A Lovely Saturday Morning in AlmerĂ­a

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 MalecĂłn.

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

imgp8491

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

imgp8493

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

imgp8494

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 cafĂ© right next door for sustenance. No complaints about breakfast in this part of Spain! 🙂 It was only 1.90 euros!

imgp8495

View from breakfast.

imgp8496

And then off I went towards downtown AlmerĂ­a.

imgp8497

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:

imgp8499

And rather paradisal without!

imgp8500

imgp8501

imgp8504

Interesting apartment building.

imgp8505

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.

imgp8506

Love the name of this ice cream parlour/café.

imgp8507

Looking back the way I came.

imgp8508

imgp8509

imgp8510

The water was so clear!

imgp8512

Can you see the lighthouse in the distance?

imgp8513

How about now?

imgp8514

imgp8515

Nearly there, I found some lovely flowers.

imgp8516

imgp8518

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

imgp8519

imgp8520

There’s another one.

imgp8521

And another!

imgp8522

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

imgp8523

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.

imgp8524

I really like that brick bridge.

imgp8525

Rather sudden stop for the railway line!

imgp8526

Saddest forest I’ve ever seen… 🙂

imgp8527

The English Cable from beneath it.

imgp8529

imgp8530

Here’s the defunct Gran Hotel AlmerĂ­a.

imgp8531

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!

imgp8532

imgp8533

imgp8534

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

imgp8535

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.

imgp8537

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

imgp8538

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!).

imgp8541

More Moorish outfits.

imgp8542

Armour with a magnificent cloak.

imgp8546

More armour.

imgp8547

imgp8548

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.

imgp8551

imgp8552

imgp8553

Why don’t we dress so beautifully anymore?!

imgp8554

imgp8555

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

imgp8556

Queen Isabel’s coronation gown.

imgp8560

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.

imgp8562

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

imgp8563

imgp8564

imgp8565

Isabel’s mourning (luto) gown.

imgp8566

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

imgp8568

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

imgp8572

I learned that the Catholic kings got control of AlmerĂ­a 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.

imgp8575

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:

imgp8579

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!

imgp8583

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

imgp8586

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.”)

imgp8588

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

imgp8591

Exterior of the museum:

imgp8592

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.

imgp8593

imgp8594

imgp8595

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!

imgp8604

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.

imgp8596

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 AlmerĂ­ans 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.

imgp8597

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.

imgp8598

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).

imgp8599

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

imgp8600

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

imgp8601

Especially the marzipan!

imgp8602

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:

map

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 malecĂłn 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 AlmerĂ­a 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 MĂĄlaga!

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 AlmerĂ­a. 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 AlmerĂ­a or MĂĄlaga 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 MĂĄlaga 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!

Shopping for Raisins

My Sunday work ended up going very quickly, so I decided to do my Monday work so that I could do my Tuesday work on Monday and possibly get Tuesday off (no, I don’t find this confusing. Do you? 😉 ). So this meant that when I woke up this morning to an email from a client with a job and a promise of a 40% bonus if I got it in by my late afternoon, I was able to take it without suddenly being overbooked. And it also meant that I was able to take on an even more rush job at even better pay… after dinner. It’s been a long evening!

This is something I learned fairly quickly in my freelance career, to get through my work queue and then go have fun so that if anything else comes in, I have time to take it. I’m definitely doing a lot less sitting around and waiting for work than I used to in that I know work is going to come in at some point. I just don’t know when exactly sometimes. So I try to cram in everything that comes in, even if it means working very long days. Then, if there’s a genuine lull, I can enjoy it. There is nothing more frustrating than having to turn down a job because I decided to stretch out over three days a job that I could have done in two so that I could take a day off in the middle.

I did take a break late morning to go down to the shop to pick up some more drinking water. Of course, I ended up picking up a few other things as well… One item that was on my list that I couldn’t find was raisins. Surely they’d have those, no? When I had everything else, I went to the till and asked the owner if she has raisins.”Of course!” she exclaimed. “I’ll show you.”

The raisins were well hidden. Her shop is quite packed!

