Andar por andar

We had 12 days of beautiful sunshine at the beginning of this trip but once in Madrid it has been cloudy and rainy. This morning I took a walk in the light rain to the Rastro, a city wide garage sale that happens every Sunday morning. There were few people out so I did not know if there would be anybody at the sale. Silly me. The Rastro is many blocks long and fills most of the Embajadores neighborhood and the streets are pedestrian only. You can buy literally anything there from tee shirts to wedding gowns, pots and pans, antiques, and crafts of all kinds.

On my way out I passed through the Plaza Mayor where every Sunday morning stamp and coin collectors gather to sell and show their wares. I wish I knew enough about coins to pick something up for Gordon Milligan.

I walked back to the apartment to dry out and have lunch. After lunch I sat to watch the World Cup basketball game between Spain and Argentina and fell asleep. When I woke the sun was out so I decided to take another walk. After the 3 days of rain and clouds, it looked as though Madrid was having a fire drill. Everyone was out walking arm and arm. It was pleasant to see 3 and 4 generations of families out walking jut to be out walking. Idid a little reconnaissance for restaurants for when my Camino friends get here. I found Jean’s favorite El Buey and another recommended by the Morands. I look forward to trying them both.

The street signs in old Madrid are large and often still have the pictures of the name of the street. Example being Calle del Codo has a picture of an elbow. I had to take a picture of a newer sign as it seemed like me.

Gracia in Spanish is not grace as in holy or well coordinated. It means funny as in HAHA.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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Yo, solito

Most of the members of the tour group had early flights and were long gone by the time I woke around 8:30. I had breakfast with the couple from the class of 1962. Very nice people who were also smart enough to plan an extra day in Madrid. I then completed my packing and had a cab ride over to the apartment I am renting for 11 days until my cruise home.

It is an amazing apartment. In a very old residential building at the end of the Gran Vía, it overlooks the Plaza de España with its statues of Son Quijote and Sancho Panza. Just a few blocks from the National Palace and the Plaza Mayor it is a great walking location for all things Spanish.

The apartment may be in an old building but it is modern and well furnished. I got here at noon and exchanged payment for keys with the owner. I then spent time unpacking and orienting myself to the apartment. I then went grocery shopping which was quite an adventure. I came home to do laundry and prepare myself a ration of lentils and vegetables while I did laundry. This may be mundane to most but this is my life and I am learning to accept it as I continue my search for myself.

I will be alone in this apartment until the 18th when my Camino reunion mates roll in for four days of touring and reminiscing. I look forward to their arrival but I find that I am surprisingly comfortable by myself. This is particularly surprising because I have little experience being alone. One of seven children who has had at least one roommate for all of his life alone time is relatively new to me.

This is the new normal. Mourning is for others. I choose to accept my fate and concentrate on how lucky I have been. How fortunate I am to have had such a wonderful life, family, and friends. Most of you who are reading this know who you are and how important you are to me. Tomorrow is another wonderful day in a happy life. I can hardly wait to see what adventures tomorrow will bring.

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The Prado

Our final day in our oficial tour we had our only weather of note. We had a cloudy walk from our hotel through the Retiro Park visiting the Estanque of the lake in the middle of the park and the Christal Palace.

We then walked to the Prado Museum one of the finest collections of art in the world. It houses the masters of the Spanish and Holy Roman Empire to include Rubens, Titian, Velazquez, and Goya as well as many others.

We spent 2-3 hours in the museum and then on to a lunch. Soon after we sat down the sky opened up and the temperature dropped dramatically. The tour members of the class of 1971 (Ritchie, Doug and Ruth Cleavenger, and Mary and Tom Luján) had a leisurely lunch out of the rain and decided that visiting the Reina Sofia Museum and Picasso’s Guernica will have to wait. Tonight we have our farewell dinner. Due to the cold I introduced some of the members to my favorite Spanish Brandy, Gran Duque de Alba which may have influenced our decision to taxi back to the hotel. A decision I will stand by proudly.

As we exited the museum I had to take a picture of the statue of Goya with his pigeon adornments in honor of a joke recently sent to me.

I will be moving to my VRBO apartment tomorrow for phase two of my adventure. I know that the location of the apartment is great, I hope the place is as nice. Stay tuned and I will let you know.

