Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some fun pictures

A car wash

The castle in Fuengirola--there is a cache up there

Seeing if I have enough coins to pay for lunch

The Bull--there is a cache near by....

searching.........

There it is!

A few from Morocco

Ann

Ann's coke at lunch

Kristina and some baby camels 

Where we had lunch in Morocco

Walking the streets

Street sign in Morocco

Pictures from fuengirola

Beach walk outside our hotel

View of hotel from the castle

These boats are full of sand and people use them to
build fires to cook

Sunset

Bridge over canal near our hotel in Fuengirola

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggity jog

Well, believe it or not, it is time for us to bid adios to Spain!!  It is hard to believe that we have actually been here for fourteen days!!  It seems like we just got here and "poof" it is time for us to fly home.  Lori was up before the alarm went off today.  I woke at 7:30 AM when the alarm sounded.  Usually, Lori would get up when the alarm sounded and I would go back to sleep until about 30 minutes before we were to meet for breakfast, then I'd get up.  I figured that there was no sense in getting up and sitting on the bed waiting for Lori to finish in the bathroom.  But today, being the bathroom was available, instead of resetting the alarm, I got up.

Did I tell you that this hotel had actual doors on the shower!!  Every place else we have stayed had a partial wall or glass partition and you had to be careful not to flood the bathroom floor while you were showering.  So it is worth mentioning that this one had a three part door.  It also had actual keys for the room.  One had to lock the door from inside with the key, as well as remember to lock the door from the outside with the key.  We are used to hotel rooms that lock automatically when you close the door, but this one did not.

And guess what?  When you turned on the switch for the lights, they actually turned on!!  Every other hotel had these little devices by the door, where you inserted one of your plastic card room keys, in order to turn on the lights.  (Remember I told you about that when we arrived in Barcelona!) 

About 9 AM we knocked on the door to Danielle & Kristina's room.  They were dressed and ready to check on breakfast.  We asked at the desk and it was €5 for breakfast of coffee, toast and juice.  We decided that we'd wait and eat at the airport.  We went back to one of the rooms and sat and talked until just before 10 AM.  Then we hauled our luggage out to the (oh dear, I started to say "circulation desk"!!) reception desk.  It turned out that Dad (who did not speak English) was the shuttle driver to the airport.

He loaded our luggage and we piled into his vehicle and away we went.  Honestly, I think that in 3 minutes we were at the tunnel under the airport.  I still can not understand out how that woman at the airport shuttle figured that this hotel was 15-20 km away!!  We would have been at our terminal in about 10 minutes, but we had to stop because a tree was down into the road.  The police were there and guys were just finishing up the removal process.  This caused a mini traffic jam.  When we could continue, it was just a few minutes later that Dad stopped in the road in front of our terminal, said something in Spanish and then "inside" in English.  He off loaded the luggage and we were delivered.

Inside the terminal, we found the same situation as in Malaga.  By now we knew to look for a monitor that would tell us what number we needed to look for to find the US Airways desk.  We located the correct number for check in and headed through the terminal to find it.  We had to have our passports checked by a lady before we could go up to the ticket counter to check in and get our boarding passes.  She asked us what our relationship was to each other.  That was a first.

Once we secured our boarding passes and dropped off our checked baggage, we ran the gauntlet of security.  Kristina and I set off the alarm.  They told Kristina to remove her shoes and try again, even though there wasn't any metal on her shoes.  She still set it off, so a lady patted her down and let her go on.  I was wearing crocs, sweatpants, a polo shirt and had taken off my watches.  The only thing we could figure out was my earrings &/or my glasses set it off.  So I had to be be patted down, too.  When she felt my money belt, she said, "Money belt?"  I said, "yes".  She said, "Very much money?"  I said, "No money, only credit cards."  By then the few Euros that I had left were in my fanny pack and I only had my driver's licenses and my credit cards in my money belt.  Danielle and Lori made it through without setting off any alarms.

Now that we were through security, we decided to shop for some candy in the duty free shop.  Danielle was starting to get a sinus infection and wanted some hard candy to suck on.  I wanted some chocolate.  Lori bought some Toblerone that was individually wrapped and she shared with us for the flight.  That accomplished, we looked for some place to eat breakfast.  We found a typical airport cafeteria and grabbed some bottles of water and a quick breakfast.  It was nothing like the elegant breakfast buffet that we had become used to each morning.

We checked the monitors and our gate had now been assigned, so we headed off to find it.  Along the way Lori decided to stop to exchange her Euros for dollars.  By this time, I only had €20 plus some change, so I decided to keep it.  I went on ahead to the gate.  There were lots of moving sidewalks and just before I reached the gate, I had to show my passport and boarding pass AGAIN!! 

The man asked me where my carry-on had been while I was in the airport.  I said, "with me".   He said, "the whole time" and I said yes.  I think he asked something else and then he said, "Outside of the duty free shops, what have you purchased?"  That confused me and I replied, "Inside the duty free shop I bought chocolate."  He said, "Outside the shops what did you buy?"  I said, "Nothing."  I think what he wanted to know was had I purchased anything suspicious from some terrorist looking guy selling who knows what between security and the gate.  ???  I can understand them asking you that when you check in, but after you've been through security? (No, there was no such person...I am just guessing at what the guard was suggesting.)

As I told you before, the Spanish all stand up and wait at the boarding gate.  We remained seated, along with a very few other people.  We decided that there was no sense in standing for 20 minutes when we could get up when the line started moving.  Which is what we did.  Danielle, Kristina and I were together in the middle rows with a gentleman sitting beside me.  Lori was behind us in the next row.  The man sitting next to me went up and asked the stewardess if he could move and she allowed him to do that.  I moved into his aisle seat and that allowed us to lift all of the seat arms and gave us all some extra space.  We piled coats, pillows, blankets and such in the spare seat.

This plane had monitors on the back of each seat.  Your remote control was in the armrest and came out, but was attached by a cable.   You could buy headphones from them or use your own.  I had totally forgotten to bring mine from home, but Danielle had an extra set and let me borrow them.  You had a choice of about a dozen movies; a dozen or so TV shows; music and HBO shows.  I watched a special about the Midwest that featured stops in IL, OH, MI, WI and MN and totally ignored IN.  ??  I guess Ohio and Illinois are mid-west but Indiana isn't?  I found that the screen was too close for me.  It was making me feel nauseous to have it so close to my face.  So I watched part of a couple of movies that the lady in the row in front of me was watching.  I saw part of "Crazy Heart" and most of "Karate Kid".  She was just starting "Grown ups", when the monitors turned off because we were coming in for a landing.  On the way to Spain, I watched the "Last airbender".  It is interesting to watch movies w/o sound and try to figure out what the heck is going on.  Of course, with the "Karate Kid", I had seen the original, so I had an idea.

Kristina watched three movies and two or three TV shows.  Lori watched three movies.  I think Danielle only watched two movies, but I could be wrong.  Kristina told me that she took her glasses off to watch the movies, because the monitors were so close to your face.  I am pretty blind, so I don't think that would have worked for me.

The flight home was longer than the flight to Spain, even though Madrid is farther west than Barcelona.  Flying east, you have the jet stream pushing you along.  Flying west you are flying into the jet stream.  Kristina leaned over to me at one point, hours and hours into the flight and said, "Do you realize that we have only been on this plane for THREE HOURS!!"  I looked at my watches and darn it all, she was right!!  Arghhhhh!!

Danielle wondered about the time and I told her what time it was.  She was trying to figure the time in Michigan and I told her.  She was impressed at my quick answers, but the truth was that I had my digital watch on my right arm with the time in Spain and my "regular" watch on my left arm with Michigan time.  So that I could keep track of how long we'd been up (Spain) and when we would be arriving (Michigan with allowances for the one hour difference in Chicago).  :-D

We were lucky because the pilot really pushed it and we landed in Philadelphia early!!  Hallelujah!!  I do love to travel but those flights to Europe are torture!!  Off to customs we all rushed, to stand in line and show our passports.   Then we picked up our checked bags and went off to stand in a different line.  Then we had to give them back our checked luggage and wait forever to go through security AGAIN!!!  We were miffed about that. 

Quite a few people had purchased things in the duty free area in Madrid and were not allowed to take them into the US, because they didn't understand that they were supposed to put them into their checked luggage once they got to Philly.  They only announce all of these regulations in English, so I am sure that lots of Europeans don't have a clue.  It seems to me that they could do like they do in Madrid and make such important announcements in English, Spanish, French and German.  They could record them and play them periodically, being the announcements in English sounded recorded.  Oh, I forgot to tell you that I watched a video on how to go through customs in Philadelphia that popped up as an option on my monitor when we were about an hour or so away from landing.  It didn't mention that you'd have to stow any liquids into your checked baggage while you had it in your possession for customs.

Now that we were through security (no problems this time-go figure) we headed out to find our gate.  We were in concourse A and we had to go to D.  If we'd had to go to F, we would have needed to catch a shuttle bus at A, but as we were in D, we had to hoof it ourselves and use the moving sidewalks. 

We arrived at the gate and sat and relaxed until our flight started boarding.  They were using some weird system, not zones, but something else, and none of our boarding passes had any such designation.  So we waited while all of the "special" people boarded, and this section boarded and that section boarded and finally it was just a small group of us standing there and we decided, "What the heck" and all got in line anyway.  Lori and Kristina were in row 12; Danielle was in row 13 and I was in row 22!!!  So much for seating us together.

I had the middle seat between two business men.  One had a Kindle on his lap, but slept most of the way to Chicago.  The other had an ipod touch and played some type of card game most of the way.  Neither talked to me, which was fine.  Danielle had purchased some M&Ms for each of us in Philly, and I carefully doled them out a few at a time.  Just when I was thinking, "I can't take much more!" and was beginning to feel somewhat antsy, the pilot announced that we were ahead  of schedule and would be landing soon.  Oh my!!  Thank you Lord!!  What a joy to be on two flights that left on time and arrived early!! 

The others patiently waited for me to exit the plane.  I was almost to the last row, so it took awhile.  We managed to find the luggage carousel with out any trouble and our luggage was just rounding the bend as we arrived.  Dawn was standing there waiting for us so we didn't even have to wait for our ride to show up!!

We hiked out to the parking garage, loaded up and headed out.  Dawn maneuvered us through Chicago traffic and we buzzed right along towards Michigan.  We arrived at Dawn's house about 10:30 PM EDT.  Lori had called Jay from Michigan City, so he pulled up as we unloaded the luggage.  We would have dropped her off, but we figured that Jay wanted to be a hero to the dogs, by finding Mom and bringing her home.  He said they had really moped when she didn't come home like she usually does after work. 

