All posts by Vickie

Family

My father –  rather, the man I called my father – passed away.  My husband went over for their weekly visit and there was no answer at the door or the phone.  When he opened the door to find him “sleeping” on the couch with an ashen face and cold to the touch, all his nightmares came true.  He is glad that I am not the one who opened that door but I know it was hard for him.

People ask if they can bring food — takethemameal.com — great invention.  People ask if there is anything they can do.  I have made those same gestures myself.

But really, what can anyone do?  You are sitting there in a daze and have to keep reminding yourself that you should really be doing something.  But when you pull yourself out of the daze to cancel the payments, the cable, the telephone, notify the landlord and regular things that need to be done..  everyone wants a copy of the death certificate.  You don’t get that for about 10 days.

What do I do for 10 days?  Life goes on but somehow I can’t really participate 100%.  I am really good at Scarlet O’Hara’s “I’ll think about it tomorrow”.   I am scatter brained and hope that I made sense to someone and that I don’t mess stuff up too bad.  I have re-read lots of books, nothing of substance because I just want to lose myself in a fantasy world.

Update your will.

Pre-plan your own funeral.

Hug your loved ones and don’t miss any opportunity to tell them that you love them.

Re-join the world, just a few hours at a time.

 

Packing for Portugal & Spain

I spent quite a bit of time researching and trying to figure out what to pack for our trip. We traveled in late April / early May.  Hope this helps you pack for your trip!

Here is a list of what I packed:

  1. Black pants (they are yoga pants but they aren’t tight on my legs and they pass for dress pants – daughter approved)
  2. Gray pants (similar to the black pants)
  3. White pants – got them on clearance from Travel Smith – they are so comfortable I wish I had 2 pair! http://www.travelsmith.com/original-fit-colored-twill-pants
  4. Jeans
  5. 3 pairs of shorts in the same shade as each pair of pants (black, white, jeans) — I only wore 1 pair of shorts but several people in our group wore them more often.
  6. A dress shirt that matched both the black pants and the white pants — wore this to our farewell dinner.
  7. Enough Shirts to wear each one twice
  8. 3 scarves to wear with my plain t-shirts (mix-n-match)
  9. Cardigan for the plane and evenings – brought the one that doesn’t wrinkle easily and is easily stuffed into my bag.
  10. Black warmer jacket
  11. Rain Poncho — also from Travel Smith — http://www.travelsmith.com/tso-stowaway-poncho.  Another lady in our group had one from REI bicycle area and hers looked very nice as well.  This is also easily stuffed into my bag when not in use.
  12. Walking shoes – my research said that women in Europe do not wear tennis shoes — our guide agreed but I saw many tennis type shoes for sale in the shops and I saw many people wearing them.
  13. Chargers and Two converters — good thing because 1 broke!
  14. Sinus medication — packed extra and I am so glad — it was a late spring and my sinuses were very active.
  15. Lotion — I come from a humid climate and it was very dry there — so glad I had some good quality lotion because the lotion provided in the hotels is ok but not great.
  16. Snacks
  17. 31 Vary You bag that turns into a backpack.  I don’t like the backpack very much but I do like the extra zippered pouch that pick-pockets cannot get into.  The inside compartment is large enough for my cardigan and rain jacket and tissues and hand sanitzer and more.
  18. ATM card — super easy to use and get money.  Credit Card in case I had problems with the ATM card.  Don’t forget to notify your bank before you leave!
  19. Travel steamer — what a great idea — it doesn’t really wash out stains but it kills all the germs in the clothes so when I wanted to wear something a second time, I steamed it and told Mom that I was “doing my laundry”.
  20. Bus Bag / Plane bag — this was a easily folded-up bag that I used to carry the airplane pillow, blanket, books etc on the airplane.  While touring I used it for anything I wanted to have with me but not carry around, like the rain poncho or walking shoes and anything I bought.  I bought it on clearance from Travel Smith but I liked the lightweight bag my mom had better — it just crumpled up and fit into her purse or suitcase.
  21. Sunscreen — needed it almost every day

Here is a list of what I wish I had packed:

  1.  An umbrella to go with my poncho.  Sometimes it just sprinkled a little bit and a small umbrella would have been nice instead of having to get in and out of the poncho.
  2. Puffs-plus.  I had sinus problems and remembered to bring the medication but had a difficult time finding soft tissue.
  3. Charmin Toilet Paper – not going to discuss this but I think you understand
  4. Wash Cloth
  5. Second pair of walking shoes — just one pair was not enough.

