Goodbye Almería and Hello Málaga

My host was due  arrive in the early afternoon yesterday. I had planned to take the day off, but, of course, a job I couldn’t turn down came in. I had kept on top of all my chores in the house, so there wasn’t much to do for her arrival and I was able to just barely get my job done before she got in, woohoo! We spent part of the afternoon catching up and gabbing, then she went to unpack while I went to pack. This was aided in part by the fact that she’s brought me back a very useful little gift! I couldn’t believe that a) she thought to pick up something for me or that b) it was so me and exactly what I needed:

Pic taken in Málaga with a cameo by my new feline friend. 🙂

I’ve been resisting the urge to buy a few little pouches to organise my Sarajevo bag, but really wanted one to separate currencies and to hold little odd bits like my ear buds and charge cords. So it got put to good use right away. I like the quirky triangular shape and and, of course, that it’s pink! 😀

It was tough, but we made to 8PM, just barely, and went out for my last tapas. We might have been hungry and had three each… 😀

I went to bed early but had a hard time getting to sleep (beer’s fault) and was awake too early. I dozed till eight, then finished packing and said my goodbyes to the cat (who gave me a proper final hug and cuddle!) and my host. The bus station is quite convenient from the bus route I take, so I decided to make my own way so my host could ease into her first day back home. I headed out into the rain around 8:30 and was pleased that I’d timed my last bus perfectly as it was pulling up as I was arriving.

Traffic into town got increasingly worse and I ended up getting off a stop earlier than I would have otherwise, which was a smart move — by the time I got to that stop, the bus was still a block behind me!

I got to the bus station at about nine, an hour and a half before my bus. I elbowed my way to the counter at the café there and ordered a whole tomato toast (both sides of the bun) since I wasn’t sure when I’d next get to eat and I hadn’t been smart and bought snacks ahead of time for the ride. There was nothing at the café that I particularly wanted to go.

After breakfast, I decided that I should buy myself a magazine or two as a treat to read on the bus. Hmm… no magazine kiosk around. First time I’ve ever been to a bus station without one. I went to the information desk and asked. The lady gave me very clear directions to the one she felt was closest, about a five-minute walk away. I got there (stepping in a very cold puddle on the way) and… it was closed. But my soggy quest was not in vain as I found a Mercadona and was able to get a slice of “pizza” for my lunch later. I had fruit and water on me, so I was set. Before anyone asks, no, grocery stores here do not carry magazines. So so much for that idea.

It was about 10:15 by the time I made my way back to the bus station. I headed for my platform and discovered that I know a word in Serbian that I didn’t know in Spanish!

I was delighted to discover that the bus had decent wifi, which made up for not finding reading materials. So off we went. It’s not a long distance, about 250KM, but I had a five-hour trip ahead of me since the direct bus was 24 euros and the local bus was only 9 euros!

The ride along the coast was lovely, especially as the sky began to clear as we headed west! It reminded me a lot of the Montenegrin coast.

We stopped in Motril for 30 minutes. The entrance into that bus station is really small and awkward and I’d find it tough in my truck! I can’t believe the buses can get around without hitting anything. I went into the café and had one of those really special coffees that will stick out in my mind. I don’t know what the guy did to it, but the crema tasted like toasted caramel. Sooooo good. I went out to look for a news kiosk and found one. It was closed. You know, because it was almost siesta time and all that. Like I posted on Facebook, Spain continues to be the most ridiculous and exasperating country I have had the pleasure of visiting. 🙂

We picked up a very chirpy new passenger:

At one point, we passed this store that made me laugh. Related to OK Tires in western Canada? 🙂

I forgot to make a note of where this was, but what an impressive city!

Just as I judged this trip to be the second-most interminable and twisty since Belgrade to Sarajevo, we made it to Málaga!

Kind of a London feel to the skyline…


I’d pre-Googled the directions to my accommodation and it was super quick and easy walk there in terms of navigation (not so much in terms of dodging construction). My friendly host was waiting for me. She has a really nice and newly renovated apartment in an older building. She made me feel comfortable straight away, telling me I have full use of the kitchen (including designated space to store groceries in both the pantry and the fridge). We gabbed a bit and she told me that outside of the core of Málaga, I will find the same scheduling issues I encountered in Almería. But, thankfully, I’m right on the edge of the core.

I went straight back out to get some groceries and to make a withdrawal since I’d seen a Deutsche Bank on the way. I hadn’t known if my PayPal transfer had gone through at the time, but I’d been able to confirm it when I got online at the apartment. I was famished by this point (just past five) and was going to turn around and get groceries at the small supermarket right by the apartment, but figured that since I was just a few blocks from a restaurant I’d passed and was curious about, I’d go check it out first. It’s a chain called “Mr. Noodle.”

I passed a pretty church en route:

I got to Mr. Noodle and was happy to see a menu on a table outside, so I grabbed it and saw that the offerings were interesting (Chinese and Thai) and the prices reasonable. So I decided to attempt to try it out at some point in my stay. Just as I was turning to go, a server came outside to ask me if I wanted to eat.

Wait. What? The kitchen was open? At 5PM?! What rabbit hole had I fallen into?!

Let me repeat that I was famished, so that was a definite yes on wanting to eat. 😀 It was chilly out, but they had a covered seating area with a fireplace that was quite cosy. I ordered a beer and went through the menu. Pending disappointment be damned, I ordered their chicken pad thai, no egg please, but spicy.

What  was served looked suspiciously like pad thai. Notice the two bottles of sauce at the top left, Sriracha and sweet chile so I could control my own spiciness level.

This was in no way the best pad thai I’ve ever had, but DANG. It hit the texture and flavour profile I’ve been craving. I left very satisfied. The price was right, too, at 10 euros (including the beer), or about 15CAD. So not cheap, but definitely in line with what I’m used to paying for pad thai of this quality. What an amazing end to my day!

I learned another new word while look a their menu. Not just in Spanish:

Top middle, altramuces. They translate as “lupines” and are a type of legume.

It was getting properly cold out as the sun was setting and I was beat, so I headed home, stopping at the supermarket (Día) for a few things. It was a bit pricy compared to other supermarkets, so I just got enough for breakfast and will look for a Mercadona tomorrow.

I really haven’t seen enough of Málaga yet to have an impression of it other than it’s a large bustling city. It’ll be a fun few days if things are open for long hours and I can get different cuisines, but I don’t think it’ll be as nice a city to walk around in as Almería. I’m not on vacation while here and do plan to work, but I will go exploring tomorrow!

Here’s a map of my day:

Almería After Dark

Late yesterday (Monday) afternoon, I still had about 30 minutes of work to do, but I needed a break and got hit with a case of claustrophobia. So I impulsively dressed for town and headed to the bus stop! Buses don’t run as often at that hour, but I only had to wait ten minutes for one, not enough time to talk me out my non-plan. 🙂

It was past four and just from the bus, I could tell I was about to discover a whole new Almería since there were businesses open that I’d never seen open before.

I got off at my usual stop and started ambling aimlessly, passing a restaurant with this quote outside that made me laugh really hard:

Notice the name on the fake quote and think back to the movie “Braveheart,” (still one of my favourite movies of all time). This quote says, loosely translated, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our enjoyment!”

I was famished and decided to see if the fast food Turkish restaurant might be serving food that odd hour. Yes! I ordered chicken and rice and paid the extra euro to get veggies, which was a good choice since one of the veggies was a really good oil and vinegar coleslaw that made my tastebuds very happy! And of course, I asked for their garlic sauce. 🙂 I really hadn’t gone to town to eat there, but I’m glad I splurged on dinner!

I continued to amble. Downtown is compact and I can wander around now and not get lost, although with the streets being at weird angles I couldn’t give anyone directions and it takes me a few turns sometimes to get back to the main thoroughfares.

