After several hours drive, we arrived in our destination town called Xativa which is in the province of Valencia. Back in the day, the Arabs brought paper manufacturing to the area and Xativa was known for it’s schools, education and learning circles. The area is also famous for linen fabric manufacture.
We stopped in a little place up a side street in the middle of town – near the theatre and again within walking distance of a very nice park.
The accommodation was run by two gay fellows (who talked a lot, one Spanish with a good command of English, the other English – from Durham area) I have to say the place was very good.
Parking at the theatre was free and it was only a few minutes walk to our accommodation – also as you might expect near a theatre, there was no shortage of reasonably priced food – sadly the weather could have been better… indeed all the way from Galera up to Valencia has seen a lot of rain in the past few days – hopefully now over.
We generally spent our time either walking around of driving around the local towns to get a feel for the area, not to mention taking a “nap” in the early afternoon which extended through almost to dinnertime in the evening!!
We had planned a trip to the beach in Valencia but not knowing the area too well, we completely missed the beech areas – the traffic was horrendous considering the time of year – but then it is a big city (population 790,000).
This was not our first trip to Valencia – if you want to see lots of pics of modern buildings etc – here’s a link to our photos.
Back in Galera now, all is well, I’ve been doing a spot of repairing in the lower bedroom and in the process discovered the effective use of mesh and concrete in wall repairs!!! More on that later. The sun is back out and so lots of little jobs around the garden to be done including testing that solar panel.
My solar panel experiments continue. The sun isn’t quite up to it yet – just as well because this gives me more personal energy to get things done. Here it is on the left, my nice 250w panel which outputs maybe 36v. I’ve yet to work out an inexpensive yet solid frame for it but at least I can experiment with the kit I have to go with it.
The panel will feed out to a pair of “buck convertors” (not seen here) which are able to put out 15 amps each at anything from the input voltage down. Because the panel regulator I have is designed to handle 24v systems (with solar panels up to 40v) or 12v systems (with solar panels up to 26v) it is not keen on the idea of powering a 12v system using a 36v panel… so I thought of another way.
One of the buck convertors will output something in the region of 24v for the solar regulator which then not only charges the battery but also takes charge of the load, making sure it disconnects if the battery gets really flat.
The other buck convertor will supply 12v directly to my office for charging stuff. The battery will do the same and diodes will separate them so that in the event of full sunlight, I can draw power straight off the solar cell rather than feeding it through the regulator system. Should the sunlight drop the battery of course will take over – hence making sure I squeeze every single drop out of the solar panel.
What you see in the image above is one of two 12v deep discharge leisure batteries, the regulator, a 500w sine wave convertor (240v output) and my meter showing the state of the battery which is clearly no-where near fully charged. This was born out by my attempt to use my 500w milk 240v frother which failed miserably as the battery voltage dropped below 12v. The controller is an MPPT T20 which has a quite comprehensive display. Despite using decent copper speaker wire, I think I need a dramatic thickening of the wire to lower losses.
The large panel, able to output up to 250w was in fact outputting nearer 20w at the time due partly to the angle and mostly due to the clouds!!!
I will return to this one in more detail when we get slightly more reliable sunshine which I believe is on it’s way next week.
Our trip to Bilbao turned out to be a trip to Santander (near enough) from which we travelled down to somewhere we’d never been to before – Burgos, stopping at a small hotel on the outskirts of town on Calle Don Juan De Austria.
Burgos itself has lots to offer including a fantastic cathedral. As we were only stopping overnight, we went into town first thing in the morning and took a look at the cathedral but it really is going to need a separate trip (bearing in mind we had 3 cats in the back of the car).
From there we drove down to Galera, arriving late afternoon – I think something like 7 hours (plus 2 hours to get to Burgos in the first place).
We’ve had mixed weather up to now, hitting 30c+ one day then cooling off but today was great, we had shopping to do in Baza and it was around 24c most of the day – absolutely ideal.
We’ve already met up with several of our friends here, sadly some are either away or going away around now but that’ll make it all the better when they come back!
We have a new grass area (artificial – too hot in the summer for a lawn) and I’m working out plans to put up my new solar cell as well as testing out some new Amazon speech synthesis code for the home control system.
This takes over from an earlier system called Ivona which has a pretty natural voice for a machine. Anyway that’s all blogged over at the tech blog if anyone is interested.
The cats survived the journey well, no accidents, not even a moan. Simba is back to his usual tricks of sitting licking himself to death – I can see a neck collar on if he keeps it up – but he does look more relaxed than usual so maybe he’ll be ok.
All of these pictures should expand if you click on them incidentally.
This week we’re dropping some friends off at the airport and from there taking a trip up to Valencia, quite a drive but the weather will hopefully hold up and it is an opportunity to find new Chinese junk stores and visit more new places.
Very roughly the image describes our planned route – from the Northeast, stopping over at a friend’s place, 24 hour ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao, then a couple of hours drive before another stopover before heading down to Galera.
Quite a trip armed with three cats and a car-full of “stuff”. But we’ve done it before so it’s not entirely new. With rain and 13c max temperatures forecast for Hexham area for the coming week now is a great time to clear off. Galera on the other hand is forecast to have a constant 26c max for the coming week – that will do us just fine – great weather for fixing hosepipes and upgrading the solar panel.
Had a great winter here in the UK thanks to our friends – without which it would have been pretty miserable (the weather in the Northeast is always miserable) – looking forward to getting together with our friends in Spain for a great summer.
Lots to do, people to see, places to go. By the time we leave I’ll have had my share of Indian food to make up for the coming lack of it!!
Once we got settled into the cave and had time to start looking for things to fix, we discovered more minor issues, there’s been a little vandalism down at the roundabout – someone cut the solar panels clean. You have to wonder about people (especially as there’s an on/off switch). Anyway, that’s all repaired and the shower which had been deliberately disconnected will soon have a new copper connector – might just put a cattle fence generator on the metalwork in future. So all’s well there.
The Pergola had an unrelated electrical issue – a dry solder joint (I can only imagine the extreme cold in the evenings) but I fixed that yesterday. There is always something to keep me busy.
Today, Maureen and I went on our travels to Baza – I left my webcam in the UK so we had to get a new one for here… meanwhile, the broadband fibre coming into the area broke and so we’re all sharing a very slow connection right now – Habland are busy sorting out the problems and respond a great deal more efficiently than some UK providers I could mention.
Very difficult to see everyone in such a short visit so I hope if we miss anyone out they understand – but of course soon we’ll be here for the summer – new projects lined up and we’re hoping for some exciting short breaks including a big one off to Morocco! Meanwhile our friends Aidan and Helen are up at Valderobres putting together their new place – or at least starting to dismantle the old one – I understand they’ve had some good weather. Looking forward to taking a trip up there in the summer.
I’m just waiting for “we need to go to the garden centre” to repopulate our plants here as some didn’t make it through the winter – I’m hoping the grapevine will come back with a vengeance soon.
A quiet night tonight as tomorrow we’re off to meet more friends to catch up. I’m pondering popping down to La Posa for a quiet pint once I get all my little jobs done here. Can’t do that much with the current broadband so may as well enjoy a beer..
Our first trip of the year to Galera could have gotten off to a better start – because of the relatively short duration of this stay to set up the place for our much longer stay this year, we flew over.
Well, I don’t know why, but Newcastle Airport more closely resembled a cattle market on Friday morning. The length of the queues for customs was un-believable – I’d hate to have bad legs. Despite all of this the airport was no-where near fully staffed! Treating paying customers like this is completely unacceptable and the airport should remember it is a commercial operation and not a make-believe extermination camp!
At the actual testing area, we were asked if we had any lithium batteries. I informed the lady that the only ones I had were in my charger, phone, tablet, PC and watch. She told me not to worry about the latter as they don’t have Lithium batteries. Had we had more time I would have educated her – but hey, life is too short.
