Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The arrival: Getting to Spain

We are living in the middle of Puerto, in a tiny flat surrounded by crumbling palaces, streetside cafes, and noisy vespas. It’s beautiful and dirty and loud and lively and crowded and startling and very much Not-California. They aren’t kidding when they talk about siesta in Spain: everything slows way down between 2:30 and 7 pm, then wakes back up around 8:30 pm. It’s 9:30 pm right now, and the sun is just starting to set. It won’t get dark until 10:30 and the nightlife outside our window will continue until three in the morning. Last night our host family, Conchi and Luis, met us at the door of our flat. At 10:30 pm, we were just getting home, while they were dressed up and ready to go, little Guillermo (5) and infant Jaime in tow. Off to walk along the Rio, they said, and to ride the carousel, the air is so fresh at this time after a hot day.
Tia and Sasha meander down Puerto's streets

Our traveling here was clockwork-precise: GRK for two weeks, followed by three days at Nana’s, five days on the East Coast in Norfolk, including a long weekend at an absolutely gorgeous old peanut plantation with our friends Jamie and Dave and families. The only hitch was at the Norfolk Naval terminal: “Your reservations were cancelled back on June 6th.” After a lot of back-and-forth, including a mad dash to the Navy Exchange to buy soft-sided carriers for the cats so that they could go in the cabin with us, our reservations turned up—under Sasha’s name as group leader! It was a adrenaline-inducing 45 minutes, but we got on the plane no problem and arrived in Rota 7 hours later (no new cat carriers needed).
Tia and Sasha flee from a bear in the Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia
The U.S. Navy Base in Rota is a bit disconcerting. Here we are, a seven-hour flight from the states, and walking around in the very same commissary (almost) as we have in Imperial Beach. There’s the Best Foods mayo, the croutons, the ice cream selection, the fruits and veggies (including baby carrots from CA). They DO have delicious Danish butter, Bretzeln, and a few other things we don’t get back home, but otherwise it is like we never left. Everything is dollars, and there is even a Navy Federal Credit Union right next to the Naval Hospital.
Todd's new workplace:  US Naval Hospital Rota
Our first day off base ended with a trip to the Spanish police station to avoid an even more-expensive tow to some distant impound lot. We returned to our car after a nice walk through the pedestrian zone of Puerto to the sight of our car halfway up La Grua’s ramp. Realizing that this was not a jetlag-induced hallucination, Todd ran off waving his arms, then turned to me and yelled, “Talk to them!!!” I explained that this was our first day in Spain, and please don’t take our only car, to which I got a barrage of rapid Andalucian Spanish, most of which I didn’t get, except for “pay now or your car gets towed.” Too bad we didn’t have a single Euro to our name. There was a lot of discussion involving several more police, and La Grua finally put our car down and drove off. We followed the police to the station, paid our 140 Euro fine, and—lesson learned—decided never to park in the red-X-in-a-blue-circle-zone again.

This is NOT where you want to find your car... pay attention to this sign!
We’re now looking for a place to live. It’s bewildering. Puerto is loud and dirty and charming and very Spanish and furthest from the naval base, as well as furthest from being in the U.S.. Rota is quaint and charming and full of tourists and Americans, right outside the base gates. The urbanizaciones of Puerto are lovely suburb vacation areas, bustling now, but will we be the only family left there come September? I’ve taken to running the neighborhoods to help me get oriented. We don’t have to decide yet, but I hope we will have things settled when the summer tourist season ends right around September 1st.

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