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!

a stolen purse

I knew better.

I was stupid.

I was careless.

We were sitting on a bench on the promenade at the beach, admiring the Med and staring at the beach bodies. A scruffy looking guy stopped and asked Todd a question about the Melia Hotel, then persisted in his questions, which didn’t make any sense. When he finally headed off, he went through the parking lot, not toward the hotel. We got up to leave, and my purse was gone. It was the distract-and-snatch scheme.

I swear I was sitting on my purse strap, with the purse right beside me, but it was gone. None of us even sensed anything.

It being Good Friday, our local police station was closed. I called the English line for the national police. A very nice young man kept asking me if I spoke any Spanish. I finally understood that if I spoke ANY Spanish, I was to use the regular line. Once we got that squared away, he was very thorough in making out the report. He insisted our local policia should be open all the time. I gave up arguing with him. He said we could pick up the report the next day, but the office was of course not open on Saturday. When I went to pick up the report on Monday, I was scolded for using the English line when I was a resident of Alicante. I feigned ignorance and expressed gratitude.

  • Contents: credit card – both of ours cancelled, with new ones sent to us in Alicante – The theft happened on Good Friday; we had new cards on Tuesday.
  • debit card – a pain, as the bank wouldn’t ship outside the U.S. The new one was sent to our U.S. address. Fortunately, we didn’t have to cancel Todd’s card. (A side note here: we chose BBVA because it’s an international bank. It doesn’t matter: The Spanish bank doesn’t “talk” to the English bank – although our money is easily accessible here, nothing is reciprocal.)
  • Some cash – that’s the way it goes
  • My driver’s license – this is going to be the biggest pain, as I don’t know that we can take care of it from Spain. I filled out the living-overseas-lost-or-stolen-license form, so we’ll see. I may have to deal with the DMV when we return home in November.
  • My passport card (NOT the actual passport)
  • My residence card – and we know how much fun it was to get the original. After much confusion over which Modelo 790 to pay, we gave up and went for the cita. They confirmed it was codego 12 (in the amount of 18.54, not the original codego 52 in the amount of 15.45), and sent us down the street to the bank. The bank ended up being quite a ways down the street. We returned to the extranjero office and got another number. No problem – a new card ready to pick up in one month.
  • Apartment keys, including the key to the building. Apparently, the building key is no big deal. The landlord came and had a locksmith change the apartment lock. I wasn’t here, but apparently he scolded me in absentia for being so careless. I’d have to agree.
  • Cell phone – I needed an upgrade, but we hadn’t planned on paying for that yet!

I was busy for a few weeks, but all is resolved now (except the driver’s license – we’re still waiting on a response to that) – Vale!

All

a few days in Madrid

a few days in Madrid

Our first visitor from the States – of course we had to spend a few days in Madrid!

We cheated and took a cab from Atocha to our hotel. When the cab turned from Puerta del Sol onto a sketchy-looking side street, we were a little concerned. But the hotel, Casa de la Lirica, was lovely, and the location was perfect – just a block from the Montera “pedestrian walkway,” midway between Puerta del Sol and Gran Via. A large room, comfortable beds, a bathroom with space for a rollaway bed, and a heavenly shower. Framed posters throughout the hotel gave information about zarzuelas, including pages from the scores; it would have been much meaningful, I’m sure, if I knew anything about the Spanish operatic form.

The crowd was crazy on Montera – that evening was a match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Bands of fans roamed the area, wearing their team jerseys proudly, bursting into song as they met fellow fans.

We grabbed a quick bite at Tapa Tapa while we watched the roving pep rally. Obligatory sangria, tempura shrimp (with maybe almonds in the tempura – yum!), and a new favorite croquet: gorgonzola and nueces. A bonus half pitcher of sangria because the waiter knocked the first pitcher over while dropping off the plates. Vale!

We opted to do the 2-day red City Tour bus, and it ended up being a good deal. Over the 2 days, we ended up riding both routes, and we were able to access all of the tourist spots at the top of our list.

Our hotel was in the middle of stops 6, 7, and 17 on Route 1 (the blue route) and stop 14 on Route 2 (the green route).

Our first evening in Madrid, we rode Route 2, which took us past Stadium Santiago Bernabeu. At 6:00 in the evening, crowds were already thronging for the 8:45 match. It was delightful to be able to see it all from the top of the bus, without having to fight our way through it!

Real Madrid

We stopped at a chocolateria a little off the beaten track so Rox could have her priority churros. We split an order, then I had a chocolate crepe while she had another order of churros. We ordered coffee with brandy (just because) and it was served with a lemon slice. No bueno. Once we removed the lemon and were able to add leche, things were much better. We ended up having a lovely chat with the waitress, who was newly arrived from Cuba to be closer to her daughter and family.

On Wednesday, our full day in Madrid, we began with Stop 12 on the blue route at the Almudena Cathedral. A modern cathedral, the artwork was beautiful, but not authentic cathedral to me. Rox, however, basked in all of its colorful glory.

cathedral - from patio

 

The views from the top of the cupola were amazing – every side took our breath away.

Stop 14 on the blue route took us to the Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande. While I huddled in a doorway out of the rain, Rox circled the basilica looking for an entrance. Turns out, the basilica has office hours, so we moved on.

Back on the bus, the sun came out and we exited at Stop 16 for Plaza Mayor and the Mercado de San Miguel. The plaza was just returning to life after the rain, and we shopped our way around it, then headed to the Mercado, which was so packed we did little more than circle it in open-mouthed, drooling awe.

Mercado San Miguel

Around a few corners, and we were able to find Restaurante Botin. We were even able to get a table, so we ate, even though we weren’t hungry. Sangria – always welcome – prawns (already shelled – bonus!), and the ever-popular croquetas. Not only a hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Botin has been a restaurant since 1725 – officially, the oldest restaurant in the world!

Botin

All too soon, time for Rox to return home. Thanks to a 6:30 a.m. train from Alicante, Todd was able to make it to the airport before Rox had to go through security. Big hugs and she was off to Texas while we returned to the hotel and regrouped.

The staff at Hotel Casa de la Lirica had been quite gracious and helpful about extending our stay.  

Our first stop: the Escher retrospective at Palacio de Gaviria. The palacio itself was worth the visit, but the exhibit was fabulous. It traced Escher’s career and influence, and we saw many works we had never seen before. His works are impressive enough when you think of them as sketches, but when you remember that they were carvings, they become even more amazing.

Some general roaming, and a return visit to La Cabana Argentina for a fabulous steak dinner – the best beef we’ve had since we left Texas.

Vale!

 

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.

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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.

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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!