April 30, 2017

Granada - Dias Veintidos y Veintitres (Viernes y Sábado)


OK, so I didn't have the traveler's problem since Nico was sick on Friday night and Dani on Saturday. I guess we have a bug going round. Dani was very short of sleep because of her trip, so she got hit hard. Poor Nico was terrified because he felt so bad, but he bounced back well the next day. Dani's still sleeping off the effects. Charles, so far, has escaped.

On Friday evening, Dani had her book group and Charles went to his Buddhist Sangha. He began doing this when he was in Hong Kong by himself, and he has continued to be associated with Plum Village, the spiritual community founded by the Vietnamese Zen Monk,Thich Nhat Hanh, who is well known internationally for his writings on mindfulness and peace. Charles has been able to go to a conference in France while he has been here. It is a wonderful opportunity to continue such a meaningful practice that began in Hong Kong where he was part of a conference that included the zen master.

Dani and I decided to set up a puzzle on their only dining space while Charles was gone. Since I knew he was coming home to have dinner, I was sure he was going to walk in and wonder where we were going to eat. However, he came in the door and said, "Yea! A puzzle!" and we made ourselves something to eat and began building this complex, 1000 piece, puzzle in the quietness that he brought from his Sangha and my inability to eat, do a puzzle, and talk (believe it or not).

It has been cool and drizzly so doing things like puzzles was just the ticket. We continue to go down for coffee in the morning and since Dani's computer is back home, we have continued to watch Planet Earth before bed. Only one more full day before we leave for Malaga where I will catch the plane home. We have booked two days there, but we'll see how Dani is feeling.

At this point, I'll be glad if the worst of the long, rainy winter is over in Bellingham.

Here are Thich Nhat Hanh's opening words to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change entitled "Falling In Love with the Earth." You can Google the entire speech which is beautiful and should warm your heart.

This beautiful, bounteous, life-giving planet we call Earth has given birth to each one of us, and each one of us carries the Earth within every cell of our body.

Amen

Posted by Marilyn at 4:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2017

Granada -Die Veintiuno (Jueves)


It ha been quiet around here - so not much to report. Last I succumbed to the traveler's disease and was up all night sick. Fortunately, except for being excessively tired today, I am fine. However, I have been careful of eating anything not bland. Charles said that I got off easy - most of the expats here get sick at some point and he was sick for three days. Dani is coming home tomorrow and the rest of us are just hanging. Charles has had lots of work to do, so between my tiredness and his busyness, we've stayed pretty close to home.

I did have one accomplishment, however. Nico has never had a professional haircut and likes his hair long. But, it was pretty raggedy. His mother suggests it is because she has been the barber. It seems he has some celebrity with his friends for having lots of hair. However, I decided a bribe was in order. All the boys around here like one particular barber, so I bribed Nico with some funds if he would get his hair professionally cut. Since he is afraid of barbers, I made the bribe large enough for him to be tempted. Sure enough, he took the bait and went to the barber today with his dad. Now that the barrier is broken, I think he will go back because Charles did not ask the barber to cut it all off. It's still long, but it looks better.

The weather has turned and we have had some sprinkles the past few days. When it sprinkles around here, the kids cannot go outside to play -- even though the sprinkles are less than a WA sprinkle. You cannot call them rain. In fact, you can hardly feel them and might not even know it was sprinkling unless you looked at the cloud cover. However, Granada calls them rain and all activities are called off. Reminds me of school being called off in WA because of a very light snow. I'm sure the midwest laughs at us. In any case, our patio doors are closed and I have a sweater on.

I'm happy just to burrow in for a few days. One of the things I love about traveling to visit my kids in another country is that I can really get the feel for how they are living -- the cuisine, their friends, their home, the culture and their activities. I'm more interested in that then in any bucket list to cross off. So, I probably won't get inside the Alhambra palace, but that i ok. I think I have a sense of what it is like to live in such a unique area of Spain -- and that is enough for now.

However, I do hope the sun comes out again before I leave.

