Stay home or go on another cruise? We went! This will be short, because Lin and I arrived home on Thursday night, December 8, 2022, from our second cruise in six weeks with COVID but didn’t know it. On Friday morning, I received a text from a friend who had just found out she had COVID, so I asked her about her symptoms.
She said, “Yucky. . .sore throat, coughing, headache, laryngitis, can’t sleep.” I cringed, because I had had those same symptoms for several days since Barcelona, but I thought I had just caught an awful cold.
See, this whole cruise was cold! When we went six weeks ago, the weather was glorious! Yes, I researched the weather but convinced myself the 50s would be warm. So, we both had to buy coats to survive the cold.
Lin and I love Barcelona and had gladly expected another fun day in Barcelona, so we bundled up and added layers underneath our new coats, got on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and sat upstairs outside for a couple hours in the cold morning hours. Finally, I said enough! And we went downstairs for the rest of the day, but the damage was done.
So that night, I started with a sore throat and felt like I had caught a cold. When I took the home test on Friday morning when we got home, immediately the two lines appeared and darkened over the 15-minute waiting period. Lin’s test turned out the same, so we came home with COVID.
Here’s where we went:
November 26—flew to Rome, Italy (day after Thanksgiving)
November 27—Florence, Italy (where I bought a coat)
November 28—Naples, Italy (where Lin bought a coat)
November 29—Messina, Italy
November 30—Palermo, Sicily, Italy
December 1—Cagliardi, Sardinia, Italy
December 2—Palma Majorca, Spain
December 3—Barcelona, Spain
December 4—At Sea
December 5—At Sea (We had a major itinerary change. Because of a strike by the port workers in Lisbon, Portugal, we had to skip our last two ports in Spain to arrive in Lisbon before the strike. At first, the disappointment overwhelmed me, but then I remembered, “I could be bitter or better—the choice was mine!” You know which one I chose.)
December 6 – Lisbon, Portugal
December 7 – Lisbon, Portugal
December 8—Flew home
I won’t be writing about this trip until after the new year, because I love writing about Christmas.
As you can see, we repeated four ports from our previous cruise, but we found different excursions to add to our knowledge and experience of those cities. More later.
Stay home or go? I always opt to go, and I don’t regret going on this second cruise. What do you do? Do you stay home? Or do you go?
~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.~For me, it’s Christmas all year long!
Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A
Barcelona: our first Mediterranean stop! The trip for our Mediterranean cruise started with an early departure. How I hate those early mornings because I can’t sleep, all exciting and anxious!
Here’s the first four days of our fifteen-day adventure!
September 29, 2022—Not Yet Barcelona
The alarm went off early on September 29, 2022, at 3:30 AM. We left the house at 4:30 AM after doing those last-minute bag checks.
Our flight day to Barcelona, Spain via Atlanta, Georgia and Amsterdam, Holland took off at 7:15 AM. We had about three hours in Atlanta and thought we had enough time to eat at a sit-down restaurant, but the server charged the booth behind us with our bill, so it got dicey.
From Atlanta to Amsterdam, I slept a little, which is unusual for me and also enjoyed the great distraction of movies. Lin and I both watched the new Elvis movie but had trouble hearing it because of the cabin and engine noise, so we need to see it again, but what a great movie!
September 30, 2022—Destination: Barcelona, Spain
When we arrived in Amsterdam, we had to go through customs but had enough time to grab coffees and sweets. On the flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona, they required we were masks—the only time on the trip.
At the Barcelona airport, we gathered our bags—yahoo! After so much media hype about lost luggage, I bought AirTags for our checked luggage in case they disappeared. We both breathed a sigh of relief when we saw our bright blue and red suitcases appear on the carousel.
Then came our next concern—the transfer to our hotel. We immediately found the guy wearing the “Orange shirt,” we were supposed to from our paperwork, but he said we had a private transfer. After some delay and a helpful phone call, I saw a man go by with “Linwood Miller” handwritten on a sheet of paper. Relief!
Our hotel, The Corner Hotel, was a genuine treasure, but not in any tourist area. We rested a little, then found a neighborhood restaurant suggested by the friendly clerks at the desk. Eating outside thousands of miles away from home in Barcelona felt magical that evening.
On our walk home, we stopped at a market and bought essentials: water for both us, chocolate for Lin and prunes for me and my stomach!
That night before going to bed, I reviewed the settings on my new camera and experimented with it while Lin reviewed the map of Barcelona to get his bearings again.
October 1, 2022—Barcelona Sightseeing
We had been to Barcelona before in 2020 on an Insight Tour with AAA. This tour with Bradley Dick, as a tour guide, had shown us the wonderful highlights of the city. So, we knew we had a full day ahead of us—the alarm went off at 7:00 AM. First, we thoroughly enjoyed a leisure European breakfast at the hotel.
Then we caught the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus, one of our favorite ways to see a European city, weaving our way through the area closer to our hotel. We had a destination in mind: the Columbus statue by the sea and Las Ramblas.
Because I needed a bathroom, we found a Starbucks and had some coffee. Then we wandered through an outside market (that had been there in 2020) near the Columbus statue.
From there we walked “Las Ramblas,” enjoying three mimes: Salvador Dali, Don Quixote and a mythological creature. We stopped, and I had a photo taken with Dali. We shopped at tourist spots and I enjoyed “dickering” with a salesperson over a Gaudi Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and a solar Flamenco dancer.
Afterwards we hunted for a side street we had found in 2020 but never found it. However, we found another hidden jewel.
