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
Barcelona, a city of mystery and mystique! We had two glorious days in Barcelona to discover its hidden wonders. Lin and I explored narrow streets which looked like alleys, saw breathtaking cathedrals and learned about an architect with a dream. Two action-packed days in Barcelona officially started our “Insight Vacations” in Spain, and I fell in love with Barcelona!
Day 1 – February 29, 2020
On our first
day of our official “Insight Vacations” tour, we woke up early at 6:15 a.m.,
adjusting to the time change. Our group planned to meet downstairs at 8:15 a.m.
to buy Hop-On, Hop-Off tickets at the desk and tour Barcelona on our own. Everyone
showed up and purchased their tickets, except our faithful leaders, Jerry and
Mary Beth—they slept in. I loved the group’s response—total acceptance.
Again it was a walk to Diagonal Street, “Avinguda Diagonal (Catalan pronunciation), in Spanish La Avenida Diagonal is the name of one of Barcelona’s broadest and most important avenues. It cuts the city in two, diagonally with respect to the grid pattern of the surrounding streets, hence the name.”
But this trip was leisure stroll, and we caught the bus to go down to the port because Jerry and Mary Beth had been here thirty years ago and wanted us to see the area where they stayed. The Hop-On Hop-Off bus provided a Barcelona guide book and ear buds to listen to the recorded tour guide’s comments as we passed sights. Lin and I wanted upstairs on the top of the open-air bus. Initially I had some problems with the sound but figured it out.
The whole idea of the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus ticket was to see the whole city and then go back to the specific places that caught our eye—we ended up not doing that.
Our grouped stayed on the Red line until the port, passing many amazing sights, but then we left the bus about 11:15 a.m., agreeing to meet back at 12:15 p.m if we were going to continue with the group (who went on to have lunch together and tour the rest of the city on the bus). Lin and I opted to stay down by the port. We first took pictures of the Christopher Columbus (Colon) Monument.
Mirador de Colom, also known as the Columbus Monument, is an impressive pillar
dedicated to the explorer Christopher Columbus in Barcelona with an observation
deck at the top. It stands 197 Ft (60 m) tall and sits at the end of
La Rambla, very close to the city’s port.”
After that, a flea market caught our eye, and we wandered through it. From there we headed towards La Rambla and then down alley-like streets so charming and alluring. Bicyclists rode by us as we meandered down narrow streets with hanging flower baskets—so picturesque. Needless to say, we didn’t make it back by 12:15 p.m
One more narrow street tempted Lin, so I waited and watched people, one of my favorite pastime in foreign countries. People of all ages on bicycles surrounded me. Lin and I reunited and went shopping. Then we had a delicious lunch outside at the Casa Lola restaurant “in the heart of the La Rambla Catalunya” in the brisk, cool air, sampling “tapas” which
“. . .are at the very heart of Spanish lifestyle and culture. Everywhere in Spain, you will find lively, noisy bars serving small plates of superb flavours and local delicacies.
It is essentially a style of
eating rather than a form of cooking. Tapas mean sociability, friends and
Our lunch consisted of shrimped with garlic and pepper, patatas bravas (a potato dish but not like our potatoes), and a pasta salad with shrimp, crab and pineapple—can you tell Lin and I like shrimp!
After lunch, we hopped back on the bus and hopped off to see the Basilica of St. Maria del Mar “. . . a church in the Ribera district of Barcelona, Spain, built between 1329 and 1383 at the height of Principality of Catalonia’s maritime and mercantile preeminence. It is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.”
We paid the $7.50 to enter and what a delight it was! I had a big disappointment though. After our trip to Costa Rica, I took my Canon Rebel in to be fixed and thought it was, but at this point, it repeated the behavior from before—so frustrating. I could still take pictures but had to turn it off and on after each shot!
In this church, I started a tradition I tried to continue throughout our tour—I bought a candle and lit it for my loved ones. I had no idea how many churches or cathedrals we would visit!
Again, we hopped on the bus again and went to the Barcelona Cathedral where we only took pictures outside. I bought three precious bracelets there. It was here we realized we were running out of time, so we stopped for gelato and some relax time before we rushed back to our hotel for our evening activities. We were able to sneak in a nap!
Our tour group met downstairs at the hotel—all 39 of us—with our tour guide, Brad Dick. He handed out bags and information, then we boarded our bus for the first time to go to dinner as a group. Our group split up and sat at different tables to meet our companion-travelers. We sat with a couple from Singapore and enjoyed a traditional Spanish meal with a wide variety of small plates. What a nice introduction to our tour group!
Lin and I ended the evening when we returned to the hotel with a walk to the neighborhood “farmacia” (drug store) to buy him Dramamine in case he got motion sickness when we moved around the bus from the seating chart.