The varied architecture is lovely.

A stature of Dr. Nicolás Salmerón y Alonso, president of the first Spanish Republic.

I’m really not into the whole holiday season thing, but who doesn’t like pretty lights?

It was chilly and I was acutely aware that I need a proper coat and footwear before I leave Spain. I checked out a few dozen shops, but found nothing that was quite right. Prices were generally very reasonable, so that’s not the problem. I also discovered that clerks will ignore you unless you specifically ask for help. I’m glad my host told me that a major etiquette thing here is to greet people when you come into the shop, otherwise you’re seen as rude. So I would say hi, browse, and ask questions if I had some and clerks were happy to help.

I had just barely enough vocabulary for this exercise and didn’t know how to say things like “high heels.” So I’d point to high heeled boots and say, “I don’t want them like this, rather like this,” and point to flat shoes. Like in Mexico, it’s hard to find sensible shoes without heels in Spain. I was shocked that leather shoes that would be 100CAD+ in Canada were around 45 to 60CAD here. Anyway, the shoes were all either way too urban or way too rural. There was, however, a surprising amount of proper lined cold weather footwear, but I didn’t want actual winter boots, just something I can waterproof and wear with heavy socks.

Coats were difficult because I don’t have the shape of the average Spanish woman (same problem I have in Mexico), where you either have to be a stick or an hour glass figure. Amusingly enough, I saw a woman about my size and shape wearing exactly what I’m hoping to find, so I actually stopped her to ask where she bought her coat. Madrid. That was not helpful. 😀

I’m staying with someone about my age in Málaga and I think I will wait till I get there and get her advice as to where to shop. I haven’t found many used clothing stores here. Population-wise, Málaga is about five times bigger than Almería and gets more foreign tourists, so it definitely sounds like a better place to look. Anyway, I have a better idea now of what I’m looking for.

One thing I really liked as I shopped is that most stores will list what the storefront mannequins are wearing, along with the prices. So I could know at a glance if I could afford to shop in that store or not.

I loved this pretty pink store and that grey coat would have been awesome, but, of course, it was the most expensive thing I’d seen all night (200 euros)! If I thought I might get regular use out of it beyond the next three months, I would have bought it, but since I don’t, I’d prefer to stick to my plan of buying something new for less than 60 euros or, ideally, at a used store for much less.

The sign in the window has a list of the owner’s wishes for 2017: peace, love, health, friendship, work, happiness, and prosperity.

I found an ice cream at one point and could not resist even though it was really not ice cream weather because it was chocolate-hazelnut, not a popular flavour here and one I’ll forever associate with the Balkans. A tiny scoop was reasonably priced.

While I had every intention of getting a beer to cap my night, I started to droop around seven and still had some work to do. So I went to the bus stop and a bus pulled up in less than five minutes!

The ride home would have been freaky in my early days here since it was pitch black out and for some reason, the stops weren’t being announced so it was hard to know where I was at times. The bus emptied out at the university, with just me remaining, and the driver asked if I knew where I was getting off. Yes. It’s very easy because the bus makes one turn after the university and I’m the stop immediately after that turn. Didn’t remember the name of it the stop, though, but he understood what I meant. It was then a walk of a couple of blocks to get home.

Almería after dark was a whole different world than I’ve been used to, much busier than in the earlier part of the day! I think Spaniards are vampires!

Warm Breezes

An infernal work stretch is not slowing down. I’ve had one crappy file after another and have been spending long days on files that would normally take me a morning. Thankfully, they are all for the one client who pays extra for these sorts of messes and so I’m still earning a day’s wage with them. I am disappointed I didn’t get to have one final Saturday morning in Almería, but it is what it is. I’ll hopefully be able to get out on Monday. I know I’m going to get time off in Málaga and Amsterdam, so I might as well keep working since, really, there isn’t that much to do here in the off season but just enjoy the privilege of living here.

