Travel the world with Alfie and his crew members Jude and Ben

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Life in Portugal!!!!!

Hello all, well, it's certainly been a while..... I've been living in Portugal since September 2006, after another brief period of travelling with benny in August of last year, we had a leisurely drive through france and the north of Spain, through the Picos de Europa, lovely.

I'm living with lyla and two other teachers in Vila Nova de Famalicao. I've settled into my life here, i'm learning portuguese and i have made some good friends. I'm very lucky to be living with 2 lovely people, gine and stuart, we're the ONLY three english people of the town, so you can imagine how much we stand out.

Lots of family and a few friends have been over, with more to come over the next few weeks... we had carnival here a few weeks ago, it had to be the craziest site i've ever seen..... i was a "fada", a faerie.

My life is quite simple, getting my veg from the market, reading my book and drinking coffee in my local cafe, not to mention consuming a ridiculous amount of gooey cakes. Im really enjoying the teaching side of it too, i've got some little stars in my classes. Kate harris and i have also set up a pen friend scheme between our schools, so that's quite fun.

I've included some pix for you, taken by kate on her visit.

KEep in touch kids, take it easy, jude xxxxx

Monday, July 10, 2006

Where have all the kennels gone?

long time ago.....

surrounded by german police.

watch this rectangular space.

POLISH WODKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wild flowers, wonderful people, odd tower blocks: Slovakia!

ben was a pest in Buda

Gypsy caravans and stimulated sniffer dogs.....

will post soon

Angry terriors called George!

will post soon

Monday, April 10, 2006

moon cup


my good friend Nina very kindly bought me a mooncup and it,s amzing! You save money and no horrible tampons float out to sea! Some of you i know may be slightly apprehensive but honestly, give it a try! In fact i think i,m a bit late to catch on!

not sure of website.....

safe sistas!

Dober Dan!

well, we left spain a few weeks ago with 150 litres of oil on our person and bags full of oranges and lemons from Mirit and Tony,s laden trees. We took Alfie for an ITV - mot - in Granada which was a complete fiasco.
Usually if i don't understand a Spaniard i rely on gesture and facial expression as my means of communication... understand my horror when a particularly
no-nonsense Spaniard handed me a walkie talkie and disappeared under Alfie barking instructions at me. We resorted to a process of elimination "do the indicator Ben!"
"NO!" Booms the voice from below "try the windscreen wipers ben!" "NO!"... it was a long afternoon (and Alfie sadly failed, 40 euros down the u-bend)
all that was missing was the benny hill music.

We deove up the Spanish/French coast desparately avoiding toll roads although still being mystically lured there by some strange tarmac force.

The Rhone Valley region of France was wonderful, fortified towns high up on hill-tops, only accessible by crossing precarios bridges over rivers, St. May is
the only name i remember. One of the French hitch hikers we picked up somehow persuaded us to detour via Avignon (strangely enough it was his destination
too...) but on arrival he lead us to the glorious "Palais des Papaes", the Popes Palace in the 1300's, what a historic gem! Apparently there is a wonderful
Festival d'Avignon in july that rivals Edinburgh - I'll come back one year i think.

The French/Italian Alps were exquisite! I didn't imagine them to look so.....Alpine! Everywhere you looked was a postcard scene - once in Italy we hopped
out of Alfie and took Lyla to play in some mountain snow.

We drove through North Italy, West to East - it was quite industrial and uninspiring so we came off the beaten track at night to find small villages to park up
in which was lovely. Montagnana was the most impressive of all Veneto's walled towns, 2km's perimeter with 4 gates and 24 magestic towers - and it's in pristine
condition even though it dates back to the 13th century, amazing!

We planned to spend a few days in Venice - parking 20 euros - so we tried to park 7 km's away with a thought to walking in - but even that proved ridiculously
difficult so sadly Venice will have to be included on the next trip - i was SO excited about going, so we overcame our disappointmet with a pistachio ice-cream
whilst heading for Cividale del Friuli - right on the Slovenian border. HIstory lesson, Cividale was founded in 50BC by Julius Caesar and it's medieval centre of cobbled streets
winding up from the bright blue river to the bustling square gave it a cosy, warm atmosphere, this was a lovely place to be before leaving Italy.

