August/September 2007

Travelog by Jim & BettyAnn

Fri, Aug 31, 2007: Departure

Our departure went smooth, thanks to several things. We took a day off before we left, to do final packing. And our neighbor, Don, took us to the airport so we arrived 2 hours before our flight at 9AM. We had time for a nice breakfast, and to bid the dog's farewell. Curbside check-in went smoothly, and security wasn't as much hassle as I expected.

Pretzels and beverages were served on the first leg of the flight, with the option to purchase lunch for $5. The plane took off about half an hour late because we politely waited for connecting flights originating elsewhere; however we arrived in Pittsburgh only 10 minutes late. The flight was about 5 hours. Luckily we caught a complimentary tram that took us to our connecting flight. It was quite some distance, and we wouldn't have made it on time if we had to walk.

With a 45 Minute layover, things went quickly and soon we were settled in our seats. After all our rushing around, we languished for another hour waiting for a small seatbelt repair. Once on our way, dinner was served, and it was pretty good as airline food goes. Before we landed, a Buttermilk Roll was served for a light breakfast. There were several in flight movies to choose from, as well as TV, these programs were all on demand which was nice. We mostly slept, read, or listened to our mp3 player. The movies, though plentiful, were not really to our liking. It's amazing how modern multimedia has spoiled us.

Sat, Sep 1, 2007: Madrid

We arrived in Madrid at a little past 8AM local time (11PM yesterday in Phoenix). As we were unable to procure hotel transfers, we took a cab to the hotel, which is about 9 miles from the airport, or a half hour drive. The city has a system of freeways and driving habits that are very similar to driving in Phoenix.

Fountain Our hotel is the Gran Hotel Canarias, which is a 5 star hotel in old Madrid. Included is a buffet breakfast each morning of our stay. The hotel is old European, and the furnishings and decor are Danish Modern.

Even though we arrived long before check-in, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was a room ready for us. We have a nice view of the fountain gracing the turnabout in the front of the hotel.

Dog Park We had arrived with limited funds (barely made the cab fare) so the first order was to find a money changer. Being Saturday all the banks were closed, but was able to exchange a couple hundred a Western Union office to get us through the weekend. Unfortunately the dollar is quite weak here, with $100 yielding only 64.40€, for instance a plate of pasta costs 7.95€ and the beverage about 1.50€. We hope to find a better exchange rate at a bank on Monday. The currency is the Eruo.

We napped until late afternoon, and then took a walking tour of the area around the hotel. This area has an abundance of nice parks, and fountains. We even found a dog park here in the center of down town. Dinner was pasta and a beverage for each of us, and then before we knew it, it was time to go to bed (something to do with jet-lag).

Sun, Sep 2, 2007: Madrid, Flea Market

We were both up before breakfast, even though we had set the alarm for 7 AM. Actually I was up and down all night, the Spaniards never seem to sleep, and there was heavy foot and auto traffic at all hours of the morning.

Breakfast is provided by the hotel in the form of a buffet. They provide eggs, sausages, bacon, breads, rolls, fruit of all sorts, cereals, yogurt, and many other Breakfast items plus beverages. It is served in a nicely appointed dining room on the lower level of the hotel, and is presented very attractively.

Most of the shops and stores are closed on Sunday; however there is a gigantic event that's held here every Sunday called the El Rastro flea market. It's too far to walk so we asked for directions from the hotel, and they suggested a bus.

The bus worked out much better than I expected, Even though I thought we would get hopelessly lost, necessitating a taxi ride home, we did just fine. The market featured clothing and trinkets, but no food. There were several restaurants and bars open in the vicinity though.

We haven't been on the subway (Metro) yet, the nearest station is a four or five minute walk from our hotel. The nicest thing about the bus is that you can see where your going, though the sights mean little, at least you have a much better sense of distance traveled.

Narrow Street On the route that we followed there were about 10 or 16 different routes intermingling. Many have separate bus stops to lessen the confusion (or adding too it). Often busses travel almost like a convoy, and many are trailered (double length). That's a real challenge in the narrow streets here in Madrid. The buses run all night, and it really gives a whole new meaning to "good bus service". The fare is 1€ for the buses and the Metro.

The market it's self was similar to almost any park & swap except everybody spoke a foreign language, most items were new, and they didn't haggle much. There must not be a lot to do on a Sunday around here, as the market was so crowded that it was difficult to move around. With that much clientele, perhaps there is no need to haggle.

I was looking for a coffee mug, as the hotel cups are small. The best deal I could find was Flea Market about 4€ and I thought that $6.41 was a bit much for a thro away cup. BettyAnn on the other hand did quite well, she bought trinkets and jewelry. The nice thing about shopping there is most items are either hand made, or made in Spain.

We had a little difficulty finding the bus stop for our return trip, but that was before we realized it was the end of the line for that particular number bus. We had to cross the boulevard and catch it going in the wrong direction for the return trip.

Everyone we met and asked directions from were more than willing to struggle through the language barrier. We have found that English, though spoken by many, isn't as prevalent as in other areas that we have visited throughout Europe. Everyone seems friendly, and many we talked with are tourist from other parts of the world. Madrid seems to be as popular a place to visit as Athens was. We found that the younger set is more likely to speak English, as many take it in school as a second language.

Public parks, and attractions, such as skate board parks, abound for the young, as well as for the mature of course. Kids here have places to go and lots of activities they can engage in with friends. As a result there seems to be very little delinquency.

After the market, we returned to the hotel to drop off our purchases, and to take a siesta, which is very popular here.

We were up by 4PM, and headed out by foot. We heard that there was a grocery store that might be open, and also that there was a department store nearby that had food too. After walking our legs to the nubs, we finally found what we were looking for with a little help from some Madridians. We were able to find some items for snacking but didn't want to purchase too many things as everything needed to be hauled back by hand.

After trudging back to the hotel, and depositing our snacks, we went out for dinner. By this time it was about 9:30 PM. This was fine because most Spaniards have supper late anyway, often as late as 10 or 11PM, so eateries remain open late. We went to the same restaurant that we used yesterday called Vips. It is next to the hotel and located in the back of a small convenience store with Circle-K prices. The restaurant it's self was quite large, and seemed similar to a Denny's. The menu's were in Spanish, but they had English ones too. We needed both of them because the prices were only printed on the Spanish edition. Denny's came to mind because the menu's are similar in the they have photos of the entrées, the deserts are on a separate menu, and deserts are also on tent menu's at the tables. This evening we ordered a pizza, the crust was quite different as it was almost like Lenten bread.

After dinner, we walked around the block, which turned out to be about a ¾ mile hike. During that walk we located several closed shops to investigate at a later time, as well as several more restaurant and taverns. Most of the establishments had sidewalk seating.

We finally retired about 1 AM

Mon, Sep 3, 2007: Madrid, City Tour

Another early up for us, at the crack of 6:30 AM, actually the sun rises late here, so it was not long after sun-up. Despite the late hour Double Deck Bus that we retired, we feel well rested this morning.

First order of the day was currency exchange. The banks here seem to shun away from such activity, treating people seeking to exchange foreign funds as if they were trying to solicit illegal sex. I finally found a place called Barclay (a bank of sorts) that lowered themselves to such services. The exchange rate was somewhat better than I was able to get over the weekend, but the dollar remains quite weak. My advice would be vacation in the US for the best value.

Congress Building We headed out after a nice breakfast, for the City Tour double decker bus. We had purchased a one day pass, and the line runs buses every couple of minutes on two lines, Old Madrid, and Modern Madrid.

We took the old Madrid bus first, and had a whirlwind tour of Madrid's history. There were no pictures taken to speak of, because the bus, though slow, is bumpy. Pictures that were taken turned out to be snippets with a video camera.

The area of old Madrid dates back several hundreds of years, in fact our hotel is in this section. It was built way before air conditioning was invented, which is sadly evident when it reaches 85°F during the day.

Most of the day was spent using the Modern Madrid line. Even this route took us past many old buildings, as a lot of the modern buildings were built atop of the ruins of the old.

After the tour we continued to use the line for transportation because we saw many places that we wanted to investigate along the route. Among them were the few shopping centers here. Armor for sale BettyAnn was looking for a dish pattern that we purchased in Portugal a few years ago. We found the manufacturer at the largest department store, but unfortunately the pattern is old, and has been discontinued. Oh well, we'll try again when we get to the Canary Islands.

With only a week here, it's going to be difficult to really feel the pulse of the city, there are so many art galleries and museums. Many of the larger shops have impressive mini-museums of there own. Of course we love the shops, there are so many unusual things to purchase here, pity our home is already full. So we look, and look, but mostly window shop. This would be a great place to purchase a suite of armor if you were so inclined. They have a nice selection of swords and daggers as well. The expensive ones are manufactured for resale, and the really expensive ones were made in antiquity.

Tue, Sep 4, 2007: Madrid, Prado Art Museum

Today was a good day to sleep in, since the air conditioning has been fixed. We planed to go to the art museum for the day, and they don't open until 9AM, but are open until 9PM After a fairly late breakfast, served from 7 to 10 in the morning, we returned to our room to organize for the new adventure.

The museum is located in our plaza, on the other side of the fountain. The only reason we can't Prado Art Museum Entrance see it from our room is due to the landscaping. The official name is the "Museo Nacional del Prado", and it houses four floors of historical paintings, and sculptures which are mostly Spanish, but also include French, Flemish, German and Italian.

The paintings date from 1100 for the early Spanish, until about 1800 for the Germans and Italians.

The security was almost as intensive as an airport, they took my little Swiss army knife away, but we were allowed to keep our cameras. Apparently this was done to amuse the security staff, and give them something to do. Mostly the guards kept themselves busy running up to, and decapitating anyone attempting to take a picture. There other duties, as far as I could tell, was to station themselves around the sculptures, and artifacts so they could pounce on anyone that appeared that they may be contemplating touching anything.

We spent most of the day at the museum, and I'll have to admit that it was a pleasant way to spend a day. The paintings and sculptures were very interesting to look at, the largest subject being religion, followed by battles and conquests, and followed up with people and landscapes of the period. It was certainly the largest collection of paintings that I've seen in a long time that weren't for sale.

Hotel After we saw everything that they had to offer (and many things twice), we decided to call it a day (at least for olden time artsy stuff). The little numbered chitty they gave me in exchange for my knife worked in reverse on the way out.

After our day at the art museum, we returned to the room to start a late afternoon siesta. The picture to the right is of our lovely hotel taken from the entrance to the museum grounds.

After we rested it was going on 6PM, so we thought we would take a little walk around. We weren't particularly hungry so we weren't really looking for a place to eat. We haven't really grown accustomed to the really late supper hour, and likely won't as we are somewhat early risers.

Meal Times in Spain: Locals generally have 2 breakfasts, the first being just coffee, and the second, later at around 10 or 11 AM. This may consist of coffee at a cafe or tavern with Tapas. Lunch is from 2-3 PM, and dinner is between 10, and 11 PM. They have a tendency to linger after meals, and converse. Not well suited to the American style" table turning" restaurants.

