A day in Segovia

A day in Segovia

Segovia is only a 30-minute, 20-Euro Renfe ride from Madrid, and the three main sights can easily be seen in a day trip, although I would love to see them in the evening light and at night.

The Guiomar train station is a ways out of town, but only an 8-Euro cab ride. The taxi dropped us off right in front of the aqueduct, which seems to stretch forever up and in either direction. Bus #11 will drop you off there, as well, after a 20-minute ride.

After a quick lunch while we watched the high school students in assorted versions of togas wrapping up a field trip, we climbed to the top of the aqueduct, marveling at every view.

view - closeup

Emperor Trajan built the nine-mile aqueduct, which culminated at the Alcazar. Over 2000 years old, 2500 feet of the original aqueduct are visible above ground at the entrance to the old city. It was made from 20,000 granite blocks without mortar and has 118 arches. The aqueduct actually functioned until the 19th century.

From there, we wound our way downhill to Plaza Mayor and toured the cathedral. Dating from the 16th century, the Cathedral of Segovia is considered to be the last Gothic cathedral, with the beginnings of Renaissance style. As with other cathedrals we’ve visited, restoration is ongoing. That’s reassuring, and we’re more than willing to pay admission in order for that to happen.

IMG_3623

Then more walking until the Alcazar loomed in front of us. Magnificent views in every direction. We opted for the (very thorough) audio tour, but passed on the 162 stairs up to the tower. An hour later, and my tourist self was saturated and ready to head home.

front

What goes downhill must eventually go uphill, so we trudged back to the aqueduct, wandering along the wall through neighborhoods for a half an hour or so. We stopped in view of the aqueduct to enjoy a pitcher of sangria at El Secreto: a bit expensive at 16 Euros, but hands down the best sangria yet!

 

Semana Santa

Semana Santa

We planned ahead and picked up a parade schedule from the tourism office. Not much help, though: the list included start time, starting point, ending point, and float(s), but not the actual route. The list of the floats proved to be the most helpful in putting photos into some semblance of order – we were able to figure out which parade was which after the fact.

float - edited

We caught the first parade by accident when we left the apartment mid-day Palm Sunday. We were headed to the barrio and La Rambla, but the Hermandad de Jesus Triunfante passed through Plaza Luceros. We watched children and adults wave palms, and grinned as children received candy from parade participants.

float - edited 2

Monday evening, we caught Cofradia Cristo “El Morenet” de los Hombres del Mar passing in front of St. Nicholas Cathedral as we were leaving an early dinner.

Later, we managed to get seats on La Rambla for Hermandad Penitencial and its two floats: Stmo. Cristo de la Humildad y Paciencia and Nstra. Sra. De las Lagrimas.

hoods

The hoods.

The robes.

The mantillas.

incense

The incense.

We missed Tuesday’s parades because we were in Madrid picking up our friend Roxanne. She was our first visitor, and she had planned her trip to coincide with Holy Week.

float - edited

Wednesday we scored seats on La Rambla for Hermandad de La Santa Cruz and its three floats: El Cautivo, Cristo de la Fe “El Gitano”, and Virgen de los Dolores.

The first parade we saw Thursday was an impressive four floats: Santa Cena, Stmo. Cristo de La Caida, Stmo. Cristo Esperanza de Los Jovenes, and Maria Auxiliadora del Pueblo Cristiano. And we caught it right downstairs from our apartment.

disciples 2

 

Representatives of the disciples.

140 carrying

140 carrying each float! Lots of rest breaks, with crews subbing in to carry floats.

crowd outside church

We then followed the sounds to our local church and caught the beginning of another parade and saw the floats salute the open doors of the church.

float closeup

Friday night, Rox and Todd saw the ultimate Good Friday parade.

Island of bliss: Mallorca

Island of bliss: Mallorca

Getting there

The Alicante-Elche airport. The only place where Todd is excited to visit Burger King. Not that it’s faster than the other places – it isn’t. Not that it’s cheaper than the other places – it certainly isn’t. It’s just that it’s there. And it seems the thing to do.

It’s always exciting when we don’t have to traipse to the end of the terminal to board our flight. A great start!

In the jetway, we got to visiting with the woman behind us, who had a Yorkie-in-a-Bag. She was making 2 trips to bring her dogs back home from mom’s, then another flight back to Alicante to pick up her car and ride the ferry from Denia to Mallorca. It was too long and too cold for the dogs to have to ride on the deck of the ferry. So: to visit Mom in Alicante, 2 round-trip flights from Mallorca to deliver the dogs, then a flight back to ride the ferry so she could have her car. Then the whole process in reverse when she returns home to Mallorca.

