Sunday, June 30, 2013

SlushChic And LessChic

WHAT SLUSHIE DIDN'T WEAR.
Slushie and Mr. Slushie had a formal dinner to attend last week. It's an annual thing and they both get all dolled up for it. Mr. Slushie, one of the brilliant chefs at Sandpiper (click for more), actually wears a suit and tie instead of his professional chef's attire or much-prefered British soccer shirts (he's obsessed).

In honor of this formal event, Slushie had her hair colored (click for an original shade of Slushie) in very un-slushie highlights — glowlingly elegant shades of blonde. I called  it Slushie Chic. San Geraldo took it one step further and called it Slushchic. I loved the term and said I would use it. He, however, argued it should be spelled Slushchique. But I control the keyboard.

I saw a great get-up outside a specialty shop. But Slushie had already purchased her elegant little black dress. She looked spectacular. Maybe she can use the outfit I found for something a bit less stuffy — an event where every unnatural shade of Slushie would not be out of place. I'm thinking maybe blue-raspberry Slushie would go well with the red-orange feather boa and tasteful sequined accessories.

SLUSHCHIC (WITH JUST A HINT OF STRAWBERRY).
THE SLUSHIE SALON (AT THE FUENGIROLA ZOO CAFE).
BLUE-RASPBERRY, THIRD FROM LEFT.

The day before the event, when Slushie showed off her latest hair color(s), a young Finnish tourist stopped off at Cafeteria Manila for a drink. He had his own brand of chic (click here for previous local Finnish fashion). I found it a bit hard on the eyes, but he clearly liked it. He kept his own natural hair color apparently. Slushie could teach him a thing or two.

FUENGIROLA FINNISHCHIC?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fuente de Piedra and Pink Flamingos

Fuenta de Piedra (which means Stone Fountain) is a town of less than 3,000 people about an hour north of Málaga. It's famous for the 13-square-kilometer lagoon of the same name that is home to thousands of wild Greater Flamingos, the largest colony on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in all Europe. It's a saltwater lagoon fed by underwater springs that pass through mineral salt deposits.

Hundreds of flamingos are banded (ringed) every summer at the lagoon. In 2009, for example, 5,000 young flamingos fledged and 600 of those were banded. The flamingos don't develop their pinkish color — which is a result of the organisms that live in their feeding grounds — until several years into their lives. Click on any of the images for a flamboyant view.

San Geraldo and I picked up a car and drove to Fuente de Piedra Wednesday afternoon. It took us a half-hour longer to get there than to get back because we missed our entrance onto the autovía (the highway) and drove the winding coastal road until we reached Benelmádena (the next city to our east). San Geraldo hadn't thought he would need anything for motion sickness and, yet again, we made it to the highway just in time. We had lunch on the central town plaza in Fuente de Piedra before heading over to the nature reserve visitor center. We got there around 3:00. The visitor center closes for siesta from 2 to 4. We didn't know that then. We do now. The place looks really nice.

THE VISITOR CENTER. VERY WELCOMING... BUT CLOSED.
LOOKING BACK FROM THE LOCKED FRONT DOOR OF THE VISITOR CENTER.
THE BACK OF THE VISITOR CENTER, OVERLOOKING THE LAGOON.
IT LOOKED REALLY INTERESTING WHEN I PEAKED IN THE PICTURE WINDOW.
FROM ALONGSIDE THE VISITOR CENTER.
AS I SAID AT THE TIME, "HOLY CRAP! ARE THOSE ALL FLAMINGOS?!?"

We walked the beautiful grounds around the visitor center for a bit and then hopped back in the car to explore the viewing areas scattered around the lagoon. I've got some pictures of the town and surrounding area, but today's post is all about the lagoon and the flamingos.

OUR OFFICIAL GREETER (NO SIESTA) AS WE ARRIVED AT THE FIRST OVERLOOK.
ONE OF MANY GATHERINGS OF FLAMINGOS ON THE LAGOON.
THE TOWN OF FUENTE DE PIEDRA IN BACKGROUND.

