Slowly Settling In in AlmerĂ­a

My host is an early riser with a routine, so there was no pressure for me to get up this morning as that would have put me in her way. I slept pretty soundly until 7AM, when I was woken by a plane from the very nearby airport taken off. I then dozed for another hour or so. I think I will sleep well here once I get settled. I finally got up around 9AM and was able to make myself coffee, needing only hot water and a mug. I had time to enjoy my coffee and bond a bit with the cat before heading out.

I will have pictures next time I go exploring on my own. So please, no frustration at the lack of pics in this post! 🙂

We went to the nearby village (4KM away, so walking distance) to have a traditional Andalusian breakfast, get me orientated as to various services, and also pick up some groceries, especially heavy stuff to take advantage of the car today. Breakfast was toasted baguette with tomato pulp, olive oil, and salt. Very yummy! Two of those and two coffees were 3.20 euros. My coffee order in Spain is a “cafe cortado,” which is a shot of espresso with a bit of milk.

Next stop was a health food store where I was able to pick up sugar free almond milk (something I really missed in Bulgaria, where I could only find the kind with sugar), sugar free cereal, and chia seeds. Prices were a bit lower than in Canada for similar items. The cashier was a bit taken aback, but delighted, that I speak Spanish.

This is a very non-touristy part of Spain and so having a housesitter who speaks Spanish was a priority for my host. I was worried about the local accent, but I’ve so far had no problems worth mentioning with the language and am getting done what needs to be done. I’m a lot more relaxed than I was my first months in Mexico as I’ve definitely gained a lot of confidence that I can understand folks and them me.

The grocery store was a bit of a disappointment as to dairy and produce, but it’s not the only store available to me and I will have access to “hypermarkets” by bus (similar set up to when I’m in Mexico, where my Isla grocery store was good for basics, but I liked going to Mega, Soriana, and Ley for more selection). This grocery store was fine for me to get laundry detergent, toilet paper, washing up liquid, and other household things. Spaniards seem to universally buy drinking water in 6L containers (the most you can really carry comfortably) and with my fragile digestion, I decided to go that route. So I picked up four containers, which should last me a week to ten days.

I then went next door to the pharmacy to get ibuprofen as I’ve been battling headaches all week. Like in the Balkans, you can’t buy ibuprofen (and similar products) off the shelf, but rather have to ask for it at a counter. It’s ibuprofeno in Spain (ee-boo-pro-fen-oh). The dosage is higher than in North America, so you likely only need one tablet rather than two. I had one when I got in and it worked really fast, just like the Nurofen did in Bulgaria.

We came back to the neighbourhood where I’m staying and my host showed me a little shop I can walk to that has a bit of everything. It had better dairy and produce, a bit of a deli section, booze, and more. I got a few things there, including some veg that I had to ask for rather than select myself. The owner of that store is incredibly friendly! It will be so much easier to shop there than it was at my little village shop in Bulgaria. I just have to remember that the shop is closed Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and between about 2:30 and 5:30PM the rest of the week.

There is a nearby market on Sunday mornings for produce and other things, so I look forward to going there this weekend! My host is providing me with a wheelie cart for hauling groceries, so I’ll be able to carry things with ease and haul home more than I could in my backpack when I was in Bulgaria.

Where I am is a bit isolated, but it’s nothing like where I was in Bulgaria in that I can walk to a few bars and restaurants (there’s a Mexican place I need to check out!!!), the grocery shop, a pool (if I buy a bathing suit), and a bus stop in less than five minutes. The village is only 8KM round trip and I can get to AlmerĂ­a downtown in about 15 minutes on the bus. I think I will be very happy here once I’m orientated and settled. There is a little bit of touristy stuff to do, but I want to focus on work and getting to know my neighbourhood before I do any real exploring. I look forward to walking the beach!

I worked through most of the afternoon and got a tiny rush job around 7PM. I am going to try to adapt to the later Spanish lifestyle while I’m here since it will be good for me professionally as I’ll be up during more of my clients’ work day. It’s funny how I was a night owl for so long and now I’m struggling with not being up by 6AM! Also, if I want to have a meal out here every once in a while, I really need to get on the Spanish schedule.