We hoped to tour one of Gaudi’s famous creations but decided against it because of time restraints, but we looked in the gift shop.
On our walk back to the hotel, we walked two extra blocks past our hotel and then back, probably because of deep conversation. I have Morton’s neuroma on my right foot, and it hurt terrible at this time. Those four extra blocks didn’t help.
When we arrived at the hotel, I checked email and received the notification of my book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? had won the 2022 New Mexico/Arizona Book awards in the body, mind and spirit category. What a delightful addition to our great day!
We ate dinner again outside and enjoyed the Spanish food and ambiance.
October 2, 2022—Left Barcelona on the ship
Our second morning in Barcelona went quickly. We packed up after another delicious breakfast and waited downstairs. The hotel staff helped us so much! The transfer to the port arrived on time. Pablo, the driver, spoke a little English, but I enjoyed speaking Spanish with him.
We easily checked in to the Norwegian terminal. As we passed the photographers that always station themselves for the passengers going onboard, Lin tried to avoid them, but I grabbed his arm and we took the picture.
We found our stateroom easily—we had upgraded to a stateroom and the extra space was great. We unpacked our carry-on bags, then went to the deck 15 and ate pizza and coconut ice cream out by the pool.
Later we saw the Epic Beatles show, a tribute to the Beatles! What a fantastic show with so many memorable songs!
Onboard the ship, we could finally relax and know that all the airplane rides and transfers worked and now the real fun would begin!
Barcelona continues to be one of our favorite cities in the world. We love cruises too. Next week I will share about our one day in France and then on to three ports in Italy.
Do you like to travel? Have you ever done a cruise? Traveled internationally? Any interesting stories to share?
I walked and walked and walked for a two-week total of 193,199 steps! Julius Caesar’s famous quote: “I came, I saw, I conquered” inspired me for today’s topic. Lin and I just got home last night from an eleven-day Mediterranean cruise with a two-day extension before in Barcelona, Spain and a two-day extension in Rome, Italy. On almost all of our excursions, we walked!
MY STEP COUNT FOR THE TRIP=193,199:
September 29–4594—Flight day to Barcelona, Spain
September 30–0—Barcelona—my FitBit wasn’t working!
October 1–272—Barcelona: we did lots of walking, so my FitBit must have not been charged!
October 2–10387—Left Barcelona on the ship
October 3–14047—Cannes, France
October 4–15176—Livorno, Italy port; visited Florence & Pisa
October 5–18517—Naples, Italy; visited Pompeii
October 6–7126—Messina, Italy
October 7–12070—Kotor, Montenegro
October 8–9241—Corfu, Greece
October 9–17067—Santorini Island, Greece
October 10–16003—Piraeus Italy; visited Athens
October 11–12227—Mykonos, Italy
October 12–10605—At Sea
October 13–12231—Rome, Italy
October 14–26323—Rome, Italy
October 15–7313—Flew Home
Some of these days’ totals don’t reflect that day’s activity because of the seven to nine-hour difference in time zones from ours in New Mexico, but they are close.
But we had to walk! How else could you see the ruins at Pompeii? Or the mind-blowing Acropolis in Athens? Or the massive colosseum in Rome?
I Walked the Most in Rome!
My largest walking day was in Rome, Italy, on October 14, where we followed suggestions given by the desk clerk at our hotel and wandered around from site to site. Lin’s amazing map reading skills made this possible. Then we had an excursion that evening where we moved from restaurant to restaurant sampling traditional Italian food. I walked 26323 steps in one day and ended up with busted blood vessels on my right leg from this action-packed day!
For the next few weeks of my blog posts, plan on traveling with me. We had such a fantastic time; I want to share this trip with you! I haven’t downloaded my pictures yet, so I shared none of mine today, but be ready for some great shots!
As I walked where centuries ago many people walked, I felt in touch with those ancient ones. Are you a traveler? Have been to this part of the world? What was your experience?
World exploring and its wonders! Souvenirs, pictures, reminisces of fun-filled travels remind me daily of my experiences in this big beautiful world. Because of the pandemic, we canceled our travel plans for later in 2020 and have nothing planned for 2021. So today, I wondered why I love to travel so much. The packing and planning put many people off, but I enjoy every part of a trip.
I grew up in a small rural ranching community fifty miles from the nearest doctor and grocery store. I lived in a small town though, but the world out there seemed so big and unattainable, beyond the prairies and canyons of southeastern Colorado. Granddad Horner subscribed to the National Geographic magazine, and I thumbed through each issue, mesmerized by that world out there and its mysteries. I blushed at the foreign women’s bare chests, yet yearned to see that world.
Granddad and Grandma Horner took annual vacations touring the United States, and I relished their slide show of pictures from places I dreamed about in the United States—the Grand Canyon, Bullhead City and so much more.
My dad, a high school graduate and world thinker, read voraciously and kept educated about world matters so much so I gave him a globe for Christmas one year so he could find that faraway country he’d read about.
So, I inherited a large worldview, bigger than Colorado, bigger than the United States. My first husband and I discovered Mexico: Mazatlán and the Yucatan peninsula in the 70s, when tourist hadn’t discovered both areas yet. When I saw my first Mayan Indian ruin, I felt captivated by the mystery, and I was hooked.
After we divorced, I traveled with a girlfriend back to the Yucatan peninsula to see many more Mayan Indian ruins and then on to Tikal in Guatemala, the Mecca of Mayan Indian ruins to me.
Then in 1999, Mom and I took our first European trip to do an Eastern Europe tour, basically to find her lost grandfather who had immigrated into the United States, but we had no record of his entrance here. That trip opened me up to a larger world—the wonders of eastern Europe with so many historical sites and cities.
