Recap of the Best Year of My Life

If I measure 2016 by the one yardstick that matters to me, how much I travelled, it was the best year of my life. That’s hard to reconcile with how horrible the year was to the world in general, but it’s my truth.

This was a rare year of my life where there was enough money to do what I wanted to do. I prioritised paying for the big stuff, like making sure I had a roof over my head, could get from point A to point B, and that I stayed healthy. I savoured the little stuff I could afford. I refused to be a glass half empty person and bemoan that I couldn’t do X, Y, or Z because of a tight budget and instead celebrated that I was wherever I was at that moment.

I covered so much ground this year that you might have forgotten where I started. So here’s my 2016 travel retrospective.

January started in Mazatlán, Mexico. It was the second year of my life starting there and the novelty hadn’t worn off! I spent many hours cantering on a beautiful tropical beach, a weekly ritual that made me feel like the richest and luckiest woman in the world.

The lagoon at the Isla de la Piedra botanical gardens.

The lagoon in Mazatlán’s Bosque de la Ciudad.

February brought me to Mérida, in the Mexican state of Yucatán, on a scouting mission in anticipation of possibly moving there!

I saw ancient Mayan ruins!

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

March had me discovering the wonderful botanical gardens right in my backyard on Isla de la Piedra.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra's botanical gardens.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra’s botanical gardens.

April found me seeing Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

…and exploring Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

…and the town of Moab, Utah.

May took me to Cody, Wyoming

downtown Cody, WY

downtown Cody, WY

…with plenty of time to explore the Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

… and a Japanese internment camp

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

… before going home to Haven…

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

… before getting on a plane and technically visiting my last Canadian province.


So June took me to London, England (really!)…

London from the St. Paul's Cathedral

London from St. Paul’s Cathedral


… and to Bulgaria!

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria


July took me on two trips to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

August took me to Plovdiv

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

… and across Bulgaria in a Chevy to Nessebar

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

…to Soviet ruins



Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

…the scenic town of Teteven



Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

…the Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

…and a the magnificent 15th century Glozhene Monastery.

inside the Glozhene Monastery

inside the Glozhene Monastery

September saw me quit Bulgaria for Serbia and finish the month in Belgrade.

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

October found me in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, BiH

Sarajevo, BiH

Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

…blipping through Albania

an Albanian fortress

an Albanian fortress

…staying out too late in Prizen, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

…not being impressed by Skopje, Macedonia

Archaeological Museum, Skopje

Archaeological Museum, Skopje


…ambling through Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


… then through Alicante

Alicante, Spain

Alicante, Spain

… before settling in Almería for seven weeks.

The port of Almería

The port of Almería

November was spent in lovely Almería learning to live in the real Spain.

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

December saw me in Málaga for a few days…

Málaga from the top of the itinerant Ferris wheel.


…before jetting off to end the year and ring in 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands!

Quintessential Amsterdam scene


What a journey 2016 was, from getting more and more comfortable in Mexico to becoming a seasoned European traveler!

But the most amazing thing that happened? I was offered my key to Mexico. So my 2017 is well plotted. But before I return to the blistering tropical heat of the Yucatán, England, Quebec, and Haven beckon. So clichéd as the saying is, the best really is yet to come.

Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers!

An Amazing Last Evening in Spain and Off to Amsterdam!

My host in Málaga asked for permission to have a friend over last night! In her own home! She really wanted me to meet him, she said, and she also wanted to put together a special dinner for my final night in Spain. Um, WOW. Her friend, D, is Chilean, but has lived all over the world, including in Bulgaria! They insisted on making food while I drank beer and then we sat and noshed “family style.” There was guacamole made from avocados from my host’s family’s farm (with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar!), cheeses, sesame crackers, store-bought fries with a yummy yoghurt sauce, and homemade falafel (so good!). And did I mention beer?

We gabbed and laughed in a way that made me realise how much I need to make friends who only speak Spanish to force me to converse more. I had a blast trying to explain the finer points of taxation as a sole proprietor in Canada with my limited vocabulary. It’s not like I had to learn that in school! D and I also had a “Bulgarian vocabulary-off,” trying to see who remembered the most of that language. Interestingly enough, he’s the first person I’ve met who raved about Varna, a city I was well convinced not to visit (I went to Veliko Tarnovo instead).

