21 Apr


I arrived in Granada this afternoon, and it is quite cold and rainy – a bit too much so for me to enjoy much sightseeing on foot today (I even splurged on a cab from the station).  However!  I think that makes it the perfect time to sit here on the (covered) rooftop terrace and catch up on my travelogue.  Oddly, I feel like I should have a cigarette and some cafe (neither of which will actually be happening).

pension landazuri terrace


If you look just to the right (ha, you can’t look to the right), you’ll see the Alhambra.  (I didn’t realize this until I sat down here to write, and the camera is back in my bedroom.  So that will be part of my private travel experience, I guess.)

I traveled from Cordoba to Sevilla on Monday, and the visit did not get off to the easiest of starts.  So.  I had a glass of wine and an expensive salad, took a short walk, and then a nap.  I just wanted to get oriented to the city layout, so I wandered to the Cathedral and back to my pension.  I wish I had a picture that could capture the enormity of this church – it was amazing (more on the Cathedral later in the post).



Here are my bartenders at the Bodega Santa Cruz, who would keep track of my bill by chalking it on the bar.  So much for a candid shot; I am not the first tourist who’s walked in their door.



Later that night, I took in a flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus.  It was good, and very different from the show in Madrid; I think I’ll say more about that in another post.  After the show, I wandered for just a few blocks around my pension and took this shot of a nearby lane.  I can’t believe I didn’t get more pictures of Sevilla’s wind-y ways!  They were similar to those in Cordoba, but this picture shows one that is wide by Sevillan standards – many were half this size.



The next morning, I attempted to find the lavanderia to have my clothes washed, but the recommended establishment was closed (and at the time, it looked like it was closed forever).  So I carried my clothes around with me like a bag lady and went to the Plaza de Toros and Museo Taurino.


 I have to admit, there were times when I was feeling very photo-weary in Sevilla, and I was downright frustrated with things when I walked into the Bullring entrance with a bag of dirty clothes and a hungry belly.  (Breakfast?  Spaniards don’t eat breakfast.)  Thankfully, this place was beautiful and inspiring, plus the tour was in Espanol and Ingles.  I may have gotten a little carried away with the camera…




I know it’s brutal, but I kind of wish I’d been able to see a bullfight (the fights don’t really start up for another week or two).  (Oh, don’t even think it – this city was beautiful to see, but I can’t even imagine trying to enjoy it during the actual tourist season.)




Game of Heads – did the tour guide say, “game of heads”?  Yes, I think she did.  Apparently, this is something that went along with bullfighting in the good ole days.  She assured us that it was only papier mache heads, though (so… where’s the fun in that?).

Game of Heads

After I found a cafe where I could sit down and write and have a little late breakfast, and successfully dropped off my dirty clothes at the (now open) laundry, I was feeling revived, and brave enough to take on the Cathedral.


This is the third largest church in Europe, and the largest Gothic church in the world, so…


… things were really tall.


Christopher Columbus is in there.  Seriously:
Columbus Tomb

These are some shots from inside the Giralda Bell Tower, part of the Cathedral.  Instead of stairs, there is a circling ramp to the top, to accommodate riders on horseback who were giving the Muslim call to prayer (the tower was formerly a Moorish minaret).


I found a quiet window alcove where I could just stop for a few minutes and take in the view.  It was romantic to see the city spread out like this, and it was a much-needed break from the crowds following me through the church and now up the ramp.  The rooftops made me sad, though.  I so wished I knew someone in this town, a friend that I could share a bottle of wine with up on one of those tiny patios, and talk about the day, and then go inside and have a proper dinner together.  In the end, I found Sevilla to be awfully lonely.

Sevilla Cathedral View

 Really wish I hadn’t cut off the top of the spire in this picture.

Sevilla Cathedral View

The next morning, I went looking for the Universidad, and instead found the Plaza de Espana.  At the time, I had no idea what I was looking at, and I couldn’t find any signs to clear things up (all I knew was that I’d run into a handful of soldiers milling around on the back side of the building, and the entrance was marked as a military zone – apparently, several government offices are located here nowadays).  Still, this “building” was something to see.  It stretches for a half-mile of semi-circle, and the moat runs in front of the entire complex.

