One Day at a Time: The Inspirational Story of P.

I have never witnessed anyone fight for their life in such a positive and courageous manner. He has the most amazing strength out of anyone I know and has taught me the most valuable lesson I have ever learnt and that is: no matter how big the problem, no matter how much you have to suffer, you must always believe there will be a positive ending and never lose your sense of humor or your happiness.

Some of you may recognise this quote from my very first post in this section of my blog. A section I dedicated to one of the most remarkable people I have ever met in my life and his courageous battle to not only survive but live life to the fullest.

Sadly, as you probably guessed from my radio silence, on the 4th February 2013 P, my father, lost his long battle with cancer, a battle he refused to give into. One which he woke up to everyday without a single complaint. Never once did he moan, let on he was sick, weak, in pain, frustrated or angry, feelings which would have only been human. Instead; he woke up every day with a smile on his face and would turn to my mother and say “how great is it that I get to spend one more day with you” then he would get up, smiling, give her a big hug and go into the sitting room and spend the day smiling, joking and refusing to let cancer get the better of him.

The story of P is one I want to write for several reasons. Firstly because I never want to let myself forget what a remarkable man my father was. Secondly because I want his family to have his story. Thirdly to share the story with those of you who are going through a similar thing, sadly cancer is a huge part of society nowadays, there are too many victims of this disease and I want you to know that you´re not alone.

It´s funny, if you had asked me when I was younger what my father´s biggest flaw was I would have immediately turned to you and said without a doubt his stubbornness. My father was an incredible man; he was kind, he was optimistic, funny, lively and above all; loving but, like every single person out there, he had his flaws. Flaws, like his stubbornness, which I have inherited. A few years ago his stubbornness drove me up the wall, due to how similar we were in personality it meant that when we disagreed over something, granted it was rare, both of us were too stubborn to give in and wound each other up no end. Now I look at his stubbornness and I admire it, respect it and see that sometimes, what you consider to be somebody´s flaw might actually be one of their most admirable qualities. In the end, dad´s stubbornness was what kept him alive, what kept him happy and what allowed him to keep pushing through even when it was against all odds. He was too stubborn to give up and I will always remember him for that, always. I know that if the shoe was on the other foot I would have thrown the towel in, I wouldn´t have been strong enough to go through everything he did and still come out smiling and happy to be alive.

One thing that has to be said about my dad, all through his life, is that he was one of the most vivacious, fun-loving people you could come across. I always describe him as a child trapped in an adult´s body. No matter what my dad was doing, whether it was walking hand in hand with my mother or being hosed down by the fire brigade at las fallas, he was in his element. He found the joy in everything, appreciated everything and had this passion for life that refused to die even in the toughest of times. He was the sort of person who spoke to everyone, was brutally honest with everyone (which sometimes got him in trouble) and was remembered by everyone he met. He had the biggest heart, whether you were family or just friends it didn´t matter to him, once you were in his life that was it; he would do anything for you, sometimes too much, and never expect anything in return except a smile.

That was one of the nicest things that we learnt after his passing. While we always knew my dad had helped people and touched people´s lives; we didn´t know to what extent until people started coming forward and sharing stories with us. Some of whom we, my mum and I, didn´t even know. It´s funny though, I´m convinced that my dad died unaware of this. He was a man who saw the negative in himself instead of the positive. If he had done a hundred good things and just one bad thing, he´d focus on the bad thing and forget just how good a man he was.

It´s strange, he took his illness as a sort of penance for his sins in life. Something that, if you knew him you would know was ridiculous, but it was how he felt and that was why he was able to deal with it in such a positive manner.

Not only did my dad have a passion for life but also for rugby. He lived for rugby. When he was younger he played rugby, sadly I wasn´t around to witness this, and people still talk about how talented he was at the sport. This talent and passion lived on right to the end. I have some great memories of going to Munster matches with him, talking to the players with him, even watching matches on television with him. When he came to Spain his love for rugby continued and in our local he was called “Rugby Joe”. I often wonder how he didn´t get a heart attack at matches; he was so involved in what was happening.

The extend of his passion can be shown in this story. On the 3rd of February my dad was extremely weak and sick, I had spoken to him on Skype and he had told me that he was fine, my dads famous words, but he wasn´t. Mum had been in contact with me to tell me that I needed to make my way home that he was really bad and that she was bringing him to hospital. However, dad being dad, agreed he needed to go to hospital but said that there was no rush that he would go once the Ireland match was over. Sick as he was, he still found pleasure in rugby and didn´t see why him feeling sick should get in the way of that. Seven hours later my dad passed away.

