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The Sabbatical - Olafman’s solo journey of enlightenment and improvement

The Sabbatical - Olafman’s solo journey of enlightenment and improvement

Old Jul 2, 22, 6:03 pm
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Have a great trip! Following along for inspiration
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Old Jul 3, 22, 10:23 am
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Oh wow - something exciting to follow along with !! What courage you have. I can just imagine the blank look i would get from my husband if I suggested a year apart!!

I am at work as I read and type this, its 115 am in the morning and we are in the middle of another flood emergency in western sydney !!

In 5 weeks time I won't be working anymore, retirement begins.

We have sold our home in Sydney - and move out in 3 weeks.

Hubby who is 67 has enjoyed his first week of retirement from being a night shift nurse in a old folks home.

After much discussion and research we decided to make a seachange , and rather than retiring in Bali as we had long planned we purchase a new home off the plan in a over 50's resort in a coastal village of about 10 000 folk just east of Bundaberg in Queensland Australia .

Our new home has been delayed, so we are renting a motor home and doing a trip around Australia for 3 months .
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Old Jul 3, 22, 1:58 pm
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Happy travels! Glad you flew to Malaga safely and definitely some weird service with LX!
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Old Jul 4, 22, 12:04 pm
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I am slowly getting use to the idea of The Sabbatical. I have been planning it so long that I kind of have to remember that it’s actually happening right now. After spending a week in Torremolinos just west of Malaga in southern Spain last summer, I knew I wanted to come back. This time I will spend a whole month here, maybe more.

Torremolinos is a fairly small city with long beaches. It is very bust in the summer with lots of tourists from central and Northern Europe. Most importantly I found last summer a great community of retired gay folks that make this their home for at least part of the year. It’s sort of the Palm Springs but on the coast. And fewer people from Los Angeles.

The streets are quiet during siesta time

For my stay here, I needed a place where I could see the ocean. So I booked a nice Airbnb with decent but distant view of the Mediterranean Sea. I can hear the roar of the waves much of the time which I find calming spirit building. It’s a one bedroom recently renovated apartment and will definitely meet my needs for the month.

I met a guy at the front door to get the keys and I immediately recognized him! Torremolinos is a pretty small community. But I knew his face. As we chatted and got into the apartment, I asked him if he knew Jack or Lauren and Alexis. He said yes! And then I asked him if he was at their summer white party last year and he was there! What a small world. There were about forty of us there but he remembered me because I was the only American.

Soon he left and I starting letting my bursting suitcases explode in the living room. I showered and started unpacking but soon gave up. I needed to take a stroll before it got too late. So I put on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed out.

I was about 50 meters down my street when I saw a gay couple walking their dog. As I continued to look, I thought I recognized them. Now, I was jet lagged and it was dusk. And how the hell did I think I knew them?!?! I was fairly certain but decided to just move on since the odds were very small and I had already recognized the first person I met!

I walked around through La Nogalera area teaming with restaurants and bars. Finally as I passed the Armario Bodega, I saw the same couple now seated having drinks. I walked past to get a better look. I definitely recognized them. But I had only met them once, at the SF Eagle club. So I turned around after passing them, and ask if they were friends of my dear friend Tom. YES! It was them. This was getting crazier. They invited me to have a seat and a cańa, beer, with them as we reconnected. They now live in Madrid but had recently bought a place here in Torremolinos. Soon the heaviness of jet lag and lack of sleep was hitting me hard so I headed back to my flat for some much needed sleep in a proper bed. I picked up a few things for breakfast at a corner store and hit the hay.

I woke at a reasonable 8 am and enjoyed my morning coffee as I tackled putting all my things away and settling into my apartment. Next I took a long walk down the beach to Benalmádena and back. Along the way I enjoyed the smell of the open wood fires cooking local sardines. My stomach was starting to let me know that it was hungry but it was 1:30 pm which is on the early side for lunch in Spain. I walked past many “chiringuitos” with their beach bars and restaurants. I ended up in at Eden which is a very popular gay chiringuito with very nice food. I started with an Andulcian gazpacho and then had an amazing Iberico pork loin that had been roasted perfectly.

