On the Way in a roundabout way from the train station to Seville Cathedral in 2006 we happened (as we do in our unplanned way) on La Noria (Ferris Wheel) in Prado de San Sebastian, the whole of which was enveloped in a purple haze of Jacaranda blossom.
Oh dear readers, are you sick and tired of hearing how we get it so badly wrong every time we travel or are you smugly pleased that it’s not you, that you’re not in this script?
‘It’s not here.’
‘It must be. Have we looked down here?’
‘Is it that one?’
‘Is it that one?’
’Did you check the number plate?’
‘Maybe it’s in the workshop.’
‘Of course it’s not!’
‘Where is it then?’
‘It’s been stolen! Bl***y h***! It didn’t have any security fitted. The insurance won’t be valid.’
‘Surely the site has security and insurance,’ but I was talking to thin air as himself had gone looking for a third time in the same place hoping our new caravan/travel trailer/RV would magically appear.
I beetled off in the opposite direction to the storage facility office. Himself overtook me and burst through the doors.
I was reminded of the time our VW Golf disappeared overnight from its parking place in the little hill town of Vejer de la Frontera in Spain. The police had picked it up and plunked in down in a car park a 10 minute walk away. We were told the town council wanted to plant a palm tree where it had stood or were they playing a joke on los Inglés?
Meanwhile . . . . ‘I can’t find it!’ himself blurted out to a startled-looking receptionist who didn’t know who he was or what he was talking about.
A competent-looking woman with a clipboard stepped out of the office and stated calmly, ‘I’ll just see if it’s where I think it should be.’
She vanished out a side door and we stood dumbly uncertain for a moment then raced after her back to where we’d been looking. And there it was – all twenty-six feet of it. We must have walked and driven past it six times.
‘It wasn’t there five minutes ago,’ I said blithely to her. As her worry lines creased into a smile I realized that she’d been concerned too.
And that was just the start of the day.
We couldn’t get the hitch to engage or the jockey wheel to disengage. I would explain what that means but you’d glaze over and go find something interesting to read. Suffice it to say that a five minute job took an hour.
The journey was OK-ish but I was increasingly hating sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle. In our big American left-hand drive truck on roads originally for a right-hand drive horse and cart my driver was in the hedge and I was sat in the middle of the road. Every time the central cat’s eyes dunk, dunk, dunked under the truck wheels when the road narrowed I knew the caravan was encroaching at least a foot into the oncoming traffic – not funny on a blind bend. I got dizzy from holding my breath and my back is permanently kinked from leaning to the left to avoid imminent impact.
We made it to within five miles of our campsite and got lost. Himself stopped to read a sign that stated “Vehicles over 45 feet prohibited.” We are 45 feet, four inches. How do you turn a 45 foot four inch rig around on a single track road? You don’t. You swear loudly and repeatedly and carry on.
Looking for somewhere to just pull off the road and hyperventilate a bit we found ourselves parked outside a country post office – ideal for asking directions you’d think. They were lengthy, complicated and wrong and included a single-track humpback bridge with an S-bend. I closed my eyes and hoped not to hear a screeeech on the flint stone walls as we snaked through it.
There was, of course, no signal on our phones or the SatNav.
I’m not sure how we eventually found our way but we were leading a long parade when we turned off the road to the campsite six hours after leaving home for a 70 mile journey that became 95 miles – some of that excess in reverse.
Arriving tetchy, prickly, jittery, hungry, thirsty, weary and crabby we could have given the Seven Dwarves a run for their money. Attempting to set up on site we couldn’t get anything to work – electricity, gas, water, leveling, heating, fridge, cooker.
We blamed the dealer, the caravan, the campsite, the locals, the whole of the county of Norfolk and their roads and naturally each other for our woes but all the issues were simply down to our diminished mental capacities. I’m sure you could think of another word for it.
Though now washed, rested, warm, fed and as calm as I’ll ever be I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.
Flowers, flowers and more flowers! I was happy, happy, happy!
Festival of the Patios, Cordoba, Spain, 2006
Tantalizing glimpses through wrought iron gates of bountiful patios are all one gets throughout the year until May, when private patios – central open-air ‘rooms’ in houses – are opened to the public.
Originally plants and water features were a way of keeping the patios cool in the hot dry summers but in 1918 Códoba City Hall began sponsoring the patio contests. As you can see the residents go all out.
How would you like a whole wall of flowers?
To view more walls in the photo challenge, click: Wall. That’s all!
Looking good is mandatory but playing your instrument is optional.