We walked around the block, and it always surprises us at the amount of restaurants and taverns Bull at Tavern there are in a short distance. I haven't mentioned the beer here yet; it's generally a darker beer than I'm used to, and somewhat bitter. Over time I've managed to acquire a taste for it. Even resorting to imported Heineken beer, it's the same. I think the key word here may be "lager beer". We found a tavern on our walk tonight that serves a lighter beer on tap. Not only does it taste more like the Bud Lite that I'm accustom to, but they were selling it 10 to 1 over the traditional darker beer.

Tapas Explained: The tavern was owned by a retired matador, and the place was rich in bull fighting remembrances. The tradition here dictates that a small plate of hors d'oeuvres (locally called "Tapas") be served with a glass of beer. It may consist of a few peanuts, or could be small pieces of tuna with tiny little loaves of bread, slivers of cheese, olives, onion, meat ball, anchovies, jherkins (small pickle), or tomato's. Just about anything goes, but seldom is beer served alone. The Tapas are complimentary, but larger portions can be ordered for a nominal cost.

Bar with Tiled Lady A word about the photo in this section of the log, it was taken at the tavern described above, and shows a picture of the matador owner hanging on the wall. But the reason for posting it here is to draw attention to the tile work that abounds Madrid. The subject matter for this tiled works comes from the Prado art Museum in the form of a painting called "The Naked Maja" painted in 1797 by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. He also painted the "The Clothed Maja" which is identical except she's clothed in a long flowing white dress. I guess for the purpose of adorning a tavern the obvious choice was made.

When we returned to the hotel it was quite late, but Vip's (similar to Denny's) was still open, so we went in and split a salad bowl. With a busy day planned for tomorrow, we went to bed straight away.

Wed, Sep 5, 2007: Toledo, Spain

Up and at 'em early this morning. Taking a leisurely early breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast and extra strong coffee tamed with milk, we contemplated starting on a new adventure.

As we're already in the downtown area, it was no problem to take a short hike off into another Train Station direction to the next plaza (more fountains) where the main train station was located. The station is quite old, and colossal in size. A large part of the station is an indoor park under the solarium type ceiling located about three stories above the floor.

The ticket offices are located on the second level, which can be reached by stairs, moving sidewalk (flat escalator), or lift (elevator). However, descending to the train platforms is solely by stairs, which seems awkward for folks with luggage. We found this to be true at the air port as well, more than once it was necessary to haul our carry-on luggage down a flight of stairs to the baggage claim area. Inside Train Station Which reminds me, did you know that they charge for curbside check-in at Phoenix International Airport now? But it's quite reasonable at $2.00/bag.

As we waited for our train departure, we relaxed in the departures lounge, and read our books.

The trip took about a half of an hour on the high speed train, the seats were similar to airline seats, but with double the foot room. All the seats were assigned, and airline type of security was used, although somewhat lax. After all, who in there right mind would hijack a train traveling 80 miles per hour.

Arrival in Toledo was at a historic train station, the ticket office was long ago closed but available for photographs. At the far end of the building a new ticket office had been built with modern computers and air conditioning. This train station was also very large for a small town like Toledo.

The trip to town was about a two miles, and though there were buses running we decided to walk. We found that the terrain was very hilly, some of it quite step.

The town was actually a walled city made up of several small churches, a large cathedral Walled City built in the sixteenth century, and a couple of castles. Houses are made of stone, and built next to each other forming narrow cobblestone streets and passageways. Walking the streets here was like walking through a story book set in medieval times.

The shops were abundant, and the theme of many was medieval soviners, such as little bitty knights in armor, all kinds of full sized swords, and daggers. These items also being depicted on frig magnets, hatpins, and key chains. There were several restaurants and taverns so we weren't inclined to go hungry or thirsty. I use the term taverns here rather than bar's because the Spanish term for a bar is "tabernas" which I'm assuming is Spanish for tavern.

Gate The walk to the main gate was across a bridge spanning the Rio Tajo River, which encircles three quarters of the town. Although there are fortifications built all around the city, the main concentration is along the approaches not protected by water.

Walking through the city it's easy to become disorientated, and end up at the bottom of a hill on a dead end passageway off the main track. This naturally meant panic and retracing steps. Going down is easy and tempting, but coming back is quite a chore.

We managed to get lost like that several times. But on the up side, no matter Narrow Street where we ended up it was always a photographer's paradise. When the taverns and shops started disappearing, it was a good indication that a wrong turn had been made. There isn't much difference in tourists touring, and residents visiting, stone shops look identical to the stone residences they once were.

Small Church There is a tram that encircles the city, and negotiates the narrow streets. In the afternoon we took the ride, which turned out to be quite extensive, lasting 45 minutes. It travels around the city in a clockwise direction giving folks sitting on the right side of the open cars unrestricted access to some if the most striking landscapes the medieval world has to offer. Half of the pictures I took that day were taken from the tram ride.

At the end of the day, when it was time to return to the train station, we again walked. Of course the return trip being all down hill had nothing to do with the decision to walk. Many pictures I took on the way up were retaken on the way down from a completely different perspective.

When we arrived at the station, we were told the previous train had just left, and we Toledo Train Station would have to wait for about an hour and a half before the next one left. Luckily we had spotted a tavern across the street from the depot, so we headed there to wait out the time.

Being a hiking day, we had spent a little time in the local pubs and eateries, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the beverages were priced lower than in Madrid. While we were waiting for the time to pass, BettyAnn mentioned that it would be nice to eat something. There appeared to be a bowl of apples near the register, so I asked her if she would like one. However they turned out to be bright red ripe tomatos.

These looked even better, so I asked the proprietor to slice one up for us. When they were served, they were served with bread, there was no salt and pepper on the table, so I went to fetch some. However the proprietor indicated that they were already seasoned. And that they were, not only with salt and pepper, but an oil dressing along with other seasonings. They were absolutely delicious. This then could be properly considered a "larger than complimentary" portion of Tomato Tapas.

Before we knew it, the time had arrived to board the train to Madrid. After a long day of climbing up and down the streets of Toledo, the train ride was a welcome chance to catch forty winks.

We had vowed not to go overboard on souvenirs this trip, but even cutting back, the pile seems to be growing High Speed Train at an alarming rate. I think I've solved the problem of high European prices, and low exchange rates. It's so simple I wonder why I hadn't thought of it before. Just bring gobs of the weaker currency and exchange it to Euros all at once. If the amount is excessive enough, no matter what you buy you'll always have more than enough left over. That's a really secure warm and wooly feeling to have. When the trip is over and we exchange back up to the dollar, it will seem like your getting a real bargain.

Returning to Madrid BettyAnns feet were bothering her, so we took a cab to the hotel, and would you believe we were ripped off? The taxi meter read 3.55€, however the driver insisted on 6.40€ indicating there were two passengers. Asking at the hotel, they confirmed we should only have paid the meter amount, and requested a receipt. So it was a pretty exciting day all around, and as the Tomato Tapas constituted our dinner, we decided it was quite time to retire for the night.

Thu, Sep 6, 2007: Madrid, Plaza Mayor

We slept a little later this morning, otherwise it was a carbon copy of yesterdays breakfast, which is Grand Staircase served at the bottom of the grand staircase. After our meal was finished BettyAnn wanted to visit s few of the shops near the hotel.

Of interest was the one with the medieval armor for sale, pictured in last Monday's log. However there are several shops in the vicinity with the same caliber of merchandise. They all have nice things, and we would like to bring back something special to add to our china cabinet.

No decision was made, but several possibilities lurk. So with that set aside we started out on yet another walking tour, this time with Plaza Mayor as our destination. This trip being along the same route as the shopping plaza we visited a few days ago, but somewhat further on.

We didn't really know the way, but by asking from time to time and with the aid of our picture guide book (thank God for Eyewitness Travel books), we had no trouble with directions.

When we finally made it to Plaza Mayor, even before entering the square, we ducked into an Irish Pub. Turns out it was an official one which means it must be ordained from Ireland I guess. So anyway, BettyAnn and Plaza Mayor I shared a pint of ale (actually it was beer). Lo and behold, I never knew that Irish pubs served Tapas (which were actually chips). Maybe that's just quirky for ones located in Spain.

A word on the weather, as you can tell by the attached pictures, we are enjoying splendid weather. I'll never doubt the Sound of Music again; surly the rain in Spain must fall mainly in the plain. I hope the weather holds, and continues throughout our Artist Painting stay in the Canary Islands too.

Well after our pleasant stop at Paddy's Pub, we continued into the plaza, and it was surly a very large area. It must have been the size of four square city blocks, rather large ones at that. It's rimmed with shops, restaurants, and taverns (sometimes restaurants and taverns are a combination act). In the center was a statue of someone or other on a horse. As with any show place such as this, artists abound.

Paddy's Pub In addition, there were a couple of human statues, these are people that costume up to look like a statue, and hang around motionless for the most part. It's not easy work to say the least, as they are covered in makeup and costume, and then sit motionless in the sun for hours on end.

One statue in the square today was the repulsive Knight on a Horse (we call him the Ugly Tin Man), and he was anything but motionless. I take lots of pictures where ever I happen to be, and in some cases I'll take a picture of an exceptional human statue. When this is done, a contribution to the actors cause is warranted, as that's how they make there living.

Ugly Tin Man As I was doing my camera thing it became quite obvious that the Ugly Tin Man had the idea I was trying to capture his image. Each time I leveled the camera anywhere near his direction he would hide behind his shield. Then he would peek around it to see if I was still doing it. Normally I wouldn't have considered his display, which I think was supposed to depict a noble mounted knight, worthwhile photographing. But let's face it, who can resist a challenge like that.

During this process he managed to give BettyAnn the bird while I wasn't looking, and did a few other unique gestures in our direction, and in general made an obnoxious spectacle of himself.

Jim & BettyAnn We walked the circumference of the square checking out many of the shops. There were lots of souvenir shops, but also some shops with fine china and quality sculptures and figurines. BettyAnn was still on the market for a piece for the china cabinet, so we searched and scrutinized all the merchandise in these finer shops.

One of the more enjoyable shops we ran across was Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop. The temperature being on the mid nineties, it was a welcome diversion from china and figurines. I'm sure most people wouldn't believe this, but I can remember when ice cream sold for a nickel a scoop, same price as a cup of coffee. Tom & Jerry's charged 2.80€ a scoop, and we were happy to pay it.

That's not to say we didn't shop at other shops, we purchased more trinkets, and a T-shirt during our time at Plaza Mayor. This was a very enjoyable day spent mostly in the plaza, and walking the streets of Madrid. But our adventures were just beginning as we left the plaza for our leisurely walk back to the hotel, some two miles away.

We ran across a charming street vendor selling Spanish fans. There were two almost side by side, Street off Plaza Mayor but the second one had the more colorful fans. These beautiful fans were price at a very reasonable 2€ each. So BettyAnn picked out the one she liked, and I paid the vendor with a 2€ coin.

