Christmas with Carlos

Dec 2015…

balenario

Came back to Málaga after Marrakesh and checked in to our old flat, Ático Pastor, which was unavailable before we went to Carligto. It’s my favorite apartment, partly because of its central location and partly because it’s an interior flat, so street sounds don’t make it into the bedroom. Correction.  Only the crying baby on the ground floor who hasn’t seemed to age in the past three years.

We took the train to Madrid and collected Carlos at the airport, did a whirlwind Madrid tour and back on the train to Málaga. Over the course of five days, we took him to the Balneario, Picasso Museum, Pompidou, the Hammam, all our favorite restaurants, and finally on a drive to Frigiliana, our local white village, followed by a visit to Carligto, which he loved.

It was a great getaway from the rigors of college life for him and a wonderful treat for us.

 

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Marrakesh

Dec 2015…

We were here years ago, at the end of one of our walking tours, but it was just one night so I always wanted to come back. And it’s only an hour or so from Málaga (via Casablanca, now there’s an airport you won’t soon forget.)  We stayed at the espectacular Riad Kheirredine for three nights (€170 per night), by far the best part of the whole trip. Can’t say enough about the great food, service, value. We had our first dinner served to us on the roof deck, looking out over the city.riad-kheirredine-marrakechjpg-xlarge

Riad Kheirredine

The old city of Marrakesh is a warren of dark alleys, unnamed streets, and perilous entrapments for tourists. It’s delicious. It’s been a market city for centuries so I can promise you the locals in the souk know a thing or two about selling. The word no is merely an invitation to grab you by the shoulders and direct-sell into your face. A polite smile of passing interest signals that you have sworn to buy their entire inventory and raise their three children.

marrakesh

at a neighborhood Mosque

Actually, wandering through the old souk is a pleasure everyone should have once in their lives, and if you make it to the other side alive, you get to experience the amazing Jemaa el-Fnaa, a centuries-old market square that still buzzes with a raffish air of danger. Snake charmers, dentists, fortune tellers, acrobats, food vendors, horse carriages, and hustlers all compete for your favors. A photo might end up costing you $10 by the time the snake charmer is done brow-beating you. The best thing is just to sit at a cafe, nursing mint tea, watching as the British tourists are harassed instead of you.

old-jemaa

Oh wait, that’s an old picture.

Jemaa el Fna (central square), Mosquee Koutoubia (mosque) in background, Marrakech, Morocco

Here’s what it looks like lately.

Cortijo el Carligto

Nov 2015…

cortijo

Cortijo el Carligto

While the boys went off to New York City, we graciously offered to dog and house sit for them for two weeks. Now, we’ve visited them here many times over the years but being up here alone is a different experience. It’s so quiet and removed, goat herds jangling in the distance, and at night so dark it’s best not to wander too close to the edge of their mountain.

trufa-reina

Trufa and Reina

The Labs, Trufa and Reina, are a delight and love all the attention we give them. Trufa is getting a bit long in the tooth so we kept a special eye on her for the boys.  Best not to come home from vacation to find your dog dead.

Got nothing accomplished, except wandering around the place, pretending I own it.

Made it back to Málaga without killing any dogs.  Good weather, lots of sun.

Free at last!

Oct 2015…

The unthinkable has happened! Actually, not only was it thinkable, we could feel it coming like a bad head cold. After 19 long and profitable years, Hector was laid off from his publishing company job, effective immediately… unsympathetic vice president, unusual slowdown in travel approvals, suspicious request from his manager to speak personally, oh, and don’t forget to bring in your computer and mobile phone.

First order of business, sign up for unemployment. Second, buy plane tickets to Málaga and rent a flat. Done. Bye-bye to my students and we’re off. The plan is to stay in one place in Málaga, then dog-sit for Al and Marc up at Cortijo el Carligto, take a trip to Morocco and end up back in Málaga for Christmas to host Carlos Ramirez for his first trip to Europe! Lucky bastard! And us too! We’re off.

dinner

I can’t say I remember what this is, exactly, but I can say in all honesty it was delicious. Lunch in Nerja, Spain with Al and Marc. Not shown: 4+ bottles of wine. A fitting welcome back.

Malagueta 1

train

Can I just say that train travel in Europe, at least my parts of Europe, is such a pleasure? Even at the busy Madrid Atocha station, at 30 minutes before departure one can meander in with one’s bags, pass through their quaint gesture toward security, and still have time to pose thoughtfully in front of the departures board, waiting for one’s platform to be announced. It is the scientific antidote to air travel.

We arrived in Málaga in 2:20 hours, having whisked at 125 mph past old castles, goats, and olive groves, and were greeted at Mario Zambrano Station by young Spaniards in shorts and tight t-shirts. What better welcome? Did they know we were coming? The temp was about 15 degrees warmer than Madrid. We checked in into our teeny little flat, Malagueta 1, oohed and aahed over the view (below), then hit the pavement for our triumphal return to the city. Flags raised in honor of our return.

malagueta

 

Madrid

cana madrid

Well it seemed like a very long time to get here, but… at last. I met Hector in Madrid, where we re-enacted many of our favorite eating and drinking scenarios from the past. We stayed at the AC Atocha Hotel, tucked into a little neighborhood south of the Atocha Train Station. It was very comfortable, quite quiet, and convenient to nothing except the train station. But at less than €100 per night, I can walk around, okay?

Plaza Mayor was all a-jumble with construction so we moved our loitering to Plaza Santa Ana, along with the beggars and buskers. It was a pleasant few days, a bit chilly, but really we couldn’t wait to get on the train to Málaga, where sunny weather and cheaper cañas awaited.

Saw Chef Paul Hollywood, standing around Plaza Santa Ana hoping to be recognized. Naturally, we ignored him. A few years ago we saw Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem there in the exact spot, signing autographs for a James Bond movie. So, Paul Hollywood? Please.

3 Months in San Diego

Sept 2015…

My 107 class at ELS

My 107 class at ELS

This photo pretty much illustrates what’s been going on for the past 3 months here. This is one of my classes from ELS Academy. I’ve taught three 1-month sessions in a row, which is my record there. Mostly, I have a wonderful time with my students but, occasionally, I succumb to the constant onslaught of lazy excuses, texting in class, and stunned surprise on exam day. Like all students at this age, in other words. But they sure make me laugh.

Most of the students are Saudis, their government offers them a generous scholarship program to study English and attend an American Univ. We also have Asians, Brazilians, Turks, Libyans, and the odd European. By the time they go back home, they will have had many adventures, believe me. In this picture alone I recognize two arrests and one serious hospitalization.