adiós christmas!


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adios-christmasSo no more fairy lights in the orange trees… well, until next December anyhow. The Three Kings came last night and today (Epiphany / Twelfth Night) marks the end of the holiday season. But it is also BIRTHDAY EVE! And boy am I ever excited. 🙂

Tomorrow there will be cava (of course) and a special lunch has been planned (more on that later), then who knows? Very likely a nice late afternoon walk and perhaps meeting up with friends for a drink in the evening. It’ll be quite low-key and lovely. And I will be 60. Wow!


ronda getaway 2016


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ronda-2016It was a fabulous birthday getaway and felt so much longer than just an overnight trip. We arrived in Ronda around 11.30 on Wednesday and took a scenic route to our hotel.

Hola Ronda! On the way to our hotel. #RondaGetaway

A video posted by Shawn Hennessey (@sevillatapas) on

La Colegiata de Ronda (actually holiday apartments) was recommended by Mannie from Toma & Coe and it was perfect. The only “problem” was that we were barely there other than to sleep, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the rooftop terrace or the kitchen. But it was very spacious and comfortable and the owner, Gracia, was super helpful and friendly.

Of course there were tapas! We managed to fit in three delicious meals while we were there (plus one breakfast) but, according to my Fitbit, the amount we walked (much of it uphill) helped cancel out the extra calories. We enjoyed the trendy tapas at Tragatá, but traditional food won out. La Niña de Adela was as fabulous as I remembered it, though it has changed a bit since my previous visit in 2014. Our final lunch was next door at Mesón El Sacristán (run by Gracia’s brother Antonio) and it was wonderful.

ronda-2016-3Aside from visiting museums and walking up and down the gorge, our most unusual experience came about just by chance. Since I signed up for the Fitur Tourism Fair a couple of weeks ago I’ve been receiving emails from different tour operators, inviting me to visit them at their booth. So when another Fitur email popped up on my phone while we were on the bus I was about to ignore it … but the word Ronda caught my eye. It was from a place called Reserva Tauro just outside Ronda and, like the other emails, it suggested meeting up at Fitur. So I wrote back right away, saying I was actually on the bus to Ronda and plans were made for us to visit on Thursday morning.


Reserva Tauro is a breeding farm for fighting bulls and purebred Andalusian and Arabian horses located in the Sierra de las Nieves (a UNESCO site). It is run by Rafael Tejada, who is a bullfighter as well as a breeder. The visit was wonderful, quite exceeding my expectations. We were taken around the farm, sometimes on foot, sometimes on a little “tourist train”, and our guide kept us both entertained and informed. We got to see the young foals (so cute, all legs!), the mother cows and their young, and the bravo bulls. I even got to see Ibérico pigs close up. Later we were treated to a short riding performance, and Rafael showed us how to use the different fighting capes (which are much heavier than they look). Afterwards we were brought back to the testing ring and sat outside on the adjacent terrace, where we were given wine and snacks before being taken back to town. Honestly, if you are planning a trip to Ronda you MUST do this.

ronda-2016-4We also went to the bullring in town (Spain’s oldest), the Baños Árabes and the curious Museo Lara, which is about a dozen museums in one. And of course we made sure we were on the terrace of the Parador Hotel overlooking the gorge at sunset to enjoy a drink and the changing light. It was a perfect getaway. Next up… Córdoba!

hope 2018


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My first Photohunt entry was on January 3rd 2009 . The theme that week was “hope” and I put up a photo of my battered old daybook turned to January 3rd 2010 with the words “STILL HERE!” written on it. After having just finished a second stint on chemo a few months previously this felt like a very bold thing to do.

Since then I have continued this “tradition of hope” and have posted a similar photo on this date each year. So, as always, here’s hoping that I will still be here next year on this date, and will see this page… and smile just like I did this morning.

birthday month


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birthday-monthI have been thinking about where to go for a big 60th BIRTHDAY TRIP, since I reckoned that making it to my 7th decade on January 7th was indeed something to celebrate. But my first choice (San Sebastián) fell though because my friend Gabriella is going to be away all month, and one of the main highlights of going to SS would be to hang out with G. And then I thought about Lisbon, but direct flights are difficult to find, so I may hold out on that one until I can go by car. Also, both places are iffy weather-wise in January, especially as I was planning to spend a week wherever I went, and a week in the rain anywhere would not be pleasant.

And so I have come up with a new plan, which is to celebrate my birthday all month long (!!!) with a different overnight getaway each week. Four destinations that immediately came to mind – Cádiz, Ronda, Córdoba, Granada – are all places I haven’t visited for a couple of years (or more) and so I thought this would be a nice way to “catch up”. Also, since I’ll be travelling by train or bus, I can pretty much book last minute, and avoid rainy days.

So… first stop Ronda!  🙂

new year’s eve dinner



nye-dinnerA quiet New Year’s Eve dinner at home. Loving the new oven. Roasted a couple of tiny lamb legs and am getting better at roasties too. But the most exciting (and delicious) part of the evening was making gambas al ajillo at home for the very first time. See vid below…

Later on watched the Madrid ball drop in Puerta del Sol on TV, raised a glass to the new year, and then headed to bed. How was your evening?

25th on the 29th


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So I woke up today (December 29th) thinking about my upcoming (60th!) birthday next month and also how next year will be my 25th (silver!) anniversary of arriving in Spain. And I realized that it’s going to be quite a special year in terms of personal milestone moments. And so after visiting the fabulous Murillo-Velasquéz exhibit at Hospital de los Venerables I found myself having a glass of wine at La Azotea (aka The Office) and I decided to start taking this anniversary thing seriously. As in… it was time to plan A PARTY!

So far I have a first draft guest list and a possible venue. But the date was clear – I shall celebrate this very special anniversary on May 29th. I think the actual day I arrived in Spain was May 23rd 1992, though that may have been the day I left Bristol. And as there was no Internet back then, I cannot check back to confirm this. But May 29th is a Monday – great for my friends who own or work in bars and also easier for booking the venue I want. And well really, it’s close enough. And also exactly five months from the day I decided to do this. So there.  🙂