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 (alhambra-patronato.es)  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.

05/01-03/2023 Lisbon, Portugal Knights who say Ni!!!!!

Our latest trip began like always.  No “knight in shining armor” could save us from the long flights ahead of us. Leaving at 3 pm on Monday, we arrived in Lisbon Portugal at 10:30 am on Tuesday! While this does include the time difference, it still felt painful knowing we could not check into our hotel for several hours. Tired but excited, we hotfooted out the door marching along like knights on a quest for the holy grail, or in this case something to eat! We were not disappointed as we sat at a beautiful bar and had some tapas and a local cheese and meat platter. The locally made goat cheese was excellent, but the meat was a tad bit salty for the two of us. The tapas we tried were deep fried barbeque pork with an excellent dipping sauce. It would have almost been at home in NC, yet was distinct enough to have someone say “this isn’t from around here.” Walking around, we explored the seaside area and just enjoyed the time out and being able to stretch our legs.  Thankfully we were soon able to check into our room and just chill for a bit but then the “let’s go exploring” bug bit us!! Deciding the next knight’s errand was to “find” our meeting point for the next day’s tour, we headed out to find the Hard Rock Café in Lisbon, just a short 15 minute walk away. The quest fulfilled when we arrived at our appointed destination, we felt we were now deserving of a “treat”. That “treat” being a special pastry from Pasteis de Belem, considered the best pastry in the world. Now, how to get there……Soon we were in the back of a tuk tuk with a local guide who took us to the city of Belem to show us some local sights.  Along the way we stopped and we tried the local pastry which lived up to its reputation.  Yum!!  We also visited the Monastary of St. Jerome (built in the year 1501), the Belem Tower, the Wall of Discovery, and an overlook that had great views of Lisbon and the Atlantic Ocean.  Soon we were back to the meeting point and decided it was time for dinner.  We dined at a restaurant called Pinóquio (sounds like Pinocchio) where we ate some local dishes and Kathy enjoyed a glass (okay, actually a small pitcher) of Sangria. We then back to our hotel where we crashed for the night since we hadn’t really slept in over 30 hours!

The next day dawned bright and early as we were out the door by 07:30 to meet up with our tour guide to head to the town of Sintra. The day was amazing, and our guide Ophelia was very knowledgeable about the local area.  We arrived at Sintra and toured of the castle of King Ferdinand. The castle was intact with much of the original furnishings from the last kings. The monarchy was abolished in 1910 and at that time the new republic turned it into a museum with the original furnishing still in place. Included inside the castle was much of the art work from the ruling monarch King Ferdinand. The walk up to the castle meandered through the royal gardens which was artwork in itself. Included were some flowing rhododendrons that rivaled many of the bushes that grow in the wilds of NC. After the castle we headed down to the town of Sintra where we wandered around, tried another local pastry shop, and then did some shopping.  Next stop on the tour was the highest point in the Lisbon area and Cabo da Roca which forms the westernmost point of continental Europe. Last stop was the oceanside town of Cascais where we had a lunch which was amazing!! Kathy had her favorite linguini with garlic and olive oil that was revved up with some local peppers to give it some pep!! The meandering drive along the coast back to our meeting point capped the tour off perfectly!!

Last part of the day was chilling for a bit in the hotel room for a couple of hours and then we were off on our next quest.  This quest was a visit to St George’s Castle where we got to reenact some scenes from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Dave climbed the parapets and hurled insults down at Kathy.  (e.g. “Your father was a hamster, and your mother smelt of elderberries!”)  Good thing there were no cows around as he might have started hurling things over the castle wall to keep the invading tourists out!! Wandering the castle grounds was amazing and afforded us with some beautiful views of the city of Lisbon and the coast. Soon a trek back to the hotel with a quick stop for dinner and dessert.  Feeling like we had found our holy grail we settled into the room for the night!

Iguazu Falls

03/13/2023 Iguazu Falls

We gamely set our alarm clocks for 04:30 AM and went to bed early the night before our next to last day in Argentina. It was all worth it not to miss the day in Iguazu Falls!  The day started early, like way early, like really early! Unfortunately, while we were eagerly anticipating the early disembarkation from the boat and the journey to our next stop, we did not leave the boat until almost six am. While many groused about the late start, Kathy was so eager to see the falls that she was like a kid on Christmas morning.  Nothing was going to get her down. We soon were deposited at the airport where we were rushed through security and onto the plane. The plane was delayed as it was waiting for the 50 guests to arrive from Norwegian Cruise Lines – glad they waited! Luckily, we all made it and many of us closed our eyes during the 1.5 hour Flight to the Iguazu. We were soon shepherded off the plane and into the magical rain forest of Iguazu Falls National Park. We delighted in the many sights and sounds that greeted us.

We were soon hiking down a trail to visit the upper falls.  We were presented with the panoramic view of cascading falls, with the rain forest serving as a beautiful backdrop. The cascading falls were further complimented by the beautiful rainbows that were created by the mists of the falls and the beautiful sun shining down.  We then went back up to the visitor area where we had our “free” lunch and relaxed for a bit before hiking down to the lower falls.

During the hikes we were treated to a beautiful landscape that was colored by the vast amounts of butterflies in every color. Kathy was even visited by one who rested on the back of her hand until it gently flew away to visit one of the many flowers that abounded in the area.  The butterflies competed with the brightly colored birds, including a Toucan (just like what you see on the Fruit Loops box) and birds such as Plush-crested Jays and Surucua Trogons. We saw quite a few South American Coatis (that look like long-nosed raccoons) stalking the tourist areas hoping for a bit of food to be “dropped” or left unintended by an unwary tourist.  As we waited for the bus to take us to dinner and then back to the airport, we were delighted to see some capuchin monkeys including a baby. The monkeys were going up a tree and then hanging out above an old building in the area. The baby peeped out from the top of the metal roof and shyly spied on us. I am sure she was wondering what these strange things were that were so fascinated with her. Our last stop was dinner where, as we sat to have our meal, we were surprised to see a deluge of rain descend upon the street. We all sighed in relief as the day had been sunny and beautiful and, like the rest of the trip, we had really lucked out in the weather and the wildlife we were able to see.

Soon we head back home to see the (not so) wild life in the Bauer household, Tipsy and Navin.

Enjoy the photo album from the last 20 days!