In Berlin, we looked in a phone book for Mom’s granddad’s last name, Ulbig, and found several names listed. Neither of us spoke enough German to call any of our possible relatives. So, we tore that page out of the phone book, and that became Mom’s favorite souvenir of our trip. I cried during our tour of Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp, a horrible example of man’s inhumanity against man. I will never forget that sight.
In 2001, my third husband and I drove the Can-American highway in our RV to Alaska. What an adventure that was! We saw Denali, Alaska’s tallest mountain, usually shrouded in clouds. We took a small airplane ride up to a glacier and walked around on it, surrounded by absolute white.
During our years together, we toured the United States in an RV, dancing and sightseeing all over the United States. We went up the west coast in 2003, promoting a national festival. We traveled to the Midwest and east—so many adventures.
In 2007, I joined the cruising world doing an inside passage tour to Alaska on a square dance cruise. I feel in love with cruising.
My present husband and I love to travel and see the world. We have taken several cruises—what a relaxing vacation they are. On one, we went through the Panama Canal and marveled at that amazing engineering feat.
In 2017, we traveled to England and Ireland. Lin drove in both countries and we had a delightful time. In Ireland, we saw the Cliffs of Moher, enjoyed dancing in Irish pubs and enjoyed staying in bed and breakfasts. While visiting England, we based ourselves in London, alternating between a tour one day and a free day the next. In London, we visited the British Museum, realizing we could have spend days there. We saw Stonehenge on a tour but were so rushed; I didn’t buy one souvenir there. We saw a Broadway play, Les Misérables, on the West End, and Lin vowed never to attend a play in the USA again since the production was so outstanding.
In January 2020, we went to Costa Rica with my husband, Lin’s ex-wife who is Costa Rican. The group was small, only twelve! She knew everyone in the group; we knew her, her husband and one other couple. Lin had told me repeatedly he wanted me to see Costa Rica. We had stopped at a Costa Rican port on one of our cruises, but his ex-wife shuddered when he told her where. She said it wasn’t a great example of Costa Rica. On our tour with her, we saw animals galore, ate delicious food and saw many gorgeous sites. I saw a quetzal bird in the jungle, a bird I had heard about thirty years before on the Yucatan peninsula.
At the end of February 2020, we went to Spain with twelve square dance friends and fell in love with Spain. We saw several major Spanish cities, starting in Barcelona and ending up in Madrid. We traveled through Don Quixote land, and I could see him mounted on his trusty stead, Rocinante, a long side his trusty companion, Sancho Panza.
So why do I enjoy traveling so much? I love seeing that world Granddad and Dad introduced me to so many years ago. When I stand at a site like Strafford-on-the Avon, Shakespeare’s home, I can’t believe this little country girl is there. The tour guide hugged me there as I cried. She remarked, “I wish all people responded like you.”
In my travels, the big world has shrunk, because I now know people in Scotland, Ireland and England. We sat and chatted, and I realized we have the same hopes and dreams—we’re really all the same.
In March of this year, Lin got a little cabin fever and had received several brochures promoting cruises next year. So, we signed up for two cruises in 2022 and one for 2023. The first one next year is a Transatlantic cruise going from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Barcelona, Spain. Our next one goes through the Mediterranean. And in 2023, we travel to Japan.
In conclusion, I travel to discover what’s out there—my dad used to look at a side dirt road going up over a hill and out of view. He always commented, “I wonder where that goes!” Obviously, I inherited his wanderlust, but he never traveled outside the United States, so I do it for him.
Do you like to travel? What is your favorite travel memory? Why do you travel? (Scroll down below to make a comment!)
A year ago today, we flew home from Madrid, Spain after a delightful nine-day trip. During this trip, I lost myself in another world of delicious tapos, ancient cathedrals, Flamenco dancers, Moorish influence and a carriage ride with high-stepping Andalusian horses. A year later, can I recapture the magic of that wonderful trip?
Let’s set the stage. We journeyed with twelve square dance friends from New Mexico, joining up with about thirty others to make the tour with Bradley Dick, an amazing fun-loving tour guide with Insight Vacations (a top tour company that alters the bus, taking out seats to provide ample leg room for everyone).
When the trip ended, we flew home from Madrid on March 8, 2020, noticing many in the airport with masks but ignorant of the danger we faced. On March 8 Spain had about 500 coronavirus cases; on March 9 they had 1500, and the numbers increased exponentially daily. In researching the coronavirus online, I found several sites, but we ended up liking this one the most, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
As we watched the daily numbers increase in Spain, the fear mounted because we had spent the last two days in and around Madrid. In fact, we had our farewell dinner Saturday night downtown Madrid in a packed restaurant with strangers too close by today’s social distancing standards.
Thankfully, no one in our travel party became sick!
Today as I reminisce about this fabulous vacation, I realized we never told and retold our travel stories like normal. We never sat around a table with the other New Mexican travels and recalled special events and adventures. We can home and self-quarantined for two weeks, sure that the coronavirus lay in the corner of a suitcase or somewhere on our souvenirs. We’ve stayed close to home this year, so we had no opportunity to seat around a table with friends and share our Spanish adventures.
Therefore, I came up with a way I could recapture the memories: repost my blog posts about our trip. I also went through some of my pictures from our trip and realized I hadn’t organized them in folders like I usually do. So, what fun I will have revisiting all the Spanish places we went.
