Loosening of restrictions

Crowd at Plaza de la Virgin, watercolor (held by a private collector)

Happier days in Spain may not be far off. Here in Valencia saw the first loosening of restrictions. Construction workers were most noticeably back to work starting yesterday, April 14. Traffic was also up, with more people were using public transport, where each passenger is provided with a mask. On buses you have to use the side entry to maintain more distance from the bus drivers.

Above our roof we have had a police helicopter looking down upon us. They said something over a loud speaker. People have been using the roof for exercise. We have heard conflicting things about roofs. There are children in our building and they play up there at times. I assume it is just one family at a time. The kids need to run around a bit. It’s awfully rough on children and their parents to be so confined. We have been doing jazzercize. Yesterday we did 40 minutes. It gets you moving.

After our plans to visit Egypt were cancelled, followed by days of efforts to arrange the refunds for air and accommodation, we booked flights to Nederlands so we can get back on the boat. Once there our rent payments in Valencia end so it is not only an enriching experience it is more economical for us. Our first three flights were cancelled. The EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) maintains a list of airports with a high risk of transmission. Valencia is not on the list. Madrid, Barcelona (Catalonia), Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Castilla-La Mancha are. The Nederlands decided to use this list to determine who to allow in. We should be able to board our next flight. I am not sure if they will check passports or other documentation. Non-EU residents are prohibited from traveling within the EU. We are EU residents.

Update Day 16

There are now 87,956 cases up from 80,110 yesterday, with 7,846 fatalities, up from 6,875 yesterday. The virus is yielding, albeit grudgingly, to harsh measures. People fleeing to second homes are being fined and turned back, for example. You must have a certificate to work or you can be fined. Spain is not getting help from the EU which constitutionally can not engage in deficit spending. The Central Bank has begun to buy bonds, both private and public, to try to keep the economies going as airlines and countless other businesses and their employees struggle to keep going. Our local bakery had 5-6 people running around like crazy to keep up with the morning crowds. Now there are 2, one baking bread and the other serving customers who are allowed in one at a time. Some additional businesses are allowed to operate under similar restrictions. Quel désastre!

The US looks worse. The caseload is mushrooming without the kinds of controls in place that Spain has. Spring breakers frolic on the beaches. The US has no national lock down in place, and some governors have not issued one on their own. Florida has the oldest population and no state wide order, as do 20 other states. Trump is finally taking the matter seriously, or so it seems. I hope he continues to listen to the pros.

Probably as a result of the reduction of activity the increase in the number of known cases is starting to level off in Spain, but there are still over 6000 new cases per day.  I think it will take until May for the numbers to start approaching  a manageable number.  

But even with this bit of good news I do not have enough tears. The ill. The dead and their families. The unemployed. My own inconveniences are nothing, nothing, nothing by comparison. I spend much of each day painting anyway, so now is not much different other than seeing friends, having coffee with my fabulous wife, going to exhibits. Still, nothing compared to what health care workers are dealing with, and all we can do in return is stay healthy and clap for them each night at 8.

Things are well ordered and calm in Valencia.  It does not have the the huge numbers of cases that Madrid and Barcelona have, at least so far.   There are about 5000 known cases in the province, about 25000 in Madrid and 16,000 in Barcelona.  The ICU’s in those two cities are at capacity.  Economically Valencia is probably no better off than the rest of the country, as the cancellation of Fallas meant that $1 billion+ in revenue did not materialize, yet much of the expense had already been incurred.  If it comes off in July it will be smaller, probably better than nothing.   

After we canceled our trip to Egypt we changed a flight from there to Berlin for one from here to Amsterdam.  Then the Netherlands closed flights from Spain until April 6 then extended that to April 12.  Our flight was for April 21. Then the airline announced it was canceling all flights in Europe.

Some areas of the Netherlands extended winter lock and bridge hours past the usual start time of April 1, mostly to April 12 but one area until June 1.  April is early for boating and it can be rather cold and gray so we are probably not missing much in that regard. Living aboard our boat saves us money so we’d like to get there for that reason as well as to pursue our journeys. This is comparatively minor issue of course, as long as our resources hold out, anyway.

“Unorthodox” (on Netflix)

“Unorthodox” (on Netflix) is an excellent 4 part series looking at life in Williamsburg, a section of Brooklyn. The series is based on the autobiography of Deborah Feldman, b. 1986. Her mother left the faith and her father was mentally ill so her grandmother raised her. In the series Esty (Deborah) struggles to have intercourse, finding it extremely painful. After a year with no pregnancy her husband asks for a divorce. Etsy flees to Berlin with documents showing her right to German citizenship. The story evolves into the effort to find and get her to return. She struggles to find her way with little education and even less money. The trailer includes an interview with Deborah and those they employed to assure they realistically depicted the Hasidic world. I would be interested to hear how her husband and former community reacted. Garybob says check it out!

Turron de Jijona

Turron de Jijona is Spanish soft nougat, with a wonderful almond and honey flavor. Jijona is the small town near Valencia where it is made. This turron is protected by European Union, through the IGP (Indicación Geográfica Protegida). It is made in December of each year and is a common end of the year treat. Almonds are extensively cultivated in Valencia province, dating from the Moorish era.

Your Spanish Recipes: Jijona´s turrón (Turrón de Jijona)

At first I thought it was a kind of halva. It has almost that consistency but it has more oil. I think it is sweeter too You can cut it easily with a knife, which is desirable as it comes in a block. You can see liquid inside the package. I was surprised to find it was almond oil.

