I arrived in Madrid and oriented myself with art at the Prado. I was greeted with a parade celebrating a National Day. Apparently, I just missed the royalty. An auspicious beginning all around.
First, apprehension. This is not the type of trip I would choose. But, I’m game. I will try just about anything – once. So, off we go.
Second, the reality. Boarding was much like boarding a plane. However, after getting settled in the cabin (outside with a window near the water line – actually it was great!), we wandered around the public decks, through a bar area to encounter The Pinkies: a group of aging pink t-shirted sorority sisters out for a good time. They were in the process of quickly getting drunk and VERY Loud. Did I mention obnoxious? I almost entirely lost my “calm, open and receptive” when they paraded through the common areas singing badly at the top of their lungs – to the karaoke bar. Wow, what an intro. Fortunately, they dissipated after the first evening and were not identifiable again.
Carnival Paradise is a party boat, truly Las Vegas on water. Noise, “excitement”, lots of drinking, parties, 2 weddings before setting sail. Unlimited mediocre food, lots of people eating large quantities of it as well as drinking quantities of alcohol. Of course, we were saintly… however, an immediate attitude adjustment was necessary and quite helpful.
The stops at Grand Cayman and Cozumel were made for tour boats, complete with the same China-made trinkets(aka “junk”) found in every tourist shop. We did find a thimbleful of history on Grand Cayman (the best jerk chicken lunch) and great snorkeling on Cozumel.
Wonderful moments came from the natural beauty of being on the ocean: looking out the window in the middle of the night and finding a very bright big dipper dipping its cup into the sea, a full moon on the water, the soft air of the tropics at night, painterly cloud patterns playing with the moonlight and twilight…
Life on board: B grade at best revue shows, good comedy club, relaxing on deck with a book in the shade, one particular bar at night with a lovely Thai bartender, an afternoon cha cha lesson on stage where we were one of two couples attempting it. We did have a great tour of behind the scenes on the ship. That was great – answering all the questions about how does this all work anyway.
You know, everyone looks a bit better with some color. Carnival Paradise caters to all shapes and sizes of folks, all looking for the same thing – a bit of fun in the sun. I, too, am gaining a bit of color – mine is a sort of light toast. It feels good here in the sun!
I had no idea how exhausted I really was after packing everything up for storage. Now, I am in the recovery phase – the first one – in Florida.
I left Portland with a mix of sweet and a bit sad. I was hosted to a number of events and get-togethers for my farewells. I realized that I may not see some people again. Others will remain friends regardless of location. Still others, I will see when I return in January. There were new beginnings and new endings…
I gained from being in Portland: my friends, the music community, the shamanic teachings, and the
challenge of trying to gain a foothold in a place that did not seem to welcome me there on the whole.
Bitter and sweet.
Florida is warm! I have been here 4 days and it still surprises me how warm it is and how warm it stays. At 9 am it is 78 degrees. I was walking around the quaint and charming small town of Dunedin yesterday with my friend, Lee, and thinking about when I was in Mexico. It took me about a week to get my body accustomed to the heat. It is a zen challenge. For the most part, I like it.
Lee and I have been scouting/exploring various places around Clearwater. This part of Florida is flat (I guess all of Florida is flat!) and spread out. They like to build roads here. But still, the traffic is as bad as Portland or Seattle at some times of the day. Of course, I did arrive on a holiday
weekend….but. Clearwater is quite suburban with all of its ugliness, retail and services. St. Petersburg is a lovely town and has some potential, but needs more research. I am not certain where the “Southern”
mentality lies around here yet. We explored a couple of neighborhoods in South Tampa too. Both areas have beautiful bike/walking trails along the water and lovely parks. I am looking forward to getting a bicycle
again. This time not a $10 garage sale bike as I did in Wisconsin!
For the most part, the beach “towns” are all touristy and crass – NOT my style! We sat and people watched during lunch yesterday. Tourists, sun worshiping middle class tourists: young families & guys toting their masses of equipment, overweight and overbrown people cruising or a large and fattening lunch, dull tack service staff – some pleasant, some not , people just enjoying the sun. Certainly an interesting character study.
We continued our tour north to the town of Dunedin. We stopped for a stroll and a beer in the local Irish pub. I spoke to a couple of people about what the town was like. It too, is right on the water with a marina, but is not so touristy. It is a charming place with a comfortable laid back feel. This area has inland waters, protected by some islands that are close in and accessible by small boat. There are calm waters for kayaking and paddle boarding too. And, there is a long bike trail on the old rail bed, and another along
the waterfront. This place has some potential. But there are many other places to explore yet.