Meanwhile BettyAnn fell into conversation with a nice English lady, discussing these fans, and wither they may be sprayed with lacquer to protect the paint. Well, the conversation went on for little awhile and when we started to leave the lady selling the fans claimed we hadn't paid, and demanded payment again.

I patiently explained to her that I had paid for the merchandise, and even produced a 2€ coin to show the domination in which it had been paid. But she was very insistent that it had not been paid. Naturally anyone that had seen the transaction was long gone. So we thought it better to cut just leave rather than argue with the seller, I didn't particularly want to be stiffed by yet another con artist.

Admittedly the amount was small, but it was the principal more than anything else. Nobody likes being cheated. As we left, the vender assaulted BettyAnn, and she ended up with quite a bruise on her arm. Once we were clear of her area it was pursued no further by the vendor.

I suppose it is possible that she actually forgot that I had paid, but I doubt it. I'm rather obvious as the overweight American with camera, and shopping bags dangling from every extremity, looking more like a target than a shoplifter.

McExpress One of the oddities we ran across was a McDonalds "Walk Trough" There are several American chains here including Burger King, and KFC.

BettyAnn was somewhat put out over her battle wound, and will need to wear a longer sleeved top for a few days, but it sure gave us something to talk about on the way home. I hope we didn't give the appearance of being "ugly Americans", but then maybe we were mistaken for British. It's hard to miss the accent though.

There is a nice park about a mile from the hotel, where we always stop to rest when we return from that direction. It's a great place to sit and watch people. Most of the people we watch are Benji young, thin, healthy, good looking and well dressed. The same description can be applied to the older folks by changing the first word to old, everything else remaining the same. It's just that younger people outnumber the older ones from our perspective.

While at the park we spoke briefly with a dog owner, it was brief because we didn't speak the same language. I admired his well behaved dog who reminded me of the dog from the movie "Benji". After our short rest in the small park, we returned to the hotel. The plan was to freshen up, then go next door to Vips for a salad even though we weren't really very hungry.

That never happened because I fell asleep while BettyAnn watched the CNN news account about the death of one of her favorite opera singers. After a short nap, she was ready to shower so we decided to call it a day, and go to bed early.

Fri, Sep 7, 2007: Madrid, The Palace (Palacio Real)

Another fine day in Madrid, and we plan to do several things today, as it is our last day. One of the first things we did was to go to the park across the street from the hotel so that we could purchase a few things from the street venders that abound there.

I'm not much of a trinket person, but even I will have to admit that the displays are attractive, and the prices are very reasonable. After hauling stuff back to the room a few times, we were finally on our way.

Subway Train We planed to take a bus to the Palace, but it turned out to be so complicated that even the locals had a hard time figuring which buses to take. The Metro (subway) in the other hand required us to take a single train three stops to reach the palace. So we finally made it on the subway, if there was a station nearer the hotel, we would have used the subway a lot more.

We departed the train at the Opera station, which placed us about a block from the palace grounds. The palace is quite large as the pictures show. No filming is allowed inside the palace but that's probably a good thing because it would be impossible to photograph even a small portion of the interior.

Each room is a masterpiece, with gilding in most rooms; all the ceilings are painted by Side of Palace master artists. The extravagance through out the building is indescribable. There is an entrance hall that our whole house could comfortably sit in Then there is the Throne Room, Palace Front the Gasparini room (named after the designer), The Hall of Columns, The Porcelain Room, and a dining room large enough to seat 160 diners at 4300 sq ft (twice as big as our house).

There were more rooms than I've mentioned here, and likely many that we didn't see. Most rooms had fireplaces for heat. I would hate to have to pay the air conditioning bill on that place. The Palace was built in 1734, and took 26 years to complete over the reign of two monarchs. It was used until 1937, and is still used for large state occasions.

After we finished with the palace, we wanted to visit a large park in town Called Parque del Retiro, but the park was some distance from the Opera subway exit, and we had no idea how to get there. So for this leg of our exciting journey we took a taxi cab. We had a nice driver who happily charged us what was on the meter with no whining.

This park turned out to be another extravagantly large park with acres of manicured Lake Park Gardens gardens. The lake in the middle of this lovely park was populated with people out rowing around in little row boats available at the lakes marina.

The park was about a three miles long, and a good mile and a half wide, with a large monument at the head of the lake. There were other monuments and fountains galore, throughout the park. There were places to run and play for children, and small stands with umbrellaed tables serving food and drink. It seems there is almost no place in Madrid that beer and hard drinks are not served along with soft drinks and coffee.

Lake Park Monument We stopped at one of the larger ones located at a great photo vantage point for shooting the monument across the lake, and had a little lunch. The name was the Monument of Alfonso XII and it was erected in 1901.

After our snack, and a half hour or so of watching the people traffic, we continued on. The wonders never seemed to end. We headed out to exit the park in another direction, and shortly found ourselves in another section that was as if we had entered a completely different park.

We found a nice shaded area to sit, and BettyAnn struck up a conversation with a couple from Scotland. Sun Bathers Meanwhile I took some photos of a group of young ladies that were sun bathing.

Lake Park, More Gardens It turned out that the fellow from Scotland wasn't retired, but was an active professor in computer sciences at a university in Glasgow. He was visiting for a conference that was paid for by the university. How nice is that?

We wondered around the gardens as we worked ourselves towards the opposite exit from which we entered. The park seemed to go on for ever and ever. Our plan was to snag a taxi and return to Plaza Mayor to pick up a trinket that BettyAnn had spotted the other day.

When we exited the park, we found we were on the back side of the Prado Art Museum. Plaza Mayor again With only a short walk to the hotel, we followed that plan and took a coffee break in our room. After our little break we then grabbed a cab and went to Plaza Mayor for the trinkets we wanted.

Now that we have gotten accustomed to taking taxis, partly motivated by our short time remaining in Madrid, along with BettyAnns blistered feet, we seem to be doing it more and more. Except for our one bad encounter, the drivers seem exceptionally honest, and helpful. Generally the drivers understand no English at all, but respond well to pictures in the travel guide.

For supper tonight we decided to return to the Matador Bar (real name: Las Gatos Bar). We had local sandwiches, one of ham carved off a leg with hoofs. And the other was raw Salmon. After two sandwiches apiece, we were stuffed.We each had a beer also, but unfortunately they were out of the good light stuff.

After dinner we strolled the streets for awhile, and then finally returned to the hotel to retire.

Sat, Sep 8, 2007: Madrid, A day of leisure.

When I got up this morning I wanted to re-confirm our flight to the Canary Islands. But when I checked the paperwork, it was discovered that we overstayed in Madrid by a day, and our airplane left without us yesterday morning. That would explain the midnight call from the desk to verify who was occupying the room. At the time I thought t was a bit odd, and went back to sleep.

It turned out that we couldn't get a flight out today, so we're spending another night in Madrid. Everything is set up for a departure tomorrow. We unknowingly forced the first day of our stay, and booked the second extra day, both without the free breakfast, which was hardly free when purchased outside of the original package

deal. So we had breakfast at Vips again. This turned out to be our most repeated eatery as the food is excellent, typical of our host country, and priced reasonably. Not to mention the fact that it was next door tour hotel.

Clock So, with an unexpected additional day in Madrid, we'll be able to do a little more exploring in this fabulous city. One of the things we wanted to do was take some pictures of the bell chime clock at the Seguro building. Two sets of bells are located vertically on the front of the building with the clock in the middle. The balcony directly below is the stage for the mechanized animated figurine show which lasts a full three or four minutes.

We plan to return in the afternoon and video tape the whole production, most likely at the 6 o'clock show while we still have good light.

In the meanwhile we walked the streets mingling with the local populace, primarily heading back to Beer and Tapas the shopping center area to explore the mall adjacent to the department store. On the way to the mall, we stopped at one of the traffic circle type plazas for a beer, as it was already past noon. It was served with Tapas, one was bread, tomato and anchovy, and the other was the same except with ham. These snacks serve as a light lunch, so no formal lunch was taken.

Symbol of Madrid The symbol of Madrid is a bear reaching for the fruit of a tree. We actually never knew where this statue was located, but BettyAnn spotted it yesterday while we were taxiing around town. It was actually located in an area we visited several times but was hidden behind a construction area. The motor traffic was routed around the construction right past the bear symbol. Behind the construction was also the mall that we were headed for.

The mall is made up of high end shops, which reminded us of the Scottsdale area in Arizona. The department store is quite spread out, and we ended up in another building that was part of the same store, the whole area is pretty big.

There was a violinist and cellist, playing classical music at the entrance to the department store. Music Makers So we stood around enjoying the beautiful music, for awhile, and then went on into the store.

We went to the cafeteria on the seventh floor for a cup of coffee, and a soft drink for BettyAnn, but we ended up sharing a piece of cheese cake as well. The whole floor was committed to foodservice, with a large section used for a museum of sorts with mannequins dressed in typical Spanish holiday attire. This was a surprise, and I took the chance to fire off a few photos.

Dummys The coffee there came out of a funny machine with handles protruding from it. When all was said and done, I had a small cup set in front of me that was about one quarter full of a black liquid that I would not really consider coffee as we know it. This has happened before, and it's served with milk and sugar. I never use sugar in coffee, and rarely use milk, but in this case the milk made it not only drinkable, but pretty good as well. Maybe I'm acquiring a taste for European coffee.

It's always fun to watch people, and we were doing our share of that this afternoon as we headed back to get the video camera. It was a nice walk on a nice sunny day and after fetching the camera we hiked over to the clock for the six o'clock ringing.

Once we finished filming the clock antics we sat down for a short rest in Bengi park, as we now call it, because it was just across the street.

After a bite to eat, we returned to the park with the venders to watch all the tourists having as Carvings much fun as we did scarfing up all the wonderful bargains. I think I mentioned early on that the sun goes down rather late in Madrid, anyway as we returned to the hotel to do our final packing I wanted to take the chance to point out the wonderful carvings on the building across the street, I may have commented on them before, but thought it was worthwhile mentioning again. These are on the balcony's above the store near the hotel that sells medieval armor, swords, and daggers. Among many other beautiful pricey things, which is, I might add, one of BettyAnns favorite stores. It's located much too close to the hotel. Of course the figures are going to be to tiny to see.

We found another notable modern art museum in our plaza which we didn't know was there. It was on our list of things to see, but we didn't know where it was located. Here it was less than a block from out hotels front door, imagine that. To bad we didn't have yet another day to spend there.

Packing went well, and we retired early, as our flight leaves about ten in the morning, and we sure didn't want to miss another one.

Sun, Sep 9, 2007: Spain, a day of travel.

Up and at 'em early this morning so that we'll not miss this airplane. We clamored down to the lobby, and settled our bill for the two extra days. Meanwhile the bell captain struggled our bags to the street for us, and hailed a taxi. The ride to the airport was our last chance to see the sights that we had become so accustomed to during our stay in Madrid. To top it off, the taxi driver didn't overcharge us, this is getting to be a reoccurring thing.

