Disappointed in Alhambra but Energized by Olives

Saturday 2/18/17

I hate to be doom and gloom while I’m on vacation. But driving from Madrid to Malaga, which was our major activity for today, I was struck by the strange feel below the tires. It was the road without potholes.

More than that, I was struck by the abundance of wind turbines and solar collectors. No, they don’t match the beauty of the mountains in the distance, but neither do oil spills in rivers, my point of comparison.

Back home, we have the nuts in power who are more concerned about pretending that “cutting taxes” is an inherent social good rather than just another bonus for rich people, that it gives society more benefit than improving the infrastructure. They deny the science behind global warming to keep the oil and coal companies artificially afloat. Meanwhile, the rest of the world outpaces us with job-producing innovations in alternative energy.

I was reminded of a newspaper called Continuum that was published by a group of AIDS activists, back when AIDS was killing off the gay community, The editors, paranoid from living in a gay-unfriendly society, claimed that AIDS was a conspiracy unrelated to HIV. The paper folded when the editors all died of AIDS-related conditions.

No joke here. No humorous anecdote. Just the realization that the future never belongs to the ignorant neighborhood bully or the paranoid skeptic.

As long as I’m on a negative, I might as well give you our new definition of disappointment. One of our planned destinations for the week was Alhambra to see the palace. When we realized we would be passing it on our way from Madrid to Malaga, we decided, why not make the trip there today and avoid an unnecessary trip later?

We got there at 4 p.m., time, we figured, to spend an hour and a half inside the palace, see what we could, and still make it to Malaga before total darkness. Alas, tickets were sold out. Who knew they cut off sales after a certain number? The guide standing where the front of the ticket line would have been and turning away tourists said they start selling tickets at 8 a.m. and often sell out by 9. In the summer, tourists start lining up by 3 a.m.  I looked at the positive side: At least we didn’t have to go too far out of our way to find out we couldn’t get in. It would have been worse if we had passed it this time, then made the long trip back to find out they had sold out.

But the ride otherwise was stunning. Olive groves as far as the eye could see, growing on flat lands and mountainsides, like casinos in Las Vegas. In the rest stops, they sell olive oil-infused hand cream, lip gloss, shower gel, soap, perfume, night cream, and body lotion. Plus, of course, extra virgin olive oil for cooking and jars of olives in a diverse range of flavors. If I had seen a tube of olive oil-infused toothpaste, I think I would have taken a chance and bought it.

We saw patches of cacti as we approached Bailen. The sun shone the whole way, and the air was brisk and refreshing.

We saw almost no cop cars the entire journey. Think you can speed? We found out otherwise when we sped in Italy and received a ticket in the mail three weeks later, courtesy of their radar-controlled speed-check system. Spain uses the same system so we were cautious. Speed fluctuated between 120 km/h (72 mph) and 100 km at every curve in the road and 120 again as soon as the road straightened. We followed the signs as cars from the locals sped past us on our left.

We pulled into Elviera, just west of Malaga, in the dark and were aided by GPS to find our lodging, at Heritage Resorts Playa Camino Real.

Arrive in Madrid, Meet Harrie and Sonja

Th 2/16/17

Smooth flight from Detroit Metro to Paris, superb service from attendants on Delta. But—kid in middle aisle screaming because mom put his luggage in overhead. Continues until he falls asleep, resumes when he wakes up. Food excellent for dinner (vegetarian) and breakfast (neutral). Meanwhile, complimentary wine and beer flow all night until lights out; flow resumes in morning. Emily and I sit in different rows on flight to Madrid.

Emily kibitzes until takeoff with woman from the Philippines: kids, weather, travel itinerary. I smile at man on each side of me, don’t talk. It’s a man thing.

Glad to travel with Emily, who is fluent in Spanish and can fake it in every other language. Helped us get to the hotel from the airport when we got lost twice, Emily asked taxi drivers for directions. I hesitate when I say “Bonjour” to the attendant. Don’t want to screw up. Fortunately I have a charming smile.

Trip to Spain is life-long fantasy for Emily. Happy to share it with her.

Interesting observation about the flight data chart on flight to Paris: Data differ from seat to seat. When I was 1590 feet in the air, Emily was 1722 feet. Obviously the plane was tilted.

Fun fact: The plane will not automatically crash if one person forgets to put his phone on airplane mode. Don’t ask me how I know.

In Madrid, Trump supporter complaining because there are too many foreigners.

Meet Harrie and Sonja at the hotel. Eat, drink, lots of walking, visit Plaza Mayor, more eating and drinking. Watching the news on TV now as we wind down after a long day that started yesterday. Trump is just as much of an embarrassment in Spanish as he is in English.

On the Road to Spain

W 2/15/17

On the road to Spain today to celebrate an amazing forty years being with Emily (who also is coming). Two days in Madrid, then Malaga, which will be our base for the next week.

Hooking up with extended family from the Netherlands, Harrie and Sonja, whom we haven’t seen since we traveled together in Italy three years ago.

U.S. friends, take care of the country for us until we get back. Keep the borders open. I don’t want to get sent back to Galicia or Austria-Hungary, countries of origin that no longer exist.