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La Tomatina Festa Buñol

Having really enjoyed the last few fiestas, we decided we would go to Buñol for the tomato fiesta La Tomatina.

No-one knows for sure how this fiesta started and there are many stories, from two men starting a food fight in a restaurant that spilled out onto the streets, to a local housewife attacking the farmer with his tomatoes, enraged by the price he was asking!!

One thing is for sure, this is no ordinary fiesta.It is estimated that more than 20,000 people descend on the town from all over the world to take part in the worlds largest tomato throwing event.

We arrived the night dressed up in similar outfits of red tops and white trousers with the girls wearing flashing tiaras. The locals had laid tables out in the street and were enjoying watching the crowds go by, cheering and clapping each group that had made an effort to dress up. The party atmosphere was fantastic and set the mood for the following day.

When we returned the following morning, the town was awash with bodies, many of whom had partied all night. Those that weren’t still asleep in their cars were continuing to party with beer and wine being drunk in copious amounts.

The police were checking that everyone entering the town plaza had no bottles or hard objects to throw and gave us leaflets explaining the rules, squash the tomatoes before you throw them, only throw them between 11-12am, do not tear off other people t-shirts and no throwing hard objects, do not take glass or bottles into the area and be careful of the lorries as they passed by. Fine, we thought, no problem there and off we went to look for the ‘greasy pole’ which must be conquered before the fiesta can begin.

We found the pole close to the town centre and already a crowd was gathering. The pole is about 40ft high and has a leg of ham attached to the top.Whoever climbs to the top first claims the ham. Not as easy as that though as the pole is thoroughly greased with soft grease and is extremely slippery. Gangs of lads and lassies fought over each other to climb up the pole and reach the ham, constantly sliding back down as the pyramid below collapsed. T-shirts were being ripped off and thrown at the climbers to help them remove the grease from the pole.

By the time the top was reached and the ham claimed, a huge crowd had formed and it was impossible to move in any direction. Unfortunately for us we were directly in front of the water cannons and there was no escaping the tons of water that came our way. Everyone began a frenzy of ripping off t-shirts, their own and yours if they could which was quite unnerving for us girls.The crowd was going wild and everyone was throwing anything they had to hand, shoes, t-shirts, cartons and plastic bottles. So much for the rules!

At mid-day a siren sounded and the fiesta started.The tomato wagons came by and threw 1000’s of tomatoes into the crowds, who happily picked them up and threw them back! A scene of pure lunacy followed as the road become a river of red and people become unrecognizable. Everywhere you looked, people were throwing the tomatoes with gusto, rubbing them into your hair and generally enjoying themselves.  At 12am the fireworks went off announcing the end of the fight and whilst most of us made our way to the river and showers to clean down, others took the opportunity to roll around in the puddles of tomato juice! The streets were transformed into a blanket of red and everything in the vicinity was covered. Immediately the firemen were there preparing the hoses to wash down the streets and return the town back to normal.

Did I enjoy it? Yes…..and No, I loved the party atmosphere and even the tomato fight but I was intimidated by the groups of youths who had been drinking all night and were all but uncontrollable. It became slippery underfoot and I was afraid that if I fell I would simply get trampled to death because of the sheer number of the crowds but most of all I didnt want all my clothes ripped off as did happen to some of the girls. I’m glad I went, but next year I will leave it to the boys!


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The Jumilla Wine Fiesta -La Vendimia de Vino

The small inland town of Jumilla is an important focal point for the major wine producing industry in the area and this annual event where hundreds of litres of free wine is given away is a thank you from all the bodegas and commercial vineyards.

Last nights fiesta has to be one of the craziest yet. This has been our third visit to the wine fiesta at Jumilla and once again we were not disappointed.

As hundreds of people line the street, the first float passed by throwing out whistles and the noise level went up a few notches! The bands began to play and soon the crowds were chanting and dancing in the street in anticipation of the night to come. Smiles of pleasure and satisfaction were all around as the floats arrived and the waiters started pouring the wine down eager throats.

Before long there was a sea of purple as the crowd was squirted with wine and everyone’s T-shirts began to turn purple as the wine was poured all over our hair and body.

Small bocadillos were thrown to the crowd to help soak up the wine as the waiters and waitresses continued their pursuit of soaking the crowds.

Beth, our niece on her first visit to the fiesta was soon drowned with wine and dragged into the dancing crowds, happily blowing her whistle. No-one escaped, old or young, male or female and soon the streets were a river of wine. Groups of crazy Spaniards sat in the road and sang the ‘rowing boat’ song whilst waiters and waitresses poured wine over them. Others were jumping up and down in the puddles of wine and splashing everyone in sight. Later as the final floats were passing by, the crowds began ripping off their soaking T-shirts them and threw them over the electricity cables that crossed the street. Groups of people began congregating under the apartments that lined the street as the occupants turned on hosepipes or threw buckets of water over the crowd.

Walking back to the car to change out of our sodden clothes we saw a group of Spanish using the car wash to shower themselves off and decided to join them.

Once changed and feeling clean again we set off back into town to eat and it looked like a bomb had hit it! But as always the Spaniards are well prepared and the road sweeper was already on his way.

Arriving in the main square, we ate a delicious spit roasted chicken at one of the open air restaurants whilst we waited for the turning on of the fountains.Yes, you have to believe it, they had turned off the water to the all fountains in town and replaced it with wine! The bands began to play in the early hours of the morning and crowds settled in for an all night party but we decided to wearily head off back home.

