Dear Friends and Family,
If you read my last e-mail, you will know that we have
been heading steadily south since we arrived. We left
London via a flight to The Netherlands, and from there
went to Belgium, where I last wrote. Fortunately, we
are now in Spain, where the weather is much nicer, and
the keyboard has a recognizable layout!
We spent three nights in Brussels staying in youth
hostels. The weather was quite chilly, and in fact
there was frost on the ground one morning. While we
were there got some new shoes for Sarah, as the boots
(which were sent home) had been hurting her feet.
This was quite an improvement, as we can now be
In Brussels we encountered the first of many Christmas
fairs we´ve seen, and perhaps the most impressive.
They have three different cultures there, and all were
represented. It certainly felt like Christmas,
although from what we hear, the weather back home is
much colder! After a light-show on the wall of the
ornate guildhall in the middle of town (which included
a Santa flying through scenes from every European
Union nation... Santa looks a bit out of place
blasting along past Michaelangelo´s "David"), we
snacked on a Keilbasa and traditional hot mulled wine.
Our last full day in Belgium we took a day-trip to the
medieval city of Bruges, which is famous for hand-made
lace and chocolate. If you have ever seen a store
entirely devoted to hand-made lace, it is something
you wouldn´t forget. They can make anything from
elaborate shirts and parasols to tiny lace
butterflies. We also visited a chocolate museum
there, learning about chocolate from the beginning of
its history until the present, and enjoying an edible
presentation of filled chocolates being made right in
front of us. This was definitely a trip highlight for
The next morning dawned misty but not quite as cold.
We took the metro and busses as far south as possible,
then walked out to the Belgian equivalent of an
on-ramp to the equivalent of an American Interstate
freeway and stuck out our thumbs. We succeeded in
getting a ride after about 20 minutes of waiting. We
got out of town to a gas station on the freeway a few
miles down the road and had to wait again. I have to
note that European gas-stops along the freeway are a
bit different than ours. There can be nothing at all
there except the gas station and shop and little
restaurant. You can take a break from driving, get a
beer, and then get back on the freeway. I have
actually seen this happen...
Anyway, our next ride was with a truck-driver who took
us across the French border and into a tiny town just
on the other side. Unfortunately, I forgot my gloves
and hat in his truck. No one spoke English, but Sarah
successfuly bought us train tickets into Paris, and we
left about an hour later, having saved over $100 by
our short stint of, as they say "auto-stop."
We spent almost a week in Paris. Dragging in our
first night a bit late, we went to the¨"Woodstock"
Hostel, recommended in our guidebook. It was amusing,
with half of a Volkswagen "Beetle" with
bumper-stickers pasted all over it attached to the
wall in the lounge. We had a tiny room painted bright
yellow. It was inexpensive, but for the next day,
which was our two-year anniversary, we stayed at our
most expensive hotel to date, on the other side of
Paris. The day after we moved into our home for the
rest of our stay there, the Hotel Bonsejour. Our room
was probably the best in the place, with a tiny view
of the tip of a dome of the Sacre Couer Cathedral from
our window. Unfortunately, it was also on the 6th
floor (although here it would be called 5th, as they
count the bottom floor as zero), up a steep spiral
stairway 94 steps tall. Really interesting, but also
a LOT of work!
We made sure to see the "sights" in Paris, although we
also spent a good deal of time searching for crepes
(very yummy with chocolate/hazelnut "Nutella" in
them), finding a pair of jeans to replace some of
Sarah´s trousers, and looking for a hat to replace the
one I lost hitchhiking. The hat had to say "PARIS" on
it, but just happens to have earflaps and one of those
fuzzy bauble thingies on top.
Of the sights, we saw the "Arc de Triomphe"... what
a monster! Also on the list was the unmissable Eiffel
Tower, most spectacular from a distance at night, when
the entire thing is covered with lights and strobe
lights which make it sparkle on the hour. We spent
most of a day getting to and wandering around the
Louvre. It is so huge, we walked past innumerable
masterpieces, and missed entire wings full or
paintings and sculptures. Although we were ready to
pay the hefty entry price, the admission happened to
be free, most likely due to a noisy demonstration
going on in the lobby... very French??? Anyway, my
personal favorite was the "Winged Victory of
Samothrace," but of course we saw the (surprisingly
small) "Mona Lisa" and (surprisingly large) "Raft of
the Medusa." We also made a point of seeing
Michaelangelo´s "Dying Slave" and were dazzled by the
royal apartments of Napoleon III.
