Friday, 29 April 2016

The Laconic Parrot

Pele

During my vacation on the Canarian island of Fuerteventura I often walked past a block of offices, en route to the beach.

I regularly passed a slatted door in a tiny room which housed an ancient parrot with a minuscule dog.

Occasionally the door was open in order, presumably, to provide them with some daylight.

This parrot looked down on the tiny dog, which looked up mournfully at me every time I peered in.

The parrot had to be encouraged to sing, though I observed that it made two clicking noises prior to any further utterances.

Accordingly, I began by whistling my patriotic rendition of Rule Britannia! to it.

No joy there.

My next effort was a stirring few lines of Eternal Father, Strong To Save.

The old bird was clearly unimpressed with this old, traditional hymn.

Finally, I succumbed to the cheerful ditty, Consider Yourself, from that marvellous musical Oliver!

Christopher Bellew had fun with the learned double yellow-headed amazon, Pele, at the pub where he stayed.

Had I a copy of HMG's EU referendum leaflet at hand I'd have shoved it in the firing line directly below my old parrot.

Alas (!) a copy has not been received even at Belmont GHQ, as yet; though in hindsight, given the wicked sense of humour, I might have taught it to exclaim a rude or vulgar phrase to unsuspecting passers-by.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Which Bird?


I brought the iPad with me to the beach for the very first time today.

Although I'm not madly obsessed with wildlife, it does interest me.

La Concha beach lies to the north of El Cotillo.

At this beautiful little beach there is a well-known beach bar called Torino's.

Many years ago, Torino's father-in-law, Bill, often took the food and drink orders and acted generally as Mine Host.

I liked Bill. He had a sort of Cockney charm and affability with customers, especially British ones.

Alas, Bill has now retired and Torino cooks the grub in a tiny galley kitchen behind the beach bar.

I digress.

The principal purpose of bringing the iPad today was to photograph a certain kind of bird on the beach  (no, not the 36-24-36 type).


Readers, your task is to identify definitively this breed of bird.


Is it a sand plover? Or a sanderling?

Prey enlighten me.

Tostón Castle


Several days ago I revisited El Castillo del Tostón, a small fort perched on top of the cliff at E Cotillo, Fuerteventura.

It stands in a commanding position and is approached by a dusty track.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Toston Castle stands on the periphery of the village, dating from the late 16th century.

The roof-top is ascended by steep stone steps; whereas the ground floor, down more steps, has a modest gallery with exhibits and souvenirs for sale.

The entrance fee remains €1.50.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

El Tostón Lighthouse

El Tostón lighthouse about a mile along the coast from El Cotillo.

There is a modest museum or exhibition centre with a café and outdoor eating area.

The complex actually has three lighthouses: the largest, striped one being the most recent, constructed in 1985.

The others date from the mid-fifties and ca 1899.

Monday, 25 April 2016

High Cross

The High Cross has stood at Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, County Down, for over a millenium.

An exact replica of the iconic Downpatrick High Cross, weighing about a ton, was installed on the 16th April, 2014, in front of the Cathedral.

The original Mourne granite cross, carved ca AD 900 as a "prayer in stone", is of historical, cultural and religious significance.

Its first location is believed to have been the early medieval monastery on the Hill of Down.

Following the Reformation, the High Cross was taken down and was used as Downpatrick's market cross.

It was damaged in a busy town centre location before being dismantled and its parts dispersed around the town.


In the 1890s, the parts were gathered together by Francis Joseph Bigger and reconstructed outside Down Cathedral, with the help of subscriptions from donors.

The old cross was removed in December, 2013, to be preserved as the centrepiece of a display in Down County Museum. 

The 2014 replica was made by County Down stonemasons, using computer technology to make an exact copy of the original. The granite used was blasted from Thomas Mountain in the Mourne mountains.

The head of the cross shows the Crucifixion of Christ, flanked by the spear-bearer, sponge-bearer and the two thieves, who were given their own names in Irish in the 8th century.