TRYING OUT A PHOTO FOR THE FIRST TIME THROUGH THE BIRDING SCOPE.
DETAIL OF SCOPE PHOTO.
ANOTHER VIEW THROUGH THE SCOPE.
FUTURE PHOTOS SHOULD BE BETTER NOW THAT I'VE GOT IT FIGURED OUT.
A QUICK SNAP SHOT AS WE WALKED BACK TO THE CAR. CAN'T BELIEVE I CAUGHT IT.
ANOTHER SCENIC OVERLOOK. FLAMINGOS EVERYWHERE.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

86th Annual DD-Day

Yes, it's the 86th Annual Dowager Duchess Day. If I looked and acted a lot younger than my age, I'd brag, too. Here's wishing the multi-talented Dowager Duchess a happy birthday and another artful year painting, knitting, and creating beauty wherever she goes.

KNITTING FOR MY FATHER IN 1949.
I INHERITED THE SWEATER IN 1969 AND WORE IT ANOTHER 20 YEARS.

Who would have thought, as the Dowager Duchess sang and painted "Marrakesh" in 1969 (the same year I inherited the above-pictured sweater), that her son and son-in-law would one day be living just across the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco.

"MARRAKESH" — OIL PAINTING BY THE DOWAGER DUCHESS.

Happy birthday Mom/Mim/DD from your three sons!



Monday, June 24, 2013

You're Going to Puerto Rico?

"You're going to Puerto Rico?" asks San Geraldo excitedly as we sit enjoying our coffees at Cafeteria Manila Saturday morning.

"Huh?" says Richard in response.

"No, I explained, "Richard said 'Fiesta de San Juan.' It's a holiday. Not San Juan, Puerto Rico."

NOON. THE HOLIDAY BEGINS.
10 PM. THE NIGHT-TIME PARTIES GETTING IN GEAR.
(CLICK THE ABOVE TWO TO SEE THE PARTY GROW.)
THE COOKOUTS GET GOING.

Día (or Noche or Fiesta) de San Juan is a time for parties. It's a festival of pagan origin centered around summer solstice. It's known for large bonfires, which are supposed to give more power to the sun. In Christian Spain, there was a separation between the pre-Christian summer solstice celebration and the later-designated Dia de San Juan that followed a few days after. But the rituals remain pretty much the same.


The reason Richard was so excited was that he had the day off and was spending it on the beach with family and friends. He's got a three-year-old, so I think his San Juan nights are over for a while. He very kindly invited us to join them in the afternoon, but we never made it there. Many people spend the entire day and evening. Some arrive as the sun is setting and have cookouts on the beach. Bonfires are built (they were banned in Fuengirola this year, but they were built anyway on an apparently smaller scale). At midnight, I've been told, you jump over the flames three times for good luck and people here then jump in the sea (because we have one). Maybe a bow to Saint John the Baptist, although no one I spoke with thought there was any connection.

THE LARGEST FIRE I SAW HERE IN FUENGIROAL, BUT I DIDN'T WALK THE ENTIRE BEACH.
THIS ONE EVEN HAD A PLATFORM TO MAKE IT EASIER TO CLEAR THE FLAMES.

The city of Alicante (on the east coast; called Costa Blanca... we're on Costa del Sol) is famous for huge parties and gigantic bonfires. I saw news coverage and couldn't believe the size of the fires. The dirt and pollution must be awful. Here, some people slept on the beach. Further down the beach this morning, I'm told, a few people were hauled in by the police for I don't know what. Our beach is much more sedate than the beaches as you get closer to the marina. People here had been very responsible, bagging their trash before leaving. Clean-up crews were on the scene by 8 a.m. and, by 10, you'd never know it had recently been the site of a pagan ritual.

GETTING READY FOR A NORMAL DAY AT THE BEACH.

I went for a walk after dinner and came home before midnight — feeling extremely old and boring (I really need to "Slushify" my flavor-saver  — click if you don't know what I'm talking about). I then didn't realize the time and missed by three minutes the fire-jumping and water-dipping. I walked out on the terrace and saw a bunch of people wrapping themselves in towels and robes and warming themselves by the fires. Maybe next year I'll take that midnight dip. (Not likely.) But I do like to be in España.


