Friday, December 26, 2003

December 26, 2003
Just a catch up for new readers: I am visiting Europe for the first time. My wife Kathy (she's never been here either) and our daughter Deena, 23, flew over on Dec. 12th to visit our son, Thomas, 20, who is a junior at NAU (Northern Arizona University) and is studying in Valencia on a study abroad program.

On Christmas Eve we left the beachtown of Nerja and drove up into the Sierra Nevadas (we have a running joke that goes like this: whenever we see a name that has an American counterpart, one of us says, "It's so sad that a country has to copy names from the U.S. because they can't think up anything on their own."

After visiting Alhambra, the Red Castle, in Granada we went up the adjacent ridge to visit the Barrio Aribe (Arab section) where hippies and tourists gather every night to watch the sun set on the magical castle. On the way down in our rental car we got into trouble.

I knew we had made a wrong turn when Deena started driving down steps. I'm not joking. Clipping the rear right wheel well on a 90 degree turn didn't add to the comfort level. As the sun set and we tumbled down a narrower and narrower street, we finally realized we weren't going to make it (the next day T and I walked up there and measured the width of the "path" and at the widest it was eight feet and the narrowest, four feet! Finally a guy came out of a house and offered to lead us out. It took us four turns to get the car turned around and we barely managed to scrape our way free. We weren't out of the woods yet. We had to find a hotel or hostel and T and I dropped the girls off on a plaza and began to try and find a parking space. Five blocks away we were trapped in a one-way zone that started to narrow down, we took a right hand turn and ended up in an alley with three cars parked on the left side of the exit. As T tried to get by, the curb on the right side, smoked the tires and the mirrors flipped back as we puckered by, the smell of fresh paint, perfuming the air. We finally found an underground parking garage that was equally as claustrophobic, but we got it parked and walked the ten blocks back to the square where we found the girls had found a room at the inn (80 Euros, about $100 for two).

We left our Christmas tree in the glove compartment so Kathy jerry-rigged scarves and colored underwear over a lamp in our room and Secret Santa came around midnite.

The Spanish custom is to exchange presents at midnite, then the kids go out to the bars until dawn. Amazing. We could hear them all night.

We had Christmas dinner back up on Arab ridge in a fascinating place that looked out on the Red Castle in the moonlight (82 Euros).

I have been here for about two weeks and this is what I miss about the U.S.: refills on coffee, wide open parking lots and spicy, hot Mexican food. Everything else is here, except all my friends and family. To them and you I wish you a Happy New Year!

"Every man kills that which he loves."
-Oscar Wilde

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