Faro, Portugal, Wednesday November 29, 2916

I’m actually started to write this entry yesterday evening, because I knew I would not have much time this morning before leaving for the train station. I am on an early train to Lisbon. However, the train has free WiFi, so I hope to finish the blog entry here.

I arrived in Faro yesterday evening by bus from Huelva, Spain, and I didn’t have time to do much more that shower and sleep. Then, I had to leave the hostel before breakfast to get to the train station on time, but the good people in the hostel were kind enough to fix me a sack breakfast to carry with me, which I ate in the train station.

I did see the sad report of the chartered plane crash on TV yesterday evening before I hit the hay. So sad. An entire soccer team and more than two dozed journalists were reported killed.

Why do they call the place where I stayed last night a “youth” hostel? When I left Faro about two weeks ago, there was an elderly woman staying there who is originally from South Africa but who has been living in Portugal for decades. She’s still there! She must be around 70 years old. I try to stay away from her, because she’s told me several times that I am “a nice-looking man.”

My Italian roommate was 80 years old. We didn’t communicate well, because he is even harder of hearing than I am, and his language skills are limited. Italian is one language I have never learned, but he understands Spanish and responds in a mixture of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. He told me that he has traveled the world and picked up the bit of Spanish he speaks in Latin America. He was proud of having taken part in a master’s run in Toronto. I hope I am still active and traveling when I reach his age.

It became very apparent to me before I left Huelva that it is a shrinking city. There are many barricaded buildings that once held businesses. Below is a picture of two abandoned business next to each other in the same building.

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You also notice it at the bus station. Below is a photo of the interior. Admittedly, if I had chosen a different time, there would have been a few more people inside, but there would by no means have been a crowd. The bus station is two stories (or storeys, if you prefer) high, but the upper floor is closed off and vacant. Some of the ticket windows are also abandoned, and there were few people standing at those that were still open.

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Outside, there were more people waiting to board buses, but most of the bus bays were empty. When my bus arrived, I believe from Seville, I was the only person to get on. There less than a dozen passengers already on the bus. I was also the only passenger to get off  in Faro. I assume the others were going through to Lisbon.

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This train is also not very full, but it stops at many small towns on the way, so it may fill up. I hope the weather clears up. I walked to the hostel in light rain yesterday evening, and this morning the sky looks very gloomy.

Huelva, Spain, Tuesday November 29, 2016

My last week of this trip to Europe is approaching. Today I am taking the bus to Faro, Portugal and the next day the train from Faro to Lisbon where I will spend my final six nights before flying back to Phoenix.

My Swedish roommate, Olle, left yesterday morning for Cadiz. He is driving an antique car, for which he says he has a buyer in the Canary Islands, and he is trying to the car on a ferry to take it there. He says the ferries are booked up, which is logical at this time of the year, when Europeans are anxious to spend some time in warmer climes. He says he can make enough profit by selling the car in the Canaries to pay for his vacation trip.

We spoke some more of politics, and Olle told me that the reason he does not like Hillary Clinton is because of all of the crooked enterprises she owns. That was a new one on me. He said he read it online. Not even Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of owning crooked businesses. It turns out that he does not read the mainline press and prefers right-wing, invented news stories, otherwise known as fake news.

I read today on The Economist website that almost half of Americans get their political news from Facebook. If that is true, that is terrible news for democracy, given all of the “news” from fake news websites that make their way into the Facebook news feeds. However, we Americans are not the only ones who are reading more and more fake news stories. Many lesser-educated Europeans are, also.

While I am digressing, let me relate what I read about an Eastern European who runs a fake news website. He makes money from it when people who visit his site click on advertisements. He had no political preference in the US election. His sole goal in running the website is to attract as many readers as possible.

At first, he began running fake anti-Trump, pro-Clinton news stories, but he didn’t get enough response to make a profit. Then he switched to pro-Trump, anti-Clinton news stories, and the visits to his site and ad clicks skyrocketed. He didn’t make up most of the fake news himself. He plagiarized many of his fake news reports from other websites. This is only an anecdote, but it confirms my suspicion about what type of people are most likely to be taken in by fake news.

Getting back to travel, it was chilly and still overcast when I left the hostel this morning to walk to downtown, but finally it was no longer raining. As I sat out, I snapped this picture of the youth hostel when I stayed the past two nights. It is an enormous building considering the few of us who are staying here. The employees greatly outnumber the guests. Notice that patches of blue are starting to appear among the clouds in the sky.