THEN CAME SLOVENIA! The perfectly ordered woodsheds set in the immaculate gardens of the uniform Alpine houses - the dramatic rise of the Julian Alps is breathtaking.
They appear terrifying and wonderful - modest in a way that france and Italy's mountains aren't - humble too.

We are cureent;y exploring the Soca Valley - i think it's the most beaautiful place i've ever seen. on reccomendation from 2 German lads we spent a night with we went to
the source of the Soca River - North of Trenta - the snow up there was thigh height - Lyla had a whale of a time, it was incredible - luckily for us the 2 lads had walked up the previous
day so we just followed their huge foot-prints. The Source was an avalanche, it looked like a static river of snow tumbling down the mountain side. We aer staying 6km's from Bovec right next
to the Soca River with a 360 degree view of the mountasins with their dramatic snow line 2/3 rds of thre way up, it's completely awesome. The river is emerald green, so, so green it's crysla cleat,
we use it for washing, bathing (only on brave days)...

we've made frinds with the lovely girl in tourist information who rang up all the local farmers to see if anyone wanted us to help - in return for food, and if anyone wanted any oil (we,ve resorted to asking in restaurants and bars if anyone wants to buy 5 litres at a time, have sold 20 litres in Slovenia so far). Well, she found us a guest house close by run by Milan- so off we went
to try and get a job; "So" said Milan without looking at us "what are your wishes." "W...w...Well" i stammered, "We've been working in Spai-" "I'm not interested in what you've been doing - I couldn't care less.
I'll ask again, what do you want?" "Well Milan, we would like some work if you have it!" "You want work? Go and clean my toilets. And clean them well." So that was the start of the strangest relationship i've ever had,
with a man who acts like a James Bond villain, talks to people like their some sort of excrement and wears unneccessarily tight leggins and an oversized hat with a feather in it.

While i was elbow deep in Ajax and urinals Ben had 3 hours to cook a curry for Milan's guests, and it's become stranger still. We've worked there for 3 days now and put up with Milan's outrageous comments about not working
hard enough and not using our brains, and if i'm lucky i even get called "baby". Luckily, we've met a lovely Dutch guy called Roly who introduced us to his friend Barbara who needed some land clearing, which we gladly did. We
had dinner with her and her son Blash the other night and met her beautiful husky dogs. I love it here, the people are open and accepting, and we're slowly learning Slovenian. The best thing of all is that we haven't met ANY BRITS!!!

So, take care you lot, let me know what you're up to..... are the Spring flowers out?

Na svidenja,

Jude x x x x x

by the way, we may go back to spain next feb. to pick olives again with a thought to selling it in England. Does anyone have any contacts? Also, Dea and Marienna, we may go to Denmark in August, would you have any contacts up there?

Monday, February 13, 2006

mule tracks and mums.....

I can't believe it's February....incredible! We're still 1000 metres up a mountain, and it's still beautiful.

Life on the mountain can be quite transient, Norah left in January to go back to Canada, although we'll still keep in touch. Soon after we met Esther and Niqa, and Luna the staffy! We became good friends with Esther (Dutch) and Luna and Lyla had many an adventure together.

My mum and Aunty Angela came for 10 days, I had planned all these day trips and expeditions, but when they got here they were simply overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and just wanted to explore the mountain - so we did! We walked right up into the sierra nevada just under the snow line. They also trekked up and down the arduous mule path that we use to get to Lanjaron for supplies of costa and veggies. We never fail to see at least one old boy and his mule, it's lovely. We also have a simple exchange of conversation concerning the weather or where we're going(a bit ridiculous when we can only be ging TO the village or FROM the village) if you show an interest in the locals and make an effort with the language they go out of their way to welcome you.

The weather's been lovely, but changeable. Inka recently came over for the weekend with her 2 dogs and we had loads of rain, which made life in the yurt very difficult! dogs, rain, people, wet wood and small spaces didn't complement well. But then we awoke on the Sunday morning to find a foot of powdery snow blanketing the mountain. So we grabbed the dogs and went runing around and came home to drink hot chocolate outside, it was magickal.

It's also starting to feel like Spring, the nights are still bitter but the other day we were digging in 35 degrees, IN FEBRUARY! The nearby ascecia overflowed so the neighbours were all out with their spades trying to stop any more damage to the land. Martin and Brenda are our nearby neighbours who have Mutley, a delightful dog who is head over heels in love with Lyla, in fact, there is a story to be written called "Mutleo and Lyliette", watch this space..... If we see Martin and Brenda out on their land they,re the first to offer a cup of tea out on the patio, whilst watching the sun go down.....anything to get away from picking olives!

Ben and i have been asked to run a retreat over the summer - just above Orgiva and Lanjaron. It's such an amazing opportunity, we've been there and it's so peaceful, and we'd even get a (modest) wage. But the more i think about it the more i feel ready ot move on. I'm getting itchy feet, Slovenia seems so tantalising that I want to keep going. We've met a lot of people who were travelling around Europe but found the Alpujarras and stayed, unable to leave, and I can feel myself being drawn into that spiders web. Everything has worked out for us here, people have looked out for us and given us opportunity after opportunity, but we must carry on exploring, there's so much to see.

We had a lovely meal lastnight with Jim, louise and Otto. They were living in Denmark and needed a big change, they had good jobs, a house, but took a risk and came out here. Life's too short to become something that is mundane, we find comfort in routine and that makes us afraid to take chances. Jim and Louise have a wonderful piece of land here and by gum they have a big job on their hands with building their house, but I respect their decision and can't wait to come back to see the land in a few years time. Me, Ian and Ben have helped them out on the odd day with clearing the land, and I have really enjoyed doing it. At some stage in our lives I feel we all need a bit of help, but at other times we can give so much by offering a bit of help, and little by little it goes a long way. I have also really enjoyed spending time with Otto, who's nearly four. Otto is a happy, fearless, content, charming little boy. He often pops down by himself to visit us, either for a spot of lunch, to paint pictures, or to pull Lyla's tail. We,ve also gotten to know Dea,s mum, Marienna who is lovely too. She is a rose genius and knows everything there is to know about the little beauties.

Ian's still here too, it's nice being the three of us! We've been picking olives for neighbours (AGAIN!) Met a lovely man called Harry who has said we can pick his olives, he,s another salt of the earth character, really genuine.

take care, over and out - roger.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What about you?

If you would like to comment on Alfies travels, or if you've had your own adventure that you would like to share then send your email to:

and I will post it onto the web site!

Go on, get writing!

Hannukah with a Husky

Morning neighbour..... and how are we all? We're very well thank you, the only complaint being that we ate
far too much on chrimbo day!

Right, well, we're in the yurt now, and shall be here until mid feb, early march. The yurt is owned by Dea, Danish, Nir, Israeli and their daughter luna who is extremely cute. They,re really open, laid back people and we feel really lucky that they,ve trusted us with their magickal home.

It's a lovely home, with the electrics running on solar, everyone should have solar power and then we'd be a much more conservational planet. Instead of using electricity without thinking about it, we really have to think "do i need the kitchen lighton now or shall i save it for the stereo later?" Wonderful stuff. We also have an Alberca (big round open tank)which is the only water supply for the whole year round. It was running low, only a metre above the ground which is unusual for this time of year (and worrying because summer will no doubt bring another drought) but
then it started to rain...and rain...and rain, so we shot up the lane with a massive pipe and lodged it into the Ascecia, with the other end in the Alberca - within 2 days it was full to the brim! I looked out of the kitchen window on boxing day morning to see Tao - the naked German - on the brink of the Alberca (it was a freezing morning) before i could shout "don't pee in our drinking water" he had dived in.....what a nutter.

