Want to go to Spain VI

•May 8, 2013 • 3 Comments

The taxi driver is quite manic  So agitated that he takes us to the wrong hotel but refuses to admit it.  With more than a little positive communication and some “show and tell”,   Susan somehow gets this fellow to acknowledge the right hotel on the indisputable map.    Screeching around, we are now headed off to the Ritz Hotel in  beautiful Barcelona.

Before heading for dinner at this new and exciting part of the trip,  we wander into the bath and find carefully sculpted Italian marble  wrapped around us that  invites a luxurious and restful bath.  We hurry a little to meet our appointment with freshly made, Paella.  We waltz into a cloud of welcoming good manners and food the gods had not yet tasted.  The service is excellent.  The cooperation of the concierge delightfully helpful.  The staff beyond reproach.  Barcelona beckoning its bundle of activities goes into our dreams this night.

As we walk toward the  Cathedral Familia and encounter a quirky fountain desperately trying to function  the way an elegant fountain might.  Pigeons own the square  are literally everywhere.  We looking at very well dressed children enthralled and  they are standing quietly in a sea of pigeons.  The children  allow these pigeons to sit on their arms and heads.  While I am struck with this scene, out of the corner of my eye I see a Janannese couple snatch ( in a joyful way) Susan for a shot in Barcelona with a pretty American girl.

We peek into neighborhoods that reflect the various populations that at one time ruled the roost in this city of such as the Gothic Quarter.  We tour undaunted by torrents of rain but stop from time to time to review booklets about the Citadels, Cathedrals and  a particularly  an important park called,  Parc Guell which is a fanciful display of the famous architect , Gaudi’s playful expression.

Oh! No! Not again!

Over there in the middle of an unpleasant crowed is, Susan.  Camera in action where she is making a film of some local crooks working their shell game to pull in some cash.  The men gesture for her to stop…to go away.  They have illegal business to transact and do not want it on film.   Tough men move from behind their table  and become intimately close to Susan and raise their fists in her face.  The crowd moves closer to take part in the excitement.  I quake with fear and inhale deeply.  On the exhale I observe,  Susan who  with equal verve and  some subtle gesture which escapes me but  loosely translates (apparently) to the shell game guy:  bug off old man!   Well what else does one do after this?   But of course,  we go to the Cathedral Familia.

Here it is, the Cathedral that has been actively in progress for over 100 years and is still not complete.  One can go into these sanctuaries as a viewer or one can give in to the attempt of the architect’s intentions as one gives in to good music or a lover:  with trust and expectation.  I tell you, we are in another world with a thousand rooms.  Great architects understand time and space.  We who enter seem able to go to places in our psyche that otherwise might be beyond our reach.

On to the beautiful sidewalks of Barcelona that are works of art.  Each small square we tread upon is a work of art.  Tapas bars invite us to an afternoon snack to hold us over until a late dinner.   Dignified shop-keepers extoll the value of speaking, Catalan in Barcelona.  Catalonia is an ubiquitous word because it is “the” language and culture of, Barcelona. We learn that their is a Catalonian connection historically to the Pyrenees which society is connected  in turn to Paris in its long  History.   We see translation store-fronts named:  Blah!  Blah!  Blah!  We laugh and love it. But we have to go home without seeing all of wonderful Spain.  A taste of Spain wets the appetite to know more of all of Spain.

But first a quick stop-over in London. We check into the Basil Street Hotel  on Basil  Street –a stone’s throw”  from the famous,  Harrod’s Department Store.  After walking to Harrods and enjoying all its fine wares, we retreat to Tea at our hotel.  So….we walk into the very large area (bigger than a room)  with chairs all around the perimeter.  the Tea-Room is more quiet than church.  All those lined up chairs are filled with both dour and serene countenances not one of which seemed to communicate with others in this rarified room.  So….this is okay!   We can observe without compunction.  I like it….yes, like that atmosphere which bespeakes a quiet time of day in which to consider where one was and where one might be  for the rest of the day.  The tea was soothing and the finger sandwiches were in great variety.  We try them all. We like them all.   We move on to see the changing of the guard.  We see the Lifeguards on  horse back there to protect the Queen.  We see the Cathedral where the Kings and Queens of England were crowned.

