Best of Spain

Day 9 – September 12, 2004 - Valencia to Guadix to Granada

Please note that the included pictures have been labeled as there were houses dug into hillsides that we had to note.

This morning we had breakfast at 7:30, the worst we have had as it was very limited and being in Valencia there were none of their famous oranges or orange juice we had been looking forward to. For a 5 star hotel, the Holiday Inn in Valencia was very poor.

We left the hotel at 8:30 and everyone was on time again. We took several turns around the science center and again saw the huge eye structure being constructed by Calatrana, the architect who designed the new Olympic Stadium in Athens and will do a memorial to 9/11 in NY City.

We also laughed and photographed three women earning a living on the street. This on a Sunday morning at 8:45!!! If anyone desires a picture, let me know.

As we traveled down the coast line we saw miles and miles of citrus groves. There are many old terraces on the hillsides that were constructed by the ancient Romans during their time of capture and conquest in this part of the Mediterranean.

The small fishing villages along the beaches are so popular that they are now overgrown with high rises and condos larger and taller than any in Denver and that are populated by northern Europeans.

We stopped at 10:30 at another highway café, not the most picturesque but certainly the most convenient for big bus groups such as ours. It takes a long time for 39 people to use the restrooms and have a quick service cafeteria.

While we were in the restaurant, Francisco took time to wash the bus windows. Last night’s rain storm along with the dust from the road way made more work for him as the windows had streaks. I took pictures of the beautiful flowers close to the rest area but the surrounding countryside is very dry and parched.

From Benidrom we followed A7, into Granada. This area has a more prominent Moorish influence from ancient times as well as new modern immigrants from Morocco and Algeria.

All the highway signs are in Spanish and Arabic. We stopped for lunch at a bocateria in Puerto Lumbreras and had a typical lunch, a bocadillion sandwich, a long (18") ham and cheese sandwich on a hard french roll. I asked for anchovies on my half - YUM!

We also had salad of 4 quartered fresh tomatoes along with (40) green and ripe (black) olives and two cans of soda (Fanta Limon); another bargain, all for 8 Euros. We got back on the bus at 2 PM and many of our group had purchased gallon jugs of olives and bottles of the local wine.

We had now left the citrus growing area and into an even dryer hill country that is terraced for olive and almond trees. Ellen told us that 65% of the olives are still picked by hand but they are now beginning to use shakers .

The olives are picked in November and if they want ripe (black) they leave them until January or February. Most are used for olive oil and the first pressing is the best - extra virgin. Then the other grades follow, ending with the mash or pulp that is fed to the pigs.

We had another quick restroom stop at a highway café before we visited a private home in Puruellana to view the troglodyte cave dwellings. Their homes are actually built into the side of the sandstone hills.

The home was very spacious and clean and our hostess posed for a picture that you will see in the included pictures. Around the corner there was a pottery shop where people had an opportunity to buy local items.

We then continued via the jagged Mora Pass (4500 feet summit), while Ellen gave us more of the history of the Moors and the local customs of Moorish city of Granada, where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried.

We arrived at the Luna Hotel - very nice - glass elevators, water fountains, and a pleasant room that seems to be cooling - the lights and A/C only work when one inserts the key/credit card into the special receptacles.

Most hotels give us two cards but for those that do not we have a spare that we insert so we can leave the lights and A/C on all the time. Some of our friends did not know how to beat the system so we had to tell them how to do it.

Our group of 39 has been extremely punctual. We have not been tardy once. Surprising. One group of 8 from North Carolina does not mingle. They sit for all meals together; the women as very aloof and distant. Very strange.

The Indian group is so friendly. We sat with then last night and talked about OAT Tours, the Egypt trip, and just chatted about their different trips as well as ours. They are very welcoming and are so kind to everyone except the 8 from North Carolina.

The Aussies are always special; jovial, drinkers, laughers and over all have a great time. They are constantly kidding me on the red wine. They believe it should be slightly chilled and I do not. Whenever they find a bottle that says that, they bring it to me and leave it!

The gentleman in the wheelchair (Nick) is super and his wife is a saint!!! The Armenian and Lithuanian (now Americans) couples talk all the time and interfere with Ellen’s explanations. Now you have all the gossip!!!

Dinner will be at 8:15 at the hotel. Hopefully it will be better than last night.


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