A year later, I pinch myself as I review these posts! I fell in love with Spain, the people and the folklore! While I walk down memory lane, I stand in front of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and marvel at the outrageous architecture. Moving on to Valencia, I savor the flavor of the paella. In Granada, I feel overwhelmed with the Alhambra and the Moor influence. My favorite city, Seville, and the Flamenco dancing capture my dancing heart. I will never forget the gigantic cathedral/mosque in Cordova. Then in Madrid, I bask in the splendor of El Prado and its treasures and lightly say, “Holy Toledo!” in memory of the many churches in Toledo.
Yes, Spain continues to be a mysterious place to me. I hope you recaptured the joy of our trip! Have you been to Spain? Which is your favorite city? How long did you stay there? If you haven’t gone, is it on your Bucket List?
Did you miss one of my blogs in February? Here’s a chance to see them:
I love the idea of the Christmas newsletter! I love looking back over my year and reflecting on it. I also love decorating my home with familiar decorations. Two traditions I love! Every year for thirty-two years, I’ve written a Christmas newsletter to share with family and friends highlighting my previous year. Also I seriously enjoy Christmas decorations. So, enjoy Lin and my Christmas newsletter and decorations.
2020 Started Off Great!
Yes, 2020 started off with a bang! On January 7, 2020 Lin and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime—twelve days on a private tour of Costa Rica with Lin’s ex-wife, Victoria. She invited us and 7 friends on this delightful escapade. We invited two of our friends, so the “Dirty Dozen” was formed. Our tour guide, Enrique, led a square dance tour in 2001 that Lin and Victoria organized, so Lin was excited to reunite with his old friend.
We saw exotic animals—quetzal birds, iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, monkeys and sloths—and spent time in gorgeous jungle areas. We sailed over the canopy of the rain forest on a zipline! What an experience! We ended our trip with some leisure time and a catamaran trip out to snorkel.
The majority of the people on this trip didn’t know each other when we started, but we became friends by the end!
After being home a few days, I squeezed in a trip to Branson, CO to do major revisions on my book project. We left on February 27 for Barcelona, Spain with a group of square dance friends. Lin and I fell in love with Barcelona! Our tour guide, Bradley Dick, entertained us with his extensive knowledge and humor. Again, I can only give you highlights of a jam-packed twelve days.
I loved La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, a cathedral beyond description—truly sensory overload—and Gaudi’s other amazing architecture throughout the city. We also visited Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery built on the side of a mountain. There we saw a fascinating black Madonna and Christ Child.
In Valencia we enjoyed delicious paella, the place of its origin. From there we headed to the Arabic Triangle of Spain: Granada, Seville and Toledo with Córdoba in the middle. In Granada, we visited the Alhambra and Generalife, marveling at the influence of the Arabic world on Spain.
In Seville, after dinner, we had a carriage ride with high-stepping Andalusian horses, stopping for photos in front of the Plaza America. In the evening, we saw Flamenco dancers, a much-awaited event for me! Dazzling sweeping costumes, taps on shoes and snapping castanets!
On our trip to Madrid, we toured a gigantic Mesquita (mosque) and Catedral (cathedral) at Córdoba. From Córdoba to Madrid, we drove through La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote! In Madrid, we explored a small section of The Prado then drove to Toledo and toured this scenic city built on a cliff.
We left Madrid on March 8, 2020 and Spain had 500 coronavirus cases. Our magical second trip of a lifetime ended abruptly on our arrival home.
Then the Lockdown!
On March 9, we woke up to Spain’s explosion of coronavirus cases to 1500 in one day, so Lin and I started a two-week quarantine. I was certain we would get sick because we spent the last two days in downtown Madrid and then at the airport, but thank God, we didn’t. And that’s the way spring, summer and fall went. All of our annual square dance events were canceled. Lin dedicated his extra time to his garden and he produced the most amazing explosions of color and foliage ever—hours upon hours of work.
Because of Lin’s work in the garden, he always has a gorgeous tan and is very wise about how he does it, so I adopted his method and did a lot of sunbathing and reading.
Immediately, I became a fan of Zoom and have used it weekly to connect with family and friends. I’ve lived here for nine years and finally cleaned out a storage shed Lin bought for my extra stuff when we married. I found some treasures I’d forgotten about!
We have watched lots of British TV series, and my cat, Jesse, assumes the position on the arm of the loveseat every night for our TV time—something so unusual at our house!
We had planned a square dance trip to Germany in September, but it was canceled too! We moved it to 2021!
And the Release of Flippo’s Book
I spent my time finishing up my newest book, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo in the midst of the pandemic. I had planned to release it at CALLERLAB at the end of April, but that event was canceled, so I had more time to work on it. I released it May 8, 2020 and am so proud of the end product which took me nearly three years to complete. It was the project of a lifetime.
Because all square dance events were canceled, I have spent time promoting this book online and have enjoyed the connections I’ve made with Flippo fans all over the world.
In planning his garden, Lin plants flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and we’ve seen the increase of visitations from these creatures over the years. He also puts out bird food that attracts birds at twenty-five feeders. The culmination of his efforts resulted in meeting the qualifications for certification by the Wildlife Habitat, and he received his certification in October.
Miller’s Christmas Decorations
I’d like to feature our decorations at our home. You can’t come visit our house because of the pandemic, so I’d like to bring my home to you!
A Miller Christmas Eve tradition is Lin reads a Christmas poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer,” from Tombstone Epitaph. Enjoy!
Christmas newsletters, decorations, the magic of this holiday! Yes, I do believe!
~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com
Passion—that activity that motivates me! It energizes me, animates my spirit and lights a fire in my soul. Does it have to be just one? No I have several passions!
