Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Seville, Spain (Hilton Garden Inn)

This morning I was busy packing for my trip to Granada. But first, I needed to have breakfast. I was ready by 10:30 to leave the hotel and my train is scheduled to leave at 11:45. Everyone at the hotel has been super nice and accommodating. As I was checking out, I was asked if I’d like some water to take with me. How about that!

When I arrived at the station there was a delay in posting which platform from where my train will depart. I’d been through this before I knew, with a little patience, that I’d have time to reach my train before it left the station. Of course, as it turns out, I had plenty of time once the platform was announced.

I had seat 130 in coach #3, but didn’t know if the seat was next to the window or on the aisle. I took the aisle seat and waited to see if someone would be sitting next to me. No one showed up when the train departed so I stayed where I was.

When the person came along to check my ticket, she pointed out that we will be transferring to a bus at Antequera. (I neglected to read the small print at the bottom of my ticket.)  Other than that, pretty uneventful trip. I took a couple of pictures along the way. I had uploaded a video on my iPad about the history of the Romanov family, so I watch that for about an hour.

At Antequera we all got off the train and found a place on one of the three buses waiting for us. This last leg of the journey took a little over an hour. When we arrived in Granda, we traveled along some fairly narrow streets to reach the bus station. From there I took a taxi to the hotel.

This hotel, not a Hilton, was directly across from the Alhambra, a very large, former Moorish castle complex. The staff at the hotel were very helpful and offered me one of two rooms to stay in. A porter took me up to see each and I made my selection to be in the one facing away from the street. Nice room and not too large – just big enough for me.

I took my traditional nap after I got settled and woke up hungry. I only had an apple on the train and it was now 6:00. I decided to walk down to the city to withdraw some more money from an ATM and look for a place to eat. On the way down to the city I took a couple of pictures.

By this time the streets were filling up with people – both locals and tourists. This street seemed to be one of the high-end shopping streets with a few restaurants here and there. I just wanted something quick and easy. Like McDonald’s, but not McDonald’s. Then I saw a Burger King, and decided “why not” and ordered a Whopper with cheese, fries and water.

Forgot to mention that both the hotel and the Alhambra are located up on the hill overlooking the city. It was a very easy walk down, but I wasn’t interested in walking up, so I hailed a taxi. The driver knew exactly where I was staying and said she lived nearby. She gave me her card as I paid her and exited the taxi. It is rare that a taxi driver will give me their card in order to contact them for a future ride and admire those who do, because I have called a few in the past.

Had a very relaxing time once I got back to my room. I finished unpacking, and fully unpacked this time, since I was leaving by plane for Tangier in a few days and needed to make sure that my suitcase was under 20kg so I wouldn’t be charged for the extra weight.

Tomorrow I will use the ticket I purchased online for the Alhambra. A person at the front desk showed me where to enter the Alhambra at 10:30 a.m. for my tour. I’ll have breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but for an 18 Euro breakfast, I doubt if I’ll be back the next day.

Also, including with this post is the Q & A I posted a couple of days ago. See below:

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It has been over a year since I published answers to questions that people have asked me (or I’ve asked myself) as I’ve been traveling – or answers to questions that might be of general interest. Below are my 2018 “Questions and Answers”.

__________________________________________________

Why do you write this travel blog? Answer: First and foremost, I write the blog for myself, to remember this experience with words and pictures. It isn’t intended to be a stand alone literary work to be formally published. And for those who follow this blog, it provides updates to where I am, what I discover, and share what it’s like being “on the road” with me. To reflect the name of the blog: Travel, Explore, Learn, and Share.

Do I get tired of writing my travel blog? Answer: Sometimes I do, especially if I’ve had a busy day. But I see the value of documenting my experiences while giving me a sense of purpose to have some task to consistently to do each day. I’ll have to be honest, when I find I need to take a break, as when I visit Egypt, rarely miss writing the blog at all and glad I have this down-time every so often.

What is your favorite place that you’ve been? Answer: I’ll always say it is London. For me, London has everything that I look for in a city – history, a diversity of people, ease in getting from place to place, something new around every corner, my friends, and the list goes on… I feel at home in Edinburgh and Luxor, two other cities where I travel to often and then Edinburgh is where I stay the longest. I feel most relaxed in Luxor (Egypt), where my friend Hussein lives and the people in the Hilton there know me by name and ensure I have everything I need. Then there is Zermatt (Switzerland), where I feel a connection to the land and the abundant natural beauty. These four places are “home base” for me where I can take a break from traveling. I’m currently considering Larnaca (Cyprus) as another “home base”. I’m continually looking for perhaps another couple of places that have these qualities of a “home base” while traveling.

You visit some places more than once, why is that? Answer: Think I answered most of this question, in detail, above. The overall answer is that one day, perhaps, I’d like to stop traveling so much from place to place and spend more time in the places where I feel most comfortable. Also, there is something about returning to a place that is familiar and predictable.

What will you do with your travel blog once you’ve finished traveling? Answer:  I will find a safe online place to archive the text and pictures. I’ve been thinking about taking pieces of the blog to write more about a location, the adventure itself, people and culture, or another theme that may make itself known. I’ll continue to write – that I know.

What are your travel plans for the next couple of years?Answer: After completing my first pass at locations in the Iberian peninsula (January – March 2018), I’ll visit more countries in Eastern Europe in the Spring of 2018, Scandinavia in the Summer, Scotland in the Fall, and always London in December. Starting in 2019, I’ll start a two month tour of France, then will probably go to Russia March or April. Towards the summer months, I’ll return to England to explore more places that I haven’t visited before. Perhaps I’ll drive around the coastline of Ireland in July 2019 and spend the rest of the summer in Edinburgh.

Do you miss working? Answer: Truth be told, I miss the steady income from working. I’m still getting used to withdrawing from my retirement funds. But work itself, at least what I used to do – not really. Perhaps what I miss more is having an established routine and daily accomplishments. Maybe in time I’ll get used to “free wheeling” from day to day, but that aspect hasn’t really fully kicked in as I answer this question.