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Because it was still chilly when I started for town, I wore a long-sleeved T-shirt covered by a sweatshirt, and a jacket on top. By the time I returned in the late afternoon, I was sweating and carrying the latter two articles of clothing.

The picture below is of a typical residential street in Huelva. Most Spanish do not own stand-alone houses. They purchase apartments, which they call pisos or flats. Each one has to have its miniature balcony, of course, even though the balconies are not large enough to sit on. I almost never see anyone at the railing of a balcony, although sometimes I do see laundry on them hanging out to dry.

You’ll also notice there are awnings at street level. These awnings mark small businesses that occupy the ground floor of most buildings, whereas the upper floors are dedicated to apartments.

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One of my missions while downtown was to make sure I could find the right station to catch my bus to Portugal today. Some Spanish cities have multiple bus stations, and even this small city has two train stations despite the fact that it is at the end of the line for rail traffic. To the best of my knowledge, there are only two sets of rail tracks that cross the border into Portugal along the who border. The other Spanish rail lines all stop before the border.

The street pictured below is typical of most of the streets in the downtown area. Again you see business at street level and tiny balconies marking apartments on the floors above.

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I had been told that there is not much to see in Huelva, and my walk around town yesterday confirmed that. I was also told that there are interesting things to see in surrounding towns, which one can reach by bus. However, as I had only one full day in the city, I did not take any bus trips into the countryside.

The church below caught my eye on my walk back to the hostel, because it looked so new. After I took the photograph, I read on a plaque that it is a modern restoration of an older church that once stood on the site. The church was closed, so I could not see what was inside.

I am not a religious person, but in Spain, the most magnificent buildings are usually churches and cathedrals. Every little hamlet has its church, although many have fallen into disuse, because the Spanish are also not as religious as they once were. If you have read my Kindle book, A Senior Citizen Walks the Camino of Santiago, you know that some of the places I stayed when I did the pilgrimage were former churches that had been converted into pilgrims’ hostels.

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My bus for Faro, Portugal doesn’t leave until 4:15 pm, but once I leave the hostel, I will be encumbered with my suitcases and will probably not be able to see much more of Huelva. I have a small suitcase that I use as a carry-on bag in the airplane with my tablet computer, ebook reader, etc., plus a slightly larger one, also small enough to be a carry-on but which must be checked under today’s rules, because it is where I carry such items as the my Swiss army knife, tube of toothpaste, petroleum jelly to rub into my feet in the morning, etc.

Huelva, Spain, Monday November 28, 2016

After days of rain, the forecast for today is for “partially sunny” weather here in Huelva. That will be a relief after days of putting up with rain that has everything soaked.

I have no few pictures to post today, because I spent a good part of yesterday riding three different trains to get here, all the while looking out the window at flooded fields. It was dark and gloomy outside. I did have some interesting seat companions on all three trains, however.

I wrote yesterday about the Arab Muslim café where I ate breakfast and a recitation of the Koran was playing on the TV. Here’s a picture of the café. You cannot read the TV screen in the picture, of course, and even if you could, all there was to see was an image of the Koran with the text that was being recited shown in both Arabic and German translation.

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I got to the train station in Algreciras very early. I always seem to arrive everywhere early and panic if I think I’m going to be late. The following train is the one that was waiting to take me on the first leg of the day’s journey. The two men dressed in green are washing the train, although there seemed to be no reason to do it given that it was raining.

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A few stops after I got on the train in Algeciras (it was one of those trains that stops at every rock pile and outhouse), two Americans got on carrying enormous backpacks. One of them clumsily although unintentionally whacked me pretty hard with his backpack as he spun around while trying to find his seat. I said a few words to him in English, and hearing me speak that language, my new seat companion began speaking to me in fluent English with a heavy Spanish accent.

She worked for the Andalusian Tourist Board and spoke not only Spanish and English but also Italian and German. She had been to the Grand Canyon while on a business trip to Las Vegas, but like many European who visit the Canyon, she had no idea that she was in Arizona. She thought the Canyon was a Vegas suburb. Everyone in Europe knows more or less where the Grand Canyon is geographically located, but almost no one has every heard of Arizona or its capital, the sixth largest city in the USA, Phoenix. They do know the location of comparatively dumpy little towns like Las Vegas and San Diego.

We both got off in Bobadilla to change to different trains. I was starving, and I had time enough to run across the street in the rain to a café and have them make me a cheese sandwich to go in the Spanish style, which means using olive oil instead of butter or margarine. I ate it on the platform while waiting for my train.

