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Showing posts with label Guardamar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guardamar. Show all posts

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Friday Morning in Guardamar

I have never been a person who likes to lie on the beach for hours, and fortunately, my husband does not like it any more than I do. So we have only been to Guardamar del Segura a few times in the five years that we have lived within 15 minutes (according to real estate agent promises) of its "glorious beaches" on the Mediterranean. Our full-year neighbors on one side of us go frequently, especially at this time of year when the weather is sunny and warm, but breezy enough so it is not too hot--and when the beaches are not overcrowded. Off they go in the car in the morning at 10:00 or so, with beach chairs, a parasol, books, and of course sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen. Back they come a few hours later, often while we are having our salad lunch in our front sun room. Sometimes they return later, having partaken of a light lunch at one of the chiringuitos or restaurantes in the town of Guardamar, on the beach front or one block up from it.

This past Friday morning we had no previous arrangements that we had made, nor any particular errands that we needed to undertake at that time, and the weather was beautiful, so off we went at about 10:00 with the goal of walking along the beach. Not lying, not sitting and reading, but walking. We thought we had dressed for the occasion, I with clogs and Johannes with sandals, and short pants and shirts, I with a large scarf and Johannes with a jacket in case it got too windy near the water.

We found our way into the city of Guardamar and headed to las playas. Even before we could see water at the end of the street, mindful of our neighbors on the other side who had gotten a 100 euro parking ticket for parking in the wrong spot near the beaches last year, we turned off onto a parallel avenue and parked on Avenida Cervantes. We headed on foot down toward where we figured the water was, following a man who was carrying an aluminum beach chair and sun umbrella, so it seemed like a safe bet. In only one block we came to a parking lot  (paid parking, with mysterious colors of lines separating the parking stalls, so I was glad we didn't have to figure that out) and then to a wide expanse of sand. Stopping for a moment to look to our right and to our left, and seeing nothing but sand, water, sky, and a few groups of people lounging in various spots to either side, we chose the left and started walking in that direction.

Guardamar del Segura finds its roots in the sea. Since the 8th century B.C.,  Phoenician, Greek, Carthaginian, Roman, and Arabian sailors have arrived, men employed in the most ancient traditions of the Mediterranean--fishermen, businessmen, and pirates--whatever the occasion required.
We soon realized that it was hard to walk in the deep sand with the footwear that we had--hard on his knee, said he of the two-year-old titanium replacement--and we headed farther out toward the water and got to more solid ground. But we were dodging groups of sun-bathers and even though one of us enjoyed a view of one bare-breasted lady, we soon headed back inward and found a boardwalk. And there, before long, we found a nice little restaurant where we enjoyed a cool drink and a tostada con atun, and listened to quiet music--not the usual blaring pop songs that one often finds on the beach.

Since time immemorial, fish has been a food of the greatest importance to the people of Guardamar, whether it came from the river, lagoons, or sea.  
After our light refreshment we continued walking to the left and came to the end of the built-up beach restaurants and bathing area, and wandered one street back, passing the polideportivo with its municipal swimming pool and assorted sports fields. Across the street was an "infant school" and since it was now a little after noontime, we were treated to the site of parents arriving to escort their very young children--some as young as three years old--home from their morning classes. And we also found three large tiled walls along an old canal (photographed above and below), which told the history of Guardamar back through the ages.

Beginning in the Middle Ages fishing products were carried by canal to the interior towns. Nevertheless, this fishing village also sold fish in a small harborside fish market, as well as
directly through the streets with live fish jumping in the nets.
And then we made our way back along Avenida Cervantes to our car and headed toward home. The real estate agents are right--the beaches of Guardamar are beautiful and they are only 15 minutes away. We were home by 1:30, in time for me to hang the laundry that had been in the washing machine while we were away, and then to make salads for lunch in our delightful sun room.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mothering Sunday

Last Sunday, March 10, was Mothering Sunday in Spain. Or, no, it was Mothering Sunday in the U.K., but given the number of Brits who live in this part of Spain, it may as well have been a Spanish holiday. This year I saw it coming. It seemed like every one of the free weekly newspapers carried big ads, or adverts, as we say here, for special Sunday dinner  menus on Mothering Sunday. No sooner was Valentine's Day out of the way than the adverts started up reminding anyone who cared to think about it that here was another good reason to go out for a sumptuous dinner.