You now seem to stay more in hotels rather than with Airbnb for the past year. Why is that? AnswerMy rule of thumb is to use hotels, especially Hilton where I now have a number of perks, for short stays and Airbnb for longer stays where I can purchase food to stock the fridge to do some home cooking, but is difficult when the stay is only for a few days. With a hotel, you can walk in and plop on the bed and not have too many details to figure out – just how to adjust the room’s thermostat and operating the shower. (Really! Each hotel seems to have a different system for both.)

Where do you do your laundry? Answer: Almost every Airbnb has a washer, and if I’m lucky, there is a washer/dryer combination machine – or use a drying rack. Or I find a nearby laundromat. In Luxor and other Egyptian cities, the Hilton’s charge for doing laundry is very affordable and they do a great job. I have enough underwear and t-shirts to last me a couple of weeks and three pairs of pants. There have been a few time where I’ve done laundry in the sink, but that I’ve only done three or four times.

Have you lost anything while you’ve been traveling? Answer: Surprisingly, only a few items. The first was a fitness tracker that I wore on my wrist that I took off at the Glasgow airport TSA checkpoint and I didn’t put it back on again once I was through the checkpoint. Another was a small cheese grater that I forgot to pack when I left a flat in London last December. That’s all I know about. Related funny story: Recently, I was traveling by train from Barcelona to Valencia and I went to the restroom and when I came back I couldn’t find my bag. I was in the wrong carriage! No wonder no one looked familiar. Silly, but true.

Ever missed a flight or a train? Answer: Almost missed a couple of flights. I missed a train from Venice to Bologna last summer because I read the departure time wrong. The next train was in 30 minutes – so not a big problem.

Are you still having fun traveling? Answer: For the most part, yes I am. Travel can be difficult and hard work, especially when you have to haul a heavy suitcase up a few flights of stairs or have minutes to catch the next leg of your journey. The fun is when I have the opportunity to meet new people, obtain a little insight on the location that I’m visiting. The “ah-ha” moments are the best. Also, I like to make plans and coordinating travel between locations to line up lodging availability and with train or flight schedules it can be challenging, but I seem to thrive on it.

In your blog, you mention problems sleeping? Are you concerned?Answer: At first, and probably still is to some extent, it was/is annoying and frustrating to be so tired and not being able to sleep. But I’ve always had weird sleep habits and it could either be due to not working or that I don’t have consistency because I move so often. I’m generally able to function with only a few hours of sleep – it isn’t like I’m an air traffic controller or some other job that puts me or others at risk. Related to this, and many people don’t know this, but I have done a lot of volunteer work and between work and volunteer work, it didn’t leave much time for sleep for many year. I really enjoy my afternoon naps, which could also be a contributing factor. If this is my only concern, I am grateful.

Why are you coming back to Oregon for a visit? Answer: Because I deeply felt I needed to. As I mention fairly often in my blog, I do what I feel like doing, and when I get an idea, I go with the flow, so to speak. If I’m not attracted (or pulled in some way) to doing something, I don’t do it. The second part of the answer is, there are people that I need to see because it feels like the right thing to do. And also, I know that several of my friends and family were (and are) not happy that I’m away so long and want to let them know I’m okay and that I miss them.

Are you planning at some point to come back to live the U.S.? If so, when? Answer: Right now, I don’t see myself permanently moving back to the U.S. That doesn’t mean I won’t. I’m waiting until I visit in March/April to get a “read” on how it feels to be back. I have friends over here now. I’ve been thinking about living in the U.S. for six months, then Europe for the next six. My health is another factor. Right now I’m in great shape, but if that should change, and depending on the nature of the change, I’ll need to see if it would be better to receive treatment in Europe or the U.S. I have full medical insurance for all countries, except the U.S. (because of the high costs) – though I am covered if I don’t plan to stay in the U.S. up to 90 days. Next year I qualify for Medicare. I can say, with some level of confidence, that I’ll be away from the U.S. for at least another 2 years.

Have you lost weight while traveling? Answer: I don’t know, since I haven’t stepped on a scale for at least two years. I do know that clothes, like shirts and pants, get tighter or looser from month to month. I can still wear the few clothes I still have as I started this adventure. I’m more concerned about eating a healthy balance of foods to ensure I’m getting all of the good vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Goal for this year is to limit the amount of bread and to increase fruits and vegetables. Bottom line is that I’d like to remain healthy. If I can still easily walk nearly 10 miles in a day, I think for someone who is going to soon be 64, this is pretty darn good.

Have you tried a lot of new foods as you travel? Answer: No, not really. I have not be adventurous in that area, but have tried a few dishes here and there. I prefer foods that are familiar and that I like. Yes, I realize that I may be missing out on opportunities to try something new. Honestly, I don’t care so much. I like to eat things that I like that won’t make me sick or feel ill afterwards. Trying out new foods as I travel is not a top priority for me – or even a second priority.

Have you been sick since you’ve been traveling? Answer: Yes, but rarely. Mainly a few days of being tired with a runny nose and sneezing. I’ve had several migraines (not recently), three times my back has acted up for a few weeks. Never had a fever. Had the “stomach flu” when I was in Egypt for the first time, but haven’t had it since. Overall, feeling great!

Do you get lonely? Answer: Not really. I seem to do well traveling alone. I meet so many interesting people during my travels I don’t think about it much. I’ve developed friendships with several people and we text or phone each other often. Always good to hear from my U.S. friends when we connect via text, email, or by phone. Having apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger and Skype, where you can call or text for free, makes being connected easy and cost-effective.

What do you do when you get back to your room after sightseeing during the day?  Answer: I generally take a nap, wake up and write my travel blog, eat dinner, make travel arrangements and watch a program or two on TV or on my laptop. Since this is when people in U.S. are starting to wake up, I respond to emails and texts until about 11:00 then silence my phone for the night.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings? AnswerNo. And my answer still is: And don’t plan on getting any. Ever.

Have you fallen or tripped because of the uneven sidewalks, doorway thresholds, or stairs? Answer: Only fell once, in a hotel lobby, where the elevators were a step up from the lobby floor. In my defense, the lobby floor and step were both black and difficult to see. Haven’t tripped on any sidewalk. And think I only tripped on one doorway threshold so far. Since most places where I’ve been, there must be a building code that requires a slightly higher threshold, but I’ve somehow managed to learn to step over them.