One thing, despite any of his flaws, that I will always remember about my dad is his ability to love and to express his love. I feel so lucky to have had a dad who not only told me how much he loved me everyday but also showed me. His hugs are one of the things I miss the most, he had this way of squeezing you so tightly that you felt every inch of his love for you. Even when he was angry and knew that he had done something that had upset you or said something he shouldn´t have, you knew how much he loved you because you could see just how hurt he was because he had hurt you.

My dad will always be someone who I will think of and smile and say yes my dad might not have been perfect, yes my dad might have done things that hurt me or my family from time to time but my dad loved me with every inch of his body, my dad taught me to live life to the fullest, to smile through my problems, to fight for happiness, to fight for love, to fight to be heard, to fight to be myself and to be as loving and caring as I can be.

I think that my dad was such an inspirational man. He had his problems, his regrets but he never let them control his life. He had this way of looking at life that I both admire and envy because I know that no matter how hard I try to have his outlook, I will never be as content as he was. He saw life as something that was out of his control, something that was fleeting and something that had to be enjoyed while you were in it. And my dad sure as hell enjoyed his life. He was the most grateful and excitable man I have ever met. I mean what other person on this planet would turn around to their wife after she giving him his medication, or feeding him through his tube and say thank you? Most people would take that for granted, but not my dad.

So what have I learnt from him? The most important thing is to love with all my heart. My parents relationship is one I will always admire. My dad loved my mum with all of his heart and never let her forget that. Sure they had their ups and downs like every relationship does but their love was something that was never questioned. He never feared being in love and never felt the need to keep it to himself. He idolised my mum and treated me like a princess.

Another thing is that everyone has flaws but flaws don´t define a person but rather the kindness in their hearts. My dad did and said a lot of things which he regretted in life but at the end of the day all those things get forgotten about and what is remembered is not your flaws but how you treated people. My dad was a gentleman, without drink, and that is what is will always be remembered as.

Lastly; live life to the full. Everyone has problems, everyone goes through bad times but it´s getting through them with a smile on your face and knowing that yeah times are hard but f**k it, I´m going to get through this and I´m going to do it with a smile on my face, that´s what counts. Life is extremely short, too short and the more time you waste wallowing and saying if only, why this, why me the less time you have to enjoy it and be happy.

So this is my tribute story to my father. It´s not a story that does him justice, no story of mine could, but it is a glimpse of his personality and his courage and strength. A few years ago if you told me that I was like my father I would have done anything to correct my flaws. However, now if you told me I took after him I would be honoured. My dad is my flawed hero. a person I would be proud to turn out like. I´m glad to have inherited his stubbornness, his temper, his childlike excitability, his laugh, his smile and his softness when it comes to people. These are things that when I was younger I hated having got from him but now am happy to have them. His flaws are my flaws now, a part of him will always be with me that way, never forgotten.

I will be continuing my one day at a time series as I have planned to visited all the places my dad had on his list and these places, these trips, belong in this section as they were inspired by him and dreamed of by him.

I hope you liked my little glimpse into my father´s life. I´ve kept it short and to the point. I´ve been blessed to have him as a father and for the family that I have. Thank you to my mum and both sides of the family for your constant support, and to all my friends who have been rocks to me throughout all of this.

Happy 5_Snapseed

As always, thank you for reading, and I will talk to you in my next post.

Giana xoxo

One Day At A Time: Callosa, Part 1.

From a beautiful, melancholic City to an impressive waterfall; our next stop on our adventure brought us to the quaint little village of Callosa de’n Sarria. The Costa Blanca is famed for its long, sandy beaches and high summer temperatures, and so it should be: they´re fantastic; however, they pale in comparison to the cool, crisp waters of this mountain village. If you are looking for something a little different from what the standard sun, sea and sand holiday has to offer then look no further than Callosa de´n Sarria and its beautiful Fuentes del Algar!

Last Monday morning P,J and I set off on an adventure. We had wanted to visit Callosa and Guadalest, a town located some ten minutes from Callosa, for a number of years now but, between everything, never got the chance to. So; we decided that Monday was going to be the day to change all that! As they are both mountain villages we decided to give Betsy, our car, a break and take a tour bus!

