Coronavirus Diary Has Left the Chat
I doubt you missed me, but I’ haven’t been here for the past 9 months. In that time, The Hubs and I welcomed a grandchild, and we bought a new house. Also, my oldest son transferred to South Korea. I guess a lot has happened.
Most recently, we returned from nearly 3 weeks in Spain. Let’s call it a working vacation, because we didn’t take time off from our jobs. Instead, we shifted our hours so we could enjoy the best of both worlds. Of course, I kept an abbreviated record of the trip. If you choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Day 1: Easton to Philly to Charlotte to Madrid to Alicante. After 24 hours of planes, trains, and automobiles, we arrived at our modest but functional apartment in the seaside village of Campello, Spain. A block from our place, we sat at an outdoor table overlooking a harbor. We ate octopus and goat cheese, and we devoured a bottle of local white. At the Carrefour Express, I silently cursed as I bagged my groceries, because I missed my old, blue and white striped wheelie cart from Paris, which is something I never knew I could miss, until today. I smiled at the shelf of brightly colored toilet paper. I bought a 6-pack of mini Mahou Clasicas because a cold beer seemed like a great idea. But before I had a chance to drink one, I passed out on my bed. When I awoke two hours later, I felt that nauseous sensation one experiences when their body rebels against consciousness. Alas, I threw on my bathing suit and forced myself outside and ran headlong into the Med, submerging every part of me, mascara and all. And I stayed in there for a good long while before The Hubs dragged me out. I’m showered now, mascara reapplied, and feeling human again. Dinner happens late in Spain. So, I’ll post this now. Later, I will be asleep.
Day 2: Last night, I ate octopus with sauce made from whipped butter, EVOO, sea salt, and garlic. This was followed by a whole squid. I watched the moon rise over the Med. When I awoke this morning, I took a minute to scan my bedroom before remembering, oh right, I’m in Spain. Today was a beach day. My virtual appreciation goes out to the Germans who rented this apartment before us. They left their sunscreen behind, aka “sonnenspray,” and saved me a nasty burn. After lunch, I walked to the Farmacia to procure a proper La Roche-Posay, while The Hubs started his American workday. He’s finishing his last Zoom now. I’m still searching for the cork screw. It’s Friday, and the night is young.
Day 3: With that full moon and all, we must have felt particularly youthful last night, because we left the club at 3 am and slept until 11:30 this morning. (I did witness the sunrise when I awoke briefly to pee.) We ordered lunch from the couple who owns the take-out shop below our apartment - chicken legs, melted cheese, croquettes, all smothered in a homemade sauce, and let’s not forget that fucking baguette. We drove 40 minutes to a clothing optional beach, because when in Spain. I spent the afternoon, once again, submerged in the Med. At the beach bar, I met a British woman who asked me if I was “queuing,” and it took me a minute to reply. She couldn’t believe we were American. “Americans never come here,” she said. “How did you find it?” I assured her that we are trying to represent the best we can, and she was satisfied. Many people have stopped me to say I look like Nicole Kidman. I guess some things are universal, or they think I'm Australian. PS - The lifeguard stands are a bit extreme, if I'm honest.
Day 4: What is it about the eggs in Spain? When I broke them into my frying pan, I immediately remembered the taste of those bright orange yolks. Served with yesterday’s toasted baguette and a shit ton of butter, I wondered if I could ever eat American eggs again. (I will, obviously.) We attempted the tram to Villajoyosa, but had to turn away because masks are obligatory on public transportation. We didn’t have those handy, so we drove instead. We wandered the ancient alleys, and I took pictures of doors, because I do that. We had lunch at 4:30. On an extremely (!!) touristy terrace overlooking the sea, we dared ordering octopus, which turned out to be the Dark Horse in our daily ranking, coming in at a solid 9. We also tried chopitos (fried cuttlefish and Spain’s most popular tapas), along with a pizza and a pitcher of white sangria. So yeah, we’re tourists after all. On our way back to Campello, we stopped at a gas station that is also a Carrefour Express. We needed Nespresso capsules and laundry tabs. This is where I learned that I put a laundry tab into the dishwasher this morning, and not a dishwasher tab. Turns out, laundry tabs work. I’m drinking a laundered glass of Spanish rosé right now, and it’s perfectly delicious. My hair is wet from a swim. The Hubs is watching the Eagles on his old USTVNow subscription, which we forgot we had (since 2014 apparently). He hates the Eagles, but you get what you get.
Day 5: I awoke refreshed and ready for those hundred-thousand-million steps The Hubs strives for daily. We drove to Las Fuentas del Algar, a magnificent waterfall and equally as magnificent tourist trap. From there, we headed into the mountains for the village of Guadalest, established in the middle ages by Spanish Moors. Our lunch consisted of sardines and cuttlefish, not to mention that view! Back in Campello, The Hubs started his workday, and I had the entire beach to myself. We’re debating a ferry to Ibiza for a few days, but is it necessary? You never know with us. Besides, the moon is waning now.
