Tuesday, September 27, 2011

4 Balearics and a Wedding

Torrevieja, Spain - So much has happened in the last two weeks that I feel a quick blog entry does not do it justice.  We are now at the midpoint of our trip (9 months down, 9 to go) and it has been a culmination of visitors and great sailing.  Rather than focusing on touristy activities and sightseeing, the focus has been reuniting with buddies from Chicago who have come through.  We feel very blessed to have such wonderful friends and the opportunity to get together with them to share fabulous moments.

After the Bretones' visit in Denia, we met up with an old friend, author, poet, professor, Juan Arnau whom we met about 10 years ago at the University of Michigan.  Juan is originally from Valencia, Spain and spent some time in the Midwest getting his PhD in "Southeast Asian Studies," and now is an expert in "Indianology," as they say in Spain.  One of those situations where he was a friend of a friend of Sebastian's in Argentina and we ended up keeping in touch after all these years.  Juan is now married with two chillden and we were all able to meet in a town called Javea, where they have a weekend house. 

Juan loves to sail and actually was chosen as crew back in 1992 for the celebration of the 500th anniversay of the discovery of America, to sail on one of the replicas of Columbus' three ships and retrace the trip - this time using modern technology for the navigation, but eating and sleeping in the original style on the three ships - an open boat, no comfy cokpit cushions, nor chairs, no autopilot, etc.  There were bunks set up down below, which is a step above how the original sailors did the trip.   Only a few were selected to malke this journey as it was a very important event for the Spanish government.

If any one you know Juan you would not be surprised to hear that Juan was the main reason for a mutiny among all the crew once they arrived to the Americas, a story that mnade the papers and changed history!  No need to go into details, biut suffice it to say, Juan was a little too opinionated and dare I say "subversive."  We were thrilled then to have Juan join us again in Ibiza, as he sailed with us to Espalmador and then back to the mainland.

The Balearics islands are located just east of Spain in the Mediterranean.  Their own version of Catalan is spoken there, although Castellano is widely spoken too.  The islands' biggest export these days is Rafa Nadal, who just lost in tennis to Djocovich in the US Open.  Their are four main islands here:  Mallorca, Menorca, Formentera and of course, Ibiza.  lIbiza has many facets depending on what you are looking for.  One of the first towns we visited on Ibiza was San Antonio which was twenty-something party central and very, very British.  In other words, a traditional "experiencia ibicenca" it was not.  All the bars were English pubs, with English-speaking workers and clientele.  Not our scene at all, and this was in fact reiterated when club promoters trying to get passers-by to come inside, would simpy ignore us.  Two forty-somethings with two small children were not their target-market.

Another side to Ibiza is hippie side, where there are people from all over the world converging to have free peace and love, and smoke whatever they are smoking.  Yet another part, in Santa Eulalia is a little more upscale with families, shops and outdoor restaurants.  But the best of the Balearics for us was not Ibiza at all, but Espalmador, a tiny unpopulated island between Ibiza and Formentera.  Only about a 2 hour sail from Ibiza, but a world away in terms of what you find there.  Espalmador has beauitful crystal clear waters like the Carribbean and very few people there.  There is not the feeling of overcrowdedness or tourism in the bad sense of the word.  There is nudity, or toplessness, or normal bathing wear - whatever you choose, along with a real sense of community and open-mindedness with the sailors there. There are mudbaths there which are fun to visit and your skin ends up being unbelieveably soft. although I am not sure I want to publish photos of us enjoying this local custom! We can honestly say this visit was one of the highlights of our entire trip.

While it was difficult to leave Espalmador, we were in a hurry to get back to the mainland to meet up with my friend Colleen, one of my best buddies form Chicago, who was flying in for the wedding of Kelly O.D. and her Spanish fiance.  Juan, Sebas, the kids and I did an overnight passage to make it back.  It had been a while since we did an overnight and it was quite fun since the moon is great inspiration for some good discussions, and I was thrilled to have Juan aboard to enjoy this with us.  I find that the overnight passages are so peaceful - it's just you and the stars, and this 20 hour crossing could not have been more perfect with perfect weather, perfect wind, etc.

I was thrilled to meeet up with Colleen after so many months and to catch up with her in person... and I was thrilled to be her date, since I have met Kelly on several ocassions on her visits to the US and I also sublet her room in her apartmetn in Madrid when I lived there in the year 2000, so I was excited to see some of the roommates I shared some fun times with.  The interesting thing is when living on a boat you lose touch of certain niceties such as brushing your hair all the time, or wearing clean clothes every day, wearing shoes, etc. So, I find I really appreciate these times back in civilization.

Colleen reanted a car and we zipped up the coast back to Denia where we had just been two weeks prior, to meet up wth Kelly and her family and friends.  The wedding was a string of activities lasting four days.  Kelly is a very outgoing, well-loved woman who has friends from all over the world.  We stayed at a beach side hotel and it felt like old times.... lots of laughs and great talks and great fun.  The wedding itself was in customary Spanish style in the sense that it lasted until 5 in the morning.... Colleen and I are still suffering now, a few days later as we were a litttle achy from all the dancing and caught colds.  All in all a great time had by all.

Today another firend fo Sebastian's, Corcho, from Puerto Madryn, has arrived to sail with us for a few weeks throuh Morroco and to the Canaries.

NEXT STOP:  Melilla, Morrocco leaving in a couple of days. (please excuse the fact that the photos are completely out of order!)
Crew member still smilling after 3 days, good sign!

Chicago buddies!

Our jumping crew member
The Begonias still smiling after 9 months of sailing

Enjoying Uncle Juan


10 years later

I look really cool

Still enjoying each other, after 9 months of sailing

Med sunset

Colleen visiting from Chicago, good crew member!!

