Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas 2012 in Madrid

Our friends, Cayetano and Mila invited us for an advance celebration of the festive season.




The family of Beatriz, Ron's girlfriend, invited us to spend Christmas eve with them and these are the pictures of how we celebrated it.

The food was mainly prepared by Milagros, the mother of Beatriz.  I only brought the empanadillas, the chocolate cake and the almond muffins.

After dinner, we played the Wii except for the father of Beatriz, Julio who left early to go to bed.  We had fun playing bowling (I won the first game), tennis (except myself), basketball (lousy for Mel and myself), pingpong (Ron and Julito, the brother of Beatriz).




It was a delightful  night that lasted until 2:30 a.m.  Then we left to sleep in the nearby apartment of Ron and Beatriz, while Beatriz stayed in her parent's house to give us more room to sleep.  I slept in the sofa, which was very comfortable while Ron and Mel slept in the bedroom.  We all had a good sleep and when we woke up, Ron prepared a good breakfast for us.




As usual, Ron is the most generous in giving gifts, Mel, the most original, while I am the most practical, I would say. 

After opening the gifts, we met with Milagros to go the a nearby church.  It was raining a little bit but it was not much to bother us.  Besides, were in a hurry to go back for umbrellas.  I was impressed by the church because there was no usual passing for donations and the gospel was inspiring about how God is with us and He remains with us for us to acknowledge His presence and to contribute with our actions in accordance with our limitations.  It was a very simple sermon and the church is also simple not even provided with a baptismal font nor any other images except for two items.  I think that the simpler the church is, the better it is for one to focus on praying.Then we decided to go for a round to give-away about 38 empanadillas to some needy people in Madrid.  Beatriz was not feeling too well who seemed to be catching colds so she decided to stay in her parents' house.  We took the car and  first tried to go to the place that is run by nuns who have a dining table for the needy.  Unfortunately, it was closed, so we decided to bear the rain, which was getting about heavy but not enough to soak us, and walk around.  After a while of walking and not finding any homeless, we thought of taking the metro, thinking that because of the rain, some would be finding shelter there.  Neither did we have luck.  Out we left the metro and again started to walk, this time it was barely raining so we went to the center.  We found a few homeless and Mel started to offer her still warm empanadillas in a tupper saying "Feliz Navidad, empanadillas made by my mother, would you want some?"  Some would get one and thank her, but a few others would ask for more.  A group with mother and child gave Mel 4 kisses of thanks from the mother while the child asked, "pls could you give me another one for my father?"  Then, we found a Rumanian who when offered the empanadillas and I asked what he thought about it, he replied "they look  greasy", you should have cooked them in water!  But instead of me getting mad, I asked him how he would have made them.  He told me about his recipe for Pierogi "Rumanian empanadilla" and that he used to be a cook but now unemployed and sell an instrument to make soap bubbles.  Another interesting man that we met was a polyglot who had been in many places around the world mostly in bicycle and he now sells lavender in tiny bags while he buys them by sack.  That and other stuff like hankies, give him a living. Tourists give him earnings of 119 Euros on an average per day, which is more than any average worker would earn.  They also go to public bathrooms, (that is why they do not look dirty) and get free food in public dining rooms specially open for homeless and needy people.  This particular guy does not live in the street but shares a room with a someone who smokes pot and pays 300 Euros for board per month.  It is a different way of life but he says he is happy the way he lives and is grateful for what little things he has.

After distributing all of our empanadillas, the last one given to a lady who asked three times (3 empanadillas) we decided to eat our lunch in a quaint bar with some tapas.


There was an offer for 5 bottles of 1/4 liter of beer for 3 Euros, and it so happened that there was a guy who was waiting for us to order and even if I told him to place his order ahead of us, he said he did not mind waiting.  He seemed a likeable guy so I told him that we would be glad to offer him two bottles (I thought Mel would not finish the four bottles and I would only drink one bottle anyway)  He gladly accepted and he asked us to stay next to their table and we gladly accepted.  We shared tapas and had a pleasant chat until we decided to leave and take another walk to end up in a the legendary San Gines, a famous chocolate house and churros, in Madrid.

Not before we went to the famous San Miguel Market where they sell a lot of tapas and sweets and other foods like paella.

We ended up to see the different colored lights that are displayed in the elegant commercial districts in Madrid, where Ron with Beatriz watched the inauguration of the Christmas lights and the projection by laser of different colored lights against the Post Office building as background in Cibeles.


Christmas this year has given us a lot of blessings and I am truly grateful firstly to God and secondly to Ron and Mel for having celebrated a truly wonderful Christmas that will remain deeply engraved in my memory.  God was born and He gave us the opportunity to celebrate His birthday in an amazing and extraordinary way.

Peace, love and good health for the coming year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Trip to Cadiz, Conil de la Frontera, 2012 Part I

Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia. Cadiz, the second oldest continuously inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in all southwestern Europe has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. The city is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. It is also the site of the University of Cadiz. Despite its unique site — on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea — Cadiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cadiz, within the remnants of the city walls, is commonly referred to as the Old Town (in Spanish, Casco Antiguo). It is characterised by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El Pópulo, La Viña, and Santa María, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City's street plan consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cadiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted with numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World. Source: Wikipedia.

I was so proud of having organized lodging in Conil and I thought that Ron would not have a better option than mine, but then when we arrived at our location, Mel and myself had a pleasant surprise to find ourselves in a Parador with all of the conveniences of a modern hotel.


Whereas, Ron and Mel shared room with terrace overlooking the sea, where we could have a full view of the sunset, mine was to have a view of the park and sunrise, if ever there should be.



The rooms were spacious and well lit.  The moment the visitor's card is inserted in the room, the blinds automatically go up for visitor to have a view of the exterior, and on a clear day, it gives a warm welcome.


The beds were very comfortable and they gave us slippers to wear inside the room and for the first time in a hotel, I had my bed ready for me to tuck in as we came back, which was a pleasant surprise.

The bathroom had a separate room for the shower and the bathtub, which was about two meters long and deeper than an ordinary one.  And there were different types of lightings as one wants to relax or to have colorful lights.  It was also strange to find two showers in the bathroom, one lower than the other.  Unlike most toilets in the hotels, this one has a telephone inside the bathroom.  Likewise, the hallway automatically lights up as one walks towards it.



There were not plenty of hotel guests only about 50 over 150 of full capacity so we had the common places almost for our own private use.

And buffet breakfast was really something else, different natural fruit juices, fruits, cereals, bread, hot plates, cold plates, etc... to choose from about 40 varieties.  Ron had his eyeballs rolling while Mel and me kept on laughing just from watching him go one dish after the other.  It was funny that inspite of all of the food on display, Ron told us that there was supposed to be fried eggs to order, but then he never saw the cook around so he missed the fried egg.  What a pity!


This is called "Pan de Cadiz" or Cadiz sweet bread with sweet pumpkin, almonds and dried fruits 

It was a clear and warm day in Cadiz and we hardly needed a coat.  There were plenty of things to see. We headed to the beach immediately after breakfast.


This is a quaint bar by the beach
Other interesting things that we saw:

 It is interesting to note that in a bar they serve you by grams of cold cuts, with the results as follows:

As can be observed, Cadiz has a lot of lights to celebrate the holidays, this inspite of the fact that there are 17,000 declared to be unemployed.  But Christmas is a time for celebrating as they say so Merry Christmas to everyone and all!