The Elephant in the Room: terror in the streets

I hesitate to write this post.  As the Good Natured Traveler, I prefer to view the world through rose-colored glasses.  I believe that most of the time, our expectations influence the events that we experience.  Self-fulfilling prophecy.

But in light of the awful events that we have seen and heard around the world, it seems that bad things can happen.  Bad things do sometimes happen.

“Every time you go somewhere, there’s a tragedy, it seems!”, my sister wrote following the Las Vegas, Canadian and French killings this past Autumn.

Is that true?

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On the Road Again: Upper State New York

Who knew that it would be warm enough to be sunning myself in upstate New York during the first week of October?

Ah… my gratitude is immense—you may remember that I’m the one who mourns  summer’s passing. (It’s not like i haven’t paid my dues—having lived in the north woods of Maine for 7 years;  I can split wood and build a fire with the best of them.)

But I’ve never been to the Hudson River Valley before and it is soothing to the eyes and a balm to the mind; I recommend it heartily…

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Autumn’s Sweet Breath

 Sitting in the sweet morning’s early light, in my own backyard in SW Ohio,  I’m conscious of how Autumn is chasing away Summer’s close breath, like the coolness of a breath-mint, clean, fresh and mentholated.

But the grass is still deep emerald green, having had enough rain to make Ohio stand proud and pretty in its party dress.

The cornfields offer their own kind of show– red=headed tassels as the sun lights them from above. The stalks vary in colors, from green to yellow and russet brown–determined by what?  When they were planted?  The elevation and drainage? It’s a question that my 8 year old grandson, Ty, might ask.

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Last Day in Spain

On this last day in Spain,  I’m reviewing my visits here…
The colors that I associate with Spain are blue and orange–
all things Spanish seem to be of terra cotta and marble– lots of marble:  marble floors, marble walls, marble tiles, marble stairs– slippery when wet–cool in the heat– resilient yet breakable. Ancient and beautiful, what is older than stone?  Like agates, each piece is a work of art…
Though, the true prize seems to be the unmarred– whitest of white– a sculptor’s delight, yet I prefer the colored and striated, created by nature–indicative elements– more practical than gold.

My time here is waning.

So many sights and insights–I marvel at culture and people and history with big hope in my heart.  We have had countless people-helping-people experiences.  I believe they outnumber the bad experiences that we hear about.   A real problem is that fear and anger invoke more emotional response.  That’s why I want to report through my good natured filter.  I see it as responsibility to present a more realistic view.
In many ways, being on the move in other countries feels like a step out of time.  But as I make-ready, I become excited about returning home–gathering with family and friends.  Dorothy had that much right–“There’s no place like home.”

In the clouds –last day in Tenerife

 

I got up early so that I could have alone-time with the sun as it breaks the night into the early morning’s light.

 

Far to my right, the shore begins to sparkle in coy flirtation as the sun turns its gaze.  A voyeur, I watch as he spreads his favor, lighting each little village in its own special time.

This is the most rugged country that I’ve ever seen.  People told me that the Canary Islands remind them of Hawaii–but I didn’t find that to be true of Tenerife.  For one thing, they seem to have more roads  and dwellings in precarious places!

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Exploring Tenerife

Christianos is on the southside of the island–and that’s where the tourist action is.

 Warmer, dryer and more weather-consistent,
 we found diving  schools,  surfing instruction   and yes, massage-on-the-beach!    Nice!
We didn’t stay long though–the hype was not what we wanted so we headed the long-way-around, back to our quiet and homey 2nd Airbnb–between Tiejne and Bajamar on the northside.

Good roads–‘ quite impressive when you consider the engineering that created pavement across lava, roads around craggy, unruly mountains and blessed guardrails, in just the right places.  Every mountain view is a spectacle. Finding little villages nestled in the Eucalyptus groves is a true delight–like finding a cache where you least expected one.

 
People seem friendly here–and lower key–as you might expect from island-life.  Shopping was not a draw (can you believe that?) but cute little cantinas and cafes were.
Did you know that it is customary for Spaniards to eat Paella for lunch but not for dinner?

Do you cook with Mojo?  It’s the signature spice combo of the islands.  We’re bringing home 2 varieties–green and red.

Mojo consists of spices that are mixed with olive oil and spread over fish, traditionally and small boiled potatoes.         (Non-traditionally, I think it will be great on veggies too.)
Green= cilantro based;
Red:  Picante (peppers), spicier

(My website will soon be sharing recipes and foodie information!  And yes, there will be a book!  Stay tuned–www.TheGoodNaturedTraveler.com.)

We had dinner our last night,  in del Hildalgo–an outdoor, courtyard restaurant on the Atlantic Ocean, called Restaurante Altagay–a place the locals go.  Not easy to find–but worth the hunt.
(There’s Ellioto–looking not so local, but soaking up the ambiance.)
I didn’t hear English spoken anywhere–‘though they had a menu for us.
We ate all we could of the fish (Cherne)  and salad;
they said it was small but it was not –over- loaded with vegetables and fruits of all kinds

We sipped our wine and dipped our bread in the delicious olive oil.
The price of wine is amazing and Tacorante’s local red is rated #1 in Europe these days.
The neighboring town lit up the landscape with night-lights spilling down the hillside towards the inky sea, like Chinese lanterns decorating the night.

