A Travellerspoint blog

Where Fools, Tourists and Pilgrims Tread

George Reporting...

sunny 85 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

The bus arrives in Valencia and we need to walk only 100 feet to our hotel. I've started to look for accommodations closer to train/bus stations so that it isn't such a chore to drag our bags. Fortunately we stay at the very nice Hotel Turia which overlooks the former Turia river-turned-greenpark.

Checking in/unpacking bags/setting up wifi is now a fast process and within 20 mins we are out the door again to try and catch a bike tour that leaves in 30 mins. Without reservations there is a good chance we won't be able to do a tour today but it's fun to roll the dice from time to time. Luckily, we were able to snag the last TWO bikes for the tour and we are off. The 10 person bike tour is led by Chantal who looks remarkably (from a certain angle) like my sister Sylvia. Should I be surprised to see people in Spain who look like relatives? Anyway, I immediately like Chantal and can't stop looking at her and think about my dear sister. At the start of the tour, Chantal asks each one of us what we've already seen in Valencia. Most people have already been here at least a day and have seen quite a bit. When she gets to us, we can only tell her that we've been in Valencia less than an hour and have seen nada. So off we all go. Enjoy the bike pics from the 3 hour tour which includes scenes that can be seen in the new George Clooney movie 'Tomorrow Land'. Too bad this tour doesn't come with a butt massage at the end because we both needed it!
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Wiped out from the days bus and bike adventures, we somehow find something to eat close to midnight. The next day is filled with blue sky and sun but in came the hottest day of the year in Valencia. The official temperature was 113 degrees but we still went out anyway determined to see the main highlights in Valencia and (surprise) a trip to see the Holy Grail which Andrea discovered is right here in Valencia. Along the way, we see some amazing sights.
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Some years ago we went in search of the grail and wrote about it. (click here). Frankly, I had no idea that Valencia was the home of the cup of Jesus and so we were on a mission to walk through the desert-like heat to find the grail. Andrea learned that we only need to find the 'Almudin' museum which hosts a fine, fine exhibition about the grail. It isn't easy to find the Almudin in this heat and we stop at any shade we can find for a respite. After a few twists and turns we find the building which has nowhere on it the name 'Almudin'. We decide to ask a lady, who looks like a local, where the Almudin is and she looks at us and basically gestures that we are standing right in front if it. She must of thought us fools. Anyway, the Almudun soon reopens. In Spain, places open for a few hours in the morning and then close in mid day only to reopen again around 3pm. The Almudin is wonderful, free and would be worth paying to go to in any event. Everything is in either Spanish or English and you are thrown into the mystery of the grail as you transverse its history right up to the time a priest dropped it and broke it. He soon became ill and died because he was so affected by this accident. Imagine making yourself sick and dying over a broken cup? Ah but this is no ordinary cup! Keep your free Almudin ticket because it will allow you free entry to go see the grail which is located inside the astonishing Catedral of Valencia, located 3 blocks from the Almudin. As we walk to enter the Cathedral, a strong hot wind nearly fells us. "Was this the breath of God", I thought? We enter and like two weary, hot pilgrims, we slowly make our way into the chamber holding the grail. These pics are a shallow example of what I was feeling as I viewed the cup held by Jesus at the Last Supper.

We leave and venture out to explore more of lovely Valencia and stay cool by drinking either beer/sangria or eating gelato. We finally make it back to our hotel and enjoy some nice chinese food. "Chinese food?? What about Paella??", you might wonder. Well, paella will happen manana and sometimes we just like to eat stuff we know we like! lol

The next day is filled yet with more adventure. I was able to email my way onto a tour run by a guy named Mike. His tour is exceptional in that it takes you out of the city of Valencia and into the beautiful nature areas that many people (including local Spaniards) are unaware of. His tour is really the only one that takes you to the clear water springs about an hour outside of the city. His tour is so rare, a young prince (who shall not be named) took it not too long ago. This wonderful tour includes the opportunity to swim in cenote-like waters which was discovered only about 40 years ago. Surrounding it are incredible cliffs and scenery and so much clean, clear gushing water that would make any Californian drool. Speaking of California, much of the scenery we saw looked a lot like California park land. It would be just like driving through the CA Sierra Nevadas except there would be, you know, hundreds year old ruins and castles here and there. Again here, there is phenomenal amounts of fresh water gushing out of places and you need only stick your water bottle under a pipe that's been flowing for centuries to get refilled. I suppose Spain had several centuries to figure out how to access nearly limitless amounts of fresh water. But here too they have had to deal with rain-free years but somehow fresh water is seemingly very much available.

