Friday, May 30, 2008

The Great Flamenco Adventure

We continued our tourist trek by deciding to go to a Flamenco dinner and show. Little did we know what was in store for us… da da da dum… Another hair raising bus trip! This time the bus was newer, and filled with fellow tourists, a very young guide, and a very angry driver. I guess he did not want to drive in the rush hour.

Manhattan has NOTHING on Granada when it comes to grid-lock! Try streets at up to a 50% slope AND only one car wide, with tight curves and a real lot of scrapes and dents in the walls! The other side of the wall is a looonng drop to the next layer of street curving up the hill.
And our driver liked to GO FAST!!

It took an hour and a half to pick up the 20 or so guests at different hotels throughout the city. The driver kept making wrong turns and getting into fights with the guide. The guide kept trying to smooth things over. Mom and I made the mistake of sitting in the front seat (again…) witnessing all the close turns, near misses and arguments (not really – it was probably not as bad as we thought, we just were going on tone, not words).

By the time we got to our show, we were pretty shook up. Then we had to walk up a steep incline and go into a building built into a cave. Granada Flamenco is performed by the gypsies, who used to live in the caves in the hills. Atmosphere, you know.

The food was really good, the service was good, and the show was really good. The show was by the family of El Gallo, consisting of six women, who were related. They took turn dancing very gracefully with lots of hand action, and turn, but the real effect was with their stomping feet, making lots of noise along with the hand clapping of the other dancers, and the gypsy songs, and a flute and Spanish guitar music.. Very dramatic and most enjoyable.

Even the eldest lady, Mama, stomped up a storm to show she still had gusto plus. After the show, we had to walk further up the “street” to see Alhambra at night, a beautiful sight! My photo didn’t turn out so well, but I hope you can get the idea.

Then there was the bus trip back… without the guide… the good news was there was not any traffic, and we were the third hotel stop. It did take me a while to go to sleep…

The Wedding is Tomorrow, today is beautification day. Sunday is travelling back to Great Britain and a boat to catch.

The Alhambra

Now I know why people say that Granada is the most beautiful city in the world – because of the Alhambra! Hope you can play the video...

The Alhambra is the oldest part of the city, on the top of a hill, overlooking the current city. It was built on top of Roman battlements, and was the palace of the Muslim rulers of the area, from 889 AD to 1492 ad, when Granada was (finally) captured by Ferdinand and Isabella, the same year they sent Christopher Columbus to discover the new world. In the center of the City is a huge statue showing Queen Isabella giving Columbus a degree to find the new world-America.
There are over 7000 visitors DAILY to the Alhambra, which consists of three main parts, the oldest are remains of the first fortifications:

The Muslim/Christian palace, photos from Mom's camera - I ran out of batteries again.

And the Gardens:
Oh, the Gardens! I went back the next day to tour them again!
More snaps for your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Touring Granada

We went to Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral annex. It was beautiful:

Mom wanted to go to a bull fight. I wasn’t feeling up to it, as I had cut my finger and it was a little infected, so we just watched it on TV. Mom was interested in the pageantry and the costuming. It was good that we didn’t go, I think. We looked up the history and details of bullfighting on the internet during the commercials. Those bulls weigh in at over 1000 lbs! It’s not about the animal at all, rather it is about the courage of the matador, and his ability to control his own fear.

The next day we started touring. Here are some snaps:

Now for the humor: Some of you know I was going to rent a car in Paris, but was shouted down by the customers around the knitting table at the shop. They told me I would be crazy to drive in Paris, so I cancelled the car and we travelled by taxi, which was “interesting” to say the least… Jean Pierre said that Parisians have no patience. But here in Granada we get to the center of the old town on a little bus that costs 1.20 euro each. The ride is about 10 minutes at the most.

