Our friends were great hosts, as expected, but the setup was even better than I realized. They have a separate cottage next to their house, good enough to serve as a B&B, so we had plenty of space in a lovely setting. Space is a key word here ... they have 2.5 acres, which seems to be the norm for that area. We went in March because I looked up average monthly temperatures for Joshua Tree, and it turned out to be a great plan, with the temperature never getting out of the 70s.
I've forgotten what order we did things during the three full days (Wednesday-Friday) we were there, but in semi-random order:
Ate lots of good home-cooked food.
Also ate take-out BBQ, and stopped one afternoon at La Copine, a popular place on Old Woman Springs Road (I had fried chicken). Thursday night there was a birthday party for one of our hosts, and a lot of good pizza was served from Pie for the People.
On two evenings, we watched movies, about which more in a later post (the movies were Murder on the Orient Express and Colossal).
The biggest touristy thing we did was go to The Integratron for a sound bath. You drive out to the middle of nowhere (well, most things out there are in the middle of nowhere) and enter a dome that was inspired by aliens from Venus (I'm exaggerating, but only a bit). You lay down, and for half-an-hour or so, while someone plays quartz crystal singing bowls, you merge with the universe. This short video "explains" things, and you get a little sample of the singing bowls near the end:
I'm glad I did it, but I don't feel a pressing need to go again, and outside of relaxing for half-an-hour, I didn't get any Venusian feelings. Still, it enhanced the overall feeling that the residents of the area are willing to connect to all of their surroundings.
There was also a quick stop at Pioneertown, which among other things has a movie set that was used for things like The Cisco Kid TV series:
There was a gentleman inside a store who was working on a book about Pioneertown. He showed me a list of all the things filmed there. I was surprised to see that movies as recent as Ingrid Goes West were shot in part in Pioneertown.
The main point about a short vacation like this is you get to spend time with friends, and that was easily the best part this time (I wish you could see all four of us, but someone had to take the picture):
Finally, we did spent part of a day driving through Joshua Tree National Park. We took a picture of me at a famous site in the Park, but I'm informed they don't want you to post pictures of it. So I'll include this one instead, to prove I was in nature:
6. Ice cream after every dinner in Nerja. Robin settled on Choco Blanco, I usually went for Choco Naranja.
4. We love to eat Mexican food at 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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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: