I’m Not Moving to Progreso

My cleaner called this weekend to ask if he could come today instead of tomorrow, which was fine with me and actually better suited my work schedule. He arrived at just shy of ten and I took off for Progreso to try to open a bank account at the Banamex there and then have lunch on the Malecón.

I found convenient parking and then headed towards the water. Here is the pier I had to drive to get to Aduana. It is the longest pier in the world! Aren’t I lucky to have had a chance to drive it!

I lasted about two minutes on the Malecón. It was overrun with aggressive touts offering overpriced services and goods in US dollars to folks coming off the cruise ships. It was very unpleasant. After one woman hounded me to buy her bottled water for 1USD, I told her loudly so everyone around could hear, “I’ve lived in your country over a year now. I know that water is worth 8 pesos at most, less than half what you’re selling it for, and I don’t want it!” I was done with the Malecón after that and didn’t even want to go into the central market area that reminds me of Mazatlán centro because the harassment just continued there. Very disappointing, but at least that eliminated any inkling I might have to move to Progreso instead of Mérida. This is not the Mexico I want to live in!

As I headed back towards the main plaza where the banks are clustered, I passed a clothing shop that had a sign saying they do Amigo (TelCel pay as you go) top ups. For some reason, the actual TelCel shop I’d been to did not top up Amigo, so I was glad for this since I’m using my phone a lot here and forgot to top it up the last time I was out. I put on $200, which gets me unlimited talk, text, 1.5GB of Twitter and Facebook, and an additional 1GB for other surfing for 33 days, all good in Mexico, the US, and Canada. Amazing value!

Then, I went into the Banamex and was quickly served by an executive. He would have opened an account for me on a residente temporal visa, but my water bill was no good as proof of domicile. He wanted an original power or hard wired internet bill (not one printed off the computer). That will be impossible to get, so I resigned myself to trying out the HSBC. I know a lot of expats use them, but they don’t have many ATMs, so they’re low on my list.

On the way to the HSBC, I passed an ice cream shop and popped in hoping they would have “real” ice cream made with cream, not the more sorbet-like nieve I used to get in Maz. They did! And the first flavour I saw was my favourite, cookies and cream (galletas de Oreo)! A small cup of that was a very reasonable $15. I enjoyed it while I did some quick research on the various HSBC accounts.

I had a bit of a longer wait at HSBC even though the bank was completely empty. They told me the same thing Banamex did, but a print off from the computer would work. So that’s my best bet for getting a bank account in Mexico. I figure that if it doesn’t work for me, I can try again with Banamex once I have a notarized lease. So I will see if my hosts can get me a CFE bill, but I’m pretty much resigned to not being able to get a bank account until I get my own place. I still feel like I’m making progress, though. 🙂

I was ready to head home after, but it was only about 11:30 and while the cleaner would likely be done with my suite by then, he’d be in the kitchen and so making lunch would be difficult. So it made sense to look for an early lunch. The was a restaurant a couple of doors down from the HSBC, right off the main plaza, that looked inviting. I asked for a menu and it had tons of things on it that looked good at very reasonable prices. The owner gave me her list of specialities and mentioned her enchiladas mole several times, so that’s what I went with. 🙂

Underneath the hearty (and surprisingly spicy!) sauce is seasoned chicken wrapped in corn tortillas. There were five of them! With a beer, lunch came to $93, so $100 with the tip. I was suitably pleased. What I liked best, though, after my experience on the malecón was that while the menu did  have an English translation, they were very happy to serve me in Spanish and the other patrons were all Mexican. So I managed to find a place to eat  that wasn’t a tourist trap. Isn’t the dining room pretty? Everyone else was eating outside, but I had to get out of the sun a bit.

Here is Progreso town hall:

A “silla de confidente.”

The main square.

I love these orange flowers.

I then found my truck (parked behind city hall, as it turned out) and headed home. Now, time to get back to work!

Walking the Coastline Between Hove and Brighton

I pretty much passed out last night, despite thinking there was no way I’d sleep as the room was bright and loud (I’m on a busy street) and the bed wasn’t great. But next thing I knew, it was bright daylight and I was wondering what the heck time it was. Well, only 6:45. I may have dozed off again. 😀 I eventually went down for breakfast around 9:30 or so and did some online stuff at the kitchen table, then went upstairs to work for a bit.

By one, I was hungry and I also knew I didn’t want to waste inside the gift of a sunny afternoon at +14C! My host was home by the time I was ready to head out, so she let me know about a lunch deal at the best fish and chips shop in town. That sounded good and it was on the way to the water, so I decided to head there and check out the deal.

So I’m in Hove, which used to be a separate city from Brighton, but the two were joined as one city, Brighton-Hove, in 2001. Hove is considered Brighton’s more genteel cousin. While here, I will use both Hove and Brighton. If I’m talking about Hove, I’m referring to this part of the city specifically. But if I use Brighton, it can mean Brighton proper or the city overall, simply because Brighton is better known.

This is my street and you can sort of see the house I’m staying in. It’s another terraced Victorian house, but not as tall, and the staircase is not as steep as the ones in Hebden and Shrewsbury.

What a lovely surprise!

I have to cross this abomination to get to downtown Hove, the pedestrian railway bridge. Trundling through there last night, I was immediately reminded of the ferry building in New Orleans. Just as decaying and smelly. Augh.

Isn’t it nasty? There is talk of it being refurbished or replaced. That would serve the community well as that bridge is a blight.

Here’s the Hove train station. Both Brighton and Hove have direct connections to London in a commute of about one hour, which isn’t too bad.

First Esso I’ve seen in Europe.

Wolfies of Hove had a lunch special of a piece of cod with chips for £3.50. This was a much better deal than I got in Hebden, where I paid over £4 for a portion with half chips that I could finish and I couldn’t finish this portion. It was very good, but the bottom of my fish got mushy and the chips at the bottom stuck to the wrapper. So a good deal and tasty, but not as nice as what I got in Hebden.

I got my lunch as takeaway and ate at a bench by a bus stop to watch the foot traffic.

I continued making my way to the water along this pedestrian street.

I then crossed this busy street to walk the final block or so to the water.

There are some really impressive buildings along the Hove-Brighton Coastline!

Hello, old friend. 🙂

Here are the northern and southernmost places I’ve seen the ocean in the UK. Next time I come, I need to do Cornwall, Wales, and Northern Ireland!

Well, there’s my word of the day. A groyne (pronounced groin) is a wooden or stone structure built to prevent erosion.

Aaaaaah. The famous Hove beach huts! The structures are privately owned and there is a license fee of over £300 a year for the spot. It is very difficult to find one since all the spots are taken so you have to find one available for private sale. One was recently on the market for £14,000. They can only be owned by residents of Brighton-Hove and you have to keep it for at least three years before reselling. Many have been owned by families for generations.

There are very strict rules on the colour of the roof and bottom (notice the light green and red), but the doors can be any solid colour or stripes of several colours.

Each has an address.

Nice French pun (À l’eau — to the water — sounds like allo — hello — and c’est l’heure is “it’s time. So “to the water, it’s time or”or “hello, it’s time.”)

I had a hard time finding images of what the insides look like, but it seems that folks use them mostly as storage sheds with perhaps a table to eat at out of the sun. Many have a gas cooker for making tea and doing basic cooking, I assume. They are meant for day use only.

More magnificent buildings.

More colourful huts.

The British Airways 360, a vertical tram. You ride all the way up in what looks like a giant doughnut.

So that meant I was in Brighton, about 3.5KM from home. I hadn’t meant to walk so far today and I had to get back to work! So I decide to meander my way back home. I passed a street with a Korean, Japanese, and Chinese restaurant right next to each other. Convenient!

I popped into a Sainsbury’s Local to get a salad and some pasta sauce to go with pasta I brought from Shrewsbury, plus a small bottle of wine, so I wouldn’t have to go out again as I’m knackered.

Without going out of my way, I was able to take a different road over the railway so I didn’t have to take the nasty bridge.

Brighton has a reputation for being very grotty and having a lot of homeless people while at the same time being very hip and trendy. That was definitely the impression I got today and I could see a very clear distinction between Hove and Brighton. I hope the weather holds for my future explorations!

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. 🙂

Sunday Morning at the El Alquián Mercadillo

The nearby village of El Alquián has a “mercadillo” every Sunday morning. That literally translates as a flea market and would be a tianguis in Mexico.

I didn’t realise that the clocks moved back yesterday, which explains why I was awake around 7:30 when I’d gone to bed around 12:30. Even the fact that the sun was up did not clue me into the time change!

I had a full eight hours of typing to do, but I still wanted to go out. So I had a quick breakfast, vaguely remembering my host saying I’d be able to have coffee at the market and so skipping that step, grabbed the grocery cart, and headed off around 8:30.

While I had less than 5KM to walk, I discovered that the road is absolutely not pedestrian friendly, having a high speed limit and no shoulders. I ended up coming home by the beach, which was lovely, but not grocery cart friendly. So I really doubt I’ll be going to El Alquián again, not when Almería downtown is about 15 minutes away by buses that run regularly.

Approaching the market. People were parked quite a distance away.

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The market is just a very long row of stalls. It starts with clothing and accessories, then you get produce. I bought a ton of stuff from the guy running this stall (he’s in the red shirt) as he had everything I wanted veggie-wise and it all looked fresh. I think prices are way better than in Canada, but sad compared to the Balkans and Mexico.

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The folks with the covered trays in front of that blue tarp had bulk goods so I was able to stock up on raisins. Mangos and avocado were very pricy and I did not get any.

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I wandered up and down a few times, adding four apples and a loaf of bread to my haul. I had hoped to come home with cheese as well, but there was only one tiny vendor selling cheese and meat and he was doing business much too fast for me to feel comfortable shopping as I didn’t recognise any of his wares and would have had questions. The only stall that I lingered at was selling olives in bulk, but the containers were just flimsy plastic ones and I didn’t want to come home to olive juice all over my groceries!

There were only two food stalls. One had whole roasted chickens and the other one had coffee, hot chocolate, and churros (doughnuts). I got a coffee and that alone was worth my very long walk as it it was very strong without being bitter and the crema was almost like caramel. Yum!

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Frankly, I was disappointed. It just didn’t have the lively community gathering feel that I’ve grown accustomed to at markets.

I’d had my fill within about an hour, right on schedule, so I headed off, pausing to dig one of my apples out of my bag. I found apples, certain types of which are a favourite food, disappointing in the Balkans (always mealy) and have been in withdrawal. This apple was perfect, so crisp and balancing tartness and sweetness.

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I turned to the beach at this point, where you can see my neighbourhood in the distance. I live at the completely opposite end.

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Found someone living the good life!

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When I finally reached my neighbourhood, I was reminded that I’d been to this end of the malecón before with my host. So our malecón is really quite short and that’s why folks will run up and down it. I still had almost a full kilometre left to get home at this point!

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I got in and put my purchases away. 16.52CAD had gotten me:

  • 1 bunch celery
  • 1 large bunch carrots
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 medium broccoli
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 medium onions
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 zucchini
  • 4 large apples
  • 1 small loaf bread
  • 1 coffee

Next, I did all my outdoor chores and then I finally plopped myself down at my desk and started typing.

Around four, I used some of my veggies and as well as leftover chicken broth and roasted chicken to make a quick chicken soup.

Even though I worked steadily and did not take many breaks, I wasn’t done with my jobs until almost 10PM. Phew. My eyes literally hurt by that point. I had a long hot shower, watched an episode of something, and then passed out.

Today will be a slightly easier work day. Depending on what time I finish, I may go to Almería, but I think I’m better off saving that for tomorrow and making a day off of it. We shall see. My clients have been surprising!