Danielle, Kristina and I piled into Kristina's car and headed for Stevensville.  When we got there, we transferred my luggage to my car and I was on the road to home.  I was a bit worried, as by this time I was pretty tired, but the FRIGID air in MI had revived me a bit!!  As I started down Cleveland Avenue I happened to notice that the gas gauge was between 1/4 and empty.  Huh?  Why on earth would I have left the car almost on empty?  That didn't make any sense. 

I thought, "Well, shoot!  I'll need to stop for gas on the way home."  Then I remembered...I was going to stop on the way TO Kristina & Danielle's house on Tuesday morning, but I didn't have my debit card, only had a limited amount of US dollars for food in the airports and my Visa travel money "credit" card was in my money belt under all of my clothes.  Well, I didn't want to risk driving home on empty tonight, so I decided I'd run into Meijer's gas station and put in $10.  I knew that I had $10 US in with my passport and that gas station would be open.  I wasn't sure what time the station in Eau Claire closed.

From there on, I had a nice easy drive home; no deer or other animals running in front of me and very little traffic.  The library was still standing and looked fine as I passed through Eau Claire.

When I got home, I decided to leave my big suitcase in the car and just take in my carry on bag.  I parked in the barn and walked into the house.  I went to get the barn door remote from my purse, to close the barn door, but it wasn't there.  It wasn't in the pocket of my winter coat (which I had worn on the trip to Stevensville a couple of weeks before) so I went into the laundry room to get the one I keep there.  It wasn't there either.  ???  It is now 11:30 PM EDT; 5:30 AM Spain time, I have been up for 22 hours and I am exhausted and I can't find the stupid barn door remote!!  Arghhh!!  I headed back out to the barn to get the one out of the car, when I realized that the car was locked and the keys are on the kitchen counter.  Arghhh!!

At least, at this point, I did NOT lock myself out of the house which would have made the whole situation hysterical!!  I was awake enough to make sure that the door was unlocked before going outside!!  I turned around and went back inside, got the keys, walked back to the barn, unlocked the car and took the remote that lives in the car.  I closed the barn door on the way back to the house.  I walked into the house and checked through the rooms.  All was well...except I had two dead mice in traps.  Ugh!!  I dumped them into the trash, tied it up and set it on the back porch. 

It was 59 degrees in my house so I went into the bedroom and turned on the heat in there.  I took a shower and fell into bed.  I slept like a log!!  Poor Danielle, Lori and Kristina had to go to work on Wednesday.  I had scheduled an additional vacation day to give myself a day to recover from the trip home.  I am a bit older you know, and it takes me longer to recover.   Actually, I had additional vacation time and thought it would be nice to have a day to do laundry and settle in before starting back to work.  Wednesday morning I found the remote that usually lives in my purse.  It was on the passenger seat of the car.  I have no clue as to the location of the one that usually lives in the laundry room.  That is soooo frustrating.  I mean, I live alone!  Who would have moved it? 

Kristina tells me that she informed her mother that she now expects a breakfast buffet every morning.  I told her to let me know how that worked for her, because if it did, I would pop in for the buffet, too. 

Thanks to all of you who hung in there and kept reading the blog!!  It was a lot of fun to write it as we lived it, instead of coming home and trying to remember details two weeks later.  Please continue to check it for the next few days as Lori may add more photos.  There may be an additional post or two in the coming days with things that we want to add. 
Gracias, Adios and Vaya con Dios!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Farewell to the Costa del Sol

Oh, what a sad day.  Today we turn in our rental car and bid farewell to the sunny seaside.  We had to turn in the rental car BY 9 AM, so we were up, dressed, packed and down for breakfast at 7:30 AM.  We all are going to miss the breakfast buffets, especially the variety of fruits and breads and having someone else fix it for us.
We checked out of the hotel and loaded our car for the last time.  Kristina set the GPS for the airport in Malaga and off we went.  Danielle is now very proficient at following the instructions and figuring out which is the 2nd or 3rd exit from the roundabouts.  We found the airport and the rental car return without any problems.
However, the problem came when we turned in the car.  The account number we had would not work.  The man said it was an invalid number and he charged the car rental to Danielle’s credit card.  He said to Danielle, “I am going to charge it to your card, okay?”  We wondered what other option we had.  I mean, if we said that it was not okay, what would he do?  Hold us hostage or something?
We started walking towards the airport pulling our luggage along.  We were a bit lost as none of the check in counters had big names of airlines over them.  Just TV type monitors with names and numbers.  Lori found something that listed which numbers were for which airlines and we found our check in area. 
We all checked in and then did the Disney line back and forth for security.  In Barcelona we did not need to remove our liquids from the carry-on bags, so we didn’t do that here.   Oh dear, they stopped Danielle and made her throw her bottles of water away.  They stopped Lori and made her remove her liquids.  They stopped me and made me remove both my liquids and my meds, which were in a two quart bag, but are all pills with no liquids.  ???  We had to go back and send them through the machine again and then walk back through the scanner.
Once we were through, we could NOT find Kristina.  We scanned the lines, but the sun was shining in the windows behind the security area which made it hard to see people because the sun was in our eyes.  Lori went to see if maybe Kristina had continued on towards our concourse.  Danielle and I waited by security.  After a couple of minutes, Danielle spotted her waving at us from the Disney queue.  ???
When Kristina finally made it through security we found out that they would not let her carry on the olive oil and bottle of alcohol that she had in her backpack.  They made her return to the check in gate to check her bag.  When Kristina got there, she realized that she had lost her boarding pass!!  She was in a panic because she would have to back track to security to see if she could find it…but some lady picked it up off the floor behind her and asked if she’d dropped it.  Phew!
So, now we all made it through security and we could do a bit of last minute shopping before heading to the concourse.  Would you believe that they required that you present your boarding pass at the store and they scanned it before they scanned the items that you were buying!!
In Spain, they assign the gate just an hour or so before boarding.  We went to the bathroom and when we came out they had assigned our gate.  It was, of course, the last gate in that concourse.  We wandered down there and found a seat.  Lori tried to see if wifi was available, but it was not.  About this time she realized that she’d had her boarding pass in her hand when she went to wash her hands in the bathroom and she did not have it any longer.  Off she ran back to the bathroom.  It was on the counter in the bathroom!!  Another phew!! 
The Spanair ladies came to the boarding gate and believe it or not, we actually understood their announcement.  The gate had been changed to the first gate in the concourse.  Off the whole group of us trekked, to the new gate.  By this time, it was 10 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave, so we knew that we would not be leaving on time.
They did board from the back of the plane, so we were in the first group to board.  Danielle and Lori were in the two seats in front of Kristina and me.  It seemed like a short flight, but that is probably because I dozed off almost immediately.  I think I slept for about an hour and the flight was only 1 ½ hours.  Kristina’s seat kept going back and my tray table kept popping loose and flopping down.
We exited the airplane and the monitors above the door to the airport said for us to go to luggage pick up area 6.  We followed the crowd and found the luggage conveyors, but they only went down to 8.  Where the heck was 6?  Most of the people on our flight went right on out the doors there, so we followed, figuring that 1-6 must be through that door.  Nope.  We were now back in the terminal.  We walked a bit but didn’t find anything like baggage pickup. 
Danielle stopped at information.   The lady looked at her boarding pass and checked on the computer.  It was AREA 6 and the number of the conveyor was 11.  Well why didn’t they say that???  We went back to the doors, but they are automatic and only open from the OTHER side.  As Lori, Danielle and I stood there, a man exited and we quickly jumped through the door.
As we headed for the conveyor, a security guard stopped us.  We showed him our boarding passes and he wanted to see the baggage claim checks.  Lori showed them to him and he allowed us to continue.  Kristina was already there and we asked how she managed to get past the security guard, but we forgot that she had the baggage claim ticket from her backpack.
Our luggage arrived safely and we once again exited the baggage area.  We went to the shuttle service area to see about a shuttle to our hotel.  The lady informed us that it would be over 70 Euros to go to our hotel.  She said it was 15-20 km away.  We declined to pay that and went out to the bus shuttle area.  We read the list of hotels that the bus stopped at and our hotel was not on the list.  Back we trudged to the taxi stand.  I asked a driver how much to take us to our hotel.  He looked at the reservation confirmation that we had and said it would be 20-25 Euros.  We agreed to pay that and piled into the taxi.
Well, apparently he didn’t have a clue as to where the hotel was.  He drove us under the airport (seriously, there is a very long tunnel and you are driving below the airport instead of around it to get to the other side.) and through several roundabouts and then up a twisty hill.  Then he stopped, asked for the printout again and checked his GPS.    We went back towards the hill and Danielle pointed out a sign for our hotel.  Back down the twisty hill, through another roundabout or two and he pulled up at our hotel.  We were practically in sight of the airport.  We were definitely within sight of very low flying aircraft.  He charged us 20 Euros.
The area is very industrial but the hotel is very nice.  It is a mom & pop hotel, with junior being the English speaker.  It is clean and modern looking and secure, as they have to buzz you in the door.  Nothing fancy, but for one night, it is good enough and certainly close to the airport.
Lori asked about wifi and we were told that the password was on the paper on the door in our room.  Lori had trouble connecting and discovered that I was actually 1.  Once she knew that, she was able to connect and email Barb, our travel agent, about the car.  She also was able to instant message Jay about it.  He called Barb and told Lori that Barb would check into this for us.
We decided, due to the high cost of taxis, and the fact that Junior said we’d have to take the bus to the nearest metro station or Dad could drive us there for 20 Euros, that we would not try to meet Danielle’s friend Ryan for dinner.  Figuring that it would cost us to get to the metro, to take the metro there and back and then we’d have to find our way back to the hotel after dark via the bus, it just wasn’t practical to go into the city of Madrid for dinner.
Danielle emailed Ryan and explained the situation.  We asked at the desk about a local restaurant for lunch and were told that there was one about a five minute walk down the street.  We were all impressed that it was a FIVE minute walk instead of the ubiquitous TEN minute walk.   Sure enough, five minutes brought us to a local restaurant.  The man in charge only spoke a few words of English and the waitress didn’t speak any.  The tables were covered with paper table cloths and a small loaf of crusty bread was sitting directly on the tablecloth at each place setting.
The man tried to explain the menu.  The waitress came out with a kettle of soup, which she ladled into a bowl for a guy sitting nearby.  She came back out a few minutes later and showed it to us.  It was bean soup with carrots, potatoes, ham and sausage.   We all said we’d have that.  The guy came by when she was ladling the soup into bowls for us and showed us the “seconds” of either fish or eggs and sausage.  We decided that bean soup, bread and agua was plenty for us.
We walked back to the hotel.  Lori checked online and Danielle and Kristina took a siesta.  Once Lori was done, she gave the computer to me and I updated the blog for all of you, while she took a siesta.  We regrouped after that and decided to take a bit of a walk to see what we could see.  This is a mostly industrial area.  They are painting cars in the next building to the hotel, so it smells quite interesting outside.  We walked back to the hotel and decided to order dinner from the local carry out place that they had menus for at the front desk. 
HEY ADAM, We ate PIZZA again!!  It was easy and we could have it delivered, so we went with that.  We played Fill or bust at a table in the dining area while waiting for our pizza.  Then we ate and played Phase 10 after dinner.
Junior will deliver us to the airport tomorrow for only 10 Euors per room and we will need to leave here by 10 AM to get there in time for our international flight.  We think that we have to pay for breakfast, but will decide tomorrow whether to do that or not, based upon what they have for breakfast.
We are sad to be leaving Spain, but are all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds.   Some of us are looking forward to seeing dogs (and maybe a husband).  It will also be nice to be able to drive to where we want to go and be able to read road signs and not have to listen to “recalculating” frequently.  We have had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we explored Spain. 