I returned home and took a serious hour and a half siesta. Jet lag was still clouding my head. It felt so good to be back in bed!

My friend Jack had been texting me and so we met up at Bar Jerez for a cańa around 7:30. The funny thing is that the sun was still high in the sky and it felt like 5 pm. It was great to see him again. He’s an American that has had a flat here for a number of years. He’s here full time now and really enjoys the Spanish life. Along the way he picked up a lovely Cuban boyfriend and they enjoy themselves here.

He had a birthday dinner to go to so I moved on to an amazing tapas restaurant called La Pepa that I ate at last summer. I still remember this amazing merluza fish tapa in a friend roll thing that actually one “Best Tapa” in all of Spain a few years ago.

I also had some amazing croquetas which are my absolute favorites. And I finished up with yummy oxtail sandwich. They were all perfection. It will be hard not to come here all the time and try everything on the menu and from the specials board.

Tapa of the Year in a national competition

Croquetas de Jamón Iberico

In spite of the delicious food, the highlight of the meal was when one of the waiters came up to my table. Now, he wasn’t my waiter. But he had a group of tables nearby. He approached my table finally and asked me “Do you mind if I tell you something” in Spanish. I said sure! He responded, “Really?” “Of course”. He paused. And then said, “Eres guapísimo!” (You’re very handsome!) I love Spanish men. Not bashful nor ashamed. He was very handsome himself and about 30 years old.

I awkwardly laughed like a 14 year old girl and then we chatted a bit. He was very sweet but soon had to get back to work. This was an unexpected surprise on my first day of The Sabbatical. Next he came by and said that he wanted to offer me a shot. Now, I’m 56 and gave up doing shots in my thirties. Nothing good every comes from shots. But he insisted and asked what I would like: vodka, whiskey, limoncello… I reluctantly selected limoncello and once again was giggling as he went off. I had asked if he would have one with me but he said he was forbidden since he was working.

At the end I thanked him and said I was here for a month and was sure we would see each other again. Two cheek kisses and I was on my way with a big smile on my face.

The gays use a variety of unique social networking apps and I narrow my networking to Grindr and Scruff. Not only are they hookup apps, but they are also a great place to meet people when in a new place. So I met online this American couple from southern Florida that also has a place here. After dinner they were having a drink and invited me to join them. Then other friends joined. And Jack’s boyfriend Livan and Carlos that I met last summer also came by.

At some point I looked at my watch and it was around 3 am! I needed to get home and SLEEP. I said goodbye to all and started to make my way home.

I have a bad habit. After a night of drinking, I love a late night (or early morning in this case) snack. In LA it was the folks selling bacon wrapped hot dogs with jalapeńos. Nothing tastes better. But at 3 am in Torremolinos I had an option of a pizza or a gyro. The pizza won. Sooooo good. I am not sure my stomach really wanted a pizza in it as I slept but I sure enjoyed it.

I walked through the emptied streets back to my flat. I was feeling really good. In spite of being alone on this journey, I had seen old friends today and made new ones. I really enjoyed myself.

The interesting thing that kept happening throughout the day was something would happen and then I would want to share it with my husband. Text him. Or call him. But I stopped myself. Part of The Sabbatical is to give each other the space to grow. So I refrained. I enjoyed the moments myself.

And with that, the first full day of my sabbatical journey came to a close as I sleepily crawled into bed. I wonder what the next 364 days will bring.

Last edited by olafman; Jul 4, 22 at 12:17 pm
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Old Jul 4, 22, 12:53 pm
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A straight man, I am really enjoying reading this TR! Thanks, olafman!
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Old Jul 4, 22, 2:13 pm
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Originally Posted by 1P View Post
A straight man, I am really enjoying reading this TR! Thanks, olafman!
Hey 1P!

Glad to have a straight man along for the ride! I am hoping that my journey resonates with many people. After 32 years together, I feel so lucky that we are in a place where both my husband and I feel this is possible.