Tomorrow will be my housekeeping set up day where I work on the kitchen to suit how I cook (I’ll be taking lots of before photos so I can put things back the way they were!), set up my office (a real desk and chair, yaaaaaay) because I’m booked through the end of the week, and just settle into knowing the house and the cat’s routine. I feel a bit like a traitor to all the cats I’ve had in my life, but my charge here may be the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen… And I’m not just saying that because my host will likely read this! *winks*

I’m still feeling very run down with a sore throat and a bit of congestion, so it will be a blessing tomorrow to be able to just stay in. Now, I’m thinking of a hot shower and an early night, which these days, has been about 11PM!

Alicante to AlmerĂ­a

This morning, I finally began to understand why Spaniards are such night owls — it was still dark at 8AM. I thought it was very odd that Spain is on the same time zone as Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, etc. As it turns out, it used to be on the same time zone as Britain, but then the dictator Franco changed the time zone to put Spain on the same time zone as Germany and the country has been out of whack since.

I woke up without an alarm, but it had not been a good night of sleep and I knew I was going to have to nap on the bus. I was already packed, so I was out the door by 8:30, with the bus being at 9:30. I had about a half hour walk ahead of me, so I wanted to stop for sustenance along the way and then hopefully get a coffee at or near the bus station.

Alicante was busier than I expected at that “early” hour, but there was very little open. I finally came to a proper bakery and was a little taken aback that two pastries and a large bottle of water were only 2.15 euros. There was a cafĂ© at the bus station and when I asked for a coffee with a bit of milk, I was offered a “cortado,” which ended up being the best not-made-by-me coffee I’ve had since I got to Spain! The barista had a super thick accent, though, and his “1.20” sounded a lot like “90.” He was annoyed with me when I handed him just one euro and even more so when, still not sure what he’d said, I passed over two euro (instead of exact change). His grumpiness is forgiven for the perfection that was his coffee!

I then went to my… okay. I have to say this. I just blanked out completely on the English word for the Serbian peron. This is how I get when I’m tired — I lose my English! My platform, I went to my platform! There was a huge crowd waiting for a 9:15 bus to Madrid. That bus came and went and then nothing. 9:30 came and went. I thought I heard AlmerĂ­a on a loud speaker, but it was super tinny and I didn’t get anything else. I asked a couple of people and they hadn’t understood the announcement either. I was concerned our bus had moved to another platform. It finally pulled up around 9:45!

The driver did not get out to help load luggage and he didn’t check anyone’s ticket! Seating was assigned and very strict. I’d picked a window seat near the front and was satisfied with my selection even though, like on the train, the windows weren’t line up well with the seats and I got a lot of wall with my window.

We drove… If it wasn’t for the gas stations having different names, I would have thought I was in the Sonoran desert in Mexico. I eventually drifted off to sleep.

At almost bang on noon, we pulled into a station and the driver announced that we would be taking a 15-minute break and would be arriving about 30 minutes late in AlmerĂ­a. I emailed my host to let her know as she had offered to pick me up at the bus station. Thankfully, she got the message.

We finally pulled into Almería at 1:51, 31 minutes late. For all I heard people complain about buses in the Balkans, they ran like clockwork. So far, I prefer the smelly Spanish train. 😀

My host was waiting for me. Her house is in a suburb about 15 minutes from downtown AlmerĂ­a so she showed me where to get off and back on the bus when I come into the city. She then took me to her house, introduced me to my feline charge, showed me my room, and then we sat down to discuss practical matters regarding my gig. Out of respect to her, I am not giving any details about exactly where I am, the house, my responsibilities, etc. I can show pictures of the neighbourhood, local restaurants, the beach, etc. so give me time to get properly landed and all of that will come.

We went for a nice walk along the beach and through her neighbourhood, then came back for a rest. Around 7:30, we headed out to her favourite bar so I could have my first tapas! We had two glasses of white wine each and two tapas for just 8.50 euros total! The first tapa was a large chunk of seared tuna on tomato toast and the second one was a small order of fried calamari. Yum! I was really famished by this point, so the fish was welcome protein and the calamari gave me that bit of moreish I needed to not feel I was going to bed hungry.

Tomorrow is going to be a full day. We’re going out for breakfast, then my host will show me around a bit more, then I have work to do. I’ll be on my own as of Wednesday morning and will be here through to about December 16th.

