Red, Yellow, and Purple

The wild flowers and views were abundant along the roadside as we drove around the Dingle Peninsula yesterday. The peninsula has a number of rock structures dating back to prehistoric times. One of the most interesting is the Gallarus Oratory, a Christian church built over 1300 years ago. It is made of dry fitted stone with no mortar and is still waterproof today.

Driving is still an adventure, perhaps more so for the passenger than for me. Susan is not a good passenger under the best of conditions. Her background in the insurance industry makes her very conscious of all the bad things that can happen. Many of the roads yesterday were single lane with pull outs. Some of these had stone walls on both sides. None of the secondary roads have any berm. Since these are hardly the best of conditions, she was more in need of the Valium than I was.

The internet is very slow here, so I will limit this to three pictures. Enjoy the views without the need for any drugs to keep you calm.

IMG_2023-0.JPG

IMG_2025-0.JPG

IMG_2018.JPG

Blarney and Kinsale

Today we had two destinations in mind: Blarney Castle and Kinsale. Despite Rick’s negative views of Blarney Castle, we thought we couldn’t feel like we really saw Ireland unless we saw it; and we are glad we did. The castle has extensive grounds and gardens where we spent most of our time. We did climb to the top of the tower where the Blarney Stone is located, but Susan felt she already had the gift of gab and I was too germ phobic to kiss the rock. The Blarney folks claim kissing the rock gives you the gift of eloquence rather than gab. They also say that blarney is embellishing the truth in a flattering way while baloney is an outright lie.

IMG_1993.JPG
Kinsale is a harbor town on the Atlantic. It was a charming town to walk around. The highlight there was the ruins of a large fort on the harbor.

IMG_1998.JPG

IMG_1997.JPG

IMG_2015.JPG
But the highlight of the day for me was perhaps breakfast which included freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. I have not had that since I visited England many years ago. Yummm!

Pass the Valium Please

Today was a beautiful day to begin our drive around Ireland. We took a taxi to the Hertz office in Dublin city and rented a car to begin our journey. Keep in mind that it has been 3.5 months since I have driven any car. In addition there are a number of other issues to deal with. Of course, driving on the left side of the road is the most obvious. I have deputized Susan to constantly remind me to be on the left. Second, is that the car is a little wider than our Prius; and the front fenders are too low for me to see them. This means I am often on the left edge of the road and guess who is sitting there getting very nervous on the narrow roads. And then there are the roundabouts! In the countryside and small towns, virtually every intersection is a roundabout. They vary in size from a slight bulge in the road (and these are very confusing as right turns – you did figure out that the right turns are across the traffic – appear to have the right of way) to big multilane affairs with multiple traffic lights. Add to this a strange car, a strange GPS, and strange road signs and you would be correct if you conclude it was not a relaxing ride.

Our first stop was Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle. Unfortunately for us, they were having an arts festival and the narrow streets were clogged with cars, pedestrians, bikers, double parked trucks, and any other road hazard you can imagine. To make matters worse, Hertz had mis-programmed the GPS; so we were navigating on our own. But we made it!

IMG_1966.JPG
The next stop was the Rock of Cashel. This was not so hard as I had the GPS working and it was a smaller, less hectic town to drive in. The setting and ruins of the cathedral there were beautiful.

IMG_1979.JPG

IMG_1988.JPG

IMG_1984.JPG
We are staying at a mix of hotels, castles, manor houses, and bed and breakfasts. Tonight was a manor house and it is first class. They have a room of photographs of famous people who have stayed here. I immediately said we should look for Bill Clinton as we seem to find his picture everywhere from greasy spoons to fine establishments. Sure enough, after a little searching there he was from 2012 – but no Hillary.

Arrival in Ireland

We got up at 4:30 in the morning Tuesday for our flight from Seville to Dublin. We rolled our luggage to the nearest taxi stand, and as promised there were actually five taxis parked there. We flew on Ryan Air which seems to be the Spirit Airlines of Europe. The stewardesses were busy selling things the entire flight which made sleep difficult. Also, the plane interior colors were an alarming yellow rather than the soothing colors you usually see.

We have had two full days walking around and exploring Dublin. There were some immediate differences we noted from Seville. First, the temperature was comfortable all day. Second, we saw quite a few clouds in the sky; but we had no rain and significant sun. Third, and foremost, we could understand what everyone was saying. And so far it seems true that the Irish are very friendly, have a good sense of humor and like to talk.

We went to the Irish House Party last night and had an excellent meal and a nice evening of Irish Music. For dinner we sat with two Australian couples and a British couple. Interestingly, the one Australian couple had stayed earlier in their trip at Lake Norman near our former home in Charlotte, NC. They liked it so much, they talked like they would like to move there.

20140806-191250-69170541.jpg
We visited Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells. Almost of more interest to us was the long room of the library where they have a huge collection of old books on two stories with movable ladders to reach each stack of shelves.