On the second train, a young lady was sitting across from me furiously writing page after page in what appeared to be her journal. She was also wearing earphones connected to her cell phone. On the table between us she had a book in English, so when she finally stopped writing and took off the earphones, I spoke to her in my native tongue. She told me she was from Colorado and worked in Spain around Americans, but she didn’t seem to want to be specific about her job. After we had spoken awhile, she admitted that she is in the US Navy stationed in Spain. She added that she was not supposed to be open with civilians about being in the military due to terrorism threats. There are probably terrorist cells in every European country who would like to kidnap someone in the US military.

She got off the train in Dos Hermanas, two stops before the end of the line in Seville Santa Justa station, where I was to change trains. I was concerned, because I only had 16 minutes between trains and I didn’t remember the layout of the station. I needn’t have worried. I walked up the ramp from the train platform, and there was a screen showing the train departures. My platform was the very next one, and the train hadn’t even arrived yet.

My seat companion on the third train was a young female university student here in Huelva. Finally I had a chance to speak Spanish. She said she was from a small village that I would never have heard of. We spoke intermittently, because she kept getting interrupted by a bout of texting on her cell phone.

I walked the mile from the train station here to the youth hostel, in light rain. I am staying in a double room. My roommate is a Swede in his 50s who is trying to get permission to work in the USA. The subject of Donald Trump inevitably came up, and he said he was very happy with Trump’s election. He explained that he is a member of the Swedish anti-immigrant, right-wing Democrats Party, Sverigedemokraterna. He said he is strongly against immigration.

I couldn’t stop myself from asking him if he didn’t think it a contradiction that he is so strongly anti-immigrant and yet is trying to get a job in the USA. He couldn’t understand my point, “No, but I am going there to work.” I responded that most migrants are looking for work, just as he is, but he again protested that his case was different without being able to explain why. At that point I decided it was useless to discuss the point and changed the subject.

My apologies to Trump supporters, but I find over and over that those who back Donald Trump have a habit of not understanding logic and facts.

The hostel here is very large, very modern, and almost empty. I feel as if I am one of a handful of privileged guests in a modern hotel. I just took the following picture from the table where I am writing in the hostel’s covered courtyard. By this time of the morning, about 7:30 local time, more light should be coming through the translucent roof, but it is still very cloudy and dark outside. At least the forecast calls for no rain today and perhaps a few peeks at the sun.

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Well, they’ve just started serving breakfast, so I’m off for some chow.

Algreciras, Spain, Sunday November 27, 2016

This will be a short post. However, if you haven’t read yesterday’s post about Gibraltar, I suggest you scroll down and do so, It includes pictures of cute little apes.

I am leaving for Huelva near the Portuguese border in three hours  by train. I have to change trains twice to get there, but I find the train much more comfortable than the bus.

I did little yesterday except due to the damp weather. I was also still a bit reluctant to spend much time outside after the being drenched with cold rain the day before on my hike to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.

Today being Sunday, most businesses are closed in the small towns of Spain. Thank goodness for the Muslims, however. Their businesses are open, so I was able to find a café to eat breakfast this morning. First I asked a man setting up tales outside his café if he were open yet, and he said not quite. Then he pointed me down the street and tried to tell me something basic English that I didn’t understand. Then he switched to French, which I did understand and explained that there was an open\ café hidden by a lighted advertising sign. At that point I realized that he was probably a Muslim immigrant from French-speaking North Africa who did not speak much Spanish.

I found the second café, which was indeed open for business. As you can see in the sole photograph in today’s blog entry, even the Muslim cafés were not doing a booming business. The TV was carrying a reading of the Koran with the text of each verse displayed on the screen in Arabic and German translation. Before I finished eating, my hostess, who was wearing a headscarf, switched the TV to another cable station, which was starting a reading of the Koran, this time with the subtitles displaying a French translation. img_0398My breakfast as two giant pieces of toast covered with stewed tomatoes plus a piece of cheese that my hostess threw in for free. Oh, and I had coffee, of course.

That is my report from Algeciras. It is time for me to pack my bags and head for the train station. Tomorrow’s blog entry will probably also not be very full of news, as I will spend much of the day traveling and will arrive at my lodging in Huelva in the evening. I hope I don’t have to walk there from the train station in the rain.

Gibraltar, Saturday November28, 2016

In reality, I’m writing this post from my hotel room in Algeciras, Spain, a 30-minute bus ride from Gibraltar, but I did spend yesterday on the rock, and I’m writing about my excursion.

