Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spanish Pearls vs. this travel blog

I have found a way to insert my photos into blog but for some reason it only works through my original blog.. PLEASE FOLLOW ME THROUGH SPANISH PEARLS.

Sonrisas de españa

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A photo --- test

Near the Cathedral of Madrid and the king's palace....

Avila, on the mountaintop

Avila was not on my itinerary and sometimes those are the best adventures.  Stevens friend, Ana, assured us we would not be disappointed and driving away from Madrid was both a relief and a wonder.  The landscape changed from the wild city to rolling ochre hills and trees.  We drove toward El Escorial and La Comuna past miles do stone walls across acres of countryside, up, up and up some more until the sights of Avila and the fortified wall stunned us into silence.  It was built in 1100 on ancient remains.  The wall is the oldest, most complete and best preserved in Spain.  It has 4 entrances and we plan to walk 3/4 around the wall tomorrow.  The wall is massive and the stone nearly breathes its history around us.

Ana found us a very quaint, clean and quite beautiful hotel just within one of the archways and we walked miles around the courtyards, old streets and the city before she left on the train back to Madrid.

We are now on our own for tomorrow's explorations and the view of the surrounding... countryside shows us miles and miles of Spain beyond comprehension.

Where are my photos?

I am saddened that my photos are not posting and do not have answers.  I can  see them on my blog here.. Que lastima!  I will attempt to fix it.  I have converter plugs but just realized there is no 3-prong converter among the others so I cannot charge my laptop and must depend only on my iPad...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Madrid in a day

Madrid holds 6 million people and today, we joined the throng. We had a personal tour guide; Steven's friend, Ana.  She is Spanish and lived in America some years where they became friends; an added bonus to my long-dreamed trip.  Her English was great and we laughed most of the day as she pronounced words a big 'off' and Steven helped her and she helped him with his Spanish as well.  Me?  I just tried to twist my ears to keep up..
We began our day at 10 a.m. over breakfast at San Luira's Restaurant and I learned that in Madrid I do not order "cafe nube en tasa grande".  Here, I order cafe con leche.  It wasn't as rich and creamy as Andalucia and the Tortilla Espanole was crusty compared to Andalucia's fresh, soft servings.. Then, we had Gaspacho later in the day and it couldn't meet the wonder of the Gaspacho in Torremolines... but I regress.

We spent 12 hours walking the streets and seeing edifices that rocked my mind.  The king's palace, the iglesia Real with the stained glass, nave, rich wood and colored glass ceiling in tiny pieces of mosaics that sparkled and awed.  Palaces, botanical gardens, statues, stone animal statues on the sides and tops of political buildings and green trees surrounded us in every direction.  It obviously receives more rain than the Costa del Sol.

As I watched so many of the Spaniards around the city, I saw many older women (some much older than me) with their gray hair dyed dark or carrot red.  The other thing I noticed was many women dress elegantly in clothes, shoes and walk with the heads held high, proud and confident.  I fell into the minority with gray hair... women really want to remain youthful --- not in a bad way.  They just appeared to be very cognizant of their femininity. 

Watching the Spanish flag whipping around high on the flag pole above the royal palace of Juan Carlos... (it is now owned by the state and not his official residence)... The red and yellow flag gave me goosebumps, making the reality of my visit emotional and I became more thoughtful of the history that touched me as I stared at the gold leaf on the gates, the cobblestones and felt the royalness on that spot.

I forgot my walking shoes in Malaga and my flip flops soon screamed at me... so Ana knew a shoe store where I found 50% off shoes!  After a rest in Starbucks with cafe au lait, new shoes and Ana's tour guide button set on "GO" we saw a Madrid far beyond the tour books could take us through.

As the day progressed, we began walking toward the Prado Museum.  Ana told us the entrance fee was free from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. and we arrived in time before the tickets were gone!  It is beautiful and the paintings and scultures were amazing... My favorites were Velaquesa and Madreza.  Goya was not what I imagined and others were filled with war, death and killing.  I found a poster for my gallery wall at home as a memory of my trip to Madrid and hope it arrives in one piece.

We have changed the itinerary to leave Madrid on Tuesday and drive to Avila where Ana plans to show us the city.  She found us a hotel and we are anxious to see it through her eyes.  It is on the border area between Salamanca and Zamora.  We are getting close to Fuentesauco...

