April 4, 2015: Arcos de la Frontera

A gorgeous morning day as we woke up in the Casa Blues in Arcos de la Frontera in Cádiz Province.  The sun was bright and there was a haze across the lower parts of town.  I took some pictures as everyone was waking up to the sounds of the rooster down in the farm below the city.

While Dominica showered, I went up to the common room to get some Internet access and do a little writing as SGL is a couple of days behind and I don’t want to fall too far behind.  The views from Casa Blues are spectacular, probably some of the best views coming from the city of Acros as it sits directly in the middle of the arc of the city looking down onto the farm in the middle with the river running right beneath us.

I showered quickly.  The hot water in our room is pretty much just for pretend.  It took me a good ten minutes just to figure out that there even was hot water but it changes temperature so quickly that you cannot actually ever start to shower in the water because you will either be burned or you will freeze.  It’s pointless.  That was very frustrating.  But, at only eight Euros for two nights, it is pretty hard to complain.  The room is pretty good all things considered.

Once we were all ready we set out for a walk, up the hill this time.  We got started on the early side hoping that it would not be too hot.  But it was anyway, hot and warm.  We climbed the hill and walked the old town.  There really are few sites to see in Arcos de la Frontera, it isn’t a touristy town.  The old town is full of little shops and restaurants which are really awesome but the are that has those is small.  The real attraction here are the tiny, winding, labyrinthine streets where you will get lost no matter what you do.

Once we reached the old town, having not had dinner last night and having no breakfast this morning, we were ready for some food.  As soon as we came into the restaurant section of town (there is no other way to describe it, easily a dozen restaurants all clustered together after walking over a kilometer up the hill without a single business of any kind) we started looking for options.  We chose one with an inviting courtyard (a typical Andalusian Court, it proclaimed) and proceeded to have a wonderful, leisurely lunch.  It was before noon but close enough.  There were only about two other people there when we arrived.

We got calamari for the girls, it was very different here with huge rings and a batter that was completely new to us for calamari.  Luciana choked on it, again!  We really need to work on getting her to chew her food better.  She is taking aggressive bites which is not good at all when she eats something as dangerous as calamari so often.  Liesl learned that she likes lemon on her calamari.

We also got ensalada rusa.  So good.  Liesl tried this but decided that it was not for her.  For the main meal, Dominica and I ordered our very first paella since moving to Spain.  It was a vegetable paella which is far better for us than a seafood one (see yesterday’s entry on eating seafood.)  It was delicious.  So good.  Best paella I have ever had; I believe that Dominica would agree.  Liesl had some of it too, although she only wanted the rice.  The artichokes were especially delightful.

We sat for a while and relaxed.  The sun was out and we were warm.  Dominica had café con leche and I had a small cervesa.  They are very small here, but that was all that I wanted.

From the restaurant row we walked on to the main plaza which butts up against the city’s castle which is sadly private and inaccessible to the public.  I imagine that in a region like this a castle of this nature is nothing like a traditional castle and is exactly like a really large house since it is built exactly like all of the other houses in the region, just must larger.  Odd to think of it in that way.  It even had a garage door emptying out onto a tiny, tight little street for their cars to attempt to ingress and egress.  Even the castle struggles with getting in and out of town.

There are no real places to go.  There is an amazing view to the south of the city from the plaza.  That was pretty amazing.  But the only real thing to do was to walk around.  So we did that for a while.  We stopped in a ceramic shop and grabbed postcards and bottled water and looked at some artwork that we are struggling to resist.  We love Spanish art.

We walked the streets for a while and attempted to find the legendary convent that is located in town that sells cookies but we were unable to find it.  We did find a little art shop that also sold ice creams.  The girls had been begging all morning for ice cream so we indulged them here.  Dominica and I got ice cream too, of course, in solidarity.

We walked only half a block before a motorcycle came by, Luciana was startled and dropped her ice cream on the ground.  She was very sad so I had to run back to the shop to replace it.  The girls got these things that looked like giant lollipops made of ice cream and the sticks were cheap little plastic whistles.  Very odd.

We were a bit warm and wanted to relax and wash up.  I figured it was a good time to upload some pictures and do some writing as I have fallen behind.  So we walked back to our guesthouse, the Casa Blues, to while away the warmest part of the day.

Upon returning to the guesthouse I immediately set up my laptop and discovered, almost instantly, that several of my most important websites had been hacked.  Not hacked with a little redirect or something like they often have been in the past but completely hacked with the entire contents of the sites deleted!  This was pretty major.  This site was one of them as was our travel blog full of our podcasts!  This was pretty huge and took some tracking down just to know what had happened.

So much for a relaxing afternoon.  This turned into a disaster of a day.  A really serious disaster and, as always, we are out of town and my Internet access is spotty.