The encounter reinforced our decision to remain dog-free while in Spain.

Hotel

Why wouldn’t we stay at Hotel Feliz in Mallorca? Our honeymoon hotel in Costa Rica was Si Como No.

Hotel Feliz reminded me of a hotel I stayed in once in Key West. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was touted as a hotel for avant garde adults. Maybe it was the purple rugs in the lobby.

It was old, but tastefully, if basically, updated. Easy-care laminate, festive artwork, 7-foot mirror at the foot of the bed. Okay, the 7-foot mirror was more than a bit disconcerting.

But the staff was great, and the common areas were quite fun.

And you have to love a hotel that takes Happy Hour literally: 7-8 nightly.

Our first evening there, as we were getting ready to head out for dinner, the power went out just as Todd opened the patio door. Total darkness in the bathroom, where I had mascara on one eye. Todd brought in his cell phone so I could finish my makeup, then we headed down the stairs for Happy Hour. The power continued to go on and off in the whole neighborhood until we left for dinner, but all was well by the time we returned. The bartender took it in stride, shrugging and pouring drinks with a smile – in the semi-dark!

After touring the Palma Cathedral, we paused for lunch at Bar c’as Caparrut, where we had lunch in the shadow of the cathedral while listening to classical guitar.

IMG_0650

Port de Soller

We missed the train to Port de Soller, so we took the bus, a whopping 4,35 per person. We were 3rd in line, which was good: the last dozen or so didn’t get on. What a ride! 2 lanes with cyclists – we were glad we weren’t driving. We passed enclaves that were not really villages, more like settlements. The whole landscape was terraced to make the land farmable. The white towns of Andalucia have morphed into brown towns: brown buildings with green shutters, except for the occasional rebel who has brown, blue, or red shutters.

 Dining

Dinner our first night was at the suggestion of the bartender: down the block and around the corner toward the marina at Ca’n Manolo. We ordered the salted sea bass. THE salted sea bass – there was only one in the cooler by the front door. It came out mounded in salt. The waiter carved the salt off and expertly filleted the fish. It was enough fish for four people, but we ate all of it, and the perfectly roasted veggies that came with it.

IMG_0651The second night, we followed the hotel chef’s recommendation and took a taxi to the Mercado Gastronomico San Juan, a food court in an old market with a grocery store and movie theater surrounding an outdoor plaza. We made one pass through, then divided to conquer. Shrimp sautéed with lots of butter and garlic, sushi (the best yet in Spain), oysters, assorted tapas, then sushi again. We liked it so much, we went back the next night and repeated the menu.

IMG_1325Our final dinner, again at the recommendation of the hotel chef, was at Rififi Restaurant. The owner took us on a detailed tour of the cooler, then served up oysters, grilled whole peppers, and risotto with lobster.

Mallorca was paradise – and we left much undone – we will return!

 

 

up the coast: Jazz at the Parador

up the coast: Jazz at the Parador

After debating about it all week, we decided Friday morning to make the trip to Javea for that week’s Jazz at the Parador program.

Some time spent online, and tickets for the performance were booked. It was a little expensive to stay at the Parador, but breakfast was included, and we wouldn’t have to taxi to and from the concert. There was a bit of concern because the tram line was under construction from Calpe through Denia, so we would have to use the bus to get to Teulada, then taxi to the Parador in Javea.

A quick packing of backpacks and a bag of snacks and we were off!

Tram 1 from our own Plaza Luceros – running uncharacteristically late. A ticket purchase in El Campello to get us the rest of the way. Change to Tram 9 in Benidorm. Switch to bus in Calpe. Dropped off in Teulada at a roundabout. No taxis to be seen:

Teulada bus stop.JPG

We wandered down the street until we found an open restaurant, where we had wine and beer and had the waitress call us a taxi. 20 euros later we arrived at the Parador.

A quick bite in the café/bar, then a quiet half hour or so in our room before we headed downstairs for the concert.

After visiting with a couple from Belgium – retired and spending winters in Benissa – we sat where Todd could watch the base player. Actually, the keyboard player, Richard Busiakiewicz,  had more of the too-cool-for-school persona usually associated with bass players. But the most interesting character was definitely the drummer. He was definitely in his own world, and the audience was irrelevant to him.

The leader of the group, Enric Peidro, was Spanish, and the drummer was French. Okay so far. But the guest tenor sax player, Ray Gelato, and the keyboard guy were English – somehow, that doesn’t make sense to me for a jazz combo playing American jazz.

