Christmas decorations, Spanish style
Woke up on Xmas day to no presents from G. He said “you did say you didn't want anything”. I said “yes but I didn't mean it”. Anyway, he had a sheepish face and then appeared with some lovely things, so the day was saved.
Set off for coffee and then decided to carry on for a run in the car to find a market we had been told would be open. It turned out to be open and a huge market. ‘What a market at Christmas, we both said”. When we got there we realised why, it was mainly Moroccans and a few Africans. There was not one bit of glitter around. The clothes on sale were very shiny and full of static and the usual tat.
There was an enormous black woman in tribal costume with a hump on her back, which turned out to be a fab baby girl with beads in her hair. She was selling very large bras and knickers, the sort of knickers that have legs in and make you look thinner. There were a lot of Spanish women having a rummage. I asked her where she was from and she said “Gambia”.
We then got to the fruit and veg. Fabulous, all from the farms. There was a hill of satsumas and oranges. Bought a bagful of each. There was a man selling spices and the smell was lovely. There was also a man selling onions and garlic, again all freshly picked. Next to him they were selling huge fat grapes, again really cheap and lovely. We will not lack vitamin c, not a bit.
I felt like Kate Adie reporting from some African country.
Ended up with a load of Spanish people on the sea front near Almeria airport They were all very jolly. Found a lovely café, ordered ourselves a Xmas drink and saw some food come out which looked delicious, so we ordered some nosh. I had the boquerones – may be spelt wrong but anchovies anyway - and thought I will never eat that many, but I did and then had a rather large Baileys, well it is Xmas. G had lomo, pork loin, which came with chips and I ate quite a few before he noticed. He hates anchovies so we couldn't swap.
There was an annoying child going up and down in one of the mini electric cars, Christmas present I suppose, and we felt rather glad when he crashed it and so did everybody else. Also a mad bloke in a Father Christmas outfit who kept falling off his bike. We saw lots of them on the road today, but hope they weren't as drunk as this one.
On the way back we got chatting to some camper people, who were Dutch. They were eating jam sandwiches. The man said ‘we don't do Xmas as we are vegetarians.’
They obviously didn't take it seriously, as there wasn't a vegetable in sight. Must say they didn't look that well. They were going onto Granada for the wedding of his brother. The man said his brother’s last wife was Thai and she was 30 years younger but very ugly. Anyway, she spent a lot of his money and went back to Thailand. This latest woman he met on the internet, and she is ugly as well. The mind boggles. Looking at their van we didn't think they would make it.
While we were talking, a woman came from one of the other vans and said, ‘would you like a mince pie?’ She was Irish and we fancied a mince pie so we said yes. Three hours later we were still there so we sort of decided our real Christmas meal may have to wait until Boxing Day. I’ve defrosted a turkey crown and everything's ready for cooking when we get back, but that plan went out the window when the Irish people roped in about a dozen others, all different nationalities, and we had a bit of a party next to the beach. Very good fun, even though G had to keep refusing drinks as we had a long drive back. Irish people don't really understand why anyone will refuse a drink, but we managed.
Came back, couldn't face the turkey hoo-ha, sat out on the balcony for a bit, then had a kip for a bit and felt very full and happy. Christmas meal tomorrow then, I said to G. He looked relieved.
I’ve missed loads out so will ask G to do a proper write up now.
Ah, Christmas. Crisp underfoot on a frosty morning, log fire blazing in the hearth, a thin bloke and a fat bloke on the telly singing ‘Bring me Sunshine,’ brussels sprouts making a rare appearance at the dinner table, another old bloke with a tightly stretched face warbling on about Mistletoe and Wine and, best of all, the absolute inevitability of a family row, that's the reality of Christmas for so many people. Not for us though.
Marigold set the day's agenda by announcing ‘it’s such a nice day we should go to that market. At least go and see if it's on today like they said and if not we can go for a walk on the beach.’
Fair enough, I thought. I don't live in a democratic world. If Marigold fancies a street market… On Christmas morning… It's Christmas Day and the roads will be empty but the market in question is not exactly around the corner, not to mention the dubious prospect of there actually being a market there on Christmas Day, but what do I know?
A few months back we found a street market, near Almeria Airport, and found the best fruit and veg we've ever seen on sale along with all the usual street market offerings. One stall holder was a very old and wizened Moroccan woman who told us she was 101 years old. We didn't argue – if anything 101 appeared generous as she looked much, much older – but she also told us the market was open every day, even Christmas Day.
