The spirit of the beach 

I felt a surge of spirituality as I floated silently near the shore of Guardamar beach, the ebb and flow of the tide and the soft splash of each wave transported me from the crowded coastline, it mellowed my anxieties and produced an overwhelming feeling of calm. I thought about the sea-water and the replenishments it fed my body, After all, all life originated in the ocean. Recharging with magnesium, iodine, potassium, sodium, calcium, and other minerals and amino acids found within the water. The pleasure of a free mind and a weightless body is an experience I should treat myself to more frequently.

The sea is full not only of children carelessly playing, but the elderly too and I bet that is the key to a long, healthy Mediterranean life. The improvement in cardio and boost of the immune system as well as anti-inflammatory effects and the refreshing sensation through your mind and body, it is a proven fundamental element and the elixir of life. I lay placid, floating for a lengthy half hour, carefree, worry-free and calm.

My serenity never lasts long with a nine year old and I am almost concussed from the whack of her surf board- it’s time to play. We are at the coast for over four hours and my body feels battered from the sun as we leave. The siesta makes more sense the further I advance into our journey and I’m glad we chose to relax after a week of intense sight-seeing. Another few days filled with sun and sea, means I will be set up and ready for our journey back home. I could never tire of these surroundings, they only make me more eager to visit them more.

Long live the VEF and I wish I was a SeaQueen!


“The simplest things give me ideas.”- Joan Miro


You can walk dramatically through the walls at the foot of large Mount Benacantil, upon which sits Castillo Santa Barbara, a fortification that centres within the costal city of Alicante. Having perfect views of the Moorish feature from our rooftop pool, we were all keen and eager to visit the top.

A sci-fi style tunnel has been ploughed through the rock, leading to a small elevator taking you 25 metres upwards through the mountain to the final summit, which when reached is worth the nail-biting pressures of the jam- packed lift. Santa Barbara Castle has everything you would expect, cannons, a palace, dungeons, a moat, the ruins of a small church and of course a famous lookout tower. The views are mind blowing and we spend around an hour picking out points we recognise around the city and beyond.

With our feet firmly on solid ground it was time to check out the hotel and make our way towards Los Montesinos and our Spanish family home, the final destination of our Spanish experience. Los Montesinos is a traditional Spanish town situated around a 15 minute drive from the southern coast of Costa Brava, the town overlooks the giant salt lakes of Torrevieja known as Laguna Salada de Torrevieja and Laguna Salada de la Mata, whilst passing the lakes we witnessed wild flamingos feed, this vibrant environment makes for an incredibly healthy climate.

Having visited the town over the past ten years, I enjoy finding out about recent developments and listening to stories of how far the small place has come- it’s unrecognisable from my first visit all those years ago. I also carry a lot of memories here and my heart felt heavy as I look around the house at old pictures of Ruby and my sisters and the lovely holidays we have shared here together. Although my Dad keeps the house modern and contemporary, I still feel as though I step back in time as visions of a baby Ruby crystallise in my mind and I am grateful we have this place to share with each other.

The local Chinese is the best I have eaten and you would be pushed to spend more than 20Euros to feed three people- including wine. A meal of hot and sour soup, steamed dumplings, noodles and chilli seafood, washed down with sangria and schnapps. It feels great to let Ruby lead the way around a neighbourhood she has grown up in. The small square in the central of town draws the locals, elderly gentlemen gather to play traditional games as young kids look on in wonderment. The language barrier disappears here for Ruby and it’s easy for her to get involved in the games.

We finish the night in Torrevieja, watching the sunset at the marina and then on to the fair.

Long live the VEF and I’m so comfortable here Queen


The peace of wild things

Having mastered the trains and picking up a little Spanish on my journey, I wish I can start over and do it all again. I guess the fun of this experience lies in the fumbles and the mishaps that we have made along the way. Ruby and I have started a collection of tickets, maps and memorabilia of all our fuck ups (excuse my French) and it’s something we will pull out and chuckle at in years to come.

It’s hard to described the feeling of awakening within the comfort of a superior hotel room, any place I can get my head down, I’m happy with, but it absolutely polishes things off when the air con is set precisely and your Egyptian cotton sheets hug you neatly, the black out from the curtains is a little detail we had gone without and the envelope of darkness allowed us to sleep past ten.