A relaxing day by the shore.....

Today we slept in.  We met for breakfast at 9 AM.  From there we went outside by the pool.  I typed on the blog while the others walked on the beach.  When I finished with the blog and they came back, I walked along the beach for a bit.  They sunbathed, but I didn’t want to do that.  Kristina and I took a long walk along the lovely beach path. 
We discovered that they were doing a reenactment at the castle next door.  We also discovered lots of eating places farther down the beach.  We walked back and collected Lori & Danielle and headed out for lunch.  We had to wait while the Spanish routed the British and send them down to the beach where they sent the camp followers out in a couple of boats (no idea where they were retreating to as there wasn’t a ship in sight).  Finally we were able to navigate through the crowds and continue on our way. 
We heard cannon fire and small arms fire occasionally after that.  There we lots of photo ops for kids with the soldiers and sailors.  We have no clue what battle they were reenacting, but were quite sure that the Spanish would be the victors. 
We had lunch in a small café.  None of us wanted to try the tapas of eel, octopus, snails or such, so we had potato salad.  Danielle also had bread with a tomato puree and I had an orange soda.  It wasn’t nearly as good as Sunkist orange.  We worked our way back through the crowds on the beach walk to our hotel.  One must use the room key to open the access door from the beach walk.  There is also one door in the hotel that you need to use your room key so that you can leave the hotel for the pool area. 
Kristina, Lori and I changed into our suits and headed back down to the beach.  I went into the sea, but it was terribly hard to keep your footing.  The waves kept washing the sand right out from under your feet.  It was also hard to walk because of the stones in the water.  We went a back to the pool.
Lori lounged along the edge of the pool and Kristina and I did a polar bear swim!  Honestly, we think that they must “cool” the pool in order for it to be THAT cold!!  I mean after a hot summer, it should naturally be warm, but it was VERY cold.  We stood it as long as we could and then lay beside the pool for a bit.  Kristina suggested a hot shower and that sounded good to me.  Lori went to find a wi-fi spot and we went to get warm and get dressed.
I found Lori and when she was finished we headed to the room to drop off the computer, pick up the GPS and Kristina.  Danielle declined to join us in our search, so off we went to the now deserted castle to find a geocache.  Oh my gosh!  It didn’t look like that much of an incline from the hotel!!  It sure was a steep hill.  Lori’s GPS led her down a rather steep incline and voila!!  She found the cache.  This time she left some Michigan quarters in it.  We are now 3 for 5 on the caches.
We walked back over the walkway to the gas station for chocolate.  Then back to our rooms to relax on the balconies for a bit.  All four of us headed down the beach walk for dinner.  We checked out several cafes and finally settled on one.  I had pork loin; Danielle had beef loin, Kristina had a red pepper salad and gazpacho and Lori had a Spanish omelet.   We popped over to the Blackberry for dessert.  Kristina and I had the brownie again and Danielle had a Belgium chocolate chip cookie (very large) served with whipped cream.  By now the beach walk was almost deserted and we had a nice peaceful stroll along the sea back to our hotel.
Tomorrow we fly to Madrid.  The day after we will fly home.  L


Come with me to the casbah..........