Our meal didn’t end that late, but by the time I’d wound down enough to sleep it was almost midnight, quite a bit later than I wanted to go to bed since I wanted to be gone by about eight. I woke up at 7:45 and packed as my host got ready for work, then headed out around 8:15. She’d advised me to take a train rather than the bus to the airport, which was almost half the cost! I stopped at the Deutsche Bank on the way since there are no Global ATM Alliance banks in the Netherlands.

I got to the train station around 8:30 and a train came at 8:50. It was then a very quick (about 15-minute) ride to the airport. My flight was at 11:25. The plan was to get through security and then have breakfast. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Security was backed up and slow. I listened to all the instructions (given in both English and Spanish) and followed them to the letter, including removing my boots. An agent approved my trays to be sent through the scanner and told me to go through the metal detector. I didn’t beep. So all clear, right?

No. That I don’t know what to call her agent who had approved my trays sneered at me and said I had to go back and put my electronic devices into separate trays and go through the process again. I went to grab my purse and she snapped that those things had been cleared and to leave them. I went back around the scanner and had to get back in line to send my electronics through. I was there a solid ten minutes with poor visibility on my belongings on the other side, which included my purse that had my passport, cash, and cards. Well, it happened — someone got interested in my bag. I yelled to the person to leave it alone and the same *** agent told me to stop making a scene!

I finally was able to push my trays through the scanner and was sent back through the metal detector. Just as I came out the other side, I saw my trays move back out in the wrong direction. And, sure enough, someone was eyeing them. I was just about to call out when the trays were pushed through the scanner at last… and then I couldn’t get to them for another minute because the line was so backed up. Talk about stressful! This was my worst airport security experience so far, but the nightmare my neighbour went through at the airport in Regina last week definitely put things into perspective. I was just glad to get through without losing anything!

I found a café after and got a very good Americano and a pain aux raisins, something I haven’t had since London. It was really good and reasonably priced by airport standards. At another café, I picked up a very expensive bottle of water and a decently priced ham and cheese sandwich for the plane (which ended up being a good call since EasyJet’s offerings were uninspiring). I then had about 45 minutes left to wait to board and I was able to get jump the queue for that since I’d paid for priority boarding in order to get both my bags on board as carry-on.  I was pleased that there was no one in the middle seat for my row, but less pleased that an American business man decided that meant he had two seats and started crowding me with his stuff. I let him know that wasn’t okay, then promptly went to sleep!

So the flight passed very quickly. There was nothing to see since we were flying over dense clouds. We landed at Schiphol Airport 10 minutes early, but the captain made a sarcastic comment about how far the landing strips are from the terminal and that having to drive all that distance would eat up our advance. We finally made it and deplaned. I got my first taste of the cooler Amsterdam weather and it wasn’t as bracing as I expected.

I didn’t have to go through customs  and had nothing to declare, so I was able to go straight to the train station. I like traveling within the the EU! 🙂

My host had given me very clear instructions on how to get to her home and I’d done my homework as far as paying for public transportation. I doubted I’d be able to recoup the non-refundable 7.50 euro cost for the OV-chipkaart (similar to the Oyster in London), so I bought a single to Amsterdam Centraal, which had a surcharge of 1 euro, and I was amused that the only way to pay was with a card and there was an additional surcharge to pay with a card.

Like with Oyster, I had to tap in before going to the platform and then would have to tap out, even with a paper ticket. I did that and then found the platform I needed. I barely had any wait before an Amsterdam Centraal bound direct train pulled up. It was then a very quick ride to the station. The scenery was nothing special, just rather bleak. Things got more interesting as we pulled into Amsterdam and I saw an iconic canal with houses lining it.

At the train station, I had to go to street level and catch a tram. I wasn’t sure where to get a ticket, so I went to an information desk. The agent there was odd, but spoke English and answered my questions. He sent me in the right direction knowing that I could pay the driver 2.90 euros cash.