I recently posted photos of Semana Santa – Easter Week – in Spain. Religious processions are solemn occasions but we’ve always been amused by the teenagers who take part in the marching bands.
The above photo was very busy so was heavily cropped to focus attention on the boys’ faces. What you can’t see is that they are all carrying wind instruments. What you can see is that they aren’t playing them.
Jude of Travel Words and the earth laughs in flowers has invited me to join in with this challenge. Jude is an accomplished photographer/traveler/garden enthusiast so while out and about stays grounded and records everything with wonderfully entertaining results.
There are only two rules for this challenge:
On 5 consecutive days, create a post using either a past or recent photo in B&W.
Each day invite another blog friend to join in the fun.
Today I would like to nominate Sue Slaght at Travel Tales of Life to take part in the challenge. Sue has all the energy, enthusiasm and devilment I wish I had for travel. You just never know what she will do next. It’s all documented. Go have a look. You won’t be disappointed.
Emerging from the shadowed entrance of the Priory Church in El Puerto de Santa Maria a procession begins its slow and somber way through the town. It’s Semana Santa, Holy Week, the week before Easter in Spain.
As she emerges into the evening light, and softly lit by candles, Santa Maria is still shadowed by her canopy.
The ‘engine’ of the float is man power, four across . . . .
. . . . . and six deep . . . . .
carrying what may weigh up to the weight of a small car in close quarters and shadowed for the whole of the procession:
An hour later shadowy figures proceed before the still shadowed saint.
For me, the whole event was overshadowed by the eerie similarity of the religious brotherhood’s garb to the Klu Klux Klan. The brotherhoods or fraternities – members of the parish who dedicate themselves to the Semana Santa processions – began establishing themselves centuries ago and have no association with the Klu Klux Klan, but it is said that the Klan took their idea of the robe and hood from seeing the effect it had on crowds at the processions.
On the one hand it’s a wonder we can find our way out of a cardboard box. On the other hand our navigational skills strangely complement each other so we get by, through or around most obstacles to our destinations.
Jimmy navigates by cities, towns, pubs (sadly few in the U.S.) landmarks and an innate sense of direction. The last being something that eludes me as I can get turned around in a gas station as though I have been spun blindfolded. I can, however, read a map, use a compass, orientate myself (most days) with directions given in north, south, east and west and navigate by route numbers and road names on a town plan. “Turn left here, take the second right, go half a mile and the campsite will be on your left.” And there it is.
“How do you do that?” Jimmy is convinced a type of sorcery is at work when I find my way around an unfamiliar town merely by consulting a map. But he is quicker to read and interpret road signs, judge appropriateness of road conditions and take decisions. “I’m not turning there!”
“But the map says . . . . oh, no, you don’t want to turn there.” I’ve directed him to turn, trailer in tow, into a junkyard, a muddy farm track, dead end streets, supermarket parking lots and non-existent roads.
So between us and with a big dollop of tolerance for each other’s foibles we have found our way throughout Europe and the U.S.
Navigating in the U.S. comes easy to me as the road system – interstates and in towns – makes sense to me. I know my east from my west even if do very occasionally fumble my left and my right. Odd numbers on roads generally indicate north and south and evens east and west. In town, if we’re at 4400 Main Street then 5400 Main is ten more blocks. If we’re just passing First Street then Sixth will be five blocks away. Watch out for those pesky Streets vs. Avenues! Fifth Street is an entirely different notion to Fifth Avenue. Add Fifth Street SW and Fifth Avenue NE to the mix and then you really have to think it through before striking out across town but it’s all logical if you’re paying attention.
The grid work of a town plan is a just mathematical puzzle – up two, across three and down one block and voilà, there is the restaurant. There must be a bit of spatial awareness attached to this thinking that Jimmy doesn’t apply to the problem. But truthfully, I think he just doesn’t try. He doesn’t have to. No more than I have to get out of the car when it is raining (and even when it isn’t) and pump gas. By and large the U.S. road system is instinctive to me. I grew up on it. I don’t have to figure it out. It just makes sense to me like speaking English makes sense. Lubbock, Texas is the exception to this where even the locals can’t give you directions.
Generally I can follow squiggly routes on the map and end up where I intended except when under pressure, especially time pressure calling for quick thinking and spot-on decision making. Those are the times I give Jimmy as much information as I can and then let him make the mistake, I mean decision. He seems to think I don’t know is not an acceptable answer when asking me which way do I go here? and insists I say something specific even if when I have no idea.
Perhaps the issue of blame is important when we are lost.
