Tag Archives: Granada

rio verde, granada, spain, junta de los rios, andalucia, lagoon, waterfall, otivar

Day Trip to Rio Verde, Granada

It’s summer. It’s hot, sticky, sweaty and insufferable. It’s hitting 45ºC almost every day and nearly impossible to sleep. It’s not even August yet. So thank God that I am not in Spain.

I love the heat, but perspire even at the thought of such insane temperatures. No, Spanish summertime is not for me. Instead, I retreat to the cooler shores of the UK, where, in Oxford, I teach English to Chinese and Japanese undergraduates who don’t find Alan Partridge funny.

alanpartridge Day Trip to Rio Verde, Granada

Alan

But if you are in Spain, and looking for a way to escape the heat that doesn’t involve crowded beaches or public swimming pools, then my advice is to grab as much food and beer as possible,  jump in a car, drive or be driven out to the sticks and find either a fresh water lake or lagoon, preferably with a waterfall. Then stay there until you’ve finished all your food and beer (and get someone else to drive back).

It’s actually a lot easier than you think to find one of these nirvanas. A few weeks ago I posted about Lake Bermejales– an enormous, emerald-blue fresh water lake near Alhama de Granada. It’s perfect for a summer day trip and a hundred times better than the sandy (or pebbly) and salty beach.

Our original plan that weekend, however, had been to go to another idyllic spot on the radar: Rio Verde. I say ‘spot’, but a river is of course much bigger/longer than a spot. What I actually mean is a secret and isolated lagoon with waterfalls you can jump from, like that scene in The Beach only a little less terrifying.

beach waterfall Day Trip to Rio Verde, Granada

The waterfall where Leo and French pals jumped from in The Beach. Ballsy.

So we went next weekend instead.

The drive from Granada to Otívar, the nearest village to the river, takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but finding the turn-off to Palacete de Cazulas was another matter entirely. When we eventually did manage to find it (SatNav hasn’t got a clue out here) and started to creep our way down, the road became extremely narrow and quite disconcerting. In fact, were it not for the fact we were in a 4×4 I doubt we’d have made it. If you don’t have a 4×4 you’d be better off parking sooner rather than later, lest you can’t get back up again.

Before we left our vehicle we loaded up on water and sun cream– very important in this heat –and then made our way along the river bank on foot for twenty minutes, picking avocados and fresh figs as we went, until we came upon a large, stone dam. On the other side was pure bliss: a turquoise blue lagoon, fed by two waterfalls that had formed through the dam wall.

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The River Walk

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There was nothing else; just us, the lagoon and nature. However, it quickly dawned on us that we hadn’t actually found the lagoon we’d been looking for– La Junta de los Rios –but we couldn’t have cared less; this was perfect and there was no-one else around to share it with. Just as well, since there is only space for about six people to sit on the facing rocks.

We strayed a little further down the river later on, where we found more avocado and fig trees, but couldn’t bare the thought of leaving our find behind. We stayed all afternoon, some of us posing elegantly beneath the waterfalls (see below), and we never saw another soul.

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The Lagoon

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The Climb…

The Dive!

 

Later research revealed that we should have continued past the exit we took and taken the next one just beyond it, where there is apparently a ticket booth and a safe place to park. From here it’s a 6km walk to La Junta de los Rios, but you need to be in good shape and have your wits about you since the ground is not even and previous flash floods have caused severe erosion. There are some tour companies based in Granada who offer adventure-style excursions– rafting, canyoning, climbing and so on –and will take care of all the navigation for you, not to mention provide you with a surely unforgettable experience!

Rio Verde is an exceptionally beautiful area and perfect for a day trip and escaping the crowds. Just go prepared and be extra careful with those rocky roads…

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Did I not mention I do casual work for Herbal Essences?

Getting there

From Granada, there are two possible routes to Otívar. The easiest is probably taking the E-902/A44 towards Motril, then, exiting from the A7, follow the SO-22, SO-14 and SO-02 to Otívar. This last leg of the journey takes you right through the heart of rugged, rural Andalucían countryside. It’s incredible.

Have you been anywhere like this in Spain? What other alternatives to the beach are out there? Let’s hear your suggestions!

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impresiones gigantes, art, arte, granada, mural, mosaic

‘Impresiones Gigantes’: A Fresh Take on Live Art

The clue is in the name. Impresiones Gigantes, a collective made up of artists from Granada and beyond, don’t go about their work quietly. Instead, they bring their art to life right in front of you, in the street, with the help of solid teamwork, an abundance of paint and a great big, hissing steamroller. Yes, a steamroller! The point, after all, is to make a big impression.

