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Showing posts with label Roquetas de Mar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roquetas de Mar. Show all posts

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What I'll Miss (Lo que voy a echar de menos)

Lo que voy a echar de menos (literally, I believe, "that which I would least throw out") was a Spanish expression that took me years to grasp, but I understand it now, and I am thinking about several things that I will miss during the months that I will be away from Spain.

Friends, of course, first of all. We have been in Spain for ten years and in the Torrevieja area of the Costa Blanca for five, and we have benefited from close association with several people with whom we have shared daily experiences and the adventure of living in a foreign country. In different ways, they have broadened our lives and helped us learn. We are grateful, and we will miss them.

Café con leche, both its rich taste and the ceremony of having a single cup of coffee, served in a china cup, almost anywhere and anytime. I remember once coming through Madrid's Barajas airport early in the morning from the U.S., and having to wait hours for a connecting flight to Alicante. As I sat in the semi-conscious stupor that follows an all-night transatlantic journey I heard a racket that I could not identify until all of a sudden I remembered: it was the sound of coffee cups being prepared and served. Café con leche in Spain is a far nicer experience than Starbucks anywhere.

The Sunday outdoor market, which we have just come from and where we usually go each Sunday morning to buy fruits, vegetables and nuts; to pick up copies of the free weekly foreign newspapers; to look at books and clothing and gadgets of ever-evolving description (this is where I first found a stylus for my iPad for just two euros; today I was tempted by a three-euro cava stopper that preserves the bubbles after opening and is liquid-tight to prevent spillage should the opened bottle land on its side); and, of course, to have a café con leche.

Hanging the laundry. I am aware that in many--perhaps most--parts of the U.S. it is forbidden by ordinance or custom to hang laundry outside to dry; the idea, I guess, is that it is unsightly--though it certainly is energy-efficient. I didn't hang laundry out when i was in the U.S. previously and I didn't hang it out when we lived in a second-floor apartment in Roquetas de Mar. In the two houses that we have lived in on the Costa Blanca, however, I have used the terrace for one of its primary purposes in Spain. I have learned the advantages and disadvantages of wooden and plastic clothespins, the value of hanging garments inside out and changing their orientation from time to time. More importantly, perhaps, I have adjusted to the light exercise of bending and stretching and the joy of using the hanging out and taking in of laundry as a welcome break in computer work or reading. Where we are moving to I will use a tumble dryer, as it is called here, much more often than the once-in-a-blue-moon that I use the one that sits gathering dust beside my washing machine here.

The six-hour time difference.  Before we moved to Spain we lived in the Eastern time zone of the U.S. We are going back to the Eastern time zone, although to its western extreme. It can be inconvenient to make phone calls to the U.S. when there are six hours of time difference between you and the person or office you are calling. We have also had to get used to watching the PBS Newshour broadcast the evening before in the following morning, and the like. But there are some advantages to the time difference, the major one for me being that I could be at my computer in the morning hours and have accomplished almost a full day's work by the time my Connecticut colleagues got to their desks. That gave me a "home court advantage" as well as the freedom to be even more flexible in my scheduling. Life is going to be different when I return to "real time."

Petanca. It is the Danish community in the Costa Blanca that introduced us to the game of petanca, and almost without exception we have played petanca once or twice a week during the time we have been here, if not with the Danes, on our own. There is a petanca association in the U.S. but so far we have not found much promise of a club close to where we will be. We are, however, thinking about places where we can draw a petanca field of our own. And we have determined that we can buy petanca balls--far too heavy to transport--at Brookstone.

The sun. The sun, and the light it brings, is one of the factors that brought us to Spain. We have never been "beach people" who sat in the sun for hours in the summertime, but we did live in New Hampshire and in Denmark, two places where there is far less sunshine than in Spain. We knew what long hours of darkness for days on end do to you psychologically, and we suspected--and have now experienced--what days of light do to you psychologically: they make you much happier, or at least more cheerful and content. What I didn't know was the damage that strong sun can do to your body; now that I have had a long bout with an inconvenient skin cancer and some eyesight damage, I am more cautious about walking outside during the daytime, and a bit of the fun of being in this climate is gone. Still, I can't blame Spain for any of my health problems, as genetics and long years of accumulated carelessness certainly played their part--though I do like to imagine that perhaps I wouldn't have wrinkles in some of the places that I do if I hadn't been here.