But they were great!

Back to our room for a beautiful view of the bay. The recent storms had done significant damage to the beach, so they had brought in a truck load (or more) of sand and were spreading it. Kids were playing on the giant sand pile while a bull dozer scooped and spread sand.

After breakfast, we reversed our trip to get home: taxi to bus stop, bus to Calpe station, train to Benidorm, transfer to Tram 1 to home.

 

Carnaval!

Carnaval!

I’ve never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I have now experienced Carnaval in Alicante!

On Saturday night, we roamed through our neighborhood to la Rambla, then along the Esplanade along the pier into Old Town.

We saw:

  • Ladybugs, bumblebees, and Dalmatians – lots and lots of ladybugs, bumblebees, and Dalmatians
  • A family of Smurfs
  • Lots of leftover Moors and Christians costumes
  • A group of Jedi, with only one light sabre left among them
  • Some girls – we weren’t sure if they were in costume, or just being their usual slutty selves

In short, if it could be made out of or done to tulle, we saw it!

laundry day in Alicante

laundry day in Alicante

We are fortunate to have a washing machine in our apartment. As is typical, we have no dryer.

The place we rented when we came to hunt for an apartment had a combination washer-dryer. All we could figure out was that that meant clothes came out HOT and damp, not really dry.

There are several laundry lines outside the kitchen window. We’ve lost several towels to wind. Todd was able to rescue one from the apartment below us, but one kitchen and one bath towel have yet to come home.(see photo).

Most of our clothes we dry on a rack inside the apartment. It takes up a lot of room in the guest bedroom, and it’s always out, as we are always in the process of doing laundry. We hang shirts in the bathroom or in the doorways.

Occasionally, we take sheets and towels, and maybe jeans, to the laundromat. It’s nice when they can get dried and not end up crunchy and stiff! As an additional benefit, the laundromat is across from a Columbian panaderia, so what’s not to love?

A couple of times now, Todd has taken his better shirts and slacks to the cleaner’s. Just as clothing in general seems to be more expensive here, so, too, does cleaning. Oh, well. The last time, we paid in advance and the guy told us we could pick everything up Sabado por la manana. So Todd went back to the tintoria Saturday morning: it was closed. He went back Monday morning, and the guy wanted to see his passport before he would give him his clothes. Never mind that we had paid upfront – with a credit card. Or that we were probably the only Americans he had seen in weeks, if not months, if not ever. The guy reluctantly accepted Todd’s residency card as evidence of his identity.

 

the driver’s license – Part II

We investigated the process and cost of getting a driver’s license. We’re estimating close to 500 euros before all is said and done, so Todd is going to get his and I’ll hold off – at least for now.

First step: 4 passport photos – easy, and done!

Second step: medical certification. We went to one of the medical offices near the traffic office. The sign on the door said the cost was 25 euros – more about that in a moment.

The exam consisted of a series of questions: Do you smoke? Do you drink? All of his answers were taken at face value.

Then the visual/reflex exam. Two red rectangles, moving independently on the screen, and you had to keep the dot between them. Todd passed, but barely. Apparently, he needs to spend more time video gaming!

We went to pay for the exam. 40 euros, cash only. We had 35 between us. So off we went to the closest bank to do a withdrawal, then back to the clinic to pick up the certificate.

We then went to an auto escuela that was close to our apartment. No English spoken there, but a woman waiting in the lobby translated for us, and the woman working directed us to a school where they do lessons in English. According to the translator, the person to talk to was the cousin of the woman we were speaking to. “Ah, su prima!” BIG smile from both women. It’s amazing the random vocabulary I do manage to remember.

Next morning, Todd was at the auto escuela when it opened at 9:00. Shock: it didn’t open until 10:00, and the clerk didn’t arrive until about 10:15. Welcome to Spanish time!

Reuben will conduct the driving instruction in English, but they are still looking for someone to do the theory instruction in English. In the meantime, we’ve only paid a deposit of 100 euros on the 300-euro fee, and Todd has an English instruction book and online access to a theory test bank.

One of the more odd questions: a motorcycle rider in front of you has his right turn signal on, but his left hand out. Which signal do you pay attention to? I’m thinking: neither, and give him plenty of room because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. OR: it really doesn’t matter, because he’ll be going through a roundabout no matter what. The real answer: the hand signal supersedes the mechanical signal. Okay, I get it: it’s a theory test.

Speaking of motorcycles, you have to have a car license for 3 years before you can test for a motorcycle license. So much for taking care of that at the same time!