Category Archives: Harbor

Sinterklaas Arrives in the Netherlands

Sinterklaas and a couple Zwarte Piets on the rooftops of Sneek.

The Christmas festivities begin here in mid-November with the arrival of Sinterklaas at a designated seaside town. He supposedly comes from Spain, not the North Pole. This takes place in a different port each year. Smaller local arrivals usually take place later on the same Saturday. We’re in Sneek where the whole city is awaiting the arrival of Sinterklaas.

Click To Hear The Band

After the boat anchors Sinterklaas disembarks and parades through the crowded streets on a white horse, called Amerigo. He carries a big, red book in which is written whether each child has been naughty or nice. He is welcomed by throngs of cheering families singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. His Zwarte Piet crew, or Zwarte pieten, throw candy and small, round, gingerbread-like cookies into the crowd.

Master Of Ceremonies

Sinterklaas

The Feast of Saint Nicholas, by Jan Steen, 1660s (The little boy didn’t get any!)

 

Sinterklaas  is a legendary figure based on Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, who are the principal focus of the festival. The origins of Saint Nicholas may first appear to be Christian, but in fact are from ancient Germanic mythology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dutch figure of Sinterklaas somewhat mirrors the god Odin, they both have a beard, hat and spear, now a staff, and a cloth bag held by the servants to capture naughty children. Both Saint Nicolas and Odin ride white horses that can fly through the air. The poems and songs children sing relate to Odin as the god of poetry.

The chocolate letters given by the Zwarte Pieten to the children evoke the fact that Odin created the rune letters.

 

 

 

He is also the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence, the inhabitants of New York City, the former Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam, reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, because Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city’s non-English past.

Why Spain?

Sinterklaas is said to come from Spain. In 1087, half of Saint Nicholas’ relics were transported to the Italian city of Bari, in the Spanish Kingdom of Naples so that might be the reason. Others suggest that mandarin oranges, traditionally gifts associated with St. Nicholas, led to the misconception that he must have been from Spain.

Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colorful Moorish dresses. These elfish characters, called Zwarte Piet or “Black Pete”, first appeared in print as just one nameless servant of Saint Nicholas in1850. Over the years Zwarte Piet has developed from a rather unintelligent helper into a valuable assistant to the absent-minded and frequently inebriated saint. Now Sinterklaas has formed a whole crew of Zwarte Pieten for every function from navigation, gift-wrapping to climbing over roofs and down chimneys.

Zwarte Piet’s costume is based on 16th-century noble attire, with a feathered cap and a ruff collar. He carries a bag containing candy for the children, a tradition originating in the story of Saint Nicholas saving three young girls from prostitution by tossing golden coins through their window at night to pay their dowries.

Traditionally, Black Pete carries a chimney sweep’s broom made of willow branches, which he used to spank children who had been naughty. Older Sinterklaas songs suggest that naughty children were put in the bag and taken back to Spain. This legend refers to the times when Moors raided the European coasts to capture future slaves. Today, Zwarte Piet no longer carries the rod or threatens children with abduction for being naughty.

The Controversy

As you can well imagine Zwarte Piet has turned into a rather controversial character. Traditionally Zwarte Piet’s face is said to be black because he is Moorish. Today, some prefer to say that his face is blackened with soot because he has to climb through chimneys to deliver gifts for Sinterklaas.

Regardless, the figure of Zwarte Piet is considered by some to be racist and the traditions surrounding Sinterklaas have been the subject of many editorials, debates, documentaries, protests and even violent clashes at festivals.

 

This year vans of protesters were turned back before reaching Dorkum, the site of the national arrival of Sinterklaas. Some southern Dutch cities and television channels will only display Zwarte Piet with a few soot marks on the face rather than full blackface and are called “chimney Petes”. Still, Zwarte Piet remains very popular in the Netherlands. A 2013 survey suggests that 92% of the Dutch public did not perceive Zwarte Piet as racist or associate him with slavery, and 91% were opposed to altering the character’s appearance, but I imagine in just the 4 years since that survey, things have changed considerably.

Some Interesting But Useless Facts:

1. During the German occupation of the Netherlands (1940–1945) many of the traditional Sinterklaas rhymes were rewritten to reflect current events. After the RAF dropped boxes of candy over occupied Netherlands in 1941 they became much celebrated.

