Road Trip!

Road tripThe main reasons for our move to Portugal include, in no particular order, the desire to use it as a home base to explore Europe, to get away from our kids (just kiddin’), a burning desire to learn another language (Again, just kiddin’. It’s as difficult as I feared it would be.) because life is short and when we’re on our deathbed we want to feel as if we’d done as many things and gone on as many adventures as possible (not kiddin’), and, last but not least, to be able to retire early. Indeed, there is no way we could have retired in the US when we did, mostly due to its exorbitant health care costs (definitely not kiddin’).

In fact, just in case our positive view of European health care has been tainted by Portugal, we were excited to be exposed to another country’s health care (just kiddin’) after Carolyn popped something in her hip (Uh oh, a precursor to breaking a hip! We better get all this sightseeing done before our bodies give out!). She had to be taken to a hospital in Spain because she couldn’t walk on it. Turns out hips are pretty important for walking.

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The U.S. and the U.K. are both high-income, highly developed countries. The U.K. spends less per person ($3,749) on health care than the U.S. ($9,237). Despite its high spending, the U.S. does not have the best health outcomes. [Life expectancy, for example, is 79.1 years in the U.S. and 80.9 years in the U.K. And while the U.S. spends more on health care than any country in the world, it ranks 12th in life expectancy among the 12 wealthiest industrialized countries. Per NPR.
Anyway, she was seen immediately, they took X-rays (and even gave us the film as a souvenir), and announced that she had only three weeks to live. Oops. Wrong X-ray. Actually, she’ll be fine, but the whole visit, including the souvenir X-rays, was just north of 200 euros. In the U.S. the total billing would have probably been, oh, about one million.

I’m sorry, but anyone who still believes the propaganda that we need more freedom for the insurance companies to line their pockets with cash in order to provide proper health care, well, tell you what. Move to Europe, get sick, and see how they do it. You might just change your mind.

In any case, this particular road trip validated all of our thinking because we were able to hop in the car (This is before the hip problem. Hopping for Carolyn will be a bit problematic for another week or two.) and drive all over Spain and even into Morocco. We also were able to confirm that health care costs here will allow us to stay retired no matter where we go in the EU, and we even knew a little more Spanish because the Portuguese and Spanish languages are very similar.

I just had to get used to saying “Grathias” because in Spain they pronounce the “ç” like a “th.” For a while, I was saying “grathiath” because I thought it was only because everyone had lisps. Speaking of which, what numbskull decided the word for “lisp” should be “lisp?” Talk about adding insult to injury!

Al’s Ham Bra

So we had four main stops on this particular road trip. First up was Grenada, Spain, the home of The Alhambra and (gre) nada else. And no, I’m not talking about Al’s ham bra you’ve heard so much about.

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Spain. It was originally constructed as a fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then was largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar (Nasal for short) of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls.

The Alhambra was the last holdout of the Moors in Europe until it was conquered by the Christians in 1492. Ironically, the whole thing started out as a big celebration because Christopher Columbus, who no one liked, had just sailed off the end of the earth, and they were ecstatic to be rid of him. The party turned into something of a riot, and the next thing that happened, moor or less, is that the Moors hightailed it back to Africa. But honestly that was mostly because they missed their camels and they were tired of the Spanish anyway.

My many rabid readers (okay, there’s only one, and it’s you! Wait! Don’t leave! I mean rabid in a good way!) may recall that I visited Grenada and the Alhambra with my two good friends Cale and John Lee back in January. I knew Carolyn would really appreciate it, so this, for me, is round two for Alhambra. I wanted Carolyn to see it, but I also wanted to see if anything had changed in the last six months. You know, just in case.

So without further ado, here are the pictures of that portion of our trip (if I had invented Twitter, it would’ve been limited to 144,144,144,144 characters), but yay! Here come the pictures!

IMG_8329The sun rises over the hills of Spain. Once in a while we accidentally take a shot that’s actually kinda pretty, so I thought we’d start out with that. It goes downhill from here.

IMG_8267I mean, immediately downhill.

Because first up is this shower shot from our hotel room. But it might help you understand why I’m so stupid. I keep hitting my head on all these low things. That bar went right across the middle of the shower.

And to complete the bathroom portion of this blog, below is an actual shot of our sink after we’d moved in. Notice anything unusual? Remember that I’m traveling with a woman. Unbelievably, she leaves no trace in the bathroom ever: no make-up, no curlers, no piles of bottles and gadgets whose use is a complete mystery to men. She’s awesome to room with, especially for a woman. Ha!


IMG_7676I guess they moved Elvas’s body to Spain after he died. Okay, I know it’s “Elvis,” but the Spanish have never been known for their spelling prowess. Otherwise they’d be called Spainish.

IMG_7734Grenada gets pretty hot. They erect shades in the summer to keep the sun off the tourists. On the other hand, these could be someone’s sheets being hung out to dry, I dunno.

IMG_7744Since I’d already been to Grenada and Alhambra, Carolyn took most of the photos. Sometimes I’d get tired of being in them, so I’d hide.

Grenada is a nice town with a vibrant touristy area. But the main reason to visit is the Alhambra.

So first up from said attraction is a short slideshow presentation of some roses from its many gardens. A rose by any other color is still a rose you know.

Now on to the rest of the Alhambra, presented in a mosaic, because there’s no way I can come up with interesting things to say with that many pictures. Not that I ever do, but hey; write your own blog if you’re gonna keep complaining. You might be rabid, after all.

So that’s The Alhambra after I edited out the 142 pictures with me in it. It’s a beautiful palace, with lush gardens and amazing architecture. Definitely worth a visit if you’re headed out Granada way!

IMG_8299For some reason, signs like this are like crack to an addict, as if cajoling me, “Go on! Go on! There must be something cool beyond this sign!” On the other hand, maybe they just don’t like El Paso, Texas.

IMG_8321After our tour of Alhambra, we took a walk up a big hill in Granada in very hot weather. That’s the Alhambra behind us. That’s us about ready to die in front of it.

IMG_8326As you can see Carolyn had become a bit overheated during the walk. Ninety-plus weather and a 40 (or was it 80?) degree uphill slope will do that to ya. The Sangria was just what the doctor ordered. Really. The Spanish medical system is that awesome. Anyway, we were treated to some of the best Sangria we’ve ever had, plus there was no deductible!

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