Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hola, Sevilla! Rain or not, here we come...

Two days and nights of rain may have slowed us down, but umbrellas, perseverance and the love  of adventure pulled us forward.  And getting back to our apartment after midnight meant no posting on my here is another TWO for ONE.

Last night, we caught our taxi at the Plaza de Cuba because it was the night we would listen to our torch-singer friend, Rosa, sing at the Hotel Colón at 10:00 p.m.  And we'd already walked 13,699 steps and the hotel was definitely a taxi ride away.  Rina knows her city like a local, so we found a tapas bar down the street and I had my first introduction into the "tapas and wine" scene.  Rina ordered pulpo pimiento, cebolla ensalada (octopus salad with peppers and onion) and I ordered potatas alleñada (cold potato salad with Albacore tuna and green olives).  And Ribera del Duero red wine.  An old Spanish gentleman tapped Rina on the arm to ask her how she liked it as he was trying to decide which of the four tapas offered he should have for dinner...He thought she was a local!!  I loved the little plates and the ambience of the bar.  People were standing around chatting, laughing and holding these little plates balanced on tables and sipping wine or beer.  Very casual and now I know how to do this!

We found Hotel Colón and marveled at the beautiful foyer and gorgeous chandelier...and when we saw the small red "flower" chairs, we were so charmed, we had to have a photo to a memento.

The lounge was alive with chatter and most of the tables were already full.  To our surprise, we found a table right in front.  Now the memory is strong and I hesitate to capture the feelings that still surface when I realized the thing we'd been able to ignore during the day as the rain poured upon us...Now nearly slapped us in the face.  Bull fighting!  On the wall in front of us, were nine large television screens linked together to make one large 12 x 15 image.  A video feed showed all of the bull fights in the Plaza de Toros that day --- especially for the Féria events.

And then there was adorable Rosa, perched on a stool at the bottom right corner of the screen, where she sang a few American jazz songs and then looped into the rest of the evening, sad Spanish songs.  She sings with her body as well as her voice and had us mesmerized the entire evening...if we could just try very hard to avert our eyes from that wall of images.  But, of course we could not.

Bull fighting is in their culture.  Rina and I both agreed that we respected that culture and their love for the "art" of bull fighting.  But seeing that poor bull stabbed, worn to a frazzle and losing its footing in the ochre-colored sand before the matador made his artistic dance and final sword kill will be forever etched in my memory.  Also, after watching four different matadors kill four bulls, I suddenly realized that it was very sad for the matador.  My favorite matador of the night was Enrique Ponce.  When I saw his body in the yellow, "suit of lights" sag at the final moment, the camera moved to his face and the man's eyes cried in tandem with my heart.

But, Rosa, the Spanish señorita sang her heart out with the fire of a Latin gypsy, enflaming the crowd with shoulder sways, tapping feet and sultry voice.  It was a fabulous show and when midnight arrived, she joined me, Rina and Lynette for champagne.  And then she drove us back to our hotel.  Wow.  What an evening.

TODAY (Saturday) the sun began to peek out of the clouds.  It was the day we left the penthouse apartment to move to Lynette's home in Gelves.  And we had too many bags for a metro ride.  When Rina suggested a taxi, I agreed before he got out the last word.  And El Carro waited for us there...

The day was drying up and we still had a plan:  Palacio de las Dueñas is the ancestral home of the Duke of Alba built in the late 15th century.  The poet, Antonio Machado, was born there and afterward, the Duchess of Alba, a woman beloved by the Spanish people lived, loved and died there in late 2014.  She had twenty two names!  Karen McC, our friend here in Sevilla, had written a blog post a couple years ago that intrigued me and I wanted to go.  Yesterday, the rain kept us away but today?  Amazing and so emotional to walk through the gardens, her home and breathe in the flowers and the love she offered to the Spanish people.

Lunch near the Setas (mushroom design) at La Sureña.  The olives were the best I've eaten so far and  I finally had Tortilla Español (potato and egg pie) and Rina shared her Pulpo de Gallega - octupus sitting on top of a potato slice and then covered in paprika.  It was delicious and I have never been an octopus fan.  This, however, may change my mind.

And we walked over 14,000 steps today.  My feet are swollen and the night is still young.  Here in Spain, dinner is late.  In half an hour, it will be 9:00, the dinner hour.  My feet have rested, been soaked in hot water and I'm ready to go.

