Archive | January 2013

Callejeando

What do you do on a Sunday afternoon if you live in a city, you don’t have a car and a storm is threatening? Well, I know if we were in the country, we’d go out for a walk!

But since we’re not in the country, we’re in the city — we decided to go out for a walk anyways.

Now, a walk with the kids means spending the afternoon stuffing them up good and hard with all the food in the house before leaving home, because if you don’t, you will either have to blow the entire monthly budget feeding these growing stomachs out on the street, or you will immediately have to dash for home again, because the kids have become faint and weak and lethargic from lack of food. Which means…… night photography! Again.

Anyways, there’s nothing I like to do more than “callejeando”, which means just wandering about exploring without any particular aim. I still find it hard to believe that I actually LIVE in this amazing, medieval city! And I can go out every day and look at historic buildings with their balconies and curlicues whenever I want.

You will never find anything like this in Canada. In Canada, if it’s over a hundred years old, it’s pretty much prehistoric!

It was very unusual for a week-end, since the streets were almost empty. We were even able to cross the Alameda, the main “street” (more like a highway) on the red light! Maybe the menacing skies had something to do with it…… Spaniards don’t seem to be very fond of foul weather.

Wandering along calle Beatas, a pretty jazzy district known for its bars and discos, we discovered a couple of strange things I hadn’t seen before.

Fountain With Caños

This fountain looks pretty ugly, but I think it’s just the flash from the camera making it look kinda garish. This is the same angle without flash.

Fountain With Caños no flash

I was attracted to it immediately because we first saw it from the other side, the side with the faucets.

Cinco Caños

Springing fountains with taps or pipes, “caños”, are important in Spanish folklore and many songs are dedicated to them. In these traditional songs, the fountains usually have seven taps (siete caños), I dunno why but I guess seven is always a magical number and is always supposed to bring good luck.

However, the fountain on Beatas Street only had five taps.

We had actually gone off in search of the elusive “Hammam” or Arab baths. But we found them locked up and dark with a sarcastic note on the door cackling over the “nefarious” management of the former company that had been hired to take care of these facilities. Fortunately, the owner of the premises had apparently won some kind of court case (after four years!) over this nefarious management company, and now had recovered the full use of this historic site and was in the process of renovating and reforming it.

Street Art

Street art can be so beautiful sometimes.

Anyways, I was quite interested in getting away from our usual routine of Burger King or McDonald’s for dinner with a free toy thrown into the kiddie menu. The oldest is a little big for toys now, and the kiddie menu has about as much effect on his four stomachs as the proverbial egg in the giant’s stomach. The youngest still enjoys kiddie menus and free toys, but I was thinking that they were both ready to move on to more mature fare, all the same.

So I spied around for something “castizo”, something home-grown, something typically Spanish. Now, that’s pretty hard in downtown Malaga, where the streets are always crowded with foreign tourists.

But in the end we chose a nice little venue on calle Granada which seemed to have a few people, and they mostly looked Spanish. The menu was a reasonable price too. The kids clamoured for a kiddie menu, of course, and we had a debate as I preferred that they would try out something “adult” — as in, not French fries.

As a single mamma I have a tendency to endure less than satisfactory experiences in restaurants. The waiters usually give me a funny look when I walk in with two kids and no man beside me. They usually hover about me, probably most worried that I wouldn’t have the funds to pay for the meal, or that, even worse, I would take off without paying. As soon as I get up, they’re dashing over to me asking me if I would like something else or whether I’m ready to leave. And when I pay, they always count out the money most carefully while blocking the exit — just making sure it’s all there before I disappear, I guess.

Tapas at El Piyayo

At “El Piyayo”, the waiter also had a slight confusion as well because he thought I was “waiting for my husband”, and therefore he didn’t serve me immediately. After a while, he started to become aware of the fact that there probably was no “husband”, and asked me whether I was waiting for my husband.

However, once I had made it clear to him that there was no husband, there hadn’t been one for some time but I devoutly hoped that one day in the future there would once again be a “husband”, the waiter turned into the sweetest, most educated person and started attending to us as if we were the only people in the restaurant. All our food arrived promptly, and he even threw in our drinks for free!

