Archive for August, 2008

El Arrebato in Laredo

August 30, 2008 By: erik Category: Beach, Music, Photos, Spain, Videos

Arrebato in Laredo, SpainOn Tuesday of this past week, we went to a free concert on Laredo’s beach. The main act was El Arrebato. The name of the band means ecstasy or rapture. Indeed.

The opening act was a band called Mario San Miguel. The lead singer was quite entertaining, making jokes, etc. They did this elaborate setup for the first song, with the backs of the guitarist, bassist, and singer to the audience, with each turning around with style, but then the audience informed them that the sound wasn’t on for the vocalist and guitar, so they had to do it all over again. They told us, “Okay, please forget what you just saw. We’re going to do it right this time!” While they seemed a little amateur like this, they were very friendly and lovable. I’ve already attempted to find some of their music online, but with no luck so far.

The main act, headed by a character named Javier Labandón, is absolutely amazing. They might be my Spanish favorite band, with the possible exception of the Gipsy Kings (who a friend, Nystrom, offered to go see with me one time in the US, and I didn’t go because I had never heard of them). This is the third time I have seen El Arrebato in concert. The first time was in Extremadura, when I had never heard of them. And the second time was near home in Cantabria two years ago, which I blogged. The lead singer is absolutely amazing. As they say here, llena el escenario (he fills the stage). Being an entertaining singer without an instrument is hard work, but this guy has so much charisma, it’s unbelievable.

Anticrepuscular Rays

August 29, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Geeky, Photos, Science, Spain

Anticrepuscular RaysEver since learning about their existence, I have been looking to spot some anticrepuscular rays. Every sunset and sunrise I’ve seen in the last few years, I have looked to the opposite horizon, but not until this month have I witnessed the phenomenon first hand.

Anticrepuscular rays are visible sun rays that converge on the anti-solar point in the sky, the point exactly opposite the sun on the horizon. The fact that crepuscular rays appear to diverge and anticrepuscular rays appear to converge are merely tricks of perspective due to viewing them pass through our spherical atmosphere. It’s a natural optical illusion.

Extremadura Evening Walk

August 28, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Family, Photos, Spain

My Walking StickTo finally wrap up my coverage of this year’s trip to Extremadura, I’m including some photos from an evening walk we took on the last day. There’s a rural park that we walk to sometimes.

Warning: This post contains broken glass, lambs, and wood carving. (more…)

Higos Chumbos: Prickly Sweetness

August 28, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Food, Photos, Spain

Higos Chumbos (Prickly Pears) pealed and ready to eat2008 was my sixth year going to Extremadura in August. One tradition that happens every year down there is picking higos chumbos (prickly pears). I used to think they were called higos chungos, which would mean “terrible figs” (chumbo doesn’t mean anything outside of American Spanish colloquialisms). According to Wikipedia, this particular species, Opuntia ficus-indica, is native to Mexico and was introduced to Europe and the rest of the world by humans.

Officially, the cactus plants we harvest them from are on someone else’s land, but the owners don’t seem to do any prickly pear picking themselves. But we add a shifty-eyed clandestine atmosphere to our harvesting expeditions to make them more exciting. e.g. “Here comes someone walking their dog! Hide the metal tongs in the bucket and pretend like we’re just out for a stroll!” Fun.

The Great Purge of 2008

August 27, 2008 By: erik Category: Complaining, Extremadura, Family, Photos, Spain, Timelapse

Attic CrapSeveral days of my summer vacation in Extremadura were spent tackling the huge mess that was my wife’s grandfather’s attic: a lifetime of “this could be useful later!” items and the dust they have collected over the years. I learned the trick of splashing some water on the floor before sweeping to avoid being suffocated by airborne particulates. Very handy.

