Category Archives: Granada

Del mundo de marketing y publicidades

I almost always ignore online ads, but when a video ad for Multiópticas eyewear popped up it caught my attention. Among a series of vignettes it showed a young woman sunbathing topless at the beach—not unusual for Europe—looking healthy, happy and beautiful post-mastectomy.

Turns out, Multiópticas has cleaned up its act after a video ad in 2015 that drew protests for seeming to lump women and glasses together as “accessories.”

If you’re interested in eyeglasses fashion or advertising, check out other video ads from Multióptica’s campaña miradas (“They’re going to look at you, but what matters is your look,” with “look” meaning both appearance and gaze).




Évora is straight north from Faro, which is on the southern coast.

Last year we were fortunate to experience the intensity that is Semana Santa in Granada. And since once is enough, this year we made plans instead to spend the week between Palm Sunday and Easter in Portugal.

As soon as we crossed the River Guadiana, which forms the border between southern Spain and southern Portugal, we knew we were in a different country. The topography and fauna were suddenly different. The roads weren’t quite as good. Our first stop, Faro, had an architectural style different from anything we’ve seen in Spain, and it looked faded and run-down in a way that we’d been told to expect nearly everywhere. Although written Portuguese often looks something like Spanish, it is of course a totally different language. Portugal seems slower and quieter than Spain. There’s less lasting influence of the Muslims whose rule extended across the Iberian peninsula 1,000 years ago. And I saw many more racially mixed people than I’ve seen in Andalucía (Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau were Portuguese colonies in Africa, and then there’s Brazil).

We spent three nights in Faro, in the Algarve region, and three nights near Évora, in the Alentejo region. Although I congratulate myself for living in the moment, I wish that during this week I’d stopped more to take pictures.

Haciendo esqui

On the last weekend in March, Lou and Pete and Lou’s friend and his dad spent two full days at the Sierra Nevada ski station taking lessons. On the second day the beginner slope was pounded by high winds, which did little to reduce the enthusiasm of the kids although the lesson eventually had to be cut short.

Here’s a video of Lou on day two, making effective use of the pizza stopping technique (1:09). Note the backward skiing instructor, Javier. He’s a surf instructor in the summer with off the charts people skills.


Despojos del cerdo (pig parts)

The Fiesta de San Antón is next week and, logically, the patron saint of animals and shepherds is remembered with bonfires and a stew made with pig parts called olla de San Antón. It looks and sounds like a Spanish version of cassoulet (down to the crockery), and includes such diet- and artery-friendly ingredients as bacon, salt-cured bacon, pork ribs and back bone, and a pig tail and ear.

Olla de San Antón

Olla de San Antón

Pig snout

“Pig face without ears”

There are other pig-ear containing dishes around Andalucia. One of them is callos a la andaluza, and it takes pig parts one step further. In addition to two pig ears, it includes tripe (clean, the recipe notes), pig feet (clean), and blood sausage. The gelatin in the pig feet thickens up the sauce.

Callos a la andaluz

Callos a la andaluz

Another dish is orejas a la andaluza, or Andalucian-style ears. The orejas are boiled with a head of garlic, then cut into strips and sauteed with garlic and parsley, then garnished with sweet paprika.

No one loves talking about pig parts more than a vegetarian!

Orejas de cerdo a la andaluza

Orejas de cerdo a la andaluza







The eastern side of Gibraltar, looking north toward the Spanish Costa del Sol

Here are some facts about Gibraltar.

It definitely looks like it should be part of Spain, but it is not. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 made Gibraltar part of England and, although this causes ongoing tension with Spain, The Rock continues to function as a British Overseas Territory. Gibraltar’s 30,000+ residents mostly seem to favor the status quo.

You can see why Gibraltar is both strategic and controversial.

Crossing into Gibraltar from Spain is like going to Tijuana from California. There’s a lot of traffic back and forth for work and shopping and, if you look like your trench coat is packed with less highly-taxed cartons of cigarettes from Gibraltar that you plan to sell in Spain, you will probably be stopped.





Thgibraltar-mape Rock is a big piece of limestone that was pushed up from a former lakebed at a 45-degree angle. (The lake dried up and then much later water flowed from the Atlantic over Gibraltar in a massive cascade to fill the space that became the Mediterranean Sea.) The western, gentle-slope side of The Rock is home to the majority of Gib’s residents, its port, and other businesses, and the eastern side has two small beach settlements, all totaling about 2.6 square miles. The eastern side is also where a water catchment area was built to capture rainwater (The Rock does not have its own source of freshwater, and piping water in from Spain is not an option). Today, however, Gibraltar gets most of its potable water from costly desalinization plants and uses saltwater for flushing toilets.


(Picture from a Wikipedia page on the Levant wind)

When moist wind blowing west across the Mediterranean hits the 426 meter/1,398 foot rock, it often generates a dry cloud that appears trapped in place. The levante, as the cloud is called, was with us for all three days of our visit, even when it was sunny.



Gibraltar's port, looking toward the Port of Algeciras (Spain), one of Europe's biggest.

View from the apartment where we stayed, looking toward Algeciras (Spain), one of Europe’s biggest ports.

