Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TPThursday: Spain’s “La Fiesta Brava”

Today in History, a regular feature in the Seattle Times, began Tuesday with:

“1947: Legendary bull fighter Manolete died after being gored during a fight in Linares, Spain; he was 30.”

Bullfighting, ‘la fiesta brava’ ; the centuries old cultural icon of Spain is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ topics these days among tourists and locals alike. But still it is interesting that 65 years later, the death of  Spain’s famed young matador, Manuel Laureano Rodrigues Sanchez, -- better known as Manolete* – is still worthy of note on an international scale.

Although we spent several weeks in Spain last year, we didn’t  attend a bullfight; not as a political statement, but out of a desire not to watch an animal – or perhaps human -  be killed. 

But that isn’t to say we weren’t fascinated by the importance of the bullfight to this country’s culture and history. After all, the first recorded bullfight in Spain was in 711 AD at the crowning of King Alfonso VIII.

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Our stay in Madrid was during its May Fiesta de San Isidro. A highlight of the many celebrations the fiesta encompasses are the bullfights in its Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas – one of the largest bullfight rings in the world.

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Bullfights, or corridas, take place almost daily during the festival and many were televised for the enjoyment of the masses, much like football and baseball games in the United States and soccer (futbol) in Europe.
(Look closely at the two photos above and you’ll  see I photographed a television screen.)

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I photographed this sign in Madrid promoting toreras (female bullfighters)  because I thought it was something new. Silly me, they’ve been around for centuries  -- yes, centuries -- I’ve since learned.  Even the famed Manolete shared billing with a female during a  1930’s bullfight according to one internet account.

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In Seville we joined a tour group visit of  the famed Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza (Paseo de Cristobal Colon 12, Tickets for the tours can be purchased at the box office there.

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This 14,000 seat edifice is one of the largest in Spain and hosts fights every Sunday from Easter Sunday to early October.

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Our multi-lingual tour guide explained the history and the procedural aspects of bullfighting to the handful of people on the tour. The tour concluded with a stop in  the on-site bullfighting museum.

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The museum is a walk through the corridos history– walls filled with paintings, sculptures as pictured above, the outfits and equipment worn by some of the more famous bull fighters as well as a tribute to the more famous bulls as well.

We spotted one of the most clever pieces of street art we’ve seen on our travels while in Madrid. It seemed the perfect photo to end this Travel Photo Thursday post:


A couple of notes about bullfighting in Spain:
Barcelona’s leaders voted to end that city’s 600 year tradition of bullfights; its last bullfight was held  in September 2011. The first recorded bullfight there was in 1387. 

*Manolete, was considered by some to be Spain’s greatest bullfighter.  A book by Barnaby Conrad, “The Death of Manolete” has just been republished. Conrad also produced a You Tube video called The Day Manolete Was Killed.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Meanderings: A Second Helping of Bologna

The night we spent in Bologna, Italy as part of a return to Seattle from Venice a few years ago wasn’t enough. 

The snippet of a taste we had – Roman ruins, great food and wine, architecture – was enough to draw us back this fall for a ‘full meal deal’ taste of this gourmand land known for its stuffed pastas and 'Bolognese' sauce. 

We’ve extended our ‘land-time’ prior to the cruise from Rome which allows a visit to Bologna. After successfully changing our frequent-flier mile airline seats, The Scout (that’s Joel) went to work on finding accommodations there.

An apartment named Cassiopea, in central Bologna, won out over the dozens of other options he perused.  Joel was taken with the more than 40 reviews singing its praises and I was sold when this photo came up as part of the information:

A flower trimmed deck for morning espresso and afternoon wine will sell me on a place every time.  We’ve booked this  little Italian ‘home away from home’ on a quiet side street with a view to the hills beyond town for four nights.

One of the previous guests wrote that the La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese cooking school is nearby and an afternoon lesson and tasting there shouldn’t be missed. Others wrote about places to visit and people watching in the piazza each night.  Will we have time to fit it all in?

