Monthly Archives: March 2016

Pensando en las peras de Pascua

arco irisI’m updating my handwritten Spanish dictionary and came across this saying: to be thinking of Easter pears, which means to not be on task.

There’s no such thing as Easter pears, so here’s a rainbow. Happy end of Semana Santa!*


*Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a big deal in Granada. It means kids home from school, tourists filling the streets, religious processions every day, less than satisfactory tapas/meals at bars because they’re barely managing the crowds, and litter in the streets. Many Granadinos flee the city. But we were here and will share some pics and video soon.

Cabo de Gata


A couple of Fridays ago we declined supplemental insurance (that’s foreshadowing) and left town in a brand new rental car.

About 45 minutes east of Granada we exited the A-92 to have late afternoon coffee in the town of Guadix, which has been continuously occupied for more than 2,000 years. The modern town is surrounded by rock formations that remind me of the Badlands in South Dakota, except in one part of town the softish rock has been carved out to accommodate numerous cave homes.


We continued driving southeast on the A-92, past flowering almond trees and wind farms, past the industrial greenhouse operations for which Almería province is known, toward the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. Just before sundown we checked into our vacation apartment in the hamlet of Rodalquilar, about two kilometers from the coast.

Over the weekend we visited a handful of beautiful beaches, each with their own distinctive characteristics. And on the way home we drove through a desert where several spaghetti westerns were filmed (mostly near the town of Tabernas, just off the A-92).

Below are pictures and videos. I hope you appreciate that I did not include 136 pictures of the beautiful and alien-looking potted and window-boxed succulents I oohed and awed over as we made our way around the coast. Also, I’m sorry I couldn’t find a way to transmit the delicate marine scent of clean seawater, or the just-right temperature of a brilliant sun. My next blog will be VR.

About the rental car…it has a new (very small) contour which caused our driver to voice multiple worst-case scenarios and lose sleep. But thankfully those were the only consequences.


Driving to the coast (0:35)


Near Rodalquilar

Waves (0:47)

Beach fever (0:14)


San José


Las Negras

More waves (1:09)




On the way back to Granada

La no investidura

Back on December 20, Spaniards went to the polls to vote for local, regional and national representatives, including a new prime minister. Because no single party earned a majority of votes/seats in Parliament, leaders of the major parties have been negotiating—or not—to form a governing coalition and decide on the one candidate who will go forward as prime minister.

The long-standing moderate socialist party (PSOE) and the newer centrist party (Ciudadanos) negotiated a post-election coalition, but they didn’t get enough síes (or yeahs plus abstentions) in Parliament’s confirmation vote last week—something they knew ahead of time, which turned their official signing of a joint document into theatre.

My understanding is that there are now three options:

  1. The nascent coalition and the conservative party (PP)—the party that earned the most votes in the December elections—drop their posturing and work to form a viable coalition;
  2. The nascent coalition brokers a deal to form a coalition with the far-left party (Podemos) and a partido independista (a party that uses secessionist rhetoric to try and force unheard of regional autonomy);
  3. A new round of elections is held in May or June with the prospect of results similar to those from the elections in December.

In the meantime, Spaniards are justifiably frustrated and cynical. And some worry that internal politicking is corroding Spain’s stature within the EU and within the global economy.

I’m relieved to see (again) that the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on political dysfunction, and I’m disappointed to see (again) that where there are people, there is dysfunction.

Fiesta al cole

Last Tuesday, at the first school drop-off after a four-day weekend, I joined an impromptu meeting pulled together by a mom of sixth grade twins. Help was needed to plan and execute a school party on Friday afternoon to raise money for the sixth grade class trip. Because I am unemployed, I happily volunteered Pete to help set up the bar. And I agreed to donate some cakes. Even with such a short lead time, the party went well and money was raised.

La Alhambra

At long last, I visited the Alhambra. Twice in eight days.
La AlhambraVisiting the Alhambra means touring the Alcazaba, or fortress, which existed in some form as early as the 9th century, but probably even earlier (scholars say some foundation stones look Roman). Muhammad I, who founded the Nasrid Dynasty in Granada in 1238, improved and expanded the fortress, as did subsequent rulers.

It means being surpised by the heavy-looking Palacio de Carlos V, commissioned by the Catholic Emperor in the early 16th century.

Visiting the monument means showing up at your appointed time slot to tour the Nasrid Palaces, a wonder of public and private royal spaces.

It means walking through a preserved hamam (like a sauna with hot, warm, and cold rooms) and past a few building foundations and trying to imagine a palatine city of about 2,000 people.

And it means walking uphill to the summer palace, the Generalife, and looking back across gardens and fountains and orchards toward the rest of the monument with modern Granada in the distance.

My guide book says it well:  the Alhambra is not a single building born complete and perfect at a particular moment in time; it is much more the product of three centuries of construction at the end of Mulsim rule in Al-Andalus, continued throughout the Christian period until almost modern times.

Below are a few pictures.

Tile work: solid-color pieces of tile were cut, shaped, and composed based on mathematical formulas that create a repetitive rhythm also found in Islamic poetry and music. The two compositional styles in tile work are mosaic (one or more element is repeated) and alicatado (shapes are rotated, scale and depth are altered).

Below are some examples of stunning carpentry, including coffered wooden ceilings that were polychromed.


My guide book says that Nasrid builders preferred permeable materials—brick, wood, and gesso (stucco)—for their ability to balance changes in seasonal dampness and absorb contaminating elements. Stucco being more malleable than stone, it also lent itself to the intricate carvings that cover so many surfaces in the palaces.


Windows and doors

Water—especially moving water—is everywhere, even in a handrail.


The Generalife, or summer palace


The Palacio Carlos V


Una procesión

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a big deal in Granada. One of the highlights is the processions, where la Santa Imagen (a statue of the Virgin Mary) is mounted with burning candles on a platform the size of a car and carried from its church home through the streets and back, accompanied by the faithful who also carry burning candles and sometimes walk barefoot.

Last week I heard music and just happened to catch part of a procession down our street in honor of the Holy Year of Mercy. (It was delayed by two days because of weather, which may explain the small crowd.)

Watch the 2:46 video