Things I didn’t need:

  1.  Shampoo, conditioner, soap — provided by every hotel.  I would only pack a single sample of each in case of an emergency.

Good Ideas / Bad Ideas:

  1. I was concerned that eating lunch at 2pm and dinner at 8pm would cause me problems but after the first week I didn’t need any additional snacks.  I would still take snacks but not quite so many — plenty of stores around if I needed to restock.
  2. I wore flip-flops on the plane — that was also a great idea!
  3. Pack your toothbrush & toothpaste in your carry-on.   After the over-night flight you will be happy you did!
  4. Leave room in your suitcase for purchases or bring stuff you will use, leaving extra room in your suitcase.

 

If you decide to take a trip with OAT, please tell them I referred you — you will save $100 off your next trip and so will I !!  My Vacation Ambassador number is: 001963943M

 

Day 15 – Madrid

Today is our last day in Spain.  We are free to explore the city on our own and we decided to walk around without worry and if we got lost we would take a taxi back to the hotel.

We made our way to the Plaza del Sol and the Plaza Mayor, both places we had been yesterday.  We walked uphill & downhill & into some stores & had a small sandwich & walked some more.  Apparently I had learned more from yesterday’s guide than I thought because we kept seeing the landmarks she pointed out and finding our way back to the Plaza del Sol.Last day 20160510_115257 web

In the Plaza there are lots of people dressed as characters and will take pictures with you, they would like a donation of course.  None of them are exactly right and most if them are way too tall.  We saw Mickey, Minnie, Pooh, Mario, Luigi, Olaf and more.  There was also a guy balancing on a motorcycle.  At first we though he was balancing on his arms but then we decided he was laying on something and just keeping his arms and legs extended.

Our farewell dinner was preceded by a Flamenco demonstration and learning time, the history of the dance is pretty cool. It is important to pronounce the “c” as a “k” and not a “g”. It is a dance and not a bird.  At t20160510_184656he end Mom volunteered to learn the dance, she said she did it to embarrass me but she really did it to have fun.

We had a fabulous and incredibly loud dinner.  The room had an oval ceiling and the sound was everywhere.  I guess we sounded like a Spanish party.  The food was good and of course there was plenty of wine.  When we returned to the hotel, we all said goodbye and promised to email pictures.

All that is left is a long travel day.

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If you decide to take a trip with OAT, please tell them I referred you — you will save $100 off your next trip and so will I !!  My Vacation Ambassador number is: 001963943M

Day 14 – Explore Madrid

Tour of Madrid this morning.  We started by bus and ended by walking.

There is an Egyptian temple of rah in the middle of the city..  I don’t know what that is about.  She told us when it was moved here and all about that but she didn’t tell us why it is here.

Our guide’s voice made me sleepy when we were on the bus and when we were walking around she walked very fast and then stood and waited for us.  There are some pretty steep hills and it is so crowded here that it is hard to stay together as a group.  As she spoke to us, she kept turning around to make sure we all heard but instead, we all heard a little of it instead of all of it.  She was not my favorite guide and I did not figure out how to go anywhere even though she kept giving us directions.

This afternoon there are no spalace web(2)cheduled activities so palace web(1)Mom and I decided to tour the palace.  It is still an active palace and you can only tour it when the royal family is not using it.  We only got to see about 20 of the 2000+ rooms but it was still a big place.  The courtyard is huge and can open up to the cathedral next door.  There is a large staircase when you enter and there is a huge courtyard in the center of the building that we got to look over from the windows.  Every ceiling is painted but my favorite was a 3D ceiling.  They would not allow pictures so I can only tell you that it was pretty cool.  They also had umbrellas for us to use when we crossed the courtyard to the main building — that was a nice touch.