The tram I needed was waiting out front! I still took the time to snap a few pictures of my first real glimpse of Amsterdam.

The tram driver was very pleasant about my not having change and got me sorted. I found a seat and was relieved to see that not only are all the stops announced, you can see the next several ones coming up. So I knew when it was time to make my way to a door and to request my stop. Slight hiccup at the stop, the doors didn’t open. A nice guy called to the driver to wait and showed me that I was supposed to press a button. Live and learn! 🙂

My host’s directions from the tram stop were fantastic. and I got to the house without any trouble (it was just a couple of blocks). She’d warned me she probably wouldn’t be home and would leave me a key, which was exactly where it was supposed to be. It was a bit odd to let myself in and make myself at home, but I did since I’d been sent the wifi password ahead of time. 🙂 I also introduced myself to my new charges. One is very friendly, the other will need some time to get used to me.

It was perhaps an hour before my host showed up. She is an American from New Orleans and “totally chill,” as she puts it. I felt very comfortable with her. She explained a few things to me and then introduced me to her fiancé when he came home. He’s Dutch, but speaks good English.

They suggested we go out for dinner to a nearby Greek café and that sounded good to me! It was a short, but cold and drizzly, walk there.

The place was tiny and felt more like being in someone’s dining room. The owner is Greek (of course), speaks perfect English, and is very friendly. She made me feel right at home. My hosts are vegans and the café has vegan options, but there’s also meat. The meatball special sounded good to me and I made sure that wouldn’t cause offence before ordering it. It wound up being a wonderful choice, coming with a tzatziki sauce, a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, and roasted seasoned potatoes, just the way I like them, plus a very dense whole grain bread. It was just like eating home cooking. For dessert, we tried these crumbly honey-soaked cookies coated in crushed walnuts. I also ordered a saffron/lemon grass/mint tea that came with a sliver of walnut cake that I actually preferred to the cookie as it was moister. Prices felt very reasonable (my main was 8.50 euros), but I found out as I was about to pay that I was being treated!

We took a slight detour on the way back so I could get breakfast stuff for tomorrow, just bananas, raisin bread, and a hunk of cheese. All I can say about the price of cheese here is that I’m now convinced that Canadians are the only cheese-eating people of the Earth who get ripped off… The price of my purchases wouldn’t have even covered the cheese in Canada. So I’m encouraged that I won’t go broke eating here as long as I cook for myself as much as possible.

So I’m in Amsterdam! The next two weeks are going to absolutely fly by. There are only two things on my list, but I’m sure there’s more to do. I’m investigating a museum pass since I think that work will be light and I might have enough free time to visit enough museums for the pass to pay for itself. The house I’m in is very comfortable and my location is just off of downtown and walking distance to just about anything I’d want to see, hence why I decided to skip the public transportation pass. Can’t wait to start exploring!

A Well Planned Day In Málaga Does Not Go According to Plan

I had a lovely Monday evening in Málaga. My host was in and I felt comfortable hanging out in the sitting room while she made dinner. We chatted, a glass of wine was offered, and before I knew it, I was sharing her meal! It was almost ten by this point and I’d had my dinner, but rice noodles with veggies went down very well! I got to know a bit more about her and she about me. I marvelled that I could understand her as well as I do when I struggle so much with speaking. I know, I know, I need more practice like this! I’m taking some conversation classes when I get to England (!) and will find some when I get to Mérida. I want formal one-on-one sessions where my mistakes are corrected.

I eventually called it a night and got up late again this morning to find that she’d left out a pile of stuff for me to have for breakfast if I wanted. I have some of my own things, but the fresh bakery buns have been a treat! I planned my day over breakfast, making a list of a couple of museums that seemed interesting and something to do.

My first stop today was a nearby train (underground) station my host directed me to, saying that it is a much easier and cheaper way to get to the airport. I found it easily thanks to her clear instructions and will definitely be using it to get to the airport tomorrow. She’s amused that I’m leaving at eight for an 11:30 flight while I’m freaked out at not being at the airport at least three hours before my flight!