I promised our tour guide I wouldn't reveal too much about the secret locations he takes us to, which includes an excellent restaurant complete with wine drunken from the bladder of a goat!, but these pics might give a clue.
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We return around 6pm and rest up before going out for a plate of paellla. (There, you happy now?) I've never had paella before but am told that it was invented here in Valencia. Okay, so I have my first paella in Valencia. I guess it's a little like buying your first light bulb from Thomas Edison or drinking your first martini in San Francisco.
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So now it is on to Barcelona via train! Valencia, I would love to see you again!

The pics below are courtesy of Mike's tour.
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Posted by woa 15:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

The Knights of Your Travel Dreams

George Reporting..

sunny 85 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

"Take me to Portugal
take me to Spain.
Take me, Spanish Caravan.
Yes I know you can." -The Doors

The Spanish bus (ALSA) carries us through Spanish lands. Past hills and mountains past gorse strewn highways and past white homes and small towns that appear out of nowhere.

Our bus driver, I've decided, is a knight driving the shining armor bus guiding us to our next destination like the Knights Templar of old who used to guide pilgrims to the Holy Land. Bus drivers, airline pilots, boat captains, and those orange clad sentinels standing at the train platforms making sure you are getting on the correct train, are the knights of your travel dreams. They work to make sure you achieve your travel goals even though
they probably just consider it their 'job'. But in reality, without these people and all the others you come across who assist you in some way, are special types who help you along your path. I always say "thank you" to them in the most sincere way I can. I've decided to be more like them except without the expectation of being paid for it.
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I remember the time we were strolling along the garden paths in front of the Lisbon Bullfighting ring named Campo Pequeno when I hear a sharp groan from an older woman who had just fallen hard nearby as if felled by an invisible bull. I rushed over and helped her up. As she brushed off the gravel from her hands, she kept saying, "Abrigado, abrigado", one of the few words I knew in Portuguese. She was okay and off she continued on her path of life. I was left with a strange feeling like I just pole vaulted for the world record in the Decathlon. There were other people around but I was the only one who cared enough to help this lady. For an instant, I expected the pole vault medal to be handed to me but then I thought how shallow and self-centered it was of me to think I deserved something for this act. Instead, I felt the need to retrain my mind to understand how I was really feeling and what I should expect from it.

I thought back to the other times I reached out to others on this trip offering some kind of help. In some cases, the help is rejected or unneeded. In others, people reached out to me and I was unable to help because I couldn't understand the language. The latter happened in nearly every country we visited where somebody would come up to me seeming to ask for direction to a station or town. From the expression in their face and eyes, I could tell they seemed a bit lost but I could only offer, " Nien sprechen sie deutsch" or "No Fahler Portuguese y Espanol". A few times, I was able to help those who were holding maps, but those were in English speaking countries.
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Also, I help without really trying. When I walk by people waiting at a bus/train station, they begin to clutch their backpacks and handbags, more tightly. They are checking to see they have their important belongings and generally become more aware of their surroundings as if
I signal to them that those things should be done just now. "Good", I think to myself. These people should be reminded to watch their stuff because there are people out there trying to rip you off. I haven't met any yet and I hope they don't either because it would put the kibosh on their trip.

What a great job it would be to just help travelers get from place to another? Although they are paid, I am admiring more and more the station attendants who patrol the various train/plane/ship platforms like sentinels guarding the crossroads of everybody's travel Dreams.
They (and those like them) are offering help so we can continue our quest, continue our pilgrimage, seek our next unknown destination, fulfill our travel dreams. etc. etc.

What a wonderful way to go through life, to just be able to say everyday, "Let me help."

Posted by woa 14:18 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Sevilla para el día de la madre

George the pilgrim reporting..

sunny 93 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

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We arrived in Seville Spain which is about a 3 hour bus ride from Faro, Portugal. We came here to petition the regional governor to create a statue for "St. Lois", Andrea's mom and my mother-in-law.