I was really amused that instead of leaving me to examine the various packages, she felt a need to sell them to me by explaining the differences between each. Never I have more seriously shopped for raisins before! I went with the seedless sultanas. 🙂

Also, a half litre of beer was only about 0.90CAD! Cheaper than Mexico, almost as good as Bulgaria. Wow! Not so wow is that I’d just opened said beer when that rush job came in, so I wasn’t really able to enjoy it. And it could explain why my typing was rather flustered…

It feels really good to have earned solid income during my time in Spain even if it came at the cost of not so much tourism. I found that I worked hard when I was in Bulgaria, but that money wasn’t really coming in. If I can just nail down a sit between here and England, I’ll be tickety-boo till I have to start thinking about moving to Mexico. There is a possibility that I’ll have that sorted tomorrow…

A Drizzly Amble In AlmerĂ­a

I thought I was going to get the weekend off, but, of course, work came in, mostly because I’m the only person who usually works on weekends for that client and the client assumes I’m available! Because it is a holiday weekend in the U.S., I was told I had till Monday morning their time (evening my time) rather than their Sunday morning. They just about never have anything for me on my Monday because it’s still their Sunday and so I had thought to take Monday off. But since I got the extension and really needed a full day off I chose not to work today, Saturday, and then do the work on Sunday and Monday.

It was the first really cold night here. I went to bed in my thermals and added a second duvet to the bed. I was so comfortable I pretty much passed out at 11:30 and woke up at 8:00 this morning. I was in no rush to go anywhere. So I let the cat into the room and snuggled with her for almost a full hour while I checked my emails and Facebook on my iPad. She started to get fussy so I asked her if she was ready for breakfast. She promptly jumped off the bed and headed to the kitchen. But I was in no rush and was still lying there when she came back ten minutes later, jumped on me, got in my face, and yelled, “MEOW!!!”, which I’m pretty sure means, “I WANT BREAKFAST,” in cat.

I eventually got her sorted and made myself a nice breakfast of whole grain toast with hummus, sliced cherry tomatoes, and black olives, plus, of course, coffee. It was grey and drizzly, but I really wanted to go to town as this would be my first day since I got here that I’d have time to just amble aimlessly with no need to go back to work after. I did scratch my plans to get to about 3KM from downtown and walk along the malecĂłn as the wind coming off the water was unpleasant, but figured I’d be okay a bit more inland.

It was almost 10:30 when I finally headed out. The buses run at the half hour on the weekends and the last Saturday bus had come around the hour and 45 minutes. Today, it came at just shy of 10:40.

With a sky this colour, a clearing was not likely!

imgp8413

I got off at my usual stop and didn’t get very far before ducking into a cafĂ© for a second breakfast. I wanted a pastry since I’d had a healthy first breakfast. 🙂 This pastry with dried apples wasn’t huge and was very tasty!

imgp8414

The wind and rain let up by the time I got through the newspaper (not the one in the picture, as that just has sports coverage), so I headed towards the water.

imgp8415

I’m still trying to figure out what this sign is trying to say…

imgp8416

The courthouse.

imgp8417

This pedestrian street was commissioned and built in 1894 under the reign of Alfonso XIII. They had to reroute traffic to accommodate it.

imgp8418

imgp8419

imgp8420

This is the “cable inglĂ©s” (English cable), which was used to load ships with iron transported on trains. It is considered a work of art in steel construction and was built in Gustav Eiffel’s style.

imgp8421

imgp8422

These ferries go to the African continent. Melilla is a Spanish community on the African continent. I am investigating whether a visit to the environs of Nador might be a compromise to going to Marrakech as it’s only about 50 euros to get to Nador from AlmerĂ­a.

imgp8423

Shame these fountains aren’t working. I like the one with the sun.

imgp8424

imgp8425

Ambling westward towards the old city.

imgp8426

imgp8427

imgp8428

imgp8429

imgp8430

I loved how the flower boxes are themselves a work of art.

imgp8431

I ended up going through that arch to find myself in the heart of the old city.

imgp8432

imgp8433

Orange trees still awe me.

imgp8434

imgp8435

imgp8436

imgp8437

I love the tile work I see all over AlmerĂ­a.

