Monthly Archives: September 2013

Race report: Guadix Medio Maraton del Melocoton

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Sept 16, 2013

I got up early this morning, long before the convent bells.  I had my traditional pre-race meal of oatmeal and hot tea.  I kissed my sleeping daughters and my sweet husband wished me luck.  I hiked down the hill to meet our friends, Paul and Fernando to drive to Guadix. Paul’s client, Dominic who was in town for a running holiday from Hong Kong was also joining us.  We piled into Paul’s little car and set off on the road to Granada in the dark.  As we drove I could see the sun coming up behind a distant mountain.  90 minutes later we arrived in Guadix.  Guadix is a larger, somewhat more modern town than our village, Alhama de Granada.  Ironically, there is an area of Guadix where people still live in cave homes built into the mountain sides.

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The race began and ended in the courtyard of a large church. Paul and Fernando were pre-registered so they picked up their chips.  Dominic and I had to register. Fernando explained to me that races like this are subsidized by the government so the entry fee is minimal.  Today it was a suggested donation for cancer research of 10 Euros (about 13$). As the government pays for the healthcare if its citizens, it is their best interest to support and encourage activities such as this.

Left to right: Dominic (our visitor English visitor from Hong Kong), Me (Leslie), Paul, Fernando

Left to right: Dominic (our English visitor from Hong Kong), Me (Leslie), Paul, Fernando

I surveyed the crowd.  This was a serious group.  Most people were grouped together in matching outfits displaying the clubs they represented.  It felt like the old days of running in the US where the crowds weren’t necessarily as huge but the participants were serious about racing. I felt happy to stand in the sea of muscled legs and suntanned faces.

The race start

The race start

At the start I placed myself in the middle of the pack next to a friendly girl who admired my Nathan running vest. “Que mochilla tan chula” (cool backpack!).  I noticed that no one carried water, normal for a road race.  I was the only one who had attached my number to my shorts and definitely the only one with a vest to carry my energy gels and music.  I got more than a few looks and comments as I ran the first couple of miles.

The race started down a steep hill, my favorite warmup!

From google images

From google images

The race was marked in kilometers but I had my Garmin to check my splits in miles.  My first mile was way too fast, 7:30! The excitement of the start of a race with 800 other runners down a hill in Spain kept me going and my second split, this time with an uphill mile was 7:35! I pulled back and tried to calm myself down.  I knew that I would be suffering later if I didn’t slow down.  We ran past cheering friendly faces. “Venga” (come on!) they shouted.  I ran past a series of pottery shops on the outskirts of town taking note for future shopping.  Taylor Swift singing “loving you is red” in my right ear.

We descended out of town to a desolate stretch leaving the cheering crowds back in town.  The road steadily became steeper and steeper to about the 8 km marker when to my relief we started back down.  By the 12 km (~7miles) marker the spring in my step and the excitement of the start had faded, good feeling gone… I smiled remembering my good friend Kathryn’s words from her first road marathon.  I took a mocha power gel.  The other racers were slowing too.  I passed some walkers. The aid stations were about every 4-5 km. They passed out bottles of water which were nice because they were easy to carry.  I passed one woman walking and looking bad.  The man beside me offered her his water and she gratefully accepted.  He had to turn around and run back about 20 yards to her to pass her the bottle, unusual kindness in a road race.

We ran past pastures of happy cows and large farms of tall thin trees that are harvested for lumber in this area.  As we neared the town I could hear music and cheering once again.  We ran down city streets, closed to traffic.  I could see the church and remembered the steep descent from the start.  I groaned with 12 miles on my legs as I started up.  My Garmin hit 13 miles and I could see I still had blocks to go.  I kept telling myself that as long as I didn’t walk that I could run slowly to the finish.  I passed the last aid station at the 21 km mark with the church around the corner.  They were serving only beer! I ran through the green arch at the finish, happy to be done.  There were beer trucks at the finish but no water.  I searched for water and was directed inside where I picked up my finisher bag.  There was Coke and Cruz Campo beer flowing freely but the only water was in a bottle in the finisher bag.  I greedily guzzled the small bottle and refilled it in the bathroom.  I found Paul, Fernando and Dominic.  Paul was disappointed with his time, his knee swollen and painful looking.  I finished behind all of them but was happy to have run 13.29 miles with 800 other athletes so far from California.

Shoot, I should have been running through with my arms up! Who knew they were taking my picture!

Shoot, I should have been running through with my arms up! Who knew they were taking my picture!

The ride home flew by and I was greeted with lots of love and hugs from my dear family.  Whew, my first race in Spain.  It wasn’t a PR (Personal Record)  but it was my best race here!

Race shirt

Race shirt

Team Kezmoh’s first injuries

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Adventure noun: 1. an exciting or unusual experience.  2. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.  

In the past couple of weeks for better or worse we are having an adventure.  A hazardous action of uncertain outcome. I should have looked up the definition of adventure before we left home!

The day the gymnastics gym in Granada opened, September 2, we eagerly set off to explore the possibility of joining their team.  Sky and Savvy packed their favorite leotards, excited to meet the new coaches and gymnasts.  We found the gym in Granada hours before they opened but we were anxious to just see where it was so we parked and walked in. It was in a sports center that is part of the Universidad de Granada.  We took note of the location so we would arrive back before the first practice was to begin.  We thought we would explore the area to see if we might find a location to live closer to the gym.  The road to Granada was mostly freeway but there is a treacherous section of winding road that we didn’t think we wanted to navigate at night several times a week.  Mike had studied google maps and knew that there was an area to the north of Granada that looked promising.  We drove into a little town called Alcafar that sits on the edge of a mountain.  It happens to be the presumed burial place of Frederico Garcia Lorca, the famous writer.  We ate at a hotel on the outskirts of town. It was Savvy’s best meal in Spain. She ordered “pechuga de ave” ,chicken breast with rice, and was very happy.  Sky on the other hand was upset by all of the hanging legs of jamon behind the bar.  Bad enough that the feet are still attached but they are partially carved showing the insides of the muscles.  After lunch we drove up toward the hills.  Alfacar is a more upscale town than Alhama and Mike pointed out that we might find a place with a dishwasher and a clothes dryer if we were to move here! Savannah spotted one of the many parks that are painted the colors of the Spanish flag.  Red and yellow exercise equipment spread out under pine trees inviting us to play.  The Spanish government, in an effort to interest the citizens in exercise, has placed one of these parks in every town that we have visited.  We haven’t seen anyone using any of the parks, however. Savvy had been wanting to try it out and in her excitement to get out of the car she somehow shut her finger in the door.  She shrieked, “I think I cut my finger off”. My stomach sank, I ran to the other side of the car. She was screaming and blood was pouring from her finger.  I was relieved to see that she still had 10 fingers.  The pointer finger on her right hand was badly smashed from the base of the nail.

Mike absolutely insisted that I post this picture.  My apologies if it bothers anyone!

Mike absolutely insisted that I post this picture. My apologies if it bothers anyone!

Sky spotted a water fountain and we rinsed it off. For lack of anything else to wrap it in I wrapped my sock around it and held pressure.  Savannah sobbed and I struggled to hold myself together.  It is such a different thing when the injured is your own child.  I can calmly do surgery on patients but there is so much more emotion attached when one of the people you love most in the world is hurt.  We got back in the car and drove to the main part of Alfacar. It was siesta time (2-5pm) so everything including the medical clinic was closed.  We found a pharmacy, again closed.  There was a note on the door of the pharmacy that said en caso de emergencia toque el timbre.  We rang the bell and Mike calmly explained into the intercom in Spanish what had happened.  The pharmacist was very kind and came right down to let us in.  She pulled together all of the supplies that we needed.  Savvy was still crying loudly.  The woman looked relieved when we told her that we were doctors and would try to take care of it ourselves.  She lead us to her restroom.  We would have used some lidocaine but that was not available so dear Savvy bit a balled up shirt and screamed into Mike’s chest while I cleaned and dressed her wound.  She kept saying, “why can’t we just go back in time?” I knew the feeling.  Once bandaged the pharmacist gave both girls cherry suckers and everyone felt a bit better.

Feel better Savvy!

Feel better Savvy!

We thought about just heading back to Alhama de Granada but Savvy agreed to check out the gymnastics gym after all.  We were all disappointed to find that the team wasn’t really gymnastics as we think of it. Our gymnastics that includes bars, beam, vault and floor is called gimnastica artistica.  This team is gimnastica acrobatica.  It is really just tumbling and tricks with parters on the floor, think Circ de Soleil. This was a disappointment for all of us.  Savvy’s hand was too painful to think of doing anything and Sky was feeling shy. The girls on the team were obviously very strong. They all wore little shorts over their leotards (not allowed back home at Technique). It was just too embarrassing for Sky to change into a leotard alone so we left.  On the positive side the coaches were very nice but also very serious about their sport. We told them we would come back when Savannah had recovered.  We drove home, all of us upset and stressed from the trip.

The next day we visited the school where by now the teachers were busily preparing for the new year to start. The school is modern and clean.  Painted flowers smiled from the walls at us.  We found the doors open and we were warmly greeted by Javier, the principal.  He was expecting us as I have been sending him e-mails all year.  Javier has a broad welcoming smile and a gentle demeanor.  He was dressed in his soccer outfit. He assured us that he is called Javier, just Javier.  We met Savannah’s teacher Conchi and Sky’s teacher Paco.  We also met the PE teacher, Rodrigo and the music teacher, Juan who both gave us each a kiss on each cheek.  Everyone goes by first names.  They laughed when I mentioned it.  “Los Americanos son tan formales!” 

Savannah will have 20 children in her class and Sky will have 10.  Neither teacher speaks any English although the school has a sign posted at the entry that says Centro Bilingue.  

We smiled after hearing that Sky’s teacher is called Paco. Her favorite doll when she was a toddler was called Paco, likely Adelina’s influence :). She loved Paco and carried him everywhere.  Must be a good omen!

Baby Sky and Paco

Baby Sky and Paco

After a tour from Javier we sat in his office and filled out all of the registration forms.   They were happy that we had brought all of the vaccination records and didn’t seem to mind that it was all in English.  The school feels very laid back and not stressful which was a big relief. After our visit the girls felt much more comfortable about the prospect of starting school the following week.

La Feria

First ones at the Fair

First ones at the Fair

Before the school year starts each year Alhama has a 4 day feria to mark the end of summer.  During this time many stores and businesses are closed with signs on the doors that say, “Regressamos Lunes, estamos en la Feria” .  There are futbol and volleyball games and celebrations of all sorts.  There is a carnival each night. The first day we walked down to the fair grounds. Like carnivals everywhere it had a very seedy feel.  There were dirty men setting up dangerous looking rides.  I asked one what time the fair would start.  He said “when the people come”.  I asked when that might be. He grunted at me and replied around 11pm.  The girls were excited to return.  Our schedule here is so odd.  It is unheard of to eat dinner before 9 and most of the fair activities occur after midnight. Surely the businesses are closed during the day so that people can sleep!  Since school hasn’t started we have let Sky and Savvy have a very relaxed Spanish schedule.   We have been sleeping until 9 or 10 AM on the days that we can manage to get back to sleep after the convent bells ring at 8:30, 8:45 and 9:00 AM.  Bedtime is usually around midnight but we all planned to stay up later for the fair.   The girls dressed in jeans from Abercrombie and Justice, cool tops and jaunty hats.

Beautiful girls, off to the fair!

Beautiful girls, off to the fair!

We walked down the hill to the fair at 10 PM and were nearly the first people there.

Not many people here yet

Not many people here yet

We walked down from our house and were followed by a trickle of other carnival goers to the fairground.  The little girls were dressed in traditional frilly dresses and I noticed Sky and Savvy glanced down at their carefully selected outfits.  I assured them that the older kids would be wearing jeans, luckily I was right.

The first ride was a loud bumper car ride.  There were bright lights and loud music.  The man in the booth was hunched over the money, a dirty troll. He collected our 2.5 Euros each and gave us dirty plastic tokens.  The troll’s partner was a thin, jittery, filthy man. He leaped from car to car with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.  He arranged the children in the cars.  Mike watched us climb into the bumper cars.  There were no seat belts and I felt vulnerable as the other children pushed the gas pedal to the floor and plowed into us.  These were the fastest, least cushioned bumper cars I have ever been on and the ride went on and on.   After several jolting collisions, I pulled over to the side and hopped out. The girls finished the ride and were energized to check out the rest of the fair.

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There were several bounce houses, shrines to Sponge Bob and Bart Simpson.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI knew Savvy and Sky would have loved to practice their back handsprings, handstands and flips. Sky is a sweet sister and didn’t even mention going in the bounce houses because she knew her little sister’s finger was still really sore. We surveyed the rest of the rides. We decided that the rides were either for smaller children or looked too dangerous to consider.

Mike spotted a Churro and Chocolate stand.  We couldn’t pass that up .  The man at the stand was busily finishing off a plate of churros.  With a smile he explained that he had to make sure that they were good.  We ordered 3 churros and some chocolate (thick hot chocolate). He invited us to sit under his tent. We were the only ones there so we sat and waited while he prepared the fresh churros.  In a few minutes he walked over with an enormous spiral of fried dough. It was bigger than a pizza!  We thought it was a mistake. I said, no, no, just 3 churros.  He laughed and said, “Si, Churros para 3″! 

Savannah points with a bandaged finger, Donut/Churro heaven!

Savannah points with a bandaged finger, Donut/Churro heaven!

Mike and the girls were in donut heaven!  We poured sugar over the hot churro and submerged chunks in cups of thick molten chocolate.   Although it looked like “churros for 10” the 4 of us finished it off and licked our fingers.

Mike and the girls found a candy stand next. They each picked out a treat.  Mike choose a box of throwable “snap-caps”.  The box was full of tiny pieces of paper wrapped around gun powder and salt crystals.  He opened the box and delighted the girls by tossing a couple at their feet which made a loud snapping sound.  The 3 delinquents thought they had a trick from Fred and George Wesley’s joke shop.  Sky and Savannah each took a handful and ran around tossing them into little groups, startling people. Great family fun!

Before we headed back up the hill the girls wanted to hit the bumper cars one more time.  It was more crowded the second time and nearly every car was full.  Sky and Savannah looked a little scared in their separate cars.   The kids whizzed around banging into one another in their seat-belt-less cars.  I spotted Sky crying in her car, Team Kezmoh’s second (and hopefully last) injury. She had been hit very hard from behind and the back of her head hit the hard metal headrest.  I tried to yell at her to stay in her car.  I was too late. She looked both ways, jumped out of her car, and ran to the edge of the ride out of the traffic. Thankfully she wasn’t hit by one of the cars!  The skinny guy with the cigarette didn’t even look twice.  Disney would be horrified! Sky ran around the outside of the ride to us.  Savvy carefully steered her car to the edge and hopped out too.  They are very sweet when the other is hurt.  Sky felt well enough to walk/run home so I knew she was probably OK. I felt her head half way home and it had a golf ball sized goose egg.  She complained that her entire head hurt which worried me.  I started to feel really scared since we are an hour from Granada and there is really no medical care here in Alhama.  Mike and I did several neuro exams on her, iced her bump, gave her tylenol and put her to bed.  I checked on her several times in the night.  By morning she still had a headache but after some tylenol she didn’t mention it again.

At this point it’s been 3 weeks since the finger injury and we are still changing the dressing every 1-2 days.  Savannah just brought herself to look at it yesterday.  She is able to do handstands and play at the park but every once in awhile the tape comes loose and we have to hurry home to reapply a new dressing. We are curious to see when the nail will fall off.

