Adventures; Spain- Granada, Malaga, Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona

GRANADA – We took the ALSA bus line cross-country. Since it’s off-season, we didn’t need to purchase tickets in advance on our SmartPhones, but we did anyway and bought them two hours later than we meant to. No problem, with a translation App, the lady at the ticket booth exchanged them for an earlier bus. She spoke English but appreciated my effort and likely thought my accent was comical. Right before getting on the bus, I dropped my ticket, and it floated onto a man’s shoe. He kindly picked up his food, gingerly grabbed the ticket before it flew away, and handed it to me with a smile. I should also note that we take taxies instead of schlepping luggage to and from our lodgings (a new thing for us). Writing down the address and showing the paper to the driver while trying to speak pigeon Spanish seems to work fine. The fee is anywhere from 5 to 10 euros depending on the traffic, how many passengers are in the vehicle, and whether or not the city crossing goes through more than one zone. We considered using Uber, but the credit card we used with the US account wasn’t cooperating, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the lower costs.

The Alhambra in Granada was the main reason we returned to Granada. On our last visit, the tickets were sold out. We bought them in advance this time and had to provide our Passport number to complete the purchase. In the early morning, we walked up the beautiful tree-lined path with birds serenading us from above. The path is also lined with tall wrought iron lamps that looked like they were straight out of The Chronicles of Narnia. When we reached the Alhambra, about a half-hour before our entry time, there was a small line forming among the buildings that towered over our heads. Once inside, the interior facades are like nothing I’ve ever seen with tiles and plaster reliefs on every surface. The complex has sixty spots to stop and review with a guide/audio tour. There is no short way to explain, other than looking online at photographs or going there in-person. Another option is to get a copy of Washington Irving’s book called The Alhambra, to get an idea of what it was like in his time in the 1800s. Even all these years later, many of the things he describes are similar to what I saw. I think we could have spent the entire wandering around the complex, but we only stayed two hours. It was colder than down in town, and we hadn’t worn enough clothes. The walk down the massive hill was not quite as heart-pounding as the journey up. When we got back into town, we explored the narrow roads, some with merchants others with home, and found the Archaeological Museum. We learned it was created by the Royal Order of 1879. Prior it was an Antique’s office. Inside there are parts of armor, pottery, and statues. In the inner courtyard, decorative tiles cover the floor and the kick panel of the stair treads that I’d love to have in my house.

Adventures; Spain-Seville, Cordoba, El Pedroso, Santi Ponce, and Guillena

Seville – I learned quickly that a sturdy pair of shoes is a must. The streets and sidewalks are all uneven cobblestones. Tapas and ice cream of any kind are available pretty much everywhere. The grocery stores and coffee shops are less than a minute from our AirBnB apartment, with everything more expensive than I expected. The apartment has a dishwasher and clothes washer but no dryer (I’d rather have a dryer and skip the dishwasher if space is the issue). However, our place is in the center of the old town on a narrow street that can barely take a car. All of the pedestrians have to put their backs to the wall when one comes along. To relax among the crowds each day, I visited the store across the street. It is a variety store for household goods with about fifty birds in cages for sale (odd combination from a sanitation POV). The ones I latched onto are the four hand-fed cockatiel babies with color combinations of green, orange, white, and yellow. It took several days for them to turn from wet, barely feathered pink blobs, to beautiful creatures. Because they are in captivity, I believe their tail feathers are not quite as long as the ones flying free around the city and in the park. Speaking of parks, we loved the Parque de María Luisa (website in Spanish – https://www.sevilla.org/servicios/medio-ambiente-parques-jardines/parques/parques-y-jardines-historicos/parque-de-maria-luisa) It is full of organized paths, water features with white pigeons, statues, and expansive landscaping with tiled or wrought iron benches placed at appropriate resting places. Through the widest areas, horses passed by us pulling tourists in carriages as well as bicycle carts with several people pedaling and electric scooters. The Parque (park), has a map on a placard to explain the routes on the 42 hectors (103+ acre) property, which opened in 1914, but it was conceived by the Duke of Montpensier and his wife María in 1848 (details can be found in Wikipedia – https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parque_de_María_Luisa). It is located across from the Plaza de España, which is totally different and crowded with tourists. Both the plaza and the park are worth a visit.