During this depressing pandemic, I’ve been denied participation in my deepest passion: dancing, square dancing, round dancing and any other type of dancing there is.
So, what did I do? I’ve reacquainted myself with some of my other passions. Some might call them hobbies, but I like the word passion better because it resounds with emotion.
My personal list of passions/hobbies are:
Let’s look at each one.
Yes, I am a writer and have continued my weekly blogs during this crazy time. I featured many poems I wrote about the pandemic, and the poetry writing fed my soul. It provided me a means to process the insanity that hit initially with the shelter-in-place and the cancellation of so many dance events.
Also, I finished my current writing project, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo. The cancellation of events provided me extra time to add some novelties to the book.
Words and ideas flicker in my mind and must be recorded—definitely a passion for me!
My husband, Lin, reads a lot, but I’ve felt too busy the last couple years to read during the day and limited my reading to bed time.
In our home, we have an extensive library, so at the beginning of the pandemic, he picked up Shadowlands, the heart-wrenching story of C. S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Goodman. He always shares about his current book with me, and that interested me. I have been a C. S. Lewis fan for years.
So, when he finished Shadowlands, he jumped into the legendary Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis and read the whole set. After doing some research on the Internet, he came up with a different reading order and read them chronologically instead of using the numbering system they used when they published the set.
Here’s the suggestion:
The Magician’s Nephew
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
At that time, I was finishing up some books we bought on our trip to Spain in late February and early March. Also, I’m a long-time Jodi Picoult fan and wanted to finish leaving time, a fascinating novel with a shocking ending. I had, also, downloaded an e-book off of Kindle on a special, The Victory Garden, so I had that to read. What a delightful read!
After finishing them, I decided I wanted to end the summer with C. S. Lewis, so I started with Shadowland. I wept through the end of that book. Then I started the Chronicles of Narnia, following Lin’s suggested reading order.
What a treat! Originally, I read the Chronicles of Narnia about forty years ago, so with my memory, it has been like reading them for the first time. Right now, I’ve finished The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Currently, I’m reading The Horse and His Boy.
So once again, reading has taken a major place in my day, a long neglected passion with my hectic life prior to the pandemic!
I’ve been a knitter since I was ten years old, and I’ve knitted hundreds of items: sweaters, afghans, dresses, socks, vests, dish clothes and more. I love doing it while we watch TV, and it is a true passion of mine!
So, during this time, I’ve knitted a special baby afghan for a baby born in May, but the majority of my knitting now has been dish clothes. In fact, I’m starting my 17th today. It’s a simple pattern, and I can do it without watching my hands or thinking much. In fact, some people consider knitting a type of meditation, and I would agree with that.
The one knitting project I’ve avoided during this time is a complicated sweater for myself. I’ve made that pattern three other time, but it demands concentration. Every time I look at that knitting bag, I shiver because I want to finish it, but I don’t want to have count every stitch right now—maybe it’s the result of the pandemic and the stress. I don’t know, but I know I will finish it eventually.
And I have many future projects to look forward to because on our travels over the past few years, I’ve bought yarn as a souvenir at various places. From Ireland, I purchased enough beige wool to make an Aran sweater.
On our cruise of the British Isles last summer, I bought smaller amounts at different stops to make a scarf or something small.
I love the rhythmic movement and sound of the needles and the product at the end.
For my whole adult life, I have been a sun worshipper, spending countless hours in the sun trying to get a tan. My frequent travel companion during the 80’s and 90’s would scold me for laying in the sun on our trips to Mexico and South America. The crazy part is she would sit in the shade and I’d be full out in the sun, and she always came home with a better tan than me! Probably has to do with my red-haired fair-skinned father!
Often, I burned and took extreme chances with the way I sunbathed: spraying water on myself, using baby oil, and staying out way too long!
In 2001, my ex-husband was diagnosed with melanoma and had surgery. At about the same time, one of my best friends had a reoccurrence of melanoma after twenty years. Shortly, after this, I ended my sunbathing. I finally realized I was flirting with danger for sure.
This summer, my husband has gotten a gorgeous tan working in his garden and showed me the sensible way to get a tan: no long exposure, gradual increase in exposure and thoughtful consideration of how long he was in the sun.
So, with book in hand, I started sunbathing again. I have used 50 level protection suntan lotion and started out slow and gradually increased my time to thirty minutes on each side—that’s it! I won’t go beyond that.
The sun’s warmth does something to my spirit. Laying outside in Lin’s gorgeous garden, I have time to appreciate the numerous flowers blooming and all the time he’s dedicated to it. (Gardening is his passion!) I have a dedicated reading time, and I’m getting a tan, all at the same time.
When this coronavirus pandemic has subsided, and we dance again, my passion for dancing will be ignited. Until then, these others bless me deeply. Passion, fervor, enthusiasm—we need it in our lives to feed our hearts, our souls and our spirits! How about you? What are your passions?
~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com
ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW.
The numbers increase daily. Today, Sunday, April 26, 2020, at 10:58 pm MST, the world has identified 2,994,349 coronavirus cases! Nearing three million!
One month ago, today, I did what I do when facing a problem in my world—I started writing poetry to defuse the feelings—to get a perspective. Also like during other tragedies I’ve faced in my life, I didn’t start immediately. I needed time to identify and process the feelings before I could look at a blank sheet of paper and commence! When the words came, again like so many times before, they tumbled out effortlessly, so I thought I’d share them with you.
