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Monday, June 15, 2009

Welcome to Montebello

We live in an urbanization (neighborhood development) called Montebello, which means "beautiful hill," and there is indeed a small incline on the street we walk to go up to the neighborhood recycling center. We are part of the municipality called Algorfa, though we are closer to some urbanized parts of the town of Rojales, namely Ciudad Quesada, than to the commercial center of Algorfa. Our mail comes through Ciudad Quesada, and I can see the lights on the Quesada hill from my office window at night. There is talk that our urbanization may be reassigned to Rojales in the future, though I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

There are 177 houses in our urbanization; about 40 of them are holiday homes, and the rest are used as primary, or at least secondary, residences. The area started development nine years ago and was marketed heavily to the British, so we hear mostly English voices while sitting in the sun room, working in the kitchen with the back door open to catch a breeze, or when we stop in at the local bar-cafe after taking the trash and garbage out in the evening. Several houses are for sale now; this reflects the worldwide economic situation that the Spaniards call simply La Crisis, the fact that in recent months the British pound has fallen drastically in relation to the euro (the US dollar managed the same feat much earlier), and a natural generational shift that I have observed marks many retirement communities, whether European or American.

We live on the edge of the urbanization, on Avenida del Tomillo. Tomillo is a variety of thyme. The other avenida surrounding the development is Romero, rosemary. I have looked, but there is no Parsley or Sage. But we do have streets named Olivo, Mimosa, Eucalyptus, and a couple other types of vegetation that I will need to commit to memory on a later walk around the area.

We have a neighborhood swimming pool, two pétanque courts and soccer field, children's play yard, and a couple park areas on one side of the development. At the entrance is the aforementioned bar-cafetería, Monty's, a hairdressing salon, and a locale to rent--there used to be a corner grocery but the proprietor died, I am told. A big five-year project has been started to build a huge shopping center on the road leading to our development. This will be within two kilometers of our entrance and I look forward to not having to get into the car every time I need to go out to buy some little thing. The project is on hold for a time during La Crisis, but we have been assured it will resume when the economy improves.

The shopping mall will replace a cement factory. The orange grove on the opposite side of the urbanization remains, for as long as we are here, I hope.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Morning View

In our house in Montebello, I begin each day by swinging open the bathroom window to see whether I can see the mountains in the distance. These are not high mountains, nor are they almost within touching distance, as the mountains of New Hampshire's Kinsman Range were from our home in Easton. But I feel very lucky to be able to look out into clear, crisp air, as it has been every day since we moved in, and see mountains at all. Some days it has been hazy in the morning and the range is barely visible to my eyes--in fact, it wasn't until the second day of our life here that I knew there were mountains there at all.

The first thing I see when I look out is the nearby orange grove. There are no oranges on the trees at this time of year, but the local word is that each inhabitant of our community is entitled to one orange per day in season--two if you are pregnant, which is not likely for me or for many of our neighbors. It's wonderful to see and smell the greenery, to hear the birds chirping, and to feel clean air.

Closer in to the window are the sand-colored houses with their red-tiled roofs and white fences surrounding the second-floor sun terraces. A neighbor to the right has a large un-opened parasol on his roof, and I can gauge the wind by seeing how much it flutters in the breeze. Another neighbor on the first line behind the orange grove appears to have a covered jacuzzi taking up much of his terrace, but I've never seen anyone in it nor anywhere else on that second floor. In fact, I've never seen anyone else outside my bathroom window as I stand there each morning and take in the day. It's a wonderfully peaceful way to begin anew each morning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Sunny Day in Alicante

It's not Sunday, but after more than a week of living surrounded by boxes of possessions to unpack and boxes of furniture to assemble, we declared today, Tuesday, to be Sunday and set off by car and train to the "big city" of Alicante, capital of our new province of Alicante.

The closest train station is Catral, which turned out to be a ten-minute drive up the highway from our house. We bought round-trip tickets to Alicante for the really low price of 4€ and change and had a cup of café con leche while we waited for the hourly train in the picturesque rural station. The one-hour ride into the city made five stops along the way, a couple that we noted for future exploration. Besides orange groves and palm tree farms, it took us by the Holiday Inn Express near the Alicante airport, where I had spent my first night in Spain when we came to investigate seven years ago. We've stayed at that modern hotel once since then, as it is convenient to the airport and sits quaintly across from not only the train track and the major thoroughfare to drive into Alicante from the south, but also just beside the ledge upon which a large modern building that houses Spain's patent office sits. Oh yes, there's a nice view of the Mediterranean, too, if you're on the side that does not look at the patent office.

Although the day started out hazy, by the time we reached the city it was sunny with a light breeze, and we refreshed ourselves at an outdoor café with giant goblets of tinto de verano (a red wine spritzer that heralds the summer) and a tapa of tortilla. We walked down a couple main streets toward the waterfront, stopping for a longish browse through El Corte Inglés, perhaps the Nordstrom's of Spain, with branches in all the major cities, but only in the major it is always a treat on the rare occasions when we are in a location that has one. The travel department of El Corte Inglés was not able to get us a reservation at a good rate at the hotel we had picked out for a future trip to Madrid, but we ambled through the furniture and home electronics sections and discovered that service still exists. If we order a bed, mattress, TV, or other large item, it will be transported to our home at the floor price quoted, with no delivery charge. Even the sale items on oferta!

Mostly we just enjoyed the experience of being in a real city that is not just a tourist area. We continued walking and stopped again for sustenance, this time an all-day breakfast of café con leche, juice, and a tostada. Orange juice is almost always served in Spain with a packet of sugar on the side, though I think that is decidedly unnecessary. I eat my tostada (a toasted half baguette) simply, with a sprinkling of olive oil over the tomato jam.

We were just in time for the 3:10 train back to Catral, and we walked in our door at 4:15. And made the reservation for the Madrid hotel at a good price through the Internet.