Taberna El Piyayo

So as you can see, we had a thoroughly great time and the meal was excellent! The atmosphere was warm, cosy and welcoming. There were photos of people singing and dancing flamenco around the walls, and the few patrons about spoke in low voices and all were clearly Spanish. No “guiris” here, apparently!

We had made a superlative choice! Which is why I am mentioning this little taberna here in this blog — but I hope tourists don’t start to descend upon it like flies now that the news is out! This is just a little secret for the few people who read this blog and happen to live in or near Malaga.

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A Celebration of Single Motherhood

Lately I’ve been going through blogs by other women where they talk about how they raise their children, and what everyday life is like in these typical family households. So I thought maybe I would do something similar. I expect that in some ways my life wouldn’t be like those of other families, because we’ve only got one “head” of the household – and it isn’t a man!!

But in so many other ways, life in a family with children always has certain similarities, no matter the individual circumstances.

However, I have to claim that I LOVE being able to wake up my children to go to school every morning in the way that I want. All the same, they HATE getting up in the morning to go to school. I’d like to remind them how lucky they are to get woken up with lots of tickling and stroking and kisses, instead of lots of screaming (although I do also do a lot of that, when tickling, stroking and kissing don’t work!).

It doesn’t make very much difference to them at 7:30 in the morning, though. All they want to do is turn over and go back to sleep!

Running a marathon with my kids to get into school on time is yet another new challenge every day. We got the tough luck of getting them assigned to a school about fifty miles away (okay, it’s more like just one kilometre, but try running one kilometre in ten minutes every morning!) because one year we arrived from Barcelona in the middle of the school year, and they didn’t get admitted to any other school.

I’m very pleased and happy with their school, though. It’s in a nicer neighbourhood than where we live, which means that the kids in their classes are generally from nice, well-educated, polite homes.

Being a single mamma means no lounging around in bed until a late hour, then ambling off to the local market for the day’s menus, the way I would probably do if I were a traditional Spanish housewife married to a working man.

No offense meant to stay-at-home Spanish housewives, of course, please don’t be offended! I know that housewives work veeery hard and here in southern Spain, still a bastion of machismo, even more so. However, I also believe that single mothers must still work harder than married ones, because we have to go out and win the bread as well as cook, clean and run the household.

We also have to pay the bills alone.

Having said that, I believe that we also enjoy a load of luxuries that married women most often can’t claim.

When the kids don’t have school, I can sleep until the hour that I want. Now that they are old enough to prepare their own breakfasts and entertain themselves……

I can cook what I want, and if I don’t feel like cooking, I can buy something frozen or ready-made at the supermarket across the street. I imagine if I had a hubby, he’d be roaring for specific menu items, and I bet Eroski brand Spanish tortilla just wouldn’t make the cut in his opinion!

We can do what we like on week-ends. Of course, being a “struggling single mamma” most often means that we can’t take luxurious outings, like going to theme parks, on a regular basis. But I do save up so that occasionally I can treat the kids to something a bit pricier, like a trip to the zoo for my son’s birthday.

Being single and a mother means that I have to go to work. That means that I can’t sit around every morning waiting for that slow-cooking pot of stew to boil, and lunch will often have to consist of something that pops into the oven and simmers there for just ten minutes. It means I don’t meander through the local marketplace every day, chatting leisurely with the merchants, and our routine usually consists of a once-a-week shopping excursion – except I’ve probably only got about half the amount of money to spend on these once-a-week shopping excursions than would a complete family with a working father and a working mother.

It also means, though, that I get to lounge around at home in the evenings and do what I please. I don’t have to give hubby a massage because he’s “beat from a long, hard day at work”. I don’t have to clean up hubby’s mess because his mamma never taught him to clean up after himself. I don’t have to give my son a shower every night if I don’t feel like it – after all, hubby will never know and be able to protest about that, because hubby doesn’t exist!

I also don’t have to put up with disagreements about how to raise our children. There are no forced catechisms for them, no boring masses on Sunday mornings when the bed and warm quilts are just soooooooooo much more inviting! I don’t have to leap up from the middle of a dream about “kissing Valentino in a crystal-clear Italian stream” in order to dash over to the in-laws’ for their traditional Sunday lunch.

So, all in all, I guess life’s tougher if you’re single with little kids.

