Monday, October 26, 2009

5 Facts about Spain and 2 about Gibraltar

1. Madrid is the highest and greenest capital city in Europe.

2. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao has 3 two-story high red copies of the Venus de Milo. They are made of styrofoam.

3. The temperature in Seville can be as high as 120 degrees F in summer.

4. Cervantes, Spain's premier author, died the same day as Shakespeare.

5. The Santa Maria Cathedral in Seville is the third largest in the world after St. Peter's and St. Paul's (Think Peter, Paul and Mary.)

1. The Rock of Gibraltar is not solid. It contains many caves, one of which has an auditorium used for concerts.

2. The apes of Gibraltar are not apes. They are macaque monkeys. Legend says that as long as they remain in Gibraltar, the island will belong to the British. When the monkey colony decreased, the British brought in additional animals.

Photos below: The entrance to the bull ring in Pamplona; the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good Luck, Bad Luck: A Life-Changing Vacation

Vacations are filled with surprises and this one was no different. True to my experiences in flying to Paris, nothing went as planned.

Thirty minutes out of Houston the plane turned around. The bad news was, they'd found a leak in the hydraulic system. The good news was we weren't somewhere over the Atlantic.

The pilot assured us if they couldn't repair the damage in an hour, they'd cancel the flight. Bad news, they also had a flat tire and we sat on the tarmac for five hours. Good news, the air conditioning worked and they fed us dinner.

At 10:00 they cancelled the flight. Bad news, we had to spend an hour retreving our luggage, then stand in line for another three hours to get rerouted. Good news, they got me on a flight to Madrid with a connection in Newark, not Paris, the next afternoon.

Bad news, I didn't get to the hotel they put us up in until 3:00 a.m. I fell into bed fully clothed. Good news, breakfast the next day, courtesy of Air France, was delicious.

Bad news, when I got back to the airport and checked in for my new flight, they didn't have me booked. Good news, they had space on the plane.

Worst news, when I landed in Madrid, I turned on my cell phone and got a message from my sister. She was ill with a viral infection and wasn't coming. I am an extremely shy person and the thought of going on this tour with a bunch of strangers scared me to death. No outgoing husband, no sister as a buffer. But I could hardly turn around and fly home. Best news, in spite of being by myself, I had a wonderful time. Since I was on a tour, there were plenty of people around, all of them friendly and interesting.

The experience was liberating. I now know I can manage alone. Traveling by myself wouldn't be my first choice, but I could do it again.

Widowhood is pretty awful, but at the same time it's taught me that I'm much more competent...and confident than I ever thought possible.

Have you had similar experiences? Let's talk about them.

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