20140806-192540-69940612.jpg

20140806-192540-69940371.jpg
Another highlight for us today was having lunch with Pam and Darren, who have sold their house in Seattle and started their journey in Europe a few weeks before us and will be traveling in Europe for the foreseeable future. We enjoyed comparing notes on what to do and where to visit. It is great fun meeting people who have chosen a similar lifestyle.

20140806-193123-70283441.jpg

Random Thoughts on Seville

Does it seem strange to you that milk is only sold in one liter containers (about a quart), but olive oil is readily available in five liter containers?

Seville has a large and beautiful old town, but it is marred by a lot of graffiti. Most shops have metal shutters they pull down over their doors and windows and almost all of these are covered with graffiti.

20140802-155820-57500595.jpg
Seville residents are the worst at picking up after their dogs.

In the afternoon, everyone is walking on one side of the street while the sidewalk on the other side of the street is empty. Why? Guess which side is the shady side! Have I mentioned that it is hot here?

They love mayonnaise here. I got a tapas plate once of chicken croquettes. There were six croquettes (about two bites each) and at least a cup of mayo to dip them in. Same with French fries in a spicy sauce. There was about half a cup of mayo under the spicy sauce. I wonder what their cholesterol level is here. I wonder what mine will be when I get back.

Nine is an early dinner. Restaurants don’t get busy until ten.

A meal must start with a dish of olives. Bread is sometimes free and sometimes not.

It is very rare to find anyone in a store or restaurant that can speak English, though most restaurants have English menus.

Many streets in the old town are so narrow there is no sidewalk on either side and you must walk in the street. You learn to listen carefully for approaching cars. An electric car could be deadly.

I have never seen a city with so many churches. On the next to last day in Seville we discovered a new church only a block from us. It only had one of the clues we discussed previously.

Mary is by far the favorite statue on the alter of churches here. According to Rick, the residents of Seville are as loyal to the Mary of their choice as they are to their soccer team.

20140803-152859-55739494.jpg

Don’t even think of shopping between 2 PM and 5 PM. Who wants to be out in the heat of the day. Also, many stores and restaurants close for vacation in July or August.

Out of the 28 days we have been here there have been clouds on 6 of them. Interestingly, each of those days has had total cloud cover in the morning that clears to no clouds by noon. What you rarely see is a few puffy clouds. And the highest chance of rain I saw was 7%.

You see more people sitting at cafés eating churro and coffee on Sunday morning than you see in church. What is going to happen to all these old churches with so few people attending them?

Who would guess that Susan would be so excited every time she finds a new church during her walks?

Most photographers are drawn to certain subjects like windows, doors, laundry, or graffiti. I happen to like tree trunks with a sub specialty in tree roots. Seville is a paradise for me with many big, old trees with exposed roots. I have used the greatest possible restraint to only share one here.

20140803-164841-60521774.jpg

Does anyone know a salmorejo anonymous group? The withdrawal when we leave is going to be difficult.

Ronda 2: Bridges, Beauty, and Bull

For there to be a new bridge, there must be an old bridge. So in the cool of Friday morning we walked down through the old town to the two older bridges in Ronda and on to the Arab Baths. The Old Bridge dates back to 1616. Even further down is the even older Arab Bridge, which is often called the Roman Bridge though it is unlikely it dates back that far. You can see the remains of the Arab Baths just behind the bridge.

20140802-144114-52874695.jpg
We walked back up through the terraces on the new town side of the gorge. The picture below is looking back through the Old Bridge to the Arab Bridge.

20140802-151329-54809974.jpg
We stayed in the Parador perched on the edge of the gorge. We spent much of our first afternoon there at the pool. The weather was beautiful with temperatures in the high 70’s and a light breeze.

20140802-151729-55049035.jpg
Below is the view from our room.

20140802-151916-55156766.jpg
Ronda has both the oldest and the biggest bull fighting arena in Spain. It is one of four arenas in the country that still have bull fights. We have seen three of the four. Most cities held the bull fights in town squares such as I described earlier in the San Sebastián pictures. The picture shows some goofball hiding behind the protective barrier. By the way, that crazy guy told me there is barely room to squeeze behind the barrier.

20140802-152830-55710736.jpg

20140803-104056-38456388.jpg

Ronda, Part 1

Thursday and Friday we took an overnight trip to Ronda, one of the white hill towns in the Andalusia area of Spain. It is perhaps the smartest thing we have done the whole trip. They are called white towns because almost all the buildings are whitewashed.

20140801-215104-78664490.jpg
We arrived by bus into the new town and rolled our luggage through the streets of Ronda to our hotel on the border between the new town and the old town. Despite the fact that Ronda is on a hill, the fifteen minute roll was relatively flat and uneventful. When we reach our hotel, this is what the border between the new town and old town looks like.

20140801-215739-79059389.jpg
The gorge separating old town and new town is 360 feet deep and only 200 feet wide. New is on the left and old is on the right. Notice all the terraces on the left side overlooking the gorge. You can walk from the bottom of the gorge to the top along these terraces. The walls of the gorge are essentially vertical. And joining the two parts of Ronda is the New Bridge.

