Tag Archives: Arboleas

The Great Post Office Debacle of 2012

The Great Post Office Debacle of 2012

While we were speaking with our neighbors, Bob mentioned the post office. This got us thinking that we really needed to stop in and make sure that there wasn’t anything there for us. Last night we drove by and checked on the hours because we were planning a big day Friday. We needed to go to Mojacar and check in with the bank, wanted to pick up a few gifts for family back home, and then go to the beach one last time. The Arboleas post office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 to 10:00 so that was going to work out just fine!

We got up and zipped across the bridge into town, and when we got to the post office there was a bit of a line. No problem! We’ll be in and out of here in a flash! (cue ominous music, yet again…)

Arboleas post office

La oficina de correos

Finally it was our turn in line. I was prepared for any confusion: I had written down our names and address just in case my caveman Spanish might be misunderstood. The man behind the counter said, “No, we don’t get mail for that address here.” I explained that our neighbor gets his mail at this post office, and certainly mail for our house would be delivered to this post office as well since all four homes are connected to one another. He said he would double check. But when he came back to the counter (which is about ten steps from where he had to go to “double check” — this is a small post office) he said, “Sorry, but that mail is delivered to the main post office in Huercal Overa since that address is across the bridge.”

Now, keep in mind that “across the bridge” is within walking distance, so we were baffled by this craziness. Some nice British people in line behind us asked the guy one more time, in much better Spanish than mine, but he told them the same thing. So the lady in line asked if we knew where the post office in Huercal was, and then kindly gave us directions. Of course the directions were those “Just go right round the bend until you reach the first roundabout, go right and then go through two traffic circles and then turn left before the hospital” or something to that effect. No one ever uses street names, since you probably couldn’t read the street signs anyway since they are stuck to the sides of buildings and you’d cause an accident slowing down to read them. Curt seemed to have the directions under control, so we said a hearty “Graçias!” and drove over to Huercal Overa.

Huercal Overa is just shy of a half hour away from Arboleas, so we would be able to drive over there, check on the mail situation, then make it to Mojacar in plenty of time for the banking and shopping.

(Could someone PLEASE turn down that ominous music…???!?)

I’m not going to bother with the minute details of us driving around Huercal Overa looking for the elusive post office, but suffice it to say that we were getting pretty frustrated. There was obviously something missing in the directions, and we were going mad. Any sign that said “correos” got us hopeful until we realized it was leading us not to the post office, but to a mailbox

correos

Not what we were looking for…

Finally we decided to park and we walked into some building that looked somewhat official. I honestly don’t remember what it was, but it had words on the front that made me think the people inside could possibly deal with city matters, or crazy English speaking tourists, or something… At any rate, we ventured inside and found a lady behind a glass window. (An older lady in a lot of makeup and a tiny outfit.) My guesses were wrong because this lady spoke NO English whatsoever. She was, however quite nice. I asked her in Spanish for help in finding the post office. She rattled off a bunch of directions, and when we looked like deer caught in the headlights, she emerged from the glass booth and took us outside to the sidewalk to show us how to get there. How nice was that?? We said “Graçias!” and headed on our way.

While driving there, we realized that the directions were lacking in one key turn, but no matter — we were on our way and would soon be done with this wild goose chase!

(That ominous music is seriously giving me a headache… Do you mind???)

We got to the Huercal Overa main post office and of course there is a line. But, you know, we were happy to actually be in the right place, so we tried to keep a positive attitude. There was one, yes ONE, clerk dealing with this huge line, while another woman wandered about behind the counter. Every once in a while a man appeared and said something to one of the ladies and then disappeared in the back. There was much sighing in line. Eventually the line was being held up by a man at the counter who was shipping multiple tiny boxes… one by one… box after box after box. Finally the extra lady behind the counter begrudgingly opened her window and took the next customer. Someone came into the post office and tried to go right into her line, but it was like dropping a goldfish into a pool of piranhas: None of the others waiting in line were going to let that happen! “Get to the back of the line!!” The person slinked to the back.

More sighing, shifting of feet, grumbling… now the second lady was only dealing with people who needed to pick up mail. Which, by the way, was no one… The guy mailing what looked to be like 50 mini vhs tapes of questionable nature was still at the first window… I was trying to keep calm, cool, and collected, reminding myself that stress causes premature aging…

Finally! It’s our turn! Oh happiness! If we had tails we would have been wagging them. We go to the counter, I get out the notebook with our address handily written on it, tell the woman we are here to check on any mail for our address, and she says, “Oh, for that address, you need to go to the annex next door… but it’s closed now.”

Wha—?

 

 

An evening drive

An evening drive

When we were house hunting, we had been ga-ga over a very remote house, but our low-ball offer was refused, and that is what led us to buy our current casa. Every day, as we are cooking in our kitchen, or enjoying the terraces, or waking up and looking out over the mountains in the distance, we say: “Aren’t you so glad we bought this one?” But today we decided to take a drive out to the other house, to look at it with different eyes. The eyes of owners of a wonderful spanish house, instead of the eyes of two crazy Americans who thought that buying a fixer-upper in the middle of no where would be a good idea.

We drove all the way out there and kept saying, “Oh my gosh, this is far from town!” The hamlet seemed sad and had just a few inhabited houses. The rest are vacant. Some were closed up and look like the owners haven’t been around in a while. There weren’t any people around. It was pretty quiet — not even barking dogs.

The countryside is beautiful out there, but seeing how kind of sad and dreary it was just confirmed that buying our reformed 300 year old casa on the edge of town was the best decision for us. After taking it all in, there wasn’t much to do, and Curt wasn’t feeling like walking among the houses, so we started to make our way out of the hamlet. We did pass by some grapes along the narrow road beside a house that had chained up gates, so I rolled down the window and let a few “fall in my lap.”

Grapes from Los Utreras

Grapes from Los Utreras

After this excursion, we went back to Albox and stopped at the Lidl. We wanted to go back to the beach before leaving Spain and were looking for an umbrella to shield us from the sun. It turns out that we hit the jackpot at this Lidl because not only did we find our beach umbrella, but also a shower rack that we had been looking for. Lidl is a grocery store, but in the center of the store they sell all sorts or random things like shoes, toasters, toys, etc. We picked up a few other food items while we were there. One thing I was so curious about was this melon. We had been seeing it in all the stores, but I had no idea what it would be like inside. It’s called Piel de Sapo, which means, literally, skin of toad. I guess the skin does really look like a toad’s skin!

Piel de Sapo melon

Piel de Sapo melon.
Similar to our Honeydew melon.

 

Theresia: A wealth of information

Theresia: A wealth of information

I returned from Humbugs and just a short time later (just after the five o’clock end to siesta) we received a visit from Theresia. Arboleas is a small town, and it hadn’t taken long before word had spread that “The Texans” were the new owners of property here in town. That is “Texans,” mind you, not “Americans” but “TEXANS” …and there is a difference, folks… be sure about that! I think that Theresia was quite interested in coming over to meet us, being that we were new to town, and we were happy to hear what she had to say.

Theresia has lived in the area for many years now and was a wealth of information! She is a city councilwoman and had previously worked for the tourism office of Arboleas until funding was cut and that office was closed. The office was located in an old train station which is right near our house.

Arboleas Visitor Information Center

The now closed Arboleas Visitor Information Center

It’s a shame that the visitor information center has been closed. I’m sure it would be an asset to the community, but as with all of Spain at the moment, funds are being cut and this is just a sign of the times.

Theresia knew exactly who we meant when we asked her to help us contact Diego about emptying the septic tank. The problem was, the number we had was not a correct number. Luckily for us, she was armed with a cell phone and fluent Spanish! She called someone else who called her back with Diego’s number, then she called the number and ended up finding out that it was not Diego but his son José who would empty the septic. No matter, we were just happy someone was going to do it! We arranged for José to come tomorrow morning.