We had been having rain showers yesterday morning, but when I left for Gibraltar there was only a slight sprinkle, so I unwisely left my rain jacket in the hotel. Later, I was very sorry.

The Spanish do not call the crossing into Gibraltar a border (frontera) but rather The Line (la Línea). The Spanish insist that Gibraltar is part of Spain and that the British occupy it illegally. Naturally, the people who live in Gibraltar enjoy their British way of life and feel differently.

I expected everyone in Gibraltar to speak English, but there are a lot of Spanish people working there who do not. For this reason I think it would be bad for the local economy if the Spanish managed to kick the British out. The Spanish living near to Gibraltar need the jobs.

It was a short distance from the bus station on the Spanish side to The Line itself. Here is what The Rock looks like from Spain. As you can see in the photo, the weather was overcast, but at that point the rain was still a very light sprinkle.

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Going through immigration was a breeze. I have both British and American passports, so I held up my British passport as I walked by, and the Gibraltar immigration authorities didn’t even look at it. Once on the Gibraltar side, I had to walk across the runway of the Gibraltar airfield. It is a working runway. I had seen a small jet plane take off from it not long before I crossed The Line. I would think taking off or landing would be a bit nerve-wracking, because there is water on both ends of the runway with large ships sailing by.

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I entered the City of Gibraltar proper through the tunnel through the rock shown below. It was once the only entrance to Gibraltar, but now there are streets to the right of it built on what I assume is landfill. The streets are crowded with cars and buses. You’ll notice that there is a drawbridge before the tunnel entrance that could once be pulled up to keep out invaders.

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Once in town, I stopped at a restaurant for some traditional British fish and chips soaked in malt vinegar. My waitress did not speak good English, and once I realized that, I switched to Spanish to her relief. As I sat at my table, a stout Englishwoman entered and inquired whether the fish and chips were really deep-fried as they are in England. The staff had to hunt someone who spoke enough English to understand and answer her question. As she waited, she explained to me that these days many places start with breaded, frozen pieces of fish and frozen chips (British for French fries) and just pop them into the microwave. Eventually, someone was able to assure her that the restaurant starts with raw fish, dips the pieces in batter, and deep fries them.

Then I started walking uphill, taking an elevator to the Old Town above, and from there, walking up a narrow road into what is called the Nature Reserve. Underway passersby spontaneously gave me directions either in Spanish or English. Everyone who addressed me in English was almost exaggeratedly polite, addressing me as “sir” in every sentence. Apparently traditional English good manners are still alive in Gibraltar.

I bought a pedestrian’s ticket at the entrance to the Nature Reserve, which the ticket seller explained to me, also in very polite English (many more sirs),  did not entitle me to enter any of the exhibits.

I took a lot of pictures of interesting sights along the way, but I’m only posting a fraction of them to the blog. The one below is the entrance to one of the tunnels that honeycomb the rock. I took the picture through the gate that blocked its entrance. A sign said there were periodic guided tours, and there were people standing nearby apparently waiting for the next one. My ticket did not allow me to enter, so I continued my walk uphill.

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The roadway I was walking up was very narrow and only one way. I had to repeated get off the road to let a series of small tour buses and taxis get by. A woman was driving one of the tour buses. The reason that I remark that is that I had not seen a single female bus driver in Spain, although woman bus drivers are common in other European countries.

I was halfway to the top when I came upon a steep, long, and narrow series of staircases leading to the summit. This sign at the bottom gave me pause. I didn’t want to be attacked and bitten by one of those little Macaques or Gibraltar apes. I had been told that they can turn quite nasty when annoyed and do bite. Nevertheless, I started up the first staircase.

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I reached the final staircase without having seen any of the apes except for one I could see in the distance cavorting at the very top. Then on the last staircase, I came upon these two huddled together for warmth. By now a heavy, cold rain was falling.

I stopped, took the photograph shown below, and then decided to risk walking past the little buggers. They did look up at me as I went by, but other than that they didn’t move. As you can see, there was not too much room for me to avoid them. After walking past these two, I began to think the animals were pretty benign, which turned out to be the case.

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I passed several more small groups of apes huddled together on the staircase before I reached the top, but the reaction from each group was the same. They looked at me suspiciously as I squeezed past, but otherwise they did not budge.

The last staircase I climbed brought me to a road where there was a feeding station for the apes. A tourist taxi was parked there, and its occupants were standing in the road as the tour guide explained the station to his passengers. There were many playful apes around, but not one of them paid any attention to us humans. I wonder if they look down upon us as inferior beings.