Nevertheless I forgot on the day itself. Last Sunday morning was beautifully sunny and warmer than it had been for several days. Instead of going to our usual outdoor Sunday market, the Zoco, we headed off toward Guardamar and the market on the Lemon Tree Road for a change. It is bigger, and many say the prices are cheaper, and they have a whole different set of small outdoor cafe bars where you can have coffee, wine or beer, English breakfast, German wursts, or all sorts of other food and drink.

We parked at the edge of El Raso urbanization next door and started walking across the first of two or three dirt parking lots toward the market. I was enjoying the sunlight but looking directly into it, so I saw the solitary man coming toward me but I wasn't focused on him any more than that he was walking straight toward us, carrying his market purchases. He called out to me first, "No, they are not for you!" he said jokingly. I must have been smiling more than I thought.

As we approached each other I could see that he had not one but two huge bouquets of flowers in his arms. One was all day lilies, and the other was mixed stems. I don't think he was carrying anything else, though it had seemed, when I first saw him, that his arms were full. And so they were. "These aren't for you," he repeated. "They are for my wife. It's Mothering Sunday today, in Britain, and I'm taking these home to my wife." He obviously was cheerful and anticipating the pleasure his gift would bring. We acknowledged that they were beautiful, exchanged a few more pleasant words, reveled in the beautiful day and loving sentiments, and then moved on in opposite directions.

Later in the day I kept thinking of his enthusiasm, and silently complimented the Brits on making this a day honoring "mothering" rather than "mothers," presumably paying note to all women, and people, who are nourishers of life, rather than only those who may have given it biologically. And then I thought how appropriate it was that the British day to honor mothering was so close to International Women's Day, which had also been celebrated with many special events in Spain that same week, on March 8.

And then I did a little research and discovered how wrong my assumptions had been. This year  Mothering Day was March 10--the closest Sunday to March 8--but it's one of those floating holidays that depend on the natural  calendar, like Easter. In fact, Mothering Sunday is always celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and it is because Easter falls so early this year that it happened to coincide with International Women's Day. And that's not all. Mothering Day did not originate to honor mothers or mothering. "Mothering" refers to the "mother church," and the tradition was that on this fourth Sunday in Lent, people who had moved away from the village where they had been born and baptized would go "a-mothering" to their mother church and then enjoy a family visit. The holiday became very important during the years when young people moved from their homes "into service" in mansions at some distance from their homes, and they were given one special day to go home to their families, for they were never given the time to go home on holidays like Christmas or Easter itself. The move from emphasis on Mothering Sunday as a day to go to the home church to a day to honor mothers came about after Mother's Day became a fixture of life in the United States. During World War II, when many U.S. soldiers were stationed in Great Britain, they spread the idea of celebrating their mothers with flowers and cards and remembrance.

Both the BBC and Wikipedia have articles about the origins and current celebrations of Mothering Sunday, but one should also check out the trademarked Mothering-Sunday UK site.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

In the Middle of Christmas

Merry Christmas. Glaedelig Jul. Feliz Navidad. It is Christmas Day, and if you think Christmas will be over and done with tomorrow, you have not spent Christmas in Spain. It is a slow and relaxed holiday here, spanning a couple weeks, at least.

We did start Christmas celebrations a little early this year, last Sunday, the 18th, when we were invited to an early Christmas dinner at the home of English friends. They needed to do dinner early because they were going to Benidorm for the holiday itself. As it turns out, they were one of three sets of friends who chose to relocate to Benidorm for Christmas this year. We had thought of that ourselves, but too much travel in November made us change our plans. Perhaps next year will be the year we go to Benidorm.