By 10 p.m., our feet were crying and we found Cafe Santa Ana near our hostel -- where we ate something new!  BONITO is something I must make at home.  A tomato (tomate) slice first, then a thin tuna steak or tuna (atun) from a can, only not chopped up.. topped with roasted red peppers  (pimientos rojos de horno) that are soaked in olive oil, rosemary and garlic.  This is a salad or tapas.  VERY good.

Tomorrow, a road trip to Avila and more adventures await. Steven is poring over the map and my notes --- I am a bit anxious to leave the big city and see the villages beyond.

Majestic Madrid

After driving through Malaga side streets for some time looking for rental car return, we found it accidentally just in time to jump on a shuttle to the airport to get the train (metro) to the Malaga train station... The woman tossed us and our bags into a van with 5 other people like sacks and drove like a woman on a mission to put out the fire.  I had my eyes closed a few times and nearly spent time in the trunk of a mercedes (I was in the front seat with a bird's eye view).  Then she pointed down a ramp and said we could catch the metro to the train and bye bye.  The day was a bit muggy and we loved watching people flit here and there, some going our way.

When we got to the metro, I felt confident for a bit as I've ridden underground trains in Paris, Rome and London as well as Washington DC and NYC... but those machines weren't in Spanish :)  Steven was unfamiliar with all of it so I asked a man using the machine if he spoke English?  YES!  He pushed about 20 buttons and we got our tickets.  I told Steven we needed to get on a train whose city is listed as the last on that line and we would get off at out stop...somewhere in between.  We needed Maria Zambino stop.  When the train arrived it showed Malaga Centro and I hesitated... Steven headed for the doors and I followed.  I'd quickly forgotten what I'd taught him and he took over.  Thank goodness!

Once at Maria Zambino stop, we found the AVE train office but our reservation on line wasn't in place so we bought new tickets (we will figure out refunds later)... The bullet train is large, long, sleek and quiet.  It was interesting to see the land change from hills to plains.  Steven said it must be where the 'rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains' since the lush orchards of every variety of tree and plants could be seen for miles, terraced on and on and and so evening planted it was as if someone had drawn them into the landscape.

2 1/2 hours later, we arrived into Atoche Train Station.  No signs for restrooms as in America.... they were few and far between..then we found the rental car offices and soon had a red Citroen.  There was something bothering me about the receipt and I noticed I'd been charged for the car rental even though I'd paid it from America.  The attendant said they never got the money... that's another story.

I had the map.  Steven had the keys and we had our hostel reseration, Barbieri Hostel at Victoria, 6.  Two hours later, after driving around until my eyes crossed while reading the map, we found the parking garage and knew we were close.  The magnificence of Madrid left me awestruck and Steven still fighting traffic (glad I am the designated map reader).  And then we arrived!

Calle Victoria, we were told, is a tiny street (that's why we couldn't find it) that is very well known in Madrid;  it is here that one buys tickets to bull fights --- only on Calle Victoria!  Once settled, slipped off into the narrow, cobble stone streets gazing at restaurants, shops, people, buildings and eager for dinner.  Menus line the restaurants and we both agreed the taparia looked cozy and inviting.  It was there at 10 p.m. we ate ensalada de atun (tuna salad), tapas and sangria while discussing the hectic but glorious day and our surroundings.

By 11:30 p.m. as we walked back to the hostel, people were everywhere as if it was 4 in the afternoon.  Music throbbed around us and Spanish chatter made me smile... Today, we meet Steven's friend (Ana) and the Prado (and Starbucks?) await.  No Cafe Mocha here except Starbucks and that is my brother's favorite.  I will drink cafe anywhere as long as it's the color of clouds, as cafe nube en la tasa grande.  I can say it smoothly at last and it is sitting beside me now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Too many photos

When it rains, it pours....I can't figure how to delete 2 of the 3 photos so please bear with me on previous blog...

Tomorrow I will post our AVE train trip from Malaga to Madrid, our ride through the city LOST and our great dinner at a tapaeria... It is nearly 1 a.m. And the bed calls loudly...