 Plaza de Espana

Can you pick out all of the tiny lampposts in the picture above?  Each one of them looks like this:

 Plaza de Espana lamppost

I couldn’t get over all of the ornate detail everywhere in the plaza.

I did finally make it to the University, where I took a writing break, and then I wandered around for the lunch hour.

Sevilla Courtyard

If this guy plays the theme from The Godfather one more time, I’m going to rip that accordion right out of his hands and throw it in one of these cute little lanes.


In the evening, I went to the Alcazar, where I took a lot of pictures of ceilings:


The style of architecture is called Mudejar, and it is awesome:




The gardens were equally impressive.




Now I’m just taking pictures for the backyard remodel…


I could say I took this next picture because it made me stop and realize how special life is, but you can probably guess from this post that my attitude in Sevilla was a bit more on the snarky side.  At the time, this sign was telling me, “Hey, tourists.  We speak English, and we totally get you.  For a truly memorable experience, you should spend your money here.”


Sevilla.  Of course I am glad I went, but I do not think I will look back on it with overly fond memories.  It’s all in the attitude, the timing, the fullness or emptiness of your tummy at the time – so don’t take this as a thumbs-down for the city.  I simply chose to make Sevilla the place where I embraced the universal travel experiences of loneliness, hunger, fatigue, and claustrophobia.  What can you do?  I asked for experience, I got it.

At the end of this writing, I am more than 2 days into my stay in Granada, and it has been glorious – if I return to Spain, I will definitely take a longer stretch in this part of Andalucia.  But that’s for another post (or two; that’s how awesome Granada has been)…

19 Apr

What just happened?

Okay, I am in Granada, and I am working on a new post for you (with pictures, of course!), but I just had to tell you about what happened in the bar tonight.  I walk into Bodegas La Bella y La Bestia, admittedly a chain, but honestly the first lively (and non-tourist-filled) bar I’ve been to in several days.  It is a small place (the sign near the bar says its capacity is 32 people), and it is decorated in this sort of hip, over-the-top, baroque style: gold-painted chandeliers, jaquard wallpaper with velvet and glitter, occasional hot pink neon uplighting.  The bartenders all look gay to me (like, gym-gay, not fashion-gay), but who knows in a foreign country.

“Un tinto, por favor,” I say, as I find a seat at the bar.

I study the menu for a couple of minutes, slightly worried because all of the items are translated into English.  A couple more minutes pass, and I give the waiter/bartender the I’m-ready-to-order eye, and he says in English, “tapas coming”.

“Okay…,” I think.

Now, I have heard that in southern Spain, it is somewhat common to receive a (free) tapa with your drink order.  In my head, this looked like a small order of patatas bravas or a little pile of meat (ha, another post to come on the meat situation, too).  Instead, what I got with three glasses of wine was:

Primero: montadito (a small grilled sandwich) con jamon y queso, pasta salad, patatas con (hm…) ketchup and garlic mayonnaise.

Segundo: another montadito with what looked like my red clam sauce, another kind of fried potato, olives.

Tercero: montadito con tortilla espanola (potato omelette), olives, house-made potato chips.

Do you want to guess how much all of this cost?

“La cuenta, por favor,” I asked the bartender.

Oh!  I forgot to mention: when I first sat down and ordered my wine, after the first bartender told me my tapas were on the way, another bartender attempted to make polite conversation with me.  Now, I am getting along just fine with the language barrier as long as we are following the usual, “what will you have”, “I’ll have the x, y, and z”, “how much do I owe you”, “here’s your bill”, “gracias”, “de nada” script.  But this guy was way off that path and I had no idea what to say except, “no comprendo”, and “lo siento”.  At some point, he told me “su Espanol es muy mal”, and I wondered if he thought I wouldn’t understand that either, but whatever.  I was getting the tapas with my drinks, remember?

Also, until they switched over to the futbol game, we were watching some channel called “Classic 40”, which played the following videos:

  • “Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word”, Blue con Elton John
  • That Natalie Imbruglia song
  • “You Gotta Be”, Des’ree (who knew I would ever be happy to hear that song again?)
  • “Karma Chameleon”, Boy George
  • Something by Maroon 5
  • Oh! And it was about to be “Black or White” – the full version with Norm and Macaulay Culkin! – just as someone asked to turn the channel

Okay, so are you ready for the bill?


Service incluido.


15 Apr

Madrid, Cordoba

I hate to just jump in here without any preface, but such is life along with my half-hearted commitment to blog-writing, I suppose.  I have been traveling in Spain (!), and given that I am Facebook-averse, this spot seems a good one to share a few photos (and – bonus! – you won’t have to look through every single picture I’ve taken) (that said, you know I tend to be wordy, and I can’t promise that goes away when I start telling stories with pictures).

Also – apologies ahead of time if I sound a bit spacey.  I’m trying to keep up in Spanish, and then I spent an evening with French-speakers the other night, and amidst all of the translation in my head and my own slow and simple speech, I appear to be losing my capacity for English.

Okay, so, here’s what I’ve done so far…

Here’s the first thing I saw when I walked up from the Gran Via Metro stop:

Gran Via Metro Stop



Hello, Madrid!

Since I couldn’t check into my hotel for another 4 hours, I dropped off my bag and took a walk.  Here are some trees in Retiro Park:

Parque de Retiro


On the streets of Madrid:

madrid streets


I thought this was the Palace when I saw it coming around the corner (I was getting close to the Palace anyway), but now I’m pretty sure it’s the Cathedral of Almudena.  Or not.  I did not tour it (nor the Palace, in the end), but I particularly enjoyed seeing it from the street.

 Madrid City Hall


Mostly, I got lost a lot in Madrid.  A lot.  The streets are all twisty and turny, and while I am quite happy with the advice I’ve gotten on this trip from Rick Steves, I think he could use a hand in the cartography department.  My first night in the city, walking back to the hotel with Frank and Jean Francois, we knew we were getting close because we recognized this statue.  Only, then I saw this statue in the daylight, and it was not very close to our hotel at all.

 Sweeper Statue

 Flamenco!  This show was awesome, although my pictures are not (they were moving so fast!).  A note from my guidebook: “Since this is for locals as well as tour groups, the flamenco is contemporary and may be jazzier than your notion – it depends on who’s performing.”  Perhaps I will be better able to compare after I get to Sevilla.  In any case, the singing and dancing were amazing, and it was so intimate – it made me feel like I would be a ballet fan if the dancers were ever this close.  I met Brits Claire and the 2 Sues (hi, ladies!) in line and we had a fun time drinking sangria and chatting about the show.



The very center of Spain, kilometer 0, across the street from Puerta del Sol:



The next day, I went to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, where the Guernica was more moving than I expected it to be, and I took this picture of Picasso’s L’homme au Mouton.  (Or maybe that was a reproduction, given the link I just referenced…?)  Perhaps the Guernica comment needs explaining, and yet, I don’t really feel like getting into the whole thing right now; I will say that I am reading Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station while traveling, and it’s particularly comforting when the camera-toting tourists (myself among them) get to be a bit  overwhelming.  Also, my day at the Prado was crap (but do read that link before you let my concise review deter you).

 l'homme au mouton


… and then I went to Cordoba.  Here’s the patio where I ate lunch yesterday:



There were a guitar player and violinist playing in the corner, whose music convinced me to step inside and give the place a try.  Then I went to the Mezquita:

 Mezquita 1


Here’s a view inside the mosque portion of the building:

Mezquita 2


Nice, right?  Here’s a shot inside the part that is the current cathedral:

Mezquita 3


Back to the mosque part (oops, I was kind of all over the place).  This is the ceiling above the mihrab:

Mezquita 4


After the Mezquita, I took a long walk around Cordoba’s Jewish Quarter.

The whole city seems to smell like orange blossoms, which is particularly nice after Madrid, which smelled like sewer gas.  (Travel tip: those drain covers aren’t just for show, a lesson I learned after coming home to a very stinky hotel room.)



The streets in the old part of the city are beautiful.

 cordoba streets 1


 cordoba streets 2


This part of the city is known (in part) for its patios – many homes have a central courtyard, which you can peek into from the street.