FÉRIA!!! On the way back to Gelves, a young girl and her mother were dressed in their finery, ready to find the tents and celebrate.  Tomorrow it will be our turn.   I am excited to dress up like a princess and walk through the images that Rina has described to me.  We have the flowers for our hair, earrings for our ear lobes and finery hanging in the closet.  I know it will be a night to remember always and Rina has opened it up for me, for which I will be always grateful.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A NIGHT in Seville and the morning after

I am in the Triana District of Sevilla in an eight-floor-penthouse apartment of the Resitur Hotel - an Airbnb near the Guadalquivir River.  It is a beautiful, mostly-residential, area near the Plaza de Cuba, the metro and any number of tapas bars and walkable avenues.  Rina, my friend from home in Casa Grande, knew exactly where we should stay during our few days here and it holds the essence of Spanish living.

Before the plane, train and then Salvador brought her to me, I had already met another friend (from the Hawaiian Spaniard's Facebook site), named María Mercedes Humanes in the Plaza de Cuba tapas bar.  She struggled with English and I with Spanish, but we enjoyed a lovely conversation over coffee and tapas.  Her great uncle Alfonso went to America many years ago and she found and communicates with her distant cousins in Oregon and California.  It is always such fun to discuss immigrant ancestors both in Spain and in America as we are drawn together with the curiosity to know our family roots.

I saw Rina and Salvador from my window and counted the minutes before I opened the door and saw her walking down the hallway toward me.  It was a sweet reunion.  I had wine and chips and olives waiting and we three sat on the upper terrace to chat leisurely before we gathered ourselves up to walk across the Guadalquivir River.  Walking across the bridge and seeing the Torre de Oro and Seville from that angle filled me with awe.
Golden lights spilled over me in every direction, splashing a glint along the river and filling me with quietness.  Salvador was on a mission to give me a tour of the parks, alcazar, tiny streets and intricate shops that led us through the Juderia (Jewish) area and a tapas bar.  Rina nearly danced with excitement breathing in the Spanish city she loves so much and being with Salvador again.  We three enjoyed every minute, especially was my first NIGHT adventure since I wasn't alone.  During the evening, we stopped once for a glass of wine and Rina was able to eat her first Iberico ham.  It is sliced so thin and tastes so good, we ate all of it alongside Manchebo cheese and more conversation.

One would think I would tire of enjoying the ambiance of Spain, but I do not.  People watching, walking (8,900 steps last night) down cobblestone streets that are sometimes so narrow, I wondered if it was only for people...when a car surprised us and we jumped back toward the wall to avoid the side mirrors as it whispered past us with a whoosh.  The churches and steeples were lit up beautifully.  Rina told me Spain respects its old buildings by adding lights in such a way to make the very best of their beauty.  I loved being part of the night scene.  Children playing with balls or dogs alongside couples walking hand in hand or chatting at street-side tables as if they had all the time in the world.  Waiters do not rush you away like so often happens in America.

That is, of course, unless you are sitting at the table at midnight and you realize all the tables and chairs around you have already been folded up and put away...That was how we ended our evening at Cafe Manolo in the Alfalfa District after we ate gambas (prawns), boquerones (anchovies) and oh shoot!  I can't remember what Salvador ate...but we enjoyed every second.  The city was getting quieter but by no means done for the night.  But we were... Rina had been up about twenty-four hours from traveling here and I hadn't slept much the night before.  So, after taking a taxi back to the apartment, it was down time.

What a fabulous day and night here in Seville after driving earlier from Calahonda.  I won't bore you with the travel event.  Suffice it to say, El Carro now has some new names and I am still not talking to the GPS.  It was serendipitous though...The plan was for me to park in Gelves near Lynette's house, carry my bag two blocks to catch a bus that would take me to the Metro get me to Seville and the apartment.  When I got out of El Carro, Lynette pulled up behind me and YES!  She drove me to the Metro.  No bus ride.