The beach at Torremolines

A wild weekend!  Saturday, Steven introduced me to Torremolinos, a coastal town about 40 minutes east of Malaga just after our second breakfast of Bocadillos filled with Tortilla Espanola, the eggs and potato pie that has become my next best friend.  Between that wonderful omelet-type wake-up food and the cafe with just enough milk to make it frothy and oh so memorable, we were starting the day as Spaniards..

Torremolinos was just a name on the map as I held it tightly, trying to guide us in the right direction away from Campanillas, where we have out little apartment at the Ruiz cousins in the country near Fresneda and Los Nunez.  And we found the "playa" --- a good place to park and found the Mediterranean sparkling alongside the sandy beach among sun-lovers in the Costa del Sol.  Steven got a new straw hat, we each found Spanish-decor towels and flipped flopped our way to rent the hamacas (chaise lounges) beneath straw-covered umbrellas.  It took a little getting used to as women walked around topless but after some while, I noticed nobody really stared (unless the men were being very adept at it behind their sun glasses...)  Old, young, skinny, fat.  It didn't matter.  Everyone was there to enjoy and they did just like we did.... sunburned but happy.

There was a family with 4 umbrellas stuck into the sand, surrounded by children as they talked and enjoyed a family Sunday at the beach... then another family joined them, more children, more kisses on each cheek and another umbrella became a little village.  The familial atmosphere was lovely to watch.  Each woman in the group took turns kissing and hugging the little children of their siblings (I am guessing) and before long, another family arrived, little children running to their cousins, kissing, hugging, laughing and pulling along their buckets and shovels.  It was a sight I'm so glad I didn't miss.  And the Spanish and camaraderie warmed me up (although the sun did a good job too).

I heard many Spanish words around me and I was so pleased to understand some of them.  Each day I can understand a bit more.  Steven teaches me each word, nuance and the Andaluz way.  In there south where we are, everyone drops their "S" and chops off the end of their words so that is the way I am learning.  Buenos dias is now bueno dia...

And more food to enjoy...  Boquerones are grilled anchovies and my brother seems to inhale them...heads or not.  In our cousin's restaurant, the heads were left on.  Here in Torremolinos, they cut them off and I ventured to eat some.  Oh yes... and the gaspacho soup was delicious...along with the sangria.  Ah, the beach was a place we will return to before we leave Spain for sure.  Steven tells me how to pronounce his favorite dish as O-A-O-A = bo-que-ro-nes.  I think I finally have it....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Alora and finding bisabuela Rosa Romero Ruiz

Two posts today... Almogia needed to stand alone.  Alora is about 90 minutes from Tierre de la Torre where we are staying until Sunday when we head for Madrid.  Our first view of this mountain fortress took our breath....we took a wrong turn and drove up the side of a mountain in the wrong direction until the road became a track and then resembled a rocky wide sidewalk...before we agreed turning around made sense...that was a trick... But Steven maneuvered us around as I shook my head...and we avoided the goat herder and his many goats...and within a few miles, the white washed houses sat above us wedged into the mountain as many have sat for too many years to count.  This is the village where ROSA ROMERO RUIZ, our great grandmother was born and died.  Grandpa Bernardo Ruiz was 6 years old and the 4th and baby son when my great grandfather became a widower...  He was Francisco Ruiz Garcia.  Rosa's father was Miguel Romero Fernandez and her mother was Maria Ruiz........  We found an almost-English speaking woman at the tourist office who is helping us "find" Rosa, Miguel and Maria....possibly buried (probably cremated) up on the mountain in the ancient castle courtyard.... Awaiting email notification for our return at the end of the month.

MORE STEEP STREETS....A typical Moorish village.....and absolutely a bit frightening but Steven again persevered (later admitting his knuckles whitened around the steering wheel a few eyes were squeezed shut I think....).   I would have loved to spend the day walking around those tiny streets up and down the hills....this village is hundreds of years old and crunched directly into the mountainside with the castle peering down from a perch so high, we could not figure out how to drive to it....and three men hunched over beers argued with one another while offering Steven directions to do so.....three different versions and complex instructions, none of which helped us find the passage to its gates!

Now we have a contact to further our research into Rosa's line!!!!  Off to celebrate at cousin Pedro's restaurant where his 13 year old daughter, Laura, drenched the rumba for us and without any urging, taught me to tap my feet, swing my hips and dance to the music for everyone's entertainment (especially mine).

