Travel Tales

ElizabethB

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@Francesca you inspired me to start this thread.

I am constantly amazed at how well traveled you all are. I forget that traveling in Europe is like traveling from state to state in the U.S. Geographically. Many of our states are larger than countries in Europe.

I also sometimes forget that, historically, my Country is a baby compared to European countries. Forget all of the chest banging, ha hoo and foo foo of our politicians. When it comes to history we are neophytes.

I have been blessed to visit Europe twice. England once and Spain once. Both times thanks to Uncle Sam - USN Reserves.

Wow .. I had no idea you were in the Navy and were stationed in Rota .. Fantastic !!

I am sure you had a grand time surely on a " Tapas Crawl " as it now labelled in British English .. Tapas Hopping is a blast to say the least, going from one bar or tavern to another to sample the specials of each bar which vary depending on the owner & creator of the Tapas ..

I visited Spain in 84. Rota was a lovely, quiet, quaint town. So safe. I had no fear walking the streets alone in the wee hours. There were three of us from my USNR Unit. It really was a shame - we never worked more than a half day. Lots of time to play and explore. We toured Seville, Cadiz, Jerez, Gibraltar (I know - British rather than Spanish - very interesting) and my favorite Puerto de Santa Maria. We wanted to see a bull fight but none were scheduled during our stay.

Puerto de Santa Maria was a night out visit. We were told about a "must visit" club. For the life of me I can not remember the name of the club. Something about a "Hangover". We arrived about 9:30 p.m. In the U.S. music usually starts between 9 and 10. The club was empty. We were told to return at 11 p.m. We walked around the town laughing and joking - typical obnoxious American tourist.

When we returned to the club the change was amazing. The place was jammed with Grandparent, Parents, children and infants in strollers. We quickly learned that babysitters are unheard of.

When the music started we were entranced. Pure, unadulterated Flamenco. Absolutely the most sensual dance I have ever seen with no body contact!

Not show stuff - neighborhood dancing.

You have three clueless Americans sitting at a table with jaws on the floor.

@Francesca your country men/women pulled us on to the dance floor and tried to teach us how to do this beautiful dance.

OMG! What a wonderful, amazing experience.

In the U.S. lights are usually dimmed while the music plays. Not in this club. Full lights until midnight. Then lights were dimmed, a spotlight shown on a niche with a statue of the Blessed Mother. Everyone stood with glass in hand and sang a song to Santa Marie.

The lights came back on and the party continued.

I spent an additional 4 days in Madrid. The enormous flea market, The Prada and the Sophia museums, a side trip to Toledo.

The most beautiful people, beautiful culture and amazing food!

@Francesca I was blown away! That is a very precious memory that I hold dear to my heart.

Another time I will tell you all about starting a riot in front of the American Embassy in London - stone, cold sober!
 
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Francesca

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@ElizabethB

I can see that you certainly had an amazing time in my birthplace ..

The Rastro Flea Market of Madrid is held every Sunday and surely a marvel .. Museo El Prado focuses on the traditional Spanish School of Painting classics.

The Reina Sofia concentrates on Modern & Abstract and houses an amazing collection of Dali before WWII and Picasso. They relocated the majority of their Works to Paris and Manhattan during the Spanish Civil War, 1936 - 1939.

There is also the Thyssen which is located close to The El Prado which houses European Art, Van Gogh, Claude Monet and modern contemporary art Works, which is my favorite Museum in Madrid ..

Yes, travelling to France for example is a 1 hour 15 minute plane flight from Madrid ( to Marseille ) and from Barcelona, 45 minutes, and Milano or Napoli or Florence or Venice is a 2 hour flight direct from Madrid .. From Barcelona approx 1 hour and 15 minutes .. and Zúrich, Switzerland, is 1 hour and a half or so from Barcelona and from Madrid, 2 hours.

Lisbon is a 1 / 2 hour flight from Madrid and 1 hour from Barcelona ..

London is 2 hours from Madrid and 2.5 hours from Barcelona ..

Yes, Flamenco is quite an experience .. It is very popular in many parts of southern Andalusia and in the historic districts of Madrid .. Not too common in Barcelona ..

Thank you for the fabulous read !!! You should write a book as I mentioned once before ..