Christmas day was lovely. We invited Tao and Raz - Israeli - to spend the day with us, for raz it was his first English meal - so Benj and I cooked loads, including a massive nut roast, 15, 000 roasties, cauliflower cheese, christmas cake (x 2 - burnt 1st-funny story actually: We moved into the yurt and found loads of flap-jack in the freezer, we'd tuned it off to save gas so instead of wasting them, we decided to eat them over the course of three days. On the day in question i was in the middle of making my second cake when, being the pig that i am.....i ate the rest of the
flap-jacks. Well, before too long i found myself very confused, "did i put the baking powder in? have i added the sugar?" Then it got worse once i'd put it in the oven: "How long has it been in the oven? An hour? 10 minutes?" I didn't have a clue.
The mystery was solved when later that day we turned over the welcome note to find more writing....."Help yourselves to the ganja cookies in the freezer - they're pretty strong!" ) quince crumble and date and raison tart, complete with home made crackers! we played some games and drank mulled wine. Then on boxing day we found the mule path down the mountain, it was quite breath taking. We met some old boys on donkeys along the way to whom I mopped my brow and said "Phew, estoy muy casado" -
meaning I'm very tired, but i actually said "Phew, i'm very married", getting casado and cansado very mixed up.

While we were still living in Alfie - we picked 22 sacks of olives, taking them to the mulino and getting 175 litres of oil, half of which is ours. To earn some extra cash we took our hand-made chocolates all over Andalucia.....we did the local market, the craft market, and i went to Granada and found a really big market which seemed perfect! So, i set up and chatted to a lady next to me checking it was ok to sell there. She informed me that i was very welcome to SHOW my chocolates, but not to SELL them, as this was an ANTI CONSUMERIST market,focusing heavily on the extortionate prices people charge for chocolates. I smiled and slunked off as quickly as i could, hiding my extortioate chocolates as i went. I ended up selling on the cobbled road up to the Alhambra - after 3 hours i was sad not to have
sold a thing...Benny came back from his busking with 2 broken strings to kindly inform me that i had a moustache of dirt - perhaps that was putting the prospective buyers off? After a quick wipe my luck changed and i sold several brooches!

I've really enjoyed doing markets, but have found that it's more of a social gathering than a money-making scheme. I tend to set up next to food vendors - what a surprise! - and end up swapping chocolates for bags of veg and sea-weed!

We had a Hannukah meal here at the yurt a few weeks ago, and invited Ziza, Yair, Shanti, Tao, Raz and Norah - a girl whose house sitting down the mountain - it was really lovely. We've spent lots of time with Nora since, as well as Ian (my cousin) who arrived on New Years Eve. We ummed and arred "shall we go to a party on the river bed? Shall we play bongoes in tipi valley?" Then it hit us: "Let's stay on the mountain and not go anywhere!" Genius. So Norah made pumpkin soup, I made apple pie and Ian and benj made bread (in the shape of boobs, how mature)and we had a feast. We visitied some Danish friends at 11 and looked at Orion's belt through a 500 x magnified was magickal.

And now benj and i have a dog.....Lyla. we met a guy halfway down the mountain - John - who was the drummer in Judas Priest. He had Husky puppies that really needed a good home, i was firm and said "certainly not." But Benj was so desparate to take her that after a few weeks we decided to have her. She's 3 months old and very beautiful. We're getting her chipped and doggy passported tomorrow. She has three long walks a day and is in the process of being trained. She nearly knows sit, she certainly knows Sssh, and she's slowly learning that she gets three "on your bed"'s in the morning and then she's outside - much to her dismay. Thankfully her waking up time has lengthened to 7am (it was 5).

So life is still good, I'm very happy. On a clear day you can see the Riff Mountains in Morocco from 2 terraces above the yurt, it's truly awesome. Ian and Ben are re-fitting Alfie so that we take 4 bottles of oil in him - at the moment he's too crowded.

So take care, love to you all, and please everyone conserve as much as you can. I know i may sound like a Yoghurt weaving lentil eater, but just for one day: Don't flush the chain everytime you go - or wee outside, save the washing up water for the next lot, don't have a shower, use one light at a time etc. If we all do it, and if we all tell everyone we know it will make a tiny, tiny, tiny difference.