We both felt Lois should be made a Saint because of the miraculous work she did raising Andrea, and for the blessed Mother Theresa way she deals with me.

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On our way to the regional Governor's office, we stopped for gelato and then fell asleep in the beautiful Maria Luisa parque. After we awoke, we strolled through rose gardens, passed gorgeous fountains and walked beneath rows of the famous purple trees of this region.

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Since we are "pilgrims" of St. Lois, it is our mission to walk the streets of Seville in search of good, sumptuous goodies to eat and drink.

Seville was hot the few days we were there and we suffered mightily under the cool shade of the Spanish trees sipping sangria. Finally, we agreed that petitioning the regional Governor was beneath the honor of St. Lois and instead decided to eat more delicious food and drink delicious wine while wandering the streets praising the name of St. Lois to the masses who do no know her...yet.

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So here is to St. Lois and all the other mothers out there who have to put up with an awful lot everyday.

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Speaking of putting up with an awful lot, we saw our first Flamenco performance at the 'Casa de la Guitarra' located in the old Jewish quarter of Seville.

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We didn't know much about Flamenco and this was a wonderful way to learn about it while surrounded by rows of guitars that are famous for one reason or another. I, George, will now write about my first impression of the excellent flamenco dance we witnessed. All I could see was a recreation of a single Spanish day performed by 3 people: an expert guitar player, a male singer and a female dancer. In my mind, it was as if the
two male performers were calling out to the sun to rise and, on cue, she does. She storms on to the stage and performs a dance that says, "I am here now! Let the day begin!" As the performance progresses, I sense an entire days worth of pain, struggle, joy, love and heartbreak encompassed through the movements of the dancer, the expressions on her face and the elegance in her body language. The men (and us) watch enthralled egging her on with shouts, song and music. Her passionate dance ebbs and falls like waves on the ocean and becomes more passionate as the end of the day nears until she is seemingly setting on the horizon, slowly disappearing into the night. She leaves but the men
continue to wail as if lamenting her departure and fretting about death. Then she returns in a different dress, rejoicing and signing as if involved in some celestial party. Once the performance ended, I thought to myself that I would "not view each new day the same way ever again." Indeed, I felt the entire world was presented to me via Flamenco.
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Anyway, this is how I saw this performance. Andrea probably saw it differently as did everybody else. I found it highly moving and universally poignant in its poetry and music.

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Afterwards we stroll through the claustrophobic alleyways and past the crush of people/tourists hanging out along one plaza or another. I begin to realize that I don't think I would enjoy living in a large city like this with people seemingly breathing down your neck at every turn. The huge urban parks are a wonderful escape but who would let you live in the park?
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So it's on to Granada and then Valencia!

Posted by woa 14:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Faro is far out

by Andrea the 'haiku-ist'

sunny 80 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

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A good stop between
Lisbon and Sevilla Spain
Quaint and quieter

Fifteen-Ninety-Six
Earl of Essex sacked town
And books from Bishop Faro

One book was the first
Printed in Portugal, a
Torah in local Hebrew

Books later held in
U of Oxford Bodleian
Library

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More tiled sidewalks
Decorative patterns and
fish prints all around

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Stopped for fresh sangria
Small cafe where King once slept
At Aqui d'el Rey

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Some sevende signs
Colorful cement facades
More like Merida

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Pleasantly surprised
by another charming town
Faro Portugal
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Posted by woa 09:38 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Soup of the Day: Lisboa

~Andrea y George Reporting

sunny 74 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

We hoped on a Ryanair jet from Eindhoven, The Netherlands and headed to Lisbon, Spain because we had never been there and it was inexpensive and only a 3 hour flight.
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We arrived on a sunny warm late afternoon at the airport and took a nice, clean metro subway to the station stop closest to our hotel. The metro instructions were very clear and easy to follow which is not the case in many countries. Fortunately, Lisbon is one of those techno-progressive countries were it is pretty easy to get free Wifi so you can check your map and know were you are heading. In fact, I hadn't yet felt the need to actually buy a data card for my phone because free wifi has been pretty easy to find in most cases.
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After unloading, we tour our area and find a nice Italian restaurant that serves pizza and vino. Our waiter, who looked remarkably like a young Matt Dillon, was attentive and spoke pretty good English. Then it is back to the hotel where we plan the following days activities.