The photos in this post are courtesy of the apartment owners/hosts, Anna Rita and Piero.  I’m not showing you all the apartment views yet, but those of you who know what animal lovers we are, will understand why the second photo --  after the one of the deck -- to catch my eye was this one:

Portraits with cats and dogs line the walls. We've learned through our email exchange since booking the apartment that these works are Anna Rita’s.  A quick visit to her web site shows she’s an artist who loves animals as much as we do.  If you want to see more of the art (or videos of her furry ones) just follow this link:

One of the best benefits of this type of rental is getting to know real people. On the flip side, renting any place – hotel or apartment – does requires a somewhat moderate leap of faith; you hope photos and reviews are truthful. In the case of Cassiopea the reviews not only sing praises of the place but of the people as well.

One guest proclaimed, “It was like staying with the most wonderful cousin you could ever have.” And in my mind that said a lot. I suspect that our stay in Cassiopea will only make us want another – bigger -- serving of Bologna the next time!

If You Go:

We found Cassiopea on  Vacation Rental By Owner where deposit and payment is accomplished using Pay Pal.  It is also listed on the French-based site, Homelidays, or on Perfect Places.  

Bologna is about 2.5 hours from Rome and a half hour from Florence by fast train. For more information visit the city's user-friendly website:  Bologna Welcome.

Map picture

Now that you know we’ll be in Bologna, do you have some recommendations for us?  What shouldn’t we miss while there?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

WAWeekend: Breakfast Thrills at Blueberry Hills

ChelanManson 013While ‘thrills’ might be a tad bit dramatic for our favorite breakfast stop east of Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, it is a place not to be missed.  (And get there early or prepare for lines like this one!)

The quality -- and quantity -- of food, the views and its location, just outside Manson on Lake Chelan put Blueberry Hills on our recommended list and keep it there year after year.

ChelanManson 006Set back a couple miles from the lake shore and surrounded by orchards and vineyards, this eatery overlooking 10 acres of some 3,000 blueberry bushes, packs them in each morning come rain or shine.

ChelanManson 008Arrive early to nab a table on the outside deck in summer months at this family-owned operation.  Sitting there, you can watch others in the ‘you pick’ field or enjoy the view of  the area’s well-known, Slide Ridge, pictured here.

ChelanManson 011 And take note dog lovers:  they’ve got a special gate on the deck, just for four-legged furry ones.

Owners Roger and Linda Sorensen converted the family’s homestead and apple orchard to blueberries in 1999.  They’d originally planned to operate a fruit stand, but one thing led to another and the restaurant serving ‘down home scratch country cooking’ evolved.

ChelanManson 004You'll serve yourself beverages here and pick up your flatware as well. And then – if you didn’t nab an outside table, you settle in at a table amid a most eclectic collection of memorabilia to await the arrival of the food you ordered at the counter when you arrived.

ChelanManson 015Finally, when you reluctantly push yourself away from the table (some chairs have had rollers added to ease that effort), don't forget to buy a piece of berry pie (or a whole one) to take with you or, in season, the berries themselves.

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If you go: 
Blueberry Hills is at 1315 Washington Street, Manson, 98831, 509-687-2329,
Overnight accommodations are available both in nearby Manson, or Chelan just a bit further away.  For lodging information contact the Lake Chelan Visitors Center.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TPThursday: Searching for Duende in Seville

Duende.  A Spanish concept as hard to define as it is to find.

But I was bound and determined to find it last year in Andalucia.

Prior to our trip, I was inspired by the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca who discussed the elusive concept in the book “In Search of Duende” (A New Direction Pearls publishers, 1975).

Lorca described duende ‘as a power, not a work. . .a struggle, not a thought.’ Likening it to a demonic ‘earth spirit that captures an artist, be it a bullfighter, Flamenco dancer or musician’  in such a manner as to cause an emotional – even physical response – by the audience.

In theory, we would know it was duende when we found it.

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With our legal and journalist backgrounds, finding such a thing would be a stretch of our ‘fact and figures’ approach to life. I anticipated it would require attending a bull fight or a flamenco performance to even have a chance at experiencing duende, but then as we walked back to our hotel in Seville late one night. . .