After all that was squared away, we sat and chatted for a while with Theresia. She told us many stories about the locals and at one point she mentioned Pepper and we excitedly said, “Oh yes! We’ve met Pepper!” She looked perplexed and when we said she lived next door, Theresa said, “Oh, no, not that Pepa! Another one! That’s a very common name. Short for Josephina.” So then we felt like silly Americans again when we realized that we were hearing Pepa from everyone, but only thought it was their British accents which makes “Pepa” sound the same as “Pepper” to us. Ooops.

We heard all about yet another Diego who was born and raised in Arboleas and whose family worked on the railway when it passed through this area. We learned about the nearby town of Serón and the abandoned mining town of Las Menas. (You can read about it here on another blog) I took a lot of notes because I was very interested in visiting the abandoned mines and Curt was very interested in visiting and sampling the famous serrano hams that are cured in the town of Serón! We learned where to swap out our butane gas bottles and about the Spanish traffic law that will cost you a fine for driving with flip-flops on.

No flip flops while driving in Spain

No driving in Spain without wearing a full shoe!

And it’s not just flip flops, it’s any shoe without a back strap. This was good to know, because the last thing we want is to get a traffic ticket in Spain.

The most interesting bit of information Theresia shared with us, however, had to do with the septic. We were standing outside and she was telling us the basics, which we were already aware of, for example: don’t use an excessive amount of caustic cleaners, don’t flush random things that may not break down easily, etc… and then the conversation went like this:

Theresia: Now, I know this sounds terrible, but the best thing you can do is find yourself a dead cat, and toss it in.

Me: (Speechless.)

Theresia: I mean if you can manage to find one, they say it gets it all working. You just have to find one.

Me: I’ve seen a lot of cats here, but not any dead ones…

Theresia: Well, they say if you can find one, you just toss it in!

Me: (pointing to the lid of the septic tank) In there?

Theresia: Oh yeah, just open it up and toss it in.

Me: I don’t think I’d want to open it up, to be honest.

Theresia: Well then you can always use a big piece of liver…

Me: Liver?

Theresia: Sure. Liver. Then you could just cut it up into pieces and flush it down the toilet. They say that works, too. But not as good as a dead cat.

Me: What about those little packets they sell in the store? You know those packets that you flush to help build up the bacteria?

Theresia: Oh, those? They say there is no proof that they really work…

Fosas Sépticas

Fosas Sépticas bolsitas?
Third in line for effectveness…
after cat and liver.

Okay, so luckily Bob had already given us this package of Fosas Sépticas as a “housewarming gift” after talking to him about our septic troubles. He laughed with us that while most people bring a bottle of wine to new neighbors, he was bringing this. We had a good laugh with him about that. Now, just in case you think Theresa is the only person to suggest this dead cat treatment for the septic, or that it is uniquely a Spanish idea, I’m including a link so you can read more about it. Rest assured that we went with the bolsitas.

We bid adios to Theresia and she said she’d check back with us tomorrow to make sure that José made it over and took care of emptying the septic tank.

Even though it was nearing evening time, we took a little drive before dinner. We drove to the nearby town of Huercal Overa and passed through the little town of La Cinta where we saw these pomegranates, and passed though another community where we saw another Spanish gatita.

La Cinta pomegranates

Pomegranates in La Cinta

Spanish cat

“Sophie, eres tú??”

Then we went back home and had a nice dinner of pork fillets, rice, and vegetables. Earlier in the week we picked up this bottle of wine for 1,10 Euros. If you aren’t “current with the currency,” that’s crazy because that’s less than $1.50. Now, granted, don’t serve this at a dinner party, fancy or otherwise, because it was nothing to write home about; but it still is amazing how inexpensive bottles of wine are here in Spain!!

1,10 euro wine in Spain

How you say… El Cheapo?
(1,10 Euro wine)

We had to stop in at the Chino to pick up the wine opener. Ironically, I think it was more expensive than the wine itself.

 

 

Zurgena

Zurgena

When Curt came back from his ride he was pretty chipper. He had been riding along, passed another guy on a bike who greeted him, to which Curt responded “Morning!” This caused the man to stop his bike right away. I guess the guy was not expecting that greeting or the American accent. It turns out that this was a British guy who lives in Arboleas and he invited Curt out to cycle on Monday with a couple other guys. Look at that? Out one day and he’s already made cycling buddies in Spain!

Curt had ridden out to a nearby town called Zurgena. We had seen it when we were house hunting and it was a cute traditional looking village very close to Arboleas. Today was the weekly market in Zurgena and he said that as he cycled through the village the people were starting to set up their stalls. We decided to drive over and check it out.

Zurgena

The village of Zurgena

 

Zurgena market

Vegetable and fruit stall,
and the candy man!

 

Zurgena market clothes

Clothing stalls, too.
Lots of things for 5 euros.

 

Zurgena market honey

Honeycombs!

Vegetable stall Zurgena

We bought some vegetables and fruits from this stall.

 

Zurgena market

2,32 euros

 

After browsing the market, we went into a little grocery store to pick up a few things. We were determined to figure out the coffee creamer situation, for one thing. This time we picked out what was called nata para cocinar and made sure it was liquid.

Cayuela Zurgena

Cayuela

 

Nata para cocinar

THIS is good for coffee creamer.

 

El Raton cheese

Slightly odd brand of cheese:
El Super Raton??

 

Meat and cheese counter at Cayuela Zurgena

This was the meat and cheese counter.

There were a few ladies hanging around the meat counter chit chatting. I didn’t pay much attention to them because I was trying to figure out what to buy for dinner, but all of a sudden Curt was getting my attention saying that the ladies all started talking and pointing to him and all he could understand was “something about muchacho and then they were pointing at me!” I think what happened was the ladies were talking and thought he was waiting his turn so they stopped talking and told the girl behind the counter that the “muchacho” was next.

I told the girl behind the counter I wanted a chicken breast and she asked if I wanted it filleted. I’m glad she asked because it saved me from having to do it, and it meant the chicken would cook really fast once it was sliced so nice and thin.

We were happy with our little outing that morning and went back to The Casa to do some house cleaning. We needed to freshen up the place since it had been closed up, wanted to do some laundry, and also wanted to rearrange some of the furniture.

 

¡Sí! se puede!

¡Sí! se puede!

Having a Colombian father, you would think that I would already know how to speak Spanish, but no…. Having a French mother, I chose to learn French instead. This can be a positive because some words that are Latin based are at least similar. This is a negative when my brain freezes and I can only think in French… like the time we were walking around Arboleas and we encountered a very nice, friendly Spanish lady who wanted to chat. My brain was screeching to a halt and then I rattled off some responses, after which Curt said, “You’re speaking to her in French.” Ooops.

This is where we hope Rosetta Stone will come to the rescue.

But do I practice diligently? No.

Am I a slacker? Si.

But we can do it! Yes, we can!

Rosetta Stone Spain

¡Sí! se puede!

 

Arboleas Coat of Arms project

Arboleas Coat of Arms project

As if I need to add another project to my never-ending list of projects… I was thinking that La Casa (we still need to come up with a name for it) needs a wall hanging of the Arboleas coat of arms. So I found a picture of the coat of arms…

…and created a layout of the design on some graph paper…

Arboleas Coat of Arms design

I think it has potential to be super awesome. I picked out the embroidery floss colors and am ready to get started. Let’s just hope I’m not still working on it when I’m in the proverbial “Old Folks Home.”

Back to Madrid

Back to Madrid

It was time to pack up our things and leave our newly acquired home… time to get back to reality, back to work, back home…

We bid adios to the neighborhood gato and the flowering sweet almond…

Cat and almond tree

“Hasta luego, gatito!”

We locked everything up and drove back to Madrid. We arrived in the evening and checked into the Hotel Clement Barajas.

View from our room at the Hotel Clement Barajas

Looking out the window from our room at the Hotel Clement Barajas

Hotel Clement Barajas view

Barajas

Barrio Barajas

Getting ready to leave Arboleas

Getting ready to leave Arboleas

The night before we left Arboleas to head back to the U.S. we went over to the Hostal Meson for dinner. They were having some sort of “quiz night” or “games night” in the larger part of the restaurant. There were a lot of happy noises coming from the Brits behind the closed dining room doors, but we were shuttled into another smaller room off to the side.