And Steven introduced me to his favorite dish here in Spain: gambas...... with their heads and tails still on....

Almogia and Alora, moorish towns

Reading my first blog I realized I was too tired to see it was 12:30 a.m., not p.m. When I posted it... Today I will write about yesterday and today.  Amazing in a word.  Almogia is a village I've heard of for years.  Yesterday, we drove through the streets until the streets were too steep and too narrow to traverse.  My brother's driving is exemplary and I'd still be crying in a corner if it had been me trying to back up a block after our front tires spun out of control when our little car refused to jump hurdles.  TIGHT spaces to say the least.  Then we walked through the streets, peeking into courtyards and marveling at ceramic tiled doors and saying "hola" to everyone we met along the way.. Then we found the ayuntamiento where our father had been the vice mayor and had a chilled Limon drink in our fathers favorite bar.  Steven introduced himself to the barman and the mans face lit up and I saw him pump my brothers hand.  Señor Fernandez was delighted to meet us and sad to hear of our fathers death... And gave us directions to CALLE WINTERS that was named especially due to our fathers diligent work to make Almogia and Winters, Ca "sister cities".   He knew our father well.  After another mile (?) of traipsing through the quaint village on a mountainside, notably 1000 years old, we found the street our father dreamed of seeing in this town....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spain at last....

Simply put, I have arrived in Spain with a full heart and exhausted mind since arriving 34 hours ago (it is now 1:00 a.m. Thursday/September 13). The flight was smooth until we were locked in the plane for nearly an hour after landing in Atlanta….the approach tunnel wouldn’t move to unload us… Once we hit the ground running, we heard our names over the loud speaker, a man stood at the approach to the gate asking us if we were “Steele and Bettencourt” – We obviously looked a bit stressed…on the run. Then, we were at the gate and happy to hear they held the plane for us!
We had a 4 hour layover in Paris, where my friend (Chloe) met us over café au lait and pastries. I was surprised we left the concourse, went through customs and into the public area, unlike American airports. Later, I found Paris was much less lenient when it came to our bags. The agent went through everything with great care and I realized my fold-up fan looked like a large switchblade. I understood just enough French to realize I was on their list.. However, I passed and once on the plane again --- Delta does not charge for the first bag and we soon found the wine and two meals included at no charge. So, the next seven hours over the Atlantic were kind to us.
Glancing out the plane windows over Madrid, I saw the Atlantic Ocean and the coast with the waters rushing white waves across the sand. Then, the Madrid airport looked like a tiny game board and the mountains followed closely afterward. Tiny villages dotted the landscape as if someone rolled dice in little pockets of jewels. Farming communities, citrus trees, olive orchards and vineyards could be seen as we began to descend toward Malaga. Spain at last.
Our cousin wasn’t there to meet us at the airport and I was nervous but Steven wasn’t. We found our rental car and my brother had a map… So off to the first cousins we sped to Fresneda, a district in the province of Malaga. I met Paco, Encarna, Encarnacita, Natalia and Francisco --- my cousins to the Ruiz family who gathered me up like a long-lost friend. Steven’s Spanish and translations helped me enjoy the visit and I learned to taste fresh figs (higo) Encarna showed me the giant trees, pulled the fruit, peeled one and showed me how to eat it… reminding me of a time as a child that I enjoyed stomping them into the sidewalk much better than eating them. Here, they were ambrosia. She fed us salad filled with vegetables and mixed with something that looked like sour cream. She said it was “milk from mayonnaise” Huh… when my Spanish improved, maybe I will be able to figure that out… and get the recipe to share. Then, chicken, salad and fruit. Later, coffee and tea with plates of “postres” – cakes, cakes and more cakes.
Steven’s Spanish phone wasn’t charged, so we couldn’t call our missing cousin. So we drove to their country house in Puerto de la Torre only to find he’d never received the letter saying we were on our way…. So of course how could he meet us as the airport?? And that was where we were supposed to spend our first week.. They were lovely; it was 8 o’clock in the evening, we’d been awake about 28 hours and my eyelids were quickly becoming so heavy, I could barely keep them open more than a minute at a time. Pepa called her friend in the village and led us to a wonderful hotel/restaurant where the Hibiscus and Palms swayed above the wrought iron covered windows and doors… When I pulled out my bag, her friend refused to let me carry it up a bank of steps… and I was younger than she was. No matter how I argued, she lugged it upward so I grabbed the clip/strap and “helped” her. The room had 3 beds and was sparkling clean. The windows were covered with a metal shade so it was very dark in the room…. After our quick showers, we fell into such deep slumber; we both slept the clock around….. 14 hours!!! We ‘d stayed in bed because the room was so dark ----- both waiting for the sun to rise, not realizing it rose without us… Imagine our surprise: it was 1:30 p.m. Wednesday already~
My super duper idea of making my iPhone into a “hotspot” to deliver the internet to my computer didn’t work! So, no emails and no Skype was available. I was too tired before bed and now it was so important I let my family know we arrived safely! Nothing worked! So, at 2:00 p.m. (being the mathematician that I am NOT) I called home, thinking it was 11:00 a.m. Tuesday when in reality it was 5:00 a.m. Wednesday. Steven said add 3 hours to the time here and go back 12 hours.. Makes sense now ~
After checking out of our hotel, we sat down in the beautiful restaurant and ordered “café nube en tasa grande” – Coffee / cloud (just a little milk) in a large cup. (This cup was 2 x larger than an espresso cup) and was fabulous. The china was delicately painted with yellow loops entwined around burgundy ribbons and served with a quiet word and tiny bags of azucar (sugar). I loved it…. And I wanted the cup and saucer (a girl thing I guess?) No coffeemate here… but this café nube was exactly to my taste..
Our next stop was driving through Campanillas, the home of some of the other Ruiz familia – a small town with winding roads, lots of brightly painted ceramic signs and flowers everywhere. I took photos of a little boy sneaking around the edge of the gas station wall, looking around slyly before pulling the water hose off the water/air tank and hiding behind it while he slurped up a cold drink. Quite entertaining and he saw me, dropped the hose and waved gaily before running away.
Back to Pepa’s and Pepe’s house in the countryside, there were so many prickly pear cactus budding profusely. Encarna told me they used it to make….. more Spanish than I could understand. I thoroughly regret not studying my Spanish with consistency as she was an amazingly friendly woman who spoke to me in amazingly indecipherable Spanish and we were both frustrated when I didn’t understand her and she didn’t understand me. Cactus is pronounced CACTU here in Andalucia. The “s” is dropped so Cactu in Andalu…. Not cactus in Andalucia. I am learning bit by bit with my patient brother’s help and actually I am beginning to understand conversations in just 2 days! I want to stop saying, “No entiendo”…
Everyone wants to feed us and there are so many meals, my head spins.
  1. (no name that we know of yet): Coffee and sweet pastries
  2. Desayuno: around 10 a.m. is breakfast
  3. Al Muerzo: lunch is at 2 p.m. punto (sharp)
  4. Merienda: tapas (snacks) is about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.
  5. Cena: dinner is served around 9:00 p.m.
  6. Visiting: with coffee and drinks until about 11:00 p.m. spending real people time
Now, we are up to date. It is Wednesday at 12:26 p.m. as I write this. The road is quiet around us – we are settled into Pepe’s and Pepa’s empty apartment (they are landlords) and we are planning our Thursday. Despite not having internet (yet) or Wi-Fi, we learned Pepa’s granddaughter has internet! So, I will post this very long missive and prepare shorter travel log with photos and description of the countryside and how each place I look makes me feel Spanish genes floating inside me..

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Almost gone...

The bag is completely packed and the taxi arrives at 4:30 in the morning.  The alarm is set and I wonder if I will get to sleep at all?  Imagine my surprise when I printed out my boarding pass to find my bag flies FREE !!?  An airline who gives a ticket and doesn't expect more $$ to fly you across the ocean?  Lovely.  US Airways.

I'm beginning to think in Spanish.  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Do NOT save packing to the last minute!!

Today, my plan was to finish packing and relax before flying to Portland tomorrow... The best laid plans are..... (not happening).

It was a wild day and much more than I was prepared for!  I planned to finish packing today, spend a leisure time and relax.  Then, the washer broke down (I have a new front-loader) about 8:30 and when I finally got the door opened, all the water rushed out like Niagara Falls!  I followed the book’s troubleshooting steps and thought I had it beat--- so I put in a light load.  I was wrong. The error message was defined (EO) as bad drainage.  I pulled drainage hose out, cleaned filter, squeezed behind the washer (ouch) and unplugged it before working on it and then the water rushed out again!  I called LG customer service and he tried several things.  No go.  So, here it is the last day before I leave, a broken washer, 4 loads of wash and the repairman can’t come until Wednesday.  Shaking my head, trying to keep UP, I knew I’d have to find a Laundromat.  

Well, I found one with my GPS and I put all the clothes in 4 washers (the place was empty --- not even an attendant) and then I couldn't find the slots to put the quarters.  Dollars instead, I thought?  No space for that either except it looked like it had a space for a credit card instead?  I walked around the place (very annoyed by then) and found 2 machines and after studying it well, I saw I had to buy a “card” for $1 and once I had my card, I could “add value” by putting more dollar bills into the machine.  Then, I had to take the card to the machine to begin my wash…. I bought a card and when I put it in (as instructed) to “add value” the machine had a message that it couldn't ‘read my card’ and to go to the attendant (which was no place in sight).  So, thinking it was dysfunctional, I bought another card from the other machine.  So far, so good.  When I followed all the directions, I put in my card and another $12 and then when I finalized it….. yep --- the machine “ couldn't read the card.  Annoyed change to major frustration!  I went over and pulled all my dirty clothes out of the washers, put them back into my baskets and marched them to the car.  

Then I got my GPS out again to find another Laundromat.  I found one and realized it was in the mall close to my house!!  Following the directions and watching my car as a little blue dot on my iPhone, I followed it to a STONE WALL!!!  Then I called the place (no, I have no idea why I didn't call sooner…. I decided that driving around and getting lost for 20 minutes was more fun J)  UGH.   I was told that the place was a cleaners with “laundry options” and they’d wash my clothes for $6.50 a load!  I told her I wanted to wash only but she said the $6.50 included drying and folding too.  How nice ~  So, I took out the stupid GPS (I’d lost completely trust in it by now) and found 2 others across town and headed their way.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was absolutely nuts!  My friends, Linda and Gary, had a washer at their house and after 2 hours of crazed laundry-mentality, I headed over.  They saved my bacon.

Their house was 91 degrees (I’d turned off the A/C for them as instructed a couple months ago) but their washer worked!  So, from 11:00 to 1:30, I wandered on my mission.  Then, I finally began my washing and got home about 5:00 p.m.  So much for the leisure day and being treated to dinner OUT.  We had leftovers (they were good, by the way) and I had my wine call with Mom.  And then the packing was waiting. 

A glass of wine made it all better at the end of the day and I’m nearly packed now…
Off to visit Mom for the weekend and then Monday España awaits!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Memories, Abuelita and music

I can hear her singing.  I can see her eyes sparkling as she laughed and looked at me with love etched on her lined face and shining from her chocolate brown eyes.  It is my abuelita and the music makes me smile.  There has been music in our family way back... to a time when her father couldn't leave his drum, el bombo, behind in Fuentesauco.  To the time when music filled the family gatherings in such a way that there could be no gathering without it.  I'm told my aunts were known to dance on the farm tables during the 1920s with their cousins and the little children who could climb up with them, danced too.  Music.

Another memory.  When my daughter, Audrie, was about 7 years old, she sat on abuelita's lap in Woodland, California in Aunt Millie's kitchen.  Abuelita was singing to her and Audrie reached up and touched her face.  Then it was Audrie's turn.  She looked into her great grandmothers face and sang back to her:  "Two little lovebirds sitting in a tree..... K_I_S_S_I_N_G.

Abuelita was enthralled.  She gathered herself up and sang back to my daughter, "Two little lovebirds sitting in a tree..... DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA... in the exact tune with exact timing.  She couldn't spell and had no idea what Audrie said after tree.... but she didn't miss a beat.   The room erupted in laughter and my heart overflowed.  Can you see me smiling still?

This woman was so special to me and my eagerness to find where the core of this lady began moves me forward toward Monday when I fly away at 6:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Costa del Sol and landscaping

My many hours of research has told me the Spanish immigrants wanted to farm in California because they were told the weather was similar to their own in Spain.  They were agricultural jornaleros mostly (farmers).  Despite the hardships and near starvation, they survived and learned self-sustaining gardening and bartering for the food they couldn't grow themselves.  And they loved flowers and flowering trees.

