Today we said good-bye to Alicante. It’s only Sunday and we don’t leave ‘till Tuesday, but Sunday is a good day to stroll around, with all the locals out on a pleasant sunny day. Paula wanted to visit a cafeteria (a bar that serves food; essentially, a small restaurant) we had passed a week ago (or was it two??) – the sign in front said “caña y tapas 2€” (that’s a small beer and small plate of food – a snack – for about $2.30USD). While it’s not far from where we’re staying, we just never get over to that neighborhood. And here it is! Paula checked in with the owner: vegitariana? (Our broken Spanish for “do you have vegetarian dishes?”) No, only carne y pescado. OK, yeah, that one, the pescado thing!
|Cold beer, good food! And, did I mention not expensive?|
The beer was icy cold, the food delicious. Every time he passed by the owner told us, in his earnest but imperfect English, about all the fine dishes he had. ¡Fifty! he said (five fingers and a zero with his other thumb and forefinger). We had some bocadillos, little sandwiches made with rolls. Tuna for Paula, calamari for me. I wasn’t hungry when we walked in, but we kept ordering. The owner passed by, serving other customers, but always concerned about how we were doing, and what he could get us next. He was very proud of his food, and justifiably so!
Well that was a fun encounter, and totally unexpected. Now that lunch was handled, we continued on our farewell trek through town, returning along the waterfront. The beach was well populated today, it being a warm Sunday. We took it all in, the crazy tile patterns on the walkway; the long sweeping sand beach; the clever spiral ramp bridge that crosses the highway; the tall buildings on the distant shore up the coast. We’re leaving soon, and who knows if we’ll be back…
|View of Castillo Santa Barbara from the Alicante harbor, on a late November afternoon.|
We had one more visit to a roof-top bar, which serves the best Mojitos. Admittedly, it was better last spring when we could sip our drinks in the warmth of the sun; now it’s almost dark by the time the bar opens. But we’d run into the bartender in town (at another bar…) a few days earlier, and we’d told him we’d be back. (Well, I would have come back regardless: I’d been waiting, all these past months, to have another of his Mojitos.). It was fun to see him again, he appreciated that we took the time to come, and he does make a damn good Mojito (generous with the rum), although the price has gone up another Euro to 6€ (almost $7USD).
As part of our farewell tour we returned to the archeological museum. Aside from being just up the street from us, it is quite an incredible place (it won some European Museum of the Year award in 2004). It’s not so much about archeological finds, as about how archeology is conducted, with full-scale mock-ups of recent discoveries.
Our entry ticket included two “remote” sites we had not visited before, areas of archeological interest, both just a short tram ride up the coast. One, Lucentum, was a Roman town, considered to be the origins of the city of Alicante. The other, La Illeta, was a much older settlement, dating back perhaps 3000 years, on a tiny peninsula jutting into the sea. One point that particularly interested me was the ponds carved into the shore rock, to catch and hold fish – an early form of fish farming.
|The fish ponds of La Illetta, still a good fishing spot.|
We got a late start – the sites open at 3:30 after siesta – so the sun was low as we explored them. While I’ve seen a goodly number of Roman ruins, these are different in that they are in the middle of a city and surrounded by high rise apartments! It was kinda odd.
|Lucentum (or the ruins of it), in the midst of the modern El Campello|
|Modern art on the ancient site at La Illetta|
On our way to the second site we ran into some people we knew. (Nothing makes you feel like a local like running into friends on the street.) Michael and Grace, a couple of Scots we met while playing boules (we discussed the weekly boule game in an earlier blog), live not far from La Illeta. It was a pleasant surprise to see them! We chatted for a while, and we explained that this was our last hurrah and we would be leaving Alicante soon. It was a nice, and unexpected, good-bye.
Once of the treats we indulged in for Paula’s birthday was going to a movie, the first one we’ve seen in a good 18 months. While it’s a 20 minute walk to the town center, 10 minutes in the opposite direction takes us to a large American-style mall. Grocery shopping there is too convenient to pass up, but I find the many chain restaurants (only a couple of which are American), the clothing and jewelry and cell phone stores, the glitter and crowds, disagreeable. But the multiplex there does show foreign films in the “version original” (VO) with Spanish subtitles.
So for this special occasion we braved the unpleasantness of the mall and headed upstairs to the movies. Not as hectic and noisy as the multiplexes I’ve been to in the US, but… what’s this? An automat for popcorn and drinks? A large empty room lined with little windows. Put your coins in, open the door, and take out your overflowing box of popcorn? No. That just doesn’t work for me! Where’s the machine with the popcorn cascading down into a huge pile, where an eager teenager scoops it into an overflowing box and dribbles a buttery-like substance over it? No. We entered the darkened theater empty-handed, and found our assigned seats. (Yes. Assigned.)
(OK, we saw “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the movie about the rock group Queen. I don’t want to turn this into a movie review, but the concert scenes are something fantastic. We went home and spent the rest of the evening watching Queen concerts on YouTube; the movie actors really nailed it!)
Now, what about Thanksgiving? Of course it’s not celebrated here, but oddly enough they do have Black Friday` in Spain, with signs in shops all over town advertising Black Friday specials. I don’t know what the Spanish think of the name*, but I suppose a sale is a sale. For the day itself we were invited by some American expats we met previously to a traditional dinner, along with some of their American friends. It was a lovely evening, and we greatly appreciated this celebration of a uniquely American holiday. But we did miss our family and friends back home.
* My understanding is it’s an accounting thing: many stores operate in the red (at a loss) until the Christmas season, which now in the US starts on the day after Thanksgiving (hurry! Only a month left to Christmas!) So Black Friday is the day stores get into the black which is to say, make up the deficit they’ve been running all year.
|Thanksgiving Dinner at Michael and Robin's 7th=floor apartment.|
|And the view up the coast, just after sunset on Thanksgiving Thursday.|
So do we do all our shopping at the mall? No, not hardly! Like all Spanish (and European) towns, Alicante has a permanent indoor market. We find it best for fresh produce and fresh fish. The mall supermarket has good prices on packaged goods, but for fish… can’t beat the stuff at the market, just off the boat! It’s more fun shopping there, too. Plus, they have this nice bar… Great place to have a coffee or a beer, or a few tapas, before or after a shopping expedition.
|Alicante's indoor market building (from the back)|
|The bar/cafe in the market|
|Some of the fine tapas available at the bar.|
|It's all so good, it's hard to chose!|
So that’s pretty much it for Alicante. We’ve got our new suitcases mostly packed (yes, after some 20 months of travel we’re finally giving up our borrowed – thank you, Delia! – and thrift store luggage for some new, light-weight bags). We’ve got a plan in place for loading the rental car. We’ve said our good-byes, and it’s time to move on.