I must say it was a fantastic idea, Betsy  would have really struggled on the steep mountain roads and the service that Coach Trips Costa Blanca provided was just fantastic. The tour guide, a lovely bubbly girl from Venezuela, was great; not only did she offer a fantastic run down of each area we passed but also was great to P. She arranged for him to have the front seats to himself, got him a private area in the restaurant and made sure that he got the most out of the trip that he could! It was a completely stress free day and extremely enjoyable. It´s amazing how kind people made such a huge difference to any journey!

The first stop of the morning was Las Fuentes del Algar! We arrived there at about 10.30 in the morning and were told that we had an hour and a half to explore this beautiful area; however, if I´m honest, this wasn´t enough time for me. First we went to the restaurant located at the foot of the waterfalls. We had been told by our guide to go there first as the tickets are half price there and, more importantly, they do the best muffins in the area. Never one to turn down a good muffin I jumped at the chance to try one; they really are worth the hype, fantastic!

Nonetheless, this took a good twenty minutes of our time which meant we only had an hour to enjoy the area, such a shame! This wouldn´t be the only problem we would encounter. After a two-man horsepower journey up a steep hill with the wheelchair we reached the entrance of the waterfalls only to discover that, not only was the whole area on a steep hill but the only access was by stairs, slight problem when you are in a wheelchair. I have to say we were slightly disappointed as we had asked when booking the tour if it was suitable for wheelchairs and we were told that it was, such a pity. Anyway, due to the stairs, P didn´t get to see much of the waterfalls. We were able to rest him at the foot of one of the more beautiful ones but for him, as you can imagine, it wasn´t the same as getting to see the whole experience. So; that is my one bit of advice, if you are not very mobile, even if your are not in a wheelchair but have difficulties with stairs, then I would avoid this area. You´ll only be disappointed otherwise.

Despite our little set back P insisted that J and I saw what was to be seen in this little bit of paradise but on one condition: that I took as many photos as possible so we could share the experience with him afterwards! What a great condition, I do love taking photographs. So off we went to see what awaited us behind the waterfall. Wow, that´s all I can say: wow. It was such a tranquil oasis, while it was full of people everywhere you turned; it didn´t seem to make a difference. Everyone was so relaxed and overwhelmed by what lay before them that no one dared ruin it.

Not only are there impressive waterfalls but also ice cool streams, beautiful flora, striking trees and craggy banks all of which are set against the austere backdrop of the local mountain range; awe-inspiring. The only noise to be heard is the wind rustling through the trees, the calming sound of the water flowing through the rocks, the birds in the trees and the splash of people jumping into the cool water followed by the odd scream or giggle due to the immense chill of the water!

It´s the first place I´ve visited in a long time where everyone was smiling. The young people were giddy from the enticing cool waters, the older people mesmerised by the beauty of what lay before them. It´s a great escape from the realities of life, so peaceful, so relaxing, so enjoyable. It was horrible that we only had an hour to enjoy it!

While it´s not a particularly large area; you do need more than an hour to make the most of it! While I loved every minute I was there I felt like I didn´t get the full experience as I was rushing through it, trying to see it all before it was time to get back to the bus. It seemed such a shame, I would have loved to have joined the numerous people who bathed in the inviting waters or spread out on one of the many rocks which were perfectly situated under the shade of the trees and listened to the water flowing around me. In saying that, rushed and all as it was, I loved it! It was a memorable experience and most certainly a place I will be returning to; however, next time I will go in Betsy that way my time there is my own!

So all that´s left to do now is show you the photos! I always say this, but this time I really mean it, if you want to really see what this place has to offer make sure to check out the photos! They are numerous but worth it, I have failed to capture how special this place is through my words so; please don´t miss out on the opportunity to see just how special this place is for yourself! So here it is, if you wish to see larger photos just click on the first one and it will bring you to a large slideshow, enjoy!

Have you ever been to Callosa? What did you think?

As always, thank you for reading,

Until the next time,

Giana

xoxo

One Day At A Time: Orihuela.

Our next stop on our journey was a bit of an unexpected one and, like most things that are unexpected in life, a beautiful one. We woke last Saturday morning and got ready to go to our local fruit and veg market, both to pass the time and stock up on supplies for the week. Once we had stocked up and were ready to return home P suggested that we go somewhere for the day. Having been stuck indoors all week he was fed up of staring at the walls and eager to get out and see some life! Undecided on a destination, we headed down the road until we met our first sign: Orihuela. So off we went. I love trips like this, spontaneous and exciting, not knowing if the town that awaits you is fantastic or tragic ( very unlikely here in Spain!).

