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Showing posts with label Los Montesinos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Los Montesinos. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mandarins and Siesta

I just dug my thumbnail into the end of a mandarin orange and even before I peeled back the skin, I inhaled the heavenly sweet smell of orange. I have thought of this smell many times, for even at home now in the U.S. I am able to buy mandarinas, and I frequently do,  and I stick my thumb in the skin to peel them for a lunchtime fruit salad, but I rarely smell any scent, even though they taste pretty good.

I ate two mandarins while lying on my hotel bed, watching the reflection of cars moving along the country road in the glass of an open window. Taking it easy and resting from the morning's activities, and gathering energy to speed off to a game of petanca with friends at 5:00.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Weekend

It's Easter Sunday, and the holiday weekend started early with a traditional tapas run on Friday afternoon. I have written before about  tapas in the town of Los Montesinos and how odd I thought it was that they always have their tapas festival start on Good Friday. It seems somehow sinful to loll around in the sun all Good Friday afternoon, drinking and eating delicious morsels, and not something I would have expected in a Catholic country. But this is modern Spain, and somehow, in what I believe is the fourth time I have participated in this ritual, the sun always seems to be out on Good Friday afternoon in Los Montesinos.

This year we went with another couple and visited seven bars, acquiring six stamps from the establishments (the first bar was the one where we forgot to ask for a stamp, but we soon got in our stride), which qualifies us to vote on our favorite tapa. My favorite was a vegetable-seafood kebab, with three pieces of seafood, including a delicious shrimp, and three or four slices of vegetables, including a button mushroom. The kebab had been grilled with olive oil and came balanced on a nice slice of fresh French bread to absorb the excess oil. It seemed like none of the tapas were as gourmet as they had been in the past, but they were tasty enough and plentiful enough to supply lunch in the four hours that we spent moving from place to place down the central and one side street of town, to the plaza, and then back up another side street. Along the way we discussed the history and politics of southern Africa with our friends (who had lived in three countries in Africa), immigration and emigration, racial relations in several countries, past and current insurrections, resistance, and unrest, and various other problems. We didn't solve any of the world's problems, but we enjoyed sharing viewpoints and our experiences. At the sixth bar our friends met other friends of theirs, and we all moved on to Dos Hermanos, where several animated conversations continued, now with seven people, and we may have achieved the decibel level of the typical Spanish conversational group.

I slept well Friday night, which was good, because we had to get up early to appear on the petanca playing fields for our urbanization's annual petanca tournament. We have participated before and sometimes this can turn into not just an all-day affair, but one going into the night. This year we adapted the rules and played the games of the early levels of the tournament to only 7 points instead of the traditional 13. You had to win two out of three games to advance to the next level. We did, three times, and fortunately we were able to win all those in two games without having to play the third.

By the time we got to the semifinals, however, we were playing to 13 points, and the competition got tougher. The sun was also getting hotter as the hands of the clock rounded 12:00 and then 1:00, without a break for anything more than coffee, water, and chips. We cleared the semifinals and I did take a break to walk home and fetch a different hat--one that would not blow off in the breeze--before we started the final match at a little after 2:00 PM. This round took us all three games, to 13 points. We lost the first game, but we won the next two. Johannes and I are the 2014 champions of the Montebello Petanca Open! Hooray!

Now we permitted ourselves the luxury of celebrating with a beer and more chips while the officials prepared to make the announcements and award presentations. We finally made it home at 4:00, and we were too tired to do much else for the rest of the day. I had hoped to go back to Los Montesinos for another shot at the tapas, but even I couldn't muster the energy.

It was nice to win, and it was even nicer to know that we had gotten some good exercise during the day. And we look forward to using our prize money to purchase a dinner out at Monty's, the local restaurant that had recently closed but is now getting ready to re-open under new ownership and management. Reinvesting the money where it came from;  it will be a pleasure to support our local community.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

First of March

March came in like a lamb where I was in Spain last Friday. It was a big change from the day prior, when I had been sitting calmly in the morning writing a lengthy stream-of-consciousness email at my desk while downloading thousands of emails onto a new laptop at my side and hardly noticing that the pitter-patter of light rain had intensified to a heavy downpour. And then I heard a clap of thunder so sudden and so loud and so near that I looked around to see if we were having an earthquake! We were not, but more earth-shattering thunder followed and then I heard the sound of hail on the roof and the terrace floor outside. This was just at the time that Johannes' piano lesson was finishing, but it would have been inhospitable to send anyone out with ice balls falling and water gushing down the street and overflowing the drains, so I went downstairs and joined Johannes and his teacher for a hot cup of coffee while we waited for the rain to stop, or at least let up enough so she could step out the door to her car.

