Sunday, October 31, 2010


This is such a rich country. Rich in history, rich in culture, rich in tradition and rich in it’s people. We think we shall never tire of all the things to do and learn while we are here.

Our home is strategically located in the rural town of Zuherios but we are less than an hour drive to Cordoba, Grenada, Malaga, and Luque (pop 400).

We have been to Cordoba and it is a grand place with beautiful churches, castles, monuments, and restaurants. The historical city, not unlike Jerusalem, is divided into quarters; the Jewish quarter, the Moorish quarter, and the Christian quarter. The history is deep and at times slightly quirky.

We found it quite interesting that one of the remaining synagogues had been converted to a mosque during the Moorish rule, than to a cathedral with the Christian leadership, then to a hospital for agoraphobics and now back to a synagogue for historical purpose. The architectures still show a little of each of the occupations.

Most days we meander. We have a book of walking trails so in the morning we pack up and head out. The trails are beautiful but

the directions we are given are what delight us the most. “Head along the path until it narrows between the two mountain passes. Stop on the rock plate and turn 180 degrees and you will see a subtle path. That is the one you are to follow. If you have passed the cave with the rock formation that looks like a friar you are heading the right direction.” We usually leave from our Hacienda and will inevitably walk through another little town to get home. Luis will always tell us where to stop and have a light lunch before heading home. He says the way you know a good taverna is by the floor. “There must be olive pits, cigarette butts, and trash on the floor. This is where the locals stop to meet with friends, to have a snack and cervesa before heading home for their siesta.” He was right; the places we stopped met his criteria and were the absolute best. Sometimes he will tell us the specialty of the town we are in and sometimes we just guess at what we are getting. For instance, afterour seven mile walk that landed us in Zuherios, we were told that we absolutely must have the “capra queso” which is hot goat cheese drizzled in olive oil and herbs with a glass of cold beer and warm bread. Fabulous! Other times we pick things off the menu that we have never tried before and so far we have not been disappointed.

We can rent bicycles for 6E a day and that takes us faster and farther. We actually prefer the walking, as we are able to see more and talk along the way. There is a trail that they call the Green Pathway and is actually the road that was once the old olive oil train road. It leads us through the small towns where we will stop and visit and get absorbed in their day-to-day life. People in these towns are very kind to us and as we leave we fill as if we are leaving friends.

We will head to Grenada in a few days, you need a reservation to get into the Alhambra Palace and this is holiday time in Espana (all Saints Week). We have a special day planned for Tom’s birthday.

We will hike in the morning and then have lunch at a very unique place. Luis tells us that we will go into the home of a family in a very rural area and they will provide a meal for us. We have a written note with our introduction and we will enjoy a rural Andalusian meal. We will let you know what it is when w get back!

We Are Back In Spain

We have found a lovely farmhouse AKA Hacienda in the town of Zuheros to stay for a while. It is between Cordoba and Grenada and it is perfect for us. The original property was built in the early 1800’s and was a major producer of olives and olive oil. Over the next century the olive business thrived in Spain and at one time this was the greatest area of olive production for all of Spain. The Hacienda fell in disarray in the late 1800’s but the property was kept for it’s olive crops. In 2004, Luis and his family purchased the property and over the last six years turned the property into a beautiful place to stay.

We are in the Andalusia region of Spain and this area is specifically known as La Subbetica and is a national wildlife preserve. Luis is proud of the accomplishments here. And, while he is renovating the place, he is reusing the original materials. It reflects the history of Spain with influence from the Christian and Moorish rule.

It is off the beaten path, which is what we look for. The only visitors here so far have been cyclist groups who stop here for a little rest and reprieve while on their way to somewhere else.

In the evenings, Luis gives us a cooking class (which includes lots of olive oil!) He also shows us how olive oil is made; from the picking of the olives to the crushing and oil extraction. We never realized how much work went into the making of olive oil but we do know that in this area the oil is outstanding and we are now eating it with everything. We appreciate his knowledge and feel as if we are getting to know Spain better by these cultural and history lessons.

We will head to Cordoba in a day or two and look forward to seeing the area. The weather continues to be perfect so we have planned a few day hikes and bicycle rides. There is the hope of a thundershower in a week and we are excited about that also.

Our bedroom is upstairs and when we open the wooden shutters we capture the beautiful morning sunrise. With this view we are sure there is no better place to be in a rainstorm then right here.

We’ll let you know!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Our Days in Portugal

We have acclimated to our life here in Portugal, and it is a life that has become very comfortable to us. We have become accustomed to the nightlife-often times just beginning our dinner at 9:00 p.m. so that having to get up before 10:00 in the morning for breakfast feels hurried. For those of you that know me and never thought I could get out of the 4:00 A.M. “lets begin our day routine”; I have.

We have a leisurely breakfast of coffee, toast (sometimes with cheese and ham), jams, cereals, and juice. While meager by some standards, for the Portuguese this is the norm. After breakfast we walk to the retaining wall of our fortress where we sit in the tower in a small enclave and talk about our plans for the day.We watch the boats leave the harbor and often daydream about owning a sailing yacht. If we could find one to hold you all we would do it in a heartbeat.

We never tire of mandering to some of the coastal towns and the exploration along the way . We saw a sign on the road the other day that had a picture of horse drawn carriages so we followed the road up through the mountains where we met the lovely owners of a horse ranch. Here you could get a horse or donkey driven carriage and explore the wilderness of the region. This was
the season in which you would get the best sightings of the eagles as they migrate. At lunchtime, a home cooked Portuguese meal would be waiting for you and after you could continue your exploring. It was quaint and we considered coming back to do this.We found a local market that will make a sandwich for us along with some fruit and chocolate croissants we have a ready-made picnic lunch. The beach is so very close that we take advantage of the ease in eating in such a beautiful spot.

The only modern facility on the base is the Internet cafĂ©. It is perched high on the mountainside and is all glass. The views are spectacular and this is where we catch up with you. We get a cup of coffee or sometimes a beer (best price in town here .65 euro) and take care of any business that we have. We look things up on the Internet, things we’ve seen or places that we may want to go.

We stroll through town before dinner. We have met some lovely people and often times this is where we run into them. We found a pub that is infamous for it’s breakfast menu and soups at night. Yvonne runs it and she is from Ireland. Sometimes we will stop by for a bowl of soup and share travel stories (she too is smitten with wanderlust) and she often recommends places for us to try. She told us about Trinidad’s, a place the locals go and that they are infamous for their steak- on- a-stone dish.

Here you are served chateaubriand raw on a very hot stone with garlic and olive oil. You slice your own meat and it cooks on the stone at your table. You are given a little bowl of olive oil and garlic to dip it into and eat it hot off the stone. It was fabulous! We ate outside in the warm evening while a group of local men were playing cards behind us. We all had a marvelous time.

Soon we will head for Spain again. I think we will be in either Cordoba or Granada for Tom’s birthday. We have found a farmhouse in the countryside, which is between the two cities. We find we like to be off the beaten path for the most part but we are considering staying in a Parador in the Alhambra!

We are off for now. We thank God for His continued goodness to us and we love and miss you.

Monday, October 25, 2010


We drove into Sarges today after a leisurely morning. We had heard the sunsets were beautiful and decided that is where we wanted to be at the end of the day.

Sarges is a small town that claims to be the most western part of Europe and on a clear day they say you can see the United States of America. And, while we know that is not true, it was a beautiful and clear day and we could see for miles.

The sea was speckled with sailboats and the whitesails on a sea of blue mesmerized us. There were some children who were learning to sail in small two man boats and it was exciting to watch them maneuver their sails in the wind and water. There must have been about thirty of them darting around and we wished we were with them.

We found a lighthouse that has been in operation for centuries atop a cliff and sat down on a rock to watch the sunset. It was exquisite.