My next stop was just a few blocks away. I passed an artists supply store on the way. I miss oil painting so much and have promised myself that I’ll take it up again when I get to Mexico.

I used to have a suitcase with all of these things in it.

So my next stop was the central market:

Inside, there was brisk business going and throngs of people. I saw fish, meats, and seafood, but no produce in the parts that I explored.

So many olives!

Here’s that amazing stained glass from outside.

What an interesting building!

I then wandered by the waterfront and remembered that I wanted to check out the Ferris wheel. I decided that if the cost for a ride was less than 20 euros, I would do it!

The cost was only 10 euros! I got a car all to myself. This is the Mirador Princess and moves from city to city. It is the tallest itinerant Ferris wheel in Europe. The London Eye is much taller, but is not strictly speaking a Ferris wheel.

Looking towards Alcazaba.

Africa is off in the distance.

A sign that I’m on my Path!

At the top!

The lighthouse.


Done! It was so fast and, to be honest, I was rather disappointed because I barely had time to see anything.

Oh, wait. Off we go again! I was SO happy! I didn’t take many pictures the second time, preferring to soak in the view.

To my immense delight, we went around a third time! This time, I was stopped at the top for more than five minutes!

Here’s a terrible video I shot while I was up there. Unfortunately, the app I used to use to edit doesn’t work the same way anymore and I don’t know how to cut things out. So enjoy my stream of consciousness… 🙂

I then walked along the waterfront. It was cool, but the sun was bright and almost hot. I knew I had to savour it as this is likely going to be my last sunny day in months…

I like the name of this malecón area, palm grove of surprises.

Look how the shadows add interest to the structure.

I found the maritime museum, which I hadn’t seen any of the Málaga museum lists. It was seven euros and something told me not to bother.

I headed back towards Centro.

I spent quite a bit of time on the Ferris wheel trying to figure out this picture. At first glance, it looks like the iconic image of a mother with her children during the Depression, but doesn’t it look like actor John Malkovich?! It is. He was part of a project where he recreated a bunch of iconic photographs. Striking!

My next stop was the Palacio de Aduenas (palace of customs), the new home of the Málaga Museum. Its brand new, only a week old, and there is almost zero information about it online. I just knew that it houses in one building fine arts and archeological exhibits. It sounded like my kind of museum and more interesting than anything else I thought to see today, but I didn’t know if it’d be open or even affordable.

The museum turned out to be free for EU residents and a whopping 1.50 euros for others. 🙂

The building is beautiful. The ground floor has the lobby, the first floor has fine arts, and the second floor has the archeology collection.

I did the first floor backwards for some reason and started with the history of the customs house and the Málaga Museum. There were marches in the street demanding that Málaga’s iconic customs building become the new home of the city museum. It was amazing to see such interest in the project!

And then, I moved on to the fine arts portion of the museum, where I started with this rather interesting portrait of Fred Astaire.

I’ll just share a few things that struck me.


NOT a peanut…

This is an orange tree.

This autopsy scene had me mesmerised!

A mother with her children.

Artist’s son. Looks like a spoiled brat, no?

This one got a WOW from me!

The English translation on this one made me laugh since French is apparently the language of fine arts. “Plein air” means “outdoors” and “rapprochement” means becoming closer.

Scenes from Venice.

I loved this nearly photographic scene!

This “gloomy winter” scene reminds me of home.

I then headed up to the archeology portion of the museum.

I like how they kept the neoclassical feel of the space, but incorporated more modern features as well.

The building is around a central courtyard.

Most of the exhibits in this section were behind glass and did not photograph well at all. I learned about the history of the region, from Neanderthals through to the Middle Ages. So interesting!

Neanderthal bones.

A recently discovered tomb that was in perfect condition.

The first of several wonderful mosaics.

This incredible mosaic was found by a guy renovating his house. It features Venus at its centre.

The museum was not shy about admitting that there are artifacts located in it that have nothing to do with the area, but were brought here to build a fake history that would strengthen Spain’s ties to the Aryan race during WWII. Here’s Himmler during his visit to Spain.

I was sad that I could not go out onto the balcony to view these in greater detail.

