My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Can I Recapture Spain?

Flamenco Dancers in Seville, Spain
Flamenco Dancers in Seville

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 map of our trip to Spain
A Map of Our Trip

Enjoy the magic of this haunting country:

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:

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my website for all the information you need about me & my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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~ MARCH MADNESS SALE: 20% Discount my Etsy Shop for select paperbacks & digital copies: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Just How Much Did the Moors Influence Spain?

Lin and I with Alhambra in background
Lin and I with the Alhambra in the background

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!

Day 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.

Our day ended at Valencia. It is noted for “The City of Arts and Science,” “a cultural and architectural complex” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Arts_and_Sciences

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.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falles

Day 4: March 3, 2020

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.

The 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 Peninsula.”

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Granada

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 Nasridemir Mohammed 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). . ..”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra

Washington Irving’s presence at the Alhambra

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.

The Alhambra

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.

Acorn – Welcome

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.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albaic%C3%ADn

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.

Gula con gambas
Gula con gambas

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!!!

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~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

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Can You Do Spain in Nine Days?

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

Sagrada Familia

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

Flamenco Dancers Thrilled Me!

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!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~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

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft