Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rice harvest

The Ebro River delta (Delta del Ebro in Spanish or Deltebre in Catalan) is where most of Spain’s rice is grown. The village of Riumar where we own two 3-bedroom chalets is on the tip of the delta where it meets the Mediterranean Sea. September is harvest month. The rice paddies are planted and flooded in late April or early May. As they grow they look very much like wheat fields, except rice grows in flooded paddies. Combines harvest the rice and afterwards the fields look like bad haircuts. Trucks take rice from the paddies to collection areas around the delta. The rice is dumped into huge mountains then spread out in flat to dry.

After it has dried trucks come from all over Europe to these collection areas. The truckers drive up onto a scale empty, are weighed and then each truck is filled up with rice, the bad is covered and the filled truck is weighed again. Then they are off to their various processing plants. At harvest the rice is brown because it still has a tough husk on the outside. Later it will be a creamier white and used most often in paella.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A note from London Heathrow

We have just had a traditional English breakfast at one of the Heathrow restaurants and are waiting for our 11:00 a.m. flight to Barcelona. The flight over was OK, although it was bumpier than I care for. I watched two movies; The Interpreter and Sahara. It's overcast here (surprise!) and I am hoping for sun in Spain.

We should be in Riumar around 6 p.m. The flight from here is two hours and the drive is two hours and we need to stop along the way and grocery shop. Gee, I should be truly exhausted by then! Ian always does better than I do on these international flights, as he can sleep soundly, turbulence and all.

I am looking forward to taking new photos of the renovated chalets and posting them on the sites we advertise on.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New York, New York

Yesterday we went into Manhattan and spent all day. We left in the morning at 9 and returned around midnight. We´re staying in Queens which has a subway line that makes its final stop at The World Trade Center, so we went to Ground Zero first. The area remains fenced off and is still a hole in the ground that causes the heart to ache, but it is much more of a
construction site. There were seven buildings that made up the WTC and unbeknownst to me three have been rebuilt. I took time to look at all of the buildings on the periphery and noted that several are still being repaired. It was decided this week that the building formerly occupied by Deutche Bank was too contaminated, could not be salvaged so it is now shrouded and will be dismantled piece by piece over the next year at a cost of $25 million. More than once I looked up into the blue sky from different vantage points knowing that four years ago today I could not have seen it.

We took the subway uptown to the Metropolitan Museum, which sits on Fifth Avenue at East 82nd and Central Park. We walked many of the galleries and enjoyed every hour. We walked through Central Park toward its south side, ate hot dogs in transit, bought an 8 x 10 pen & watercolor of three Mongolian horses and then caught a double-decker tour bus. It was nice to see various sites and architecture (Broadway, Madison Square Garden, Times Square, The Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, The United Nations, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, the East Village) while hearing the guide's patter. When we got to Battery Park we hopped off and rode the Staten Island Ferry roundtrip. It took about an hour, was free of charge and gave us beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. We hopped back on the tour bus and rode it back up to Central Park South. We wanted to eat Italian food for dinner and went back to lower Manhattan by subway to Mulberry Street in Little Italy. We had a nice dinner and then took two subways back to Queens. It was a good day.

I'm not sure what we'll do today. We don't need to be at JFK until around 4 p.m.

Tomorrow we'll be in our beloved Riumar! More from there.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

12 hours driving

We drove from South Bend, Indiana, across Ohio and Pennsylvania into Queens, New York today. It took us about 12 hours. The drive was really beautiful, especially the Appalachian Mountains.

Tomorrow, we´re sightseeing in Manhattan. Our flight to Spain doesn't leave JFK until 7 p.m. Saturday, so maybe we'll find something fun to do during the day before we leave.

So, in short, all´s good.

Coming to Spain for a wedding

Ian and I are on our way back to Spain after spending the summer in Minnesota. The weeks just flew by. We arrive in Barcelona on Sunday and will then drive the two hours to Riumar on the Delta del Ebro. We rented both chalets all summer after we had renovated them this spring. We´ll be in Spain until October 3.

My son Michael (28) is marrying his Catalan girlfriend Natalia on September 30 in a civil ceremony in Barcelona. Exciting, no? Her family has really embraced Michael, which makes it very nice. Michael now runs his own kickboxing gym near the Joanic metro stop. His students are mostly women and they are very loyal. The gym is on the street side and their apartment is in the back. He advertises in The Metropolitan.

When we return we will sign papers on a 10-acre horse farm we made an offer on last week. It is about 45 minutes drive north of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul). It was built in 1895 and needs some updating, so we won't move in until January.

We plan to be back in Riumar for the first two weeks of December. Our plan continues to be to split time
between the two places. This is doable for the time being as there are no horses on the farm! I'll spend the winter months doing research and putting together a business plan. I must decide which type of horses I want to buy and, more importantly, which aspect of the horse business I really love and want to be in. Life is too short not to do what we love! I can't see giving up the Spanish side of life and I expect to find a comfortable balance.

My mother and father both turned 81 this summer and we were with both for their birthdays -- Papa's in Managua and Mom's in Minneapolis. Both are very happy, healthy and very busy with their lives. My 25 year-old-son Richard is now living with us in Minneapolis and is holding down the fort while we travel. It´s nice to be near my mom and son.

After our trip to Spain, Ian and I are visiting Ottawa. Ian's children have repatriated there after 10 years living abroad! It must feel like yet another foreign country to adjust to! I am hoping we hit the area during some beautiful leaf-turning weeks. We will visit them over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, then head back to Minneapolis.


We left Minneapolis later than we wanted to, so we only made it to South Bend. This is the home of Notre Dame. We have a room booked and paid for at the Holiday Inn Express in Jamaica Queens this evening, so we will drive until we get there. Another good reason for leaving soon. I suppose we've got 12 hours of driving today. The scenery will be lovely. New York
is a pretty state.

We listened to talk radio (NPR & C-SPAN) all day yesterday and really are well versed on the Katrina disaster. I tell you, what a bunch of crap. We will see a lot of finger pointing and I will tell you there is PLENTY of blame to go around. While people were sitting in DC and watching the storm unfold and hit the Gulf, people were dying largely due to bureaucratic inaction. And, we are still in hurricane season! Today's nonsense with the debit cards and people NOT being issued them as FEMA said just yesterday .... gee, dumb! These screw ups could surely sow the seeds of revolution. People will only suffer so much!