Last Sunday......being as we were late risers we decided to go for a walk to the Old Town. Sr P always likes to go there as he and his family are from that neighbourhood. The old Town is the original part of the city and everything else sprung up around this. Sr P loves to tell me all that he knows about that area and the many many anecdotes about growing up and living there.
We parked our car quite near to the Palace of Justice and Courthouse that I mentioned in my last post. We could have parked down in the centre but as I said to Sr P what sort of walk is it if you don't get out of the car and walk!! It was a long walk having to cross the centre of the city to get to the Old Town but it flew by as we were chatting about this and that (elections,C19,new settee,politics and so on....you know righting the world a bit). I did not take any photos of the shopping centre there is nothing there that draws my attention. We went that way because as it was a Sunday there were not too many people about.
However ,I did take photos of the reconstruction of what was a fascinating 19th century house in deplorable conditions.
I was so very glad to see that they have employed Facadism and have rebuilt the interior but preserved the original facade of the house with its fabulous miradors (windowed balconies).
We stopped and admired it just before we crossed over to enter the Old Town's narrow streets.
The original part of the Old Town lies under the shadow of the Santa Barbara Castle.
I took this photograph as we were walking up the old streets towards the area where Sr P was born and where he grew up. This particular photo taken in a tiny narrow street is one of the most famous views of the castle because you can catch the outline of the "Moor's Head" as that particular part of the mountain is called and where the main part of the castle is built on.
As we continued on,the streets were getting steeper and steeper ,and this lovely strong smell of jasmine assailed us which came from this doorway we were going past. I noticed that this hostel was closed so the jasmine has been allowed to do what it does best grow and climb up and over everything even the telephone wires. Its tiny white flowers giving off the most wonderful perfume which followed us as we continued on towards the Puente de Villavieja area of the Old Town.
Finally we got to, Sr P's old family house. This is the oldest area in the city and these humble dwellings ,they say are over 100 years old, are the old fisherman's houses that were built on the castle slopes because of their easy access to the sea. Sr P was born in the white house that you can see in the photo and the house underneath that was his Tia (Aunty) Fina's house. They look like flats don't they? This is exactly what I thought when I saw it for the first time but they aren't they are semi-detached houses!! Access to Sr P's old house is on the other side at the back of the block of these houses in the next street; Marsella Street. It looks small too but it isn't it goes back a long way. A family of eight lived there!
Terribly higgledy-piggledy!! 😄 I assure you when I first saw this house back in 1973 I was not impressed!
Curiously these last 10 years or so these houses have become really sort after and are going for a good sum! Coincidentally my niece's fiance has bought Sr P's old home to convert into a town-house and is having it done up as I write. You can't see it from this photo but he has had a new roof put in and created a roof garden and a solarium.
I have some wonderful memories of the people I met here in the past in this little secluded area of Alicante City.
Back in 1973 when my daughter was 15 days old and we came over from the UK to visit Sr P's family,there were a lot of firsts happening to me! It was my first time visiting a foreign country, a first meeting with my in laws and the family and a first contact with the Spanish culture and its language.
Understandably after the first few days of having being introduced to the immediate family which was quite daunting we had to go and visit other members of the family too. Sr P's aunts who still lived in the vicinity of Sr P's old home in the Old Town were an absolute must so Sr P told me then.
How can I describe this to you....it was an incredible day!!.
I remember as soon as we got into the Old Town's narrow streets that day Sr P was hailing people he knew and they were chatting with him (of course I didn't understand a word of Spanish at that time) and we stopped again and again and women were cooing over the baby in the carry-cot and I was just smiling and smiling.
As we got nearer to Sr P's old house we were going slower and slower as more people were coming to say hello to speak to Sr P. Obviously someone had gone ahead to notify his Aunts because I remember hearing Sr P's name being called out and these two buxom looking ladies in their flapping pinnies shuffling their way towards us with their arms flung out repeating his name and flinging their arms around me and being thoroughly kissed on both cheeks not once but twice. The ladies were of course Sr P's aunts.