Have a lovely day ..
 

sidevalve

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You see the good bits and as a visitor that will always be so. As in the US there are many places that are almost no-go areas after dark [and sometimes during the day too]. Big cities are the same the world over - a patchwork of good and bad. Here in England we have history in bucket loads but space and freedom not so much anymore.
We have toured Belgium by motorcycle and visited the holy land [swimming / floating in the dead sea was an experience] but I wish we had traveled to the USA - if we had we would have stayed.
 

ElizabethB

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@Francesca

I forgot to mention the food! There was a tiny restaurant 2 block from the sea. Dinner was a fixed price $6 or $7 U.S. Inexpensive by American standards. When you walked in there was a case with that day's catch of fish on ice. Pick your fish. It could be broiled or fried, served with a salad and French fries (chips). We ate there most evenings.. The owner was a doll and celebrated his birthday we were there. What fun.

One evening we went to an "expensive" restaurant. We had a 5 course meal for $25 with tip. What a deal. One dish stands out in my memory. It was a seafood soup or light stew. Fish, mussels, prawns and other seafood swimming in a beautiful, golden broth. It took a couple of bites for me to recognize the saffron. While waiting for the club to open in Puerto de Santa Maria we stopped at several places for Tapas. There was only one dish that I did not care for. Marinated baby octopus. Very rubbery.

@sidevalve

When we first arrived at the Naval Base we were told some of the ins and outs. The Officer told us there was very little, if any violent crime in Rota. We could feel safe on the streets. The only problem was pick pockets and purse snatchers because of the poverty in the area. We did see the evidence of poverty on our forays. I felt humbled and realized how truly spoiled we are in the U.S.
 

Francesca

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@ElizabethB

Firstly, the city of El Puerto de Santa Maria is under tremendous reforming and renovation .. The seafront is absolutely lovely and about 10 minutes from the city and Port .. It is residential and has some lovely hotels .. I have a récipe for Sopa de Pescado al Azafrán, Fish & Shellfish Soup with Saffron .. It is very simple to prepare and a specialty on all seacoasts ( 3 sides of coast = a Peninusla ) ..

I am surprised the octopus was rubbery however, it is complex to prepare and one must use "baby octopus" and low slow flame for quite some time for it to be sublime exquisiteness .. My father prepares it during the Xmas Holidays ..

The best place to have baby octopus in Spain is in Galicia on the northwest coast, north of Portugal ..

Food is relatively reasonably priced in Spain and a lunch Menu which is 3 courses is only 10 to 12 Euros a person. It includes:

First course ( selection of 4 or 5 )
Main Course ( selection 4 or 5 )
Dessert or a Café ( 4 or 5 to select from ) .. Can be a fresh seasonal fruit or a Yogurt or a Spanish dessert or a tart of the day ..

The average Price for an Espresso is 1.00 - 1.40 Euros .. Depending where you are ..

Thank you for your Spanish Adventure ..
 
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Lynne Guinne

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...but I wish we had traveled to the USA - if we had we would have stayed.
I'm curious - what makes you say this? After all, you admit to not having visited. I will wholeheartedly admit to being a "homer", a real cheerleader for the U.S., and a lover of all that is good about my country. There are so many places to explore, so many varied local cuisines to sample, so many amazing natural resources to discover - well, it's more than I can see in a lifetime. I guess it's one reason I've never had the desire to visit other far-away lands. If you know what proper ethnic neighborhoods to explore, you can see so much of the world right here.
 

Lynne Guinne

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We've done a goodly amount of travel around the contiguous U.S. states. We've also visited Canada in years past - before and with kids. I've also spent a day in Mexico with our son, and I think my favorite travel memory comes from there. He was told by his high school theology instructor that if he had the chance, he should go to Nogales just to see the vast difference between a town in the U.S. versus one in Mexico. We spent our time in the main city market place, since we were told that was the safest place to visit. While waking around, a small boy of about maybe? four years old approached us selling a small wooden turtle with a bobbing head. My six foot-two inch, football-playing son squatted down to the boy's eye level and, using a mix of English and basic high school Spanish, proceeded to make a purchase from the boy. To this day that image gives me a fuzzy feeling in my heart. :love:
 

sidevalve

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I'm curious - what makes you say this? After all, you admit to not having visited. I will wholeheartedly admit to being a "homer", a real cheerleader for the U.S., and a lover of all that is good about my country. There are so many places to explore, so many varied local cuisines to sample, so many amazing natural resources to discover - well, it's more than I can see in a lifetime. I guess it's one reason I've never had the desire to visit other far-away lands. If you know what proper ethnic neighborhoods to explore, you can see so much of the world right here.
I admire your pride in your country [something we seem to have lost] - I admire your way of life - I admire your freedom and I just love the fact that you have SPACE. OK big cities are big cities the world over - crowded noisy brash, good bits bad bits even dangerous bits but once out in the smaller towns and country life is 'easier'. My wife spent several years over there [before we met] at college [she was injured climbing in the Capitan mountains - which is why she came home] and she too would have loved to have returned permanently - you are lucky
 

