Mar 022015
 

Is it possible to travel too much? Am I just too spoiled in my ‘old age’ that when I go to a new city, it’s not as exciting as it used to be?

I’m in Madrid for a conference (INTED 2015). I was here before about six years ago with my mom and Aunt Sue. It was a short visit before we took off for the south of Spain, but I remembered it being a pretty cool city.

The trip over felt long and tiring. Probably having a flight that leaves at 1:45am is what taints the experience. I came with a colleague and so at least we could have someone to chat with and have pre-flight drinks with. 😉 It was a pretty easy flight for me as I slept the whole way, but had a three-hour layover in Amsterdam before another 2.5 hour flight to our destination. By the time we arrived at the hotel around 1pm, we were fairly wiped.

We did settle in to our rooms and then go for a meal and wander around. I’ll post the pics a bit later as they are in my camera…. Then, we came back with the intent of going back out later for tapas and sangria, both of us ended up crashing and not having the energy to go back out. 🙁

Still, even though it has been good so far and I like the city enough, I think the traveling part is starting to wear on me a bit…Maybe I just need to ensure that my departure times are not so rough so that I can enjoy it more…?

Anyway, will definitely be posting about the conference and the city de Madrid!

More to come,

~T 😀

Jul 272009
 

My last day in Spain was spent in transit. My aunt kindly got up early with me to take me to the train station in Malaga. Since we were told it was hard to find due to construction in the area we left early.
The 30-minute drive led us almost directly to the station. We only had to ask one person on the way. I picked up my pre-reserved ticket through renfe at a ticket machine and went to wait to get on the train.

The train reminded me of the bullet trains in Japan with nice seats and refreshment cars. My sunrise in Spain was seen from the train window as it sped through the country towards Madrid.

We arrived on time and I caught a cab to the airport without any troubles at all. As we drove through the city I thought how we should have spent more time there and that I need to come back soon. How have I not been to Europe before?

So I’ve fallen in love with a country. There’s more to see so I will be back!!

Thus ends my adventure through Spain. More from my travels to come.

-T
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Jul 232009
 

After a bit of a stressful day in Morocco, we decided to take it easy the last couple of days that we had left in the Costa del Sol.

One town that my cousin had heard was good for the beach and shopping was Torremolinos. So, we decided to check it out. When we arrived, we decided to pay 4euros for the day to have beach chairs and a sun umbrella to ensure comfort and peace. It was so worth it!

We spent the day having sangria, swimming in the very “refreshing” sea, eating helados and relaxing. Thankfully, not much shopping was done that day.

In the evening, we stopped in Fuengirola for the Catholic Festival of the Sea where the people drag a statue of the Virgin del Carmen from the church to the Sea in hopes of blessing the fish harvest for the year. It was an interesting procession and a good cultural moment to experience.

Afterwards, we found some dinner and then managed to make it to a night club. My cousin and I did some tequila shots and danced a bit, but overall it was a very quiet place to party. Good fun and pictures coming later.

The last day was spent much in the same way. I was quite tired for some reason and so I just hung out at the beach and went for a swim. The other ladies did a bit of shopping and overall we just relaxed the rest of the day.

One more entry to come on Espana!

Until then,

T

Jul 212009
 

One of the places I wanted to be sure to see while I was in the southern part of Spain, was Morocco. All of the travel books recommend taking a tour or hiring a guide to ensure ease of border crossing and avoidance of hassling from the peddlers. As we were unable to get a hold of any of the recommended guides from our books, we booked through a travel agency in Gibraltar.

We were told to be at the port by 8am to ensure we caught our ferry on time. We understood that to mean the ferry was leaving at 8, so we all rose long before the sun to make the just over an hour drive to Algericas.

Unfortunately, nothing is open at that time of the day for grabbing food on the way, but we arrived with plenty of extra time and were able to find some morsels at the cafe in the port station. When we checked-in, they told us to meet at the information booth at 8am.

8am came and went – no one arrived. I assumed that Spanish time was perhaps like Peruvian time – fluid. So, I suggested we wait until 8:40.

8:40 came and went – no one arrived. Where was Miguel?? The name of a person we were told to wait for.

I went back to the ticket counter and was informed that our ferry wasn’t leaving until 10, so we should meet at the ticket counter at 9 to meet up with Miguel. WTF?!

We went for more coffee as our patience was wearing and irritation increasing. At 9, we walked to the ticket counter. They walked us back to the information booth. ha ha. We met someone, presumably Miguel, who took our information, gave us a sticker and told us to wait until almost 10 when our ferry would leave.

After a bit more trial of our patience, we managed to get on the boat to Ceuta. It was almost 1.5 hours (not exactly as fast as we had thought it would be), but upon arriving in Ceuta (Spanish owned on Moroccan soil), we met up with a larger tour group and got on a bus. Our guide for the day was Ahmed and he took us through the borders of Spain and Morocco heading first towards a local town – Tetuoan.

Tetuoan was a small town where they showed us the local market. We walked through the walled market streets, had a Moroccan meal – yum! -, were taken to some different shops including carpets and trinkets.

Ahmed had a colleague join us to help with the tour who followed up at the back of the group to ensure that everyone made it safely. Mohammed decided that my mom was an easy target to ask her to tip for his services to which she said No. He kept asking her and I noticed that he was patting her on the back, making her very uncomfortable. At one point, she stopped and shook her head -NO- and then he moved on to my aunt. I asked what happened and once she told me, I went up to Mohammed and explained under no circumstances was he allowed to touch my mother and he was not getting any money from us. He tried to pretend like all was well, but we had arrived at the bus and I again explained not to touch my mother and said NO looking him in the eye. I also looked straight at Ahmed to ensure that he was aware there was a problem. Later, on the bus, Ahmed asked what had happened and apologized saying this had never happened before – a running theme throughout our tour.

Our next stop was Tangier. It was about 1.5 hour drive through the country, which was interesting to see. I always enjoy seeing the land.

Tangier reminded me greatly of Abu Dhabi, but dirtier and sketchier. The city was quite small really, but there were more local streets and people to take in. We were still asked for tips by the local guide there, but at least it was a better situation. No one really seemed interested in buying anything though we had thought it would be a good shopping place. I sat at a cafe and had some cafe con leche waiting for the others to shop. It was there that I got the sense that I would like to go back and see some other parts of the country that would probably be a better sample of the culture and people.

The ferry ride back was fairly uneventful, but only 45-minutes, which was much better. Our long day ended with some frustrations in trying to find food at midnight and all of us being tired. So, perhaps not our best day, but I was happy to have made the day-trip.

Just a couple more days to go!

-T

Jul 182009
 

We are planning to take a day tour to Morocco one of these days but have been having some trouble with finding a guide from our books. So, we decided to do Gibraltar for the day.


I started with a swim in the pool as I have to maintain some sort of fitness to keep up with all the helados! ;D. We headed out in early afternoon for the hour drive in the other direction of the coast than the day before.

We arrived first in a city called La Linea which is a border town as Gibraltar is a British colony and not actually part of Spain. We drove across the border rather than parking on the Spain side and walking over as most books recommend. Getting across was fairly quick and easy.

Once in the town we parked and headed to take the cable car to the top of the rock. However the day was quite windy and the cable car was stopped so we lucked out with a tour instead.

The tour took us up the rock with a stop at a viewpoint called the Gate of Hercules, which gave us a view of the strait, Spain, and Morocco. It was a beautiful day and the wind served to keep things cool. We continued on to the caves where the British military dug through to house 1700 men to protect the sea and colony or something to that effect. I’m still not much of a history lover…. The tour continued as we climbed up towards the tip of the rock with a stop for photos and monkey viewing.

 
 

Some people wanted monkeys to jump on them but I declined. I did have one take food from my hand which was close enough for me! We headed back down the rock to end our tour.

 

Since we were in the UK, the thing to do for lunch was to eat fish ‘n’ chips. The portion was huge but the food was delish!

We also stopped to book a trip to Morocco the next day through a recommended travel agent from our tour guide – Paul. More shopping was done before heading back to grab some dinner and resting for an early start the next day.

– T
Sent from my iPhone

Jul 182009
 

We are based on the Costa del Sol, so the idea is that we will take a few day trips around the area.

Our first trip was to a town called Nerja. It is the southeastern-most point in Spain, I think and is known for the caves and beach area. Thus, we did both.

The cuevas de Nerja were very impressive. I don’t have pics to post now but will be up later. It has been years since I have visited the Oregon caves, but I don’t think they were anything like these. The stalactites and stalagmites were massive! It is amazing to consider that man used to dwell in these caves. I can imagine that it was hard to get around but it was beautiful.

After the caves we headed to the beach for the afternoon. The Mediterranean Sea is no Arabian Gulf, that’s for sure. It was what we have deemed “refreshing” to say the least. The beach consisted of mostly gravel and rocks rather than sand. But it was a relaxing afternoon of sun and sea.

As the sun began to go down we headed to town to see the Balcony of Europe, which has a really beautiful view of the coast. Then, it was time to find a good place to eat. We’ve consumed more pizza in this country than expected but we found a nice Italian place overlooking the sea near the Balcony.
Another great part of Spain is the people’s love for their helados (ice cream!!!). Everywhere we go there are ice cream places with flavors galore. It’s not so great for the diet but great for vacation!! Thus dessert was had with a nightview of the Sea.

 

Our day in Nerja ended with our drive back to the resort. It was just over an hour away. Tomorrow will be another trip on the coast. Stay tuned!


