The first almond flowers arrive 2021!

After one of the coldest winters on record in Spain, the province of Alicante is already seeing the first and glorious pink and white blossom of the almond trees on their farmland. The areas of Torrellano, in Elche, Hondón de las Nieves and Hondón de los Frailes, in the Medio Vinalopó, the districts of Marina Alta and Vega Baja are some points of the province in which you can already enjoy a beautiful landscape. The pictures below were taken 1st week of Feb’ 2021.

Nature is wonderful and brings us this “blaze” of glory each year. It is common for the first petals and the first almond buds to begin appearing at the beginning of February. The local residents get excited about this, as not only is the Hondon Valley full of colour for the first time of the year, but it heralds the start of the warmer and longer sunny days.

The relatively high temperatures in recent weeks in the region, where in some points, such as Elche, have reached between 18 and 20 degrees! We’ve seen people sun bathing on the coast. However, the local farmers are a little worried that some almonds groves in the mountains may be exposed to possible early morning frosts as the local temperature and inclement weather can be cold in the evenings / mornings in  February. Lately the Hondon Valley is feeling 5-9 degrees first thing. BRrrrrrr! But all is well by mid-morning and a lunch al-fresco is a still a pleasant experience.

So how do you like your almonds?  … Sweet or savoury? Roasted and salted, spiced, cookies, ground into cakes, marzipan or mixed in muesli… what’s your favourite use of local almonds?    Enjoy. They are delicious. #almondblossom

Flying During Covid… Spain.

As we all know flying got much more difficult during the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions. Our nearest airport, Alicante, reports that flights are down by 63% but AENA.ES reports that their Spanish airports passengers are down 72.4% over this crisis period. That’s substantial for an area that relies on flights for business, tourism and foreign investment in property.

Clearly people are being forced not to travel by air right now or have to jump through many hoops if allowed. So what are those hoops?

Alicante Airport

Well the picture changes almost daily across Europe so we can only give general information.

The risk to health and COVID-19 transmission is very high as we write. So the respective governments have little choice to restrict human movement, even though it is harming their economies and frustrating for the people needing to travel.

Thankfully air travel is still one of the safest forms of transports. Modern airlines have protocols and systems to minimise risk, including controlling the air used and generated inside a plane.

Even better, airports and airlines have stepped up to the mark & adapted to minimize the possibility of contagion, But you STILL HAVE TO DO YOUR BIT!

Here are some general guidlines to make your flight safer for you and your fellow passengers. But we STRESS you need to check with the airport, airline and government websites for UP-TO-DATE guidance.

  1. What should I keep in mind before flying?

First, you must make sure that you meet the requirements of health control and entry documentation to the country you are travelling to. Many airlines have restricted hand luggage in the cabin, so check this possibility with your airline company.

Many countries including the UK and Spain are now requiring NEGATIVE COVID TEST in advance of flying with a certificate of proof, usually within a 3-day period before your flight. These you will need to pay for yourself so allow time to book them in.

Check if you have to quarantine on arrival. E.G. The UK is asking travellers into the UK to quarantine in hotels at their own cost (as of Feb 2021). Some people are being turned away from airports or not allowed to fly if the do not have the right documents or tests that they conform.

Check in online, take your boarding pass on your mobile to avoid physical contact.
Go to the airport in plenty of time, since there may be social distance protocols that increase waiting times.
Keep in mind that your companions may not be able to access the airport facilities, except if you need assistance due to reduced mobility, or if the person flying is an unaccompanied minor.
Do not go to the airport if you have symptoms of a cough, fever or breathing difficulties.

So if you have to fly, ensure you know well in advance the requirements for paperwork, tests and hygiene well before you fly.

Also make sure your travel insurance is up-to-date and covers you for as you’d expect.

  1. Has anything changed at the airports?

Yes. Once inside, follow the indications of the airport staff, screens, signs and public address system, since there may be inoperative terminals.
The trays to deposit belongings are disinfected regularly, but try only to touch the essential surfaces and objects.
Continue to maintain the safe distance in the check-in queues, security control, during the baggage claim, restaurants and in front of the ATMs .

  1. During boarding and disembarking

Passenger access lines during boarding have also been reorganized to ensure social distance and you will find more signs, so you have no doubts about where to go.
Use the designated lanes or catwalks for buses or to enter / exit your plane.

