Goodbye Hilton, Goodbye Spain

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We circled the old city walls looking for a better parking spot than the one from the day before.  We drove around and around and we soon found ourselves parking in the same place we parked the day before.  Trying to gain my bearings we headed straight to the giant cathedral inside the city walls.  After paying an entrance fee of twenty Euro’s we walked inside.  I was surprised to learn that if we had entered from another entrance we would not need to pay the entrance fee.  The cathedral was a big surprise for me.  It was magnificent.  Built during the dark ages the cathedral was breathtaking, it had many small cubby holes surrounding the main area.  In these cubby holes were altars, statues, meeting rooms, and rooms that led off to another part of the cathedral.  The main area of the cathedral had beautiful stain glass windows on the outer walls.  Inside the cathedral was a marvel to enjoy. It was so large that it had a giant altar and just opposite was an area that the clergy used to attend mass.  Moving away from the altar I found myself admiring the works of art placed inside the cathedral.  Statues, paintings, alter items, as well as the church organ all glowed with both beauty and wonder. The beauty of the cathedral held both Marti and I spellbound and we ended up spending more time inside the cathedral than we planned.

Departing the cathedral we found ourselves again walking the old streets, alleys and squares.  On occasions we would stop at shops and look for unique souvenir items.  Time passed and I was getting hungry so we decided to return to the car and head outside the old city to the Parador for lunch.  We were going to enjoy our lunch at the Parador that was unable to accommodate us yesterday. As I turned to return to the car it struck me, we were lost again.  I had no idea where we were in this old city.  Lucky for me I drew on the lesson learned yesterday and started asking for help.  Still lost but with a kind persons bearings we headed down the pathway.  Trying to shorten the amount of time we are lost I continued to ask for help and direction.  Quickly we were back on the right path and inside our car.

Driving out of the old city we were on our way to the Parador hotel for our lunch break.  The drive to the Parador was very scenic.  The road to the Parador was on the side of a hill.  Below the hill was the river and across the river was the city of Toleto.  Each turn of the road put the beauty of the city in front of our eyes.  It was so beautiful we decided to stop and take some photos.  This made us late for our lunch as we continued to stop along the way just to soak in the beauty.  Lucky for us the Parador’s lunch was served on the patio.  The patio sat on the side of the hill overlooking the city of Toleto and river.  What a scenic and beautiful way to end our last vacation day.

After lunch we returned to the Hilton hotel for our last night in Spain.  We had a special dinner planned and we were ready to party.  Some of the people at the Hilton hotel were from the Ferrari automobile factory so it was important that I parked my car carefully.  We had a wonderful evening with just the two of us and the following morning we departed for the Madrid Airport.  It was sad to be leaving but sometimes I think that is what makes vacations so special.  They cannot go on forever, they must end.

I am sure that Spain will be one of the countries I visit more than just once.

The Hilton Hotel in Toleto Spain

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Prior to my retirement I traveled a good deal for my Company.  When traveling for the Company it was my custom to stay at the Hilton Hotels.  I enjoyed the Hilton Hotels for their consistent quality and excellent service.  Marti prefers smaller boutique type hotels so we spend 90% of our time in the smaller boutique hotels and the reminder of time at my Hilton if possible.  We had made a reservation for the following night at a Hilton hotel located in the newer section of Toleto.  We had tried to book with the Parador in Toleto but they were full and unable to accommodate our request.  We arrived at the Hilton hotel and with a sad look explained our sad story.  My Hilton treated us as honored guests.  They made me much happier as they were able to move our reservation. We will be here for the next two days!  We went up to our room on the top floor, unpacked and stretched out on our first real king-size bed to rest.  Later we left the room for an exploratory trip around the hotel.  We saw it all, from the gardens to the ballrooms, the restaurants and the gift shops, an art gallery and an elegant sitting area.  We choose to have a drink and enjoy the gallery.  What fun we had and what a great way to relax.  Soon after a few drinks Marti was hungry.  I checked with the main restaurant and discovered that was crowded with a one hour wait. So we returned to our room and ordered room service.  Marti liked the fact that we did not need to dress and that the food arrived hot and fast.  After a wonderful dinner in our room Marti started reading and I watched television.  We went to sleep tired but awoke refreshed and ready to go.

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Today is the last day before we fly home.  We are planning to return to Toleto’s old city and visit some of the sites we missed because of the rain the day before.  Well after a very excellent breakfast (thank god for Hilton’s).  We were off again to the old city of Toledo.

Toleto Spain

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Walking out of the old city of Caceres we walked down the steps into the modern city of Caceres.  As we entered the modern city’s main square we knew we had reached the modern heart of the city.  Yes, right there in the city’s main square was a McDonalds!  The square was so beautiful even with Mickey Dee’s inside the square.  It was a beautiful evening so we found a place in the square where we could sit down and enjoy some snacks to munch and wine to drink.  We spent the rest of the evening people watching.  I was happy and for the first time understood the importance of a town square.  The evening passed quickly and soon it was 10:00 pm and we decided to return to our hotel room for the night.

Our short stay in Caceres with its great food and lovely Parador accommodations was hard for us to leave.  We awoke the next morning and decided to head down to the Parador’s restaurant for a nice breakfast.  The dining area was very beautiful with a fantastic view outside the window of a lovely garden area.  We enjoyed our breakfast, took some photos, and explored the garden area prior to checking out of the hotel.  Because we left our cottage early we did not have anything scheduled or confirmed for our next few nights.  However, just as we arrived in Caceres without a reservation we felt confident that we could arrive today in Toleto, Spain and locate a place to stay for the night.  The drive from Caceres to Toleto was very peaceful and the landscape along the way was beautiful.

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We drove for almost three hours and saw just four cities.  It seems to me that Spain is not a very crowded country with a higher than normal amount of open space.  After arriving in the town of Toleto I was surprised by the size of the city.  It is a large city, with a lot of traffic on the roads and groups of people walking busy streets.  Driving past the newer sections of the city, we found ourselves entering the old city section of Toleto.  We stopped by two hotels just checking the availability and quality of the rooms. Both hotels had available rooms but they were just OK just not what we would want.  With both hotels having availability we discontinued our search for a room for now.  Instead we choose to wander around the old city and find someplace to enjoy lunch.  Into the tourist mode we went exploring by walking and visiting multiple gift shops. Selecting a gift is always a difficult task for me.  I think about the person the gift is intended for and try to select something they might pick if they were here.  It never works and I always in up picking something I like that I hope they will be happy to receive.  Marti on the other hand seems to do this with a good deal of understanding.  I am learning to rely on her judgment for this difficult process.  I also have noticed how much more happy my grandchildren seem to be when they receive a souvenir selected by Marti.

The weather was quickly changing and the sky was turning dark.  Soon large (really big ones) raindrops began to fall.  Marti and I tried to race back to our parked car.  We ran down one street turned left and before running down this street looked at each other.  I could see the look in her eyes; she had no idea where we were or where the car was parked.  Normally that was not a problem but today here on this street I too had no idea either.  We were lost.  We then began our humble search; we would walk down one street only to learn that we were still lost.  So we would head down another street and another trying to secure a positive direction.  We checked the map again and again and could not determine where we were or how to get to our car.  I could point on the map to where the car was parked but without knowing where we were left us guessing.  Lucky for us it was getting late and there he was, a street cleaner, working.  We asked him for help and he pointed us in the right direction.  Shortly after following his instructions as best we could, we discovered that we were lost again.  We approached another street cleaner and asked our questions. She was very clear in her directions and once again we were off. This time we went directly to our parked car.  We choose to leave the old city and head into the new city section.

Caceres, Spain the old and the new!

