Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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My Travel ABCs

Thank you, Cathy of www.travelingwithsweeney.com  for nominating me for this meander back to journeys past, and I have to say what a very pleasant experience it’s been.  The older you get, the more memories, obviously, some clouded by time and yet others fresh as the day they happened and the latter are, I guess, the ones I remember:

A.  Age you went on your first International trip:  I was fifteen. It was a school exchange trip to Sölingen in Germany. I had a big, old suitcase like something out of Agatha Christie, with a tennis racket strapped to the outside – how many black & white movies had I seen??? And it was train and ferry – pity the poor teachers in charge of a gaggle of teenage girls! I was thinking about it only the other day, and have a partly written post when I get time to finish it!

B.  Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:  According to knowledgeable friends, my taste in beer is pathetic (I actually like light, lager-type beers), but I do have a good memory of a wet, blustery and boozy afternoon and  “Black Velvet” – Guinness with champagne – in the Isle of Man off the coast off north west England some years ago.

C.  Cuisine:  Default response – Italian, even though I love Thai, French, Indian and sushi  – yep, even after consideration, it’s Italian, especially homemade with really fresh ingredients natch.

D.  Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:  Least favorite, Paris. Maybe expectations were too high, maybe because it was February (dreary month for northernEurope), maybe in wrong company – oh I had a good time, and I did enjoy it, but it simply didn’t “do it” for me the way I expected. Rome, on the other hand, twists itself around my heart more each time I return.