Original:  Sinterklaas, little capon, Throw something in my little shoe, Throw something in my little boot, Thank you little Sinterklaas.

World War II version: R.A.F. little Capon, throw something in my little shoe, throw  bombs  at the Krauts but scatter candy in Holland!

2. The Dutch have two days of Christmas, Kerstmis, called Eerste Kerstdag and Tweede Kerstdag first and second Christmas Day on 25 & 26 December.

Southwold Pier

Located in the coastal town of Southwold, this old school pier is a little like a step back to a more innocent time. Originally built in 1909 the pier has suffered many ups and down having been destroyed by storms in 1937, 1955 and again in 1979 reducing it to a length of 60 ft. After much renovation, today’s pier extends 620 ft into the North Sea.

Southwold Pier

Southwold Pier

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English Sunbather or Crime Victim. You decide.

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Bench Armrest

The Under The Pier Show

While many classic English seaside piers have been in decline the Southwold Pier is enjoying renewed popularity, partly due to the “The Under The Pier Show” which features a range of automata, machines and games designed by Tim Hunkin, an English engineer, cartoonist, writer, and artist living in Suffolk. They are about the most peculiar arcade games I’ve ever seen.

pirates

Storm the super yacht and get even with the super rich.

microvacation

Sit in the chair and travel on holiday, moved by the magic carpet. After manic flight and coach ride, arrive in tropical paradise and get brief suntan from heatlamp.

fly

Sit on the fly’s proboscis and experience a fly’s eye view of the world. Stop to eat for as long as you dare, but beware of the fly swat.

dog

Place hand in dog’s cage and hold it there for as long as you dare. Dog pants, dribbles warm saliva and other disgusting things.

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I’ll let you work out where the finger goes.

brainwash

Sit with head half inside processing chamber and watch through mirrors while your scalp is removed and your brain is scrubbed clean. Made by Will Jackson.

bathyscape

Turn the dive lever and descend to the seabed. After witnessing many marvels, get swallowed by a giant fish which causes the craft to leak. Fortunately reverse thrusters are provided for escape.

mobility

Start training for your future today! Cross the motorway using the zimmer frame.

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Hold stethoscope again chest and let the doctor diagnose your complaint and write out an illegible prescription.

rentadog

Wendi’s favorite. Stand on the treadmill, hold the dog’s lead and go for a walk. Includes stops at several interesting sights.

Focusing time and space to bring you everything you could possibly want to see through a pier telescope.

Quantum Tunneling Telescope – Focusing time and space to bring you everything you could possibly want to see through a pier telescope.

Beach Huts

These bright colored Beach Huts are small wooden boxes just above the high tide mark. Many were former fishermen’s huts and boat sheds that are now used as shelter from the sun or wind, changing into and out of swimming costumes and for the safe storing of some personal belongings most incorporate simple facilities for preparing food and hot drinks by either bottled gas or an occasional generator.

Southwold Beach Huts

Southwold Beach Huts

You cannot live in these and the length of stays is closely monitored. They were originally offered for hire at £12 10s per year, now they can sell for £40,000 or more.

The Walk of Mirrors

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Stockholm – Hustle & Bustle

StockholmCardLet’s start with a travel tip. I’m always a little leery of package schemes and deals aimed at visitors, but the Stockholm Card is the exception and a great deal. This is a real godsend, which, if you keep busy, offers significant savings. It is also hugely convenient to not have to dig for cash or use a credit card everywhere you go. Besides giving you free passage on all of Stockholm’s public transportation you also get free access to over 75 major museums and major historical sites.

Our public transportation map after 6 days.

Our public transportation map after 6 days.

Stockholm is a big and busy city, not big and busy in an otherworldly sense like Hong Kong, New York or London. There are no skyscrapers and the church spires are still the tallest structures in town. There are no giant cloverleaf overpasses like arteries in some huge beast, but Stockholm is spread out over 14 islands with a complex overlapping transport system that incorporates ferries, buses, trams, subways, bridges, walkways and roads that tie the whole thing together.

