the last vacation post

Before our vacation fades completely into memory, here are the Top Ten Things to Remember About the Vacation:

10. Time Zones.

9. Sprint. Turns out unlimited roaming data and text is part of our normal plan. Turns out that's pretty cool.

8. Fanta Limón and jamón, as always.

7. Churros con chocolate. Breakfast of champions.

6. Ice cream after every dinner in Nerja. Robin settled on Choco Blanco, I usually went for Choco Naranja.

5. Ayo's.

4. We love to eat Mexican food at Juan's Place.

Juan's place

3. Estepona. We sat down at his desk, and I said my grandparents were from Estepona. Before I could continue, he interjected, "Hawaii". Apparently all those stories about the migration of the Andalusians to Hawaii are true!

2. Norwegian Air.

Norwegian

And the #1 highlight of our trip: Robin drives us from Málaga to Ronda in the middle of the night, via Transylvania.

Because some things are worth repeating, here is the view from our balcony in Nerja at 9:38 in the morning:

Nerja balcony morning


just pretend

When you are on vacation, you think about how you will change your life when you return. But when you get home, all you want to do is bask in the normality you had subconsciously missed when you were away. And so, within half an hour of arriving home, I ordered a pizza for delivery, and the next morning, we went to our usual breakfast place like we do every week.

And what do we really come home to? Donald Trump. Puerto Rico. Mass murder in Las Vegas.

And what did we leave? In Spain, a referendum on Catalan independence led to a police riot, leaving almost 900 civilians and 430 police officers injured.

When you are on vacation, you can pretend you are immune. But it's just pretend.


dreaming about change while on vacation

Many people try to visit as many places as possible during a vacation. We are far more boring than that. We go to the same places, and stay in one place long enough to get a feel, no matter how limited, of what it is like to live there. Of the two places we visit in Southern Spain, we spend the lion's share of the time in Nerja. It is here that we get to know the man who runs the mini-mart across the street, and the waitress at the café where we often stop for breakfast. We get the illusion of being residents, and sometimes we fantasize about living here after Robin retires.

But vacations are not the same as daily life. Vacations are where you escape from daily life. So no matter how many times we stay in Nerja (six and counting), we don't really know what it would be like to live here.

On vacation, we can eat out two or three times a day. On vacation, we can splurge on an apartment with a deck that overlooks the Mediterranean, and listen to the waves at night. On vacation, we forget for a few weeks about bills and work and the things that stress us out. Yes, they will be there when we return, but until then, it's all good. (And It's a sign of our privileged life that we can afford this in the first place.)

So I'm not sure that vacations are an accurate barometer of how it would be to live where we now only visit. It's not the basic things ... seventeen years ago, when we first came to Nerja, I thought the hardest part of being there would be the language barrier, but I seem to have overcome this, at least well enough to get by. No, the hardest part would be having a daily life in Nerja instead of a vacation. I still don't know what that would be like.

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time zones

For some reason, I am noticing the time zone differences more on this trip than I have in the past. (Now that I say this, I imagine if I looked through blog posts from past vacations, I'd find myself saying the same thing.) This is most notable in two areas, real-time communications and sporting events.

The former is affected by the way we have come to communicate in our ordinary lives. Simply put, we do a lot more real-time conversations than we used to, not just texting, but also video chats and the like. It barely matters any longer that phone calls are prohibitively expensive. Sprint now gives data and text from other countries for free (they do offer faster speeds for $25/week, and while the extra speed isn't exactly overwhelming, it's worth the price). But it's one thing to go real-time when you are in the same time zone, quite another when there is a nine hour difference. (Spain is also an hour different from much of Europe, which creates a similar problem.) If I want to go real-time now, I have to figure out what time it is back home. There's no use trying to start a chat if it's 2:00 AM where the other person lives.

As for sporting events, European soccer is odd precisely because I'm in the "right" time zone. Yesterday, I watched Liverpool live at 6:30 in the evening, which seemed weird, because at home in Berkeley, that same match was on at 9:30 in the morning (I think... it's confusing). Baseball works in the other direction... a Giants day game begins around 10:00 at night.

None of this is particularly important, of course. But it all points to the ways a vacation in another time zone discombobulates long past the time jet lag is over.