I hope we all can learn something along the way.
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Old Jul 5, 22, 6:54 am
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"Gau" or WOW

Anyone you know via a friend from the Eagle SF is worth having a beer with. Interesting to see that the apps work for more than just a hook up !! Was thinking of using them to build some sort of a 'Social" network when we move. As for hot waiters offering flattery - your in the right place .... Torremolinos sure has moved on from the Brits on package tours of the 70's

Last edited by NWIFlyer; Jul 6, 22 at 11:01 am Reason: Remove massive quote for readability
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Old Jul 6, 22, 9:55 pm
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You have the beginnings of a book here
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Old Jul 7, 22, 1:40 am
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Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
"Gau" or WOW

Anyone you know via a friend from the Eagle SF is worth having a beer with. Interesting to see that the apps work for more than just a hook up !! Was thinking of using them to build some sort of a 'Social" network when we move. As for hot waiters offering flattery - your in the right place .... Torremolinos sure has moved on from the Brits on package tours of the 70's
definitely very guai or at least that’s how I thought the word was spelled :-)
very ace TR. I’ve been to the Eagle for some music concerts.
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Old Jul 7, 22, 4:39 am
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THE SABBATICAL: Torremolinos continued

After a late night of carousing, I was very happy I slept in until 12:30pm! I can’t remember the last time that happened! I am in my fifties for God’s sake. The head was a little groggy but no better way to get over jet lag than by staying up late.

But then I did the math. By going to bed at 4:00 am, I was really going 7 pm California time. Considering I have been known to go to bed at 8:30 pm several times a week, it didn’t feel like that much of an accomplishment after all.

I spent the “morning” unpacking more and enjoying some quiet time. I am a techno geek. I have enjoyed planning over the past year my technology needs and now have enjoyed setting everything up. My favorite geek toy is my Tablo that I left at my in-laws house. It records local digital broadcast TV and then streams it to you anywhere in the world. Sort of like a TiVo for broadcast TV. I can watch CBS Sunday morning as soon as it starts at 5 pm here in Spain if I want to. It’s also nice to have a bunch of stored shows to watch like America’s Test Kitchen and Rick Steve’s Europe all recorded from the local PBS station.

Then I also left a little mini computer there too which rips the shows off the Tablo and adds them to my PLEX library. From there my local computer here in Spain can download all those ripped shows locally and my streaming device running PLEX can show them with no stuttering or lag issues. Did I mention that I am geek?

When we lived in Munich I had a similar setup with BeyondTV and an AppleTV. This is just the new incarnation of the same thing. Even with all the streaming services, it gives me lots of control especially at places with bad internet.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed tinkering with it all. I’ve probably spent more time tinkering at this point than actually having time to watch any TV! I’ll also put a plug in here for my favorite streaming device: TiVo Stream 4K. It allows you to travel the world with already signed into all your streaming services. It simply plugs into any TV’s HDMI port and a USB to power it. At $29, it is a bargain. Also it’s based on AndroidTV so that means I have hacked it to do even more than it was designed to do. Around 6 pm, I was hungry after my 2 pm breakfast, so I headed to a nice cafe bar on the pedestrian walking street.

Spanish Omelet and sardines in vinegar for a nice snack

Here I ordered a cańa, a beautiful slice of Tortilla espańola, and some sardines in vinegar. Not bad for 9 euros. The afternoon sun made it feel like 3 pm since it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. I enjoyed the quiet time to get further in my current book about a young girl in Paris, The Margot Affair. I’ve been really enjoying it in preparation for a nice extended visit at some point. Maybe next Spring when I am back in Europe.

In spite of texts from friends to come out, I was in for the night. I had plans in the morning and decided I would light some candles and write in my journal. Daddy’s aging body can’t really do two nights of going out on the town. I really enjoyed my evening at home. It’s interesting how writing often brings up many emotions. An important part of sleep is allowing your brain to process everything you’ve learned and done that day. Journaling a day or two later also helps process life.

The day before Jack asked if I wanted to join him and a group of guys to go to the Cantarriján beach about an hour away on the other side of Malaga. I said sure as this is the year I am supposed to be up for new adventures.

We took off at the early hour of 9:30 am and headed to Malaga to pick up Carlos and his Australian friend that was visiting. We snaked along the beautiful coast until we arrived at the parking lot. There we had to put on masks and take a short 3 euros shuttle ride to the beach at bottom of the cliff. The beach had two very good restaurants and lots of beautiful coastline. There wasn’t much sand but instead pebbles and rocks. It happened to be a “playa naturista” or a nude beach.

I grew up in a house where there was no body shame about being naked. It helped that my mom was Danish and nudity was never a big thing. I saw my parents naked most of my life. Many European cultures share the same openness about nudity and in Spain, many come to be free and happy. At any beach, it is totally acceptable to be topless and at many others, you can wear your birthday suit.

So I love a nude beach. It feels great to just lay out and swim au natural. Jack brought an inflatable paddle surf board and we all enjoyed going for a paddle. Even naked! Of course my friends took a pic but don’t think I can post it here. It’s almost as good as the pic I have at nude beach, Marshall Beach, just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

We met up with other friends of Jack’s who were visiting from Denia, the port city where you can take a ferry to Ibiza. They were both lawyers and I enjoyed hearing about their work and getting citizenship in Spain.

We had a great lunch around 3pm at one of the restaurants nearby. We shared some salads and I had barbecued squid. Amazing quality food. With a couple of bottles of wine, lunch in a remote, picturesque placen was about 25 euros a person. Love Spain!

We went back to the beach after lunch for another hour. I really enjoyed how friendly everyone was at the beach. Europeans have a very relaxed way of approaching life.

I was supposed to meet my friend David around 7 pm but we didn’t make it back in time. I hate being late. But I wasn’t driving! Luckily I could text him and we met at my place around 7:30. I had prepared some tapas before I left knowing I would be rushed. I wrapped some asparagus with jamón Serrano and then broiled it with Gruyčre cheese. I also did some gambas pil-pil, shrimp cooked in olive oil, garlic and chili. We had a 9:30 pm reservation but I knew I would be hungry as we caught up and enjoyed a bottle of wine.

Dinner that night was at the delicious La Caléndula. It’s a small plates restaurant. I was in the moment so I didn’t take any pics. But little toasts of broiled fois gras were my favorite. We ended our meal my ordering another round of the fois. We weren’t hungry but it was sooooo good.

David works as a night auditor at the front desk at a nice hotel in Malaga. I have known him now for just over a year. He inherited his parent’s house in a small village outside of Malaga. But his story is like so many here in Spain. He takes home about 1200 euros a month after taxes. And now with the price of gas so high, he spends a third of that on gas getting to work. Wow. That’s a hard life. And like so many others here, it’s very normal. The average salary in Spain is around 26,000 euros a year. No wonder things are so cheap for people coming from other places. Not a lot of disposable income left after paying all the bills. It was a hard perspective pill to swallow.

Since I have been here, I have been looking at apartments for sale. As expected, the prices are amazing if you arrive with US Dollars in your pocket. The ones with sea views are more, of course but still cheap. But in general, they are much cheaper than anything in the US or Mexico. But comparing it to local salaries, it feels odd.

There is a huge problem now in Portugal where my brother moved last year. The working class is getting priced out of the real estate that they used to be able to afford. The LA Times ran a series of articles about it. The government has encouraged foreigners to come and live in Portugal. They’ve made the visa process simple. They want the foreigners to spend their money. The direct consequence of this though is that the prices of everything is going up. And the locals can’t afford their own country. If you are a teacher in Lisbon and live on a teacher’s salary, where are you supposed to live?

Obviously the same could be said for a teacher in San Francisco. Teachers can’t afford to live there. But instead of foreigners, it’s the tech folks that have driven up the price of everything. It’s a horrible consequence of the capitalist system.

So an interesting thing has started to happen. I have begun to feel a bit weird. I have had a lot of privilege throughout my life. The best thing that happened to me was when I was a teacher, my parents gave me the down payment for our first house. That simple act put me on a very different trajectory from lots of other folks.

So as I start my year of adventure, I have to remember that life has definitely worked out nicely for me. I haven’t gotten it all from old-fashioned hard work. There is a lot of luck involved in life. I have an ocean view Airbnb apartment here in Torremolinos. And I happen to notice that the sugar that the owner left for me in the cupboard is from Malawi. Had my father been a sugar cane picker in Malawi, he would have been lucky to have one of the few paid jobs in a country of subsistence farmers. But I, his son, would have been offered very different opportunities. The sugar cane used to make sugar for Europeans comes from the same cane stalks that I used to buy when I traveled to the market near my house when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi.

The circle of life hits you hard at times. This is one of those moments. I am so grateful for everything.
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Last edited by olafman; Jul 7, 22 at 4:54 am
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Old Jul 7, 22, 7:26 pm
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Originally Posted by olafman View Post
Hey 1P!

Glad to have a straight man along for the ride! I am hoping that my journey resonates with many people. After 32 years together, I feel so lucky that we are in a place where both my husband and I feel this is possible.

I hope we all can learn something along the way.
Straight man here too - enjoying the good writing and travel stories, but also learning mature thinking about the conscious development of long-term relationships.
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Old Jul 7, 22, 7:37 pm
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Torremolinos is one of my favorite places! I am planning on living there part time upon retirement. It does remind me of Palm Springs. But more fun, and more active. I am enjoying your trip. Thanks!
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Old Jul 8, 22, 4:43 am
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Most amazing trip report ever. Period.. Many thanks
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Old Jul 8, 22, 8:29 am
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Absolutely loving this so far - subscribed.

Kudos to you and Terry for being open and adventurous enough to consider this amazing experiment. It takes a lot of chutzpah to break out of the rut of the familiar - in every way. Hats off to you both. Really looking forward to reading about your adventures!
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Old Jul 12, 22, 7:00 am
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SABBATICAL MONTH 1: Torremolinos Continued

Monday July 4

Since I am spending six of the twelve months in Europe, I need to get a local bank account. European banking works VERY differently than in the US. Our banking is set up by state, not federally. Now with services like Paypal and Zello, we are beginning to enter modern banking but the rest of the world is far beyond us.

I was planning on getting a local euro non-resident bank account. I went to the bank and got a number out of the ticket machine. But my number never came up after an hour. I abandoned this and then went to the gym to get a month-long membership. There I found out that I could pay with a credit card but I still needed a bank account! So both my morning errands were a FAIL.

Instead of working out at the gym, I decided I just needed a long walk. So I walked down many steps to the beach and then walked along the boardwalk for about 4 km to the next town of Benalmádena. Along the way there were many chiringuito beach clubs and almost all have restaurants. They were preparing for the lunch service. Most had a wood BBQ pit where they were beginning to cook a local dish of roasted sardines. I love the smell of the smoking wood and the roasting fish. I kept my eye out for a restaurant that looked like it was full of Spanish and not just all northern Europeans. I would need lunch on the way back.

Wood fired sardines along the beach

By the time I got to the marina in Benalmádena, I was very warm and needed something to drink. I had a choice of cafés and enjoyed people watching all the tourists there. The marina offered lots of boat tours and the apartments around the marina looked very nice.

It was just before 2pm when I was on my way back and had selected the Chiringuito Antonio y Ana for lunch. It looked like a popular place and most of the guests were speaking Spanish. For lunch I decided that I was going to have espeto de bocarones (roast sardines) y croquetas de marisco (seafood croquettes). I am not a big french fry person. I usually eat about ten before just getting bored of them. But I love croquettes!! So if I see them on a menu, it’s hard for me not to order them. They can come with chicken, jamón Serrano o Ibérico, mushrooms, seafood… I’ll take them any which way.

