My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Visited 5 countries in 27 days; the numbers! (Mostly Spain and Paris)

20 days in Spain
4 days in Paris
A day each in Andorra, Portugal, and Gibraltar

Toured 5 palaces
Drove 4178 k’s or 2611 miles
According to the Fitbit we walked 137 miles
Toured 12 Cathedrals (and saw 1000’s of churches)
Explored 17 cities
Rode countless metro’s, busses, trains, and even 1 taxi ride
Toured 3 art museums
Took a boat ride on the Mediterranean
Toured a park (yes we paid to enter a city park)
Climbed to the top of 2 towers
Went to 1 flamenco show
Attended the ballet
11 hotels ( + stays with friends a few nights)
2 gigs of data: one in iphone one in iPad mini.
9 flights (Juneau, Seattle, San Francisco, Paris, Madrid, Paris, Houston, Seattle, Juneau)
Countless liters of sangria
3 pairs of Spanish shoes purchased

These numbers are pretty accurate
Hotels $700 (the nights in Paris Hilton were free with points)
Tours $400
Driving $1250 (car, tolls, gas, parking AND public transportation, Paris was $150 of this because we stayed out by airport)
Phone/data $30
Flight Paris to/from Madrid $500 (increased because we checked luggage)
Air mileage ticket from Juneau to Paris (free)

Other things we noticed!

It’s hot once you are in the subways!
Spanish language is VERY different from the language spoken in the Catalonia region,
There was NO country check in at Andorra or Portugal border but we had to show passports to enter Gibraltar,
Harry called intermission of the ballet “1/2 time” ,
Saw storks everywhere in southern Spain, also saw hawks, blue herons and several other unidentified birds,
Spaniards LOVE taking their children everywhere, there were 1000’s of baby strollers in all public areas regardless of how crowded it was; all children are also dressed to perfection! ,
There is no such thing as a Kleenex (tissue) or wash clothes in Spain,
Towels in most of our hotels were embroidered with the hotel names,
We enjoyed listening to Podcasts during the road trips,
and, we CAN spend 27 days together AND walk away smiling!



Stop into Consuegra to see the Windmills and castle

Our last car trip in Spain was driving from Granada to Madrid. Along this route is the town of Consuegra, about 40 miles from Toledo. It’s a small town that specifically grows saffron, we saw a tractor rolling down Main Street! Small town USA-like!

We followed the signs to the castle as the windmills are right beside it.
These windmills were made famous in the adventures of Don Quixote. We easily drove up the hill to the top an had breathtaking views of the farmland surrounding the town.

The only slow up was the farmer and his sheet crossing the road!


just above the town of Consuegra




farmer walking his sheep on the hillside, slowed our drive down a bit!

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The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Jan. 6, 2015

The beauty of Alhambra in part is its gardens and fountains, of which we did not see on a sunny, but cool January day. This was the fifth palace we had explored during this month long vacation in Spain. We had heard so much about it and know that it’s one of Spain’s major attractions yet it left us a little in awe of this ranking.

Don’t get me wrong, the entire facility is interesting AND we loved the Morrish influence, the tiles and the plaster designs are breathtaking. The palace is filled with decorative walls, doorways and ceilings! They destiny are worth seeing it’s just that other palaces on this trip have been breathtaking too, including the Alcázar in both Segovia and Sevilla. The gardens were also beautiful (or we knew it would be with flowers etc ).

Originally built in 889 it was abandoned until around 1059 when the Morrish rebuilt it and made it a royal palace in 1333. During his time of power Napoleon tried to destroy the palace and succeeded in blowing up two towers. This began another round of abandonment. Finally in 1870 it was declared a national monument. There is constant renovation occurring and we witness many aspects of that on our tour. It took about 4 hours to visit everything.

We had not seen so much Moorish influence elsewhere in Spain, there was much more here. Gift shops and street vendors had items for sale we’d seen in Istanbul rather than in Spain. It brought back good memories from former trips.


there was ice in this fountain




the gardens are beautiful. The groundskeepers are doing a lot of work on them to try to bring them back to their original style.






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Ronda, a must see while in Spain.

Jan 5, 2015

During the months of planning for this trip one photo kept standing on my mind and that was was one I’d seen of the bridges and cliffs of Ronda. I was very happy that we were able to add a stop in Ronda to our itinerary. We arrived in town midafternoon and got settled into our little cottage housing.

We were advised from Carmen our host at the hotel where to park as we went into town. Being that it was three Kings Day many of the Spaniards were into celebrating and having parades and such, contesting downtown. After parking we headed out to see the sights.

I read that this is one of the most photographed sites in the world. I have nothing to prove that but…the “New Bridge” connects the old city the newer art of town and the outlying communities. It took 42 years to build this bridge which was started in 1751. It hovers above the stunning El Tajo canyon.

We viewed it from above then hiked down the trail to view it from afar. From the top I could also see a “road” that allowed an even better view from further back. We went in circles trying to find that road and as we were just about to give up, we saw it! It was about 2 miles along a cobble stoned road but we did it!

We also saw the “old bridge” to the east of the “new bridge”. Cars drive and people walk across the new bridge daily. What an architectural masterpiece. All and all a great day and worth the trip!

PS. Ronda is know for its bull fighting too, though we didn’t see anything other than the building.







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Sun filled Sevilla Spain

Jan. 3 & 4, 2015

Sevilla is surrounded by farmlands and orchards, and full of history and Morrish Influence. As we drove towards the city it is a quick transition from these rural areas to the city. Ride bus #3 into the town center and back to our hotel. (1.4 Euro pp.)

First stop Torre Del Orso. This tower marks the spot where ships would return to Spain after their exploration of the new world. They would offload all the gold they had collected and give it to the Queen. The cost to go to the top was only 3 euro, and gives you a great view of the city.

Next stop the Alcázar of Seville or the royal palace in Seville, Spain. It too has Morrish roots as it was originally a Moorish fort. The palace is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, and it was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site! The palace is much less elaborate than other palaces we’ve visited on this and other trips but has the most beautiful gardens we’ve seen. There is much Morrish influence that mostly shows in the tiles that adorn every corner of the palace.

Final major stop, the Sevilla Cathedral, is right across the street from the palace. This cathedral took our breath away. Originally it was built as a mosque though most of that was torn down by the Christians who desired to build an even more impressive place I worship. The only remaining part from the mosque is 2/3-3/4 of the bell tower, or the Giraldais, it was originally built as a minaret during the Moorish period, with a Renaissance style top added by Spaniards. It too became a World Heritage Site with UNESCO in 1987.

We enjoyed the climb to the top, 34 flights but no steps. It was purposely built without steps so historically during the Morrish period horses could take people to the top to call for prayer!

There’s a lot to see and do in Sevilla, we tried to hit the highlights in our short time there, getting a good sense of the city. Out big take away, they smoke a lot of cigarettes and there are 1000’s of babies/children in strollers everywhere.













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Two days= 2 rural Monasteries! Guadalupe and San Francisco Palma Del Rio

Jan. 1-2, 2015

After ringing in the new year with friend in Madrid we took off for our southern route visits. First stop, Guadalupe Sanctuary and Monastery. The drive from Madrid was beautiful and quickly we found ourselves in farm land, fruit, chestnuts and olive trees! We had booked a room in the monastery and signs were trying to direct us there, however they sadly were not helpful. We parked in a community lot and went on foot to find it, finally getting to our room!

We toured the Monastery (5 euro pp) and enjoyed all we saw, but understood very little of what the tour guide said as it was all in Spanish! A fellow tourist helped us a few times translating a few thoughts to us. They explained that they have made a conscious effort to NOT offer tours in other languages because they don’t want it to become a huge “tourist destination” rather a place people want to come because they feel a connection to the place.

The sanctuary was built sometime near the end of the 1200’s. But in 1330 Alfonso XI, King of Castille and Leon thought it was too small and ordered another be built which occurred from 1336-38. The monks of Jeronimo used this location for the next 4 centuries. It became a National monument in 1879 and in 1907 Our Lady Of Guadalupe became its patron saint.

Beautiful small town with a charming central plaza. We had a delightful dinner of regional food: beans with chorizo, garlic soup, goat stew and fish with spinach sauce! Though Guadalupe is “off the beaten path” some pass on visiting here. We sure are glad we didn’t miss it.

The next day we awoke and headed to our second monastery, San Francisco Palma Del Rio. However we decided to stop in Portugal before heading there. We had lunch in Elvas, Portugal the took back roads to Palma Del Rio. Enjoyed the country side we saw along the way including cattle, sheep, pigs, etc. as well as storks, hawks, and blue herons. But most of all we saw orange trees, this is the area they obviously come from.

Arrived to our room easily tough had some issues with booking. Finally figured it out but must thank Anna at the front desk for all her hard work. I’d say we could have skipped Palma Del Rio as there is nothing exceptionally interesting here but the drive through farmlands were nice.








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Avila and Segovia 2 more stunning Spanish towns

Dec. 30, 2014

Left Salamanca after a morning walk and headed to Avila. Sits 3714 feet above sea level. It is the highest provincial capital in Spain. The main reason we stopped here was to see the Walls of Avila that date back to 1090 when construction on the walls began. The stone wall encircles most of town. There are 9 gates in which to enter and the average height is 39 feet tall! We found FREE parking outside of the walls and hiked up to it for the viewing. Worth a stop!

Then we took off for Segovia because I really wanted to see the Alcázar of Segovia. This castle sits at the top of Guadarrama Mountains and is said to be similar to the shape of a ships bow. Originally it was was built as a fortress and later it was used as royal palace, Royal Artillery College, state prison and military academy, and still hosts a military artillery museum. The building of the Alcazar was started in 1120 and part of the original building burnt in a fire in the 1896.

We drove out of town and up a few side roads, then hiked across a farmers field to take a picture from out of the city. Once back in town we toured the castle and got to the top for a view of the city!

