Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunday afternoon in Alicante

My travelling partner, Gabrielle, has been counting the days and there are few left before she is wearing her fur-lined boots back home in Regina, so she is soaking up the sun at the beach of Alicante. I take off to wander around and see some of the lovely old buildings.

Thinking it would be too much like the Puerto Vallarta of Southern Spain, I had hesitated about coming to Alicante, but the town itself is a gem.
I want to go up to the Castillo de Santa Barbara on Mount Benacantil and to see the 360 degree view over the town, but I can't find the elevator which takes tourists up. I am standing alone trying to decipher the indication on my little map. Alicante is a difficult place to figure out at times because it is built on a hill and of course, the maps don't show what layer you should be at. To get to the elevator from the beach, there is a busy road that you can only cross via a superb looping pedestrian bridge, the Pasarela del Postiguet, two or three hundred meters long, that goes from the beach to the other side of the road; you go around slowly climbing inside the loop and up about 30 steps and you're above and across the busy street below.
It doesn't take long before I'm accosted by a kindly looking local gentleman offering to show me the entrance to the elevator. I tell him there is no need to walk along with me; "If you just point me in the right direction, it should be easy to find." It turns out that one has to go through a tunnel, about 300 meters long before reaching the elevator. "I am just doing my daily walk," says Luis, "solo paseando". And he will be happy to come along; it will be no trouble at all, he assures me.

"Believe it or not," says Luis, "I was born here, I am 65 years old and I have never been up there via the elevator." He tells me he used to drive a taxi so he has taken many tourists up by car but has never been in the elevator. He insists on accompanying me. It is late afternoon and there are just enough tourists to make the area safe and not too many to spoil the view...

It very slowly sinks in that Luis was 'solo paseando', looking for someone to warm his bed. Up around the castillo, he points to his house over in the distance, behind the architecture museum; he does not seem to notice that each time he comes closer to me, I step away another meter; he now points to his ex-wife's house. "We are still friends, you understand."

"Better be friends in two separate houses than enemies in the same house." I tell him, and he agrees.

He has been asking me questions about myself and I have told him the usual lies. (A friend with whom I once travelled to India was quite shocked at my ability to lie so easily. "I never knew you were a liar," she commented. "Only when I travel - it is for safety - never put your cards face up with strangers," I told her.)

The visit lasts a good 20 minutes. The castillo is an interesting historical spot and the view is, as promised in the guide book, spectacular.

My companion is, as we would say in French, no higher than 3 apples, but he is a handsome sort of fellow in a rustic kind of way; lots of hair and blue eyes. And he does not walk like an old man. I can tell he has charmed a few women in his days (perhaps the reason he has been sent to pasture by his previous wife - or perhaps he was telling me fibs all along - perhaps his wife is busy cooking supper for him...) His hand reaches 'casually, as if absentmindedly' over to my forearm a bit too often. I need to ditch him because he doesn't seem to get the hint that all I wanted was to visit the castle.

Back at street level, I reiterate that there is no need to accompany me back to my hotel (When he asked where I was staying, I told him I could not remember the name of the hotel, just how to get there. Over there, I had said, pointing somewhere in the distance.) "No se preocupe," says Luis, (don't worry), "I need the exercise; it is my daily routine."

It is an unfortunate hazard for women who travel alone, no matter their age, that men of all ages will assume they are looking for action. I have experienced it many times before. Oscar the Cuban artist; George the Mexican poet; Mohammed the Turkish doorman; Archhhhhmed the Parisian student from Egypt...all young, all handsome, all penniless and willing to do anything to upgrade their financial status. But Luis is no student, no artist, no poet; he is... let's be frank, a horny old man. He is handsome enough that a few Lolitas would likely succumb to his charms given a small stack of euros, but thinking perhaps that I am some damzelle in distress, he is hoping he might be able to leave his wallet in his pocket.

Along the waterfront, I stop and point to one of the less ostentatious moored yatchs. "Three times the size of ours," I say. "If only my dear husband could be here with me to enjoy this, he would love sailing around here. but unfortunately when business calls..."

A few steps later, Luis suddenly remembers that he is expecting visitors at home and he must catch the next bus. I stretch my hand to shake his. "No beso?" he begs. "No beso." I smile, "gracias y adios."

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