Thursday, October 11, 2007


Our arrival into Valencia was quite early - much too early for normal functioning! Few stores were open, with the exception of the train station cafe. Surprisingly, it was a perfect stop for the first taste of Valencian fresh squeezed orange juice. Mmmmm...delicioso. The cafe con leche and sweet rolls were also divine!

Valencia is a place where one should spend several days; our one-day stay was not sufficient to experience the flair of the city. In one direction, Roman or Muslim architecture can be viewed, in another direction, modern, Calatravan designs.

Before beginning the daily tour of a new location, we visited a large mercado to pick-up bread, cheese, and other goodies for lunch. The next destination was the cathedral of valencia, and the chapel which is the home of the Holy Grail. Christ sipped wine from this chalice during the Last Supper. The other attractions within this church are 2 paintings by Goya. After the audio-guided tour of the church, we were all spent and ready for a serious siesta, so a few of us were off to the hotel.

Later on, we met for a delicious dinner at the port; Did you know the home of Paella is Valencia? It was fabulous! The skillets were huge, as they will not prepare paella for one! As you might have guessed, no one left hungry!

The night is young, but we are all pretty tired and ready to head to our final destination. We´ll soon be in Barcelona....See you there...Love, LeeAnn

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pomegranate, a.k.a. Granada

Hola! It is late afternoon here in Granada and I just finished walking up a steep incline from the Plaza Nueve to the Hotel Alixares, across from the famous Alhambra (red castle). Sweat is now pouring down my cheeks. As Kaylene is shopping in town, I decided to take a break to enjoy some quiet-time to absorb the sites I´ve seen in the past few days. There is a lot to absorb, as my days are seemingly joined into one! time is running short on the Net....I´ll return later.....Salut!

I´m back....
During our 3'day stay in Granada, we went to the most visited monument in Spain, the Alhambra, as well as, the Royal chapel, cathedral and the old muslim barrio, Albayzin.

The Alhambra is a magnificent fortress-castle which has been the home of both Muslim and Catholic royalty, most notably, Isabella I and Fernando II, the Catholic Monarchs.The stories which took place within the walls of this structure are many and some extraordinary. One intriguing story is about how the Muslims lost Granada to the Catholics (Isabel and Fernando). Apparently, in this soap opera-like life, the Sultan Mulay Hassan had a fair and favorite christian concubine, Zaroya, who was also favored by other men. Whenever, a man would dally with his lover, he would be sure invite them for dinner so that he could be decapitated!! My, my....what extreme measured he took!! These actions caused quite a stir within his own family. His son, Boabdil and wife Aixa fueded with him, leaving the Muslim power vulnerable. Isabella and Fernando saw this behavior as a perfect opportunity to take Granada and the Alhanbra swiftly and easily. What drama as the Catholics took over Spain, city by city!

The Alhambra was a summer home for Isabel and Fernando. The grounds include, the Alcazaba (towers), Palacio Nazaries (Royal Palace), Palacio de Carlos V and Generalife (gardens - prounced heneraleefa). Touring this site takes several hours, so plan a day for this adventure if you want to experience it for yourself. Also, book in advance. Tickets are no readily available and many people have been sadly turned away.´s time to go.....I´ll finish later.....Hasta Luego!

I am back again.....
The Capilla Real (royal chapel) and adjoining cathedral are historic monuments rich with Spanish history. Isabella and Fernando´s coffins lie in the crypt below marble horizontal figures. Next to their coffins are also those of Felipe El Hermoso (Phillip the Handsome), Juana La Loca (Joanna the crazy) and the grandson of Isabella and Fernando, Miguel. Interestingly, because felipe was the son of the Holy Roman Emporer, Maximillian, his coffin and Juana´s were raised just a bit higher than Isabella´s and Felipes!

On the hill facing the Alhambra is an old Muslim quarter, Albayzin. It has many winding streets, churches, mosques and small restaurants. Kaylene and I stopped at the Kiki Bar and enjoyed lovely fried eggplant, salad and other delicious tapas.

After lunch, we trekked back to the city central, enjoyed a coca cola light( different than diet coke). The rest of the day was slow-paced as we were preparing for an overnight train-ride to Valencia. See you there! Chau! Love, LeeAnn

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tired feet in Cordoba

Hola! The past few days have been a bit challenging given the fast pace. Even the 20-somthings are exhausted from the endless walking. Maybe one day I´ll learn not to pack so many things. I haven´t, so far, with the other backpacking trips I´ve taken! My 20 plus pound pack is a bit much to carry up and down hills!

The hike from the bus station in Cordoba (one of the oldest cities in Spain) to the hotel was not short and given the recent purchases I feel a bit like a walking, lopsided bowling ball.