I had been put off by the previous meal there, but we decided to try the paella. It was a good choice, and we had a nice meal.

Hostal Meson Paella

Paella

Then we went next door to the small grocery store to buy a few snacks for the road tomorrow and for the plane ride home. We got a big kick out of these Pringles. The jamon flavored ones have a couple of jamon legs hanging like they do, and then the Pringles chip is also hanging like a leg of jamon. Too funny. I love how the chip flavors are so interesting outside of the US. Like in Canada where you can buy Ketchup flavored chips. Or Roasted Chicken flavor. You just don’t find that at home.

Jamon flavored Pringles

Pringles hanging like jamon!

Exploring to the west

Exploring to the west

Looking south from our house we could see that there were some old railway tracks, so we decided to spend the next day doing some exploring. We drove along and found the old Arboleas station. A ruin, now, but had some character. We parked the car across the street and had to climb up a little hill and battle some weeds and brambles to get to it. Of course just taking a picture from the road was not good enough for me! I had to go inside.

Arboleas train station

The old Arboleas station

Arboleas station

Do you see the prickly pear cactus growing on the roof??

Totally run down and falling apart, the station is only used as housing for the birds. They obviously eat the prickly pears and have “deposited the seeds” on the roof! The inside of the building was in bad shape. Originally it must have had some nice tiles on the floors, but now it is a mess!

Inside the station

Inside the old station

We liked the tiles with ARBOLEAS on them, though.

Arboleas

Since it was January, we thought it would be fun to drive about an hour to the west toward Baza and see some snow as we got further toward the mountains. So we took off for a little drive west and made a loop to the south and east to return back home.

Driving west

Driving west

Toward Baza

There’s some snow!

Sheep

Sheep!

It was a really nice drive. We were amazed at how different the terrain was just going about an hour west. Our casa is in a great location because about an hour east or south and we are at the beach; about an hour west or north and we are close to the mountains… we have so much to explore!

 

 

A walk around Arboleas

A walk around Arboleas

We spent the morning cleaning up around La Casa. The previous owner left a lot of things that we wanted to go through and reorganize. I lined the shelves of the upper kitchen cabinets (he had tiled the bottom cabinets — nice! easy to wipe clean!) We went through all the tools and what not that he left, and did some rearranging.

After that we took a walk over to Arboleas. The walk to the village takes us through a small olive grove and across the bridge which is surrounded on either side by lemon and orange trees.

Arboleas

Looking toward Arboleas

Olive tree

Olives

Lemons

Lemons!

Citrus groves

The groves along the bridge to Arboleas

Oranges

Oranges

Oranges

…just one, honest!

Arboleas is a small village, and while there are a couple of places to eat, and a few shops, it is a very low-key place. The narrow streets are winding, and it was a little confusing to find our way around.

Arboleas streets

Arboleas

There is a church and a Moorish watchtower, which are both very prominent among the other buildings, so we went to visit those. The Iglésia de Santiago was built in the late 19th century. The original church of Arboleas was built in 1492, after the expulsion of the Moors, but it has since been destroyed and nothing of that original church remains today.

Arboleas Church of Santiago

Church of Santiago

The Arboleas watchtower was built during the 15th century, but I don’t know much about it other than that.

Torre de Arboleas

Torre de Arboleas

View from the Arboleas watchtower

The view from the Arboleas watchtower

During our walk around Arboleas, we happened upon this interesting little park. It was full of these weird exercise machines. You just know we had to try them all out…

Arboleas exercise

Arboleas workou

Ooof!

Arboleas exercise park

Tony Little, eat your heart out!

There is a square in front of the city hall, and next to that is a small park with stone benches and a statue of Al-Arbuli. From what I have gathered, Arboleas was named after Abdalacis Ben Abu Al-Arbuli who was a 14th century Moorish scientist. Al-Arbuli was a resident of the city and he wrote a book (called Food Treaty) about the foods of Andalucia. The book is in the Spanish National Library, so it definitely holds some major significance.

