November 29, 2019

Back in the USA

by Rosemary

While we were gone, Southern California experienced a very rainy winter, ending over seven years of drought. When we arrived in Los Angeles in January 2019, the surrounding hills were so green, I was reminded of Ireland. Unfortunately, my photos from L.A. were accidentally deleted.

We had sold our car in May 2018, just before heading to Europe, where public transportation served all our needs. Back in the US, we needed a car, so after a series of rentals, we bought a RAV4 hybrid. We lived in an extended-stay hotel while taking care of various business and financial matters.

Eventually, we packed our suitcases and drove north. In southwestern Washington, we moved into another extended-stay hotel and went house-hunting. It took our realtor only about three days to find a house that matched our wish list. We wanted property where we could plant a vegetable garden and some fruit trees. Our sellers already had a great garden and several trees. They were kind enough to show us around and share some of their harvest with us. After a 30-day escrow, we took possession of the house, but we weren't quite ready to move in. We began planning renovations and ordering furniture. Steve started doing yard work, enjoying the riding mower that came with the house.

It's a beautiful neighborhood.

This county is notorious for its extremely slow permit process, and, of course, renovations always take longer than expected. Contractors here are extraordinarily busy; we weren't able to get estimates for our project until mid-August. Work began, slowly. Summer passed, and then Fall. During this time, we did some sightseeing in the area, and enjoyed a few visits from friends and relatives. We got new driver's licences and registered to vote. We met some of our new neighbors. The building permits finally came through, and work was completed. The pod containing the possessions we had kept when we sold our old house was delivered. Our good friend Carlton came up from Los Angeles to give us a hand. He and Steve unloaded the pod, moved boxes into the house, and assembled our new bookcases and desks.

Finally, on November 10, we spent our first night in our new home.

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September 30, 2019

Farewell to Europe

by Rosemary

We flew to Lyon, where we rented a car and drove to the city center. Lyon is the third largest city in France, but it has a traditional look and pedestrian-friendly streets that make it seem more like a small town.

Many streets still have names indicating the trades and professions that were located here in medieval times.

The city is built on two great rivers, the Rhône and the Saône. Between the rivers, the city center is on a strip of land known as the Peninsula. We indulged ourselves by booking a luxury room at a grand hotel overlooking the main square.

It was too cold to ride the ferris wheel.

The main square was the location for Yellow Vest protests.

On our first full day in town, We rode the funicular up a steep hill to Notre-Dame Basilica, built in the 1800s as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, who was credited with saving the city from the Prussians. The church is decorated with huge mosaics celebrating history and legend.

In 43 AD, Lyon was founded as the Roman city Lugdunum. Its ancient history is documented in the Gallo-Roman Museum, next to the old Roman theaters.

2000 years later, the Roman theater is still a popular concert venue.

The church of Saint Bonaventure is known for its colorful stained glass.

We had intended to spend a few more days in Lyon before enjoying a week at a beach resort on the French Riviera. However, a medical problem brought our plans to an end. Fortunately, we had purchased a good travel insurance policy before we left the US. Insurance covered our medical expenses and paid for our flight back to the States. We arrived in Los Angeles in mid January.

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September 22, 2019


by Rosemary

The sidewalks of Lisbon are famous for their attractive, slippery mosaic tiles. They are very slick when dry and nearly lethal when wet. In many locations, the sidewalks are not well maintained, so the situation is complicated with potholes, broken stones, and collapsed curbs. Injuries are common. Traditionalists have succeeded in resisting attempts to repave the sidewalks with safer, more modern materials.

This mosaic pattern creates the illusion that the plaza is wavy. We saw something similar in Barcelona.

After the 1755 earthquake, tsunami, and fire, King Jose I was so shaken that he moved into a tent city in the foothills and left Marques de Pombal in charge of rebuilding. Pombal had the streets built on a grid, and used a colonial style of architecture that was inexpensive and easy to assemble.

Our hotel was near Pombal Square, where the marques’s many achievements are remembered with a huge monument

The older neighborhoods that were not rebuilt still have their narrow, medieval streets.

This neighborhood statue commemorates the lottery ticket salesman.

Like Paris and Barcelona, Lisbon is notable for the iron work on its balconies. Many buildings also have decorative tile work on the facades.

The church at the Monastery of Jeronimos is decorated with elaborate limestone carvings.

The monastery contains the tomb of Vasco da Gama, famed Portuguese explorer, the first European to sail to India.

This 330-foot-tall statue, modeled after the one in Rio de Janeiro, overlooks the harbor.

We were here at the end of December 2018. Our hotel had a fancy New Year's Eve party, and we enjoyed sipping champagne on the rooftop terrace as we watched the fireworks across the city.

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September 17, 2019

Christmas in Barcelona

by Rosemary and Steve

We had visited Barcelona in 2011; seven years later, we were particularly interested to see the progress of Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), the huge cathedral designed by the city’s favorite architect, Antoni Gaudí. In the tradition of Europe's great Gothic churches, the cathedral has been under construction for over 130 years. Last time we were here, we commented that it was unlikely that the church would be finished in our lifetime.

Gaudí tragically died in 1926, having been run over by a trolley car. Bystanders did not realize who he was (They thought he was a beggar), and he received only rudimentary medical attention. A few years later, many of his blueprints were destroyed in a fire caused by shelling during the Spanish Civil War. Since then, other architects and artists have continued the project, hoping to remain faithful to Gaudí's vision and spirit. With the centennial of Gaudí's death approaching in 2026, the hope is that the cathedral will be finished by then. But seeing all the scaffolding still on the building and the amount of work yet to be done, we were not optimistic about the proposed completion date.



Gaudi also designed Güell Park, a system of gardens and architectural works. Entrance to the park is free, but since our previous visit, the most interesting part, the inner park where most of Gaudí's work is featured, has been changed from free to paid ticket only. We were unable to enter, as that section was sold out. Instead, we climbed the hill and enjoyed the view of the city.

Las Ramblas is a long street in downtown Barcelona that runs from Placa Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Veil. The street features shops, restaurants, and street vendors. Any trip to Barcelona would be incomplete without a stroll down this famous boulevard. Off to either side are other attractions, such as some Roman ruins, one of the houses designed by Gaudí, and other places of interest.


One day we took the train to Figueres to see the Dali Theater-Museum, designed by Dali and featuring many of his works. The building's exterior, painted pink, studded with golden loaves of bread, topped with monumental eggs and a geodesic dome, is emblematic of Dali's style. The many themed rooms are a wonder to see, even for those unfamiliar with Dali.

Walking around Barcelona is always a treat. The architecture ranges from ancient Roman ruins, to structures preserved since medieval times, to Gaudí and the modernists, to contemporary glass and concrete. There are fountains, mosaics, and grand public art.


We were here for Christmas 2018.