Stretching contently we ordered breakfast in bed- coffee and tostada with tomato and olive oil, made it a little easier to get up and at it. I had promised Ruby upon our arrival in Alicante that we would spend a day at the pool and we pleasantly soaked in the Costa Brava sun. The temperature in Madrid reached 40 degrees but somehow seemed cooler and easier to gain comfort than Alicante. By the time my dad had reached us from his 11am flight, my legs resembled a pair of bratwurst sausages minus the buns.

Keen to relax into his month long break, my Dad enjoyed the comforts of the poolside bar. My sensitive skin sizzling in the lounger, not yet allowing myself to surrender to the relief of indoors, I lay and baked until early evening. Still hopelessly insufficient at the notion of relaxing, I managed to get through two hard-back books and the Sunday paper plus supplements that my Dad had brought me. I only saw Ruby when she needed refreshed and she played happily all day by the pool with new friends she had met.

Hospes Amerigo is situated in the heart of Alicante at the foot of Castillo de Santa Barbara, overlooking the Marina and the soft, white sands of the beach. Featured as a ‘Design Hotel’ the ancient Dominican Convent, features Juliet balconies and arched neo-gothic windows, with a double height ceiling and marble finishing, it was a treat I could not have been more thankful for.

Always keen to spoil his girls a dinner aboard the Santisima Trinidad – a Spanish Galleon in Alicante Harbour, followed by a stroll around the marina, a turn on the Ferris wheel and a few whiskey Sours, was my Dad’s way of saying, I love you, which completed another amazing day, in an amazing country, on our amazing adventure.

Long live the VEF and I’m not coming home QUEEN.


Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. – Hemmingway

imageI gave myself far too much credit for finding such a peach of a hotel in Madrid. The nights previous had been bearable, not overly noisy and sleep manageable, but welcome the weekend and as Friday night approached, a street lined with pubs, clubs and gay saunas meant our much-needed eight hours were wiped out in an instant.

I was incredibly impressed with Madrid’s partying skills and as I stretched sleepily upon our terrace at 6am, a few strays were reluctant to give into their night and retire home, I enjoyed watching them sway merrily yet not inconsiderably to their ancient surroundings. In my mind I set a similar scene in Dundee and curiously wondered about the differences within both cultures. I strongly believe the Spanish nurture their young more, they give every age a welcomed and celebrated place in society.

I let Ruby sleep late as I packed our bags, I pride myself on my ability to organise two weeks worth of belongings for two people in one carry on suitcase and an extra backpack for travel documents, tickets etc. It’s incredibly anal to enjoy such tedious events but I get a kick out of my scrupulous organisational skills.

We have only four hours left to enjoy the relaxed vibe of Madrid and I suggest a visit to the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid as a gift from Egypt as a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel Temples when UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy in the 1960’s. Thereafter we accidentally stumbled upon the area of Tribunal, which is rich in independent lifestyle stores, quirky antique shops and chic vegan eateries.

Next stop was Museo Arte Público, which was slightly off grid (if walking) but well worth a visit. An unconventional museum, the 1970s space at the junction of the Castellana with C/Juan Bravo, features sculptures from Pablo Serrano, Chillida and Joan Miro. The outdoor museum is definitely one to put on your to do list, it’s a permanent exhibition which is open twenty four hours and free.

At nine years old a trip to McDonald’s is still considered a treat, so Ruby was elated with her lunch at the ‘poshest McDonald’s she had ever seen’ on Gran Via, before making our way to collect our luggage and further to Atocha, Madrid’s main train station. The Atocha Station is not only a transportation hub, it is home to an indoor botanical garden complete with turtle sanctuary, making it the perfect place for our departure from a city that is one of a kind.

Long Live the VEF and I don’t want to leave Madrid QUEEN!


‘ I taut I taw a puddy tat ‘ – Tweety Pie

Pre-booking our tickets online made entry to the Warner Bros theme park amazingly easy. Scanning the barcode from my iPhone allowed us to jump the long queues and head straight to the water park, passing through Hollywood Boulevard and Gotham City, Parque Warner reminded me of Universal Studios Orlando, with its mock tenements, saloons, gas stations and sidewalks.