I wish that I’d asked what those delicious  green-minty drinks were, delivered by our waiter– on the casa!  They must have appreciated our enthusiasm.

Muy Bueno!

Valencia, Spain (yes, like the oranges)

 Valencia!
Even the word conjures delight.  Fresh oranges, juiced  with  just a little pulp and big flavor– my mouth is watering, just writing about it.  Orange trees are everywhere– ornamental and useful!
 

The 3rd largest city in Spain, we came to Valencia because the high temps in Madrid (104`) drove us out.  8-10` cooler, located on the western shore of the Mediterranean, we opted for a sea-breeze.  After packing a bag and riding the bullet train for 2 1/2 hours, our reality took a better turn.

Through Booking.com, we found a last-minute room with a view.  It seemed like it might have been an old boarding-house in the past but it has its own charm with the ever-present marble staircases and a really good restaurant-on premises.  The warmth of the staff softened the spartan rooms which housed the basic necessities– including a 1/2 balcony (if that) with a view.  The view! the view–it’s all about the view!

No air conditioning scared us at first but a fan supplemented the constant breeze quite nicely.

 

3rd floor stairs however, were a bear for me!  Geesh.  It is worth it , but I work hard–taking it slow, and conserving my trips (no pun intended!) 
(Note: When using a cane on marble, it can be tricky-so it helps to have a rubber tip.)
Neptune Beach seems to attract the physically challenged– I was amazed by how many wheelchairs, motorized and not, cruised the wide, flat, palisade boardwalk.  
Looking it up on the internet, I found that this is a popular resort for those who are walking-challenged.
(Note:  Europeans call the ground level,  “0”, so when we booked our room, we were planning on the 2nd floor and frustrated to find that room #209, alas,  was on the 3rd.)
It is easy to become meditative in places like this.
  • Negative ions soon saturate the the human body,  relaxing the brain’s stress load, allowing the mind to wander and wonder.
  • Sailboats in silent regatta, huddle together as if on secret mission.
  • The marina is filled with upright masts, like naked spires stark against the changing sky.
  • Communities of umbrellas sport their colors like flags staking claim.
  • In the distance, jet skis spew silent wakes, like baby whales spouting water.
  • The breeze, a sultry siren, urges me to stay and play awhile.  I’m easily convinced.
I noticed three specific beach types: 
  1. The quiet morning exercisers– biking, walking and jogging.  They are older, like me, with various degrees of health and levels of performance.  I catch myself thinking, “‘Lookin’ good for our age.”  (oh dear)
  2. Family groups— parents lead, with children tagging behind –while reluctant teenagers are lagging behind.  I’m charmed by how many grandparents  and grandkids engage, hand in hand, in close communication.  It’s a luxury we didn’t seem to have as parents.
  3.  

Night-life types, loud and boisterous, drinkers and dancers.  They didn’t quiet down until around 4:00 a.m.  We gave it up around 1:00.
Policia cruise regularly; it feels safe here.

Ever an eye for SnaZZy, I love the beach-wear!  Skirt-like, harem pants feel like you are wearing next-to-nothing, stitched in panels, flowing and breezy; Gold is big-lookin’ good with all the redheads over here; maxis, minis; At the beach, almost anything goes (or nearly nothing, in some cases!)  I saw tattoos in places and on types of people that I’d never imagined!

 

Sand sculptures that took weeks to create,  urge tourists to have a heart and show their appreciation– boardwalk busking, seaside.

I’ve grown accustomed to Spanish meals, enjoying a light breakfast usually of cafe` leche` (coffee with foamy milk) and a carb– such as bread or toast.  Near the Mediterranean, it’s common to top your toast with salsa-like chopped tomatoes and olive oil-or fruit preserves.  ‘Much easier to burn off on your beach-walk than eggs and fried potatoes.

 

 

Lunch is served late and large- 2:00 or so- just before Siesta`, so you can sleep off your calories.  This is a great time for the local Paella, cooked with local rice and saffron.

   

 

Dinner is late-very late, and moderate by State-side standards.

It stays light later here so eating at 10:00 p.m. sneaks up on you.
We like to eat where the locals do,  so we walked a few blocks off the beach to find a collection of outdoor tables and Spanish speaking patrons.  We weren’t disappointed– we chose a tapas of seafood and veggies , along with locally produced red (tinto) wine, taking a couple of hours  to soak up the ambiance,  along with our meal.
Europe does that to you.

The flood-prone river that once ran through Valencia was diverted to create rice fields, increasing agriculture in the area.  The dried up river bed is now green space with parks and recreation.

And the science museums are ingenious and extraordinary.

 

 

My favorite sight-seeing is of Roman (or before) ruins–and there were a few of those, strewn throughout.  Below is the remainder of Roman gates, part of the old wall that surrounded the city.

Taste of Spain

Flashback: On my way to the Dayton International Airport, all packed and ready (I thought) for Spain, I remembered,
                  “Oh no!, I left my iPad charging at home!”.