Today we go to Morocco!!  We were up very early and at the breakfast buffet waiting for it to open at 7:30 AM.  We grabbed some fruit and bread and headed out to walk to the gas station.  We had to walk a block or so from our hotel and use the ramp for the walkway over the highway.
Our voucher said that the bus would pick us up at 8 AM and we were there waiting by 7:45 AM.  We waited; we waited; we waited.  Several times tour buses stopped to pick up people, but never us.  We didn’t know what to do as we did not even have the name of the tour company on our voucher.  Finally at 8:45 a bus pulled up and the lady popped right off and headed for Danielle and me.  She said, “Tangiers?” and I said, “No”.  Then I realized that we were in fact going to the city of Tangiers in the country of Morocco, so I said, “Oh wait!  Yes!”  She had our names so finally we boarded our tour bus. 
We stopped five or six more times to pick up additional people.  There were two lady guides.  One got on the bus intercom and went on and on and on in some language, for about 20-30 minutes.  Then the other guide used the intercom to say some things in Spanish, and finally she switched to English.  However, between the roar of the bus, the other passengers chatting in their language, the accent of the driver and the poor sound quality, we basically understood nothing that was said.  Honestly, they could have given us a sheet of paper with information written on it and at least we would have known the plan for the day.
We drove for about an hour and a half and passed Gibraltar on the way.  We went to Tarifa to board the ferry.  The non-English guide held up a large artificial sunflower and jabbered away, then blew a musical whistle.  The English speaking guide said we were to follow the whistle and the flower.  We left the bus like lemmings, following our leader to who knew where.  We had to have our passports stamped, then we were given a ticket and then ten feet later a guy collected our tickets.  I guess that didn’t give us enough time to lose it!
It is about 8 miles across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa and it took about 45 minutes for the ferry to cross.  I took a photo of Kristina and Lori enjoying the ferry ride.  As we were pulling into port, the magic whistle sounded and we all followed the sound down the steps and to the area where the vehicles were parked.  As soon as the gangplank was lowered we rushed off the ferry and through the terminal.  There wasn’t anyone in the passport area, so we did NOT get our passports stamped to show that we entered Morocco.
While we were still on the bus, Michelle-the English speaking guide had come down the aisle and put a heart shaped sticker on each of us.  This identified us as a member of this tour so that she could keep track of us.  Michelle stood at the gate leading to the parking area and the guard only let those of us with stickers through. 
There were two busses.  We waited by one and asked the “other” guide if this was for English.  She said, “No, only Russian!”  Ah, that is what language she was droning on in, Russian.  There was a young Russian couple who should have stayed in Spain.  The phrase, “Get a room!” totally applied to them.  Because all of the Russians boarded their own bus, we had a lot of space on our bus, so we could spread out, so we did. 
We now had a young local man for our guide in Spanish and English and an older man for German.  The younger man claimed that the older one had four wives, but we never asked if he was joking or not.  Off we drove, into the city of Tangiers.  We drove by some interesting sites, but they didn’t stop for photos.  Our first stop was at a small lot for us to ride a camel.  Lori rode a camel and the rest of us took photos and watched.  There were a lot of people peddling their wares that we had to ignore.  We trooped back onto the bus and continued through a lovely residential area.  Malcom Forbes house was pointed out to us as well as one that had belonged to Barbara Hutton, the heiress to the Woolworth fortune.  This area had some lovely views of the sea.  We continued on down into the heart of the city and into an older area of town.  There we parked the bus and continued on foot.
Our guide took us on a walking tour, down uneven streets, up hills and through small winding alleys.  We followed and fended off the hawkers who would get right in your face and try to sell you their goods.  We passed through a gate in an old wall and came out into a more open area.  This was the casbah.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I always thought that the casbah was a market area, like a bazaar.  Perhaps this used to be or perhaps that is an American misconception.  Carole- thought of you here.  We were here to watch a snake charmer play with a cobra.  He did and then he put it away and took out another snake, to drape around people’s shoulders for a photo op.  Lori had Danielle shield her from this as she does not “do” snakes!!
Back into the alleys we went, to run the gauntlet again on our way to lunch.  We arrived at the restaurant and went upstairs.  There were musicians playing “local” music and at one point a lady dancing came through our area.  The Russians joined us here.  I didn’t think their guide was EVER going to quit talking so that the rest of us could eat in peace. 
We started with what looked to be a tomato based soup; then two lamb kabobs, then a piece of chicken with couscous, spearmint tea and finished with a pastry coated with a honey sauce and sesame seeds.  I thought it was all very good. 
We left the restaurant to be herded to the local cooperative where we had to listen to the rug spiel.  Then, we managed to escape there and get back downstairs to where the other goods were located.  I wanted to see if they had a caftan that would fit me.  They did and the salesman insisted upon having me try it on over my clothes.  It was rather expensive so he showed me some others that were cheaper.  Lori bargained for me and said that I was no help at all!!  I do not bargain…so I don’t really know what to do.  I probably paid too much, but we got two for half the original asking price.  Kristina bought a few small items.
Now we were guided over to the herbal store where we had to listen to another demonstration.  None of us bought anything there, but I did see that some of the Spanish ladies purchased items.
Follow the leader again through the pack of vendors determined to sell their goods to us.  There was even a man with photos of us walking down the streets earlier in the day.  That gives you a creepy feeling, to find out that someone was there taking your photo without you even realizing it.  We were led to a hotel which was the bathroom break and a chance to purchase a quick drink.  A guard at the gate kept the peddlers out of the area.
That Russian couple sat at our table (only one chair was required because she sat on his lap) and they made out the whole time we were there.  [roll eyes]  We ignored them; I guess they don’t teach Russians appropriate behavior for public areas.    
After a couple of minutes we started back through the drove of hawkers for a short walk to our bus.  A five minute ride to the docks and we were herded back onto the ferry for the trip back to Spain.  We got another stamp for entering Spain and once again had to share the bus with the Russians.  Their guide blabbed at them for about 20 minutes and then was blissfully quiet for the rest of the bus trip. 
We were dropped off just after dark and walked about a block back to our hotel.  Danielle elected to stay in the room, but Kristina, Lori and I headed down the beach walk in search of dinner.  We found a small café called “Blackberry” and had sandwiches.  Then we ordered a brownie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  It was wonderful.  We strolled back to our hotel.  Lori went to find a wi-fi spot and I went to bed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Geocaching

I would like to thank the ladies for trudging along with me on my international search for hidden treasures.  Kristina came to rescue on this one, being taller, she was able to reach this one better than I could.

