Tag Archives: travel

Sicily – Part two

The second part of our Sicily trip was a little more relaxed–at least until the volcano exploded.The previous post shows it on video.   From Syracusa to Taormina, the train ride was brief.  When we arrived at our hotel, high above the beaches we were surprised that our room didn’t have a sea view, since nearly everything faces the sea.  Then we realized that instead, we had a view of Mt. Etna.   Even better! http://www.continentaltaormina.com/uk/

There was an exquisite terrace and rear garden, with a gate leading to stairs that took us right to the Via Umberto, the main drag of Taormina.  It is an impossibly romantic city, something out of a fantasy.  We enjoyed a very fine dinner and as we were walking back, heard some great music drifting down from one of the steep side streets, then followed it.   A couple of cocktails and a beautiful setting, some nice people to chat with, good  music, what more could we want? How about an exploding volcano?  

We had already booked our bus trip to Mt. Etna the next day.   What we didn’t know yet, of course, was that it would erupt that very morning.   We could see the explosions all along the ride up, and when we stopped for a photo op, we were surprised that we could also HEAR them!    It sounded like an artillery range, and it was all very thrilling.   When we arrived at the 1900 meter station, we were told that the cable car to the crater could not run that day, of course, because of the explosions taking place.   But there was no problem hiking up the mountain.  So that’s what we did.

The hike was kind of steep and the terrain a little rough because it was so loose and slippery.  Ray described it as climbing a pile of cinders.  But we made it as high as 2400 meters, and were quite pleased with ourselves for our endurance and bravery!  Besides, we had to keep up the tradition of climbing something–a tower, an arena, a mountain—at least once each week.    It really wasn’t scary at all, and the locals are pretty blasé about the eruptions—it’s not all that uncommon.   Still, we felt so lucky to be able to see it happening.  Our dumb luck seems to be holding out.

Last stop in Sicily was Palermo.  We just had a day there before flying out to Barcelona.   The city itself was a bit of a shock to the system, noisy and crowded, even on a Sunday.  We knew that with limited time we should visit the Palazzo Dei Normanni and Cappella Palatina. It was worth the long walk through noisy streets, because the Chapel has some of the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics I have ever seen.   A really inspiring sight.

Now let’s talk about senior discounts.   In most of Europe, they offer discounts for “pensioners” –sometimes 60 and over, sometimes 65 and over.    But,  many places say that the discount is only for E.U. citizens.   In Sicily, we were incensed to read that the senior discount was for “EU citizens, Canadians, and Australians.”   It usually means a saving of 5 to 15 Euros per admission.   Why not US citizens, because they think we have too much money?   Haven’t they been reading the papers—don’t they know the US is broke and deeply in debt???   

So, occasionally Ray asks for the senior discount, and they refuse without proof of E.U. citizenship.  I told him to try saying he was Canadian or English.  (His Spanish and French would give him away.)    In Palermo, he tried this and received the 75 percent discount on his ticket.   We were satisfied, until we heard an American accent, standing just behind us on line, saying “I’m going to try saying that.”

Of course, Ray started up a conversation with him immediately, and asked, “Where are you from?”  Guess what the answer was?  “Great Barrington, Massachusetts.”     Two couples who lived about 5 minutes away from us, with some mutual friends.   We’ve even been to at least one party at the same time.   Why wouldn’t we go thousands of miles to meet new friends from the neighborhood?  

Check out the pics—especially the ones of the volcano, which I think are just beautiful.    Click on a thumbnail and then use the arrows to scroll through.

Sicily–a great start

We decided we’d had enough driving for awhile, so we did Sicily by train.   We were hesitant about dragging bags from place to place and making connections, and it did limit us to just a few towns, but it  worked out really well for us.   We flew into Palermo and then took the train to Agrigento.   The Valley of the Temples is such a fantastic experience, it was worth doing even though it was nearly a full day’s travel to get to our next destination.  Eight Greek temples of the ancient world remain there, some incredibly well-preserved, going back as far as the 6th century BC.  There is something so powerful about contemplating the many civilizations that have made the island of Sicily their home.