20140802-101623-36983256.jpg
By our standards, the new bridge is pretty old. It was built in the last half of the eighteenth century. There are two older bridges but they are much lower in the gorge; so the new bridge saved a lot of walking up and down to get from one side of town to the other. The light brown building on the left in the above picture is the Parador hotel we stayed in. Ronda is a beautiful, clean town with scenic views everywhere you look. If we were planing this trip again, we would probably spend a week there.

20140802-102302-37382005.jpg

A Ride in the Park

Every Sunday so far we have gone to a large park (Maria Luisa Park) about 1.5 miles from us. Last Sunday we rented bikes and rode around the park and the surrounding area.

20140729-190222-68542282.jpg
This is a panoramic shot of Plaza De Espana, built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. The building is semicircular with a man made canal in front of it. The canal is long enough that they rent rowboats to use on it. There are six bridges over the canal to get from the central courtyard with the fountain to the building. The whole thing is very impressive.

20140730-112843-41323946.jpg
We went back to the beach on Monday for a day trip and are taking an overnight trip to Ronda, one of the white hill towns, on Thursday and Friday. Next blog will be after we return from Ronda.

Something Different

We have now been in Europe for well over three months and will be back home in less than three weeks. While I am thoroughly enjoying Europe, I am starting to think about returning home and I am realizing that there are certain things I miss about home. Following is a list of the Top Ten Things I Miss About Home.

10. Being able to watch Letterman before falling asleep to provide inspiration for writing this list.

9. Ice. The only sure way to get ice here is to order sangria. With other drinks, you usually don’t get any ice unless you ask and then it is usually only one cube.

8. Hearing American English. If you hear any English, it is usually someone from Australia, Britain, or Canada. I know we have talked to more Aussies than Americans and I’m pretty sure we have talked to more Canadians also. I would love to hear a good “y’all”.

7. Driving a Car. Public transportation is great here, but there is still a big convenience in driving a car. However, no way would I drive a car in old town Seville. The streets are confusing enough and you have to know which are wide enough for cars. I saw a car on the street today with the wheels on both sides touching a curb.

6. Iced Tea. Big. Cold. Unlimited refills. No can involved. They have the cutest little glasses and bottles here for soft drinks.

5. My Reclining Chair and Zero Gravity Chair. Rental units and hotels have a serious lack of comfortable chairs. I usually end up sitting in a dining room chair because the others are so uncomfortable.

4. My Computer. I am using an iPad which is doing a pretty good job, but it is just easier to do some things on a computer.

3. Pulled Pork Barbecue. I guess that really became an issue when we moved from the Charlotte area to Pawleys Island. There is no substitute for Bridges and Lexington Barbecue. You can throw Cajun, Creole, and Southwestern food into this item also.

2. The Marsh View. I love to look at the marsh behind our condo. We have an abundance of city views that are superior to most US city views, but we are seeing little of the country; and I generally like the country better than the city.

1. News From Home. No, I don’t miss the local TV news. In fact it is a plus not having any local news I can understand. However, I really miss hearing what is happening with family and friends. Y’all can help the situation by keeping in contact by email and letting us know what is happening in your life.

Shopping for Food in Seville

The first decision to make is where to shop for food. The biggest grocery store is in the department store about five blocks away. In addition to food shopping, you can get your hair cut, your teeth cleaned, and see a travel agent there. The closest option is a small Seven Eleven like chain which has most everything you need and is much cheaper than the department store. Our favorite choice is the local farmers market with meat, seafood, vegetable, cheese, olives, and fruit stands.
Your first assignment in the grocery is to get the milk for the cereal. You head to the coolers and search to no avail. What, a grocery with no milk? In Europe the milk is sold in paper boxes and is not refrigerated. The expiration date on the carton I am using now is November 1. Believe me when I say it took us a long time to find the milk the first time! Your next task is to find the skim milk and the lactose free milk with all Spanish labels. Grocery shopping can take a long time!
The Spaniards love their ham. You see dried pig legs hanging in most of the stores. They cut thin slices off of it by hand. I find it very fatty and tough, but it is extremely popular in sandwiches and plain as an appetizer.

20140726-150337-54217425.jpg

20140726-150550-54350760.jpg
You see quite a few things in the farmers market that you won’t find in Harris Teeter or Publix. For example: prepackaged mixed vegetables, pigs feet, rabbit, and live snails trying to climb out of their container.

20140726-150939-54579574.jpg

20140726-151010-54610199.jpg

20140726-151043-54643694.jpg

20140726-151110-54670211.jpg
But if you want prickley pear cactus fruit, you have to go to our local sidewalk vendor.

20140726-151456-54896391.jpg
Yes, even food shopping is an adventure for us in Seville.

PS. I got curious why the milk here doesn’t need refrigeration. They pasteurize the milk at a higher temperature and use aseptic packaging. This saves a lot of money by not having to refrigerate during shipment or in the stores and reduces waste from spoilage. The downside is that it kills all the good bacteria in milk as well as the bad bacteria. I am surprised Europe goes for it since they are more into natural, unprocessed foods than we are.

The Travel Blog of Susan and Bruce