It was all a bit overwhelming and unfortunately there was an awkward moment there in the middle of the street when one of the Aunt's tried to take the carrycot out of my hands and I wasn't letting that happen, so a bit of a tug of war was underway! It seemed she wanted to show her neighbours her new great niece, so Sr P told me later on. However,I wasn't prepared to let the baby out of my sight with all those people crowding around.!! Nevertheless, when we got to his Aunt's house (which is the house that is now painted in cream that you can see in the photo above ) I took the baby out of the carry-cot straight away so the Aunts could have a good cuddle each. They both stood in the doorway and their neighbours came rushing up to see the baby. Meanwhile Sr P's Uncle had notified the people in the street where Sr P was born that he was back and with a wife and baby in tow and they were insisting we went up to see them. Sr P's Uncle immediately took over putting the baby back into the carry-cot and told Sr P he would take the cot up the stairs to the other street (bless his heart.... he has passed away now but I vividly remember him using hand signals to me to indicate he was going to be very careful and not to worry) ....and he did take great care as we trudged up the steep old stone slabs to get to that tiny little street in that hidden corner of this incredible neighbourhood.
|My carrycot was very similar to this one|| |
|Stairs up to Marsella street. Recent photo.The steps were not in such good condition as these when I first went up them!|
If I felt overwhelmed before I was totally speechless when we got to the top of the steps and walked through the tight passage to the patio in front of the houses.
|Entering Marsella Street|
There were about four houses in this hidden corner and it looked to me as if all the neighbours were out to meet us, Everyone was talking at once, lots of kisses and hugs again and the women were trying to push me towards one of the houses, smiling constantly and saying something which I just didn't understand. That I didn't understand them certainly didn't deter them because they pushed forward a young lad about 12 yrs old and nudged him to speak to me in a very broken English. I was interrogated by the ladies through my young translator and as I recall it was mostly about the baby and how did I meet Sr P.
They then started getting their purses out and offering me money (so embarrassing) and the lad couldn't explain to me what was happening !! Sr P was outside drinking beer and talking so I called him in.... but the ladies were shushing me and saying No! No! Sr P came in and there was this silence .....and he went all serious when he saw the money in their hands and said something in Spanish and the ladies just turned away mumbling something,putting their money away at the same time and started laughing again while they bustled around the kitchen area.
As I recall no one told me what was going on!!!
|Recent photo. Entrance to one of the houses and patio outside at the front of the house|
Meanwhile outside several tables and chairs suddenly appeared in front of the houses, places were laid and snacks and jugs of beer and wine were brought out. I gathered that we were invited to lunch when a glass of red wine was put in my hand and a seat pulled out for me. Sr P just shrugged his shoulders when I queried it and explained it was out of the question to refuse as they would be very offended!! The amount of food was incredible! I can only remember really the chicken soup with noodles which was delicious.
Meanwhile my daughter slept through all this until dessert when she woke for her feed. A bottle was heated up and it was all taken out of my hands by that marvellous cheerful boisterous group of ladies.
I have very very fond memories of that day in 1973 and although I went through some embarrassing moments and felt totally out of place to begin with, they all made me feel welcome and accepted. We have occasionally been back there over the years and it has been a delight to be able to converse with them in Spanish.
I know this has been rather long winded but I'd just like to add a sort of epilogue.
When we returned that afternoon to my in laws apartment, my mother in law lifted the baby with the mattress from the carry cot and at the same time she called me over to show me there were several banknotes at the bottom of the cot. Now she knew where we had been and she started indicating to me not to say anything to Sr P. It was getting to be quite like a conspiracy but it was all clarified that evening when I asked one of my husband's friends who spoke English. He confirmed when I explained to him and as I had already suspected that it was indeed a custom to give money to the new born babe and that is what the ladies were trying to do. What I couldn't understand I told him was why I couldn't say anything to Sr P! He told me that Sr P had/has quite a reputation of being proud and would never accept money from anybody and gets quite angry about it (believe you me I have learnt all about this throughout the 49 years we have been together!!) so those ladies were trying to give me the money ,their gift, without Sr P knowing.
Those minxes, during our visit hid that money under my baby's mattress when they were feeding and changing her!!!
I later on ,before returning to London,went with my mother-in-law and we bought two beautiful little dresses with matching frilly briefs for my daughter and she later told the ladies what I had bought with the money.
Sr P has never ever been told anything about this....I am sharing this secret with you! 😀
Initially I hadn't planned to write up an anecdote about my first visit to Spain and my first contact with my Spanish family but walking through the Old Town last Sunday and seeing these photographs has brought it all back to me.
I count myself lucky to have met those wonderful people.