E.  Event you experienced which made you go Wow!: American Football game in London last year – 49ers vs Broncos – I had no idea it would be so exciting, so strategic. I’d had totally wrong idea about it! And the crowd control by the London Police afterwards was superb, and interesting in itself. I’d never been to a game in the US, so, even though I’d seen them on tv, I wasn’t prepared for all the razzle dazzle. Felt more like being in the US than the UK!
F.  Favorite mode of transportation: No contest – trains! I went on the Orient Express when it first re-launched in the 80s, and that may be the travel highlight of my life (I’d really have to give that a lot of thought before I said it for sure), but I love all trains, even the sardine-jammed one I took to Snowdonia in Wales in 2010 – I stood all the way from Chester, but the scenery was so wonderful I didn’t care. On the other hand, I do love road trips because you can stop whenever and wherever you choose, change your itinerary on a whim.
G.  Greatest feeling whilst travelling: Two feelings, and I can’t choose between them. One is the excitement/challenge of new places/experiences and the other is the utter freedom from routine. Sometimes when I’m travelling alone I love that, basically, no-one knows where I am at a precise moment.
H.  Hottest place you’ve travelled to:  Haven’t been anywhere exotic and hot, but experiencing heat in a city is different from being in the country or on the coast. I remember wilting inMadrid one July. It was as if the heat hit the concrete and then bounced back, having heated up some more. It was around 45ºC I think. Although summer in the Canary Islands isn’t as bad as some places (we always have an Atlantic breeze to cool things down in the evenings), I’m getting past enjoying it to be honest. I like sunshine and warmth but not so much the sticky.
I.  Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: This is going to be really corny, but I can’t think of anywhere with better service than Disney World. It’s partly what they’ve built their reputation on, isn’t it, so that’s not surprising. It’s not something most places inTenerife prioritize, which is one thing which lets the island down, I’m afraid.
J.  Journey that took you the longest:  Not a nice story really, but some years back we (as a family) were going fromManchester toMalaga, and very early that morning there was an accident atManchester airport.  As I recall a plane caught fire on takeoff, it wasn’t a crash as such, but the runway was closed and chaos ensued. It took us exactly 24 hours from door to door, which should have been four hours. We were bussed to a different airport, and travelling with two small children it wasn’t easy, but they were so good. I was so proud of them! They were clearly destined to travel!  In one way, it wasn’t a bad experience because everyone was so nice to each other, thinking, I suppose, “That could have been me.”
K.  Keepsakes from your travels:  I don’t have any, specific thing, but I usually like to get something small to remember a place, bookmarks, fridge magnets (yup I know!), books, and I like buying clothes when I travel. I don’t keep them forever, of course, but nice memories each time I wear whatever it is.
L.  Let down site. Where and Why?: You think I’m going to say the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, because of what I said about Paris before, don’t you? But, no. I’m not sure I’ve ever been hugely let down by anything. Most busy tourist sights are busy and corny for a reason, because there is something amazing about them. However, returning to Rome after a 30 year gap I could have cried to see the hoards of tourists snapping away around the Trevi Fountain, somewhere which had been every bit as romantic as it was in the movies on my first visit.
M.  Moment you fell in love with travel:  I was in love with the idea of travel long before I set foot on foreign soil. As a kid I used to keep scrap books with pictures of other lands I intended to visit.
N.  Nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in:  Poshest? The Gritti Palace inVenice.  We arrived at a small hotel/guest house which had been recommended by friends, to find it all locked up.  We glimpsed a lovely flower-filled courtyard through iron gates, and it looked absolutely charming, but the rest of my group didn’t want to wait for the owner to return, and one couple was especially “nouveau riche” so the Gritti it was. I wasn’t at all impressed in any way by it, except for the setting of course…..that was to-die-for.
O.  Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?:  I honestly can’t think of one, particular thing. I just like to try to record my impressions.
P.  Passport stamps? How many and where from?: Sad, sad, sad.  Only theUS andCanada outside ofEurope.  It’s not nearly so much fun travelling aroundEurope these days when we don’t get passports stamped.
Q.  Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?   Quirky is the word most often used to describe Gaudí! I’m a great admirer of his work, but it is rather, individual, I guess. No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing a piece of his architecture.
R.  Recommended sight, event or experience: I think everyone should go to Carnival at least once in their life! Here in Santa Cruz de Tenerife we have the biggest one outside of Rio de Janeiro, and it is, quite simply,  the biggest street party you can imagine – and I’m not really a party-type person! I also went to the one in Nice,  which was quite different and equally as much fun in a totally different way. Still hope to get to Venice and to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, of course.
S.  Splurge – something you have no trouble forking out for when travelling?:  Food and drink, although in the past I’ve been  able to afford to splurge more, not so much these days.  It’s a huge part of the travel experience, even a sandwich in the park tastes different when you’re travelling.
T.  Touristy thing you’ve done: Disney World! I adore it!
U.  Unforgettable travel memory: Standing atop the Empire State building. Somewhere I’d seen so often in movies that it seemed as if I was in a dream, and the first time I saw the Teide National Park inTenerife almost took away my breath.  I’m living inTenerife now, but then it was like going to the moon.
V.  Visas – how many of them and for where: Same as the passport stamps. The current passport is pathetic.
W.  Wine, best glass while travelling and where: I suppose I have to say Dom Pèrignon on the Orient Express, sitting in a piano bar, all polished mahogany, sliding through the French countryside. Never to be forgotten, nor to be repeated!
X.  Excellent view and from where:  Whoa – hard! From top of the Empire State Building? The London Eye? St Peter’s Basilica? La Iglesia de la Concepción in La Laguna? Well, those sprawls of humanity are fascinating, yes, and I’d repeat any of them tomorrow, but the most breathtaking ever was only last year – driving up to the Teide National Park at sunset, my friend and I were simply stunned by this sunset, highlighting the “Mar de Nubes” (Ocean of Clouds), and the island of La Gomera rising on the horizon.
Y.  Years spent travelling:  Well, given that first school trip at 15 that makes a neat 50 years. Never been able to lead “nomadic existence” for more than two or three months, but I think it’s true to say that not many days of my life have passed without me dreaming of going somewhere or other.
Z.  Zealous Sports Fans and Where: I would say the London Marathon. My son, Guy, took part nearly two years ago now, and being there to watch was incredible. Afterwards we went to eat at a favorite place, and people stopped him to ask his time & how he’d done, and everywhere there were folk with T-shirts or medals or goodie bags. It was as if London had become a village for the day and everyone knew each other. Wonderful experience.

Phew – that was fun, drifting down memory lane a while, and now I nominate the folk below to do the same!

Okey, doke, now I’ve looked back at other posts with this theme, and I’m really not sure who began it, so a thanks to whomever it was, and thanks to Cathy for nominating me.  I’m also not sure who’s already done it. Looks like it’s being going around for a while, so here I’m tagging some random folk, and if you’ve already done it, or don’t have time, well just ignore I guess!

Katrina of Tourabsurd.com

Andy and Jack from Buzztrips.co.uk

Barbara from Holeinthedonut.com

Laurel from Expat in Germany

Lily from Sunshine  and Stilettos


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2011: Postcards to Myself

2011 was, well, ok. It had several challenges and some very low spots, but there were plenty of good times too, and those are the times we remember.

