Date:   September 13, 2000
Location:   Arcos

Why are there so many inefficient, leaky toilets in Spain? They were pretty bad in most other places in Europe, too, but Spain seems especially bad. Many toilets' flapper valves seem to leak unless you jiggle the handle just so. And/or the toilet flushes your wastes -- but not the paper. Or you have to use the omnipresent brush to avoid embarassment, because the flush doesn't clean the bowl well. Our low-water toilets at home do a much better job than these huge water wasters. (Oops, gotta get down off this soapbox carefully!) Now, back to our program...

At Hotel Los Olivos del Convento, breakfast is individually-made coffee or hot chocolate, rolls (toast-your-own), croissants, chocolate-filled pastries, factory-packaged doughnuts, breakfast cereals (most with sugar or chocolate, none with any fiber), orange juice (not fresh-squeezed, but the real stuff), yogurts, melon, and ham (spanish and the other kind).

A brief respite from the hot, dusty climb to the La Pileta cave entrance.

Entrance to La Pileta cave.

We sleep our way to the La Pileta cave. A short, steep climb in the heat, and we're in. What can I say? It's a cave. You've seen caves. You haven't? Well, they didn't allow us to take photos, so you won't see one here. Interesting features? This is one of the few caves with paleolithic petroglyphs that are still open to the public (by tour only, and with limited access). The petroglyphs date between 4,000 and 25,000 years ago. There are animal drawings and probable calendar markings, in ochre/fat and charcoal/fat. There are some nice "curtains" of calcite that ring at different frequencies. The last, largest chamber is approximately 40 feet across, 50 feet high, and stands above a similarly-sized chamber. The cave guide stomps his foot on the floor, and the chamber rings like a drum. He says we can relax -- the floor is around 5 meters thick.

Back on the bus, to Grazalema, for a picnic lunch at a shady plaza overlooking the area. While Susan and Tooraj prep for the picnic, we look around the town. Our favorite haunt is the local grocery store (just for fun, and also in hopes of hunting down my nightly grapefruit). No grapefruit in this tiny-but-jam-packed store. There's a shelf full of wine, none of it costing more than 900 pts ($5).

Picnic lunch in Grazalema. Reiko, Tooraj, and Marie pitch in.

Cleanup time!

Today's picnic consists of bread, vino, juice, water, two local hard cheeses, salami, olive loaf, fresh tomatoes, cukes, marinated artichokes, pickled white asparagus, potato chips, dates, melon, plums, agua, and vino. Very satisfactory. And we're treated to some ice cream bars! (I know they must be a pain the posterior for the guides, but I really enjoy these picnics!)

Jim, Kikue, and Dick line up for a much-needed ice cream treat.

Even Santos indulges.

Jim and Judy

Back to Arcos, where we're free for the afternoon. A very light day!.

Yesterday, Tooraj mentioned that Arcos has a very good Egyptian restaurant, at which point Brig and I decided that it would be our dinner destination. On the way back from Grazalema, Susan mentioned (in front of several people) that she would be going there for dinner. Poof! 22 people for dinner at Los Farones. The meal was excellent, and reasonably priced at 2,000 pts ($11) per person. We had: Bread, water, tinto de verona (a summer drink that is basically a red wine spritzer), the same vinos tinto & blanco as yesterday, and cerveza; garlic olives; a plate of mixed appetizers containing potato salad, a flavorless stuffed eggplant, the absolute best falafel I've ever tasted (heavy on the parsley and lemon, plus a sprinkling of sesame seeds before frying), pickled carrots, and a semi-solid goat cheese; A plate of hummus (really good -- go heavy on the lemon, and include some whole garbonzos for texture); a plate of grilled meats with saffron rice and couscous: The rice contained whole dates and almonds, there was veal, roast chicken, and lamb; garnished with fried onions; For dessert, a plate of backlava and other very sweet pastries and cookies soaked with butter & honey; And a glass of heavily honeyed mint tea. Wonderful food, wonderful value.

Our meal at Arcos' Egyptian restaurant. The appetizer plate included some of the best falafel I've ever enjoyed.

Some grilled meats, rice, couscous, almonds, sultanas... Darn it, I'm drooling again.

The restaurant owner pours us some sweet mint tea to go with our baklava and cookies.

King Bob and Reiko

Returning to the room, I notice that it's very damp, and has been the whole time. Checking some bumps in the wall finish, I find that they are damp and pliable. Perhaps the air conditioner drain plumbing is malfunctioning? Not our problem, but fixing the damage could be expensive for the hotel...

Brig's new fan