Unexpectedly Thoughtful Customer Service

I had a postcard to mail this week and also something my host wanted me to send, so I had “go to the post office at some point this week” on my calendar. As it turned out, I had no work worth mentioning today and it was a super lovely day (HOT (and sunny) for the first time since I got here!). So I headed out to La Cañada around noon. I’d previously found the post office, so it was easy to get there.

The clerk got my host’s letter sorted out very quickly, but my postcard caused a flurry of activity and exchanges too quick for me to understand at first. But I finally got this:

Man: You have the right postage!

Woman: But I want a real stamp so her friend can see what a Spanish stamp is like!

Like in Canada and the US, the Spanish postal service can print out a postage label. But my clerk didn’t want to do that and anticipated, correctly, that my friend would be disappointed not to get a proper stamp (since she collects them). That little bit of thoughtfulness made my day!

I didn’t have anything else to do while I was in La Cañada, so I headed home, but stopped at a café a block away from the post office to enjoy a coffee out in the sunshine. I got a very weird look when I said I didn’t want either sugar or sweetener and the guy actually asked me after my first sip if it was okay! Yes, of course. 🙂

I have to say that the weather here has been, for the most part, pretty dismal and disappointing, but, reading other blogs, it sounds like not even Isla has been immune to this wave of disagreeable colder than normal weather (although Yukon appears to be bucking the trend!). Yesterday was good preparation for a January in England, which makes today all the more wonderful!

A Lovely Saturday Morning in Almería

I slept the sleep of the dead (my room is pitch black and dead quiet if the wind isn’t blowing!), waking up at just shy of 10 this morning. Well, there went my plans to get on an “early” (9:30) bus to town! But, hey, this is Spain and things move slowly and I wasn’t going to let myself be rushed by this change of plans. 🙂 I made the 10:30(ish) bus with the plan to get partway to town and then walk along the Malecón.

I keep forgetting to mention that I live near the university, with the presence of a university being another reason I like Almería as a potential Spanish home should I move here.

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I got off at the senior citizens home, which, like in French, is called a “home for those of the third age.”

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It was supposed to be sunny today and good Malecón walking weather. At least, it wasn’t windy and the temperature was comfortable!

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First stop was a shop to see if they had boots and a coat. Yes, but nothing I wanted. I need to shop in earnest for these items before I leave for Amsterdam as they will be much less expensive here, plus I’d rather land there with season appropriate clothes, never mind that I can actually describe to shopkeepers here what I want! There are a few used clothing stores that I am going to make a point to visit for the coat. And, yes, I should have no problem finding what I want here. I’m going to temps hovering above freezing so I’m not even looking for lined boots, just something leather that I can waterproof.

I had had only coffee at home and my tummy was growling when I came out of the store, so I went to the café right next door for sustenance. No complaints about breakfast in this part of Spain! 🙂 It was only 1.90 euros!

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View from breakfast.

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And then off I went towards downtown Almería.

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Here’s an example of how you can make an area look better than it is if you select the right camera angle. So rather ugly with those light posts:

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And rather paradisal without!

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Interesting apartment building.

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This “Indian” restaurant had a really varied menu! They do have Indian (Hindu) food on the right-most part of the menu, but they also have pasta, falafel, pizza, and chicken fingers.

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Love the name of this ice cream parlour/café.

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Looking back the way I came.

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The water was so clear!

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Can you see the lighthouse in the distance?

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How about now?

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Nearly there, I found some lovely flowers.

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At the “nautical club,” I found this interesting subterranean entrance.

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There’s another one.

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And another!

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This bridge leads to the “English Cable” (ore dock).

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On the yellow entrance, I got some answers! They are entrances to parking garages. Quite a lot of instructions for getting to your car between midnight and 7AM. You can only enter at that time through the blue and green entrances.

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I really like that brick bridge.

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Rather sudden stop for the railway line!

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Saddest forest I’ve ever seen… 🙂

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The English Cable from beneath it.

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Here’s the defunct Gran Hotel Almería.

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The name of it tickles my fancy since I’m a fan of the Spanish show “Gran Hotel” and have been frustrated to not find the last season with (Spanish) subtitles. I got through the first two seasons without any issue, but I’m still not at the point where I can handle Spanish-language audio without the aid of subtitles, which can be in Spanish. I’m just more of a visual person. Anyway, this was a reminder to go search again as I was left on a cliff hanger!

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The city was starting to be decorated for the holiday season.