Susan even takes a quick cab trip  to see the philanthropist  who endowed,  The University of London,  with the caveat that he, Jeremy Bentham, philosopher and jurist (1748-1832)  be taxidermied and displayed at the University forever.  He , to this day– is displayed in the cloisters of the- UCL Main Building in all his taxidermied glory.

…and that is the story of going to Spain via Portugal  in  1997 with  Susan  to see brother, Steve.

It was swell.

mosswood  May 8,2013



Want to go to Spain V

•May 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“We land at Alicante Airport and quickly think about transportation to our destination, Marbella.  Marbella turns out to be a fantastic Mediterranean vacation spot of the most cosmopolitan nature.  We pass a home of a Mid-Easterner (we are told) that was built to be an exact replica of the  U. S.  White House.  Never mind,  each inch of the drive is filled with top-notch residences which are not more than a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean Sea.  Some of these homes belong to Kings (we are told).  As we enter our digs we are surrounded by marble and tall ceilings.   We notice that day light is fading and somehow Susan finds a bottle of Champagne to carry out to the promenade hugging the water’s edge.  We carry the Champagne along with glasses and sip in the moonlight as we stroll.  And why not?  It is mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.   It is my very happy birthday night in  the moonlight along a wide pathway in, Spain (thank you very much).

We awaken to a golden day that Susan has chosen to use finding a Realtor to show some vacation properties for her little family as a get-away.  This plan is fortuitous since we receive a fine tour of Marbella.   We later walk the promenade in the light of day.   It takes us an  hour to complete the walk.  Along the way we see children playing and elderly folks relaxing on the benches.   It is pleasant to observe how very well-groomed everyone is.     But say… we see  Sangria stands along the way selling pitchers  of this pleasant libation.   Yes, we secure a pitcher.

Hearty hunger presents yet another luncheon experience and by now this mother is not disappointed.  Indeed I have come to expect–you know–experiences.   We order water with gas (as they call it) which is very expensive and in a rather large bottle.  As we finish our lunch,  I see Susan’s hand  shoot out and grasp the water bottle at the very instant as the waiter’s large hand reaches the bottle.  They are locked in a frozen piece of time.  In awe I wonder– would she give up the bottle of water?   Would the waiter give up the partly used expensive bottle of water ?  Of course, the waiter caves  but has the look of a man who has given up his first-born.  Susan pays the check and we  leave the waiter in his pitiful state to sort things out for himself as we carry the almost full bottle of water back to our elegant apartment.   …Shamelessly, I might add.

Tomorrow:  Barcelona

mosswood  May 2013

Want to go to Spain IV

•May 5, 2013 • 1 Comment

We scrutinize each other, mother and daughter, to be sure we are are properly understated and  yet absolutely  the essence of style  for our dining experience in this hotel of some note.  We are seated by a dignified and very handsome tuxedoed Maitre D.  The young waiters are casting not so hidden looks of admiration at my  daughter while  I  was feeling, I must say,  very elegant and at home.  There is a sort of comfort in being  above the youthful threshold.  No surprise to you that there is here before us fields of silver- ware surrounding our chargers waiting for our choice of entree.  Drinks, of course.  Choice of the wine that  would pare with our dinner, yes.  Nose  tenderly touching the rim of the glass for a whiff of a more than pleasing aroma. Taste, yes and oh! so good.