So, once at the airport, we found a luggage trolley, and loaded everything on it, and went to the airline to wait in line to check our luggage. It's a good thing we got there early because the line moved as slow as molasses.

It was when we checked our luggage that we discovered that the weight limit was 20 Kg per person, for a total of 40Kg. Unfortunately we weighed in at 86 Kg with the checked luggage, so were charged an excess luggage fee. Missing our connection is turning into a rather expensive adventure. But once everything was taken care of, we finally boarded the flight for a relaxing three hour trip to Tenerife Island where our resort condo was beckoning to us. The airport that we landed at was the site of the worst air disaster in the world back in the 90's when two fully loaded 747's collided, killing everyone on both aircraft. Guess it's a good thing we're not superstitious.

City of Santa Cruz, Flying into Tenerife After arriving at the Tenerife North airport, I went to check on the car while BettyAnn waited for the luggage. As it turned out the rental took a little longer than expected, and the luggage came quicker than expected, so she was stuck wrestling the luggage off the conveyer belt. She was a bit miffed, but I told her I always get stuck with that job, and it's about time she did something anyway. Well, that didn't go over very well.

After awhile we had the car all packed with our 86Kg of luggage, along with ourselves, and headed for the motorway. We missed the connecting highway to the main road to Playa de Los Americas, our destination some 70 or 80 kilometers south. The reason being we were concerned about the breaks which were grinding metal on metal so we ended up in the town of Santa Cruz about 10Km from the airport, and promptly got lost.

Oh, did I mention the car had no gas. Luckily we missed the gas station too. So even though we were running on fumes, at least, if the car made it back to the airport we wouldn't have put gas in it before refusing it.

Being lost in Santa Cruz de Tenerife wasn't to bad, it's just that I couldn't find my way back to the motorway. I could see it from time to time, but couldn't find the on ramp. Meanwhile the breaks kept grinding, and people kept honking at me.

Finally I pulled off into an industrial area, and pulled up to an open air flower market, where everyone in the area thought my scraping breaks was just to hilarious. After explaining my dilemma in my best Spanglish, a gentleman offered to lead me to the correct on ramp. It was like a miracle.

Resort entrance Soon we were back at the airport with no gas, and no brakes. The rental agency promptly gave us another car, with a little more gas in it. We repacked, and were on our way. This time we stopped at the gas station, and didn't miss the connecting highway to motorway T1. Once on our way we discovered that this car didn't have air conditioning, always something I guess, but I'd rather have brakes than air conditioning any day.

We knew that the resort was just 17 Km from the South airport, so when we reached it, we didn't have far to go. The roads were well marked, and it wasn't too difficult to decipher the Spanish signs. One thing I noticed right away once we left the motorway, just about all the streets are one way, and seem to be going in the same direction.. But we located the resort anyway, mostly because of the big sign mounted on the roof.

View from room Once within the confines of the resort, it was like a dream come true. Check in went quickly, and we hustled off to our ocean view apartment on the twelfth floor. The resort is gigantic, and has more services that anyone could possibly want. There's even a free book exchange next to the internet café.

There are shops galore, both inside the resort, and outside. There are several resorts at this location and the area almost resembles Waikiki Beach. There are grocery stores, camera stores, clothing stores, and the list goes on and on. We picked up a little something for breakfast, unpacked, then took advantage of a dinner special that was offered at the resort bar and dining room.

Well, so much for all that. Unpacking is always a chore, and here was no different. Finding a place to put everything is challenging. Well, all in all, things seemed to go pretty smoothly. So we retired for the night.

Mon, Sep 10, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; The resort.

Today we awoke to the sounds of the ocean surf breaking on the beach below us. The sun was just rising, View from room and I had set the table the night before for breakfast. The first order of the day was to have a cup of coffee.

There are two electric pots in the kitchen, one a traditional coffee pot, and the other, a hot pot that sits on an electric heater, as opposed to the heater being built into the pot. For the time being, I'll continue to use my little emersion heater and do one cup at a time. No sense confusing the issue the first thing in the morning.

Breakfast was continental style this morning with French bread, and jam, coffee and tea. Or shopping was limited yesterday with unpacking and all.

When traveling by air I've taken to carrying BettyAnn's little camera; however I prefer mine for any serious photo work. When I went to switch cameras, it had gone missing. So after going through all the luggage to no avail, I called the hotel in Madrid.

Pool As it turned out, the camera was indeed left behind, and fortunately they had it at the desk. But getting it back becomes complicated, as shipping it from Madrid causes a flurry of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape. So it seems I'll have to make arrangements with UPS to pick it up when I return from vacation. I even commented to BettyAnn, it's a good thing we had hers for a back-up.

We did up our dishes, and got dressed. Naturally I forgot shorts, two pairs are in my list, but not checked off, indicating they were never packed. Oh, the wonders of the foolproof check off list system. I think I may have to completely reevaluate my system of packing, and asset accountability before I take another trip like this. But wait, there's more!

An hour or so later when we were about to go out to the beach, I thought it might be a good idea to put the extra battery in her camera, and charge the old one. Well it turns out the battery is probably very well charged, because it was left in an outlet at the hotel in Madrid as well, imagine that. Unfortunately, it wasn't recovered by the hotel staff as yet. So much for reliable back-up systems.

Beach shopping area Well, with all of that now behind us, we set out to see if we could find a pair of shorts for me, as well as a Cannon battery charger. This also gave us a chance to deposit our old books, and BettyAnn found one that she wanted to read. I'm doing very little reading this trip because there just doesn't seem to be enough time.

Speaking of which, time that is, it sure seems to be flying by faster that I had expected. Anyway we stayed close to home and explored the beach, and the boardwalk as well as the flock of stores in and around the resort.

During this excursion we did manage to find a pair of shorts, but they are nothing more than swim trunks with pockets. Oh well. The charger for the camera battery was another matter. We found one which would work fine, but would require a plug adaptor when used in the US. I'd much rather have it the other way around.

I may be able to wait until I return to replace it, and the old one may turn up yet in Madrid, who knows. A merchant in the hotel complex has a similar camera for sale that uses the same battery, and he promised to recharge it for me as the need arises.

We stopped for a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant of all things, and had a taco salad on the beach. Twin Towers The place looked pretty authentic except for the fact that there were no Mexicans present. Two major things that set it apart from being an authentic Mexican restaurant, first they didn't serve chips, and secondly, when the food arrived, BettyAnn had to ask for saucea.

After lunch it was to late to travel any distance, so we stayed in the Los Americas area, stopping at a grocery store to stock up on some cereal, soap, and a few other necessities. One thing that became very apparent right away was the lack of parking. We found a large grocery store, about half the size of a Fry's store, but had to park in a traffic lane to shop. No parking lot, no street parking, zilch, and they were pretty busy.

Driving around familiarized us with the immediate area, and there are shops of all sorts, but no Target or Wal-Mart type places. Other than the up-scale department stores in Madrid, the same was true there, but that's really no comparison.

Sunset After getting lost several times, and making a few mistakes, we began to become better acquainted with our area. And after awhile we finally found our way back to the street that led to the resort.

After we parked the car we strolled to the beach to watch the sunset. We both agree that the sunsets in Arizona are much nicer the majority of the time, but we'll be here for several more sunsets, so we'll see.

Returning to the resort we stayed and enjoyed the entertainment in the lobby for a bit before retiring to our room to watch CNN to see if Malden's Mum is going to be charged with her murder. Then it was off to bed for yet another good night's sleep without a bunch of barking dogs in the middle of the night.

Tue, Sep 11, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; los Vinos.

How wonderful it is to have some food in the house when we arise. We were able to have cereal and orange juice, along with some stale French bread, which would probably make excellent toast. We'll have to give that a try tomorrow if we have any left.

Our breakfast was quick because we wanted to get on our way to explore the west, and northwest coasts of this little island paradise. Our final destination is an unusual tree in Los Vinos, and we reach it by using a main road, which is different than a motorway.

Tenerife is a rather small island, but the largest of the seven in the Canary chain, and when we reach our destination we will have encircled most of the island. If we were to continue on, it would be about 30 Km to the airport where we came in.

Just setting out was a great adventure, as the resort gate guard tried to explain how to negotiate the one way streets to place us on the TF-1 motorway, which would eventually run into roadway TF-82. This is the two lane highway that we will follow through the mountains to los Vinos.

Passing through Chico So, off we go. Actually we didn't have to negotiate any one way streets, as the roadway from the resort parking lot is two ways. We just took it to the traffic circle, and followed the signs to Adeje, the first town along our route.

It was at that juncture that the rod turned from a four lane, limited access motor way, to a two lane mountain road. The first mountain town we came to was Chico, which wasn't even on our map.

We stopped to take a few pictures, and look around. The photo shows the rental car on the right.

The town had a staircase that looked something like a place for devotions, but wasn't a church. It was along Devotional Place side the road in a stretch that was removed from the other buildings of the small town. In fact, it was at the same place we pulled into in the first picture above.

The next town we came to was Tamaimo, a small town which we passed through in the blink of an eye. It was tucked away in the surrounding hills, and was very rustic with stone houses and cobble stone streets.

Mountain Town As we continued up the mountain, the road became a series of hairpin curves turning us too and fro. It was probably akin to the drop from Flagstaff to Sedona when you choose the scenic route. While driving this route we have the fog to contend with, as well as tourists from everywhere in the world. Not to mention a gigantic tour bus from time to time.

A little further up the road we found yet another little village tucked away in the mountains called El Retamar. These towns are all unique, but when your passing through several of them as we are today there is always the tendency to call them "typical European towns", but there is nothing typical about them. Each one is unique if you take the time to stop and visit them.

The mountain we were climbing was shrouded in clouds, so as we drove it was like going in and out Church in Tamaimo of fog banks. Most of the road trip was on roads with shear drops over the side, and the roads were quite narrow. Large tour buses and the European version of eighteen wheelers were encountered on a regular basis. So if they can do it, we had no doubt about our ability to negotiate the mountain road with our car.

Alter in Tamaimo The next town that we stopped in was the small town of Santiago del Teide, which had a square and a Church that was noteworthy. The church was quite old, and inside the art work and carvings was astounding. The church was open, and had no one in attendance. Unlike other old churches, there was no obvious means to solicit donations.

The square at the Church was quite large in its own right, but there was another square right across the street. Perhaps it was part of the same square; anyway there was a monument in that square of a man holding a standard.

Monument in Tamaimo There were local folks in and around the squares, and the Church drew the attention of passing tourists, many of whom, like us, stopped to take photographs.

As we continued to climb we passed through several small mountain towns with streets that went up and down at extreme angles, even though the roadway was built reasonably level. We stopped from time to time to check out the shopping, and use the bathrooms.

The next town we came to was Ruigomez about 10 Km up the winding road. We didn't stop there but just continued on towards our destination. The roads have barriers along the drop offs so that folks don't drive off the mountain. The retainers, Coffins I'll have to admit, look like little coffins. I mentioned this to BettyAnn, and she said that upset her, can't understand why because they really do look like coffins.

