A Boring Monday in Carcassonne, France

Franco famously stated in the ‘60s that, “Spain is different”; I suppose he meant different from other Euro destinations or different from the Spain you thought you knew. Within Spain there are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde “twin” cities, or perhaps Barcelona and Madrid are like stepsisters; they have the same mother, were raised apart due to a nasty divorce but only one of them inherited the family’s good looks. Both are geographic and emblematic centers; one the country’s capital and the other the political core of the Cataluña region and, as many may know, a separatist political party has been active there for many years, but the consensus is that these separatists are a minority population scattered around villages and small cities while the residents of Barcelona identify with Spain.

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48 hours at The Marqués de Riscal hotel and winery

What is the point of travel? Why do we feel a need to visit new places? Is there some tenable experience or insight to behold in these unknown locations? Some writers, like Paul Theroux, have managed to eke a career out of travel. I’m a big fan of Theroux’s travel books; he somehow engages with the people he meets and gets under the skin of the places he visits and drills down into what is worth knowing about a place. But I can’t help but wonder; if you’ve been around the world several times like Theroux; wouldn’t you end up forgetting where you’ve been. Wouldn’t places begin to blur together. I can’t say that I’ve ever really engaged deeply with a place during a visit, but maybe I’m spoiled; I don’t pay for anything; my wife makes all the decisions and all I have to do is just go with the flow.

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Burning Out on the Slopes of Masella

La Masella is a Catalan ski “resort” that sits above a Pyrenees town called Alp which is ironic considering the last few years I have visited Masella, always in February; a month which should be the peak of the snow season, but yet again the mountains are green, the sun is hot, and the slopes are slush peppered with pebbles and striped with brown dirt in the middle of white artificially produced snow – not very alpine, or maybe Masella is ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change and lack of snowfall. So, if what we’ve been told during the last few years about climate change is true, then Masella should be closed for business before long; and closing will mean big loses for a lot of people.

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Galicia, the Camino, and Land’s End

Historically, Land’s End, the end of the earth or whatever you want to call it, seems to always “end” at the coast. Land’s End is never on the precipice of a valley or the edge of a desert; and it’s not at the bottom of the ocean or river or at the top of a mountain or in outer space. No, it’s always on a scraggly coast; some place that settlers and explorers struggled to reach and inevitably, they would come to the ocean, find no more land nor see any islands, and decide that that was it – the end of the road. For some reason this didn’t seem to happen when confronted by mountain ranges such as the Alps or the Indies. The ancient conqueror Hannibal’s march of conquest was only interrupted by mountains, but he and his army found a way, and the way was riding elephants and camels over the snowcapped Alps, but he made it.  Bodies of water are another matter altogether and have long represented mankind’s ultimate obstacle; and obstacles must be conquered if we are to call ourselves men and rulers of the planet earth.

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Floating & Nothingness in Greece

When I’m there, I want to be here; and when I am here, I want to be there. The there, is somewhere else, any place other than this flat in Madrid, but once I am over there – and this time over there was Greece – I find myself wanting to move on to someplace else. We spent close to three weeks in Greece, and it began to feel like an eternity, an eternity of doing almost nothing.

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Luxury Camping in Agafay, Morocco

If you live in a city like Madrid, as I do; and ‘as I do’ means in the city center suffocating in traffic and congestion and contamination and heat, then ‘off the beaten path’ is a difficult place to find. Visiting Segovia – just an hour away on the other side of the Navacerrada mountain range – you’ll find the villages and restaurants packed with the hordes of Madrilenos you thought you had left behind. Every seat is sat in, every meter of asphalt parked in, no lunch reservation? Adios.

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Dinner at 360º, Dubrovnik

Eating well is one of life’s truest luxuries. And dining in a super star restaurant is a special treat for almost anyone. Like late Anthony Bourdain said, food is one of the most important things in the world. It has the power to heal us or make us sick. We think about it a lot, we know when we want it and how we like it. It’s pretty much like sex. And just like sex, eating is something we enjoy most often in the morning and in the evening. Nothing cures a hangover like a nice wake up hump.

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A Weekend in Ávila with Orson Welles

Living in a big city has its pros and cons. The downside to living in Madrid city center, aside from being the world capital of covid contamination is: the noise, traffic and congestion, contamination, and prices. On the other hand, there are limitless cultural offers on hand like Real Madrid matches, the world’s most important bullring, mega-museums if that’s your thing, (slightly) more job offers; and train, bus and plane destination to everywhere. Then there are the day trip destinations within easy reach of Madrid: Aranjuez, Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, and Avila. I’ve been to Avila dozens of times and this weekend we returned to the Posada del Agua to enjoy some King size steaks, explore the medievalness, just enjoy the space. Continue reading “A Weekend in Ávila with Orson Welles”

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