RETURN TO SPAIN TO TEACH AND TRAVEL…ON TO AMSTERDAM

       I found a $700 Round trip fare from Phoenix to Madrid that I couldn’t resist.  My request to teach English Classes at Vaughntown for two weeks was not confirmed yet but NOW my trip there was.
       A few weeks later I received a notice that I had been accepted for one week.  When the ticket offer presented itself I reacted before taking time to plan my dates.  My flight was booked to arrive in Spain mid week for a three week visit. I wanted to teach two weeks with one in between to travel the country but now I only had one whole week from Sunday to Saturday that was available to me.  I decided to take more time traveling then leave a little early to Amsterdam.  I cancelled my plan to spend a week in Wales after Spain.  My winters spent in Oaxaca, Mexico have slowed me down.  I now appreciate staying in one place rather than traveling from one to another to another.
       Today I received the Oaxacan Cultural Navigator from Blogger Norma Shaffer in Oaxaca.  She ran a fun Photo Submission last month.  Photos were to be of Mexico with Color.  I got one of mine picked to publish with the other choices.  That felt good. Oaxacan Cultural Navigator click to see.
        I packed and made my list to do for my last day before departure in two days.  I just finished having Renato tile my balcony floor.  He did a brilliant job replacing this ugly brown carpet with nice light tile with swirls through it that reflects a lot more light and brightens the patio and the living room.

 He replaced my outdoor light fixture too so I now enjoy my home more.
      My wonderful neighbor Jeannie took time out of her lunch break to drive me to the airport where I checked in my bag for Madrid and arrived at my departure gate with over an hour to spare.  The plane boarded and after a short nap, I was in Chicago.  A change of gates and planes and I boarded an Iberia jet for Madrid.  It was an all night flight. My seat next to a young Spaniard was cramped and wouldn’t recline.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well or very little. 

My Companion Traveler


      We landed in Spain around 11:30 am, went through immigration with no problem, then waited, waited and waited until everyone had their bags and were gone….except me.  I was on my way to Iberia desk to file a lost luggage report and looked over at a far carousel to notice my bag, all alone, going round and round???

 I loaded up, half asleep, and headed for the Metro and on to Puerto de Sol in the center. 


       My Metro line was closed for repairs so I had to switch to the train to get to the center. I arrived and exited station right at my hotel, checked in,  unpacked then had an Irish Breakfast at the Dubliner to tide me over. 

     I retired at 5 pm after a glass of wine and woke at 6 am ready to meet Joan, my one week traveling companion that I had met in Oaxaca two years ago. We boarded the train to Seville and started another travel journey through Andalusia in the South.

     Hotel Baco had our room waiting.  We dropped the luggage and went to visit and new Park called the Mushroom which was near by.  A bite to eat then a taxi to the Historical Center of Seville where we walked around the Catedral , Square, and alleys before returning for Happy Hour at the oldest Tapas bar in Spain that opened in 1670. 

     The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast at a bar-cafe down the street consisting of a cellophane wrapped dry roll, coffee and OJ then checked out and picked up the rent a car. I turned the wrong way and while backing up hit my side mirror on a sign.  I didn’t notice any damage so headed for Malaga where my friend Carlos had graciously invited us to stay at his home, meet his family and show us the home town he grew up in.  

     We stopped in Ronda, a famous city know for the oldest Bull ring in Spain and a beautiful bridge with an incredible view of the Andalusian Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

 
     I made a few wrong turns after that but my Google Nexus5X phone’s GPS brought me to the front door of my host, Carlos Sedano.  We entered his garage/trophy room, Carlos races anything with a motor, and up stair to our room for two days.  He prepared our dinner of Andalusian Gazpacho, Salad, and Potato Salad with Meat…very nice evening catching up on our first meeting 9 years ago in Valdelvilla English school.  He had a great album of our one week class in the mountains of Spain.

     A simple elegant breakfast the next morning and we were off to tour his city of Malaga with “lunch” at his parents house with almost the whole family present.

     We toured a famous museum that afternoon . His brother in law is the Director.  Dinner at Le Pimi restaurant then home where we chatted a bit and retired early…slept late, had a nice breakfast and a sad farewell till our next reunion. 

   

 Grenada, home of Alhambra, the Moorish City on the hill overlooking the city was to be our next adventure. Ticketmaster assured our tickets were sold out for two days in advance. We did a trolley tour of the city and walked down along the walls of Alhambra and left the next day for Jerez without seeing one of the wonders of the world.


      A long drive and we arrived but Nexus5X was of no help in the Maze of Jerez so we enlisted the assistance of the local Gendarmes to find Dona Blanca our hotel for 2 days.  

The Rock of Gilbralta

They rode in our backseat to the hotel.

That evening we dined at a nearby recommended Seafood Restaurant and got a good nights rest.  Joanie was out and about early while I overslept , as usual.  I rose at 10:30, just in time to catch the Breakfast buffet while she played tourist.  
         I tried to book the ferry to Tangier and a bus to the ferry port in Tarifa from Jerez.  That proved tiring and complex. I rushed to the bus station

but only one bus line went to Tarifa and it was late at night. If I want to book the ferry I will have to drive, park overnight in Tarifa, while spending the night in Tangiers then pick up the car and return to Jerez or stay in Cadiz. I found a travel agent that arranged it for us.