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We saw through the open back door of a tavern that is was packed with men in dark robes with colorful sashes, patches and a few tassels. We’d noticed similar dress on a few people we’d passed earlier on the street. It sounded like they were having fun, so curiosity – or was it that rascal duende – led us inside for a closer look . . .

DCVegasSeville2011 241. . .at the red and white sashes, the patches and other adornments on  their outfits:

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It didn’t matter that we were the only English speaking twosome in their midst; certainly the only Americans.  In our broken English/Spanish conversation we think they told us they were from various universities, they gathered annually at different locations in Spain.

DCVegasSeville2011 245To this day and despite Google searches we still aren’t sure exactly who they were or what they did, why they gather, or why they were in town. 

But sometimes that really isn’t important when you think back on an experience. . .

Especially when it was an experience like no other we had in Spain because when they picked up their instruments and began to play music. . .and sing. . .

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The atmosphere changed as first one and then others picked up instruments and joined in. . .

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The man in the center, a patron at the bar, requested a particular song and they began to sing it. . .

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A song of such power and emotion that soon the patron – with a deep, strong voice – had joined in. . .

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Here I should note that earlier in the evening Joel had told the woman in the photo that I had been searching for duende on this trip. . .

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We were caught up by the music’s intensity, the vibrancy in the small place, the spontaneity of the continuing song-fest . . .

DCVegasSeville2011 254Duende?”
You want duende?” 
This, . . . this, is duende!” she said to me.

But she didn’t need to tell me that.
I knew it was duende – I’d felt it too.

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“But there are neither maps nor exercises to help us find the duende. . . .
The great artists of the south of Spain, whether Gypsy or flamenco, whether they sing, dance or play, know that no emotion is possible unless the duende comes. . .”
- Federico Garcia Lorca

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Have you ever searched for something so elusive in your travels? Did you find it?

It’s Travel Photo Thursday so head over to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox.  Hope you also sign up to receive our posts in your email or become a follower of TravelnWrite. . .thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Meanderings: Footloose in Victoria B.C.

The Inner Harbor and its surrounding neighborhoods in Victoria B.C. are a walker’s paradise. Free, easy and definitely, scenic. We filled our recent three-day stay with strolls through some of the most interesting places; places like:
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1. Ogdon Point Breakwater – a 2,500-foot-long breakwater that stretches out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca; an art walk in itself as murals  along its side, created by First Nations artists, showcase the local native history.  It also provides great views to the Washington State Olympics – on sunnier days than we had.
Ogdon Point is near the cruise ship terminal just a bit beyond the Inner Harbor. We wound our way on tree-lined sidewalks past the ferry landing on the Inner Harbor and through a charming neighborhood to reach it.

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2.  Fisherman’s Wharf and Floating Homes – We couldn’t resist a stop here as it is conveniently located between Ogden Point breakwater and the Inner Harbor.   Time and again locals have told us not to miss the fish and chips to be had here at one of its several floating eateries. I don’t know how those who live here can resist those wafting food smells. . .

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3.  We could spend hours just walking along and watching the activities of the Inner Harbor where artisans display their work and street musicians entertain.  Whale watching tours depart, chartered boats tie up  and the tiny water taxis, the Victoria Harbour Ferry, that regularly zip across the harbor all have stops here. Tourists and locals stroll the walkway no matter what the season.

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This is one of those tiny little ferry boats picking up passengers over at Fisherman’s Wharf.  When being ‘footloose’ tires you out, just catch one and see the sights from the water.

CashmereVictoriaBC 201Stop by Victoria’s Visitor Center, 812 Wharf Street, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It also on the Inner Harbor and pick up a map before setting out to explore.

Or start planning right now by visiting :

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

WAWeekend: Wine ‘Tasting and Toting’

Tasting and toting in Washington Wine Country just got easier thanks to a new program announced yesterday.

Tourism Walla Walla, Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau, and Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance announced the launch of a new collaborative effort with Alaska Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to promote Washington Wine Country.

Map picture

Launching September 2012, Washington Wine Country Taste and Tote will make it easier and more affordable to taste and travel the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla Valley wine regions.