It was Ruby who discovered the theme park whilst researching Madrid online and I was reluctant to visit, due to the high and intense heat (over 40 degrees). Set out into distinct districts including Superheroes World, Cartoon Village, Old West Territory and The Beach, the park was utterly fantastic, the eight hours we spent there passed in the blink of an eye and it was a welcome change to the historical sites we had visited previous.


It took around an hour to reach Parque Warner from our nearest train station-Sol, travelling to Pinto and then onto the park by shuttle bus. The train was expensive (50euros adult, 40euros child) with no conductor present to check tickets, in hindsight I would have only purchased one ticket, as Ruby insisted on passing through the station gate together anyway. Lunch at the park gave little options to vegetarians or healthy eaters- our only option was fast food (chips!!) I would suggest bringing a packed lunch and although this was prohibited (I checked the rules online), no one checked our bags or belongings.


The colourful map made navigation through the park easy and it gave useful information as to the pace of each ride – soft, moderate, intense which made our approach more resourceful and time manageable. With something for everyone I would highly recommend the trip out to Parque Warner and I am sure Ruby would agree….


‘At the Warner brothers park we went swimming at the water park, there was chutes, waves and sprinklers. My favourite part of it was the chutes and the waves, we stayed at the water park for about three hours then went and got something to eat. I got pizza and my mum got a BIG cup of chips. After the water park we went to the theme park, first we went to the super man area, in the super man area we went on the massive swings and The Joker’s ride. At the massive swings you sit on a seat and it got you really high and you spin round and round really really fast, at the jokers ride you went in little cars and banged into people. My favourite one was the swings. Next we went to the Wild West area, in the Wild West area we went on the water ride and the spinning Waltzers. The water one was when you go up really high and their is a big big BIG water slide and in about ten seconds you go right down it, I got a lot of butterflies, in the spinning Waltzers you sat in a bucket and it spun you around really fast. We were gonna go on the haunted house one but we were to scared so we just left it. My favourite ride at the Wild West was the water one it was so so scary. After the Wild West area we went to cartoon village, we went on a lot of rides here but my favourite one was the ACME factory which is a water ride and you sit in boats and you go really fast on water and you get splashed by water I also liked seeing bugs bunny’s house, it was really really cool. Then we went to the Hollywood area but that had no rides it just had shops but it was still cool. After the Hollywood area we went back on the bus and back to the hotel. I had a great day.’ – RUBY

Long Live the VEF and Looney Tune the QUEEN!

‘My glasses. I can’t see a thing without my glasses’… Velma (Scooby Doo)

Before I arrived I felt a strange affiliation with Madrid, as though I had been here before or as if I saw my future here, a sense of belonging or a curiosity of sorts. I felt anything but dissatisfaction as our train rolled in and I discovered the Renaissance architecture of decorated cathedrals and mass sculptures against the modern urbanisation of high street shops and modern art.


I had booked our accommodation for La Latina, a neighbourhood steeped in history in the oldest part of Madrid, my feet in agony from our exploration of Barcelona, we decided a taxi would be our best mode of transport. I became uneasy as our driver verged his way on to the city bypass, my research had shown the Barrio to have been within walking distance. Pulling into an area with the most undesirable apartments, streets scattered with rubbish, residents aimlessly trawling the grimy pavements looking for fag ends and/or their next fix. I took a deep breath, I mean we live in Cleghorn street for God sake! We can stay here, it’s just Madrid’s equivalent-GULP.


I had received an email the previous day, Javier- our Airbnb host had gone out of town but his neighbour Paula would be on hand to settle us in. Dialling the Spanish number, reluctant of Paula and of our dwellings, I received no answer. Interested and eager stares from passers by told me we looked completely out of place and I consciously changed my panic stricken exterior to cool and calm. Eventually reaching Paula, our telephone conversation didn’t go as planned, she spoke no word of English and I rudely have little to zero Spanish vocabulary, realising I’m in the very centre of Spain and not the ex-pat abundant Costa’s, I had to think on my feet.