Arboleas City Hall

The City Hall of Arboleas

Al-Arbuli Arboleas statue

Al-Arbuli

 

The Completion!

The Completion!

The next morning, we woke up and opened the curtains of our room at the Hostal Meson in Arboleas. It was cool to see the Spanish flag flapping around in the breeze right outside our window!

Hostal Meson view

Espana!

The hotel room was fairly nice and the hotel looked like it had been recently renovated. One thing we had a laugh about was what we called the Dr. Who Shower.

Hostal Meson shower

Shower or TARDIS? You be the judge…

We went downstairs after packing up our suitcases and were going to ask the front desk to hold our luggage while we were out for the day. We had coffee and toast for breakfast. We were intrigued by what was shown on the menu to be an “English Breakfast” because it was eggs and a side of what looked like Van Camps Pork and Beans. I wish I would have taken a picture of the menu, but I didn’t think about it at the time. I must say it didn’t look too appetizing, but that is probably because when I think of pork and beans I think backyard barbeque, not breakfast! A lot of the restaurants around seem to cater to the taste of the British expats because there are quite a few who have invested in property here.

Andrea met up with us, and she drove us over to Mojacar to the bank. On the way she mentioned that Bob, the owner, was going to be at the completion. We thought that was interesting because in the states, when you close on a house you never even cross paths with the seller, but here he was going to be at the completion with us. I was excited to meet the guy!

We also mentioned the crazy drumming that we experienced last night at the house, and Andrea said, “Oh, that’s Richard’s son. They live right below you, and he just gave his son a drum set for Christmas.” Richard is the owner of the estate agency she works for, so this was very ironic on two counts. One, that he lives in the house directly in front of us, and two that his kid was the drummer. “Don’t worry, he’ll tire of the drums in no time.”

Yeah. Let’s hope!

We got to the bank and met up with Lucas. We had wired the money over, but had to get our debit cards and online access set up, as well as get the money ready for the closing fees. What was a little crazy was that the fees were in cash. We mentioned that it was a little odd for us to present all of that in cash… that back home, people would expect a check or they would think you were running drugs to have that much cash in an envelope. They told us that if it’s cash then no one worries about it. If it’s a check people can worry if it’s good or not. So I put the envelope of cash in my purse, and figured: “when in Spain…”

From there we drove over to Vera to the notary’s office. Now let me explain about the notary: In the US a notary is a person who verifies that certain documents are signed by the person present, etc… they are typically a layperson, and it isn’t as if they need a huge amount of specialized training. In Spain, a person studies law and then gets further training to become a notary. The notary is a big deal because he or she deals with legal documents much like a lawyer does. They don’t just put a seal on something.

We got to the notary office a bit early and when we got there we met up with Bob and his friend Tony. We had met Tony when we looked at the house on our house hunting day. I’m not sure why he was staying at the house when we visited in September, but he was the one who showed us the property. At that point, Bob had moved back to the UK. They told us that their initial plan was to renovate and sell houses, but the housing market in Spain hit a lull and they had to put that business venture aside for the time being.

To kill time we went down the street for a cup of coffee. It was funny because Bob mentioned something about how, knowing we were from Texas, he wondered if Curt would be wearing a big cowboy hat. I asked, “Now Bob, is that the real reason you decided to show up in the end? To see if he had on a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots?” and he said, “Yeah, pretty much.” We had a good laugh over that.

While having our coffee, we got a chance to chat about the house. He said he was told that it was about 300 years old and when I asked what it was like before he renovated it, Bob said, “Oh, I left you a photo album in top of the TV so you could see what was done to it.” I was floored. An album?? This guy was awesome. I could tell he was a stickler for details, which was great when you are talking about someone renovating a house.