We sat in the living room with coffee, warming ourselves inside and out with the sight and flames of the gas fire when all of a sudden another clap of thunder came and squeezed out the lights. And as the lights died, so, of course, did all electricity and my heart sank as I felt the email that had been on my desktop screen upstairs flow out into the world of no return, because I had been writing on the hard-wired computer instead of the battery-operated laptop. The gas fire stayed on, but my world was a little dimmer than it had been before. I still have not been able to resurrect the consciousness that had been streaming so prodigiously as I wrote while downloading all those email messages from the past three weeks that I didn't really want, but didn't know how to stop the flow.

The piano teacher did go home within the hour, and Thursday afternoon the weather cleared and waters receded enough so we dared drive out to inspect our surroundings (that low spot in the pavement on our access road that we always forget about until it rains must have been overflowing with water when she tried to drive through it). And on Friday morning the sun rose, and the sky was blue, there were no clouds, and no wind.

At 4:30 Friday afternoon it was a glorious day and I drove out alone to meet an American girl friend for a coffee and a long-overdue chat. We had our choice of cafe bars in the plaza of Los Montesinos but we decided to sit inside at Carl's, because the outside tables were in the shade and we wanted to be in this location so that my friend could easily catch her son when he came down that lane from his music lesson. But we sat at a table just inside the open door and next to a window, so we could watch the afternoon fade and the activity in the plaza while we talked. We had a lot to catch up on, and the conversation didn't stop until 6:30, when I needed to leave to drive home to assemble the dinner menu that I had left at the latest possible stage of pre-preparation. My friend is American, but she keeps a Spanish household, so she could have gone on for another hour and a half before going home to start her dinner preparations.

As it turned out, I left at a very good time. At 6:30 or so I made my way out of town with parking lights on, but as I drove the secondary roads toward home, I flicked on the regular driving lights. The sky changed from cerulean blue to shades of orange and red as sunlight found its way around enormous white clouds and then the sun itself slipped behind a cloud and I turned in another direction, and when I drove into Montebello and parked in front of my house, the beautiful early evening sky was replaced by two-story houses, though the view probably extended for several more minutes out in the countryside.

It was a lovely conversation and a lovely drive home.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Flamenco My Way

Friday evening we went to La Herradura, an old farmhouse restaurant in the neighboring town of Los Montesinos, for a celebratory dinner with friends. We had been there for a lunch before, as well as a tapa during the Montesinos de Tapas, so we knew the food would be good. We had booked the last table available, and were pleased that it would be under the stars--or at least outside in the cool of the evening, starting at 8:30.

The special draw, however, was the intimate flamenco show, done only on weekends, and due to start at 9:00. What we didn't know was that the show would not be traditional flamenco, but "contemporary flamenco," or flamenco contemporaneo. The announcer told us this as he introduced the two dancers. They were proud of the flamenco tradition, he said, but young Spaniards preferred it a little bit different, and that's what we were going to hear and see tonight.

Flamenco originated in the Andalusian part of Spain, with heavy gypsy influence, and is traditionally characterized by three elements: guitar music, emotional songs (often mournful), and the very colorful and heavily stylized dance.The first difference this evening was that there was no live guitar player. The dancing couple were accompanied throughout by recorded music. And it was not the blaring, wailing songs on which so many gypsy flamencos are based. First up, and quite appropriately,was Frank Sinatra's My Way. True, it was not Frank singing--the words were in Spanish, though I didn't recognize any phrases as direct translations of the words I knew. But the music is powerful, and so was the dancing, All the body whirling and twirling of the skirt was still there, as well as the stomping and posturing, but with just a little less attitude than one might expect from flamenco or even this particular song.

The evening continued with flamenco their way, or a su manera. There were touches of ballet and reflections of Irish Riverdance, as well as Strauss waltzes--a stupendous number with the female dancer showing incredible command of the traditional castanets.

It was over too quickly, but the evening star had come out, the moon was moving toward full, and the clock was approaching midnight. I've checked Google and found lots of information under flamenco contemporaneo and even some under "contemporary flamenco." If the performance we saw was a true indication, the contemporary movement is preserving and reinterpreting many of the best elements of flamenco, but opening it up to many more dance traditions and making it much more international, as Spain itself is becoming.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Los Montesinos de Tapas

We have had three glorious days of spring weather, and three fun days of sitting in the sun, having a drink, and eating tapas. Tapas, of course, are the small appetizers accompanying a drink, for which Spain is famous. Some tapas may be eaten by hand, they may come on a toothpick or a mini-skewer, or they may require a fork, and they can range from a single bite of something delectable to a substantial plate or dish that could almost be considered a small entree.

At first I thought it rather odd to have a tapas festival starting on Good Friday, but maybe not. It's a Spanish national holiday, and there were Spanish voices all around as we visited three bar/cafes with friends Friday afternoon, exploring the tapas in the small nearby town of Los Montesinos.

