Saturday, July 31, 2010


That is what we did most of the  About two-thirds of the way, we stopped at the Chateau De Bonaguil, a French castle begun in the 13th century.  None of us had ever been in a castle before, and we trooped from the bottom courtyard to the top of the tower.  Sounds easy, not..., but we had great views of the valley.

We had our first experience with a hyper marche...a French version of Wal-mart.  I think we were in there about one and a half hours.  Yikes!  The first thing we had to do was to produce 1.50 Euros to get a grocery cart.  What a great way to make people responsible for returning their carts.  Wine is very inexpensive.  We spent a lot of money on food to eat at the house in La Roque Gageac since food at a restaurant is very $100 for 4 of us.  We could opt for sandwiches, but you get a little tired of that meal after meal.  Austin has eaten many baguettes of bread, as all of us.

The house is absolutely PERFECT!  We love it, and we have only been here three hours.  We plan to spend the whole day here and not drive an inch anywhere.  Erin, John, and Kylie have arrived in France and are staying in Toulouse tonight.  They will join us tomorrow for two weeks.

Austin aka Ronaldo

Friday July 30, 2010

It was Austin's Day.  He and Jim went riding on the bumper cars at the wharf last night before we ate supper.  Watching them was a group of kids about Austin's age.  The two groups had a bit of communication, but it did not reach gigantic proportions until the next day.  About 11 am this morning, a group of at least 10 girls turned up outside the Pension Getariano to meet, greet, and get a photo of Austin, who they said looked like the multimillion dollar soccer star, Ronoldo, who plays for Real Madrid.  The girls were literally screaming outside when they caught a glimpse of him through the windows.  Definitely a moment in his life to remember.

This was a driving day.  We avoided the beach cities and drove through the Parque Natural de Pagoeta which had a beautiful old 18th century house surrounded by 8 botanical zones from around the world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Driving on a road similar to Highway 1 along Big Sur with winding, twisty, hairpin turns high above the ocean, we made our way towards France.  Stopping at Elantxobe, a small typical fishing village, we stretched our legs and tried to engage the locals.  The people in this Basque area aren't particularly friendly or welcoming.  Maybe it is because they refuse to acknowledge Spanish as their native language.  There are signs and graffitti everywhere advocating independence and freedom from Spanish control.

Our rest for the night is Getaria.  Our habits are being forced to adapt to the Spanish custom of not eating until 8 pm so we had to wait until the restaurants opened to serve us.  We began with mixed salads then ate squid, turbot, pork, and another kind of fish we didn't know the name of.  Our choice of dessert for the second day in a row was flan.  This was the most traditional flan of the three nights we have eaten it.  Austin volunteered to eat a fish eyeball.  We were all impressed.  It is really hard to go to sleep on an extremely full belly.

Bilbao's Gehry's Guggenheim

Centering in A Matter of Time by Richard Serra
July 28, 2010 Wednesday

We left Santillana del Mar, past the church, small closed shops, the torture museum (the second that Austin has visited).  We headed toward Bilbao, and when we stopped for gas, there was a wonderful coffee bar inside with a little patio.  B and I had a Spanish tortilla (like a pie without the crust made of eggs and any other ingredients you have handy, and J and A had a chocolate croissant.  Driving in Bilbao is something that the book says not to do...  but we did and found a parking garage near the museum, a short walk along the river.  It is an amazing creation by Frank Gehry and finished in 1997.  I came here the year after it was finished, and since then it has become really busy. There were shows by Anish Kapoor with a cannon that fires blood red cannisters of gooey wax into a corner and the pile of oozing globs of matter feel like they will engulf the viewer.  Robert Rauschenberg had compositions created with junkyard objects. There were permanent installations that included Richard Serra's A Matter of Time, the huge spider, "Puppy", a huge topiary covered with flowers, and Jenny Holzer messages that flashed in moving red lights on vertical lines from floor to ceiling (about 50 feet). 

Last night we drove to Gernika and visited the Peace Museum; a museum for all the people of the world to have lasting peace.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back in Time

Tuesday, July 27

Reaching back, way back, into our ancestral beginnings, we viewed the cave art of bison, deer, horses, and boars of the Magdalenians of 14,000 years ago in the nuevo-cave of Altimira near Santillana del Mar, Spain.  The attached museum was extremely extensive with videos, found artifacts, and information about the life of early Cro-Magnon humans.