THIS MORNING (Thursday) we took a taxi to the 150-year old Mercado de Triana (fish market).  It is built over the ruins of the Castle of St. George.  It borders the barrio of Triana.  Approximately 100 vendors sell their products under this roof.  There was a distinctive salty smell and then there were huge hams suspended from ceilings nearby, boxes and buckets of fresh fruits and vegetables too.  I'd never seen so much fresh fish, shrimp, sambas, tuna, large, small, gray, white.  It was eye-catching...long skinny fish with large teeth stared back at me and shellfish made tiny movements assuring me they were fresh.  The azulejo tiles spelled out the  stall's names and the beautifully colored, glazed tiles have always been a favorite of mine.

Laughter and chatter surrounded us as Salvador led me and Rina to a table, we ordered cafe con leche and Rina had her Iberico ham on toasted bread and I had a croissant.  The orange juice tasted as if the man behind the bar had just squeezed those oranges a moment before as the scent wafted upwards and the taste curled my tongue.  Salvador had big, fat curly churros.  YUM.  I marveled at the leisure moments, no rush to get through breakfast.  It was very appealing.

And then we walked and walked some more.  Ceramics!  Shops and shops of them.  When I saw the Ceramico Ruiz shop, we had to stop for a photo.  Of course, Salvador photo-bombed it but I hadn't realized just how much until Rina shared the photo with me... And I found a glazed piece of tile with the Torre de Oro on it and framing tiles to complement it.  I may have to carry it home on my lap but I know exactly where it will go on my courtyard patio in Arizona.
Salvador put us into a taxi, said goodbye and sent us toward our next adventure.  I was finally going to meet Karen McCann, a woman who I've become friends with on the WLM Facebook site (thanks to Rina).  Karen wrote the delightful book Dancing in the Fountain among several other books.  When we met for lunch at Barbadillo's, the girls suggested I try something new...carrillada (pigs cheeks) and salamarejo (cold soup with pieces of ham floating on top with a quarter of a boiled egg.)  So I did.  And both were delicious.
TODAY ISN'T OVER YET -- Rina and I are meeting her posse of friends tonight and Karen is bringing me a flamenco-type dress to wear to the feria this weekend!  So, of course, during our walkabout this afternoon I had to buy a red flower for my hair.  Usually, Karen and Rina told me a rose is worn in the hair with a comb in fluffed hair.  Since my hair is very short for the time being...I found "this year's newest hair embellishment" and told Rina I may have to wear it home on the plane since it won't fit into my luggage.  And we window shopped the flamenco dresses.

The night is young and I may not get to bed until late again, so I've combined both days (so far) into this one post.

Sharing Sevilla with my sweet friend, Rina, is charming, exciting and touches my corazón (heart).  Two half-Spanish ladies with a love for Spain... we toast the beauty of this fabulous city that makes us smile.  And we walk along the avenues as if we are beautiful señoras. And then we smile some more.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Embraced by a stranger in Malaga: VICKY

This is Vicky.  She is delightful... just one of many strangers who have reached out to me from Spain whose friendship came about through the Hawaiian Spaniards Facebook site.  We'd connected a few times with the thought of (hopefully) meeting in Malaga.  But since I've been a big chicken about driving in Malaga, we procrastinated.  Until today.  She is the granddaughter of Demetrio Martin who traveled on the Heliopolis in 1907 to take advantage of the free passage to Hawaii and later immigrated to California.  Her family lost track of him and I hope we can help her find clues...

Our plan was to meet at the base of the brick, chimney column at the port on the Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas.  Of course, I left too early for fear of getting lost (but I didn't!).  The sky was blue, just a few clouds and a gentle breeze as I made my way down the beautiful boardwalk toward the column I could see on the far horizon...I couldn't figure out how to get to the parking area any closer.  A cafe beckoned and I soon had one of those toasted bread rolls and fluffy tomato concoctions (pan y tomate) alongside café con leche, my journal and a view of the sea in front of me.

People watching, one of my favorite pastimes.  A bike path was in front of me separated by the walking path, so it was a perfect spot for someone as nosy (curious) as me.  There was a dog with three legs that didn't seem to notice he was impaired.  Two old men pulled little wagons with their dogs along for the ride.  And two lovers sitting near me exploring each other's tattoos among other things...  Then, there was the man with a blue sweater, blue pants and blue suede shoes which, of course, put me in the mind of Elvis Presley's song "Blue Suede Shoes" and dad, who loved Elvis like I did and nearly cried when my brother (Steven) sat on his record when he was a kid.