Friday, June 21, 2013

How You Thrill Me

In my life, I've taken a lot of risks. I've moved often. I changed careers several times. I changed jobs — perhaps too often. I dumped all my money, a few times, into uncertain business ventures. In addition, I have always enjoyed getting lost; I love what I discover along the way. And I've had the perfect partner-in-adventure, San Geraldo.

When it comes to physical risks, however, I'm not so daring. I bruise easily. Very easily. (I'm the son of the woman the story of "The Princess and the Pea" was based on.) I did once climb a cliff in Italy (in 1976) to go diving. I tore a muscle in my leg.

Bungee trampolining (click here) looked to me like fun because you're in a harness and attached to sturdy cords that limit the direction you can go. It seemed low-risk. But, since bungee trampolining appears to be on the back burner (until we find one for grown-ups), I've been looking around for other options.

First to present itself was parasailing. I have no fear of heights (although I have an extreme and very specific fear of stepping down onto a ladder from a roof). With parasailing, you're not sent up alone. I always feel safer if someone else knows what they're doing (assuming the person I'd go up with knew what he/she was doing). You take off from the back of a powerboat. That concerns me. I've seen the videos. Also, I'm not so comfortable with coming back down.

THE DOWAGER DUCHESS WOULD DEFINITELY NIX THIS.

Next on the list is something much less "X Games." I can rent a fiberglass pedal boat with a fiberglass slide. You pedal out a bit and then go down the slide. But, like the bungee trampoline, I'm sure the slide has a weight limit. I'd hate to climb the three or four flimsy aluminum steps and have the entire thing collapse leaving me "at sea."

THE FIRST TIME I'VE SEEN ADULTS ONBOARD. INTERESTINGLY, NO ONE WAS SLIDING.

There's always a power boat. But the thought of noisily hydroplaning across the water at break-neck speed doesn't thrill me.

RELAXING?

Taking the power boat one step further, I could hop on an inflatable boat and get pulled behind that power boat noisily hydroplaning across the water at break-neck speed. But, I don't think so.

HOLDING ON FOR DEAR LIFE.
(CLICK TO INCREASE THE INSANITY.)

And then of course, there's the jet ski. Something to consider, I suppose. If it weren't for the noise. The pollution. The fumes. The anxiety. Honestly, I find absolutely nothing of interest in a jet ski.

NOT MY SPEED.

It looks like what I'm left with is walking on water. San Geraldo has done it so well for so many years. One of his senior managers even introduced him to a friend one day as "my boss who walks on water." I always liked and respected the woman, but that clinched it. Anyway, it appears that walking on water is very commonly done here in Fuengirola. It's a miracle!




AND IF THAT DOESN'T WORK, THERE'S ALWAYS KNEELING ON WATER.
WELL, IT'S NOT A MIRACLE IF EVERYONE CAN DO IT!
(STILL, CLICK TO EXPERIENCE THE MIRACLE OF ZOOM.)

After considering all the above options, I'm thinking maybe San Geraldo is enough excitement for me. So, I'll take ABBA's (can't get them out of my mind) advice and "stay on the ground."


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nothing Else Can Save Me, S.O.S.


The Dowager Duchess told me she was hugely relieved to read that I was too heavy for the bungee trampoline (see preceding post). But, despite my mother's relief, I have been considering other local options for risking life and limb. (I'm not, however, known for being much of a daredevil, so don't expect anything to come of this fantasy.) As a result, I have also been looking into what protections (rescue measures) Fuengirola has in place for idiots, I mean people who take physical risks.


Fuengirola has new lifeguard stands. Since most of the beach is flat and the sea is usually calm, there are only a few placed in strategic locations — where the beach curves or where the marina completely blocks the view, for example. So, a number of lifeguards walk the 7-km (5-mile) shoreline throughout the day. The lifeguards who staff the stands wear red "SOS" T-shirts or sweatshirts. The ones who walk the beach are clad differently but, unlike "Aussie lifeguards" (who I'm led to believe wear nothing but skimpy swimsuits — and those always tucked into their butt cracks), Fuengirola lifeguards wear dark blue board shorts and day-glo lime T-shirts (official Fuengirola logo included) so they can be easily found on the beach. And they of course carry torpedo buoys (those orange rescue floats).

