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Marbella, Ronda, Seville

World Trip Two

Monday, June 29 2009: Toledo - Marbella, Spain

Typical countryside of Andalucía.

We spent a very long day driving from Toledo to Marbella. Six hours in the car. But we saw some amazing countryside. As we left Toledo the dry brown landscape of La Mancha continued more or less as we had experienced it.

Olive trees everywhere.

When we reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains the countryside became slightly greener and tree covered. Our tiny car climbed slowly up the mountain pass, and so did all of the other vehicles slowing our progress a bit. Then as we descended on the other side into Andalucía we were surprised to see olive trees everywhere. The trees stretched to the horizon in every direction. I have never seen so much of any one plant in one place before. For three hours, as we drove at 120 kilometers per hour, the scene was unchanged. Every field was filled with row upon row of trees. Even the hillsides were planted with the oily fruit. How this many trees could be harvested is beyond my understanding. It turns out that Spain produces 36% of all the world's olives.

We drew closer to the southern coast of Spain. Eventually, we turned west and began to move towards our destination at Marbella. This is a small seaside town with many tourist hotels and beach side resorts. The driving got more difficult as the roads became smaller and the traffic increased. Our GPS did not have our resort listed so it was difficult to find it. But we did find it, and we were glad to have seen so much of Spain on our long day's drive.

Tuesday, June 30 2009: Marbella, Spain

Lovely little Oscar.

Today we met with Julia's mom (Mary), her step dad (David), brother (Charles), sister in-law (Lenka), nephew (Sasha), niece (Sylvia), step sister (Heather), step brother in-law (Alex), step nephew (Louis), and step nephew (Oscar). It is not much when you say it fast. We walked straight into Charles and Sasha at the pool when we left our room in the morning. Then we snuck up on Mary and David while they were in the gym.

Lovely little Sylvia.

After many hugs and kisses we all took a dip in the pool. Then we caught up with Lenka and met Sylvia for the first time. After piling into two cars we drove to Heather and Alex's home, which is not too far from the resort. There we greeted Heather, Alex, Louis, and met their new baby Oscar. After a while we all piled into four cars and drove to a seaside restaurant for lunch. Then it was back to Heather and Alex's home for a dip in their pool, minus Charles, Lenka, Sasha, and Sylvia.

We returned to the resort in the late afternoon after having a great day with the family.

We all (minus Heather, Alex, Louis, and Oscar), had dinner in Mary and David's room. Then ended the evening watching the movie Young Frankenstein; which has become somewhat of a family tradition now.

It was so good to see everyone again and to met the two new babies Sylvia and Oscar.

Wednesday, July 1 2009: Marbella, Spain

David really enjoying the fabulous album Heather gave him as a birthday gift.

Marbella is a city by the Mediterranean in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Situated in the province of Málaga the city has a rugged mountain peak as its backdrop, the La Concha. The population has grown from 98,823 inhabitants in 2000 to 116,234 in 2004. The area is also known as "Costa del Sol" and consists mainly of beach resorts. People have been in the area for a very long time.

Louis and Sasha at a quieter moment.

Excavations in the mountains around Marbella have shown inhabitants from as far back as the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. The Romans built a city on the site called "Salduba". After the Romans the Arabs occupied the area and in 1485 the Spanish took the city. Like all things in Europe there is a deep history if you look.

Wonderful Mary in much pain, but still sharing her lovely smile with us.

In the evening David and Mary hosted their birthday/belated wedding party at the resort. The whole family was there Mary, David, Charles, Lenka, Sasha, Sylvia, Heather, Alex, Louis, Oscar, Julia, and me. But Mary was not feeling well as in the afternoon she had slipped on a wet floor and hurt her back. In the true spirit of a trouper Mary not only attended the party but hosted it as if nothing was wrong. However, we were all very worried about her.

Flamenco dancers kicking up their heals.

The party was a joyous affair with seemingly bottomless wine glasses, unending plates of yummy tapas, gift giving, sharing of embarrassing stories, and good times had by all. Sasha and Louis played, fort, cried, and laughed all night long. Lenka, Heather, Alex, and Charles displayed their impressive child rearing skills and multi-tasking abilities as they juggled looking after Sasha, Louis, Sylvia, and Oscar while eating, drinking, and carrying on conversations. Every time I am with parents of such a caliber, the idea is reinforced to me that I am lucky not to have had to raise children (or should I say the imagined children are lucky), as I do not have the skills required. The evening ended with Spanish flamenco dancers.

I always forget, but then I am reminded when I see it again, how much flamenco is influenced by Middle Eastern dance. Belly dancing is laced into the fabric of the heal stamping and emotive motions. The hands gestures of the female flamenco dancers are not too dissimilar to the graceful motions of the hula dancing girls of the Hawaiian Islands. Also the leg motions are very similar to steps I have seen in the Tango from Argentina. I suppose this is more reinforcement of the idea of how very closely we are all related to each other; much more so than we admit sometimes.