We stayed at a wonderful little hotel in which sheep and donkeys gamboled in the pasture next to us, and furniture was made on the ground level below our room on the edge of the village.  Bowers of geraniums and begonias festooned the tiny courtyard.  Two nights in the same hotel run by Octavio and Milagra was muy bien.

The Low Road and The High Reaches

Monday, July 26

Leaving Burgos, we headed to the nearest shell intersection to join the pilgrim walkers on the Camino de Santiago.  Our starting  point was Tardajos.  Kathy and I walked about 2 kilometres to the next tiny village of Rabe de las Calzadas.  It was a pleasant morning with a breeze pushing at our backs.  We were on a little used road instead of a path and had to dodge the occasional tractor, car, or combine and join the wild red  poppies and various other wildflowers in the ditches.  No walking peregrino passed us nor did we catch up to the pilgrim in front of us.  When we stopped to wait for our support team car, at least 14 other pilgrims were behind us.  They probably started their journey near the French border in various states of preparedness with tennnis shoes or hiking boots, long or short pants, long sleeved shirts, 1 or 2 walking sticks, a big backpack, and, maybe, a small rock in token of their mortal burdens to set down when they reached Santiago de Compostella on the western north coast of Spain about 900 km away.  It is a solemn venture these peregrinos are making with much time for introspection and the possible epiphany. 
It was a different story for our intrepid explorer Austin.  He braved the 4 minute, ear popping, 2600 meter assent via cable car at Fuente de in the Pico de Europa mountins while we pensioners hiked for over 75 minutes up, up, up and descended in 35 minutes.  Jim drove us through beautiful little villages with vertical cliff walls that only allowed the sun to reach them from April to November.

Lows and highs and many twists and turns today brought us at last to the Atlantic coast beach.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Spain seems a country that still wants to smoke.  Although smoking is only "in homes or on the street", Spain is smoking like crazy.  All the larger cities we have visited with the exception of Madrid, i.e. Toledo, Salamanca and now Burgos have the old cobblestone streets running through medieval centers around cathedrals.  Today we visited the Burgos Cathedral known to be the tallest one in Spain and all 4 of us enjoyed going.  You can see that Jim's feet were a bit tired, but Austin took care of that.  It is cooler here.  We spent the morning driving through beautiful golden fields with bales of hay already harvested - lots of fields of sunflowers, some cattle grazing, chicken ranching.  Can't help thinking about the scenery while driving on CA highways.  It is very similar. We are eating lots of fresh breads, cafe con leche, and ordering from el menu del dia.  Kathy

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Silly Sandwiches of Salamanca and Other Oddities

We don't think you could find anything like Austin's sandwich in America.  He ate almost all of the eye-popping egg and yolk, white asparagus, thick bacon, lettuce, ham, melted cheese, mayo, pink sauce, and 3 slices of toasted bread.  We also ate amarguillos made and sold by the nuns at the Convento de las Duenas.

Becky liked the Museum of Nouveau Art and Art Deco because it was so entirely different from nearly all we've seen so far.  They had a tiny 12" bronze Carmen Miranda that is the namesake of our Garmin Nuvi.  Becky said, "I can see her stamping her foot when we go the wrong way and she has to recalculate."

Kathy liked the Paseo where everybody was out with their families, dressed to the hilt and gathered together for various celebrations including the seven brides and seven weddings we saw replete with blue cadillac, a pair of bicylces, and a 1932 car.

Austin liked climbing the towers of the "New" Cathedral and exploring all the tiny doors and niches.  He felt like he went into places he wasn't suppose to go and did.

