Monday, August 9, 2021

Summer 2021 Covid Free- Not really

 After spending the last 15 months isolated, well actually I did travel a little bit; I made the decision to get away from Houston for the summer.  The choices were the mountains of the Western US or the Northeast Coast.  Since I don't know anyone in the northeast, the decision was easy.  I have spent many summers in the beautiful valleys of Vail and Aspen.  I was a guest of my good friends Sandra and John Lopez at their summer hacienda in Park City last summer, so I started planning in March for a trip to the Vail valley.  My friend Alan "guitar" Zieben was on the way for a little spring skiing in Vail, so I tasked him with finding me a summer rental.  He found a great unit in the Kiva Condominiums in Beaver Creek.  It was so enticing that he decided to split the rental w/me.  We set it for July15.  Then I was invited by Sandra and John for a weeks visit to their place in the Canyons of Park City.  

On the fourth of July I pulled out of Park Square in my 60,000 mile Jaguar and the next evening I was the guest of my cousin Bruce and his lovely mate Gina in Parker Co. The next day after a quick flight from DEN to SLC, I was again at the Silverado in the Canyons of Park City with my friend the Lopez's.  We had a great week, walking, some fishing, several outdoor performances and lots of eating. It was over too soon,  Then a quick flight back to DEN, picked up my car and meet up with  Zieben.

The days have been filled with golf, swimming, hiking and of course eating at some of the best restaurants in the country.  As my friend Mike Stein likes to say-"the restaurants up here have to be good, or they won't last a season."

Take a look as I capture the summer.

PHOTOS HERE

https://www.instagram.com/alan.mill.travel/


Monday, August 5, 2019

Alaska the last great Frontier


I recently made an excursion to our 49th state, Alaska.  It’s a vast area of pristine lakes, streams and wildlife.  The population of the entire state is about ¾ Million people, with half the population living in Anchorage.  Anchorage is also the main hub for air transportation which is the only way to get to Alaska unless you take a cruise ship from Seattle or Vancouver. Cruise ships actually dock in Seward which is about  90 miles S of Vancouver on the Northern Pacific Ocean.
   Anchorage is a waterfront town but is situated on the Cook Inlet which because of its location, is not ideal for cruise ships.
The weather in Anchorage is mild from late May till late August.   The temperatures drops and the moisture level rises as one leaves Anchorage and makes their way inland and uphill to Denali National Park, home of Mt. Denali.
There are two main methods to explore Alaska.  All of the cruise lines that call on Alaska via Seward or Whittier in the case of Princess; have an optional add on which consists of 4-7 days of what I am about to describe to you. The length varies according to the cruise line.  However you essentially see everything that I am about to describe.  Also the level of accommodations are somewhat different although there is no real luxury in Alaska as most of the hotels, restaurants are “in hibernation” from October till May and only are open and staffed from mid May till the end of August.
As I had done an Alaska cruise in 2011, I didn’t care to repeat the open water and I chose and international Tour Organization called Insight Vacations for my land only package. 
It began with an airport pickup on the afternoon of my arrival and ended with a drop at the airport exactly 6 days later.  It’s really my first time of climbing aboard a bus and hitting the road.  I prefer to travel a la carte so to speak but you really can’t do this in Alaska.  This was a fantastic experience as the bus was one of these big luxury tour buses with seating for ~45.  We had 30 people and a guide who was knowledgeable and really added those special touches along the way.  Most of the time the bus trip was no more than 4 hours at a time with frequent stops.
Day 1.  After checking into the hotel in downtown Anchorage we had a gourmet dinner at a museum.
Day2.  We boarded the bus, got a tour of Anchorage, the sea plane area, and visited the Alaska Heritage Center prior to heading North toward Talkeetna, a small village on the S edge of Denali National Park.  After a tour of a bush plane service and a lecture on climbing Mt. Denali, we checked into the Talkeetna Lodge.
Day 3 We had the morning to walk the grounds of the lodge before heading the train depot and boarding the Alaska Railroad.  We took over an observation car for the 4 ½ hour journey north to Denali National Park.  We lunched on the train and were met at the Denali train depot by our trusted driver who had already delivered our bags to our room at the Denali Lodge.  Did I mention from the time I picked my luggage off the conveyor belt at ANC, till the moment I left 6 days later, I never moved my bag?  It was done for me at each stop.
Once we got to Denali Lodge we had a wine reception and a talk from a young man who successfully climbed Mt. Denali; the tallest peak in N. America @ 20,310 ft.
Day 4 was a free day and I chose to board a National Park Service Bus which actually drove the 128 miles in and out of Denali National Park.  The idea was to see the terrain and wildlife.  We saw both...elk caribou, moose and grizzlies were seen and photographed from a distance.
Day 5 was back on the bus and heading south for the longest ride of the excursion.  We stopped half way at the home of an Iditarod racing team and were treated to close ups with the dogs as well as a presentation on the race and the equipment.  That evening and the next were spent at the luxurious Mt Alyeska Lodge.  A 4-5 star hotel/lodge at the base of a ski resort on Mt. Alyeska.
Day 6 we drove along the inlet and through a tunnel to Whiting Alaska and boarded a 500 passenger high speed ferry which is used to cruise Prince William Sound and visit the approximately 27 glacier s that can be seen.  Lots of harbor seals, otters and bald eagles were visible.
Finally on Day 7, we all departed the Alyeska Lodge and drove to Seward where we visited the Alaska Sea Life Rehabilitation Center prior to dropping half our group on the Holland Westerdam for their 7 day trip to Seattle.  The rest of us were driven to the Anchorage Airport where we arrived about 4:30 PM for our departure flights.
GREAT PHOTOS HERE



