May 14, 2023 Happy Anniversary!!

Seem astonishing that 18 years ago we were married at OLBS in Depew, NY.   And the laughter has not ended. Kathy is not sure if Dave is laughing at her or with her, but laughter it is. Our last day in Spain was fairly low key.  We started with breakfast, which was included with our hotel stay, but which we had to walk outside and down 2 streets to get to.  We started off with the largest piece of toast Dave has ever seen (which created a lively discussion on the size of the toaster). The “peach” jam was really strawberry jam and Dave is convinced he can become a menu translator for the city of Madrid. Last night’s dinner of a “steak” salad was really grilled chicken with fresh tomatoes.  Kathy’s dinner of a tomato salad was exactly as expected or mostly as it was shaped into a tower and was perched delicately on top of the plate. (We wish we could have gotten pictures, but it was kind of a hoity-toity restaurant and they already looked askance at our orders. We are pretty sure they were happy to see the last of us!)

After breakfast we headed off to wander the streets of Madrid and find a place where we could attend mass. Stopping at the Cathedral, Dave lamented the fact that we had missed the 11 am mass by just a few minutes.  Looking confused, Kathy advised him that it only 10:17. Dave’s watch, a new one, updated the time by an hour later.  It also recognized we were in Spain and started showing the day of the week in Spanish. Instead of saying Sunday, it said Domingo.  Rectifying the pesky “smart” watch, we strolled around the outside of the cathedral and went into the adjoining “Crypt”, which is where the 11 am mass was held.  We wandered around looking at the displays before finding our seat and waiting for the service to begin. Like always, it was a beautiful reminder of how we are really similar across the world when we go into to practice our faith. In any language we can follow the traditional rituals of the mass and feel that connection to our faith, community, and the people with whom we worship no matter where in the world we are.

After mass, we hoofed it down to a beautiful garden that we had spied from the top patio area of the cathedral. Determined to find the entrance, we wandered down until we reached the beautiful gardens that were adorned with a variety of flowers, trees, and flowering bushes. Deciding we were feeling a tad bit parched we decided to find something to eat.  Lunch (or what ended up being lunch) was really a Black and Mango ice-cream cone for Dave and apple pie ala mode for Kathy. Dave’s Black & Mango ice-cream had the added benefit of turning his tongue black and the end tips of his mustache a tad bit darker than the upper part.  Truly feeling a bit Spanish at this point, they went back to the hotel where Dave took a siesta and Kathy just chilled listening to her book. No work today for either of them.

Nap time over, we again explored the area around Madrid. Puerto Del Sol, where the President’s Residence is located (similar to the square in front of the White House), is a bustling area where, like Washington, DC, protestors abound. Trying to figure out what they were protesting at any given moment was interesting. There abound multitudes of street performers who hope for change from the passing hordes who bustle in the square. Deciding on dinner we picked “Mel’s Diner” an American themed diner, hoping for something that was not fish, sausage, or ham and we both got lucky. Kathy had a Chicken Caesar Salad (which was perfect).  Dave had a chicken sandwich (which wasn’t as perfect, no bun – just slices of toasted bread) but, hey, the fries were good. Most importantly – the strawberry milkshake was perfect and a great compliment to end our last dinner in Madrid. A simple anniversary dinner, but since Dave bought Kathy a hotdog from a convenience store their first week of marriage as dinner, this was a step up!!  The highlight of the dinner for Dave was the “50’s music” they played to keep up the theme of a ‘50s diner.  None of the songs really reminded him of the ‘50s classics, but he really liked it when they played a song from the movie, “The Blues Brothers” with Dan Akroyd and Jim Belushi.  Kathy was sure we were the only two people in the area that had ever seen the movie.

Wandering around again, we gawked at the many passersby as the square was a perfect place to people watch. Seeing a guy in mint green bell bottom leather pants gave Dave the giggles as it reminded him of a classic episode from the TV show “Friends”. We saw many men and women wearing their traditional formal outfits wandering the square as people requested photos of them – they seemed always happy to oblige.  Deciding to end the night quietly they traipsed back to the hotel in a light rain to watch a movie on Netflix and get ready for the flight home tomorrow. Monday mornings here, like everywhere, come quickly.

The night though did not end so quietly, though.  Kathy stepped into the shower and discovered that the mechanics of the shower were too complicated. Periodically she would open the door and get instructions from Dave. Finally getting the shower to start up, it promptly sprayed water straight out into the entire bathroom, soaking everything in its path, including toilet paper. Just to provide some context there are no shower doors, no shower curtain, and one complicated shower that is not what it seems. Dave laughed so hard when Kathy opened the door and shrieked asking what she did wrong.  In between his hearty bouts of laughter, he provided some instructions to get the shower to spray down instead of out!

Kathy is excited to go home, take a bath, drink coffee that is not a consistency of mud, and eat food that she recognized and might not be tainted with shellfish.  We are checked in and ready to head home. Happy Mother’s Day to all our friends and family far away! Know that we are thinking of you and miss you all.

May 11-12, 2023 Prince Charming and his Quests!!

Yes, we are alive! Dave has mostly fully recovered! Kathy had a bad bout of indigestion, but minor in comparison to what he went through. We though didn’t let it stop us from our appointed “rounds”… okay we are not mail carriers, but we soldiered on. Thursday saw us leaving early from Granada to head towards Cordoba where we had a tour scheduled for 10:30 in the morning.  Cordoba was once the richest city in the world and the mosque (turned into a cathedral now), the synagogue and the alcazar (Moorish castle) pay tribute to that wealth.  The mixture of so many cultures has really been the highlight of this trip.

Dave, getting into the groove of driving in Spain, managed to get us there with time to spare and very few “Please do a legal U-turn” requests from the GPS (and only one, “You’re going the wrong way down a one-way street!” shout, which was incorrect.)  We soon were on our way to visit an old Moorish building that up until the 20th century housed a prison and had the dubious history of being the home of the Spanish Inquisition. Next stop was the Jewish quarter which was small, but still had some remnants of the past pockets of Jewish population. Last stop on the tour was the large church which was formally a mosque and now a catholic cathedral. Like a lot of history in Spain, the Catholic church converted the building from a Muslim place of worship to a Catholic one. Kathy had a hard time seeing any remnants of the former Muslim tenants, but luckily our guide pointed them out to us. (We will have to take her word for it!)

Next stop was something to eat. Well past our noon lunch hour, and getting closer to 2 pm, we finally found a spot where we chatted with a foursome from the States. Dave had potatoes in a cream sauce and Kathy tried a local dish. Both were excellent and the potatoes were a benign meal for Dave’s still recovering tummy. We soon meandered through the labyrinth of streets to find our hotel. Checking in, we chatted with the desk clerk and decided to leave our car in the parking garage next to the mosque.  We then hoofed it to get our luggage so that we could begin our explorations.  This was where having backpacks for luggage paid off.  Not having to drag wheeled luggage over cobblestone and dirt streets was the advantage of putting them on our backs.  After chilling for a bit at the hotel we headed off on our first quest a visit to the Festival of the Patios, a local tradition where the residents decorate their indoor courtyards, or “patios”, with a festival of plants and decorations. It was a highlight of the day. The gardens were amazing and we were astounded with the amount of work each gardener put into creating a perfect paradise in their homes.  Dinner and bed were all that were left to accomplish that day and soon we were nestled in our bed. Well that sounds more positive than it actually was, but at least we had a bed (or what passed as a bed).

Gratefully, the next morning we climbed out of bed and headed towards the small village of Consuegra to “tilt” at a few windmills. One of the world’s most iconic books, and one of Dave’s favorites, is Miguel de Cervantes’ book from the early 1600’s, “Don Quixote – Man of La Mancha” in which the characters’ adventures take place in a setting very much like Consuegra. We found the time-period windmills, of which 5 are still working, and a large castle currently in restoration. We wandered around the area and thoroughly enjoyed reliving some of the best moments from the book. Dave managed to joust the windmill with a “sword” and then tilted at it – like Don Quixote, no obstacle was too big!  We could not linger as we needed to be off to locate our next hotel in Cuenca, Spain.

Cuenca is a beautiful area rock-walled area and the hotel is a converted convent. It sits high atop a hill with buildings perched on top of the cliff walls that surround a deep gorge. After having jousted with a windmill, Dave had worked up an appetite. Walking over a large pedestrian span of the bridge that links the convent/hotel with the town, we set out on our next quest – find dinner. Kathy was still feeling a tad bit under the weaver from acid reflux, so she opted for a gently grilled ham and cheese sandwich (without the ham, please) while Dave tried a local sandwich. Heading back, we were treated to seeing quite a few local eagles called Booted Eagles.  Entranced, we watched them for a bit while standing in the middle of the bridge. We then headed back to the hotel where Kathy promptly fell asleep at the unseemly hour of 8:30 pm, leaving Dave to fend for himself.  Well, tomorrow was another day.

Morning arrive, but not much was accomplished. We managed to leave the hotel early in order to return our rental car in Madrid, normally a simple process.  We arrived 40 minutes prior to our shuttle pickup.  Unfortunately, just dropping off the car keys took more than an hour to accomplish! This left our shuttle driver, who was waiting to take us into Madrid, cooling his heels longer than he wanted. Finally finding our hotel, we deposited our luggage and set out to discover Madrid. Just down form the hotel is the famous Puerta del Sol, a thriving open plaza that has street entertainers, lots of food, and of course shops on every corner. Deciding on a late lunch we had some chicken fingers and quesadilla, just small bites for Kathy. Still feeling the effects of the reflux we went back to the hotel where Kathy chilled and Dave went out looking for some tums.  Along the way, he found the Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Spain. The third and final quest, like all the others was successful!  The Spanish version of tums will hopefully do the trick!!

05/09-10/2023 Granada bound!!

Heading out at a leisurely hour of 10 am, we started off towards our next “home” of Grenada, but first a waypoint to see. Ronda, our next stop, was not a visit to a girl named Ronda, but a small white hill town located in southern Spain. The drive through the mountains of Spain was a real treat.

Parking outside the city center in a local neighborhood, we began to hoof it to see the amazing gorge bridges that were built hundreds of years ago and span several gorges. Walking around to see the bridges from several different angles we delighted in the unique bridges with their unique arches. Deciding it was close to lunch (almost one pm!) we headed over to a restaurant that overlooked the gorges below. Seated at a table overlooking the large expanse of the gorge below, we were informed that it was not yet time for lunch. Agreeing to wait until 1 pm, we enjoyed watching the people below us and the birds as they flit around in the canyon.  Finally time for lunch, Dave ordered what was called BBQ chicken and Kathy had beef ragout and a salad to share. Much to Dave’s disgust, the vegetable salad again came out with a large scoop of tuna perched atop the lettuce. Picking apart the salad we separated the fish from the vegetables and enjoyed the tang of the salad dressing. A while later we were presented with our lunch; Dave’s BBQ chicken was really three thin cutlets of chicken atop a bed of homemade French fries and topped with a cream sauce. Not at all what we would consider BBQ chicken.  But it was tasty nonetheless. Kathy’s beef ragout was a little bit like beef tenderloin tips also atop a bed for fries. The brown gravy that the beef was ensconced in gave the fries a similar look and taste of poutine.  The beef was so tender it melted in Kathy’s mouth and she delighted in the flavor and tenderness of the meat.

Finishing our lunch, we were back on our way heading to Granada. Arriving at our hotel, we were soon checked in and Dave did the unique adventure of parking the car in a spot built for a midget.  Heading out we walked down to Alhambra, a huge palatial complex that is a mix of Muslim, Moorish, Catholic, and gypsy influences that gives it a unique charm.  While we could not go into the complex until our tour the next day, we did walk around by the visitor center and stop at the gift shop.  (Tomorrow would see us take a tour of the historic monument.) Soon back to the hotel we were delighted to get dinner at the civilized hour of 6 pm, a burger for Dave and spaghetti bolognaise for Kathy.   Deciding to spend the rest of the night just chilling in the hotel room we relaxed and tried to rejuvenate.