I have not thought much about the rest of my trip. I am truly taking it all one day at a time. This coming week will begin again. Right now, my life is full of rest, adjusting to being a guest, exploring and trying to find the time to do my own work (Spanish, blog, trip details, etc – tough work!), checking out rents and living expenses/earned income possibilities…
A larger adventure will begin next Saturday with a cruise to Cozumel and the Grand Caymans. I realized as I
was writing, that I have not taken any pictures yet. I need to get better at this...
The 2014 (and beyond) Odyssey of Randi actually began last Friday. I was on my way to Seattle for farewell visits when just out of Vancouver a truck deposited part of its load on the freeway.
The RV 2 cars in front of me went over a beam horizontal across our lane (about 5 feet long, 6" high and about 8" deep), then the car in front of me which was half the size of my Subaru. It immediately pulled
over. I went over it and hoped that my car was invincible.
I have never experienced a flat tire, or at least one that I remember. I had no idea what to expect. I
experienced some shuddering and then the pulling to the right told me that I did, indeed, have a flat. I pulled over. The Road Rescue fellow came quickly and he lead me to my tire dealer (America’s Tire is great). It turned out I had a small puncture which was easily fixable. However, the tire guy asked me, “Did you see the wheel?” Unfortunately, my wheel did not fare so well. It is bent. The tire guys did not have a replacement on hand, so I called my mechanic in Portland to see if they could do anything for me. This is a several-generation-owned business specializing in Subaru’s. The older fellow there said come by and we can do something. The “something” he did was loan me one of a set of 4 wheels and tires intended for his personal vehicle. In 15 minutes I was on my way to Seattle, no money exchange, just “we’ll take care of it next week”. Amazing.
Four hours later (my delay caused me to end up in heavy Friday afternoon traffic) I remembered that the two outfits that I had carefully pressed and bagged were still at my apartment in Portland. I guess I was traveling light!
It all could have been so much worse. I could have had a blow out. I could have had much more damage to my car. I could have been stranded and not able to go to Seattle. I could have left my overnight bag a home and had not even a toothbrush. It was all a test of my “zen”, testing my patience to roll with it
all. I will have many more challenges in the coming months and this one set the tone. It all turned out reasonably well and I had the grace of several wonderfully kind people (not to mention the protective angels!). This is a good way to start the adventure.
So, this is my itinerary for the next 5 months:
I pack up my apartment and car for storage and fly to Tampa on August 28th.
September 6-11 – Western Caribbean cruise from Tampa to Cozumel and the Grand Caymans. Tampa and Sarasota for the remainder of September.
October 3-5 – Monterey, California for my cousin’s daughter’s wedding.
October 11 – fly to Madrid
October 13 – train to Torrelavega, in Northern Spain, near Bilbao. I will be working with a Brazilian woman on English fluency for 10 days. I will get at least 1 hour a day in Spanish with a little Portuguese and French thrown in. The work is just 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, so I will have opportunities for excursions with and without my host.
October 23-31 – solo travel across Northern Spain, exploring San Sebastian (the pintxos!), the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Medieval towns , cave paintings, Santiago de Compostela and culminating in A Coruna, an ancient and major port at the NW corner of Spain. I will take the train back to Madrid, then the bullet train to Barcelona. I just want to experience the bullet train. This one ranges in speed from 160 to 230 kph.
November 1 – train to Tortosa, which is 2 hours south of Barcelona to be picked up by my second host for 5 weeks of olive picking and tree pruning. The hosts are a British ex-pat couple who have retired to Spain 10 years ago. Again, it is 5 hours of work a day, 5 days a week with plenty of time to explore. I am anticipating at least 2 weekends in Barcelona and one in Valencia. The farm is halfway in between the two cities. Josie, my host, said wild boar and wild goats roam the hills. I am looking forward to hiking in the hills, although I’m not particularly interested in encountering the wildlife…. I want to meet the neighbors for their hunting and other culinary skills… boar meat and sausage, cheeses, truffles? Josie was a chef in the UK. I think
we will get along well.
I have one additional week in Spain, near Alicante. I will be teaching immersion English with a program that
pairs one volunteer with one participant. This will be a week in a 4 star hotel. Not a bad way to finish my stay in Spain.
All of these hosts are part of workaway.info. For my time with each host, I will get full room and board, making my travel budget go much farther. With the exception of Alicante, the postings are home stays.
It will be an interesting and new experience!
At the end of the Alicante program (December 11), I will head to Amsterdam to visit my niece, Persephone. I will return to the US on the 15th with visits in NYC and DC before returning to Florida. Christmas in Arizona, back to Tampa to see if I want to really live there, and back to Portland to ship my things and pick up my car. I will drive back to Florida, taking my time along the way.
There are the basics. Stay tuned for the experiences…