The Rock is only 15 kilometers/9 miles from Morocco and offers 180-degree visibility to traffic coming from both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It has always been a strategic location and was possibly the last home of Neanderthals moving north from Africa. It became even more strategic and defensible when the British added cannon batteries all around the point and, during WWII, started tunneling out The Rock to house bomb shelters, hospitals, and munitions and equipment depots. (Gibraltar was one of two possible launch points for British and American forces into French North Africa; in the end Operation Torch launched from Malta.) Today, tunnels inside The Rock are used for military training and to house massive private servers for online gaming in Europe (tax haven, comparably lax banking regulations, blah blah blah).

The official language of Gibraltar is English, but most Gibraltarians are bilingual and tend to speak a mix of Spanish and English called llanito. Both Pete and I had experiences where the conversation started in one language and ended up in the other, or was a mix throughout, or sounded like it was translated from Spanish into English. The friends we were with said Gibraltarians or Llanitos often speak a very correct kind of English with a British accent, and street-Spanish with an Andalusian accent. There are other languages spoken, too, by immigrants from India, Pakistan, and Malta (historically), and by the relatively large Jewish population.

And there are monkeys. Barbary macaques, to be exact, that live in an open-zoo environment in a nature reserve on top of The Rock. See one here (0:14 sec).

Looking down the so-called Mediterranean steps, on the eastern side of The Rock

Looking down the so-called Mediterranean Steps, on the eastern side of The Rock

Un segundo año


Lou and I were invited to join some Spanish families for a picnic on Sunday (unfortunately Pete missed out because he’s back in the U.S. working). Don’t be fooled — there were many other picnickers in this popular park near Granada, plus a group of people doing a professional photo shoot with dogs (!!).

Many times over the past few months I’ve wanted to post something here, and didn’t. Finally the urge to write has overcome distractedness and busyness and the lazy lure of the New York Times.

We are more than a month into our second year in Granada, and I write that with disbelief and precocious nostalgia. Time seems to be passing so quickly.

Year two has been different from the moment we touched down in Spain. All the energy we put into figuring out how things worked and where necessities were last year is going, this year, into venturing beyond the center of Granada and looking for more ways to feel at home. Our neighborhood and school community now feel as small as they’ve likely always been, so out of boredom we’ve been walking different routes—lucky for us, the Albaicín is a warren of streets. Soon after we arrived I walked into an eyeglasses shop and ordered new frames and lenses with a confidence I simply wasn’t able to muster last year. And recently I took the bus to a big grocery store that I had previously avoided, thinking it sounded too “American” (I am shaking my head at my own silliness); lo, I can get fresh cilantro and hot peppers and black beans and cheddar cheese anytime I want. Lou, under loving pressure from his parents, is taking a hip hop dance class where he doesn’t know anyone. Tonight I’m starting a year-long Spanish class, which meant hiring a babysitter and thinking through how to bike across the city, among other things.

I’ve also thrown myself into organizing at school: hiking club, parent volunteers for English classes, and the thankfully now superfluous “hygiene team.” It’s become clear to me how much I need to feel relevant and a part of the community.*

What I call an identity crisis continues, but I’m trying to trust Spanish speakers to know that I’m not as socially clumsy, obvious, or slow to learn as I think I sound. I am a broken record: language learning as an adult is such a head game!

With a little perspective I’m able to appreciate how fortunate we are to face the good and sometimes fun challenges of living in Granada. All three of us are happy to be back.


*I now get in a more personal way why all adults need access to dignified employment.

Cuando el calor se nos eche encima

This month and into July, Granada is hosting an international festival of music and dance, with many performances al aire libre. “But what if it rains?” I asked an acquaintance back in April when tickets went on sale. “Oh, it won’t rain,” she said.

Since May the sky has been cloudless and sunny, and the average daily high temperature has been steadily climbing. Right now the temperature is 97F/36C. I believe that’s in the shade.

Thankfully Andalucians figured out long ago how to cope with the heat of summer.

  1. Chilled soup.
    There are two tomato-based, uncooked soups eaten throughout Andalucía as well as in other parts of Spain. Gazpacho is the original vitamin-packed, garlic-flavored smoothie, served in a glass with ice cubes or in a bowl like a traditional soup. Salmorejo is made with significantly more breadcrumbs than gazpacho and without green peppers and cucumber, and it’s typically garnished with hardboiled egg and bits of jamón.
  2.  Sangría and tinto de verano and ice cold beer served in small glasses
    Sangría is chilled wine sweetened with cut up fruit; I had a red version with cinnamon and it was delicious. Tinto de verano is chilled red wine mixed with a sweet carbonated drink like 7-Up—it can be bought pre-mixed in 2-liter plastic bottles.
  3. Abanicosabanico-mexuar
    Collapsible, hand-held fans are too practical to leave just to the tourists.
  4. White buildings with thick walls made of hollow bricks, tile floors, and wooden blinds on the outside of windows
    The buildings in our neighborhood are almost all white, which mostly has to do with historic preservation but also means those buildings reflect sunlight and heat (all those white surfaces on a sunny day can also make the world painfully bright). Hollow bricks and stucco exteriors allow buildings to breathe, something we mostly notice in the winter when the house breathes in humidity and cold. If we keep the awning open over our walled-in patio, keep outside blinds closed, and close windows completely when the sun is shining on them, the house stays remarkably cool even when it’s super hot outside.
  5. Siesta
    In Granada the majority of businesses follow a siesta schedule year round, closing between 2pm and 5pm or 5:30pm. In the summer siesta is a near-sacred time when people rest if they can.