When I was done with this part of the museum, I took the stairs up that modern wooden box I showed earlier. At the top, I got to see the roof tiles close up. Can you see why they are remarkable?

They are etched with a scene from Málaga! There was no signage directing me to this. What a find!

I was about to leave when a guard asked if I’d visited the almacén. That’s a word I learned on the way from Almería and knew as meaning “warehouse.” Here, they mean it as a storeroom.

So many more treasures! This wound up being my favourite part of the museum!

Another guard came over as I left this section and told me to open all those drawers! One surprise after another! By the way, those museum guards were so kind and attentive!

Hands to go with the collection of feet.



Bottle stoppers (I think).


A plate with my initial on it. 🙂

This one made me gasp. I can’t believe it’s shut up in a drawer!

There was a section of models.



This pitcher was a lovely rose colour; rather unusual.

I was able to access the courtyard from the ground floor.

I do believe that’s a pineapple.

Looking up to the modern roof.

I spent almost three hours at this museum! It was too late to do anything else on my list! I found a menú del día for a very late lunch (inexpensive, adequate, but nothing to write home about), and then headed home to start packing!

I ended up having a little work to do this afternoon, so I didn’t go back out again. It’s now getting late and I have an early start tomorrow, so I’m signing off. I’m not sure where my time in Spain went, but by this time tomorrow, I’ll be settling into my new life in Amsterdam. The adventure continues!

Monday in Málaga

Today was the day I had to get myself sorted in terms of footwear and a coat. My host in Almería told me about a place called Cudeca, which is a charity shop. There happened to be one right by my flat, so I went there to look for a coat.

They had tons of coats for 15 euros each. Unfortunately, most were way too big or too small for me. I found a camel coloured one that would have been awesome had it been three sizes smaller. As it was, I was wearing every layer I plan to where under a coat and I was swimming in fabric. So pass. I settled on a really lovely charcoal one that was just a smidgen snugger than I would have liked and with slightly too short sleeves, but it was clearly the best I was going to do and I’d spent enough time looking at new stuff to know I was getting a bargain. Four ladies in the shop told me that they were voting for that one, so it must look okay. 🙂

I ambled to my next destination and found the Sherlock Holmes pub. Rather random!

So many churches…

I found myself at Plaza de la Merced.

Where they had a great beer and wine special for breakfast.

My destination was the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and museum about his life, not to be mixed up with the museum where you can see his artwork. So here’s the house where he was born. His family had an apartment within this house, but the museum now encompasses the whole building. Admission is 4 euros, which includes an audio guide in several languages.

Am I glad I came today as they are closed tomorrow and all the other museums I want to see are closed Mondays and open Tuesdays!

Photography is not allowed in the museum, which was small but very interesting. The most memorable part for me was seeing Picasso’s original sketchbooks with his initial ideas for Les demoiselles d’Avignon, arguably his most famous painting, sketched out in ink. I also saw documents and photographs related to Picasso’s life and learned about his passions for bull fighting and flamenco as well as the enormous influence Málaga had on his life, as he spent his formative years here. It was  wonderful little museum and the audio guide was interesting.

Here I am back outside in front of the Picasso statue. By the way, I didn’t get a single guess or even request for a hint yesterday as to the statue I photographed. It was Hans Christian Andersen!

The obelisk that anchors Plaza de la merced, which hasn’t not changed much since its early days.

It was about 12:30 by this point and I hoped to find lunch. So I ambled my way back to the touristy core of the old town. Here’s a neat fountain. Wolves or dogs on this side…

…frolicking ladies on this side. Name of this side is “Diana’s bath.”

I must have a sushi radar or something because I found an all you can eat for 13 euros restaurant! But I went for the 8.50 menú del día as it promised as much food as I really should be eating at one meal. I started off with a beer, then my first miso soup in way too long. Even though it was sunny today, it was still very chilly and this hit the spot! Yum!

I also got fried noodles with veggies (mmm!) and ten pieces of sushi that were very good. For the menú del día, I wasn’t allowed to choose what I would get, so I advised the server about the egg thing so I wouldn’t be brought anything with mayor or, heaven forbid, the omelette sushi (tamago) that featured prominently on their menu! The server was very understanding and I was very happy with the selection.