Night soon arrived and with it non-stop vomiting from Dave. All night long he spent getting rid of his hamburger and muttering that he will never eat a burger again. Needless to say we were both exhausted but still managed to make our tour at 10 am. The tour of Alhambra was amazing and no words can give it justice. It consists of a set of ancient palaces, gardens and fortresses that were initially designed as a house for the Sultan and the court of the Nasrid kingdom.  Later it became the residence of the kings of Castile and their representatives. Its artistry was seen in each corner of the gardens and palace. While the exterior looks stark and plain, the interior was a stunning display of craftsmanship. Official Site | Council of the Alhambra and Generalife (  No words can give it justice. It is considered the 2nd most visited monument in Europe, second only to the Eiffel Tower.  The tour was capped off by a much needed nap by Dave.

05/08/2023 Sometimes a spade is just a spade!

The day started out early, too early for the breakfast at the hotel!  We headed out to catch the ferry to Morocco and left at 7 am to arrive on time. With only a few “U-turns”, we arrived and luckily found a parking spot fairly easily. Navigating through to the port, we soon were ensconced very comfortably in the cafeteria. Dave opted for orange juice and was delighted to see them us a machine to “squeeze” whole oranges right in front of him and into the glass. Kathy, on the other hand, had the obligatory European-style “American” coffee that is more like an espresso with a tad bit more bitterness. The sweet taste of some pastries helped balance out the strong coffee. Dave opted for a chocolate croissant while Kathy opted for a cream pastry. Both were excellent. Feeling rejuvenated, we settled in and started talking with some people from the US who, like us, were exploring Spain and the surrounding areas. An hour later time wise (but not losing a minute of time due to the clock change), we were off to explore Tangier. We set off to walk through a castle/Kasbah museum that was rich in history of the conquests/surrenders that shaped the architecture and culture of the area. We climbed 5 flights where we had successive views of the city below us and the Mediterranean Sea on the other side. Soon we were out the museum and on our way to visit the Kasbah. Sensing our confusion, a local person decided to show us the way and gestured, “follow me”, along several confusing corridors. (We are sure he was hoping for a tip/fee). Deciding our only course of action was to give him the slip, we stepped into another museum. The museum, like the other one, consisted of multiple floors of which one of the upper ones was a beautiful garden inhabited by several tortoises. One was bold enough to walk between Dave’s legs as he was crouched to get a level view of the “fast” moving reptile disguised as a turtle. Wandering down to the lower level we peaked around the corner to see if we lost our “tail” and found the coast was clear. Dave’s lesson to Kathy on counter-surveillance techniques was complete!

Soon we were headed off to visit the maze of the Kasbah. We eventually found ourselves in the main square and decided to have some lunch. Lunch, like most things in this area, was an adventure. Despite the “late hour” of noon, the only option was breakfast. Kathy opted for homemade lemonade that was flavored with some honey and Dave opted for a “juice” called “banana split” on the list of juices. In this case, a banana split was really a banana split and he ended up with ice cream, bananas, cookies, and lots of whip cream as an appetizer to his cheese omelet. Kathy helped him a bit by eating a couple of the bananas while swiping some tastes of whip cream, but Dave managed the rest and enjoyed every minute of it. Lunch (or was it breakfast?)…sometimes, as in this case, a spade is not a spade as lunch was really breakfast. Dave’s omelet was filled with local goat cheese which gave it a tasty and distinctive flavor, while Kathy ordered a banana pancake/crepe (who really knows…it was lost in translation). She instead ended up with a pancake/crepe coated with Nutella, good but not as good as banana would have been. Sated by lunch, we wandered the maze of streets looking in the shops and avoiding the shopkeepers who tried to maneuver you into buying something. Deciding to head back to the sea side, we began the trek back. We wandered, and wandered, and did a few circles. At this point Dave was wishing for a GPS that would “chuckle” at him when he went the wrong direction. Instead, he only had google maps which was hindered by the poor satellite reception in the narrowest of narrow alleys and could only state “You appear to have changed location” over and over again. Finally though, after passing a gentleman for the third time, he gave us directions on how to escape the Kasbah. Seaside at last, we chilled and decided to have a drink. After a long painful “failure to communicate”, we got our drinks: Dave had fresh strawberry juice with fresh squeezed orange juice and Kathy had banana juice (finally) with some local milk. Both were enjoyable and it was a nice time all around. Deciding to head back early, we boarded the boat, enjoyed a rousing conversation with some British expats who live now in Spain, and breathed a sigh of relief knowing we were headed back early in order to get dinner.

Sometimes though the best laid plans go awry!! Breakfast here is between 10 and noon, lunch usually 3 pm to 5 pm, and dinner from 8 pm to midnight. We arrived back at six and were out of luck. Hoping to find some tapas, but failing, we finally gave up, came back to the hotel and waited for the appointed time of 8 pm. Dinner was tomato and onion salad with large chunks of tuna (we left the tuna on the plate) and a pizza! Tomorrow we head off to explore Granada and the white villages, or “pueblos blancos”.

Gibraltar 05/07/2023 Planet of the Apes

Today saw us head for the British Territory of Gibraltar, a peninsula on the southern coast of Spain.  The beginning started out rough as we did circles around Seville trying to escape the endless traffic circles/round-abouts  that seems to be everywhere.  Dave swears the female voice of the GPS units was chuckling at one point after telling him which road to take for the fourth time.  Finally we made it to a long stretch of freeway and we were off to go to our next destination. Arriving at the border crossing from Spain to Gibraltar, we were excited to start exploring. An early lunch, and soon we were headed off to conquer the Rock of Gibraltar! We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, panting in the hot heat of the (nearly) African sun. Finally nearing the top we saw a place for ice cream where Kathy gratefully picked out a mint ice cream bar. Ready to head outside, we were admonished to not take any food outside as the macaques that hang around the café will steal any food, and they don’t understand the word “no”. Sinking into an inside chair we enjoyed the cool of the ice cream and the comfort of the chairs. Outside the monkeys waited for any unsuspecting tourists who didn’t listen to the shopkeeper and we saw one gobbling down an ice cream, presumably stolen.  Trudging up the last stretch of the long climb, we finally arrived at the top where we relaxed and enjoyed a soda pop as we waited for the tram to take us down. (Kathy did question why did we walk up and take the tram down…..shouldn’t we have taken the tram up and walked down?? Wouldn’t that be easier?)  Standing in line, there were two indolent monkeys hanging around the tram. Or were they indolent? It was all a ruse. Stealthfully, as Dave stood in line for the tram, one jumped on Dave’s backpack from behind, grabbed his chums that hold his sunglasses around his neck, and sprinted off. Dave, looking around astounded, saw the money hanging out on a rail trying to eat his cloth chums. Dave did his best Charlton Heston imitation and yelled, “Keep your paws off me you dang, dirty ape!”  He walked towards the monkey, gesturing and trying to “scare” him into giving them up. The monkey’s mother made noises and gestures to Dave that roughly translates to, “You snooze, you lose, buddy!”  The young monkey waved his paw and scampered off. Dave followed him up the stairs, maybe to make a citizen’s arrest, but the monkey got rid of the evidence. Dave looked to see where he discarded the chums, to no avail.  No criminal collar today for him.

Enjoying the ride down we soon were off to find out car and head to Algeciras our home away from home for the next two days.   Trying to find dinner before settling in for an early night was another adventure.  We were told there is no dinner available anywhere in town until around 8 or 9 pm.  We walked around town trying to find something, ANYTHING, to eat.  No dice.  Crestfallen, we headed back to the hotel.  Felling weak and puckish, they decided to order room service once it was available… at 8 PM.  At least the chicken and vegetable dish was very good.  Finally, something fell their way before the end of the day.

Early tomorrow morning we are off to catch the 9 am ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morroco.  Should be an interesting day!


Portugal to Spain 05/03-09/2023

We began the first of the three days on a tour of the Sanctuary of Fatima, a holy place. This is the place where three young shepherd girls saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. We went first to the fountain that is filled with holy water and we dipped our hands under the running water. Next we visited the church built on the site and paid our respects and said our prayers. The next stop was a visit to a local store where Kathy bought a rosary that had a small vial of holy water nestled in the string of mother of pearl beads.