Promptly at noon, I was sitting at the base of the chimney.  By 12:30, I thought Vicky was standing me up.  But, there she was in her flowered pants and black leather jacket and the biggest smile on her face as she jauntily arrived, gave me both Spanish cheek kisses and we were instant friends.  She'd been waiting along the boardwalk and thought I wasn't there at all!

A LONG walk later (I walked over 19,000 steps today) we made our way along the boardwalk, past the German River and toward the port where the Heliopolis took the immigrant passengers to Hawaii, including my great aunt Dolores Ruiz Garcia and her husband, Antone Ruis Martos and their children.  It was an eerie feeling to stand there where my ancestors stood, afraid and wondering what life had waiting for them.  The photo and details are included in Miguel Alba Trujillo's book titled, S.S. Heliopolis.
Vicky pointed to a very large ferris wheel and said we should ride it later to "see Malaga."  I stared at it and remembered when I'd done the same thing in London when I gazed across the Thames at the London Eye.  We shelved it until later and we walked along the port, then into the center of Malaga, Picasso's house, the Palacio Episcopal, the Cathedral, Roman Theater and then it was lunch time.  And there was a very narrow area off one of the big squares where Frederico Lorca used to write his poems!

El Pimpi was the restaurant Vicky wanted me to see... and it was amazing.  It housed an entire outside area, inside with many tables, a long hall with wine casks signed by stars (including Antonio Banderas and several flamenco dancers, singers and others), and a back patio teeming with grilled gates and plants and flowers.  I was awestruck.  This planter is actually just one of many giant coffee cups/planters... And then I ordered an ensalada Malagueñan and Tempranillo wine.  The salad was a mixture of potatoes, bacalao (cod), oranges, green olives and garlic (I think).  YUM.

Afterward, more walking, ice cream, and the "wheel."

Vicky was right.  The view was spectacular.  While we were chatting off and on during the day, she mentioned that her mother was a hair dresser.  I'd been chopping my hair to the point of craziness, so she called her mother and we had a 6:00 hair date.  Her mother did not speak English and neither did her father.  However, we chatted anyway (smile) with Vicky's help.  And her mother is an excellent hair dresser.  My hair is short but one of the best hair cuts I've had in a very long time.  It will grow.

And then, another surprise.  Miguel Alba Trujillo and his cousin met me and Vicky at a café near her house and we shared coffee and good conversation for awhile.  It was a delight and I had a bag of eggs from Vicky's chickens (really!) and fruit to take home with me.  The other (thank you, Vicky!!) surprise was once she walked me back to El Carro, she guided me out of town before jumping out after quick hugs and I was driving back to Calahonda in jig time.

Although my legs were exhausted after walking so far, I was exhilarated as I realized I'd actually kept up with a thirty-six year old woman and I could still move.  The hot bath was exactly what I needed and now I'm already packed for tomorrow's road trip BACK TO SEVILLE.

My friend, Rina, is coming!  My GPS is minding me perfectly and it's set to go to Gelves so I can park near Lynette's again...take a bus to the metro station and find our hotel that I scouted out last Friday before I made the return trip from Hell...
THIS time, my road trip will be just fine.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Siesta in Calahonda

Siesta!  Today is the day.  Quiet.  Peaceful.
I prepared myself for a lazy day.  Exactly.  Perfectly. All Day.  I mopped all the floors and sparkled up the house and then opened the grilled gates into the sala outside my bedroom.  I haven't spent much time out there on the ground floor because I've been running like a wild woman. Not today.  Today was my day.  My time.  My space.  I opened the doors and walked onto the grassy area and gazed around to acclimate myself.  This beautiful area has been waiting for me for 24 days.  And here I am.

It was a lazy day, a well-needed respite from the many days of adventures.  I have been trying to quiet the chatter in my head as Callie's story tries to emerge, the Ruiz family history fights its way to the surface and my route to peace struggling to win. Today was mine.