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We waited about forty minutes for our lunch entries to arrive.  During the wait we ordered two appetizers to munch with our drinks.  The appetizers were excellent and all I could do was pray that the entries would be as good.  I saw her coming out of the corner of my eye and in her hands were our two entries.  She placed the plates in front of each of us and smiled.  She then started to leave as she said please enjoy your food.  The main course was much better than the appetizers.  First the presentation of the plate of food was so beautiful it seemed like a work of art.  It took me some time before I could take a bite off the plate.  I smelled the aroma drifting up from my plate it was so aromatic.  I began salivating and wanted to dive into my plate.  Before picking up my fork I noticed the other dish, there in front of Marti was her lunch.  She looked like the plate in front of her had just made her day.  That was when I noticed that she was looking over at my plate just as I was looking over at hers.  We both smiled knowing that we always share our meals with each other.  This sharing provides the two of us to be able to taste twice the amount of entries on each of our vacations.  I am sure that by now you know that we thought the food was not only excellent, well prepared, and presented as art.  The chef and his wife treated us with joy and happiness. I like this Spanish restaurant should I return to Spain I will return. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch in a leisure pace.  When finished we thanked each person and slowly walked back to our hotel.

We had a lot of time to explore the old city that was located inside the old walls.  With our map as a guide we walked around exploring the inter parts of an old Spanish town.  The old city is charming and makes you feel that you are in a medieval town.  With some streets wide, other streets are narrow and some paths are just wide enough for a single person to walk.  You also notice that nothing was done to level the land beneath your feet.  These early builders of the towns followed the contours of the land.  In a distance of less than 100 yards I found myself walking up and then down. My walk around the inside of this walled old city aided me in understanding the amazing beauty in something this old. We walked inside the old town and enjoyed our visit to a very old military museum.  We stopped by an old church but it was not open so we were unable to tour the inside.  Everywhere we walked we saw the strong influences of the Moore’s.  From the exterior architecture to the décor in the rooms you could feel the past presence of the Moore’s.  Prior to walking out of the old city, I spotted a dog tied to the entrance of a building.  He was a beagle and looked just like Bruce’s dog in San Jose, California.  I went over and petted the puppy.

Back to a Parador and Fluffy Towels

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Once inside the room and unencumbered by luggage I checked out the amenity’s. Surprise! There was a working TV, an air-conditioner that worked without opening the window, a real bed for sleeping without the need for a net, and the bathroom was big enough for two people at the same time.  Inside the bathroom were two soft terry cloth robes and a stack of soft and fluffy towels.  I was happy all over again.  In fact, as I looked around the room again I noticed that the room was about the same size as our humble cottage in Portugal.  The building was from the middle ages but the room was remodeled into a modern and convenient hotel room.


We were hungry so after my excitement waned Marti and I went out to find a restaurant to enjoy our lunch.  We were inside the walled city and after an initial exploration trip we soon found a small but quant restaurant.  Once inside we noticed that the lunch crowd had departed.  The restaurant was occupied by the owner/cook and his young daughter.  The owner requested that we sit down anywhere we like and informed us that he would be very happy to serve us our lunch.  He informed us that depending on what we ordered there may be a longer than normal wait.  We explained that we did not mind the wait so long the food was good.  We then asked him to recommend the two entries that in his opinion were his signature dishes.  He quickly suggested a crispy Duck and a special plate of prepared pork.  We quickly accepted his two suggestions and prepared to wait for our lunch to be prepared.  About twenty minutes after talking with the chief his wife entered the establishment.  She kissed her daughter and quickly entered the kitchen.  It seemed like she reappeared in just seconds and was at our table refreshing my ice tea and pouring a little more wine into Marti’s glass.  She introduced herself and informed us that she would be our server for the rest of our meal.

Leaving Portugal, Entering Spain

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With a full tummy and a newly loaded computer we returned to our humble home base (the cottage) and a very comfortable swim in our private pool. (Do not ask to see the photos; they are just for me to view only).  This was to be our last night in the very tiny village and our rustic cottage.  In addition to leaving our Portugal vacation base we will be departing the country of Portugal.  I will be sad to leave the country of Portugal but not sad about leaving the rustic little cottage in the wine country. We were happy to offer our current accommodations (the rustic Cottage) to my cousin, Jan, and her spouse, Richard, for a few days, and they accepted!  I am so proud that my girl, Marti, was willing to share. I only hope my cousin Jan and Richard enjoy their stay in our humble cottage in the very small town.  In order to maintain peace in the village, we talked to the kind lady who expressed her concern after we arrived late one night from visiting Jan and Richard.  I told her about our early departure and that Jan and Richard would be arriving later that same day and staying for the remaining nights.  With our plans communicated to the town I felt it was safe to leave the little village.