El rey de la Navidad
One brand’s packaging

It is made from almonds, honey and powdered sugar. You roast the almonds and them blend into a paste while adding the honey and sugar. It is then allowed to rest for several days so that it becomes more firm. It is quite flexible when you open it but it easily breaks off too. Quite the treat!

Day 2 of The Lockdown

We are up to around 10,000 cases in Spain with 500 deaths. Land borders are closed except to returning citizens and residents. China is sending materials and some experts. At least 19 dead in a nursing home in Madrid. Some 150 died in one day. The Health ministry says they can not test everyone that might be infected. Now there are 500 deaths.

The Spanish government expected to approve a moratorium on mortgage payments for those effected by the pandemic.   See in Spanish https://elpais.com/economia/2020-03-17/el-gobierno-aprobara-una-moratoria-para-el-pago-de-hipotecas.html


Grocery stores have slightly reduced hours and limit the number of people at one time. Lidl limits entrance to one per family. In some they limit the number of identical articles you can purchase.

Starts at hour 11 eight minutes

Peg writes: The City falla was being assembled when Fallas was cancelled.  This morning it was burned.  The video is 11 hours long because no one knew when the burning would take place – the officials did not want a crowd to assemble.   Apparently, it was at about 4 a.m. this morning. 

The main part of the falla was Ayto, a woman seated in a Lotus position.  On the left side of her torso you see her head still on the pavement.  You can see that the artistas falleros added a surgical mask on the day Fallas was cancelled. 

The fire actually starts at about 11:08 on the video.  It is a pretty good representation of how they all burn on March 19, except that it took longer for the fire to start because it rained for a couple of hours before the burn. 

The burning is even sadder with the music playing, and there has been a constant stream of sad comments since the video was posted. 

Every night at 8 p.m. everyone opens their window or steps outside onto their terrace to clap for the health care workers who are working on everyone’s behalf.

The Shutdown in Spain

Travel plans, smavel plans.  Our flight to on April 1st to Egypt went through Bergamo, one of two airports serving Milan, a region infected with Covid-19 and the area first shut down by the Italian government.  I had already started drawing some of the sculptures and wall paintings.  Latest update on the situation at end of post.


Head of Amenhotep, conte crayon

Our issues are as nothing compared to those who have become ill or those whose family members have died, but is part of the economic devastation the virus spread has caused.  Here in Spain all non-essential activities are prohibited.  The police can stop and question those whose activities might not be in compliance. Bars and restaurants can not make a centavo for the next two weeks at least as the government attempts to reduce and spread out the stress on the health care system.  The biggie is the cancelatin of Fallas, the annual festival that brings some 800,000 people into the city each March. It was rescheduled to July, creating economic hardship for thousands of workers. 

Before the Valencian government canceled we attended the first night’s fireworks at the port.   The crowds were a bit less than the usual huge but it was far from vacant.  The display was terrific!  

They had installed street lights and transported some of the sculptures.  We took a walk through an area known for its fantastic and large works.  


The venders were set up, selling buñuelos (donuts made with pumpkin) and porras (deep fried cones stuffed with sweet creaminess) on street corners throughout the closer in areas of the city. After the closure they left.


Bus routes had already been changed to deal with the streets being converted to pedestrian only. The trash containers, recycling bins (separate for paper, glass, metal-plastic being combined) had already been moved. City workers had delivered the barricades that the casals (the local groups that organize and fund the sculptures, street paellas and the like) use when they have paella (they make small fires on the pavement to make the rice dish) and to cordon off music and other events. In the main plaza the huge fence was set up to contain the magnificent daily mascletas, one each day at 2 p.m. from March 1-19. They managed to do ten before the cancellation. In the video you can hear the Fallera Mayor order the commencement of the display.

The enormous fallas’ (sculpture) for city hall was in place awaiting assembly. I can not find a photo. Below is a photo of the crowd. Perfect place to pass along an infectious disease!

Fallas 2020, las fallas de Valencia 2020 | Las Provincias
40-50,000 people squeeze into Plaza de Ayuntamiento

Falleras (the lady members of the casals) had prepared their fabulous gowns for the many parties and the major event called La Ofrenda (the Offer), where they walk from their casal to the Plaza de la Virgin each with a bouquet that is placed on the 25 meter (80′) tall rendition of Mary with the baby Jesus in her arms and two children at her feet.

Un protocolo exige a las falleras recato en escotes y ...
The Ofrenda

Dresses are back in the closets. I suppose those who make the bouquets will get their paychecks and those who deliver them will have this job again in July if in fact Fallas makes it back.

In the meantime people panic buy toilet paper, meat, pasta and jarred beans while standing in long lines to check out. I hope they are all being careful as they stand there. In our trips for groceries they were, and everyone was respectful and orderly. The supermarkets in some cases were not able to fully replenish supplies each night of the several that have passed since the lock down was announced.

Last night at 10 PM we heard clapping and cheering. We went out to the balcony. Friends from across the street were out there too – they’d had lunch with us that day. It turns out to have been a gigantic applause for the health care workers in the clinics and hospitals. It was a heart warming gesture in the midst of so much gloom.

LATEST UPDATE: I’ll keep you updated on the situation here. Deaths have skyrocketed overnight to near 200, from just 1 on March 3rd, doubling overnight. Number of cases doubled from 2 days ago to 8000.