Heaven Forbid, We’re Amid Madrid!

With a Covid Winter looming over the entire earth, reducing our desire to get on planes filled with disease-ridden, droopy-masked Typhoid Marys sneezing all over us, we wedged one last trip of the year into our travel bag by making the six hour drive to visit Madrid, Spain’s largest city.

It is also the third largest city in the EU, the 54th largest on earth, and the 4,231,421th largest in the universe. But don’t quote me on that: the Zynglovians, who do nothing but track this kind of data, have an internet search engine that’s a little left-leaning, so take it with a grain of slamanja. Could be only 5,521,563rd for all I know.

What some geography-challenged Americans might not have known is that to get to Madrid from Portugal you have to drive through Los Angeles, as you can see by that road sign. I know, right? Who knew? But now I suppose we know why there are so many Spanish speakers in California. Of course, if you know any Spanish you’d know this sign was saying it was the “other” (otero- duh!) Los Angeles, and it’s located just below the blacksmiths. Seriously, that’s what “Herreros” means. See- no matter how much misinformation these blogs provide, we guarantee (or your money back!) there’s almost always one truth in each paragraph!

One of the first things we do when we arrive in a city is do an internet search on “Things to do in…” By doing so, we can get a pretty quick idea as to whether it’s a city with lots of historical things to see or if they need to set up centers for the Treatment of Tourist Boredom. For instance, if the number five thing to do is a children’s playground or a hot dog museum, then we know there’s a high TTB factor and we won’t need to be there very long. With Madrid, it seemed as if most of the things to do involve day trips to some of the surrounding towns, like Avila, Toledo, and Segovia. Madrid itself is modern, bustling, and not nearly as full of obvious history as most of the other towns we visited. Sure, there are lots of museums and such, but neither of us was in the mood for museums. Covid is still a concern so we generally spent our time outdoors or in our car running over Spaniards.

Sometimes you end up just easing people out of the way when you can’t see. I didn’t realize it was a cop until after I viewed the footage.

It was not an easy city to drive in, especially considering that I was having problems with my eyesight. Freeways criss-cross the city like a plateful of noodles, and the Spanish aren’t too patient with an old blind guy trying to drive while listening to both Google Maps and his wife yelling at him as to where to turn… and they don’t always agree. “Turn right.” “No, turn left!” “Left now?” “Right.” “You mean right?” “Rerouting.” “No left” “Right?” “NO!” “Too late now!” “Rerouting.” “Watch out for that car!” “Did I just hit something?” “Yes, step on it!” “Left or right?” “Rerouting…”

This was the view from our apartment. These towers are pretty much the only buildings that poke up past the Madrid skyline. Europe isn’t as big on skyscrapers as in many other parts in the world. Probably because they’re afraid the Germans are going to come back and blow them all up again.

There are a couple of major tourist areas in Madrid. One of them is Plaza Mayor, which is, amazingly enough, a plaza. And it’s muy mayor. Which means “A big town leader.” I think. Anyway, the Christmas tree was just being set up. The timing of our trip was fortuitous because about a week after we left Spain, it got hammered with a bunch of snow. And you don’t want to be in Spain when it’s all drunk and everything, even if it’s from snow alcohol.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is probably the main tourist tra- er, stop. It’s a big palace. I mean, royally big. Which is I’m sure how it got its name (good thing it isn’t just damn big). It was closed the day we were there, and I had little interest in spending another day trying to navigate the downtown Madrid streets. Even with the GPS, we made multiple wrong turns and maimed several Spanish people. At least I assume they were Spanish based on the language they used while cursing.

I did find this view from the palace fascinating because the palace feels as if it’s right in the heart of the city, and yet you just walk to its courtyard wall and you see trees as far as the eye can see. Well, depending on your eyes. I thought I was taking a picture of a statue.

After a long day of walking around, a nice big helping of beef is all anybody needs. That and a cardiologist.

While Madrid didn’t exactly blow us away, it did offer up three different doors of the day. I think Carolyn was really in love with that first one. She hasn’t looked at me the same since.

As far as we’re concerned, while Madrid is a large and influential city, we really enjoyed the outer towns with their castles and aqueducts and history a bit more. And those are coming up next! (Unless you’re reading this after that fact, because this site scrolls down in reverse order of time. I think that’s why some people think we’re getting younger.)

(Not that I’ve heard anyone say that, but I’m sure they’re thinking it.)

At least we made it home safely, as you can see by the above footage. Not a scratch on us!

