Shane's grandmother has lived in Spain for about 10 years. Prior to that, and during her marriage to the late Stanley Marti, she traveled from England to Spain regularly and grew to love the place. When Stanley died 2 years ago, Nan's family wondered if she would stay there in the home they shared, or if she would go back to England where two of her children and 8 of her grandchildren live. I was surprised to learn that she decided she wasn't going back. I understand now why she made that choice.
During our time with her, we got used to the easy Spanish days, with late mornings, quiet afternoons, and late nights. There is a market in El Campello that she visits just about every Wednesday morning, with the most amazing fruit and vegetable market I have ever seen. It was huge - dozens of vendors with huge stacks of every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable, and hundreds of people there to buy it. There was a frantic energy in the place, and the fragrances of ripe peaches, melons, tomatoes, and pineapples wafted through in waves as I wandered through. The merchants all used the same precise system for cutting through the chaos. When a customer selected some items - figs, for example, the merchant weighed them, used a calculator to figure the price, and wrote it on a small note pad. The second, third, fourth items were recorded in the same way until the customer was ready to pay (usually communicated with a hand wave) and the merchant gave the total price due.
We left the market laden with a heavy bag filled to to brim with lettuce, green beans, grapes, avocados, potatoes, peaches, plums, and apples. Nan is a fantastic cook - and Shane and I were more than happy to eat the feasts she prepared for us, including her authentic Valencian paella.
Shane practiced Spanish with the people at his office/cafe during our time at the Costa Blanca, and I tried to do as much reading and writing as I could. It was the longest we stayed in any one place - and by settling in to a comfortable routine, the time flew by so quickly.
We used the time there to plan our next leg of the journey. We loved the warm water in the sea, and the ease of life in that space. There were only a few adventures - we were too comfortable to explore much at all.
One day we walked to a 16th century tower at the far north edge of town - I had been staring at it every day for almost two weeks before we finally decided to go see it up close. The tower itself was a total disappointment - there were metal stairs that led to an entry point about halfway up, but the door was locked and it looked like that wasn't going to change anytime soon. The great thing, though, was finding Roman ruins, including Roman fishing pools, on the sea at the edge of the Peninsula.
The site had been restored and filled with placards with information about the wine and olive oil made there, as well as burial sites, homes, and religious temples there. It is thought that some of the artifacts recovered actually pre-date the Romans, back to the Iberians, 5,000 years ago.
El Campello is not an especially impressive city - the fact that the area has been inhabited since ancient times fascinated me, and made me wonder about all of the other spaces we occupy that have been built on top of once-vibrant communities that are long since forgotten.
Nan took us for a nice excursion to spend the day at La Villajoyosa, a small town to the north, where we enjoyed chocolate with breakfast, a day on the beach and in the perfect Mediterranean Sea, fabulous Indian food, and shared a few pitchers of white Sangria. It was easy to see why she loves where she lives - there are so many places to easily visit, and the English community is substantial there.
It was hard not to notice the aging population in the area. Europe's retirees flock to the coast and during the month of August, when we were there, their children and grandchildren come to visit. We were surrounded by bodies that didn't move quickly, by elderly distended bellies, and tanned legs full of the thick veins of old age. The children were given so much freedom. The apartment where we stayed had tennis courts and a pool that had dozens of kids of all ages playing, and the older ones trying to act cool for each other. I could not imagine being in the U.S. and seeing a similar scene without someone calling social services, and yet, these kids handled the freedom without any problems.
At times, it was a full house - Shane's aunt was there the entire time and his cousin visited for several days. It was nice for Shane to be able to get to know the family that has been separated from him by an entire ocean for his entire life. I learned that I will grab on to any distraction and that in order to be immersed in creativity, I need order, and I need solitude. The experiences on this trip have been rich, exciting, and provocative, but I am looking forward to finding a quiet routine and solitude at some point after it ends.