When arriving in Cordoba, my plan was to make it an easy day. My thought changed quickly since I didn´t want to just sit around in the hotel while everyone else was out and about....I just didn´t want to miss anything. So, off Kaylene and I went, with the first stop at La Mesquita, the 3rd largest mosque in the world. Amazingly enough, it has a cathedral inside of it! The mosque was so beautiful that the Christians did not want to destroy it when they conquered the town. According to the guidebook, approximately 60 columns were removed to build the high altar in the center of the mosque. Looking in each direction inside the mosque, you will obviously, find both Moorish and Christian architecture and symbols throughout the monument. Every time I look at a phenomenal site, I think it is the most amazing I have ever seen; then, there is always another amazing monument around the corner or in the next city. Again....look-up La Mesquita in Cordoba on the is another amazing historical monument.

I am a bit weary, so I´ll write later about Granada - the next stop....Hasta luego....Love, LeeAnn
P.S. The vino tinto is a staple for lunch, so I can see why everyone needs to take a siesta in the afternoon! ;o)

Sunday, October 7, 2007


The 2-hour train-ride from Algecirus to Ronda went quickly given the long nap! The sun rose over the sierra nevada as we entered the town of Ronda. We loaded our packs on our backs and hiked from the train station to the hotel....the city and the hotel were a VERY nice change from base-camp in Algecirus (I call it Algestinkus).

As usual, we placed our packs in storage until the afternoon check-in and were quickly on foot to explore the lovely town. Given the short stay (one whole day), we chose only the top sites to see,the Puento Nuevo (new bridge) and the Plaza de Toros (bull-ring). While I don´t particularly like my days packed and planned for every minute, these historical sites couldn´t be missed. I also new we´d have a regular 2 hour break for lunch. What a fabulous way of life!!!

Monica led us around the town to point out sites of interest before we went out and about on our own. Our first stop was a breath-taking view of the Guadalevin River Gorge with the mountains as a backdrop. Simply spectacular.

To share a brief history, Ronda was originally inhabited by the Romans, but was later invaded by the Muslim forces in the year 711. The architecture, once again is a mixture of styles. In the late 15th century, the Christian forces conquered the town after a 7-day seige. The town grew and prospered which increased the need for more land. This need led to the next amazing construction....the Puento Nuevo. This project took approximately 40 years to complete and it is one amazing bridge! You must do an Internet search for the bridge to see this magnificent structure. You too will also be amazed.

Well, 2pm came quickly....time for lunch! I don´t think I can say how much I love this way of life enough times! Kaylene and I were drawn to the beautiful Restaurant del Escudero (shielding man - like a matador- I think)with a phenomenal, picturesque view of the valley and mountains. The table setting was in a terraced garden. Thanks to Rick Steves and Lonely Planet, we chose this location, as they both agree the food and prices were excellent. This 3-course meal was well worth the 15 E and the dessert with raspberry sauce was irresistable....Mmmmm.

Just across from the restaurant was the Plaza de Toros, the home bullring of the famous bullfighter Pedro Romero. Each year, Ronda hosts a Feria and Corrida Goyesca, a celebration of bullfighting past and present. While I am intrigued by the sport, it seems a bit inhumane and a sight, I do not wish to experience.

That´s all for now...I am off to enjoy the cool night air...hasta luego amigos.... See you in Cordoba!
Love, LeeAnn

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Splendid Beaches of Tarifa (Costa de la Luz)

Ahhhh....La Playa Chica has soft white sand, clear blue-topaz water and a plethora of topless women!! Oh My.....Kaylene and I giggled like high school girls as women of all shapes and sizes walked across the beach into the water. Mmmmmm. What shall we do? I didn´t realize how modest-prudish we Americans can be when it comes to exposing our bodies. Given the weather was supposed to be rainy neither of us wore or brought our bathing suits! Big mistake! After about 30 minutes, Kaylene and I were a bit toasty. We looked at eachother with curious smiles. I said, maybe I could just take off my shirt. I still would have more clothes on than every other woman. These people will never see me again. Well, I´ll leave the rest to your imagination.
That´s all for now.....see you in Ronda, as I explore las pueblos blancas and the famous bullfighting ring where the famous Pedro Romero killed nearly 6000 bulls in his lifetime, with the his last winning bullfight at age 79....more to come....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Andalucia esta fenomenal!

Hola amigos! Here I am again, albeit a few days later. Kaylene and I have been triapsing through the winding, picturesque streets of Sevilla, the polluted disgusting, streets of Algeciras (pronounced algathera), the vertical streets of Gibralter and finally the lovely white sand beaches of Tarifa.

Where do I begin? Ahhh, Sevilla, definitely a place for romance...We arrived after 2.5 hour bus-ride from Madrid. I slept half the ride, which is unheard of for one is usually has motion sickness on local transport. I digress...we walked across a beautiful terrace, entered the Barrio de la Sant Cruz, a very old Jewish community village, where we would stay for the next 2 nights at the Hotel Murillo.

Before retiring on this evening, the group took a nice walk as Monica (our guide) pointed out various sites for us the explore the next day. We walked along the river, viewed el Torro de Oro, el Alcazar and la catedral. On our walk we stopped twice for vinto tinto con queso y pan. The sun began to set as we made our way to the restaurant for dinner. This time I enjoyed gazpacho and a salad similar to a nicoise salad. Of course, tinto vino accompanied the meal.

The next day, Kaylene and I hit the ground running. We visited the Alcazar and the cathedral. Both were simply amazing...with ornate decor. The Alcazar was the home of several moorish rulers as well as many spanish kings and queens. Queen Isabella and King ferdinand were married in one of the rooms we visited. Wow, what a wedding it must have been. To walk where kings and queens of Spain spent their daily live is a truly surreal experience. The current King has living quarters in the top floor today. The architecture is primarily contains Islam construction, however, as different religious power changed hands, more and more christian...gothic architeture was incorporated to the grounds. The gardens are aromatic, cool and peaceful. I wouldn´t mind being a queen for a day!

After our tour through the Alcazar, we took a tapas break, where I tasted orange wine....very much like sherry. It was nice, but more like a dessert.

La Catedral is an extraordinary site to see. It is a cathedral with the largest interior in the world. Apparently, it is in the Guinness world book of records! The altar is a brilliant with gold. My explanation could not come close to the true view. While cathedral was consecrated as catholic in the 15th century, it was originally built as a mosque in the 12th century.

Did you know that Christopher Columbus was buried on a tomb in this cathedal? Well, his body was moved back and forth from various locations, with the most recent move from Cuba. The tomb exhibits 4 huge figures representing the 4 kindoms of Spain at the time of Columbus`s adventures to discover the Americas.

Kaylene and I were becoming a bit weary from our serious touring, so we headed back to the hotel. On our way, we made a reservation for dinner at a lovely restaurant located in an old Arab bathhouse. The food was Italian and a nice change of pace from the tapas we´ve been eating every day. We were set for the night....

The rain started again, so we took advantage of the opportunity to take a nap before our night out. We awakened to some thunder, but knew we must not miss the show, so we ventured out into the night through the winding and very wet streets.

When we arrived at the small flamenco showhouse, I was amazed at the number of people who also knew about the place to see authentic flamenco and it was authentic!!The show took place in a courtyard area with a large bowl of floating flowers in the front of the stage. Soon after being seated, the singer and guitarist entered, sat down and began. Wow, is all I can say. What a voice! What playing! Then a male dancer came to the stage....the passion in his dance spread through the audience as people yelled Ole! The profound emotion shown in his dance was brilliant!Could the dance get any better? Well, yes...the female dancer joined him. The back and forth speaking without words was exhilarating. Everyone must see a flamenco show!

The show left everyone in awe. There could be no better time for dinner and vino! Kaylene and I made our way to San Marco´s. As soon as we arrived, the waiter was instantly enamoured with Kaylene and spent much time wooing her throughout the evening. His name was Acha. He begged Kaylene to stay in Sevilla and also said he would stay with her forever. She was flattered but chose not to accept his proposal. Instead she settled for flirting, free wine and free limoncello. Being the great friend I am, I shared the freebies from her new honey!

OK, friends.....I am now in Tarifa and the beach is lovely....I´ll tell you more about it tomorrow...Hasta luego! Love, LeeAnn

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Estoy mui bien!

Hola amigos! Hoy es domingo y camine mucho.

This morning, I awakened to Kaylene rustling through her pack to find her flashlight and realized my watch alarm did not ring as it was set for 7 am this morning. Oh....what are vacations for if you can´t sleep until the last minute, throw on some clothes and head out for the day. Actually, it didn´t matter much given my backpack had not yet arrived at the hostal. So, yes, I did wear the same lovely attire for another day..

Our group gathered in the coffee shop; we enjoyed our European breakfast of prociutto, cheese, bread and cafe con leche, then took a brief walk to the metro. We caught a train, then bus to Toledo, an ancient city of coexisting religious groups - Catholic, Jewish and Muslim. Toledo is also the home of El Greco, the famous painter, who has many art pieces throughout the city. On one corner, there is a simple synogogue with a striking interior with elaborate gold carving on the walls., A few meters away, the alcazar (mosque)piered above all other structures, but was unfortunately closed for renovation. The most phenomenal structure was the Catholic cathedral filled with extraordinary El Greco, Velasquez and other art pieces. Other previous pieces included gold, metal, alabaster, and walnut wood. Somewhat hidden an altar was literally carved into the ceiling to allow more light into the holy structure. While walking through the cathedral, red hat were hanging from the ceiling. Interestingly, these hats were located just above the burial place of bishops who passed over the years. The hats are expected to remain in place until they rot and fall.

On to lunch....I was so proud of myself for putting my Spanish to use. I ordered delcious championes and calamares (mushrooms and squid)and each was tasty. Of course a little tinto vino from La Mancha perfectly completed the meal. Delicioso!

After spending several hours in toledo, the group headed back to our hostal for a break. A shower was in order as to prepare us for the next shift of site'seeing....more tapas...actually this time I enjoyed paella, while others enjoyed octupus, pigs ears and potato OF COURSE VINO TINTO!

OK.... I plan to abruptly end this evenings blog, as Kaylene and I head back for some rest before our long day of travelling to sevilla. I´ll write more later.....