The Grand Hotel Dei Templi was not really well located, I’d rather have had a B&B in town, but we figured out the buses and managed to get where we needed to go, at least in the daylight hours.   At night, we were stuck paying for taxis.   That said, the hotel itself is in an absolute time warp—not to ancient Greece or even Sicily circa 1900—more like Oceania circa 1970. A bit weird.   The first night we enjoyed one of the best dinners we’ve had on the entire trip.   The restaurant Ambasciata di Sicilia, which has been a city staple since the end of WW I, has a beautiful terrace overlooking the city rooftops.http://www.ristorantelambasciatadisicilia.it/ The weather was mild enough to dine outdoors, so of course we did.   The Pasta con le Sarde was incredibly fresh—thick pasta with fresh sardines, wild fennel, and a touch of mint.   We wanted to lick the bowl!   Swordfish in every possible form is served all over Sicily, and we had two swordfish dishes, one of involtini, swordfish rolls stuffed with pine nuts, bread crumbs, raisins, and some other secrets I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  So yummy.  The other swordfish dish was a steak served with tomatoes, olives, capers, and wine.   Incredibly rich and flavorful.  The wine, a Sicilian Nero D’avola was just gorgeous, and we found it ironic that it was called “Castel Venus” since we were sitting there overlooking a castle with Venus rising in the night sky. Poetic! I’ll leave it to your imagination to explain why the photo of the wine label is blurry. We enjoyed the food and the atmosphere so much that we even had coffee, dessert, after-dinner drinks.  We didn’t want to leave.   But eventually, the taxi came and whisked us back to our weird little hotel where we had warm gin and tonic (the ice machine was broken) and went to bed. http://www.grandhoteldeitempli.it/

Next day, we had a long trip to Syracusa.    We knew there would be a three-hour layover in Catania, making the trip take the better part of a day.  But the good news was that the train station is quite central in Catania, so we could check our bags at the station and walk to the Piazza del Duomo, visit the Church dedicated to St. Agatha, and have a nice lunch of pizza and salad before heading back to the station.  We asked someone directions and he gave us very clear instructions: “Continue on this street until you run into the elephant.” It sounds even better in Italian.  He was talking about the Fontana dell’Elefante, featuring an elephant, symbol of the city, carved from black lava from Mt. Etna, in the beautifully-designed Piazza.  This little excursion was something we could never have done in an airport layover.   I must also note that every single person we spoke to in Sicily, from taxi drivers to strangers on the street, were helpful and welcoming, kind and friendly.

We arrived in Syracusa and settled in for the night.   In the morning, we visited the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, with its Teatro Greco amphitheater, where  Euripides’ plays were mounted and Archimedes is said to be buried.  We also had to see the celebrated “ear of Dyonisus,” the cave with ear-shattering acoustics.  And, yes, I did sing.  I sounded amazing, I thought, until an English choral group entered the cave and did a well-rehearsed dirge.   THEY sounded amazing.

On Ortygia Island, the old city of Syracusa has been inhabited for two thousand years.   The Piazza del Duomo was lovely, dominated by the cathedral incorporating architectural fragments from a 5th Century BC temple to Athena, with 26 of the original columns still in place, and the cathedral built over it.  This cathedral honors patron Saint Lucia.  St. Lucy is a very important Christian martyr, and we also have special feelings for Lucy because that is our granddaughterwe ’s name!