Our car is holding up well, and seems to be getting good milage. Of course it's hard to tell because gas is sold by the liter, and distance is measured in Kilometers, and we're paying for it in Euros, now that's a combination. The car is an Astra, what ever that is. Camel Center It has five on the floor, non-working A/C, and Power Windows. It also has electric locks, and the remote is built into the key handle which is rather unique. The key it's self is square, and the keying is embedded in the square shaft that is inserted into the ignition, rather than along the edge, or edges of a flat key.

Would you believe that there is a camel center here? I have no idea what the significance might be, San Juan but you can imagine the shock when you come around a corner, and see a group of people ready to go camel back riding. Sorry I didn't manage to get a great picture, so the one that I did get will have to do. The camel center is near the town of El Tangue, about 10 clicks up the road from Ruigomez.

As we approached San Juan, the next little town, we made a stop to take some photographs because it looked as if it was a very rustic little town. We wanted to take photos before getting to close to the town.

At the point that we could pull off the road, I needed to walk back a bit to make the shots of the town. Huts 1 In doing this I discovered a stairway leading down from the roadway. The stairway went to a small patio below that led off to a small neighborhood of what appeared to be terracotta huts of the type found in this area. As I descended the stairs and looked for a good spot from which to shoot the town I not only found what I was looking for, but a completely different, and unexpected photo opportunity as well.

Huts 2 This little area that was discovered, and was not readily apparent from the roadway, turned out to be what could almost be considered typical, if there was such a thing.

And so, with that behind us, we continued on to the city we set out to see. Dragon Tree Park Entrance And that would be the mountain town of Los Vinos. This town was a little larger than the others, so naturally we immediately got lost.

After winding around narrow streets for awhile we finally found a café that looked to be adjacent Dragon Tree from a memorial type area which we assumed was the site we were seeking. We asked at the restaurant, and sure enough, this was indeed the site of the oldest Dragon tree in the world.

Legend has it that the last dragon alive won a final victory here, and when he realized that he was the last of his species, he became very sad, and began to weep. Each place where a teardrop landed, a dragon tree grew.

This tree is unusual in that when it's cut, it bleeds red, which is said to be the blood of the dragon.

We were planning to have dinner there bet neither of us was very hungry, so we decided to hightail it back to the resort and eat their.

We could have traveled on around the island, past the north airport, and had freeway driving all the way home. But no, we chose to take the windy road back instead. Please don't ask me why.

Anyway the trip back was uneventful, and after a quick Greek Salad at the Greek corner, along with one of there main Greek dishes called Mousaka which was sort of like a fluffy quiche. Even though neither of us had ever had it before, we found it very tasty.

Then guess what? It was off to bed for us.

Wed, Sep 12, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; El Medano

We had the luxury of sleeping in this morning, and when we finally did arise we had a grand breakfast of cereal. We toasted our dried out bread this morning and that worked out great.

The French bread (or Italian if you will) that's sold here is found in the so called supermarkets. These are somewhat like a Circle-K connivance store in most cases, and I have a feeling that the bread is day old by the time we get it. What little bit of soft area in a slice is found on the first day, has gone completely dry by the second.

They also sell normal bread, like a loaf of sandwich bread found at any supermarket in the US. However we eat that stuff all the time, and would like to enjoy fresh locally baked French. Just haven't found a bakery yet. Many places can be found that billet themselves as bakeries, but they generally specialize in pastries. When asked about bread, they find that amusing because it's so readily available in any regular market.

We really acted like we were on vacation today, and spent time strolling up and down the Fishing Village El Medano beach googling the pretty girls. We had not decided if we should take a day trip to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, or just go to a nearby fishing village.

After lunch it seemed the only option left was the fishing village, so we set out on our little half day trip. The village was a little north of the South airport (as opposed to the North airport some 70 Km away). All in all, the one way trip was about 35 Km from our resort. Now that we're learning the roadways better, there is much less confusion navigating the streets of Los Americas.

Fishing Fleet The town of El Madeno was small and quaint. We found our way to the waterfront, and managed to find one of the almost non-existent parking places on the street. It was just a short walk to the harbor area where there was a fishing fleet. The harbor was quite large, and contained several inter-island ferries as well. A ferry trip to the other islands may be an idea for next week after my sister, Jenny has joined us.

There are all sorts of excursions available here, including Dolphin and Whale watching cruises. They have the nifty pirate like ships (motorized of course), that offer sightseeing, and dinner excursions, but then I guess almost all the boats do that anyway, except maybe the sport fishing boats. Many are glass bottomed so fish can be observed.

The returning sport fishermen in the boat pictured, unfortunately had a poor day of fishing. Sport Fishing Boat My personal opinion is that sport fishing is all about laying in the sun, watching the passing view, drinking beer, and observing the amateur fishermen obviously doing what they don't do best.

The harbor area had a really nice beach as well, which is unusual for a harbor area. But then this doubles as a recreational area too, so guess the beach is a great idea. In addition there is a playground for the kids. Even though this Beach ib El Medano area is somewhat off the beaten path, it has its share of hotels, but because the crowds and revenue isn't there, the hotels appear to be a tad run down.

We checked into several excursions for ourselves, and there were plenty that we could be interested in. The big problem is that time is running out. It doesn't take much of a reality check to realize all good things come to an end, and we will soon be again slaves to our perspective employers. But with over a week to go before the enviable, I probably shouldn't be thinking such depressing thoughts.

After spending a wonderful afternoon in El Medano at the waterfront, it was time to head back to Los Americas, Jim & BettyAnn and our resort condo. I might mention that the Canary Islands is big on wind power, they have windmill arrays similar to those found in California, and elsewhere. The winds here seem to be consistent in certain areas, probably due to the positioning of the volcano on this island. We passed a large windmill array both coming to El Medano, and returning home.

Excersion Boat The trip back was uneventful, and we had another mini-adventure on the way in. Due to a wrong turn we were fortunate enough to become even more familiar with the areas around our resort. We made a stop for BettyAnn to look at some souvenirs, and there was an Irish pub across the street where I waited with a brew.

We were getting hungry, but didn't particularly want Irish. Across the street was a Chinese buffet that was very reasonable, but appeared somewhat seedy. We thought we would give it a look, and in the end we had one of the better Chinese dinners that we have had in some time.

We then looked for, and found our resort. After watching the sunset, which happens about nine o'clock here, we were off to bed.

Thu, Sep 13, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; the Island Excursion

An early up today and a quick Corn Flake breakfast, because we booked an island excursion. This trip will take us completely around the island

It even includes a stop for coffee, and an early lunch with wine, along with an informational presentation.

The trip climaxes at the village of los Gigantes where we disembark on a dolphin boat to spend an hour watching the dolphins at play. And ends with a swimming session at the base of one of the cliffs that has a black coral beach.

Anyway, that was the plan. And as you know, Murphy's Law always takes precedence. Another great advantage was that it was only 11€ which is exceptionally economical as most tours of this type cost about 30€ per person. And that's without the boat trip.

At the beginning of the tour, which almost never happened because nobody was to tell us where the tour bus stopped. Employees of the tour company were very helpful, as they trolled the area looking for folks holding there flier and directing them. We ended up walking almost a mile to the pick-up point anyway. Certainly a far cry from "just around the corner from the hotel".

So then the bus spent an hour picking up other confused tourists. This was fun because we had a front seat, and every time the bus turned a corner, it looked like he was going to take out half the intersection. These motor coaches look big on the outside, but they even look bigger when your up high sitting behind the driver.

After awhile we were on our way along TI-1, towards Santa Cruz. As we traveled we were told about the sponsors that made the tour so cost effective for tourists. We were going to stop at their facility and they would conduct the informational presentation. We rather expected something of this sort. We are old hands at sitting through time share presentations you know, so we didn't really care.

They divided us into English and German speaking groups. Once seated in the presentation room, Betty Ann at Blanket Shop coffee was served, as well as a glass of wine. A large bottle of water was provided too. Then going around we introduced ourselves, and where we were all from. BettyAnn sits at a table with a lambs wool blanket on the wall behind her.

Bed Show Prop Neither one of us has ever been to a blanket presentation before, and we found it very entertaining. It was all about disgusting things like bed mites, body fluids lost at night, and dead skin. And they were pushing the advantages of Virgin Lambs Wool to combat the ill effects of these problems. This program lasted for an hour and a half.

Come to find out, a complete bed system would cost us about $3000 plus shipping. The Lambs wool mattress cover by it's self, was about $800, of course when it's grouped together, it's cheaper. Europeans had the advantage of free shipping.

BettyAnn did purchase a lumbar pad of Lambs wool, it was only 15€, it's supposed to help with lower back pain, so, we'll have to wait and see. It's cheaper than one visit to the doctor, who's unable to do more.

At the end, they gave us a bottle of wine, a small FM radio (99¢ store variety), a really nice manicure set, and an indoor weather station that gives the temperature in degrees centigrade, the time, and the relative humidity.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that they served a light lunch before we left for the rest of the excursion. It consisted of a large hotdog, and French potato salad with yea or coffee. It was a nice touch, and carried us over until supper time.

One of the biggies of the tour was a stop at the Oldest Dragon Tree on the island (which we had driven to yesterday), BettyAnn was ecstatic about that because there was a nice lady there that made flowers from the bark of the Dragon tree, and colors them with the sap, which is actually terracotta. Betty didn't purchase one the day we were there and was looking forward, after all that indecision, to finally be getting one, (or some).

Well, that never happened, good ole Murphy's Law you know. The transmission went out on our Volvo Motor Coach Coffee shop view in such a way that it would only work in third gear. Using this as an excuse we bypassed the Dragon Tree, and we went directly to the coffee break stop.

The stop was really nice, they had beer there, BettyAnn and I split a almond cake, and had a hot chocolate spiked with brandy. The view was out of this world, and we had a whole hour to enjoy it while another bus was brought up.

Bad Bus Once the new bus arrived, we were again on our way and we started to travel over the volcano. This was basically the trip we did yesterday, until we made the turn off for the boat trip. By that time it was about 3:00 in the afternoon, six hours after we were picked up.

That was an area that was new to us, and the marina in the seaside village of Playa de San Juan, had almost too many boats. Usually they use a large boat for this excursion, however we were too many for the large one. And as there were more German speaking folks on the trip, they got the large boat. And English speaking people were herded to the smaller boat, which turned out to be plenty big enough. Everyone had room to move around, and take photographs, and videos.

The boat was powered by two engines, which I suspect were gasoline because they were quite powerful. Once clear of the harbor, the operator opened it up, and it came to speed smartly, and traveled very fast. Certainly a far cry from the so called "high speed" mahogany Chris Crafts of my youth, which was spent around the Waupaca chain of lakes.

Once we traveled some distance from shore, we began to see large dark shadows along side passing the boat, Dolphin 1 and it wasn't but a few minutes before a trio of dolphins flew out of the water, arching over the bow of our motorboat. I don't think anyone caught it with a camera, because it came as quite a surprise.