The interlace on the side is made up of intertwined snakes, symbols of resurrection as they slough their skin and are reborn.

First published in April, 2014.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Leslie Eulogy

The Irish Aesthete has written a fond and insightful eulogy - if that is the mot juste - of Sir John (Jack) Leslie's life:-

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Beach Vendor


On one occasion during this holiday I spotted a beach vendor near Torino's Bar at El Cotillo, Fuerteventura.

She was carrying a notice with "Beer", "Cola", €1.50, and so on, written by hand on the card.

On her back she had a cool-bag with the said beverages.

The young woman remained quiet, however.

Now I have observed coves peddling these items on other Canarian beaches, and the trick is to have a act of some kind, with comical rhyming verse.

For instance, "Beer, Coca-Cola, Pineapple, Looky-Looky, Tutti-Fruiti"; whereby the sun-worshippers flock to you, brandishing the old dosh.

Cockney costermongers and barrow-boys were exceedingly artful in this regard and could have taught us a thing or two about marketing and salesmanship.

The desired result should prove to be most efficacious indeed, what?

By the way, the fellow atop with his bike and a load of bangles or necklaces is not self, in case you wondered.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Belfast Rapid Transit



Translink is the brand name of the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company (NITHCo), a public corporation in Northern Ireland which provides the public transport in the region.

NI Railways, Ulsterbus and Metro are all part of Translink, which is answerable to the Minister for Regional Development in Northern Ireland, Michelle McIlveen MLA.

I gather that the brand new, multi-million-pound Belfast Rapid Transit service is beginning in the next few years.

They have declared that passengers will be able to pay for their journeys in cash.

Frankly I think Translink needs to catch up with technological progress and enter the 21st century.

I'm very well aware that the transport system in Belfast is hardly comparable to that of the Metropolis, viz. Transport for London.

However, you cannot use cash to pay for your bus fare in London.

The ways to pay in London are as follows:
I have been present when a Belfast Metro bus has stopped at the Connswater Bridge Stop at Newtownards Road.

If there are several passengers, some pay in cash.

If they don't have the correct fare, it can take up to two or three minutes for the driver to deal with the transaction.

At the same time the bus is effectively blocking a vehicle lane and traffic flow is interrupted.

I am certainly not against Cash in principle; indeed it's essential for petty transactions every day.

However, my issue is one of efficiency.

If Translink, for whatever reason, refuses to embrace the cash-free method, at least an effective deterrent could be introduced.

For instance, if a passenger doesn't have the exact fare, no change will be given.

Does Translink employ a department to handle all the cash and coinage handled daily?

There's another saving for the taxpayer.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Avenida Restaurant


I made another trip to Corralejo yesterday afternoon.

Having strolled along the promenade walkway, I settled down on a comfortable chair at Cantante, a sort of wine-bar overlooking the sea.

There was a young lady singing and playing her guitar here.


At about six pm I arrived at one of my favourite places to eat in Corralejo, Avenida Restaurant.

This establishment never seems to change, nor do the staff, standards of service, and decor.

It's a fairly traditional Canarian or Spanish restaurant with sturdy, old, upright, wooden chairs and tables.

The staff are always attentive and courteous.


It's totally unpretentious, as is the menu, which is renowned for its half portions.

Always order a half portion here unless you happen to be ravenously hungry or capable of consuming gigantic helpings of their fresh seafood, beef, chicken and so on.


Their alioli is excellent and I always look forward to it with the fresh bread.

It's complimentary.

I ordered my usual escalope of breaded chicken, including thick chips and salad.


I've had this very simple dish on many occasions and it's a firm favourite.

I initiated a conversation with a lady seated behind me, and we subsequently chatted for a good half hour.


The bill for my half portion of chicken and a Beefeater and tonic came to €8.80.

I got the eight o'clock bus back to El Cotillo.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

El Roque


Five years ago I visited El Roque.

Perhaps I ought to revisit it.