Stay tuned for more Team Kezmoh adventures.  I’ll try to get another post out soon.  We are moving this week so we have been very busy.  More about that later!

Please feel free to comment or to e-mail me at Lkezmoh@gmail.com Miss you all!

The first 2 days of school by Sky

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The first day of school was amazing, completely spectacular! I had so much fun and made so many friends.  At first I was very nervous and didn’t want to get into the group of 6th graders.  When the bell rang and the principal came out to give a speech I was forced into the group as the crowd behind me moved forward to hear the speech.  After the speech all of the children ran to the second floor to see their new classrooms and meet their new teachers.  As the 6th graders filtered into the classroom and took their seats I nervously sat next to kind-looking girl in the back of the class.  Her name is Eva, pronounced like Ava.

Here I am feeling a bit nervous while Paco is talking.

Here I am feeling a bit nervous while Paco is talking.

Then the teacher, Paco, told us about what he would teach and how he would teach it.  After a long talk the bell rang again and all of the children ran outside to recreo (recess).  They served churros and chocolate milk to the children and the parents.  They were hot and fresh.

The Churro chef!

The Churro chef!

The 6th graders all knew each other and wanted to meet the new girl (me).  I met all of the 6th graders, there are 4 boys and 6 girls including me.  All of the girls were super sweet and incredibly welcoming.  The boys were crazy, just like every other school.  Not only did I meet the 6th graders, but I also met and made friends with some 5th graders.  At least there are more girls than boys in my class, otherwise it would have been even more crazy than it was!  They really tried hard to be friends with me and I appreciated it. It was so much fun.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?  I just can’t wait to find out!

Savvy finds a friend who can do the splits! She is a rhythmic gymnast and is excited that Sky and Savannah want to join her team!

Savvy finds a friend who can do the splits! She is a rhythmic gymnast and is excited that Sky and Savannah want to join her team!

Savannah with Ava and Ester on the first day of school. Sweet kids.

Savannah with Eva and Ester on the first day of school. Sweet kids.

Today was the first day of actual school, Eva picked us up at 8:30 to walk to school.

Savannah, Sky and Eva

Savannah, Sky and Eva

Off to school

Off to school

Yesterday, the first day, was more of a meet and greet kind of thing, where you don’t have any work. Today was hard for me because I don’t understand a lot of the questions that they are asking during class and the teacher’s handwriting is really bad so that made it hard.  I also didn’t know where to write.  The lined paper is different.  It has a big spot to write and a skinny spot to write, a big spot and a skinny spot and apparently you are supposed to write in the skinny spot.  During math I had forgotten that they use “points” for commas and commas for points.  It was really confusing.  Instead of a decimal in a number they write it with a comma and a number over 1000 is going to have a dot in it like an American decimal.  Ten thousand would be written 10.000.  This was really confusing for me but after I figured out the first few basic things class got really easy and then even easier when I figured out how to comprehend the questions better.  Since I don’t understand what most of the questions meant I would have to wait until we would be 1/2 way through a section for him to explain more.   It was hard but fun. I learned a lot today especially in math class. I can’t wait for tomorrow…

Team Kezmoh goes to Malaga

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Trip to Malaga Wednesday August 28

For the first few days in Spain we settled the important business of getting our computers and phones to work.  We met with the internet man right away.  We wanted to be sure that we would be able to communicate with the world so we asked David, our landlord, to arrange this.  It seemed really important to us to have WiFi (pronounced “wee fee” here).  I remember being in Spain in 1988.  An experience across the ocean was really different then.  I studied abroad for the fall semester of my junior year at the Universidad de Sevilla.  I wrote letters to my family and friends.  I sealed them in special, very light envelopes that were stamped “air mail” and walked to the post office to mail them.  Friends sent me letters and cassette tapes of mixes that they had made, what a different world it was in 1988.  I spoke to my family by phone only a few times during my time in Sevilla and that was usually in the middle of the night.  I wasn’t allowed to use the phone to call the US, so my mom would call in the night to be sure to find me at home.  Now after just 2 days in Spain we have internet access and mobile phones.  There are several carriers in Spain.  We discovered that there is one called Orange, no surprise we picked that one! The girls thought that Orange was funny.  They said, “We have Apple at home and they have Orange in Spain!”

Our phones came in handy on our first trip back down the mountain to Malaga.  On Wednesday we had to return our second rental car.  We initially needed 2 cars to carry our 8 suitcases, 4 backpacks and 2 carry-ons when we arrived in Spain.  With separate cars it was good to have map quest and text messaging.  It was a trick to get around the busy Malaga airport but eventually we found a gas station, dropped off the car and escaped.

We knew that there was an IKEA in Malaga and we needed supplies so the nice lady on map quest helped us find our way.  Right next to IKEA was a McDonald’s!  It is our tradition to stop at McDonald’s whenever we are in a foreign country so that Mike can see if it is the same.  Of course, anyone who knows my dear husband knows that he will find any excuse for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Coca Cola Light.  Savvy and her Daddy enjoyed their cheeseburgers while the 2 vegetarians sipped water.

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We had lots of fun at IKEA buying pillow cases, comforters for Sky and Savvy, hanging shelves for the closets and other essentials such as nicer wine glasses and an orange and green mean mother scraper, ( spatula ).
Sky and I ate after shopping at the IKEA store.  My lunch was delicious, here it is:

Salmon with dill sauce, carrots and a potato brocoli patties. Yum!

Gazpacho, Salmon with dill sauce, carrots and a potato brocoli patties. Yum!  Good food for a store cafeteria.

Our next stop in Malaga was the Carrefore store.  Just like most small towns in the US, the selection of food in Alhama de Granada is pretty woeful. Carolina warned us that this would be the case. She was amazed at the selection of everything at Raley’s supermarket in the US.  One day she just stood in front of the juice section admiring the many versions of carrot juice that we have.  Carrefore is a Spanish version of one of our supermarkets but they are only located in big cities.  The one we found was actually the anchor for an indoor mall.  We walked past Claires, numerous clothing stores, and the Foot Locker before we could collect our grocery cart.  We stopped to buy Sky some flip flops. When we entered the Carrefore store there was a stern guard at the door who insisted on sealing her bag shut with a dangerous looking plastic melter (not that any 11 year old couldn’t poke a hole in the bag).  I love going to foreign grocery stores because it is always an adventure in itself.  We have already learned that ham is in just about everything.  At the Carrefore store we learned just how important Jamon is to the Spanish. There was an impressive section devoted to it.  Check this out!

Jamon! Yep, lots and lots of pig legs.

Jamon! Yep, lots and lots of pig legs.

More Jamon

More Jamon

At restaurants it is very important for Sky and me to mention that we are vegetarians.  We love gazpacho and order it often.  One time Sky ordered it, took one bite and almost spit it out. “This tastes foul! ” she said.  I tried a small sip and thought it was pretty good.  I dug my spoon deeper into the bowl and expected some nice chunks of cucumber but it was chunks of cured jamon.  YUCK!  Says the vegetarian. We have even found that jamon is a favorite ingredient in green salads. When we say we don’t want any meat on something we get confused looks from the waiter as he says, “y jamon?”. 

Good gazpacho!  Notice the cool top that I bought with my Athleta gift certificate. Thanks Folsom Women's Health!

Good gazpacho! Notice the cool top that I bought with my Athleta gift certificate. Thanks Folsom Women’s Health!

Sky loves gazpacho!  (Sin Jamon!)

Sky loves gazpacho!
(Sin Jamon!)

Every morning we walk to the panaderia (bread store) and buy wonderful freshly baked bread for our breakfast.  Even though there is great fresh bread here there is a large section of processed crustless bread at the Carrefore store! Sky even had to take pictures of this to send to her friends back home.

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Bimbo Crustless bread! For you Maddy!

We were very happy to see some comfort foods from home. We bought maple syrup from Canada, bottles of pasta sauce, tortellini, ketchup, Lay’s potato chips and Coke zero for Mike!