Posted by Marilyn at 3:29 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2017

Granada - Dia Diecinueve (Martes)


It has cooled down a bit and we've even had a few extremely mild sprinkles in the later afternoon. Charles left the house somewhere around 5:30 a.m. to stand in a huge line for Alhambra tickets. They sell 100 tickets each morning for those who have not bought them months ahead. Charles was number 102. And, he had about 200 people waiting in line behind him. Unfortunately, we did not get tickets for the castle. But. we hopped a taxi around 10:00 and headed up to tour the gardens and the grounds of the Palacio de Generalife, the country estate and summer palace for the sultan. The gardens were beautiful with Moorish arches and pools of water. The flowers were in bloom and everything was lush and green. Charles often walks through the Alhambra and found that the whole countryside has sprinklers so that it is green even in the high heat of the summer months.

We then stopped at a little hotel on the Alhambra grounds and near the Generalife called the Hotel America. The restaurant was in an enclosed and charmingly decorated patio. I had gazpacho and a roasted asparagus plate and Charles had meat croquettes and some French fries. We walked back along the pathways to catch another taxi to take us up to the Plaza St. Nicholas at the top of the Albaicin where we picked up Nico from school and walked home.

It's a pretty harrowing drive through the narrow streets for the drivers. There is barely enough room for a small bus or auto so people who are walking have to flatten themselves against the whitewashed walls of buildings or find a little niche to stand in when the vehicle passes. Sometimes autos have stopped for some reason so no one can get by. I'm impressed by how patient everyone is when that happens. Everyone seems to take it in stride until things get moving again. Most of the streets we walk are not big enough for vehicles, and the vehicles that do manage to come into the Albaicin are small.

Charles went out to the store for a roasted chicken for dinner and Nico and I ended the day watching an episode of Planet Earth on my computer screen. It was a lovely day.

Posted by Marilyn at 6:14 AM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2017

Granada - Dia Dieciocho (Lunes)


Another lazy day! Dani left for Vienna with Tara and Nico went to school. Charles went for coffee and then took some towels and stuff to the laundromat. They have a washing machine - but it isn't large enough for a big wash, and the towels end up pretty stiff hanging in the sun. I did a small load and sat outside and read. I'm on my third book here -- reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I had read The Shadow of the Wind long ago and Dani had this second novel, a rather Gothic tale which centers around a writer and the magic of books. .

Sitting outside on the patio is such a fascinating experience. I've already said something about the sounds -- mostly I love the church bells ringing. Yesterday they rang more often because it was Sunday. They are so lovely and a good reminder to stop for a minute and ponder the world. The other thing that fascinates me about sitting outside, enclosed within high whitewashed walls, is that people can't see you. I often sit on my front porch at home and greet the few people, mostly neighbors, who amble by.

Here it is like Grand Central Station. I sometimes have to stand up and peer over the wall just to see what all the commotion is about. Today, within a fairly short time, the parade began. Here are the people who passed by: a) a group of college age students laughing and goofing off, b) several mothers speaking sweetly to children, c) about 30 tourists that were chatting loudly in different languages about the sights, d) several small clusters of Spaniards speaking very quickly and excitedly about something beyond my understanding, e) a few people who appeared to be either having an argument or just angry about something, f) a group (classroom?) of teens, and e) several barking dogs. Charles says that their little corner lot is an alternative route through the Albaicin and not even as busy as the main routes. Since the walls are stone and the pathways so narrow, all sound reverberates off the hard surfaces. The loudest people are those who are pulling wheeled suitcases over the cobblestones. Every day you can hear the worst racket and then you know someone is moving in or out. You can also hear everything that is said. Of course, you have to know Spanish very well to understand. The late afternoon sounds include the children playing soccer in the narrow streets. We can always tell where Nico is by the sound of the soccer game.

One other interesting thing about this house is that it is owned by the artist, Ricardo Bellido Cebellos, and the walls are full of his paintings and sketches. He came by yesterday to drop off a new toaster and we visited. He says he is not painting any longer but now is doing restoration work. He showed me some of the projects on his phone. I think his art (some of which is probably from his student days) is what makes the house so unique and lovely.

That was the day -- Dani has the computer that hooks up to the television, so we've had to stop our nightly ritual of watching either Blue Planet or Planet Earth. It has been an enjoyable family activity.

Posted by Marilyn at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Granada - Dieciseis y Diecisiete (Sábado y Domingo)

Saturday was a lazy day and not much to report. Charles was returning from his quick trip to Scotland to visit his two friends and Dani and I spent the afternoon arranging our hotel and transportation to Malaga for the end of my trip. I spent some time on the Charles De Gaulle airport website getting information about flight connections between terminals. I was pretty impressed that they give directions with pictures of the airport at each junction. I only have one hour between flights and, although they say it is doable, I'm always anxious until I actually do it.