When Jim was asked if he liked Salamanca, he said, "Is that where we are now?"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Passion Among the Cobblestones

I can feel the passion of Don Quixote, the religiosity of The Church, the confluence of multiple religions coexisting within this walled medieval city on a hill, which is almost surrounded by a river. We have been exploring for six hours and have visited the cathedral, the Military Museum, the museum of instruments of torture used in conjunction with the Inquisition; Becky bought marzipane de Toledo; we both bought fans, of course, and we are all exhausted.  Have been laughing so much today as Apa and I struggle with our 70 year old bodies (OK, he isn't quite 70 yet) and Becky and Austin are both tired, too.  Tonight Becky and I are going back to experience this stone and red tiled city under a full moon and special lights which recreate the medieval look of Toledo.  Tomorrow we go to Salamanca.  Kathy 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Austin's Last Day in Madrid

I finally got a good night's rest and have recovered from a severe case of jet lag.  Spain has definitely taken some getting used to.  The fast paced jive of Madrid has been a shock for me coming from Santa Barbara.  People here seem like they always have places to go, people to see, busy...busy...busy... As tourists we seem to stick out everywhere we go.  I don't want to come off as those "loud, ugly Americans". 

Today I went to the Prado Museum with Jim.  I had no idea what I was getting into; it was quite the journey.  We walked miles through hundreds of rooms and corridors containing some of the world's finest art.  We feasted our eyes on the works of Goya, Valasquez, Miro, and El Greco.

We stopped to take a picture at the feet of the famed Don Quixote and his trusty companion Sancho Panza .


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

La Dolorosa

Reina Sofia was our quest for this afternoon.  A taxi helped us save our feet for wandering the vast building holding Picasso's Guernica for the last 18 years.  This a compelling argument against war.  How many artists have to represent senseless killing?

On a lighter note, we went tapas dining tonight.  This dolorosa was about 45 Euros.  It wasn't great food, just experiential...lots of local people out with their kids and dogs.

Spiderman is in Plaza Mayor

Austin couldn't resist performing with Spiderman in the Plaza Mayor.  We all think this is a much better act than the acts carried out by the Spanish Inquisition head honchos many years ago in this very same setting.  The limits of Austin's athletic ability is unbounded especially after we climbed up to the cupola surrounding the dome of the Cathedral de la Almudena across from the Royal Palace.  We do discover that we have become Madrilenos because after all that expenditure of energy, we need a siesta.

We're Up

Slept till 4 am.  Up to watch the street cleaner truck barely fitting down the tiny cobblestone street below.  Got up again to hear and see the swallows filling the sky and flying right by our small balcony cleaning up the bugs.  Austin and I went into the streets and walked to the Plaza Mayor where people watched the punishments of the Inquisition and lots of other Spanish history played out.  Bought churros and came back to Becky and Jim who had slept wonderfully till 7 am.  We will visit the royal palace this am and go to the Prado and the Sophia Reina (where Guernica resides) this evening.  Till later, Kathy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Impressions

WE'RE HERE after all the usual traveler hassles of actually arriving somewhere.  Here is an indiscriminate list of first impressions:  Paris:  Girls in white cotton dresses with black belts;  skinny women;  women in heels or flats, no hiking or tennis shoes;  tiny girls in little dresses playing in the park;  bistros with sidewalk tables full of people;  91 degrees of heat.  Madrid:  Kathy, Austin, and Jim in great spirits;  the apartment is wonderful:  the windows of the balcony are covered in drapes that reach from ceiling to floor...10 feet;  pizza and cold 30 cent beer; lots and lots of people out on the street watching buskers at 10:30 pm with the heat hovering about 80 degrees;  we all conk out immediately upon hitting the horizontal position and the pillows. Good Night!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Countdown to Departure

Welcome to our blog.  For those of you who don't know, we are preparing for a trip to Spain, France, Norway, and England to celebrate two 70 young birth years.  Joining us on the loose for the first ten days will be Kathy and Austin, grandmother/grandson extraordinaires.

All of us have been busy, busy researching, analyzing, purchasing, and gathering all the bells and whistles to make our trip simple, easy, and enjoyable.  This blog is only one item in the long list we have negotiated.  It is amazing how much we have learned about netbooks, iPod touch, Skype, analog watches with an alarm and a leather band, rolling back packs, VRBO, Britrail, Eurorail, and all the associated sites of finding places to see and visit.  Whew!

Don't forget that if you have Skype on your computer, you can call us anytime we are on line. 

D Day is July 19....