Archive | November, 2013

Zaragoza, The Jewel of Aragon

10 Nov

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our stay in Zaragoza was less than one day, unfortunately. We arrived late in the afternoon and left the early afternoon the following day. Augustus Caesar founded the city about 2000 years ago. It’s about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. Goya was born not far from there. Marlene and I fell in love the city. We stayed near the town plaza. When we arrived, we went to the hotel Marlene originally planned at staying, but did not because of her illness. When we took our walk for our fruit we eat each morning enables us to see a little bit of the area. We ate dinner near the hotel. I had a craving for something sweet, so we found an Italian restaurant, where I had lemon Italian ice. We then went back to our hotel.

Our hotel room was black and white with two large posters, one with a quote from Casablanca and the other from a James Bond movie. Our room was on the third floor with a balcony, which I shot some photos the following morning. Instead of leaving after eating breakfast, Marlene wanted to stay and walk a little around the city. I’m glad we did, because we ended up going to the art museum there. The museum was free. Inside, we saw some drawings, which depicted the city’s destruction from the French invasion, by Goya. Of course, like every local museum, local artists were featured, besides Goya. After our short extended stay, we were on our way to Catalonian city of Barcelona.

Last Days in Madrid

9 Nov

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our third day in Madrid started like almost every morning. Marlene had fruit with whipped cream, coffee, and a pastry. I had fruit with bread and a coffee. A well-dressed old man was eating breakfast. It was apparent to me he knew the hotel staff. Marlene told me he lived at the hotel and at one time was the hotel manager. After breakfast, we walked straight to the Puerta del Sol, where we interviewed the hunger striker (I posted the content of the interview earlier for continuity.). We decided to do the Madrid City Tour, which is a bus covering the major sites of the city. This day we took the tour bus to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Attached are some photos from it. After walking around the perimeter of it, we then went to the Prado Museum. We ate lunch there. I have to admit I found the food delicious, but expensive. Marlene’s kneels were bothering her so we only saw the works of Hieronymus Bosch. I jokingly told Marlene that I had seen sexual acts in his works that I had not even thought of before. We then caught the tour bus and went back to the Puerto del Sol. From there, we walked back to the hotel. We found a Sushi restaurant, which was quite good.
The next morning I got up about 7:30, walked to the Laundromat, where I washed some of my dark clothes. Marlene was in the shower when I knocked on our hotel room door. After about five minutes, she let me in. Again we had breakfast. However, in the room, which is the hotel bar, was the same old man, but this time with his daughter, who I mistakenly took for his sister. After breakfast, we took a nap and just walked around the area. This time we had dinner at an Arab restaurant. Again I found the food to my liking. After dinner, we walked back to Puerta del Sol and then to the Plaza Mayor, where a ham festival was ending for the day. It seemed a little ironic since Marlene and I are vegetarians for different reasons. After walking down the nearby streets of the Plaza Mayor, we went and had a light snack. I had water with gas and three boiled potatoes. Marlene had water and I cannot remember what else. We then walked back to the hotel. At the Puerto del Sol, we saw some young men and women performing jumps for change. We then went back to the hotel and to bed.
The next morning of our last day, as our usual routine, we ate breakfast upstairs in the bar. Again the old man was there, but this time alone. After breakfast, we took the Madrid City Tour bus again. When we arrived at the Madrid Royal Palace, we got off the bus and toured the palace. We ate lunch at the palace. In the cafeteria on the back wall was a photo of the palace’s enormous dining room. I took a photo of Marlene seated in front of the photo. Then Marlene took a photo of me. However, the playful old man that I am, I made it appear that I was trying to steal food from the plates in the photo. Marlene thought it was funny and some young girls thought so too. They tried to imitate my behavior. We took photos of the outside grounds and of the nearby park. I have a photo of a floating air bubble in the park attached. We caught bus and got off by a bridge and area I do not know. We walked around took some photos. It was too late to catch the tour bus. Fortunately at the public transit stop, I recognized a stop near the hotel. We took the corresponding bus back to the hotel.