Dolphin 2 Then the show started, there seemed to be dolphins everywhere. This went on for the longest time, with everyone trying to capture the elusive perfect picture. With digital photography that isn't about to happen without a stroke of luck. The time from shutter release to image recording is much too long. The stills that we did get, were taken by my lovely wife, Betty Ann, as I was the designated videographer on this trip

Video Camcorder Lucky for us we brought along a video camera because the probability of getting the perfect picture is much better. But video frames lack the quality that a still camera provides.

There were seven or eight other boats in the area for the same reason. We were able to stay out of each others way because the ocean is so large.

After the dolphin watching experience, we returned to the cliffs of Los Gigantes where there was a black volcanic sand beach of sorts, and those who wanted to swim off the back of the boat had a chance to do so. About five of the guy's rose to the challenge, but none of the girls went in. After a reasonable time swimming, we left the area to return to the village, and our awaiting motor coach.

Cliffs When we got back we were dropped off about a mile from our resort, and tired old us had to trudge all the way back on foot.

We were really very tired when we finally got home, so we had a quick dinner, and called it a night.

Fri, Sep 14, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Moving Day

No rush today, just slept in until well after sunrise. And in preparation for the arrival of our guest, New Apartment Living Room we need to move from our one bedroom apartment, to a two bedroom apartment.

In doing so we give up our spectacular view from the twelfth floor, and move to the sixth floor. This puts us much closer to the pool area, and gives us two patios, one outside our bedroom, and one off the living room. The apartment is also much larger even when you discount the extra bedroom.

All we need to do is pack all our stuff before ten o'clock, disappear for a few hours, and then return to our new apartment. The staff will have done all there tricks, and all our stuff will magically appear before our very eyes. Then all that's left to do is unpack.

Santa Cruze Waterfront Street So, to do our part we decided to drive to Santa Cruz, about 60 Km up the East coast. This is the largest city on Tenerife, and is also the capitol.

Santa Cruz Narrow Street It's also a large port, as many vessels come here to refuel before heading to the Panama Canal and other ports to the West.

Santa Cruz has narrow, one way streets unique to this area, as well as wide boulevards, and high ways. Once you turn off a major roadway, your driving skills are put to the test. As you maneuver down these narrow streets, with cars parked on both sides, your left with a few inches clearance with which to divert disaster.

It becomes even more fun when a roadway is blocked, and several cars are backed up behind you, happily honking away. We were sort of looking for a tourist area, so Betty Ann could find a T-shirt, but we didn't have much luck.

Santa Cruze Monument Like most European towns, this one has it's share of monuments, and traffic circles (turnabouts). In many cases the turnabouts are the only place to make left hand turns on busy city streets, and they can be several blocks apart.

The type of shirt BettyAnn was seeking was one with Tenerife printed on it. But we weren't having much luck. The broken Church The side trips down the narrow streets was not a waste of time my any means, because the more we explored, the more familiar we became with the area.

With not much luck attaining our goal, and growing somewhat frustrated with the narrow city streets, we worked our way back to the costal highway. Continuing north a few Km, we stopped at the town of Valleseso, San Andres Beach 1 where we found the broken church. This costal town had bars galore, mixed in with a few other shops in its two block main street facing the highway. Which, by the way, had deteriorated into a two lane roadway.

Continuing on with our new great adventure we came across the beaches of San Andres. This is the only beach we have found that has white sand, and we're told hat it was imported for this beach. Quite a project considering that it is over a mile and a half long.

There are concession stands here and there, so we settled in for some time at the beach. As you can see there are a few ships lying off the coast, waiting for a turn to refuel. These ships are several kilometers North of the port, so it gives you an idea of the amount of vessels there are just sitting around at anchor.

I purchased a beer to share with BettyAnn, and we just relaxed for an hour or so. We have been so busy having a good time, that we've actually done very little relaxing in the sun. In fact, after a week in Madrid, and a week here in the Canary Islands, San Andres Beach 2 we haven't even had the time to take a dip in one of the hotel or resort pools.

After awhile BettyAnn suggested we kick off our sandals, and stroll the beach. As we walked around there were people playing soccer, kids playing in the sand, and a lot of people sun bathing. Apparently most folks here weren't too concerned about contracting skin cancer.

Well, after awhile, we decided it was time to head back to our home in Playa de Los Americas. Which was located about 100 kilometers south of our present location in the North East corner of the island. So we headed back to the concession stand to Finnish our now warm beer, and reclaim our sandals and head for home.

On the trip back home, we passed a bunch of antique automobiles. There must be a car show going on somewhere in the southern part of the island. All the carts were cherry, which must be hard to maintain hereabouts because of the salt water spray. Perhaps this island is large enough that these effects aren't noticeable inland.

Old Car Returning home we found all our stuff had been moved to our new apartment by the hotel staff (bless there little hearts). I'll have to admit, the service at the places we have stayed has been above exceptional. Everyone we encountered went out of their way to help us, even with a language barrier. That is, of course, with the exception of the tin man, and the attack street vender from hell.

Once we unpacked, it was time to eat something again, so we made noodle soup, and had it with bread, coffee and tea. And then, off to bed for us.

Sat, Sep 15, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Company comes calling.

What an exciting morning, Jenny's coming to visit all the way from Henderson Tennessee. So we're off to an early start today because we want to go back to Santa Cruz before her plane lands.

We did take time for breakfast before leaving. Then we fired up the jalopy and headed north. Unusual Walking Bridge It seems like were spending a lot of time going back and forth to Santa Cruz, but it's a nice trip.

Along the way we passed a strange walking bridge across the motorway. We passed it several times during our travels, but this time BettyAnn had the camera at the ready. It looks sort of like a shark.

Once in Santa Cruz, we promptly got lost again, but eventually found the area we were looking for. I was able to pick up a cube tap so we could run the TV and the computer at the same time, and a 9V battery for the alarm clock.

Now, you might ask, why would I buy a back-up battery for an alarm clock the stay's here after we leave. Let me explain, in European hotels you need to insert your key card into an electrical box to turn on the lights. This is a good concept because it conserves energy when the unit isn't occupied.

The only receptacles that are exempt are the refrigerator, and the range. Naturally this also turns off the clock radio, which then requires a reset. And there you have it, the reason for purchasing the 9V battery

In our previous apartment this was not a problem because it had not been remodeled since the unit was refitted with key card entrance locks. I imagine that key cards saves a lot of money, over the older keyed entrance sets, and eliminates the troublesome "key deposit".

After finding the hardware store we were some distance from the car, so I went to fetch it. BettyAnn had Picking up BettyAnn the camera ready when I drove up to pick her up.

So, we're still lost in Santa Cruz trying to find a T-shirt store. And the time is fast approaching when we should be at the airport. So just about the time we found the section of town we were seeking, we had to leave.

Monument similar to Sidney Opra House We passed another monument, this one more modern than the traditional statues and fountains found in this part f the world. We thought it was unusual in that it reminded us of the opera house in the Sidney harbor, well, a little bit.

We could take the highway directly out of Santa Cruz to the airport if we could find it, or we could go 6 Km south on TF-1and pick up TF-2 north, the by-pass to the airport. Unfortunately the roads here are not marked very well, so we shuttled between the two a few times before finding the direct route out of the city.

Once at the airport we needed to check our luggage limits, to be sure we wouldn't be charged for overage again. As it turns out, a continuing flight honors the weight limits of the higher weight airline. Our ticket to Tenerife was an independent ticket, and was not connected to a US airline. Too bad for us.

When we finished there, Jenny's plane had landed. Flower Vendor So we ambled over to the arrivals area and began looking for her. As luck would have it, she was so far back in the airplane, that her window seat didn't even have a window. As a result she was almost the last person to deplane before the flight crew.

So when she finally did show up, we quickly completed all the kissy face crap, and got her bags loaded into the car. I figured she would be bone tired, and want nothing more than to get to the resort and crash. But BettyAnn asked Jenny if she was up to going to Jenny and BettyAnn at the Fruit Market Santa Cruz to do some shopping, surprisingly after fifteen hours on an airplane, she said "Let's go".

So, back we went, but it's close to the airport, a mere 7 Km. We found the shopping area and parked close in. P Fish Market arking was available because flea market venders were closing up, however the permanent shops and stalls remained open. There were flower shops, fish markets, fruit stands, bakery goods, vegetables, groceries, and so forth. But not the tourist type T-shirts with Tenerife on them that BettyAnn was looking for.

We picked up some fresh bread, fruit, and cheese, for the kitchen, and we got a bakery treat to satisfy our immediate animal cravings. We looked around for awhile more, still looking for the elusive T-shirt which didn't mineralize.

Finally it was time to return to Los Americas, and our cozy little apartment. The drive back was primarily family chit chat, and preliminary event planning. We arrived back in Los Americas late in the afternoon and got lost again. Being in a previously unknown area, we did the right thing, and stopped to shop.

It was a good thing we did too, because BettyAnn found the perfect T-shirt and my little sister, Jenny picked up a few things as well.

The rest of the evening was spent showing my sister around the resort, and then we had dinner at a new restaurant that we found. The food was very good, the girls had stake, and I had fish. The three course meal included salad, the entrée, and desert.

By then everyone was pretty tuckered out, so we retired for the night.

Sun, Sep 16, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Return to the cliffs of Los Gigantes

This morning brought a late awakening and we decided to fix breakfast in, which consisted of cereal with a banana, toast and beverage. We took our meal on the balcony, and the pool was a beehive of activity, or inactivity depending on your perspective.

About 25% of the women, young and old were topless, that percentage runs about the same at the public beaches. So there's an abundant amount of eye candy to satisfy my meager needs.

Today we planned to return to the fishing village where we had gone dolphin watching on the Blanket Tour.

Jenny Shopping It seems strange that we're staying at this wonderful resort, and haven't spent even one day enjoying the amenities offered here on a full time basis. Running about is much more fun than just lying around like a drone.

Some of the morning was spent wandering the shopping area and the beach around the resort. The women are always interested in the trinket shops, and my sister is no exception.

Jenny demonstrated the magic of the ATM machine. As she didn't bring any funds with her this was her method of acquiring currency. She just pushed a few buttons, and out popped money in the local currency, at the best exchange rate available to boot.. She could pull out 600€ (about $850) at a time which is a substantial amount.

I've never been one for ATM cards, but this seems like an excellent way to handle travel cash, and avoid traveler's checks. Monmument Arch I can't help but wonder if there aren't some ATM fees involved, oh well.

After awhile we left for Los Gigantes, and their wonderful yacht harbor. Along the way we took the time to photograph the monument and fountains we have been encountering over the past few days.

I really don't know anything about the arch, Monmument Woman other than it's a turnabout decoration. Lots of circles have some type of decoration adorning the center area, and generally they are quite large.

The woman however, is said to have gone to the sea, and brought back a basket full of fish to the starving people in her village. She carried the basket perfectly balanced on her head for many days to make the trip. Is it true? Maybe, at least that's what the lady said on the blanket tour.