Not wanting to have too much left over in the pantry at the end of the week, I’ve been doing small shops every couple of days. So I went out today to the shop up the road to get stir fry stuff to go with the pork I have left. There was a new (to me) person working the back counter and he looked at me warily until I greeted him and asked for my first item (a giant red pepper that was just about 0.80CAD!). Then, the transaction flowed smoothly and he made sure I got what I wanted out of different options (like French baguette versus a rustic loaf when I asked for “pan.” I went with the rustic — good choice!).

This little shop is wonderful and I’m so happy to have it close by. Getting doggy cuddles whenever I shop there has been a bonus!

I was finally able to quit for the day at about half four and headed out to the malecón. It was such a glorious afternoon, with full sun and a warm salty breeze coming off the Mediterranean. No matter how much I was once a winter person, I now firmly belong to the sun. I savoured my walk. We really haven’t had that many lovely days.

Now, I’m treating myself to a cold beer. 🙂 It really hasn’t been beer drinking weather so this has only been my fourth one at home since I got here!

Not Much Time Left

I can’t believe I’ll be in Málaga this time in just ten days!

Between work assignments yesterday, I worked at sorting out the following:

-How I’m getting to Málaga. By bus. The 5.5-hour bus ride was almost 16 euros (23CAD) less than the 3-hour ride, so I’m taking the scenic route there!

-Accommodation in Málaga. Like in Barcelona, I’m renting a room in an apartment and basically doing a flat share thing.

-How I’m getting to the airport in Málaga. Turns out there’s a bus I can take near my flat that is super cheap.

-Accommodation in Heben Bridge on the 8th. Renting an Airbnb room. The lady is really nice and said that she’ll come and get me at the train station!

-Accommodation in Manchester from Jan 5th through to the 8th. Still a work in progress. Mancs were extraordinarily rude to me on a travel forum and put me off from spending two days there, so I may reconsider visiting that city.

Also sorted is that I have a sit lined up in Lancashire after Hebden Bridge through to March 1st! It starts a couple of days after the Hebden Bridge one, but the couple has offered to pick me up on the day my Hebden Bridge sit is done and take me to their place a few days early so I can settle in! So that means that all but three nights of accommodation between now and March 1st are covered. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders! The only transportation costs that aren’t covered yet shouldn’t be huge either.

I’m trying to savour my last few days here. I went out for tapas last night and made a mental note to try a hamburger next time I go there if I’m particularly hungry. I was very hungry last night and had the tuna after the chorizo, plus the two (small) beers! Still, for 6CAD, that was a very affordable and good meal!

This afternoon, I went to the little shop up the street for sundries and marvelled that it was almost hot out. If it hadn’t been for the wind, I could have been in a tee shirt. So I got quite a chuckle out of the storeowner’s dog wearing a sweater and teased her about it. I was delighted that she’s started to stock my preferred brand of sweetened almond milk (giving up on ever again finding here the unsweetened kind) and that it was really inexpensive! I thought I was going to have to make a special trip to one of the larger grocery stores to get a container so I could finish off my cereal.

I really took advantage here of having a kitchen with a full size fridge/freezer and grocery stores that were easy to get to do some serious cooking. My kitchen in Bulgaria wasn’t bad (and actually better equipped), but the fridge was too small to store leftovers and I didn’t have easy access to varied groceries, so I ate a lot of salads and sandwiches. Not a terrible bad diet, but it was way too much bread and salami. I’m feeling a lot healthier here than I did there, despite not getting as much exercise. Being able to sleep well here has played a huge role in that as well.

Of course, I’ll miss this cat terribly and have been joking about sneaking her into my suitcase. The only other cat I’ve ever connected to on such a deep level was my Tabitha. Every place I’ve booked and all my sits will have a cat or two, thankfully!

It’s been a very good time in Spain. I’m glad that I have one more stop to make here before jetting off to Amsterdam!

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!