It was another slow travel year, though, this recession bites deeper all the time. That said, it was Sevilla and Barcelona, York and London and the English Lake District, not exactly the armpits of the world, eh! It was also Cirque du Soleil, Las Tablas de San Andres and snow, lots of snow this year :=) (well, up in the mountains at least). There was also lots of sunshine, waves, fiestas, visits from friends old and new; some wonderful hiking and delicious food and wine. It was a chance to improve my photography, and some stunning scenery to inspire it, both near and afar-ish.

Things that stand out:

  •  I actually got paid to write something! OK not going to either win the Pulitzer nor keep the wolf from the door, but it was an ambition achieved.
  • I went rappelling, which just shook my whole world up in terms of having done something I didn’t think I could do.
  •  Kew Gardens, which was amazing (and I only saw a fraction of it!) and proved to me that even in a place you’ve known for years you can still find new and wonderful things.
  • The forth was the first time Maria and I went in search of the stars and instead found the amost overwhelmingly beautiful sunset ever (We did find stars in the end too, but it was the unexpected sunset which took away my breath).
  • “Discovering” the Anaga Mountains was memorable too. It was the last place on Tenerife I hadn’t been, and within a half hour of hiking it had become my favorite.

Mostly what stands out are the times I spent with my wonderful family and friends every one of whom is a blessing to me, and whom I am very grateful to have in my life. Not all those times are represented in this mosaic because not everyone is comfortable being splashed around online.

Since I began this blog I’ve never used New Year’s Eve for musings much.  I did hit a big birthday this year, and that has given me pause for thought, but more of that another day, for now it’s just what I’ve always done – paint a wee mosaic of my year.


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Maria’s Favorite Nook in Barcelona

This post will probably not be what you expect. It wasn’t what I expected, as we strolled the winding streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, and Maria said, “Come on. I’ll take you to my favorite square in the city.”

I expected, I suppose, perhaps somewhere like La Plaza de las Naranjas in Marbella, a colorful square filled with flora, people and parasols. It wasn’t anything like that.

Fascinated by the narrow streets through which we passed, I was snapping photos and not thinking about much else. As Maria walked through an archway I called out for her to turn around and pose, but she didn’t hear me.

As I passed under the same arch something seemed to flow over me, a sense of peace.  I was aware of a palpable silence, yet we’d only walked a few seconds from Barcelona’s hustle and bustle. It was as if passing under that archway marked a beginning and an ending. There was one of those wild-looking hobo-types ranting and apparently drunk, but he didn’t seem to be threatening, and his chatter was easy to block out in the overwhelming sense of tranquility.

The square wasn’t pretty, though there was an old fountain in its center, and a bar tucked into a corner.  It was a austere, and had a run-down air……. and then Maria explained to me why.

We were in the square of the church of San Felipe Neri, and although I didn’t remember the name, I did remember reading about the place where Franco’s troops had executed untold numbers of folk during the Spanish Civil War.  The run-down look of the walls of the church and the adjoining buildings, which had been a convent and a school, was because those pockmarks were caused by the bullets of the firing squads.

Knowing that, I can’t account for this sense of calm. Perhaps the ghosts are at peace, as some website claimed when I looked it up later.  Civil Wars are always the most destructive, as if some special venom is reserved for our brothers and sisters, and Spain’s began a mere 75 years ago, it’s barely history. For sure there are still open wounds, events which need explaining, disappearances which need to be solved, and it’s hard to imagine that the ghosts would yet be at peace. If you google la Iglesia de San Felipe Neri many sites don’t even mention the executions, not unusual in a country which tried to bury its collective memories, and which, in many ways, still has to come to terms with them. The web sites mention the bomb, which fell there in 1938, which resulted in the the deaths of between 20 and 45 people (depending on which site you read), most of whom were children, sheltering in the basement of the 18th Century church when the ceiling caved in, and they mention that it is the site of an ancient burial ground, so if anywhere is the haunt of the dead, this place would be.

I left my camera around my neck, untouched.   This place seemed too sacred to play tourist. The church doors were firmly shut on the day we were there. I don’t know if it is open to tourists normally, but as Maria’s words sank in, and I stood quietly by the fountain absorbing them, this quirky vehicle drew slowly by.

