Andalucia, at least in January, was a revelation. After years of Brits rolling their eyes in a 'Don't even say Costas, let alone go there!' way, I discovered that it's ruggedly beautiful and, while the coastline is overdeveloped for my tastes, it's no worse than much of the Med.
We took two walks while there, once into the hills behind the Nerja Caves and once up the hill behind Frigiliana, where we met the psycho donkey, whose picture is here. Don't let that sweet stance fool you: he mostly wanted to chase, bite and kick us for daring to come on to his mountain.
One of the things I loved in Spain was the extraordinary house we stayed in. From the front, it looked like a little two up, two down job. But inside it was a Tardis, widening out and going up two more stories which contained five bedrooms, a central narrow airshaft that some of the windows opened on to, tiled floors and whitewashed walls. Best of all was the long garden that led down to the sea and which contained a lemon tree. On the last morning I was invited to pick one to take home, which is how I came to choose and pick my first lemon (no puns, now!). It was as large as many oranges and I put it in my pocket for the journey, quietly reminding me of the mildness and brief sunshine of Spain every time my hand found it.
There was just one night in London before heading to Stoke Park, one time stately home of the Penn family, of Pennsylvania fame, and now a hotel, spa and golf resort just west of London in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.
It looks not unlike a wedding cake and in highly maintained grounds, through which we walked. We were there to review it for a parenting magazine, so no charge to us for staying in the enormous Lancelot Suite, which had its own terrace looking over the countryside toward Windsor and a marble bathroom that dwarfed my bedroom at home. I took the biggest bath of my life, just to experience it, but the truth? It was too big! I couldn't lie back because my feet had nothing to brace against. Still, a very luxurious experience!
In the grounds were a number of trees that supported mistletoe - a funny, parasitic plant that makes its host look like something out of a Dr Seuss illustration.
I want to write more, but I'm making myself late for work as it is (yes, I'm back at work...). Will update more soon!