Their windows were neat as they had barcodes!

Next, I found this hilarious store, the perfect place for those who crave 9-euro bags of Oreos and 10-euro boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal.

Please do not give me this gift basket. I don’t miss American-type food. 😉

The stars have no boyfriend” is the first line of a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca. Like all good poetry, it’s very evocative, but I have no idea what it means. 🙂

This part of Málaga is all very narrow alleyways, but, for some reason, it wasn’t hard to get orientated.

I passed a Chinese bazaar store as I headed towards the El Corte Inglés department store for footwear and decided to pop in to see what clothes they might have as I want a second fleece. I found one I liked a lot at a “nice” store for a reasonable 15 euros and one that I didn’t like quite so much (pull over versus zip up) at a different Chinese bazaar store for 10 euros. I hoped to find a third option to help me make a decision. Well, this store had the exact same 10-euro sweater, but for 8 euros. Decision made! I brought it to the till and the man told me that he could not get rid of that colour (a coral pink) and if I had exactly 5 euros so he would not have to make change, I could have it for that price. SOLD. 🙂

BTW, I am XXXL in Chinese sizes. LOL I’m anywhere from a 38 to a 40 in European sizes (encompassing the variability that is a North American size 8). I was worried I’d have a hard time finding clothes here as there are so many tiny people, but, thankfully, I’m just as average sized here as I am in North America and I can shop in any store that isn’t focused on “plus sizes,” which seems to be 50 and up here. Clerks here also seem to have a better eye for a client’s size. While I’m still mistaken by Canadian and US store clerks for being a much larger size than I am, Spanish clerks have been correct every time. It’s definitely been a lot more pleasant to shop here.

At any rate, with the fleece bought, I was all set to brave the weather I’m heading into… Well, I may add a hat, but with my scarves covering my ears, they may be enough. I’d rather wait. I have “glittens” I brought from home, fingerless gloves with a mitten cover, so I’m set on that end. I will need wool socks at one point, but I haven’t found any here. I can definitely land on Wednesday with what I have and not freeze.

Where was I? Oh, right, on my way to get boots. 🙂

There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts across from the El Corte Inglés department store that made me laugh. Look at the Cookie Monster doughnut!

After checking out many shops, I conceded that if I could afford them, which I could, a pair of Panama Jack boots would be an investment I would never regret. They are handmade of Spanish leather and while not easily found in North America, known enough there for me to have wanted a pair for a long time.

A pair of boots of comparable quality in Canada has set me back over $400 and the pair I bought today were $230… These are not the ones I wanted, but rather their base model. The ones I wanted were more aesthetically pleasing yet functionally identical and $30 more. Part of financial responsibility is conceding that you really don’t need pink soles and laces for traipsing through puddles, snow, and jungle! 🙂 These were phenomenal value in that they come pretreated to be waterproof and you get a cleaning kit with leather protecting wax, extra laces, and a carrying bag. Last time I bought boots in Canada, I had to buy all those things separately.

The shopping experience was good. You have to ask for service in Spain, so I had lots of time to comparison shop and think through my decision. I saw these on Saturday night so I’d already had time to pretty much make up my mind, but it was good to have a moment before making the plunge without having a sales clerk breathing down my neck. When I was finally ready for help, I went to a cash register and asked the lady there if she could help me. She said she could and followed me to the boots. I showed her what I wanted and said that I might be a 39 or 40. She went to the storeroom and came out with several sizes. I think 40 was the biggest pair they had for all models and it felt just a bit snug for me, especially since I was only wearing thin socks. The clerk reminded me that leather stretches and had me walk around a bit. Doing that made me realise the boots were going to be perfect once I’d broken them in  as they were a little loose at the heel and toe. So sold!

I went home for a bit and then headed out to start the breaking in process. I found this rather fancy alley:

And this not so fancy alley:

So many stockings!

Here I am back at the American store. I agree with them that, “Clients don’t expect us to be perfect. They expect us to deal with things when situations arise.”