The tour group next headed off to a world heritage site, the Batalha Monastery, where we learned the history surrounding the building of the church and the architectural history that made it so special. Our next stop was Obidos, a charming medieval village with an historic castle. The narrow streets inside the castle walls reminded us of old world villages with shops on both sides of the crowded streets and vendors hawking their goods. Unfortunately, there was a gaming convention going on inside the castle walls at the same time, so we were also surrounded by gaming geeks everywhere we went! We then got back into the van where we traveled along the ocean road that gave us spectacular views of the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped at one of the most famous surfing areas where only the bravest of brave dare the waves, the town of Nazarȇ. Several records have been set for surfing in Nazarȇ, including the current record of surfing an 86 foot wave!! Last little bit was a disappointing lunch that left much to be desired, but one in which Dave again got to utilize his EMT skills to help a tourist who was choking. Finally back to our hotel, we settled in for the night in order to get ready for our 04:30 am wake up call to fly to Spain the next day.

The morning soon came and we were off. The flight went off without a hitch and we were in Spain working on getting our rental car and we were off before we knew it. Our next stop was the hotel where we dropped off our luggage to be held for the day while we set off in the car. A new rental car, in a foreign city, with no idea of how the GPS worked was a test of our patience. Luckily, we figured out the GPS and we were soon off to find the location where Christopher Columbus set sail from and “discovered” the New World. The place, called Palos de la Fronterre, was anticlimactic and the trip did not live up to the hype of the area. A small area dedicated to the ship was more like a “pit-stop” along the road. So, we quickly set off to discover our next adventure. Soon we arrived at our next stop, one more to our liking, Doñana National Park. We walked the trails and kept our eyes out for birds. The most amazing birds we got to see on our adventure were some white storks nesting on almost every high place available. Occasionally we saw the chicks poking their heads out of the nests in curiosity of what lays below. Tired, but happy, we headed back to the hotel where we relaxed and soon slept the night away…..and part of the next morning.
We would say the morning dawned early, but that would not be exactly truthful. Breakfast included not just the standard European items of lunch meat, cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes but also included oranges that were right off the trees that lined the boulevard by our hotel. Finally after some more down time in the room we decided to head off and find our meeting place for the next tour set to start at 1 pm. Deciding to walk the three miles to downtown, we loaded the map on our phone and set off to find the meeting point. The journey was quite an adventure as today is the Copa Del Rey Championship soccer match between Osasuna and Real Madrid, and while the match does not start until before dinnertime, 10 pm (yes, you read both right!) the narrow streets were packed with revelers. We determined that the red jerseys of Osasuna outnumbered the white jerseys of Real Madrid probably 100 to 1. Occasionally a rousing song for the team would break out and the masses would join in the singing. It made for quite an adventure and we enjoyed watching the people rally around their teams, even if Dave had to plow his way through the crowds at times. Finally, we started out on our tour, which was a walking tour of both the Cathedral of Seville and the Royal Palace. The church was amazing and we felt truly blessed to be able to see the largest Catholic Church in the world (even bigger than St. Peter’s in Vatican City!) Of course, like many buildings in Spain, it started off as a mosque before the Muslims were pushed out of the area by the Catholics. Around each corner was something new and beautiful to be seen. We climbed to the top of the bell tower (originally a minaret) which provided us with panoramic views of the city of Seville. This again highlighted the sea of red jerseys flooding the streets below. We next visited the palace, which is the world’s oldest palace still in use, and learned about the influences of Moorish and Spanish cultures that helped shape the design of the palace. Feeling thankful that the tour was done, we decided to gobble down some dinner at the very early hour of 5 pm local Seville time. Dave almost had fish lasagna, luckily the wait staff questioned his choice and he grimaced in disgust and decided on the lasagna bolognaise. Finally, similar to how we began our first three days, we ended this day in holy reflection. We attended mass at the Seville Cathedral that we had toured earlier in the day. It was amazing to attend mass in a church 500 years old! It was a beautiful way to end the day. We hoofed it back to the hotel where we remarked that we had walked 10 miles that day from start to finish. We tried to stop at the local McDonald’s to whet our throats along of journey, but apparently Spain does not know the pleasure of milkshakes!! Now it’s time to relax and take some “vitamin I”, aka, ibuprofen.