One other noteworthy part of Segovia is the aqueducts. No one is sure when this was constructed though archeologists think it was during the 1st century AD. Parts were destroyed by the Moors in 1072, but restored in the 1400’s. Historically water was transferred from Fuente Fría river, about 11 miles away in the mountains, water ran just over 9 miles before arriving into the city. Again amazing city well worth a stop.








Salamanca, Spain; Historic College Town

Dec. 29, 2014

On a sunny, but cool day we pulled into Salamanca, and we’re thrilled we’d booked a room near the Cathedral Vieja, University (universidad de Salamanca) and Plaza Mayor, all highlights of our visit here. Almost all the historic buildings were built with sandstone and have a bright, golden look to them.

The University has been in existence since 1134. It is the oldest university in Spain and the fourth oldest in Europe. Columbus came to this school for travel information. Many exchange students come here, including many Americans, specifically to study the Spanish language!

I, of course, was thrilled to see “residence” buildings after I lived in U housing for many years both during college and later as a hall director! Wish I could have gotten inside one for a tour!

Cathedral Vieja is also one of the oldest in Europe. It was started to be built in 1513 and finished in 1733. It’s been a national monument since 1887. It’s stunning inside and worth the 4euro charge to enter.

Plaza Mayor is all its claimed to be, full of life especially in the evening. The alleys around it come alive around 5 pm. The plaza itself is a beautiful square that dates back to the 1700’s. Historically it held bullfights but now it is full of eateries, coffee, and trinket shops. It too is built from sandstone and has a soft look to it.

Glad it was sunny as it was around freezing, but we bundled up and enjoyed Salamanca’s old town area.










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San Sebastián Spain, a summer tourist town, dead in the winter!

Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014

Let me start by saying I’m happy we came to San Sebastian if for nothing else to eat the pintrxos, the Basque word for tapas.

We drove our car to the train stopped and without much problem bought round trip tickets into town! When we got off the train in downtown San Sebastian it was pouring rain, it reminded us of Juneau on in October day. It was just before noon and downtown was absolutely dead, the only people we saw where those headed into the church for noon mass. We continue to old town where at least there was a little more activity, however nothing really came alive until about 1 PM. Suddenly all the bars were opened up and there were tons of people crowding them trying to get some food and beer and wine.

We decided to do as the locals do and as we’d read about; we hopped from bar to bar to “txiquiteo” as the locals call it. We just walked up and down the street entering different bars and filling our plates with 2 to 4 pintrxos! Some were cheese and vegetables, some seafood others were ham with toppings but my favorite or any of them that had anchovies. Paired with a glass of beer or a glass of sangria we enjoyed each stop.

Once the rain stopped and actually cleared up a bit almost becoming sunny though it was cold and windy most of the day. We were still marveling at the fact that most of the stores were closed and that it seemed to be quite quiet town considering it’s such a tourist destination. I’m sure in the summer it’s just the opposite and again, in some ways it reminds us of home, everything closed down until all the tourists come back. We are sure it had also had a lot to do with it being Sunday though it was disappointing to be such a ghost town.

San Sebastian is a community of almost 200,000 people and in the summer tourism about doubles! But on this cold rainy winter Sunday it was more or less a deserted town. The community sits on the Bay of Biscay, and the winds hollow through town, and today was no exception. I’m sure in the summer the be winds off the water are refreshing but today they made it chilly.

The main language here is not Spanish it is actually Euskara, the Basque language, which made it even more challenging for us to interact with people. All the signage and menus were also Euskara so we resorted to pointing to much of the food!

We’re glad we visited but don’t think we got a true idea of the community.











Probably our most favorite night in Europe EVER: Sos del Rey Católico

Dec. 26-27, 2014

We rolled into town as the sun was setting and arrived just before dark. Found our hotel easily and I actually cried with joyful tears as we entered our room. This was the ideal hotel and town, the one that I’d imagined in my mind small town Spain would be like.

The narrow cobblestone streets, red tiled roofs and rock/concrete buildings left you feeling as it were 1000’s of years ago. We walked through the maze of “streets” in awe of every view. One corner highlighted an old steeple, another showcased the country side farms, and another the balconies of local residents.

Upon arrival and check in we were invited to a community concert at the local community center down the ally. Of course we chose to be “one with the people”. We arrived early and got a chair, though many after us did not. The first 45 minutes was full of choir singing mostly in tune! Then the youth (with a few adults including our hotel owner) entertained us with several movie scores and Christmas songs. They were really good!

We then stopped at the tapas bar across the street from our hotel. We met a woman and husband from Madrid and told us we’d found a magical place to visit. She said that they come here for vacation to escape the city.

The history of this town dates back to 901, yes that 901! It was a border town during the Reconquista. In 1492 King Ferdinand was born here when it was known simply as Sos, but was later changed to Sis del Rey Católico meaning “of the Catholic King” in his honor.

Though it is off the beaten path I would highly recommend stopping here for a night. Our hotel, “el Peiron,” is 4 years old and family run. Mom and dad speak NO English but one son spoke enough that we could get by. I can’t say enough about how much we loved this hotel and town.






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