  1. Hygiene and safety on board.

The planes are disinfected after each flight, during which it is mandatory to wear the mask – for you and for the crew – and change it every few hours. Upon entering, you will be given a disinfectant wipe and a bag to deposit your personal waste.

Before take off, pay attention to the staff safety demonstration for specific instructions during your flight under the current circumstances.
Most likely, the catering service will present you their menu online through a QR code or with a disposable single-use menu.
And keep in mind that if you buy an extra item on board, you probably can’t pay for it in cash.

Also, remember to use the mask during the entire time you are at the airport as well as during your flight, and to use the hydroalcoholic gel regularly.

#STAYSAFE !!

Roscon de Reyes – 3 Kings Parade in Spain

Roscon de Reyes is a traditional sweet cake to celebrate the Spanish Christmas & the 3 Kings parade on 5th Jan, Epiphany.*

At this time of the year all across Spain families like to share a “Roscones de Reyes”, a delicious sweet pastry ring, which is shaped as a crown to welcome the Epiphany of the Three Kings on 5 January. This is one of the oldest traditions in Spain, and can be traced back to the 12th century, if not before.

This is usually the most magical night of the Spanish Christmas calendar, especially for the children. The three Wise Men or Kings visit houses and leave presents for everyone or parade local streets & town centres. They can be spectacular with the Kings giving away sweets and presents to joyful , excited children. Loud music is blaring, the costumes are glitzy and theatrical and people dance. In Madrid, the capital, they televise the parade to the country which usually includes some very special guests and celebrations. It’s a HUGE parade and worth a look. Of course all towns and villages, like the Hondon Valley make the effort too.

*Alas. COVID-19 wil curtail mass gatherings and celebrations in 2020 but we are sure the Spanish will embrace and do what they can.

These Roscones are usually decorated with pretty colourful candied fruit and are often stuffed with a cream or chocolate filling and it is lightly fragranced with “aqua de azahar”, made with the blossom of orange. Look out for the little figurine of Jesus or some similar gift, as it brings luck (if it doesn’t bring the dentist).

The Covid crisis is having a big effect on the bakers of these Roscones, with sales down by one third this year, reflecting the fact that big family gatherings are being avoided at this time. if you can support your local bakers, rather than the supermarkets #lovelocal.

Remember that the 6 January is a public holiday to celebrate Los Reyes and children finally get to open their presents on the evening before.

Have you tried a Roscon? Where is the best place to buy one?

*Based on an article by Dino T.

Glorious Grapes! 40 Million Kilos of Them.

The Spanish love their grapes for the Festive Period, especially New Year. And the reports are that it is a bumper harvest expected in Spain, especially in the Vinalopó / Hondon areas. This year’s production of PDO Vinalopó Bagged Table Grapes amounts to 40 million kilos.

Vinalopo Grapes for 2020

At the beginning of November, the harvesting of the Aledo variety grape kicked off in the Vinalopó region. This fruit is traditionally consumed on New Year’s Eve in Spain following a tradition that dates back at least to the final years of the 19th century.

In an interview with Agencia Efe, the president of the PDO Vinalopó Bagged Table Grape, José Bernabéu, said that they are looking towards a “good campaign” both in terms of production and marketing. This year sees an excellent quality of the product and the good market response to “the best protected grape in the world.

He said that the weather has been “very favourable” this year since September. The crop has benefited from the dry climate in this area of ​​the Region of Valencia, necessary to obtain a “premium quality” product.

In addition to the good weather, “the product is being well-received in both national and foreign markets,” says Bernabéu. “However with a good supply and demand the growers are not being forced to lower the price of the fruit, as we’ve seen happen in previous years.” They have been the same price for about 20 years.”

This year, the production registered under the PDO amounts to 40 million kilos, counting all 7 protected varieties. In addition to the Aledo, there are also Victoria, Ideal, Red Globe, Doña María, Rosetti and Dominga grapes.

The Vinalopó grape is harvested in the municipalities of Novelda, Monforte del Cid, Aspe, Agost, Hondón de los Frailes, Hondón de las Nieves and La Romana, and gives employment to more than 10,000 people.

#lovehondongrapes

Article Fresh Plaza [ freshplaza.com ] c2020

Too Good (Hondon Writers Circle)

Richard Seal, a master of words and the description and of The Hondón Writers Circle has kindly submitted this insight into life in the rural charms of the Hondon Valley. Delightful.