With our purchases in hand, we made it safely back to Alhama just before dark.  It was a good thing that we got back when we did because in a few hours we were awoken by a huge thunderstorm.  We raced upstairs to clear the laundry off the lines and close all the doors on the roof.  Mike decided then that we needed a dryer!

The next morning we could hear children playing at the school from our balcony.  We hiked down to see if we could register the girls for school.  The playground was full of mostly naked small children playing in the water.  It was a summer camp program.  We were informed that Javier, the director, would be there next week so we should return then.

Sky and Sav outside the School, Conde de Tendilla.  It opens Sept 10!

Sky and Sav outside the School, Conde de Tendilla.
It opens Sept 10!

The trail into the gorge leading away from the school was calling us, so Team Kezmoh agreed it was time for an explore!  The trail through the gorge leads to a hotel with a pool so we hit the trail to check it out.

The trail is calling!

The trail is calling!

On the trail

On the trail

We explored the trail and arrived at a Grotto to the Virgin Mary.  There are nice signs in English and Spanish describing the landmarks all around Alhama de Granada.  The sign at the Grotto explained the legend.   Around the year 1500 a knight was traveling along the edge of the gorge.  A snake scared his horse and it jumped off the cliff into the gorge.  The man prayed to the Virgin to spare his life as he flew through the air.  The horse landed on his feet but died immediately.  There are hoof marks still visible in the rocks.  The man was thrown from the horse.  When he awoke he had a very bad head wound but he was alive.  He had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told him that she would grant him 3 more days of life if he would build a shrine to her on that very spot.  Legend has it that he was quite rich so he did as he was asked and lived 3 more days.  The shrine still stands.  It is kept up by a local family and candles still burn around the clock.

We arrived at the hotel a few kilometers later (we have to start thinking in kilometers here!).  The pool was closed, likely due to the threat of lightening earlier in the day.  The hotel did have an inviting restaurant and we were really hungry.  We sat, ordered some vino tinto and relaxed with a plate of the best aceitunas (olives) in Granada.  Savvy had pollo con ajo (chicken with garlic), her new favorite whenever we eat out.

Pollo con ajo with lots of patatas (papas in Mexico, patatas in Spain)

Pollo con ajo with lots of patatas (papas in Mexico, patatas in Spain)

Mike was feeling adventurous and ordered a “typical andalusian stew”.  There was one item listed as an ingredient in the stew, morcilla.  We were unsure about the translation but he guessed that it was some kind of pork.  Nope!  Blood sausage, ewww  Looks like something else.  Here he is pretending to eat it!

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Don’t worry, He didn’t really eat it! And yes, that is Savvy’s finger 🙂

After lunch we heard thunder.  The previously blue skies had opened and it was pouring rain.   We were anxious to get back to Casa Azul so Team Kezmoh ran all the way home in the rain. We were so proud of our strong trail-running daughters!  It was my favorite moment of the trip so far!

Bienvenidos a Alhama de Granada

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We arrived in Malaga a week ago today.   We escaped the busy Malaga highways and drove into the beautiful Andalusian countryside.  It is a patchwork of olive trees and brown fields.   We drove from the Mediterranean Sea up a very winding road to Alhama which lies at 3000 feet. We had to make a couple of nausea stops but we all made it without losing our lunch.

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Bienvenidos a Alahama de Granada!

The mapquest directions that we had printed seemed pretty simple but it was a bit of a challenge to find La Casa Azul.  The calles are not marked as clearly as we are used to.  We drove up and down very narrow streets dodging dogs until we all but stumbled upon our address.  Of course we were looking for a BLUE (azul) house.  There are no blue houses in this town and I am not sure if there are any in Andalusia.

