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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Biking to Guardamar

I think I have finally recovered from our bike trip a week ago to Guardamar. Saturday morning was a crisp fall day, and it just seemed perfect to go out biking on the path that follows alongside the Rio Segura to Guardamar and the Mediterranean. I had a semi-new bike, which I had bought several months ago and tried out quickly on a street near the cycle shop in Ciudad Quesada. I soon discovered,though, that a graded pavement in a town is not quite the same as a packed and rutted river bed. Smooth this trip was not.

Nevertheless, the 20-kilometer ride to Guardamar was enjoyable.  We found a wonderful Mas y Mas supermarket, with cafetería, for a cup of café con leche on the outskirts of the city. After tanking up with caffeine and cooling off with the air conditioning, we continued biking through the almost deserted streets of the city (at 11:00 AM Saturday morning) and came to the fishing pier and the pleasure boat marina. I wandered down to a small swimming cove for my annual dipping of the toe into the Mediterranean. It was delightfully warm, but the uneasy sensation of sand breaking away from beneath my feet as the tide swept out reminded me without a doubt that I learned to swim in a pool, not in the ocean.

We watched dozens of people fishing on the dock that juts out toward the lighthouse, and then, as we came back to the mainland, the clock struck 12:00 and we needed a little something to eat. We shared a Mediterranean tuna cazuela with delicious just-heated baguette--if I had known how good the bread would be I never would have said "no" to the offer of extra.

Then we headed back, but not without a detour through a brand new park project that had just been created from January through April of 2010. Actually, the new project is an elevated wooden walkway through the Alfonso XIII park on one side of Guardamar, shown here with a view of the usual photographer of Sundays in Spain.

After that green respite, we were back on the bikes for some serious pedaling. Twenty kilometers to Guardamar also means twenty kilometers back from Guardamar. We stopped once for another agua con gas--the weather had turned hot in the early afternoon. Not counting the stop, it took an hour to get back to our car in Rojales, but then it was only a ten minutes' drive home. My backside was really sore. Neither one of us did much of anything for the rest of the day. I'm not sure when my next bike ride will be, but I didn't suggest anything this weekend.

Moda La Finca

A larger-than-normal roadside sign sprouted at the roundabout between the highway and the entrance to our Montebello urbanization last Friday: Moda La Finca. An arrow pointed beyond our neighborhood toward the golf resort about three miles away through the orchards. La Finca, literally a country farmhouse, is a beautiful green area between Montebello and the town of Algorfa, to which we technically belong. In addition to the golf course, there is a luxury resort hotel, which we toured a year ago when we dropped in one day out of curiosity and encountered staff who were inclined to give us the grand tour, out of boredom.

In a rare coincidence, I had already read in the weekly RoundTown News that Moda La Finca was a new clothing shop, scheduled for a grand opening on Sunday at 10:00 AM, with free cava, the effervescent Spanish answer to champagne. The shop was reported to be German-owned and would offer only clothing made in Germany, for men and for women.

So off we headed this morning at a little past ten o'clock and sure enough, there is a delightful and unusual new clothing boutique and outlet in the commercial area at the entrance to La Finca.  The shop was full of people and I looked around and found several things I was interested in, though I did not make any purchases at the time. This is a good place to come when you have something you want to match a new accessory to, I told myself, or when you want to buy something to wear for travel. Styles are different whenever you go away from Spain, or even away from the Costa Blanca area where we live. Quality and variety were evident in the unusual selection of moda, and I will definitely be back.

The shop is indeed German, and Johannes enjoyed practicing his German. He was also more decisive than I was--he found a sweater that will be perfect for our trip to Frankfurt early next month. As we checked out, the attendant told us that her boss was married to an American, who was outside at "the beer place." It's a good thing we looked for him. We didn't find him right away, but we found the German beer they were offering, and then we found the small bratwurst in fresh baguettes, and the chips and Danische-style cookies. And then we spied the man in charge of the cava and mimosas, and that was Al, the American. We had a pleasant chat. Al was familiar with upstate New York and Pennsylvania, as we are, too, since we have driven across those two states often as we traveled from New England to Ohio and back.

It was a grand opening for a promising new business. We see far too many businesses start here and then, a few months later, fail, often for lack of market research. This one seems different. An upscale clothing boutique in a golf resort makes sense; good quality and good taste at higher, but affordable, prices, makes sense in this area that is home to thousands of northern Europeans. Advance publicity in the newspaper, and detailed road signs pointing the way...these people have done their research in planning this business venture. Maybe it's the German-American combo.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Como Agua para Chocolate

Last night I finished reading Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), or at least, I finished reading it for the first time. It's an assignment for my Spanish class, so I will have to go back and review a few sections to refresh my memory and make sure I understand it correctly, before the discussions with my teacher in the next couple weeks. 

Surprisingly, I looked long and hard--and  without success--to find a copy of this book in Spain, in Spanish. Ultimately I had to resort to Amazon, which advertised several editions, new and used, and also a DVD of the movie. How could I resist? True to form, the DVD arrived first, but I promised myself not to see it until I had finished the book--and I kept that promise. The book, when it came, was a real disappointment. Arriving from in the UK, the text was Spanish, but the notes were in German! After carefully working my way through Amazon's return procedures, I packaged it up in the same box in which it arrived to send it back, but the Spanish postal system refused to accept it as long as there was publicidad (advertising) on the package. That publicidad would be the name "Amazon." Fortunately my Spanish teacher, who also knows German, took my book, and I borrowed hers, so we could get on with the project.

I was hoping to find several authentic recipes that I could use, but I don't think I'll be following those recipes any time soon. They are more like the directions found in an early Fanny Farmer. Measurements are practically non-existent, the Mexican food terms are different from what is used in present-day Spain, and I don't intend ever again to cook in the quantities that Tita does (for Chiles en nogada she had to multiply the recipe by ten, meaning she had to clean 250 chiles and crack 1000 walnuts). But I do love Tita's love of cookery as an essential life force. She starts with the most basic of ingredients, and works through hours and hours to produce surreal food experiences, sending her guests--and herself--into ecstasy. Usually.

Tonight, after resisting for two and a half weeks, I will finally allow myself to see the DVD of the movie Like Water for Chocolate. We'll probably watch it while eating dinner in front of the TV. We seldom eat beef in Spain, but I've made a beef stew. I started it yesterday, browning the meat with lots of onion and two large garlic cloves, then allowing it to barely simmer for three hours. Now I've parboiled small onions that I found at the market this morning; I'll add the onions and mushrooms after I make a thick gravy with red wine and the bouillon from the stew. Then carrots and potatoes, and finally some green, tonight in the form of broccoli. And I think I can find a bit of chocolate for dessert.