Published by Percy Chattey Books

Bill and Jean love describing to friends back in Wolverhampton how their Spanish villa is tucked away on a mountain road behind an abandoned ruin, beside a forgotten expanse of wasteland which hosts an occasional sheep or goat, with black trees struggling to yield any olives. They excitedly explain that it is too far for the postman to trek, so they have a village mail box – a space stuffed full of old leaflets, and fiesta flyers from yesteryear, parties probably celebrated with customary joy when the aged local shepherd was just a boy.

Flanked by stunning views, lush almond groves, and fields full of oranges and lemons, Bill and Jean often sit together gazing at the landscape and feel that all this is a bit too good to be true. However, they know, through the blood red brilliance of the Costa Blanca sunsets, the occasional dog bark carried on the breeze and the birds which nightly hold the high notes on their twisted boughs, that this is how life is supposed to be.

Sitting in church every Sunday, listening to the service, Bill and Jean are vaguely lost amid Our Lady and saints unknown. They marvel at the Spanish words barely understood but sensed and sampled. A smiling señor and señora on the row in front suddenly turn to clasp their hands, making the couple feel so welcome. Afterwards they enjoy a leisurely lunch with a few Spanish locals, savouring the great value menu del dia with a bottle of vino tinto – Neither dissent at the prospect of time so well spent.

On a late August evening, Bill and Jean stand in the village surrounded by Spanish folk in family clusters, sitting together on rickety chairs hauled out of shuttered houses. The fiesta parade of floats leaves the pair in slack-jawed awe: Flower pot children amble ahead of twenties’ flappers, blazing a trail for Hawaiian gyrators; comic characters herald zombies and an underworld cast before the spectacular midnight firework blast. English village fates seem such distant memories, the couple’s life now is a Fandango; They smile at each other and wonder each day who could have spiked their Earl Grey.

Credits : Copyright c2020. This article was kindly written for Hondon Villas and the Hondón Community by Richard Seal, a member of the local Hondon Writing Circle. ‘Too Good’ is taken and adapted from Richard Seal’s book ‘Living Now’ (2018)

Percy Chattey Books publish Story Telling ® a series of Short Stories and Poems in digital eBooks / paperback formats available online via Amazon and Kindle.

Help for Foreigners to Integrate into Spanish Life

The Provincial Institution (Alicante Diputación) want to help foreign citizens to understand and integrate more into local and national life here in Spain. Some 190,000 euros has been allocated to do this. And our region is involved.

Novelda Magdalena Church
Novelda Magdalena Church

The deputy of International Residents, Juan de Dios Navarro, has highlighted that the objective of these programs is to collaborate with the local entities of our province in the development of projects and activities that “contribute to help, advise and integrate the thousands of foreigners who they have chosen our province to live ”.

If you live here in Spain, you will know it can be different from life in Northern Europe, even quirky to foreigners! Many foreigners do not have the language skills or understanding to integrate or learn about the real day-to-day life here. Of course understanding the language, economy, culture and labour can enhance and facilitate a better lifestyle & happiness.

In this sense, the new initiatives such as Spanish courses, awareness and integration campaigns, care and advisory services, information campaigns on the municipal register, volunteer programs, intercultural participation days or sports activities will be subsidised. “The demand for this type of projects has increased significantly in recent years given the importance that, for their (foreign citizens) full integration in Alicante, have, for example, knowledge of Spanish or legal, legal or labour issues that concern them.” says Juan de Dios Navarro.

So look out for these initiatives in your local Town Hall or on local Facebook groups and get involved. Most will be free!

The benefited municipalities are Aspe, Elda, Hondón de las Nieves, Hondón de los Frailes and La Romana, in the Middle Vinalopó, Crevillent, in the Baix Vinalopó, and Salinas and Sax, in the Alto Vinalopó. Aigües, El Campello and Mutxamel, in L ‘Alacantí, and Albatera, Algorfa, Almoradí, Benferri, Benijófar, Bigastro, Catral, Cox, Daya Nueva, Daya Vieja, Dolores, Granja de Rocamora, Guardamar del Segura, Jacarilla, Los Montesinos, Pilar de la Horadada, Rafal, Redován, San Isidro, San Miguel de Salinas and Torrevieja.