Our first tapa was at the hotel on the edge of town. They brought us a small piquillo pepper stuffed with cod, and a slice of baguette to wipe up the delicate sauce that the pepper rested on. Then on to the center of town, where numerous bars and cafes surround the plaza. Our second tapa was a large toasted slice of baguette with smoked salmon and a sauteed quail egg, sunny side up, arranged attractively on top. The third stop Friday, at el Rincón, gave us a little square tart, filled with cheese and fresh from the oven. By the time we were finished with that the afternoon was drawing to a close, and it was time to play pétanque with the Danish club.

Saturday I read the scorecard and program that we had been given the day before. There were 28 establishments listed altogether--bars, cafés and restaurants, with a map of where they were located in town. Each offered a different tapa each day, so you could choose what you wanted to eat and go in that direction. But now I noticed that there were certain hours that each establishment was serving, and that many were not offering tapas between 4:00 and 7:00 in the afternoon. By the time we were ready to head out, of course, it was 4:00 PM. I scoured the listing and coordinated on the map, and we were still able to find a couple to try. One of the tastiest was a small Mexican tortilla-wrapped warm roasted beef sandwich, offered by a tiny restaurant, Azul Blue, that otherwise appeared to only serve pizza and kebabs. I can't even remember now what our second tapa was on Saturday--the English restaurant, Margarita, had run out of its planned offering and the chef had invented something else, with fish. It was good enough, though, that we stayed here for a light supper and vowed that we would return some time. On the way home we stopped off at a very old Spanish restaurant where we had enjoyed a lovely luncheon a few weeks previously. The atmosphere was mellow as we sat in an interior courtyard, and the tapa was elegant, though the least substantial of all we tried: a walnut-sized ball of pate on a single melba round.

Sunday we spent the afternoon finishing our tax return and only went out for tapas as a reward for finishing that task. We found two places open for tapas that late afternoon. I deposited my scorecard, which I had dutifully had stamped at each establishment, and voted for the last tapa, a very traditional beef in tomato sauce, with bread, as my favorite. Perhaps it wasn't really my favorite, or my only favorite, but it was my favorite at the time.

We were told that this was the first tapas festival that the town Los Montesinos had sponsored, and that it was a cooperative venture in which the eating establishments had done the planning and promotion--there was even a bus to take people around from place to place in case they had too many wines or beers while sampling the tapas. By all accounts it was a big success. They announced the winning tapa Friday morning at the town hall, if all went according to plan, but I wasn't able to attend the ceremony, so I will probbly read about it in one of the weekly newspapers. And no one has called me to tell me that my ballot won the drawing for a free dinner for two at one of the sponsoring restaurants. But we explored on foot many side streets in a town that we had only driven through before, and now we have several ideas of cafes and restaurants to go back to at some time in the future. And we sat out in the sun three days in a row.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mediterranean Motion

I'm up early this morning because I played six games of pétanque yesterday. 

Usually we play on Friday afternoon, with a large group of members of the Danske Venners Klub, the Danish Friends Club. But this week the Danish friends held their Fall Fest on Friday evening, and pitching pétanque balls in the afternoon would have cut too deeply into the time required to don dress-up clothing for the "do."(I did, after all, have to put on stockings for the first time in months). 

After a full evening of gustatory indulgence on Friday, it seemed like a good idea to get out in the fresh air for a little motion (the very apt Danish word for exercise). Pétanque offers the perfect opportunity for some moderate bending and stretching. You bend slightly and stretch to toss the "pig" or "jack" onto the playing field, and then to throw out your three metal balls--each weighing more than a pound and less than two--trying to land them strategically and as close as possible to the pig, or at least closer than your opponent. (Wikipedia, I discovered this morning, has a good entry on the history, rules, and strategy of pétanque.) Then you get more exercise when you bend down to pick up your balls prior to continuing with the next play, and if you are lucky, or skilled, you may bend down to collect stones to line up in a row to record your points. There are, of course, some who make it too easy for themselves, by using a magnet on a string to pick their balls up so they don't have to bend down...but I think this defeats the charm of the leisurely, measured motion that sneaks a little bit of exercise into an afternoon in the sun.

Usually we play doubles with the Danes, and they have developed an ingenious way to match up teams and lanes so that you take your lumps on different fields each week and play with and against different people. Since only Johannes and I showed up for motion Saturday morning, we played singles against each other. Singles games go quicker--it takes less time to throw six balls than twelve--so we played six games instead of our usual three.

So we got double the exercise that we usually get. But we paused after three games for a little refreshment and a delightful conversation with another couple who had dropped by El Rancho in Los Montecinos to check out the playing fields. So who knows which way the scale tipped on the exercise-eating continuum? No matter. I think pétanque is a perfect complement to the Mediterranean diet, and a perfect antidote, as well.

And after all that exercise and fresh air, I went to bed early last night and therefore woke up early this Sunday in Spain.