Have I been disturbed by loud neighbors or sounds from the neighborhood. Answer: Yes. Twice I’ve been kept awake because of loud music being played until early in the morning from a nearby nightclub or bar. Once, I had to move to another hotel room because of this. In Athens, there are many motorbikes that seemingly never stop running at night. In London recently, I was living over a flat where the couple frequently stayed up most of the night talking loudly and playing music. Another was the flat I had in Budapest where the couple upstairs came home late most nights and were up until 3:00 a.m. or later – and I just got up when they came home and went to bed when I knew they were quiet. But thankfully, that is all that there has been.

How do you know how long to stay in one city? Or even which city to visit next? Answer: This is a more difficult question to answer, or perhaps easy to answer in some respects. First is planning where I visit. For that, I find a place that attracts me, which is more of an instinct or feeling that I have. I never visit anywhere because I’m supposed to. It has to be because I want to. And how long I stay in one city is mainly a result of the same feeling I have on how long to stay, but sometimes it gets adjusted by a day or two because of the cost of an airline ticket, which can be hundreds of dollars depending on the day that I leave. Getting back to the question about where I travel to, I’ve learned that I prefer to stay in the northern part of Europe in the summer and the southern part in the cooler months.

 

 

Monday, 29 January 2018

Seville, Spain (Hilton Garden Inn)

Today is my last full day in Seville. After breakfast, and a short nap, I took the shuttle into the city and my plan was to walk to the former site of the 1992 Seville Expo. (Perhaps I should have researched beforehand on how far away it was.)

I took a route that took me somewhat close to the Expo site and by then I needed to find a restroom. Since there are no public restrooms (verified by the hotel shuttle driver) I visited the nearest McDonald’s and ordered a coffee and used their restroom. (Thank you McDonald’s!) I tried the men’s room at the nearby bus station but it was locked.

It was while at McDonald’s when I checked the distance to the main part of the Expo site, and it looked I was about halfway there. No matter, I was enjoying the walk and along the way took pictures of a church, with this impressive tree in the church’s courtyard, and also another of some artwork on a building – similar to what I’ve seen on other buildings in Seville.

Before I walked over the Puente del Alamillo bride, I checked to see how far away I was from my hotel and saw I could walk there in 45 minutes – but continued on my original plan. As I approached the Expo site I realized that it was virtually abandoned. There were a number of large businesses that have located to this area, but it looks like much of the Expo is now behind fences with grass growing up between the cracks in the walkways.

I took pictures of a large sphere, which was the symbol of the Expo (it also sprayed a fine mist of water to cool off guests during the summer heat). There was a replica of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 4 rocket and the Hungarian Pavilion, and from what I read about it, “features Shamanistic symbols and, according to Expo 92 expert Angel Aramburu, sent political messages to neighboring pavilions.”

By now it was time to walk back to the hotel shuttle pickup point. When I got to the pickup point I had walked nearly 20,000 steps. I felt great for what I had accomplished today, which doesn’t seem like much, but in addition to the walk, I saw more of the local Seville people going about their day-to-day activities, the Expo and found a place with a men’s room.

After a nap, I wanted to buy some fruit at a nearby market and find an ATM so I could pay the taxi tomorrow. The ATM was not easy to find, but it gave me a chance to see this normally quiet street come alive after 7:00 p.m., since I had only been on the street during the afternoon when most of the businesses were closed. Having my cash and fruit, I walked back to the hotel.

As can be imagined, bedtime was early tonight. After publishing my blog update from the night before, I tried to watch more of the British royal family on YouTube but was too tired to continue.

Tomorrow I leave by train to Granada. Thanks to the shuttle driver, I made sure to book a ticket in advance to visit The Alhambra, since only so many people are able to tour the site in one day.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Seville, Spain (Hilton Garden Inn)

So glad I changed rooms since this room is more quiet than the last. Though, because it is almost the same as the other, it took me awhile to get used to the different layout. Thankfully the bathroom is in the same general location.

I didn’t have much planned for today except to walk along the river in the other direction (South) and explore the Parque de Maria Luisa and then Plaza de Espana. Maybe Alcazar too.

I caught the shuttle into the city center and started talking with a couple who were from the west coast of the U.S. like me. Found out that we shared common interests and exchanged information at the end of the shuttle ride.

I enjoy not having a set plan when I begin my day exploring a city. No rush to be somewhere and can enjoy exploring wherever I feel like going at any given moment.

The Parque de Maria Luisa was just across the bridge where the shuttle let us off. I ran a quick errand down Virgen de Lugan, then walked south to the old port and crossed over the bridge to the park. On my way I had a chance to look at the shipping containers that were stacked along the river and looked like river view apartments, (Posted a picture two days ago.) Wondering what it would be like to live in one of those.

Random Statue – I liked the outstretched arms

From there I walked further and wandered then through  Parque de Maria Luisa before heading over to Plaza de Espana. Every so often I would sit and enjoy the park and watch people, many with families, taking advantage of the mild weather and the Sunday afternoon. Very calm and peaceful.

Parque de Maria Luisa

I’d only seen the Plaza de Espana in pictures, but you have to see it in person to appreciate how it is laid out, the features and the art.  Big fountain in front, a broad expanse of the building, places to sit and then enjoy the surroundings – really, a perfect place to relax and feel the appreciation. This space was intended for people to enjoy rather than to impress – though it was impressive – no doubt about that.

Blue Porcelain Mosaic

I was walking along then heard my name. It was the same couple who I met on the shuttle from the hotel. Guess it was intended that we meet again. They looked like they were enjoying this location as much as I was. After we went our separate ways I continued to walk along until I saw these spaces, many of them, in a row and each had a unique theme. I’d never seen anything like this before. I tried to find one to take a picture, but wanted to take a picture of one that was vacant. I settled for a picture that didn’t include a place to sit.

I left the park and plaza and walked over to Real Alcazar. I was having trouble finding the entrance, but along the way (took a few pictures), I found an interesting enclave of small shops along narrow streets. I wasn’t quite sure how to get out to a main street, given the twists and turns of this area, but eventually I saw a busy street and headed in that direction. And there I found the entrance to Alcazar. There was a line to get in, and not wanting to stand in line, I kept walking.

Entrance to Alcazar (Royal Palace of Moorish Muslim Kings)

I’d been walking for several hours and was ready to return to the hotel. It was Sunday, and I’d like to take my version of a siesta. I was looking for a public toilet and none was to be found. Guess I will hold it until I return to the hotel. As I was waiting for the shuttle, I saw the couple from the U.K. who I met the day before. We talked about travel while waiting for our shuttle.

On the ride back to the hotel, the shuttle driver explained that he was in college and majoring in Tourism Management, with the goal of managing a hotel. He was interested in the U.S. and would like to travel there one day. This gave me an opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated how much I’ve admired Spain so far because of the friendliness of the Spanish people, clean streets, and how well the older parts of the city and historical sites have been maintained.

When we arrived at the hotel I was ready for my siesta. And after I woke I was hungry and wanted to try the nearby KFC, for whatever reason. Who knows! I could have ordered room service, but getting out for a short walk was my preference. I took my order back to the room to enjoy. Though, not being a KFC expert, the meal was a little less than what I had imagined. (Won’t go into details.)

After updating my blog, I watched a couple of YouTube videos on the British Royal Family and it was time for bed.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to walk down to the old Expo 1992 location and look around. It will be a day of mostly walking and the old Expo site would give me a reason for a longer walk.

 

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Seville, Spain (Hilton Garden Inn)

The day started earlier than expected. About 4:00 a.m. I woke up to loud music playing – and this is through windows that dampen noise from the outside. I thought it might be a car, with windows open, that had music playing while waiting outside and thought it would stop in a few minutes. It didn’t. To make a long story short, and after calling the front desk a few times, I was offered another room. In 15 minutes I had packed (this is at 6:00 a.m.) and I moved to a room on the other side of the building. Unfortunate, but sometimes this is what you have to do.

Given I had booked a shuttle at 9:45, there was no time to get more sleep. After breakfast and a shower I climbed into the shuttle to visit the Seville Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Sea). Boy, was I tired!

Not a long walk to the cathedral and, not having purchased tickets beforehand, I was wondering where to buy the tickets. After checking online, I only saw the option of purchasing tickets online, but knew if I walked around the cathedral there would be a sign that would help me out. There wasn’t. I found the queue of people waiting to get in to the cathedral and confirmed with someone in line that this is the line for tickets.

I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the entire cathedral, but found the picture below online.

Cathedral Visitor Entrance

View of the Giralda Tower (12th Century) from the Orange Tree Courtyard

After buying an admission ticket I went into the cathedral. Knowing that this is the third largest cathedral in the world, I knew there would be a lot to look at. After walking through a few rooms I entered the cathedral interior. Wow – was the only thing that came to mind when I looked around. It was so big you hardly knew where to look. Chapel after chapel lined the interior with rooms extending into other parts of the cathedral could be seen.

I saw a sign that pointed towards the tomb of Christopher Columbus and I had to stop by there first. This is probably the most popular part of the cathedral and saw many people standing around taking pictures. Honestly, I didn’t know his tomb was here. (Guess I should have read up on the cathedral before visiting.) The tomb was given a prominent spot within the cathedral and I’m sure it is a draw for visitors.

Even though I had a program that offered directions to the various parts of the cathedral, I really didn’t understand the significance. There were several alters and rooms of treasures collected over the years. This made me ask why these treasures, made from various precious metals, weren’t melted down to provide assistance to the poor. Sure, they were very artistic and historic, but here they are on display when they could be more useful elsewhere. Guess that was the mood I was in. Was thinking that this is a church and not a museum, but it does attract visitors that, by paying admission, fund the maintenance of this very large building to be enjoyed.

I took a number of pictures as shown below.

After completing my visit of the cathedral, I was ready to return to the hotel. The shuttle is scheduled to return at 12:30 and I plan to be on it. While waiting, I took a picture of Paddington Bear to send to Prean and Viktor.

Once I returned to my room I was soon napping. Couldn’t keep my eyes open. When I woke, I had planned to do my laundry in the hotel’s laundry facility for guests. The laundry has both a washer and dryer and all I needed to do was to purchase some soap for 3 Euro from the front desk.

After getting the washer started, I walked to a nearby store to pick up a few items, knowing that most stores will be closed tomorrow (Sunday). By the time I returned to the hotel my clothes were washed and ready to put them in the dryer. I returned to my room to wait for the dryer to finish. This gave me time to put away my clothes and take care of email and finish booking air and hotel arrangements for my next few stays.

As I was going up and down the elevator to do laundry, I took a picture of the instructions for operating the elevator. I saw this predictive elevator arrangement in a building in Portland a few years ago, but hadn’t seen one since. This is where you enter the floor number that you’d like to reach and you’re told which elevator will arrive to take you there. There are no floor buttons within the elevator – you get in and up (or down) you go.

After finishing the wash, posting my blog update, and watching some videos on YouTube I was ready for bed.

Tomorrow, I’m visiting more places downtown and will take a relaxing walk around the central part of Seville.

 

 

January 2018: Q & A

It has been over a year since I published answers to questions that people have asked me (or I’ve asked myself) as I’ve been traveling – or answers to questions that might be of general interest. Below are my 2018 “Questions and Answers”.

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Why do you write this travel blog? Answer: First and foremost, I write the blog for myself, to remember this experience with words and pictures. It isn’t intended to be a stand alone literary work to be formally published. And for those who follow this blog, it provides updates to where I am, what I discover, and share what it’s like being “on the road” with me. To reflect the name of the blog: Travel, Explore, Learn, and Share.

Do I get tired of writing my travel blog? Answer: Sometimes I do, especially if I’ve had a busy day. But I see the value of documenting my experiences while giving me a sense of purpose to have some task to consistently to do each day. I’ll have to be honest, when I find I need to take a break, as when I visit Egypt, rarely miss writing the blog at all and glad I have this down-time every so often.