Friday, May 10, 2019

Club Med Punta Cana

As I complete my responsibilities to Wells Fargo Advisors over the next year, I will be moving my expertise into the travel industry. I’m fortunate that my friend Eddie Gertner is allowing me to join his team of experienced travel advisors at Mill Travel. Mill Travel amongst other accomplishments is the #1 retailer for Club Med in US and every year their agents are invited to one of their clubs for an update from the President of the worldwide travel and resort company. This year the event was held at their Punta Cana DR facilities. It’s their largest by area. I was asked to come along for the 5 day event.

I was somewhat skeptical as I was a repeat visitor to their clubs in the late 70’s and early 80’s and am not really interested in that nonstop drinking and partying that I remember. Well we have grown up and so has the Club. It’s now frequented by couples of all ages and families. There are the usual outdoor and water based activities for all ages. They now have a “Mini-Club” for kids as young as 4 months where the kids can go and be supervised during the day.

We were treated to one of the “Tiara” suites which is two bedrooms adjoining a limited common use infinity pool next to the coastline. There is also a private bar just for the 10 Tiara Suites.

We had group events each evening as well as a guided tour of the facility one morning. There was a small wine tasting for a few of us where they poured “the good stuff”.

All in all I’m glad I made the trip and I can already envision some of my clients at the clubs...

Click here for Photos

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cruising

Short on time and connectivity.  More next week from St. Marteen.

Photos Here

Saturday, November 3, 2018

BARCELONA


I have just recently finished an extensive review of BCN, so I´ll limit my comments.  Since my previous visits have all been in July, I was expecting a smaller crowd.  Wrong!  There were probably more people than my previous visits. ¨Barcelona is a victim of its own success¨ according to my tour guide Dominique Tomasov Blinder, who leads a walking tour and history of the Jewish settlement and dispersion from Spain.  You will find her @ www.urbancultours.com.
This trip I explored the coastline N & S away from BCN. I missed the futbol team again.  One of these days.


CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS

Friday, November 2, 2018

FLORENCE

Firenze

Sunday after the huge breakfast offered at the Rome hotels, it was off to the train station for the high speed (250km/hr) train to Firenze.  I tried walking from the train station to my hotel at the Pointe Vecchio because it looked like a 10 minute walk on the map.  What the map didn’t show was the quality of the streets.  Cobblestones.  Interesting to walk on, not for pulling luggage on wheels.  Sunday afternoon was spent walking around the town center.  My god, I didn’t realize so many people could fit in-such a small area.  And its late fall, not exactly the height of the tourist season.  I would hate to be there in the summer when the kids are there.  Lots of “silver hairs” from all over the world.
The lines were pretty long.   1 1/2- 2 hr wait for the Duomo and “The David”.  Didn’t do it. Still,remember it from my previous trip in-1970.  Probably has changed   Did manage to just walk in to the museum di  Vecchio.  The frescos on the ceiling were amazing.  A short walk back to the Hotel Delgi Orafi, my home for the next 2 nights and a glass of Chianti at their rooftop bar.  It began raining again so it was a quick walk to a small osteria and a dish of ravioli.
Monday morning I explored the numerous small shops of leather and visited many cafes for espresso.
That afternoon was the highlight of my trip; an excursion with a guide to the Tuscany wine region and two different family run Wineries.  I had a level I sommeliers course on chianti and super Tuscans. 5 hours later I was back at the hotel and in bed.  If you are a wine aficionado, you must do the wine country excursion.  Multiple tastings as well as olive oil and balsamic tastings. More memorable than another church in Florence.
Tuesday morning I joined a walking tour from Artviva, a really super excursion company in many location of Italy.  There were 5 of us on this 3 1/2 tour; all Americans.  The first couple were from Houston and remembered me from the The Houston Club.
Of course it was raining the entire morning. Fortunately I had my weather proof clothing.  Lots of history.  This particular tour had no atraction visits, but Artviva does offer tours with”skip the line”
I had my last Italian meal of linguine with fresh seafood in a oil and tomato broth.