I awoke the next morning with a smile on my face and a very happy heart.  Our last night in the cottage was over.  Marti’s late afternoon swim in the private pool had been fun to watch.  All I needed to do this morning was pack the car and drive away from the rustic little cottage.  We were heading to another Parador!  Tonight I would be sleeping in a four star rated hotel!  Happy again, I just could not wait to sign into our new vacation spot.  Departing Portugal was not as difficult as you might think. No customs border no sign you just cross over.  Now as long as you stay in any EU country the need to display your passport as you enter or depart a member country is not required. I did get lost once driving the road to Spain (it was the navigators fault but she was able to reroute us quickly) but soon we were back on the right road to Spain. After a drive of about two hours we arrived in the city of Caceres, Spain.  We were a little hungry and a little tired.  We drove around the outside of the city trying to find the Parador or another place to spend the night.  We needed a room for the night and my only requirements were for soft and fluffy towels, a lack of insects inside the room, and rustic just would not work for me.  Oh what luck a Parador had a room available.  We quickly checked into the Parador hotel located in the very old part of the city.  As I learned early on this vacation a Parador hotel is a converted medieval structure such as a monastery, castle or some other type of old structure.  Paradors are wonderfully converted structures but if you are looking for a bellboy stop looking.  So John the burrow went into action and carried our luggage up to our second floor room.

The Beach by Jan & Richard Emery’s Home

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With lunch completed we returned to the parking lot to enter the car.  Before entering the car we heard the sound of a large bird.  Looking around we stumbled upon some cages and inside the cage was a talking parrot.  We played with the parrot for a short time and then we entered the car and drove to the beach.  The beach was beautiful and behind us we saw a lighthouse that was still functioning. We took some photos just to remember both my cousin Jan and her husband Richard.  We took photos of the beach and the coast area.  The afternoon was passing away and knowing it would take three hours to return to the village of our cottage we soon departed.  It was sad to leave Jan and Richard, I wish that I had scheduled more time for our visit.  The return trip was long but just not as long as when we were driving to Jan and Richard’s home.  We arrived at the cottage and much to our surprise a neighbor welcomed us back.  She went on to state that she was worried that we may have gotten lost as it was late and we were not back yet.  This is one of the reasons I am not very comfortable in small towns or villages.

I was tired from all the driving the drive before and so Marti and I took it a little easy today. We took a short drive and revisited the Monsaraz Castle.  We had been told that we should return to the castle and visit a couple of shops we had missed on our first visit.  Then after visiting the shops we were going to drive down to the largest manmade lake in all of Europe.  We could see this lake from the southeast wall of the castle.  It was truly a giant lake as it was impossible to see all of the shoreline.  We were planning to eat lunch at a famous restaurant located on the bank of this giant manmade lake.  We drove down to the lake and after a couple of incorrect turns we stumbled on the restaurant.  It did not look very busy and on a close inspection it was not busy it was closed.  With the wrong turns and the discovery that the restaurant was closed our lunch time was slipping away.  We head back to a little town just before our small village and discover a little restaurant right in the town square.  This place turned out to be one of the better places we ate in Portugal.  The restaurant was named the two Cats.  The entrees were just as enjoyable as some of my more favorite restaurants in the States.  In addition to not just eating to maintain our energy, we were able enjoy dining.  In addition, to the discovery of this wonderful restaurant we were informed how to use the Internet.  The internet was offered free of charge to anyone within the town square area.  It was a wireless internet and very fast.  I opened my computer, connected and for the first time during our vacation sent e-mails.

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