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Bike shopping

Bike shopping

You do remember The Dream of the Vuelta, right? That is what inspired all this to begin with! You shouldn’t just dream the dream, but live the dream, I say! So today was a day for us to go shopping for Curt’s bike. He had already done some investigating via the internet before we left for Spain and found several bike stores in Cartagena, which is a town on the eastern coast of Spain about an hour away. If it seems like every place I write about is “about an hour away” it is true. The location of our Spanish casa is great! You can draw a radius of an hour’s drive in all directions and will find yourself on multiple beaches, in the mountains, at a lake, in the desert, at a nature park, or at a ski resort. It just depends which direction you choose to travel.

We headed to Cartagena, armed with the addresses of three bike shops. Two were in what is called the polígono industrial or industrial park, which you will find on the outskirts of towns. This is where you find larger stores that are selling construction materials, big furniture stores, or car dealers. How hard could it be to find giant stores on the outskirts of a town??… insert ominous music here..

Suffice it to say that addresses plus able bodied intelligent people plus stupid phone that keeps rebooting every single time you try to access a map does not equal happiness. Quite the contrary. It equals frustration and lots of it. I was inclined to search the outskirts of the town, thinking that a giant industrial zone might be easier to spot than a shop in the old downtown area, but who am I to deprive Curt of the fun of driving around and around and around this lovely town?

Plaza de Jaime Bosche, Cartagena

Plaza de Jaime Bosche

Oh happiness! There is a tourist information center just on the other side of this plaza! But as luck would have it, just as we reach the entrance, the huge metal gate-like doors swing shut, and a booming latch is drawn much like closing up a castle door.

Siesta Time, people! Hasta luego!

Tourist information center, Cartagena

Cerrado!

Disgusted with the phone.

Disgusted with his phone.
(Hmmm… my iPhone never has those problems… I’m just saying…)

Just when we were at the end of our wits, we stopped at a Repsol (gas station) and Curt went in and asked the guy if he had a map of Cartagena. The guy was super nice and gave him what we fondly call a “fun map” of Cartagena. This is a map that shows some streets, but not all, and its main purpose is to show someone the highlights of the town. None of which involve the polígono industrial, of course.

Cartagena

We drove along the harbor….

Cartagena war memorial

A sculpture and war memorial that is dedicated to the soldiers who fought and died in Cavite, Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

Bike lanes in Cartagena

These bike lanes in Cartagena look like their own streets!

Luckily we were able to somehow piece together bits of the map and believe it or not found the downtown bike shop — just in time for siesta! So it was closed!

Ciclos Curra, Cartagena

Patience is a virtue.

Looking through the windows, we could see that they only sold mountain bikes, but as luck would have it, they had a map to their larger store posted on the window! This showed us how to get to the polígono industrial! I took pictures of the map with my fully functioning phone, and then we headed next door to  get something to eat, since nothing would be open again until 5:00.

The restaurant next door was called Sabor Andaluz. We ate lomo y patatas y huevos, which was pork loin and potatoes with a fried egg. It was really good. This was not a “touristy” restaurant at all. Lots of Spanish people were there. It was a good place to sit back, have a café con leche, and regroup a little before trying to find this elusive polígono industrial.

Sabor Andaluz

Sabor Andaluz

Sabor Andaluz menu

Test yourself with the Sabor Andaluz tapas menu! What would you order??

Sabor Andaluz, Cartagena, Spain

Just a teeny bit stressed…

Sabor Andaluz

Lunch!

Sabor Andaluz waiter

Yes, the guy in the black shirt was someone’s waiter.
Yes, he is smoking while working.
And yes, the beer near him went down nicely with the smoke, but I didn’t get a picture of that…

While we relaxed with our meal (we had a while before siesta would be over, so why rush?) we noticed this thing that looked like a deposit box of some sort. It was a bit like a mailbox, but it was actually a trash bin. It looked small, but apparently what you put down the slot must fall down into some gigantic bin under the street because people came one after the other dropping in their bags of trash. One guy, who must have been a janitor for some building actually brought cartloads of trash, bags, boxes, etc and it all disappeared into this little drop box. I was so curious as to how large the underground bin was, and how they went about emptying it… Can you tell I was fascinated with this thing??

Cartagena trash

Mysterious….

Stomachs full, and nerves calmed, we hit the road again in search of the bike shop in the polígono industrial. Due to my fantastic co-piloting skills and Curt’s keen ability to navigate the Spanish streets, we managed to find it lickity split. There were two shops in the industrial area, so we visited both, picked out a bike, spoke “cave-man Spanish” to the salesperson, and amazingly enough got everything sorted out to purchase. It was easy as pie! …insert happy music which is followed by screeching halt sound here…

Now, trust me, I am happy to know that credit card companies are on the lookout for thieves and fraudulent activity, BUT when your card is declined after spending an entire day driving around a strange city, having doors literally closed on your nose, getting somewhere only to arrive at a time when the place is closed for two more hours, then finally thinking the whole shopping craziness will soon be over, only to have the guy behind the counter say (and trust me, you know it in any language) “No, the card doesn’t go through,” you want to scream. And I don’t mean stomp your foot and pout — I mean full on scream like in a crazy movie where the camera pans back and you see the windows rattle and people cower.

So yes, this is what we had to deal with next: calling our credit card companies and letting them know they needed to take the blocks off of our cards.

Fast forward to the final scene…

Ciclo Curros, Cartagena

Buying the bike.
Finally.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Eating in Madrid

Eating in Madrid

Going straight to the Plaza Mayor after checking in to our hotel when we arrive in Madrid seems to have become a bit of a tradition (okay, okay, so we were only on our second trip, but maybe I should say we were starting a tradition), so we walked on over and had a seat at one of the tables outside the same restaurant where we ate at last time.

Cerveceria Plaza Mayor

We ordered two bocadillos jamon y queso and two coffees. This is a really “simple” meal, but so awesome! The ham is paper thin and slightly fatty. It’s hard to describe just how good the ham is, but trust me — it’s amazing! The bread is perfectly crispy on the outside and just soft enough in the middle and the Manchego cheese has this distinct “sheepy” flavor. It’s a mix of being creamy yet sharp at the same time. It makes me hungry just remembering about it!!

Bocadillo Plaza Mayor

Enjoying a bocadillo at the Plaza Mayor

Yum! Bocadillos and coffee!

You’ll notice that the Plaza Mayor was not anywhere near as crowded as it was when we were here in September. That is because it was a whole lot colder. As the sun was going down it was getting downright chilly!

We walked around a bit more and saw this interesting fella. This was at a tapas bar window, but we weren’t brave enough to try out this dish!

Madrid Octopus

Maybe next time…