Monthly Archives: September 2012

Swanky resort with Spaniards

I’m in a swanky resort outside of the little village of Gredos, northwest of Madrid. It took about three hours, passing open spaces of wheat and cattle. That part reminded me of New Mexico. Then we were on winding roads, driving through little villages and saw the Wall of Avila, a national monument. That’s where we stopped for a coffee break, and then continued on until we got to our final destination.

I was in a bus with the Anglos and Spaniards; where an Anglo must sit with a Spaniard to speak only English, then after the break, we switched partners; or they did, for at that time I didn’t have a partner, so I could enjoy the ride silently. We came to a mountain area that had trees shedding their autumn leaves, in colors of gold, red, rust and brown.

We got to the resort and left our luggage in a small conference building and went on to the main lodge, and by that time it was in the rain.

We had a briefing about what our job was as a volunteer conversationalist, and the Spaniards got their briefing, as well. A tiny person in the name of Carlota is the master of ceremonies and a up and coming actress. She explained well and teased us all a bit.

Then we had a delicious four-course gourmet lunch that we got to choose early in the day even before we left Madrid.

Our job is to sit with a Spaniard, who are all employees of the utilities company. Eva was my first conversation on the bus, and she explained that her job with the company is to check out discrepancies with energy output.

Eva has a thirteen month old daughter, and I had the privilege of seeing a photo of the cherub.

The second partners was an nuclear engineer and another engineer, who is from Granada. He made Granada sound very inviting.

My room is upstairs in the main lodge. Inside the lodge and my room, reminds me of houses in Colorado: rustic open ceiling beams and a dormer on the roof. The doors to get into the room are flush with the wall, so you don’t actually see doors as you walk down the hallway.

We had a game of sorts to play in the community room, where we chose partners and asked three questions, then we had to introduce our partner to the rest of the people.

We all have a schedule to follow during the day, and we eat dinner at 9 p.m. My friend, actor Sumi Haru, who made a movie in Madrid, reminded me that dinners are late in Spain. She is right.

I have a scheduled break right now for fifty minutes, and then I’ll have a one-on-one conversation with a Spaniard. I’m really having fun.



Rejuvenated and ready for the next adventure

Here’s the latest news from the rejuvenated traveler.

I moved to another hotel today, and at 5 p.m. went to the welcome and get acquainted party for the Vaughan company conversation project here in this hotel.

I, and several others will be going to a small village where we will be treated royally for one week while we engage Spanish executives in conversation in English.

We are not allowed to use any Spanish whatsoever, and if we do, we will be asked to leave. That’s not going to happen to me!

I will be in the village of Gredos, and others go to another place. We leave at 9 a.m. in the morning on buses, and return back to Madrid on Friday.

The program promises to get executives up to speed with English, through the Vaughan company’s own curriculum. It will be interesting to see how we do.

During the party I met people, mostly from England, Scotland and an American couple who are expats in Spain, and two young women from India, and a woman from Canada, along with others, that I didn’t meet yet.

One gentleman from England told me about his experience as a volunteer in the Olympics. It was really a lot of fun he said, and would surely do it again. He was a smiling fellow and a joy to talk with.

Tonight I went to a restaurant with three women, Heather from England, Evelyn from Ireland and Rhona from Scotland.

Heather has had an interesting life, and she wears it well. She was in a sparkling top that matches her own spark. She has lived in Taiwan for five years to be close to her son and half Asian grandsons and her daughter-in-law. She currently ‘nannies’ for a wealthy couple for two children she says are wonderful kids.

Heather has traveled a lot in her life, and just returned from the El Camino walk through Spain. She has told me all about it, and I’m going to try a portion of that long pilgrimage.

Rhona has been an educator and is eager to get down to the business of talking to the Spaniards. She stayed in another hotel from the one I’m in, as is Evelyn and Heather.

When I come back to Madrid, I will be staying somewhere, probably a hostel and then I’ll go to the Basque area on Oct. 1.