Sign outside an apartment building: “Your right to smoke ends it impedes the rights of your neighbours to relax. Let’s respect the silence of the night and avoid police presence.”

I walked for a couple of hours in my boots and while they were stiff, they felt very good. They will mean having to drop my Keens, a decision I feel better about now that I found a charity drop off box. I’m sure someone else will get some use out of them. I’m at the point where I’m sick of them and I know I won’t have occasion to wear them again for a long time. So there’s no point trying to find room in my suitcase for them. I will also have to dump a couple of tee-shirts to fit the new fleece. I’ve worn through two of them, so that won’t be any hardship either.

Another thing I found in my travels was a train station my host told me about where I can catch a ride to the airport. She said it’s faster and cheaper than the bus! So that’s where I’m headed Wednesday morning. I just need to solidify the trip from the airport in Amsterdam to my hosts’ place. They gave me instructions, but I’m still not quite sure where to get off on the tram. I guess I should email them. 🙂

It was another good day here. I should have time tomorrow to do a little more exploring!

A Quiet and Dreary Weekend in Málaga

It’s been a cold, wet, miserable weekend in Málaga. I’m actually rather grateful for it because I desperately need to get gradually more accustomed to cold, wet, miserable weather as that’ll be normal for Amsterdam and Yorkshire. I got two rather large orders, so I had an excuse to stay in both Saturday and Sunday and work. But I did manage to go exploring a tad to start getting a sense for Málaga!

So Saturday, I headed out in the mid afternoon, during a brief lull in the rain, with the main intention being to do some focused shoe shopping. It was at the El Corte Inglés department store that I realised what I need to buy is a good hiking-type boot, something that’s been on my shopping list for a few years (my last pair was the one I bought for the Chilkoot in 2010 and I’ve worn them through), but which I’ve been putting off because they’re a $400 to $500 investment in Canada. That is the only footwear that will take me from the moors of Yorkshire in England to a humid Mexican jungle by way of the rainy streets of Amsterdam, all with just a change of sock type and so a much better purchase than something that’s tailored to the English experience only. I found exactly what I want, but did not buy them because even at much less than I would pay in Canada, they were expensive and I wanted to check reviews of the brand, sleep on the idea, look for other brands, and also find a coat before committing to such an expense.

I then walked around the neighbourhood for a bit.

Here’s a church right by my flat:

I headed towards Centro and found some decent falafel for a very late lunch across from this scene:

It’s always a good sign when the falafel seller barely speaks the local language and asks you if you know English! I had falafel in the Balkans, but it was pretty disappointing, so this was my first truly satisfying version of the sandwich since that fabulous one I had on Baker Street in London almost six months ago!

I do not tire of European building façades!

There wasn’t much open and I was cold, so it was time to head in. I did find on the way one of those Chinese bazaar shops that had a lot of clothing and a coat that looked promising for about 40 euros. But I found a charity shop that I can scope out Monday morning before I commit to such an expenditure. I’ll be happier about the boot purchase if I don’t spend a ton on a coat that I won’t need when I move to the tropics six months from now!

Today, Sunday, I worked until about 1:30 since an attraction I wanted to visit was free from two onwards. I headed into Centro and was surprised by how much was open on a Sunday. Oh, right. Sunday before Christmas.

Another church:

A lively square. I liked the moon and star decorations. I might check out that Far West (Lejano Oeste) exhibit…

Another impressive church.

But not as impressive as this hospital!

I wandered through a warren of alleys filled with treasures.

Until I found Alcazaba of Málaga, the best preserved alcazaba (citadel or fortress) of Spain and which was built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century. Entry was free after two and I was early, so I decided to look for a quick and cheap lunch, something that is very difficult to do in Spain.

In front of the fortress is an ancient Roman amphitheatre.

Like in Sofia, there are underground ruins covered by glass at the surface.

Found a street named after my truck. 😉


Got in some unexpected Cyrillic practice. Red book says All of Andalusia and the bottom one Malaga: Costa del Sol. Hey, don’t want to lose those skills! 😉

There was a proper tourist info kiosk across from this stand, so I stood in line for ages to get a city map. Soon as the person ahead of me left, the clerk yelled in English, “We’re closed! Go away!” before slamming down her window. It was 1:55 and the sign said she should be open till two so I wasn’t having it. As soon as she stepped out the door, I chastised her in Spanish about closing early and told her I just wanted a map. She apologised profusely and got me one. All that for nothing, though, since the map was surprisingly crappy!

I finally found a bakery with reasonably priced sandwiches compared to what everyone else was charging for the same thing and got serrano ham on a whole grain bun. What I really wanted was a slice of real pizza, but I’ve accepted that such things do not come to pass in Spain. I think it says a lot about the state of fast food in this country that the restaurant with the longest queue was Burger King! There were a few places I could have had a menú del día, though, at a very reasonable price, but I’m trying to keep the food budget thin this week since I suspect I’ll be eating out quite a bit in Amsterdam.

At any rate, it was almost 2:30 by the time I got back to the alcazaba.

I immediately knew I was in for a treat. Just look at that gorgeous stone and brick work!

Málaga feels very lush.

So many orange trees!

I started to climb above the city.

Looking down to the port.

The Ferris wheel I passed on the bus.

A colosseum.

Loved the marble “bath tub”!

Notice that this roof is cross-shaped.

These marble columns were unexpected.

Everywhere I looked, some exquisite detail.

Found an interior room with heavy wooden shutters.

And heavy wooden doors.

Mossy roof.

I must have stared at this ceiling for a whole minute.

A recessed bench.

There were several of these pools. Watch your step!

Another impressive ceiling.

I couldn’t figure out what they cooked in this giant oven (el horno)…

Until I found an informational panel that made me realise it’s a kiln.

Love this floor!

I liked these blue roof tiles. Nice contrast to the terracotta I normally see.

I was surprised when I eventually circled back to the entrance. Alcazaba de Málaga was like a labyrinth!

I went out and was told I could go into the amphitheatre…

…and that the Castillo de Gibralfaro (Gibralfaro castle), which towers over the alcazaba and dates back to the 14th century, was open and also free on Sunday afternoons. My research told me that if you can only do one, do the alcazaba as there is a lot more to see and it is a very long hike up to the castle if you don’t have a car. Up I went because I have this weird OCD type thing where I can’t not climb up to a fortress if I have the option to do so.

The climb was steep and tiring after all the exploring I’d done in the alcazaba.

But the views were worth the effort!

These didn’t photograph well at all. They were red and orange.

There was a small museum at the top, but nothing really photographed well. It gave the history of the area and the castle’s role in city defences. One of the more interesting facts I read was about how the Germans blocked access to Málaga’s port during WWI, demonstrating how vulnerable the city is.

There wasn’t much to see outside and both my knees were killing me by this point thanks to the dampness. I have no idea how I did this sort of day when I was heavier, to be honest.

Here’s that Ferris wheel again.

Interesting tree.

It was raining by this point and sections like these were slick!

Little did I know, I was heading into a dead end!

This marble threshold was unexpected.

Looking back up.

Here’s another super steep and slick section.


I was able to navigate myself home through a different route without a map, to my immense surprise.

Here’s the back of that church by the hospital.

I think I will investigate the Ferris wheel since I’m apparently obsessed by it!

Look who I found! Do you recognise him? He visited Spain in 1862 and had many kind things to say about Málaga.

I think I just found the Málagan equivalent of Mexican Tositilocos: baked potatoes with everything on them…

I’d earned a gelato by this point and found a shop with several dozen flavours. The clerk asked where I’m from and when I said Canada, she recommended the peanut butter. LOL! But she was right! I haven’t had peanut butter since the Balkans so, dang, this really hit the spot! (By the way, look at my hand — it’s been five whole years this week that I quit biting my nails!)

Yet another lovely church…

Interesting artwork on the side of it.

Finally, some pretty blue tiles against a yellow wall.

I definitely managed to get a taste of Málaga this weekend and I look forward to doing some proper exploring tomorrow, especially if the promised sunny weather materialises!