Monday: Athlone


Today was partially a travel day. We left Galway in mid-morning to drive to Dublin airport and drop off our rental car.

(I haven’t mentioned how handy it is to have brought an older phone with us to which we added a EuroSIM card. We can easily figure out where we are going when we are walking around towns.)

We stopped in Athlone – a nice little city – and got some laundry done and (yippee) I got my hair cut a few doors away while we were waiting. Those bits of housekeeping accomplished, we continued on to the airport. We dropped off the car (We wouldn’t rent a car in the UK again. Driving is too stressful) walked to the hotel shuttle (no easy feat with bags of clean clothing to carry, until we rearrange suitcases) and made it to our hotel where we are now in its restaurant.

Tomorrow we fly to France.

photos: Athlone, a pretty city on the east bank of the River Shannon.

A busy Monday at the laundry. Still, we got squeezed in. ” I don’t want you leaving Ireland with dirty clothes,”  said the kind woman in Suds. 




Thursday, March 26: Barcelona

We left Lleida at about 9:30 this morning. There was something a little off with that hotel, the Nastis, and although I guess I slept okay, I was glad when we left.

We headed toward Barcelona and arrived in the city at about noon. Arriving was really just the first hurdle. Next we had to return the rental car by finding the Hertz drop off in the middle of the city. It was tricky because of all of the traffic on the major road, the inability to see the numbers on any building as we quickly drove by (there was no way we were going to slow down), and again: our lack of GPS.

We finally figured out where the storefront should be, but of course there was no Hertz sign there. We turned around and drove back. At the time I thought we were very close to the address, a long bus drove by us slowly, completely blocking my vision. We decided to park the car and walk and look. We found a spot in the street right away, which is as improbable as finding one quickly in New York. We were able to find Hertz and get rid of the car.

We need to get another bag to carry all of the things we have bought, but for now we have a bunch of shopping bags. They were sort of cumbersome to deal with as we tried to hail a cab, but we did it, got to our hotel in a really nice part of the city, and checked in.

Another improbability: I found an Apple Store just a five minute walk from our hotel. We went immediately because I needed to get my iPad rebooted. Fortunately they were able to do that as I waited (there were probably 60 or more people sitting at tech support tables). We were out of the store in an hour altogether, and then had some tapas and wine. My iPad now is wiped clean, but I’m okay with it and happy it works (note to self: do not upgrade until you read what people say about it.)

We walked around by our hotel this evening, and arranged to take a tour tomorrow of la Sagrada Familia, a huge church which is the major attraction of its type in Barcelona. It is interesting especially because construction began in1882 and won’t be completed until 2041.


A cute tapas place we went to

A cute tapas place we went to

Long drive, long ordeal, long time putting up with me :-)

Long drive, long ordeal, long time putting up with me 🙂

Tuesday, March 17: Toledo, Spain

We figured it would be relatively simple to pick up our rental car this morning from the rail station, and it sure would have been if we read, spoke, or understood Spanish. Instead, it took forever in the very busy train station. We got dropped off a level up from the street, and right away I realized there were no car rental signs or familiar Hertz icons anywhere. So we were forced to walk through the entrance and into the train station without a clue about which way to go. With our luggage. Which is getting cumbersome.

When we couldn’t find any signs at all within 20 minutes of searching, we first asked a friendly looking woman, who directed us to go outside; then a cop, who pointed to the parking lot. Finally we put the luggage in one spot, and I waited amid the rushing commuters for Roger to figure things out. He did. The car rental was two floors below and through a long hall- quite a walk but I realized I had a newfound spring in my step.

Lisbon is eight hours from Madrid, and we didn’t plan to drive much more than half of that today. We wanted to first go to Toledo, which is an hour from Madrid. It was the capital of Spain hundreds of years ago, so it’s full of history and beautiful architecture. It is a busy city, with people, cars, and busses all over, so not easy to drive around. We learned that quickly.

Parking is a serious problem and so is not having ample change for the meter when you miraculously do find a space. We gambled that we’d get some more change before the meter ran out, although there were no stores at all to get some in the area where we were parked.

The streets are the original stone in the historic part of the city. They’re uneven and not easy to walk fast on, but the stores and restaurants (owned probably forever by the same shopkeepers) on those streets are worth the exercise. We needed to spend more time in Toledo than we were able to today – there is so much to see. We only had time to walk around a monastery from the 1500s and grab a quick bite to eat. We got back to our car just as it was being ticketed. Luckily, she let us pay the fine there, since if it went through the rental company and back to us, it would’ve multiplied at every point in the process (spoken from experience).

We drove for a few hours and stopped for lunch in a very small town. I had no idea what we were ordering when I simply pointed to two different phrases on the menu.These turned out to be pimentos and bread, and eggs with rice and sausage. Both were good Spanish fare, and the one-room restaurant was full when we left.

We continued to Badajoz, a city near the border of Spain and Portugal. The drive was pretty, with olive trees growing in farms on the side of the road, and a nice landscape. It rained heavily during parts of the drive and we considered stopping early, but that wasn’t an option since the small towns had no hotels. So we pressed on and I am glad we did. We found a nice hotel in the center of Badajoz (“Please have a room…”) and have just had dinner at the restaurant here. There’s a decent pool here and I wish I had a bathing suit! (I realized earlier that this is the first day I haven’t bought any clothes.)

Tomorrow we go across the border and drive to Lisbon, where we will spend four days.

Sheep being herded at the side of the road. I wished I grabbed my camera earlier.

Sheep being herded at the side of the road. I wished I grabbed my camera earlier.

Restaurant in the middle of nowhere, where we had lunch today.

Restaurant in the middle of nowhere, where we had lunch today.

The old, old stone can be seen here, plus a couple gargoyles peeking out.

The old, old stone can be seen here, plus a couple gargoyles peeking out.