We awoke to a bright, clear morning and took to the streets of Lisbon. We located a nice park nearby and strolled past some incredible looking buildings. In the air somewhere, somebody was playing the accordion and we notice that every bit of sidewalk is made up of small white and black stones. In fact, nearly all of Lisbon's wide sidewalks (Lisbon is a very large city) are made up of small black and white stones often patterned in one unique design or another. We are used to sidewalks being made up of mostly slab concrete and to see so much of this stone-tile work impresses us greatly. I can't think of any city we've been too where we are staring at the sidewalk as much as we are the buildings and statues.
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We've found the European 'Hop on Hop off' bus to be a pretty good value. For not very much money, you can get a great tour (in your language) of the main city highlights in about 2 hours. The ticket is good for 48 hours so you can revisit places that interests you and simply "hop off" and check out the area and then "hop on" your bus again to your next stop. Most of these buses come with free Wifi which allows you to supplement your tour information as well as make a Skype call to a loved one to show them what you are seeing. The buses are double-decker types with the top level partially open so you can work on your tan while learning about how Lisbon was destroyed by a quake and tsunami many centuries ago. Remember, always wear sunscreen!
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Our bus takes us around the entire city and we enjoy seeing many important sites. Parts of the city remind us of Merida Mexico and other parts remind us of Paris and San Francisco, CA. After awhile, you begin to think you are in San Francisco, California because of the way hilly Lisbon is situated next to the Tagus river which is about the same size of the SF Bay. Lisbon also boosts a GG Bridge copy which was built by the same folks that built the Oakland Bay Bridge (the old one, not the new one which won't last 10 years apparently). Lisbon is also a city of several hills and one can jump on some cranky old cable car-looking trams that rumble up the narrow streets. We originally planned on staying two nights here but added another because there is so much to see and do in Lisbon, a soup-city made up of other cities.
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You can get great views of the Lisbon from a variety of beautiful vista parks or via a steampunk style elevator in the heart of the city. We were blessed with good weather during our entire stay so we walked quite a bit along the riverfront and up the hypnotic, narrow alley ways that tangle
through the quaint Alfama district. Everywhere you turn is an opportunity to sit and enjoy the beauty of a Lisbon park or sip a cool beverage while looking out over the red tile roofs towards the horizon.

As I wrote earlier, Lisbon is a very big city so if you have just a few days to visit, use the Hop On/Off bus as much as you can to see the most of Lisbon. And when you walk, look down and be amazed at the artistry and time it took to create the sidewalk/artwork that makes your shoes feel like they are in a museum.

Pictures are worth a thousand words they say. Well, here you go and enjoy Andrea's postcard to Lisboa!


------------------------------------
Dear Lisbon,

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What a great first impression! Upon our arrival, you were simple and intuitive to navigate from the airport, to the metro, to our hotel.

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Your 25 Abril bridge was built by the same company who built our Bay Bridge in Oakland, even though you look a lot like our Golden Gate bridge.
(from wiki: "The 25 de Abril Bridge is based on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US. Both SFOBB and the 25 de Abril Bridge were built by the same company. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that "Like its sister bridge, the SFOBB in San Francisco, the Tagus River Bridge is located in an area with a long history of earthquakes" and seismic data had to be taken into account in its construction. Another sister bridge is the Forth Road Bridge in Edinburgh.")

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Parts of your waterfront remind us of the S.F. Embarcadero as well. Your old and beautiful buildings, along with fuscia bougainvilleas remind us of Merida. But your sidewalks of white limestone and black basalt in endless patterns adorning every walkway here, are a unique characteristic we have only seen here.

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The Alfama area is charming and your hills with views, and streetcars, again, reminiscent of S.F.

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We visited two Botanical Gardens with the modest entry fee of two euros, which are lovely distractions from the city.

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We enjoyed a glass of port at a wine bar, playing your beloved Fado music. We had tasty pizza at an Italian restaurant near our hotel where our waiter looked like a young, Portuguese Matt Dillon.

We stopped at Pasteis de Belem for your famous little cake (which was sort of like a mini creme brulee to me).

We realize there is much, much more to you Lisboa that we had time to experience in two days. We explored as much as we could, and enjoyed ourselves here. We hope to return. Obrigado.

Posted by woa 14:52 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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