Approached by a smelly looking vagrant, sipping a hot can of lager, described by Ruby as having a resemblance to a rotten tomato, my urge of ‘go away’, hand gestures and all, made no impact, it was time for Ruby and I to make a quick escape.


Jumping on the first bus that passed, praying it took us central, I quickly grabbed a last minute hotel deal on and let out a huge sigh of relief.  My decision prevailed and we settled into our luxurious baroque suite complete with floor to ceiling windows, wrought iron terrace and the comfiest king sized bed.


Awaking in comfort was just what was needed, so far our trip has been fast paced, just how I like it, but still exhausting. I let Ruby sleep as I discover the morning streets of a bustling Madrid. Having visited many major cities I have concluded the best way to soak in the culture and see the sights is by foot, keeping all underground or train links to an inclusive necessity. A purchase of coffee, croissants and a map sets us in good stead for the day ahead.


With an abundance of time and no pressure of an itinerary, we causally take the day as it comes. Feeling relaxed we visit Palacio Real de Madrid and it’s neighbouring cathedral, taking in the gardens, making wishes in the fountains and getting lost in a maze makes the morning energetic and exciting. Passing through Plaza Mayor and heading east towards the outskirts of central Madrid reaching El Retiro Park. A mass of cultured gardens encircled a large, picturesque lake centralised by the grandeur of Monument to Alfonso XII of Spain.


A refreshing stop for a small beer and slush before making our way home to enjoy a deserved siesta, we pit stop at San Miguel market for fresh calamari and Parma violet ice cream before taking in the evening hours. I hate to say but our trip would have been a lot less enjoyable hadn’t it been for Google, a saviour in a sticky moment, so we leisurely let Siri guide us to the real La Latina where we luckily soak in the atmosphere of a street festival- serving local food and beer, entertained by a Spanish punk band.


Returning central towards Plaza Mayor, Ruby decides she must shop and a few purchases are made at Adidas Originals before stopping for some famous churros and chocolate sauce at Chocolatería San Ginés, the oldest chocolatier in Madrid.


Long live the VEF and Madrid has made me feel like a QUEEN!



The world is a book, those that don’t travel read only a page

I could never tire of waking up to the song of the bells, softly serenading me, stretching a wholesome smile across my face, opening my bleary eyes and realising I still had one more day to explore the zest of Barcelona.


Allowing Ruby to choose our itinerary- of course, her choice was a day at the beach, we debated and deliberated, eventually concluding a morning trip to Park Güell and an afternoon by the shore would make a pleasant compromise. Having delightfully figured out the metro system, we jumped on the L3 north to Carmel Hill, in the suburb of La Salut, Garcia.


Park Güell was gifted to Barcelona by Eusebi Güell, a Spanish entrepreneur who profited greatly from the industrial revolution in Catalonia in the late 19th century. A lifelong friend of Antoni Gaudi, working together on many collaborations from the beginning of Gaudi’s career, when Güell saw Gaudí as the man who could provide him with uniquely designed architecture. Bodega Güell (winery) at Garraf, the Pabellones Guell de Pedralbes and Parque Güell, which was originally built as the entrepreneur’s family home, are a few sites presented by the prolific pair.


The entrance to the park is towered by two colourful spires of intricate mosaic made from ceramics, tiles and glass, surrounded by yellow stone, wrought iron and brick. Gaudi’s work infuses oriental, mauresc and gothic influence, with an overwhelming inspiration of organic nature. The Art Nouveau or CatalanModernisme philosophy is spread throughout the twisting paths and unique structures of this Unesco World Heritage Site.


To beat the crowds and for free admission, I would visit the park in the evening after 7.30pm, when you can get lost in the depths of its splendid wonder without the abundant heat and queues of tourists. I would also encourage your voyage to be null of luggage, unlike mine, as I exhaustedly pulled both Ruby and my belongings up and down a few steep hills.


Our downward journey went without fuss and we toured round the Port Vell Marina before lazing on the beach. Early evening arrived and it was time for us to catch the high speed train to Madrid, we completed phase one of our Spanish experience, we are both now excited to see what the capital city of Spain- Madrid has to offer.


Long live the VEF and our blisters, blisters have blisters! QUEEN!