Guten Rutsch!

The German title of this post literally means “good slide!”, which is what Germans wish you at this time of year: have a good slide into the new year! We (Mr Esther, our mini-not-me daughter and I) drove to Frankfurt am Main today to spend a few days here. Our son is at home, taking care of the cats. He’s doing an internship at a hotel and has to work; he’ll also be going out with friends to welcome the new year and is thrilled to be spending a few days all alone at home.

After a little detour past the towns where I had lived not far from here in the mid 1980s we arrived at our hotel at the end of the afternoon, right in the center of Frankfurt. We’re close to the main shopping area.

We walked around a bit, stopped for dinner…

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… and then strolled back to the hotel where we played a few games. Now it’s time for unwinding a bit before we go to sleep.

We’ll be out and about tomorrow, so I don’t expect to be online much. That means that now is the time to wish you all a good beginning to the new year and the new decade. Have a “guten Rutsch” and cheers from me to you!

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May 2020 be a good year and the beginning of a decade where we do better for our fellow human beings and our planet!

Andalusia, the grand finale

We’re home again and missing the deep blue Spanish skies. It’s cooler here, we’ve had our first rain in 15 days, and we’re thinking back to all the beauties of Andalusia. To round things off, here are some final Andalusia pictures from our holiday (as always, you can click on images to enlarge).

We drove through the mountains down to the coast, to Marbella. We actually drove through that cloud that we could see from afar.

We visited the town of Marbella and after we had lunch there walked down to the beach to take a look.

We then drove on to just outside the actual town of Marbella, to where the villas are located, parked there and made our way to a beach there for some swimming and lazing away in the sun and reading. No celebrities spotted. The water was far colder there than what we remembered from Greece last year, but I guess that’s because we were closer to the Atlantic coast as opposed to the Mediterranean.

We stayed in ‘our’ village of Montejaque the next day, which was also Assumption of the Virgin Mary day in Spain. There was a procession in town with 4 Spanish ladies dressed in their finery leading the procession to church where a service was held after.

That evening, after spending time at the pool, we went into Ronda for dinner (and did that Armitage forensic walk). By the time we went back it was dark and we had a beautiful full moon.

We went to Antequera to visit Dolmens there, prehistoric burial grounds that are some 5000 years old! The entrances of the Dolmens are directed at hills that are shaped as a face profile of someone lying down.

We also visited the town itself where we had a late lunch…

… and on our way home we caught sight of a flamingo colony we had read about, the only one in Europe apparently, where wild flamingos come to breed in summer. We trudged through an empty field to get a closer look but didn’t want to get in too close for fear of disturbing them.

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We were back in the village in the evening where there was a procession with the Virgin Mary statue, with marching band and all.

We also went to Sevilla again to visit the castle there, called the ‘Real Alcazar’. Very beautiful, also with Moorish influcences, and a center for explorers like Amerigo Vespucci at the time. It was busy but less overrun than the Alhambra and maybe that is why I may have liked Alcazar more than the Alhambra…

… or maybe I liked it more because of the initials on their souvenirs?

I didn’t get any of these Richard Armitage… erm… Real Alcazar souvenirs, though.

It was so hot in Sevilla that day (41┬░C) that we decided to not hang around there for dinner after all, but return to our apartment and take a quick dip in the pool before closing time. We were also planning on going to Gibraltar for a day, but while researching found it all too expensive (with parking fees, bus shuttle fees, cable cars, entrance fees and meals), so ditched that plan and opted for another cool poolside day instead.

Festivities were still happening in Montejaque (last day), so took a peek again at the final party.

And, almost before we realized it, our last day came! Our flight was going in the evening and we had to vacate our apartment by 10.30 a.m. As we were flying from Malaga, we spent that last day in Malaga. When we got there we found ourselves in the middle of a 10 day festival, the Feria de Malaga! Very festive and we also discovered that Picasso had been born in Malaga, so we walked by his birthplace (the last picture in this collage).

What was fun about the festival is that many ladies and kids were dressed in fine Spanish dresses. It was a great way to end our stay in Spain before we caught our plane back to Amsterdam.

Now that we’re back home we’ve been busy with family visits and laundry and sorting through pictures. Luckily work doesn’t start again till next week, so we have some days left to hold on to that holiday feeling. ­čî×

Andalusian pictures – segunda parta

So, the Andalusia holiday continues, these pictures are from the middle part of our holiday.

Close to where we’re staying there are caves. In this particular one, the Cave of La Pileta, they found pre-historic wall paintings from 10.000 – 5.000 BC. Pictures were only allowed at the entrance of the cave but Mr Esther snuck two in (without flash). That last one was of a calender, with those lines counting the days. The fish belly drawing we saw as well, the picture included here is from the information board outside.

What was most impressing were these huge stalagmite and stalagtite columns that had grown together and when you hit them they reverberated with sound. The guide called them the “organ”, pre-historic people would make music hitting those columns, each column had a different pitch. Totally fascinating and a pity we couldn’t film what that looked and sounded like.

We also went to Granada for a day. Nice town…

…and we made our way up to the Alhambra palace, which overlooks the city. The Alhambra, as in The Tales of the Alhambra mentioned in North & South by Fanny Thornton. The book was even for sale in the souvenir shops, but I decided against buying it because, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll ever read it.

