Nabbing a Bit of Home in Spain

Wine barrels stacked in the old cellar of the wineryAt the beach, Donna used the pay phone to call the number on the slip of paper. We’d pitched the idea of staying a week in this seaside paradise to Jill earlier that morning over coffee and cheese empanadas. She’d woken up earlier than the other two, so was elected delegate. She thought the boys would be happy as long as they didn’t have to see any museums.

She was right.

Donna hung up and we strolled over to the statue of Salvador Dali. Within moments a nice looking woman named Carmen showed up and led us toward the apartment. We negotiated a steep, but narrow stone-paved alley nestled between white-washed stucco buildings. The pleasant aroma of oil paint and safflower oil greeted us. Carman explained how many artists rented small lofts in this area. At an opening we smelled fresh churned soil and spotted a small parcel that looked ready for planting. We followed a chain fence covered with green vines to a set of steep concrete steps leading upward. “There” she said, pointing up toward a small apartment building above us. The man from the day before waved down to us. Carmen introduced him as her husband Piero. We all filed in to an apartment on the first level, one over from the corner unit. I was surprised to see a modern apartment as Carmen explained they were built in the 1950s. It had one bedroom and a small kitchen off the dining area. The living room had two futon-type couches where the kids would sleep. It was sort of dark, until Piero rolled up the aluminum security door and the place lit up. The sliding glass door lead to a large slate-covered balcony with a fabulous view of rooftops and the bay beyond.

Kuenta Costa –  how much?” I asked.

Carmen developed a serious look. She reached for a slip of paper and Piero’s pen. She scribbled something down. “Euros” she said, handing the paper to me. I casually took it, hiding my pent up enthusiasm to keep the upper hand for the inevitable negotiations.

“Per day?” I asked when I saw the number, which was about half of what we’d been paying for hotel rooms so far.


“We’ll take it. . .I mean…” I looked at Donna, wiping my mouth hoping the drool wasn’t showing. “I mean, what do you think honey?”

“Fine.” Thankfully she was smiling and obviously loved the place as much as me, and the kids for that matter, who were already sitting out on the patio like they owned the place. “We just need to make sure we can cancel our hotel reservations tonight.”

Carmen looked worried. “Please don’t tell them you are staying here.”

This was odd to hear, then she explained how competition was fierce among the locals for tourist money.

Piero met us back at the village sign and helped us load our packs into his van. It was exciting to be moving into a home – a place with a kitchen where I could cook again. I couldn’t wait to get back into town and find a market.

Carmen buzzed about the apartment, showing Donna how everything worked. She patted a metal box the size of a microwave – “Automatic dishwasher”. She handed Donna a plastic bottle. “Important – please use to clean this,” she ran her hand across a glass halogen-heated cook top. ”Very Fragile.” Piero, who spoke very little English, asked me to follow him back outside where he handed me a small flashlight. “For at night” he pointed at the sidewalk and concrete steps we’d hiked earlier. He gyrated his hands above his head. “No lights.”

* * *

We headed strait into town to shop for groceries. We brought back dried sausages, roasted chicken, fresh baked bread and giant pea-pods which the grocer suggested we steam and serve with butter. We found a wine shop with huge wooden barrels where people were lined up filling bottles from the taps. The ladies running the place told is this was Rioja, a wine from this region of Spain. They were nice enough to give us a couple of empty glass bottles which I filled to the rim.

After dinner, the kids played a card game at the kitchen table while Donna and I enjoyed a glass of wine on the balcony, watching the lights twinkle on the water. It was so good to relax. The apartment felt like home.

I raised my glass. “Let’s just stay here for the next four months.”

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