After a short siesta, Pilar took us for hot chocolate and churros.  It is like a cup of melted dark chocolate and you dip fried bread into it.  Much too rich for me.

Then mom and some of the other ladies went to the bull fight.  She has described it to me and I am glad I did not go but she says she had to experience it one time.

We did not stay at a Parador or Pousada in Madrid, it was a hotel.  At this hotel we had access to the rooftop gardens and pool — we went to look at it but the rain and the cold kept us from staying there long.  We also had access to a club room with some snacks and drinks.  I spent some time in this room with the other people from the group while Mom was at the bullfight.  It was pretty cool to just hang out with these world travelers and find out about their other trips and experiences.  It was also nice to stop by the club room for a cold water, coke or beer (no wine here because wine is associated with food) and little snack when returning from walking around Madrid — made a great place to meet people from the group and find out what they did that day.

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Day 13 – Overland to Madrid * Explore Toledo

 

 

Travel day…

It is first communion Sunday and our lunch restaurant was hosting 19 lunches starting around 2p.m. or later.  The lunches are huge affairs that look much like a wedding reception and the little girls (about 9 years old & had their first communion today) are dressed in white frilly dresses and the boys (also about 9 years old & who had their first communion today) are dressed in sailor type outfits.  We arrived at 12:30 and many of the family and friends were at the front patio area havi6 escalators to top webng a drink and just hanging out talking until the lunch time, the kids were running around playing.  Interesting tradition.

On to tour Toledo (toe lay doe).  Cool set of about 6 escalators going about 3/4 of the way up the hill and then we walked the rest of the way to the cathedral.  Steep hills but they didn’t hurt as bad as they did on the first day…  Finally getting used to it I guess.  This cathedral had some pretty cool paintings that had all sorts of incorrect timing things wrong with it, for example a spanish suit of armor and a piece of paper during Bible times.  Apparently that is was how Greko painted.  Our guide, Carlos, was very informative and interesting.

After a few more stops, we drove to a point in the city where we could see the entire city.  Very beautiful!

6 20160508_173356 web

Here we are in Madrid, our last hotel before we head home.  Mom wants you to know that in her opinion, the bidet is a waste of bathroom real estate.

After exploring the backroads of Iberia, the city is loud and crowded.  Many people here speak English and the Starbucks and Dunkin are next to each other across the street from our hotel.  The waiter at the restaurant spoke to us in English and we said the words we know…   Gracias, Cervesa, and Vino Tinto. I imagine the breakfast buffet will have choices of things we like to eat and maybe some good coffee (if not, I know where I can find some).

Day 12 – A Day in the Life of an Andalusian Village * Explore Ubeda

okivetrees web olivegroves2 web

Olive oil..  Wow
The things I will remember without my notes:
* 50% of the worlds olive oil is produced in Spain
* There is an expiration date on the back of the bottle
* Use regular olive oil to cook and use extra virgin or virgin oil to flavor bread, salad, etc
* It has a spicy after taste

Cool, huh??

Home Hosted lunch today.  We were broken into groups for lunch.  Each group had 5 Euros to buy something from the grocery store to bring to the hostess.  Our group bought empanadas for 4.99..  still warm from the oven.  We thought it was a dessert but turns out these were tuna instead of fruit so we brought an appetizer..  Lol.

The lunch was so so so very good … 👍YUM

After a short Siesta we took a walk around the city and saw a few of the 10 churches (only a couple of priests who travel around) then several of us visited a hidden sinagog..  Tour was in Spanish but the tour guide was so nice she told us some things in English.

Then we went out for drinks and tapas.  When you order a glass of wine they bring you food.  Some places bring olives or nuts but this place brought tiny sandwiches the first time and open faced sandwiches the second time.  If you have 2 glasses of wine, you have had dinner.  (Still takes two hours).

Another good day!