It was still quite chilly in Paris, so we hopped a
Ryanair flight to Barcelona, hoping to find warmer
temperatures. The flight was late at night, and both
airports were a very long way from the cities they
serve. This is, we have found, a hallmark of Ryanair.
We spent the remainder of the night in Barcelona,
where it was markedly warmer, if still not as warm as
we´d like, then headed south again, this time to a
small place south of Barcelona called Casteldefells.
Here Sarah got her first glimpse of the Mediterranean
(I couldn´t miss out on taking a quick dip), and we
camped for the first time on this trip. It also truly
rained that night for the first time...
coincidence??? Unfortunately, the campground, in a
nice area otherwise, happens to be beneath the takeoff
flightpath for Barcelona International Airport. From
early morning until midnight large jets fly almost
nose to tail directly overhead, making for a deafening
nonstop racket. There was no question of moving on
the next day.
We found our next stop, Tarragona, very nice. It is
built on top of and around the ruins of the Roman
capital of their Spanish province. The ruins are
impressive, and include parts of the largest Roman
circus in the world. We had a nice room there above a
restaurant for a good price, and stayed for almost a
week, basically relaxing. Travelling can be very hard
work. Sarah and I both got colds started there, and
needed the break.
We left Tarragona later than planned, headed for the
supposedly warm "Costa Calida." Our first day we
spent on trains, passing through Valencia to Alicanti.
It was an interesting place to stay, although we only
spent the night. Above the city is a fortress built
on the hill, probably (my guess) by the Muslim Moors
to defend against the Christians which were their
nearby neighbors. We also had at least three
belltowers which (out of sync) clanged out the
quarter-hours loudly. One played "Silent Night" every
fifteen minutes! Fortunately they quit at midnight.
We took a crazy bus through probably two hours of
stop-and-go roundabouts to overshoot our hoped-for
stop and end up in a resort town called Los Alcazares.
It is on the Mar Menor, a large saltwater lagoon with
water considerably warmer than that of the
Christmas Eve.... What a day! When we arrived, we
noticed that almost everything was closed. There were
bars over the doors and plastic shutters drawn down
over every window. It was like a ghost town! We
searched and searched for a place to stay, but not
only the supermarkets and shops were closed, but also
the hotels! Only one hotel was open, and above our
price range. We skipped it at the beginning of the
search, only to find ourselves too far away to return
later. To make a long story slightly less long, we
ended up staying in the guest bedroom of an old German
fellow who had tried to help us find a hotel! He
spoke almost no English, but chattered all night...
glad for the company I guess. He didn´t wake up by
the time we needed to leave Chrstmas morning, and we
had to climb over his gate to get out!!!!
What an unusual Christmas! We were starving when we
left there, and couldn´t find anyplace AT ALL open!
We finally happened upon an Italian restaurant which
opened two hours prior to their normal hour of 1pm so
we could have some breakfast! We feasted on a spicy
Italian meal... much needed! After an unsuccessful
wait at the bus stop (not many busses Christmas day!)
we decided to splurge and stay at the very hotel we´d
passed the night before. Topped off with a nice
dinner of Pizza (where are we anyway?) and phonecalls
to home, we had a decent, if very unexpected Christmas
Today, with time to spare and relatively beautiful
weather, we´ve moved back a few miles to our original
destination, still on the Mar Menor, of Santiago de la
Ribera. We´ve found a nice hotel close to the beach,
and plan to stay a few days.
Sorry for such a long e-mail, but recently our time
has been very busy with the business of travel, and
internet has been difficult to come by. Hopefully
future e-mails will be shorter and more often.
-Dustin and Sarah
"An ADVENTURE is trouble you got out of..." -Jim Stenberg, high-school English teacher.
We will have no address other than e-mail during our trip, but our mail is now going to the address below. The phone number will be current until we leave.
Dustin and Sarah Radford
2357 Rodney Ct.
Springfield, OR 97477
Yahoo! DSL Something to write home about.
Just $16.99/mo. or less.