Spanish classes. I sorted through many of my Spanish class books and papers recently, which I have accumulated from attendance at five different formal language schools. I am taking a couple books to the U.S. and fully intend to continue studying the language--but I acknowledge that I have said that before. It's a poor language teacher who lets you study language in a vacuum, and I am pleased to say that only one of my schools--and I wasn't there long--failed to enhance language lessons with tons of information about the culture of this country and generous sharing of personal viewpoints. I will miss my teachers, as well as many of the other students.

The international community. In Roquetas we lived in the center of a Spanish town and had a piso in an all-Spanish apartment building. There was an urbanization on the outskirts of town--quite a large one with several hotels and vacation houses. This is where Spaniards from Madrid and the interior would come for holiday, as well as a fairly large number of British people. Here on the Costa Blanca, in contrast, I live in Europe primarily and only incidentally in Spain. Many of the towns and villages number more non-Spaniards than Spaniards in their official residence figures, and often the non-Spanish fail to register. A large majority of the international community are retirees--I call this the "Florida of Europe"--but with (officially) easy mobility from country to country within the European Union, a number of young and middle-aged people come to set up business and raise their children. Though the financial crisis has had a demoralizing effect, the international community remains vibrant, strong, and large. I expected to learn about Spain when I came to Spain, but I didn't expect to learn about England, Scotland, Ireland Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Norway, South Africa, and more. I have.

Finally, food. In addition to café con leche (the beverage and the ritual), there are a certain number of foods, that I will miss. As I think about these, I realize that most of them fall under the category of "convenience foods." Though I love to cook, I do not love to cook every day, and I am a great believer in having something appetizing and nutritious in the freezer for a quick dinner. Here's what I am going to have to find substitutes for:
  • Chicken Kiev: two frozen Kiev bundles; they take just 30 minutes in the oven; from Iceland, the British Overseas grocery.
  • Salmon: two frozen individual servings; even less time in the microwave; from Lidl and Consum, but cheaper in Aldi.
  • Little, round, frozen potato balls; 15-20 minutes in the oven; formerly from Mercadona but discontinued; I finally found a substitute at Iceland. I have also had these pommes noisettes in Denmark, but I have never seen them in the U.S.
  • Creamed spinach, frozen; four minutes in the microwave, and both the spinach and the "cream" tablets come in small individual balls so you can shake out just the number you need from the freezer bag; Mercadona.
  • Frozen chopped spinach without the cream; available anywhere  in small blocks or balls the size of dishwasher soap tablets so you can use just what you need instead of opening a 10-ounce box. I shake out a few to add to rice, soup, omelets, pasta sauces, or just about anything, including adding more spinach to the creamed spinach above.
  • Salteado de patata, or "Spanish biksemad" as we call it in our house. A bag of frozen diced potatoes, Spanish tortilla, ham bits, peas, and red pepper, that you sauté in olive oil for seven minutes, adding mushrooms or other vegetables if you feel like it, and poach an egg for the top. Mercadona.
  • Canned tuna in olive oil. I add this to our lunchtime green salad: no salad dressing necessary. Available in any grocery store in Spain. You can also get canned tuna in water or sunflower oil, but why?
  • Gazpacho. The classic cold red pepper-tomato soup from Andalusia, available only in the summer time, when you can buy it ready-made in the refrigerated section at most grocery stores. I'll have to use my recipes the rest of this season.
  • Snacks for when I wake up in the middle of the night. Dried garbanzo beans are my favorite savory; inexpensive and nutritious. The slightly sweet "biscuits," packaged singly, that are given out as an accompaniment in many coffee shops when ordering just a café con leche, are my favorite sweet. They are tiny and just enough to satisfy my craving.
And though I promised not to take food back with me on this trip, I admit that in my suitcase I have stashed sachets of saffron, a couple envelopes of dried asparagus and cream of nine vegetables soup, two small packages of vegetable and pumpkin bouillon cubes, some of the dried white fava beans for fabada, and a couple spice blends. 