Later that afternoon it was a quick drive to the Florence airport for my hour flight to Barcelona




Thursday, October 25, 2018

ROME

October 25,2018

Rome is a cornucopia of Italians on the go and the gentile ways of the hospitality industry. I arrived after an overnight flight via Frankfurt. A 40 min bus ride in from Fiumicino and a quick taxi to the Piazza  Barberini and my hotel.  After being shown to my exquisitely decorated closet, I threw my stuff in the room and set off walking.  For the next 3 days I never needed hired transportation except for 2 metro rides.  Rome is a walking city.  I was 10 minutes from the Piazza di Spagna(Spanish Steps) where I enjoyed my first sunset.  After a fantastic meal of pappardelle truffle and mushroom, it was to bed for an overdue rest.  Friday I explored Piazza del Popolo , went to the Illy store for some coffee to-bring home.  Dinner was a filet w/black truffles; truffles are big in the italian kitchen.   Saturday, it was off to explore the most famous park in Rome, the Villa de Borghese.  I was disappointed.  It is not maintained.  What a disgrace.  A walk down the via Veneto and then buying some trousers which I accomplished, lunch at the  Piazza del Reppublica on the best pepperoni pizza I have ever eaten. Saturday evening during dinner it started raining and didn’t stop for 3 days. italian hotels are big on breakfast and Sunday was no exception.  Then it was a quick metro the the train station and on to my high speed train to Florence. 
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS

Monday, August 27, 2018

Vancouver



August 21,2018

I like call Vancouver the San Francisco of Canada. They are both cities that have their origins in the Gold Rush of the 19th Century. They were both settled by their countries respective railroads expanding westward and they are both beautiful cities landscaped as mountains merged into the Pacific Ocean. Their housing cost have exploded and its now one of he most expensive housing markets in North America.
Now there are differences. The people in Vancouver are some of the nicest and most courtesies I ever encountered. If there is a downside to Vancouver, it would have to be their food. Oh there are plenty of walk up restaurants the problem is they are expensive and coming from a foodie city like Houston, I found the food very blasé. Its all Beer Pubs and bar food. Seafood you say? I probably ate at 10 different restaurants in the week and only found seafood on 2 menus, the sushi bar excluded. I did sample some Canadian oysters and I really liked them. They were not as brined as East Coast varieties.
I choose the Pan Pacific hotel for my stay. I have been here 2times before and really appreciate its location on the water, a few steps from the major transportation hub, the skytrain and the major bus routes. As you may recall, I purchase a pass to the public transportation system and ride all over town. Vancouver ‘s system is as good as any in the world. One can catch an A/C train at the airport and get off a 2 block walk to the Pan Pacific. The cost is 2.8CAD which is $2.20. Thats helpful because the BC government has not let Lfyt and Uber operate.
The trip started with Air traffic delays of an hour due to the visibility issues resulting from the fires on the West Coast. The haze on arrival was what I remembered from living in Los Angeles in the 70’s. It persisted for several days until a rainy system washed out the particulate matter. My last day was gorgeous.
There are great bicycle paths.If cycling is not your thing, one can take a seaplane from the harbour steps from the hotel and take a 20 “ site seeing flight or do what I did and fly to Victoria. On that island there is a beautiful private garden operated by the 3rd generation Butchart family.


