How to do the unspeakable

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I did it!!

Well, at least that’s the way I planned to start this post. But the truth is, I didn’t do it. Not because I changed my mind.

This morning I decided this would be the day I called the US Consulate for an appointment – to renounce my US citizenship. When I called the phone number I had been given, which is also the one on the US Consulate home page, the phone just rang and rang and rang. Nobody picked up. I tried several times. That’s called determination. Still nobody picked up. Then I remembered that a friend had said they want you to do the appointments online. OK, I’ll do it that way. The consulate’s home page has a link to a very good video explaining how to make appointments for all kinds of services online. That was very reassuring – I can handle that.

So I thought. The main hurdle to making an appointment is trying to find the word “renunciation” on the consulate’s home page. No such thing, nada. That must be a VERY bad word. Or it’s something no one requests….

How can you click on something if it’s not there?

By process of elimination I figured out that it must be under the heading “American Citizen Services.” Sure, helping US citizens get rid of their citizenship is a service provided to them by their government. Makes sense. But it wasn’t listed there either. Then I figured I would just make an appointment, show up and request the unspeakable non-entity. Imagine me showing up at the consulate and telling the big tall Marine in the gorgeous uniform: “I have an appointment, but I can’t say for what. It’s for the thing that’s not on your home page. That’s all I can say. It’s so unspeakable that I don’t dare utter that word.” Fat chance I would make it past security.

The appointment page required more process of elimination: you had to tick off a box for the service you request in order to continue the appointment making process. Again there was no box for renunciation. And no box for unspeakable non-entities. Only boxes for passport renewal, more pages for your passport, registration of a birth and lots of speakable choices. Nothing unspeakable. Nothing that said anything remotely like “I want out.” But the last option was at least very open-minded: request other services not listed above. Wow, that could be it. At least it lookled like it might include unspeakable things. Click.

Then there was one more box that HAD to be clicked in order to continue: “I have read the instructions on the Embassy or Consulate website for the passport services I require.” Mind you, since I couldn’t find a single reference to “renunciation” on the consulate’s website, I also hadn’t seen any “instructions” about how to do it. That’s logical, even if it is unspeakable and instructionless. But since I didn’t want to be too fussy, I just clicked that box anyway. I mean you had to. If you didn’t, you couldn’t continue to the calendar and pick out a date for an appointment. And that was what I wanted! An appointment!! Finally, a page opened up with months and days shaded in various colors: appointments available or not available. Wow, the promised land!! There I was.

Click, click, forward. I wanted an appointment for the fall, because by then I hope to have the (cough) rest of the paperwork taken care of. Unfortunately, it was only possible to make an appointment until the end of July. The rest of the year is not open for bookings yet. That’s definitely too soon considering my paperwork. With that I decided I would have to wait and closed up the site. I’ll have to tackle the appointment process again in a couple of weeks/months. Maybe the unspeakable will have become speakable by then. And maybe there will even be instructions. But, if not, I’ll still know what to do: just keep clicking your way through until you get to the calendar – the promised land!! It does exist!

Do you know what else I did this morning before I tackled the appointment thing? I stopped by the thrift shop and lo and behold what did I find? An oven-proof deep pie dish for American apple pie, like you don’t see very often at all in the heart of Europe. Pie dishes, I mean. Needless to say I snapped it right up. No identity crisis for me. I know exactly who I am and always will be. No matter whose passport I carry. Still, it was a very sweet little coincidence on a day like today.

My thanks to Amy for suggesting that I write a blog about the process of “exporting” myself. Good idea.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful day today, full of speakable and unspeakable pleasures.

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Euro!pa Quiz

Fast Question: What is Europe’s oldest city?

Rome – right? Nope.

Of course not, it has to be a city in Greece. Natch, no doubt about it!

Wrong again. Well then,….

How about Cádiz? You know, Cádiz – in Andalusia, in Spain!!

While there is probably no way to answer this question with absolute certainty, some people think Cádiz is the oldest city in Europe.

Castillo de Santa Catalina

Cádiz was founded in 1100 BC by the Phoenicians. They called it “Gadir,” which means “walled stronghold.”

Situated on the Atlantic coast, the city has always had a maritime history. For the Romans, Gades was a strategically important port and only Rome had more inhabitants. Over the centuries the name evolved to “Cádiz,” but the inhabitants are still known as “gaditanos.”

 

At any rate Cádiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city still standing on the Iberian Peninsula.

Cádiz was the first point in the Iberian Peninsula to be invaded by the Moors from nearby Africa. Columbus sailed from Cádiz to the Americas on his second and fourth voyages.

Castillo de Santa Catalina is now an enchanting venue for concerts and exhibitions

In the 16th century Cádiz was an unlucky favorite with many of England’s fabled pirates. Sir Francis Drake repeatedly raided Cádiz and the coast of Andalusia in a struggle to win control of trade with the New World. In 1587 he captured and destroyed so many ships that he purportedly delayed the Spanish Armada by a whole year.

The old sea wall offered protection against the Atlantic and invaders

In 1598, after Cádiz had been sacked by the English two years earlier, Spain erected a military fortification here, Castillo de Santa Catalina, at the end of the beautiful Playa de la Caleta.

Exhibition space in the Castillo

Beautiful backdrop for art, concerts, flamenco and the history of Cádiz

 

Outpost on the Atlantic

 When was the last time you ran into a pirate?

Thanks for reading!

Goal!! Olé España!

Have you ever wondered how Spain managed to win the European Football Championship three times in a row? They start young, and they live and breathe football. I watched in amazement as this little boy practiced fending off balls in the Plaza de Candelaria in Cádiz, Spain. The iron railing made a slight indentation, just enough to suggest a football goal, and that’s all he needed. The fact that there was a park bench in the goal didn’t faze him one bit. He definitely has the makings of a pro goalkeeper! Opposite him was another park bench, where someone could sit and hold a conversation while kicking balls to Iker Junior. Way to go!!!

The pictures were taken one week after Spain won the Euro 2012.

I love those gloves

Sorry the pictures are so blurry, but this kid was FAST! 

Of course, there are other ways to enjoy the Plaza de Candelaria:

Another way to enjoy the plaza is to take time out for a delicious pizza at Gente de Cádiz (Plaza de Candelaria 3). Sorry there’s no photo. I must have been too engrossed in my pizza.

Thanks for reading!

The fork in the road

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A little sign with an arrow says “turn left, take the other road.” What do you do…..? Do you take it, see where it goes, or do you ignore it and stay on the main road?

That was the choice: I was about an hour out of Málaga (Spain) and had just left the town of Antequera behind me. Here I was about 10 km into the wide-open countryside with the next town a good 25 km ahead of me. It was getting close to 8 pm, definitely time to start finding a hotel, and I hadn’t seen one since I left Antequera. There in the middle of absolutely nowhere was a little arrow that said “Hotel Fuente del Sol 7 km.” The arrow pointed to a smaller road, winding up and off to the left, quickly turning out of sight. Think fast: take it, or drive on. There was no picture of the hotel: it could be practically anything, good or bad, open or closed. It could be a complete waste of time.

 

Oh well, let me take a look at it. What do I have to lose? And off I went up the winding road, climbing gently, turning, climbing more steeply, the road progressively narrowing so that I was glad I didn’t meet any cars and have to squeeze past them. With one eye on the kilometer counter I knew when I had driven the 7 km and still wasn’t at the hotel. Oh well, as the Spaniards say: mas o meno (who’s counting!). Well, at least at every fork in the road there was a new sign, steadfastly pointing the way. Nevertheless, as the road kept twisting higher into the hills, I told myself, “you’re never going to find this place,” “you can be sure it went out of business a long time ago and they forgot to take down the signs,” “they certainly won’t have a room available,” “I must be crazy.” At one point the road was messy with twigs and debris that my car kicked up against its belly with a loud “clunk.” The subsequent unrelenting growls from somewhere inside the motor did nothing to reassure my navigational skills. Finally, I drove steeply uphill (what else?) through a small town built into the hillside only to exit it out the top. I was up to 9 km by now, mas o meno. Then, miracle of all miracles, there was THE HOTEL. Imagine that, I had found it.

Hotel Fuente del Sol
Hotel Fuente del Sol

When I walked inside and asked if I could have a room, the young woman at the reception desk looked at me in astonishment and asked “How did you find us?” I think she was even more astonished when I answered, “I saw your signs and followed them.” Apparently some people have trouble following signs, or maybe keeping the faith. Once I was there, it all seemed very simple. And yes, she had a room available.

The room was charming, Andalusian style with lots of dark wood, a tall ceiling, and shutters on the windows to keep out the hot sun. The room was very tastefully decorated, the double bed was huge and comfortable and the bathroom was a delight. Something I noticed: the Spanish tiled floor was more effective than air-conditioning: it cooled you off from the feet up.

The hotel’s typically Andalusian patio was home to the fuente del sol, the fountain of the sun. Set for a banquet or celebration, the patio would be breathtakingly romantic.

 

In the dining room my luck continued and the headwaiter gave me the table with the best view of the Spanish countryside and the Mediterranean in the distant background. Across the sun-drenched panorama I could envisage Roman legions, Moorish armies and Reconquista forces sweeping across the Iberian peninsula throughout the colorful centuries of Spanish history.

Dinner and the house wine were excellent. My compliments to the chef! The Spanish-style breakfast buffet was attractive and tasty.

It was my luck again that the hotel had few guests just then and gave me such a lovely room at a very reasonable price. And seeing as they didn’t need the room the next day, they didn’t mind if I stayed until early afternoon to enjoy the pool and still be able to shower before I left. That was indeed hospitality. Thank you, Hotel Fuente del Sol! www dot hotelfuentedelsol dot com

 

Yes, going off the beaten track had been a lucky choice. I’m looking forward to the next time.

P.S.:

The author was a paying guest of the Hotel Fuente del Sol and received no complimentary benefits based on this posting.

 

Thank you for reading!

…and Shéhérazade asked: will you be staying for breakfast…?

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Tarifa, the southernmost point in continental Europe. Just across from it, on the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar, is Tangier, Morocco. And there you find the Hotel Continental, the first hotel to be built in Tangier. It dates from a different time, in a place that is a different world. Here a few impressions of the breakfast rooms.  

 

 

 

Detail

I hope you enjoyed these photos from my brand new blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Time for a Change

It’s time for a change, time to break out and do something completely new.

For example, go strolling on Lake Ossiach in Carinthia (Austria). The sun dial in Ossiach Abbey was beautiful. The stone carvings in the abbey church, too. More on that another time.

Sun dial in the courtyard of Ossiach Abbey, Carinthia.

Thanks for reading!