I walked the shortish distance from El Cotillo to this tiny pueblo in 2011.

Having wandered round a bit, El Roque was eerily quiet, almost deserted in fact.

There was a very small shop.

Most properties were whitewashed walls; a few locals chatted to each other.

I photographed a picturesque little villa with a fruit and vegetable garden, including banana and lemon trees.

The bus stops here en route to El Cotillo and Corralejo.

First published in  March, 2011.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Punta Dell'Est Revisited


Yesterday was a scorcher in El Cotillo.

I spent a fair part of the day at the picturesque beach.

I don't bring the iPad with me; otherwise I'd take more photographs of the scenery and features.

Last night I revisited the little café on the outskirts of El Cotillo, Punta dell'est.

If you have been following my narrative, this modest little place is located at the very edge of the village, adjacent to the new bus station.

Scrubland and semi-desert lie to one side.

Virtually all the tables at Punta dell'est are outside.

Sand-coloured tiles cover the floor; bamboo fencing is here and there; flower-pots, little and large, placed strategically.

The tables are covered with red-and-white chequered plastic; the chairs are navy-blue plastic.

I was greeted cordially by the Italian chef-owner, who brought me a large Beefeater and tonic.


The amicable waitress brought me the very simple menu, hand-written on an A5 size sheet of paper.

The menu, comprising about ten items, varies daily.


The "black sepia ravioli, cherry tomatoes, and salmon" sounded interesting, so I ordered that.


It arrived shortly thereafter.

Sliced bread and a dish of ready-grated Parmesan cheese had been laid on my table.

The portions here are not massive, though perfectly adequate.

Without wishing to be critical at all, I think I'd have served the ravioli with more sauce; though it was simple and satisfying.

A side salad would not have gone amiss, either; though restaurants don't seem to bother serving salad garnishes in El Cotillo, in my experience.


Canela Cafè, Lajares, served abundant salad with their grub, though.

I had room for pudding, so was apprised that a ricotta and pear tart had been prepared.

I made the correct choice: it was good, light, and easily digestible.




As usual, I was offered a shot of caramel-flavoured vodka before ambling back to Ferret's for a glass of port.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Ode to Belmont

My good pal and fellow member of the OC Sports Club, viz. NCS, alias the Bard of Schomberg, has composed an ode specially dedicated to self:-

ODE TO BELMONT

I was disheartened this evening to see, 
That to your ‘blog’ was missing,
The latest culinary exploit.  
Oh did one with habitual fever wait.

Even as the sun set its head,
Even at the strikes of the midnight hour, 
Nothing had materialised.

Thence I stumbled upon your ‘twitter.’  
I saw before my eyes the most wonderful vista:
Of decadent banana tart and fillet steak, 
And sadness turned to joy.

Jolly fine stuff here from Schomberg and not one penny exchanged hands, either.

El Callao


At the New Harbour in El Cotillo there's an expansive terrace below La Vaca Azul restaurant.

When the tides aren't too high, another restaurant called El Callao places tables and chairs in a corner of this substantial terrace.

They serve tapas and drinks here during the day.

Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed a large Tanqueray and tonic at one of these tables (a bargain at €5) and admired my surroundings, including the spectacular view of the sea.

I hadn't eaten at El Callao, so last night I ambled down the narrow little street, Calle Requena, and darkened their threshold for the very first time.

I was early; too early, in fact, though I selected a prime table at the window.

El Callao, like other similar restaurants, is overshadowed by La Vaca Azul and La Marisma, which always seem to be busy.

Their reputation precedes them, I suppose.

I really must pay a little more attention to the decor in these places.

Here it was black and white, modern, clean. If and when I return I'll spend more time studying it.

I ordered an abstemious tonic-water with ice and a slice of lemon.

The menu is lengthy.

I hadn't consumed beef for more than a week, so treated myself to the solomillo Roquefort, a fillet steak served with little chips and carrot in a rich Roquefort sauce.


By the way, I complimented them on their very strong alioli, which I had with a crusty, granary roll.