It seemed incongruous, brightly-colored and commercial against the sombre walls, and yet who was I to judge – isn’t that how wars begin? Perhaps the people were too infirm to walk the city’s streets, and wasn’t this environmentally friendly and quiet, and who am I to think I have any more right to be there than they? And if this tragic place is on the tourist circuit isn’t it right that we should know the truth and remember it? I raised my camera, but without the enthusiasm I usually feel.

 


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My Special Barcelona Places

It’s almost over, 2011, and I was looking back over the things I’d filed away to post “later” and never did get around to doing.  Considering that my only trip this year was a mere three or four weeks I can’t believe how much of it I missed posting about.  Probably because so much of it was very personal time, and I have, even now, a lingering sense of sadness about the trip.

That aside, Barcelona, was, as always, a very vibrant memory, and I deliberately didn’t write about my favorite places because I wanted to take my time and do them justice.  However, it is now time. I always like to at least try to begin the new year with as many ends as possible tidied up, so here are some more memories from one of my favorite cities:

Barcelona might be the richest city in the world architecturally, and many of the inspiring buildings are churches and cathedrals. When you say “Barcelona,” for many people the image which first springs to mind is Gaudi’s still-unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, others will register the word “Gothic” and think about the Cathedral and its surrounds, but the two images which first flash across my brain are these:

Santa Maria del Mar

The church of Santa Maria del Mar may not be as grand and flashy as La Sagrada Familia or the Gothic Cathedral, but it’s one of the few churches I know which make me feel the way I think I should feel in a church…..peaceful and happy.

The first time I came across it, knowing nothing about it, was by accident.  I had been in the city for a few days, and was recovering from the worst food poisoning of my life, so I was strolling very gently, sin rumbo (without direction – love that phrase in Spanish), when something drew me in.  From the outside it really didn’t look very impressive, but when I entered it was like crossing the threshold to another dimension. To eyes perhaps wearied by Gaudí’s opulence, and a heart jaded by Gothic religious overkill, the church was a haven of light and elegance.

Although it was under construction during the same period as the city’s cathedral in the 14th century, and the style is Gothic, there is a simplicity to the interior which makes me feel as though, if  “God”  had to choose somewhere to live, this would be it. The lack of clutter, an open space without transepts, and columns which really seem to be reaching to heaven give it a graceful majesty, but the stained glass windows give it warmth. It’s accepted that this church is the church of the people, (whereas the much more showy Cathedral was for the nobility) and, of course, of the sailors and fishermen who made up so much of the population of that time.

Santa Maria del Mar is on the tourist beat (where inBarcelonaisn’t these days?) but it’s less crowded than perhaps better-known places.  My second favorite place is a haven for both tourists and locals, and it’s Port Vell.

Port Vell

Having stuffed ourselves on tapas yet again in wonderful bars which look so uninviting from the outside, but which open out into quirky or cosy or chic interiors, Maria and I thought we might take in an IMAX movie in Port Vell on the city’s stylish waterfront to finish the day. There were certain distractions, though, a street market and a quirky fountain to photograph! In the end we were too late for the movie, so we bought waffles from a kiosk and perched on a bench to scoff them.

Port Vell as it is today was created for the 1992 Olympics, held in Barcelona, but surely must have paid for itself in the tourism it’s attracted since. I adore IMAX movies, so it’s somewhere I always want to go just for that alone, but over the years I’ve eaten some great seafood there, visited the excellent aquarium, done some serious shopping and, on this occasion, had my breath taken away by a stunning sunset.

For a short visit we packed in a lot of on that trip, and there is yet one more place, but I’m saving that for another post…..so it may yet be 2012 before I am finished with all my notes and snaps from this year!


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The One in Which I Find My Fotos from Barcelona!

There are times when I despair of my efficiency, and there are others when I surprise myself! Despite deleting the photos of Barcelona from my laptop I find that I actually did back them up!  Now, go on, ask me why I didn’t check to see if I’d done that before I began gnashing teeth and wailing!  Answer: I have no memory of doing it at all!  I have this probably-stupid habit of not backing them up until I’ve used them for my immediate purposes i.e. this blog etc.  Anyhoo, Woot! I am happy to say I seem to have backed up Barca when I backed up Sevilla…..so here are the fotos which should have been in the last post :=)

La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s as-yet-unfinished masterpiece.  Even down there, admiring it, I didn’t get the sense of just how huge it is that I got from this vantage point atop Parc Güell.

