Thursday, May 26, 2016
There are few places more dramatic than Andalucia. Southern Spain's rocky, mountainous, ancient region is covered with great cities to visit between the wine regions of the north and the Costa Del Sol on the Mediterranean. From Seville to Cordoba and all the way to the English outpost of Gibraltar; the scenery is amazing. One of the most amazing spots along this path is Ronda. Ronda is the city on the cliff overlooking the Guadalevin River as it cuts it's way, lower and lower through the gorge that runs through the center of this dramatic cliff town.
This amazing town was originally settled by the Celts. Later it was ruled by Rome, then taken over by the Moors. Eventually the Christians took the place over and nowadays when you visit; you can see things from all of these eras. The Roman Bridge is the old bridge and has commanding views of the gorge as you enter and exit the city. There are also walled areas of town that were built by the Moors.
The Moorish King left something behind that is definitely an Adventure for Anyone. There is a passageway from the palace at the top of the cliff to the river in the gorge below. It contains 365 steps, so it is a walk. This is the water mine. The palace needed fresh water, and that was how they did it several hundred years ago. These days you can't go in the palace, but you can hike the steps to the river. It gives you astounding views of the city above.
Ronda is filled with plazas, casinos, churches, palaces and amazing views of the gorge. One of the most famous views of the city is of and from the New Bridge. This baby spans the gorge at over 100 meters up. I doubt that you will ever see a view quite like either the view of it or from it. If you hit town at the right time, there may be people bungee jumping from the bridge. For you waterfall lovers, there is one under this bridge and it is gorgeous.
Plaza de Toros is another must see. Most of the year this bullring is a museum. We all know how popular bullfighting is in Spain and in Ronda they hold the title of being home to modern bullfighting. The Pamplona crowd did it the old fashioned way. Traditional dress and lots of pageantry surround the bullfighting in this city. ‘Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero’ is the only fair in the world held in honor of a bullfighter. It takes place in September, and is the biggest event in Ronda. Ronda is equally as well known for it's bullfighting as other centers in Spain and was famous enough that they once drew celebrities like Ernest Hemmingway and Orson Wells.
Everything in Ronda is a little more dramatic than most places. The views from most of the edges of town are something that you will never forget. It is the best part of this Adventure for Anyone. There are fortresses on these cliffs that have amazing views and should not be missed. There are so many places to get a good view, and the Parador Hotel, perched next to the new bridge is probably the best place to stay. There are any number of great hotels in the area, but none of the others have quite this good a view.
Southern Spain was home to the Moors for hundreds of years. Their architecture is just part of the must sees in this town. Everything from palaces to water mines to public baths are testament to the time that they spent on this clifftop.
Museo Lara is one of the unusual spots in Ronda. This museum houses some very odd exhibits. In addition to the typewriters, and microscopes; they have an exhibit about witchcraft and the Inquisition. It's macabre, there's not doubt about it.
There's a lot to see and do in Ronda. It's one of the fastest growing towns in Andalucia, because of the tourism there. It's got more history than I could ever talk about. The architecture is one of a kind. The views of the gorge and the mountains are amazing on a bad day. It has unique festivals, great hotels, and a watermine. There are tons of day trips that will bus you out there for a walking tour, but I say you should stay overnight. This is one of those towns that you do a city tour and walk away. A while down the road you will be curious to see if maybe you missed something and you will read about the town that you've already visited. When you see all the things that you probably missed on your day tour and you are already at home across the pond; you will feel slighted. Take the time to spend more than a day in Ronda. There's so much there to experience that you don't want to miss it. Have some Tapas, try some Flamenco, shop in the plazas, walk the walls and the narrow streets, and join in a pilgrimage. So take the time, stay the night and enjoy!
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Let me be the first to say that I never know what I'm going to see or where I'm going to see it. I started the blog four years ago with the idea that I would write once a week for one year. I figured that I would run out of things to write about and that it would be a good exercise for me to keep me writing. I had no idea how many things I would find to write about. It's been a never ending process.
One thing that I would like to say is thank you to the reader that sent me the material on Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. That led me to a trip that I still fondly dream about. It was one of the best trips of my life, and my family would agree. I intended to stop writing this blog a couple of months before taking that trip, and it made me keep writing. I'm glad it did. I'm glad I found out about this place. I'm glad I could share this place with my readers.
Travel is the one thing that will broaden the mind like no other, and that's why I love it so much. Have you ever known that person that sits around and says that they won't go to all these places because of the politics? I say travel to one of those countries, and realize that the people have no more to do with their politics than we do with ours.
I remember that lovely day back in 1991 when I sat atop the Berlin Wall. I learned a lot on that trip too. I went to church with Pope John Paul II. I ended up in Vilnius, Lithuania during an uprising, and I spent a lot of time in Poland that trip. What I learned in that one trip could not be matched in any other way. I still think about it, and I still love that trip.
I remember the wonders of Iceland when I went hiking up there. I spent a lot of time in the wilderness of that amazing country. I learned a lot about glaciers and volcanoes and sheep. It's the one country that I swear I would move to if my family would go with me. I remember when I went, my friends and family wondered what on Earth I was thinking. I told them all that they would have to go to understand. It's one of the rare places that I've ever visited that I have a hard time explaining in words.
I remember the Havasupai Indian Reservation down in the Grand Canyon. It was a real village with restaurant, store, clinic, school, museum, hotel, campground and around 600 people. My whole life I had no idea that there was a town in the Grand Canyon. They had beautiful waterfalls as well. It was one of the longest single hikes I ever went on, but it was well worth it.