Having discovered I had a laptop in my main bag (remember this for next time Peter, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT) she insisted it had to go into the carry on. I did point out that I have nearly ALWAYS put a laptop into the big bag as it saves getting it scratched up going through the usual scanning procedure. So, we shuffled our kit around and put the laptop in a carry-on bag and Maureen went through the detectors before me.
When it came to my turn I opened my bag to pass the laptop through separately – and lo, we’d screwed up and the laptop had gone into the wrong bag and hence through the detectors without a peep – in her bag. What a waste of time and energy but that’s how I generally feel about the UK about now – I’ve been so looking forward to this trip – to “get away” from it all for a while.
Anyway, onto the plane, Ryan Air, an uneventful flight, I was in the isle seat and the guy next to me was the same size as me which meant I was leaning slightly toward the isle, which meant in turn that every time I tried to doze off, the meal or drinks trolley bashed into me. Still, better than getting bored I guess. The most exciting part of the trip was the landing, a real winner which must’ve scraped inches off the tires. While the passengers were recovering from near heart-attacks at the severity of the landing, the usual Ryan-air automated musical fanfare came blasting through the Tannoy to proudly inform us this was yet another on-time flight – hurray! I’ll bet it still plays after accidents. I could imagine the plane lying at the bottom of the ocean, bodies slowly and silently floating around in the carcass and the Ryan Air speakers blasting away its cheerful message regardless.
I think most of us would have accepted a few minutes delay to not shorten the lives of our hearts!
Once inside Alicante airport, all went accordingly plan. We hired a car as ours is at the cave. If you’ve not done this recently – car rentals are a daunting experience these days and if you don’t have a credit card, forget it. You have to agree to pay (in our case) £900 which you get back on return provided you don’t bash the car AND you have to pay up front for the full tank of gas which again you get back it you return with a full tank of gas. You can bypass the £900 if you pay them £150 insurance which is WAY more than any external company would charge of course. Damage included a few scratches but they neglected to note that the entire rear windscreen wiper was missing. We took photos.
Weather at the coast was quite nice and we headed off to the hills. Our first stop was for some supplies and back in Murcia we found a Carrefour. I love Carrefour, it puts Tescos absolutely to shame when it comes to sheer variety of meats, cheeses, wine etc.
One bottle we picked up was £2 and we had that last night – absolutely lovely. You could not buy an empty bottle for that price at Tesco. The funny thing is all the online articles you see show these companies side by side – well, I’ve been to Tescos all over the UK and Carrefour all over Spain and France and there is absolutely no comparison. As usual I spent ages mulling over which olives to buy.
After spending far too much (enjoyable) time in the huge store, we headed off to the cave, arriving mid-evening. Despite being 16c during the day, it was 7c back in Galera at night. By the time we got the wood fire running and heaters up to full power – oh and recovered from the scorpion in the bedroom (he ended up in the fire) we were too tired to go out to meet up with folk, so we watched a TV show, sunk some of our cheap Carrefour wine and had an early night.
The night before, back in the UK, sleep had been something of a joke due to the arrival of five new kittens in the middle of the night and their mother was not going to do this without waking everyone up so, this morning we didn’t get up until mid-morning and headed off for lunch at El Parador before visiting friends Debbie and John in Huescar. Weather was great and late afternoon we came back just in time for an unscripted get-together with more friends back at the house – the day has just flown.
Almost all of our lighting is back in operation, the odd solar light crunched up due to UV degradation but that’s to be expected. Tomorrow I have to check the outdoor shower system which (it would appear) some idiot disconnected in our absence – I think I’ll wire the thing up to the mains next time we’re away. Bastards. Thankfully, neighbours had spotted this and turned the water off. Said neighbours are back tomorrow – it will be great to meet up with them (and others) again after our winter break.
This evening we popped down to Pizzeria La Posa, met up with another couple of friends and spent the evening catching up with what’s been happening over the winter. It’s great to be able to wander down to your local in a foreign country and feel as much at home (if not more so) as you do back in the UK. Marvellous. Some jobs to do tomorrow but for now… perhaps a movie.