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”.

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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? 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.

 

 

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