Finally Lucas came over and told us that the notary was ready. We went into his office. The notary was a big guy in a nice suit. He had on a lot of cologne and was seated behind a big fancy desk. Bob, Curt, and I sat in the chairs in front of him and our lawyers stood behind us. The notary looked through all of the paperwork and read it out loud. Thank heavens we had already seen a translation of the documents because otherwise we would have had no idea what was going on. It was a lot of rambling on in Spanish, a lot of shuffling of papers, a lot of nodding. Then Lucas said, “Do you have the envelope?” “Envelope? What envelope?” “From the bank. The Envelope.” Ohhhh The Envelope: The giant envelope of cash that I was carrying around in my purse like I was a shady character in some Lifetime Movie Network Pick-a-Flick… THAT envelope. I opened up my purse and handed The Envelope to Lucas. Was it just me, or was this office lighting quite dim? I expected a director to yell, “Okay, people, that’s a wrap!”

And that was pretty much it. Shake hands, shake hands, Gracias, Gracias, shake hands, walk out, get keys from Bob.

Wow.

We just bought a house.

In Spain.

 

 

In Arboleas

In Arboleas

We checked in to the Hostal Meson, and wanted to walk over to the house since it was literally a five minute walk from our hotel. It was getting dark, but we were eager to snoop around. We got to the house (Thank you GoogleMaps for allowing me to memorize the walk to the house!) and we were surprised to see lights on, and the shutters open.

Before continuing your read, I’d like to invite you to click this link to open up a new window and enjoy some background music… it will add to the experience.

As we walked up to the house (and I hope you are listening to the music!!) We heard drumming. Yes, drumming. You have got to be kidding. We buy a house in Spain, in a small village in SPAIN for goodness sake, and someone is practicing the DRUMS at night?? It was coming from the house directly in front of us. I was ready to scream. How could this BE?? Would we be tormented by the drumming every day? Every night?? We tried to block it out of our minds, but much like this Iron Butterfly Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo that you should be listening to, it just seemed to go on forever.

We had been curious as to what the owner was leaving with the house, because although we had an inventory list of all the furniture, we really had no idea if he was leaving small kitchen items and what not. We peeked in the downstairs bathroom window and could see that he had left all necessities (even toilet paper, hand soap, and a clean hand towel hanging on the rod!) This was exciting to see because we knew then that we might not have to buy everything under the sun for our stay. No one was in the house, so we were curious as to why the lights were on and the shutters open, but we were happy that we got to peek into the downstairs bedroom and bathroom! It was really getting dark, the drumming was continuing, and our stomachs were starting to growl, so we decided to take a drive over to Albox, which is just a few minutes away and get a bite to eat.

Triana is a little restaurant that was recommended to us when we stayed at Casa Olivos in September. It is open late and you can get a chicken dinner for right around 6 Euros! That’s a super deal.

Meal at Triana in Albox

Yum!

The first time we were there, Curt tipped the waitress, and I think she was super excited about that because she brought us an after dinner drink afterward. In Spain, it really is not customary or expected to tip. If you do leave a tip, it is typically your change to even out your tab, but it isn’t like here in the States. The server is not miffed to not receive a tip, but of course tickled pink (as our waitress was, because we were clueless.)

One thing we were tickled pink about was that it seemed as if the smoking ban in restaurants was now being enforced. There was a sign stating that there was no smoking allowed in the restaurant. Like I mentioned before, there are A LOT of smokers in Europe, and we are quite spoiled here in the US to be able to eat in a smoke free environment all the time.

We finished our meal and made our way back to the Hostal Meson. Lucas, our Spanish lawyer, had managed to get the notary to agree to do the closing with Curt’s NIE and not mine, as long as we would go to the foreigner’s office in Almeria and get my NIE and file it with the notary within 30 days. This was a huge relief because we would not be rushing tomorrow and stressing about getting the needed documents in time for the completion. Andrea was meeting us at the Hostal Meson at 10 a.m. and would be driving us to the bank in Vera to sort out our funds. We needed a good night’s rest because tomorrow was going to be a big day!!