While looking at images of various villages on the internet where many Spaniards came from it dawned on me that the landscapes in the south part of Spain included Palm Trees and  Bougainvillea and a number of magnificently glorious other types of scented flowering shrubs.  But I hadn't realized they also grow Prickly Pear Cactus!  

Here in Arizona, it is everywhere and I especially like the rose/pink/lavender tinted Prickly Pear.  Arizonans make jelly out of this cactus among other things, all pretty amazing.  Now, to add to my genealogy research --- as a gardening addict, I will take note and photograph all the amazing flora and fauna of Spain.  

It reminded me of another old memory shared with my abuelita many years ago...

In her back yard stood an apricot tree, tall and green. 
It is more than an apricot tree she told me as she pulled an apricot off a leafy branch and pulled it apart with her fingernail.  "Mire esto!" (Look at this!) 

"Este es un almendra," she whispered as if she was telling me a secret.  Deep within the apricot seed sat a tiny almond!  She'd cultivated the amazing tree by planting each tree as one, and there grew a hybrid almond/apricot tree.  I'd forgotten about that until the landscape photos piqued my mind back to then...  It seemed so natural to her, this love of gardening and I am so thankful she has passed it on to many of her children and grandchildren. 

I am very anxious to have a look around Fuentesauco to see what the village is filled with now, 100 years after she left.  Soon... 5 days

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maps, villages and family trees

Eight villages are pinned on my map of Spain and the itinerary is prepared, although still fluid since we want to explore and research combined with fun and information.  Sometimes I remember when history lessons took my mind to Spain, France, England and beyond.  I shrugged it off, never imagining I might go to any of those places.

In 1991, I had the opportunity to visit France with a friend because her sister's child broke his leg and she needed a companion.  France, I thought?  Why not?  It was the beginning of my gypsy days.  Nancy introduced me to traveling, her French friends and magic.  I was never the same ever again.  In 1995, I told my mother we should go to Paris --- we needed only to buy a ticket.  She hesitated one second and agreed. Over the next few days, she said she'd like to ride the Chunnel Train.  That's in England, I told her.  Uh-Huh.  So, we added that to our agenda.  Then she said she always wanted to see Venice.  That's in Italy, I told her.  Uh-Huh.  So, that was the beginning of my book, A Roundabout Passage to Venice, that I published a couple years ago.  So -- I saw France, England (a bit) and Italy.  In 2005, my dear friend, Caroline, asked if I'd be interested in going to England for 2 weeks.  YES!  So, that was a fabulous view of England, Canterbury, Stonehenge, London and good memories.

Now, on to Spain.  How can one person be so lucky to see these far away places?  My abuelita's eyes sparkled when we spoke of far away places and now I will soon see where she was born and spent the first nine years of her life.  I will go to Calle San Salvador in Fuentesauco, the street where she lived and wander, sit and gaze, smell, and touch her homeland.  Yep, I'm definitely a Spanish gypsy.

My brother, Steven, and I will be part of where the Silvan family began and both of wish our brother, Rick, could be part of the crew.  Instead, we will live it and share it with every part of our being upon our return.  8 more days.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dollars, Pounds or Euros?? Rule #2 about car rentals

This post is a duplication from my Spanish Pearls blog but wanted to share with others for sure.
I have been so focused on EUROS and SPAIN for the past months, that I clearly missed something quite important when I reserved a rental car for our Spain jaunt.  Fully expecting that the prices are listed as Euros, I dutifully converted those "Euros" to American dollars for my files when I charged it.  Imagine my surprise when the charges were much higher than they should be.  I was frustrated and very annoyed.

Until I was told by the English-owned car rental company that it was "Pounds" not Euros -- Oh!  That was what that little icon was to the left of the numbers.  As if I didn't know that!?  I visited England in 2006 with my good friend, Caroline, and we saw the symbol for pound all the time.  It was right in front of me and I still "saw" Euro because I assumed it was Euro.  So, I'm just saying..... I had a surprise.  Instead of $345 it was $450 --

1 British pound sterling = 1.5881 US dollars

Code: POUND   

Symbol for the Pound is£

1 Euro = 1.2580 US dollars

Code:  EUR
Symbol for the Euro is €