through others’ eyes

through others’ eyes

In our first year in Alicante we had five sets of visitors, and it’s been interesting to see our new home through their eyes.

They love our sunny apartment, with our view of the Med:

view - Mediterrean

They love our Mercado, with all of its sights and smells and our favorite stop-in: Katana.

They love our beach, with its lack of body shaming and our favorite stop-by: Xiringuito Postiguet, with its views, drinks, music, and friendly staff:

They love our castle, accessible by elevator:

They love our old town, with its sidewalk restaurants, including La Taberna San Pascual, run by our friend Antonio:

They love our neighborhood park and its outdoor bar: Sotello:

They love our sangria.

Our olives.

Our tapas.

Our paella.

Our parades:

Our fireworks:

IMG_0582

Vale!

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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 and condom machines on the streets, but no mail boxes.

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!

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.

 

bar tales

bar tales

As Texans, we are always appreciative of a good margarita. The best one we’ve found in Alicante so far is the one at the Gourmet Experience at El Corte Ingles. Expensive by Alicante standards at 6 Euros, it is nonetheless excellent! And when Darin, our favorite waitress, is working, we get sample mango margaritas with la cuenta.

I’ve already posted about the disappointing pina-rita at Tia Juana’s. Last week, we stumbled onto Cactus Alicante, where the kitchen was not open, but the margarita was excellent, if a little sweet.

As we’ve ventured beyond Alicante, we’ve had other alcohol-related adventures.

Note: in Andalusia, even the seco wines are somewhat sweet.

In Jaen, we taught the bartender how to make a Rus Blanco with a dusty bottle of Tia Maria. With that successful experience under our belt, we settled into the lounge area of our hotel in Cordoba one evening for Tia Maria and cream. When the waitress seemed confused, we were able to convey that we were wanting a coffee liqueur, glasses with ice, and cold milk. She returned with Kahlua (even better), the glasses with ice, and the cold milk. She was amazed at our creation, I think mostly at the use of cold milk.

We tried again the next night, with a different waitress. We asked for Kahlua. She insisted they didn’t have it. After several exchanges, we settled for Tia Maria. This time, she brought warm milk. Not the same, as the ice melted quickly, but yummy dessert drink nonetheless.

Our last evening in Cordoba, we followed the desk clerk’s recommendation for Italian. The food was excellent, but they had no concept of Chianti. We settled for a local red. When in Spain…

Vale!

a quiet stopover in Jaen

a quiet stopover in Jaen

We had high hopes for Jaen as a one-day stop between Granada and Cordoba. The cathedral was beautiful, but you can’t take pictures. The ubiquitous castle, which we opted not to visit in the rain as our choices were to walk up or take a taxi. Not much else.

I think part of the issue was that we chose a quiet hotel on the edge of town. The view of the castle from our hotel room was spectacular (see photo), and it was only a 5-euro taxi ride into town, but we’re used to being in the middle of everything.

We did teach the bartender in our hotel how to make a White Russian. He had to use a stepstool to get down a VERY dusty bottle of Tia Maria. Todd told him how much to pour. Then how much vodka – NOT gin. Then milk – NOT warmed. Vale! Rus Blanco!

Jaen seriously shuts down for siesta. The place we had planned to eat dinner didn’t open until 9:00, so we wandered until we ended up back at the restaurant where we had lunch, Columbia 50. The Caesar salad was so good I ate every bit of it. (For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not a fan of vegetative matter.)

We left Jaen grateful we chose Alicante as our home. We have restaurants on every block, and something is always open, even during siesta.

the road (somewhat) less traveled

the road (somewhat) less traveled

I don’t remember learning how to read a map, but it was part of every road trip our family took when I was a child. It was nothing short of a miracle to be able tell what town was coming up next, how far we’d been, how far we still had to go. Map apps are not the same as the real thing! In Spain, I find it helps to spread out the map to get the big picture, as all roads lead to/from Madrid: Spanish highways radiate out from Madrid like spokes – sort of.

National highways, called “interurban motorways” are named with an A plus numbers. The six radial roads coming from Madrid are A-1 through A-6. Other highways have 2-digit numbers.

Regional highways are labeled with the first letter (or 2 letters) of the region. So, traveling through Andalusia, the regional roadways are labeled with an A, just like the national highways. But the regional signs are green or orange. Color matters!

On our way to Granada, we stopped in Lorca for lunch. We’ve added Lorca to the spend-a-day-there list: a great castle and an archaeological dig that you can apparently visit by appointment.

Back on the road through the Sierras in the rain. Passing rolling seas of olive groves, with each bend of the road revealing an even more stunning scene.

first-view-of-sierra-nevada

Our first view of the Sierra Nevada.

We covered 350 kilometers (160 miles) on that leg.

Driving in Granada itself (and in Cordoba) is not for sissies! Snug streets that shouldn’t have cars on them at all, let alone cars trying to go in both directions with pedestrians who have nowhere to get out of the way except to duck into the door of a nearby business.

And as we left the corkscrew parking garage in Granada, Todd had to park on an incline while I got out to pay at the window. Really odd – with cars stopped on the incline behind us and ahead of us, coming into the garage.

Leaving Granada, we cut across smaller roadways just for the experience. After our rainy drive from Alicante to Granada, we were glad for the brief sunshine on the way to Jaen.

lunch-with-gnocchi

We stopped in Moclin for lunch. The locals looked at us suspiciously – until Gnocchi discovered us. Once she had accepted us, we were met with smiles from all.

As we were loading up in Cordoba to head home, Todd realized that he had left the car keys in the hotel safe. I stayed with our bags while he trudged back to the hotel to retrieve the keys. And we were off…

Just outside Albacete on our way home, we were stopped by the Guardia in a random stop-and-search. Todd got breathalyzed. We were told that since we had residency cards, we were in violation by driving with a Texas driver’s license – we should have an EU license. Much conferring between the guardia, then we were told there would be a 500-euro fine – only 250 if we paid within 20 days. More conferring, then a call from headquarters let them know that we had 6 months from the date of the residency to change the driver’s license. Us: Muchas gracias, senor. Him: Please drive safely.

Vale!