Photo of the bus in the wide part of the street in front of our hotel:

On the way home today, the little bus was taking on many passengers on the narrow street, which took some time. Mom and I were in the first seats behind the driver and the bus was packed with an international collection of people. People in the cars behind the bus started honking. The driver waved out his window that he couldn’t help it. Honking continued…

Next thing we knew, the bus driver jumped out his door and ran back to yell at the car behind us. The bus started rolling backwards! Three French passengers and one Serbian man all grabbed for the hand break and saved the day!

I thought Mom was going to shout bad words in French & Spanish, I couldn’t believe it! The driver came back and had to light a cigarette right away, he was so upset that he couldn’t start the bus. Then he took a long time going the rest of the way up the hill. No one said anything, except to point out the hand break was on. Once we got off the bus, I started laughing, Mom wasn’t laughing at all. All I could think was that people told us the Parisians were bad drivers!

Mom says it’s funny now that we are back at the hotel, but I bet we’re going to be very careful on all the buses.

Now we are getting ready for the reason we came to Europe in the first place, the Wedding!

Granada – and how we got here!

Our last day in Paris was beautiful, as you can see from the photo.

Our trip to Granada was much more “interesting” – shall we let the photo tell the story?
Our whole trip was kind of like this photo! The train was noisy, bumpy, and did I mention noisy? Mom had the bottom berth and felt every bump, and heard every noise. I slept through the whole thing, thanks to Tylenol PM. But I was the one pushing the bags around…

Then it was time for the bus in Madrid. Have you ever seen those people running through the station? Well, not speaking the language, I purchased the wrong number of tickets (uno, not dos) and had to go waaay back to the ticket counter and buy another one, but the bus should have already left, so I had to buy two for the next hour.

I then ran (with big carryon containing my computer and a BUNCH of other stuff) from one end of the LARGE station, down the escalator, and all the way to the bus. I thought the driver would have left, and mom would be standing there with the rest of our bags, but he was nice enough to wait, and laughed when I told him I had tres tickets! Don’t worry, though, we have alternate (elegant) means of returning to London for our boat trip.

Coming to the Alhambra Palace was beautiful! Here’s a photo of the view from our room in Paris:
and here’s a view from our room in Granada (double click on the photo to get the big picture):

where we just rested for two days and recovered.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Last Night in Paris - by Elaine

Marni and Elaine’s last evening in Paris, France was most memorable…

It was like a fairy-tale of a perfect outing in Paris. Marni and David’s friend, JP, picked us up at our hotel, as he had parked his neat, new SUV at the end of the street.. His wife, Vony, jumped out to greet us, and then we sped on to the Louvre Museum Restaurant Le CafĂ© Marly, right across from the pyramid entrance of the Louvre.

We had a marvelous table inside looking out at the Louvre. Jean Pierre (cool French name) read most of the menu, and helped us decide what to order..He ordered a bottle of French Bordeaux wine..It was light, red wine with a spicy taste. Delicious..He continued to fill our glasses throughout the dinner..I had a delicious fish with a curry/lemon sauce. Marni had shrimp and risotto..We all had dessert..French pasties, framboises.

We had wonderful conversations about the French political scene, their medical plan, the social security, and the school systems..At dinner we took several photos, you see.

After dinner we walked outside and a diamond studded Eiffel tower greeted us with thousands of bright silver lights..The City of Lights..This display only happens on the hour of the evening..What a fantastic view!!

As the lights turned back to the regular lights we were driven back to our hotel with the traditional farewell kiss on each cheek by our gracious, delightful hostess and host.. for a fond au revoir of Paris..!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For the Girls in the Yarn Shop

I saw this really nice shrug on a tall blond woman, and I snuck photos so we could make a pattern:

More about Paris!

We went to the Louvre yesterday, twice – the first and last time! That’s a David joke, meaning we will never be going back! Crowded full of tourists, all running into each other. It was not fun. Here’s the only good part:

Then we went shopping, and had lunch:
David would be proud of us, eating next door to Maxim's. It was delicious!
Mom was checking her e-mails in the lobby of our hotel:

Today we went to the Musee d’Orsay – and that was Fabulous! My photos did not turn out too well, we will have to wait for Mom’s film to be developed. Here’s as close to sheep as I will get in Paris!

