best of 2017

best of 2017

Our first year in Spain has been all that we expected – and more.

We saw London dressed in her best for the Christmas season:

We wandered through Christmas markets in Germany:

We admired the snow-topped Alps from our hotel window in Murren:

We watched our oldest propose to his girlfriend at Sagrada Familia:

We explored the Alhambramore than once:

We roamed the Mezquita and the old quarter of Cordoba:

We enjoyed seafood on Mallorca:


We immersed ourselves in culture in Italy:

We investigated the past in Cartagena:

We revisited Prague, one of our favorite cities:

We tasted wine and tapas throughout Spain:

We spent the weekend in Paris:

We became regulars at Xiringito:

We shared our new home with friends from home:

Best of all, we made really good friends in our new home:


Our version of the Spanish Grand Tour

Our version of the Spanish Grand Tour

My college roommate came to visit us in September. We’ve been friends for longer than either of us care to contemplate at this point in our lives.

A long first day in Spain: arrival in Madrid at 9:30, shower at the hotel, a quick bite, then to the Prado to see the temporary exhibit of the treasures of the Hispanic Society of America and hit the high points of the museum’s main holdings. Then the train home to Alicante, dinner, and – finally – bed.

We settled in for a few quiet days in Alicante, including meals at some of our favorite places: Katana in the Mercado and Xiringuito Postiguet beach bar. Castle Santa Barbara and its Game of Thrones exhibit.

We then hit the road for our version of the Spanish Grand Tour.

First stop: Granada and the Alhambra. We overslept, so had to get tickets and rush to start at the Nasrid Palace, then go back uphill to the Generalife. MUCH better to get there a couple of hours early and start at the Generalife. We were surprised: the crowds were larger than any we’ve encountered yet. Not so much fun with all of those tourists!

Kim is a serious quilter, and there are patterns everywhere:

Next: Cathedral of Granada. It continues to amaze.

Then on to Cordoba, where Todd dropped us off outside the old city wall. At the recommendation of the Lovely Elena at the Hotel Amistad, we had dinner at El Churrasco. Fantastic grilled salmon, accompanied by a lovely wine, followed by a decadent dessert: a truly grownup meal for 25 Euros each!

We hit the Mezquita as soon as it opened. Again, crowds of tourists. But the organ was playing when we got there, and we were able to get into the choir. This place is in many ways more impressive to me than the Alhambra (I don’t want to hear from those of you who disagree; I know this is a minority view.)

We didn’t have train tickets on to Madrid until 8:00 that night, but our concierge showed spaces available on earlier trains, so we headed to the station. But no seats available. So we trekked (via taxi) back to the hotel to stash our bags and find something else to do.

We started at the Casa de Sefarad, the Jewish Museum in the old quarter, just around the corner from our hotel. It is a fascinating place, and most of the information is available in English. The exhibits were interesting and manageable, and the staff was welcoming. When I asked if I could get a copy of the English explanations, I was told they would be happy to e-mail that information to me. Perfecto!

Still hours to go.

Leisurely lunch.

Still hours to go.

At the suggestion of the Lovely Elena, we visited the patios at the Palacio de Viana. Beautiful patio gardens were a welcome respite from the heat. Definitely a little-known jewel.

Finally, time to catch the train to Madrid. We had enough time at the station before the train to book our San Sebastian tickets.


A day in Cartagena

A day in Cartagena

I knew when my former teaching partner was coming to visit that I wanted to hit the historical highlights. We taught Humanities together: I covered English with a focus on world literature and she taught World History. History is not only AndaLee’s job; it is her passion.

I met with our travel guide friend Felipe to discuss the best way to cover the Roman sights around us. He suggested a day trip to Cartagena. I had him put it together for us. So, on AndaLee’s first full day in Spain, we all set off with an ambitious plan to “do” the Roman era in Cartagena. And do it we did!

Muralla Punica/Punic Wall

We started at the Centre for the Interpretation of the Punic rampart. An introductory film and a number of explanatory exhibit signs helped to put things into perspective.

The Carthaginian Asdrubal founded Qart-Hadast in 229 BCE. The town was quickly conquered by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio in 209 BCE.

The museum building encompasses a section of the original Carthaginian wall. The “wall” is actually two parallel walls three stories tall with roofed rooms in between to house horses, men, and supplies. It is a simple but elegant depiction of life within (literally) the ramparts

An added bonus at this museum is the crypt of St. Joseph from the 13th century. Painted skeletons dance on the walls to protect the remains of the brothers of the Guild of St. Joseph buried there within the 110 niches.

Casa de la Fortuna/The House of Fortune

Fortuna propitia inscribed on the flooring of the courtyard of the house gave its name to this house site. The complete house gives you a sense of the layout and décor of a Roman domo in the first century CE.

The first discovery here was of the road in front of the house, and through glass windows in the road you can catch a glimpse of the sewer system that ran beneath the Roman city.


The Augusteum was a meeting place for the priests of the cult of the Emperor Augustus, built in the first century CE.

Roman Forum District

Built in the first century BCE, the complex includes thermal spa baths and an atrium space for religious banquets.

Roman Theatre Museum

The setup for this museum is genius. You enter from Plaza del Ayuntamiento and cross under the street to wind your way through a museum that has breathtaking exhibits of some of the most important discoveries from the theatre excavation. After riding escalators up several floors, you find yourself entering the theatre of ancient Carthago Nova. The theatre was built to hold 6000, and you can roam up and down the aisles and even onto the stage.

While construction of the theater dates to the first century BCE, Cathedral Santa Maria de Gracia was built atop its ruins in the 18th century.

One ticket will gain you entry into all of the sights through the Puerta de Culturas.