If I could time travel Gaudi is one of the people I would love to meet! Even today his ideas seem quirky and surreal, so how must they have appeared to be back then? Or was it that the world was being shaken then by new ideas in art which have, in fact, never really become “the norm”. I love the way that Gaudi confounds our perspective of how things “ought” to be, and shows us the possibilities of how things “could” be. Seeing his creations is like being in Disney World, a fantasy universe where the roof of a house might just turn out to be made of gingerbread, and a bench is made up of all the colors of the rainbow.

The protected frontage of the Palau de Musíca – see previous post. Of course it wasn’t only Gaudi who epitomized this era of fantasy and over-the-top gorgeousness! Lluís Domènech i Montaner was the creator of this intricate and stunning auditorium, which I couldn’t afford to experience inside :=(  However, if you want an idea of  just how beautiful it is simply Google Palau de Musica and look at the images there.  I’m just hoping that next time I visit Barcelona there will be pix here too….maybe even a report of a concert I saw there, because the agenda for the coming weeks looked marvelous.

The box office is now sited in that shiny, new part, but don’t you feel an urge to time travel back to when the box office looked like this? Wasn’t that a time of style and fun which got lost somewhere along the way? Ah, this must be one of the reasons I love Barcelona so much!

This sculpture on the corner of the building, by Miguel Blay, is called “Catalan Song”. The building was, in every sense, a celebration of Catalan talent, vision and creativity, drawing on both history and on modern design.

And, finally – I’ve never been much a fan of Gothic, but I realized in Barcelona’s cathedral that even Gothic style, which, in my mind is a bit overwhelming and threatening, has its humorous side.

I don’t know nearly enough about architecture to know if these come under the heading of gargoyles, and the cathedral being one stop on a busy day of sightseeing I haven’t yet found the history of these quirky adornments, but they definitely amused me!

And to finish at the same point as the last post, Maria, as always knowing just the right pose to strike, alongside the modern portrayal of the word Barcino, the Latin name for Barcelona.


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Reasons to Return

Although I think of myself, essentially, as a country-girl, I love cities. I love their quirks, and their ability to change, and to mix modern with traditional, and how there is always something new to discover, and above all their energy. I need to feed off that energy just as much as I need to feed off the peace of the countryside or the seashore.

I especially adore Spanish cities. I have yet to find one I don’t like, and want to return to – Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Malaga, not forgetting Santa Cruz de Tenerife – all have their special charms, and lots of soul.

Maria and I went to Sevilla this time largely because Cirque de Soleil was there. Temperatures were in the high thirties and locals all said it was a freak heat wave, even by standards of a city known for its summer heat. It was a magical few days, as I’ve already noted, but leaving Sevilla wasn’t that hard. It was time. You don’t always get that feeling, but I had it, despite that I was standing on a street corner at 5am waiting for a taxi, I knew it. I was happy to be on the move again. I’d had a wonderful time, and I loved her to bits, I really hoped to return but I wasn’t in love.

Speeding to the airport you could see that there were wide, modern thoroughfares and smart office blocks outside of the historic and touristy heart of the city. Avenida Kansas City for goodness sake, there must be an interesting story behind that name, surely.

It doesn’t take long to get to Barcelona, you’re still in Spain, but the difference is palpable in the first whiff of air, even at the airport. There is that vibe of a city on the move, an energy which, I’m sorry, I missed in Sevilla. I’m very aware it’s possibly because we stuck to an area which radiated roughly from the cathedral. We only crossed the river once, and I know I still have much to learn and discover. = Reason to return!

Barcelona is more familiar – this was my fourth visit, and, not only that, but it’s Maria’s hometown, and you can’t do better than to be with someone in their hometown if you want to really “get” a place. That said, I had a couple of requests; places I’d missed on previous visits. On my last visit I’d kind of “done” Gaudi, but got distracted by Roman ruins and a chocolate museum (no surprise there, then, for those who know me!), and I missed Parque Güell. Since then I’d watched “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona” a few times, so I really needed to experience it.

Seeing the famous architecture and sculptures I couldn’t, actually, believe that I hadn’t been there before. I had the same reaction when I went to New York. It was all so familiar (but no less impressive for that), because I’d seen it so often on the screen.