Ameer Hogg, one of the collective and fellow Granada-based guiri, kindly provided his insight on the live event and the long, intricate process that goes into crafting their work.

Brace yourselves…

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Ameer takes a closer look at a work in process

Blasting out it’s brilliant imagery, the increasingly popular ‘Impresiones Gigantes’ event in Granada is now in its third, fruitful year.

Impresiones started three years ago, bringing a new perspective on live art events in the streets of Granada by using a steam-roller to churn out print after print for excited onlookers. We each demonstrate our different skills in the street, revealing and teaching our process right in front of our audience, with the goal of inspiring others to grab a roller and some ink.

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The artistry doesn’t only take place in the live street event itself, but also in the initial craftwork that each of us are consumed by in the build up to the big day. Each member has their own methods, but with core tools in common; cuts of linoleum and a set of gauges. Many seasoned artists from all over contribute and there is a whole section of international prints, one of which was raffled off to a fortunate winner at this year’s event.

To begin with, each artist works on their own piece individually. These can vary in size; the novice members of the group make small 5×5 inch images, while core members produce the huge 3mx1m prints. Once our images have left the drawing boards and hit the linos, we get together and begin the careful cutting and gauging process. The value of accuracy at this stage really depends on each art piece and imperfections are often welcomed– a notion that many artists of other art forms will second. A great deal of care is needed at this stage too; the slightest slip with the gauge in the wrong direction can take your protagonist’s nose clean off! Some of us take as long as three weeks– going at it four to six hours a day –just cutting, as the many different movements of line and incongruent forms ultimately make for a cornucopia of image styles.

The cuts are then transported down to Paseo de Salon on the day of the event and inked up using a series of hand-held rollers. Like experiencing a gig by your favourite band, the real effect of our work hits home when you see it live.

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The intrigued crowd swells, all eyes on the giant steamroller. The keys are turned and a low grumbling sound fills the air. More people are lured in. We grab the ready-inked print and carry it over to the runway where the trusty engine roller will drive right over it. We throw on a couple of layers consisting of paper, plastics and the long white, blank canvas itself, soon to be a work of art. The roller eeks back and forth readying itself for the run, like a raging bull facing the matador. The engine kicks in and the murmuring is drowned out with an almighty roar. With a blast of exhaust fumes and a tip of the driver’s hat, the beast of a machine grinds towards the print. The crowd watch with a curious look of excitement and bewilderment as it slowly flattens the intricate work. At this point, some spectators are assuming this is some conceptual work in which we crush beautiful images with a device that resembles a mini tank. As it rolls back, however, there are sighs of relief and joy as we lift the canvas to reveal a huge, fresh, gorgeous print.

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More often than not, the crudest images come out the best. “One of my favourites was actually made by a lad of about six” says Brian Barry, the events founder and organiser, “just two penguins with brilliant little expressions on their faces. We all loved it.”

One after the other, the cuts are inked in a conveyer-belt style production line. The roller soldiers on in the baking sun as new waves of onlookers gasp and smirk with surprise. This goes on from the break of day until dawn, with a complex mosaic print of all the novice prints conjured up for our fans as a grand finale at sunset. After the dust settles, the prints are hung from the nearby palm trees for all to see.

Who would want to miss such a big impression?

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For more information and pictures you can visit the Impresiones Gigantes website or get in touch with Ameer through his own film-making site or at ameerhogg(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Escuela Delengua, Granada

A Different Sort of Spanish Course at Delengua, Granada

I’ve lost count of the amount of classes, teachers, textbook and online practice exams that have contributed to my learning of Spanish.

I’d be lying if I said that these approaches haven’t helped– I owe a lot to the traditional method –but after three years it all becomes a bit of a bore. There’s only so much sitting quietly as the teacher explains yet another reason for using the subjunctive I can take, so I quite happily jilted Spanish classes a few months ago when I felt I could take no more.

Last month, however, I was invited by Escuela Delengua to participate in a week-long course, here in Granada, which offered an alternative learning approach– and here’s the best bit –outside of the classroom.

Fun Spanish! Yes!

The course content– environment and sustainability –appealed to me too. Although it’s not something I’m usually too proactive about, I still do my bit: recycling, cutting carbon emissions, taking 6-minute showers (is that quick?) etc, so I was sure I would find the course rewarding for both my Spanish and personal growth.

Further reading revealed that the course would involve educational visits to areas of the Albaicín barrio that I had never been to before and even a trip to La Cortijuela, the Sierra Nevada’s botanical garden. The schedule aligned perfectly with my regular working hours so accepting the proposal was a no-brainer.

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Granada, Spain

Our group was small– six in total –and someone was nearly always sick, late or lost, so we received close attention form the participating teachers and guides throughout the duration of the course.

The week began with a fascinating tour of my own hood, the Albaicín, with stop-offs at numerous but now disused Aljibes– traditional and canalised water depositories that were used during the Moorish era. We learnt about what materials were used to make them, cal (clay) and argamasa (mortar) for example, and the genius thinking behind the construction process. The day was capped off with a visit to Granada’s Centro de Interpretación del Agua– once the nucleus of the city’s water distribution network and now a museum festooned with a beautiful huerto a huge and extremely flowery garden.

On Tuesday we were taken to a presentation about the ecological damage in the Vega de Granada– a green area within the city –and various methods that have been initiated to help curb it and prevent even more. Then we were shown around a laboratory with a couple of massive microscopes, the purposes of which were explained in great detail, though I have to admit this part went straight over my head. I was far more interested in the ecological goods store we visited afterwards, where I stocked up on organic, dried apple and cinnamon cereal, ginger and lemon biscuits and my favourite Granadina cerveza– Mamooth –which until then I had no idea was brewed ecologically.

 

It rained on Wednesday, meaning our trip to the Jardín Botánico de La Cortijuela in the Sierra Nevada was regrettably ruined. Not that we knew it until we arrived, when the rain turned into cats and dogs. Juani, our guide, did his best to animate us and we managed about an hour before retreating back to the van but nevertheless took away some fascinating new knowledge of the Sierra Nevada’s botanical past.

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La Cortijuela, Sierra Nevada, Spain

The mountain range was formed by the collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates during the Tertiary Period, and is really an extension of the Rif mountains in Morocco. Years after the continents parted, during the last ice age, more plant species emmigrated south in order to escape the colder climate in the north. When the climate grew warmer again, these new species were able to survive by taking refuge in the mountains. As a result, there are now around 2,100 plant species in the Sierra Nevada; more than are found in the whole of the British Isles. Typical then, that I can only recall one without researching them– the Barberry Plant, which smells like bubblegum.

On Thursday morning we visited the Diputación de Granada for a talk on renewable energy sources and how, if proper legislation were passed, we could save a colossal amount of energy through ‘cleaner’ and cheaper methods. The building showcases one such method: a solar powered installation comprised of 72 panels, generating around 10-15% of the building’s power.

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The Solar-powered energy source of la Diputación de Granada

Friday was my favourite day by far. We began with a visit to the University owned Carmen de la Victoria, another outdoor garden filled with orchards, flowers and fountains. Next we were shown around a typical Moorish home, also in the Carmen style, by the Gitana lady who lived there. It was fascinating to learn how they still lived with the same insulation mechanisms as their ancestors did hundreds of years before them.

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Later in the afternoon we visited another lady’s home, this time one with a cave in it! This is not an uncommon household feature in Granada’s Albaicín barrio, and this one had been restored from ruins and converted into a bedroom and even a bar. I would love to say that I lived in a cave. It would be incredibly cool. Literally, as the temperature inside stays at around 17-18ºC all year round due to the clay coating of the rocks.

 

To finish the week in style, we, along with all other classes at the academy, were invited back to Delengua Academy for a tapa and wine tasting evening. The event was hosted by Granada-based José Mendez Moya, a sole wine trader who produces wine using only ecological harvesting and fermentation methods. Luckily for us, he brought about 40 bottles of the stuff with him, spanning five varieties. All were divine and 100% organic, and the fermentation process of each was explained in detail before being poured, though I must admit my concentration level began to falter as the night wore on…

 

By the end I had chatted to just about every other student and teacher in the room, and reached the same conclusion with every one of them: Delengua was a fantastic academy and not only taught Spanish in a fun way but went the extra mile to ensure students had a great time outside of class too.

Many thanks to Manuel, José, Juani and José Mendez for their contributions to a week that taught me more than a few neat things about my own backyard!

Delengua offer a range of intensive Spanish courses, ideal to get you off to a winning start if you plan to stay in Spain for a while. Courses last from one week to twelve months and take place all year round. Click here to find out more information.

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Alhambra Palace Granada Spain

Make Savings on Your Trip to Andalucía

Andalucía, the second largest and most visited autonomous region of Spain, is a rich haven of fascinating landmarks and monuments. From Granada’s illustrious Alhambra Palace and Sierra Nevada mountain range to the Picasso museum of Malaga and the world’s third largest cathedral in Seville, holidaymakers are never short of things to see and do.