We finally arrived at the yacht harbor, and we were early enough to get a parking space. Parking's at a premium you know. Harbor And that holds true for the whole island. They just don't invest in parking lots much.

We had lunch at the Harbor in one of the many restaurants, this one being Churchill's. I had a "Full English Breakfast" which is traditional throughout Europe. It consists of one egg, English bacon, a sausage, beans (Campbell's), maybe hash browns or French fries, and garnish. Actuall it's quite large, and some places Americanize it to two eggs. The girls had various sandwiches, one a sausage, and the other bacon. English bacon is almost like a thin slice of ham.

Fish In the water right outside the eatery, there were fish that would follow you up and down the wharf. We didn't have anything to feed them, but it was quite obvious that's what they were looking for. That proved to be quite correct when a restaurateur started throwing pieces of bread in the water. He definitely captured their attention.

We checked out the boat trips, and found a speed boat for hire that would take us out for two hours of Dolphin watching, and if we left on one of the two early excursions they would toss in some Pilot Whales as well. It would even include a snack and a drink.

At breakfast we got to talking with our waitress, and she recommended this excursion firm, and said to use here Jenny and Bettynn at Playground name to affect a discount. It was amazing, the price dropped from 15€, to 10€ per person at the mere mention of her name. We considered it quite a bargain. As reservations weren't really needed, we tentively planned to do it within the next two days.

Sunset We checked out some more of the shopping in the area, and in the process found a nice play area for the children. Behind the shops and restaurants, there are more of the same, and the overhead lofts are residential. We don't know if they are permanent residences or not, but suspect they are vacation rental units for families.

On the drive home, we stopped to take a picture of the sunset, or almost sunset. This was about eight o'clock at night, as the sun sets late here (like daylight saving time). The trip back took all of a half hour; we are getting very familiar with the area, and seldom get seriously lost any more.

BettyAnn has accused me of drinking excessively all day. Good grief, is five small cans of beer over the course of the day excessive while on vacation? If so, guess I'm guilty as charged.

As we had a large lunch, we had a light dinner at home. BettyAnn was tired, so Jenny and I went to the Banana Garden for Bannana Club yet another drink, and a little dancing. At 10:30 they had a Flamingo Dance Show, which was well done by professional dancers. Not being into flamingo dancing, we left in the middle of the show.

Returning to the resort pool, we had another drink, and sat through the late show their. They had a mediocre British comedian, and that ended about midnight. By then it was past time to go to bed, so we did.

Mon, Sep 17, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Dolphin and Whale watching

Somewhat early up today, we decided to do the whale watching excursion today so without much ado we headed out. The car has been running great, and we've sure made good use of it.

Once we arrived at the cliffs and purchased our tickets, we headed right to the boat. We didn't have a chance to charge BettyAnn's camera battery, so we used the video all day. This worked out okay because still cameras don't do well with action shots.

The trip was great, we saw whales on this trip as well, and I came prepared to do a little swimming off the boat, at the base of the cliffs. Which we did on the way back, the water was about 73°F so it was quite warm, except of course, when you first jumped in. That's always a shock unless the water is near body temperature.

After the trip was over we went to the beach. On the way I stopped at an electronics store and bought a new SD card, and a card reader. For some reason, yesterdays photos didn't download.

Hidden Beach It turned out that the reader in the laptop went belly up, so I needed the new reader. But I can always use an extra SD card too, so no problem.

On to the beach where we walked the full length and we got our feet wet, the beach was very nice, and because it was volcanic sand, it was black. Black absorbs heat, so the sand was much hotter than a white sandy beach would be. In other words, footwear was a necessity.

When we returned to the resort it was time to get dressed for dinner. We decided to explore the restaurant that was recommended to us last week, but we found that it was closed when we arrived.

But that was no problem because there was another fine restaurant right next door that was open, so that's where we ate. It seems that no matter where we go, the food is always quite good.

After dinner we stopped into the Banana Garden for the second night in a row. The show tonight was MoJo. They had a pretty good singer, but not to many songs were really well suited to dancing.

So we mainly sat and watch the show, which wasn't bad at all. There's no cover charge, but the drinks are priced Jim & BettyAnn Dancing high enough to offset that little problem.

A few of the songs were fine for dancing, and I was able to get my lovely wife out on the dance floor a time or two. Everybody seemed to have a good time because we stayed until after midnight.

Then it was back to our apartment, and off to bed so we would be well rested for our exciting day tomorrow.

Tues, Sep 18, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; To the Volcano.

Guess we overslept today a little, but nothing serious. After a quick home made breakfast, some laundry, and a few other odds and ends we set out.

Our destination today was a drive into the interior of the island to the top of the "inactive" volcano. Is there such a thing?

Below the clouds So we set out on TF-51, which soon turned into TF-51 right after passing through Arona, a small mountain town. Once we head inland, it doesn't take long to start climbing. We had a long trip ahead of us as we planned to go over the volcano, and pop out on the North coast at La Orotava. Then head down the coast to the Dragon Tree at Icod de Los Vinos. As we climbed the mountain we could see the clouds above us. As you can see, we were quite high when this first picture was taken

At this point it was about 1:30 in the afternoon, like I mentioned, we got a late start on this trip, which may turn out to be the most time consuming of them all. That is considering we don't know the roads and all.

The roads actually are as good as any main road on the island, that is two lanes, and very twisty. As I've said, Above the clouds if the tour busses can do it, it's a no brainer for an experienced driver like me. Anyway we trekked on and on and soon entered the national park of the Canadas (amazing, no fee). By this time we were above the clouds.

But we were not above the timber line yet. As we went higher, it wasn't long before we finally did go above the timber line. Looking down it was a comfortable feeling to see the soft clouds below us acting like a safety net.

Volcanic Rock formations 1 Once above the tree line, the landscape was mostly black lava rock, which appeared to be a prop of another planet in a science fiction movie. We stopped several time so wonder at the landscape before us.

It's difficult to describe the landscape, so we took several pictures along the way. After reviewing the photos for the day, it was apparent that we didn't take anywhere near enough of them.

Once we reached the top, the road leveled out for several miles, and at the top, or as near to From thetop of the volcano the top as we could get by car, there was a cable car. The cable car went all the way to the top, but the cost was close to $50 a ticket. So we discussed it between the three of us, and decided we were much too short of time, and it was excessively expensive. At least I felt it was a bit pricey.

Volcanic Rock formations 2 The last time this volcano erupted was in 1982, and the island was formed over thousands of years as a result of many eruptions. The creator is the largest in Europe and stands 3730 meters high.

There was a gift shop there, of course, so while the girls were busy checking it out, I read a book. After awhile they were done, and we continued on our way.

We traveled quite awhile before we actually left the park, and the landscape continued to amaze us. Eventually we reached the tree line and passed through the clouds, which appeared as heavy fog. Soon we were again below the clouds.

As we continued our descent down the mountain towards La Ovotava, we are able to see the Sea Scape going to Dragon Tree coast in the distance. When we arrive in La Ovotava we intersect TF-5, which eventually turns into TF-82.

This puts us on the road to Icod de Los Vinos where the famous dragon tree resides. As you may know, we have visited this area before during this vacation. My little sister hasn't seen this area yet, so it will be all new for her.

This entire trip is all windy mountain roads, leaving the national park and heading down the west coast doesn't make driving much easier. Actually it's sort of fun, like driving one of those mechanical driving machines, in driver's education, before computers were invented.

Jenny, BettyAnn and Jim At the Dragon Tree Eventually we made it to Los Vinos, where we managed to find the park the tree lives in without getting too lost. The park is surrounded by very old Canarian houses built along narrow cobblestone streets.

Also at this site is the monastery San Marcos which was built in the sixteenth century. Silver Cross in Church It houses a museum in which houses a silver cross, which was handmade in Mexico. The cross stands 1.5 Meters high, and is enclosed inside a case

Actually when we leave this area, we will have to travel several Km's through narrow one way streets to get back to the highway. The reason it's such a long distance is because the town is sort of like a puzzle, and we keep getting lost and going around in circles.

Eventually we manage to find our way out to the roadway, and continue down the coast El Tangue where the Camel Center is located. By the time we reach that point it's going on 5:30 in the afternoon.

The camel center is closed, and all the camels have been put to bed, or whatever camels do when there not working. This was somewhat of a disappointment because Jenny was looking forward to seeing this attraction

We have no idea what the significance of camels in the Canary Islands might be. It seems that the locals don't have an answer for it either. So, with no further ado, we continued traveling towards the town of Satiago del Teide where fig trees are grown, and harvested. Once we arrive there, it appears that the sun is starting to get very low I the sky.

Interesting Building Not wanting to be caught on the winding roads after dark, we bypass the cliffs of Gigantes, where we spent a wonderful day yesterday, and head for Los Americas, our home away from home.

Once on final approach, we pass an interesting domed building. We haven't a clue as to what it might be. So far we have not found an access to the building. Once we reach the next exit, there is an impassable gully that would lie in the path of any return to the domed building. I guess it's going to remain a mystery.

Once home we quickly showered and changed for dinner, tonight the recommended restaurant was open, and we had a fine meal. Let's see, I had a fillet, and the girls had the fish special, which came with salad, potatoes, wine and desert, it was way to much to eat.

It was just a short time later that we were all sound asleep.

Wed, Sep 19, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Back to see more Dolphins.

I had promised BettyAnn that we would return to The Cliffs of Gigantes to do another stint of whale watching. The first departure time is at 11 AM so there was no rush to get there. Today we made sure that her still camera was fully charged so she could use it on the trip, and I used the video camera.

We slept in a little, because there was no rush as long as we left by 9:30 or 9:45 in the morning. After a small breakfast at home we did a few unrelated things, then packed the necessities needed for the boat trip. Like bottled water, cameras, towels, and underwear should we feel that it's needed after swimming.

I had forgotten to pack shorts, so all I had was a swimming suite. I purchased another here locally, BettyAnn drives the boat and have been practically living in them for the past two weeks, using the wash and rinse method. The new pair that was purchased suffered a wardrobe malfunction almost immediately, thus the need for underwear. But not when swimming, because it takes them to long to dry.

When we finally arrived, and got our tickets, we went to the boat to get good seats. But as luck would have it, everyone beat us to it. In fact the boat was really crowded today, so BettyAnn thought she had better drive.

Pilot Whale The Captain wouldn't allow it, and she was asked to step down under threat of mutiny charges. Finally after awhile we got under way, and we traveled to the whale habitat at a high Rate of speed. The whales we were looking at today were pilot whales. They swim about, coming to the surface periodically to entertain us by blowing water out there blow hole. As they don't move very fast it's quite easy to capture them with a still camera.

I was able to get lots of good video of the whales and the dolphins, too much probably. Unfortunately the dolphins part of the show was still very elusive as far as still pictures were concerned, so none were successfully taken.