I wrote the poem below two and a half weeks after returning home from Madrid, Spain and deciding to self-quarantine for two weeks, a month from today. We left Spain on March 8th, and the coronavirus exploded there on the 9th, so Lin and I felt uneasy about the possibilities of our exposure. If exposed, we wanted to be sure not to spread it.
Those two weeks, I didn’t write poetry, but I worked on my current book project. I focused and used this time provided to do various tasks I needed to do to finish the book. But I didn’t capture my feelings in words through poetry—I couldn’t yet. My world was spinning! A friend spoke the word “Fear.” I looked deep inside and realized, “Yeah, that’s it!” In stressful times, I do—whatever needs to be done, then I feel. Yes, I recognized fear as it coursed through my veins. My hands shook; my stomach hurt. My restless sleep left me tired and the repeated dark space during sleep I fell into each night didn’t refresh me. Yes, I dreamed, but no detail remained the next morning—only a feeling of despair and darkness.
Fear, okay, and what else? It took time for me to arrive at other feelings: faith, devastation, panic, empathy, and grief. As you can see, what a mixture I felt scattered wildly, but isn’t that being human? As complicated feeling human beings, we have the capacity to feel a wide range of feelings, and all at the same time!
So, in the coming weeks, I’m going to share my poetry with you. You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, no! I don’t do poetry!” Let me share a suggestion—look for the feeling conveyed then see if it resonates with you. Maybe yes, maybe no, but if you give just a chance, it just might get you!
Coronavirus Scares Me!
March 26, 2020
I sit here
In quiet solitude
A peaceful spring scene
Out my window
And the world falls apart!
500,000 cases of the
Jesse, my elderly cat, snuggles close
Nothing has changed
He eats, he pees, poos and
And the world falls apart!
100’s of them
faces of pain fill my thoughts
faces of grief flood my heart
Losses too sizeable to count!
A world turned upside down
No, I haven’t lost someone
Who might it be?
An elderly dancer?
A young friend?
We all stand at the door
Of this possibility
Who will it be?
I dread that first!
How do you process stressful situations? Create a space place in your world? Share your remedies! Is it poetry? Walking? Artwork? Dancing? What do you do to deal?
~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography streamed on Facebook Live — TBA! Be ready! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!
~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
~DO YOU WANT AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? I HAVE 234 PRE-ORDERS! Release date: mid-May! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42
Flamenco dancers, more cathedrals, a cathedral within a mosque, and a walled city filled the end of our fabulous trip to Spain.
In our first five days traveling, I had already seen Flamenco dancer souvenirs in many gift shops. I thought I’d seen “Flamenco Dancers” on our itinerary, but I asked a couple knowledgeable travelers in our group when that was. They both looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
I went back through all of our paperwork and couldn’t find it but rejoiced when Brad, our tour guide, said we would have dinner and see a Flamenco dance group in Sevilla (Spanish spelling) or Seville (English spelling) on March 5. My excitement and anticipation grew!
Day 6: March 5, 2020
We started the day in Sevilla with our tour guide telling us about the many buildings we passed that had been built for the Iberian-American Exposition in 1929. The Exposition affected the growth of Sevilla much like the Olympics did Barcelona.
“The Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 was a world’s fair held in Seville, Spain, from 9 May 1929 until 21 June 1930. Countries in attendance of the exposition included: Portugal, the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile, the Republic of Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Each Spanish region and each of the provinces of Andalusia were also represented.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibero-American_Exposition_of_1929
We ended at the Plaza América, where we had stopped on our amazing carriage ride back to the hotel the night before. See last week’s blog post for that.
“The Plaza de America (Seville), located in the Parque de María Luisa, is flanked by the Museum of Popular Arts (Neomudéjar style) to the north, the Archaeological Museum (Neo-Renaissance style) to the south, and the Royal Pavilion (Gothic style) to the east. These three buildings were built by the architect Aníbal González between 1913 and 1916 for the future Ibero-American exhibition in 1929, each with a different architectural style. Also form Part of the roundabout of Miguel de Cervantes, adorned with the works Ceramics Recalling Most Famous, as Rodriguez Marin.”
Next we stopped at the Plaza España, built in 1928, for the Exposition in 1929. The stunning size of the half circle structure overwhelmed me at first sight. Around the gigantic courtyard, each Spanish province had a kiosk with a map, mosaic tiles and a picture depicting the character of that province—colorful and amazing. During the Exposition, natives stood in the kiosk and described it to their guests.
Our group had our picture taken by the fountain there. Brad handed out beautiful Spanish fans to each of the women in the group—so thoughtful!
From there we went to the Sevilla Cathedral, seeing the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Lin and I had lunch at Mateos and shopped. I bought me a beautiful creme-colored shawl to wear to the Flamenco dance that night.
From there we went to the Alcazar, “. . . a royal palace in Seville, Spain, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile. It was built by Castilian Christians on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alc%C3%A1zar_of_Seville
Again, I saw the influence of the Moors.
All over town we kept seeing a symbol “NO 8 DO,” and our guide told us the story behind it. Literally it means, “Never abandon me!”
“NO8DO is the official motto of Seville, popularly believed to be a rebus signifying the Spanish No me ha dejado, meaning “She [Seville] has not abandoned me”. The phrase is spelled with an eight in the middle representing the word madeja “skein [of wool]”. Legend states that the title was given by King Alfonso X, who was resident in the city’s Alcázar and supported by the citizens when his son, later Sancho IV of Castile, tried to usurp the throne from him.
The emblem is present on Seville’s municipal flag, and features on city property such as manhole covers, and Christopher Columbus’s tomb in the Cathedral.”