Buddhist writer sailing in the Med

This is better than LA

First mate
The island of Tabarca located just east of Alicante... where we took Colleen.

Coll and I at a pre-wedding event at the marina of El Portet in Denia.  Ironically, we were at this very marina - one of the sailboats parked behind - just a week and a half before with the Bretones.

Part of the U of I gang

Kelly after just getting dressed, looking out over the wedding guests right before the ceremony.  Beautiful!

A Paella Party the day after the wedding... we were exhausted after having not slept much!

Colleen captures the moment when Begonia + Juan arrives into Alicante from Ibiza.

At the entrance of Tabarca.

The guests milling about before the ceremony.

Just looking gorgeous at a European wedding!
Quite a different lifestyle than on the Begonia!

Coll swims at Tabarca.

Colleen is an aunt to many....

The kids getting creative with paint Colleen brought them!

Tabarca with Alicante and the mainland in the background.

The bride was very happy that day!

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.

Friday, September 9, 2011

La Costa Blanca

Denia, Spain - The Costa del Sol is probably the most popular tourist destination in Spain, but frankly we think the Costa Blanca is better, and very underrated.  This coast is full of amazing white cliffs and Carribbean blue waters, it rivals Greece and Croatia, the new "it" place for sailors.  And the great thing is it is virtually unexplored in comparison to the areas of Marbella, Puerto Banus, Fuengirola, Torremolinos, etc.

We do have one place of mention though in the Costa del Sol, and that is Malaga.  I had visited here before in the "flamenco days" to visit our dear teacher, Cristian, and was eager to show it to Sebas and kids.  As most of these Spanish cities, there is always a "casco historico," or the old historic downtown area with perhaps medieval streets and structures or moorish influences, etc., which is usually juxtaposed with modern buildings.  I recall fondly walking through the old part of town during a particularly colorful fiesta in the hot month of August with Cristian and his guitar-playing, sevillana-dancing, sherry-swigging, flamenco-singing friends thinking, "these guys really know how to enjoy life!"  Those of you who know Cristian can attest to his personlaity and picture this well, since he is very magnetic and can make anyone feel like joining the party.  Just imagine, like you see in the movies, this group of spirited people expanding as it goes along and more party-goers merge to become part of the group.....

.... well that was then!  Now, unfortunately for us, Cristian was not in Malaga since he spends most of his time in Madrid.  Nevertheless, it was very fun to pass through the same streets with Sebastian and the kids and relive those moments.  Malaga was in all its glory, with new lusciously gardened parks and very clean streets.  Like Sevilla, there are horse-drawn carriages in town for the tourists and lots of outside cafes.  All this, plus the Andalusian lifestyle that still make Malaga, in our humble opinion, the jewel of the Costa del Sol.

We whizzed by all the other toursit centers of that Coast.  One,  because from the sea all you can see are big high-rises that have replaced any local Andalusian charm that may have existed there, packed beaches, no natural anchorages and incredibly high-priced marinas.  And, two, and most importantly, we were in a mad rush to meet up with the Bretones, friends from Evanston who were vacationing with their family in the town of Denia.  The timeframe was tight, so we covered about 350 nautical miles over about 5 days to reach here.  Since we did not want to do an overnight sail, we did hours and hours of sailing each day.  And boy was this well worth it!

Jose Luis, Lisa and family are probably some of our best friends and to see them here after 8 months was like a dream.  Really it was as if no time had passed and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting Jose Luis' parents and relaxing at the beach and pool for a couple of days.  The kids were thrilled to see their little buddy Natalia who is between them in age and has been friends with both of them since they were a little bigger than babies.  The Bretones' were incredibly hospitable and invited us to some fanatastic meals, including a typical "paella valenciana."  This short visit was very nice for all and made us really miss home for the first time. 

The trip here to Denia was fast and intense but along the way we were able to enjoy what the Costa Blanca has to offer: the abundant caves and "calas/caletas" or natural rock inlets, where one can anchor freely all along the way, making it more attractive and hospitable for sailors on a budget, like us.  At one point we anchored Begonia in one location and went cave-hopping in the dinghy with the kids.  They snorkeled, and while you don't see all the fish species like in the Carribbean, there was a plethora of brown jellyfish that was interesting to observe.  We took some pictures (below) but we find that these don't even show the immensity of the rocks, the beauty of the colors and the dimensions of the caves, etc. 

Between the scenery and the friends, the Costa Blanca is one of the most memorable tranches of our trip.

NEXT STOP:  Javea, back south a little, and then on to the Balearics on Monday.

Malaga's Moorish influences

Old Malaga Cathedral door

Malaga cathedral

Malagueta, one of Malaga's many beaches

The sun shines on Malaga as we depart

At the castle in Aguilas

Cabo de Palos, the cape at the most southeast corner of Espana.

Costa del Sol: view from the water

Work does not stop while underway: a sailor polishes the stantion

Posing by the fountain

Gibraltar's little brother: Calpe

Cabo San Antonio

Benj by a cave

Kids by the caves in Cabo San Antonio

Snorkeling in the caves

The Med at its best

Fellow sailors in Aguilas

The Bretones meet Begonia

Puerta Abierta Preschool Class Reunion

Building in the sand in Denia

Los Caballeros

California Girls Are Unforgettable

Adorable Arianna

Hanging out at the villa

Sebastian looking really stressed at the Bretones' rental house
Paella Party!
We actually ate the WHOLE THING!

Evanston buddies

Capi and Ari

Goodbyes on Begonia...

Begonia flies at 11 knots!!!!

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.