Duck59

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I'd agree that living in Europe makes things easy in terms of travel. A quick count tells me that I've managed to visit 46 different countries, most of which are in Europe, though I can count seven African countries, a few in Asia and three in the Caribbean. I suppose I could add a couple if I took Scotland and Wales to be separate countries, but we've probably got enough problems with separatism just now...

It's not really very far to any European destination from the UK, with the exception of the more distant parts of Russia and places like Georgia and Armenia. Even somewhere like Kyiv only takes around three hours from Britain. I've really enjoyed exploring eastern Europe in the past few years - in my younger days, it was an area that wasn't exactly an easy option, but since the demise of the Soviet Union, it's pretty easy to get to most places, although if you travel to Russia, the visa application is something of a toil. I think it took about as long for me to fill that in as it did to get from London to Moscow.

One food-related thing I'd say about all this travel is that I've never had a problem finding vegetarian food. Even two years living in Eritrea didn't prove difficult in that respect, although I probably swallowed the odd fly inadvertently.
 

ElizabethB

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@Lynne Guinne

I am also a die hard fan of my country. I have visited many states, some of the border towns in Mexico (shopping) and a day trip to Vancouver.

I have been fortunate to travel to Europe twice - once to Southern Spain and once to England.

It is difficult to explain the impact that had on me. I was overwhelmed by the history, the architecture, the art. My heart was touched by the friendliness and kindness of the locals in both countries.

In Spain we were welcomed like long lost friends. I was initially surprised at the number of American ex-pats in Rota. It did not take long to understand why. Wonderful climate, beautiful people and an incredibly low cost of living.

Before traveling to London I was warned not to say too much. Since London is such a huge, multi national city there would be people who were not fond of "Yanks". Telling me not to say too much is like telling my cat not to scratch in her litter box. I did what I usually do - I spoke to every one. I missed my stop on the tube more than once because I was involved in conversation with a fellow passenger. I had a wonderful experience - even getting arrested for starting a riot in front of the American Embassy. A tale for another time.

The biggest thing I came home with was a great sense of humility and privilege. We are so blessed in the U.S. We are also very spoiled. Even people on welfare have so much "stuff".

We are such a young nation that we do not have a true appreciation for history or antiquity.
 

sidevalve

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Since London is such a huge, multi national city there would be people who were not fond of "Yanks".
That is a weird one - I have never met anyone who doesn't like Americans as visitors [I do admit the English sense of humour can seem odd at times however]. Although London is a strange place [full of southerners :whistling: - a brit joke] but mostly I would suggest like every other big city if you keep your wits about you as you discovered you would have a great time. If you do get over again try coming further north to somewhere like York. One of the benefits of being a [comparatively] tiny country is that so many places can be visited in so short a time - York - Howarth [Bronte country] - Richmond - Durham and that's only driving up my side of the country [actual driving time less than a day]
 

classic33

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That is a weird one - I have never met anyone who doesn't like Americans as visitors [I do admit the English sense of humour can seem odd at times however]. Although London is a strange place [full of southerners :whistling: - a brit joke] but mostly I would suggest like every other big city if you keep your wits about you as you discovered you would have a great time. If you do get over again try coming further north to somewhere like York. One of the benefits of being a [comparatively] tiny country is that so many places can be visited in so short a time - York - Howarth [Bronte country] - Richmond - Durham and that's only driving up my side of the country [actual driving time less than a day]
Thornton in Bradford is true "Bronte Country", Haworth just pinched the best parts. Even the casino & brothel(very little mention made of this though) the sisters went to & worked in is in Halifax.
 

sidevalve

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Perhaps but as a visitor such things are simply a confusion - the parsonage museum is Howarth and this is what most people wish to see. If we wish to degrade the memory of possibly some of the finest writers in the world by all means trumpet such things as casino's and brothels - it is a very British disease to soil anything we should be proud of.
 
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