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By this Author: randjb

Ronda

A day trip

sunny 90 °F
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I wanted to give a special shout out to Ronda, a mountain town of 35,000, a 90 minute drive north of Costa Del Sol.
Ronda is not a typical town of 35,000. It has beautiful hotels, lots of restaurants, and terrific shopping. In fact, Chesirae finally found a few outfits she was willing to buy. It also has many, many tourists. I'm only guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised if the city had as many tourist as residents when we were there.
The reason for all this interest is the bridge, Puente Nuevo, that connects two parts of the town spanning a 300 foot chasm. The "new" bridge was constructed in 1751 and is quite a sight (see pictures as soon as my computer can connect to the internet again.) By the way, we drove to the bottom of the chasm because we didn't have time to hike down to the observation points. We suggest you take the time to hike down - you'll get a better view and avoid a drive you probably don't want to make.
We only knew about the bridge so didn't plan on more than a quick drive-in, get lunch, see bridge, and go. But if you go, plan an entire day there. Lots to see. The town is lovely as are the surrounding cliffs and mountains.
As seems to be the case with this vacation, we had an adventure - at least Karen and Doug did. Google maps sent them up a road that eventually was closed so they had to backtrack and drive up the way we did. Oddly, Google maps sent us the right way and we arrived well before them. We did not know where the bridge was, however, and wasted 40 minutes on the east side of the city. When visiting, go directly to the bridge and park close by. The bullring, shopping street, restaurants, and hotels are all close to the bridge.
Worth a day trip!

Posted by randjb 09:03 Archived in Spain Tagged puente ronda nuevo Comments (0)

Costa del Sol

Gibraltar and beyond

sunny 85 °F
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We had another small adventure leaving Seville as, without my driver's license (stolen in Paris) my reservation for a car could not be used. Luckily Debbie was also a Hertz Gold Card member and we finally got a car. Trying to get the car through the narrow street we were staying on was another adventure, but again we managed. Karen and Doug had joined us by this time, though they had already had their own set of adventures including the airlines losing Doug's suitcase for two days. Because Chesirae, Debbie, and I each have one large suitcase, we could not fit into one car, so we made our separately out of Seville intending to meet in Gibraltar for lunch.
The ride from Seville to Gibraltar went without incident, but upon arriving at Gibraltar we faced a long line of cars crossing the border from Spain into the English crown colony. The Spanish side of the border does not look inviting and the Spanish have made only a paltry attempt to help people get into and out of Gibraltar - I assume because Spain still wants England out of there and England won't go. (The irony is that Spain owns the second pillar of Hercules on the other side of the Straight of Gibraltar and it too won't leave even though that small bit of land is completely surrounded by Morocco.)
If you go to see the rock, here are a couple of pointers: park outside the border (there's a big parking lot there), walk through customs, and take a taxi to where you want to go. The wait to get our car through was not too bad, however once in Gibraltar, parking is at a premium. We got separated from Doug and Karen and took almost two hours to reunite because we couldn't park close to one another.
Second, Gibraltar has a very nice Main Street, which is a cross between a shopping street and a Caribbean street. If you want to browse, good place to do, though prices are in English Pounds, so not as cheap as in Spain.
If you want go to the top of the rock, you can take a cable car, but if you do, you'll still have quite a walk. The cable car takes you up but the top of the rock is much longer than most pictures show. You might want to consider one of the many taxis that will drive you to the top as well as show you the sites on the way. If you negotiate, your group can probably get your own taxi for the same cost as taking the cable car and without the hour long wait. In our case, we arrived late because of the parking problem and didn't have time to wait for the cable car. We also didn't figure out the taxis until too late. Still, seeing the Rock of Gibraltar, even from below, was worth the effort. Go, but you'll need an entire day there.
After leaving Gibraltar, our destination for the night was Pearl Bay on the Costa del Sol. Spain is working hard to create its own version of the Riviera, and this part of the Mediterranean coast is filled with places to stay, long beaches, golf courses, and beautiful scenery. We stayed in an Airbnb run by Beran, a lovely woman who made a great effort to find us accommodations in the same condo complex when the air conditioning in her unit went out. We loved the apartment she found for us,. The complex had a pool, which Doug and Karen used extensively, and beyond that the Mediterranean beach. We loved the setting so much, we took a day off just to enjoy being on the coast! On a trip this long, we need an occasional vacation from the vacation, as our friend Mark has said.
The next day we traveled to the tip of Spain and took a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, Africa. Tangier is quite a change from Spain even though its only a dozen miles away. The city is definitely Muslim, though we were told by our guide that they are not very strict there. We explored the old city, sampled delicious food (I loved the dates!), and got a good taste of Morocco. Most of you will have seen some of Tangier watching movies as Hollywood likes to shoot on location there. If you saw the Bourne Ultimatum, for example, you saw the narrow roads, the buildings and roof tops of the old town. Tangier is friendly to Americans and yet definitely a part of the Muslim world, not European at all.
With Africa, Chesirae touched ground on her fourth continent and 18th country; not bad for 18 years old.
Returning from Africa, we had a late dinner at one of the beach restaurants; this one featuring a singer. She sang songs ranging from Aretha Franklin to Led Zeppelin, and pretty much carried ithem off. We enjoyed dinner, the music, and the beautiful night time coastline until midnight.
We left the next morning and all agreed we wished we had planned more time on the Costa del Sol.