I can’t believe I’m currently about the same distance from Africa as Haven is from Regina…


On a Ramble in Alicante

I finally got going around 1:30 this afternoon. Sundays are quiet in Alicante, so I decided to do like my last day in Barcelona and focus on having a nice lunch and then going to the beach before ambling around the old town.

It was very, very, very dead in Alicante early this afternoon. Just a few restaurants and the odd shop open. But I quickly found the super touristy part of town with lots of people coming off the cruise ships where there was more happening.






I saw a lot of menĂș del dĂ­as for 11-13 euros for two courses, drink and dessert not included. Not a great deal! I brushed off the touts and continued wandering until I found a quiet alley and a restaurant with a Spanish-only 10 euro menĂș del dĂ­a that looked good. Service was slooooow, but the server acknowledged me right away, so I knew he was just being run off his feet and not ignoring me. I eventually ordered my two courses and he confirmed that I could have a glass of white wine with my meal!

Considering I’d ordered pasta as a first course, I was a little confused when he brought me a big salad. I squinted at the menu board and, sure enough, it did say salad above the first course. So this would be a four-course meal! I was almost done with the salad when he brought me my first course (I was surprised he didn’t wait till I was done).

I was a bit shocked when I saw the size of the pasta portion. It could have been a meal unto itself! It had a really lovely sauce and the meat was cooked with a touch of nutmeg. So far, I was really impressed with my meal.


I chose the baked pork ribs as a second course and was surprised by how much meat was on them and also how flavourful and tender they were. The beans/carrots/eggplant were well seasoned and very tasty as well. I was surprised to have the veggies. I was shocked when the server came to ask me if my meal was okay, something that I’m told really doesn’t happen in Europe.


I wasn’t done yet… The included dessert was flan. I declined, telling the server I’m allergic to eggs. He offered me ice cream instead! This vanilla and three-chocolate confection came shortly thereafter…


Maybe Spain won’t be as unaffordable as Barcelona makes it out to be…

I headed towards the waterfront and found this trio of fine American dining options.



I really think I’m meant for this climate…









My favourite captain! 😀


Um, wow…






Can’t believe I was all the way up there yesterday!





I can’t believing people were swimming. It wasn’t that hot out and the water was cold…


Taking my first steps into the Mediterranean Sea. 😀





Sandy feet are the only thing I don’t like about going to the beach. Surely, there had to be a place to rinse off…


I was right!


This tiling job is incredible!



At first, I thought this walkway is a waterslide. I bet that’s the effect they’re going for.







I must have gotten “Je parles français” tattooed on my forehead at some point and forgotten about it because how else can I explain tourists coming up to me and asking me for directions to the castle elevator in French?! It’s funny how I end up giving tourists directions everywhere I go.


I was rather impressed by this retaining wall.


The Polvora tower. I like how they are rebuilding it with the same material to show what it would have looked like new.


That stone is really gorgeous!





I got back to the Rambla, a main street, when I realised I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet. So I headed towards this interesting building, with the water behind it.


I passed a shop with notebooks that had funny messages on them. My favourites are: “Come on. Eat the world!”


and “Life is a journey, not a career.”


I had such a laugh when I was looking for lunch and headed off to this giant TACO sign in the distance. What a disappointment!


Bast, did you open a restaurant in Alicante?


I can’t quite make out the last word in this, but rico would make sense. So “Marry someone who cooks well. Beauty is fleeting, but hunger isn’t.”


Am I following my dreams if I follow this arrow?


This ad for a new real estate project had me burst out laughing in public. The wife: “New construction homes. What more could you want?” Husband: “A steak.”


The arrow above took me to this wonderland!




Children were playing hopscotch. I had to wait for one to finish to take this picture and you can see a bit of his shoe.






This sign told me something very interesting about Alicante. This area was the original elevation of the city, which for a very long time impeded its development. Levelling works ended in 1946.



Here’s something I’ve noticed since I got to Spain. They use the verb “alquilar” for renting, as opposed to “rentar,” like I saw in Mexico. I did some research and learned that Mexico is the only Spanish-speaking country that uses rentar for this meaning.


Here’s the park outside my window again. It’s prettier from this angle.


I had a lovely walk around Alicante today and didn’t need to pull out my map once!

So on to AlmerĂ­a tomorrow! I am beyond ready to stop for seven weeks and replenish my coffers.

Exploring Alicante’s Santa BĂĄrbara Castle

Yes, this post is a little late. I am feeling very run down and have a sore throat. I really need a few nights of interrupted sleep!

