Almeria

After leaving Cartagena, we just kept gong south until we hit our next stop in Almeria.  Almeria is another very old city, located in the Andalusia region of Spain.  Almeria was first founded by Abd-ar-Rahman III, in the 10th century.  Almeria means “the watch tower” and it was named because of the Moorish citadel Alcazaba, that sits atop the hill, defending the city and her surroundings.  Alcazaba was part of the Moorish Caliphate of Cordoba.  The city of Almeria grew very wealthy due to the rich trade and textile markets of the area, with silk being a very large part of that trade market.  Almeria and Alcazaba were very successful for many hundreds of years until their luck changed and they fell under siege to the Christians in 1489.  In 1522, both were rocked and shaken again by a devastating earthquake.  Restorations did not take place until the 19th century.  Then once again, they fell victim to the attacks of the German Navy in 1939.  Today, Alcazaba has been restored once more, and is now home to 100,000 acres of greenhouses producing vegetables that feed much of Europe.

Abd-ar-Rahman III

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Alcazaba

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The aquaducts and water systems are amazing.  They all feed into each other.  This impressive water system started from the top of the hill and flowed down to the bottom, where it fed into another system as well.

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The commanding view of the sea and the city below.

 

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After leaving Alcazaba, we went back into the city and explored the city of Almeria.  The streets are very, very narrow and hard to drive around in and parking is even worse.  I doubt if there is even 6 meters between the houses and the streets.  Fortunately we found a spot that was safe, however, as we were walking down, we heard a big crash.  Someone turning from one street to the next had crashed into a parked car.  Our little “Petey” was safe and unharmed, thankfully.

This street was one of the wider streets of Almeria.  We have found this is typical all over Spain.

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NO driving down this street, that’s for sure.  Since driving and parking are such a giant pain, most people park once, and then walk everywhere.  We did the same.  We have been walking an average of 5-7 miles per day.  The walking itself isn’t so bad, but it is walking in the extreme heat that really gets us.  So far all throughout Spain, the average temperatures have been around 95-100 * F or about 38-40* C.

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As I have mentioned before, Spain is a land of many contrasts.  Madrid – Part 2 – Seeing the Sights  Spain is also a very religious country, with Catholic being the most dominant relgion, and Muslim or Islam coming in second.  Almeria, as well as most of Southern Spain, has a very large Muslim population.  There are big Mosques and Basillicas in every city.  Alcazaba was created as a Muslim Caliphate, and is created in the Moorish style.  After visiting Alcazaba, we toured through the big Basillica of Almeria as well.  There is quite a contrast between these two big and powerful religions, which is evident everywhere you go.  Both are very old and both yield a lot of influence over the people and the community.

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One of 2 sets of organ pipes.

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There were so many beautiful stained glass windows.

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We were blown away by all the beauty AND opulence of the church.  We were also very fascinated by all the Moorish buildings and structures as well.  Just to look at all these buildings from an architectural point of view is amazing.  These very old and very beautiful builings are built so well, and they are just astonishing.  They were most definitely built to last, unlike so many of the modern buildings of today.  It is also mindboggling to see so many beautiful old buildings and structures that have been standing for centuries longer than my country has even been in existence.  We have so many pictures.  I try to post the ones that are most telling of the areas we are visiting.  I hope you all enjoy the ones I am sharing, and that they allow you to get a little taste of Spain and all the adventures we are having.

Our next stop is the Costa del Sol, or the sunshine coast of Southern Spain.  Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dining Cartagena Style

Believe it or not, we are doing A LOT of walking and hiking all around on our sight seeing tours through Spain.  We always do our best to get a lot of exercise on our trips, and this trip is no different, although to you it may seem like all we do is eat.  We are probably walking/hiking about 5-7 miles per day, on average.  And because the temperatures are so hot, we are also sweating a lot as well.  All of this works up an appetite, and hopefully at least will keep us ‘”neutrally “buoyant” to use a diving term, so we do not gain to much weight on this trip.  We actually tend to lose a little weight on our vacations because we are always so active, which is definitely a good thing.  I have A LOT of weight to lose.

We were only in Cartagena for 1 night.  After touring around the city, it was time to find a place for dinner.  Because we were right at the sea, of course we were looking for a good seafood dinner.  We decided on the Yacht Club’s Restaurant, right at the water’s edge.  We got to the restaurant around 7:30 PM, but of course they were not open yet for dinner because the Spanish eat later in the evening.  Or darn, we just had to wait in the bar area with some good Albirino wine until they opened up.