8 Nov

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After we arrived at the Hotel Regente and parked the car, Marlene and I went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant a couple blocks from the hotel. Then we bought a new SIM card for Spain and when to The English Court, a large department store with a supermarket, where we bought fruit, bread, and whipped cream for our breakfast in the morning.
After eating and shopping we walked around the area. We found three protests that evening. The first was a group of pensioners, who were protesting the bailing out of the banks. Each Thursday, they would march in the area. They passed out a small flyer written in Spanish and English. The English version said that “the government of Spain and its banks” have stolen “30 billion euros from elderly people,” which was only from “Bankia,” one of the bailed-out Spanish banks.
The second protest was really a hunger strike by several young people. Unlike the early days of the short-lived Occupy movement in the United States, they had specific demands. One of the attached photos lists the hunger strikers’ demands. When we interviewed one the spokespersons for the hunger strikers, he said that the hunger strikers were not only in Madrid, but other cities in Spain as well, that they were on a hunger strike because of because of the social, political, and economical situation in Spain. He said that they have a government, which acts like the mafia then a government, that they have stolen public money, while they tell us to make sacrifices.
He said the situation was difficult, every day is Spain more than 500 families are driven from their homes because of the banks, and the government is working for the economic powers, for the banks and not for the Spanish population. He said it was time to change this capitalist system, which is against the people’s rights and dignity. He said that the alternative to capitalism was democracy, where the people decide the issues in their lives. He said that he agreed with nationalizing the banks. However, he would not define himself as an anarchist, a Marxist, or as socialist. He said he had been on a hunger strike for 21 days.
The third group was protesting the government not prosecuting the crimes under Franco. In a legal-size flyer also in Spanish and English said that the goal was “to struggle against the impunity for the crimes committed during the country’s cruel 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing four decades of right-wing dictatorship.” The same flyer said the goals could be summarized by the three words, “truth, justice, and reparation(s).”
While I’m supportive of a “truth commission,” all sides used violence against their enemies and committed atrocities. For example, while I’m an atheist, I would have opposed the destruction of the churches by the left; and, the Stalinist Spanish Communist Party liquidated leaders of the POUM (Partido Obrero Unidad Marxista) and of anarchists. All these crimes should also be investigated.

From Lison to Trujillo to Madrid

6 Nov

The morning Marlene and I left for Spain, we had a horrible argument. She insisted I drive the car around to the front of the building, where we were staying. I wanted to just carry our luggage to the car and I had already carried three of our four bags to the car. I won’t bother you with the details of the argument, but will only add that we were so loud we woke Jorge up. To resolve the argument, Jorge volunteered to drive the car around and he did. While Marlene waited downstairs, Jorge told me I was right because finding his and Chico’s apartment with all the one-way and narrow streets was difficult at best. It turned out no legal parking existed outside the apartment when we left. After we finished loading up the car, I gave Jorge my book, “New Journalism,” because earlier he expressed interest in the subject. Marlene and I then left, while Jorge waited to see us leave. While Marlene and I argue, like any couple, neither of us stay angry long. On leaving Lisbon, we crossed over the Vasco do Gama Bridge, which is modern and futuristic. The toll road had few cars on it and the landscape reminded Marlene of the Sacramento, California. Every few miles were rest stops consisting of usually a gas station, a small convenience story, and rarely a restaurant.
The first place we were to spend the night in Trujillo required us to climb up stairs with the luggage. Marlene decided and I agreed we should try to stay at another hotel. We ended up at the Hotel Victoria. We ate dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. I found the food good, but then I only has some potatoes and a salad. In the restaurant was an old woman with tubes up her nose for oxygen. I liked the hotel. A large miniature wooden sailing ship was prominently displayed in the middle of the lobby. The room had an enclosed balcony, which was probably used in the summer, but for us it was too cold to be used. The room had a very high celling. I can only think how expensive it would be to heat the room in the winter. The next morning we again ate breakfast in the hotel’s lobby. While eating, I noticed an old man drinking a beer and eating olives.
We ate breakfast, packed up the car, and went on our way to Madrid. As we approached Madrid I noticed the highways we were on got wider and wider because of the additional lanes with more and more cars on them. We finally arrived where we were to stay. It was about 5 p.m. The woman, Isabel, we were to stay with at first seemed nice, but it did not take long for Marlene and me to realize that she was a sneaky liar.
Obviously an explanation is in order. After we arrived at her apartment, she walked us to a supermarket. While walking with her, Marlene mentioned the smoke bothered her asthma and asked if she could spray the apartment with air freshener to remove the odor and smoke. Isabel denied the request. She told Marlene she only smoked in her bedroom and added if the smoke continued to bother her, we could spend the night and then the next day we could find some other place to stay. While shopping, Isabel suddenly told us she had to leave because she needed to workout at the gym.
We soon discovered Isabel had lied to us. She did not go the gym, but went home and canceled our Airbnb contract with her. On arriving at her door step with our luggage still in the apartment about 7 p.m., she told us we had to leave. While Marlene and I felt what she did was arbitrary and unfair, Marlene attempted to find another place. After an hour with no success, Marlene and I decided we would insist we would be staying the night. When we confronted her about staying, she told us that our money would be refunded and therefore we must leave. I told her we were not leaving. She then telephoned Airbnb and we told her we were calling the police. She then said she would call the police and did. She also called two male friends, who arrived just before the police and disappeared when the police arrived. The police told us they could not do anything. After she spoke with Airbnb she became quiet and cooperative. The final arrangement was we could spend the night and would leave by noon the next day. The police made it clear we must be out by noon. Even this arrangement violated our original contract which stipulated 24-hour noticed was required.
We then went back to the supermarket, where we bought our next day’s breakfast, and purchased the fixings for a salad, some dealcoholized wine, and some bread. While preparing dinner I suggested to Marlene that we invite Isabel to eat our salad with us. I suggested this because I wanted to ease the tension between her and the two of us. While she refused our invitation, which did not surprise us, Isabel was more polite to us. We ate dinner, went to bed, and slept. The next morning, while much more expensive, we found a hotel near the center of Madrid, within walking distance of the Puerta del Sol. The hotel was the Hotel Regente, which I liked. The ride to the hotel was horrible for me and Marlene. I had to defecate while Marlene was driving. What should have taken no more than a half hour took close to two hours, because Marlene several times missed the turns the GPS told us to take. It was horrible for Marlene, because she had to drive in heavy downtown Madrid traffic down sometimes quite narrow streets. However, we did eventually arrive and while first two days in Madrid were awful, the remaining days there were quite nice and pleasant.

