Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Celebrating 11 years - travel to Europe

Hauling paella to Concha y Chimo's apartment in Valencia
 - Reina and Mike wih Concha
The Mueller clan

There are so many tales to tell about our fabulous 11 year anniversary trip to Span and Italy, but lucky for you, I don't have much time now as we prepare for our travels south.

We had the great fortune to spend 4+ days with my family in Wisconsin. It’s my annual trip, which I always enjoy, celebrating the visit to see my siblings and their families. Early October, we drove down to Chicago then flew to Madrid. We spent 4 glorious days there, where we experienced a Flamenco dancing extravaganza, sangria sipping, tapas of all flavors, plazas, museums, destinations old and new, the metro, beautifully dressed women, great window shopping and oh, by the way, no shortage of great food and drink.
Beautiful Spanish dresses and shawls
Outside the Prado, walking the neighborhood

Main plaza in Madrid

Small shop with amazing armament

Small shop in Madrid

At the Prado Museum

Stuffed mussels

Restaurante Botin - oldest restaurant
in Europe,
according to Guinness

There's a story here...

Pigs ears, can you dig it?

With the owner of Anter cafe

Anter cafe's great mural with Anter at the center, of course

Back streets of Madrid, great lunch and people watching

Fast action foot work
A couple of balmy evenings during our long walks, we stopped at a streetside cafĂ© and ordered a typical Spanish dish, the tortilla, an egg and potato frittata cooked with yummy olive oil. It’s served by the ‘pincho’ or slice. We ordered a pincho with our inexpensive and tasty vino de casa/house wine. Our friendly waiter comes back and reports they are sadly out of tortilla, but how about ‘orejas de cerdo’. I clarify, do you mean pigs’ ears? And he enthusiastically retorts, oh si si si, le gusta, le gusta (you’ll like it)! So we order this not-so-direct substitution for an egg pie and get a plate of gnarly chunks of, well, pigs ears. Even after squeezing on the lemon provided, it was a memorable treat but one we won’t repeat. Of course, the waiter watched us across the way, thumbs up and smiling, just knowing we are digging the pig’s ears and waiting for our gleeful smiles (which we provided for obvious reasons). Luckily, our table was curb side so a few of the nastier tidbits made it to the gutter, to a peaceful repose better than gnarling up our stomachs.

Other nights, we were talked in to local specialties: sepia(cuttlefish), fried anchovies and dogfish. Some tapas are great, others not so much but we try them all (well, most of them).

and fast action flamenco dancing

Concha and Mike enjoying our boat ride in Valencia

Marzipan treats on Valencia Day

Moros y Cristianos parade and great costumes!

The parade was long and colorful

Valencia Day parade route

Celebrating Valencia Day

Concha's grandsons at church

The marina at Ancona Italy

Fisherman working on their nets - Ancona harbor

Getting ready for the bride and groom at an Italian restaurant

They call this a single serving!

Venetian glass - nothing more beautiful

Vista from the new shopping
center in Venice

Farmer's market, cleaning artichokes
Old model gondola

Venice at night

Great dining down the stairs from Plaza Mayor, Madrid
with our wait staff - check the sign

Making a shoe statement

Nighttime market in Madrid

Where to next?

Medieval market shopping

Concha and her daughters, Reina y Roser, showing off their
new purses handmade by my sister Joanne 

We took the train to Valencia, where we passed 4 magical days with Concha and her family. Concha was our family’s foreign exchange student for a year in 1962 (she was my sister’s peer, I was 7). We stayed at a lovely spa hotel they recommended in their Alboraya neighborhood. Concha’s husband Chimo was also super friendly and engaged, and they both wanted to ensure our happiness at every turn. They drove us on a long and informative city tour to share a small portion of the history in Valencia. Chimo has a true twinkle in his eye and tells a great tale, sharing merrily about the city and its history, talking in his fast-paced Castilian Spanish. He proclaimed everything we passed – his university, first street where he lived, where Concha lived, worked, where their daughter works, the construction date of various structures and historical data to put things in perspective.
Mike nodding occasionally to say, yes, that’s amazing but not able to follow the Spanish. I was catching some of it, sitting in the back seat with Concha, but were carrying on our own conversations.
St Dionis - Valencia's Valentine's Day - with Concha

We were fortunate enough to share the entire day and evening with their family on the special holiday, Region of Valencia Day. This event commemorates King Jaime I's victory in 1238 over the occupying Moorish forces. The celebration includes an elaborate parade featuring Moorish and Christian costumed "troops," and coincides with the Day of Saint Dionisio, the Valencian version of Valentine's Day, when men give their girlfriends or wives sweet marzipan wrapped in a traditional scarf. This day, noted their gracious, English-speaking son-in-law Salva with a smile, is the only day when the Moors and Christians get along. We walked the city at night with most of Concha’s family, passing along very crowded streets. We followed the route of the colorful parade filled with traditional music and great costumes of fighting Moors and Christians in tremendous regalia, horses, camels, the works. We continued our walk, and went to the cathedral where the Chalice of Jesus is enshrined.