Thursday, July 2 2009: Marbella, Spain

Mary and Sylvia.

Mary had to be taken to hospital this morning. Mary's husband David and Julia accompanied her. It took some time to locate the hospital, but once there things went well.

Mary did not have to wait very long to see the doctor, she then went quickly in to have an x-ray, and finally she whizzed quickly through the pharmacy to obtain her prescription. Fortunately, Mary had not broken anything, but she had badly bruised her back. The doctor gave her a shot of valium and with her pain killers she was soon off in the land of Nod. Get better soon Mary.

Friday, July 3 2009: Marbella, Spain

The Marriott's Playa Andalusia.

The resort offered to give us a hundred Euros off our bill if we attended one of their timeshare sales pitches. I have been through this before and it was rather painless so I thought, why not. We spent two and a half hours with them and were subjected to some of the oldest sales pitches in the book.

We sat through it all politely with absolutely no intension of buying, and found it to be good sport parrying their sales thrusts. It did confirm that timeshares are still not for me.

Marbella - Ronda Video

Saturday, July 4 2009 (Independence Day): Marbella - Ronda - Seville, Spain

For Independence Day I would like to highlight a great America: Madalyn Murray O'Hair. If you want to know more about her click here.

The Puente Nuevo Bridge.

Charles, Lenka, Sasha, and Sylvia drove to Ronda. As it was on our way we drove in convoy with them. Ronda is 4,000 feet up in the Serrania De Ronda Mountains. The city is built on El Tajo gorge which is some 300 feet deep.

A cliff hanger.

The Puente Nuevo Bridge connects the old part of town with the new. The gorge really adds drama to the views in this typical Spanish tourist town. It used to be a trendy day trip for the British in Gibraltar, but now it is a trendy day trip for the British on the Costa Del Sol. Ronda has two claims to fame. The first is that during the Spanish Civil War the town's folks collected together a group of fascits, then clubbed, and pushed them into the gorge to their deaths. This event was the inspiration for a story, in Hemingway's book: For Whom the Bell Tolls. The second claim to fame is that modern bull fighting techniques were developed in Ronda. One cannot resist adding: For Whom the Bull Tolls.

After a very pleasant lunch in a restaurant on the edge of the gorge we bid goodbye to Charles, Lenka, Sasha, and Sylvia. We continued on to our final destination at Seville. We passed through more dry Spanish countryside for two hours before Julia had to throw our little car around the tiny streets in the center of Seville. With much practiced skill she banged and scraped our way to the hotel. But Julia was presented with a new challenge today, parking the car.

A nice restaurant in Ronda.

From Julia: Fortunately, I haven"t actually banged, scraped, or otherwise damaged the car. Driving and parking cars in Spain always seems an adventure. The parking process at our Seville hotel is that the reception worker drives with you to park your car.

I set off, with a strange man in a suit, down incredibly narrow lanes that even a bicycle would have a tough time navigating. A couple of times the senor forgot to tell me when to turn and I had to back up and try to swing around impossibly small corners in reverse! We turned a hairpin bend to find the road ahead closed. I backed up again and was directed down a street so small I had to turn in the side mirrors to get through. The entrance to the garage was built for smart cars only, but I squeezed in and was directed into a car-sized elevator. I handed over the car keys and then realized why it was so important to have the reception guy with me; it was to guide me back through the maze of streets to the hotel. David says driving in towns here is like being in a video game and I have to agree.

Sunday, July 5 2009: Seville, Spain

The Seville Cathedral.

When one lives in Spain, it always seems the same, that when you eat your meals, It's ham and bread all day. Oley! This has been an axiom for our stay in Spain. Do not get me wrong I like ham but not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I now know, but have no substantiated evidence, that the wars between the Moors and the Catholics was not about religion but about the right to eat ham. I have eaten some very tasty food here in Spain but the baseline staple is without doubt ham.

The cellar of the Alcazar.

We visited the Alcazar in Seville this morning. We completed our visit and were back in the air conditioned hotel before the afternoon sun turned Seville into a nuclear furnace.

They have been having 99 degree days here. The Alcazar was a surprise. It has to be the best palace I have yet seen in Europe. I like it because its design is driven by the weather in Seville. Because of the heat the palace has my open areas and lots of airy and breezy spaces. The biggest surprise was the magnificent gardens which are lush, green, and relaxing. We also peeked into the Seville Cathedral but it is a much more interesting building on the outside than on the inside. The outside shows how the building developed over time from one owner, religion, to another. But the inside is rather plain and dark.

Julia and I have loved our time in Spain and we are sad this is our last day here.


Trip stats

Miles Flown: 22,236

Miles Hiked: 260

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 5,485

Miles Sailed: 110


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