The real, though unofficial, start of Christmas in Spain is on the 22nd, the day that the national lottery, the Sorteo de Navidad, is drawn. This is the biggest lottery in the world, giving out more money and drawing more participants than any other. It takes four hours just to pick the winning numbers and amounts of earnings; it takes place in Madrid every year on the morning of the 22nd and is televised live throughout the country. The 22nd was Thursday this year, which was also the day that we took a small overnight trip to Alicante city. Our excuse for the overnight was an evening Christmas concert at the Auditorio de la Diputación de Alicante (ADDA), the new theater that opened this year and which we have enjoyed before. We were off to Alicante first thing in the morning, and that gave us time to walk through the unusually fine mercado central building that was just across the street from our hotel, and then sit in the Plaza Nuevo in the sunshine, having a glass of wine and light lunch. There happened to be an office of the lotería just next to our cafe, so we could listen to a young member of the chorus sing each number, and then hear a second member respond by singing the amount that ticket had won. For the first time, I had bought a ticket this year--actually only a décimo, one tenth of a 200 euro ticket--and I was hoping to hear one of the children of San Ildefonso sing "ochenta y nueve, cuatrocientos, noventa y siete" and follow that with a mil (thousand) or so euros, but no one did.

Since I didn't have to claim a winning, I had time to pass through the gift and kitchen departments of El Corte Inglés looking for small gifts and enjoying the other shoppers (a surprising number of whom spoke Danish, as we had also curiously heard in our hotel). Then after a brief siesta back at the hotel (more Danish in the elevator) it was time to walk four blocks or so (400 meters--we don't talk about "blocks" in Spain) to the ADDA. Since the concert began at 8:00 we were not going to have a chance for a proper dinner before the music, but we were counting on finding a bar and tapas to tide us over, or more likely, substitute for dinner itself. We didn't find that, but that's another story. We did make it, pleasantly full, to the concert early enough to stand in line for a few minutes before the doors opened at 7:30--although the seats are numbered, the tickets never seem to be, so it is first come, first seated (and it helps if you know the layout of the venue, which we do now, because you seat yourself). The auditorium was festive, the musicians and director in good form, the musical selections enchanting, and it was a lovely evening. The next morning we enjoyed the typical Spanish breakfast buffet in our hotel, and finally asked one of our fellow guests what the occasion was. Turns out that there was a bridge club of some 34 members from Denmark, who were off on an annual year-end excursion, which explained a little bit why we had heard nothing but Danish spoken by other guests during our stay.

When we returned home the tiles for our new terrace--our Christmas gift to ourselves--had been laid and the workmen were doing the grouting and cleaning up very well as they went. They finished the job and on Saturday morning, the 24th, came around for the final payment. Over the years we have been in Spain we have had a number of house improvements made in December--new windows, a gas fireplace, and now a terrace--and they never fail to get done, and paid in cash, on Christmas Eve Day. We had just enough time on the 24th to get ready for another Christmas celebration--this time Christmas Eve dinner Scandinavian style, at a Swedish restaurant with Danish friends. The company was wonderful and the food equally so, with the typical cold table buffet of herring, salmon, shrimp, and fish, plus all the traditional hot dishes, including more salmon, and finishing with at least three desserts.

So this morning when Christmas Day, the 25th dawned, it could have been a little anticlimactic, and indeed we took off on our traditional Sunday activity, wandering through the Sunday outdoor Zoco market. I had seen signs the previous week at several stalls that had said they would be there on the 25th. Well, there were a few stalls open--maybe 20 percent. We commented that it was now easy to see who the Morrocan and other Muslim vendors were--they were the ones who were there on Christmas day. Spaniards have their big Christmas celebration on Nochebuena, Christmas Eve, and it consists of a big and long dinner, which starts at 9:00 and lasts at least until midnight, and then there may be extensive sobremesa (after dinner) into the wee hours. The only Spanish voices we heard this morning were talking about the wonderful fiesta they had had the night before.