Over and out, Jude x x x x x

Ben's cameras stopped working so no recent pix i'm afraid, Chrimbo day with tao, us on a beach (i'm not nudy) and benj overlooking a beautiful sunset...

Olives, olives, olives

well, where the hey diddlydoo do i start?

We stayed with ziza and yair and shanti their daughter for three weeks, living in an amazing yurt. During our stay we became really close to the whoile family! Shanti is only 10 although she seems much older, she learnt English and Spanish at the age of 7 and is now fluent in both, as well as Hebrew. Ziza is an amazing cook, and we spent many evenings drinking herb tea and discussing issues, they are a fine example of genuinely good, good people, salt of the earth i believe.

During our stay there we spent a weekend at the beach, mid november, and i managed to get burnt, it was crazily hot. It was also a nudist beach, so ben was happy. I dont know who started the myth that mediterranean women are hairy, thery certainly are not! It was like a fashion parade, some with odd sort of landing strips, some with equalateral triangles, and some with "whoops, i took far too much off, ah well, i try and make it look like a rabbits tail....."

we also spemt a few nights at beneficio, a serene valley of tipis and domes, full of vegetable patches and naked hippys, one such hippy was living directly above our tent, and seemed intent on vigorously weeding his cabbages whenever we were sat outside, quite a view i must say! The photo is of a lovely house in Benny built by an Italian baker.

we met a finnish girl called evalina in the carpark, we invited her in alfie for tea and she invited us to her house for dinner, "park on the roadside" she said, "it´s only 10 minutes down the mountain." Forty minutes and one dutchwoman later we found the stone house encased in plants and trees and enjoyed a lovely israeli meal with her and her partner and his children.

So, we left ziza and yair to venture 5km´s up a terrible dirt track to cerro negro, black mountain, to stay with trevor on his farm. We worked solid for three weeks clearing under the olive trees, and were surrounded by the most magickal view. Orgiva was to the far right, sigorones - a community of trucks and buses lay in the dry river bed, and the mighty mountains towered above it all, with their rosemary bushes basking in the sun whilst the peaks lay under a blanket of snow, stunning. We stayed in a 1 roomed stone bothy, whose window welcomed the morning sunrise as it peeped over the neighbouring mountain. I actually found myself looking forward to my middle of the night wee just so that i could gaze at the stars from 600 metres up!

We also house sat for trevor for a week and a half, we even had 2 unexpected quebecan woofers turn up, so we became stand in woof hosts, getting the monring porridge ready and the like. My main joy there was looking after the animals- jessie is an old dog, each night i´d shut her in - and yet every night she´d find a way out and trundle down to the bothy and proceed to whine from 4am until we let her in. Then there were the three kittens that i managed to litter train in a week, we spent so much time just marvelling at them. Unfortunately one became too mischievous and attempted to share jessies dinner, to which she promtly killed it, very sad for us, so we buried "kinky" (bens name...) in the garden and had a very sombre evening.

On cerro negro we made some good friends: Matthew, who we are going to meet in bulgaria and maybe buy a bit of land with (cheap there, they enter EU in 2007) to start a community - anyone interested? Also, Inca - (Czech) and steve, they live in a dome that overlooks the house of chris something, stewart is it? He wrote driving over lemons and a parrot in a pear tree, he´s wriitng a new one too. We spend a lot of time with them. Inca and i started ther cerro negro womens group, we currently have 5 women who meet each week to share tea, songs, silences, discussions, it´s lovely. We then leave the calmness of the group to go and pick up the men (BEn, Steve and anyone else). We enter the dome to be met with a fusion of smoke, beer fumes, card playing and noise a plenty, such a difference. Steve is a karate teacher, his teacher´s teacher was the man who brought karate to the western world, crazy. We went one night to karate, to "Malcolms" studio, and were mildly surprised on entering the studio to see a ginormous naked painting of malcolm looming above the window. I found it very difficult to focus on my kata forms with malcolms meat and two veg greeting me from mirrors at every angle...