On the basis of such rock solid information we set off. The weather was glorious and I’d have been quite happy regardless of the existence of the market. As it happened, the old crone was correct and the market was not only there but heaving with customers. Make a note: El Alquian market, the essential destination for a perfect Christmas morning.
The place was packed, the sun was shining and (almost) everyone looked happy. The stall holders were all from Morocco or African so lots of smiles and flashing teeth. The man who played Proposition Joe in The Wire has died, but his twin brother is selling walnuts on a Spanish market!
We rummaged on a stall of pre-worn clothes for a while. Not that we need any more clothes, but everything was one euro so less than a quid for a Ted Baker jacket seemed about fair. Not that I bought it. Just a long sleeved tee shirt for nippy evenings and we walked along until we reached the fruit and veg section which was amazing.
We've been to street markets all over the place and mostly the fruit/veg is pretty good, but not a lot different from what's on offer in a supermarket and often more expensive too. Not here, on both counts. Fabulous quality, very fresh and ridiculously cheap. Marigold found a vast heap of satsumas, with the leaves attached, which are a luxury product in the U.K. We bought well over 2 kilograms and got change for a Euro.
We left the market and headed for the beach. We had to wait while about thirty cyclists wearing Santa suits went past, all waving furiously and then we were on the beach.
Costacabana is a brand new resort with many hotels, hundreds of villas and apartments and a superbly well kept golf course. Mysteriously, all of these 4 and 5 star hotels were all closed and empty, the golf course too, and we appeared to be the only people around. Fronting a superb beach was an equally deserted promenade extending for about a mile and a half, lined with hundreds of palm trees and also deserted. No people, no cars, nothing.
We walked on the beach for half a mile and returned by way of the promenade. Finally, a dog walker, who turned out to be a friendly and very affable man from Sweden who spoke excellent English appeared, and wished us Happy Christmas. ‘Nobody here,’ I observed, waving an arm airily at the deserted beach.
‘No, not in winter,’ he replied. ‘In Summer you need to come here early in the morning to find a space to sit. The hotels will not open until Easter. All these houses, second homes for rich men from Madrid. Pah! They come here to play golf and show off. You will not see them here in winter.’
I looked at the sparkling sea, the blue sky and felt the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. Yes, technically it is the winter season, but it's not exactly Arctic weather. We exchanged shrugs of agreement about the folly of rich people from Madrid and walked our separate ways.
Almeria university is right next to the sea. I imagine the attention span during lectures is pretty short with a view like these students have.
We drove on to San Miguel, where we've been many times before. It's very Spanish, just a few cafes, some fishing boats and a beach. If you turn your back on the sea you can see snow capped mountains so it's a great view either way.
22 degrees in the shade at just gone noon and in full sun it's warm enough for that aforementioned shade to be a highly prized commodity. Not bad weather for Christmas Day then, we think as we take our seats under one of those café umbrellas that seem able to withstand a virtual hurricane. Our own puny sunshade at home is no sooner erected than it has to be swiftly removed as the first barely noticeable zephyr threatens to send it soaring aloft. When we lived in Competa we bought a parasol, erected it and after five minutes it was on its way to Morocco.
Marigold got talking to a couple from Holland while I was watching a cycling Santa ride his bike into the sea and fall off. He was okay, just a bit worse for wear. As we were talking an Irishman invited us to partake of seasonal refreshments. That's exactly what he said, word for word. ‘He means, would you like a mince pie,’ his wife said.
We had a mince pie, or two, and were joined by others from Germany, France, Austria and Holland and we had a party. Far too much food, drink flowing everywhere but in the direction of the poor old designated driver and great hilarity. We all managed to understand each other, apart from Clive from Tipperary who appeared to speak a language never previously heard in Europe. He did have the excuse of being extremely drunk, but in a funny way. He enjoyed himself, to be sure, to be sure as his wife put it.
When we finally reached the apartment Marigold looked at the various dishes of vegetables, the now defrosted turkey and all the other paraphernalia of a Christmas feast and decided it could wait one more day. She went for a Baileys related siesta instead. Wise decision.
Okay, we had a great day out and the best part is: we still have our Christmas meal to come! Roll on Boxing Day. Unless we decide to do something else instead.