred mosque in the world ‘Eyüp Sultan’ and afterwards go to the top of the Golden Horn to the famous tea house where french writer Piyer Loti Istanbul 075loved to work and enjoy spectacular views of Istanbul.
  9. Cross the Bosphorus on the tram via Galata bridge and take the tunnel up to the main shopping area where you can shop till you drop, dine in fabulous restaurants and dance the night away.
  10. At the end of a long day sight seeing relax and take a Turkish bath and full body massage at Sifa Hamami close to the Blue Mosque.

Istanbul 087For anyone interested in visiting Istanbul here is a link to an excellent blog written by our friend Sara that tells you all you need to know before you go.  On the Bosphorus

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Chocolateless in Colmenar!

Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 048Easter is not Easter without my favourites ‘Charbonnel et Walker Champagne Truffles’ or ‘Thorntons Continentals’. So without my favourite chocolates it felt just like any other weekend.  That is, until we decided to take our Australian guest with us into Colmenar on Friday evening to join in the Semana Santa celebrations.

Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 033Easter or Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Andalucía is a very special and unique event. All the streets in all the cities and villages of Andalucia are packed with thousands of people watching all the parades. The life-like wooden or plaster sculptures called ‘tronos’ are carried through the streets by penitents dressed in long colorful robes.

Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 037Colmenar is no exception and the whole village turned out to take part or watch.  Leading the procession was a band with very loud drums followed by a group of young women carrying a ‘trono’ of Jesus.  Behind them were the Alcalde (Mayor) and Juzgado de Paz (Magistrate), a group of children in purple robes and women dressed in black with lace veils and very high stiletto Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 053heels.  Next followed another band followed by a second larger ‘trono’ of the Virgin surrounded by candles which are lit as darkness falls and carried by a group of young men.  Following at the end a large group of villagers trailed the procession.

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Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 064The procession slowly winds its way up and down the steep narrow streets and all the locals stand in their doorways and balconies to watch.  I noticed that the more ‘sturdy’ people were positioned at the back of the ‘tronos’ to help take the weight as they carry the ‘trono’ up the very steep 2:1 hills!

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Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 040The procession stops every few metres to give the ‘trono’ bearers a rest. How the women in black lace veils and 4″ high heels manage to walk up and down the steep hills for so many hours is beyond me.  I had to swap all my heels for flat boots when I moved here.

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Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 066At the front of each ‘trono’ is a bell and a man leads the ‘trono’ walking backwards and shouting instructions to the ‘trono’ bearers to steady the speed and direction and to stop it getting too much of a sway.  One ring means slow down and two rings mean stop.

Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 047At one point the large ‘trono’ was building up too much momentum on the steep downhill and the man at the front was shouting  at the boys and rang the bell but they couldn’t slow down or stop and it smashed into his face.  He completed the procession with a bloody face and probably had a black eye the next day.

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Semana Santa 2013 Colmenar 017Two more men carry long hooks on poles in front of each ‘trono’ to hold up the electrical cables that drape precariously low across the street to stop the ‘trono’ getting ‘electrified!’  The procession ended in the centre of Colmenar where everyone went in the bars for a well-earned drink.

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