I requested my steak to be cooked medium, though it came rare. Happily I'm not terribly fussy about this and, since the beef was very lean, I attached the trusty nose-bag and got down to work.

The puddings were written in chalk on a blackboard.

The pretty little waitress explained them all to me and I ordered the Tarta de Platana.

This turned out to be what I'd call banoffee pie.


It was served on an oblong stone platter, with squeezy cream and some sort of dark syrup drizzled at the side.

It was really rather good and tasty: not too heavy or stodgy.

The bill came to €21.80.

Thereafter I removed to Ferret's for a glass of port and the company of the resident cats.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

La Marisma


La Marisma restaurant is merely a few minutes' walk from my hotel; almost literally round the corner, in fact.

It is directly above the rocky shore at El Cotillo; and when I arrived the waves were pounding the rocks.

The sun shone, so I sat outside on the little terrace and watched the spectacular view.

I ordered a freshly-squeezed orange juice, Gussie Fink-Nottle's favourite beverage, for those of you familiar with Bertie Wooster's pals.

The cheerful waiter laid my table with a clean cloth and I had a look at the menu.


An appetiser arrived, served in a mussel shell.

I'm unfamiliar with mussels, though I assume it was some sort of mussel cocktail mixture, with a fine salad.

This was accompanied by a fresh bread roll and alioli.


Ten minutes later my garlic prawns appeared, sizzling; so hot, in fact, that I had to blow the first few forkfuls.

The couple beside me were getting stuck in to a traditional paella.

My main course comprised chicken rolled around large King prawns.

There were three of these, with small chips, rice, and vegetables, in a blue cheese sauce.

I'd say that the helpings at La Marisma are on the generous side.

Suffice it to say that I could not finish the meal (a matter of some irritation to me since I do not like to waste food).


Nevertheless I brought the remaining chicken roll with me in a serviette for a black cat near the hotel.

I found the service fairly good, after a slow start.


The bill amounted to about €26, including the tip.

Tostadas con Tomate


I breakfast at El Goloso at eight o'clock most days.

Everything is fresh, including the rustic baguettes, rolls, bocadillos, croissants, pastries, tartlets and cakes.

I sit and observe, so this morning I'd had the tostadas con tomate, with olive oil.

The tomatoes are obviously pulped in a processor, to the consistency of a sauce.


One is given a small bowl of this pulped tomato, a teaspoon, a sachet of olive oil, salt, and two slices of fresh crusty bread.

I had a large glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice.

All this for the princely sum of €4.25.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Sleepy Cotillo


By Jove, El Cotillo is quiet at night!

It remains a fairly unspoilt little fishing village on the north-west coast of the Canarian island of Fuerteventura.


Believe me, readers, I amble about, hither and thither, to a reasonable extent; and have yet to find a racy or loud establishment of any kind.

I must try harder.

Tonight I might wander over to the Cotillo Beach Hotel and see what's happening there.

I'll ask the beautiful Austrian girl who works part-time at my hotel where the night-life is.


Notwithstanding this little observation and thought, I revisited the beach café bar, Bagus, last night for their Sweet Rice.

If you study the map, Bagus is located at Calle La Gomera.

This dish comprises rice, squid, prawns, mascarpone and Parmesan cheese.

It was tasty, I must say, though there were a few tentacles lurking amongst the other ingredients.

This, and a glass of mango juice, set me back about €14.

Thereafter I retired to Ferret's bar for a glass of port.

I had the tentacles in a serviette, so my feline pal eventually got stuck into that. Eventually and not with great enthusiasm, I noted.

It's good to have the iPad and wifi.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Bar Café Central


At this time of year it's still cool at sunrise and sunset, aggravated by the wind chill.

Although I haven't worn long trousers since I arrived, I'm glad I brought a thermal best and V-neck sweater.

The centre of El Cotillo has a little bay, almost a cove, where the Atlantic Ocean meets land.