On the road to Arboleas

On the road to Arboleas

It’s almost a five hour drive from Madrid to Arboleas. The highways are well taken care of, and the best thing of all is that people don’t hang out in the left hand lane driving under the speed limit. No road hogs here! Pass and shift back to the right hand lane, people. A lesson I wish more people here in the States would learn…

We decided to stop at a village to get something to eat, but unfortunately we weren’t thinking about the time and what might be open. I wish I could remember what the name of this town was, but I don’t recall now. This was a small village, and we honestly didn’t even see a bar or restaurant. What we did happen across was this: people walking along the main road…

Village

Wait! What’s that beyond that car on the right??

Is that a pony???

Pony

A pony??

Yes. It’s definitely a pony. How weird. Walking a dog? Sure. Walking a pony? Kind of strange. We continue on down the street and then we see THIS:

More ponies

More ponies??

Okay, are we seeing things or is there a grown man riding that pony straight ahead??

Man riding pony

YeeHaw!

The next thing that happened was the man fell off the pony and the other guy with the white horse laughed his head off. It was the funniest thing we’d seen yet. So odd. Maybe they were having some sort of equine festival or something, we had no idea; but I was glad we passed through that little village and got to see that bit of silliness!

We left the village and got back on the highway. We needed to find somewhere to eat because we were going to start getting cranky if we didn’t get some food and coffee soon!

Alternative energy is a big deal in Spain. So we passed fields of solar panels and traditional looking windmills and more modern wind turbines.

Solar panels

Fields of solar panels

Windmills

Don Quixote where are you??

Turbines

Wind turbines

Stomachs growling, we stopped at this gas station to get something to eat. Don’t judge, now, because in Spain a gas station is typically a great place to eat! It is not like stopping at the Quickie Mart for a microwave burrito here in the US. This place was run by an old Spanish guy who at first seemed a little peeved at us — he started impatiently rattling off all the bocadillo options and Curt interrupted him and said, “Dos bocadillos jamon y queso, y dos cafes con leche.” and then the man was quite friendly. I guess he was happy to hear our attempts at Spanish!

When you order a coffee in Spain, even at a gas station, the beans are ground right then and they pull a fresh espresso for you. There is no drip coffee carafe hanging around for hours. This is the real thing, people, and I’m not talking Coca Cola!

While the owner of this fine establishment was making our coffee and sandwiches, Curt chit chatted with him, and I went to the ladies room. I knew we were in rural Spain when I heard chickens clucking outside the open bathroom window. Look at the cool old-timey toilet tank and flusher!

Toilet tank

A pull chain flusher!

We felt much better after our late lunch, and got back on the road after bidding adios to the owner of the gas station and his family who were eating their own meal at an adjacent table.

The closer we get to Arboleas, the more scenic the drive. There are more mountains, and it gets a bit greener.

Mountains

It’s interesting to see this road sign. Morocco is fairly close, and there is still a lot of Moorish influence in Spain, so that explains the Arabic. There are only a couple of signs in Arabic along the way, which is a good thing otherwise we would’ve been totally lost!

Arabic Road sign

Near Huercal-Overa

Near Huercal-Overa

The last picture was about half an hour from Arboleas. It was too dark to take a picture once we got in town. We checked in to the Hostal Meson which is only about a 5 minutes walk from our house. Although dark, the night was still young… we were going to have to get settled and then think about dinner.

 

NIE — ARRRGH!

NIE — ARRRGH!

Okay, so I spoke too soon.

Curt received his NIE in the mail in three days. I checked my mail faithfully every day only to find nothing.

At this point I was really stressed because you can’t just buy property without an NIE. Lucas tried to tell me not to worry, that we could drive an hour to Almeria foreigner’s office the morning of the completion, get the NIE, then drive to Vera to sign the papers, and everything would be juuuust fine. I know the Spanish have a “eh, it’ll be fine!” attitude about things, but this was really going to be cutting things close!

There was nothing I could do but roll with it, so I planned to do the last minute checking of the mail before departing for the airport, and if we had to go with Plan B, so be it.

Our estate agent arranged a room reservation for us at the Hostal Meson in Arboleas, and if the closing was delayed we at least would be able to stay there extra days if we had to. We were keeping fingers and toes crossed that this wasn’t going to be the case.