We ended up throwing away almost everything in the attic. The first two days, we just moved it all to one side of the attic, and then we finally moved it down outside to be discarded the next morning. (more…)

Extremadura Skies

August 26, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Geeky, Photos, Science, Spain

Farm Work (Crop)During my recent trip to Extremadura, I took walks in the evening right around the 9:30ish sunset almost every day. For most of these walks, my eyes were glued to the absolutely stunning skies. Coming from the north of Spain, visiting relatively flat, relatively treeless, relatively small housing in Extremadura reminds me of the first time I was in the Nevada desert: So much sky!

We traveled on the new moon and stayed 14 days until the full moon, so I got to watch as the moon appeared every night, first in the west with the setting sun as a little sliver, and later full in the east, competing with the setting sun for glory like a boxer in the opposite corner of the ring.

Without further ado, let’s go for a walk under Extremadura skies. Vote for your favorite in the comments. (more…)

Buying Oil and Wine

August 25, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Photos, Weird, Wine

La UnidadWhenever we go south to Extremadura, we always bring back liters upon liters of extra virgin olive oil and wine. I don’t actually have any photos of the place where I bought the wine I brought back, but I do have a good anecdote.

We traveled to the nearby town of Esparragosa de la Serena. The name is related to asparagus plants. Apparently the place we’ve bought wine in the past is no longer there, so we had to just park in the middle of the town and ask someone. At twelve noon, it was already pretty hot and the streets of the small town were deserted. Finally we found a gentleman sitting in his doorway. We asked him, “Excuse me, we’re looking to buy some wine. Can you direct us to someone that has wine to sell?” The man said, “No.”

Extremadura Star Trails

August 22, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Photos, Science, Spain, Timelapse, Videos

Star Trails First AttemptDuring the first few days of my summer vacation, I spent some sleepless nights. To take my mind off my troubles, I spent quite a bit of time outside in the corral (an open area behind the house) gazing up at the cloudless night sky.

The following photo is a one-hour exposure looking towards Polaris about which the celestial sphere appears to rotate. I still don’t know what made the colored dots that can be seen on the full-sized version. It must be dust or debris on either the lens or CCD sensor (like “film” to you old folks). Or maybe some other kind of signal noise.

Zahí­nos 2008

August 21, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Family, Photos, Spain

In back of truckWhen we go to Extremadura, we stay mainly in my mother-in-law’s hometown of Higuera de la Serena (Fig Tree of the Serene). But we also always visit my father-in-law’s hometown of Zahí­nos. Higuera de la Serena is a very small town, but most of the people we see there have moved away to the Basque Country and are visiting on vacation like we are. So, despite the size of the town, Higuera de la Serena feels more urban because of the people there. But Zahí­nos is still full of the rural people that have always lived there, so Zahí­nos really feels like a small town. Marga’s uncle, íngel, after suffering three heart attacks, no longer works, accepting a social security check and spending his days renovating his house and working on his farm. And, because it’s small town Spain, the thought of íngel’s wife or two daughters ever having a job has never occurred to anyone. So things are reeeally laid back, since the family members we visit there are all on permanent vacation. The most interesting thing we ever do there is go to íngel’s farm.

Morning Walks With Juan

August 20, 2008 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Family, Photos, Spain

Walking TrailMy father-in-law, when on vacation in Extremadura, gets up at 8:00 every morning to go on long walks around the countryside. Marga and I went with him on short walks a couple times in 2006, but we went out at night a lot that year and you don’t really feel like walking 10 km at 8:00 when you’ve gone to bed at 5:00. In 2007, Marga went with him almost every day. This year, Marga wasn’t feeling very well, so we didn’t go out much and I was free to go walking with Juan almost every morning. As Juan says, “If you don’t go walking in the morning, all we do here is drink, eat, and sleep. You gotta do something to burn some calories!”

In Extremadura in August, the early morning is really the only time that exercise is possible because it just gets too hot. This year was much cooler than most years. Several times when we set out at 8:00, it was pretty chilly. But we always ended up sweating and spending the second half of the walk with our shirts off in the warming morning sun.

All the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. (more…)