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As I turned left to follow the road to the summit, the rain started pouring down, and I quickly became soaking wet. I definitely regretted not having brought my rain jacket. I had hoped to walk back down, but the cable car at the summit was not far away, and in this weather, taking it down seemed to be the best option.

I did reach the summit or at least the highest point were tourists are permitted to go. I took the following picture of another peak that might have been higher, but it was off limits.

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I purchased a ticket to descend in the cable car. The ticket cost me close to $20 converted into US money. However, I had little choice. As wet as I was, walking down in the rain was not a good idea.

I hadn’t ridden a cable car in years, and this ride was a thrill. The descent was very steep, and on the way down, the car swung back and forth in the wind.

AT the bottom, I walked about a mile to the border crossing into Spain. Going into the customs shed, there was a big line that forced perhaps a hundred of us to stand out in the rain with no protection. I began cursing the Spanish authorities for doing that to us. However, when I finally got into customs, I found that there wasn’t anyone working there. The slowdown was caused by people leaving the shed, who were blocking the exits, standing there trying to keep out of the rain.

Later, back in my hotel room, I took off my soaked clothes, took a hot shower, and then crawled into bed to warm up. I was shivering. I’m now in dry clothes, of course, but the clothing I wore yesterday is still hanging in my hotel room and still partially wet. I assume it will all be dry by tomorrow morning when I leave on the train for Huelva near the Portuguese border.

Algeciras, Spain Friday November 25, 2016

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States, but there was no sign of the holiday here in Spain. However, to my surprise, I have seen some billboards announcing a Black Friday sale for today with the words Black Friday in English. We may not be exporting our USA holidays, but we are exporting our shopping customs. 🙂

Before I begin the boring account of yesterday’s bus trip from Seville here to Algeciras in the southernmost tip of Spain, allow me to write a boring account of a lost item. I carry a hard case to put my glasses in at night when I sleep or when I am taking a shower, as I usually stay in shared dormitories in hostels and don’t want someone stepping on my expensive spectacles. In Seville the case disappeared. It simply vanished. I repeatedly searched every nook and cranny of my luggage, under the bed, in the cupboard, etc., but it was nowhere to be found.

Then yesterday, when I entered my room here in Algeciras and opened my suitcase, there was my eyeglass case right on top of everything else I had packed in the morning! How did that happen? Is some nasty leprechaun messing with my mind in an attempt to rob me of the modicum of sanity that I still possess?

When I left Seville, the weather was sunny and not too chilly under a mostly cloudless sky. Long before the bus arrived in Algeciras, the rain started, and I see the forecast for Gibraltar, just a short distance away, calls for rain showers throughout the three days that I’ll be staying here. On the way, I noticed two motorcycle police parked under a bridge, and I asked myself what they were doing there. I’m a bit slow to catch on, sometimes, but I finally realized that it was raining hard, and they were taking shelter. Riding a motorcycle in the driving rain cannot be fun.

I left the hostel at about 11 am, and André, my French-Canadian roommate, said he was sorry to be losing the company. Our other roommate, Alonzo, also left for home. He can find no work where he lives, so he works two long nights at a stretch as a nurse in a hospital in Seville and then commutes back home by bus to spend three days with his family. At least when I left the hostel, I no longer had any of the half-dozen back issues of magazines that I started the trip with. Traveling does give one ample time to read. Now I can get back to the French novel I’ve been trying to read on my Kindle.

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The reason I took the following picture of the light rail train is because I suddenly realized that there are no overhead wires. The have since learned that the light rail runs on batteries through the most touristy part of the city. Perhaps you can see a horizontal rod in the picture above the center of the train. When the train stopped, a folding tower ascended from the train and made contact with that rod in order to get some electric current from it to refresh the batteries. There are also overhead wires at the ends of the line where the train’s batteries are recharged. I had previously never seen a battery operated, full-scale light rail train.

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The bus station I left from looked large by the standards of the western cities of the USA, but it was tiny compared to the bus station at which I had arrived in Seville. In this station, there was only one boarding platform. In the other  there were many. Of course, the bus station here in Algeciras where I arrived yesterday was even smaller.

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Someone waiting for a bus awakened the suspicions of two police officers. Here, the one on the left is looking at a young man’s identity paper while talking to someone over his radio. The guy must have checked out, because I didn’t see the officers haul anyone away.

