Tag Archives: jamón

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.

 

 

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!

Shopping in Almeria

Shopping in Almeria

It was still early in the day when we got done at the Foreigner’s Office, so Lucas recommended that we browse through the shopping mall (since we were parked in its parking lot) and then do some sightseeing along the shore of Almeria Playa.

We had a great time walking around the mall because it was fun to see the things that were in the shops compared to what we see here in the US. There was one store with a cat theme. A true haven for Crazy Cat Ladies everywhere! You can check out A Loja de Gato Preta and see what I mean. Lots of cat items: dishes, textiles, decorations… you name it!

A Loja de Gato Preta

A Loja de Gato Preta

Sophie

Sophie, erés tu?

One of the main stores in this mall was Alcampo which is a lot like a SuperTarget or Walmart Superstore. It had pretty much anything you might want. We were thrilled to death because we came across an oscillating space heater and a portable CD player/radio. Warmth and entertainment were two things we could use back at the house! We were like kids in a candy shop; ooohing and ahhhing at everything. We couldn’t believe how many paella pans there were to choose from!

Paella pans at Alcampo

Wow! What a selection!

In addition to home goods and electronics, Alcampo sells clothes and has a large grocery section.

Alcampo Don Limpio

Hey! We recognize Don Limpio! That’s none other than Mr. Clean!

Alcampo tuna2

People in Spain must really eat a LOT of tuna! Do you see how big the cans are??

Alcampo Jamon

Now that’s a whole lotta ham!

Alcampo jamon iberico

Notice the price!! (It looks like Curt is about to grab a ham and run out the emergency exit.)

Alcampo also has a big fish counter with lots of activity and lots of interesting seafood.

Alcampo fish market

Alcampo fish market2

Alcampo fish

A face only a mother could love…

Alcampo more fish

Alcampo shrimp

Alcampo shellfish

After our big shopping excursion (we bought a few other items for a picnic lunch, as well) we checked out and Curt returned the shopping cart. I love how in Europe you put a coin in to get a cart and only get your money back when you return the cart. I wish they did that at home in regular stores (and not just at the airport when you get luggage carts) because I bet there would be a lot fewer carts rolling around crashing into people’s cars in the shopping center parking lots!

Alcampo cart return

We went back out to the car and ate a picnic lunch before heading over to the beach.

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…