On my last day, I took the ferry (aka “Sea Bus”) across the harbor and then a public bus up a 1000 feet to the base of a ski resort know as Grouse Mountain. There I headed into the woods for a very steep hike.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Santa Fe


Santa Fe was originally settled by our nation’s first people hundreds of years ago.  The Rio Grande River has its headwaters in what is now Colorado and runs southward through the middle of New Mexico.  The Pueblo people settled along its banks in the area of what is now Santa Fe.
The Spanish settled the area and named the town in 1610.  Santa Fe means “holy faith” in Spanish. It is the oldest state capital in the US.  It sits on plane at the base of Sangre de Cristo Mountains
which now hosts several winter ski runs.   The altitude of Santa Fe is 7200 feet and you better believe you are going to know it.
I’ve been to the mountains most of my adolescent and adult life in both winter and summer, but this trip took me the longest to adjust to the altitude.  I haven’t been to the mountains in probably 5 years and it was extremely hot and dry.
I managed to stay for my 5 night excursion at the picturesque Casita Bonita which is on the grounds of the home of Bruce and Heather Galpert.  This lovely rental is available on all the vacation rental sites as Santa Fe Casita Bonita.  It was equipped with everything you could possibly need for a short or extended vacation.
Now there is plenty to see and do in Santa Fe and the surrounding area.  Before I get into the food; and I did get into it, let talk about the activities:
Santa Fe is home the 3rd largest art market in the country. Behind NYC and Los Angeles, there are abundant galleries along Canyon Road which is about a mile long winding from the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail up into the mountains.  There are about 40 galleries along this mile.  Also interspersed are two great eating establishments; Geronimo and El Farol.   I walked the first night from the “Plaza” after attending a free concert of my old New Orleans jazz queen, Marcia Ball.  At the top of Canyon Road sits El Farol.  This bar/restaurant features one of the oldest functioning bars in North America.  It also specializes in Flamingo dancers on Saturday evening and Live Jazz on Thursday.
A good way to hear the history of Santa Fe and it surrounding area is the daily 10 am walk that is sponsored and leaves from the New Mexico History Museum, which is just off the Plaza. The walk is about 2 hours and covers most of downtown Santa Fe as well as its Capital complex.  It‘s led by volunteers from the History Museum who are quite knowledgeable.
On Saturday mornings there is a farmers market at the old rail yard which is well attended.  One can find fresh produce from the area.  There are also nice treats such as local honey and baked goods.  Have you ever had a blue corn donut with lavender frosting…You should..
IF you feel like leaving the area for a day, drive north on the state highway and make your way to Bandelier National Monument.  It’s about an hour’s drive to the visitor center in White Rock, NM.  From the parking lot you will board a city bus which will take you into the National Park.  Once in the Park, there is a 1 ½ hour walk along the canyon walls inspecting cavern’s where the Pueblo’s made their home. Take you National Park Pass, or buy one there.
Once finished in Bandelier, you are very close to Los Alamos.  IF you have any interest in the Manhattan Project and the end of WW II, you must visit the museum at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and/or the Bradbury Science Museum.  IF you are looking for a great breakfast or lunch, along the way, pull off the main highway into Tesuque Village Market which is combo grocery store and restaurant.  I had an order of Blue Corn Pancakes……
Also for another day, drive South and then Eastward from town and visit Tent Rocks National Monument.  Also a good hour’s drive from town.
So food worth mentioning:
Tomasita’s   traditional NM fare known for their Red Chili.  Located near the old rail yard.
El Farol  Spanish fare with Tapas and music in the bar.  Located at the top of Canyon Rd.
El Meson  similar to El Farol but with better music.
Café Fina is an old service station on the Old Las Vegas Hwy about 10-15 min out of town past Casita Bonita.  Specialty cooking and bake goods.  Open till 3 PM…This is where the locals meet and greet.
The Shed  downtown on Palace Street about a block from the Plaza.  Always a wait, service lacking, but food very good.  Especially the Red Chili which you must try prior to leaving Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Bite is the 50’s themed restaurant co located with the  Garrett’s Desert Inn Motel. Don’t be waved off by the looks of the motor court.  The restaurant was very clean and great service.  I had the best Green Chile cheeseburger ever.
Take  a look at  some photos….
Click here for some great photo's

Monday, June 11, 2018

Don't leave Barcelona without.....


