|View from our room at the Sabinal Hotel, Roquetas de Mar|
We also met up with some friends and acquaintances from the past. Mari Carmen, who cleaned for us then and was always a good friend and connection to Spanish life; now she is just a wonderful connection to Spanish life in general and a good barometer of what has changed and what has not. We were surprised at how clean and well-maintained almost everything we saw in Roquetas was. We did not see empty, half-finished buildings as relics of the financial crisis the way we do in the Torrevieja area. We did notice that many businesses had changed names, and Mari Carmen said that often a new place opened up and then closed two months later, but at least here it seems as though someone is able to invest in a new dream right away. We drifted around town to the bookstore and former art workshop, past the language school, to a new secondary school, by our old condo, down to the kiosk where we always bought the newspaper. We rekindled a lot of old memories, mostly pleasant.
And we took the local bus to Almería city the way we used to, because we didn't have a car when we lived in Roquetas, and walked up and down the Rambla, looking for the statue of John Lennon, who composed "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Almería. We ambled around the old city, where many of the old narrow streets have been converted into pedestrian areas. Almería, being a big city and the capital of the province, and not focused on tourism as Roquetas is, was not as spic-and-span clean and well maintained as Roquetas, but it still is a nice, comfortable city. Our favorite cafetería, Santa Rita's, on the Rambla, had disappeared from view, but its venue had metamorphosed into the Chester Café, a tapas bar "with an American theme." We each had a nice tapa ("shrimp in gabardine" (breaded) for me, and a mini-hamburguesa for Johannes. I spent more time than I normally would in the bathroom, reading the wallpaper that consisted of enlarged front pages of U.S. newspapers from the 1920s and '30s that all seemed to feature sea disasters of some kind. At one end of the restaurant proper were portraits of famous American musicians, all apparently black, and a facsimile placard from some unidentified music hall in some unidentified year, but you could get admission to a concert of Ray Charles for five dollars.
We returned to Roquetas and picked up our car, that we had parked at the big shopping center, the Gran Plaza, but not before we took a quick stroll through the Plaza, which had been new when we lived there. Here was where we saw the stark signs of the recession. Almost a third of the stores were boarded up, some announcing impending new tenants, many not. I guess the high rent at the fancy shopping center is enough to deter many dreams of starting a new business.
I did my part in improving the mall economy, however, when I saw the Desigual store, my newest favorite brand. "Desigual" means, literally, "unequal" or "uneven," even "changeable." By extension, for this Barcelona designer, it has come to mean "unique." I had bought a unique handbag for a colleague at a different Desigual outlet several months ago, and on my last trip back to the U.S. I had been unable to resist buying a blouse at the Desigual shop in the Alicante airport. Now here was a Desigual in Roquetas, once my home, and it had not been there before. Nor had I ever seen a Desigual with a 50% discount sale going on, so I got an early birthday present and now have a desigual dress.