I went out to the patio to read about 6:00 and Dani brought out wine and cheese and the ubiquitous olives. Soon there were three families joining us for appetizers. The children played while we visited, and they went home around 8:00. We ate dinner and Charles arrived home after we had watched the last episode of Blue Planet and Nico had climbed into bed. Everyone was glad to see Charles, and he was glad to be in a warmer climate. Scotland was cold!

Sunday was busier. We went down to town and back to Bib Rambia Square to have churros with chocolate and coffee for a breakfast treat. Many of the stores were closed on Sunday including the Apple store where I wanted to pick up a connection for my iPhone earplugs for use on the plane. Charles then took off with Nico, and Dani and I went to the Royal Chapel to see where Ferdinand and Isabella and their daughter, Joanna and son-in-law, Phillip of Castille, are buried. Although we know them best for Christopher Columbus, they are important around here for the fall of the Moorish dynasty. We caught the bus home, got off at Plaza San Miguel Bajo for a cold drink before descending the steps and pathways home.

I am finally oriented enough to find my way to town, to take the bus to the plaza, and to negotiate the streets home from there. God forbid that I turn the wrong way. I can also take the dogs for a walk around the block and find my way to Cuatro Gatos for morning coffee. Dani is off tomorrow for a trip to Vienna with her friend, Tara, who is going to a conference. Charles and I are making plans for spending a day at the Alhambra.

I just finished a book that Dani bought me for Christmas --The Red Hill by David Penny. It takes place just before the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella when they were very close to conquering the city. But, more importantly, the setting is the Alhambra and the Albaycin. It's a good read although a bit gory at times. But, it certainly captures the ambiance around here as well as the history of the area. I'd recommend it for those of you that like both mysteries and historical fiction.

Posted by Marilyn at 1:40 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2017

Granada - Dia Quince (Viernes)


My daughter is an extravert. I certainly enjoy other people, but at some level, I'm an introvert. She gets her energy from being around others and in the midst of things. I get my energy from retreating and quiet spaces. I was ready for that quiet time this morning. So, I took a shower, washed my hair, put some clothes in their noisy little washing machine (that sounds like hyenas howling when it is going full blast), made myself a cup of tea and a fried egg, and relaxed with the dogs and a book while Dani went off for coffee with friends. She came home to invite me to run to town with her and her friend, Tara, but I politely declined and kept reading. My next task was to load the dishwasher and hang up the wash. That is all the excitement that I needed this morning.

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but I'm continually fascinated by how difficult it is for me to navigate around here. I'm sure that I'm getting used to it -- but "running to town" is not like running to Fairhaven from South Hill on smooth sidewalks -- although I think it is for Dani (younger and in better shape). Perhaps if this was my normal existence, I would think the same. But, navigating the myriad of steps and the chunky walks makes it seem so much longer. Partly because I am being careful not to lose my balance. I have heard there are a lot of accidents here. It reminds me somewhat of wandering through the rocky tide pools when the tide is out. I am, however, getting oriented to the twisty alleys and could now find my way to town and home again. Today, we walked down to town, but took the bus up through the Albaicin to get home, walking down from the plaza. It is so much easier for me to go down steps than to climb, climb, climb until we get home. Dani reminds me that she got out of breath often at first. I know I'm getting better, but it is still a chore.

Dani and I wandered around town this afternoon through some of her favorite stores. Unfortunately, we left home around 10:30 which meant that we had limited time before shops closed for their mid-afternoon break. We walked through another little Moroccan alley, went to a museum store and bought a few items, went to a little store that resembles IKEA, looked into many more little boutiques, had a fabulous lunch in Bib Rambla Square at Sibarius, an outdoor restaurant. Unfortunately the Apple store was closed as well as the little chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand are buried. So, we settled for coffee and a shared treat before finding the bus home.

We have a little evening ritual that I have enjoyed. Before Nico's bedtime each night, we have watched "Blue Planet" It's a lovely way to end the day. But, that takes me back to Singapore when James was little (before there was a Nico). Every night in Singapore we watched another episode of Arrested Development -- it was in its infancy, and such an outlandish show. No wonder James has a quirky sense of humor!