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The art museum was open and I had time to visit the exhibit about fashion at the time of Queen Isabel I (late 15th, early 16th century — the time of Christopher Columbus). Entry was 3 euros.

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Can you believe this was a mere lady-in-waiting’s outfit?

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All the informational placards were in Spanish only and I learned a lot of new vocabulary! My dictionary app got quite a workout. Most of the clothes in the exhibit were made of silk and/or cotton.

This dress belonging to a sultana was my favourite of the entire exhibit. Just love the teal with the purple and lime green (same colour scheme as my Isla casita my last winter there!).

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More Moorish outfits.

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Armour with a magnificent cloak.

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More armour.

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I saw some original 16th century documents signed by Carlos I himself regarding repairs to the fortress of Alcazaba after the earthquake of 1522. And other document that let me see the signatures of the “Catholic kings.”

The next room in the exhibit had clothes related to the court of Isabel I.

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Why don’t we dress so beautifully anymore?!

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I could see myself in this “simple” lady-in-waiting’s dress.

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Queen Isabel’s coronation gown.

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I learned that Queen Isabel like bright colours, stiff fabrics like taffeta, and also favoured brocades.

The final room was about the world of Isabel.

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Love these knitted leggings. They seem to be in what I know as “point de sillon,” which is knit two, purl one.

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Isabel’s mourning (luto) gown.

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The dress she wore for her wedding to Ferdinand of Aragon.

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Her books of prayers (rezos — told you I was learning a lot!).

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I learned that the Catholic kings got control of Almería and forced out Muslims who would not convert.

Here’s Queen Isabel. Rather a shame they didn’t have a portrait of her in one of the dresses on display.

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Queen Isabel was very interesting! She was a woman ahead of her time who put forth the interests of women in a world governed by men. She introduced Spain to the Renaissance and to the spread of Christianity through art, politics, and fashion. The sign I’m translating from also says she was the first queen in history to be queen in her own right and not a consort, with all the powers of a male sovereign, but surely they mean that for Spain only.

There were many signs that claimed that she was all for the rights of Native Americans and prevented them from being treated like slaves, proclaiming them humans equal to Europeans, but I took that with a grain of salt…

Familiar looking armour:

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Spain was unified through the wedding of Isabel and Ferdinand, creating the strongest state in Europe at the time and the Spanish hegemony.

And here is Queen Isabel’s will… which spells out her defence of Native Americans. Wow!

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Incredible inventions of the 14th century included the compass (brújula) and the astrolabe.

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Finally in this museum, I saw a painting that made me think of early fall in Quebec when folks go apple picking (“aller aux pommes.”)

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Here’s the coronation gown in the context of the museum. Well placed! I also loved the period appropriate music that played softly.

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Exterior of the museum:

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I next head towards the central market to pick up some produce when I came across this wonderful little street market! It’s that time of year. There were so many lovely things for sale and prices were very reasonable.

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I saw these earrings marked just 2 euro and had to have them! The seller and I chatted for a bit since he was curious to know where I was from because he rarely sees non-Spanish tourists, especially in the off season. When I went to pay, he would only accept 1 euro!

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Since I had dinner out last night, I didn’t need lunch out and so decided to get an ice cream. I went with cappuccino flavour, which, as expected, tasted very similar to a Tim Hortons iced capp.

I continued on to the central market and it was much busier than last time! I wanted a few things to turn a chicken carcass into broth and looked for someone who would sell me only two stalks of celery.

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That was easily done and I also got a few other things from him since he had really nice produce, including grapes. My total was almost 5.50 euros and he would only accent 5, even with my having exact change! Have I mentioned recently just how lovely Almeríans are?!

I walked around a bit and saw something I haven’t seen in a very long time, romanesco, which I had discovered in Yukon of all places.

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I felt a little silly walking around with the end of my celery sticking out of my bag. The seller had offered to cut it off, but it adds so much flavour to broth that I declined. He thought I hadn’t understood him and had held up a knife to mimic doing it. So I told him my plan (yay for knowing “caldo de pollo”) and he went, “Ah! Of course!” But I took him up on his offer to cut the greens off the carrots.

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I popped into the Carrefour Market to get some soup noodles of some sort and stored my purchases in one of their little lockers (1 euro deposit).

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As it turns out, the edible polystyrene is called “prawn bread.” I picked up some Chinese noodles on the same shelf.

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I examined a full wall of “turrón,” which my dictionary informed me is nougat. Hard to resist!

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Especially the marzipan!