I'll add a photo, one of the better ones I've taken here. Because Spain is on their own time zone, things don't always happen when I expect them to. It stays light out until a time that would seem odd in Berkeley, which matches the way people eat here (if you start dinner before, say, 9:00, you give yourself away as a tourist). It also takes a long time for morning to arrive. This picture was taken at 9:38 in the morning:

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still in nerja

We have made this Ronda/Nerja trip many times, now ... 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2013, and now 2017. We love it or we wouldn't do it, but neither of the cities have changed much over the years, so if I took lots of pictures, they wouldn't look different from all the ones from the past. We've also done the usual touristy things multiple times, and eventually even the Alhambra and the Caves of Nerja lose their appeal. So I check in on Facebook when we go out to eat, and post the occasional photo. Like this one, the view from our balcony:

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And this one, of our street, Calle Carabeo:

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and now we're in nerja

WiFi is touch and go, so these posts will come erratically. We're both under the weather today... Well, Robin has a cold, for sure.

We've eaten dinner at one of our favorite places, and even managed to approximate Spaniard norms... We didn't go out to eat until 8:30 or so. And we made the first of many trips for ice cream cones. We've also hit the mini-mart across the street two times in less than 24 hours.

Meanwhile, here is the view from where I am typing this:

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And the ice cream parlor:

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life in ronda

I have written a lot more during previous trips to Spain. There are two basic reasons why I'm writing less this time. The main reason is that I didn't bring a laptop on this trip, so any writing I do is done on my phone, which is not the easiest way to compose. For certain, I would write something about Grant Hart but that will have to wait. The other reason is that, having read through posts from earlier vacations, I realize I've told these stories before. That's what I get for always returning to the same places every holiday.

But there are a couple of variants so far in Ronda. I've written in the past about the Andalusian tendency to slur their way past the last syllables of words. We may have a new record in this regard, from a man who pronounced "de nada" as "naaa" (closest I can get). 

Our host in Ronda, José María, has actually let slip one or two entire sentences in English. One interesting note is that he says when Robin speaks English, he can't understand a word she says... too American. We don't know why this doesn't apply to me, although I try to stick to Spanish in our conversations. 

But mostly it's more of the same, exemplified by today's schedule (I'm writing this on Friday). We got up and stepped into the garden for breakfast around 11:00. We talked for some time with a man from Holland. Eventually Robin decided she was hungry, so we had lunch where we had just eaten breakfast. By the time we finished, it was past 2:00, which means siesta time. So now we're back in our room. We haven't left the Jardin de la Muralla yet today. And since José María has invited us for paella this evening, we may never leave this place until tomorrow when we will go to Nerja.

We are a thrill a minute.

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first photos

A few photos from the beginning of our trip. Apologies... I am writing this on my phone. 

There was plenty of room on our flight to London.

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Our room in London was tiny.

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There was more room at Jardin de la Muralla.

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The bread at breakfast was plentiful.

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 The first Fanta Limón. 

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The first jamón.

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four days in portland

Considering I arrived on Thursday afternoon and we left on Sunday afternoon, I guess it was really three days spread out over four.

We hadn’t been since 2009. We didn’t do a tour ... you can actually take a Portlandia tour, for instance ... and outside of a trip to Tualatin, about a half-hour’s drive away, we spent the entire time in NE Portland. We weren’t there to take in the sights, we were there to visit an old friend. Still, even with a limited trip, you notice things, mostly about the ways Portland seems different than Berkeley.

First, they aren’t all that different. Much of what gets gently parodied on Portlandia holds just as true for Berkeley. Berkeley might be more pretentious about it, although I can’t really speak to what Portland is like on a daily basis.

Most important, though, is the weather. It was slightly colder than we are used to, but what really mattered was the rain. The Bay Area, at least our part of it, is semi-arid, and of course we’ve been in a drought for a long time now. Portland? Well, in fairness, it rarely poured while we were there. But a drizzle never left us, and in some ways, a constant drizzle is more depressing than a serious downpour.

Another, water connected, difference: there was no clamp on water pressure in our hotel ... the water came blasting out of the shower.

Since we weren’t home for our usual Saturday morning at the Homemade Café, we were glad to find Batter Griddle & Drinkery, which wasn’t nearly as precious as its menu suggested (the pancakes section included “mocha me go”, “don’t passover”, and “pecan do it”). Like many places we checked out, it felt roomy ... there is more land and fewer people in Portland than in San Francisco, although the population of Portland has almost doubled since we first visited.

I didn’t see Corin, Carrie, or Janet anywhere, not that I would have done anything besides mess my pants if I did see them walking around. Oh well, I’ll see them on New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, the pilot announced to us before our flight home that we were traveling to "Oaklandia".