Going in..........

Got it!

They were good sports about the whole thing and I hope they had a little fun in the process.

Lori

The search goes on....

This morning (10/15) we met for breakfast about 9 AM.  We have three goals today.  #1 Find a laundry.  #2 Find the Picasso Museum.  #3 Find the geocache that Lori has coordinates for.  We left the hotel about 9:30 as nothing in Spain seems to open prior to 10 AM.  We drove directly to the address for the laundry, thanks to the GPS.  However it is now an attorney’s office.  We did not think that he’d be willing to do our laundry.  Lori asked at the newsstand and the guy working there said yes, the laundry used to be there but was now closed.  No, he didn’t know of a laundry anywhere near here.  
Lori had a Plan B, so we went back to where Danielle was double parked (along with dozens of other people who were double parked) and initiated the backup plan.  Kristina entered those coordinates into the GPS and away we went.  The GPS lady (Danielle has not named her, poor thing) announced that we had arrived at our destination.  Danielle parked and the rest of us jumped out and went in search of the laundry.  We walked several block with no luck. 
On the way back to the car, we went into a hotel and asked at the desk.  Yes, there is a laundry farther down the street.  We asked what their street number was and they said 40 something.  The address we had for the laundry was 84.  We went back to the car and told Danielle to “drive on”.  Hurrah!!  After days of searching, we finally found a real, honest to goodness Spanish laundry!!  Of course, we had to leave our laundry for them to wash, but after 3 days of searching, we were happy to do that.  The laundry lady said it would be ready between 6-7:30 PM today.
Four happy ladies climbed back into the car and headed for the Picasso Museum in downtown Malaga.  The GPS lady pulled a couple of fast ones on us, and we were sure she was giggling as she told us to drive down pedestrian walkways!!  [We refused.] Danielle found a parking space (not easy in this area of town) and we parked the car and continued the search on foot. 
After a short walk we located the museum.  They told us that 4 galleries were closed, but they did have an exhibit of avant gard children’s toys and books along with the Picasso exhibit.  Who knew that Alexander Calder designed toys?   None of us are artists and we are all baffled by Picasso but it was nice to see some of his original artwork. 
Upon leaving the museum we happened to read something that said that Napoleon’s troops camped here.  Someone wondered aloud, if Napoleon was with them.  The reply by another member of the group was. “No, he was probably back in his office!”
We wandered through some of the narrow streets lined with gift shops and other small establishments like tobacco shops, vegetable vendors and such.  We decided to stop for lunch.  Now, you have to understand that service in a Spanish restaurant is not like the normal service in a US restaurant.  It is a lot sloooower than we are used to.  However, service in this restaurant is even slower than normal for Spain.   Danielle had garlic soup and ham croquettes and was almost finished eating by the time that Lori and Kristina received their fried eggplant with sugar cane honey (molasses).  We had to flag down a waiter to ask where my shrimp fritters were.  He came back a few minutes later with them.  We had planned to have dessert, but gave up after sitting and sitting and sitting and none of the wait staff bothered to come back.  Lori waved at one and then asked for our bill.  When we finally managed to get the change, we left and headed for the car.
Next on the agenda was to find Lori’s geocache.  Kristina entered the coordinates in the GPS and the chase was on.  After a few “recalculating” maneuvers, we were close.  Danielle parked the car and decided to stay with it.  The rest of us were hot on the trail.  Lori was very close, but it was about 80 meters up a rocky gully with a billboard of a large bull at the top of the hill.   We looked for another way up but couldn’t see one.  There was a hotel, so we asked the friendly desk clerk.  He said that he wasn’t sure if there was a way to get there, but to try the next street up and look for a path leading that way. 
OH MY GOSH!!  Talk about uphill!!  I struggled along and the others would periodically stop and wait for me to catch up.  Sure enough, at the top of the hill, there was a dirt path leading on up towards the bull.  [pant, pant]  Once we managed to get up to the bull, I must say that the view was absolutely awesome!  Lori found the cache fairly quickly now that she didn’t have to scrabble up the gully. 
I started down a bit ahead of the other ladies, as I knew it would take me longer.  They caught up part way down the hill and we walked back to the car with a sense of accomplishment.  Finding the cache for Lori & Kristina, managing the hill for me!  We arrived back at the car to find that the gate to the parking lot was now closed.  Oh no!!  :-o
Just as we entered the pedestrian gate, a guy came running in after us, jumped into a car and started it.   Danielle was able to drive out the gate right behind him.  God was looking out for us today!!  The GPS lady led us directly back to our local laundry and we found it all done and waiting for us.  Four happy ladies loaded the laundry into the car and we headed back to our hotel. 
As we were doing the cross over (drive past the hotel, go off at the next exit, cross over the highway, re-enter going the opposite direction) we spotted a restaurant right there beside the cross over.  Danielle whipped into the parking lot and we went inside for dinner.  The restaurant was right on the sea, with doors open to a patio.   We had a lovely view of the setting sun.  Kristina and Danielle shared seafood paella; Lori had avocados stuffed with prawns , and I had sole, which came with head and tail.  Luckily it was lightly breaded so eye was NOT staring at me!!  It was all very good.  I had lemon sorbet for dessert and it was frozen, unlike Danielle’s lemon sorbet of a few nights ago.  Danielle had chocolate cake, and Lori had Muscatel ice cream.  The waiter brought each of us a shot of Pacharan  Casero Navarro, on the house.  Lori and Kristina really liked it, so they asked the name and wrote it down. 
We drove back to the hotel.  Lori and I went to the lobby for wireless access, but the laptop battery died after a few minutes, which is why this was not posted before now.  Lori and I headed back to the room and sat on the balcony for a bit and enjoyed the sea breeze before going to bed.
[Written on a sunny morning while sitting on the patio of the hotel, near the pool and in view of the sea, while the other ladies wandered the beach looking for shells.  :-D]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