But then again, if you’re married, you also miss out on so many small pleasures, like having no fights, playing what you want with the kids, feeding what you want to the kids and being able to watch all your favourite TV shows hehe!

Kids On The Beach

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CBBH Photo Challenge: Reflection

I don’t often get around to rummaging through old photos and picking out specific themes. But I felt like taking up the challenge from Marianne of East of Malaga today and putting up some photos with the theme of the month.

I’ve seen some neat galleries on other blogs, but I don’t know how to set up a gallery here so I guess I’ll just bumble along with the old traditional way: plunking down photos one by one!

Ciutadella Barcelona

This was from our trip to Barcelona. Seems such a long time ago!

Calle Larios Malaga

Larios Street (calle Larios), the major pedestrian thoroughfare of downtown Malaga, is so beautifully lit up at night.

Chunky Statue

Thought this was a most unusual perspective on reflections, this statue, in Torremolinos, is polished so smooth you can even make out the details on the building it’s reflecting.

Malaga Street

These nocturnal alleyways are lovely in black and white too, and more mysterious at that.

Nebulous Reflections

I’m not going to tell you what that one is! I’ll leave it up to your imaginations!

Rio Chillar River

This was a scenic gorge you can wade through on the Chillar River near Nerja.

River Malaga

Shadows in the Water

This could be any city, any riverbank, any reflection.

Well, I would like to link to Toby at Travels With Toby, who reminded me about the CBBH Photo Challenge. She’s travelled a lot, and with any luck, one day she’ll be my neighbour here in Spain!

Then I’d like to recommend another blog even though it isn’t really related to travelling, photography or Spain, A Sprinkle of Al Sharq. What Sprinkle and I both have in common is we’re both single mums! I know lots of single mums but even with that, I think we’re still a minority.

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Stories From Granada

You may have heard of Washington Irving’s “Tales of the Alhambra”, right? Well, since I wasn’t able to get any real prime, supreme photos on our trip to Granada, I thought I would instead accompany the few poor specimens I was able to take with stories and anecdotes about our life there.

The Alhambra from our rooftop.

AlhambraThis poor little, split-up thing was the only salvageable portion of a pic I took from the rooftop of our old building where we used to live, back in the day. My little baby was born there (well, not there, he was born in the hospital, but we were living there when he was born), so you could say he was literally born in the shadow of the Alhambra. From our rooftop we had a spectacular view overlooking this famed Moorish castle. You can’t see it very well in the photo though.

(I might add that it was even taken in those olden days when digital cameras were only the possessions of the rich and the famous (or technology-obsessed computer geeks), which we obviously were not. In other words, we took it with an analogue camera and scanned it into a computer, hence its crooked lopsidedness.)

You might be wondering, with such a privileged location even someone richer and more famous than us would have died for to possess, with our complete and unobstructed view of the Alhambra day and night, why we left. Well, my husband (now ex) packed up his bags and moved to Venice with an Italian girl. I got tired of sitting all alone with the baby on the rooftop and gazing at the Alhambra and decided that I preferred to gaze at the sea instead. So we left, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

(I might add, he returned a few weeks later with his head hanging, something about the Italian girl not willing to support him and demanding that he get a job……)

Plaza Nueva

Ah, the famous Plaza Nueva which is most emblematic of Granada. I think every tourist knows where it is and has passed through it sometime. I have so many tales to tell about this place, I could probably fill up a whole book.

It’s a mecca to every hippy, saltimbanco, juggler and rasta on the planet, I believe. Okay, so in this photo it looks kinda forlorn. I guess maybe it gets a bit livelier when the weather lightens up.

Reyes Catolicos

This is the famous statue of the Catholic Monarchs (Isabel and Fernando) which probably every visitor to Granada has seen (and posed in front of). My kids weren’t going to be outdone and had to pose in front of it too.

Science Museum

The Science Museum.

This was the actual object of our visit to Granada. Our luck is fantastic and on the one day that we had chosen to visit the city, it was closed! Normally it is closed on Mondays, so we went on Tuesday – and it was closed! Something about a bank holiday……

Fuente de las Batallas

La Fuente de las Batallas (the Fount of Battles).

Well, actually, La Fuente de las Batallas is the one beside this one. I couldn’t take a photo of the actual fountain, because there was some sort of protest march around it. But this one is right next to it, and it’s quite similar, so I figured, it can sort of substitute. Right?