Barcelona is my favorite “go to” city in the world.  It’s located on a gentile sloping area of northern Spain and sits next to the cool Mediterranean.  The weather is cool in the morning but can get hot in the middle of the day.  By evening the weather cools down and outdoor dining is the norm.
I spent time a considerable amount of time there the last 3 summers and have plans to return this fall.  I am constantly asked about restaurants and things to see and do.  With that in mind I have compiled my list of “Don’t leave Barcelona without”
Let me start by giving the first time visitor some tips.  The city is very compact and it quite easy to get around.  I use public transportation as I do all over Europe.  There are both A/C buses and subway which is not completely A/C.  You need a fare card which can be purchased from vending machines at the entry area of all Metro stations.  I get a T-10 card which cost E9.90 and is good for 10 journeys on either the bus or Metro.  I prefer the bus since its a/c and the city is quite lovely and worth looking at as you journey.  You won’t be able to buy a card on the bus, but can pay for a single ride to the driver.  You can also buy the T-10 card at the airport outside of the baggage claim area.
The next tip is get your phone working.  You want to use Google Maps.  If your stay is for a week or longer and you have an unlocked GSM phone, go to Vodaphone or Orange and get a 1 month SIM care for E10. It will come with 2 GB of data which is plenty.  Otherwise, call your provider before you leave and sign up for the $10 daily “if you use” plan overseas.
Barcelona is an outdoor city.  This means you should walk anywhere that 20 min or less.  It’s a wonderful place to be and see.  You will be amazed as you walk down a city block how much retail is available and how nice the establishments are. Plan on dining and drinking at outdoor cafés.
So you’ll need a hotel.  There are the usual large international chains that all have nice and expensive properties, but I prefer the local variety.  I am listing 3 hotels that I am familiar with.  They are all nice as I have stayed or dined in all 3.  They are geographically in different areas but all are accessible by public transportation.  In increasing price:
                Hotel Villa Emilia
                Hotel Codes de Barcelona
                Hotel 1898

What to do??
The first thing I do in any new city is get on the “Big Red Bus”.  This is a hop on hop off double decker tour bus with a headphone narrative in 8 languages.  I don’t get off.  I ride the entire route on the upper deck.  In 2 hours I have seen the entire city from above the traffic and am ready to set out on my own later.  This is also a good thing to do after flying overnight since you will have jet lag.
The father of Barcelona is Antoni Gaudi.  His architecture is everywhere but there are several places that you must plan on visiting.  The most fun is Park Guell, an open air park. This is not like any park you have ever seen.  It is at the end of a bus ride up the mountain with spectacular views of the city and ocean below.  You should go online and book your admission at least 2 days in advance during the season.  Plan on spending about 3 hours including transportation up and down.  I would go first thing in the morning before it gets hot.
Other Gaudi stops would be the famous Sagrada Familia, a cathedral, which also requires advance ticketing.  You should use the tour here to hear the narrative.  If you take the Big Red you will have stop here as well as near the Casa Batllo which was a private home Gaudi designed.  You can tour Casa Batllo as well as Casa Mila across the street and up a block.
If you like music, check the schedule of the Palau de la Musica and catch a performance.  You will see a Gaudi design music hall as well as enjoy the evening.  There is a group of Spanish guitarist that I see every visit know as “Barcelona Guitars” that sometimes perform in the Palau or sometime less expensive an old cathedral in the gothic section.  Neither have a/c so dress accordingly.
IF ART is your passion, there are several museums of noted Spanish artist including Picasso, and Miro.  The Picasso museum is in the gothic quarter.  It’s the old city with narrow streets and many walk in shops.  The other 2 museums are the “Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya” and the” Joan Miró Foundation”. These later two sites are in a beautiful park with is on the “MontJuic”.  Now this is a separate area which you can easily spend a half day exploring.  Besides the two previously mentioned museums, you should ride the public bus up the hill and see the previous FCB stadium, Olympic swimming area and the Castle at the top of the hill.  Get off the bus and walk around the grounds of the castle to the ocean view.  I sometimes go there just to sit and take in the view of the port below.
In the center of the city there is a large plaza known as the Place de Catalunya.  This is the busiest space in the city.  On one side of this the 9 story department store known as El Corte Ingles.  The largest store in BCN.  The ground floor is a gourmet food center which reminds me of Harrods’s.  IF you take the elevator to the 9th floor, there is a lovely Buffett and nice dining area with a view of the Place and good place to meet and relax.
Walking away from the Place in another direction you will find yourself on the La Rambla.  This is a mile long pedestrian only boulevard which sloops down to the port of Barcelona.  It is the busiest and most crowed street in BCN.  The number 1 tourist destination in the city.  It also has the distinction of the highest pickpocket rate in Europe.  No exposed jewelry or watches please.  No valuables in back packs and wallets in side or front pockets only.  I’m not kidding. These people are pros.
When you get to bottom of the hill, you can cross the street and walk down to the Marina.  In front of you will be the ferry terminals and the tourist boat rides.  Not to miss, there is a pedestrian bridge in to the marina which leads to a shopping mall with some nice outdoor areas. 
In a completely different environment,and if you have time, you can catch an hours’ train ride to the Montserrat Monastery which is on the side of a mountain N of Barcelona.  It’s fascinating but you will spend 6 hours of your day traveling and taking a funicular from the train station up the mountain to the Monastery.  It is considered one of the must see attractions, but you need to time.  The train leaves from the Sants station.