– T
Sent from my iPhone

Jul 142009
 
View of the Mediterranean Sea from cabina

Because my cousin came in from Oregon in the morning, we made no big plans for the day. So, for the first time in about a week, we just relaxed the entire day.

The Costa del Sol

I had planned to try using the Internet in the morning, so I had to go to the main pool for the ireless connection. While I waited to get in touch with someone on Skype, I went for a swim in the larger square pool there. At around 930am, there aren’t many people out at all and the quiet of the water, breeze and area is peaceful. Since I wasn’t able to talk on Skype, I continued to relax at the pool giving me some needed personal time to soak up the sun. Around 11 or 1130, more people starting coming out of their cabinas and the children were about enjoying the water.

Once I got hungry, I headed back to our cabina and greeted my cousin who was naturally exhausted from her long journey. So, we all spent the afternoon at the pool downstairs and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.

In the late evening, we went out to enjoy happy hour, but the Sangria was very poor and though we attempted to enjoy the “best” restuarant in the resort, none of us were impressed. However, the entertainment by Jesus was definitely worth a number of good laughs!

 
 

More excitement to be had in following days, though, so a quiet one is never a bad thing!

Until next time,

-T

Jul 122009
 
View of Granada from hotel

As we had no need to rush to get Malaga, we had a lie in – becoming the custom – and then went to enjoy a traditional breakfast of chocolate and churros with our coffee at Gran Cafe in the main plaza.

Then, we walked around to see the chapels in the city based on a recommendation from a guy who offered information freely. I’m not a big fan of churches/cathedrals but sometimes it is nice to see the ostentiousness of the Catholic churches. The carvings, statues and paintings are indeed awe-inspiring. Though I think perhaps the churches in Peru were a bit more opulent.

Unfortunately, my back had started hurting from all the walking the day before. So I wasn’t up for too much walking therefore, we headed back to check out and start our journey to Malaga.

Sadly traffic was bad probably as it was the weekend it seemed that everyone was out on their way to the Costa del Sol. It took an extra hour in traffic and then we realized the resort is not actually in Malaga city but out past Fuengirola, another city about 12km past Malaga. After a few confused directions we finally arrived at the Club Cost Resort!

Our cabina is two-bedrooms with a fully setup kitchen and living space. We settled in and then hit the pool below. At last some true R&R is about to begin!!!

More to come,
-T
twaller99@gmail.com
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Jul 122009
 

Due to the late lifestyle here, we are learning to start our days a bit later as well. So, we made a leisurely start to our day in Granada. We stopped at a nearby Cafe for coffee and croissants. Then
we headed for the number 30 bus to Alhambra.

The bus climbed up the mountain side showing us a lovely view of the city below. Upon arrival we picked up our tickets to enter the palace at 1pm and then went off to explore the other areas with an hour before our permitted entrance time.

The grounds and gardens were beautiful. My mom and aunt discussed yard projects for home to replicate the beauty of the ones there. Of course, I think they’d have to budget in a groundskeeper too!
The inside of the palace was spectacular with the Islamic carvings and designs. I took loads of photos – to be posted later.

 
 

After our walk around, we stopped for a quick bite to eat before returning to the city centre for dessert, more shopping and a rest. In the evening, we headed to Albazcyin to see the sunset and enjoy dinner with a night view of Alhambra. No crazy nights so far, but a relaxing time was spent by all in Granada.

 
 

We’re off to Malaga tomorrow!
– T
twaller99@gmail.com
Sent from my iPhone

Jul 102009
 

We had a very long sleep last night as we haven´t yet gotten used to the lifestyle of staying out late and without taking a siesta like the locals, we´ve been exhausted!

So, we got up leisurely and then headed out to find Hertz to pick up our rental car to make our drive from Madrid to Granada. It was a bit of an adventure to walk and figure out how to get to Hertz. Of course, being the only Spanish-speaker in the group has meant that I have to figure out everything and navigate places. We managed to find the Hertz and after a long convoluted route to our car, we were ready to go.

Surprisingly, navigating out of the city of Madrid wasn´t too difficult, though I discovered differences in reactions of people in stressful situations. Good thing I am a calm person. ;D It was just a 5.5 hour drive from Madrid to Granada. We didn´t make any stops along the way, though I did take pictures of the countryside as we drove through. The random bull signs along the highway and the miles and miles of olive and perhaps tobacco plants created the scenery along the way. It was nice to see the non-touristy parts of the country, though.

We arrived in Granada around 3pm this afternoon and though driving around the small city was a bit stressful, we found our hotel – Hotel Dauro – relatively easily. After parking and settling in to our room, we headed out to explore the city. Other than a moment of near shutdown due to food deprivation, we enjoyed seeing the city and doing some shopping. We had a great dinner at La Castellana, where I relaxed with a couple of sangrias in my tummy.

My iPhone is charging now, so I hope to have some photos to post tomorrow as we explore Alhambra.

Until then,

T