Off the waiters go to ultimately and proudly return with what would please the ladies from America:  eye appealing, aroma scintillating and service style that will overwhelm even a princess or two.  Oh! no, gentlemen you all are in for the shock of your life.  It occurs to mother that  moving of one piece of silver  to an “out of place” position might cause a quiet stir or perhaps not.   It is such a naughty but small action but highly disturbing to the waiter who is not sure if he might actually have made such a horrific mistake.  His facial expression is pained and quizzical.  He is undone utterly.  He returns to the table fortified with other staff who scrutinize the table in a sincere effort to be correct for we  (it would seem)  dignified ladies.  They leave  us briefly, with feelings of assurance that the table was set impeccably as was their solum and highly  professional  duty.

Oop! I forgot that Susan was watching.  Susan’s watching is the beginning of the most unique experience of the young lives of  these major domos.   We are enjoying our pre-dinner wine but Susan has caught the mischief bug and begins to move even more silver and  glasses to ” out of place” positions  -just a little at a time so that when a waiter returns, he blushingly is deciding if it is he or the ladies who are responsible for disturbing old world and absolutely proper dinner settings.  Now, mother is getting nervous because long experience has given me no assurance that Susan would stop any time soon.  She does not  stop.  Then an amazing dance begins by the waiters to replace fine silver and exquisite crystal.  This rolled on until somehow, we all laugh in unison and the evening goes on with suitably gracious behaviors on the part of we ladies and supreme relief on the part of the waiters.  We  return to  our sophisticated  and best behaviors and enjoy the meal that was splendid in many ways.


Nest day,  we meet the  tour guide who now who takes us to all the expected art museums along with the important churches, Moorish Castles and  the enormous statue of , Vasgo da Gama arms outstretched to the  Sea.  A word about Da Gama.  It is said that this Count , Vasgo da Gama was the first to open the global trade market in Asia, India ( the Spice Market)  and Arabia. Another surprise for me and the guide:  Susan stops dead in her tracks and tells the guide that we no longer want the regular tour but rather,  “show us the real Portugal”.

At that, we jump into the car and drive miles (at least a half hour) to tiny fishing area that is cloistered by a rocky high mountain on one side and the energetic sea on the other.  On this small plot of earth, as if we had walked into a Hemingway novel, we mingle with fishermen and their wives.  Soon after our arrival  a table is brought out into the open and covered with a white linen cloth upon which is put china,  glasses and silverware.  Probably the best fish we shall ever consume.  The whole reality is a display of dignity that shall always remain in my deliberation about human behaviors.  It is a communion of sorts.  It is an  awesome moment in time in this sequestered fishing spot where the highest deportment in human  dining is embraced.  It is a long and wonderful trip and tomorrow we will actually be in Spain.


mosswood 5/4/13



•April 30, 2013 • 1 Comment

You might have guessed that we are still in Portugal.    We truly are off to Spain but we linger to  savour the thousands of years of treasures here  all of which, Noono wishes to show us.  First we stop by a most important  Cathedral now used as a show place for tourists and sometimes concerts.   In truth is– it is an example of old world architecture that was built to last in 1245,  just so as many ancient church structures  in Europe.  Proof?   They still stand solidly.   [Reminds me of  a fact (how often can one say that)  there is a church in Paris that has more stained glass than hard structure and yet not one sliver of glass has never shifted.]

Now back to the present– of sorts.    This Cathedral in Portugal  is called, Sao Francisco and  drives us back in time as we view the catacombs of this edifice.  The following scene  one we do not forget:    There is a grate from which we look down on  the human bones of church enemies which are strewn in piles.  Of course there is an imposing number of the well coffined important church personages of that time present in this cathedral.   Well, you can let your head  stay here and wax theological or come with us to cheerier site.  Come on!   Let’s go!

Santa Catarina is a fishing village with small quaint row houses where we see hundreds of  men milling about by the water-front working with their nets and generally readying for the next might’s fishing.  In a breath of time we find ourselves in the Port Wine region of Alto Doura Province.  A familiar site since we have for some time had an interest in fine wine and had visited many wineries in the States.  A little like going home.  Ah!  but the home of Port Wine is like no other.  The tasting is a  triumph.   Silly women.  We purchase so much wine that we  give it away along the way.  All worth it because outside we find ourselves casting our gaze upward- to see a bridge that was designed by,Eiffel  –yup–that very Eiffel.

