Greetings loyal fans of the “Let’s Just Travel” blog! Guest blogger Margaret (Allison’s sister) here to share a few musings about visiting Spain thanks to the fabulous hospitality of the Sherman family. (Shout out to Zoe for giving up her room while I am here, and shout out to Haley for sharing her room with Zoe temporarily!)
Those of you who have been following the blog know that Allison and I lived in Spain for 4 months when we were teenagers, thanks to our adventurous parental unit. Prior to my arrival, I was wondering what would resonate most during my time here. Without a doubt, it is the sense of awe in the presence of the historical heirlooms of those who have gone before. The castles from the Moors, built in the 8th century, on top of Roman ruins, are evidence of the vision with which the human spirit encounters the world. The olive trees, some of which are rumored to be 2,000 years old, are a testament to the strength of growth and survival. The cisterns, some over 1,000 years old, in Old Town Malaga and Albaicin which still produce water is nothing short of amazing. Seeing that present-day Spaniards live with, use, and adapt their homes and neighborhoods around these monuments takes my breath away. On one hand, they take note of these historical treasures, and on the other hand, they simply go about their lives as humanity has always done. Given that I grew up in Alaska which joined the Union in 1959, and Oregon, where “historical” is 1857, it reminds me again of the perspective I gained when I was 15 and which has deepened with this current visit. Nothing like being middle aged to really appreciate the effects of time!
Hawkers and Gawkers
For clarity’s sake, I am the “gawker” in this equation. Yesterday Allison and I explored Old Town Marbella, then we got hungry so we walked down to the waterfront to find a cafe. (For the record, you can’t shake a stick without hitting someone sitting at a cafe, but we wanted food AND a view. We’re so fussy.) We settled at an eatery right on the promenade (more on that in a minute) and ordered tapas. I’m all about enjoying the local cuisine, but there was a tapa on the menu called a “mini-hamburgesa” (mini hamburger) so of course my exploratory nature (in the spirit of those who have come before, see above) wanted to check this out. God love the Spaniards, they did not disappoint:
One could, if one wanted, inhale this little miracle in a single bite, but I pretended to have manners and made it last for three bites. As with all other tapas I’ve had on this trip, it was delicious. Note to the fan base: Waiting 33 years for tortilla espanola and cafe con leche did not disappoint.
Both Allison and I love the Spaniards’ embrace of community life in creating such venues. It was a clear, sunny day, and we could see the coast of Africa in the distance (only 9 miles from Spain at its closest point). We also encountered the World’s Best Hawkers. These were young men from Tangiers/North Africa who apparently took the early ferry to sell their wares on the promenade. I’m pretty sure a blanket on the ground is not an authorized outlet for Michael Kors or Adidas, but the stuff sure looked authentic. The best part, though, was that the Hawkers are not allowed to Hawk. As in, they can’t yell out, accost, or otherwise entice customers. We strolled by unencumbered, thankful for smart city planners who made hawking illegal. New York City, take note.
Wandering complete, we made our way back to the car. We chose to walk through Old Town again, noting that some of the shops were closed for siesta. This is a charming tradition which I remember from 1983 and continues today. I just wish it would spread to the US.
The Biggest Grocery Store In The World (or felt like it)
Number 1 rule for visiting this grocery store: Go to the bathroom first, because if you have to visit the aseos mid-way through, you may as well just go home. They’re THAT far way. Number 2 rule for visiting this grocery store: Respect the jamon (ham). Jamon is sacrosanct in this culture. More on that in a future blog Allison is working on. Number 3 rule: You won’t find anything quickly (except the jamon) and you won’t find some things at all. And some things involve a great deal of confusion. For example, ground beef. A staple in American grocery stores, it is only found in mini-hamburgesa form in this store:
Since that wasn’t going to be sufficient for our purposes, Allison asked (in Spanish) for ground beef from the butcher guy. However, asking for a pound of ground beef in the metric system is complicated.
Mistakes were made.
At this point, exhaustion set in, yet there was nary a chair in sight. Unless I wanted to take one out of a box and put it together (not happening), there was NO PLACE TO SIT. So I did the next best thing:
For some reason, Allison found this very funny and worthy of a photo. Beats me why laying on a bed in a grocery store is so amusing.
Number 4 rule: Don’t use the self checkout scanner in another country, in another language, in a grocery store that uses the metric system. This experience prolonged our visit quite substantially. Number 5 rule: Put a bed near the self checkout scanner.
I could go on and on with observations, random thoughts, and the little surprises of Spanish culture as experienced during this visit, but without a doubt the best part is being with my sister. Having coffee in the morning with Allison, watching the sun come up, have been some of my best moments. I will treasure them long after this week is over.