The busy day ended with dinner at the Flamenco La Catedral en Sevilla and Flamenco dancers, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The mystery and the drama captivated me with women’s long skirts swishing across the stage. The sound of the singers almost felt like cries and screams at times. The sound of clicking castanets and stomping feet filled the air—truly magical.
Day 7: March 6, 2020
The next day our end destination was Madrid with a stop at Córdoba to see the Mesquita/Catedral. This mosque wasn’t destroyed by the Catholic invasion. Imagine that—a cathedral built inside a mosque. Our energetic guide, Gema, led us through this massive building of over 800 pillars and burnt-orange arches. It is not used as a mosque today because the Catholic church won’t let the Moslem kneel.
The many orange-colored arches and pillars went on and on in every direction. The mosque part fascinated me—I had never been inside a mosque.. Again, another overwhelming cathedral with a golden altar and the strong influence of the Moslem people.
Our guide told us the city didn’t want the Catholic part added to the mosque, so the Bishop at the time went to the Emperor, and he agreed to it because “the Protestants were driving him crazy.”
When we left Córdoba, we drove through green fields in La Mancha, and I felt Don Quixote riding his stead, Rocinante, and Sancho Panza everywhere! I looked for windmills but saw none!
Again as we traveled, Brad entertained us, telling us about the different types of ham, jamón, in Spain. The jamón Ibérico comes from pigs that roam free and eat acorns in the mountains. He also shared how expensive it was. Families buy it for their holiday meals starting with St. Nicholas Day on December 6 eating it all the way to Epiphany on January 6. Throughout our travels in Spain, we saw many butcher shops with hams hanging up.
We arrived in Madrid late afternoon, got to our rooms and then went out for a group dinner and heard a musical group, La Tuna, which are traditionally university students singing to help pay education costs. We savored the delicious dinner and the outstanding entertainment .
Day 8: March 7, 2020
The next morning, first, we toured Madrid. Brad had told us about the division in the city: the Hapsburg section and the Bourbon section. Then we went to the El Prado Museum, another place I had anticipated visiting! We couldn’t take pictures inside, so I snapped the above picture of Lin in the lobby.
The highlight for me was seeing a Goya exhibit. I used this painting of Goya’s, Zeus Eating His Son, in my mythology unit when I was a middle school English teaching, and this gory drawing enticed my students immediately. Seeing the extreme emotions of the Goya paintings shocked me in person though. We only had an hour and half, but our guide made sure we saw the key artwork of Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez and El Greco.
Because I couldn’t take pictures, I concentrated on the paintings and the guide’s explanation, so I felt like I really saw and understood the artist, the painting, and its historical significance.
After this amazing tour, we drove about an hour with the same knowledgeable guide to Toledo, the walled city. Our bus driver stopped at a strategic spot across the river so we could get great cityscape pictures of Toledo.
Thank God for the numerous escalators up the hill to the walled city of Toledo. Lin and I had a delicious venison dish and Spanish potatoes for lunch. We shopped in Plaza de Zocodover and met back with the group.
Then our guide led us through the narrow streets to the massive Toledo cathedral. More golden altars, but here red hats hung from the ceiling—the hats of cardinals who had died. Our guide told us that the phrase “Holy Toledo” came from this city because of all the churches, synagogues and other religious sites.
On our way out of Toledo, we stopped at the Damasquinados Suarez store where we saw how the Damascene jewelry and steel swords was made.
After the demonstrations, I bought a bracelet, earrings and sewing scissors. In another shop, I bought mazapan Santo Tomé which Toledo is famous for and sampled it on the ride back to Madrid—Yum!
We got back to the hotel at 6:00 pm and left at 7 for our Farewell Dinner in downtown Madrid at the Espejo Restaurante and had a delicious dinner. Sad to see this magical trip end.
When we returned to the hotel, we did a square dance demonstration for our tour group, and then Jerry taught two squares some basic moves. It was so much fun. It’s a video of our group learning to square dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FITjSm0vfVo
At the end of this action-filled day, Lin and I packed our bags—always a chore I don’t enjoy because of all the souvenirs I bought. I felt like I have to push and shove to make it all fit! And then the weight! Lin brought a bag scale to check! No problem!
Day 9: March 8
The next morning Lin and I rose very early at 4:45 am to get our bags downstairs by 5:45 am. The hotel prepared sack breakfasts for us. We left the hotel before 6:45, our planned time to leave but had to return because we left one of our traveling companions.
The Madrid airport seemed quiet at that early hour. We checked in, went to our gate and waited. I bought a travel pillow at the Madrid airport—one that goes around your neck, and I could sleep on the plane much more easily!
Once again, I continued revisions of the biography I was working on and watched the Mr. Rodgers movie. We flew first to Atlanta and had a sizable lay-over, so we grabbed food and played Cribbage with the two Albuquerque couples traveling with us. Then we came on to Albuquerque!
After about thirty hours of travel time—we came home and went to bed to wake up to the news that the coronavirus had exploded in Spain and especially in Madrid overnight.
I fell in love with Spain, the Spanish people and all the wonder, yet I have felt so sad about how the virus has erupted. My heart goes out to a beautiful country I will remember forever in cathedrals, Moslem architecture, beautiful dances and wonderful people.
~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
~THINGS ARE BOOMING! I HAVE 232 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! It will be published by MID-APRIL! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42
Our trip from Barcelona to Valencia, Granada and then Seville expanded my knowledge of the Moorish presence in Spain. We headed south along the coast and drove a couple days. As we traveled, I marveled at the sights. My awareness of the Moorish influence in Spain grew as I saw their presence!