It is just wonderful here – here are some photos of my new house and a business on the street:

Sunday, May 18, 2008



WOW!! I can't believe I'm here! How did this ever happen? Why didn't I learn French?
The photo above is one short block from our hotel.
We are about three blocks from the Eiffel Tower, we walked there today. Mom's foot is bothering her a little, so she went to rest it, and I walked around. Sorry Neil, it's way better than the Village here! Mom wants to go to Mass at Norte Dame Cathedral today.
At Notre Dame Cathedal. Don't I look European?

The hotel is like a starving artist room, 5th floor, surrounded by fab French architecture, cheesy furniture, good bathroom, but the commode is in its own little closet, bath and sinks in another room. I got a good price on Expedia. We'll make up for the economy at the Alhambra.

Location is everything though! Look at these photos!

WOW!!! I think I'm in love! (and I thought the sheep in Ireland were good – now THAT sounds really unusual! You all know what I mean, though.)

Our last days in Ireland

Our last days in Ireland were spent in Dublin. We saw the real “Book of Kells,” how it was made and Trinity College. Our hotel was beautiful, but for all you F & B folks, they could use a little work in that department.

Here’s mom enjoying a Jameson Whiskey and Cranberry. The group at the table were tasting different whiskeys.

We are posing with our guide Joe. He was fabulous, and had been with this tour company for something like 27 years, 18 on this tour! How’s that for job security. He did tell us that only one person died on his watch! He knew all about everything, and was great at rounding everyone up, all the time.

This is the Trinity College commons, we had sandwiches there. It’s so much fun hanging with the students.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Update on the Bus Tour

This was definately the way to see Ireland! Here's the recap so far, we have the Book of Kells and yarn shopping tomorrow in Dublin, then it's off to Paris!

Sunday was a busy day, we rode the bus to the Cliffs of Moher. It was cold, glad I had my wool sweater! It was foggy, here’s the view. Beautiful!

Mom had a Guinness with lunch!!

More bus riding to Killarney, and a tour by horse drawn carriage of an historic Irish house in Killarney. The carriage behind us kept trying to race us. Mom thought the carriage was “rustic” and could have done without it.

The house was a beautiful example of Victorian times, Queen Victoria actually slept there for 2 nights.

Monday: Mom decided to sleep in and miss the (long) bus ride around the lakes of Kerry. Spectacular vistas, and another sheep for me.

I might have to move here!

Tuesday we kissed the Blarney Stone! Mom was very proud of herself for climbing 110 steps, up a few towers. It was BEAUTIFUL at Blarney Castle! See for yourself:

Wednesday we travelled to the Waterford Crystal Factory for a tour. Mom was the first one off the bus for this!

Then we went to Killkenny, the home of my ancestors. Now I think I know where I want to live here!

Killkenny Castle and a medievel town.

We ran out of batteries on our cameras, so we are going to snag some shots from our bus-mates for your viewing pleasure.

We decided to have an early night tonight, and I had this blogging to do. It’s 9:00 pm and the sun is still shining!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Traveling to Ireland

We had our first kind of glitch - we asked for a wake up call for 5:00 AM!!! (aagghh!), and called a cab sservice for 6:00 am to make our flight to Dublin.

Well... no wake up call, my eyes opened at 5:45 AM.

We made it downstairs with all our stuff by 6:05 am, and our cab was waiting nicely. Luckly that was all that was bad. Flights very good, Aer Lingeus was fab!

Here's mom trying to call Dan from Dublin, her phone didn't work... mine does. Forest quit leaving those LONG messages!

We landed and got to our hotel, which was across the street from our first Castle! But more important:


This was our entertainment at the Tower Banquet: