April 21, 2017
Granada - Dia Catorce (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.
April 20, 2017
Granada - Dia Trece (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.
Granada - Dia Doce (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.
April 19, 2017
Granada - Dia Once (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.
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.
Pascua de Resurrección - Easter Sunday 2017
I am such a closet Roman Catholic. If you have read anything about my early faith experiences, you will know that I was Episcopalian as a child. Sitting in church services today at the Monasterio de Santa Isabel La Real in the Albaycin area of Granada, I felt like a small wide-eyed child. I have always loved ritual and especially loved mystery. This monastery, built in 1504, was the first for the women of Granada, and it has been inhabited ever since by nuns who are cloistered and do not make themselves present for outsiders although they use a lazy Susan to sell baked good to passing visitors.
It is a small, intimate, church, shaped like a ship, with an altar area that looms 15 steps above the congregation. The church, itself, has been fairly recently restored to its original beauty. The service, in Spanish, was lovely, and I was surrounded by not more than about 40 worshippers. The gentle, white haired, priest officiated on the same level as the congregation and twice walked down the aisle with blessings. I considered taking communion, and wish i had, but didn't feel like I should without a specific invitation to non Catholics. However, since I didn't understand but a mere fraction of the language, maybe I was welcome to do so.
It is hard to capture in mere words the impact of both the service and the sense of setting in such an ancient structure surrounded with icons depicting the saints and martyrs of your faith while the singing of the cloistered nuns swirled in the air. The mass in Spanish added to the mystery. I found that I understood words here and there. I knew that the first sentence of the Apostles Creed began with the word Credo giving me a clue as to what was about to come even though I could not fully participate. Just knowing enough of the mass was a comfort even with a language barrier. Just knowing you were participating in something so ancient that worshippers throughout the centuries had experienced was heartwarming. But, I was fascinated with two particular things. Partway through the service, the priest came into the congregation and people turned to each other and passed the Peace. He made his way through the people, shaking everyone's hands, and some other people did the same. It was heartwarming and reminded me of home. Second, no one kneeled during the service. Maybe Catholics are kneeling less often -- but I was glad to escape those non-padded kneelers.
All in all, it was a lovely Easter service and one I shall never forget. I may need to visit other Catholic or Episcopal churches from time to time just to remind myself of my roots and of the loveliness of ritual.
Granada - Dia Nueve (Sábado)
Lazy day. Dani and Charles did some food shopping for mañana, Lots of people were walking through the Albaycin district and the lovely bells that ring on the hour began ringing around noon and kept on ringing until well after 4:00 p.m. I read and relaxed. The bedtime ritual here is to watch one of the Blue Planet series before Nico goes upstairs to his room. I went to bed after that and fell immediately to sleep. I guess Nico and I are the only ones who could sleep. The bells began another long stretch and rang in the Easter Day. At the same time, they were accompanied by a very loud party across the way. Of course, everything is so close, who knew where the party was -- but the sound reverberated and kept most folks awake.
The drama of the day was a mountain bike accident by Dani and Charles's friend, Jason, who had been with us the night before. He fell on a trail above the Alhambra and broke his tibia and messed up his ankle. He had to wait until someone came down the trail and then another long wait in the heat for enough people to carry him down to the public hospital. After his wife joined him, they soon saw that he would have to wait hours, called an expat doctor friend, who directed him to another private hospital where he got more immediate care. He came home to wait for Monday when he is scheduled to have surgery. All this would sound doable except for the fact that there is no way of reaching his home in the Albaycin without going up many, dozen stairs. And, they live in a four story house close to Dani and Charles.
Tomorrow is Easter and we are planning to go to mass. Everyone who lives here is anxious for the week to be over and Granada to get back to the lazy, quiet, existence as thousands of visitors leave to go home.
April 15, 2017
Granada - Dia Siete
Another quiet morning hour - sitting in the sun almost finishing my book. Listening to the bells, the birds, and the band sounds floating up from the far off processions. I'm such a visual person that I relish sitting in a beautiful patio, surrounded by Spanish tile and a myriad of greenery with grape vines just beginning to flower overhead. Blissful!
Dani and Charles are upstairs talking long distance to a client and working on some editing projects. Nico is over at his friend, Gabby's, playing (I presume) the same things ten year olds play anywhere on the planet. I see around the corner the square they use for soccer. How they play on all the cobblestones is more than I can imagine. A lady came to the door the other day with a plastic bag filled with balls that had been lost in her yard. Evidently her wall is not as tall as other neighbors. Nico had only one ball in the bag, but she gave him the entire bag anyway.
