Tag Archives: vacations

Scenes from Spain

14 May

Why do we love Spain?  Well, there are many reasons.  The people are awesome, the food is divine, costs are great here compared to other European countries plus Spanish wine is one of our favorites.  The country is amazing in its demography.  It changes drastically from mountainous to farm land as far the eye can see,  to the  dry desert and then the  fabulous sea in a short drive.  Did you know Spain has great weather?  Some of the bluest skies I’ve ever seen.   After I give you a synopsis of our trip, I am just going to post a lot of photos for you to look and  see for yourself how wonderful it really is.

Having lunch in Perpignan with Brad, Chris, Jerry, Eileen, Ron and me.

Having lunch in Perpignan, France with Brad, Chris, Jerry, Eileen, Ron and me.

In April 2012, we embarked on a two-week tour of Spain with a group of our friends.  The six of us rented a van and planned our course.  We flew into Barcelona and spent about 2 days.  We decided since we were so close to France, we should drive over for a night.  We ended up in a town called Perpignan.  We loved this small town.  Again, if you’ve read my other blogs you’ll know I love food and red wine.  Perpignan was heaven for me.  A highlight for our trip was stopping at a local grocery store and everyone buying whatever they wanted to have for dinner and meeting back at our bed and breakfast hotel to share in the “tapas” we’d all chosen. What a feast we had and of course the red wine was flowing!  After that, we drove the coast of Spain making several stops in towns like Alicante, Vera Playa, Sevilla,Gibraltar, Elvas Portugal and Madrid.  Maybe that’s for another blog…

View from our condo in Vera Playa, Spain.

View from our condo in Vera Playa, Spain.

Okay, since we both love Spain, Ron and I had planned to return there after our trip to Thailand.  We rented a 2 bedroom condo in Vera Playa, which is about 2 hours south of Alicante on the Mediterranean.  We arrived after our short stopover in London and was so happy to see blue, sunny skies!

You might be asking yourself, “well do I need to speak Spanish though”?  The answer is no.  In most of the larger cities, and in tourist areas, English is spoken everywhere.  You’ll run into a lot of folks from the UK and Germany who retire here.  In some areas you’ll forget you’re in Spain as there are so many British.    When you do fall into trouble with the language, I suggest you use Google translator.  That’s what Ron and I use as well as Google Maps.  Works like a charm.

Michele arriving from JFK!!

Michele arriving from JFK!!

One of my closest friends planned on visiting us in Spain and I couldn’t be happier to see Michele when she arrived!  Michele had never been to Spain and we wanted to show her how great the country really is.

My uncle lived in a town called Torre Vieja which is 45 min south of Alicante until he passed away last year.  I had planned to visit with his caretakers and in doing so, got to see another beautiful town of Spain.  We met Sharon and Phil for lunch and they took us to a restaurant that was fabulous!  We ordered fish for lunch and of course had some wine and a great afternoon of learning about living in Spain from them who have been living there about 15 years.  They moved from London to a quieter Spain before it became quite built up.

Lunch in Torre Vieja

Lunch in Torre Vieja

What we found was that ordering fish in Thailand was expensive (filleted fish) but inexpensive in Spain.  Also, wine is very expensive in Thailand due to the fact that it has to be imported, but in Spain even the table wine is wonderful.  Meals here follow the European trend of being leisurely and a way of entertainment.

After our visit with Sharon & Phil, we drove to Alicante to show Michele what a bigger city in Spain looks like.  Alicante is a seaside town with a lot of history and charm.  We took Michele to one of our favorite spots for having some tapas.  It’s a corner park with huge banyan trees for shade.

Waterfront area of Alicante

Waterfront area of Alicante

We love the atmosphere of just relaxing with a glass of wine over good conversation.  As an American, it is not necessarily in our culture to relax and not feel as if you have to accomplish 100 tasks before the day ends.  Here, time kind of stands still as people converse over an espresso or glass of wine.

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Drinks in Alicante at the marina.