What is your favorite place that you’ve been? Answer: I’ll always say it is London. For me, London has everything that I look for in a city – history, a diversity of people, ease in getting from place to place, something new around every corner, my friends, and the list goes on… I feel at home in Edinburgh and Luxor, two other cities where I travel to often and then Edinburgh is where I stay the longest. I feel most relaxed in Luxor (Egypt), where my friend Hussein lives and the people in the Hilton there know me by name and ensure I have everything I need. Then there is Zermatt (Switzerland), where I feel a connection to the land and the abundant natural beauty. These four places are “home base” for me where I can take a break from traveling. I’m currently considering Larnaca (Cyprus) as another “home base”. I’m continually looking for perhaps another couple of places that have these qualities of a “home base” while traveling.

You visit some places more than once, why is that? Answer: Think I answered most of this question, in detail, above. The overall answer is that one day, perhaps, I’d like to stop traveling so much from place to place and spend more time in the places where I feel most comfortable. Also, there is something about returning to a place that is familiar and predictable.

What will you do with your travel blog once you’ve finished traveling? Answer I will find a safe online place to archive the text and pictures. I’ve been thinking about taking pieces of the blog to write more about a location, the adventure itself, people and culture, or another theme that may make itself known. I’ll continue to write – that I know.

What are your travel plans for the next couple of years? Answer: After completing my first pass at locations in the Iberian peninsula (January – March 2018), I’ll visit more countries in Eastern Europe in the Spring of 2018, Scandinavia in the Summer, Scotland in the Fall, and always London in December. Starting in 2019, I’ll start a two month tour of France, then will probably go to Russia March or April. Towards the summer months, I’ll return to England to explore more places that I haven’t visited before. Perhaps I’ll drive around the coastline of Ireland in July 2019 and spend the rest of the summer in Edinburgh. 

Do you miss working? Answer: Truth be told, I miss the steady income from working. I’m still getting used to withdrawing from my retirement funds. But work itself, at least what I used to do – not really. Perhaps what I miss more is having an established routine and daily accomplishments. Maybe in time I’ll get used to “free wheeling” from day to day, but that aspect hasn’t really fully kicked in as I answer this question.

You now seem to stay more in hotels rather than with Airbnb for the past year. Why is that? AnswerMy rule of thumb is to use hotels, especially Hilton where I now have a number of perks, for short stays and Airbnb for longer stays where I can purchase food to stock the fridge to do some home cooking, but is difficult when the stay is only for a few days. With a hotel, you can walk in and plop on the bed and not have too many details to figure out – just how to adjust the room’s thermostat and operating the shower. (Really! Each hotel seems to have a different system for both.)

Where do you do your laundry? Answer: Almost every Airbnb has a washer, and if I’m lucky, there is a washer/dryer combination machine – or use a drying rack. Or I find a nearby laundromat. In Luxor and other Egyptian cities, the Hilton’s charge for doing laundry is very affordable and they do a great job. I have enough underwear and t-shirts to last me a couple of weeks and three pairs of pants. There have been a few time where I’ve done laundry in the sink, but that I’ve only done three or four times.

Have you lost anything while you’ve been traveling? Answer: Surprisingly, only a few items. The first was a fitness tracker that I wore on my wrist that I took off at the Glasgow airport TSA checkpoint and I didn’t put it back on again once I was through the checkpoint. Another was a small cheese grater that I forgot to pack when I left a flat in London last December. That’s all I know about. Related funny story: Recently, I was traveling by train from Barcelona to Valencia and I went to the restroom and when I came back I couldn’t find my bag. I was in the wrong carriage! No wonder no one looked familiar. Silly, but true.

Ever missed a flight or a train? Answer: Almost missed a couple of flights. I missed a train from Venice to Bologna last summer because I read the departure time wrong. The next train was in 30 minutes – so not a big problem.

Are you still having fun traveling? Answer: For the most part, yes I am. Travel can be difficult and hard work, especially when you have to haul a heavy suitcase up a few flights of stairs or have minutes to catch the next leg of your journey. The fun is when I have the opportunity to meet new people, obtain a little insight on the location that I’m visiting. The “ah-ha” moments are the best. Also, I like to make plans and coordinating travel between locations to line up lodging availability and with train or flight schedules it can be challenging, but I seem to thrive on it.

In your blog, you mention problems sleeping? Are you concerned? Answer: At first, and probably still is to some extent, it was/is annoying and frustrating to be so tired and not being able to sleep. But I’ve always had weird sleep habits and it could either be due to not working or that I don’t have consistency because I move so often. I’m generally able to function with only a few hours of sleep – it isn’t like I’m an air traffic controller or some other job that puts me or others at risk. Related to this, and many people don’t know this, but I have done a lot of volunteer work and between work and volunteer work, it didn’t leave much time for sleep for many year. I really enjoy my afternoon naps, which could also be a contributing factor. If this is my only concern, I am grateful.

Why are you coming back to Oregon for a visit? Answer: Because I deeply felt I needed to. As I mention fairly often in my blog, I do what I feel like doing, and when I get an idea, I go with the flow, so to speak. If I’m not attracted (or pulled in some way) to doing something, I don’t do it. The second part of the answer is, there are people that I need to see because it feels like the right thing to do. And also, I know that several of my friends and family were (and are) not happy that I’m away so long and want to let them know I’m okay and that I miss them.

Are you planning at some point to come back to live the U.S.? If so, when? Answer: Right now, I don’t see myself permanently moving back to the U.S. That doesn’t mean I won’t. I’m waiting until I visit in March/April to get a “read” on how it feels to be back. I have friends over here now. I’ve been thinking about living in the U.S. for six months, then Europe for the next six. My health is another factor. Right now I’m in great shape, but if that should change, and depending on the nature of the change, I’ll need to see if it would be better to receive treatment in Europe or the U.S. I have full medical insurance for all countries, except the U.S. (because of the high costs) – though I am covered if I don’t plan to stay in the U.S. up to 90 days. Next year I qualify for Medicare. I can say, with some level of confidence, that I’ll be away from the U.S. for at least another 2 years.

Have you lost weight while traveling? Answer: I don’t know, since I haven’t stepped on a scale for at least two years. I do know that clothes, like shirts and pants, get tighter or looser from month to month. I can still wear the few clothes I still have as I started this adventure. I’m more concerned about eating a healthy balance of foods to ensure I’m getting all of the good vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Goal for this year is to limit the amount of bread and to increase fruits and vegetables. Bottom line is that I’d like to remain healthy. If I can still easily walk nearly 10 miles in a day, I think for someone who is going to soon be 64, this is pretty darn good.