In those moments we reflected on how nice it is to sit and watch the sun as it sets and wondered where we are most nights when this happens at home. Granted, we don’t have the cliffs and the sea in our neighborhood but we do have a sun that sets every night. I hope it wasn’t because we were too busy or that it didn’t warrant the effort. Those moments as it dipped into the sea and the false sunset appeared we knew it had been a worthwhile drive.

As surely as the sunsets it also rises and we look forward to tomorrow. I think we will take a hike and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the beach.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

As The Days Go By

The weather is extraordinary here. It ranges between 75-80 degrees and so each day is a perfect day to do what ever we have decided to do. There is always the hint of a breeze and we find that most delightful. As tourist season goes, this is considered off-season so it is very quiet. We love that.

We find we are motivated by our wanderlust and so we are meandering along the coastline taking in the beauty of each of our stops and absorbing its unique history. We park our car at the city edge and pull out our book on the history of where we are and then walk along the cobbled streets. For instance, in the town of Silves there is an old church that was built during the time of the crusades. The dead warriors were brought there to get their final blessing before their burial. These are funny little tidbits of history that never make it into a book but fascinating to think about while you are there.

The walking helps us to see the city life. We know when the fish man comes with his truck full of fresh fish. We sit with ladies as they have their late morning coffee and chat. Late after noon the men gather to drink beer and play bocce ball. All this enriches us and we remember the little things in life that make living joyous.

We took a boat ride one day to see the grottos along the coastline.

We snap a thousand snapshots hoping to capture the waves as they hit the rocks, or as the sun peaks through an opening in the rock and changes the color of the water from sapphire to turquoise.

We have become captivated by the food and wine. Everyday we feel as if we must have a bowl of white bean and prawn soup, Portuguese bread with sardines and olives, and good glass of wine. It warms us and nourishes us and then we are off again.

Tomorrow we will head to the town of Sarges. We hear the sunset is gorgeous along the cliffs. Seems a good enough reason to go.

Portugal Here We Come!

We are off to Portugal and we have an extraordinary car! This might not have been a car we would of chosen but it brings a smile to us every time we see it. When Daniel (of Miguel’s Car Rental Agency) heard we needed the car for a month, he chose this one. “Ah,” he said, “you will need a new car to take care of you and take you where you want to go.” With great pride he hurried us to the back of the lot and handed us the keys to a brand new Neon Green (and I mean glow –in- the –dark- neon- green) Chevy Spark. It took our breath away! In about two seconds we both came to the same conclusion. We could find this car anywhere! Not pewter gray like the Alfa Romero we had last year-why that car looked like every other car on the road. But a neon green car, now that was something else! If we ever forgot where we parked it we could ask anyone and they would all know which one we are talking about! It is awesome. It only has an eight gallon tank but we go quite far on those eight gallons!

We did get our reservations for the Portuguese Military Base. There are a few bases in Portugal that have reciprocating privileges and this is one of them. So we are heading off to stay on the costal town of Lagos.

Lagos is in Southern Portugal and on the Atlantic coast. It is a small town that takes great pride in its heritage. Statues of all the great navigators adorn the walkways along the waters edge and throughout the town.

The Military base is a historical monument. The original fortress was built in 1430 and the retaining wall around the base remains to this day. Our quarters were built between 1814 and 1919 and are reminiscent of that era. Often times as we look out onto the courtyard we feel as if we were back in the days of the early explorers. Our rooms are simple but very charming.

We are greeted with a light breeze and the smell of the sea. There is something about that combination that evokes such a feeling of peace within us. We stand on the retaining wall that overlooks the sea and just breath it all in. The seagulls fly overhead and make a sound as if they are laughing at us, welcoming us, and hope that we too will be happy here. We are pleased with this welcome. Our courtyard is beautiful with a rock fountain and rosemary and lemon trees surrounding it. The aroma is so distinct that I will always think of Portugal when I recall that scent.

This will be our base for the next week or so. We will meander up and down the coastline until we move on. People are very kind to us and we fell very welcomed. We are thankful for a time and place such as this.

Friday, October 22, 2010


We are now regulars here in Spain. We meet people whom we saw last year and they remember us by name. We will stay here for a few days before moving on to Portugal. The familiarity gives us a few moments to breathe. All the last minute details we have to do before we leave home and the excitement of trying to get here makes our stay here just what we need before we move on.

Most things here begin in the evening so we take advantage of this and enjoy our late mornings and catch up on needed rest. Most Europeans have a light breakfast of bread and coffee, a good size lunch and then a light dinner or snack (tapas) late at night. We often miss breakfast to just enjoy the leisure of moving slow in the mornings. We have found the best cappuccinos right down the hall so we indulge in these and call it our breakfast. I do not wear a watch and enjoy not having to see if I will be “on schedule” for anything.

Tom is wearing a pedometer, which allows us to see that we are averaging about six miles a day of walking. We will pick up a car in a few days before we head to Portugal but for now we prefer the walk. We eat lunch at our favorite seafood place and they remember us from last year. We had the paella again (he made this special for us as we are ‘regulars’).

At night we meander over to a little bar that has a huge veranda on the waterfront. We come early enough so we can watch the sun set as we enjoy a little cervesa or vino, which they serve with the best olives, and then we have a few tapas for dinner. We are trying something new each time we go. We met a retired Navy physicist whom we seem to run into on a regular basis and he is introducing some new foods to us. What a pleasure! As we meander home we smell the chestnuts roasting on open fires and are enticed by the aroma. The sea air is cool and the chestnuts are warm. Not only do they warm our hands; they are a lovely snack to have along our way.

Our friends from last year have recommended a place to stay while in Portugal. It is the old military port in the southern part of Portugal in a town called Lagos. We will get permission to stay there from the attaché in Lisbon and hope to use it as our base for about a week or so. We hope for an apartment, which will cost us about 15E a night, and this includes our breakfast. From there we will meander and explore the countryside staying when we want to stay or moving on if we so desire.

Just when we were getting “comfortable” with our Spanish, it is time to “learn” another language. Thankfully we have our language books and are fluent in “trying hard” and hand movements!

People & Places

One of the things that never cease to amaze me is the people we meet on our trips. These flights are limited to military people and their families and include both active duty and retired personnel. Anywhere in the world the military flies we may also travel if there is availability (Space A) and at no cost to us. We flew to Spain on a C17 filled with ammunition and mortars heading to Afghanistan. The Navy pilots and flight crew looked like kids (I think everyone does these days) who were having the time of their lives as they flew this plane from one country to another.The cargo bay is open and we have accessibility to the entire plane and the crew during the flight. Here we learn the most interesting things and meet some of the most interesting people we might not have ever had the opportunity to meet. As we engaged in numerous conversations with a variety of people we were amazed at the different life experiences we met. Most of the people had lived and traveled all over the world thus acquiring a different perspective of life and living. We traveled with pilots, business owners,a physicist, teachers and people who been involved with the decisions and policies of world affairs. We were enriched by theirlife experiences and we never tire of hearing these stories and their perspectives on life.

Most of the people who fly Space A are retired and have the time to meander without a schedule to which they need to return. We did meet a young couple that were on active military duty and had three weeks to see Europe. So in their backpacks were a little bit of everything they might need in any country and in any weather condition. They hit the ground running in Spain and hoped to fly out of Germany for their return home. Everyone we met had this same sense of adventure.

And, you really must have a sense of adventure to fly this way. As we left Travis AFB we could see that the only flights from the East coast to the South of Spain were leaving from South Carolina. Unfortunately, the only flights leaving Travis AFB, California were headed to Andrews AFB, Maryland and then one to Langley, Virginia. Our theory is to always take the flight moving the direction you want to go so we marked ourselves “present” and ready to go to Andrews AFB, Maryland. Then we reserved a rental ca to drive the eight hours to South Carolina to catch the flight the next day. It is fall and the East coast is exquisite this time of year. Well, a funny thing happened mid-flight. The crew diverted us to South Carolina due to engine trouble that could only be evaluated at the base in South Carolina. This worked out perfect for us. For others, they had to readjust their plans. Somehow, there is always the opportunity to be flexible.