I expect it's a mere eight or ten feet above sea level here, where the Bar Café Central stands, on a slight gradient.

There is a maritime sculpture here, made in 2002, of two fishermen pushing a rowing-boat.

La Vaca Azul, a well-known local restaurant, perches on a rock at the bay, where there a broad, expansive terrace adjoins the quay.

I sat down at the Bar Central and ordered garlic prawns and little Cararian potatoes from the blackboard menu.

I'm wary of the fresh fish, exceedingly good as it likely is, because I have a preference for fish served skinless and, especially, boneless.

It is customary to serve fresh fish here on the bone.


This is predominantly a tapas menu, so I suggest it's a good place to eat at, if you want to try local cuisine.

They have octopus, squid, mussels, and more.

A basket arrived with a fresh crusty roll, alioli and a red, hot, fiery chilli sauce of some sort.

I'm glad I ordered what I did, because I'm reliably informed that two portions of tapas at Bar Central are adequate for most appetites.

The prawns cost €10 and the baby potatoes, €5.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Punta Dell'Est

I fancied some fresh pasta last night and had read about a bistro-café, on the ouskirts of El Cotillo, which serves Italian food.

It took me less than eight minutes to walk from my side of the village to the other, where Punta Dell'Est is located.


It overlooks the wasteland or semi-desert to one side; and the main bus station straight ahead.

When I arrived, after 6pm, there were no customers there other than a few locals chatting at a table outside.

I wandered in and the chef-owner and waitress (wife?) were behind the counter.

They greeted me and I inquired if they were open (they seem to close at 7pm during the week and 9pm weekends).


Affirmative; so I installed myself at an outside table, read the small, handwritten menu, asked for the wifi password, and generally made myself at home.

I ordered a restorative and, after some deliberation, decided upon the Caramelle pasta with cheese and pear mascarpone in a gorganzola sauce.

The waitress brought me some crusty bread and grated Parmesan cheese.

I'm confident that my dish was freshly prepared, though I don't know whether the pasta was made in advance or not. It tasted very fresh to me.




Chef introduced himself to me afterwards, given that I had complimented them on the meal, and apprised me that cooking pasta was his hobby.

He was a cheerful, jolly, bearded, large kind of fellow, a fortunate circumstance for his patrons.

Needless to say, the pasta was sumptuous, especially given the price, €10; and the G&T, €4.

I look forward to revisiting Punta Dell'Est.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Café Condensado


I'm not a coffee snob.

At Belmont GHQ tea is normally consumed.

However, I find it logistically easier and simpler to drink coffee abroad, if I'm making it myself.

My hotel bedroom has a kettle, so I popped over to the supermarket, bought a small jar of coffee (Nescafé Classic is infinitely superior to the version at home in the UK).

I also purchased a bottle of leche condensada, which substitutes for milk and sugar.

It gives the coffee a sweet, creamy flavour, which suits me.

Bagus Revisited


My plan last night was foiled.

The intention had been to dine at El Mentidero, a very small café in the centre of El Cotillo; though I was eventually to discover that it's a daytime café; as is Puerto Dulce.

These are both well rated establishments; however, El Mentidero opens from 8am till 4pm.

Puerto Dulce is open from 10am until 6pm.

I usually prefer to dine later than his, so I ended up revisiting Bagus.

I wasn't disappointed.

This evening I had The Winderness hamburger, a meaty pattie with plenty of mushrooms, tomato, cheese and lettuce.

There was a garnish of skinny chips, home-made though a bit greasy.

By Jove, I could show them how to make great, British, chunky, triple-cooked chips: crunchy and dry on the exterior; meltingly soft inside.

The bill was cheaper than last night: €8.20 for the burger; a few euros for the mango juice.


Thereafter I removed to Ferret's bar for a tangy Mojito.

They have two resident cats, both of which seem to dislike each other.

This is hardly surprising, for, unless cats are closely related - offspring, siblings - they tend merely to tolerate their peers.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Bagus



This evening I dined simply at a beach bar-restaurant outside El Cotillo called Bagus.