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Once the restaurant opened, we were ready and waiting.  This is the view we had with dinner.  In the later part of his career, my dad was mostly sailing on tanker ships, and primarily oil tankers.  Every time I see a tanker ship, I always wave and say hi to my daddy, because I know he is right there with me.  To me it is good luck, because my daddy is still there watching over me.  As you see in the background, he was having dinner with us too.

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We were craving vegetables and a salad, so we ordered a house salad to share. It was loaded with tuna and vegetables.  I’m glad we decided to share though.  This was one huge salad.  I found out why the Spanish love their meats so much.  During WWII, when food was very, very scarce, Argentina was sending food to Spain, and the Argentines are very big meat eaters.  So now, the Spanish eat a lot of meat with every meal.

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Larry feasted on grilled fish, which was fabulous.

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I enjoyed lobster paella.

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We are having extreme technical difficulties today, so I am not able to send you any more pictures today.  You will just have to trust me when I say how impressive our breakfast display was.  After leaving Cartagena, we went to Almeria and more ruins.  Those adventures will be my next post, internet allowing.  So ciao for now!

 

 

 

Cartagena by the Sea

My dad was a career sailor and spent his life sailing the seas with the Merchant Marines.  I remember hearing about Cartagena by the Sea from listening to all of my dad’s sea stories and tales.  Now, I finally got a chance to see it for myself.  It is rich with a very impressive history.  I have always loved history.  Anyone who says they don’t like history has never really experienced it.

Before leaving for Cartagena, we picked up our rental car.  We are driving around in style in a Mini Cooper, that we affectionately named “Petey”, named after Larry’s favorite hockey player, Peter Forsberg.  We are definitely putting poor Petey through the ringer, but he is handling everything like a charm.

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And so the adventures begin. Cartagena is about 300-350 miles or about 500 K from Madrid. Most of the drive was through wide open spaces that was predominately agriculture.

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Once we started our journey, we did not make many stops, because we were anxious to see the ruins of Cartagena.  When we first pulled in, I really had some second thoughts, since we pulled into a very shady, dodgy spot, also I might add, where we were staying. Those first impressions, however, were quickly removed once we toured around the city and saw her for what she really is and for all her true beauty.

Cartagena is a very old city and is very rich with history.  The city was founded in the 3rd century bc on the site of an ancient Iberian settlement by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal. Its name, like that of its mother city, Carthage, was derived from the Phoenician Kart-hadasht (“New Town”).   The Carthaginians believed the city to be largely secure, because it was surrounded on three sides by water, but the northern side was subject to tidal fluctuations and proved indefensible.  After the Phoenicians, came the Romans, and then the Moors.  It was finally added to Spain by Phillip the II, in the early 17th century, and has been Spain’s most important coastal and Naval city every since.  Because Cartagena is a major seaport, and has been for centuries, it was also a very affluent city because of all the trade markets that took place within the city.  Today, the bigger cities of Madrid and Barcelona have taken over as major affluent and influential cities, although Cartagena is still the 6th largest city in Spain.  Today, the main industry of Cartagena is tourism, and it is a major stop for all the Mediterranean cruise lines.

We stayed at another nh hotel.  It was very nice and clean and was decorated with many nautical designs and themes, displaying Cartagena’s deep history with the sea.

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Once we got checked in, it was time to go explore.  We saw a lot of the ruins from the Ancient Roman times, as well as the Castle de Coronacion for Queen Isabela.  Isabel was a devout Catholic, and there are a lot of religious artifacts in the castle as well as many of the Queen’s beautiful dresses and jewels.  Queen Isabel was Christopher Columbus’ strongest supporter, so that castle also has some of the nautical artifacts used by Christopher Columbus when he made his great voyages to the New World.  Cartagena is  the birth place of those famous voyages that forever changed the world.

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The road built by the Ancient Romans.

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The old bull fighting teatro.

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A family of peacocks.  Today, the peacocks are the only full time residents of the castle.

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Cartagena was also the birthplace for the Red Cross of Spain.

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The commanding view of the sea from the top of the castle.

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These are some of the highlights of Cartagena that we saw.  Of course, we had to eat, and as you might expect, the food was incredible, but I will save that for later.  Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madrid – Part 3- Los Comidas de Madrid

The food in Spain is muy delicioso!!!!  We are most definitely having a good time eating our way through Spain.  So far we have tried and enjoyed all the dishes Spain is known for, and then some.

Before starting our tour of the city, we started our day with some fabulous pan dulce from Granier Paneria.  The owner was a lovely lady named Antonita, who was originally from Venezuela.  All the breads and pan dulces were freshly made and were just begging to be eaten.  Of course, we had to oblige.

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We had a light lunch of bocadillos or sandwiches at the famous Museo de Jamon.   Pork and ham are favorites of the Spanish, and the Museo de Jamon is a landmark.  It is a must on any tourist list for Madrid.

