Cave Visit

Cuevas de Nerja

Last weekend we spent down south. Not far from Malaga is the popular resort of Nerja. At this time of year it is not exactly full of holiday makers but nevertheless it is still a popular destination. Keeping a promise to Dani we visited the famous Nerja caves (Cuevas de Nerja). Of course he loved it.

The caves are  a series of underground caverns with the usual eye catching stalectites and stalagmites and more besides. This is one of the top tourist spots in Spain and it showed. Even in November there were crowds of people keen to go into this subterranean world.

I had visited the caves a few years ago with Dani’s nanna and a couple of my aunties. On that visit we were allowed in to the cavern containing the concert hall. A permanent seated concert area. Incredible. On this visit – for reasons I still don’t know – we were not allowed into that part of the caves.


Although there is evidence of pre-historic dwellers, the caves somehow escaped the modern world until 1959. Back then 5 boys “disappeared” one day from school sparking a search. The boys had been out the night before looking for bats and had climbed down one of the cave’s natural entrances they had just found. Once inside they discovered this hidden natural wonder.
When the five boys emerged and ran excitedly to tell their school masters what they had found nobody believed them. It seems almost unreal now with this part of Spain so over developed but these caves lay hidden for centuries. 

Flash photography is not allowed and unfortunately my photos do not do this place justice. It really is one of those places you have to see for yourself.


Total surface area: 35,484m2. Total volume: 64,379m3. Caves stretch for almost 5 kilometres. There are over 580 cave paintings.

Sad News…

There has been some sad news recently about Dani’s English teacher (who is actually American). He attends the same school but at secondary level – I think he is about 14 years old. He is currently under-going treatment for some kind of leukemia. Very sad. At least we believe he has been responding well to treatment. Also there is reportedly a good recovery rate from this type of disease. We can only hope he comes through it.

Birthday Bash

Fifth birthday party in the mad house….

Dani had an eventful birthday party in one of the many animal houses in Madrid. Let them loose in the caged and padded area and leave them to it. Well, you can do. I prefer to keep an eye on things from time to time. You never know when something will happen. After an hour of non-stop calorie burning it was time for a top up. Pizza, hot dog or burger with some unhealthy side-snacks. It was almost impossible to keep them from running back in to the play area. In fact they had to be dragged back out for the cake and happy birthday song. And of course for Dani to open his presents. Then they were gone again.

The Fight

Soon after the calorie fix (and for some a sugar burst Coke fix) a little fight broke out. Some of the mothers were immediately concerned. The ones who had little boys. The mothers of the girls seemed like they couldn’t care less. I knew something was up when I saw that Dani had noticed something and scampered up to the top of the monkey house in double quick time. There was a stand off and Carlos (twice the size of the rest of them) was looking particularly angry as he confronted Yago (one of the few smaller than Dani). Not that little Yago was worried. Fair play, he stood up to him. He had just punched Jaime in the mouth and he was crying (Jaime that is). Carlos’s mum shouted up at them and amazingly managed to get the three of them to come down to ground level and out of the cage. After a short lecture all three did the right thing and patched up their differences. Whatever they may have been. It was all forgotten in a three-way handshake.

Who knows how and why it started? Who cares? It was ancient history within a minute.

Grudge Free Existance…

Isn’t it great at that age. No grudges. At what age do people start harbouring resentment and bitterness. It is an odd thing. Easy going, quick to forget kids just get on with life. Adults carry all sorts of baggage around with them. It can be bloody heavy. Why do they do it when kids do not? I think that remains one of life’s mysteries.

The day of his actual birthday was the Monday. I had to fly early in the morning. It is hard enough any Monday I have to return to work. This one was even more difficult. At least I had been there to see him celebrate with his class-mates.

There will be another party soon. When he flies over to the UK to see his family there.

Annual Road Race

Race Day

Every year in Madrid there are series of road races and fun-runs to rise money for a well known children’s hospital opposite Retiro Park. The Hospital del Niño Jesus. Last Sunday was the day this year.

This time last year I was preparing to go on my first trip to Korea. Was that a year ago? Wow! Scary. Meanwhile Dani was taking part in his first 2km run/walk for this noble cause.

Corre por el Niño 2018

There are 10km and 4km races for the more keen runners. Then there is the 2km fun-run or “marcha familiar” . This year I ran with Dani. And fair play to the lad, he did run the full 2km. There were plenty of other participants. Thousands actually.

Intergalactic fund-raising…

There was some help on hand to occupy the kids. None other than Darth Vader and a collection of other Star Wars characters. Vader is not widely known for his charity work. More associated with terrorising that far away galaxy. However, he did a great job of cheering the kids, the participants and the spectators. I always thought he received bad press….

Accompanied as usual by his band of stormtroopers. There were other Star Wars characters on hand to give the kids a high-five as they jogged off around the 2 km circuit. There was even a Jawa and one of the sand people (aka Tusken Raiders). I should have got more photos, I know…

Dani won. I came a close second. In third place was Dani’s mum. Then came Susana and her dad Javi. Not that Dani was trying to win as such. He just has more energy than the rest of us. But when t was all over the two cousins shared the top spot on the podium.