With the entire family of 15, we enjoyed a boat ride on a large lake after our incredible holiday meal featuring paella. Yummm! We also walked through a special medieval market another day with a light rain that turned wet and dark, and required a cab ride back. 

After our 4 days there, we flew on to Roma, rented a Renault ‘Kadjar’ with 6 on the floor which Mike loved, especially on the highways and through the mountains. We headed directly south to Ercolano and the ruins at Herculaneum, located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic flows in 79 AD. Very worthwhile and recommended to us. While in general, driving in Italy is exciting, driving in Ercolano was gnarly. The roads are very narrow, no room when you need to pass a car on a slim stretch. We turned on our phones for internet a couple times when we needed GPS and in that town, that led us into the old streets where the market was going on and construction in process. It was a bit of a mess, and thankfully, we paid dearly for full insurance so the marks along the side of the car were not even noticed at Hertz.
Whilst in that town, we stayed at a B&B with incredible vistas of the bay and lovely gardens, and other guests, a newlywed couple from Turkey and some Aussies who we swapped European driving tales with.

Traversing Italy, we chose to cross through mountainous national parks in Abruzzo, staying in the capital, L'Aquila, to reach the Adriatic Sea and our chosen destination, the richly historical city of Ancona. We spent a couple of great exploratory days there, visiting all 33 of their historical sites, monuments, the Roman ruins, the Arch of Trajan build in 115AD and of course, the waterfront.

We went on to Venice, our final destination where we dined with our Stormwater Italia friends, Francesca and Stefano. A great reunion since our visit in 2005. We visited museums, the art exhibit of Tintoretto at the Doge's Palace, saw a traveling da Vinci exhibit featuring some of his mechanical genius inventions and walked a million steps – the only way to get around. We sipped aperol along with everyone else at canal and streetside cafes.

The timing of our visit was perfect, weather was dry and mild, only occasional light rain. We were glad for that even more so – as the following week, torrential rains hit and the city was thigh deep under water. We just heard back from Francesca that things are calmer in Venice now.

We arrived back in Portland to continued marketing work for Judy and addressing the issues associated with the potential sale of our rental home. Thankful once again, our home sale closed on 11/7 and we are happily and busily gearing up to head south. It’s time to experience our Pura Vida.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer, Northwest Style

Sunset from our dock
Hummingbird attracter

Our NW dinghy

Not much yield but fun to grow San Marzanos

Our backyard - you can see how much the water line changes with the tide

Taken by our neighbor at their party on 8/24
The Willamette River, downtown Portland while working on the BrewBarge in July

2 sheep troughs yield more veggies!

A private tour at the Japanese Garden
courtesy of our old neighbor at the moorage
Bringing artwork from
our rental home

View of Portland from the Japanese Garden, above the city

Our resident heron watching for dinner

Dang beavers ripping branches from
the shore and swimming our way

Washing our Chacos when we arrived back in Portland
All spiffed up for a wedding
Greetings to all our friends!
Lots of bunnies on the island, they are fearless - and cute
Mike inflating our new paddleboard
Our summer in photos seemed the best way to share our latest news. We are both doing great, thankful for our health, friends and for the many jobs that keep us hopping this summer.

Mike sold his kayak and bought a paddleboard so a new sport for us to learn.

Northwest fires, like so many other places, are causing bad air quality and we're thankful for the many firefighters who are working hard to protect land and people. In fact, today Mike filled in teaching an advanced sailing class for an instructor at Passion Yachts who was called away to his firefighting duties.

We look forward to returning to Pura Vida and Guaymas come November. We've had some work done on the boat during our absence which we also look forward to seeing. The transmission's been rebuilt by Omar, new ports in the salon (this time installed by someone other than us!), and the glassing over of the hull / deck joint around the entire perimeter to get rid of the sporadic leaks.

And we just decided in celebration of our 11th wedding anniversary that we're going to Spain and Italy for 2 weeks in October. We are anxious to visit Concha, the foreign exchange student who lived with us for a year in 1962! She and her family live in Valencia and await our arrival. We also plan to visit Venice to hopefully connect with our friends Stefano and Francesca at Stormwater Italia.

Please drop us a note and let us know how you're doing. Enjoy the rest of your summer!
A reminder of what we'll be going back to in November - boat yoga!