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The City Food Market

CityMarket

The City Food Market

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Shopping on Drottninggatan

Shopping on Drottninggatan

Shopping on Drottninggatan

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In Blasieholmen

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On the ferry to Djurgarden

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In Blasieholem

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On the ferry to Djurgarden

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On the dock in Skeppsholem

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Hotorget Square

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Across the water towards Ostermalm

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Across the water towards Ostermalm

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Kiosk in Djurgarden

Clock

Clock near Kungstradgarden

Old Tram Sign

Old Tram Sign

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Building in Ostermalm

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Walking in the old city.

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Near T-Centralen

Outside T-Centralen

Outside T-Centralen

Outside T-Centralen

Outside T-Centralen

Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan, or “Old Town”, is our favorite part of the city. It is situated on the island of Stadsholmen and is one huge warren of narrow medieval streets and heritage sites. The Royal Palace, museums and 17th century churches are just steps from each other. The entire atmosphere is of a bygone era.

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Stortorget was the site of the old Stock Exchange is now a lively square in the heart of the old town but in 1520 it was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath when the Danish King tricked the Swedish Regent and beheaded more then 80 Swedish noblemen in this very square.

Stortorget

Stortorget

The Hotorget Flea Market

No trip would be complete without a flea market. The square at Hotorget is a flower and produce market all week but every Sunday it transforms to a great little second hand market. Just try to keep Wendi away. I dare you.

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Sinking Expectations or The Very Short Voyage of the Vasa

VasaB&W4

When the Vasa was designed by two Dutch brothers in 1628 it was the largest and most heavily armed war ship in the world. With this vessel the Swedes hoped to strike fear in their enemies and control all trade on the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately, there was no engineering, as we know it, at the time and all construction was essentially done by trial and error. The massive ship proved to be just a whisper too tall and slightly too narrow. It was a lovely sunny day on August 10th in 1628 when the Vasa set out on it’s maiden voyage. In a slight breeze it listed a little to starboard, took in water through the gun ports and sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbor where it lay until being rediscovered in 330 feet of water in 1956. After a complex salvage operation and a 17 year conservation project the Vasa now sits proudly in it’s own especially designed museum.

http://www.vasamuseet.se/en/The-Ship/Life-on-board/

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Karmøy & Stavanger

Besides being Norway’s largest island, Karmøy is commonly referred to as the “Homeland of the Viking Kings – Norway’s Birthplace. We began our visit in Haugesund, now a shipping and fishing port, it has many historical connections and was once the stomping ground of Harald Fairhair, the first King of Norway, who lived from 850 to 932 AD and was reputed to have between 11 and 20 sons who couldn’t get along with anyone, not even each other.

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Haugesund

Olav’s Church

Olav’s Church is at Avaldsnes, a beautiful setting and the historic site of Harald’s Royal Farm and burial mound.

Olav's Church

Olav’s Church

Olav's Church

Olav’s Church

Virgin Mary’s Needle stands on the north side of Olav’s Church. The Sagas warn that Doomsday will occur if ever the needle touches the church wall. It is rumored that the clergymen of Avaldsnes have snuck out at night and chiseled off pieces to save the world. Apparently the end is a mere 9.2 cm away.

Virgin Mary's Needle -Olav's Church

Virgin Mary’s Needle – Olav’s Church

Skudeneshavn

Situated at the very southern tip of Karøy, Skudeneshavn is a traditional fishing settlement filled with whitewashed houses from the early 19th century. Old Shudeneshaven is considered one of the best preserved small towns in Norway.

Skudeneshavn Harbor

Skudeneshavn Harbor

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Lady in the Park

Lady in the Park

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn Harbor

Skudeneshavn Harbor

Skudeneshavn Warehouse

Skudeneshavn Warehouse

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Skudeneshavn

Back On The Road

We are back on the road and headed for Stavanger which is just across Boknafjorden. On the map it looks close, but it isn’t. Getting there involves two ferries and two of the deepest tunnels I have ever been through. They recommend chewing gum to help your ears.

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Stavanger

Originally a traditional market town, first herring, then canning and eventually oil have transformed Stavanger into Norway’s fourth largest city.

Stavanger

Stavanger

Stavanger

Stavanger

Stavanger Harbor

Stavanger Harbor

Stavanger Harbor

Norsk Oljemusem – Stavanger Harbor

Stavanger Harbor

Stavanger Harbor

Stavanger Harbor

Stavanger Harbor

Gamie “Old” Stavanger

The houses along the terraced narrow cobblestone streets of this district were slated for demolition after World War II when local citizens stepped in and called for their preservation. Once the homes of sailors and tradesmen, Gamie Stavanger now has 156 lovingly restored whitewashed cottages.

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Gamie Stavanger

Vestlandet – Gateway to Norway

Norway

I should begin by saying that to call Norway beautiful is an understatement on the magnitude of referring to Angelina Jole as “kind of attractive”. This place is crazy beautiful. If you like vistas of verdant forests and unspoiled tranquil inlets with villages and towns huddled on the water’s edge this is the place for you.

Our Exchange

People are always curious where we end up when we do these exchanges. We are very lucky to find ourselves in a lovely traditional Nordic country home.

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We are situated on Radoy, a relatively small island just north of Bergen in the county of Vestlandet.

The Neighborhood

Walking distance of the house.

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On The Road

The whole region consists of a plethora of small and medium sized islands. As the crow flys, nothing seems that far away, but unlike the birds, we are bound to the earth. Driving around means relying on a hugely circuitous network of very narrow country lanes, an assortment of bridges, both large and small, and a system of ferries that range from big ocean going vessels to tiny tow barges. The whole area reminds me of a joke we would hear as kids about an old farmer from Maine explaining to a lost tourist, “you just can’t get there from here.”. To hurry is futile. It’s all very exciting as the teeny weenie lanes wind up, down and around, past incredibly picturesque farms and homes perched on impossibly steep hillsides and tucked into snug little coves and harbors.

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Rich or poor, it's nice to have your own little island!

Rich or poor, it’s nice to have your own little island!

The Most Beautiful Village In Austria

We asked our new Austrian friends, Hans & Angelica, if there was anything we had missed. They told us that we must see Hallstatt. In their estimation, it is one of Austria’s most beautiful villages, so off we went.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

A very small town with a population of less then 1000, Hallstatt is situated on the southwestern shore of Hallstättersee. There is evidence that people have lived here and mined salt since 800 BC. The world’s first known salt mine is located on the hill above town. Hallstatt has been named a World Heritage Site and is amazingly idyllic. 

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Hallstatt Town Square

Hallstatt Town Square

Hallstättersee

The Hallstättersee

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Funicular to the salt mine, ice caves and observation point.

Funicular to the salt mine, ice caves and observation point.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Another Useless but Interesting Fact:

Chinese Hallstatt    Stock Photo

Chinese Hallstatt                                                                                                             Stock Photo

“A family walks in the Chinese replica of Austria’s UNESCO heritage site, Hallstatt village, in China’s southern city of Huizhou in Guangdong province June 1, 2012. Metals and mining company China Minmetals Corporation spent $940 million to build this controversial site and hopes to attract both tourists and property investors alike, according to local newspaper reports.” REUTERS/Trrone Siu

Check it out 

 







Peniscola

We spent a toasty afternoon in Peniscola, a terrific little seaside city with a great beach and promenade. It was a hot day and the beach was covered with sunbathers and multicolored umbrellas for miles.

Peniscola Playa

Peniscola Playa

Peniscola

Stock Image

The beach sits at the bottom of the old town which clings to a rocky promontory that is crowned with the city’s big attraction, the Castell del Papa Luna. The castle was built in the late 13th century by the infamous Knights of Templar, but really made it’s mark as the residence/hideout for Pope Benedict XIII, i.e. Papa Luna.

The Church of the Castle

The Church of the Castle

Luna was named Pope during the Great Schism that split the Papacy in the 14th century, but was deposed in 1414. He lived here until he died in 1423 and complained about losing the job until the bitter end.

Papa Luna greets all visitors

Papa Luna greets all visitors

Because of the Castle’s position, being surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean, some have called Luna “Pope of the Sea”.

From the ramparts towards the beach

From the ramparts towards the beach

Lighthouse from the main entrance

Lighthouse from the main entrance

Chapel Door

Chapel Door

To the top lookout

To the top lookout

From the ramparts out to sea

From the ramparts out to sea

From the ramparts soulth to the harbor

From the ramparts south to the harbor

Across the Old Town

Across the Old Town

Peniscola’s fame was reinvigorated in 1961 when Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren arrived to film the epic spectacular EL Cid.