The vista from atop the park is stunning. The city meanders over the foreground like a miniature village, and landmarks like La Sagrada Familia (still encircled by cranes) tower above the mass of other structures with authority. We couldn’t resist the corny photo ops – afterall, it’s the fact that something is so good that makes it popular!

As for Gaudi? His vision, his surreal take on the world is beyond words.  So many public spaces, worldwide, copy his style these days, it’s easy to forget just how avant-garde he must have been.  Happily for us he and his imitators have brought much color and humor into our modern lives!

Alas the photos here are all that remain. It’s looking very much as if I’ve deleted the rest by mistake, and I could cry! If I find them hidden somewhere on this p*ta computer I’ll post them as a photo essay, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely :=( Most of these have been recovered from Flickr and Twitpic, so if the quality is lacking, that’s why. = Reason to Return!

I also made my best-ever Bookcrossing release in Parque Güell. I left the book about Gaudi which I’d bought on my last visit, lying on a park bench for the next reader. I figure you can’t get much more apt than that!

What I hadn’t realized from movies or books (I read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s “The Angel’s Game” as my preparation for this visit, perhaps I should have stuck to guides?!) was just how extensive the park is, and that there is more to it than just a pilgrimage to Gaudi. I love to have reasons to revisit places, and since we’d hightailed it straight down there after arriving in the morning, and a lovely lunch prepared by Maria’s sister, we didn’t have enough time to explore it all = Reason to Return :=)

My other requests were the Palau de la Musíca and La Boqueria Market. The latter was to elude me yet again. The last time I attempted to visit was a bank holiday (January 6th, the Day of the Kings) and, as luck would have it, so was the day we chose this year! It was October 12th, Spain’s National Day, and the market was all closed up, save for a few bars around the periphery, which, of course, were chock-a-block. BUT another Reason to Return!

As for the Palau de la Musíca, well, it kind of half-eluded me. From the pictures I’d seen of the Music Palace I imagined it to dominate the surrounding neighborhood, but I’d forgotten about how narrow the streets of the old city are, and we rounded a corner, and there it was, before us. Very impressive, nevertheless, and now protected by a glass façade, which does detract from its beauty, but with which you can’t argue. History has to be preserved and protected, and this is probably the best way. The entry price was just too much for the current state of my bank account, so we had to content ourselves with a stroll just inside the ground floor bar area, and then we trotted around the corner to snap the lavish exterior. The building, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and inaugurated in 1908, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it so epitomizes an era which fascinated me for many years that I could almost have cried. One day I WILL be back to see the elaborate interior and the famous stained glass! =Reason to Return!

Barcelona is one of the best cities I know for just strolling around. I’ve been in all sorts of weather, and even at its coldest or wettest I haven’t been deterred.

Outside the cathedral there is a new photo-op. I have to say again how much I love this blend of ancient and modern that you find in great cities. It’s a sense of life continuing and evolving, appreciating the beauty of the past, but loving the present and looking forward to a bright future. The times I’ve hated cities have been when I’ve visited ones which seemed to be stuck in their past, however fascinating that might be!

We were intrigued, as were dozens of others, as we snapped away, by the red water, looking like blood, oozing from this fountain. It was pretty gruesome, and a couple of weeks to go to Halloween, so not for that. We couldn’t find out if it was intentional, it was Spain’s National Day, a day when the sacrifices of its military are honored, so perhaps, but Maria’s sister thinks it was probably a prank.

There was so much more to this day, but I was relying on the photos as memory prompts…..so I guess I’ll just have to go back to relive it all….maybe it’s one of the joys of travel always having a Reason to Return?


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Why Travel?

I’ve been home now for around 20 hours, and this is my suitcase.  It’s still where I plonked it yesterday, before I rushed off to collect Trixy when I arrived back from a three-week trip.  Am I, I wonder, reluctant to unpack it because it means the trip is over, and I need to get real again, or am I just lazy?

I’m opting for the former because I rushed around this morning paying bills and doing banking and shopping, I set the alarm and I walked along the beach with Trix, so I don’t think it’s laziness.  I’m inclined to think that I don’t want to get back into a routine.

I know this question – why travel? – is one which is constantly on our minds, and I know that probably there are at least as many opinions as there are travel bloggers (and let’s not forget that not all travellers blog!).  It’s a question which has been on my mind throughout this short trip, possibly because on the one hand I’ve had very little opportunity to travel in recent years, and on the other because when I realized that was going to be the case, towards the end of 2009, I made up my mind to take my travel attitude and apply it to the life around me.  That was a good move.  It brought me opportunities, contacts, and experiences I might have otherwise missed.

The river Guadalquivir in Sevilla, Spain

Travel brings us contrasts and comparisons, which wake up our senses and bring us out of any inertia into which the daily grind might have sunk us. In three, short weeks I took in so many different vibes; from the charm and elegance of Sevilla (in a heat wave!) to the sturdy and handsome history of York (in a finger-freezing cold snap!).

Lendal Bridge, York, England

I went from the chaos of cities like London and Barcelona to the peace of the English Lake District.

Parque Güell, Barcelona, Spain

My trip wasn’t just about seeing and doing, but also catching up with family. I’m lucky that my family lives in interesting places I guess, but one thing which occurred to me over the days I was in York and the Lake District was how little I know of places I’ve visited so often, which just re-enforces my idea that our minds should always be open to new ideas and experiences wherever we are, and however long we may have known a place.

“Interesting places” said, I truly believe that there are things of interest everywhere you go, it’s just that there are times when you have to scratch the surface of a place to find what’s underneath.

London’s marvelous Kew Gardens – my “new discovery” on this visit to the city.

Travel isn’t just about seeing something and ticking it off a list, but equally you can gain something from even a short trip. A weekend away or a day trip can qualify as travel if you approach it with an open mind; if you don’t try to do it all.For me it’s better to concentrate on one aspect or one theme, and acquire some in-depth feeling for the place.  It might turn out to be that you don’t like whatever theme you chose, or that you don’t like the place, but you will have experienced and learned.

Grasmere, English Lake District

I learned that even in the Lake District, a place I’ve known (and, of course, loved) since I was 11 years old, there is still so much I haven’t seen or known. I was unexpectedly stuck there for four or five weeks a couple of years back, in a post-Christmas January blighted by freezing rain and the darkest midday skies you can imagine – definitely not sight-seeing weather, not even for gentle drives – unless there is a purpose!  I found mine in the local bookstore (now a Waterstones) in Kendal center.  Dripping my way along the shelves in search of books to pass away the time I came across a biography of William Wordsworth, one of my favorite poets since my school days.  It was a nice, chunky book to fill my time, but it proved to be a gateway to new experience too.  Feet up on my dad’s sofa, I found myself in a world so much more interesting than I remembered from school.  It lead me to re-visit Grasmere and Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived and wrote some memorable masterpieces.  I knew Grasmere quite well, as a point from which to end or begin a hike, and I’d been to Dove Cottage twice previously, but I found myself looking at it all with new eyes in light of what I read. The other thing was that I remember a lot of what I read much more clearly because I visited places which re-enforced my reading, and visiting those places meant so much more because I could fit my newly-acquired knowledge to them. Even now, almost six years on, it stands out as a memory of a great visit, which could have been so much different given the weather!

Personally,  it’s exhilarating not to be in a routine too.  I know that isn’t for everyone, but I love to wake up in the morning and take a minute to figure out where I am.  I avoid routine wherever possible, but a certain amount is forced on us by circumstance, even if we aren’t slaving away at the 9 to 5.  By the same token I find myself missing somethings about my routine. I missed Trixy and our walks enormously this time, and since I started to exercise seriously (yep ….kept that one quiet, didn’t I?!) I missed the daily challenge too. Fact is it’s kind of nice to miss things.  It’s nice to have something to miss.  Would I adapt to a life of constant travel? Not sure, but I doubt it, though I certainly don’t need to feel secure in one place all the time either.

Weeping willows in Guildford – last year’s new discovery.

At the end of the day, I go back to one of my first remarks – there are as many reasons as there are travellers, and probably our reason this trip may be different from the reason we have next trip, for those of us who are not in constant motion. Whatever the “excuse” I can say that the end result is what I seek. Sitting at my desk now I feel as if my brain has taken a cold shower and emerged fresh and stimulated for whatever lies ahead. What I want is for this feeling to last (forever if possible).  You know how daredevils say that they never feel more alive than in a moment when they face death?  Well, that’s how travel makes me feel, more alive.

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