Monday, March 30, 2015

WWOOFING It Up on the Farm, at Finca La Paz

As you know, Pope is quite the urban gardener. But he misses the days when he fed chickens and mucked out stables. So when I suggested we visit my favorite Europea nation, France, in return for the months I spent on his sailboat, he moaned and groaned until I added a segment he could enjoy: working on an organic farm in Spain.

How many people voluntarily take a work vacation? Many. WWOOF is an international organization that matches wannabee farmers with hosts.

Our host farm, Finca La Paz, is perched on the side of a steep ridge, just inland from the Mediterannean coast, near the small town of Torrox. Terraces line the hills, which stretch all the way to the sea. To get here required some trains and buses, with stopovers in Barcelona and Malaga. Our hosts, Dave and Gill, met us at the Torrox bus station and we wound around switchbacks in their pickup to their hacienda on top of a hill.

The view from the house and terrace is spectacular. Every foot of hillside is in use for agriculture.
Our room is cool and clean and has a patio where we can glimple the sea; the air is filled with buzzing bees, the scent of flowers, and many flying insects. The sun is fierce at mid-day (I got burned through my shirt) but the evening is lovely.
Ironically (because Pope is a confirmed meat eater), this is a vegetarian household. So much beautiful and bountiful produce is grown here, however, even Pope is enthralled--lemons, mangoes, grapefruits, beans, peas, broccoli, greens, carrots, beets, and cabbages--to name just a few of the everyday dinner choices this time of year. (Olives are the staple for income; they are harvested in December.)
Our first day, we collected horse manure down the road and hauled it in crates onto the truck and, back at the farm, down a series of steps to the compost pile.

In the aftenoon, Pope planted tomatoes while I picked a few quarts of sugar snap peas.
Lunch was a fruit salad from the garden, served on the patio. You can't get any fresher than this!
Then, the traditional afternoon siesta! When in Spain...
After a stroll up and down switchbacks to the tiny town, I hiked back to Finca La Paz. The dogs greeted me as I panted my way to the house.
The steps and slopes down the hill to the various garden plots are steep and lined with flowers. We will be using every muscle here -- but the effort is always pleasant.

For a work vacation, this seems pretty darn nice! Of course, this was only our first full day. Let's see how much the muscles feel tomorrow.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bargains in Barcelona

No, we are not on any waterway this spring. We are in Spain, en route to France, enjoying the cheaper euro. For now, we are missing many of the bargains because we are spending our two days here in Barcelona sleeping off jet lag!

I started the bargains off in Miami with a hunt for a little assistance for my healing foot -- a free wheelchair to get from Concourse B to Concourse D. Success!

We arrived safely and checked into the hostel. Hosteling is always a bargain. The hostel Barcelona Central Garden is the cleanest and friendliest I have ever stayed in--and I have stayed in dozens. Lots of well-deserved awards.

Then we upped the ante and found 1-euro beers for happy hour yesterday, at Cinemateca in the Eixample District. Naturally, the price attracts a big crowd.
And, in our search for tapas, we found a large--no, HUGE--plate of lamb and potatoes for Pope for 10 euros (about 11 dollars), around the corner from the hostel. Two people could easily share it. This is the Spanish version of "small plates"...?
Very few vegetables on the menu, but I was able to get an equally oversized quantity of eggs and potatoes. Both plates included bread and a carafe of decent wine! And this restaurant was very well stocked with "el vino."

Today's bargain, when we finally dragged our sleepy selves outside: a Gaudi-designed house, just a few blocks walk from the hostel. External views FREE.

And finally, the best bargain of all, uncovered by my resourceful partner Pope while buying groceries for cooking tonight's dinner at the hostel: red wine in a box for 0,89 euros-- less than a dollar!!

Well, what else would you expect from a cheapskate and wannabe dumpster diver? He even tried to raid the garbage patch left over from a local farm market!