Tomorrow is Saturday and Charles returns from Scotland. I have been promised a special breakfast with churros at a favorite place in town. Sounds good to me.

Posted by Marilyn at 2:13 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2017

Granada - Dia Catorce (Jueves)


Charles got off to Scotland early today after some searching for a missing wallet (it was found after he left). He's visiting two friends and will be back on Saturday. Dani and I went on the morning coffee ritual and then got ready to go to town to take the tourist bus through Granada. It is a tram with a lovely breeze flowing through the open air windows. Unfortunately we were squished four to a seat to accommodate everyone. It began by going up through the Albicin where we are living. But, then circled around the city, the university area, and up through the grounds of the Alhambra. I'm just beginning to make some sense of the winding, narrow, pathways through the Albicin. I'll probably get proficient just when it is time to leave.

We got off our bus ride to tour Dani's favorite Monestario de San Jeronimo de Granada and once again saw the magnificent statue of Mary and the Joseph lying on the bier that we saw in the Soledad procession last .Friday night. Built in the 1500's, the huge church was amazing with painted vaulted ceilings and an amazing altarpiece. It was flanked by a large garden with orange trees standing like soldiers in perfect columns. But, the most exciting part of the visit was unexpected. A fabulous soprano and tenor were practicing Ave Verum with the organist and the sound reverberated throughout the cathedral as we walked around in awe of the beauty. It was a treat for the senses and brought tears to my eyes.

We then wandered over to another favorite, a fish restaurant in the Mercado de Augustine -- a miniature upscale version of Vancouver's Granville Island market. We had a delicious salmon luncheon. I think they quickly sautéed the salmon (which is lighter than ours) in a salted skillet. It was a treat to have something lighter for a change. Restaurants seem to have a three course lunch, so I began with a cold gazpacho, followed by the salmon with roasted potatoes and a flan.

We then went out to find the next stop so we could catch the tourist bus back to the albicin where we had a short walk home. The rest of the day was spent reading a few magazines that Dani's guests have left and enjoying the shouts of the expats and local Spanish children play soccer in the narrow streets. How on earth they do so with the huge cobblestone walkways -- at least they don't lose the ball often since the walls of the houses flank the street.

Dani made some pasta and we had another late dinner and went to bed.

Posted by Marilyn at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

Granada - Dia Trece (Miércoles)

Lazy day and not much to report. Had coffee in the morning with Dani and Charles and friends at Quatro Gatos and later took a walk uphill with Dani to get her latest CSA box. D&C had three long phone calls today for their editing business so I just relaxed around here. However, I decided to jot a few words on the blog because of our more interesting evening occurrence.

After dinner we were mulling around all doing different activities from dishes to showers for school to whatever when all the lights went out. Fortunately, because we are so very close to neighbors and alleyways, there were some neighborhood lights shining outside. Also, fortunately, I had my cell phone in my hands and could give a flashlight to Charles who was looking at the electrical box in the living room.

Everything in another country is confusing. The electrical box looks different but we could see that the main switch was unable to keep the lights going. Charles would turn it on, and in a few seconds they would go off again. Dani tried to text their landlord - and then tried to call. And, they were trying to figure out how to tell him what happened in Spanish. Good old Nico said, "Mom, just say No Luz en casa!" Pretty good, we thought.

As Nico and Dani got busy putting candles around the rooms, Charles went to see their new next door neighbors because the husband speaks fluent Spanish and might help speak to the landlord (who ended up being unavailable). The neighbor instead brought over another Spanish neighbor who knew what the problem was. Evidently, when the main switch goes off, you turn off all the switches in the panel box. Then you turn the main switch back on and one by one turn on the others -- noticing which one does not respond -- and that is where the problem lies. We finally decided that something in the kitchen (maybe the really old toaster) was sending a surge to the system.

It was all very dramatic because Charles was getting ready to go to Scotland for a few days. I was concerned that he wouldn't be able to go if he had to leave us to deal with the electrical stuff while he was gone. In any case, everything was back to normal by a late bedtime.

And, that's the time the lights went out in Spain.