There were very few English voices at the market--most English here celebrate on the 25th with a big roast dinner at 2:00--but we found two Scandinavian cafes open, and had coffee first at the Danish one, and then the Norwegian one, though the Norwegian cafe seemed to be staffed only with Russians today. Then we took a nice long drive along the Lemon Tree Road to Guardamar and walked the beach, and then continued south to Torrevieja, inspecting road improvements along the way that were finally done, only two years late, but are now quite impressive.

In a few minutes I will go downstairs to prepare our simple Christmas dinner: specially cut inch-thick steaks of Argentine beef (such a thick cut must be specially ordered in Spain), fresh asparagus and mushrooms, Spanish potato bollitos, and a Spanish custard dessert that is a gift from our cleaning ladies. After partaking of cold and hot salmon yesterday, I decided to put aside the salmon first course I had planned. Tomorrow is another day, and even though life gets sort of back to normal before New Year's, Spain doesn't finish Christmas until January 6, when the Three Kings bring gifts to the children. That means, yes, that the stores are still busy and festive. There are indeed twelve days of Christmas, and still a lot of celebrating to do.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Your Tax Dollars on Vacation

We were off this Sunday morning to the Moncayo outdoor market, which I've mentioned before as one of the three Sunday markets in our area. It had been a few months since I was there last, and then I had purchased two interesting summer house dresses for three euros apiece. (You can't go wrong with a 3€ dress, I say--you can always use it as a nightgown, chuck it in the clothing recycle bin, or cut it up for rags if it doesn't work out, or if it falls apart after the first washing.)

The Moncayo is just off the N-332 road, a national highway running along the Mediterranean coast, adjacent to the immense Procomobel furniture store that is situated in Guardamar at the intersection of the N-332 and a local byway known as the Lemon Tree Road. One of the reasons that we had not been to the Moncayo recently is because the area was under obras--highway work. We had read that the road was to be completed by the summer ... of 2009. Then we read that it would be done by the summer of 2010. When we were last there, lanes were still in disarray and you took your life in your hands getting just driving through or turning. When we were there this morning, it was still not done.

Nor was there a market. It was "closed for renovation," a sign said. It had been open for less than six months! But the Moncayo market was only part of our destination this morning. We also wanted to go into the Procomobel furniture store, because it was host to one of its many changing art exhibitions, we had spoken with the artist last Friday, and we were interested in seeing her work.

We turned south on the N-332 and prepared to take an immediate right turn into the Procomobel parking lot--made difficult due to the interminable road work. We knew the routine because we had been to Procomobel several times while the road was under construction. But this time that right turn had disappeared! We almost missed the new entrance, which was identified after we passed the store by a sign to Urbanizaciones and underneath a smaller sign to Procomobel.

The furniture store was open, the art exhibit was still there, and a new café was doing business inside the store. We enjoyed a café con leche and media tostada con atún y tomáte while we browsed through furniture magazines and chatted with the proprietor of the café. We asked if she knew when the obras were going to be completed--we had remarked time and again that they must be damaging to the businesses in the area, and by now there had been detours in front of the stores for over a year.

That question hit a chord. She immediately ran and retrieved the newspaper from this past Wednesday. We had missed a great sight. The owner of Procomobel, frustrated with the length of time that it was taking to get this work done--and with the lack of any explanation from the authorities--had taken matters into his own hands, so to speak. At least he had tried to get the show on the road.

He had driven a van bearing a huge billboard to the opposite side of the road from his store and parked it. Pictured on the billboard were the President of the Government, José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, and the Minister of Development, José Blanco, together with the words: "These are the only two who know how to get to Procomobel."

It was funny, and it worked. The reason that there had been any sign at all as we came by this morning was that newspapers and TV stations had publicized the situation and finally a directional sign had been erected and allowed to remain.

This small and humorous act of defiance, uncharacteristic of Spanish life as I know it, got media attention. I hope the media attention gets the roadwork done. The Información story says that people were told in August that the reason for the stall was that the workers were entitled to vacation. Vacation has now been over for almost two months, and the work is still not done. But it's been less than a week since the billboard and the media coverage. Maybe that will change things. I think I won't wait too many more weeks to check on the N-332 obras again.

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.