Have you tried a lot of new foods as you travel? Answer: No, not really. I have not be adventurous in that area, but have tried a few dishes here and there. I prefer foods that are familiar and that I like. Yes, I realize that I may be missing out on opportunities to try something new. Honestly, I don’t care so much. I like to eat things that I like that won’t make me sick or feel ill afterwards. Trying out new foods as I travel is not a top priority for me – or even a second priority.   

Have you been sick since you’ve been traveling? Answer: Yes, but rarely. Mainly a few days of being tired with a runny nose and sneezing. I’ve had several migraines (not recently), three times my back has acted up for a few weeks. Never had a fever. Had the “stomach flu” when I was in Egypt for the first time, but haven’t had it since. Overall, feeling great!

Do you get lonely? Answer: Not really. I seem to do well traveling alone. I meet so many interesting people during my travels I don’t think about it much. I’ve developed friendships with several people and we text or phone each other often. Always good to hear from my U.S. friends when we connect via text, email, or by phone. Having apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger and Skype, where you can call or text for free, makes being connected easy and cost-effective.

What do you do when you get back to your room after sightseeing during the day?  Answer: I generally take a nap, wake up and write my travel blog, eat dinner, make travel arrangements and watch a program or two on TV or on my laptop. Since this is when people in U.S. are starting to wake up, I respond to emails and texts until about 11:00 then silence my phone for the night.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Answer: No. And my answer still is: And don’t plan on getting any. Ever.

Have you fallen or tripped because of the uneven sidewalks, doorway thresholds, or stairs? Answer: Only fell once, in a hotel lobby, where the elevators were a step up from the lobby floor. In my defense, the lobby floor and step were both black and difficult to see. Haven’t tripped on any sidewalk. And think I only tripped on one doorway threshold so far. Since most places where I’ve been, there must be a building code that requires a slightly higher threshold, but I’ve somehow managed to learn to step over them.

Have I been disturbed by loud neighbors or sounds from the neighborhood. Answer: Yes. Twice I’ve been kept awake because of loud music being played until early in the morning from a nearby nightclub or bar. Once, I had to move to another hotel room because of this. In Athens, there are many motorbikes that seemingly never stop running at night. In London recently, I was living over a flat where the couple frequently stayed up most of the night talking loudly and playing music. Another was the flat I had in Budapest where the couple upstairs came home late most nights and were up until 3:00 a.m. or later – and I just got up when they came home and went to bed when I knew they were quiet. But thankfully, that is all that there has been.

How do you know how long to stay in one city? Or even which city to visit next? Answer: This is a more difficult question to answer, or perhaps easy to answer in some respects. First is planning where I visit. For that, I find a place that attracts me, which is more of an instinct or feeling that I have. I never visit anywhere because I’m supposed to. It has to be because I want to. And how long I stay in one city is mainly a result of the same feeling I have on how long to stay, but sometimes it gets adjusted by a day or two because of the cost of an airline ticket, which can be hundreds of dollars depending on the day that I leave. Getting back to the question about where I travel to, I’ve learned that I prefer to stay in the northern part of Europe in the summer and the southern part in the cooler months.

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Friday, 26 January 2018

 Seville, Spain (Hilton Garden Inn)

This morning I discovered that the breakfast here is perhaps a little better than most of the Hilton’s where I’ve stayed because of the variety available. Always a challenge when offered a buffet breakfast is to find everything you need. In this case, I couldn’t find the butter, but eventually found it by the cold cuts. I think, if I’m not mistaken, that all Hilton’s base their breakfast on at traditional English breakfast and sometimes offer stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, cold cuts of various meats, and sausages. I generally have scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, orange juice, coffee, and finish with a bowl of cereal. A hearty breakfast, but it usually carries me until dinner.

The hotel offers a shuttle into the city center, about 5 miles away, free to hotel guests. This Hilton is the only one in Seville and not located in the city center, but with the shuttle it doesn’t seem that far away. Definitely no street noise at this hotel. The 11:45 shuttle took us to a location that is central to many of the attractions in Seville. I had no idea what I wanted to see when we arrived so I walked along the Guadalquivir River towards some modern buildings (as seen from the hotel shuttle) that I discovered were from the Universal Exposition of Seville in 1992. The one tall tower near the river caught my eye and so that was my destination.

As I walked down by the river towards the tower I passed through a city market, which wasn’t large but offered a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables and meats. A short distance away down the river path I started to see some buildings which looked like they might be part of the 1992 Expo. But there was a fence around a park like area and soon I reached a dead end along the river, so I retraced my steps until I found away around the fencing to the tower.

Seville Market Near River

Monument Found at End of a Seville Bridge

As I approached the tower by the river, I tried to look up online how to get to the top. The website looked a little out-of-date so I asked around until I found a ticket office. I was surprised that more people were not taking advantage of riding to the top of this 50 meter (164 feet) tower along the river. The weather was clear and a terrific 360 degree view of Seville.

Seville’s Navigation Tower (Torre Mirador or Torre Schindler)

View of Seville from Navigation Tower

On the way up to the top of the tower, I met a couple from The Netherlands (they said “Holland”) and we talked until the elevator let us out at the top of the tower. What a great view in every direction! After taking a few pictures I looked around for a little longer and was ready to go down.

As I purchased the ticket for the tower, for 1.90 Euro more, I was given a pass to walk around the the permanent exhibit of “Seville and the Navigation of the Atlantic”. Magellan started his world voyage from Seville. I was most interested in the sea of lights that creatively depicted waves rolling in various directions with the aid of small lights on hundreds, if not thousands, of skinny poles set at various heights. The remainder of the exhibit displayed the evolution of ships that would have sailed from Seville.

Video of Lights: Click Here

I could have walked back along the river, but saw a street that would take me from the tower to my starting point earlier. I had seen a tour boat earlier taking passengers on a tour of the river and thought that would be interesting. It looked like the tour started on the other side of the bridge from where I was earlier.

