A curious cluster of oranges in this tree. Now that they have done duty as beautiful living Christmas decorations they will soon be harvested and sent off to be made into marmalade. And then …. azahar!
Seriously… this storefront Santa in my street looks like it was found in a drug gang body dump. Plastic bag over his head, strapped to a board, hands bound in front, garbage bags for boots. What on earth were these people thinking? Or maybe I’ve been watching too much Escobar and Sicario??
I grew up in an abusive chaotic household and, probably as a result, I strove to create my own happy rituals when I finally got away from there. And my two favourites ended up being birthdays and Christmas. Not just my birthday, I should point out. I would make a huge fuss of any friend having a birthday, the celebration of arriving here, the happiness I felt that these people were actually in my life.
But Christmas… that wasn’t just a day. It was a whole season. Not being religious I always focused on the “goodwill toward men” bit, and films like It’s a Wonderful Life and the Alistair Sim version of Scrooge would raise my hopes that there truly was good in the world, and that positive change was just an epiphany away.
Also… hey, lights! And decorating the apartment, and finding that perfect something for someone. I mean, what’s not to love? The gift bit was never a huge deal in itself, but the quest of finding something that would make someone’s eyes light up (“oooh, how did you know??”)… I always took that as a personal challenge, often starting my stealth Christmas shopping as early as September.
Back in my “baking days” I would start my rich dark fruit cake just after Halloween, and booze it up weekly until it was ready to eat on Christmas day. And back in Toronto my “shortbread boxes” became a thing of legend among friends and co-workers who would receive a white box filled with a dozen buttery biscuits, tied with a bright red ribbon.
In Spain Christmas changed in that I was pretty much always living on my own. But that didn’t stop me from putting up lights, taping Christmas cards from friends around window frames, and usually inviting a few “Christmas orphans” (expat friends stuck here over the holidays) over for a meal. In later years I would make Christmas dinner for my flatmate Peter, sometimes with, other times without, additional friends. And last Christmas was extra special when my dear friends Julie & Steve came to Sevilla just to spend Christmas with me!
Which brings me to this Christmas. I’m once again living on my own, though I’m sure that I could find some people to invite over for a meal. That’s not the issue as I don’t have to be alone unless I choose to be. The problem is that somehow, in my heart, I seem to have misplaced my Christmas spirit. There are no decorations up, no cards or gifts have been sent (well, okay… I did send one on Monday and that made me smile). But otherwise I find myself looking around at all the pretty lights here, listening to carols in the streets, all that, as if I’m in a bubble. I can look and listen, but I can’t touch or feel it.
I really don’t know what to do about this, but I don’t feel like I should just give in. Heck, I’ve got four whole days. It could be that my misplaced Christmas spirit is just around the corner, down the back of the sofa, or perhaps even just a smidgen of an epiphany away.
The traditional Málaga Christmas lunch has taken place at many different locations and with different people over the years, but the one constant has always been these two, my lovely friends Arpy & Fred. This year it was just the three of us and we managed to get an early table at the fabulous Mesón Mariano, which was new to A & F. The place has been booked solid for holiday meals for over a month, but we got there right at opening time (expecting to sit at the bar) and were told we could have a table if we left before the booking came in. Which gave us an hour and a half, which was plenty of time to enjoy the following…
Garlicky clams, braised artichokes “montillana”, albondigón in almond sauce, and baby goat chops al ajillo. Because we had started lunch early I realised that I could probably comfortably catch the earlier train home, so I would arrive at 8 pm instead of 11 pm, and so that’s what I ended up doing. But we still had time for a penúlitima outside on the terrace of Mesón Cofradia. It all worked out perfectly and was a great way to finish my short-but-sweet Málaga getaway.
For the past week the forecast for Friday in Málaga was for RAIN. So l dutifully packed my umbrella but then faced a dilemma. Should l pack the book I’m presently reading (in case it rained) or an extra pair of shoes (in case it rained). There was only room in the suitcase for one (don’t ask) and in the end l opted to bring the book.
But then it didn’t rain. In fact it was a gloriously sunny and warm day. At first l was a bit unsure about what to do since l had nobody to go out and play with. All l knew is that l wanted my day to include a quick trip to Atarazanas market and a post-lunch drink on the terrace of the Gibralfaro Parador Hotel. And so first things first. I got to Atarazanas at 12.00, perfect for a quick beer and “brunch” snack (a grilled skewer of prawns and monkfish). Then l headed to the port with the idea of getting in a bit of a beach walk before lunch.
It’s been awhile since l actually walked along the port. Usually l either take the park or the Paseo de las Sorpresas to get to Malagueta beach. But today l also wanted to walk to the lighthouse so that meant venturing further along the quay. My god, what a mess (so no quay pics). I hear they are planning to put in a massive Hard Rock Café next to the Pompidou (guess they’re not expecting that contract to be renewed). What was initially an attempt at offering high end shopping with diverse dining options is now a sad array of cheap sunglasses and casual clothing shops along with the usual fast food suspects: Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, KFC, 100 Montaditos. So Hard Rock will fit in just fine. But really, what a sad mess.
Anyhow, l continued my walk down to the lighthouse and then along the beach until l reached the iconic Malagueta sign. By then it was time for lunch.
Luckily l had a recommendation from my friend Ania, and somewhere l had never been to – La Odisea. Unfortunately the dish l HAD to try (according to both Ania and Joanna) didn’t come as a tapa. So l ordered a media ración of the presa with peanut sauce and mushrooms, and it really was delicious. But after that l couldn’t eat anything else, so l headed out to catch the bus up to the Parador.
I was lucky to find the one table with this lovely view free, so l spent a pleasant hour enjoying a glass of wine in the sun. Then l walked back to the centre. Got there just before sunset and almost went to the Marriott AC rooftop bar to watch the sun go down but was told l had to buy an 8€ ticket to go up, which included a drink. WTF? So l headed home instead and relaxed there for a couple of hours before l took a final evening stroll to enjoy the lights. What a perfect day.