But the most thrilling part of being in the Piazza was the smaller Church of St. Lucia on the other side of the square.   Here, Caravaggio’s “La Sepoltura di Santa Lucia”  (the Burial of St. Lucy) is displayed.  After many years in a nearby museum, it has been returned to the church.   Artwork of this magnitude seems to have even more power when viewed in situ–just beautiful. We couldn’t take photos in the basilica or the Church of St. Lucy, but the link will give you a taste of the Caravaggio: http://stevengivler.blogspot.com.es/2011/12/viewing-caravaggios-burial-of-st-lucy.html

We also visited the Palazzo Bellomo museum, a 13th-century palace with a very good collection of paintings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.   After that, we took  a walk all around the Island of Ortygia. It took longer than expected and went through a couple of sketchy areas,  although the sea views were quite beautiful.  But I wouldn’t recommend doing it again.

The next day, we were ready  to chill relax in Taormina.  More about that in the next post, including the explosions on Mt. Etna!

Please click on a thumbnail and look through our pictures of Sicily, part one.

Nîmes , Marseilles and Cassis

We couldn’t leave the Arles area without a quick stop in Nîmes.   Yes,  another Roman arena—but this one is probably the best preserved Roman Arena in the world, with 24,000 seats and 60 arches.  There is also a temple, the Maison Carrée, surviving almost intact from the Roman Empire, smack in the middle of the city, dating to 4 BC.   Pretty amazing.

ImageImage

After that, we drove south to Marseilles.   We had a bit of a problem finding our apartment in this big bustling city.  Then, when we finally found it we were sorry we did.  It was a garret straight out of La Boheme, a seedy seven-story walk-up with some maintenance issues.  We complained, the owner got us moved into a better place (not a GREAT place, but better) a few blocks away (this one only six stories up!) and the rest of our time in Marseilles was great.  It was the first place in all of our bargain-basement lodgings that was not acceptable.  Considering all the moving around we’ve done, one bad experience is not so tragic.

We were so very happy that Ray’s old chum John from the UK decided to meet us in Marseilles for the weekend.  It had been several years since they’d seen each other, and though I’d met John when he was in New York, we had not known each other as couples. As expected, Julie is as fun-loving and sweet as John.   J & J stayed in the Sofitel near the old port—much more elegant digs than we had, to be sure! Good thing, or they’d never have agreed to travel with us again!  Nevertheless, they stopped by our ‘hovel’ to share in the lovely wines we brought back from the Cote du Rhone wine tastings earlier that week.  Incredible vintage Gigondas in water glasses, sitting on Ikea bar stools in a 6-floor walk up.   Definitely a contract between beverage and setting.  It was such fun just to be with them.  We couldn’t have had a better time, and I know that it won’t be several MORE years until we get together again.   Ray and I were both so touched that John and Julie took this trip just to spend some time with us—that’s real friendship!

Image

ImageBeside enjoying some wonderful seafood dinners and way too much wine in Marseilles, we took a drive together to Cassis to see the port and the amazing Mediterranean fjords—the Calanques.  The little port town of Cassis is post-card pretty, with castle ruins, fortress walls, sunny beaches, and a charming port with sport, tour, and fishing boats—and the occasional uber-luxury yacht.

Image

Image

We had a lovely lunch outside on a café terrace before boarding a boat.   John is not the world’s most enthusiastic sailor, and we were warned that the sea was a bit rough that day; but he was a great sport and managed to get through the trip without-er—incident.  Gouged out by glaciers thousands of years ago, the dramatic cliffs and inlets are incredibly beautiful.  I was envious of the kayakers we saw in the inlets, even though conditions seemed pretty challenging.   If we’re lucky enough to visit Cassis again, I know we’ll give the kayaks a try! (If they don’t have a “no geezers” rule!)

Image

Image

???????????????????????????????

Ray has really enjoyed driving the winding and scenic routes all through our travels, and he has been a great navigator and adventurous wanderer throughout.  But nothing compares with La Route des Crêtes.  This winding road up to the top of Cap Caneille (the largest of the cliffs with a 1200 foot drop straight down) and then on to the next town, La Ciotat.   The views were worth the white knuckles!   Then back to Marseilles for some well-deserved wine and another great dinner.

Image

Image???????????????????????????????