DCVegasSeville2011 157As part of this new partnership, Alaska Airlines will expand its existing wine check-in program Taste and Tote to the Yakima and Pasco/Tri-Cities airports.

Originating in the Walla Walla Valley in late 2011, this program allows outbound passengers to check their first case of wine free on their return flight. In addition, Enterprise Rent-A-Car will waive car drop-off fees for visitors flying on Alaska Airlines into Yakima, Pasco or Walla Walla regional airports who wish to fly out of one of the other two airports.

WARoadTrip2012 198"The Taste and Tote program has been a big success in Walla Walla and we feel our expansion to the Pasco and Yakima airports shows our dedication to being Washington Wine Country's airline of choice," said Clint Ostler, Alaska Airlines' manager of retail advertising and sponsorships. "Washington State's tourism and wine industries are so closely connected and we are committed to making it easier for travelers to visit our award-winning vineyards."
(Photo: Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla)

Other features of the new program will allow travelers to sample wines at participating wineries and pay no tasting fees when they show a current Alaska Airlines boarding pass from one of the three airports.

WARoadTrip2012 215The majority of visitors to Walla Walla Valley, Tri-Cities region and Yakima Valley wineries come from the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas. Organizers hope that with these added incentives, visitors from these destinations and others served by Alaska Airlines will utilize air service for their trip to Washington Wine Country.
(Photo: Walla Walla).

For more information on the Taste and Tote program:

Note:  Thanks to Seattle’s GreenRubino PR for providing today’s news. The photos are mine, (the planes flown to these destinations are smaller than the one pictured above).

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TP Thursday: Cruise Blues

A friend who recently spent two days at sea on an Alaskan cruise proclaimed he wasn’t a cruiser after the experience. And then, in an incredulous tone asked us,

“How do you do it? I nearly went nuts knowing I couldn’t get off the ship??!!” 

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Unlike our buddy, our favorite cruises are those that involve crossing an ocean – the kind that have at least a  half dozen ‘sea days’; those kind of days where you see no other signs of life – no land, no ships, no birds, just blue. Cruise blues. In this photo our ship was leaving Fort Lauderdale, Florida bound for Europe.

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This strip of Florida beach was the last land we would see for nearly a week. The next land would be the Azores, 3,117 miles (5,016KM/2,706NM) away.  The islands that make up the Azores are 1,118 miles (1,800 KM/900NM) west of Portugal.

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We began many of our sea days with a trip to the gym (also hues of cruise blues) – a necessity when they ended with . . .

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gourmet food. . .and sommelier served wine. (BTW, that was a piece of fish hidden under the veggies in that artistic display above.)

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Sometimes we watched other guests play lawn croquet. (If you missed my earlier posts about this Celebrity Solstice ship – it, like others in its class, has a real live lawn.)

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Other times we watched glass artists at work, thanks to a partnership between Celebrity and the Corning Museum of Glass. We’d attend those lectures on subjects that interested us, but skipped the multitudes of  bingo sessions, dance classes, contests, games and other activities that drew contingents of  fellow cruisers.

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Generally on these types of sailings, when it comes to sea days – we prefer to soak up the ‘cruise blues’. The kind created when sea and sky merge.

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A day dreamin’, book readin’ and sun tanning kind of cruise blues.

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A where-did-the-day-go-so-fast kind of cruise blues. . .

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The kind of cruise blues that gave way to blazing orange sunsets.

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And then it seemed too soon we'd reached the Azores -  our first in a series of  ports of call en route to Barcelona, Spain.

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Transatlantic cruises, like this one, offer some of the best cruise bargains to be found.  We’ve taken several and have been able to book a balcony room for as little as $125 – $185 per night, not per person but per cabin! 

Also called repositioning cruises, sailings take place  generally in the spring and fall because that is when the ship’s are being ‘repositioned’ from one area of the world to the other. 
As cruise enthusiasts, we want to spend as much time on board as possible and yet visit interesting ports of call. This type of cruise provides for both.  Companies we use and recommend for cruise deals  can be found on Joel’s Deal Finder page.

Today is Travel Photo Thursday so head on over to Nancie’s Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos from around the world.


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