Friday, July 18, 2014

The Waning Trail

Like all good things, our trip winds its way to closure in just anoher 10 days.  Madeline, our sat nav GPS has taken us hinder and yonder, sometimes more yonder tban hinder.  But we couldn't imagine our trip without her.  Less than a week to go before she bids us adieu, she is French and we will be leaving her in Marseilles before our hop scotch of flights ensue. 

This week has introduced a new region with a new language - the Basque region of Spain.  There are signs here for the ETA in most villages and many road intersections.  The flag is Basque, and the language is Euskera.  Words include lots of x's, t's and k's. And most road and town signs are printed in both Euskara and Castillian.

It is a lush region - mountains, lakes, rivers, Rioja bodegas, and Pintxos.  The latter a gourmet tapa (single serving).

It came at a great time.  We were ready to experience something other than medieval towns and churches.

Bilboa with the Guggenheim - worth the trip;  the charm of San Sebastin; amazing architecture at wineries and the Guggenheim;  a New Orleans jazz concert in Vitoria -a very green city.

 Trombone Shorty & Dr. John entertaining crowds in English. For the first time in nearly three months we understood the speakers.

And the food. And the wines. Nonstop indulgence. But I guess that's been our trip's subplot.

Friday, July 11, 2014


We are staying in a lovely village in  Sotosalbos Spain - about 20 km (for the metrically challenged, that is about 12 miles) out of Segovia.

Segovia is a walled city with a aquaduct built by the Romans over 2000 years ago, to supply water to the city.  Although most of the area now receives its water thru underground pipes implemented in late 19th century, the aquaduct still supplies some areas.

It is beautiful, functional and an engineering feat.  The rocks were placed with no mortar - which is why it still stands.

The area around here is filled with history, and good wine.  We are in the Ruberio del Duero region and are taking advantage of it all.

The one thing there is little of is Jews.  Both Portugal and Spain expelled their Jewish population - mostly Sephardic - in 1492.  Now both areas have passed legislation to allow Sephardic Jews to reclaim their 1492 citezenship.

Evenings, mostly hours from 8 to 10 PM have been pleasantly spent in the local tavern ( the only one in town) chatting with the bar keeper. His smattering of english and Ron's pocito espanol gets us sufficient drinks and free tapas.  World Cup games this week had been somewhat of a let down, no real contest in Germany v Brasil, and no real action in Argentina v Netherlands. Maybe Argentina will wake up and excite for the finale against Germany this weekend.

Off for a day trip to Madrid on Karen's special day, and one more bottle of Ribera del Duero before we slip north to the Rioja region. Its been a tasting tour thus far, no need to stop yet. 

Adios, hasta luego!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

More Portugal

Touring Portugal, we've seen many lively little towns - many with their own Festas and markets. 

We had a lovely time staying with our friends Cecelia and John Young at their home in Tomar Portugal.  We toured in walled towns like Obidos, and pretty little villages like Dornes.

For those who don't know, and we didn't before - Portugal is the largest producer of cork.  Many cork products available.

And tiles, and wine and port.  uhm, good.

Porto and surrounding areas lovely - lush valleys, mountains and historical towns and villages. 

And every place has outdoor screens for watching futball. It is World Cup season.

And lots of historical churches.  We did see an old sinagoga in Tomar.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Walking, trains, buses, trams .... it must be Lisbon today

And did I mention tiles. 

Portugal - a city spread over hills with furniculars, trams and elevators to help cross town.  New and old and very old.  Much destroyed in 1754 earthquake and tsunami in the central area - rebuilt with much glamor. 

Many homes covered with painted ceramic tile - azulejos inside and out.

Has had many glory days - today still hurting from global recession. 

We experienced summer heat, garbage strike, and being offered a multitude of drugs on the street - but as the weather cooled off - the Lisbon charm took over as we wandered from neighborhood to neighberhood.

Tonight we head to hear Fado - bluesy type music specific to Portugal and central to Lisbon.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Finding El Ricio Pilgrimage Part 2

So it wasn't until we reached Sevilla - and took the Rick Steves recommended walking tour that we learned what we had seen.

Every year there is a pilgrimage to El Ricio in the Andulician part of Spain for religious purposes.  And we now had the opportunity to see the Sevilla group return - 10 days later.

So here they are with many more bulls than the Granada group.

From Granada to Sevilla - Finding the El Rocio Pilgrimage

Wandering thru the small cobblestoned streets of Granada, we spotted women dressed up in flamenco dresses with flowers in their hair.  In the local bars, strolling thru the streets -  alone, in groups, with children also all dressed up - and all together.

So what was all the fancy dresses about?

A bit further, we find a church yard full of flamenco dresses, children dressed up, and men in their fancy flamenco outfits with broad brimmed hats.

We hung around for a while, taking pictures, gawking, walking into the church.  In the yard there was a fancy silver decoration on a cart, and two bulls nearby.  

What had we wandered into?  our limited Spanish was not getting us any info.

We walked on to Plaza Nuevo to discover the gathering of more fancily dressed women, men and children.  Some on horseback, some on foot, some carts.  Horses and riders kept coming.  

Eventually a parade of the horses, fancy walkers, the bull pulled cart and caravans pulled by tractors marched by us.

It wasn't for another 10 days and two cities later that we learned what was happening.