Next morning, we took the “petit train” –the little tourist put-put—from the old port up and up through the narrow streets to the Basilica de Notre Dame de la Garde overlooking the city. Another high point—literally and figuratively.   Magnifique!

The Camargue–Provence

After driving up into the mountains of Provence, the open flat lands of the Camargue were quite a contrast.   This marvelous area contains everything from rice fields to ranches for the bulls raised here for both bull games and the ubiquitous taureau dishes served in every restaurant.   The Camargue is also known for the salt flats, from which a terrific culinary product is produced and sold throughout France.  (We learned to use it sparingly, as the flavor is really intense compared with regular sea salt.)   The small light grey or white wild horses also inhabit the Camargues, and are said to be one of the oldest known breeds.  The drive through this area was so scenic and the terrain and plant life so varied, we felt as if we’d driven to another country.  But it’s just another side of wonderful Provence.  At La Capelìere we walked the nature trail and enjoyed the shelters built at various points where we were able to stay hidden while using the high-powered binoculars to spot ducks, grey herons, and hundreds of flamingos.  Apparently, the flamingos summer here, but some of them enjoy Provence so much that about one fourth have now taken up permanent residence, and no longer migrate.  I can understand that inclination. We didn’t see any of the wild boars that roam this area, but we enjoyed walking through the preserve at on a short hike that included different environments:  forest, wetlands, salt marsh, and lagoon.  We had a perfect day for this excursion, warm and sunny but not too hot.   By October, the mosquitoes were no longer a problem, and we stayed to enjoy another of those great picnics with wine we had bought on our Cote du Rhone tour the previous day, along with wonderful cheeses and bread we bought in the small bakeries and cheese shops in the town of Arles that morning.

As we were heading away from the marshes to visit Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the little beach community on the west ernend of the Camargue, I mentioned to Ray that we hadn’t seen any wild horses.    Then we rounded a curve in the road and there they were—lots of them.    We were able to get very close–they were not the least bit people shy.   Gorgeous creatures.

Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer was a quirky little beach resort with kind of a counter-culture vibe—probably because it is a mecca for the Roma community. (a.k.a. gypsies)  It reminded us a little of some New England seaside  communities.   Definitely not the French Riviera crowd at this resort.  We were so lucky to have this mild fall weather, when the beaches are still warm enough to enjoy in mid-to-late October.  We are so lucky for a lot of reasons!!!

Magical days and nights in Venice

Venice on a budget is possible.  When we first started planning this trip, we made a wish list of places we’d like to stop.   Venice went onto the list almost as a joke—we were certain we couldn’t travel in the Veneto on our limited budget.  We scoured the internet but didn’t find anything with decent reviews that was well located.   Then we came across Al Campaniel –  A B&B for 70 Euros a night.  I was reluctant, but could not have been more delighted by this wonderful home. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187870-d563561-Reviews-Al_Campaniel-Venice_Veneto.html

Marco, the owner, made us feel as if we lived in Venice.  The room was lovely with a big queen-sized bed and private bath, a window opening onto a little garden area, and the location could not have been better—a one- minute walk from the San Toma vaporetto stop.   And the vaporetto pass saved us.   For about 12 Euros per day, a multi-day pass covers unlimited rides.  Since it was raining about half the time we were in Venice, we really took advantage of the ability to hop on and off to see the sights and cover territory without getting lost (and wet) on the narrow lanes.

We also saved on food costs by eating our main meal at lunchtime—which we’ve done as much as possible through most of this trip.    Then in the evenings we ate something light—a salad, or pizza, or in the case of Venice, a cichetti crawl.   As they do in Spain, many of the wine bars and shops put out lovely little snacks which you can buy for a small amount of money and enjoy with a glass of wine.  A couple of stops along the way home took care of the evening meal.    Then there are our picnics, of course.   With the incredible Rialto market within a short walk, we managed to pick up fruit, (fresh figs and dates!) wine, cheese, and bread along the way and had our “dinner” in our room one evening.   Marco even chilled the Prosecco for us and provided glasses on our last night—just ideal.