Does it seem possible that I’ve been on the road for six months? Not to me. That is until I look at my bags. The one I book on the plane has holes in it, and the zipper on the carry-in is not working well, so guess that’s proof of how well I have traveled.

Lazy day

Today was the first completely lazy day in my five month journey. It helps that I am far away from anything. Surrounding the Holiday Inn Express near the Madrid airport, is just fields of weeds, and a few buildings that look as though the building of them has stopped.

So without a car, or access to a bus, except for expensive taxi’s, I decided it was a good time to do nothing. I did that very well so far and it’s 9:15 p.m.


I had the breakfast the hotel provides, and when lunch time came, and I went down to the restaurant to partake, I was told the restaurant only has breakfast and dinner. Dinner wouldn’t be available until 7:30 p.m. Well now, I was hungry and the snack machines didn’t look inviting.


“There isn’t anything around here is there?” I asked the hotel receptionist on duty.

“Yes, go out that way, turn left and walk for about five minutes, cross the bridge and you’ll find a restaurant.”

I checked out what she said to make certain I understood.

So I walked out, turned left and saw the ‘bridge’ that was a concrete overpass that stretched over an eight lane freeway. When I got to the ‘bridge’ I had to walk up two flights of stairs, and then walk over it to the other side. I kept thinking, sure hope the engineers built a strong bridge, and it won’t fall just when I’m in the center of it. I noticed it didn’t sway so that was a good sign. Airplanes jetted low over my head, as the airport is just a few miles away.

Then when I got over to the other side, there were more stairs, and at the bottom of the stairs was a narrow iron gate, with a fence that wrapped around a field and the restaurant that had a great big sign painted on the window. “The Lunch” it said.

The fence looked like it surrounded a concentration camp, but I continued on and found the restaurant, where a waitress told me lunch wasn’t ready. That was at 1 p.m. so I waited at a table. Soon other people came in behind me. I had fish with a mild green sauce, a salad and rice pilaf. The salad was lettuce, pickles, olives, onion, tomatoes and cucumbers. A great combination. I was proud of myself for ordering everything in Spanish, as the waitress didn’t speak English. She looked relieved. Dessert was a tiny bowl of diced fruit.


The rest of my time was spent watching Spain Television and understanding only what I saw, and once in awhile, the words and phrases.


That’s it for today. I feel very rested and ready to take on the world tomorrow. I leave here at 11 a.m. for another hotel near the city. This is a program I’m involved in that I registered for many months ago. More about that later. I have no photos today, because, well, I didn’t take any. I’m lazy today, remember?

A completed, complicated itinerary planned by a pro!

I want to shout out for my travel agent, Pauline Hill. I met her in Blairgowrie, Scotland just walking past her office. I decided to stop and ask questions. I ended up with a complete itinerary, that, by the way, was a complicated one, and she worked it out, keeping my budget in mind, and pulled it off. It involved ferries, buses, airplanes and hotels. Beginning in the Orkney Islands, Croatia and now Spain, via London. She is a total professional!!!! You would fall over if you knew how little I spent on the awesome itinerary.

Travel transitions make me tired.

It is 12:40 a.m. in California, U.S.A. and it’s 10:40 a.m. in Madrid, Spain and one hour difference from Croatia.

I got rested up, had my desayuno and ready to divulge my “Jerry Lewis” style of catching a plane.

First of all, I believe more and more in a self-fulfilled prophesy when applied to my personal travels. I make good judgements, and try to be as organized as possible, but still during transitions, I worry that there is something I haven’t done correctly or that I have lost an important document, or…and it goes on. But I persevere with a personality trait that seems to overcome any obstacles that arise.

Take my trip to Madrid that began two days ago.

I got on a bus in Komiza for the ride to the ferry in Vis. There isn’t any direction to board the ferry, so following people who seem to know the name of the game, is the rule. There were no ‘lifts’ on this ferry, but there were two Croatian ladies who put their bags on a wooden plank and signaled that’s what I should do. So I did then walked up narrow metal stairs to a community room, where I sat looking out of the window for two hours. My book was in the bag, so that was my first mistake.

When the ferry arrived at Split, everyone seemed to know what to do, where to go, and how to get off the ferry and all at the same time: this includes cars, trucks, vans and boats.

People were walking in between cars to get to the other side. “I don’t see my luggage here.” I said to a man who was standing on the side.

“How did you come into the ferry. On the left side or the right side?”

“Oh, I entered the ferry from the left side.”  “I think,” a quiet afterthought.

“Well, then, your luggage is on the other side.”

“How do I get there?”

“You just walk in between the cars.”

“But they’re driving off the ferry.”

He wasn’t concerned and left his position, leaving me to figure it out. So, I walked between vehicles, with my hand out, as if to stop a vehicle from hitting me, and got to the other side. No luggage to be found. I asked someone who seemed to be in charge of a storage closet.

“No luggage here,” the man said.

I waited for all the vehicles to leave and from where I stood, I saw my luggage standing alone on the other side of the ferry. I walked over, picked it up, and while I walked off, passengers for the outgoing trip were arriving. I managed to be the last person off the ferry, and were no prizes awarded for that, until I saw the taxi driver with a sign held up, “LAUREEN DIEPHOF.”

I stayed in a lovely Villa Cezar hotel near the airport, and met a nice young lady, who had arranged for the taxi transition from the ferry, delivery of a dinner from a local restaurant, and a taxi transition to the Split airport the next day. The young lady, a recent graduate from college with a degree in economics said her summer job at the hotel was about over, and then she would try to find a job. It’s very difficult to find a job in Croatia she told me. She was so good in managing the hotel activities and I wished her well.

Now here’s where the fun began: I got at the airport, at the correct time to check in, I thought. One time I was too early and they made me wait, so learning from that, I took that into consideration, and because I misread something in the paper-work, I got a shock when at the check-in window.

“Am I too early to check in?” I asked the friendliest looking counter woman, who was smiling and laughing with her coworkers.

“You are too late. You are going to miss the plane. Put your luggage up here,” she suddenly turned into Cruella Deville.

Before I got to the check in, from something I learned flying EasyJet,  was that I had to put my computer into my carry-on bag with the computer bag rolled up inside. This makes that bag very heavy for my shoulder, and I didn’t do that this time, because, if you remember from another post, I had to take the computer out for customs inspection, and I just walked on board with it in my hand and put it under the seat. No one said anything. I tried that this time.

Anyway, Cruella told me we had to hurry, “If you don’t want to miss the plane”, and she took my booked-on suitcase over to the machine. The man overseeing that detected a battery inside.

“You have a battery inside the bag. You must remove it,” Cruella frowned.

“Oh, that must be my clock.”

“You must remove it.” Cruella looked at me with disgust written all over her face.

So, I tore into the bag, underwear going this way, tops that way, pants over there and my Kindle fell out, but no clock. I was frantic, out came winter gloves, the Icelandic sweater, wool socks, rocks, seashells, pajamas and a hot pink towel.

“Oh, come on, (I left the Kindle out thinking that may have been the problem), let them look at it again.” She pointed to the men who would give it a second look.

“No, there’s no time, just close it up and let’s go.”

I tried shoving my life back into the bag and now the bag seemed too small to accommodate all the stuff I had just thrown out.

“Can you  help me close this up, please.” I pleaded with the agent.

He did help me zip it up, and then I was on my way with Cruella’s stiletto hills clipping on the tile, with me in tow.

“Do you have your boarding pass and passport?” She turned with that look again.

“Yes,” I replied, trying not to let her  bullishness win.

I handed the custom agent my passport, and she and Cruella exchanged words, leaving me out.

“Oh, no, my camera.” Suddenly it was not hanging over my neck.

“Oh, yes, sure, of course, you left it back there,” she shook her head, and strutted off like a bandy rooster.

She came back with the camera, a small bag with my paper-work and a book.

“Okay now come on,” she took me, figuratively, the dunce, by the ear and led me to the gate keepers.

I walked on with the computer bag and the other bag, until I heard a voice. “Attention! If you carry more than one bag on the plane, you will be charged extra.”