By the sea

Hola!  Today we leave Granada and head for Costa del Sol…but first we are going on a tour to an olive grove.  We all had breakfast at the hotel.  Danielle elected to stay at the hotel as she is not fond of olives.  Kristina, Lori and I were in the lobby at 10 AM to meet our driver.
We boarded the Mercedes van and along with a couple from France, headed out to the olive grove.  We drove about 25 km south of Granada to a very small town.  There were three vans of people to take the tour, which was in English.
A young lady told us all about olive trees.  How they grow, how old they can be, when they first start bearing fruit, about their root system and she showed us how they irrigate the trees.  The grove we were in was owned by families that live in the village.  They were passed down from generation to generation.  The families harvest the olives themselves and are part of a cooperative that presses the olives for oil.  Depending upon how many kilos of olives you harvest, you receive a percentage of the oil.  They grow enough for themselves.  They don’t have enough to sell.
The olive trees are on terraces that go down the mountains.  They are irrigated via channels that bring water down from the mountains.  Both the terraces and the channels were built by the Moors, so they are very old.  There are almond trees, pomegranate trees and grape vines in amongst the olive trees.  She said that they say, “You plant the grape vines for your children and the olive trees for your grandchildren.”
From there we got back in the vans and drove into town to the old mill.  At one point the driver of the van had to pull in his side mirror, because the street was soooo narrow.  The mill had been built in the 1500 and was used until 1920.  She explained how it worked and that they now have a modern factory to process their olives.  She took us across the street for an olive oil sampling. 
We tried five different olive oils (and you thought that they were all the same) and she explained the type of olives used and the process.  We now know all about extra virgin, virgin and pure olive oil.  We really enjoyed the tour and learning about olives and olive oil and seeing this small village.
We were back in the city at about 1:30 PM; we met Danielle and loaded the car to head for the sea.  We managed to exit Granada without any wrong turns and soon were speeding along a lovely divided highway to Malaga.  We were in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and had quite a few curves, steep downgrades and even a couple of short tunnels.
We stopped at our first gas station along the way.  The guy came out and asked Danielle what grade of gas.  She said she didn’t know.  He pointed to the number that he had suggested, on the inside of the cover to the gas tank.  That was nice of them, to let us know what type of gas to use.  We stocked up on agua and snacks and headed back on the highway.
The GPS lady did not know about our hotel, and our reservations did not give a street address, so Kristina programmed in the name of the town.  Once we reached the town, Danielle stopped and we got out and went into a travel agents office to ask where our hotel was.  She spoke excellent English and gave us precise directions.
We arrived at the Beatriz Palace Hotel and Spa which is indeed on the sea.  It doesn’t have a street address because there is not a street.  You have a small access road off the highway as you drive NE. However we were coming from the NE so we had to drive past the hotel until we could exit, then get back on the highway going NE and THEN we could pull off at the hotel. 
Both of our rooms have balconies with a table and chairs.  In fact, I am sitting on the balcony right now, typing this, while listening to the waves wash up upon the shore.
We cannot access the Internet from our room.  This is the first hotel we have stayed in that did not have Internet in the room.  We can use wireless in the lobby area, but not in the room.  Bummer. 
After settling into our rooms, we went to the lobby to use the Internet.  Then we went to the beach to stick our toes in the Mediterranean Sea.  It was COLD!!  :-o  We thought it would be warm in October, but it sure felt cold!  We picked up a few shells and some sand and then came back to the hotel.
As you may have noticed, we skipped lunch.  We decided to walk along the highway on the sidewalk overlooking the sea, to a restaurant that Kristina saw after we crossed over and started back to the hotel.  We had a lovely walk along the bluff, but never found the restaurant.  So we turned around and walked back to the hotel. 
We had to wait ½ an hour for the buffet to open at 7:30 PM.  It was a really nice buffet.  I had salmon and flounder and hake along with salad and agua and several desserts.  They had 4 flavors of ice cream and I tasted all of them.  They had a really good coconut cookie.
After a relaxing dinner, we headed back to the room, where I decided to write this while sitting on the balcony and enjoying the sea breeze.  Lori will post it later in the lobby.  It is a lovely, cool evening on the Costa del Sol.  We will be here until Monday morning.  Kristina just pointed out that I am being watched by an iguana or a small lizard of some sort that is on the wall behind me. Oh joy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A few from Granada

 Hey David, what does that say?
 More olive trees!
 unusual road sign
not easy to walk on

Cordoba

 Courtyard outside our room
of course we had to go in! 
 Kristina named him Fred
 Ann's cuddle fish
 Our beds for the night
 Dog carrying his leash in his mouth 
Domino's was making a delivery

Pictures in Sevilla

 Monument in Park
 Found the cache
 Didn't find cache here


Tapas and Flamenco show