Short Story – Rushing Along ©Elsa Wolf

A middle-school girl walked into the building, but she was late by two weeks. It was the end of the day, and her last class would start in ten minutes. Creative writing was her favorite course. She quietly went into the room past the teacher, Ms. Marvel, who waited a moment to speak while maneuvering around the desk at the front of the room.

Shuffling through a clipboard of papers, she asked, “Mia? Aw, you’re not on my list.” Calling across the hall, she said, “Ms. Kraus, do you have Mia in your class?”

“Oh, yes,” Ms. Kraus replied.

Mia cringed, of the two teachers, Ms. Marvel was her favorite. Gossip about Ms. Kraus wasn’t kind.

“Go to Ms. Kraus. I’m sure you can write volumes after your summer travels.”

Adventures; Two Visits to Portugal

In 2016 I flew into Spain on my own from the USA and three years later in 2019 with my husband. On the first trip, I flew into Madrid and struggled through the metro system to my hotel. They kindly provided me with a room five hours before the normal check-in time. I went into the room and found a mirror. My face looked like a white sheet. The lack of sleep and the time-zone changed had taken their toll. I was quite woozy and crawled into bed for a two-hour nap. I wanted to explore Madrid when I awoke, but after fumbling about awkwardly trying to speak Spanish to acquire a meal, I had very little energy for site seeing. 

The next morning, I had enough time to go to the Prado Museum in Madrid before making my way to Vigo, Spain, to meet-up with our daughter. The taxi driver wanted to talk, which I managed, but only in the present tense as I haven’t a clue how to speak Spanish in any other time frame. I meant to discuss the pilgrimage walk to Santiago from a trip years before, but he thought I was talking about a current trip. On the bright side, he did understand me.

Short Story – A Party, 1945, Washington, DC by Elsa Wolf ©

Sadie couldn’t quite decide who to invite to her party, but she wanted to fill her small Georgetown home to the brim. She wrote twenty names on a piece of paper and planned to ask each of them to bring a friend. After the hardships everyone had experienced, she wanted to do something festive. Perhaps some match-making to lighten up the mood. She picked up the telephone and called all her guests rather than sending them the usual formal written invitations.

They came to the door in groups of two or four at a time, climbing gingerly up the outer stairs as they talked among themselves. World War II had put deep wounds in their souls, whether they had been at home or overseas. The connection between them was there, even if they had just met.

The house was crowded, and the guests bumped into each other with their cigarettes perched in one hand and an alcoholic drink in the other. Some of the men wore tailored suits with ties, and others wore their military uniforms with medals and rank precisely placed. The women all in dresses, not a one in trousers, with their hair in large cascading curls, pulled back in various degrees with bobby pins and make-up concealing their true complexion.

Adventures; Christmas Season 2019

DAY ONE – MUNICH

Sleep-deprived from two flights to Germany. One from Denver; four hours. The second from Dulles Airport; 8 hours. During the overseas portion, I watched three films while sitting sandwiched between two tall men of markedly difference girths. I cried when I watched ‘Racing in the Rain,’ and neither of the men noticed my nose horn going off. The other films aren’t even worth noting. I was supposed to sleep, but the cramped quarters squelched my desires. However, I managed to pull out my laptop and type with my shoulders compressed. This task will likely produce some sore muscles in the future.

In München we went through security at eight in the morning with no one in line before us. The guard looked at my passport and asked me if I had a German one as well since he notices I was born in German. No one had ever asked that before. He didn’t inquire about why I was visiting his country.

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