Croquetas de mariscos

So a beer and the sardines arrived. So delicious. They offered a variety of fish cooked the same way with lots of smoky, woody goodness. Next the croquetas arrived they were also wonderful. The Spanish would definitely question whether I was having lunch. But I ordered things I like. The croquetas were very filling so there just wasn’t room for anything green!

Midday drinking is hard on me. The Spanish all seem to do it better than I. After lunch all I could do was continue my walk home and take the obligatory siesta.

A good two hours later, I was finally awake and decided to check out some of the grocery stores nearby. In Europe there are two chains of cheap supermarkets, Lidl and Aldi. One of my students in Munich was from the family that owned Aldi. Henri was the nicest person and had some amazing travel stories. The funniest was when he was 8, was sitting in first class on a plane and was crying because he was super scared. Not because of the flying, but he didn’t understand why the plane had so many people on it?? Was that even safe? As a child from a rich family, it was his first time flying commercial. Perspective is everything.

So being a cook, I love all grocery stores. High end ones and also the cheap Trader-Joe’esque ones. So I spent my afternoon shopping. My first stop was the Chinese shop. Instead of having dollar stores, most towns will have a shop full of cheap imported Chinese products run by immigrant Chinese. In Torremolinos, I went to MEGA ASIA to buy some adaptors, a beach chair, and some large drinking glasses. The place was huge. I had never seen a Chinese store of that size. The prices weren’t as low as other Chinese stores but the selection was amazing.

I didn’t have lots of grocery needs but picked up specialty items at both Lidl and Aldi. My bag was full by the time I was walking home. The quality is average there but the prices were much lower than the Mercandona supermarket I had been going to.

I had a quiet evening at home. I used up the rest of the shrimp in a pasta dish for dinner. Then I wrote a bit and then watched some TV. It is hard for me to adjust to the Spanish timing of the day. By the very early hour of 11 pm, I was exhausted. At least I have been sleeping in until at least 8 am each day.

Tuesday July 5

On Tuesday, I decided that I would tackle the bank and gym hurdles with renewed enthusiasm. The bank was much less crowded but lots of people were being helped that had arrived after me. I was offering some leeway since I was a new client and maybe existing clients had priority. But finally I went up to a woman seated at one of the desks. She confirmed that the ticket system doesn’t work for new clients. She has called the tech folks many times but still it doesn’t work. Ugh. I had been waiting 40 minutes!

Luckily Carmen was lovely and apologized for the confusion. The account was going to cost like €15 a month but with a minimum transfer of €800 a month, the fee is waved. The other weird thing is that you have to show local healthcare OR local insurance on your belongings! So I now have coverage for my electronics and other valuables that I didn’t even know I wanted. It’s a hoop to jump through that costs €13 a month. My ATM will arrive next week and I’ll be all set. I also got my online credentials and the banking app working so I have the important IBAN number which means I can pay for services and send money to others. And I can sign up for the gym membership.

So the gym was my next stop. That wasn’t very easy either. It took about 75 minutes to sort it all out. They charged my credit card in the first five minutes but their computers couldn’t find me after they made me sign up through their website. The front desk person had to call the head office and get help. Luckily she was very nice and we laughed a lot along the way. Also various friends passed through so I got to socialize a bit too. I am retired. What was I late for?

In Spain they had a horrible dictator for many years. The Franco years were an extremely hard time for most as they endured a World War and the Spanish Civil War. BUT there was one good thing that Spain got from Franco that still exists today, el menú del dia. Franco required in his “oh so subtle way” that all restaurants offer a proper meal that the average working person could afford. This included a starter, main, dessert, bread, and a choice of wine, beer, or water. All for a reasonable price. Today this translates to lunch for about €10 with all that included!

Menú del día

The food tends to be very local, very fresh and a great sampling of the local cuisine. It’s embarrassing that I don’t think I have ever paid less than $10 for a glass of wine in the Bay Area, let alone a proper multicourse meal with wine!

The dictatorship of Franco is long gone and now having a menú is optional. But I am always on the lookout for the opportunity to eat what the people eat. So I walked out of my apartment and the closest place with a menú is about a block away, Cafeteria Avila. I had noticed it was popular which is one of my criteria in selecting a restaurant. Also I didn’t see any tourists. Another great sign.

