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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Long Weekend

It's rare when there is an American holiday that falls on a regular Spanish work day, but yesterday, a regular work day in Spain, was observed as Memorial Day in the U.S. In addition to its historic significance as a day to honor soldiers who have given their lives for their country, it has always, in my lifetime, at least, signified the unofficial beginning of the summer season. When I was a child we had usually finished school for the year just before the weekend, and as I recall, the municipal swimming pool opened on Memorial Day. But I also remember marching in the Memorial Day parade--all the Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops marched and participated in the solemn memorial at the town cemetery, where graves of soldiers had been decorated. One year I got to carry the flag. I'm not sure whether parades still exist as a major focus of the day or not. Perhaps they expired when the date was moved to always fall on a Monday instead of on May 30.

I got into the "summer-start" spirit of the long weekend this year, helped by email reminders on Friday from people at work that Monday was a holiday and also by virtue of the fact that Algorfa, the town we live in, was holding its third annual Ruta de Tapas starting on Saturday. I don't know whatever happened to the first and second tapas routes--we never heard about them until they were over, but this year, I got an email notice because somehow (probably by signing up for a Spanish class) I have gotten on to the mailing list for cultural events in town. Saturday turned out to be a beautiful early summer day, and we headed off at 12:30 with friends we had not seen in awhile to explore Algorfa and the ten or eleven restaurants that were listed on the brochure produced by the town hall. This number of participants is "manageable," the four of us agreed, and because the village is an authentic Spanish village and the restaurants are not all located in one strip, we had to walk through the sun for a few blocks as we followed our "route." I shielded myself from too much sun with the Venetian parasol I had won at a silent auction at St. Johns Unitarian-Universalist Church in Cincinnati last November.

We went first to Bar Algorfa, which turns out to be a delightful British-run Mexican restaurant, where we could choose between chicken or beef fajitas and chili with Mexican tortilla chips, and most of us enjoyed a beer. Then on to a real Spanish bar, where it was so crowded we could hardly make our way through to order from a selection of eight or so different small dishes. I can't remember what I had there, but I enjoyed it with a small glass of white wine. Then on to Badulake, our favorite place in Algorfa, because it is right by the ayuntamiento, so whenever we have official business (and often even when we don't) we stop by for a cafe con leche. This time we enjoyed an open-faced sandwich (montadito) of quail egg with shrimp on small pieces of salmon and ham, with cold agua con gas. Then we moved across the town plaza to the Centro Social and finished off with a mini hamburguesa and glass of red wine. We took our time, talked a lot about what had happened in the past month and what was upcoming, and enjoyed the social life of Spain, which is almost always outdoors with family members of all ages, especially on such a beautiful day.

Back at home after the tapas. Photo c2012 Johannes Bjorner.
The weekend continued on Sunday with our traditional trip to the Zoco market to get fresh fruit and vegetables, and the free Norwegian newspapers, and there we read about a new Danish restaurant opening in Torrevieja. It was still early in the day, so we decided to drive into the city to locate it for future reference. With the excellent location information in the Norwegian newspaper announcement and the detailed map of Torrevieja that resides in our car, we found Restaurant Danmark easily enough, even though it was on the beach in a part of town that we do not know at all. We greeted the proprietor, who previously had run a Danish polser stand at the other Sunday market on Lemon Tree Road, and discovered that he had only been open for 16 days. We settled down for a beer and ended up by enjoying the menu del dia, which today was a delicious shrimp cocktail, a gently sauteed whitefish filet with more shrimp and remoulade sauce, and aeblekage (apple cake) and ice cream for dessert. All for ten euros apiece, which makes it a very good deal. Our outside table provided a leisurely view of all the beach activity on a Sunday early afternoon, and cool breezes.

By this point in the weekend I thought I would use the Monday holiday to write my traditional Sunday blog, but that turned out to be a busier day than I had envisioned--it was, after all, not a holiday in Spain. But more on that later. This was a very pleasant beginning-of-summer weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Three Weeks Later

What a difference three weeks makes! I came back to Spain this past Friday and suddenly it is summer. It is not overly hot yet, but when I left the first day of May, I was still alternating between summer and winter clothing, with the result that a box of winter clothes is still sitting in the room that I use for office, personal space, and walk-in closet. When I arrived Friday afternoon I was too warm in my long travel pants, and when I got up Saturday (not until 11:00 AM) I immediately donned the lightest pair of capri pants that I own and one of the lightest sleeveless blouses.  I have not been uncomfortable in comparable garb since, and this afternoon I moved the last of the winter nightclothes to that box, though the box still sits in the room, not yet on its way to the "attic."

This morning at the Sunday Zoco market I was glad for the sun visor I had bought at Meijer while home, and we sat in the sun and enjoyed the breeze and a café con leche, or white coffee, since it was at our favorite Zoco English café bar, where you can still get one for a euro. All the clothing stalls were selling new summer-weight styles, and the produce stalls were featuring cherries, various melons, and other summer fruit, strawberries being almost a thing of the past. The tomatoes are looking and tasting good again, and I found some potatoes that seem acceptable, although the vendor of my favorite French tiny potatoes says he can no longer get them. But I bought only the basic food items and hardly stopped to look at clothing, because what we really were there for today was to meet with the vendor of mosquito netting.

While I was gone, the "mozzie" experts had come out to measure our windows for the metallic frame easy-on, easy-off screens that we are finally going to get this year so that we can open the windows to get a cross-breeze without letting in oodles of flies and mosquitoes. It all seemed doable and not even terribly expensive, but I still wasn't sure how they were going to put a screen on the upstairs terrace door that I would be able to negotiate while carrying a load of laundry in or out. A nice woman demonstrated the divided curtain with weights and said she would be by again this week to make absolutely sure we were in agreement about which ones we wanted, before she cut and finished them.

Much of yesterday and today I spent in the office part of my room, but I sure didn't need the heat that I had turned on occasionally up until the last week before I left less than three weeks ago. It's too early to need the air conditioning system, but I was mighty glad for the overhead fan that, on the lowest setting, provided just enough air movement to feel fresh. And it didn't hurt that I got up periodically to tend the washing machine on the terrace outside my office. The geraniums that have flourished all winter on the terrace are now on their last legs, and the pansies are looking quite leggy, too, and soon we will have to take a trip to the vivero to find something colorful that tolerates Spanish summers. In the meantime we have hibiscus and oleanders, and the bougainvillea are going mad, as always. My herbs survived my absence, though there are blossoms on the chives and the parsley is going to seed. But the big surprise is that the horseradish that I buried in a pot, which had not even sprouted by the time I left, is now a handsome potted plant of six or more inches. Now I just need to figure out how one harvests horseradish, or, at least, maintains it.