February 29, 2008

A Week in Spain

After 31 hours traveling we finally arrived in Spain. I was so excited to finally be here. Marriott's Marbella Resort and Spa.

Day 1
There is a 9 hour time difference in Spain so we didn't get up this morning till 10:00am. It was wonderful. An associate from the property came to visit and tell us of all the places we could visit while here in Spain. She was really nice and very knowledgeable. We planned out our week and decided to visit Puerto Banus today.

This is a major hot spot...marina...for the locals. Well-known designers like Versace, Dolce, Armani, etc. and restaurants and lots of beautiful boats. Brandon loves to visit the marinas and said that the day he purchases a boat is the day his goals will be reached. I had to laugh. What about world travels and seeing the 7 wonders of the world? He says, No. I'll be satisfied and have lived a full life. He's too cute.

We ate at little pizzaria on the docks called Picassos. I ordered a Margarita Pizza that was really yummy. You have all heard that European pizza is much different than American pizza and it is. It's pizza on a very thin crust. Almost like a pita crust. I really liked it. Brandon ordered 3 Pastas. I think there were anchovies and mushrooms in it. Neither of which he is a fan. The sauce was a little strange, too. He ate half of my pizza which was a pretty good indicator that he was less than thrilled with his choice. But we're in Spain and we don't totally know what we're ordering. It was an adventure.

A bit of Spain culture. Ordering at restaurants...there are NO FREE REFILLS. If you order a Coke, they bring you an 8 oz. glass bottle of Coke and that's it. If you want more you have to pay for it. This is with all drinks. Bottled water comes in a larger bottle and so we drank lots of water. By the end of the week we were getting the hang of sipping our liquids and making them last.

Everyday from 1 to 4 pm is Siesta. This is where all the shops close and go to lunch. Restaurants stay open but everyone else goes for lunch. Kind of nice if you are an employee.

The Spanish are late owls. They start their night life at 9pm and don't end it till about 3am. Our walls are pretty thin here at the resort and there were many sleepless nights of listening to drunk partiers. This got better by weeks end. Either that or we were used to it by now.

Traffic. Oh my goodness. Fast, small cars, tight parking garages, narrow turns and roads, parking where ever they wants...on the side of the street or on the sidewalks, merging lanes are a joke, lots of round abouts that take you in all different directions. The majority of the population live in apartments. These buildings are built so close to one another and there were so many of them. I think we could have counted on 2 hands the number of 'houses' we saw. The rest of the week will be an adventure.

Day 2
Ronda. Ronda is a city south of Madrid set on either side of a gorge.

We started off our day eating a buffet breakfast at El Med on property. It was so yummy but as I was filling my cereal bowl with bran flakes the thought came to me 'this is going to pass right threw you'. I made sure we went to the bathroom before we left because it would be 2 hours before we got to Ronda. I have never gotten car sick but the road kept twisting and turning I seriously thought I was going to throw up. About 1 and a half hours up the mountain I started to get sick and told Brandon that he needed to pull over. I not only felt sick to my stomach but had to use the bathroom. There were no restrooms but the huge rock that I found had been a public restroom for others as well.

I was really glad that Brandon was driving this week. There were no street signs in certain spots and Brandon was getting really annoyed when we tried to find ourselves on a map with no idea of where we were. He did a great job finding us a parking spot in Ronda.
We accidentally parked on the main road in Ronda and the parking garage was very tight. I thought we were going to get stuck many times.
We hiked down to see the underside of the brige that connects the two sides of the city and Puerto del Cristo. What a nice little hike that was. It was not too long and we just enjoyed it. Slowly. My calves hurt the for two days after but I wouldn't have missed that. Brandon said that was his favorite thing in Ronda.

We saw the oldest Bullring in Spain.

These costumes were so tiny. Smaller than me but the artwork was so magnificent.
The stock yards.

We visited the Convent of St. Isabel of the Angels
The carvings on either side of this statue of Mary are all wood carvings. Each square depicts a different stage in Christ's life. It was so beautiful.

I loved all the architecture.

I will never forget walking down the steps and seeing this book in an alcove just off the stairs. It was so striking to me. I never really thought about how others parts of the world saw Christ. Physically. I just never thought about it.

After we had taken in all the beauty of Ronda, we headed back to Marriott's Marbella Resort. By the time we got back, we were exhausted. We went to the grocery store, SuperSol, for some snacks for the week. I was not leaving Spain without purchasing some tortillas and Nutella. Maria turned me on to these and she said this is what they eat in Spain. She makes it for her kids for breakfast. Everyday I had at least 2. So fattening but oh so delicious. For dinner is was off to El Med again. We ordered Chicken Paellas. It is a mixture of chicken chunks and rice with red peppers, tomatoes, and olives. So yummy. Brandon even asked if I would make this at home. I was stunned to say the least. I told him the kids would never eat it but if he liked then maybe they would. They like rice. I'll have to find a recipe online.

We got back to our villa and went to bed early. At 0:20...no that is not a typo... 0:20pm to loud drunk voices. What a long night.

Day 3
Granada. Alhambra. We had to rise at 5:00am and leave by 6:00. This took awhile to get to but once we got there it was interesting to take in more of Spain. Alhambra was a fortress for the Muslims and then later for the Christians. Each group bringing some of their own unique culture.

The palace was incredible with all it's intracate carvings on the ceilings and walls. Just stunning.
Museo Angel Barrios. This was a house for maybe the servants. This pool was used to keep the house cool during the summer months.