THE LIFEGUARD IS THE ONE IN THE DAY-GLO T-SHIRT. (HARD TO TELL, I KNOW.)
THE FIRST GUARD STUCK AROUND TO MONITOR NEARBY SWIMMERS. HIS COLLEAGUE PATROLLED.
(I WAS PLEASED TO NOTE THAT NEITHER OF THEM OGLED THE TOPLESS BEAUTIES ON THE BEACH.)

The lifeguards are all very pleasant and they're also always presentable. I've been taking photos over the last few days, from the terrace and from the beach. One of the lifeguards (pictured) did roll up his shorts, but that seems to be as far as they go. I hear the Aussie lifeguards put on quite a show; I wonder if that results in more people needing to be "saved."

LEFT: A FUENGIROLA LIFEGUARD HEADING ALONG THE SHORE.
RIGHT: AN AUSSIE LIFEGUARD ON VACATION?

Coming Soon: My risky options.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not Enough Fairy Dust

Just down the beach from us and visible from our terrace is a great new summer construction of four bungee trampolines. San Geraldo and I have been dying to give it a try.

WHILE I WATCHED, THE FATHER OF THESE TWO PAID FOR TWO ADDITIONAL ROUNDS. 

Yesterday evening on my way home from an 8-km (5-mile) walk, I stopped and asked what maximum weight was allowed. No more than 80 kilos, I was told. That's about l76 pounds. I knew that after we moved to Sevilla in 2011 I had lost some weight and was down to around 77 kilos (169 pounds). I also knew I had put some weight back on (happily) since our arrival in Fuengirola. I wasn't too keen to be at the top limit of the bungee cords or trampolines, but decided to weigh myself and see where things stood.


This morning, before breakfast I weighed in at 80.47 kilos (177 pounds). Someone else might fudge the numbers but I'm no daredevil. So, unless Peter Pan has a truckload of fairy dust, I guess I won't be flying. And since San Geraldo describes himself as "robusto," it goes without saying he's grounded, too.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Residency: The Second First Renewal

Finally, we headed back this morning to the National Police to pick up our new residency cards. Our last renewed cards were good for two years (until July 2014), but then we moved and changed provinces (from Sevilla to Málaga) and had to obtain new cards with our current address. We submitted the paperwork early April and returned in May to pick up the cards, having been told they would be ready in 30 days. Not so. The official document said 45 days. The English guy at the information desk was so unbelievably unpleasant (downright nasty) that we dreaded returning for more abuse.

MOOSE (AT THE BACK WINDOW): "WHERE ARE YOU GOING SO EARLY? CAN I COME?
CAN YOU AT LEAST OPEN THE TERRACE DOOR?"

San Geraldo waited in one line (for foreigners) while I waited to confirm with the ogre that we were doing the right thing. He was gruff and unpleasant, but not vicious, and I managed to keep my cool, smile, and pretend I liked him. He told me, or at least I was able to understand from the stabbing of his finger at the piece of paper in my hand that 9-11 a.m. was appointments only. We did not and could not have an appointment to pick up our cards, so we had to return after 11. It was 9:30. We walked the few blocks to the beach and sat down at a cafe for our morning coffees. We had an hour and a half to kill. What else could we possibly do to fill the time except to order some pastries? I'm just calling it my fourth birthday dessert.

THE VIEW WHILE WE KILLED SOME TIME. NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.
THE VIEW WHILE WE KILLED SOME MORE TIME.
SAN GERALDO HATES WALNUTS. I LOVE THEM. I INDULGED. IT IS MY BIRTHDAY WEEK.

At 10:50, we walked back up the street to the police station. We waited about 5 minutes and were called to a table by a man in uniform. We gave him our paperwork and old cards; he scanned our fingerprints and gave us our new cards. We think we know how it works now. The process isn't problematic except that no one tells you how it's done. The only resource for that is the ogre at the front desk. In nine months, we'll start again. Maybe the ogre will have retired. Anyway, I won't think about that now.

ON THE WAY HOME. THE OGRE, LONG FORGOTTEN.