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My purchases were a bit heavy (I hadn’t brought the cart) and it was getting close to two, when everything closes, so I headed to a bus stop, where I had to wait 15 minutes. I made the mistake of riding home on a seat facing the wrong direction and got in feeling quite nauseated!

Here’s a map of my route today:

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I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable Saturday morning off! Back to the grindstone tomorrow. 🙂

Feels Rather Like a Friday Night

What a work week! I’m feeling ready to keel over. I had several very late evenings when express jobs that pay well for the effort required came in, so I’ve been burning the midnight oil. I decided to push through and do extra work today so that I could take tomorrow off since it’s supposed to be lovely and perfect malecón walking weather. It’ll rain from Sunday on for a few days and I’ll be able to get back to work refreshed (well, somewhat).

The only fun thing I did all week was head out between jobs one evening for a caña and a chorizo tapa — and I couldn’t even tell you which night! It was lovely to be greeted with my beverage order and a newspaper without having to ask for them!

The cat has been remarkably good company. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life gotten along so well with a cat before — and I’ve had a lot of cats in my life! I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky with cats, but I seem to have a connection with the species.

I’m happy to know that I’ll have a cat in my life again straight through the first week of February and very likely through to March as I may have picked up a sit in Lancashire (about an hour from Hebden Bridge) for the rest of February. Wouldn’t that be something if I did?

Tonight, I really needed a change of scenery and actually considered going into Almería for dinner. But the closer I got to the Spanish dinner hour, the more that idea seemed like a bad one as I was fading very fast. And then it hit me that the best meal I have had thus far in Spain was at the Mexican restaurant just up the street from here!

So off I went there for dinner. I ordered a caña, which turned out to be 2 euros, so I should have just splurged on the 3 euro Mexican beer. But for my main, I picked the 10 euro pork enchilada platter rather than the 13 euro one I had last time. That meant one fewer enchilada and no rice (but still lots of their wonderful salad and plenty of food). This time, they came with wheat tortillas, but I was told that they had chiles curtidos if I wanted my meal spicy!!! The chiles were just like the ones in Mexico, so worth all those exclamation points. 🙂

Again, not a cheap meal, but such good value for the quality and enjoyment I got out of it and exactly the pick me up I needed tonight. I told the server that theirs is without competition the best Mexican-style food I’ve had out of Mexico and he was really surprised to hear that — but it is! Just another subtle sign that I’m exactly where I need to be right now. 🙂 I really cannot convey just how content I’ve been here and I can’t believe that two weeks from now, I’ll very likely be enjoying my first night in Málaga!

I’m off to go stare at the insides of my eyelids for hopefully eight to ten hours straight. Zzzz.

Things Fall Into Place

One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older and possibly wiser is to stop fretting so much. If things are meant to be, they fall into place. If they’re not, there’s no sense working myself into a frenzy trying to bend circumstance to my will.

I was blessed to find a sit in England at the start of January, right around the time that I have to be out of the Schengen zone. But that still left me about three weeks to fill between the start of that sit and the end of my sit here in Almería. I really wanted another sit to fill that gap to avoid having to pay for accommodation.

So I began to look for sits in Morocco, the Costa del Sol, and Portugal, eventually expanding my search radius to all of Spain and France as well. I found a few sits that looked promising, but they were either super complicated and expensive to get to or the homeowners declined my applications.

I pondered this for a bit and wondered if it was a sign that I should just pony up the money and go to Morocco on my own dime. But I crunched the numbers on that and kept on coming up with a huge NOPE. Remember, I’m heading to Mexico, perhaps for good, in May!

Then, I had a thought. Plane travel in Europe is very inexpensive and if you go between major cities, it pretty much doesn’t matter where you go as it’s all roughly the same price. So is there anywhere else I’d like to go in Europe that would be a straight shot from either Almería or Málaga and then from there to Manchester? Weather was no longer a consideration by this point since I’m heading to England in January and need to get acclimatised anyway. The answer came immediately.

I promptly went to my housesitting websites and did a search for that destination. I found a two-week house and cat sit right between the end of my time here and the start of my sit in England, giving me time at both ends to travel (and possibly a day or two to explore Málaga and Manchester). I emailed the homeowners and they got back to me straight away, saying they thought they had someone lined up, but that person was being flakey. Could I give them a couple of days? Of course.

I just knew this in-between period was sorted and was not surprised when they emailed me late last night to confirm that the assignment is a go.

So I’m very happy and excited to announce that I will be ringing in 2017 from… Amsterdam!