The road system in Europe still baffles me. Their ancient roads have evolved over centuries, not been planned and laid out coherently like in the United States. Modern motorway systems are logical to someone who likes numbers but cities are often rabbit warrens of narrow lanes. Many streets have origins long before America was a twinkle in C. Columbus’ eye. The Jewish Quarter in Cordoba is one of many places to get lost on claustrophobic winding streets that even a Mini Cooper couldn’t maneuver. And I can’t apply any logic to European country roads.
How we ever made our way through France to the south of Spain and back again – new to RVing – is beyond me.
We even got lost in the Channel Tunnel Terminal and ended up on an empty platform – our departure time imminent and no possibility of a U-turn with a 26 foot trailer behind us. After a panicked phone call a Terminal Land Rover took us on a tour of the platforms, up one and down another, to lead us onto our train.
It is quite endearing that nine out of ten Americans when asked where is the perfect place to live? will immediately tell you the name of their home town, actively promoting it as though they are a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Have they really considered the question or is it just a point of pride or familiarity?
Here is an interesting conundrum. Imagine that your house has been sold and you have the cash in the bank (assuming you have a house and assuming you have no mortgage. Remember this is make believe) and you have no job. What you do have is an RV and sufficient income to travel the country for a year or two before you settle down again. (Some of us are already in this position!) Try to take family and friends out of the equation and think – where would you go? What places would you visit? Where would you like to end up?
Now make it a bit more interesting. Take yourself and your RV to a foreign country and give yourself residency there. What country would you choose and how would you go about looking for somewhere to live?
All I really need at this point is a real estate brochure advertising an affordable house with a swimming pool and a little ground for a garden and I’m there, settled, seeing out my sunset years.
“What I really, really want is a house in southern California, with a mountain view backdrop behind and an infinity pool in the front, beyond which I can watch Pacific sunsets.” An hysterical laugh burbled up out of Jimmy’s throat. “Okay. Okay. It’s a movie star’s house, but you never know, we might stumble on a bargain.”
Himself didn’t even comment.
Traveling east to west in northern Florida, I amused myself with the previously mentioned brochure instead of staring pointlessly at the road atlas for hours, losing concentration just when my assistance was needed. “Listen to this. Thirty acres in the country, all fenced, four beds, three and a half baths, two car garage, large family room with fireplace, eat-in kitchen/breakfast room overlooks stunning pool and deck, kitchen with granite countertops, marble back splash, two pantries, exquisite master suite, large bonus room.”
As we stumble on the Lewis and Clark Trail again and again I thought it behoved me to look into the back story. It reads like a political thriller.
In 1803 Thomas Jefferson paid Napoleon Bonaparte $15 million for 2.14 million square kilometres smack in the middle of the now United States, The Louisiana Purchase. Worked out roughly on paper, because the number is so large that my calculator keeps showing an error message, that’s over half a billion acres. It works out at acres per dollar, not dollars per acre – less than three cents an acre! What was old Bony thinking of letting that land go for pennies? Or did he just pocket the cash? Would anyone back in France prior to phones and the internet have known?
Stranger still, France helped themselves to the land in the 1600’s, didn’t want it, gave it to Spain, Spain didn’t want it, gave it back to France, France got rid of it again but for big bucks (or so they thought, not realising its potential), then Spain declared they’d been cheated. The U.S. only wanted to buy New Orleans and shipping rights on the Mississippi but ended up buying the best part of what are now 15 states!
Lewis & Clark were commissioned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of The Declaration of Independence, to explore the Louisiana Purchase and on across to the Pacific. They set off on foot to map TJ’s bargain buy, study plant and animal life and set up good relations with the native Indian population.
TJ had an ulterior motive when using taxpayers’ money to pay Lewis & Clark to risk their lives on a mapping expedition. They brought back horticultural specimens for his private garden. TJ was educated in architecture, literature, horticulture, philosophy, history and science. He created his home, Monticello, a popular tourist attraction, in a complex design incorporating Greek and Roman styles. His collection of the Classics formed the beginning of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. TJ was treating his term of presidency as a sideline.
And one more thing you probably didn’t know – Jefferson tied for first place with his opponent Aaron Burr but won the presidential prize in 1800 after 36 ballots in the House of Representatives. The deadlock went on for weeks while deals were made, bargains were struck and candidates lobbied for votes. The media campaign, in the written press then, bandied terms of cowardice, atheism, radicalism and being unprincipled.
The parallels between TJ and a more recent president – risking lives and using taxpayers’ money for personal gain – are rather disappointing. TJ set himself apart, however, by being known as a great intellectual unlike that other one known by just the one initial.