3: March 2, 2020
Our day started out rainy in Barcelona, and we face a two-hundred-mile drive to Valencia.
We stopped for lunch at Peñíscola on the Mediterranean coast. The hilltop castle was used for the filming of the movie, “El Cid.” Some of us braved the cold windy day and walked up to the castle winding our way through the narrow streets. I bought an expensive souvenir there—a deck of playing cards for twelve dollars. Hard to explain!
As we drove, Brad entertained us with facts about Spain, specifically about Catalonia and the Catalan dialect. He told us about Franco winning the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Franco trained Juan Carlos to follow him, but when he died and Juan Carlos took over, he said that Franco was wrong and organized the states as they are known now.
Brad also explained why Catalonia wants to leave Spain. He shared an interesting comparison of Shakespeare and Cervantes and told us about the “anti-pope.” His narrative helped make the day go by quickly.
I didn’t feel well, so I napped while my husband, Lin, and friends toured the complex and took pictures. Valencia is also known for paella and we had an extraordinary dinner seeing paella made by a master chef at La Cigrona restaurant. I recovered in time to eat!
Another claim to fame for Valencia is the fallas—celebrations that last from March 1 – 19, “a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. . .. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments burnt during the celebration. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the noted dish paella, a specialty of the region.”
Because of the planned seat rotation, Lin and I sat up front on the right-hand side of the bus and had a clear view ahead—it was awesome because this was another drive day to Granada to see the Alhambra. Again, Brad shared his knowledge of the area we were traveling through.
In preparing for our time in Granada and the Alhambra, Brad shared that the Arabic world arrived in Granada in 711 and captured it in twenty years. Three faiths, Jewish, Christian and Islam, lived side-by-side here for many years.
Moslem control was defeated in 1492 at the Battle of Granada, the “Reconquista.”
“The Battle of
Granada was a siege of the city of Granada. It was
fought several months and lead to the surrender of Granada on January 2, 1492.
The forces of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I
of Castile fought against the armies of the Muslim Emirate of Granada.
This relatively small campaign was of enormous
consequences because Granada was the last outpost of Al-Andalus in
Spain and its fall meant the end of 780 years of Muslim control in the Iberian
In 1492, the sultan gave the keys of the Alhambra to Ferdinand and Isabella. Brad talked about the Arabic triangle in Spain: Granada, Sevilla and Toledo.
When we arrived in Granada, we drove immediately to the Alhambra for a two-and-a-half-hour tour—exhausting but exhilarating! Our touring group split into two groups, and our guide was Elena, a knowledgeable and personable woman.
The Alhambra is “a palace and fortress complex. . . constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the NasridemirMohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition). . ..”
Washington Irving wrote his “Tales of the Alhambra” here.
I had no idea of the extent of the Moorish influence in Spain. This palace took my breath away. The mosaics inside and the Islamic calligraphy graced numerous walls. The sheer size spoke volumes as to the position this palace played throughout Muslim and Spanish history.
Situated on a hill, the fortress’ protection and presence commanded the area.
As we were walking back, Elena told us to go to the Zara store not far from our hotel for great prices on women’s clothing, so I made note of that!
After our tour through the Palace and the Generalife, a walk through gardens to the Summer Palace and walk back, I was exhausted. So we headed to our hotel and napped. We ate dinner at the hotel, then Lin and I walked to the square a few blocks away and took pictures of Queen Isabella and Columbus.
Day 5: March 4, 2020
During the morning, Lin and I chose to do an optional tour to the Albaicin neighborhood which used to be the Moslem Quarters of Granada that we could see from the Alhambra the day before. This fascinating walking tour wound us around through narrow streets with beautiful balconies covered with flowers and our guide, Elena from the day before.
She shared how many of the houses had acorn statutes as welcome signs to visitors.
“The traditional type of house is the carmen,
consisting of a freestanding house surrounded by a high wall that separates it
from the street and including a small orchard or garden.”
The beautiful doors fascinated me as we wandered through the narrow streets, so I took several photos.
Elena shared that one of the ways the Moslems showed they had converted to Christianity was the image of the Virgin Mary on their walls. They were desperate to show their conversion after the Reconquesta.
After this tour, our group stopped for a break and I bought Washington Irving’s book, “Tales of the Alhambra.” Next we visited the Royal Palace and saw five crypts: Isabella and Ferdinand, Prince Charles, the Handsome and his mother, Joanna, the Crazy and Miguel. We were not allowed to take pictures in the Royal Palace.
Afterwards, we ate lunch in a small street café and I split “Gula con gambas” with Mary Beth. It was a delicious shrimp and noodle dish. Then we shopped at Zara’s, finding some great buys.
We spent the afternoon traveling through olive country to Seville. We stopped for a break and bought olive oil souvenirs. Brad shared an English tourist joke. What’s ABC? “Another Bloody Church.”
We settled in our hotel in Seville and for an optional excursion, we went out to dinner, sampling delicious Spanish food in a seven-course meal. A singer, a friend of Brad’s, entertained us, then we had a memorable end to the night—a carriage ride back to our hotel, stopping at the Plaza America for pictures.
One of the horses in a carriage next to us was a black, high-spirited Andalusian, beautiful prancing and gorgeous body!
We visited two beautiful cities and saw so much in three days, my head is still reeling! I’m glad I have this blog to go back and peruse my pictures and remember–ah!!!
~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of
Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this
group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read
interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
~THINGS ARE BOOMING! I HAVE 227 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! It will be published by MID-APRIL! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42