Seville - This wonderful capital of the Flamenco and center of culture of the Andalusia state of Spain was a delight. The main attractions are the Alcazar and a huge cathedral, reputed to be the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. As is common in southern Spain, the Alcazar was a Moor palace and mosque until Christians re-conquered the area. It has splendid stone carving, colorful ceramic work, and peaceful formal gardens. One night we stayed in the old town, dined on red wine and tapas, and watched a flamenco show. Unlike the flashy 'spectaculars' touted by the hotels, this was an intimate show with two musicians and two dancers at the Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andaluz, the courtyard of an old home, and we really enjoyed it. While walking home one evening we heard music coming from the university, and were the lucky witnesses to four modern dance students putting on a show for fellow students - a very unusual and dramatic dance!
Gibraltar - Since we need to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar on our way to the Atlantic in the near future, we decided to visit by land (and perhaps catch up with friends who will pass this year). Low, heavy clouds scudded overhead as we explored this interesting and crowded British enclave hanging onto the south coast of Spain with its fingernails. We found it expensive (despite 'Duty Free' signs) and not particularly attractive. The marinas seemed OK for short stays although the yachts surged quite a bit in the Force 5 winds.
Saddened by Election Results - November 3rd was a bummer as it was confirmed that a majority of the US citizens had voted for four more years of Bush who has:
We believe this is a sad day for the US and are glad we have other options for the future.
Ronda - A very pretty town perched on a high escarpment, similar to Toowoomba in Australia. It has bridges crossing deep ravines, overlooks hanging over 1000' drops, one of Spain's oldest bull rings, narrow streets with bright flowers. We walked from one end to the other, sharing the views with locals enjoying a beautiful day and peering into the museums and souvenir shops. We stayed in the town for only a day, but wished we could have stayed a week or more to get to know the lucky people who lived there.
Sierra Nevada again - Back in Granada we drove to the Sierra Nevada again, the snow from our last visit had mostly melted and it was a beautiful sunny day. The locals told us it was a dry year, and that last year by this date they had 2' of snow on the ground. Our familiar campground at Las Lomas still had our favorite spot where we had a 360� view and basked in the sun.
Back in Alicante - We returned to the Alicante area, this time to Camping La Marina, a 5-star facility with tennis courts, Spanish lessons, a gym, squeaky-clean facilities and music in the toilets. We used these last few days in Spain to reminisce and pack for our return to Marmaris, Turkey - via London.
Ethnic Composition of Southern Spain - The Spaniards may own this country, but it is being invaded by northern Europeans eager to escape rain, snow, ice, and cold weather. While Seville, Ronda, and Granada felt Spanish, the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca, ranging from Gibraltar to Valencia is full of Germans, Dutch, Belgians and Britons - most with graying temples. The caravan park we are in has 350 spaces and it is packed with big caravans and motor-homes, most with satellite dishes pointed at the equator to pick up German, French, and English programming for the evenings. During the days exercise, handicraft and Spanish classes fill the hours in addition to walks on the beach. All along the coast are apartment buildings, condominiums, and villas that house other 'snow birds' seeking the Med sunshine. As the 'baby boom' generation retires one can expect more of the same - reserve your spot now!
Marina Summary - From what we saw along this part of the coast the options seem to be:
Spanish Train Ride - On our last day in the Alicante area we parked our motor-home in a long-term parking facility (Parking El Vincle), secured all of the systems, and locked her up tight. We struggled to the train station, overloaded as usual bringing ransom back to Long Passages as a reward for remaining securely tied up in Marmaris Yacht Marina for 3 months without our attention. The Spanish train from Alicante to Valencia was a pleasure; smooth, fast, and comfortable. We chose Valencia as a departure point from Spain because RyanAir had just started flying from their airport 2 weeks earlier, and we had been satisfied with their low-cost service from Venice to London in August.
On to London - Our RyanAir flight was without incident, except it turns out that they have a lower weight limit that other airlines (15 Kg vs. 20 Kg) and they stick you with a $13/Kg charge for any excess, so they used that as a way to make up for their 'low' fares. So travelers, BEWARE! We stayed three nights at our normal haunt, the Balmoral House Hotel and we were reminded how expensive it is in London. In the future we will avoid it when we do not need to stop there. Some examples:
Crossing Europe - Up at 0400 to catch the shuttle and we were on the blitz trip to Rhodes, where we expected to catch a ferry to Turkey. We flew EasyJet (another low cost carrier) and were very impressed. They had low prices ($US50 London to Athens) and service was good, planes were new and spotless, weight restrictions were normal and flights were on time - a better option than RyanAir in our opinion. After a short layover in the brand new built-for-the-Olympics Athens airport we took Aegean Airlines to Rhodes and, from 30,000', we had great previews of the Greek islands and the many anchorages we hope to visit next season.
Stranded in Rhodes - This time we really feel sorry for ourselves! By virtue of bad timing/planning, we arrived in Rhodes 2 hours after the ferry left for Marmaris, and did not find our about the ferry the next day until it was on its way. Consequently, we have checked into the very cute Via Via Hotel, run by Beatrice, a charming Belgian who has allowed us to occupy the top floor 'penthouse' with views of the harbor and Rhodes Old Town. Although we would dearly like to be back aboard LP in Marmaris, we will bear our travails with grace and hope the ferry runs on time next Monday. Thanksgiving dinner with our friends looms at the end of next week, and we have the cranberries and pumpkin pie mix, so we need to cross that last 25 miles to Turkey!
Enjoying Rhodes Off-Season - Our four days in Rhodes were delightful! In November the weather was clear and cool and the crowds were non-existent. A few diehard shops remained open selling staples and souvenirs, but most were shuttered for the season. Some of what we saw and experienced:
Crossing to Marmaris - We booked a ferry seat to cross the short (25 mile) trip to Marmaris on Monday - high winds and a light passenger load conspired to cancel the crossing. Tuesday was better on both scores so we, and 30 day-trippers from Marmaris who were updating their visas, arrived on smooth water shortly before sundown on Tuesday afternoon. We were accompanied on the modest-sized ferry by two German camper-vans, that looked like modified home-made water tankers. They were on their way to India via Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and points East - sounds like a very exciting trip!
Thanksgiving on Voyager - Once again Turkey Fever struck as we caught up with friends who settled into Marmaris in our absence. In this case we joined the crews of Voyager and Quest aboard Voyager and ate a free-range turkey (euphemism for tasty but a little chewy) with all of the trimmings. We enjoyed the afternoon of food, wine, and good conversation - with nary a football game in the background.