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Before we boarded the bus, I had a chat with a young man who turned out to be one of the German-speaking Italians who live in the north of Italy. We spoke in English at first and then switched to German when I learned that it was his language.

When I got on my bus, there was a problem. Two English youths had gotten on, but they only had one ticket between them. The bus was delayed while the driver insisted in Spanish that one of them had to get off, and the youths insisted in English that they had paid for two tickets but only received one. The bus driver claimed that the bank had refused the credit card charge for the second ticket. “It’s the bank’s fault and not ours.” The youths insisted that the charge had gone through.

I and a young Spanish woman acted as interpreters during this dispute. Finally the youths got off the bus, and we left Seville 20 minutes behind schedule. Somehow in route the bus driver made up the time.

Because most of my previous travels in Spain have been by train or on foot when I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage last year (that’s a subtle hint about one of my books advertised in the left sidebar), I had never before seen a Spanish toll booth. It looks pretty much like toll booths anywhere else in the world. I took this picture out of the bus window.

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I also took the following picture of an airliner tail section out of the bus window as we entered Puerto Real on the way to Algeciras. I had not known it previously, but Puerto Real is the place where the final tail assembly and testing takes place for the giant Airbus 380 aircraft.

Because Airbus is largely  owned by various European governments, the assembly plants for the planes are spread around the continent.  to provide employment. Spain has at least two of them including another site in Getafe and one in Illescas.

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Naturally, it was raining in Algeciras when I arrived yesterday evening, and more rain is promised for today. It is still dark outside, but the rain appears to have stopped for the moment. There is no breakfast included in the price of this room, so it’s time for me to upload this post and go out in search of something to eat.

Seville, Spain, Thursday November 24, 2016

Today is the day that I leave Seville. I have a bus ticket for a bus leaving at 5:30 pm and arriving there at 9 pm.  I’m going to try to change it for an earlier bus. Let’s see how my negotiating skills work in Spanish. I have my story all prepared.

I had a second roommate yesterday, a middle-aged Spaniard who is a nurse on the night shift in a local hospital and rented a bunk in the hostel to catch a few winks during the day. He slept a few hours in the morning, but he was gone when I returned to the hostel in the afternoon. Then he came back, and we chatted a bit about Spanish and U.S. politics before he went back to bed to catch some more sleep.

In case you think I am living in a dump, below is a photo of a section of the main floor of the place where I’m staying. To my left is the cafeteria, where I had just eaten breakfast when I took the picture. Somehow I suspect that the single room where I’ll be staying tonight really will be a dump. The price seems very low for a room.

I’m also told that the town, Algeciras, is not one of Spain’s more attractive port cities. However, it’s a short bus ride from places that are reputedly attractive including Gilbraltar. I just want to visit Gibraltar once during my life.

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I left the hostel on foot this morning headed north toward downtown when smoke started pouring out of the rear of an approaching bus. In the picture below, it is the bus nearest the curb. When I got close enough to snap the photo, passengers were already being transferred to the bus that pulled up beside it. The broken-down bus is one of those long jobbies that swivels in the middle in order to make turns, and it was jammed full of passengers, who didn’t all fit into the first passing bus that stopped. Behind, another bus is waiting to take more of the passengers aboard.

When I returned south riding another bus hours later, the broken-down bus was still parked in the same spot.

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Below is a snapshot of a section of the older part of Seville. Most of the city is spread out with wide avenues, and even here in the older part, things are not as cramped as in other cities in southern Spain. On the right are the horse-drawn carriages waiting to carry tourists through the traffic-filled streets where they will have the opportunity to breathe lots of motor vehicle exhaust. The carriages use the normal traffic lanes including the left-turn lanes, which means that they must cut across several lanes of traffic when about to make a left turn. I began to ask myself if the horses were smart enough to recognize the left-turn arrows. I suppose not. Otherwise I suspect that they have trotted the same route so many hundreds of times that they have it well memorized.

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The long brown building on the left in the picture below is full of temporary shops that have been set up to sell Christmas items such as decorations. I didn’t seem many people go into them. I think even is Seville, it is a bit early to be doing Christmas shopping. Oh, that reminds me: I suppose that back in the States people are celebrating Thanksgiving today. Here it is just an ordinary day.

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Below is a shot of some of the bell towers on the cathedral. I couldn’t get far enough away to get a shot of the whole building. There was a line of people waiting to buy tickets to enter, and it must have been jammed with people inside, because there were large crowds coming out the exits. Being a cheapskate, I did not go in. If I had arrived early enough, I probably could have missed the crowds and even entered for free to attend mass.