Posted by randjb 08:30 Archived in Spain Tagged costa africa bay del sol pearl tangier Comments (0)

Update on trip

Technical difficulties

sunny 87 °F
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Hi all...
For those who have been following us on our European adventures, I apologize for not posting updates, especially photos. Turns out that we are in Nimes for five days and, for whatever reason, my computer will not connect to the house's router. I'm writing this from Chesirae's computer just to let you know the next real entry is still a few days away. I also have quite a few photos that I will post but as they are on my system, I can't get them onto the travel site.
Brief update: after Seville we traveled to the Costa del Sol not far from Gibraltar, which we visited, took a day trip to Tangier, Africa, then drove to Granada by way of Ronda, where we met the friends who joined us in Spain. These included Homer and Wendy, Diana, and Karen and Doug who traveled with us from Seville. After four days in Granada, all of us except Diana went to Barcelona. Are friends are now safely home, and we are the only ones still on the road.
Thursday, we took a train from Barcelona to Nimes where we met our host, Jean Luc. In fact, he is coming by this morning (Sunday) to take us all somewhere. Oddly, we have no idea what we are going to see and do as he does not speak English and we do not speak French, but then this is an adventure.
Lots more details to follow when I get back up on my own system plus some really great pictures.
Much love to all... Rand

Posted by randjb 00:21 Archived in France Tagged update difficulties technical Comments (1)