People, atmosphere, activities, food. Although I will miss all these, with luck we will return early in 2015 and encounter them again.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Going Back Home to Roquetas

How many homes can one person have in a lifetime? Lots, I guess. I have just recently returned to my current home in Spain from my, what? original home in the United States. This past Thursday morning when I woke up, I realized that we had no definite arrangement on the calendar for that day. And when I checked, we had nothing definite for Friday, either. And it was a beautifully sunny day outside, so I wanted to go for a ride. Only a couple hours later, we had thrown a few pieces of clothing, our toiletries, and our electronic gadgets (cachivaches) into the car, and we were off to Roquetas de Mar, the Andalusian town we called home when we first came to Spain to live, in 2003.

Roquetas lies right on the Mediterranean about a three hour drive from our current home in Algorfa. It is in the province of Almería, which is the easternmost province of the comunidad of Andalusia, which stretches over almost the southern third of Spain, from the Mediterranean Sea on the east to the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal on the west. For several months in 2008 and 2009 we drove the route in between often, as we commuted back and forth on occasion between the Roquetas condo and the tiny apartment we rented in Torrevieja, in Alicante province, to help us decide whether we really did want to pull up stakes and move to a new home in Spain. We determined that we did, and eventually sold the condo in Roquetas during the first year of the financial crisis that hit in 2008 and is still making its effects evident. Although we have talked about returning to Roquetas for a visit several times in the past five years, we had not. So this spontaneous trip was anticipated, but not planned.

Ironically we drove north to get onto the E-15. But as soon as we joined that major highway running through Europe, we went south, toward Murcia. The car knew the way, because this is how we go to Ikea, which has furnished much of our Algorfa home, and also to the Apple store, where we have gone for help and some of those cachivaches in the past two years. This time, though, we drove straight through Murcia, ignoring the two exits that we usually take. An hour after we had started, the road turned west, and we did, too, and then we really felt like we were on our way.

As it neared noontime we began looking for a restaurant that we had often stopped at during the time we were making frequent trips. The only problem was that we couldn't remember the name of it, nor the town in which it was located, nor the proper exit to take. Actually we knew that we wouldn't recognize the exit anyway, because we were not traveling on the same road that we used to use when we traveled between the two places. Then we traveled on a new toll highway,  the AP-7 (the P stands for Peaje, which means "pay, " and pay we did, to the tune of more than 11 euros, about $15 then, for a one-hour ride). We knew that the tolls had climbed even higher over the past five years, and we decided that we didn't want to support that highway robbery. So we were traveling the E-15, which in some places goes parallel with the AP-7, and we were on the lookout for an exit to the remembered restaurant in a not remembered town.

We gave up before we even got close, we discovered later, but instead we found a nice roadside restaurant on the side of an "easy off, easy on"service road. It was Mi Cortijo, which is a word I had to look up when I had a chance. My Cambridge-Klett dictionary says it means "country estate" or "country house," but an online reference I found first made it sound more like working farm and its various buildings. This establishment just looked like a large roadside restaurant. We sat at a table in front of the house and shared three tapas, some bread, a glass of wine and a gaseosa. It only took 25 minutes, start to finish. I think that perhaps the definition of tapas is changing in Spain, or at least in my  mind, to mean "fast food," because the various tapas offered by a restaurant are ready (and usually displayed in counter top trays) when you are. Most provide very good fast food. So in less than a half hour we were back on the road to Roquetas, which we reached just a little over an hour and a half latter, after an interesting stop.

Seeing Roquetas: The Same and Not the Same

View from our room at the Sabinal Hotel, Roquetas de Mar
The time we spent in Roquetas was delightful. It had been almost five years since we had been there, and we were prepared for some things to be the same, some to be different. That morning I had quickly reserved a room at a hotel whose name we knew, and whose main-floor public bathroom I had used before, as the hotel was between one of the Spanish language schools I had attended and the bus stop. But it was the first time we had stayed there, and it was in a different part of town--the "urba," or urbanization, or tourist area--than where we had lived before. So we really had the experience of being tourists in a town that we knew well enough that we didn't need a map but that we had some idea of where services, like the local Mercadona grocery store, were. We took advantage of the Mercadona the first night, buying cold drinks and then picking up comida para llevar, a takeaway pizza, on the way back to the hotel.

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.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Shopping Sundays

Summer Sundays in Spain are different from winter Sundays, at least on the coast. During July and August people from the north of Spain flock to the southern and eastern costas, and people from the interior parts of the southern and eastern provinces also flood outwards to the beaches. Locals who live year-round on the coast sigh and moan about the lack of parking spaces, but they know how their bread is buttered, or more precisely, adorned with olive oil: tourism.