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If I can’t get my ticket changed to the 2 o’ clock bus, I’ll have a lot of time to kill today. I must leave the hostel by 11 am, and after that I’ll be dragging my suitcases around. For some reason, I decided to travel with two suitcases this time instead of with a backpack.

Seville, Spain, Wednesday November 23, 2016

Yesterday was a gloomy day in Seville, although the sun did shine through occasionally, I did a lot of walking. I have a limited transport pass for the bus system, but I didn’t use it. I’ve notice that from the hours of walking every day I am losing weight. I certainly can afford to.

I am sharing a room here in the Seville Youth Hostel with André, a French Canadian from Montreal.  He is a retired teacher of French  literature who has been traveling in Europe for months living simply by staying in hostels and preparing his own food. I did that when I was in my 20s, but he is doing it as a retiree. Maybe I should sell my house in Phoenix, burn my books, and led that life again before I am too old to do so. My legs are already trying to convince me to slow down.

But, back to André. He says he has only been in Spain for a few months, but he already speaks passable Spanish. He sits at a table in the room in the mornings, where you see him seated in the picture, and works on his grammar and vocabulary.

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Yesterday after breakfast here in the hostel, included in the price of the room, I walked into town to buy a bus ticket for my departure on Thursday to Algreciras near Gibraltar. My Spanish is excellent, but I learned to speak it as Mexicans do, and as soon as I open my mouth, or sometimes before, people know I am not from here. Occasionally someone will insist on trying out her or his few words of English on me. That was the case when I bought the bus ticket. The clerk told me “You seat is for nineteen.” Naturally I understood four-nineteen or 419, and I repeated the number back in Spanish saying there must be some mistake. “No!” he replied. “Nineteen!” Unlike Portugal, where people speak English pretty well, even Spanish people working in tourism tend to have a very basic vocabulary.

I could have taken the city bus into town. The buses run all over the city. There is also a subway line and a light rail line, but both run only a short distance and are not of much use. I suspect that their construction was halted when the economic crisis hit. Below is a picture of an approaching light rail train.

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In every tourist city in Andalucía, this region of Spain, light horse-drawn carriages are a tourist attraction. Below you see some of them waiting for business. I can understand taking a ride in one in a park, but I don’t understand the attraction of riding through busy, traffic-choked streets. I also feel sorry for the horses. They sometimes stand for hours, and when the get to move, it’s to pull tourists along the same route that they have traversed hundreds of times. They must get bored. On the other hand, the alternative is probably the glue factory. Do they still make glue from horses? In Spain or France, I suppose they would end up on someone’s dinner plate.

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Below is a shot looking north along the Guadalquivir River, which flows through Seville. I took the time on a previous visit to Seville to find out what that round tower used to be, but I have since forgotten. Today it is a small museum. For three euros you can go inside and climb the stairs to the top.

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At times the sky did partially clear, and although it was damp out, it wasn’t cold. I was wearing a sweatshirt but no jacket. As the sign below shows, it was 18 degrees Celsius, which corresponds to 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Notice the cyclist approaching on the bike path. There is an extensive network of bike ways in Seville, and you can also rent bikes by the hour from automated stands, much as you can in other major cities throughout the world. I noticed quite a few people who seemed to be commuting on bikes. However, I see few people walking. This is a car city or a city for taking public transportation. It is not a pedestrian-friendly city.

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Below is a shot looking south along the Guadalquivir. The boat tied up along the shore takes tourists on river cruises. Also notice that the sunshine is gone and it looks as if it could rain. Thankfully, the rain didn’t arrive.

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The picture below shows the center section of the palace in Santa María Park, which starts just north of the hostel and runs almost to downtown, covering many acres of ground. It is a beautiful place to walk. The palace was originally built by the Duke of Montpensier, and the park was originally the palace gardens. The duke is long departed, of course, and now the palace and its grounds are open to the public. I was walking home when I snapped the photo, so I did not take the time to investigate the palace. Perhaps I will do that today.

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Well, it is time to turn off the computer and head out the door to see what I can come up with today.

Seville, Spain, Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I’m in the youth hostel in Seville, Spain, where I arrived yesterday evening. It’s quite a change after Portugal. This city is hustling and bustling. There are people and traffic everywhere, and everyone is in a rush. So much for the laid-back Spanish lifestyle.

