Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Valencia....continued adventures

First from Ricardo
My new favorite European city is called Valencia. I believed that Porto, Portugal was the best place to live in Europe until now...sorry Porto. This city which is situated between a high mountain range and the Mediterranean sea has it all.

We rented an apartment in the middle of the city within walking distance to everything that we could ever want or dream of doing. Years ago they redirected the river and transformed the river basin into a greenway and created beautiful gardens and walkways 6 miles long and it seems that everybody is using it to walk, run or bike etc.  It has to be experienced personally since my words can not do it justice.

We have been walking every day always starting with a decaf coffee and a croissant for me. The coffee is European bitter which I like and Susan is now getting used to. The people are very helpful and friendly.  One heads up is that very little English is spoken here.  We have needed our new second language and are thankful that we have invested much time and practice using it. The Valencianos have been very patient with our grammatical errors and seem to enjoy when I use Mexican slang.  Basic Spanish is all the same all over and I enjoy how every Spanish speaking country will have slightly different words to express themselves. It is so much fun as I enjoy the use of slang and the variations between countries.
Bridge over Jardines de Turia
I know that we will return here some time in the future and I can envision us living here for a month or two. Valencia is very safe with friendly people, clean air, great food and services and so walker friendly.

A few little bits of information. The food markets are clean and very inexpensive versus the restaurants. We have eaten out in places with great ambience and delicious food, but I like more to feast on Susan’s great culinary skills.
At Mercado Central

Another interesting thing about traveling outside of the US is the cost of medicine. A few days ago we purchased eye medicine without a needed prescription (which is needed in the US).  Xalatan which costs about 55 dollars at any drug store in the states cost us less then 8 dollars so we bought a few extra, of course. In Columbia it cost 5 dollars. Go figure.

I will end here not to repeat what Susan will write. Our next stop will be New Zealand.  I will miss this city but will carry the great memories that I have had here.
Sending love,
City of Arts and Sciences

Paella at Palmar
Life continues in Valencia and the second half was more like "living" rather than being "tourists". Yes, we continued to do something new most days but soon we exhausted the list of what we really want to see. We will come back again someday as many places would be worthy of a second visit and the city and life here would be pleasant for a long term stay. We are really glad that we gave it a whole month to get the feel of the city,

Our problem is the desire to find great places and then return to them versus the desire to add new places every year. Some how we have managed to include a bit of both for many years so I suppose we will continue this lifestyle till we tire of it.

I am going to list all the places we went for our memories and for those who end up traveling to Valencia. I can share more details if you have this city in your future.
  • Anthropology Museum and Roman Ruins
  • Church of St. Jerome
  • Jardines de Viveros with Museum of Natural Science
    Museum of Natural Science
    Jardines de Viveros
  • many walks in Jardines de Turia - redirected river basin turned into long greenway
  • Small village of Gandia which is about one hour train from Valencia. Visited Museum de Faller, and short bus to beach which was empty on a weekday and would be mobbed in the summer.
  • Museo de Arroz (Rice Museum) - interesting explanation of the rice fields surrounding Valencia and origins of paella because of the large quantities of rice.
  • L'Albufera and small town of Palmar - Natural park, lake and paella
    Boat at L'Albufera
  • Bioparc - very modern zoo
A few things are worth explaining though not sure I can really do it justice. The annual event - Fallas Festival which is held in the city and many of the surrounding towns of Valencia is held in March every year. We visited two museums for some explanation. From Wikipedia: 

"The Falles is a traditional celebration held in the city of Valencia, Spain. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments (Falla, singular; Falles, plural) burnt during the celebration. A number of towns in the Valencian Community have similar celebrations inspired by the original Falles de Val√®ncia celebration. The Falles festival was added to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage of humanity list on 30 November 2016.
Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the noted dish paella, a specialty of the region. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. A casal faller is also known as a comissi√≥ fallera and currently there are approximately 400 registered in Valencia."
Falla - 3 retired men walking
the tight rope of finances
as pensioners
The way I understand it is that these groups of people spend a year creating ninots (small doll like sculptures) that are put together into a larger sculpture called Fallas. They are very creative and are politically motivated having to do with something going on in the local world of Valencia. After 4 days of festivities which includes many other activities, the fallas are burned and the process begins again. These sculptures are a year in the planning. One is saved and is kept in the museum in Valencia. (We also visited and saw the ninots saved in the small town of Gandia). There are women (falleras) and men (falleros) who dress in special clothes for these events and there is a whole industry created around all the things that are important for this big yearly event. Firecrackers are another big part of the event, as is special food, etc. I don't think that there is a way to explain it rather than to visit in March. I am glad we were able to experience a little by visiting the museums.

The City of Arts and Sciences is a large complex of museums and would be a wonderful place to visit with children, There are many buildings and exhibits to see. We spent a day at the Oceanographic Park. Amazingly, all these places are within walking distance of the historic center of the city.