I immediately called my daughter who sent to me the next day. (FYI:  USPS was way less expensive than UPS.)    After 2 weeks, I learned that it was being held at the Spanish Customs office –and could be there indefinitely.  “What?  Why?”  And then–my cell phone wouldn’t work !

Ellioto even tried to get his Spanish colleagues to intervene–but they got the same results–none!
It seems that Spain is trying to halt the influx items being bought elsewhere (Amazon, eBay, etc) and brought into the country without going through Customs.  “Did I have a receipt stating date of purchase?”  The iPad was 3 years old–and used and rebuilt–no, of course, I didn’t.
 I felt pretty cut-off from the states.  Without my computer, I was on-the-loose with my camera using up all that eager energy to explore a new country.  I found myself living more in the moment rather than writing about it.
                                                                             
For two weeks, Madrid has been under a high-temperature, weather-advisory  (104`).  I  now have a real appreciationfor their afternoon siesta`.

 

Learning the train routes allowed me to seek refuge in Madrid’s fascinating museums in the blistering daytime heat, located within 2 blocks or so from the Atocha train station.  And Retiro Park is within walking distance as well–a welcome solace with its sprawling gardens, botanical treasures and colors in gay profusion.

Language can be tricky, In downtown Madrid–or near the Atocha Train Station, people tend to know some English–but in the suburbs, where we were staying, not so much.  I’ve done pretty well with gestures and my language app– until the other night, when I thought that I was ordering a vegetarian sandwich.

Instead, I was served chicken-on- white-toast,  with a single tomato slice and a scant piece of iceberg lettuce, slathered in mayo.  When I tried to explain the problem, the waiter picked up the top slice, removed the chicken and slapped the bread back on.   “Ahi`(there)!”
People- watching opened my mind and softened my heart to not only the differences between us–
–but also to the similarities that unite us.

Stylin’ in Montmartre

Bonjour

Geesh-– Is that a French word?  No, I guess not.

Spending more than a few minutes trying to ask for cheese on my vegetarian salad, I finally gave up (fromage–right?) — the waiter obviously wasn’t in the mood to work out my high school French. And really, I am here to people-watch–it would be truly difficult to spoil my mood–particularly after seeing the salad that he just served (sans said cheese).

At 5:00 p.m., the neighborhood streets of Montmartre are filling with people on the move– many spilling from the metro stop, others walking feisty dogs or pushing precious cargo in strollers as the case may be–their numbers seem fairly equal. In the alley, across the street, high school kids yell and shriek, kicking balls and letting off steam.

Armed with my roller bag, iPad and a copy of my passport– just in case someone gets tricky with my purse–I am looking for clothing shops and cafes– all the things that make me smile. Once In awhile, a stranger returns my grin– but it is not customary, for sure. Our hostess joked that although the French are friendly, the Parisians wake up in a bad mood. So I don’t take it personally.

What I adore are the styles I see parading by! Boiled wool coats, signature berets and scarves of many hues of course– didn’t the French invent them? Although black and gray coats are the norm, the brave sport plaids and colors– orange, red and gold. Pink winter coats that I saw last year are still evident too. The styles of jackets and coats are unique and smart–some fitted and stitched or asymmetric in design. No longer are sneakers looked down upon but boots dominate– how do they walk in those steep heels? And felted hats are common– do they not get ”hat hair” here?

Once Montmartre was the artists’ haunt– but now, it is more upscale though old world charm is represented by wrought-iron fencing at the windows or shutters reaching from ceiling to floor of the apartments peering down along the boulevards that are haphazardly arranged rather than running perpendicular. It makes following a map challenging.

As the Cathedral chimes the hour, I am reminded that Montmartre predates its Christian heritage– first it was named in honor of the Greek god, Mercury and later, for Mars. Christian influence swiftly interpreted it as the “mount of the martyr”, referring to the grizzly tale of St. Denis, a priest who was beheaded for his faithful teachings. Legend has it that he carried his own head many miles before he lay down to die. The Basilica at the top of the hill was built to honor him in the late 1800’s.

It is said that you may sit for hours at restaurants and cafes as you sip or eat without being given your check–to do so would be rude– so here I sit, putting it to the test.

Later I plan to test another spot–only then, it will be with French wine!

Sante’

Ah Paris, Montmartre

Stuck in Paris

What would you do if your boyfriend mistakenly took the keys to the Airbnb and you were stuck in the apartment all day?

Ok, I am not going to panic– I’m safe and warm in a quaint little studio, complete with a private garden, wifi, interesting reading (in French), a loaf of crusty bread, French cheese and a 1/2 bottle of good red wine– how bad can it be?

I could:
1. Take a nap and wait to explore in the evening, knowing things stay open late
2. Do a little Yoga– my best friend has a series she’s introducing on You Tube (Rebekah Powers)
3. Catch up on my research and reading
4. Write some letters
5. Take a nap– did I say that already?
6. Blog, baby, blog

So… I think I will peruse the little garden out my back door and do all of the above!

C’est une bonne idee’, oui?

(My French is coming back to me!)