Truth be told, I was just practicing for the roundabouts.

My next stop after this trip was to the ophthalmologist for cataract surgery. And that’s the truthpppplllhhh. No yolk!

What do Cádiz, Spain and Portland, Oregon have in common?

Actually, not a whole helluva lot. I’m thinking that the only answer to that question might be answered by this statement: “They’re both in the same Bald Sasquatch blog entry,” and that’s about it. But now if you Google that question we’re pretty much the first hit! Don’t let it be said that Baldsasquatch.com doesn’t influence the world!!!

Actually, the reason I’m combining those two cities is because I have become woefully remiss with my blogs of late, so I have to start jamming trips together. I’m not sure I can explain why I’ve been so remiss. It’s not like we’ve suddenly become employed by working on the Game of Thrones sequel or something. (I just threw that in because they recently filmed in Portugal and we applied to be extras, just for the hoot of it. They completely ignored our application even though I told them we were really good at making our heads roll around after having them chopped off and everything!)

Anyway, I figured I’d better set aside my next pressing nap and get on with it before I forgot everything. Indeed, the whole purpose of this enterprise is to document our trips so that when we’re old, decrepit, and have lost our memories, we can look at this blog… and then wonder when they’re serving lunch.

A fish with knees.

In any case, we visited Cádiz (it took us weeks to stop pronouncing it the American way, as in “CaDEEZE.” It’s “CAH-deze.” Sort of like talking about a cod with knees: cod-knees. Except don’t pronounce the “kn.” Or the “cod.” Speaking of which, what knucklehead put a “k” in front of those “n’s?” And we think learning Portuguese is hard?

Aknyway, it wasn’t lokng after this trip that we went back to the states to visit frieknds and family- okay, who’s the wiseguy adding all those k’s? I thought you were long dead!

So that is how the Cádiz/Portland connection began to take shape. When I realized that never before in history had Portland and Cádiz been linked together, I knew I had to put on my pioneering panties and be the first in line.

Because of Covid, we’ve relegated our travels to as much as we can see by car. So, in addition to driving all the way across Spain in order to see Barcelona and Mallorca, we drove down to southern Spain where we had decided to visit Cádiz solely because we’d seen a lot of signs for it during our travels in Spain and so figured it had to be more than a piece of poop in a puddle. Also, when we were down there last, visiting Gibraltar and Morocco, we completely bypassed Cádiz, which hurted its feelings. So we wanted to make it all better.

Avid readers of this blog, but only the ones with better memories than any elephant ever, might remember our award-winning Rock of Gibraltar entry. We’re happy to report the rock is still standing.

First things first, we needed to eat some lunch and so used our handy iPhone app called “Get Fat Today: Find The Closest Burger King!” Alas, apparently Burger Kings aren’t as popular in Spain as they are in the US. That may explain why projections indicate almost 90% of Americans will be overweight or obese in just a couple of decades. So Spain, you just keep right on forcing those Burger Kings into closet-sized spaces down dark alleyways. Good Spain! Good Spain!

Cádiz is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe, with archaeological remains dating all the way back to the 8th century BC. It was founded by the Phoenicians, who could’ve also founded Phoenix, Arizona if their stupid little ships with their stupid square sails could’ve crossed the Atlantic. But no-o-o, they stuck close to the shores of the Mediterranean, the big chickens.

So I’m going to be honest here. While they had a very nice (albeit overcrowded) sandy beach, we were a little underwhelmed by Cádiz. We don’t want to become jaded tourists, but sometimes you go to a city and see kind of the same stuff you saw somewhere else. Cádiz was kind of like that. It’s a pleasant city with lots of history, but we meandered about for a day and called it good.

Four years ago we might’ve stood in front of this with our mouths agape. Nowadays, we admired it for a second and moved on. I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad; after all, city residents hardly glance at such things either. Besides, our agape mouths are now generally covered up by masks, so any gaping is rather wasted anyway.

They have some nice Roman ruins in the middle of town, although apartments were built pretty much right on top of them. “Yeah, my backyard dates back to 200 BC,” says one town braggart.

Of course, little does he know there’s a tunnel underneath his home that leads right into his closet. Oh the things we saw!

At least we got a Door of the Day out of Cádiz. Really more of a Tiles of the Day, though.

After what was an enjoyable but casual visit, we decided to take a sunset cruise and so sailed off into the sunset, visions of Whoppers dancing around in our heads…

Next destination: America!