A glimpse of the beautiful backdrop that surrounds this town; mountains, a palace and several churches, through the leafs!

Orihuela is a far cry from being tragic. It´s a fantastic City located at the foot of the Sierra de Orihuela, between Elche and Murcia. I sense a trend starting. I´ve a feeling I might just have a thing for mountains, every mountain area I visit; I instantly fall in love with! Anyway; back to Orihuela. Orihuela is an ideal location with the perfect blend of culture, history and beauty. The streets are filled with ambience, the walls oozing with stories from the past and the old derelict buildings exude such wistfulness that it pulls on your heart-strings, they just seem so melancholic.

As you can see, these old dilapidated buildings are oozing in charm, they exude opulent nostalgia with a modern twist making the city unique and unforgettable!

What I loved about the city was not only how they have manage to preserve the olden world feel through the textures, style and colours of the buildings, but also how they have given each building a touch of modernity. It´s a city that, instead of clinging onto the past, has moved with the times and incorporated an architectonic mix of each society that has graced this city with its presence. The city centre itself is a modern hub of commerce, providing Orihuela with everyday amenities such as banks, restaurants, shops and businesses. While the surrounding area is filled with ancient buildings contrasted against the austere backdrop of the sierra.

Three fantastically preserved buildings contrasted against the rugged backdrop of the sierra.

P, J and I turned into little children as we nonchalantly made our way from the city centre, through the labyrinth of narrow streets, to the old quarter of the city. Each corner we turned unfolding even more beauty than the last. We were filled with wonderment, how could such beauty exist just twenty minutes from our doorstep without our knowledge?

P was taken by the area, he was so engaged as we wandered through the streets, he even said: ” Cartagena has nothing on this place, while it had the beauty, it didn´t have the charm”. Out of all the places we have visited Orihuela seems to be the one that P liked the most. Unlike the other cities Orihuela is wheelchair friendly, meaning that P didn´t miss out on any part of the city. He got to explore everything. The only disappoint was: there was no ice-cream, all the parlours were closed for the afternoon!

A peek at one of the few spacious streets in the old quarter, fantastic!

Unlike Cartagena, which seemed to have it all, Orihuela really does have it all; character, beauty, mountains and sea. Orihuela is the capital city in the area known as the “Vega Baja del Segura” which includes eleven municipalities: Benejúzar, Benferri, Beniel, Bigastro, Callosa de Segura, Cox, Jacarilla, Rafal, Redován and Santomera. Each of these are unique in their own right offering either mountain, sea or in some cases both. Each of these areas are located within close proximity of each other and, it´s recommended, to take in all eleven municipalities on the same route. We didn´t, we were so taken by Orihuela that we didn´t have time, but we did drive through them and they seem just as breathtaking as Orihuela itself.

For me, Orihuela offered something that Cartagena couldn´t; a traditional lifestyle. I think that´s what was missing for me in Cartagena, it had all the physical attributes I love about a place but lacked tradition. Orihuela was seeping in tradition, it was Spanish through and through, not a hint of tourism; even through it´s a popular tourist destination. The streets were filled with children playing, elderly people chatting on doorsteps, locals gathered in the parks watching the world go by, business people carrying on with their daily routines and cafés emitting the most powerful aroma of coffee beans. It was full of life, full of community, full of pride and custom.

I showed this photo already in the weekly photo challenge this week but I love it, it really captures the “life” I´m refering to.

Okay, enough of my blathering, time for the pictures. It´s funny; my blog originally started off centred around my writing now that focus has shifted. I´ve come to realise that nothing I could ever say, no matter how much my writing ability might improve with time, could capture the beauty I´m trying to convey better than photographs. So; as you´ve probably noticed, I´ve begun to allow the pictures do the talking for me; I hope you don´t mind! So without further dawdling here is Orihuela through the eyes of my camera; I do hope the opulent nostalgia and beauty of this city comes across. Enjoy!

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Have you ever been to Orihuela? What did you think?

As always, thank you for reading,

Until the next time,

Giana

xoxo

 

Weekly Image Of Life: Discovery

One Day At A Time: Gran Alacant.

