Monday, 7 January 2008

Outings and events

Our first formal occasion, the cycling club´s end of year dinner was the same yet different to such an event in NZ. First of all, it didn´t start till 9.30, all the women were given flowers as we entered and we all received raffle tickets. A nice touch. The food was the real talking point. I´m constantly amazed by how the men here are not just interested in food, but really passionate about it. Specially local produce. We were fed a four course meal. Wine and water, nuts and chips, were on all the tables, and we were all given small take-home bottles of the local olive oil (best in the world we were assured by Juan, or Jose or Paco...). The dinner started with plates of ham and cheese, casseroled pork cubes and prawns, followed by deep fried prawns and chunks of fish. Main course was fish or pork. There´s not much point, or much understanding of being a vegetarian around here - even restaurant vegetarian menus often include ham or tuna.

After dinner was the prize giving, where everyone got a trophy, even Max. The process seemed to be that the prize winners were called up, presumably in some kind of order, and were able to select the trophy they liked best from the table. We also won a raffle - a hand-carved bird house that Juan, one of our neighbours (and a 70 year old cyclista) had made. There were lots of photos, lots of clapping, cheering and toasting with the freshly-supplied Cava (bubbly) and a range of local desserts. At about 1am, the drinks trolley was wheeled around, with brandy, whiskey, Baileys etc, and a selection of Antequera's famous biscuits to choose from. The whole evening finally finished round 3am, time for us to walk the 2km home, reflecting on an evening of pleasant company and good food, weighed down with our haul.

Our table mates showing off their haul of trophies, and the club posing. Every member at the dinner received a new club jersey.

In the build up to Christmas there are lots of events in the town, and one we both participated in, tempted by the offer of a free T-shirt, was the local Milla - a one mile race. They seem quite popular here. We entered (gratis) the day before, and on the night of the race the street was thankfully full of people. There were only three races, one for small children (the benjamins and pre-benjamins - not sure quite why they are called that), one for older children (infantiles and cadetes) and one for everyone born after 1990. That's us! Having run very little all year, mine was a very modest effort, over-rewarded by coming first in my age group, thus revealing that I was in fact the oldest woman to participate. This would account for the typical Española of my age always looking immaculately turned out, rather than pink and sweaty. But hey, I got the free T-shirt and a good-looking trophy. Max came fifth in his rather more competitive age group, and for his troubles got a fine-looking medal.

Now what to do with these!

In late November the Malaga football stadium hosted a charity match, fronted by Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo. We booked tickets online and went along, partly to see a match, partly to see the stars and partly to see the stadium. Malaga are winning the second division, and if promoted to La Liga will see themselves playing Real Madrid, Barcelona and Seville next season. It was a fun night, with the surprise stars being Michael Schumacher - who can really play football - and that famous bald referee. Zinny scored, and the end was a respectable and predictable 2-2 draw.

Another pre-Christmas outing was with our neighbourhood association. Every now and then someone slips a photocopied notice under our door, advising of an excursion. So we decided to take one to Almeria and Nijar. We didn't know how it would all pan out, but our fee bought us breakfast, lunch, a guide and the bus transport to Parque Natural Cabo de Gata-Nijar, and apparently included dancing! The bus left at the incredibly early hour of 6.30am, and we stumbled up the hill in the dark and joined our neighbours who were full of the joys of life, whooping and laughing as if they were kids off to camp. We were probably among the youngest on board, but people smiled and spoke to us. The route took us towards Granada, and we stopped at a highway hotel for a fortifying coffee after a couple of hours. The temperature was bitterly cold, a reminder of how it would be up here at Christmas we thought. The countryside, now it was light and we could see it, was fantastic. Desert, caves and Tabernas. You've probably seen it, as it was the location for lots of spaghetti westerns, as well as Lawrence of Arabia and some of the Indiana Jones films. There is still something called Texas Hollywood, which is an extant film set you can visit.

We headed out towards the coast, past miles of greenhouses growing tomatoes (someone has to, they're eaten at every meal it seems), and stopped at another hotel around 11, this time for breakfast. The hotel was all ready for us, tables laid out with bread, coffee, ham, cheese and wine. Just what you need at this hour! Then we collected our guide and headed off for the coast. We made stops at a few places, strolling round small fishing villages and admiring coastal boardwalks. All very pleasant in the late autumn sunshine. Then it was back to our hotel for one of the highlights, lunch and dancing. This all started about 3 and went on till about 5. Lunch was the requisite three courses, more wine and coffee. We were a bit reluctant to join in the dancing but were eventually persuaded, much to our neighbours' amusement. They grooved away to the Latino tunes that a young guy played on his mobile disco for them, then we were bundled back into the bus, to head home I thought - but no, the day was far from over. Next we were taken to the historic town of Nijar, famous for its ceramics and textiles. A guided tour of the 16th century church, and a visit to a local souvenir store were in order. In the swing of things by now, we bought a couple of small mats for our bathrooms, and then stopped for another coffee. We needed sustenance to keep up with these people. A couple of hours later we were stopped again at the same highway hotel we'd been at earlier this morning. It felt like days later, but our companions happily tucked into beer and sandwiches to get them through the last couple of hours. We arrived home about 10pm, absolutely worn out. Since then, we receive many a wave and a "buenos" from strangers - who we figure "must have been on the bus". We will certainly do another outing with these kind and fun-loving people.

A few of our vecinas, dancing the afternoon away. Max reckons all the husbands were happily spending the day at the Socorilla, the local bar.

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