The Sardine Can Another boat was on site during all this, we dubbed it the "Sardine Can" on our last trip. This was because it always seemed to be seriously overloaded. The boat is a clever tourist attraction for those that prefer such things, but it's high in the water, and when it reaches the swimming area, access back aboard is up a couple of rung ladders set over the side. Russian Training Ship This doesn't seem very old person friendly to me.

After an hour or so of this nonsense, we headed towards the cliffs, and the swimming area ourselves.

On the way we were treated to a Russian Navel Training Sail Ship, we took several pictures as we circled the vessel. It was very large, as you can tell by the size of the life boats mounted on the lowering derricks. It obviously has engines because of the stack, unless that's just for a fireplace in the Captains cabin.

So, onward to the cliffs where those that can swim will be afforded the chance to do so. Rock Formation The cliffs are spectacular, and this type of trip is one of our favorite activities. Aside from shopping that is.

Swimming here is a good experience, the water is salty of course, but it's also more buoyant so there's less chance of sinking. Our boat was really full today, but for the most part, just the young pretty people went swimming. Guess I was the only old Jim Swimming fat guy to go in, except for the resident park ranger. He swam out to the boat to bring some of the local fruit for the crew. Don't ask me where he got it, because all I could see was rock. The water was about the same as it was the other day, that was warm, but not uncomfortably so. They provided goggles so we could see underwater, unfortunately no snorkels were provided which made breathing difficult. No sharks were seen; in fact I didn't see any fish in the immediate area at all.

Then the trip back, along the base of the cliff is always nice. The captain pulled up to the cliff wall Cliff and pointed out the crabs that lived their. They were small, and moved rather slowly, but then they weren't being threatened.

When we arrived back at the yacht harbor, we went around back of the shops, Shops and Apartments where there were more shops, and residential apartments. The living units are three stories above the shops, and seem to be rather nice. I didn't see any elevators though.

I imagine that would make moving any furniture in and out rather difficult. But then on the other hand, when I was small, my Dad rented upper duplex flats, we moved periodically, and managed just fine.

Black Sand Beach At the end of the apartments and shops is the beach we found on our last trip here, we thought we would visit it as this would most likly be the last time we would come to this place. There was a nice restaurant, with a patio over looking the beach from which this photo was taken. I managed to get down and stroll the water line while Bannanas my little sister took the chance to sun bath. In fact, she didn't go on the boat trip with us, so had two hours to work on her tan while we were on the water.

After an hour or so of this, we started back over the high cliffs towards our temporary home in Las Americas. On the way home we made a stop so that BettyAnn could photograph a bunch of bananas hanging from a banana tree. These are a cash crop here, the larger ones going to Europe, and the smaller tastier ones remaining in the Canary Islands.

As we approached home we shot another photo of the resort, this time from the back, with the ocean behind it. The resort has been a great place to home base from. Many people come here for a week or two and never leave the resort, choosing to spend there time at poolside, or engaging in the resorts planned activities

Resort Hotel Returning to the apartment we showered the salt off ourselves, and then off to dinner. We returned to the restaurant that we ate at yesterday. My sister Jenny had the fillet this time, and BettyAnn and I split the fish dinner.

After dinner it was still early, and the ladies wanted to go to a new shopping district that they had seen. I returned to the apartment to read. They wanted to walk back so they wouldn't miss any of the shopping opportunities that might present themselves along the way.

When they returned, we called it a night.

Thu, Sep 20, 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Packing day.

Well, well, today's our packing day, but no worries. We have all day to pack so guess we'll go shopping. There was a flea market that we ran into the other day, and BettyAnn ordered a bracelet. She's to pick it up today at the flea market in Las Americas.

It took us a long time to locate the market place because of the one way streets, and traffic circles. It always looks so simple on a map, but when the map is promotional, and the streets are exaggerated it's not simple at all.

But find it we did, and then there was the problem of parking. The points for turning around were about a mile and a half apart. So we just shuttled back and forth until we found someone pulling out. Once parked, everything was fine.

BettyAnn at Flea Market We went up and down the rows of venders, looking for the volcanic jewelry booth. During our travels, BettyAnn found a booth selling gold. The hunchback running the booth was just finishing up abusing his last customer when he spotted BettyAnn loitering around his space.

I warned her to get away quick, but she had to ask the price of something, just like a lamb led to slaughter. The earrings were 18ct gold and the price was 125€, of course she said no thank you, and started walking away. The vendor put them in a bag, and ran in front of her shouting okay 70€. At this time he was still blocking her way, at least a space away from his own booth.

Well, the price went all the way down to 20€, when he accused her of assaulting him. When BettyAnn asked what he meant by that, he replied you touch, you pick up, you ask price, and you don't buy. BettyAnn replied, if anything your assaulting me, now get out of my way.

Now keep in mind that this flea market was so crowded that it was difficult to move down the isles. Everyone in the area was getting a real kick out of this jerk making a fool of him self. He finally realized how stupid he sounded, and in his frustration threw the earrings on the ground. He finally picked them up, and slinked back to his cubical and awaited his next victim.

We continued up and down the isles looking for the volcanic earring man with no luck. Restrurant at Flea Market When we finished, BettyAnn said lets do it again, and I told her "you go ahead, and I would wait at the restaurant across the street".

Meanwhile Jenny, my sister had disappeared, but I figured everything would work out in the end. Which it did. I had a beer and a sandwich, BettyAnn found her volcanic earring man, as well as my sister.

Jenny bought half of a new bathing suit, and guess which half. Yep, the bottom half, all that was required for sun bathing here in Tenerife. It could only happen in Europe.

Market place near hotel We then returned home to start our packing, but the maid wanted the room. So Jenny went sun bathing down at the pool, and we went to a shopping center to occupy our time while the room was cleaned. When we returned we packed everything that wouldn't be needed for the trip home.

The last supper BettyAnn finally talked me into a swim in the resort pool, so I swam a few laps. Now I can't claim to have boycotted the resorts amenities.

This is the day we finish everything in the refrigerator, so there won't be any formal dinner tonight, just snacks. BettyAnn slaved out in the kitchen, and really put together a nice dinner with what meager leftovers there were.

After dinner consisting of leftovers, we packed the car for the trip to the airport tomorrow morning. Once we were convinced that all the luggage would fit, we relaxed a bit. We didn't have milk for breakfast in the morning, so Jenny and I drove to the 24 hour grocery store up the street. All the stores in and around the resort had closed.

We finally made it to bed about Midnight with a 3:00 AM up time ahead of us

Fri, Sep 21 2007: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Travel day

A hectic day ahead, trying to get everyone motivated to jump into the car to go to the airport some 70 Km north of Las Americas. It's nice to be headed home, but a 12 hour airplane ride early in the morning isn't something to make one leap for joy. Finally we were all packed and loaded into the car, so we set out.

Things are much different when driving at night, and there's almost no traffic to speak of. We knew the signage to the connecting highway near Santa Cruz was all screwed up, and very misleading, but I didn't want to do the "Highway Shuffle" act again like we did when my sister came in. We missed the throw from the turnabout the first time, and ended up heading back south.

Turning around we tried again, this time we took the second thro off the turnabout, and guess what, it was the right one. The rest of the trip went well.

Once we reached the airport it was almost 5 AM, to our dismay, we discovered that the airport was closed, and wouldn't open until 6 AM. Lucky we had the car, where we could all huddle, and keep warm.

BettyAnn and Jenny, Baggage Check-in at Tenerife By the time the building opened, the multitudes had arrived, so we ended up at the end of a long line to check our luggage. When it was our turn to checked in, there wasn't even a murmur about being over weight. Missing our flight from Madrid sure was a bad mistake in a lot more ways than one.

Aircraft boarding was at 7:00 AM, and that was at the same time that the auto rental office opened in another part of the building. Naturally, first thing in the morning, they were about as quick as molasses at midnight on New Years day in Alaska. Finally after much ado, and rushing around, I was the last person to board the plane.

Finally we were all aboard for the trip back to Madrid. The first leg was on an island hopping airline of Spanish decent. They offered food, but it was at 5.00€ a crack, having had a good breakfast of corn flakes and the local bananas we decided to skip it. They even had the nerve to charge for coffee and water (bottled) on this flight. Once in Madrid the transfer to US Air was uneventful, except that the security stiffened a bit, and the walk to the new terminal was over a mile. Quite a feat, with only an hour and a half layover, but we huffed and puffed our way through it.

We met the second officer on the US Air flight out of Madrid, but the captain was busy kicking Second Officer the tires or something, so he wasn't available for pictures. Once aboard US Air, we were more comfortable with the knowledge that at least now if we missed a connection we would be in the USA.

Speaking of security, BettyAnn didn't get off free. She lost her water bottle on the first flight even though it wasn't liquid (it was frozen). And she lost her hair spray on the second leg out of Madrid. One lady was quite ticked off; it seems that they confiscated all her liquids, including Channel #5 perfume, along with other expensive body care creams. I can't help but think she may have treated the security officers a bit abrasively.

During the trip across the Atlantic, they had movies on demand, a wonderful feature, and they were free. We watched three of them before landing time in Philadelphia. They also provided a hot lunch after takeoff, and a snack before landing, in addition to the normal complimentary beverages.

Philadelphia was a nightmare, after passport control we had to claim our entire luggage, and haul it to customs. The luggage trolleys are overpriced at a $3.00 rental fee each, but even as heavy as we were this trip, we only needed one. Once through customs, we had to recheck the luggage, another line to wait in. Naturally we needed to go through security all over again because we had had access to our luggage. It's a good thing that our layover in Philadelphia was two and a half hours.

It was here that my sister, Jenny, parted company, as she was heading to Nashville, and we, to our home in Phoenix. So we did the kissy face crap all over again, and then went our separate ways. The trip to our connecting flight was not much different than it was at Madrid, a long Huffy Puffy haul. I rather expected one of those cute little handicap trams to be operating, but we didn't run across one until we were thirty or forty feet from the gate.

Once we were settled into our seats, and the airplane took off, we watched another movie. The movies that we saw were all pretty good, and they made the time pass quickly. The airline food was back up to $5.00 a shot, so we conserved our meager remaining resources. It wasn't long before the airplane tilted forward slightly on a long decent into Sky Harbor Airport.

All our luggage arrived with us, that in it's self is somewhat of a miracle, it just took time to fetch it all from the carrousel. Once everything was accounted for, we made the short trip to the street several times, and waited for Don to pick us up.

Don generally waits at the lot until we call on our cell phone. Luckily I was able to call my daughter from a pay phone in Philadelphia to alert her that we didn't have our phones, so she relayed this to Don long before he left for the airport. Being thus alerted, he orbited the terminal after the flight had landed.

So, at long last, we set foot inside our own home, and were greeted by the seven K9's that reside there. Our daughter managed to sleep through the ruckus. From the time we arrived at the airport in Tenerife at 5:00 AM, until we stepped into our home in Phoenix at 9:30 PM, twenty-four and a half hours had elapsed, and we crossed eight time zones while chasing the sun. The vacation was a great adventure, and we learned a lot about missing airplanes.

Thank you for your kind attention.