Like in Barcelona, it’s insanely loud in this building until just past 1AM, then quiet until about 10AM. I guess that’s just the normal Spanish rhythm… I didn’t even bother trying to sleep until it got quiet on Friday night/Saturday morning and then I slept like the dead since my room was surprisingly dark and quiet. I only woke up because I was cold and had to find another blanket.

I went out Friday night to get some breakfast stuff at a nearby supermarket, so I was all set to make peanut butter with banana and coffee on Saturday morning. I ended up buying a large bag of powdered milk for just 4 euros (6CAD). Twice what I’d pay in Mexico, half what I’d pay in Canada. It’ll last me for months and since I only have one more stop to make before I land for seven weeks, it made sense to get some last night so that I could make coffee here.

I dropped my groceries off and then went out again to look for a fast food supper around 8:30, eventually stumbling on a kebab shop that was opening up for the night. Thank goodness for the Turks! 😀 I could have kebab just about every night and, really, as long as you go easy on the sauce, there could be worse suppers. It’s a very popular late night fast food option all over Europe.

I then had to put in a couple of hours of work before bed. It’s very rare that I leave work for arrival on a traveling day because I’m always afraid of contingencies, but Thursday night was not conducive to working in the public spaces in my Barcelona flat. Since the job was super easy and not due till Friday night, it made sense to take a chance and finish once I’d landed in Alicante.

I pretty much picked Alicante as my stop this weekend by throwing the proverbial dart at a map of the Spanish coast. I couldn’t afford to stay in Barcelona any longer and I also did not want to have to travel straight to AlmerĂ­a in one day as it would have been something like 12 or 13 hours of traveling time. Alicante is about two-thirds of the way to AlmerĂ­a from Barcelona, meaning a shortish traveling day on Monday, and boasts a charming old town and a magnificent castle to explore. Sounded pretty good to me!

So it was a very, very, very late start Saturday morning. It was really nice to stumble into a super clean kitchen and put together coffee and breakfast. After that, I did a bit of my work for the weekend and then headed out to find a town map and the castle.

My flat is located on a public square and is making me realise I do not want to live right on a public square in Mexico!


My wonderful host here oriented me as to the main street in town and the pedestrian zone, so I had known where to go look for food Friday night and where to find the info centre Saturday afternoon.


I love how an interior wall became an exterior wall and that you can still see where the old staircase was.


I thought I’d found tacos on Friday night, but they want 10 euros/15CAD for two!!!


The tourist info centre was just past the Mexican restaurant. I came in and was sized up by the person at the desk who yelled towards the back, “We need your English skills!” Bemused, I shook my head and said in Spanish, “I just want a map and walking directions to the castle…” “Oh!” was the reply and then aid was forthcoming. The map I was given was pretty terrible in that it’s not particularly portable, being printed on heavy paper, but it is pretty detailed and colour coded. The instructions on how to walk to the castle seemed clear…

I headed UP into the old town.







I found this wonderful poem on a building. I photographed all of it, but am only sharing my favourite stanza, the one at the bottom: “How many days does a week have? Seven days, and no more. But I would give it eight days, one more to travel.”


The Santa BĂĄrbara castle is a rather impressive. It started as an Islamic fortress in the 9th century, with the Christian castle built over top in the Middle Ages.


Getting to the walking path up to the castle was insanely frustrating. I will never again complain of the dearth of signage in the Balkans as Spain appears to be worse. I think that in this case, it is intentional. The castle is free to visit, but there is a new elevator to get to the top that costs about 3 Euro. I think that the walking path is hard to find so that people will choose the paid option. That had the opposite effect on me. The more I climbed up to a dead end and had to backtrack, the less inclined I was to pay the elevator fee! And, yes, I asked multiple people for directions.



One man finally gave me good directions, as opposed to a more vague, “It’s that way,” response. I started to climb.




Spoiler: I would end up higher than that little tower you see jutting out of the cliff at the top!





It became evident as I climbed that there are actually a few different walking paths of varying degrees of difficulty.



I ended up on what I would, at the descent, confirm as being the official walking path, and it was very difficult as the step risers were super high.







This is the part where I got really annoyed with the lack of signage. Right through that door.


From there, I could go up these very scary steps strewn with broken glass or move ahead on a dirt path.



There was a bunch of us who were confused and it took a local to tell us that the least obvious of the paths, the dirt one, would lead us to the paved access road to the entrance of the castle. On the way back, I came across a few different groups of tourists all as equally confused as I was at that point and I had to guide them to the entrance. What could have been a really lovely walk up was incredibly frustrating because I was expending a lot of effort to climb up things that seemed to lead to the castle but which ended up being dead ends. To meet other people who felt as frustrated as I was spoke volumes as to the validity of my feelings.




But I finally made it to the entrance!





Right through that arch, I saw this sign about a sci-fi exposition. Curious..


I went in and as soon as I started to look at the exhibits, I just gasped. I was looking at case after case of mostly original props from many science-fiction/fantasy movies, some of which I really love! This was such a random and unexpected part of my day! These are just a few of the original props that I enjoyed viewing.

Hydra’s cosmic energy battery from Captain America: the First Avenger.


Bruce Banner’s laptop and drink from The Incredible Hulk (2008).


Obadiah’s sonic taser earplugs from Ironman.


A piece from the Tumbler in Batman Begins!



I could not stop staring at this original mask, hat, and wig from V for Vendetta, one of my favourite movies of all time.


What a surreal exhibit, and free to boot!

Then, I wandered around the ruins. You can go almost anywhere.



At the top here, you can see the cafĂ©. I didn’t plan my day well and got to the castle at about 2PM, lunchtime. I should have had lunch first and then gone exploring. So I decided to pay a premium for a mediocre burger with a great view and didn’t regret it one bit!





The castle complex is huge.














This is that little tower we saw earlier and I’m above it, at the very top of the castle. The view was so spectacular!







I would not want to be a bus driver having to go around that hair pin turn!









Here’s that archer again.




I haven’t had ice cream in ages and 2.50 euros was insane for gelato after an afternoon of wandering around flat Barcelona, but was a fair price for this treat after all that climbing!




The figures fighting in the background of this picture amuse me immensely.


Found the elevator. It’s free to go from the 1st to the 2nd level and to go down from the 2nd level to the beach.


The sci-fi expo is showing off some of the best sci-fi movies of recent years! *snickers*









As some of you know, I did my BA in medieval history and so I know a bit about the construction of these sorts of structures. What I’m seeing here is that there was some sort of wooden construction jutting out of the stone foundation.





The Mediterranean at Alicante is just…















Ruins of Saint Barbara’s Hermitage.
















I thought this was a weird coincidence in that at this time two years ago, I was near Arco, Idaho, wandering through an equally amazing space





It’s forbidden to feed the cats and the doves. Saw lots of gulls, but no doves…



The hike down was hard on the knees. Just like after the climb in Old Kotor, I’m shocked that I wasn’t sore the next day!




I may have yelled to this guy that he was doing a fine job with his painting…










Ah, a dove!



I was done by this point and just wanted to get in. I thought to stop at the market, but was disappointed to discover I’d missed my only chance as it closes at 2PM on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.


I made two stops before coming in. The first was at a fruit and vegetable store for a tomato and small cucumber, the other at the grocery store for ham, cheese, and yoghurt so I could have dinner in when I was ready for it. I am surprised that Spanish grocery prices appear to be low. Four single-serve containers of yoghurt were about 0.75CAD (about four times cheaper than in Assiniboia). A package of good ham was about 1.50CAD. A cheese similar to Boursin, which was 8CAD last time I didn’t buy any in Assiniboia, was just under 2CAD.

I came in and did more work, then made dinner. I have access to not just the kitchen here, but a whole cupboard full of spices and condiments! I had a few things in Sarajevo, but nothing like this, and I had to build a pantry from scratch in Bulgaria with not much available to me locally. So being able to not only pull out oil and vinegar last night to make a dressing from scratch, but also sugar, salt, oregano, garlic powder, and a few other things to make the dressing extra special felt like an incredible luxury.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that early, I went to bed around nine, just as the noise level in here started. I managed to fall asleep around eleven, was woken around one, then slept from two to four, five to eight, and 8:30 to ten. Not a great night… I have to leave early tomorrow, so I don’t expect much sleep again. It will be a relief to land in AlmerĂ­a!

It’s 1:30 on Sunday now. Nothing’s open at this hour on a Sunday, so I’m just going to wander around, find a nice lunch, and enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine. 🙂