We are home and planning our next adventure because the compass never stops spinning. Check out my Future Adventures tab to see some of the possibilities! I’d love your feedback and ideas.
As you may have guessed by the gap in my posts, we are home. We left Portland two days ago—six days after we originally intended. Tropical Storm Irma (pka Hurricane Irma) was well north of Atlanta, our waypoint, and Hurricane José was still running around in circles in the Atlantic trying to decide what to do. Both Atlanta and West Palm Beach airports were fully operational, and we encountered no obstacles, thank goodness.
We arrived in West Palm Beach just 20 minutes after Marcus’s mom arrived from her hurricane haven in Connecticut. We took her home, made sure everything was working properly, and drove 45 minutes north to Stuart. We got to Publix a half hour before closing, picked up some essentials, and got home around 10:00. Except for a small roof leak that left a stain on my office ceiling (that looks, oddly, like the face of an angry badger), all is well.
Many people have asked what our next adventure will be. I’m not sure what’s in store for 2018. A year ago I had no idea we’d be going to Alaska this year. We’ve been talking about a three-to-four month trip to Australia and New Zealand. I’d love to spend a summer in Inverness, Scotland. But right now I can’t think about being away from home for that long. It feels too good to be here. I will miss the excitement of exploring new territory, but right now the familiar is welcome.
Thanks for coming along on this adventure with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and maybe even learned something about our 49th state.
Until the compass spins again, Cindy
I’ve been to all but eight states in the United States, and seven of those are along the border with Canada.
Ronda, one of the oldest cities in Spain, is also one of the most dramatic mountain towns. Nestled deep into the mountains, it has this crazy gorge – a dizzying 380 feet deep – that separates the old Moorish city of La Ciudad (dating from the 8th century) from the new city of El Mercadillo (15th century). [Interesting to think that “new” for Spain is before Cristóbol Colón set sail from Spain to discover the Americas.] The gorge features so prominently in the topography of the city that they gave it a name: El Tajo, or The Pit. Uh-huh….
Ronda was a headquarters for bandeleros from the 18th to early 20th centuries, bandits who would prey upon travelers passing through Andalucía. I remember Washington Irving mentioning the notorious bandeleros as he traveled to Granada in his Tales of the Alhambra. I wonder if he was passing through the mountains of Ronda.
We loved the views of this verdant valley from our vantage point in the new city, but crossing the narrow gorge into the old city was spectacular. We crossed on the Puente Nuevo, the New Bridge, built in the 18th century. Its design really accentuates the depth of the gorge as the supports extend to the bottom. Prior to its completion, the citizens of Ronda had a choice of the older Puente Viejo (not surprisingly, the Old Bridge) or the even older Puente Árabe (Arabic Bridge). After viewing El Tajo from the Puente Nuevo, I can’t imagine crossing it from an older bridge. My knees were weak enough as I looked through an opening in the wall to the Guadalevín River below!
Ronda has one of the oldest and most prominent bullrings in Spain, thanks to the Romero family, local matadors who were instrumental in defining the modern style of bullfighting. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, both bullfighting aficionados, spent quite a bit of time in Ronda. In fact, Orson Welles’s remains were buried on bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez’s property in Ronda.
The city was a haven for other artists as well, and not just for the bullring. Many poets and writers, or viajeros románticos (romantic travelers) as they were known to the locals, spent time in Ronda inspired by the beauty around them. I am in complete agreement, as long as I have firm ground underneath my feet.
I woke several times during the night before we left Madrid. There were four steps to get through, as I saw it, to make our exit the following day.
- Get to the Avis car rental office on time to avoid long lines. It was a path we had walked many times, and we wouldn’t be hauling the luggage with us, thank goodness. We’d drive back to pick it up. As long as we got out of the apartment on time, which meant setting an alarm (ugh!) and not lallygagging around as was our habit (when do you think I write these blogs?), this was the easy part.
- Navigate by car (for the first time in Spain, and in a busy metropolis like Madrid) from Avis to the apartment. Only about a mile, but it is in the busy historic center of the city. Luckily it would be a Sunday morning.
- Park on our street which has no parking, which means that we will be blocking traffic until we can get all our luggage from the 5th floor apartment down to the street. One of us (me) will have to stay with the car, while the strong one (Marcus) brings down the luggage. Note: when renting a fifth floor apartment, always make sure there’s a working elevator.
- Last, but certainly not least, get out of Madrid going in the right direction to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a phenomenal royal palace/monastery/church in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains.
As expected, no problem with #1. We were third in line when we arrived at Avis; the line was out the door by the time we walked out to collect the car.
Also, driving from Avis to the apartment to load our luggage was not bad. There were very few turns; we were essentially traveling in a partial rectangle, and we were fairly familiar with the streets. (Glad we didn’t have to do this when we first arrived. On Day 1 we were overwhelmed just by walking through the city!)
Just as expected, there was no parking on the street where our apartment was located. Marcus pulled into someone’s driveway and ran upstairs. A few minutes later, a bread truck pulled up wanting to make deliveries to the many tapas restaurants on our street. He pulled alongside and said something unintelligible (to my ear). “Cinco minutos,” was all I could manage. No problem; he pulled forward and parked in the middle of the one-way street – his only other option. While he delivered bread, the cars began to stack up behind him. I sunk lower and lower in my seat, but the drivers didn’t seem to care. I guess this is traffic status quo in the historic center where the streets are narrow and the parking nonexistent.
#4 was a mess. We opted to use the GPS instead of the iPhone’s map program. For those of you who read my Scotland and England & Wales books, you may remember Rita, our GPS with an attitude. She directed us out of the city, presumably toward San Lorenzo, but as we approached the city limits we came to a road that was temporarily closed. Our only option was to bypass it; there was nowhere else to go. She recalculated. (Why does she always have to sound so miffed when she says it: “ReCALculating!”) Yes, Rita, please find an alternate route. Only problem was she kept telling us to make U-turns to get back to the closed road. How do you tell a GPS unit that we didn’t just miss the road; it is closed? Imposible! No se puede usar la calle! You can’t. After the third circuit, we stopped and asked some police officers for an alternate route. They spoke no English, but I was able to communicate our predicament. They spent ten minutes typing various addresses into the GPS (nothing I hadn’t already done); she refused to recognize anything but her originally chosen path. San Lorenzo? El Escorial? Never heard of them.
While the policía were working with Rita, I pulled out my iPhone. Fortunately we had purchased a prepaid SIM card for Spain for my phone, with data plan, so we had access to the internet. I typed San Lorenzo de El Escorial into Google maps, pressed the directions button, and there it was: a detailed listing of driving directions (that avoided the closed road) complete with map. I showed it to the policía, they put their heads together, agreed, and handed the phone back to me. Thumbs up, lots of smiles. Adios, y buen día! An hour later we were at San Lorenzo.
I’m thinking Rita may be of retirement age. I’m thinking her severance package may include a long overdue trip to the bottom of the Stuart electronics recycling bin. Or maybe our son Adam will adopt her; he’s fond of outdated electronics. I think it’s best to let her go before she realizes she’s been replaced by a young upstart with a Spanish SIM card.
England & Wales at the speed of life: making ourselves at home on the road.
If you enjoyed my Great Britain blogs and my Scotland book, you will love my new ebook which has been released in the iTunes Store and iBooks. I’ve added 73 blogs to the 44 originally posted, complete with stunning photographs and videos my husband took, such as the one above of Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland. The countryside was absolutely gorgeous and inspired many of my blogs, as did the adventures we had as we learned to slow our pace and make ourselves at home on the road.
You can also find my Scotland book…
On Kindle: Scotland at the speed of life on Amazon