Now I am waiting for a flight to Madrid from Gatwick. A long weekend for myself because this weekend is Dani’s 5th birthday. Where did those five years go? Sunday is party time….

Fantastic Castle

All young children love castles. Dani certainly does. So, this weekend we took a relatively short trip to one of the best in Spain.

Manzanares El Real

Manzanares El Real is a small town in the foothills of Sierra de Guadarrama, about 40km from Madrid Like all small towns in the mountains it has its own charm. But what sets this place apart is the best-preserved castle in the region and surely one of the best in Spain.

The Castle of Manzanares El Real is a real gem. From the outside it looks every bit the classic 15th century castle. Inside you can walk through the well-preserved function rooms where 17th and 18th century artwork adorn the walls.

   First built in 1475 by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza in Elizabethan Gothic style the castle was initially a military fortress. But within a few years the Mendoza family made it their home. Diego’s eldest son Iñigo finished the build. However, in less than a century, following Iñigo’s death, the castle was empty.

The castle is bounded on one side by the Santillana reservoir with the panoramic views of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain ridge to the other. The reservoir was constructed in 1906 with a second higher dam built in 1969. It is an important source of Madrid’s water supply. Incidentally, when you look out across the reservoir you can just make out a much more modern kind of castle. Built to keep people in, rather than keep them out. The Soto de Real prison, built in 1995.

The renovation and restoration work began in 1914 and it is clear that the improvements have been both extensive and effective. The work continues. Funded by the Community of Madrid.

Now there’s a Coincidence!

As luck would have it there was a craft beer festival in the village square the very same day. Dani’s second beer festival – if anyone is counting. Not that he samples any of the produce of course.

It was not a huge event – only 8 beer makers’ stalls – but something different. I had only ever heard of one of the brewers so definitely worthwhile. Naturally a few beers were tasted. It would have been rude not to. Then, after a short walk it was back to Madrid and an early night. Because tomorrow is the annual road race in aid of the Hospital de Niño Jesus, children’s hospital located opposite the Retiro park near the centre of the city. Dani’s second time but my first…

Bits n Bobs

Odds n Sods….

 A few bit and pieces I thought I should write about….

I have been thinking lately about this Blog. Hardly anyone reads it but I am not doing it for the glory (as many people seem to do). The reason I am writing it is for Dani (plus it is sometimes good fun of course). So he can read it when he is able to . That will not be much longer the way he is progressing. But mainly to read again when he is a fair bit older and will appreciate it a lot more. Generally I have written about one specific topic or day out. But it occurred to met that there are lots of little things happening all the time and that I should try to capture them. So here goes with some of that…

Working in Kent

I have settled into my new job in Kent. Tucked away in the corner of England, south of London, it is one area I have never spent time in before now. Despite the south-east of England being one of the most densely populated areas on earth this part of Kent is actually quite countryfied. My plan (as much as there is one) is to try and last another nine or ten months but it is hard only seeing my boy at weekends. That said I travel Friday afternoons and Monday mornings so I do get to be with him all weekend. As much as most working dads I suppose. And it is short(ish)  term.

As and when he comes to visit me here there are plenty of interesting places to take him. Like all young boys he loves castles. There are two fantastic castles in Leeds and Rochester, plus the medieval city of Canterbury all very close. Then of course there is the big “smoke”. London. Only an hour on the train.

More Fantasy/Dream Fights…

I love all this. It can run and run. At least until he hits his teenage years – by which time he may hardly be talking to me; if what most people are telling me is correct.

“Dad. Who would win a fight between Chewbacca and Paul Stanley?”

You may recall that I wrote about the Lego Paul Stanley (the singer of 1970s – and beyond -rock band Kiss) a few months ago.

If you were a gambler you would put your money on the crossbow wielding Wookie; right? That’s what I thought. I was wrong. As Dani demonstrated. Paul Stanley clearly has hidden skills apart from his glam-rock/shock-rock singing.

“Look dad. Paul Stanley battered Chewie.” And so he did. I saw it with my own eyes. We live and learn…. Long live rock n roll eh? Although that was Rainbow not Kiss.
Chewie mercilessly slain at the hands of Paul Stanley.

Jaime’s visit… Chess games to come…

While on the subject of Chewbacca…

Dani’s brought his (latest) best friend from school home with him the other day. Jaime. Dani gave him one of his Chewie Lego characters. He did have two. A very generous statement I have to admit. Even if the one he gave him was actually not real Lego but one of the many fake Lego compatible versions out there. It looks set to become a theme now. Visiting friends’ houses after school and reciprocating the invites. I vaguely remember such things from way back when…

Jaime goes to after-school chess lessons while Dani does Judo. I prefer he continues with the Judo but the ultimate strategic board-game has been mentioned a lot recently. It means that I will have to teach him how to play the checkered game of kings, queens and pawns. Something I had been looking forward to but wasn’t expecting to happen so soon. Now, what are the rules again?…

Rook takes bishop.