In Vega Baja. Alcalalí, Benigembla, Benimeli, Calp, Dénia, Llíber, Murla, Castell de Castells, Ondara, Orba, Parcent, Pego, Benitachell, Els Poblets, Sanet y Negrals, Tormos and Xábia, in the Marina Alta, and L’Alfàs del Pi , Altea, Beniardá, Bolulla, Callosa d’En Sarrià, Finestrat, Polop, Relleu and Tárbena, in the Marina Baja. In the El Comtat region, aid will go to L’Alqueria d’Asnar, Cocentaina, Facheca, Muro de Alcoy, Lorcha and Planes, while L’ Alcoià will benefit Banyeres de Mariola, Onil and Tibi.

as report on Valley of the Vines

6 easy-to-cook Spanish Tapas dishes. Yum!!

There’s are 100’s of tapas recipes and dishes to choose from. They can be regional or very generic Spanish and portions vary too. In many parts of Spain they are served free with your drinks in Spanish Bars, always welcome. Some can be bizarre compared to northern European tastes but give them a go!

Well one of our favourite cooking channels on YouTube is “Spain on a Fork”. If you are new to Tapas or want to try something new then this channel is well worth a subscription.

Try cooking these very easy but essential Spanish Tapas Dishes yourself…
In the video below you can learn to prepare and cook the very popular and typical Spanish tapas recipes…. it looks so easy and so delicious. let us know how you get on.

Including Warm Salted Almonds
Manchego & Sweet Roasted Peppers
Garlic Mushrooms with Smoked Paprika
Roasted Potatoes with Paprika Ali-Ole
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
Cheese & Egg Montaditos
… all delicious and at only 3 or 4 ingredients per dish.
The recipes can be printed and followed here:

6 easy to cook Spanish Tapas Dishes

A Montadito is a staple of the culinary arts from Spain. It is a unique tapa-sized rolls of bread similar to a baguette but wider and with a twist. … The etymology of the word ‘montadito’ stems from the word ‘montar’, which means ‘to mount’ in Spanish.

We Love Spanish Tapas !!

You can get Tapas in the Hondon area, but it’s not widely available or of great variety... least not in the league of Granada and the Andalucia region in general. A new Spanish run Tapas Bar has just opened calls “El Charro” in the Frailes Plaza (see Facebook El Charro)

Having just visited my favourite Spanish Language site “SpanishDict.Com” – they now have a blog and have written about Spanish Tapas

Tapas, those delicious little snacks you can get in any bar in Spain, have recently been making quite a splash in the United States. In the past 3 years, I have seen 4 tapas bars pop up in my neighbourhood alone. And people are crazy about them! The thing is, other than serving tiny bits of expensive food and over-priced drinks, these trendy American tapas bars have almost nothing in common with your traditional Spanish tapas bar.

Spanish Tapas

In many places in Spain, dinner is not served until 9 or 10 o’clock at night. So many people like to “tapear” or go out and eat tapas at a few different bars to meet up with friends, discuss the day, and in general just relax in a fun social atmosphere. In a lot of the major cities and in most parts of Adalucía, when you order a drink, often you get a tapa for free. Or sometimes it is the other way around; if you order a tapa, you get a free drink.

Now, how this tradition came about is debated among a few popular theories. First, it is important to know what “la tapa” means. Literally, it means “cover” or “top,” so it is important to keep this in mind when thinking about its history.

Some say that some sneaky tavern owners from Castilla-La Mancha found that a strong smelling and tasting cheese could “cover” the flavor of cheap wine. This way, they could sell the not so great wine for a higher price by including a free piece of cheese.

Others say that when King Alfonso XII was visiting Cádiz on the south west coast, he ordered a cup of sherry, which is famous in this region. In order to protect the wine from the blowing beach sands, the waiter covered the wine glass with a slice of cured ham. King Alfonso apparently enjoyed it and asked for another glass of sherry with a “tapa” just like the first.

Less legendary is the thought that since you are most likely standing when you are out having drinks with friends, you would need to cover your drink with your plate in order to have a free hand to eat. Or that you would need to top your sherry, a very sweet wine, with bread or ham to keep the curious flies away.

Now what kind of tapa you get with your drink widely depends on the region, but the staples are olives, of which there can be many different varieties, bread with aioli, and some kind of fried seafood. It is also very common to see small slices of bread topped with Spain’s famous jamón serrano or slices of cheese. My favourite is tortilla Española, which is very similar to an omelette with pieces of fried potato and onion inside instead of cheese.

There are thousands of tapa recipes out there and I encourage you to try a few on your own. Being all the fad right now, your friends would definitely be impressed if you invited them all over for an early evening of tapas at your house. ¡Salud! and ¡Buen provecho!