Tomorrow, me and El Carro will be heading east toward a day in Malaga.  With a sense of clarity, it dawned on me that my fear of driving in Malaga was a moot point.  I'd driven in Sevilla,  I'd driven across bridges tossing me in the wind and I'd been lost in the mountains above Cadiz.  I'd won the race against worries of being lost with nobody to help me.  I can drive in Malaga where there are people everywhere!  Vicky (whom I will meet at noon at the Antonio Banderas paseo) tells me she has a lot of great ideas where to take me and she mentioned wine...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Memorable dog walk, Spanish market and ice cream with whiskey

A day in Los Nuñez, by now I know, begins with walking.  Scalli(wag), Pesky and Scamp jumped in Lyn's car like usual this morning.  I opened the grilled gates, Lyn backed out, I closed the gates and then I jumped in.  She drove to the dry river bed and it was a morning walk like we've shared several times.  I was pleasantly surprised to smell orange blossoms still in the air.  But, this time, Scalli was naughty.  Somewhere along the way, she managed to get into some muck that smelled so badly that Lyn and I had to finish our walk by breathing through our mouths.  Oh my stars...nasty, nasty.  Scalli's honey-colored hair was covered down her back, matted in white creamy stuff.  Back at the car at last,  Lyn tried to clean her as much as possible before allowing her into the back of her car to drive home again.  The smell was so horrible, we kept heaving our breaths out the open windows.  (Scalli seemed perfectly comfortable and so did the other dogs).  Poor Lyn scrubbed Scalli's dog hairs with shampoo and any number of scent-killing cleaners, sprayed her and scrubbed her again...all the while telling her, "Scalli, you were a naughty girl.  Don't you ever do that again..."  I tried not to laugh but couldn't manage it.  Lyn thought it was fox poop?

Afterward, we cleaned ourselves up properly.  It was time for the Spanish market at the Palacio de Feria grounds in Malaga.  There were so many tables, booths and areas filled with items for sale, my eyes couldn't take it all in.  AND so many shoes for sale!  I started counting the shoe displays as we walked up and down the levels of vendors.  I stopped counting at twenty.

Clothes.  Vegetables, honey, purses, and more shoes than I could hope to count.  Several caught my eye, especially this one...but I was a good girl.  I did not buy them (although my friend, Darla, says I should head back there and pick them up...)

It was also a people-watching mecca. Girls in shorts, pantyhose and boots.  Women in skirts, high-rise blouses and sandals so high, I'd teeter myself onto the ground if I tried to wear them.  And so many stretchy jeans with the fronts slashed down them looking like someone had fun with a sharp knife.  Knock off underwear for men and women. And more shoes.

It was exhausting and fun.
Then, we drove back toward the little village because we were expected at Venta Gloria Restaurant for 2:00 almuerzo (lunch).  When cousin Elisa saw us arrive, she and her father, Pedro Ruiz (the owner), beckoned us into the large back room of the restaurant where I'd followed Laura in flamenco dance steps not long ago.

I was touched that the table was already set up and waiting for us, my name written on the table to reserve it.  Laura stopped by for kisses and a welcome.  Both girls were working in the restaurant today... In fact, there were so many tables to serve, we noticed there were four men and several women trying to keep up with the orders, including Pedro himself.
Green olives and bread were already waiting for us and so delicious.  I noticed that each olive was nicked and the seed was easily maneuvered out with each bite.  Lyn explained they are cut, soaked in water for ten days and outlined the steps to make them taste so good.  She's tried twice, but they failed to taste this good.  So, she said for 2 euros, she buys large jars for her tapas now.
I made a toast to my haven at Lyn's in Los Nuñez and she toasted to our ongoing friendship.
Rosado fritas (fried fish) for me and Gambas pil-pil (prawns) for Lyn.  Spaniards began to arrive in droves.  All around us, the tables began to fill up and Spanish chatter rose in tandem with the size of the crowd.  Our food and service by Pedro and Andres was perfect.  When Lyn ordered dessert, I was mystified.  It was tarte whikee (spelling wrong?)  It was a slice of vanilla ice cream layered beside white frozen cream...with whiskey dribbled over it all.  I had to taste it...and it was delicious.
The day (and weekend) was relaxing, calming and memorable.  Later, El Carro pedaled us home without a problem, for which I was absolutely thankful for.  I've had enough crazy travel experiences lately and I think he knew better than to throw me a curve.

Tonight, I charted out my road trip for Malaga on Tuesday to meet another Spanish internet friend from Hawaiian Spaniards Facebook page named Vicky.  Oh, and also for my alternative trip route to Seville on Wednesday to meet my friend from Casa Grande.  Another grand adventure around the Feria.  But first, I need to get there...