We actually meandered around the US more than just in Portland. We visited Iowa City for the first time ever (I mean, I know! What took us so long?), and drove between Seattle and Portland as well as to the Oregon Coast and multiple points in between, all to see friends and family.

After being away for almost two years, my main impressions were:

• Not much of the city landscape in and around Portland had changed, presumably due to Covid freezing everything up. It was all so familiar it was almost boring.

• The expectation of tips in the US –already the most tip-happy country in the world– have increased to even include food kiosks where you pick up your own food, bring it to the counter, and insert your credit card into the machine yourself. Um, is this tipping for good service or are we just paying your employees’ wages for you Mr. Employer?

• It is truly sad to see so many tents around Portland, most of them with piles of garbage littering all about as if mini-dumps were installed all over town. We usually see more homeless people within the first fifteen minutes of visiting a major American city than we’ve ever seen in Europe, total.

• It seemed as if every store and restaurant had a help wanted sign in front of it. Maybe America could use a wave of immigrants right about now!

Our visit to Iowa City was interesting in that it wasn’t quite what I expected. Seeing as it’s in the midwest, I expected Trump flags on every corner with gun-totin’ country folk riding in the back of their pickups holding their rifles above their heads while shouting “Go Brandon!” at everyone who looks or smells like a liberal.

Instead, we saw more “Black Lives Matter” signs, LGBT-supporting (or is it LGBTKMHE now?) rainbow flags, and “Get The Vaccine You Stupid Idiots!” posters than we have ever seen all in one place. Once you get outside the city, you can tell everyone’s conservative, mostly on account of the fact that they don’t live in the city. That’s just sort of the way America works.

This vicious man-eater was spotted all over town. We also saw the big yellow Hawkeyes everywhere as well.

One funny little anecdote: after we landed in Iowa City, as I walked off the plane there was a significant part of me that was actually a little surprised that we had just walked into an airport terminal and everything was in English. Part of my brain was actually prepared for it all to be in another language, because that’s been our experience so many times in Europe. I was actually amazed to be able to understand everything!

This is the view from the university which more or less dominates Iowa City. You won’t see any real tall skyscrapers there on account of the tornadoes. Of course, all they have to do is stop building mobile home parks and the tornadoes will stay away, but I guess Iowans love their tornadoes!

Iowa is famous for its corn, being the largest producing state in the country. Here are four corn fun facts: 1) Farmers grow corn on every continent except Antarctica. 2) One bushel of corn will sweeten more than 400 cans of Coca-Cola. 3) The main ingredient in most dry pet food is corn. 4) The fact that most of my jokes are corny has nothing to do with Iowa. Or corn. Or being funny.

One of the places we visited was an Amish store, and it was quite impressive. Everything was displayed with care and precision. They also offered up Costco-sized bags of assorted foodstuffs, including more Cheetos than you could eat during eight consecutive Super Bowls, and bags filled with only those little marshmallow things you get in Lucky Charms, i.e. without the annoying cereal thingees… you know, the only part that has a smidgen of nutrition. As a kid, I always wanted a bowlful of nothing but the marshmallows; little did I know it was the Amish who had them for me! Now I’m ticked off I wasn’t brought up Amish!

They also had these diseased-looking pumpkins. I’m sure their mothers think they’re beautiful.

I guarantee I’m not the only one who has ever done a double take when seeing the name of this store, which are splattered all over Iowa City. Well, we came and went Iowa City, and we were happy to see ya!

Now back we go to the Pacific Northwest!

I got a little kick out of Carolyn as we drove around the Pacific Northwest because she was snapping pictures left and right just like a tourist. Only four years away and suddenly we’re tourists! Actually, she wanted to show our friends in Portugal the beauty of the region. Truth be told, it’s not a bad idea to step back and see the place you live through the eyes of a tourist once in a while!

This is famous Haystack Rock, I think named after John Haystack. Or maybe some other reason, I’m not sure.

While driving through Cannon Beach (which might’ve been named after John Cannon), one of the popular seaside towns in Oregon, we spotted a couple of elk casually feeding in someone’s backyard. A line of cars slowed down to look at them, and the elk couldn’t have cared less. Awfully big animal to turn into a pet!

Along the way we had fun with our kids and grandkids. Here I am in a dysfunctional watercraft, and there we are standing next to a totem pole at the Portland Zoo with our cute grandson.

All in all, we enjoyed a very nice visit, we were very happy to see so many friends and our families!