Between business, Steve is able to meet us at a small Bistro for lunch.  Now traveling with Susan is always an adventure unto itself.  Shortly after walking past the square where–THE LION KILLED THE EAGLE–that is what is is called.  We wander on until Susan with camera in hand spots an elegant fenced in burial court.  Everything about it said, “stay out” but not our Susan.  In she goes while she scornfully motions for me to come along.  She is brave and has her very fine camera.  I am tentative and watching the scene around me which bespeak affluent private persons visiting their wealthy dead.   Well, pretty soon a uniformed fellow approaches the camera behind which is beautiful, Susan.  The uniformed fellow stiffened his back and bowed slightly and with a tip of the hat told the camera welding beautiful lady  firmly that she had to leave.  She smiles.  He smiles.   We leave.  One of us embarrassed.  One of us happy with successful film in hand.

That night. Steve explains how to get to, The Alpha Express Train to Lisbon.    But we are hungry so we have a succulent meal with Steve  and set out the next morning for Lisbon.  The Alpha Express crosses over the Tagus River by way of the Eiffel Bridge .  We reluctantly leave the reserved and delightful people of, Porto behind.  Many hours later and after passing through miles of vineyards,  farmland , and olive grooves we are in Lisbon– pronounced Lisboa once here.

The Sumptuous Hotel, Da Lapa is our new home in the heart of the embassy district.   As we excitedly run out to the elegant balcony, we look down upon flawlessly tended garden paths, pool and fountains.  We  lift our gaze to see the wide expanse of the river.  We rest on the sumptuous beds, bathe in  each her own bathroom.   Now it is time to decide about dinner where once again, Susan manages to create a whimsical stir in the hotel dining room– with a little help from her, Mom.

See you tomorrow!

mosswood 4/3013


•April 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The green and lush fields  reach up to meet our gaze as we fly over Portugal in that flying refrigerator.  The beauty of the land below is a forever memory.  Curious that this small country, whether endowed or fostered, maintains such a rich landscape.  Now,  this is mentioned in contrast to its contiguous neighbor, Spain which land looks like a dessert may be in slow formation.

Our luggage decides to go off on its own and catches up with us late the next day.   Never mind,  Steven and G. Victoria were at the airport to welcome us to, Porto.  The drive back to their apartment  is designed to give us an orientation to Porto.   My sudden white knuckles warn me that the traffic in Porto is on fast forward.  The vehicular system appears to be like hyper-active bugs darting  about in breathtaking proximity that can only be described as a continuous miracle.

Finally we arrive at the hotel where we find our rooms on the sixth floor, affording a generous night view of the city that is a luminous garden of lights.    Settled, we set out for dinner with our hosts.  Dinner comes late.  We drive to the Fox end of town, park and walk up a steep, narrow cobblestone street to find a charming restaurant that was at one time a residence.  This restaurant on this tiny street has sterling white tablecloths and is adorned with flowers and candles.  Probably a very fine cuisine…..but they are not able to accommodate us.  Disappointed but not deterred, Steven then finds another restaurant on another narrow cobblestone street that is somewhat larger.  As we dine , we are surrounded by tall ceilings and dark walls that only make the white linen table clothes seem brighter and more inviting.  I learned a few things that night about dining out of country.  Ah hem!  One never partakes of the little dishes filled with creams and  other condiments unless one is prepared to pay extra.  Did not need them anyway because the food was so outrageously good.  Another outstanding image melted into my brain:  Most of the tables were filled with men.  The women stayed at home (I suppose) but I must say this was back in 1997.  I dare say the world has changed in “most” places since then.

