Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Monday, January 9, 2023

In Spain: New Year, Three Kings Day, Paint Drying, and Stuff In-between

Well, we left Raleigh December 31; that's a good day to travel if the weather holds up--and it did. Fairly empty airport, no delays, and then an eight-hour lay-over in Philadelphia. We ate lots of stale peanuts and warmed-over taco meat in the Phili Admiral's Lounge, while we waited for our flight. One positive development was we got upgraded to business class from our premium economy seats, for free. Good flight with surprisingly good food for an airline. Arrived early in the morning of January 1, to Madrid, and a nearly empty airport. No lines, no waiting, baggage at the belt, and off in a taxi to what appeared a deserted city.  

We enjoyed walking around in what looked like a set for a dystopian future, post-nuke, or post-pandemic film. No zombies or Mel Gibson, however. 

The night brought back the old Madrid magic. Huge festive crowds appeared and packed the sidewalks and plazas. It was great. Some things, however, still did not make sense. Out on the streets, we were jammed in with a bazillion maskless people, shoulder to shoulder, but when we boarded a bus or train, we had to put on our little paper masks, or risk getting fined. What's the science behind that?

Early on the 2nd, we caught the fast train to San Sebastián, not crowded but had to wear our masks for over six hours. The train did not prove so fast; car no.3 caught fire as we crossed the Ebro River. We came to a halt over the river; the peasants from car no. 3, insisted on escaping the smoke by moving into our previously serene car no. 1. 

Don't they know that on the Titanic the steerage passengers had to die? These folks should have jumped off the bridge into the frigid river below. Sigh. What has happened to Western Civilization? 

We eventually got towed off the bridge, and transferred to a train obviously just removed that day from the salvage yard. No bathrooms, no food, no drink, no first class. Got into San Sebastián over three hours late, but learned we would get a full refund on our tickets. Not bad. Worth risking my elderly life over the Ebro for free tickets. 

Had a wonderful Three Kings Day. Watched the parade from a friend's balcony. The Kings appeared, tossing hard candy at the crowd, but also making an appearance were clowns on unicycles, giant dancing squids, seahorses, and sharks--and a loud fire truck. Don't remember those in the liturgy, but, maybe I didn't read it closely. 

We then took a gaggle of friends and relatives to our not-yet ready apartment in San Sebastián, and continued the party with the help of several bottles of champagne, Danish beer, La Rioja wine, and, of course, blue bottles of Bombay Gin. I stuck to fizzy mineral water--don't like alcohol since my Foreign Service days. 

One of my wife's cousins, a drum major in past parades, insisted on re-enacting the role. While his brother played music from a phone, he drum majored around the apartment, weaving among the paint cans, ladders, and other debris, singing--quite well, actually--at the top of his lungs while directing the invisible marching band behind him with a long broom handle. This at 3 am; no neighbor said even a peep of protest then or the following day. Gotta love Spain. David would have enjoyed it.

Spent the next couple of days visiting some wonderful rustic farm house restaurants out in the beautiful countryside. Foggy, rainy mountain landscape. No tourists. Spanish barely spoken. 

The Basques love their farmers, and treat them with great respect. The farmers, in turn, produce some fantastic food and chefs.

Also spent a lot of time sitting in our apartment as various handymen did a lot of rewiring, switching out of appliances, painting, and delivering and assembling furniture. The Diplowife passed much of the day today with lawyers, hashing out all sorts of inheritance and property registration and taxation issues. 

In other words, I literally watched paint dry, and kept wondering if this place will ever be ready. There is always something more. 

I also followed the battle for Speaker of the House. 

All things considered, I thought it turned out pretty well. The score of hardcore stalwarts played their hand about as skillfully as could be expected, and extracted what seem some significant concessions from the McCarthy wing of the party. Look, as I have noted before, I am a disaster at predicting US politics, but think we got a good result given the lackluster midterms. If we can get some action to restrain the outrageous behavior of the FBI, correct the narrative on J6, revisit our Ukraine policy, see some movement on securing the border, get some accountability for the COVID disaster, and hold down spending, that's a lot. Impeachment of Biden and his cronies would also be quite nice--but I won't hold my breath.

It's 2 am, and I guess should try to get some sleep. I don't want to say anything too stupid at this late hour. I will wait for daylight to do that.

Happy New Year, again.


  1. Happy New Year, and welcome back!

  2. Happy New Year Dip
    If it's not a adventure it may not be worth going
    Godspeed on your travels

  3. I don't want Biden impeached... last thing we need is President Harris sitting as an incumbent! Just my $0.02.

    Watch those electricians like a hawk... if there's one thing the US bureaucracy has brought the world that helps every day people, is strong building codes. It's not that every 't' must be crossed and every 'i' dotted, but there are some gotchyas that US electricians observe but aren't commonly distributed elsewhere!

    - reader #1482

  4. Happy New Year. I saw that Biden also had classified documents in his possession, for far longer than Trump and while he was unable to declassify them, having only been VP not POTUS. My first thought...what Democrat(s) want to ensure that Biden will not be the nominee in 2024?

    1. One unanswered question is what prompted Biden lawyers to search the Center office. Were they searching for the classified materials or??? It would not make sense to have very expensive lawyers go through Biden's stuff there unless there was a thought that something problematic might be uncovered, something that would need the sage eye of a $1000/hr lawyer to sort out. ...

  5. Happy New Year!

    So, they have an AVE to San Sebastián now?

    If so, beats getting there by bus from Madrid. I remember crossing the city limits of Miranda de Ebro and there being a nice thick strikeout through Batasuna which had been spray painted on a wall.

    It was at that moment, I realized participating in that anti-ETAprotest Madrid may not have been a good idea, given how I was headed up to Basque Country.

    Regardless, I loved the one day I spent visiting there. It sounds like you got out to see some really really nice houses. Photos at some point would be appreciated.

    Überdeplorable Psychedelic Cat Grass

    1. My family originally was from Cestona, not too far from San Sebastian; they left in the 1500s for South America. I traveled there once, in the 1980s. Had a relative's diary, written I think around 1890s or so (maybe early 1900s) which had travel directions. He rode by horseback and listed the names of streets using the Basque names, which I could not find in my Michelin map. Fortunately the ETA had painted out the Spanish names and put back the Basque names, which made my drive surprisingly easy. am hoping to bring our extended family back to Cestona, to visit the very very old family house (partially damaged in WW2 but restored cause is some kind of historical site), and will use Mr. Amselem's comments as a travel guide--- much more current!!

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  7. Happy New Year. Account triggered nostalgia. We were in Madrid (1977-81). Three Kings progressed down main drag to Plaza Colon on CAMELS.