It was probably four or maybe as late as five when I discovered this.  The rest of my day was spent trying to figure out what to do.  It ended up that we were not even able to leave to go to dinner until nearly ten this evening because I had to do so much work in the hopes of recovering some things and by the end of the day it was not completely clear just how much damage was done.  It will likely be into next week before all of the damage assessment is done.

The big three sites that were hit, the ones with the everyday impact that was going to be catastrophic, I managed to migrate to a new web host with good success.  If you notice that SGL is running much faster now, that is because it is now hosted on A Small Orange.  This has been the plan for some time but the actual migration had been held off as I just have not had the time to do it and, until now, I really was not all that important.  At least the result of all of this was that the migration was done.  The biggest, hardest sites to migrate were migrated.

While I worked on that I had my Flickr uploads running in the background and got about sixty new pictures uploaded mostly from this morning but most will not be available for a few days as I have to go through them one by one and make them public and add information to them before anyone can see them and while the uploads went through fine there was no time for me to do that at all and there will not be time for me to do it tomorrow either.

At ten I was to a point that the websites had been recovered mostly and there was very little else to be done.  I had worked with our backup and recovery system in an attempt to get the most important content that had not yet been recovered – the MP3s of the Kidding Around Europe podcast.  But at ten when we went to dinner it was looking like they were truly lost.

We walked back up the hill to the old town with a plan of eating dinner at the “fancy” Convent Hotel which, we had thought, was regarded as the best place to eat in town.  Dominica had read this in a few guide books.  We got there, though, and discovered that there was no restaurant in the hotel at all.  We have no idea how the information was gathered so poorly but, there we were.

We decided just to return to restaurant row, which we knew was still open, and get dinner there.  We walked by a place and the owner (we assume) was super friendly and it seemed like a great choice.  He immediately offered simple children’s options and the girls were very interested so we plopped down at an outside table and got menus (which are called carte in this region, we learned today.)

Something that we have been learning now that we are in Spain is that a lot of the vocabulary that Dominica and I were taught in high school is just wrong.  That was Mexican Spanish and it does not apply here and they don’t even know what we are saying.  The worlds for menu and money, how people say good morning and other things are quite different than we were taught.

The food at Meson Don Fernando was absolutely amazing.  The girls split a plate of buttered spaghetti, one of their favourites.  Dominica and I started with warmed goat cheese with sauce on bread.  Yummy.  Then we had spinach croquettes which were delicious.  Then seafood croquettes in a cold mango sauce.  Those get a full Geoge Takei (Oh My!)  They were melt in your mouth delicious.  Liesl tried them and liked them too. So good.

Dominica and I also split a bottle of red wine.  Just water for the girls.  It got cold out quickly, a few drops of rain would come down from time to time and the wind really picked up.  I was fine outside and Dominica managed to even give up her sweater to Liesl but Luciana was feeling cold and Liesl ended up on the verge of tears from how cold it was, even with Dominica’s extra sweater on her.  We asked to move inside and they moved us right in to a warm table.  The girls were very happy.

Once inside Dominica ordered café con leche and rice pudding for herself.  I was content with the wine (Dominica never drinks more than a quarter of it) and we got a plate of fried Camembert cheese with raspberry jam to split – one of my favourites and this was one of the best of it that I have had.

By the end, dinner was completely amazing.  Great atmosphere, outstanding food, great service.  Everyone was happy and content.  Sadly I was still stressed out about the very high likelihood that a lot of critical data had been lost.

When we left the restaurant, the waiter told us to wait for a moment.  He disappeared and when he came back he had a bottle of red wine for us to take back home!  This place was awesome.  Had we been in the States I would have expected that dinner to cost at least two hundred dollars!   Easily more.  Barely fifty Euros here in Arcos de la Frontera!

We walked back home.  It was nearly midnight.  Got to the hotel without getting lost at all.  We didn’t miss a single turn going to the restaurant earlier, either.  Dominica and the girls went straight to bed.  It was supposed to be Ciana’s night with me but she was asleep so quickly that there wasn’t time to arrange things.  All three of the girls were asleep long before half past night.

I set up in the guesthouse lobby and put in several hours of work.  I had to do a lot of research and test a lot of things but eventually I got the restore system working and was able to recover all of the missing files!  So relieved.  It was nothing but work from midnight until two in the morning.  Once the files were recovered I did not deal with getting them all back in place, that is for another time.  At the moment I am just very thankful that this got figured out.  And so, so, so thankful that Art had run a manual backup just last night – twelve hours before the hacking took place!  I had really thought that everything was lost there for a good portion of the day.

Since I was not ready to go to bed yet, there having been so much stress, I took a little time to write up today’s SGL update and to get some of the pictures made public on Flickr so that at least something of Arcos de la Frontera could be seen by the people following along.