We took a walk down the waterfront of Alicante and was mesmerized by its beauty.  There are tourists, vendors, tall palm trees, restaurants and cafes.  On the other side of the street is the marina with all of its beautiful boats and yachts.  We explored this area and settled on a spot for a drink to people watch.  It was a gorgeous day out and a street performer kept us amused by his antics.

Dinner in Alicante

Dinner in Alicante

By night, the Spanish enjoy their supper later than Americans typically do.  We decided to walk and decide where we would eat.  We found a lovely square with a few restaurants vying for our business.  Again, everything is very laid-back.  You order some wine, have your dinner and just relax and enjoy being outdoors.

One of my favorite spanish meals is paella and I shared this with Michele a few times.   The Spanish cook it for two people.  I have to say that we found it cooked too salty for us the few times we ordered it.

After our night in Alicante, we headed back down to our condo in Vera Playa.

Vera Playa beach

Vera Playa beach

We walked the beach in the mornings and did some sightseeing in the afternoons.  There was a unique city called Mojacar not far from where we were staying.  We took Michele to have lunch and explore the area.  It is a city built-in a mountain overlooking the surrounding areas.  I am assuming the city was built that way to fend off invaders.  You’ll find by walking through its alleys and walkways that the views are wonderful.  You’ll never know what the next turn will produce.  When we stopped for lunch, Ron ordered a tapas meal called chorizo inferno.    What was unique about Ron’s meal was they served his chorizo on a skewer above a small bowl that had a flammable liquid which was ignited.

Chorizo Inferno in Mojacar

Chorizo Inferno in Mojacar

Ron was told by our waitress to turn his sausage until it cooks to his liking.  He said it tasted great and we couldn’t have been happier by our view of the land and the sea.

We decided to spend a day playing golf while Michele was visiting.  We played a course that is in the desert surrounded by mountains.  The contrast of the deep green grass against the blue sky and desert cacti made the course visually beautiful.   As it can get windy and hot in the afternoons, many people prefer to tee off the mornings.  Having arrived in the afternoon, we basically had the course to ourselves.  I’ve learned as a beginner golfer that is called “Millionaires Golf”.   After our game, we took a tour of some of the beautiful villas and condos surrounding the course.

Desert Springs Golf Course

Desert Springs Golf Course

We found it interesting that the internet was more sophisticated in Thailand than it was in Spain.  They are light years ahead of Spain in the area of internet technology.  We spent every Wednesday in Thailand at the movie theatre vs. not being able to find a movie theatre near Vera Playa.  Another difference in Spain to the US is they do not eat eggs for breakfast.  If you are looking for a typical American breakfast of eggs, toast, pancakes, bacon, etc  you won’t find it here.  Actually, McDonalds and Burger King do not serve breakfast at all!

Our plane leaving Spain

Our plane leaving Spain

Unfortunately we had to cut our trip to Spain short to return to the US.  We fund our airfare and hotel rooms by using points.  A big perk to that was we were able to snag first class seats on our flights from Spain to Orlando, Florida.  We flew Lufthansa who picks up their first class passengers by private car and delivers them to their plane just before takeoff through special hallways.  I have to say we felt like rock stars and couldn’t find a happier way to end our amazing trip.  Of course, flying does not guarantee the airline will deliver all of your luggage to its destination.  Lufthansa managed to leave Ron’s luggage in Madrid but found it and returned it to us about 5 days later.

First class all to ourselves!

First class all to ourselves!

We are grateful that we were able to have such an amazing journey to Thailand, Vietnam, London and Spain.  Below are some more pictures of Spain.   I will write a separate blog about our two-week journey from 2012 through this great country.

Street in Mojacar

Street in Mojacar

Walking in Mojacar Playa

Walking in Mojacar Playa

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Golf day!

Golf day!

Alicante by night

Alicante by night

Windmills outside Madrid

Windmills outside Madrid

Scenes around Alicante

Scenes around Alicante

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London Bridges

12 May
Tail cam showing our landing into Heathrow airport.

Tail cam showing our landing into Heathrow airport.