I have another reason to look forward to the thousands of tourists who come during these weeks. The arrival of tourists to an official tourist region means store openings on Sundays. Yes, Spain still lives most of the year with Sunday being a "day of rest" from commercialism, as long as you don't count the busy Sunday outdoor market or the hundreds of restaurants, bars, and cafeterías that do big business on the "day off." But for Sundays in December and the summer holidays, the larger grocery stores and entire shopping centers that are located in tourist areas are given special dispensation to stay open on Sunday to cater to tourists.

Everyone, I think, loves it. You do not hear just English, German, French, and Scandinavian voices comparing prices and value in Carrefours, Lidl, Consum, and Eroski on Sunday. You also hear Spanish, and you see lots of Spaniards pushing gigantic shopping carts filled with clothing, shoes, electronics, and food. The entire Gran Plaza shopping center had been open on summer Sundays when we lived in Roquetas, and we had noticed that nearly every grocery, hipermercado, and large hardware and building supply store that we have entered here on the Costa Blanca also carry signs advising that they are open on Sunday in July, August, and the first half of September.

Which is why we skipped our usual visit to the local outdoor market this morning and headed to the Ikea in Murcia. They had been out of the shelving we need for the kitchen on our last visit, and their online site now showed that stock had been replenished. We have gone so often to this Ikea that we know the shortest and easiest way, and we have it down to just about a 45 minute ride, only the last five minutes of which are heavy with traffic.

But today we noticed that there was practically no traffic during the last five minutes, and when we approached the parking lot in less than five, we realized there were no cars--none at all--in the parking lot. Sure enough, the sign on the door listed the Sundays and festivos that Ikea is open, but there was a big blank next to the month of agosto. We drove around to several other big box stores, and even parked and went into a shopping mall, to see whether there were any signs that anything might be open in the next few hours. A few other cars were doing the same thing, and the voices of disappointment we heard were Spanish.

Giving special tourism dispensation is a local prerogative. Obviously the officials who are authorized to make this decision in the province and city of Murcia have chosen not to allow Sunday opening during the summer months. Oh, the frustration! I had already been anticipating my favorite treat from Ikea's cafeteria for lunch. But that was counting my shrimp before they had nestled down on an open-faced sandwich.

Back in the car we turned again toward Alicante province and home. I remembered years ago when we lived in northern Massachusetts--still under blue laws at that time, but no more--and we would drive across the border into New Hampshire to shop on Sunday. We even bought one of our cars one Sunday in New Hampshire. Now we passed by our house in Montebello and the open-air market, which was still going strong and tying up traffic, and proceeded on to the Habaneras shopping center on the outskirts of Torrevieja. Everything was open. I noticed that even McDonald's had a sign out saying they serve breakfast from 9:00 until noon (previously they never opened until 11:00). I wonder if that is permanent, or summer-time only.

We spent an hour in the AKI home DIY center, and came out with above-bed lamps, energy-saving bulbs, and the electric cable and switches to install them. So not all was lost. At least we got something for the house, and we still had time left to do a home project on this Sunday in Spain.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

All Boxed In

I'm up to my shoulders--well, perhaps above them--in boxes. That's because we're packing up to relocate to the Alicante area of Spain, back where this blog began some six months ago.

I'm a frequent mover, though most of my moves have been between houses in the United States. We are also mostly do-it-yourself movers, or at least do-it-yourself packers, because although I keep sorting and disposing of books, papers, clothing, kitchen utensils, household decorations and whatever else it is that brings comfort and clutter to my homes, there is always too much to invite someone in to relieve me of this personal task. I don't think it's true, but maybe I'm fooling myself and the only time I really do sort and clean out is when I move house.

Considering the fact that everything in this house was either acquired on this side of the Atlantic within the past five years, or carefully brought over in my two-suitcase allotment on biennial trips to the U.S., I've got a lot of stuff. But there's not too much time to sort through this time--we were told on Thursday afternoon that our buyers wanted to take possession of the apartment the following Thursday. That would be this coming Thursday. Given the economy and the turgid real estate market, what the buyer says, goes. So we were boxed in to an earlier-than-expected moving date.

In most previous moves, the main type of moving crate has been the time-honored liquor carton. When we moved from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Midwest six years ago, we started to drive to different state liquor stores to pick up boxes, not because I was worried that my soon-to-be former neighbors might think I drank too much, but because I was worried that the state store clerks would think we had too much stuff.