We´ve done a fair bit of gardening at the local steiner school, and went to a fiesta there a few weeks ago, it was wonderful. A hot sunny day full of falafels and eastern european bands singing "I´m your wienus, i´m your fire, your desire" i did a drama workshop too.

Then two weeks ago we went to the cannabis cup, yep, the cannabis cup. It´s a local contest for the best marijuana held in sigorones, we had a stall there selling our handmade jewellery and paintings and made, wait for it....... 14 euros! So, the contest began, 14 entrants with 14 massive buds of weed and 4 very cool looking judges. Each bud was judged on look, smell, taste and buzz, but as you can imagine, it dragged on rather, and 2 hours later we decided to go and make dinner in alfie, we returned an hour later to find them on contestant number 10, the judges were by now looking decidedly chilled out, if not a little wobbly!

So, now we are working for ourselves, no more woofing for a while, we did 10 weeks solid and needed a break, my fingers have started seizing up from usinf all the tools for so long. We are staying on the piece of land next to ziza´s, it belongs to a women who lives in ireland, her olives go to waste ewach year. SO, we´ve offered to pick all of her olives, and will get them cold pressed at the local mill, and will split the oli 50 50 with her. By cold pressing the oil you get less, but it´s much much richer. Our plan is to adapt the van to carry it in alfie and to sell in england when we get home, "Hand picked organic olives from the Alpujarras....."

Life is good, we´re having fun, it´s bloomin hard work picking olives (not so much picking actually but whacking trees with long canar that grows everywhere) but we´re doing it for us and thasts the sifference. On saturday is the school christmas fair, we´re making handmade chocolates, silk paintings (thanks to rach for sending stuff over), jewellery and anything else we can sell. It´s lovely being a part of such a close nit community that is very "alternative" in its existence, although there are far too many english here, says me, the english girl... Matthew worded it well when he said Orgiva either chews you up and spits you out or welcomes you with open arms, luckily we encountered the latter.

I hope you are all well, i´ll bet winters looking beautiful over there,

All my love Jude x x x x x

P.s went to see harry potter in spanish with shanti on tuesday, hilarious, have no idea what went on, spanish cinemas are crazy, food everywhere, noise every, kids jumping over seats, and when we thought it couldnt get any worse, from the seat behind came the broadest birmingham accent you´ve ever heard :
"Jaysun, will yow gow and git us a pakit uf tafuys mayte!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Even The Kitchen Sink


We’re in Spain now!

It took us a day and a half to drive to south of Spain, we are now on an olive farm, working with an Israeli family and we’re living in the most amazing yurt you’ve ever seen, it even has a kitchen sink, and a SOLAR SHOWER, not that I’ve used it yet… what a stinker!

We’re near to Orgiva, a hippy town, it’s cool!

Love you all loads, miss you too, take it easy, love Jude x x x x x

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mole Hills and Mountains

Bonjour Peeps!

Now we're in Izaut de l'hotel, bordering on the Pyrenees. We're staying with Karen and Lee and their baby, Rohan, who is amazingly cute.....

On Friday night we went to the local 'traditional Irish' pub, (Frederic’s back room) and then partook in some apple picking and 'cidre' making on Saturday, I've really enjoyed myself. We have had to use our terrible French to mix with the locals, which has made it all the more fun.

We went for a huge walk yesterday with Jana, a lovely German girl who is also here. We started walking at 10am, and hiked up several mountains including the three peaks. We just spent a lot of our time marveling at the views, it really was incredible to be above the towering snowcapped Pyrenees. It was a hard day and we inevitably got a bit lost, doing some scrambling and rock climbing up a face of a mountain, it was scary but exciting, Claire and Jobie would be proud!

We've also been learning lots about joinery and construction which will be good to remember for future house building. We've built an egg room complete with sheep's wool for insulation, and I've been doing lots of masonry drilling.

So, all is well. I hope you are all ok, I think of everyone lots. Take care, love Jude and Ben x x x x x

Pictures: The mountain the three of us are on is the Cagire, a mountain in the Pyrenees, a whopper, it took Ben, Yana and myself 10 hours to climb it, up and down, we had to scramble up a face and even do a bit of proper climbing!