After another sumptuous lunch of special jamon (Spanish ham) and cheese, and olives, and pickles, we later headed down to town to see two processions. There are at least four Semana Santa processions a day, more than 30 per year. Often they begin during the middle of the day and go into the early hours of the next morning. Each represents a brotherhood and the pasos (sculptures) are lodged in various churches. The highlight of each procession is the float carrying the Christ followed, at some point, the float carrying the Virgin Mary. They can be an hour or so apart or only fifteen minutes depending upon the length of the procession. The most dramatic participants are probably the hooded penitents and the camareras, or women dressed in black with the lace shawls and comb mantillas, carrying the huge candles. The 40 or so costaleros are underneath, carrying the several-ton floats on their shoulders, changing with another crew when it becomes too difficult. The other night, Charles observed a crew of women waiting to take their turn for a brief spell. Also included in each procession is the military, the city officials, the band, and others carrying the Christian cross and various other large banners.
Last night, we began with the fairly short Farroviarios procession through the middle of town. The Christ figure was hanging on a cross and the Virgin Mary in velvet followed 15 minutes later. After finding some patio seats at San Germain, a favorite restaurant of Dani's, we were joined by friends, Laurie and Jason. The men held our seats while Dani, Laurie, and I went to Plaza del San Augustine to see the Soledad procession which was very moving. Downtown there were lots of tourists and people shooting pictures. At the Soledad procession, most people were solemn and had no cameras. The Christ figure was prone, lying on a bier, and carried by costaleros on each side of the float instead of underneath. The Virgin Mary was the most beautiful I've seen, and resides in San Jeronimo monastery. Dani had spoken of her earlier. This procession also had lots of children accompanying the participants. It was very moving. The three of us made our way back to the restaurant so the men could meet up with the procession at another point.
I'm sorry that I still cannot put pictures on my blog, but they can be found on Facebook. This has been a fascinating and moving experience. I'm in awe of the amount of preparation and the sheer energy these procession take, and the feeling of the crowd that are generally so respectful and moved by the processions.
April 14, 2017
Granada - Dia Seis
Not much to report again today. To say that I have been lazy is to be quite accurate. I'm deep into reading Zadie Smith's Swing time which is long enough to take me through lots of warm, quiet hours in the patio. D & C are inundated with editing projects, so I'm on my own just hanging with Nico who can certainly amuse himself. Besides, his friends are coming home from holiday and ready to play. I especially enjoyed listening to Nico and Gabby who were speaking Spanish while making some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Fortunately, it was 10 year old expat Spanish, so I understood everything they said.
There is no dryer here, so I've been doing a chore that I haven't done for years -- hanging out laundry to dry. Since my WA backyard is several stories down, I haven't had a clothesline since I lived in California. I do love the smell of fresh, sun dried, clothing even if it is a bit stiff and wrinkly. Since we had a chicken for dinner last night, I made Nico's favorite chicken soup for dinner.
Dani, Nico, and I walked down to see the daily procession, but missed it by a few minutes. Our hint was that the large crowds were going in the opposite direction. We decided to go find it later in another area of town (the processions last for several hours) but we were too lazy or tired to do so. Mañana will be a new day.
Everyone around here is suffering from the intense crowds that have descended upon Granada. D&C went down to their local (and favorite) coffee place this morning only to find the place packed within the first five minutes of opening. The wi-fi has been running slowly because of the number of users in the system. People are wandering all over the Albaycin sightseeing, and it is impossible to get tickets for the Alhambra. The favorite comment is, "let's wait until next week when it is back to normal."
I'm waiting to go to coffee with D&C when it is back to normal.
April 13, 2017
Granada - Dia Cinco
Life is relaxed in Granada. Dani and Charles often go down for coffee first thing in the morning. I haven't yet joined them since I'm either up earlier than Dani and have had some tea and toast, or later and not ready to go anywhere. It has been beautifully sunny and Charles and Nico spent some of today cleaning the patio in time for friends coming over for Easter dinner. Nico is excited because his friend, Gabby, will be home today. Now that Caden has left, he has been a bit bored.
Dani and I took a walk up to San Miguel de Bajo, the plaza and church where she picks up her CSA box filled with veggies. We had a drink at an open air restaurant and she introduced me to Maria, the owner. Maria then proceeded to bring us a complimentary tapa of rice, clams, and artichokes. We watched several young people getting a ramp ready for the statue to exit the church on the backs of about 40 men for the procession on Thursday. Each church has its own statue in various processions throughout the week. Dani took me by the Monasterio Santa Isabel la Real which has that usual combination of Muslim and Christian influence in the architecture. It is now inhabited by nuns who are cloistered but, remaining unseen, they sell baked goods and received pay via a lazy Susan to bring in funds for the church.
Dani and Charles have several jobs going so they find time to work during the day. I'm not ready to tackle the labyrinth of streets around the Albaycin on my own, but I'm content to read and relax. Each evening we try to do something, but tonight was quiet. We watched an episode of Blue Planet and then I stayed with Nico while Dani and Charles went down to some festivities. Charles left again later, and was out until all hours after midnight following a packed procession back to the church where it originated.
We will be going to more processions tomorrow.