They do not have state liquor stores in Spain, but we have been living on the main street of town, within a ten-minute walk of three grocery stores, a stationery shop, and numerous bars and restaurants. (Lots of banks, too, but they aren't receiving any deposits in crates these days). We are also within reach of several trash/recycling centers, so we've started timing our daily walks to throw-out time. People are not supposed to leave cardboard boxes on the ground outside the dumpster, but thank heavens they do. Here, in contrast to most places I've lived before, the sanitation workers actually pick those up and dispose of them properly instead of letting them sit until the next day or the next wind and rain.

We have a very different supply of cardboard moving cartons in this commercial environment. I've explored my piles to see what markings on the boxes reveal about their former contents and discovered how little I know about the many consumer products of Spain. Here's what I can see:
  • Coviran Papel Aliminio - aluminum foil for the small grocery store next door
  • Hidalgo Pan Precocido - Prebaked bread, lots and lots of boxes from the supermarket down the street. So that's why they always had fresh bread coming out of their ovens!
  • Mercadona Barra Bolo - more bread variations from the supermarket
  • TempleOliva: 8X2L of olive oil
  • Vinagre de Vino Blanco Procer - vinegar to go with the olive oil, of course
  • Carnicas Roquetas - some beef product, judging by the silly cow on the side of the box
  • Aperitivas - a wide variety of snacks to nibble with your wine
  • the box from somebody's Phillips CD Sound Machine
  • a Humax 22" Easy Digital flatscreen TV box--I wonder why TV screens are measured in inches here?
  • a Tupperware Breadsmart machine box
  • something marked AllinOne - a dishwasher liquid
  • Plasticos Seguros - I'm not sure even after checking Google España. "Secure plastics" could be anything from baby bottles to plastic gloves, name it
  • Ibico binding covers
  • 12 unidades El Baño Aloe Vera marked Muy Fragile, so I used those to pack glassware
  • Nueces Cascara Hacendada - nuts in their shell, supermarket brand
  • something marked Girasol (sunflower) from Moldavia
  • Something marked that I never heard of before - seems to be a high-calorie fried snack aimed at kids
  • A couple gorgeous flat boxes sent to Modas de Ana, one of the nice ladies' clothing stores in town
  • something labeled Ron Brugal Añejo - a liquor from the Dominican Republic
  • and one fine box marked Johnnie Walker Red Label
Well, that's enough of a break. I still have some empty boxes to fill.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Flowers

A few weeks ago I passed by an open garden gate and was surprised to see a courtyard full of blooming daffodils. Spring flowers that were traditional in my North American growing up years--primarily daffodils and tulips--are rare here, as the winters along the southern costas of Spain do not get cold enough to properly "set" the bulbs. As a matter of fact, I was surprised to see flower bulbs on sale at all the first year I was in Spain. So the sight of a mass of 50 or more daffodils that must have been carefully and individually planted was an unexpected early spring pleasure.

There are spring flowers in Spain, just as there are distinct seasons. The flowers are just different from the ones I was used to while growing up in Ohio or living in New England. First we have the almond blossoms, which I almost missed this year, being away in the States until mid-February. But drives across country and walks along hilly trails in the past few weeks have always presented gorgeous profusions of yellow wildflowers. There are several different kinds, all of which are unknown to me, including one which looks almost like a dandelion, and another like a buttercup, but they aren't either of those. Today, while biking through Roquetas on yet another new bike path along the Mediterranean, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this display of naturalized yellow miniature blooms popping their heads up over the blades of grass in a small park--grass itself being a rather unusual form of greenery in this area.

My favorite spring plants, though, are the low borders of green succulents along the sea promenade, that suddenly spring forth with round magenta flowers each March. We watched one of the promenades being built, and the green succulent leaves served as a ground cover during the winter. Only a few flowers blossomed the first year, but each spring since, there have been more and more, so now it sometimes appears as a magenta carpet over the entire area. Danish friends told me these are middagsblomster, and a German friend verified that in Germany they are mittagsblume. But I've never been able to find either the Spanish or the English name. Now, after leafing unsuccessfully through two Spanish flower books with pictures, I found a lovely multilingual site on the Internet, Biopix. Clicking the Spanish flag produces two imaginative names for this plant: diente de dragón (dragon's tooth) and flor de cuchillo (knife plant). The individual succulent leaves could certainly be regarded as the long teeth of a dragon. But the British flag reveals two surprising and unjust names, I think: giant pigface, and Hottentot fig. The Latin name is neutral: Carpobrotus acinaciformis. I think I would prefer to remember dientes de dragón.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