Great Dolphin show at Oceanographic
View from Torre de Serrano 

Mama and baby
And lastly, our trip to the Bioparc - a modern zoo with lots of room for the animals who are living in habitats created to be as close to natural as possible. I took many photos and will share a few here but I highly recommend visiting in person (and with little folks, would be even better).
As you read, you can see that there is something for everyone's interest for a short or much longer visit. Our weather was on the cool side with one big 3 day storm of rain that kept us inside but on the whole - very sunny and pleasant most of the time. I managed also to draw most days and create an accordion book for the month. This was a new format for me and it worked out well.

Now we are on the train heading to Barcelona to leave tomorrow morning for our two day trip to get to Auckland, NZ. You can be sure that I will be writing again soon about the land down under which I know will be very different than here. We will be traveling both the north and south islands in a motor home.

Thanks for traveling with us and "see" you soon.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Valencia - our new "favorite" place!

 Xativa Castle
Life is sure good to us. We continue to find amazing places to visit. Valencia came to us on a complete whim.....we had plans to head to the other side of the world (NZ, AU and Japan) and when realizing we had a month free we just looked at a map to think of where in Europe we might like to spend one month, in one place that would not be freezing cold. We heard from a few friends who had visited here for a few days and all had good things to report so we booked an AirBnb in the center of town for the whole month.
The corner building on our
We arrived on January 1st and lucked out with a small apartment (Don Juan de Austria 4) very well located for walking everywhere as well as close to all public transportation. With online research I have come up with something great everyday to see and so far all by foot except outside the city when we took a train to Xativa.

Join me as I review the places we visited with a few pictures of the high points. After settling in and eating out the first two days (holidays so most places were closed), we found grocery stores so we can cook in our small kitchen since we are here for a month. People are always eating outside - morning coffee or tapas later in the day but we don't like to do this everyday.

In the Jardines de Turia
As we often do, we began with a "free" (asking for donations at the end) walking tour and get the overall view of the main monuments, churches, and historic sights that we can return to as we wish. The city is beautiful in so many ways - elegant buildings, large plazas and the 9K greenway or park right through the center of the city. In 1958 there was a major flood (the last of many over the years) which made the city decide to redirect the river to the outskirts of the city and turn the riverbed into this amazing park. We have walked some parts and have much more to see - museums and gardens await us. (Jardines de Turia)

Mercado Central
We have been to Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) with historical exhibit of Sorollo, an artist we became acquainted with on our trip to Madrid several years ago.

A favorite museum so far was the Museo de la Seda (Silk Museum) which had an excellent audio tour as well as demonstration. Valencia was the center of the silk trade. I recommend it highly to all visitors to Valencia.
Silk Museum

Date palms at the beach
Another positive of Valencia is it's situation on the coast, with a big port and many beaches both north and south of the city. Being able to walk to the beach is wonderful and we did so last week. It was chilly but still great to walk along the boardwalk and of course with a stop for french fries. We will return for sure before the month is up.

Another walking tour took us to the Barrio del Carmen, an area in change as it was severely destroyed after the floods in the 1950's and many left the area to slowly return and bring the neighborhood back. Now it is also a center for Street Art and graffiti and we learned much about some of the artists as we walked through the narrow streets. Some of the art is done with permission and some is done quickly on the run. We always enjoy these tours and have done them in many big cities that are friendly to street artists. Today after a visit to the big Modern Art Museum in the city we both remarked that we liked, and perhaps understood better, the street art than some of the art in the museum.

Xativa Castle
A side trip outside the city took us to Xativa with it's large castle overlooking the town. A train ride on the local Renfe line for 50 minutes took us to another world. We walked up to the castle and back and enjoyed our cup of tea at the top. It was a perfect day with a delicious vegan lunch at Restaurant Ganesh. Doing my research online helps to find these places and with google maps, it is easy to get all around and find whatever we want. The life of a map loving traveler (thanks to my dad who taught us well) has changed over the years. Trip planning, however, seems to be in my blood.

Having one month in one place is good for us as we have plenty of time to see new things and plenty of time to just "be" and do the things we love everyday - walk, out for a cup of decaf coffee together, read, watch our Spanish TV show at night, draw, do some exercise and find something new to see everyday.  We feel more like we are living here than being tourists. How lucky we are to have this time in our life to live in other lands.

Valencia Cathedral and Plaza de la Virgin
Thanks for joining us on this adventure and you can be sure that I will continue with words and photos as we travel.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Barcelona and good wishes for 2020

Thanks for a great year!
Erin and Philip in La Condessa
As the year 2019 comes to an end, we would like to write a bit about our gratitude for another year well lived among our many worldwide connections.  Every year I write intentions for the coming year and one that has been on my list for a long time is keeping connections with friends and family all over the world. I realize that I do not need to make this one of my intentions as it has become part of who I am. Richard often says "I make the friends and Susan keeps them." This is so true as he is much more gregarious than I am but I am committed to seeing, or at least communicating with ALL of you out there reading this or knowing us. THANK YOU for being in our lives.