What to Eat?

Let’s talk about food in Barcelona.  It’s important that we get something settled up front:
Barcelona is not known for fine dining.  The food is plentiful, not very expensive but not very exciting.  The atmosphere and the wine is what you remember.  Not your taste buds.  There is only one place that I will recommend at the end for a long, relaxing, quite dinner.  Most of time you are snacking on small plates or pintxos or tapas as the Portuguese refer to it.
For breakfast, every restaurant opens around 8 or 9 and will serve café and croissants.  The coffee is excellent; the croissants are not up to French standards but will suffice.  The city is blanketed with many small café’s;  at least one on every block.  Granier is a chain of coffee and pastry shops that I am loyal to. They are everywhere.  The pastries are appetizing.  I will eat a ‘bikini” which is a pressed ham and cheese for a little substance.
The Spanish dine around 2-4 for their mid day meal which is the biggest meal of the day.  Don’t expect most restaurants to open before 1 and expect to spend an hour for any table service.  There are several ready to eat counter restaurants but I could never find one that I thought was worth a return visit.
Most of the streets above the Gran Via comprised an area known as L’Eixample which is the nicest area to stay and walk around.  Many good restaurants can be found in the area. Some of my favorites were:
La Muscleria a muscle/frites specialty café with a lovely outdoor corner dining area.   Paella can be found throughout Barcelona.  My favorite was the paella, bread and wine special at BCN Gusto.  Located on a side street near the Palau, it’s where I have dinner before a show.  There is interior design studio which opened quite a nice restaurant called Beriestan Interiors.  This is good for a leisurely lunch.  If you are into empanadas, and the Spanish are, take a journey down the Grand Via to Rekon’s who will have 10 different varieties of empanadas.  I get two with a salad and it is very filling.  If you must have meat, and it is not as good as the US, there are a couple of steak houses specializing in imported Argentinean beef.  I had a nice meal at Buenos Aires Restaurant.  The ambiance and service are very nice. The steak is acceptable.
For a nice piece of fish or Lobster, go down to the board walk near the beach in the Barceloneta area and dine outdoors at El Rey de la Gambia.  There are two of them, a half block apart.  I like the #1.
Most people enjoy cerveza and vino with many pintxos for their evening meal.  You will have no difficulty finding this.  However, if you want to go where locals go, I suggest Taktika Berri or Cerveceria Catalana as these are full every evening with locals.  Plan on waiting about 30-45 minutes to get in the door and then you will stand at a bar and grab the food as it comes out of the kitchen.  You can also go for lunch and usually walk right in. If you are in the mood for some action and crowds, there is a pedestrian only street that is about a mile long called Carrier de Blai.  They set up tables in the street and its’ full of students and locals enjoying vino, cerveza and 1Euro pintxos.
You should also plan on getting away from the crowd and enjoy a cocktail and the sunset from a rooftop bar.  My favorites were the top of the Hotel Condes de Barcelona and the 1898 Hotel.

Have fun and feel free to post any findings that you discover!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Madrid

Madrid is the most cosmopolitan area in Spain.  Considerably different than the other areas I have visited.  Both in buildings and attitudes of the people, Madrid is similar to New York or Chicago, not anything like Barcelona.  It is the most ornate and memorialized city I have every visited; and I travel!  
The architecture is amazing.  Everything is so well kept.  The people are not quite as friendly as I have found in my previous 3 wks of travel.  Perhaps my Spanish just isn´t doing it!
I am leaving this afternoon for my flight to Frankfurt then overnight home to Houston...
Hope you have enjoyed the scenery.....     Adios!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seville

Monday am, out of the hotel for a 8:00 train to Seville.  I was not looking forward to the 4 hours on a hot, and crowded Spanish train.  To my astonishment, it turned out to be a wonderful ride through the Andalusian countryside at 300 km/hr.  For you non metric people, that's 186 MPH!!  Quiet and comfortable..  Beats any airline experience I´ve had...  I´ll be lobbying for a Texas high speed train when I return.
Seville is the smallest town on my journey, but has an amazing history.  Was the center of Spanish government for a Thousand years until the 16th century.   It is only 125 miles north of Morocco, so the weather is that of the Sahara Desert.  Hot, windy and dry... like Las Vegas without the buildings.
The streets are narrow and tortuous.  There are several parks, a river than connects with the Atlantic.  Prior to 1490 when the Jews were exiled(Spanish Inquisition), there was a Jewish Quarter.

Good Photos here

Monday, July 24, 2017

Valencia

Now I´m traveling down the Mediterranean coast.  First stop is Valencia.   A major port for Spain . 
Very nice boulevards, parks and some rather eclectic modern buildings.  Home of the Science and Technology Institute.
Spent the day at a private beach club and finished the day at a Tapas Bar....


More Photos 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Barcelona-Final Week

Three weeks in Barcelona is quite an experience for  this boy.  The Catalonia's love their vino, tapas and jamon.  I partook of the first two but not the last.  The city blocks are about the same as downtown Houston except there are not less than 4 cafe's or bars on each block and each side of the
street.  Spending my life in busy urban areas I forgot the carefree experience that I had as a kid walking to elementary school.  The best part of my day was walking to Linguaschool Barcelona each morning. Of course my mood quickly changed as I started class with 6 other 18-30 y/o.  Talk about feeling old.....I learned a valuable lesson during this class..."If at first you don't succeed, you'll probably do just a bad the next time..."
There are several scenes of my highlights of BCN.

  •        Casa Batllo-one of Gaudi's famous designs.  Notice the absence of straight lines in his architecture
  • A late afternoon walk along BCN's beachfront
  • Joan Miro Museum
  • A small tapas bar recommended by one of Bab's musician friends
  • One of BCN's many rooftop bars...

Photos-click here

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Barcelona Continued


Its been 2 wks and time is moving on.
Last weekend my cousin Dianne and her friend " Miss Babs" and I have been to Park Guell, Tibidabo, Casa Batillo.  We've heard Spanish Guitars and had drinks on rooftops. We have been to TNTC tapas bars, and restaurants.  I have not had a bad meal.  Just look at at me in the photos as the weeks have progressed.  Its a little

tight in the 1000ft apartment, but we seem to be handling it.
I'v now finished 2wks of Spanish.  I wouldn't wish this experience on my worst enemy.  Really, an attempt for a foreign language for a 60+ guy is f'nn crazy.  Although I am miserable when I leave class every day, the girls say I am speaking more and more when we go out.  Last night, our street decided to show a film; their idea of a block party.  It was an American film with Spanish subtitles.  I recognized all the words and most of the phrases.  Maybe Im learning more than I think.
There are several photos of the interior of the house Gaudi designed for the Botello Family.



Click here for photos

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spain

It´s July and time for another trans Atlantic excursion.  This summer its back to Barcelona.  It will be my 3rd visit in 3 successive summers.  And why not,,, the weather is very mild for summers on the Mediterranean.  Low 80´s in the heat of the day with very little humidity.   70´s in the evening with a breeze.  Excellent public transportation and more coffee shops and restaurants that one can visit.
I have enrolled for 3 weeks in Spanish School.  I found my first and second day very difficult as I was placed to continue where I left off last July.  problem was i didn´t remember much and found the going very difficult.  After being placed back 2 groups the first day,  i started to engage.
now that the first week is over, i´m having a blast over the weekend talking to everyone that will listen.
my cousin Dianne  and her friend Babs joined me mid week and we are doing the town!  Restaurants
, parks, Picasso Museum.

Click here for some photos

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Steamboat Springs

After a cluster fuck at the Southwest check in Hobby airport I managed to board my flight, scored the Exit Row Window with a B boarding pass(I will never give Southwest $15 so I can stand in front of the line instead of the middle) and arrived @ DEN on time. Collected my bag and jumped the Hertz shuttle. Went to the Hertz Gold section, picked out my weapon for the weekend and off went for my leisure 3:15 drive to my friends Sandra and John Lopez in Steamboat Springs.
The drive took 5 1/2 hours..  2 traffic jams on the I-70 .  But after the turnoff at Silverthorne... it was a beautiful drive through the valley.
John and Sandra's unit was really well appointed and laid out.  We went to town and had dinner by the river at Aurum.  The next morning John and I were picked up by our fishing guide, Luke Lowery.  He took us to a some private land on and within 15 min  I had my "Nymph" in the water and was pulling out Rainbow Trout.  I probably pulled out 10 good sized  fish in the next 4 hours.  Not bad for someone who hasn't picked up pole in 10 years...
The next day  we took life easy in the morning and hiked up to the Falls.
All in all, it was a wonderful 3 days with John and Sandra.  We always enjoy getting together.