The boat tour was 16 Euros, which I thought was a good deal. Sit and relax while listening to a tour of the bridges and sites along the river. Not quite as fun as riding a Segway, but it was good to sit down and enjoy the ride. Three bridges were built in anticipation of the 1992 Expo and one in particular is the longest bridge built with supports only from each end.

Tour Boat

View from Boat 

Interesting Homes Along River (Think I could live in one of these.)

Bridges over Guadalquiver River

After the boat tour I took another walk down one of the main central streets of Seville before the shuttle was scheduled to meet to pick us up at 4:30. When the shuttle arrived I was given the passenger seat and a couple from northern England were in the seat behind me and the driver. We had a great discussion about visiting countries and towns and they seemed to be interested in my travels.

Today was a full five hours of walking around and found that I walked almost 15,000 steps. Of course I took a nap when I got back to my room. By the time I woke it was dark and I ordered a Waldorf salad from room service. A slight variation of a Waldorf that I’m used to, but it was very good.

Tomorrow I’m planning to visit St. Mary of the Sea, or the Seville Cathedral. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world with only St. Paul’s in Vatican City and another in Brazil.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Valencia, Spain (Caro Hotel, Carrer de l’Almirall)

Today is my last day in Valencia before getting on a plane for Seville later in the afternoon. This morning I got up and went to McDonald’s for breakfast and this time was there after 9:00, when they open. I was going to include hash browns with my order but they’re not offered here, which I suppose is good since I don’t really need to have hash browns if I want to maintain my weight.

After showering and packing, I checked out at noon and left my baggage at the hotel’s front desk and walked more into Valencia’s city center. Only a 15 minute walk from the hotel. I took a few pictures, sat in the central plaza for about 20 minutes then walked back to the hotel. Was nice to enjoy the city with no plans as a way of saying goodbye. Valencia is very beautiful and clean – with amazing architecture and history.

Valencia City Hall

Interesting Top to Building

Many Buildings Like the One Below

I asked the front desk for a cab at 1:30 and it was waiting for me when I returned to the hotel. The ride was about 15 minutes and was charged 27.50 Euro (30 Euro with tip), which I thought was a bit steep, but I guess that is the going rate. The driver was nice and engaged me in conversation, so I think overall the added value was there.

Perhaps I arrived a bit early. It gave me time to work on my blog update from the day before and I almost finished when my flight was called and we were asked to get in queue to board the plane. Was nice that my checked suitcase weighed 20 kg, which was 3 kg less than the maximum weight – otherwise I’d have to pay a penalty. The plane was small and boarding was quick and easy – and we were off to Seville. The ride was a bit bumpy in places, but the flight was only an hour long and the time went quickly.

When we touched down in Seville it was raining and somewhat cold. I hadn’t expected that, but the forecast said rain was a possibility. I didn’t mind, being from Oregon. The trip charge for a taxi must be different than in Seville, since it was about the same travel time and distance, and the fare was less than 20 Euro, with tip.

The people at the Hilton Garden Inn, Seville were super nice and helpful. The hotel also has a place for guests to do laundry – hadn’t expect that. And was given a choice of two rooms that I could look at before I moved in. This was a first. They gave me and the porter keys to both rooms and I selected the second one because it was a little bigger, with a sofa and table.

One thing I noticed when I walked in was that it was very warm in the room. I adjusted the thermostat and it was still warm. I then opened the window and after 10 minutes it was still warm. I wanted to get some fruit and snacks at the local store and thought the room would be cooler when I returned, but it wasn’t. I needed to let the front desk know that I was having problems with the cooling. The front desk quickly sent up someone from maintenance who verified that there was something wrong and made the fix and the room was cooler. Was impressed with the quick response and efficient fix.

After a nap I finished my daily blog post, then ordered a ceasar salad for dinner. When it arrived 15 minutes later I was surprised at the size of it. But I ate it all since I hadn’t eaten since the morning, 12 hours earlier. I did eat a banana and apple at the airport, so it wasn’t like I didn’t have anything to eat all day.

After finishing with some correspondence I was ready for bed.Traveling to a new place always makes me a little more tired than usual. So much to take in when I arrive at a new destination, since I try to memorize how to get to the hotel, everything that the front desk tells me as I’m checking in, and then unpacking and getting squared away in the new room. I sort of have the ability to visually record everything that I see and hear as I’m checking in, which has come in handy on a few occasions. I can recall times and locations when needed later.

Tomorrow I’ll take the shuttle (since we are about 5 miles away from Seville’s city center) into the city and start walking around. Not sure what I want to see first. I’ll figure it out when I get there. I’ll definitely get some walking in for sure.

 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Valencia, Spain (Caro Hotel, Carrer de l’Almirall)

Another good nights sleep! I was up by 8:00 a.m. and hungry, and was looking forward to having an Egg McMuffin. I got dressed and walked to the nearby McDonald’s only to discover that they didn’t open until 9:00 a.m. What? On to Plan B and remembered that Starbucks also serves a breakfast sandwich. Problem solved and enjoyed their breakfast sandwich maybe a little more than McDonald’s.

When I returned to the hotel room I was feeling the need for more sleep. I woke up a little before noon and got myself ready to walk back to the City of Arts and Science. But first, get the room ready for housekeeping. This involves pulling up the covers on the bed, throwing away any loose trash, putting away my clothes and locking up the laptop and iPad in the safe. Also, I put the card on the bed letting them know that my sheets do not need to be changed, my towels that I would like to be replaced are on the bathroom floor and I always leave a tip as well. It takes about 5 minutes to do all of this but I don’t want housekeeping to have to work around my stuff to do their job.

And then I was on my way to the City of Arts and Science. I’ve not been in a city where the river has been so obviously diverted. In Portland, several of the streams that ran through the city in the early days now flow underneath, as with probably other cities. But to divert the river and put in a park in its place is unusual. The park, about 20 – 30 feet below street level, is well maintained, a number of interesting bridges (all unique) pass over the park and it is used extensively by joggers, bikers, and people who are out for a walk, like me.

The walk to the “City” is expected to take 30 minutes or so. Really enjoyed just walking along and viewing pretty much what I saw yesterday. I appreciate having the time to look at everything in more detail. I was interested in a bridge that had drains that emptied into the ground below via sculptured eagle heads that catch the water from the street above.