       Tonight I wanted to go to one of the premier restaurants of Jerez and have a 5 course meal of fish roasted on a spit with each course offering a pairing of the different Sherry’s of Jerez but CLOSED.  

Walking around  we met a lady from Seattle that had lived for 5 years in Jerez but couldn’t get residency so moved to Rocky Point Mexico…now she was back trying to get away from Puerto Penasco and find some place in Spain to live. That is kind of what I was doing. 

      Our second choice was a premier Tapas bar that was very nice.  Met a nice Scottish couple that just returned from Cadiz and were leaving tomorrow for Scotland.  

Fresh Fish Delivery!

I stopped for a Dessert Sherry on the way home and popped into a Flamingo Bar that was too crowded to breath before tucking myself in for a good night’s sleep and a long haul to Tarife to catch the ferry to Morocco.


       I checked out of the fantastic Dona Blanca and headed for the Port of Tarife to board the ferry to Africa and the city of Tangiers.   We left our suitcases in the car at the car park back in Tarife.  A short 35 minute ride and my first Passport Stamp for the country of Morocco.  A taxi was waiting as part of the package to escort us to a really nice Hotel on the Atlantic.  
      That afternoon I wanted to visit the American Legation established in 1823 as a partnership with Morocco.  It is now a museum and cultural center.  They closed just before we arrived. 

        Mohammed, the owner of a local Cafe in the Plaza 9 April 1947 prepared some Mint Tea for us while we watched the world go by at the Entrance to the Kasbar.  I noticed a hashish bar behind me where our want to be guide was smoking hash from a long “opium” pipe.  He caught my eye and motioned me over to offer a small gram for $20.  After a 3 second deliberation I accepted.  

 


          I had no desire to do a tour or go into the Medina but choose to browse a little on the fringe and visit a near by park before dinner at the Arte de la 9 April 1947 restaurant with a top floor view of the action below.

 We had a nice basic and reasonably priced meal with a beer and returned to the hotel. 
      Joanie chose to retired early as she was taking a tour of the Kasbar in the morning and I choose a Double Johnny Walker Red Label at the Bar where a fantastic Jazz Guitarist was playing great Les Paul style music on his electric guitar.  A singer joined him as I was being served some free Tapas and last call.  I retired as they finished their first set and went right to sleep.
      Joanie was finishing her breakfast at the free buffet downstairs when I arrived. She met her guide Charif , who spoke 5 languages fluently and gave her a wonderful  morning tour while I relaxed and did nothing until her return.  Our driver was waiting to return us to the Ferry. We returned through customs, picked up the car we and were on the road to back to Seville.  We cancelled a trip to Cadiz.

       A long and beautiful drive but we were getting hungry so took a brief detour to a town I had heard about, Zahara, the Tuna capitol of Spain on the Atlantic.  It was a beautiful beach town know for its Seafood Restaurants.  I had Grilled Fresh Tuna, Joanie had the Tuna Salad and we were back on the road. 

Windmills everywhere

        We returned to the Train Station where we dropped the car off and took a Taxi to our flophouse AKA Pension de la Virgens.  No one was there so we had to call a number and find our hidden key, allow ourselves in to a dark and dank room with bunk beds and one regular.

Our shower had a broken door, the sink was plugged, but I managed to freshen up and we headed for our favorite Tapas bar for dinner then back early. 


      This morning we checked out ASAP and Taxied to the Hotel Baco where we stayed before…but I mistakenly booked a single.  The Front Desk noted my rave review I had given the Hotel so upgraded me to a double with no charge.  I showered and shaved.  Something neither of us cared to do at the last place. Now I am headed out for a beer and maybe a “hash pipe” while Joanie is attended a Flamingo Show. I took my glasses off to clean them and the frame came apart. I bought some super glue and while putting them together, smeared glue on the lens. I just need them to last another month!

      I met her after in the Bar attached to the theater where she introduced me to David, the New York Times News Editor for Asia, based in Hong Kong.  He and her were finishing a drink, so I joined them.  We left for dinner at the Restaurant Baco near by but escorted David to the oldest Tapas Bar in Spain before saying goodbye.

      Our dinner was fantastic.  We both had the fresh Tuna again .  We retired early and in the morning taxied to the train and back to Madrid where Vaughtown is hosting a Tapas and Wine get together for me and the rest of the students and teachers for the following weeks school session in the country. 
   We arrived at our last hotel of our trip.  I left for the Tapas and Wine meeting with the other Anglos that would be teaching.  I was greeted by Carmen and her husband.  Carmen was a facilitator for Vaughtown and we had last parted at Gredos over 8 years ago so it was fitting that we would be reunited for another session.  Carmen introduced me to Tom from Burlington Vermont, Pat from Ireland, Danielle from Melbourne Australia, and Mary Ellen from North Carolina. This was the smallest group ever.  There would be 7 Anglos and 7 Spaniards. Carmen said it was like a vacation for her. This will mean a lot of free time for all of us. We stuffed ourselves on fantastic Tapas , had some wine and after 2 hours returned to another early night.  
     Joanie left early to catch a train to spend her last couple days in a quaint town just North of Madrid before returning to Seattle and work.  I had a late checkout and took off around 3 to meet the group for our 3 hour bus ride to Gredos.

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