Today’s menu offered a starter of paella, spaghetti Bolonese, a variety of snacks, or a mixed salad. For the main I had a choice of ribs in a sauce, grilled chicken breast, or grilled tuna. Also it came with the usual bread, vino and dessert for €9.50! I chose the paella and the tuna steak. The flavor of the paella was wonderful and even had pieces of seafood in it. The tuna steak was perfectly cooked and served with a side salad. For dessert I chose the flan but also could choose fruit, rice pudding, or ice cream. It was all wonderful. I will be definitely seeking out more Menú del Dia restaurants.

STARTER: a seafood paella

MAIN: Tuna steak with salad

Flan con nata

After a health nap, my friend José Manual came over to hang. We were hanging out for a long while and he finally left. I was thinking about heading out for a walk and then I realized I was supposed to be at a friend’s house in 15 minutes at 7:30 pm. The problem was that I am not used to the sun here and it looked like it was 5 pm! I quickly changed my clothes and actually made it to his house on time!

Los Angeles has the Hollywood Bowl. We loved going to this outdoor concert venue during our 15 years in LA. I even had the opportunity once to sing Beethoven’s 9th there on stage. It’s amazing to perform with an audience of 18,000 people.

Well Marbella has the StarLite. It's a stunning outdoor theater in a beautiful, natural rock cove. Throughout the summer, they bring in a nice variety of performers. The night after we were there, the 78 year old Diana Ross was performing. But that night a Cuban pianist Chucho Valdéz was playing with his friends Pablo Milanés, Javier Ojeda, and Pancho Céspedes joined to sing. Chucho is 80 years old and is an incredible jazz/latin pianist. He blew me away. I was brought to tears at several points that night. Pancho sang one song that made me think of my husband. It talked about a love that endured in spite of distance. We are back this Saturday for another concert. I love a summer full of music.

Red Carpet moment at Marbella's Starlite outdoor concert venue

Chucho Valdéz under the stars

Wednesday July 6

Last summer when I was here, we would wake every morning and go to one of many cafés for some coffee and a “pitufo” which is a toasted bread with something on top like jamón Serrano. The word pitufo is only used for this here in Malaga. Oddly, the word Pitufo is also what they call a Smurf, the 80s cartoon.

In my apartment I have a Nespresso machine which gives mediocre coffee at best. And with a variety of things I bought for breakfast, I have been nesting at home for the mornings. I still feel like I am settling in and I always have a list of things to do.

TRAGEDY STRUCK THIS MORNING! My trip has been going along very smoothly until I read an email when I woke. It was from my dear friends at Singapore Airlines. They regretted to inform me that they canceled my A380 New Suites flight from Singapore to Hong Kong. Instead they booked me on a later flight on a 777. DO THEY NOT REALIZE THIS IS A HUGE DOWNGRADE!?!?!!? Fighting back the tears, I clicked on the ACCEPT button as there was no alternative. This was supposed to be my first time in the New Suites! And now they had gone and taken it away from me. I am sure this must have something to do with COVID and that Hong Kong is still requiring a seven day quarantine thus fewer passengers are going. But this is so sad!! WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS?!?!

The travel dork in me held a small pity party and then I moved on. I still get to experience the newly renovated Private Room lounge at Changi. I still will fly in First Class. I will just have to wait until next spring when I fly from JFK to Frankfurt to sample their best offering.

Meanwhile I have been researching sending dollars from my US bank to my new Spanish bank. My silly US bank would only initiate the transfer after I filled out a form and brought it into a branch in California. That’s not going to happen. So I researched a variety of money transfer services and ended up with Wise. Their transfer fee was the lowest with the highest exchange rate. I started the transfer at 10 am and it arrived in my local bank here at 4 pm. I would definity use them again.

I did my 45 mins of cardio at my new gym and then returned home. Along the way I checked out another restaurant’s menú. The selection for today would be the Gran Cafe Quintopino located across the street from yesterday’s restaurant. After going home and showering, I headed back to snag the last table.

