We’re Back!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It has been a rather uneventful week.  We have taken advantage of this semi-lull in our activities to get back to a regular schedule at the gym and work on a variety of projects.  I have some more translation work that will appear in the second issue of El Manuscrito.  I was able to translate and polish the longest article, a 2500 word appreciation of Spanish magician, Toni Cachadiña.  I also spent some more time working on the details of what will eventually be a stand-up act for adults.  We did try a new Italian restaurant, Il Pomodoro, and we sampled the menu of the day.  The salad and pizza were excellent, but the pasta was rather pedestrian and ordinary.  Ballando Nudistill makes the best pasta in town and we proved it to ourselves last night at dinner when we returned from Elche.

Our Elche adventure began at 3:00 on Friday Afternoon when we boarded our train for the two and a half hour ride to Elche.  Elche is located in Alicante, which is one of the provinces of the Comunidad Valenciana.  It is about thirty minutes west of the city of Alicante.  Its claim to fame is twofold.  In the 19th century a polychrome bust, later called La Dama de Elche was unearthed. It dates from the 4th century BC and is believed to be an example of Iberian sculpture.  It is on permanent display in the Museum of Archeology in Madrid.  Elche is also famous for its palm groves.  La Palmeral de Elche is the largest palm grove in Europe and one of the largest in the world.  At one point it contained more than 200,000 palm trees and the majority of them are date palms.     Our interest in Elche was neither archeological nor botanical.  We were there to see the magic show of a friend of our, Ramón Ríos, whose stage name is Riversson.

I first met Ramón in 1990 and we have been friends ever since.  He spent a year working in San Francisco and that allowed him to attend Rachel’s wedding in San José.  Last year we attended his wedding.  We had never seen either of his full evening shows, so we decided that since he would be performing nearby we would make an overnight pilgrimage to Elche.

Our train arrived a little after 6:00 and we made our way to the Tryp Ciudad de Elche Hotel.  It is a three star hotel that is a bit tired around the edges, but our room was comfortable and it had a large bathroom with a tub.  It also had a balcony, but the weather was not conducive to spending time on the balcony.  Our room rate included a breakfast buffet and free Wi-Fi, a definite plus when one travels with five Wi-Fi devices.  We unpacked the few things we had brought along and went in search of a bite to eat.

There is a little plaza that is a five-minute walk from the hotel and there are a number of restaurants, cafes, bars and small shops that occupy the plaza.  We picked one of a number of tapa places and had some tortitas de camarón, buñuelos de bacalao and a parrillada de verduras.  All three dishes were quite good.  After we finished, we walked around a bit and enjoyed an ice cream for dessert.  A little after 8:00 we made our way to the nearby Gran Teatro de Elche and picked up our tickets.  The doors opened a little after 8:30 and we made our way to our seats.

The theater itself is very impressive.  It has obviously undergone a renovation and it is a sparkling gem with an extraordinary curtain that hides a very deep stage.  The curtain rose a little after 9:00 and for the next seventy-give minutes we enjoyed Ramon’s magic.  His performance alternated between large stage illusions and smaller effects that involved audience interaction.  For me, the two most impressive effects of the evening was the sudden appearance of his assistant in a chair that only moments before was empty.  He covered it with a cloth and seconds later there was his assistant.  The other effect that really impressed me was his levitation of his assistant that ends the show.  It is perhaps the best levitation I have ever seen.

After the show we chatted briefly with Ramón and his partner, Juan Diego.  They needed to break down the show and pack their truck so they said they would give us a call when they had finished and we would then get together for a bite to eat and a bit of conversation.  The call came a little after midnight and since we had gone back to the hotel to rest up a bit, we put our shoes back on and made our way back to the theater and then to a nearby café where we ordered a variety of tapas and chatted for about an hour and a half.  At 1:45 we parted company and they headed off to Cartagena where they were to spend the night and we headed back to the hotel.

We got up yesterday at 10:00 and made our way downstairs to the breakfast room.  There was an attractive array of things to eat, but Susan and I resisted the temptation to stuff ourselves because we were still full from the previous night’s snacking.  After breakfast we showered, dressed and packed up our belongings.  Since our train back to Valencia was not leaving until 6:00 that afternoon we headed out with the goal of filling the time until was time to head to the station.

Our first objective was to get a decent cup of coffee, which was not a feature of our morning breakfast.  Sufficiently caffeinated we made our way to the Museu de Palmarar where we walked through a palm grove before we entered the museum to learn more about the history of the city and its palm trees.  The sky was darkening and the wind was picking up, so we decided that we needed to find an indoor space where we could wait out the rain.  Fortunately there was an Irish pub nearby and we spent a goodly amount of time there drinking, chatting and snacking on a couple of things.

When the rain had stopped we continued our exploration of the city.  We were struck by the number of small parks that featured playgrounds for the little ones.  We walked past a number of historical sites that were closed because it was Saturday afternoon or because they had not yet reopened for the afternoon.  We made our way back to the café where we had enjoyed a late night meal with Ramón and Juan Diego and we ordered a very tasty dish of habitas (small beans) prepared with sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil.  We also had a version of patatas a lo pobre, a dish that is a combination of potatoes, ham and two fried eggs.  The two fried eggs in this case were quail eggs.

We then made our way back to the hotel where we picked up our bags and spent an hour reading in the lobby.  Then we headed to the train station to wait for our train, which was a few minutes late.  We arrived at 9:10 and walked through the wet streets until we reached our house.  We walked through the door and were happy to be back home again.

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