The palace and grounds are huge, it was a hot day, so we took many shade and drinks moments. We had booked tickets to the main palace a few weeks ago and good thing that we did as the tickets were all sold out. We got in, though, and viewed the palace with many, many other tourists. It was a bit over-run to my liking but beautiful nonetheless! The palace was built by the ruling Muslims in the 14th century near the end of their reign and all the Arab decoration is still there today. Very beautiful!

It’s a huge place with many buildings, so I can imagine that justifying any amount of tales! On our way out of the palace grounds we came across a big fountain with close to that a statue of Washington Irving, the author of The Tales of the Alhambra.

We ended the day with dinner in a village halfway between Granada and where we were staying and there, in Archidona, there was an evening festival…

What we didn’t realize before coming here is that Spanish villages here in Andalusia are full of festivities and celebrations in August, even here in ‘our’ village. We stayed for a day at the pool and that evening took a peek at the rock festival in the village square around the corner… it was Spanish rock, not the best ever, but entertaining enough.

We also spent a day in Cordoba, which, together with Sevilla, was our fave city to visit.

The 9th century (!!) Le Mezquita mosque which later also became a church was stunning. For the newest era, it also included the first painting of Mother Theresa that I have ever seen in a church.

We came across a lovely middle-eastern looking tea house in the city and went inside for a drink. I had one of the best ever chai tea lattes there.

We walked through the Jewish quarter, where we didn’t have the time (or the kids have the energy) to go to the Sephardic Jewish Museum but we did pass by the synagogue (one of the oldest in Spain). We had wanted to visit that but alas it was closed for the day by the time we got there. We did get to see the nice statue of Maimonides in the nearby square.

On our drive back we were treated to a beautiful moon rising in the sky and a stunning sunset.

The next day Mr Esther and I left the kids by the pool while we drove around the nature reserve area around here with stunning mountains, beautiful vistas, half stripped cork trees and eagles circling in the skies.

I haven’t looked at the last set of pictures yet, but there will a part three to these (we fly home again on Monday so probably after then). So many beautiful things here in Andalusia!

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It’s so beautiful here, I just have to share a whole lotta pictures.

This is en route to where we are staying:

 

Ronda is the nearest big town from where we are. Apparently Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles liked to come there, their plaques are right next to the bull fighting arena that we refuse to visit. It’s a beautiful town, situated on top of cliffs with a bridge across a very steep valley. We had dinner in a side street that was filled with restaurants.

 

In ‘our’ village Montejaque there was a cultural festival. I was too tired to go see the Queen tribute band (they started playing half an hour after midnight) but we did catch some Flamenco dancing earlier in the week.

 

Close to the village we took a beautiful, not too long (as my ankle is still not fully healed yet), hike which included vultures checking us out. The scenery here is stunning!

 

We also had lunch in Setenil de las Bodegas, a small town with buildings built inside, or really set up against, caves.

 

Sunset outside our apartment the other evening…

 

Yesterday we went to Sevilla, with the cathedral that holds the Christopher Columbus grave monument and still shows its Moorish roots in its arches for instance, then out in the streets there are sheets covering some streets to offer shelter from the sun. We plan on going back again later to visit the castle.

 

We ended yesterday in Ronda again, this time looking up at the city from below and then having dinner there in a square.

 

We’ve also had time to swim and just hang.

And these were only the first 4 days… I love holidays!

Christmas part two

So, Christmas is always two days here in The Netherlands. Christmas Day on the 25th and what is Boxing Day in the UK is called “Second Christmas Day” over here.

Traditionally, we celebrate Christmas Day with my in-laws. Mr Esther is an only child, so it’s only the 6 of us. The in-laws came over in the afternoon of the 25th and stayed for a nice low-key but festive dinner that Mr Esther prepared (he enjoys doing that way more than I do)…

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Yesterday, the 26th and Second Christmas Day, we always celebrate with my family at my mother’s apartment. I have loads of brothers and sisters and only one of them and his kids couldn’t be there, they’re in Israel. The rest were able to come, even my brother and niece who live in London. So it was pretty busy with my mom, my aunt, 6 siblings with 2 partners and a friend, and 7 nephews and nieces. My mom always starts with reading a passage from the bible and a little speech, this year it was about having compassion for others.

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My dad is still very much missed and was also commemorated…

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We then celebrated Christmas with a few gifts and everyone had brought something to eat for a buffet dinner. There was music and dancing and a lot of jolliness…

… and within no time my younger brother J spawned an idea: he wants to take my two kids (17 and 15) and my other brother’s daughter (14) to London to stay with my third brother D and his daughter (also 14) over New Year’s! D and his daughter were totally up for it, and after checking flight info it became clear that this idea was very affordable. So, within an hour of the idea being born, a flight for four was booked to London and the four of them will be staying at D’s around New Year’s! This means that for the first time in 17 years Mr Esther and I won’t have a New Year’s Eve with our kids… that makes me sad but at the same time I am also thrilled that they are going on this mini adventure with my brothers! Great cousins and uncles bonding time.

The upside is that Mr Esther and I can go off and do something on our own. So, we booked a hotel in Hamburg and will spend a few days there around the New Year, just the two of us! I’ve only once ever very briefly passed through Hamburg before, know little about the place but am told it’s a fun city. Now we’ll get to see for ourselves. If it’s going to look anything like this, it’ll be cool!

This Christmas break keeps on giving. Perfect respite after the shit time I’ve been having at work. I hope to be so filled up with joy and happiness that by the time I return to work, I will be energized again and maybe things will feel a little lighter.