Here are some good photos

Sunday, July 24, 2016

TOUR DE FRANCE


What a pleasant surprise to find that the last stage of the Tour was on Sunday whilst I was in Paris. The Tour de France is a century old cycle race held in 21 separate stages in 21 separate area. The last stage starts in a Chateau Chantilly S of Paris, enters Paris and makes several loops down the Champs Elysee to,the Louvre and eventually finishes along the Champs. John and I checked the route a few days in advance and reckoned the areas to watch the last couple of laps. We found a good description of watching from precious years, but due to security, many of the plans we made were changed as we made our way to the course. We made a lucky find and had 2 different viewing angles. It was quite exciting for a MS 150 veteran to be there. Chris Froome a Brit from Kenya won for the 3rd time on Team Sky.


PHOTOS HERE

Saturday, July 23, 2016

NORMANDY


I couldn't come all the way to France and not make a trip to the battleground of Normandy. There are 5 different beaches of landing along a 40 mile stretch of the northwestern coast of France. The area is about 150 miles NW of Paris. Many people make the visit over a day and night. I chooses a tour that returned the same day. My bus left @ 0700 and return @ 2100. It was a long day but worth it. My favorite stops out of the 5 different places were the Memorial de Caen and the American Cemetery. There are many stories of individual heroism. One was the climbing of the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc by the Army Rangers to take out a German gun bunker. It was led by a Colonel James Rudder who I am told was an Aggie. There is also photographic evidence of the USS Texas bombarding the Germans during the landing.


PHOTOS HERE

Thursday, July 21, 2016

VERSAILLES


Versailles is not just a Palace but a magnificent park and palace About 12 miles SW of Paris Center. It consists of 2000 acres( 2.5 X size if Central Park) of a wonderfully landscaped park and grounds on which sits the Palace of Versailles. The palace is > 700,000 ft which was started by one of the King Louis in 1623 as a hunting lodge and was enlarged to became the center of noble life and power by multiple King Louis over the years. It has the most ornate rooms and halls. It was the home pf multiple treaty signing including the Peace of Paris 1783 in which the UK recognized the independence of the United States. The German Empire was founded in 1871 with a proclamation signed at Versailles and of course the ending and terms of the armistice of WWI was the Treaty of Versailles. Without a doubt this was my favorite excursion of the summer.


PHOTOS HERE

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ABOUT PARIS


Paris is one of those places that has a million things to do, from wonderful confections ,art collections and outdoor cafes. I did it all in the first 3 days. Montmartre is a area that is the highest point of Paris has a cathedral and an area with lots of cafes , shops and markets. There are plenty of cafes to sit and enjoy a meal or a Campari.


PHOTOS HERE

Monday, July 18, 2016

TRAVEL TO PARIS


Monday morning and its a short 45 min drive to Girona to drop off the car and board the high speed TGV to Paris. At speed of 290 Km/hr I was there in 6 hours. John and Sandra meet me at Gare de Lyon and a quick Uber to their apartment in the Latin Quarter. Now the real exercise started. Their apartment was on the 6th level and there was no lift. It was basically my daily stair master.


  PHOTOS HERE

Saturday, July 16, 2016

WEEKEND AT PLATJA D'ARO


After my efforts for 3 wks at Spanish School, I rewarded myself(the key to happiness is to reward yourself frequently) with a weekend at a really nice hotel on the beach. The Cosmopolita Hotel Boutique at Platja d'Aro was just what the doctor ordered. Directly on the beach with a nice bar cafe on the boardwalk and a lovely pool deck on the roof. It was perfect and the crisp cold clear water was perfect. I haven't been in the Mediterranean in years and I didn't remember how nice the water is.


PHOTOS HERE

Thursday, July 14, 2016

BARCELONA'S LAST DAYS


The last day of class was quite an interesting day. We spent most of that 3rd week on irregular and reflective verbs. Then I remembered why I had such a hard time with language in high school. I assumed that I was the only idiot in the class until the girl from London chewed out the teacher. It was a Kodak moment as they say. Everyone in the class felt loss and the teacher stopped and game us a pep talk and our certificates. I am going to continue my Spanish at home and attempt to get more comfortable so I can travel to South America in the near future. The afternoon was beautiful and I took the bus to the top of MontJuic. This is a beautiful area of Barcelona which is a the tallest point in B. It is the home of the Olympic Stadium as well as an ancient castle built to guard the port below. There is an exciting trail and overlook here.


PHOTOS HERE