imgp8438

imgp8439

imgp8440

Looking north to the fortress.

imgp8441

“We want free women.”

imgp8442

imgp8443

There are tons of play areas like these all over AlmerĂ­a.

imgp8444

They have age limits. The ones I’ve seen in my neighbourhood are for ages 11 and under. The one above is for ages 7 and younger.

imgp8445

A few play structures later, I found one for kids aged 9 and younger.

imgp8446

imgp8447

I love these big trees.

imgp8448

imgp8449

imgp8451

Coming back to Paseo de Almería, I found the Doña Pakyta art museum. It was free, but there was a 3 euro special exhibit. It was almost closing time, so I will come back to the special exhibit, but I had time to go upstairs check out the artwork.

imgp8453

imgp8454

imgp8455

imgp8456

There were were a bunch of paintings belonging to the “Indalo” movement, based on a local cave painting. This group of artists was the first of the avant-garde movement after the Spanish Civil War.

imgp8457

imgp8458

imgp8459

I really liked the rich texture of the oil paintings. I want to take up this pastime again when I get settled in Mexico. I think the colours there would really be inspiring!

imgp8460

imgp8461

“Terraces of AlmerĂ­a.”

imgp8462

I loved this floor that reminded me of a cross-stitch pattern.

imgp8464

imgp8465

This painting was really interesting. Look at the contrast of the super realistic grapes with the crude nature of the rest of the painting.

imgp8466

imgp8467

This is Place de la Concorde in Paris. So I’m guessing this, and not the Washington Monument, is what AlmerĂ­a is emulating.

imgp8468

imgp8469

Cramped buildings, old men on a bench (literally the title of this piece!), and laundry: this is “my” Europe.

imgp8470

“AlmerĂ­a, Joy of the Sea”

imgp8472

I wandered around some more and found this church, where there was a wedding.

imgp8474

I went around the back and found this graffiti-strewn alley.

imgp8475

Just as I came out of the alley, an older couple ran to me and asked me a question, sounding very panicky. I had a moment of Sherlock Holmesian brilliance and made a deduction based on their attire. “Are you looking for the wedding?” I asked. “YES!” the lady replied. I told them the church was on the other side of the building where we were standing and if they went to “that” street and turned right, they’d see the fancy black car parked in front of the church. I got about a thousand thank yous before they rushed off. Amazing timing, no?!

It was almost one by this point and I was famished, so I figured it was time to go home and have lunch. I passed this amusingly named store on the way to the bus stop, a play on the Spanish word for “home” and the word “emporium.”

imgp8477

And then I found… lunch. An American diner/UK cafĂ© style restaurant with the kitchen open all day! I could not believe it!

imgp8478

The translation effort on the menu was worth a laugh. I mean, “Ask for our English (carta?)”?! LOL

imgp8479

I went for a burger and beer and… learned that burgers in Spain come with a fried egg! Good thing I’m not allergic and only have an intolerance to eggs! Thankfully, the egg came off easily and the flavour did not contaminate the meat, which was a real beef patty. There was also bacon and cheese. I haven’t had a real burger since Belgrade and dang did this one hit the spot! The fries were much better than they look.

imgp8480

There was no sauce on the burger, though, so I asked for mustard and was brought this:

imgp8481

I was nursing my beer and watching on TV the reports of Fidel Castro’s death when I was brought a piece of flan, that, of course, I had to politely decline. I requested a coffee instead (a “solo,” which is a single shot of espresso, no milk). The burger, beer, and dessert were a set price (8.50 euros) and coffee is extra, but the server told me that since I didn’t have dessert, they were not charging me for the coffee. I think this is a fairly standard decision since I often see menĂș del dĂ­as that say, “and dessert OR coffee.”

As I was heading out, I heard the server speak English to some other customers! I have not heard English while out and about since I got here! It was really strange!

It was raining quite hard when I got out of the restaurant, so I just hurried to the bus stop. The electronic sign there told me my bus would be coming in 26 minutes, but one pulled up after 4 minutes after I arrived! I had to stand most of the way home.

Here’s a map showing some of my stops today:

map

It was such a lovely day despite the weather. Finding lunch was such a bonus!