We met a couple that was traveling with their 35-year-old daughter. They filled us in on some of the loveliest areas to stay and visit. They had a vast knowledge of history and could tell you almost everything about every place they had been. We had a lovely evening with them when we arrived in Spain. We meandered the streets one evening and found a ‘bodega’ (wine house) that made some of the loveliest sherry we have ever had. We visited with the locals who also stopped here for tapas and olives. It was a lovely evening, stimulating and relaxing at the same time.

We often share e-mails and still correspond with people we met last year. This year, because we are now considered “seasoned Space-A travelers” we had the opportunity to help some new travelers out. Little details, like knowing that you should go to the local police department to get your passport stamped the first 72 hours you are in country to make your stay legal. Once it is stamped here you may travel anywhere in Europe with out having to do that again. Each country has a different policy and we happen to know the Spanish policy.

Things still catch us by surprise and while we like the adventure with experience comes wisdom and we are usually ready for what comes our way.

So we are here in Spain enjoying the warm coastal weather. Breathing again, resting well, and absorbing each and every experience as if it were our first. We are excited as to what each and every day will bring. It is a good life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's time

I woke this morning with the sweet anticipation of travel. As always, there is at least a million things to do before we leave. We used to say that catastrophes came in groups of threes but we now say in it comes in groups of tens so when only seven things break down, we are pleasantly surprised. I got up at 2:00 a.m. waiting for the 4:00 alarm to go off. I ran and prayed my usual route and then sat in the Jacuzzi to plan the day and make sure we were ready for our trip. The details came flooding through my mind and I hoped I would remember them all when I entered the house. In the last few moments before I came in I begin to reflect on our last sabbatical. The thought that lingered in my mind the longest was the enjoyment of our time. And, I just don’t mean our time together although that was fantastic. I mean time. Time to breath, time to think, time to just be.

My father sent me a compass a few months ago after he had read our account of getting lost last year while enroute to Jordan. One wrong turn at the southern tip of Israel and you end up in Egypt instead of Jordan. Along with it came instructions for its’ use. We packed it this time because my sense of direction isn’t the greatest although I always make it to where I am going and back home again. Tom did celestial navigation for the US Navy for years and he can always tell where we are and which direction we are heading. He humored me in bring it along.

I am not worried about getting lost in some foreign country. In fact, I rather like the adventure. I worry more about getting lost in busyness. I re-read the last entries of our travel log from last year and all the valuable things we had learned about ourselves and our time together. Of relationships, of being purposeful in the everyday life, of slowing the pace down so as to not feel rushed with every event and this is where I feel I’ve gotten a little lost. Always fine and

noble things I am doing but I find I am longing to drink coffee from a real cup (while sitting down), not always running off a ‘to-do’ list, conversations that stimulate thought, pouring into valued relationships, reading for the pure pleasure of it, and just plain daydreaming are what I truly desire.

And so, as I hold this compass I know I need to keep it balanced and steady for true value, and that if I monitor my direction on a regular basis the corrections will be smaller to keep me on course. Sometimes things will come up and I will need to change my course for a while. I hope not to forget that these changes can give me a different perspective of the journey and can also have value. I pray to remember that these nativagational concepts not only apply to my sabbatical time but also to the way we live life in general.

We are at Travis AFB as we speak. Our flight to New York has been delayed so we are on the waiting list for Dover, Delaware tomorrow. This part of our travel always reminds us to be flexible and that we are not always the directors of our destiny. We keep steady in the direction we want to go; we adjust our direction and change our course as needed, and when the course changes

we find joy and pleasure in the change. As always, we are reminded that the life God gives us is a beautiful journey and we just need to enjoy it!