It wasn’t long before I was at the City of Arts and Science. Still find the place interesting to see. To build just one of these buildings would be quite a project, but to build several large buildings, and not have it be part of a Worlds Fair or hosting the Olympic games is almost unheard of. I walked through the very long museum atrium and out the other side. Today I saw a Ducati parked in one of the fountains.

I started to walk to where Valencia meets the sea but it was almost another 30 minutes away so I headed back. By this time I was a hungry but couldn’t decide on where to eat. I sat down at this one cafe and waited for 10 minutes and no one came to take my order. It wasn’t busy, but I wanted to get back to walking and looked for somewhere else. Then I saw a Burger King and picked up a small cheeseburger and a water, then continued walking.

Took pictures of a couple of bridges, with one that had two rows of red roses. My pictures don’t do the roses justice. In full bloom and beautiful.

Praying Mantis Sculpture 

As I started to get close to the hotel I saw a large monument arch a few blocks away. The arch was in Plaza de la Puerta del Mar (Square to the Door of the Sea) and the arch is a replica of the gate had been opened in the wall in 1356. It was reformed several times, the last in neoclassical style in 1843, and finally demolished with the rest of the city wall. Was interested to find out why the center of this arch/gate was blanked out. Discovered it was because it had a reference to Francisco Franco. Ah, that explains it.

To say I was tired and sore after my walk would be an understatement. It wasn’t long before I was napping. I sleep for nearly two hours and ready to find something to eat and thought a salad from McDonald’s would be just right.

I wasn’t up too much longer after I finished my salad. Found a program on YouTube regarding Windsor Palace then went to sleep. I had walked nearly 20,000 steps today. Nice!

Tomorrow, I leave for Seville. The flight is in the afternoon so I’ll have a little more time to walk around the city before going to the airport.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Valencia, Spain (Caro Hotel, Carrer de l’Almirall)

Not so good of a sleep last night. It could have been the coffee I had later in the day. But no matter, I was awake and ready for a new day regardless. Today, after I got ready, I walked over to the nearby McDonald’s and ordered an Egg McMuffin and a cup of coffee then walked up to the Segway shop for my 10:00 appointment. I decided to skip the hotel’s breakfast (which is rather expensive for what you receive) and go to what I know is safe, reliable and easy on the pocketbook.

I arrived at the shop a little early and had time to look around a bit before 10:00. While waiting, I was given a form to complete, a helmet and then met my guide. She explained, while she had tears in her eyes, that her nephew was in the hospital and her family was very concerned. I was deciding whether to cancel the tour but figured that this is how she makes her living and if she was up for giving a tour then so was I. She kept apologizing and I said it was okay, that we’ll do as much as she is able to do, and then we were off on the tour.

We rode quite a ways down the former river bed and park before stopping for some pictures then proceeded along to the city’s performance center. She was telling me that many famous people have performed in the center. And I said, “Justin Bieber too?” She laughed a little and said thank you for making her laugh. At that point I knew we would be okay. It was a long way to our final destination, the City of Arts and Sciences.

When we arrived at the City of Art and Sciences I was blown away. I saw pictures earlier of this location but wasn’t expecting these vast futuristic buildings that I was seeing. The opera house, science center, gardens, and movie theater. It was like stepping into the future. My guide said the buildings were completed in 2006. I took a number of pictures, but because the buildings are so big, I couldn’t get everything in one picture – or even several. This “city” is about four blocks wide and maybe 15 blocks long.

After rolling around this “city” on our Segways, we proceeded back down the other side of the park to the old part of Valencia. She showed me this one church that had a large stained glass window and pointed out the Star of David in the design and explained that the rich Jewish people in the city loaned money to build the church and this was their way of showing thanks. We rode through the Barrio del Carmen where many artistic people live and also showed me an archway that was once used to separate one of the quarters in the old city. There was segregation within the city, comprised of various religions and ethic backgrounds that made up each quarter. Now, everyone is lives where they please. She explained that the city is now very open and welcoming to everyone.

We came to the end of the tour and said our goodbyes. She seemed to be a little better emotionally and hope that her nephew gets better. The tour turned out very well and she gave me ideas on what I can visit over the next couple of days.

When I returned to the hotel, because of my lack of sleep the night before, I took a long nap and when I woke I thought about what to eat for dinner. I wasn’t too hungry, so walked to Starbucks and bought a turkey and cheese sandwich. I had some apples and bananas in my room and will made do with that.

After I finished with my blog update I tried to watch some programs on Netflix but was still very tired and was in bed by 9:30.

Tomorrow I’ll revisit the City of Arts and Sciences and walk around it on foot. It is a few miles away from the hotel so it will be a good walk.

 

 

Monday, 22 January 2018

Valencia, Spain (Caro Hotel, Carrer de l’Almirall)

Wow! A full night’s sleep, and then some. I first woke at about 7:30 a.m., I think, and slept until 9:00. Then got dressed and went down for breakfast. When I returned to my room I slept some more and didn’t wake until 12:45 p.m. Think I’m fully rested now.

Today will be a light tour day. Just want to walk around a little and also make reservation for a Segway ride for tomorrow. The old city here in Valencia is much smaller than Barcelona and everything to see is within a walk of 5 – 15 minutes.

Today, I headed first towards the Segway shop and made reservations for 10:00 tomorrow, then walked over to one of the two surviving (of 12) city gates.

Paddington Bear was her too! 

From there I walked down to the former river bed (river diverted in 1957 due to flooding) where there is a park and walked there and then up to the city again and took various pictures.

 

I found a cafe’ that had a good view and ordered a coffee and a salad.

Took a nap when I returned to my room. Woke up and walked to the Starbucks again and bought a sandwich and a fruit cup for dinner. I wasn’t interested in a big dinner and something quick and easy was fine with me. The salad from earlier filled me up.

Still felt tired. And after I finished with my blog post I watched a little Netflix and went to bed.

Tomorrow is my Segway ride. I’ve scheduled two hours, will probably be the only one on participating on the tour, and the tour will take me down to the City of Arts and Sciences, along the old river bed, and then a tour of the old city.