This morning I woke up in Alicante city, the capital of the province in Spain where I lived dozen years until two years ago. We had a delicious breakfast in the elegant old style (pre Crisis of 2008) in the NH Rambla hotel (Spanish tortilla, cheeses and cold meats, including jamon serrano, several breads and sweet cakes, at least five fresh fruits and six fruit juices, and eggs, bacon, and sausages cooked to order). Then we had a couple hours free before we were to pick up our rental car, so we walked down the Rambla toward the harbor and along the Esplanade, watching people, browsing the small white tent-shops with handicrafts, and pausing for a tinto de verano at one of the sidewalk cafés, because the weather was sunny and warm enough so I was comfortable just in light slacks and a three-quarter arm length blouse. Not even a scarf.
Everyone was out, as is typical of a Sunday morning in Spain. Children playing, vying for balloons. Young couples, some pushing strollers. Young women in pairs. Men in groups playing cards and chess. Single old people walking with a crutch or a cane, or riding a motorized scooter. People carrying lightweight folding chairs, on their way to or from the beach. Musicians and impromptu dancers. Tourists and locals. Everyone was enjoying the sun, a gentle breeze, the opportunity of leisure, and the experience of sharing common space in a city by the Mediterranean. It was a perfectly ordinary autumn Sunday in Spain.
I first saw Alicante in May of 2003. We had come to Spain for a week's vacation from our summer cottage in Denmark, with the idea of finding a place where we could live for six months of the year. We traveled then from Alicante clear over to the Costa del Sol and ultimately chose a spot in between those two, but even that wasn't until the following year. What I remember from that first glimpse of Spain was the Esplanade in Alicante with its wavy tiled pavement, and that a feria de libros was taking place in the white tents. I didn't buy any books then, but I remembered the tiles and the walkway and the water and the palm trees.