The Scuola San Rocco was a revelation.   If you are a Tintoretto fan, you will never see so many in one location—at least 50 scenes from the bible, a real labor of love by the Venetian artist.  The Frari church, right next door, was also pretty amazing.  And both of these sights were right near our B&B. Of course the Doge’s palace and St. Marks basilica were unbelievable, too.  And of course, we had another bell tower to climb.   But alas, this campanile had no stairs, only an elevator.   Maybe in the humid weather that was a blessing.     I posted a short video of the Vivaldi concert already—Impressioni Venezia is a very good chamber group, and the concert was a great way to spend an evening.   We would have loved to attend “Musica a Palazzo” where opera is performed in an actual Venetian palace, but their schedule and ours just didn’t work together. Not sure it was in the budget anyway, but a blowout from time to time for something really special is not out of the question. It was highly recommended by people we met.

The Rialto market was great fun for we two foodies–as you’ll gather by the disproportionate number of “food porn” shots included in this slide show.

There were no crowds in early October—we were really lucky to enjoy Venice in such a relaxed and stress-free way.  And as far as the talk that Venetians are unfriendly—we met more people here than any place we’ve visited.   While lunching near the Rialto bridge at Trattoria da Bepi, we got into a nice long talk about politics and food with Giorgio and Loris, the owner, and got lots of inside information about the city.Venice was the perfect romantic getaway – although at this point in our trip, getting away has already been accomplished.    Enjoy the photos.  Click on a thumbnail image and toggle through using the arrows.

Bilbao–Capital of Vizcaya

Before we get to Bilbao, I have to mention the gorgeous drive along the coast road from Donostia.  We stopped in a few places for photos, but really felt like there was a painting around every bend.  This is just one example of the views along that wonderful drive.

We had fun for a few days in  Bilbao.  The highlight, of course, was the incredible Guggenheim museum.  It’s amazing how the genius of Frank Gehry united the river and the city so perfectly.    We saw lots of tourists like us and even wedding parties taking their photos with the museum as background.

???????????????????????????????DSC04526

DSC04492

As for the art—well—apologies to contemporary art fans—but a lot of it left me cold.  We enjoyed Richard Serra’s work The Matter of Time, part of the permanent collection, with the enormous scale working so beautifully with the building.   The “baroque” installation was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, though maybe a bit contrived.  But the featured exhibition by the late Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies: From Object to Sculpture (1964–2009) seemed to me like an excuse for art historians to write thousands of words of nonsense.    I’m sure I’ll be accused of being anti-intellectual for that statement.   Oh well, for me, sometimes a pile of plates is just a pile of plates.  Sorry!pile of plates

Aside from that, you may have seen our facebook post on the Txikiteo in Bilbao.  We were delighted to see the lively crowd in the old town, where it was PACKED both night and day for a tapas crawl.   People of every age and demographic gathering in the bars, spilling out into the streets, singing, eating, talking.    At Kasko, where they had one of the best pintxos selections, including carpaccio of octopus with potatoes and foie gras with sour apple puree, and others, made it hard to leave, even though we tried to sample just two pintxos at each place.  IMG_0722

Then we got caught up—at least I did—with a group of men singing scores from American musical comedies.   When they realized I knew the words in English, I became very popular.   Nothing like singing, loudly and badly, with a group of cute drunken Bilbaoinos.

It was a great time in Bilbao, and it did my heart good to see that the city was clean and safe and being reinvented a little each day.   So different from the depressing city, under the fascist Franco, that I remembered from years ago.   Public transportation was excellent.  We took a bus from the airport to the city center for about 3 euros, and the tram circling the city is inexpensive, quiet, and clean.   Ray managed to pick up a pretty girl on the tram—typical of him!   Here is her photo, but I don’tDSC04529 think he got her number.