Quite predictably, it can be rather difficult– and often costly –to cram all these sights into an already jam-packed itinerary, especially when tackling it all solo. Buying online is the best way to ensure things run smoothly and setbacks such as sold out ticket offices and language barriers are avoided, even though buying online usually means paying over the odds.

However, with TicketBar.eu, not only can you buy online beforehand and save yourself a few headaches but you actually receive discounts, group offers and the chance to jump the often snaking queues at all the major attractions. Spain For Pleasure has teamed up with ticketbar.eu to help bring you the best attractions Andalucía has to offer at the best possible prices.

Granada

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Granada seen from the Torre de la Vela – the highest point of The Alhambra

A guided tour at The Alhambra Palace typically costs €43, but with TicketBar you will pay €37. You’ll also make a saving of €6 on a regular tour with audio guide and be able to skip the queue.

Other options in Granada include the Alhambra + Flamenco Show + Dinner package, Hop on Hop off City Bus Tour, Historic Granada Tour and even a day trip to the Costa Tropical and Nerja Caves– all at discounted rates.

Seville

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Sevilla (Source)

TicketBar offers even more discounted tours in Seville, from Classic Sevilla, Historic Sevilla, Hop on Hop off Bus, Guadalquivir Cruise and a ‘bike tapas’ tour. There are even day trip packages to Cádiz, Jerez, Doñana and Córdoba.

Malaga

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Teatro Romano, Malaga (Source)

Although not quite as luring on historic and architectural merit when compared with Granada and Sevilla, Malaga still boasts its own selection of sights. TicketBar offer four cut-price tours in Malaga: The Hop on Hop off Bus (including a stop-off at the Roman Theatre), The Highlights Bike Tour (including a stop-off at Picasso’s birthplace), The Malaga Tapas Bike Tour and Bike Tour of Malaga FC’s stadium for visiting football fans.

TicketBar operate tours in more than 30 other cities around the world. Visit their website here to book your discounted tour in Andalucía, whatever and wherever it may be.

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el albaycin, alhambra, granada, spain

Win FREE Flights to Granada!

This is a slightly modified reblog of a post from Cheeky Jaunt – a new, part-time travel blog that desperately wants you to enter its one-off giveaway:

A return flight to Malaga (with bus transfer to Granada) and 3 nights’ accommodation!!

 

omg cat Win FREE Flights to Granada!

I kid you not. All you have to do to enter into the draw is:

1. ‘Like’ Cheeky Jaunt on Facebook.

2. Share the original blog post on Facebook (or Twitter via @CheekyJaunt) with your own personal tagline.

3. Subscribe to Cheeky Jaunt, either via Email, RSS or WordPress (I promise I won’t spam you).

4. Register that you have entered on Rafflecopter by clicking here.

 

The return flight would be with an airline of my choice from any UK or Spanish airport that flies direct to Malaga (please go to rafflecopter.com for all of the terms and conditions of the giveaway).

The accommodation will be provided by the fun, funky and friendly White Nest Hostel, one of Hostelworld’s and TripAdvisor’s top-rated with 85% and 90% respectively. It is nestled within the lower part of the famous Albaícin barrio of Granada and offers incredible views of the stunning Alhambra Palace, daily excursions (all free), very clean and comfortable beds/facilities and an enviable atmosphere. I have stayed at this hostel myself and was extremely happy with my experience. Click here to read some of past guests’ glowing reviews.

 

In case you need persuading, there is a glut of reasons for why you should enter and be in with a chance of winning a completely FREE trip to Granada – just have a poke around this blog and you’ll see. In the meantime, here are five of them, in no particular order:

The Architecture

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Plaza de Armas, Alhambra

Thirteen centuries ago, much of southern Spain was invaded and subsequently ruled by The Moors– a medieval, Islamic race from Northern Africa, for the best part of 800 years. During this period, Spanish customs were all but lost to Moorish practices, including the design and structuring of buildings, the absolute iconic reminder of which is The Alhambra Palace. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and regularly listed as one of those ‘Top 30 Things to See before You Die’ sort of things. This Moorish influence extends into the city too, most noticeably within the Albaícin bario, where you would be staying were you to win the prize…

The Culture

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Although the native Spanish Catholics retook Andalucía (Granada was the last stronghold of the Moors) way back at the end of the 15th century, much of the Arabic influence – other than the Alhambra – has stayed behind. These days, the city boasts an eclectic mix of Arabic, traditional Spanish, Gypsy and cosmopolitain cultures, which combine to create something very special indeed. There are often free parties held in the overlooking wooded area of San Miguel Alto.

