My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Cathedrals End Our Trip to Spain!

Flamenco dancers, more cathedrals, a cathedral within a mosque, and a walled city filled the end of our fabulous trip to Spain.

Flamenco Dancer

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

Plaza América

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.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_de_Am%C3%A9rica

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.

Group Picture

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.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seville#Motto

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.

“Damascene is the ancient Moorish craft of inlaying gold or silver on non-precious metals like iron or steel.” https://www.travelsignposts.com/Spain/shopping/damascene-shopping-in-toledo

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.


~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 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

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