When we got off the tram at the stop nearest our hotel, we ended up in an enormous demonstration for amnesty of Basque political prisoners.   There were tens of thousands gathered, with helicopters above, bands, people chanting and handing out flyers.   Funny, though, the mood was more like that of a street festival than a political rally.  We enjoyed being there–and really got to see the passion of the Basque people demonstrated once again.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

We’ve been so busy this week in the Veneto, and I promise to post more soon.  We’ve been staying in B&B’s – a new category of lodging for Italy since 2000.   Each place is better than the last—and the costs have been super-low.  Who knew you could stay in Venice for about 70 Euros a night?   We expected very little and got a great room and private bath in a fantastic location    But we’ll do some more posts about the Veneto later this week.  Not that there’s much we can say about the beauty and magic of this region—but we’ll check in nevertheless.

IBARRANGELU–Who says you can’t go home again?

Ibarrangelu, Bizkaia (Viscaya), Spain

I don’t expect anyone else to understand how moving it is to visit the place where your grandparents and great grandparents were born, to re-visit  old family and friends, and to feel that deep sense of personal history through the place and people.  A few of my American relatives have had the same experience, so they know. Ray seems to understand how I feel, amazingly.  I’m so fortunate to be able to share this with him!

PLEASE do click on the first image and toggle through – it is really special and worth the time.

Ibarrangelu, population 600, is one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit.   When I have been away a long time, I start to think that I’ve over-romanticized the memory, that the actual place will disappoint when next I see it.   However, it EXCEEDS my memory—its beauty is matched only by the warmth of the community.  We were both so moved to be able to be here again.

When we drove past Laida and Laga, the two enormous beaches for this tiny town (and yes, tourists, crowd them in July and August, crowd being a relative term to local Basques) I felt I’d forgotten how beautiful a beach could be. Rocky cliffs, green rolling hills, clear blue water, and soft pink sand, all here where mountains and sea meet.  Here are pictures of me overlooking the beaches of my youth.    In October, the weather has been warm and there were still surfers in the water, though the waves were only a meter or two.

In 1984, the entire Busturialdea-Urdaibai region, where this gorgeous area is located, was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve.   So the beaches, hiking trails, coves, campgrounds, marshes and meadows, forests and rivers create a natural paradise.   If you are a birder or naturalist, you MUST spend some time here.   www.busturialdeaurdaibai.com

The family home is still there, although it was completely rebuilt about 20 years ago on the original foundation stones.   Here is a photo with family included – Tia Carmen, cousin Maria Dolores, her son Andoitz.   A couple of the “girls” I used to hang with in my teenage years stopped by to say hello as well.

Back to the personal—my cousin Joaquín has a restaurant at Laida beach, just next to the campgrounds.   After 33 years in business, he has built quite a following, and employs nine people, including his sister and nephews.   Of course, in true Basque tradition, we were invited to have a meal, and spent a few hours at table eating and drinking the wonderful locally produced food. Maria Dolores joined us, although her husband was working and couldn’t be with us—he’s in one of the photos at the house though.      They even can their own tuna for the salads!   Everything local, everything sustainable, everything house made.   The wine was produced nearby but not house made, and we made quite a dent in their cellar, as well as enjoying some traditional after-dinner beverages.   We told Joaquin he is a bad influence.    But boy, did we have fun!

One last thing—the Village Church was called “the Sistine Chapel of Basque Art” by the leader of the Sistine Chapel restoration team—see attached article.   I remember that when we attended Mass here, I marveled that such a magnificent 16th Century church was built in such a small village.   You may have seen other altars like San Andres’ but the polychrome oak ceiling is unique and marvelous, especially after restoration in the 1980’s.  Here is an article about it:

http://www.elcorreo.com/vizcaya/v/20130726/costa/capilla-sixtina-vasca-20130726.html

A great send-off!