I used to love going there on lazy summer afternoons with my newborn and have an Italian gelatto. It’s what I remember about this fountain, and I associate it with Italian ice cream now. Of course, I’m sure we did other things there too. But that is what I remember.

Garden

Balloon Man

This is the long passage that leads from the centre of Granada and Bib-Rambla to the back streets behind the cathedral. A friend used to live there, and my son spent many afternoons bawling away in her home. (When he was born he was always bawling.)

Cuesta de San Gregorio

This is perhaps the most frequented little lane in Granada, the Cuesta de San Gregorio, the entranceway to the Albayzín, the old Moorish neighbourhood. It’s lined with teterías (tea shops) all the way up, and it’s very typical to go there in the afternoons and sip hot mint tea while nibbling at Arab pastries and sweetmeats and observing the crowds go by.

My favourite shop, an ecological, health food store, El Panadero Loco, is on this street, but when we passed by it was closed because, apparently, it was a bank holiday……

I asked the locals and I was pleased to discover that after all these years, business was still booming there. (Taking into account that my son, who was born in the shadow of the Alhambra, is now twelve……)

Cuesta de San Gregorio

Kinda reminds you of a Moroccan zoco, doesn’t it?

San Juan de los Reyes

You can see by this church (it’s actually a cloistered monastery, I’ve been told) that there is a street that leads upwards on the left-hand side. The street on the right (not visible in this photo) is San Juan de los Reyes, and that is where we used to live. It’s a very long, winding and quite renowned street as it runs up the length of the Albayzín.

In the background you can see the bar with the green awning. We used to call it “El Veintiuno” (Twenty-One). Here you can see it up closer.

El Veintiuno

If you pay close attention you might notice that the sign actually says “22”. Why, you might wonder? Shouldn’t it read “21”?

Well, the girl who owned the place was twenty-one years old. When she turned twenty-two, she changed the name to “Twenty-Two”. We can see that she decided to remain twenty-two forever.

They used to serve some truly incredible tapas there. (Well, they probably still do, but it didn’t occur to us to go there this time.) The hippies used to lounge around in there half-stoned, and it was impossible to have a coherent conversation with them.

“What are you up to these days?” you might address one of your acquaintances.

“Ah, just sitting around here, doing nothing,” they would reply with a vague wave of their hands.

“Well, we’re going home now. Where do you live?”

“Over there,” would be the response, with another nebulous waving towards the sky.

Well, I’ve saved up for another day the tales of our “Anecdotes from the Albayzín”, so be on the look-out!

Souvenirs

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Marbella, Land of the Jet Set?

Do people in Marbella spend most of their days lying around a poolside, sipping champagne and zipping off every once in a while in their own personal yachts when they get bored?

Well, I dunno. Most of the people I know in Marbella are pretty poor and down-and-out. Although, on the other hand, I have to admit that most of the local people I know in general here in the south of Spain are pretty poor and down-and-out. (Unlike in Barcelona, where most of my friends were average, middle-class and with good jobs.)

Marbella Street

I’ve got a friend who works cleaning houses. She’s a single mum, she has to struggle to make ends meet. Although she’s been living this way for years, and I guess she’s doing pretty fine when you take everything into account. She’s been able to pay her rent up till now, never got her electricity cut off for non-payment, hasn’t as yet had to resort to living off of flour and potatoes for a week or take her son to the homeless shelter for a meal.

But does she live off of Chardonnay and pink champagne or lounge on the beach in topless designer bikinis?

Church Tower Marbella

Well, she does lounge on the beach sometimes. But not in designer bikinis, hers are more likely to hail from the dollar store.

Most of the time she doesn’t have shampoo, shower gel, cutlery, pots and pans or towels in her home. You know, the usual, basic, everyday items that most of us take for granted that everyone will have and that most of us assume that everyone can afford. When she can get it, she usually has milk (after all, she’s got a growing kid) and oil, olive oil when things are going great, sunflower when things are a bit tighter.

Belen Marbella

So, well, you can’t exactly say she’s starving to death. But maybe that’s not exactly how you expect an inhabitant of opulent Marbella to be living, either.

Another friend in Marbella is pretty hip. She’s an artist, so, of course, she makes art. Handicraft, to be more precise. Then she sells it in improvised stalls at street markets.

Passageway Marbella

Well, that’s not such a bad way to make a living. She says her best-selling wares, nonetheless, aren’t her artwork but rather, cheap clothes that she barters away for one, two or three euros apiece.

You know, fashion’s quite important in Marbella.

Square Marbella

Now, I know that supposedly, a lot of world-class citizens are supposed to own mansions and palaces in Marbella. The famous (and wealthy) Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja is perhaps Marbella’s most renowned sweetheart. Arab sheiks seem to like to make Marbella their home. The rich and famous favour Marbella as their winter hideout, and I imagine that if you mention the name of this small city, probably images of luxury spas and giant estates surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees spring to mind.

But the truth is, I didn’t see any of these famed properties. Now, logically, I know that they exist but I guess, like the mythical Shangri-La, maybe you’ve got to be “in the know” in order to be able to find them. Sort of like the mystic valley behind the mountains whose doors only open to you if you happen to be a seeker of spiritual truth, or something of the sort, and you come in peace.

Typical Street Marbella

So in conclusion, I guess Marbella is just yet another example of a typical southern Spanish locale where the lifestyles of the “natives” (ie. Spanish people) differ enormously from those of its foreign (and usually world-celebrity) inhabitants.

Now, I know that Marbella and, for that matter, the great majority of communities both large and small in southern Spain, are going to be just fairly normal, average, ordinary towns where you can find all sorts of people. Well-to-do people with large homes surrounded by gardens, middle-class citizens with reliable but not outstanding jobs and poorer, more marginal types, who work in the “domestic assistance” sector or at odd jobs.

Marbella Lights in the Sky

But it strikes me over and over again how such a large proportion of the Spanish people I know and meet in this part of the country belong to the “poorer, more marginal types”, as opposed to well-off foreigners or Spaniards with steady employment living in other regions of Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona or basically any northern city.

And over and over again it makes me wonder: Is it just the culture? Perhaps here in this part of the country kids aren’t encouraged to work? Maybe they just grew up used to observing their out-of-work fathers lounging around on the sofas most of the time, and decided that that was the way people are supposed to live? (I say fathers, of course, because on the contrary here mothers never rest. There is always more work to be done around the home, meals to be cooked, rooms to be cleaned, clothes to be ironed…..)

Wrought-Iron Head

What really struck me about this balcony was the incredible intricate faces in wrought iron. Do you see them?

Is it just the attitude? Maybe here people don’t bother trying, because they think: Well, Andalucia has always been poor, so what’s the use?

I don’t know what it is that exists here in southern Spain, that keeps people poor and uninterested in obtaining or completing their education. I don’t know why so many people take “recreational” drugs here. Well, I know that drugs are a major problem in many parts of the world, and not only here. But here, I get the impression that most people take them. Or at least most of the people that I know, at any rate.

My ex brother-in-law recently passed from an overdose of the medication he was taking to wean himself off of strong illegal substances. He came from a good, well-off, educated family. He didn’t need to take drugs. He had a successful business.

Many of my friends here take drugs too. A little bit of Mary over here, a joint of hashish on the beach. Some coke if you’re successful and you can afford it. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much (or little) money you’ve got, drugs are always readily available and easy to obtain at any gathering with your friends.

All the same, I thought I’d leave you with some images of historic Marbella in the evening, with the colours of the setting sun tinting the sky.

Marbella Street With Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a photo full of light, in case you were tired of gazing at all those dark night photos.

Staircase Marbella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Check Out My Son’s New Blog

My son has a new blog all his own! I’d love it if you’d check it out (in Spanish). You can see it here or here (I’m testing out the two platforms to see which one I like better, so far I prefer WordPress, although partly because I’m familiar with it so I find it easier, but also I haven’t been able to upload photos to Blogger because the link hasn’t been working, all I get is a blank page.)

All right, of course, he’s getting a little help from his Mami. Namely, I set it up, control it and manage it, and I’m in charge of the images too! But the text is all his!

So once again, here are the links: http://elblogdehermenegildo.wordpress.com/ and http://elblogdehermenegildo.blogspot.com/.

Hope you enjoy!

El Blog de Hermenegildo