The last 10 days of 2019 proved to be a special time for this intention. Months ago we made the decision to coordinate schedules with Erin and Philip (we knew from Mexico and then Pau. France where we spent a month together in 2017.) What fun to wander all over La Condessa (CDMX) for sipping, eating, talking and walking. It might have only been 2 days but a chance to reunite and come up with plans for the future together.

Robin and Ru.
Then we were off to Spain - to Barcelona where we will be until Jan 1. Here we reunited with a friend from Chapel Hill, Robin Renteria and her husband Ru who are living here for the last 5 years. Catching up and talking about Spain and common friends connected us on many levels. It was Robin who interviewed and hired me for my job at the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist back in the year 2000 - a formative position for me in my life which taught me much and connected me to so many people, building our large community in Carrboro/Chapel Hill, NC.

Now I am sitting in an AirBnb with more special people - those with which we have spent many New Years. Dan and Fi and sons Aidan (age 17) and Will (age 11) from England as well as Amy and Sophie from North Carolina are playing cards as I write. This was another plan made months ago when we came up with the grand idea to meet and share special time together. We have walked miles in the city, learned the Metro system with Will leading the way (he learned the system faster than some of the rest of us), cooked together, ate in the house and out at various veg restaurants, talked, laughed and generally had a good 'ol time every minute. It was fun exploring a new city for most of us and we all fell in love with Barcelona. We even went to the beach to connect ourselves to our many past beach trips. Aidan is a techie and photographer with various cameras and he captured many moments on these. I have added them here at the end to give you an idea of the city.

One of many beautiful veggie
stands in the market

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

On the Metro

Giant art sculpture in the park

Our anniversary at the beach.

Many of you know that we are on a 4 month adventure heading east around the world. On the first we are off to Valencia, Spain for the month....followed by New Zealand, Australia and finally Japan until April. You can be sure that I will be writing details along with photos to keep my memory alive and keep you all in our loop.

Once again we thank you for being in our lives and we look forward to a very peaceful 2020.

Fundacion Miro

Fundacion Miro

Gaudi house along Passieg de Gracia

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Guanajuato, MX for October 2019

Templo in La Valenciana
It has been a very long time since I have written. I like to review all the details of our "travel" life in this blog, rather than our day to day "normal" activities. We did spend over 2 months in the US this year and caught up with nearly everyone we know during that time. I am always grateful to have time to see you all and our only regret is that we don't have more time. The good news is that when we are not with you, we are with someone else and we are blessed to have wonderful friends and family all over the globe.

Plaza Mexiamora
Getting ready for
We were very happy to return to Mexico and this October we spent the month in the city of Guanajuato (about 1+ hour from San Miguel and the capitol of the state of Guanajuato). It is a place that we enjoy and will return to again. We rented a small casita right in Plaza Mexiamora which is very central to all the activity in town. October is the month of the Cervantino Festival and this was the 47th year. It is a festival of culture - music, dance, theater and takes place at all hours of day and night in all the venues in town. It was our first time and we attended events in various theaters and other venues (such as an ex-hacienda and the golden church right next to the silver mines of Valenciana.
Teatro Juarez

Guanajuato is a University city (Univ. of Guanajuato UG) so it is youthful and lively all the time. We have nightly serenades of the "Estudiantes" - groups of young people who sing and walk all the narrow city streets in group, drinking tequila and enjoying the night life. We have a few friends here but not as many as other places which for us is a good thing - we have time with each other and time to catch up on reading and watching our Netflix series. We are now watching "Reina del Flow" about Reggaeton music and taking place in Colombia where we were earlier this year. It is a soap opera in Spanish (we do read the English subtitles) which is keeping us entertained every night.
off Plaza Baratillo

We also returned to Escuela Falcon for continued Spanish classes - always trying to improve a bit. I must admit that I have seemed to reach a point and don't see any changes in my ability to communicate. I can be understood and I mostly understand but continue to make errors which the Mexican's are SO kind to forgive. We do meet nice folks at school and it was just around the corner from our casita.

Walking the steps of UG
We are beginning to get in shape for our big upcoming trip in 2020 which will include lots of walking. We are daily walking up the long steps to UG either 1, 2 or 3 times/day. I continue to find something to draw everyday, especially in this colorful city.
A view of the Pipila from our casita

time to juggle

Fandango music and dance

The little star of the show
favorite gordita spot
Flowers in Plaza Baratillo

For the information of those who did not know - I broke my wrist in July and just want you all to know that I am healing well and nearly back to all range of motion, including downward facing dog in yoga so for that, I am grateful. I have a plate and 5 screws which I believe will stay in forever. 

That is it for now as we head off to San Miguel de Allende for several months. The big news is that our annual "Big Read" for Libros para Todos is happening in November. If you are in the area, please join us for various activities. Francisco Jimenez will be at Bellas Artes on Sat. Nov 9 at 11am (Spanish) and at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of SMA on Sunday, Nov 10 at 10:30 (English). These events are open to the public.