Finally, the snow capped Pyrenees, rising out of the Florida like flatlands of southwest France. At Biarritz, where the border bisects the coast, we left the sun shining on the Bay of Biscay, turned left toward Pamplona and followed the tunnels through the mountains. Clouds were sitting on the summit ridge like the fog laps over the California coastal range. Out of the summit tunnel we slid under the fog and all was gray and cold half way down the high plains of Spain. It wasn’t until the next morning that we finally drove out of the last of it where the early sun turned the frosted vineyards blinding bright.esp4We rolled down that Spanish grade toward the coast like rolling down the Grape Vine into the San Joaquin Valley. Can you tell I miss California? Down the same road used by conquering Moors, armies of Aragon and Castilla and of course Don Quixote. The road ended at the coast near Valencia, then south, back into the mountains to the town of Castalla. Like most of the towns along the way Castalla is topped by a castle. esp9 castalla and church, probably a former mosque.xmaslites 017 The town gives way to olive orchards and a rim of pine topped mountains. 048 These days the old town is all quiet streets and bright christmas lights. xmaslites 011

Our home for christmas is in one of Castalla’s olive orchards owned by Antonio’s family.He was kind enough to show us his finca olives1 and the cooperative where the oil is processed. olives6 Afterward we had a lunch of fuete (spanish salami), roasted/salted fish and toasted baguettes by the fire in his tractor shed. olives0olives3 Like many here he needs to supplement his farm income. So, like many in Spain, where the unemployment rate is 25% (and twice that for the young) he finds his way to Germany for work (where unemployment is 4%). Like many here he thinks less about christmas and more about whether he might win the national christmas lottery that occurs the Sunday before Navidad. He says everybody here plays the lottery and wish each other “good luck and if not that, then good health” . Buen suerte, salud y feliz Navidad, Antonio!

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