I gather this is an Indonesian word meaning Agreeable, yummy, tasty, in a gastronomic context.

Bagus is so small that all the tables and chairs are outside.

Inside, if that's appropriate, we have the galley kitchen behind a counter.

I sat at one of the wooden tables overlooking the beach, with my face to the sun.


Having enjoyed an alcoholic refresher, I perused the menu, a piece of white paper attached to a wooden board with the items typed in black ink.

While this may sound elementary, the list of items was remarkably imaginative.

I'll take a photograph of it next time.


I opted for one of the dearest items, the Tuna Sashimi.

I must have been feeling adventurous.

In the interim I chatted to other patrons at adjoining tables.

One surfer dude was getting stuck in to a particularly juicy, thick beef hamburger with all the trimmings.

He told me it was the Bagus Burger. 

I had spotted it on the menu and it cost €8.

My tuna sashimi arrived duly and initially it appeared not akin to a generous starter, rather than the main course.

I enjoyed it. Considerable diligence had gone into its preparation and execution.

The bill was more than I expected: the tuna was, I think, €11.50; the two gins, €13.

I'll definitely revisit Bagus, though I'll wear something warmer because when the sun goes down, the temperature naturally drops accordingly.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Two Million

The blog has surpassed two million visits or hits, in a cumulative sense, since December, 2007.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Sottovento Restaurant


So far it has been somewhat overcast at El Cotillo. However, I managed to spent about five hours at the little beach near my hotel.

If you've been following my narrative, I've apprised readers that the Soul Surfer is a quirky little establishment.

They have one or two of those cylindrical, plastic laundry containers; though there is no soiled linen therein.

Instead there are surplus bottles of sun-cream, Nivea cream ... You get the jist.

Obviously residents don't wish to bring this stuff home with them, so they altruistically leave it for others' benefit.

I have made use of it.

This evening I walked along the sea-front for about five minutes until I reached an Italian restaurant called Sottovento.

I read that they specialise in fresh pasta.

I sat at a table overlooking the sea, ordered a restorative, and perused their menu.

Following a leisurely sip or two of the gin and tonic-water, I hailed he waiter and ordered the Garlic Prawns; followed by the tagliatelle with Gorgonzola and walnuts.

The ubiquitous bread rolls appeared, as did a jar of grated Parmesan cheese.


When the prawns arrived they weren't sizzling, though I can vouch for their succulence and flavour.

Belmont relished the first course, somewhat akin to the proverbial Ulster snow off a ditch.


Next in line was the main event: the fresh pasta.

I can tell you that I enjoy hearty portions of pasta. Over a year ago I dined at an Italian establishment in County Antrim ( I shan't be more specific than that) and their portion of pasta might have satisfied the appetite of a sparrow.

Sottovento gives patrons their money's-worth.

I almost had to loosen my belt by a notch.

Mind you, I merely managed to do it justice and cleared my plate. 

The bill amounted to €24.

El Goloso


It was slightly chilly at eight o'clock this morning. 

Many of the little cafés open about this time, and there were eight or nine customers waiting outside El Goloso del Cotillo when I arrived.

This is quite a captivating little corner patisserie and boulangerie near the beach on the outskirts of the village.


Fresh bread, exquisite and dainty cakes, fruit tartlets, rolls, tea, coffee are all served here.

It's a rustic and unpretentious sort of place: Sit here and observe all kinds of Humanity coming and going.


I ordered some wholemeal bread, toasted, with butter and jam; and a cup of tea.

I know to ask for "pan integral" which means wholemeal bread.

The assistant showed me a freshly-baked French-style loaf and inquired if I'd like it cut in the middle or from the side.


Two slices of it, and the cup of tea, cost €3.25.

If I'd arrived fifteen minutes later I'd have managed to avoid the initial queue, because there were a mere two people in El Goloso.

I suppose I'm a bit of an early bird.