Last Day in Lisbon

5 Nov

In the afternoon of our last day in Lisbon, our two young friends took us to a rather small restaurant, which was about a100 years old. The building, which housed the restaurant, was to be torn down in three days and was to be replaced with a new hotel. For sentimental reasons, our two friends wished to eat there one last time. We ate some fish, which was too salty for my palate. Our two friends left us. Marlene and I walked along the streets sightseeing, which was near the Elevador de Santa Justa. One of the attached photos is of the elevator and another is of the Praca do Comercio.
In the evening our two friends made us dinner. Chico picked up at the airport his favorite girl and she had dinner with us. She is a set designer for motion pictures. I found her quite entertaining. She at one point made fun of the American management notion of “thinking outside the box” by saying, “Jorge thinks inside the box,” that she was “the queen of the box,” and that “Chico didn’t know what the box was.” She also made the observation, when Chico and Jorge were arguing that the two of them were acting like a married couple.

5 Nov

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Day at the Lisbon Aquariumd

4 Nov

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe third day in Lisbon we went to Aquariam, the second largest in the world. Officially it is called an Oceanarium. It is in a modern part of the city. Some of which was built for Expo ’98. I find aquariums beautiful and relaxing, perhaps because of the motion of the water. The aquarium has two buildings connected by a ramp crossing over the water. In the middle of our excursion, we ate at the café in the aquarium. One of the attached photos is a photo of a pastel my wife could not wait to eat, which explains the bite in it.

When we left, we walked along the Avenida Dom Joao II. After passing the Casino Lisboa, we entered a three-story shopping center, where we ate some rather delicious Japanese food. Marlene has miso soup and sushi and I had miso soup and a salad.

When we got back to where we were staying, I was on the internet. I allowed some software thinking it was from the Vodofone Portugal. It was not and it turned out to be the malware, Antivirus Security Pro. Because I was a computer programmer before I retired and began writing, I figured out a work around. Let me share with you those steps. First, after the icon for the malware appears on your desktop, right back click. Second, when properties appear, click on it. The target program, C:\ProgramData\7n373333.exe will appear. Fourth, click on Start. Fifth, click on All Programs. Sixth, then, click on Accessories. Seventh, click on Command Prompt. Eighth, at the prompt, enter tasklist and hit enter. Ninth, then enter taskkill /f /pid, followed with a space, then the PID Session Number, and then hit enter. This should stop the malware from running.

Fado Music in Lisboa

2 Nov

The evening of our second day in Lisbon, at Marlene’s request, the two young men we were staying with took us to hear fado music at a bar, where we ate, drank, and listen. The was divided into two sections, which each held about 50 people seated on bench on each side of a table for about four people. The two musicians, one playing a guitarra and the other playing a viola, sat on the side facing the bar patrons with the fadista standing between them. Perhaps 10 fadistas sang one at a time, usually one or two songs. I also noticed that some of the fadistas had pictures of themselves on the two walls of the bar. Some of the fadistas after singing would politely and quietly hawk their CDs. We sat in the back of bar near the fadistas waiting their turn to sing. In the back, the fadistas would greet each other. Most of the fadistas would sing and then move on, as if there was a circuit of bars to sing at. Attached to this is the video Marlene Alvarado, my wife did.
While I’m speaking of my wife, indulge me for a moment and let me expand my short poem of my wife I posted awhile back. I now have two more lines to add. The poem now reads,
I know my fate.
My wife is always late.
In my age of late,
I’ve found my helpmate.
Let me return to the evening of the second day. With our two young friends, Jorge and Chico, we left the bar and walked down the narrow streets to a main street, where we caught a cab. In the cab around midnight the streets on the weekend were packed with mostly young people walking and enjoying themselves. The taxi took us to another bar for a couple of more drinks. This bar had no live music but had collections of toy soldiers, hats, art, and many other items of curiosity. Jorge, whose parents are members of the Communist Party of Portugal, pointed out a painting of V.I. Lenin, as a waiter.
After the second bar, our two friends took us back to their apartment. Marlene and I went to bed, while our two friends went out again.