Look! I'm not so short after all.
The gardens were our favorite part. They were breath-taking. Rose bushes were everywhere, not in bloom, and we decided that the gardens would be even more spectacular when in bloom. I was sad we missed that but I will be searching online for pictures.

There was a museum in the fortress that was dedicated to J. Laurent, a photographer in the 19th century. 'A whole new genre to be explored by its pioneers and extensively used by the later generations of professionals. For those who couldn't travel through it for pleasure-a luxury that only aristocrats and teh burgeois could enjoy-, photography became increasingly effective...providing a visual spectacle to substitute travel'. Laurent's pictures of the Alhambra palace are incredible.

We also went into downtown Granada.
This is a very busy and happening city in Spain. We walked around and passed a policia station. We were going to turn ourselves in for a crime but couldn't think of any good crime. Oh well. We saw so much of Spainish culture in this busy city it was just amazing.

Our day concluded with dinner, booking a Gibraltar tour, and getting to bed. Tomorrow is our day off. Brandon said, 'It's my leave-me-alone day. So don't bother me.' I think we both need a day off from driving and sightseeing.

Day 4
What a beautiful day. The sky is clear and such a gorgeous shade of blue. I wish I could have taken it home with me. It was just so beautiful. We slept in till 10:00. Partly because we stayed up watching Mission Impossible and partly because our power went out. Brandon said we blew a fuse. We ate at El Med for breakfast and then for a walk on the beach. The beach was very rocky...not big rocks just tons of little ones. We saw many interesting things that had washed up on shore. There were quite a few bricks, from buildings we guessed either upshore or down. We saw a bicycle peddle, candy wrappers, orange peels, rusty soda cans, and glass bottles. I found a tiny spiral sea shell to put on my scrapbook page when I get around to putting this vacation together. It is perfect. Since it was such a nice day we decided to lay out by the pool. It was so relaxing and this is what vacation is all about.

Day 5
Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a British territory.
We started off shopping for 2hours and then our bus tour of the Rock.

This was a very beautiful place. Very green and it's February. Gibraltar was once surrounded by a great wall that protected if from intruders or those countries who wanted to overthrow it. We saw cannons, Baby Ben, and lots of Apes.

It is said that if the apes ever left Gibraltar, it wouldn't be British anymore. They even imported more apes to ensure that that would never happen. I had to laugh but the tour guide was serious. Our tour guide was playing mimick games with one of the apes. If he'd clap like the guide he'd get a reward. At one point our guide was done playing this game but the ape wasn't. The ape went over and tugged on the guides sleeve, clapped, and held out his hand for a treat. We got a good laugh. These animals are no dummies.

Winston Churchill wanted a fortress within a fortress so they would be prepared for any countries that wanted to attack. Luckily they never had to use this plan but there were 35 kilometers within the rock, 3 hospitals, shops and could house 9,000 people. I thought that was pretty cool. There is a lot of constuction of new flats and renovations of exsisting building into luxury apartments in Gibraltar. Buildings in Europe are built super close to one another and it amazes me that vans and buses can still drive on the streets and it's not a wonder how these places can have such high populations. Being here, I can totally see why. This was Michael's Cave. Queen Elizabeth came here in the 40's I think and our tour guide said he didn't think she liked it because she never came back. The cave was pretty cool. I don't have any desire for splunking but this was cool to see the formation of the rocks because of...I think it's...water deposits over hundreds of years. That's a natural wonder.

Day 6
The Spa. Today we went to the spa for our week end's massage. Brandon got the Swedish Massage. He enjoyed it but said he still doesn't know why people go crazy over them. I got the Anticellulite Massage. It was good and I felt my fat jiggle. I had to laugh. I don't love massages...is that the pluralform?...I like facials and pedicures better.

It was another relaxing day. The weather was overcast again and a bit chilly. We went on a walk down the beach and to one of the markets.

For dinner we ate at El Med. There was an owners dinner at 8pm with 2 Opera singers for the entertainment. When we arrived there were about 4 tables that were not reserved so we sat, ate, and left before it got too busy. But not before enjoying 2 songs from the Opera. The first was from the Opera Carmen and the second from The Barber of Seville. Very well done, I must say. Brandon said that was a great way to end our cultural vacation here in Spain and I couldn't have agreed more.

Tomorrow it's a short plane ride to Frankfurt and spending the night there. Then a super long flight back to America.

We have really enjoyed taking in all the culture here in Spain. This was definitely a different sort of vacation for us in that it was more sightseeing as opposed to the scuba diving, ATV-ing, and horseback riding we've done in Hawaii and Aruba. Spain has so much culture and history, not that the others have any less, but it was different in it's own way and we rather like it.

Day 7
Today is travel day. But before leaving we wanted to hit Old Town Marbella. This is where our resort was and to tell you the truth it wasn't that exciting. The shops don't open here until 11 o'clock (a majority of them in this part of town) so we really couldn't do that. We did take a stroll down the boardwalk which is always a favorite. There were lots of fishermen and those out for their morning walks. Brandon wondered how the missionary work was here when they told their investigators that they would have to give up coffee? The Spanish love to just sit and drink coffee. In the morning, afternoon, night...just sit and drink. They sit for hours. We finally called it good and headed for the airport.

After 33 hours of travel we were finally home. I am so glad to be home and see our kids. We really missed them.