What a fascinating first day in Barcelona!
Day 2 – March 1, 2020
Lin and I selected an optional excursion for the morning to Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery, 38 miles northeast of Barcelona. A local tour guide, Santiago—Santi for short—joined us and pointed out highlights on the trip in Barcelona and then in the countryside.
Montserrat is built up on the side of a mountain, so we took a narrow road that zigzagged back and forth to arrive at this breathtaking place.
Montserrat’s history has mystery to it: “It is not known exactly when Monks first came to Montserrat and began to build a Monastery. However, it is believed that in the ninth century four of the Chapels were built on Montserrat Mountain. . .”
Santi led us on a tour of the outside then we went inside to see the venerated Black Madonna. Afterwards we were given time to explore, shop or grab a bite. I went inside the church and zoomed in on the Black Madonna from the sanctuary, but I got a great close up when I walked by!
We returned to Barcelona, picked up the rest of our tour group and Santi started a tour of Barcelona with a look at one of Antoni Gaudí’s houses, La Casa Mila. Before this trip, I had never heard of Gaudí—maybe that shows my ignorance, but after visiting Barcelona and his creations, I’m in awe of him and his vision.
Antoni Gaudí “. . .was a Catalan architect known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized, one-of-a-kind style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his main work, the church of the Sagrada Família. Gaudí’s work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion.”
Also we drove by Gaudí’s La Casa Batlló, but I didn’t get a good daytime photo of it.
Our next stop was Gaudí’s most famous creation, La Sagrada Família, “. . .a striking example of Gaudí’s unique Art Nouveau architecture and is filled with religious symbolism and meaning. Eight of the intended 18 towers have been built, which rise to over 100 meters. The towers represent the Twelve Apostles and each one bears the name and statue of its apostle.”
I can not put into words what this structure is like—massive outside with spires, color and small scenes from Jesus’ life, but we as I entered this sacred place, light exploded through stain-glass windows. Santi told us the orange and red on one side depicted the warmth of the south, and blue and green on the other side was the cold from the north. I was speechless! The light streaming through the windows colored the whole inside of the cathedral—it was sensory over load! I couldn’t believe the inside size!
We left through what will become the new entrance which depicts the passion of Christ. To the side was a small workshop where Gaudí worked for over forty years, dedicated to the completion of his dream.
Afterwards we had a 45-minute lunch break, so part of our group gravitated across the street to small pizza place for lunch. Our next stop on the city tour was the Gothic area of Barcelona, and we revisited the Barcelona Cathedral and the area where Lin and I had been the day before. A gigantic crowd mobbed the area—some sort of walking donation. We returned to the hotel and rested—I was exhausted from our long day of touring, and it wasn’t over!
I thoroughly enjoyed our evening tour, returning to some of the places we had seen during the day and the day before. We returned to the Palau Nacional, the National Palace, “. . .a building on the hill of Montjuïc in Barcelona. It was the main site of the 1929 International Exhibition.”
I captured the evening view of the palace and then the city from the palace—breathtaking view! I bought a copy of a children’s book about Gaudí in Spanish, Los Sueños del Gaudí, “The Dreams of Gaudí” and look forward to reading it.
On our drive up Montjuïc hill, we passed by the Poble Espanyol museum, the Spanish town with tall figurines of a Spanish man and woman. Then our tour continued on to the “Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys,” originally built for the 1929 International Exposition and used as the main stadium for the 1992 Olympics.
From there we ventured down to the Olympic Village by the pier for a delicious seafood and cheese dinner. We finished this feast with Crema Catalana for dessert, a Spanish delicacy, similar to Crème Brûlée.
We ended the evening driving by Gaudí’s two houses, La Casa Batlló and La Mila lit up at night. Gaudí’s architecture took on a eerie feeling at night! As we drove back to the hotel, Lin and I lamented about all the attractions in Barcelona we missed and vowed to come back—it had been a glorious day!
Our two days in Barcelona started this trip off right!
~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/
~I HAVE 213 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! It will be published in the next monght! 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
Spain in nine days! Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Madrid! I reveled in the mystery of this gorgeous country and its people, the cathedrals, Don Quixote and La Mancha, Gaudi’s creations and the Moorish influence. Yes, we did it, and it was magical!
Again, I want to share my travel experiences with you. I will group them together in about four blog posts, so off to Barcelona we go!
February 27, 2020
Lin and I woke before dawn at 2:30 a.m. Again, like the night before we flew to Costa Rica a month or so ago, I had trouble sleeping in anticipation of this big trip. We left the house at 3:15 A.M., drove to Jerry and Mary Beth Gilbreath’s, dropped off our vehicle and drove to the airport together.
