Friday, October 29, 2010


            Set in the heart of Andalucía, in the beautiful Serranía de Ronda mountains. Its gorge—El Tajo—is a 360 foot drop of breathtaking beauty. The New Bridge (Puento Nuevo) was built in 1751 and still supports cars and tourists and still displays the glory of this countryside.
View from Puento Nuevo
            After walking over the bridge, I travelled down to the bottom of the gorge along a dirt path with no guard rails to the Jardines de Cuenca—a feat unacceptable in the US. Worth every breathtaking step (literally). Stunning.
Puento Nuevo from the Jardines de Cuenco
            In Moorish town, behind tiny (two way) streets that barely fit one mini European car, lay the city walls. Walking through arches and down cobbled steps, we arrived at the Arab baths. These were well preserved—used during Arab occupation for hygiene as well as socialization. From here, you can get a faboulous view of the old bridge (a relative term)—also still in use.
The Bullring
            The bullring, a quarter of a mile down the road, birthed the “art” of bullfighting in Spain. It originated as a training grounds for soldiers and has developed into an art form. The fight takes place in three acts: the first is a parade, the second a lot of fancy tricks by the matador, the third features the kill. And the kill is barbaric. Picadors pick the bull with darts to “drain” the stress of the journey and the matador, with a curved blade, must stab the bull in the precise spot to kill it instantly. In Ronda, only one bullfighter died in the ring and his remains were buried there.
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LOST (Part 2)

            …So we unloaded the few little things we had in our Hobbit room (except it was up and not down). It had to be no more that 15’x15’ with a king sized bed. I felt like Alice when she grew too big. We then began our search for our car.
            Neil swore he’d find it. Remember, it was buried in a garage somewhere in Madrid—but we really only had about a kilometer radius to search. I’m not sure who was the silliest—Neil for saying he could find the car when he gets lost in Plattsburgh, or me—for believing him. I guess desperate minds believe anything.
            We crossed the bridge with no problems. But then—all the roads here fan out from traffic circles. I think we had four choices. I followed Neil up one. About a quarter of a mile up he said, “This isn’t right. I think it’s the other.”
            We walked up that one—again a quarter mile. This road had wrought iron fences like the one where we parked the car. But again—the wrong road. Back we trudged and then up a third, then back, then peaked down the fourth—obviously wrong.
            We started the process all over. Finally we took a little road along the “river.’ (They appear to be not much more than evaporating creeks). Little things began to look familiar—a bench, the park along the river, we turned up a side road because of obstructions and what did I spy? The wrought iron fences.
Renault ClioImage via Wikipedia            Two more streets and the cervasaceria we stopped at came into view. We turned back down the road and there stood our garage. We scurried in, found our itty-bitty Clio and drove to the hotel.
            Our twenty-five minute trip lasted over three hours.
            Now all we had to do was figure out how to turn the lights on in our room. (Or how to use a bidet—what use are they?)
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

LOST (Madrid Style)

            It was an omen. After four hours trying to get a Blackberry set up for our overseas adventure, as I sat in the airport in NYC, I couldn’t make a phone call. As I waited for my plane, I decided to call my mother and tell her how easy it would be for her when she joined us in Spain. The call wouldn’t go through. If it didn’t work here, how could it in Europe?
            I took a deep breath and decided to act grown-up about it (and you know how well I do that). After an uneventful and sleepless flight we descended to Madrid. With our landing, the European attitude descended upon me. Calmly, with patience, I passed through customs, presenting the entrance paper filled out on the plane. The custom’s official handed back the receipt—one I needed to present upon returning—the one that couldn’t be lost. I tucked it into my passport. And yes—but you’re getting ahead of the story.
            We picked up our bags, decided to change some, not all our money—mistake two. Got our car and a GPS which should more accurately be named ILT (I’m Lost, Too). Thus ended the well-planned version of our trip.Night view from the Gran Vía, a downtown avenu...Image via Wikipedia
GPS navigation solution running on a smartphon...Image via Wikipedia            We decided to drive south from Madrid because we had a seven hour layover in the airport—we could drive faster. We’d stay in a hotel whose name we couldn’t pronounce. It was located a mere twenty-five minutes from the airport, and we’d walk about a bit to get the feel of this foreign capital, find a restaurant and enjoy.
           "ILT" didn’t know where the hotel was. She directed us through the city all right, brought us to a road just minutes from our destination, then sent us into a tunnel.
            And the tunnel went on and on and on and on. And on. (It was a LONG one).
Once back in daylight, wandering crowded streets with no names posted, with directions in spewed out in meters, “ILT” wended us through the shoppers and tourists and Madrilejos, back onto a major road, and somehow back into the same tunnel.
We took a different exit from the tunnel, wended other unfamiliar streets, took a side road, a quick exit onto another road and…yep. The tunnel.
I think we hit that thing four times. Each time, as we entered, the "ILT" told us we would be at our destination in one more minute. It would display the little checkered flag announcing our arrival just as daylight disappeared from the tunnel and we lost satellite reception.
Finally out once more, we took fate into our own hands. We were near our hotel (albeit in two hours rather than twenty-five minutes). We found a garage. Parked. Neil, who did all the driving—(thank you, Jesus)—wanted to take a cab.
We found a Cervaceria, got a Coke, took a bathroom break and asked directions.
And can Spaniards speak fast! The waitress drew directions on a napkin. Somehow we figured she said we could walk faster than we could drive. And I understood next to nothing.
I should say nothing. I couldn’t even follow her directions on the napkin.
We took a cab.
And in two minutes we arrived at the hotel. Neil assured me he could find the rented car, parked in an underground garage, on an unnamed street somewhere in Madrid.
And I found that believable.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

I Fell In Love: Sarah

     Thirty-four years ago I met the most wonderful person I've ever known. She lay on my belly, her beautiful round face staring up at me. Eyes bluer than any robin's egg held mine. I fell in love with the child who would become my closest friend.
     She's a faithful friend. Once the bond had been made, Sarah will not abandon those she loves. I've seen her hurt and listened to her tears over a friend who would no longer return her love. Sarah has a plethora of good friends, but she grieves over the one lost one just as Jesus mourned the one lost sheep. She continued seeking the connection that broke and her love an persistence restored it.
     No mother could be so devoted. All who meet her children acclaim their goodness. One couple decided to have children because of the example set by Caroline and David. Why are these children good? Because my daughter pours love and discipline into them.
     Sarah will sacrifice time on holidays--and her own family time to travel to be with family. As most live on Long Island, the few vacation days she has are spent catering to the needs of those she loves. She drove 300 miles one way, on a weekend, just to attend my surprise party (and surprise retirement fete). She couldn't dream of missing it.
     Her talent amazes me: look at her photography, photoshop skills, scrapbook pages. She plays the flute and oboe and designs amazing rooms in her house.
     She adores Jesus, loves her family and Neil and me. My best friend and kindred spirit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Manzanares_naturelle.JPGImage via Wikipedia
Do you know where in Spain bullfighting was born?
Why was this event created?
Why do they call the  rings: "Plaza des Toros?"
Why is the cape red? Who is the most revered bullfighter in its birthplace?
Before going into the ring, where does every matador stop?
Where in the paper will you read about bullfights?
Walkway named for Ernest Hemingway, Ronda, Spa...Image via Wikipedia*****************************************************
Shortly, Neil and I will be heading off to Spain--and forcing our travelogue on anyone sweet enough to read my blog. One of the first places we'll travel is to the birthplace of bullfighting: Ronda, Spain in the Andalucia region. It began here to train knights in combat.

Ronda actually uses a ring and always has. However,  bullfights used to be held in the village square, thus the term Plaza des Toros.

The most revered bullfighter in Ronda is Francisco Romero, who, according to Rick Steves, melded chaotic and noble bullfighting to create the current format. He is also credited with the using the red cape. The bull is color blind and the color of the cape was probably used to camouflage the blood. His son Juan made it more an art form and his grandson, Pedro, who killed 6,000 bulls in his career.

Ronda (Spain), Chapel Templete de la Virgen de...Image via Wikipedia
As bullfighting is an "art," the results are found in the culture section of the newspapers.

Last of all, the last stop a matador makes before entering the ring is at the chapel--he prays to Mary in hopes of seeing her again.

Unfortunately, (Or probably fortunately for me) we won't see a fight. They're held in September. We will however tour the ring.
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