We should have posted this one nearly a week ago–but we’ve been busy traveling!! Our last day in Estepona was a great beach party!  Cloudy weather made for gorgeous skies and allowed us to leave the sun for awhile and hang out at Chiringuito Lolailo where we enjoyed their Sunday barbecue.  Check out the video in our previous post–what a great time!

The friendly owner and staff make you want to stay and stay.  And we did!

Image

Others who made our time here great are server Neichy (from Cuba) and master of the barbecue, Zaggy (from Pakistan).  Check out Neicy’s moves in the video below!

ImageImage

The beach cooperated by offering a cloudy day and beautiful skies.   A fitting farewell beach party for our time on the Costa del Sol!

Image

Ten Things We Love About Estepona

Estepona, on the Costa del Sol, was our home and launching pad for the month of September.    Our apartment is a very short walk to two beaches, has harbor and sea views, and everything we could possibly need, including a fully-stocked kitchen and great modern bath.  And the real kicker is an indoor garage—quite a luxury for this part of the world and a great convenience for all of our side trips.  This marvelous location made it easy to visit Marbella, Torreguardia, Benalmadena, Malaga, Córdoba, Sevilla, Jeréz, Ronda, Nerja, and Antequerra, with plenty of beach and relaxation time in between.    We will definitely be back—maybe to stay someday!

Ten things we love about Estepona:

IMG_0451   IMG_0430IMG_0435 Fresh Fish-grilled over an open fire     IMG_0404  IMG_0431

1 -The chiringuitos (beach bar/café’s)  – Great inexpensive food, casual  toes-in-the sand atmosphere, and  fun!  Most have grills that they’ve made from old fishing boats, where they grill freshly-caught fish over an open fire.   Yum.

2 – The Paseo – Every evening, people of all ages and nationalities take their evening constitutional.   I especially enjoy the older ladies, often in groups, hair done, earrings on, dressed up and strolling along the beach promenade, which stays fully-lighted until the wee hours.

IMG_0447

3 – Playa del Christo – steps from our place, with clear, still water and views of Gibraltar.   Swimming here (Ray) or walking the beach (Anita) for the morning cardio workout sure beats the treadmill.

IMG_0476

4 – Three sizes of beer – Caña, Jarra, or Pinta.   Ray used to call me the “queen of the half beer” because I rarely finished a whole one.  Until now.  He gets a pinta, I get a caña, everyone’s happy.

5 –The hours –  Most places serve breakfast and say “Buenos dias” until 2 p.m.   Afternoon really isn’t until after siesta.  And the sun doesn’t set until 9-ish.

6 –The Wednesday farmer’s market –  Fantástico!???????????????????????????????

7 – Roundabouts – People complain about all the roundabouts—but when you don’t really know where you’re driving, it’s great to have a second chance at the right turn.  Or when you’ve gone the wrong way, it’s so much easier to go back a step.   Plus, they cut down on four-way stops and traffic lights.roundabout

IMG_0482

8 – The old town.    Pretty, lively– a real Spanish town, not touristy.  Full of murals, sculptures, and fountains.  Lots of nice bars and cafés with TV’s outside facing the patios and sidewalks for watching fútbol matches. Great for a tapas crawl.

9 – Menu del dia      Most places have a fixed price menu from between 8 and 12 Euros.    Three courses, sometimes including a drink and/or coffee.   It’s cheaper than cooking! (although not as much fun)

10 –de la Mar   Café, bar and restaurant, just around the bend from our apartment in the Puerto Deportivo.  Every morning we’ve been taking advantage of their free Wi-Fi, drinking their delicious coffee, occasionally enjoying a nice hardy English style breakfast, and visiting with the friendly people there—both staff and regular guests.  Owner Mar remembered our names and our orders after just one day-and she does that for everyone, in several languages.  Kat is our regular server most days—she is sweet and funny and we’re going to miss seeing her smiling face every day!   PS: they also do drinks, tapas, dinner, etc.  A great home base for many of us.