Our flight left at 6:00 A.M. for Atlanta, GA. In a way, this was a working vacation for me—I needed to finish the last two chapters in Marshall Flippo’s biography, so I took my iPad loaded with Scrivener and worked anytime I could, like on the flight to Atlanta.
We had a sizable layover there, so we grabbed a delicious meal then scooted off to a table in a coffee shop near our gate to play Cribbage with the ladies playing the gents, and the ladies skunked the guys!
While we were in Atlanta, I downloaded a novel about Spain, Winter in Madrid, by C. J. Sansom. Our tour director, Brad Dick, had suggested a list of three books, so I downloaded one and Lin did another.
Our flight to JFK passed uneventful, and I started my book about Spain and worked on my iPad. We had limited time at JFK but squeezed one game in, and the guys won. While we were waiting for our flight and while playing, Lin obsessed about pizza but didn’t get any.
Then we boarded the plane for Barcelona leaving at 5:37 p.m. We were delayed an hour but still arrived on time. They served a delicious dinner, and it was a bumpy ride. I worked again on my iPad then watched the movie, “Judy” and loved it. I did sleep a little.
February 28, 2020
Then the cabinet lights came on, and we lost six hours from New York City! How shocking! As we neared Barcelona and the Spanish coast, we photographed a beautiful sunrise. We moved through customs easily and got our Passports stamped and gathered our luggage. Lin and Jerry exchanged dollars into Euros, and we found the man from Insight Travels, our tour company, who take us to our hotel.
While driving I practiced my Spanish with him and did pretty well. When we arrived at the Meliã Hotel, our room wasn’t ready, so we questioned the desk clerk, and he gave us directions to a place to eat breakfast. As I listened to the clerk talk to someone, I realized he wasn’t speaking Spanish, so I asked him. He was speaking Catalan, a dialect of the region, Catalonia. As we traveled Barcelona, I noticed signs in both Spanish and Catalan.
Interestingly, we found out that Spaniards do not eat a breakfast like we do, so that narrowed down the choices. After a short walk, we did find a lovely place, El Fornet, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast and coffee. We rambled around the area and went back to the hotel–our rooms still weren’t ready, so we went to the bar and played more Cribbage. The guys won, so we were even then, and that ended our Cribbage game in Spain–we were way too busy!
Finally, our rooms were ready, so I
unpacked and slept hard for several hours.
We were traveling with a group with many arriving at different times. So, early evening, we met downstairs and walked to El Patio restaurant for our first group dinner. Some in the group thought it was “the death march” because we were told it was just 10 minutes from the hotel–NOT! Lin and I feasted on scallops and clams and reconnected with a couple from Maine who used to live in Albuquerque. We walked back to the hotel afterwards, and I hit the bed exhausted and never turned over.
SUMMARY OF OUR TRIP
We spent three nights in Barcelona because we elected to come in a day early and loved having that extra day. The highlights of Barcelona were a city tour, a drive to Montessarat (an 11th century Benedictine monastery with a black Madonna), the Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona Cathedral, a Roman Wall and the Royal Palace.
After that, our driving tour began, and we followed the sunny Costa Dorada and stopped at Peñiscola where El Cid was filmed. Then it was on to Valencia for the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling well, so I didn’t photograph the arts and science complex, but Lin and two friends did. That evening we enjoyed “paella.”
The next day we headed to Granada and visited the Alhambra, a 13th century Moorish citadel. The following morning, we did a walking tour of the Albaicin Quarter, “the oldest section of Granada, with its narrow-cobbled streets and cármenes (Moorish-style houses).” https://www.britannica.com/place/Albaicin
That afternoon we traveled to Seville and spent two nights. We visited the Alzacar and had two special dinners there: one sampling a variety of Spanish specialties with live music and the other while watching Flamenco dancers! Two memorable nights! The first night in Seville we had a carriage ride to our hotel with a stop at the Plaza America! The second one we saw the Flamenco dancers.
The next travel day we stopped in Córdoba and saw the Mosque/Cathedral, and then it was on to Madrid for two nights. The next day was jam-packed. We visited the Prado in the morning and then drove to Toledo and toured the city and cathedral there.
The weather was cool, but we lucked out with no rain. Our tour guide entertained and educated us with his knowledge and humor and made bus rides enjoyable. There were twelve from our group and a total of 39 in the tour. What an exceptional bunch to travel with. We had people from the USA, Canada and Singapore–couldn’t have been better!
Our wonderful Spanish trip ended the next day with a long travel day home, but I will savor the memories forever!
SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!
Next week, I will take you through our Barcelona adventures down narrow streets that looked like alleys and more! I will show off some of my great photos of amazing places–get ready! Barcelona is amazing! I want to go back!
~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/
~I HAVE 213 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY! 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