During the week I made a shocking discovery. Jennifer over at My Sardinian Life, a great blog which you should check out, asked me where my favourite place in the world was. Automatically I answered: my favourite place is where my family is. This fact wasn´t anything new to me, I have always been one to say that but, what was new, I discovered I have never really shared my favourite place with you. I spend all my time talking about all these fantastic places that I have visited yet failed, apart from the odd photo, to share the most important place in the world to me, shocking! So when I saw that the weekly image of life theme, on Island Travelers blog, was discovery I thought this was the perfect chance to allow you to discover more about my favourite place! So sit back and relax while I take you on a journey through a magical part of Spain: Gran Alacant.

The rugged seafront which boarders the local town, Santa Pola.

Having made my shocking discovery on Wednesday night I decided to wake up early on Thursday morning and rectify it by going on a photo mission. I should really learn not to make plans; when I woke on Thursday it was raining! Good intention gone out the window, not one to let things get me down, I made the most of the day and spend it indoors relaxing with my family. That´s one good thing about Spain, rain will never get you down because you know it will never last too long!

I was right, I woke this morning to find the sunlight dancing through my bedroom window, fantastic! I told P and J my plan for the morning, I thought it would be a nice break for P to get out and about and the route I was planning on doing is one of his favourites, before he got sick he used to walk this beautiful route at least four times a week! So we made a morning of it!

Seeing as the route isn´t suitable for wheelchairs we drove, stopping every now and again to soak up the atmosphere and take some snaps on my phone, I feel I have been neglecting Fotoroom since I got it so figured I´d make the most of it today!

Gran Alacant is a beautiful area, it has everything going for it, with the best of both worlds: beach and mountain. If you want a commercial holiday its newly developed area has a variety of bars, restaurants, shops and nightclubs to satisfy all your needs. However, if you are like me and prefer something a little more original, then its protected area is what you’re looking for!

A beautiful little church with a fantastic view of both sea and mountains!

I remember when I first came to this area, thirteen years ago now, it was nothing like anything I had ever experienced before. As we drove down this extremely narrow roadway, the scenic road from Santa Pola to Gran Alacant, I must have caught at least a hundred flies with my mouth, it was so wide open with surprise. It´s called the scenic route for one very good reason; its views of the mountains to your right and the sea to your left are like something out of a movie. As one of my family members has said about the area: it´s like stepping into a wild west movie, and that´s exactly what it is. Miles of unspoilt, preserved beauty. Something that´s very hard to find nowadays here in Spain.

You are just waiting for a cowboy to pop out at any second!

What I love about it is, even after thirteen years, every time you explore this area you discover something new. Its got a number of little grottos and churches dotted along the roadway, some fantastic pants and trees, dunes, cliffs, the sound of the waves crashing off the rocks and the odd few paragliders who make their way from the cliff tops by the lighthouse to the wide open areas by the sea. As I said it´s got everything!

The paragliders packing up their equipment after their long morning!
One of the many grottos dotted along the roadside!
A view of the lighthouse from a distance!

Another fantastic thing about this area is, for all those birdwatchers and animal lovers out there, the natural reserve which is home to many endangered animals in this area. It is an area where birds, snakes, and other animals are left to roam safely in their natural environment without cages. What more could you ask for?

A view of the waves crashing off the rocks, so relaxing!

So much has to be said about nature. All the fabulous architecture in the world can´t compare with areas like this. I could spend hours in this rugged area admiring its natural beauty, in fact, I have spent hours there. To me, the best thing about it is that it´s wild, untouched and always will be. No one has put a stamp on this area apart from nature.

What a fantastic morning to go fishing!

One thing that I will never understand about people who visit Gran Alacant is why they never explore this route. The majority, not all, of the people who visit here don´t even know this area exists. It remains a hidden treasure, one that is only appreciated by locals and a few cyclists that visit the area. To me this adds to its beauty, the fact that it´s undiscovered, that it´s a secret!

I feel I´ve done enough rambling for today’s post. My words are most likely ruining the beauty that I am trying to convey. So without further delay I will leave you with some photos which should show you, better than my words can, what I love about the area. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so why ruin this area with any more of mine, I´ll let the pictures do the talking instead! Enjoy!

 

To see other bloggers interpretations of the theme check out Island travelers blog here.

Have you ever been to Gran Alacant? What did you think?

As always, thank you for reading,

Until the next time,

Giana

xoxo