I stopped enroute to the plane, stuffed the computer and rolled bag into the carry-on and  walked on the plane – not the last person – but close to the last one, and I sat at the tail of the plane – the worst place to sit, in my opinion.

I arrived in London, and this will just be a summary…You have to walk about two miles to pick up your luggage, and then another two miles to go through customs, again before you can leave. The plane I would take to Madrid was on the opposite terminal, which required taking a bus, more steps, more walking, and by then, I was so tired that I stopped in a restaurant and told the hostess that I was so tired and hungry.

“Oh, this space is only for drinking. If you want something to eat you need to go over there.”

“Okay then I’ll just drink.”

“Well if you want to just drink then you need to go over there and order it.”

“Come on, I will help you. If you’re hungry let’s go, I’ll carry this,” she picked up the bag and took me to a seat, where I ordered lunch.

I felt like crying.

After lunch, it started all over again, walking, carrying the heavy bag, up the stairs, down the stairs, until I finally found the stopping place where I would wait to see on the marquee when the boarding gate would be announced, and where I had to walk at least ten more minutes to board the plane.

Okay, I’m in a hotel, a reasonably priced one, that charges for wifi. I purchased 24 hours worth. It’s a good time to rest up.

I met two nice men from Palm Springs, who were traveling nearly as much as I am, and a couple with their twenty year old son from No. Carolina, who sat next to me during dinner last night.

Talking to them made me feel normal again.











I’m in Madrid

This will be short. I’ve been trapped in the London Airport most of the day.  There will be a lot of stories to write about my experience getting to Madrid, but now I need to rest. It’s been a long day, and I feel as though I’ve walked ten miles just back and forth through the airport, going here and there so the authorities can throughly check the travelers through their country.

But the adventure began in Split airport. Report back here tomorrow and I’ll write the details. It wasn’t pretty.

I landed in Madrid about 6:30 p.m. and it’s now 9:30 p.m. I had dinner and now on the internet,where for the first time during my five months of travel, I’ve had to pay for wifi.





One more hour

Seen in a garden

One last walk through the village of Komiza until it is time to leave. I either spent two much time here or not enough. I think it might well be the latter, as I have met more people, and seen more these last three hours.

Take for instance, Dragon, the handsome grandson of the woman I rented my room from. He wanted to assure me that Dragon means nice flower, not a fire eating thing.

Dragon is leaving the island on the same ferry as I, and is returning back to Serbia where he was raised and where his parents live.

He’s an intelligent young man who has an insight earned from living in a war-torn country, and also from studying interior design.

He is interested in interior design from the standpoint of using design to create a positive, clean, pollution-free world.

Dragon gave me his insightful look into the differences between his country of Serbia and Croatia.

“The countries hate each other,” he said, and further explained that the disagreement came out of a war many years ago and a war just twenty short years ago. Croatia wanted freedom from Yugoslavia, and the Serbs sided with Yugoslavia during the conflict.

He assured me again, that the fire eating dragon of Serbia didn’t include the citizens of the country, but the leaders.  Isn’t that the way?

He also told me something interesting about guns made in Serbia. They are sold to various countries across the world.

Dragon is intelligent and uses the foreign language of English well, with few limitations. I hung on every word and I learned so much from this young man.

Before meeting up with Dragon, I walked around the village to see more of the houses and the many, many cats who live on this island. A veterinarian needs to volunteer his/her time to neuter and spay the cats, as there are many who scrounge around for food. I saw one with the use of only three legs, and one with open sores. Being a cat lover this is hard to see.

One more item to report is the T-shirts I see with strange phrases. Here are a few and I will observe more and list them as I see them.


True Religion Brand Jeans  California Los Angeles


Play California


Fresno Pacific University


Louisiana US Repair Shop

Denim New York City

A well-cared for cat.



Okay it’s 1 p.m. and one more hour for the bus and then the ferry.

Walking home from school in Komiza

Just a pretty house in Komiza

Last night in Komiza

the class clown?