I cut myself shaving yesterday evening, and as you can see, I look like some sort of monster with that large Band-Aid on my face. It’s only a small nick, but I don’t have anything smaller to cover it with. I thought that being bandaged overnight, it would be OK to take the Band-Aid off this morning, but when I took the old one off, the bleeding started again.

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I have one roommate, whom I have not yet seen in the daylight. He is French Canadian, and he was already in bed when I arrived about 8:30 pm yesterday. He woke up just before I left the room this morning. I don’t understand how someone can sleep so long.

I have little to write about Seville, because I have not yet gotten out  and around town, although I did stay here over a year ago. I traveled here from Faro by bus yesterday. It was a bit confusing, because there were two buses from two different bus lines leaving for Seville withing minutes of each other. The first one was not mine, but in the confusion of figuring that out, I made the acquaintance of a couple from France. He is French, and his wife is Mexican from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, a city that I used to drive to from Phoenix on vacation.

I had been approached by a beggar on my first day in Faro. He was  and very smooth, starting with the line, “Pardon me, sir. Do you speak English.” As I was standing next to the couple waiting for our bus, I’ll be darned if I didn’t hear the same voice behind me, “Pardon me, sir. Do you speak English.” I told the man that he had already hit me up and he should find a new mark.

When our bus arrived, from the Spanish bus line Alsa, the driver spoke Portuguese to us instead of Spanish. We managed to communicate, however.

I noticed that the condition of the freeway in Portugal wasn’t much better than that of the streets in Phoenix. It was full of large cracks and potholes. The freeway became much smoother once we crossed into Spain.

Of course, in most of Europe these days there are no real borders. The bus blasted through at full speed. There was was a river to cross, however. I shot the following terrible picture from my seat at the front of the bus as we crossed the suspension bridge.

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Just after we crossed the border, we made an unscheduled stop. An Italian passenger had an urgent need to answer a call of nature, so the bus driver pulled off on a freeway exit, stopped, and let the passenger descend, who did what he needed to do beside the bus.

There had been very little traffic on the streets of Faro, and there was also very little on the freeway in Portugal. Traffic picked up after we crossed into Spain and grew thicker as we approached Seville. Near the end of the freeway the traffic became stop and go.

It wasn’t raining when I arrived in Seville yesterday evening, but the streets were wet. It’s not raining outside now either, and I hope it stays that way, because I’d like to I go into town on foot to buy my next bus ticket. I will stay in Seville two more nights, and then I head south.

Faro, Portugal November 21, 2016

Yesterday was my only full day in Faro on this trip, although I do plan to stop here again in a few weeks on my way back from Spain. It wasn’t the best day to see Faro. It rained in the morning and again in the afternoon, and the sky was gloomy all day. However, I did manage to go out and see a bit of the town between rain showers. Because I am from dry Phoenix, Arizona, I don’t deal well with rain.

It’s still raining this morning, so it looks as if I will have a wet walk to the bus station.

The streets were very deserted. I don’t know if the rain kept people off the streets or if the good people of Faro just don’t go out walking on Sundays. The weather, although damp and gloomy, was not cold as evidenced by the sign in front of a pharmacy. For those of you who don’t do Celsius, 20 degrees C is the equivalent of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Almost all of the businesses were closed including the small grocery shops and fast-food restaurants. There were some pastry shops open doing a good business in selling pastries and coffee. There were so few of them open that the ones that were open were full of customers.

Below is a typical street scene. You’ll notice there is only one car and only two pedestrians in the picture. If this were Paris, the streets would be swarming with people no matter how cold the Sunday weather was.

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One place that was open was McDonald’s. As you can see in the picture, it doesn’t have a large parking lot and depends entirely on pedestrians for its business. I stopped in for a McChicken sandwich and a “large” cup of coffee just before noon. I usually only drink coffee at McD’s, because I don’t like the food, but yesterday it was one of the few places open. The large coffee was a bit smaller than the small coffees I buy in the USA McDonald’s. The coffee was also weak. I’m beginning to believe that Portugal is not the best country for coffee drinkers. I have not yet had a good cup of coffee here.

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Below is a view of the port for private boats. It appears that not many people were out on the water, perhaps because it was not only rainy but also very windy. The siren guarding the port seemed strange to me. I am used to fish-women being mermaids with a woman’s head and torso and a fish’s tail. The babe has a woman’s body except for the head, which is a fish. I imagine there is some meaning to the statue that I am unaware of.

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There are few people here in the hostel, and there do not seem to be many tourists in the city. There were few people walking the streets who were not speaking Portuguese.