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We worked up an appetite while taking in the sights, but we knew tapas were on the menu for later, so we ate very light until it was time for tapas.  After all, you can’t go to Madrid and not have tapas, right?!  The Mercado de San Miguel is a huge tapas metropolis.  It is all tapas in there; any kind you can imagine.  We’ve been told that best way to enjoy the tapas of Madrid is to go tapas hopping, from place to place.  So, we started at The Mercado.

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We settled on a plate of olives to split between us,  to tide us over until our next stop.

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After we enjoyed our olives, it was time to move on.  The next place was a true gem.   It was called the Taste Gallery,  The food was fantastic.  I ordered  a variety of different tapas and Larry decided he wanted more of a meal, so he ordered the grilled lambchops instead of tapas.  Everything was superb.

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Of course, I had to have some sangria to start everything off just right.

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The Owner, Alesandro was fantastic.  He treated us like we were family.  He was so kind and generous.  I felt like he and I had been old friends for years.  Not only did he take such good care of us in The Taste Gallery, but he also made sure we tried some dessert at one of his other restaurants, La Botijeria, which was also fantastic.

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At La Botijeria, we were given some wine and cheese and then a decadently chocolate cake, because apparently we looked like we were staving, and just hadn’t eaten enough already.  It’s a good thing we burned so many calories walking all over the place, because we gained them all back and ten some by the end of the evening.  🙂

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Muchas gracias Madrid.  We had a fabulous time in your beautiful city.  The food and the people were all fantastica!  We will see you once more before going home.  Ciao for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madrid – Part 2 – Seeing the Sights

I apologize for the delays in posts.  Our internet service has been very sketchy to say the least.  I am a couple of days behind on my blogs, but I figure if you like what you see and what you are reading, a little anticipation is a good thing.  Hopefully, it keeps you all coming back for more.

We have been traveling all around since we’ve been here  We were in Madrid for 2 nights, then went to Cartagena for a night.  Cartagena is about 300 miles Southwest from Madrid.  Yesterday, we were on the move again, traveling about another 300-350 miles, further south, to Almeria, Malaga and Marbella.  Our final destination for now is Estepona.  We were supposed to go scuba diving today, but because we got SOOOOOOO lost trying to find our timeshare, that is located way up in the hills of Estepona, we decided to postpose it until tomorrow.  So what we were going to do tomorrow, we are now going to do today.  We will be in this area for the next week.  So far, we have seen many amazing sights.  Spain is full of contrasts.  It is very arid and dry, yet there is a lot of agriculture.  There are very large cities, and then as soon as you get our of the cities, vast open spaces for hundreds of miles.  There are very poor sections and then the wealthiest of the wealthy.  Spain is a very religious country, being predominantly Catholic, yet also has a very large Muslim population as well.  Spain has a little bit of everything and something for ebveryone.  I will give you all more details on all of the sights and the places we’ve seen and visited in later posts.  I am still focusing on all the wonderful things from Madrid at the moment.

We were in Madrid only for a couple of days, but as per usual when we travel, we jam packed as much as possible into our time in Madrid.  Our only actual full day in Madrid was spend taking in as many sights as possible.  We bought a day pass for the metro and hopped on and off at will.  We saw the Opera House, the Palace and the Basilica, Riturno Park, Independence Square, Plaza Mayor and more.

The Metro is a great way to get all over town.  This is how most of the people of Madrid get around.

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I love all the architectural styles of Madrid.  There are so many old buildings, with so much attention to detail.  Just gorgeous!  Here are just a couple samples.  I could easily spend hours just on the architecture alone, but I won’t.

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Some tributes to Queen Isabela.

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The Opera House.

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Riturno Park and Independence Plaza

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The Basilica, located directly across from the Palace.

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A very large Mosque in Madrid.

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Some local entertainment while waiting to get into see the Palacio.

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The Equstrain police officers are there to protect.

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La Palacio Real, Madrd. The King and Queen do not live here anymore. Today, the Palace is used for State and Government functions and tourism only. A lot of the Palace would not allow pictures. It was breathtaking and exquisite though.  You’ll just have to trust me on this.

The Placio Real was absolutely breathtaking, but very, very ostentatious as well. I could never live that lifestyle in a million years. But it was very fascinating to see none the less. We saw the armory and war collection dating back to the 16th century. We saw the temporary exhibit called “Cartas del Rey” or letters to the King, that were written during WWI. We saw the Royal apartments. But the most impressive part of that tour for me was the Royal kitchen. OMG!!!! It was massive. I’ve never seen such big ovens or baking pans. I was most definitely impressed.

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King Ferdinand II and Queen Letizia

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To me the best part of all though was the Royal kitchen.

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The Royal china.

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Ciao for now.  There is still so much more to come.  Have patience and don’t go away.

 

 

Madrid – Part 1 – Una Comedia de Comida

At long last, we finally arrived safe and sound in Madrid.  We made it into our hotel, the nh Barajas, which is not far from the airport.  We will not be picking up our rental car until Saturday morning, so we needed something we could take a shuttle to.  Our hotel is nice.  It is very modern, which is not my style, but it is vey ice all the same.   The staff is very nice too, which is always a plus.  One of the front desk guys, Alesandro (not pictured here) was teaching me the directions right and left in Spanish.  He taught me in a fun way, and we made a dance out of it.  I will forever know derrecha y isguerra or right and left now, thanks to Alesandro’a fun little dance.IMG_7683

Once we got settled, we had to find a place to eat that was close by.  Because our hotel is in the middle of a residential area, there is not much within a quick walking distance, and the restaurants that are here, do not open until much, much later.  We ventured out and about though, and came across a small family owned and operated tapas bar, El Capricho.

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The place was packed with locals when we arrived.  Almost instantly, we provided the comedy relief.  Between my very limited Spanish and the owner’s total lack of English, it was a wonder we got to eat at all.  It literally took the whole village, with many laughs along the way, until one brave lady, my new friend Marta, stepped in to help out.  She did not know much English either, but between she and I, we were able to figure out the menu, and Larry and I ended up with a delicious tapas meal.

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The deal of the night was a combination of 4 tapas, a bottle of wine, a bottle of mineral water, and either a café or a postre, or dessert.  We feasted on paella, Spain’s most popular dish, guisante y jamon or peas and ham, roasted pork asado, pollo al ajoito or garlic chicken, bread, wine and mineral water for dinner.

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But of course, the fun and the comedy still continued as we eat.  I decided to wear some of my chicken all down the front of my top, and when “Papa'” or Jose the owner, came out, he just started laughing and frowning at me, like a father would do to a child.  Then he ran out with some kind of spray that looked like shoe polish and a scrub brush.  He sprayed the stuff all over me, and then I had to wait and finish the meal before I could scrub it off.   That stuff stunk so bad too.  Once again, everyone in the place had a very good laugh.  I am so happy I was able to provide the entertainment for the evening for everyone.

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Because I had so much oil on my top, I ended up having to spray again, and wearing even more “shoe shine” throughout the rest of the meal.  All throughout dinner, people kept looking over at me and couldn’t help but to chuckle.  Oh well, you got to have fun, right?!

In between sprayings, dessert and café came.  I opted for the café, which was like a very tiny, very strong espresso.  Larry being the ice cream man, chose to have an ice cream instead.

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After finishing off our caffe y postre, we had to call it a day.  Even though in Spain, the evening does not even come to life until around 10:00 PM or so, we had had a long enough day, with way to many adventures, and we had to call it a day.  We will be exploring Madrid in detail more tomorrow.  But for now, buenos noches, or as they say in Spain, Buena noche.

We’re Not There Yet

We are still traveling.  We had a long, 9 hour flight from Houston to Heathrow, in London, with no sleep.  We have been at Heathrow Airport since 7:00 AM (London time).  Our flight to Madrid leaves in about 1  1/2 hours.  So far, it has already been one very, very long  “travel day”.  We left our house yesterday morning at 7:30 AM, Denver time, for a 10:50 flight.  It was about a 2 hour flight to Houston, with a 2-3 hour layover, then a 9 hour flight to Heathrow, and a 5 hour layover here, with a 2 hour flight into Madrid.

On the plane, excited and refreshed.  This is as we were just leaving Houston.

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At least we got a meal.  It was some kind of an Indian chicken dish.

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And ice cream too.

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London from the air as we are coming in.

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London is one massive city.

All I have to say is we ARE NOT fans of Heathrow Airport either.  We were told by someone in Houston how Heathrow was a nightmare to fly in and out of.  We definitely believe him now.  It has been one confusion after another, after another.   We had to take the train from one terminal to the next terminal, and it was a massive pain in the neck to get to and to maneuver all around.  When we finally got to the terminal we wanted to be at, we realized we could not use our United Club pass like we were planning on using, because that was over at the original terminal where we landed.  We did not fee like going through all that mess again.  Then we had to change locations yet again, and we did not know where we were leaving from until about 20 minutes before we were supposed to board the plane since it was not posted until then.  I will be glad to see the backside of Heathrow, that’s for sure.  I am so ready for Spain.

Terminal 5 at sundown