Seville

A different experience

sunny 89 °F
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Seville was an entirely different experience than Paris. We were there seven nights, six days, and Debbie and I were busy nearly the entire time. Unfortunately, Chesirae caught whatever illness I had in Paris and was stuck in the apartment almost the entire time.
If you haven't been to Seville, we highly recommend putting it on your list. The city has lots to do, lots to see, and great food, all at very reasonable prices. Here are our recommendations:
1. The Alcazar - this is a fortress palace built by the Catholic king that conquered Seville from the Muslims. He built it around the existing Alcazar that the Muslim caliphs had created and, though he was a Christian, he used a great deal of Muslim art and architecture. The inside of the building is roughly an 8 on a scale of 10, but the "not to be missed" portion is the gardens. Those of you who watch "Game of Thrones" know them as Doran, and they are as beautiful as gardens get.
2. Italica - Slightly northwest of Seville, Italica was the first Roman settlement in Spain originally inhabited 2,200 years ago. At its height it had roughly 25,000 residents and was the birthplace of the first two emperors not born in Italy, Trajan and Hadrian. The walls and ceilings of the buildings have all disappeared and only a small portion of the town has been excavated. Nevertheless, what has been excavated is impressive. A few roads have been revealed as well as the large villas that line them. These have one or two feet of wall to show where the rooms were. The best of the rooms still have their original mosaic tile floors. Some of these are amazing. You will also find the remains of what was once the third largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. The amphitheater is an impressive ruin and this last year was another of the sites "Game of Thrones" used for filming.
3. Plaza de Espana - In the 1920's Spain held an expo that featured a unique architecture that combined the many styles of Spanish history and the modern era. What remains of the expo are a number of buildings, canals, and bridges that form the cornerstone of the Parque de Maria Luisa. Both the park and the plaza are worth the visit. Like Central Park and Golden Gate Park, this is more about strolling around and experiencing the park than it is about doing something specific.
4. The area around Seville's cathedral - The cathedral itself is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and third largest Christian church in the world. It is not, however, a church we walked away from thinking we "had" to see it. It is big but Europe has many cathedrals I would recommend seeing before this one. That said, the area around the cathedral is definitely worth visiting. The shopping streets are there as well as the city hall (a story in itself) and some absolutely unique architecture. At night, you will also find entertainment including Flamenco, an experience not to be missed.
5. A controversial choice: the bullfights - We did not see a bullfight as they are held in April and May and are, even in Spain, subject to a lot of controversy. Seville, however, has one of the larger arenas and hosts the best matadors during the two month season. So if you want to see a bullfight, this would be the right place to see it. You'll need to get tickets in advance as they are popular despite the many people who object to the sport.
Altogether, this is a city worth spending some time in. We were delighted with what we saw and the people we met.

Posted by randjb 09:40 Archived in Spain Tagged seville Comments (0)

Paris

Beginning with a challenge

rain 60 °F
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Our two weeks in Paris is drawing to an end, and I have to admit that Paris has made them a challenge. I love Paris; the city, the people, the food, the culture, but this time around Paris did not love us.
We arrived in 97 degree heat in a city, like San Francisco, that does not have air conditioning. That lasted four days, followed by a few days of wonderful weather, but then the rain and gray skies moved in and stayed. The weather is changing again, but only on the day we fly to Seville.
We did not let the weather deter us, however, and we pushed on with all our plans; visiting Montmartre the day after we arrived. On the metro on our way back to our apartment, a lovely two-bedroom unit in the Latin Quarter, someone grabbed hold of my foot. I was certainly surprised and made the strategic mistake of trying to shake him off. Meanwhile, his partner, whom I did not see, pick pocketed my wallet. We did not lose much in the way of actual value, but the resulting inconveniences and having to cancel and reestablish the credit cards has been an ongoing part of the two weeks in Paris.
Despite this beginning, our spirits were not dampened and we proceeded with our many plans to visit the sights and, as much as tourists can, live our lives as Parisians. I felt optimistic and then, just shy of a week here, I woke with a sore throat and began coughing. We were bound for Normandy that day, and while I did not walk along the beaches as much as I might, I remained fully committed to seeing where the Americans landed.
That night, I slept for 12 hours and did not do much the next day. On Wednesday, I pulled myself together to spend a wonderful day viewing Versailles with our delightful guide, Isabelle. I needed Thursday to recover from Wednesday's excursion and then Friday we were off to Musee D'Orsay.
Saturday, I thought I had finally turned the corner on this cold or flu or whatever it is, but at 6 p.m. that night, as we were getting ready for a concert at Sainte-Chapelle, my temperature spiked. Debbie and Chesirae were able to hear Mozart in the chapel, but I missed seeing how beautiful it is.
With less than two days left in Paris, I admit that the city has battered my enthusiasm. I will enjoy returning to Paris one day, but I will not be sad to leave it this time. I look forward to Spain and our friends joining us and to feeling well again.

Posted by randjb 08:09 Archived in France Tagged paris Comments (2)

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