Readers may wonder why I blog on travel and not just my writing. From the beginning I titled the blog “Travels and Travail,” relating to the authorship experience. While travel is hardly travail, it certainly augments and complements the writing and broadens the writer’s outlook (and body look). Blogging is writing, too, which is a good thing, since this is the most writing I’ve done in the past couple of weeks.

After our non-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving in Glasgow Ei and I flew to southern Spain. The 2+ hour flight that departed at 8 am from Glasgow was packed with Scottish vacationers, many sporting flip flops and shorts and drinking beer for breakfast. We flew Easy-Jet, a European no-frills carrier. Nice folks, no rowdiness, just a little noisy. With Glasgow’s climate, who could blame them for starting their holiday from the moment of take-off?

We and they were rewarded with perfect weather along Spain’s Costa del Sol, Coast of the Sun. Everyday was sunny, temperatures up into the 70s. We stayed near Marbella, about an hour from Malaga’s airport, our arrival and departure point. We’d never been to Spain before–and hope to return to see Madrid, Barcelona and other areas–but made the most of our location. Marbella is a resort destination of the rich and famous, and we stayed in a beachside resort with the less rich and famous, but it was very nice. A number of destination cities are within two hours driving distance from Marbella. We rented a car and visited:

Gibraltar: great views from the Rock and fascinating tunnels inside it, but the commercial area rivals Fisherman’s Wharf in touristy-ness. In case we hadn’t seen enough wildlife in 2011, the apes on the Rock were pretty cute. albeit domesticated, as we were warned not to eat anything that one of the aggressive monkeys could swipe!

Ronda: a scenic hill town above a gorge, with its “New Bridge” (Nueva Puerta) dating from the 18th century. Charming!

Cordoba: The only Jewish sightseeing of the trip. We spent a night in the old Juderia quarter. Our hotel was around the corner from a statue of Maimonides, the Rambam–the famous physician, rabbi and philosopher. Though born in Cordoba, he and his family fled Spanish persecution, and he lived out his life afterward across the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle East, mainly Egypt. Although this was a few hundred years before the notorious Inquisition and the more widespread expulsion of Jews from Spain, the so-called Golden Age for Jews in Spain had pretty much ended by the 11th century. One of the very few remaining synagogues in Spain is in the Juderia, as is a small Sephardic Museum we visited. The quarter was eerily uncrowded and quiet, especially at night. One could almost feel the atmosphere that must have existed there a thousand years ago–and envision its cloaked inhabitants scurrying through the narrow streets and alleys. Nearby is the huge and legendary Mezquita de Cordoba, formerly a mosque that is now a cathedral. Jews were hardly the only victims of persecution in Spain.

Granada: The Alhambra, of course.

Malaga: Fascinating Picasso Museum and birthplace home, as well as locals getting into the holiday spirit enjoying the lights and decorations as they shopped and ate in the Old Quarter area.

Marbella: great beach walking and tapas in the Old City!

We ended this trip with a night in London (after another no-frills flight on Monarch Air, where I stuffed my purse contents into our backpacks to avoid a 60 Euro charge for a second piece of “hand luggage” and declined a cup on tea on board when I found out it would cost 2.5 Euros. This was less than no-frills! (Yes, the price was right, but…)

London: Despite less than 24 hours there before our flight back to San Francisco, we made the most of it and saw a fabulous play, “Three Days in May.” It’s the story of Churchill and his War Cabinet in May 1940, during Dunkirk just before the fall of France, still debating whether or not to negotiate with Hitler. It’s a gripping reminder of how close the entire western world came to Nazi dominance. On the only-in-London side of things, it was thrilling to hear Big Ben peal on a stage within earshot of the real thing.

Here are some photos from our week in Spain. By the way, we’re home now for a while. Really!



Eli "discusses" with Maimonides, the Rambam

Aping it up on the Rock of Gibraltar

The New Bridge, from the 1800s, in Ronda.

The Mesquita of Cordoba, former mosque now cathedral.

The Alhambra in Granada


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