Posted by Marilyn at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2017

Granada - Dia Doce (Martes)

The children are back in school, the extra thousands have left Granada, the floats are back in their respective churches, and the expats are home from traveling. Life is evidently back to normal. I've risen early enough to begin the day with coffee with Dani and Charles and friends who make it down to their favorite neighborhood coffee place, Quatro Gatos. While there, we found out that today there were to be several open carmens. A carmen is a private home in the Albicin with high walls and a hidden terraced garden. Dani was especially excited because you can often catch a small glimpse of the gardens but never access them.

We took off with two friends to tour the home of the Belgian painter and musician, Max Moreau, whose former residence is now a museum displaying his work. It is high up the hill with remarkable views of the area and the Alhambra. The gardens, rich with roses, and the individual rooms on display, were beautiful. After stopping for a quick cold drink at Maria's outdoor restaurant, we then went to another home and toured the usual private gardens and reflecting pools on display, but the home itself was closed. It was a perfect balmy day to enjoy the views. The local crowds were out enjoying the opportunity to look inside those otherwise closed private spaces.

Dani and I parted with her friends and walked down to town through the Moroccan Market to have lunch at her favorite, Bodega. Charles and Nico joined us and we stopped for ice cream and wandered through a few stores in town. I still cannot help but get exhausted with the constant climbing and walking on uneven, large pebbled walkways. I walk around bent over looking down at my feet in case there is a looming step. It is a pleasure to walk in town on actual sidewalks. I'm also trying to get used to the dining pace -- coffee after Nico leaves for school about 8:30, breakfast back at home closer to 10:00, lunch when Nico gets home from school around 2:30, and dinner closer to 8:00.

Granada is one of the cities of the Andalusia -- a large area in Southern Spain that was under Moorish rule until the 1500s and includes cities such as Granada, Seville, Gibraltar, and Malaga. The Albicin (or Albaycin, or Albaicin, or Albayzin. I've seen it spelled all these ways - sometimes differing in the same article) is a "barrio" (a neighbourhood) of Granada which has been built on a hill opposite the Alhambra. if I may quote Sara's blog about Granada. She goes on to say the the Arabs designed the area before the advent of cars, hence the maze of cobblestoned streets. It is certainly a unique, and in 1984, it was declared a world heritage site. It is certainly one of the most unique places I have ever visited and well worth a trip to Granada.

Posted by Marilyn at 1:36 AM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2017

Granada - Dia Diez (Domingo) and Easter Sunday (continued)

We began Easter Sunday by attending church as mentioned in the previous post (I was so moved by that experience that I had to write something immediately). Charles and I were sure that the church would be crowded. Someone told us that it was only open twice a year -- a fact that has now been disputed. So, we had coffee and wandered up to the convent and sat for 45 minutes to save our place in what ended up being an empty courtyard. Dani and a few friends joined us, but we did not need to worry about crowds this time. As mentioned, there were barely 40 people in attendance. The doors stayed closed, and we finally realized that we could enter and sat in the third row of pews. People wandered in, but even after the service began, others continued to come in and out or peek in to see what was happening. After services, we went over to Maria's (the restaurant near where Dani collected her CSA box) and had a cold drink. Then headed home.

We had a feast for Easter dinner. Dani cooked lamb chops -- she gets them from the local butcher. They are thin and small - and you can eat several. She also made her signature French potato casserole. Laurie and Jason's family brought salad and melon with jamon, wonderful cheesy bread, and there were lots of drinks. We made our own dessert from strawberries, meringues, whipped cream, orange cake, fresh oranges -- it was a make-your-own trifle. Jason was the center of attention. I'm not sure how he even managed to make it to Dani's -- he has crutches and he got up the front stairs although we all held our breath. Tomorrow he goes back to the hospital for surgery. They are only going to be here through June and had many things planned which will have to be cancelled unless all goes well with the surgery and he heals extra fast.

A new couple who has moved in next door from Boston came over for dessert. They will be here for three months and their children will go to school during that time. They have a son Nico's age and an older daughter. The expat community seems to be filled with adventurous souls -- sometimes taking a year off from work, other times working from Granada. They all seem to be well traveled folks who want their children to experience another culture. It is pretty impressive. One can see why they all become friends so easily.

It was a lovely Easter although I did miss my usual Easter activities and the rest of my family. I shall not forget this time in Spain and the wonderful week of religious festivities.

Posted by Marilyn at 7:19 AM | Comments (0)