How Italy is different from Spain

No judgment either way, just general observations, and not universal:

·       Women are either dressed stylishly, or really not.

·       Women don’t wear hose.

·       Men don’t wear socks with suits or dress pants.

·       Parents push strollers, but carry babies.

·       Small children cry and scream – perhaps related to the point above?

·       People move with more purpose.

·       People don’t stop and block sidewalk traffic just to chat – perhaps related to the point above?

·       While many shops also close in the afternoon, they close for good by 8:00.

·       Lots of bicycles.

·       Pay phones on the streets, but no mail boxes.

an excursion to Jumilla

an excursion to Jumilla

We joined our local friends Mark and Vicki on an excursion with Tu-Tours to the town of Jumilla, a local wine mecca. The group was larger than I would have liked (54), but the size provided us the advantage of English tour guides at our stops.

We began at Bodega Finca Luzon, a century-old winery that has been modernized but still prides itself on its attention to traditional methods. Our Portuguese tour guide was very knowledgeable and had an excellent command of English, although we had to clarify the distinction between flies and fleas for her. What we didn’t know: they encourage spiders in the vaults because they eat bugs that might attack the wooden barrels. She referred to them as “guards of the wine.” The wines were lovely—and they’re available in the U.S.

Our second stop: the Monastery of Santa Ana del Monte. There was some debate as to whether it was a convent or a monastery. Apparently, Spanish doesn’t necessarily distinguish between the two. In English, a monastery is for monks and a convent is for nuns. But traditionally, a monastery lay outside the walls of a city, while a cloister (or convent) was protected inside the city walls. Makes sense, therefore, that women would be in a convent and men would be in a monastery. In any case, Santa Anna is a monastery, perched atop a mountain with views of the valleys below.

The church, founded by Franciscans in 1573, was small but beautiful. Only five monks are in residence at this time. The monk who talked to us was delightful, with a sense of humor and an ability to share a lot of information in a little time. In the early days, the monks served as priests for the surrounding villages, and they carried large crucifixes with them as they made the rounds. While the largest “only” weighed 90 pounds, it was well over 6 feet tall. Imagine lugging that up and down the mountainside!

One highlight of the visit was a large museum of reliquaries containing objects left by pilgrims who journeyed to the monastery, a good 6 kilometers uphill from the Jumilla town square. Many of the items were archaeological finds, as well as natural history-type items.

Throughout the monastery were over 100 hand-painted signs which provided texts for daily inspiration.

A long day. A lot of walking. A good day.

lunch at To-Bar

lunch at To-Bar

A note about Retired in Spain before this post actually begins…

I began this blog as a promise to friends and family back home that I would report on our adventures. I had rules in mind when I started, but those rules have evolved as time passes. I want this blog to be not only a record of our time here in Spain, but a help to others who might want to move here. So – my mental rule about not dwelling on individual restaurants has morphed into…if it’s great, post it!

We first heard about To-Bar from our conversation exchange partner. She hounded us every week about it, saying we HAD to check it out. We finally did. It’s behind the green door on a street near the Mercado. Like many places here, it looks like nothing from the street. We made a reservation, then showed up, not really knowing what to expect. As is still typical for us, we were there at 1:00, and we were the only ones in the restaurant for a while.

When we arrived, all of the tables were set up with carafes of red wine and half loaves of bread. The waiter arrived. Upon our request for white wine, he returned with a bottle and left it on the table. He also brought a selection of sausages—morcillo (Spanish blood pudding), mortadella, and spicy Iberian sausage—and toppings for the bread—aioli and a tomato/red pepper paste. We had a choice of seafood paella or not-seafood paella. We chose the seafood.

Then the real food started coming.

And coming.

  • Thin fried rice paper topped with tuna, goat cheese, cucumber, tomato, olives, and pickled onion.
  • Tempura fried vegetable. After several exchanges with the waitress and some help from google translator, we determined it was aubergine (eggplant). With a honey and red wine reduction.
  • Steamed bao bread with fresh grated tomato, tuna, and wilted baby spinach.
  • Shrimp. A lot of work to peel, but SWEET!
  • Pulpo Galicia: octopus on a bed of polenta with oil and spices.
  • THEN paella! With mussels, shrimp, and octopus.

By this time, the restaurant was packed – and LOUD. As I looked around the restaurant, I wondered how on earth these people could return to work after a lunch like this.

But we weren’t finished yet:

  • Dessert: a light sponge cake topped with sweetened condensed milk and a very light and fluffy chocolate mousse.
  • Alicante sweet wine
  • And – finally – coffee

Then the bill: 15€ per person, plus a whopping 5€ for the wine.

We finally finished and left 2 hours later, with the other diners still going strong.

Vale!

 

another weekend – another parade

another weekend – another parade

Sunday afternoon. Music wafting up to our apartment from the street. I look out. Just another parade. Mostly women. Mostly dressed in highly ruffled flamenco-style dresses. Two carts pulled by festively adorned mules. Two more floats pulled by cars. No idea who. Or what. Or why. Just another day.

We see 2-3 parades a month. And 4-5 protests. Most of the time, we have no idea what they’re about. Such is life in Spain!

And Sunday evening, all hell broke loose on the plaza. Car horns, air horns, yelling, singing. Real Madrid won la Liga, and the local supporters were out in force.

Vale!

a day trip to Murcia

a day trip to Murcia

We went in search of a bead store. I’ve gotten itchy fingers, needing to do something crafty.

Easy train ride – 30 euro total roundtrip for the two of us. It took a little over an hour each way, with a number of stops, but it was comfortable. As we traveled inland, we saw a variety of crops – not just the oranges close to home. Lots of lemon groves, including my favorite: a rogue orange tree in the middle of a large group of lemon trees.

Murcia has—in my opinion—several advantages over Alicante:

·       Lots of parks, with actual green space and fenced-in areas for dogs (We met Inca, a striped brindle who was happy to take treats.)

·       Flat topography

·       Lots of “new” buildings: houses, apartments, businesses

But it was already hot in May – and no ocean breeze. We’ll keep Alicante.

The cathedral was closed, but we were able to tour the cathedral museum. The splendor never ceases to amaze me.

We caught a display of “street art” at the MUBAM museum – modern art we could appreciate!

 All in all, a most pleasant day – Vale!

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.

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.