Up next in our travels is Spain (blog to follow).  We found you can’t fly directly there from Thailand.  We had to fly through London which conjures up all kinds of mental images for me: my ancestry, Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, Westminster Abbey and fish and chips.  Hmmm…Since we have to fly here anyway, why not visit some of my favorite places and see some news ones too?  All I had to do was promise Ron a visit to the Tower of London and it was all set!

First, since we didn’t plan a visit here, we weren’t prepared for the cold weather we found.  Luckily I bought a scarf for me and my good friend at a market in Phuket that I could wear.  We only had 2 days in London and many things to see, so no rest for the weary.  We were off and running after our 14 hour flight from Phuket at 6:00am.

IMG_3864Since we love the movie Notting Hill, we decided to take the tube over there and check out the market and Portobello Road.  It’s a great “artsy” neighborhood with lots of antique shops and street vendors.  What was once an undesirable suburb of London, it’s now a bustling section of town that’s fun to explore.  Of course we had to find the famous “blue door” from the movie that Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant starred in.

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Tower of London

Many people may not know that the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in 1078.  The castle was used as a prison from around 1100 but was also used as a royal residence.  After Anne Boleyn was charged with treason, adultery and incest by King Henry VIII, she was beheaded here in 1536.  What the castle is know most commonly for is its housing of the Crown Jewels.  As a matter of fact, when London hosted the summer Olympics in 2012, they stored all of the medals in the Tower since it’s the safest place in London.

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Westminster Abbey

I have been lucky enough to have seen many cathedrals in Spain and Italy but one of my top three is Westminster Abbey in London.  From the amazing Gothic architecture to the centuries old history it encompasses.  Since 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned, the coronations of British monarchs have been held here.  King Edward’ Chair, the throne on which every monarch since 1308 has had their coronation is housed here.  Most recently Prince William married Catherine Middletown in the same place his grandmother was coronated and his mother’s funeral service was held.  Many famous royalty, artisans and scientists are buried here including Geoffry Chaucer and Isaac Newton.

Professor Dumbledore's office

Professor Dumbledore’s office

And if you’re a Harry Potter fan (I am!!), London has a host of things for you to experience.

A 20 minute train ride outside London is Warner Bros. Studio Tour which is the actual studio where the wildly popular series was filmed.  The tour allows you to walk through real sets and see props and costumes used in the movies.

Great Hall at Hogwarts

Great Hall at Hogwarts

For a fan, being able to walk in the actual Great Hall and explore Dumbledore’s office is an amazing experience.  Outside is the house on Privit Drive where Harry lived with his aunt and uncle.  You get to walk onto the triple-decker bus that flys through the streets of London in the movies.  And here, you get to see Dobby again which was a highlight for me!  If you do visit, go

Dobby

Dobby

www.wbstudiotour.co.uk to pre-buy your tickets.  They control crowds well by not allowing you to buy tickets at the door.  You must pre-buy them.

Since I hadn’t had  my “Harry” fill, we took the tube over to King’s Cross Station.  There you will find a brick wall with a replica luggage cart and owl cage like the one Harry used to head off to Hogwarts school on platform 9 3/4.

Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4

You are allowed to don a scarf from the school of your choice and have your picture taken, for free!

McDonalds wallpaper

McDonalds wallpaper

On the morning we were departing London, we stopped at McDonald’s for a quick breakfast and were surprised by what we found.  Apparently McDonald’s in London and Spain have adopted a healthier list of ingredients and tout that on the wallpaper inside to let everyone know.  They claim to use only free range eggs, ground beef  from Ireland without any additives besides pepper, fresh harvested lettuce, etc.  IMG_3870We feel that’s awesome that McDonalds is taking such strides in providing healthier foods they serve, but our big question  is why aren’t they doing the same in the USA???  I guess that’s for another blog…