Make a date in your diary, its definitely a fiesta to take part in.

The Vendimia normally takes place around the third week of August

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How to make Chicken and Rabbit Paella

The original paella valenciana probably dates to the early 1800s and the earliest kinds of paella were products of purely available local ingredients. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice. In our area of inland Costa Blanca, the most widely accepted Paella consists of rice with rabbit, peppers and chicken, and of course snails!

There is an old story of how the Moorish kings’ servants created rice dishes by mixing the left-overs from royal banquets in large pots to take home. These stories are romantic and may be true, but it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the paella as we know it was created in an area around Albufera (a fresh water lagoon near the city of Valencia). At lunch time, workers in the fields would make the rice dish in a flat pan over a fire. They mixed in whatever they could find – such as snails and vegetables. For special occasions, rabbit and later chicken were added.

How to Make Paella

Paella is best prepared over an open fire using a paellera, a large, flat, open round steel pan with handles. The reason for this is so that the heat is evenly distributed and because the heat should gradually decrease as you are cooking it.

For best results, use the bomba variety of rice, which is an almost round rice grain from Levante (the eastern coast of Spain). If bomba rice is not available, use a medium-grain rather than a long grain rice as it readily absorbs the liquid. For a paella, you throw the rice on to the boiling liquid, lower the heat, and cook without stirring.

Ingredients for the perfect Paella

12oz short-grain rice, Bomba or  Calasparra Rice

3 pints chicken stock

1 chicken, cut into pieces

1 rabbit, cut into pieces

16 cleaned snails

2 tablespoons (100 ml) olive oil

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut lengthways onto thin strips

4oz tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped or a tin of chopped tomatoes

a pinch of saffron strands, 1 tablespoon paprika,  or ready bought paella spices

A good dose of salt

a sprig of rosemary


Trim the chicken and rabbit, leaving the bones on the flesh.

Heat the oil in the paella pan with a pinch of salt. When hot, add the red pepper and fry for 5 minutes, then remove and keep to one side

Add the chicken and rabbit and fry until golden brown on all sides.

Add the chicken stock, saffron, paprika, and tomatoes, then throw in the rice

Place the snails and peppers and the rosemary sprig on top of the rice, check the seasoning and bring the stock to the boil

Turn the heat down and simmer without stirring for 25-30 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the pan.

Turn off the heat and cover with foil, letting the paella rest for 10 minutes

Serve with crusty bread and wedges of lemon

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The Farmer and The Donkey- A Moral Story

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to work out how to get it out. Finally, he decided the animal was old and as the well needed to be covered up, it just wasn’t worth trying to retrieve the donkey.

He asked all his neighbours to come and help him. They all brought a shovel and began shovelling dirt into the well. The donkey of course realised what was going on and began to bellow loudly, but after a while suddenly went quiet.

After a few more shovelfuls, the farmer had to have a look and see why the donkey was quiet. To his amazement, as each shovelful fell onto the donkey, it just shook it off and then stepped onto it. As the farmer and his neighbours continued to shovel dirt into the well, the donkey just kept shaking it off and stepping up. Pretty soon, the donkey reached the top of the well, climbed out and trotted away quite happily.

The moral of this story? Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and use it as a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping and never giving up.

By the way, the donkey later came back and bit the heck out of the farmer. The bites turned septic and the farmer eventually died in agony.

So you see, when you do something wrong and try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you!!!

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Spontaneous Spanish Smileys

You may or may not have heard of Spontaneous Smiley, a project created by photographer Ruth Kaiser in which anyone can share photos of smiley faces they see in everyday objects.

On a day out around Alicante we found a few of these smileys hidden in various buildings along the way.

Maybe now you’ll spot some too!

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The Use of Olive Oil in your Beauty Treatments

The olive tree has been cultivated for more than 3000 years and much of the crop is used to  make oil for cooking

Now you can learn the secrets of olive oil that have made it such a favorite with Mediterranean beauties who have relied on it to help maintain good heath, a fresh dewy complexion, lustrous hair and soft supple skin

Taken internally, olive oil stimulates metabolism, promotes digestion and lubricates our mucous membranes, and the vitamin E content helps to combat free radical damage of the cells.

Cuticles and Nails: if your cuticles are ragged and nails brittle and dry, olive oil can help! Soak the nails for 30 minutes in a small cup of olive oil on a regular basis and your nails will become stronger over time

Exfoliating Scrub for Body and Face: Mix about ½ teaspoon of sugar or sea salt with the olive oil and gently scrub your skin, then wipe off gently with a warm wet cloth until all the sugar or salt is gone

 Night time Skin Care:  A mixture of ½ cup of olive oil with ¼ cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of water, applied to the skin at night will make your skin glow. The olive oil softens and moisturizes, the vinegar lightens discoloration, kills bacteria and loosens dead skin cells

Hands and Feet:  Smooth on a generous amount of olive oil before bedtime, put on cotton gloves and old socks and go to sleep. When you wake your hands and feet will be softer and smoother!

Hair Treatment:   To help repair split ends, heal dandruff and make your hair shiny and lustrous, massage a few drops of olive oil into the scalp and hair. Cover the hair with a plastic cap and leave for 30 minutes or more, then shampoo as usual

Lips:  To soothe and smooth dry cracked lips, dab on a little olive oil and gently rub in for soft kissable lips!

Bath:  Add several tablespoons of olive oil, along with your favorite essential oil for a therapeutic bath that will leave your skin soothed and nourished as well as relaxing the mind and body