Day 6: In an unusual display, today is overcast and windy. Stubborn as we are, The Hubs and I stuck to our original morning plan, and we drove to what we’d read was an extraordinary beach. The parking kiosk stole 1 euro 20 centimes in coins from us, then charged our credit card (twice) before denying us a spot, but we parked anyway, because we’re rebels like that. The sand was rocky and hurt my sensitive feet. The waves tried to pull me out to sea. We left when it started to rain, not on account of the precipitation, but because we feared the 60 euros parking fine. We cooked frozen pizza for lunch and worked for the rest of the afternoon. The highlight of our day was the great show 2 young Spanish women put on, attempting to double-team a paddle board in their thongs, while constantly snapping photos of one another. They weren’t much for paddle boarders, but the rest of them was pretty good. We haven’t heard from Giles. He’s spending 3 weeks on a horse farm. That dog will probably never want to see us again.
Day 7: We donned our masks and successfully rode the tram into the center of Alicante. We climbed a mountain to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara. With Muslim origins in the 9th century, the castle has also been held by Castilians, Aragonese, French, and British. But it’s Spanish now, obvs. I clocked over 10,000 steps by 11 AM, a good thing considering that meal we ate last night! Ceviche, leg of lamb, grilled fish, and octopus (duh) were accompanied with pitted olives and piping hot, fresh bread. But I digress. A quick tram back to Campello was followed by omelettes and a workday that started at 8 AM EST. We took a 30-minute break to swim in the rocky lagoon next to our apartment. The sun will set soon. PS - Friends of mine recently took a girls’ trip to Paris and bought the most amazing handbags. My only purchase so far has been this 21 Euros beach bag, bought at a promenade tourist shop. It can be seen in the photo of me sitting on castle steps. I’ll probably leave it here for the next person, because that seems like nice karma.
Day 8: This morning, we drove to a rocky lagoon 20 minutes south of here. It was surrounded by cliffs and hiking trails, and as such, populated with hikers, trail runners, and dogs. We swam for hours, wishing we’d purchased snorkeling gear, but giddy nonetheless. Our bodies are buoyant in the Med. It doesn’t take much effort to move through the water. I have only one (sharable) photo from the day, so you’ll need to use your imagination. Tonight, we’ll eat somewhere along the promenade. We didn’t make a reservation, so we’re winging it. In the evenings, there are hundreds of cats patrolling the streets of Campello. Most of them are black. They leap from car to car. They lounge in the middle of the sidewalks. They stare you down like modern day thugs. I fucking dare you, cat.
Day 9: When we were here a year ago, I favored a particular beach *and* the restaurant on that beach. So, The Hubs brought me back there today. The last time we were here, I watched a trio of old Spanish men eat a plate of whole sardines. I studied their dexterity and the kinetics of their utensils. Then I went ahead and ordered a plate for myself, which I picked clean, leaving only heads, tails, and bones. The Hubs stared at me with mild disgust. Today, he ate more than half my sardines, right off my plate. I call that progress. On the drive home, I googled salt fields and flamingoes, because we saw both of those things and don’t know much about them. We purposely made it a short workday. The Hubs took some (very important) Zooms, and I wrote no more than 500 words. Afterwards, we witnessed the most incredible sunset over Alicante, from a rocky lagoon where I swam with grey and white fish with long black tails. It’s Friday again, and I’m feeling sassy.
Day 10: We’re side-tripping to Valencia for a few days. On the way, we admired a giant waterfall. After a delicious lunch of octopus, tuna, and Iberian ham, we googled “swankiest hotel bar in Valencia.” Then we drank a glass of cava (me) and a dry gin martini (The Hubs) for 22 Euros. In Paris, that would have cost 50, at least. We had a view of the lobby, where a candy bar was abundant for guests. Little children stuffed sugary goodness into their mouths while their parents chatted with friends. We stopped at a grocery store for water and wine (and a razor for me because mine rusted after like 2 days). We’re back in the hotel, where we’re dressing in some fine ass clothes, and we plan to make a scene.
Day 11: Friends flew into Valencia to hang out with us. I love when a plan comes together. Today’s highlights included paella, spiked orange juice, that bloody Scottish soccer game, and lots of laughs. We even remembered to return the hotel umbrellas.
Day 12: Back in Campello, today was windy and the sea was angry. It was a good day to work, or in my case, procrastinate while watching every Harry Styles video for the umpteenth time. In my defense, I also washed laundry and embarked on a proper grocery shopping. My bill at Mercadona was 56 Euros (same exchange rate today = $56). That haul included things like local honey, poblano peppers, salmon *and* tuna fillets, lunchmeat, cheese of many sorts, 2 frozen pizzas, eggs, milk, salad, bread, water, not to mention 2 bottles of wine and a 12-pack of beer, and some other things I scooped up like I was a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. Obviously, I’m cooking tonight, but not until The Hubs’ last Zoom ends at 10 pm. I feel legit now.
Day 13: Some writers might call this the beginning of “Act III.” Not much is happening, but things are about to get cray. This morning, we returned to a favorite rocky beach, where we swam and lounged in 15 minute intervals. We stayed later than we planned. Two young Spanish women asked us to watch their things while they snorkeled, and we didn’t want to be rude Americans. After work, we waded in the rocky cove next to our apartment. The Hubs is taking a Zoom now, and silently (yet aggressively) motioning for me to get into the shower. We’re meeting friends for dinner in downtown Alicante tonight, and the tram comes only once per hour. This part of the story is sometimes called “Rising Action.”
Day 14: Last night, we ate tapas in a lively bar. The whole scene was off the charts amazing. I didn’t swim in the Med today, but there’s a pool party in Alicante on Wednesdays. It’s our last night in this apartment. I’ll miss the sauntering cats, the rocky cove, the cold showers, and the shitty European appliances. I’ll miss the couple that owns the take-out restaurant downstairs, and their little kids, one of whom almost ran straight off a cliff yesterday. I held back vomit (actually) after Mom scooped him up milliseconds before a tragedy. Tomorrow, we change locations.
Day 15: While traveling further south, we chanced upon the “Carthaginians and Romans Fiesta” in Cartagena, Spain. People of all ages were dressed in garb from Roman times (zoom in), many of them scrolling through their iPhones. There was the occasional cigarette smoker, with a sword in his other hand, wearing armor. It was surreal AF. Staying on theme, we visited the ancient Roman Theater. Back in the car, we drove through enormous mountains that border the sea.
Day 16: We’ve moved to a hotel with a private beach, 3 hours south of Campello. I swam in the Med twice today, but truth be told, the pool is pretty fucking swanky. A few days ago, I received this text: “I have a dirndl for you and 2 extra wristbands… I am sure you can figure out flights for Friday.” Argh, I have so much FOMO rn. Thank you, G, and Prost! Hold my spot for next year. I captured only one photo today, at sunrise with a tiny sliver of moon (look below the top of the tallest palm tree). When we arrived in Spain, it was full and bright.
Day 17: Today, I swam my heart out. The water was hella deep, and the waves were bigger than usual. It was my favorite swim in the Med, and my last one too. We ate tapas at a Pirate Bar on the beach. I believe there were actual pirates there. Today’s enduring theme is “Dogs.” A large black one invaded our breakfast terrace, which caused quite a stir. The hotel staff was still trying to cajole him late this afternoon. They’ve put him into a creative “home” while they search for his owner, or adopt him. At lunch, a tiny mutt patrolled the Pirate Deck. I wished he was wearing an eye patch, but sometimes the scenes create themselves. I miss Giles the Mighty Airedale, who’s living his best life on a horse farm, until I quash all of his dreams on Tuesday. I don’t know where these beach rocks originate, but every one of them is extraordinary. The Matrix placed a container ship on our horizon so we wouldn’t suspect we were in the Matrix. Blaise sent me pictures from Korea. He’s living his best life, too. The Hubs is watching the Clemson game from our balcony, and I’m swimming laps in the pool. We dined and dashed (tapas and a bottle of wine) at the lobby bar because it took too long for a bill. I haven’t done that since Denny’s mornings, senior year of high school. Breathe a collective sigh of relief, because after tomorrow, this story ends. Oh, but wait! The conclusion is epic.
Day 18: We drove 2.5 hours to Granada, where we saw the Alhambra. Before this trip, I didn’t know it existed. (The Hubs did, of course.) It was built in 1238 by the Muslims, although truth be told, the Romans were there first. In 1492, it was home to the Spanish Royal Family and the place where Christopher Columbus received the A-OK for his junket. Lots of folks put it on their bucket lists. I thought it was just alright. It’s got nothing on Longwood Gardens. Our lunch, however, was marvelous. We drove another 2 hours to Valdepeñas, where we’re spending the night. We passed miles and miles (and miles!) of olive tree groves. It’s quiet here on a Sunday. Our only interruptions are churchbells and children playing. We drank the local wine. Our bartender gifted us tapas, and we’ll never know why, because we don't speak Spanish. Tomorrow, we make like Christopher Columbus. Our voyage to the New World begins at 6:45 am.
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