The Sierra Nevada

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Not one hour down the road is Granada’s stunning mountain range, the Sierra Nevada. Here you can ski, go hiking, kayaking, rafting or just admire the views. The ski-season tends not to last as long as it does in the Alps, nor is the snow quite as fluffy and durable, but given that it is in the south of Spain, where – frankly – skiing isn’t exactly the first pastime that springs to mind, one can’t really complain.

The Beaches

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La Herradura, Costa Tropical, Granada

Oh yes. And there are beaches too – just 45 minutes away by car in the other direction. In fact, an outing to both the Sierra Nevada and the beach is possible on the same day, should you wish to take on such an endeavour. Though Granada’s beaches are stonier than they are sandy, I for one find that this isn’t necessarily a shortcoming; sand gets in your beach garb, your iPod, your lunch, your ears, your everywhere basically. Stones don’t. Salobreña (pictured) is Granada’s nearest beach, where – aside from sunbathing – you can throw yourself off big, gnarly cliffs (into the sea of course) and chow down on freshly barbecued squid for the afternoon.

The Free Food

Al Sur de Granada Win FREE Flights to Granada!

Tapas at Al Sur de Granada, Source

Tapas is something I’m sure all of you are familiar with, though free tapas might not be. Here in Granada, the locals are evidently inclined to abide by long-standing traditions, since tapas was – up until the advent of tourism – always served free with a drink. A beer or glass of wine sets you back around €2, and with that you’ll be gifted a tapa which, depending on where you go, can be anything from a thick slab of Spanish Tortilla to a Thai Chicken Curry. There is such thing as a free lunch.

So I repeat – all you have to do is:

1. ‘Like’ Cheeky Jaunt on Facebook.

2. Share the original blog post on Facebook (or Twitter via @CheekyJaunt) with your own personal tagline.

3. Subscribe to Cheeky Jaunt, either via Email, RSS or WordPress (I promise I won’t spam you).

4. Register that you have entered on Rafflecopter by clicking here.

The giveaway is already 10 days old, meaning that there are just two weeks and five days remaining (providing that the minimum number of entrants are reached). So I implore you, enter now!

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el nino de las pinturas, el niño de las pinturas, graffiti, granada, spain, españa, violin

CBBH Photo Challenge: Street Art

For months now, I’ve been meaning to get involved with Marianne’s (of East Of Malaga) monthly photo challenge. I suppose I hadn’t until today because I don’t really fancy myself as a great photographer. I take pictures of what I like, edit them, stick a few in a blog post slideshow and that’s about it. My thought process rarely extends beyond that. This month’s theme though – ‘Street Art’ – got me interested. I mean, how couldn’t I participate, given that we in Granada are fortuitous enough to have El Niño de las Pinturas among us. This guy has been smearing Granada’s dull, lifeless walls with his vivid and magnetising imagination for 20 years now. Exactly 20 years, in fact; a documentary about him was made and premiered last weekend in a local realejo bar (my neck of the woods). He has daubed countless pieces in that time, and to choose my two favourites has been virtually impossible! So I chose four instead. Is that cheating? Marianne? In any case, I absolutely adore the style and depth in all of them, and particularly the interpretation in the one of the giraffe. For a look at other examples of his work see my original post here.

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‘Cansao de no encontrar respuesta, decidí cambiar mis preguntas’ (Tired of not finding an answer, I decided to change my questions)

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La Violinista joven

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El Girafe

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La Violinista mayor

But the CBBH Photo Challenge is more than just an opportunity to show off your camera skills; it is a blog hop as well. The first ‘C’ and ‘B’, after all, do stand for conejo blanco (white rabbit). So each post posted in response to Marianne’s original post must include two links to two other blogs that the blogger has visited and commented on in the last month, so that his/her readers can ‘hop’ over to some unchartered corner of the frankly enormous blogosphere. It’ all about helping each other out you see. And we’re good at that in Spain.

So I will take this opportunity to direct you to Clare of Need Another Holiday. Clare’s blog, much like my own, new blog, focuses on part-time travel, as opposed to those that celebrate a nomadic and often vagrant existence. She has been all over. But mostly Greece. She absolutely loves Greece.

Secondly, I’d like to shout out to a blogger who has really wowed me with her vlog series recently. Jess, of HolaYessica!, blogs about Barcelona and various Spanish escapades. Her output rate is frankly unbelievable and her style and writing standards never falter. She’s also – fittingly – excellent with a camera. So go and say hi, and tell her that I sent you!

If you want to take part in the CBBH Photo Challenge, just head over to Marianne’s blog and read on. It’s fun and gives you a chance to share those pics that deserve to be seen!

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