 Cordoba Patios

The statue of Maimonides:



Have I mentioned the dogs already?  This is the strangest thing – all over Madrid and Cordoba, people are walking their dogs without leashes.  I want to run up and ask every one of them, “How do you do it???“, but I can’t, because I only know how to say things like, “Donde estan los servicios?,” and, “Un tinto, por favor”.  Sigh.  They make me miss my puppies, though.

perro negro


Today, I went to the Casa de Sefarad:



And then I had te de bedouin at Salon de Te, near my hotel.  (Oh, I hate people who take pictures of their food!  I am such a tourist.  I did refrain from pulling out the camera at lunch, but it was tempting because I had the most delicious salmorejo, con jamon y heuvos – yum!)

Te 1


The patio at Salon de Te:

Te 2


After lunch, I came back to my hotel room and wrote this post, which actually took a lot longer than I expected (but given the tea and sleeping late today, I didn’t need my daily nap after all).

In closing, this is pretty much my hairdo for the next two weeks.  (Hey, would-be burglars: my roommate and my dogs are at home, so don’t get any ideas.)  I could say more about the hair thing, but then I would really sound like an American tourist.



09 Aug

On the importance of retreat

It’s been quite a while since I’ve said anything over here. Not because I’ve lost interest, or even motivation – but rather, I think I’ve needed a fair amount of time to let this idea… oh, gosh, I hate to say marinate, but is there any better word? It’s needed to sit, and soak things in, and become something better.

In any case, I’m getting ready to put more out here on a regular basis, and I’ve been putting it off these past few weeks because I hate to announce that I’m getting started only to sputter out after a couple of posts and disappear again. I read something this morning that kicked me into gear, though. And it’s too good (and too relevant) to park it over at delicious and promise that I’ll write about it later.
Tara Sophia Mohr wrote this week about her time away on retreat – you can read the post here. I’m new to her writing, but she’s come along at precisely the right time for me (and doesn’t everything?). I’ll say more about this in the near future, but for now… read her words, and let me know what you think.
02 Jun

Welcome Home

A list of interesting(-to-me) things I saw on my drive last week:

1. a great skyline under a hazy sunrise (bye, Chicago! See you later!)
2. the biggest American flag I have ever seen, flying over farmland, no less
3. clouds in a horizontal cylinder that stretched on for miles (I know – I wish I had taken a picture. Sounds boring, but it was actually kind of fascinating.)
4. world’s largest cross (I am not sure if this is its official title, but man, there is a lot of Jesus in central Illinois)
5. the mighty Mississippi, as I crossed the border into Missouri (and there’s a surprise: um, didn’t actually realize I would be driving through Missouri. Geography lesson!)
6. dead coyote (you know, interesting to me)
7. a bright yellow bi-plane flying over a farm in Arkansas
8. dead armadillo (getting close!)
9. 3 hitchhikers (well, two were definitely hitchhikers, one woman was walking along talking on her cell phone, which just seemed out of place for someone who would ask strangers for a ride)
10. red pavement (why are the highways in Arkansas red?)
11. a Texas-shaped stone set into a brand new overpass in Texarkana (and then there were some tears)
12. a billboard with a photo of George W. Bush, and the caption, “Miss me yet? How’s all that hope and change working out so far?” (oh shit, did I make a mistake?)
13. this note, tucked into a gift basket by my dear friend, Angie, welcoming me home

I’ve fallen down on the job of writing over the past couple of weeks. I can’t help but feel guilty. Why, I’m not exactly sure – it’s not as if anyone’s out there hanging on my next word – but I suppose it feels like I’m failing myself somehow. The world has been changing so quickly over here, and I can allow myself the out that more important things have required my focus, but I’m still a bit sad that I didn’t make the time to record at least some of it out here in the open. So. Let’s call this a renewed commitment.

With that, I think I need to remind myself that I can’t catch it all on the page, and that’s okay. Lately, there’s a story (or two or three) running through my mind every day, me thinking of how to phrase it as I wander on a walk or sit in my car or even lay on a blanket looking at the sky. It’s strange, how writing will do that to you – always thinking of the story, sometimes to the exclusion of enjoying the moment. Rest assured though – the moments, on the whole, these days, are being enjoyed.

It’s so good to be home.

This post started out on a different site, but in an effort to get more of my writing in one place, I moved it to cindyscovel.com in January 2012.