Today's Menú del día

The menu offered first pinto beans, pesto pasta, Malaga salad, or salmorejo (a thicker version of gazpacho.) For mains the choices were grilled Ibérico pork, beef kebabs, hake in a sauce, or a small fried fish. The salmorejo came with the traditional hard boiled eggs and ham chunks. I really loved this dish. Then the pork came and was also delicious. I am so impressed with these menu meals. Today’s meal with a beer came to a total of €9. The midday meal (at 2 pm) is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day. I ended things with a lovely melon that was perfectly ripe.


Ibérico pork

Wonderful melon

After my siesta, i walked down to the gay chiringuito beach club and used the time to have a drink and do some writing. I met a lovely couple from Hong Kong that had been living in Torremolinos for 7 months. They were in their mid thirties and decided they were done with Hong Kong. Things had become too difficult there. Many of the locals there aren’t so happy with the increased mainland China government restrictions. Things are going the wrong way.

It was great to hear their stories of being expats here and working from “home” far from their Hong Kong offices. We exchanged numbers and I look forward to chatting more with them.

Writing from Edén Chiringuito

My friend Jorge is arriving from Madrid on Friday so I have been enjoying quiet days and staying in each night. I know this is about to all change for the next few weeks because he is very social and knows everyone here! So I enjoyed another quiet evening. I even managed to watch my first movie, Downton Abbey: The New Era. As we say in Hollywood, they seemed to have “jumped the shark” a bit with the story. But it was fun seeing all my old friends from The Abbey.

Thursday July 7

So my days are all beginning to be alike. I awoke on Thursday with breakfast at home, then some computer time, and finally the gym. While I was there, my friend José Manual texted me as he was by his pool and wondered if I would stop by.

He lives just a few doors down from me but I stopped by still sweaty from the gym. We were by the pool. But after a while my stomach was calling so we decided to go to the Cafeteria Avila for lunch. Because he’s a local, everyone knew him including all the employees. Today’s menu offered starters of rice with ribs, gazpacho, a mayonnaise tuna salad, or a mixed salad. For the mains we had a choice of chicken with a cream sauce, beef stew, or a grilled rosada fish. The interesting thing was they had renamed the “ensaladilla rusa” to “ensaladilla nacional”. They changed “Russian little salad” to “National little salad”! It’s kind of like when American’s renamed “French Fries” to “Freedom fries”. It made me laugh.

Esaladilla nacional (not Russian!!!)

Rosada fish

José and I laughed a ton as we ate. One of my favorite things about Spain is how friendly everyone is. There was an amazing sense of community at this little restaurant. José insisted that we have a second beer which I knew was going to put me much closer to my siesta. I passed on dessert but he had an ice cream. We said goodbye and I rolled home to sleep.

I was awakened by a text from my friend David, the one who works at night at a hotel. He wanted to come by and have tapas with me before work. I felt like I had just had lunch! He chose La Pepa where I was the other day and ordered a nice variety. The papas bravas (french fries with spicy sauce were amazing.) Because this was just tapas and not dinner, I didn’t leave fully stuffed but realized that I wouldn’t really need dinner!

David treated me to some lovely tapas at La Pepa

Patatas bravas and tuna tacos

So another quiet evening of lighting candles and writing is how I spent my evening. It is such a lovely time of day as the evening breezes pass through my apartment. I hear the roar of the ocean in the distance as I sit here.

I am beginning to get my sabbatical legs. As expected, food has been a large part of my daily routine. Seeing old friends and making new ones has been giving me nice community. I have also been filling in some vocabulary gaps in my Spanish which makes me feel more like a local. I am so thankful that I learned Spanish so long ago and then decided to get a double major in it. It makes a huge difference in connecting with people here.

So Sabbatical Week 1 is complete. My first week has been so lovely. I definitely feel like I am on some sort of pathway. I look forward to my time with Jorge and the next weeks together.

Last edited by olafman; Jul 12, 22 at 7:20 am
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