We had our hearts set on going to Basque country, so we decided to rent a car—more freedom to explore San Sebastian to the north, Guernica to the west and France to the east. We determined it would take 4 + hours to get to our fabulous beach setting, with the Pyrenees mountains as a backdrop on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Visions of iconic little beach villages dotting the shoreline danced in our heads. And it’s off season, so we thought that we would have the place to ourselves. Good plan. First of all, you must have an International Driver’s License. We do. Secondly, unless you want to pay a fortune, you must be able to drive a standard shift. I can’t. Ellioto can. Third, get a GPS. I wish that we had! (We didn’t know that I could download Google maps to use offline—until the trip back to Madrid. It was helpful--but didn't keep us from getting lost.) Remember when road maps were offered at the car `rental offices? Not any more! In Spain, people do not navigate by route numbers much. No one knows which routes are what. And street signs quaintly displayed as decorative tiles on the side of some of the buildings, are very hard to see—especially at night. And you may remember that I’ve discussed the number of round-abouts this country has—now I get it—it’s because so many streets converge at once! You have to circle a few times to get your bearings and find the right one. It can be stressful—a test for good-natured traveling, for sure. How to negotiate their toll booths? We seemed to choose the right ones and they do take credit cards, FYI. The route we took went due north—with mountain terrain between Madrid and Biscay Bay. Not winding, but certainly high enough to have snow and freezing rain, the land is pretty barren except for a few villages-- but never fear, McDonalds and Burger King have gone before us—and when you need a restroom, they are a welcome sight! Getting to the hotel was not easy—in fact, it was cra-zy because San Sebastian is a full-fledged city with many twists and turns, 1-way streets and nothing is in English--in fact, many things are in Basque rather than Spanish--or both. We finally called the hotel to hone us in. “Just come down the Avenue marked “do not enter” (!)”, she said, “it’s ok—everyone does it--you’ll find us at the end. ...then we’ll explain how to find the parking garage a few blocks away.” ! The staff of the SanseBay Hotel was so nice that we quickly forgot the pain, I must say. And the view was indeed remarkable. The location could not be beat--once we got there-- (except for having to drive and park, that is) we were happy to find that we were bordering the quaint walls of the Old Town—and I love Old Towns! The funicular, creeping up Igueldo Mountain, was one of the steepest I've ever ridden. At the top is a theme park dating back to 1912, but it is closed during the winter months. It's all about the view!
It seems like a dream that I’m back in Madrid. Yes, I count my Blessings--travel is high on the list.. This time, Madrid is sinking in. This time, I see the sparkle and shine of it all. Much of this trip’s impression is from staying in city-center. It’s quaint; it’s edgy. !Que guay! (that's cool). Living in the outskirts last year (Getalfe), I didn’t have such access. Here, near Sol, there are shops lining the streets between our airbnb and the beckoning cafes on every corner—literally. Mid-day siesta makes evening shopping a grand adventure. People are out-and-about, the antithesis of being couch potatoes, dulled-out, watching the tube, waiiting for sleep to steal the night. Tapas are popular here because most Spaniards have lunch as their largest meal so Tapas + wine seems just the thing for mid-evening—maybe that’s why obesity is not obvious here. Walking in my ‘hood, within a 1/4 mile radius, I had at least 20 choices for Tapas bars or restaurants—I chose La Cueva de La Tina. My choice was mostly due to finding a menu also written in English. Even so, I thought that I was getting a quick grilled cheese sandwich—though I did make out that 6 cheeses were involved. Thet and Sangria sounded like just the thing. But when it was delivered, I was delighted by the round mini-loaf, filled in the carved out center with molten cheeses, blended to perfection. Oh dear—I’ve been over-doing the bread since I got here—I’ll just have to walk it off! The chef walked by, hearing my exclamation as I savored the flavor. “You like it?” “Oh yes!” It turns out that he is Jose, from Mexico and the recipe was concocted by the owner. Struggling not to finish it off right then, I was gauche enough to ask to have some “to go”—not favored by Europeans. But now, I have lunch for today! Unfortunately, I did not work-out as much prior to this trip as I’d planned. And I feel it. My legs are not as strong as I would like—but I have remedies for the road: -Magnesium to avoid spasms and fatique -Leg Stretches for quads and hamstrings, both! -Enough water -Walk at a speed that encourages a steady stride -I take a cane—just in case (using a cane is the new sexy for mature people—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)
Roots—highly underrated. I was struck by the profound strength and stability underlying a grove of trees when a national forest ranger described the floods in the late 1800’s, caused by cutting down too many trees along the Hudson and Shenandoah Rivers at Harper’s Ferry. It's all about the roots inter-woven and dense, holding the soil together. I'd never considered that before. It was an "aha moment", as I connected the physical reality to the psychological one. No wonder we are stronger in numbers.
New Year’s Resolution solution Why make resolutions? Are we just setting ourselves up for more stress with our expectations? Resolution comes from the word, resolve. Maybe we should just “solve” our issues instead of re-solving them. The solution may be in how we frame our goals and aspirations. This year, let’s make it more fun! Try this: Let your (re) solution be a template for your new year. Progress comes from baby steps. Intend that each day is a little better than the day before. Frame your resolution in a positive way:
- If it’s about eating, don’t think about denying yourself pleasure. Avoiding temptation takes too much energy. Instead, place your intention on loving what’s good for you. Convincing your self to prefer salads is more constructive than saying that you can’t have that luscious chunk of chocolate.
- If it’s about procrastinating, imagine yourself to be a master of time management. No one wants to be told to change, particularly those of us with authority issues!
'Got Mashed Potatoes? Great way to use up your left-overs and respect the sauerkraut tradition on New Year's Eve. Music: Stevie Wonder, Reggae Woman
- 4 c mashed potatoes, organic with skins
- 1 egg
- 1 c shredded sharp cheese
- 32 oz sauerkraut
- 1/2 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- 1/2 t garlic powder
- 1/2 t tyme
The Art of Heartitude. Did I make that word up? It was on my mind as I surfaced from delicious deep sleep on the snow-crisp, cold morning of the newest year to date, 2018. Heartitude: n., the state of having a heart-felt attitude; a feeling of love; an opening the heart chakra; use of love and compassion in decisions and relationships. January 1, 2018. Wow. I slept in this morning—because I could. Designating January 1st as ‘my day”, I have been taking liberties with my personal choices —what to do, when and how. Freedom is an elixir. A good way to start a year, methinks.
Not in the brightest of moods? Recently, a discussion group that I belong to posed the question: What have you done to bring joy into your life during times you don't FEEL joyful? I’d been wrestling with this lately because cold weather had me feeling over-dressed and frumpy—which in my experience, often leads to weight gain and poor body image. Maybe you can relate. There must be as many strategies as there are people, but one that works for me is to—Dress the way I want to FEEL —and build on it from there.