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It still says Casa Azul…

The View down the street from our house (and Savvy)

The View down the street from our house (and Savvy)

David, our Englishman owner met us at the door.   He tells us that he originally painted the house blue but was eventually told that there is an ordinance that states that all houses must be white or some shade close to white.  For fear of a fine he chose a light yellow.  He explained that the building is at least 100 years old. It was once a barn with animals.   7 years ago he bought the place and renovated it.  He is a photographer and lives in another village called Periana about an hour away.  He lives in an old mill where he hosts groups from around the world for photography tours/classes.   His website is interesting.  If you are interested:   davidwatermanphotography.com.  He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Northern Africa and was once in the special forces for the English Army as a paratrooper!   His travels influenced his design and decor of the house.  There is a beautiful Moroccan influence throughout the house.  Many of his Moroccan photographs decorate the walls.

Moroccan photos

Moroccan photos

The downside? Unfortunately once a barn…well you know the rest.  The first floor is technically a bit underground. This is great because these rooms stay really cool.  On the other hand it does have a bit of a basement smell.  We are airing everything out so hopefully that will improve.

The entryway leads to an impressive courtyard with a skylight 4 floors above. There is an architecturally  interesting but somewhat dangerous staircase that winds around the 4 walls.  It is reminiscent of the moving staircase at Hogwarts.  Our stairs don’t move but they have that feel.  It does make me really glad that Sky and Savannah aren’t toddlers!

Entry way hall

Entry way hall

The staircase

The staircase

Up, up, up it goes

Up, up, up it goes

There are 4 bedrooms.  Sky and Savvy have been sleeping in the larger of the 2 on the 2nd floor. They have pushed the 2 twin beds together so that they are close.

Sweet sisters in their room

Sweet sisters in their room

We have the larger of the 2 bedrooms on the 3rd floor.  I had looked at the pictures of the Casa Azul so many times on the internet that I often feel like I am walking through the pictures; it feels so familiar.  Here is our room, imagine, it came with an orange comforter!

Leslie and Mike's room

Leslie and Mike’s room

This leaves 2 very tiny extra bedrooms each with the Spanish version of a “twin”. Let’s just say that Europeans are generally smaller than Americans so their single size beds are pretty small.  We are still hoping for visitors so if there isn’t enough bed space there is a really sweet little hotel nearby.  The host is a retired Flamenco singer, Paco.  We stayed with him the first time we came to Alhama.

The view here is incredible! There are balconies on each floor.  The dining room on the first floor leads to a lovely garden flourishing with very healthy grape vines, a mulberry tree and a fig tree.

The garden off of the dining room

The garden off of the dining room

Sky in a fig tree.  Anyone who knows Sky would know that she would find a tree to climb!

Sky in a fig tree. Anyone who knows Sky would know that she would find a tree to climb!

Sky and Savannah on the lower balcony overlooking the olive trees.

Sky and Savannah on the lower balcony overlooking the olive trees.

The elementary school from our balcony.

The elementary school from our balcony.

We look out over beautiful olive groves .  The olives are ubiquitous.   We read that there are over 100 million olive trees in Andalusia!

To our left we can see the school Sky and Savannah will attend.  It is called Conde de Tendilla.  It is 1/4 mile from us by the road.  Unfortunately there is a very high, sharp cliff off the balcony so it isn’t possible to just drop down into the olive grove.

Dining room with a balcony that leads to Sky and Savannah's room up the stairs on the left.

Dining room with a balcony that leads to Sky and Savannah’s room up the stairs on the left.

Kitchen, again orange cabinets.  They knew I was coming!

The kitchen, complete with orange cabinets. They knew I was coming!

We are pretty sure that no one has lived here for quite some time.  There was a layer of dust covering everything and the spiders had pretty much taken over. When we arrived we were too tired to notice it, but by the next day we realized that if we wanted to live here we had a huge job ahead of us.  Our first morning we set out in search of food down the hill into town. With our bellies full of tostada con tomate we started back up the hill to our house.  On the way home we stopped and bought a vacuum!  Who would have thought that would have been our first big purchase in our new town?   We have spent many, many hours cleaning this week. It was not how we imagined our first week in Spain but a week later we are feeling much more comfortable and at home.

More later…