First Bike Ride of the Season

This second March Sunday morning in Spain was perfect for bike riding, and I have a new bicycle. Petty theft happens here, especially when you get careless. Someone climbed over the four-foot wall surrounding our terrace in December, picked up two bicycles that we had forgotten to lock that night, and somehow passed them over to the other side. Since then I have been without a bike.

This time I bought a folding bike. We are no longer living in the house with the terrace and four-foot wall, but now on the second floor of an apartment building with a small four-person elevator. The collapsible bike, when folded up, can be carried into the elevator for trips down from and up to the always-locked apartment. With some difficulty.

Even before we reached the tile-paved promenade at the foot of the half-mile paseo that connects the main street on which we live to the Mediterranean, I knew I was going to be too warm in my turtle-neck and long jeans. I was, but there was too much life going on to turn back and change, or even to run back and pick up the camera we forgot. At 11:00 AM, the promenade was full of people of all ages enjoying the sun and fresh air of a spring Sunday. A bike path runs along the people promenade, and theoretically all bikes follow the bike path and all people on foot are on the wider pavement closer to the Sea. But there are many sorts of wheeled vehicles to contend with. At any point in time, regardless of where you are walking or riding, you may meet:
  • tricycles
  • roller skates
  • children's bikes with training wheels
  • wheelchairs, pushed not by the occupant
  • motorized scooters, driven by the occupant
  • baby strollers, pushed by parent or grandparent
  • double-wide baby strollers holding the large number of sets of twins in Spain
  • sedately moving two-wheeled bikes, ridden by pensioners or those approaching that age
  • racing bikes, usually controlled by young Spanish men passing you by at breathtaking speeds
  • the occasional motorcycle
  • a few cars and camping vans, making their way to the wide beach front between the promenade and the Sea
There were hundreds of people moving along, and when we got to the end of the tiled promenade, we and they continued on new bike and walking paths that had been built within the past year. We passed on wooden bridges over shallow marshes and through a natural park with a nice selection of grasses, shrubs, and palm trees. We stopped at one point for the most surprising pedestrians of all--at least 60 sheep making their way across the marsh, with a little help from a herdsman. All wore a small metal bell around the neck, each emitting a single soft tone that together produced an enchanting musical interlude.

We were headed to Aguadulce, a small village immediately to the north, perhaps seven or eight miles away. We stopped on the southern perimeter for our traditional snack of café con leche and tostada and a rest in the sun. Normally we would have continued all the way through Aguadulce, but I'm still getting used to the straight-across handlebars and the hand brakes on this bike, and I could also tell that I was feeling the effects of even this short ride in my legs, so we'll leave that for another day.

By the time we made our way back, the sheep were long gone.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Roquetas de Mar

Very careful readers of this blog may have noticed a subtle change in subtitle. I started writing Sundays in Spain when we were living temporarily on Spain's Costa Blanca, near Torrevieja, in Alicante province on the east coast. We have recently moved back to the original place we started living in Spain more than five years ago, Roquetas de Mar. We have a large apartment in Roquetas that we have decided to sell, but like most real estate worldwide these days, it's not moving at lightning speed. Until such time as we sell and return to the Costa Blanca, we decided to settle once again in Roquetas, which is not at all a bad place to be.

Roquetas de Mar is located in the province of Almería, which in turn is a part of the comunidad of Andalucía, that broad region at the south of Spain that extends almost all the way from its eastern to its western border. The capital city of Almería is also named Almería and is a short twenty-minute drive by car or local bus from Roquetas center. Roquetas itself has about 80,000 inhabitants, spread among the villages of Aguadulce, El Parador, Roquetas old town, and the Roquetas urbanization (resort). It sits just next to the desert of Tabernas and in the midst of thousands of invernaderos, plastic greenhouses, which give three growing seasons for the agricultural industry that, with tourism, supports the area's economy.

I've written previously about the underground tunnels below Almería, and you will no doubt hear more about Almería, Roquetas, and Andalucía, in the weeks ahead.