El Cid 1961

El Cid 1961

A little footnote for you film buffs. Sophia sued because her name is below Charlie’s. The suit read, “It is impossible to determine or even to estimate the extent of the damages which the plaintiff will suffer.” Maybe a whisper touchy?

My trusty companion braves the afternoon heat

My trusty companion braves the afternoon heat

 

Alicante

Alicante is our favorite coastal city, so far! This historic Mediterranean port  has a population of about 400,000. Since the 3rd century BC it has been invaded and conquered by cocky Carthaginians, rapacious Romans, vicious Visigoths, moody Moors, clobbering Castilians, volatile Valencians, rascally Republicans, nasty Nationalists and finally an Armada of Cruise Liners.

Invading Foreigners

Invading Foreigners

The bustling core of the old city sits right on the waterfront and is full of wide palm tree shaded walking arcades, great historic buildings and a labyrinth of narrow streets and open air markets.

Marina

Marina

Explanad De España

Explanade De España

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Meat

Meat Lovers

Pension

Pension

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Setting Up The Street Fair

Setting Up The Street Fair

Cheese

That’s A Lot of Cheese

Alicante has two, not to be missed, art museums. Both El Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina (MUBAG) and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Alicante (MCAA) are terrific museums that are the perfect size, big enough to be really interesting and small enough to be experienced in a couple hours. And they’re free. They both house great Spanish collections and, like all great museums, the buildings themselves are terrific works of art.

MUBAG

El Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina

Necesita Usted Modelo by Fernando Canto

Necesita Usted Modelo by Fernando Canto

Museum of Comtempory At Alicante

Museum of Comtempory Art Alicante

Assume The Position

Assume The Position

MCAA1

 Bye for now. We’re going to go drink a little.






Oropesa del Mar

We have finally recovered from jet lag and have begun to explore the area. Took our first trip was to Oropesa, an interesting little seacoast city, which, like every other city in the region, is waiting with baited breath for the tourist season to start.

Oropesa del Mar

Oropesa del Mar

As you can see the beaches are deserted. It was a beautiful day and the only people frolicking in the sand were an elderly couple, one topless sunbather and two boys playing hooky.

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Oropesa de Or

There are literally miles of beaches and locals assure me that in about three weeks every one of them will be packed like a can of sardines with all manner of British and German tourists. You’ll have a hard time finding space to spread out a towel.

Oropesa de Or

Oropesa de Or

The southern coast of Spain has got to be Dean Martin’s spiritual home. Almost every bit of coast we’ve seen is lined with vintage high rise apartment complexes dating from the fifties to the early eighties.

The Las Vegas I

The Las Vegas I

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Sheets – Quilts – Towels – Shoes – Bags – Baggage

Bye for now. We’re going swimming.

Oropesa de Or

Oropesa de Or

Hasta Luego.

 

No Turning Back

Our 2014 home exchange has begun in earnest and I’ve decided that it’s a little like international skydiving. All the pictures and planning in the world won’t save you. You’re not exactly sure what you’ve gotten into until you’re plummeting towards earth at breakneck speed. In the end it’s just an act of faith. Regardless of any turbulence you encounter on the way down, you have to trust that the parachute will open and you’ll land softly on firm ground.

SeaTac - No Turning Back

SeaTac – No Turning Back

This trip is no different. It began calmly enough. We met our fellow exchangers, Magda and Manolo, at SeaTac. A lovely couple, full of energy and rip roaring ready to go. After they treated us to dinner we exchanged hugs, set the GPS to home and sent them on their way.

Magda & Manolo

Magda & Manolo

Then it was a hour through security, another hour at the gate and nine hours on Lufthana. We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany completely toasted, only to discover that Booking.com had us reserved for August 3rd instead of June 3rd. The story has both a good and bad ending. The good part was that the Hilton next door had a room, unfortunately it costs three times as much as the first room. Oh well, that’s the way the bee bumbles.

FranfurtAP

Frankfurt Airport

The next day’s flight to Valencia was perfect. Magda’s brother, Vicent, drove us to Benicasim and had us set up in no time. The only thing left to do now is recover.

The View From Our Apartment

The View From Our Apartment