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Madrid

Oh how I love this city. I have been stationed here twice and there is something special about Madrid. It is a modern capital city with all its hustle and bustle but something about it makes me feel at home. Jean and i loves living here and visiting here. It is a safe and comfortable city where the pace of life and weather are comfortable and inviting. I love the food, the wine, and the people. It is a great walking city. Today we had a driving tour and a guided tour of the palace and old Madrid followed by a lunch of tapas. I wanted to walk back to the hotel which was about 2+ miles away in 82 degree sunny weather. It was enjoyable beyond belief. To walk through the plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, passing Km 0, the PLAZA DE Cibeles, Paseo del Prado, la Puerta de Alcalá, and the Retiro Park each brought back fond memories of happiness that I will cling to all the days God grants me.

Tonight we attended a Flamenco show. Few artful expressions capture the spirit of this culture like the music and dance of the Flamenco. I have lived each show I have seen. It never gets old.

The national Palace:

Flamenco show:

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Oh Toledo not Toledo OH

Traveling north from Ubeda we soon entered the province of Castilla and La Mancha. The land of castles from the 11th century and important parts of the recon quest of the Iberian Peninsula.

We then came into Toledo, the long serving capital of Spain and the center of learning and mix of the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish cultures for hundred of years. This naturally defendable town is on a high hill and protected by the Tajo river. It was the capital for Romans and Visigoths long before the Islamic invasion and was not conquered by the Christians until the 12th century. Today it is a living capital city of a province but looks like a museum.

We could easily spend a week here but we had time to visit the Cathedral and take a few pictures before moving on to Madrid.

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On to Ubeda-Got olives

There is an unlikely Parador in the small town of Ubeda where we spent one night. It is in the center of the province of Jaén. We drove for hours with olive trees as far as the eye could see.

Jaén is responsible for 45 % of Spanish olive oil production and 25% of world wide production. We visited a few well preserved public buildings from the 1500s

but the most amazing sights were only discovered 10 years ago during construction of an apartment building. The remains of a synagogue from the 13th century that had been covered over and long forgotten. The meticulous restoration took place with loving care and discovered a number of Sefardic Jewish items and a a basement mikve or ceremonial washing place in the basement in what seems to be surrounded by a much older Neolithic dwelling from 5-6000 years ago.

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Mary and Tom visit the Alhambra

As there are so many wonderful photo opportunities in Granada and I am at the mercy of local bandwidth, I have broken up my offerings to show as much as I can. Below please find some of the scenes of the Alhambra which include the Lujans of Minnesota and your humble servant.

In the patio de Leones:

From the gardens looking at the Alhambra with our guide

By the reflecting pool outside the thrown room

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Granada

If you have but one palace to visit in your life, come to Granada and visit the Alhambra and it’s gardens, the Generalife. There is nothing like it in the world for its beauty and it’s majesty. We were blessed with wonderful weather for our visit which was helpful with the extensive grounds and the crowds.

Occupied by the Moorish rulers for nearly 400 years its continuous improvements and strategic location allowed it to serve as both a fortress and a palace. The Alhambra is a building which reflects pure architecture of Islam as well as the teachings of the Koran about self. The outside is plainly unimpressive. Brown and red clay stucco and windowless.

Once you enter, it is an assault on the senses. Your eyes are entertained by a dazzling array of colors of tile, flowers, and intricate lattice work of plaster.

Your skin is cooled by mountain breezes channeled through windows and passageways as well as a running system of fountains, you smell the jasmine, roses, and incense, and you are entertained by the sounds of the fountains and running water. (Of course we were also assaulted by the sights and snarls if a million tourists but let’s stay positive shall we. )

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Ronda in the afternoon

After our morning walk we had the usual wonderful European breakfast and a short break before our guided tour of the highlights of Ronda. We toured the cathedral with its highly unusual all female last supper.

And the altar dedicated to the phases of Saint Mary’s life with its 18 kilograms of gold leaf.

Later we toured the bull ring and had some fun learning of the ancient art.

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Early morning walk in Ronda

We got up early with our guide to see the sun come over the mountains to shine on this jewel of a city. It was quiet and deserted which made its cavernous presence even more amazing.

The air was cool which was a welcome change from the 100+ we were experiencing earlier in the trip.

Later in the day we enjoyed a guided tour where we discovered the many famous writers and directors that have enjoyed time in Ronda. The Orson Wells walkways are in honor of the film based on the Hemingway nivel Death in the Afternoon.

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