We ended the evening with Susan and G Victoria– jumping up and down on the beds like kids.  Steve and I catch up on recent history.  This is a happy moment.  We crawl into those beds and used them for the reason they were intended.  Sweet, sweet sleep to arise to a view of a splendid old world garden perfectly kept and watched over by a spreading palm tree of sorts under which was a graceful bench.  A few ancient Portuguese homes surround this garden.  These homes are beautifully crafted with tall windows and tiled roofs along with tiara like sky lights of stained or frosted leaded glass. Our family members  will trip off to work while Susan and I [trip a light fantastic] to see as much of Portugal as we can.  Susan hires a guide whose name is , Noono.

See you tomorrow.

mosswood 4/29/13

Want to go to Spain?

•April 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So  come on– go with me  as I recount this adventure.  There we are on  Sunday 18 January 1997,  2:15 PM –  This snowy winter day the limo arrived promptly at Susan’s home on Iris Lane.  With final kisses and jugs we rushed off to the International Terminal so as not to miss the flight.

” We are so sorry to tell you that there is an ice storm in, Frankfurt.”  ” Your flight will not leave until 6″00 PM.”    Susan  reasoned that  time might be better spent touring the duty-free stores for some last minute items,  and for the famous Fanny Mae chocolate store.  Followed by a  rye comment by Susan that Gate B17 at O’Hare might be our home for some time.  …not without some entertainment, however.

Right in front of our eyes sat a man reading a Romance Novel the title of which was, The Name of a Flower.    We are speechless.  Dear man  is an eating machine–consuming large fries, monster cheese burger and tall beverage.   He saunters once again over to the food counter about fifty feet way returning with three candy bars and a package of cookies.

Smugly, we  begin to stuff ourselves silly with the Fanny Mae Chocolates.  As we followed the call to board the plane,  we had consumed more chocolate than that fellow just mentioned could ever dream.   Freely  acknowledging our chocolate indulgence and our judgmental attitudes,  we board Lufthansa for the first leg of the trip:  Frankfurt Airport.  Lufthansa provided a dream flight across the Atlantic.  Service is excellent.  Meals are  tasty and relaxing hot towels a real bonus.  To our surprise organized and  strongly suggested exercise.  Long flight and a good idea.

Upon arrival it is obvious that the Frankfurt Airport is dealing with the rerouting of many flights.  Not surprising, we miss our flight to Portugal (a stop along the way).  What a study in contrast leaving the giant comfortable Lufthansa to board an archaic 737 where a smartly uniformed but rotund (and no joke) imperious flight attendant walked up and down the aisle instructing us  as we froze on this frigid and drafty aircraft.  We leave this plane safely in Portugal with mirthful memories.


to be con’t by mosswood 4/28/13

Another Art Form

•April 22, 2013 • 1 Comment

Art is a very special skill.  While all of us will not be great artists,  all of us can develop a level of skill that will produce significant  personal results. May I surprise you by suggesting that being alone is the singular place that a particular art form can take place.  The discovery and development in question is a skill as in any other that can produce fine results. This art form does not come without overcoming the fear inherent in facing down a seeming vacuum.

Here is the Art of it:  Inviting a broader vision into our alone[ness], we might move toward a brighter place of being.  Starting with a reality that being thrust willingly or unwillingly into alone[ness] presents us with an opportunity for much internal self clarification.  How lucky is that (?)  We are forced to to examine and ponder our range of thoughts and habits.  This inner house cleaning presents the opportunity to keep what has value and discard what is of no use  or value.  This is truly a –get a grip–time.  It is a time that is a favor from the Universe.  One can bundle safely one’s most precious memories and evict (not easy) hurtful and non productive memories.

It is a time we can choose to accept our latent inner qualities and use them to push back against a piece of life that is testing us sorely.  Movement, action, and positive thought projections into our tomorrows, is the soft cloak of energy to begin the art form of designing who we are at any given moment.

Did I share with you something you did not know?  No, for I have seen many take up this art form with great success.


mosswood 2011