There was the time that I discovered that you can get prescriptions and eyeglasses really cheap in Mexico. My son loved his $85 glasses. It was an adventure for both of us, and I would gladly go there to get my meds all the time if I lived closer. My parents have saved thousands of dollars over the years. I got a lot of responses on that one, and I'm so glad that I could help people find ways to afford their medications.
But, no matter what I'm sharing, you can rest assured; I had a good time. Whether it's antique planes, Christmas lights at the local amusement park or one of my endless trips to New York City, I love to travel. And I love to share my personal travels and my travel ideas with all of you. I hope that you continue to follow me on my personal journey to learn more about the weird, fantastic, amazing, historic, and wild places around the world.
Sometimes when you hit the road with normal things in mind, you stumble on the most amazing things ever. It's all about the journey and the things you find along the way. Travel is an adventure, and just because you've seen a lot certainly doesn't mean you've seen it all. I never would have thought that I would go to Hell. I also didn't think that a few months later it would be for sale. It's all part of the Adventure that spawned Adventures for Anyone. I hope you've enjoyed the last four years. I have, and I now am hoping to be able to do this for four more years. As Mark Twain once said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness." I hope you continue to follow me and Enjoy!
Back in the 1990's there was a huge civil war in a country that used to exist called Yugoslavia. When the Berlin Wall came down and Russia had it's August Coup, Communism was falling all over the place. When it all fell apart in Yugoslavia, the factions that had lived as a communal country for all those years, couldn't seem to get along and it made a really messy war. Of course, the US got involved to help, but I'm not sure that we did all that much good. In the end, there was a big mess to clean up and a whole bunch of separate countries. Among them was Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Croatia. Croatia has been placed firmly on my to do list.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and is one of the great historic cities of Eastern Europe. It survived the war and today is ready for tourists with guides and trams and all the historic sites that you'd ever want to see. I do love an old European capital, but that wasn't what I wanted to talk about today.
We all know how much I love to get out of town, and the only thing that I love more than that is waterfalls. So, while in Croatia, you have to visit Plitvice National Park. This well known wonder is full of lakes and waterfalls. There are 16 lakes in this park and 16 cascades to go with them.
There are boats, helicopters, wooden walkways, and many other ways to enjoy the lakes, waterfalls and other parts of the park. There are three hotels within the main park to stay at and the park is open year round. Obviously it's best to come in the summer months in order to see the amazing turquoise waters of these amazing lakes. It's some 380 meters from top to bottom of these lakes, it all falls in 8 kilometers, and it's one of the largest collections of lakes and waterfalls in a single place in the world. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well cared for by Croatia.
But that is only the obvious part of this trip. I found a surprise, at least for me.
The village is called Rastoke, in Slunj. It's on the way from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes. This little village is full of water. There are buildings on the river. There are old mills that still grind grain. There are hotels and restaurants. There's a giant gorge full of waterfalls right down the middle of town. This little place is one of the most scenic villages I've ever seen.
This amazing little village was all but destroyed during the war. Afterward, they rebuilt it just as it was before. Technically, it's part of Plitvice Lakes Park, but it's a town that loves to see tourists, and it's right on the way to the other park. Pedros Restaurant on the water is the place to eat. There are plenty of shops as well. You can also do all kinds of adventure sports in this village. You can zip line, raft, ride ATV's, hike, swim and even kayak and bike. This is my hidden gem of Croatia. I'd never heard of it before, and as of now; it looks like a great place to visit that might even be a little off the beaten path and less full of tourists.
So, fly in to Zagreb and spend some time seeing a great historic city. Make your way to Plitvice and enjoy one of the world's most talked about National Parks. In between, take the road less traveled and stop off for a day or two in the amazing little village of Rastoke. The sights will amaze you, and who knows? You may not want to leave. Enjoy this fabulous hidden gem of Croatia...Rastoke!
Here's a story for you. When I was young, I loved the outdoors. That hasn't changed. At the time I was living in Indiana and we had to drive a long way to do any really good shopping. There was no internet and so forth; it's just the way it was. I got a catalog in the mail one day from Bass Pro Shops. There were no stores in my area at the time. I started doing some research, and I found out some fabulous things.
Johnny Morris is the founder of the chain of giant sporting goods stores that are mimicked in Tim Allen's sitcom "Last Man Standing." He opened the first store in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri in 1981. What I discovered when I found out about the stores was that he also had a huge rustic lodge not far from Branson, Missouri called Big Cedar Lodge. They have all kinds of outdoors activities. It's an amazing place, or so I hear. I spent many seasons trying to get my then husband to go to this place for a vacation. It never happened. Sadly, I moved to New England and started shopping at L.L. Bean and never really thought about it again.
After all these years, a few weeks ago I was driving down I-95 in Bridgeport, CT and saw Outdoor World. I couldn't get it out of my head. It was the store I'd always wanted to go to. So, I dragged my unwilling teenage boy down to Bridgeport a couple of weeks ago to finally see what it was like inside.
The place is the size of a small mall, and they have everything. You can buy hunting, fishing, all field and court sports items. You can buy boats, ATVs, grills, food, camping and backpacking gear, and even furniture. It's truly amazing.
But that's not all. You can go bowling there. They also have a restaurant. It's a whole experience for those of us that love the outdoors and everything that can possibly go with it. I will warn you that if you don't like hunting and you are vegan; this place is probably not really for you. They do have things that go with many other sports, but the decor might not be to your liking.
Personally, I couldn't get enough of the decor. I wanted to go fishing in the aquarium. Every trout in there looked legal. The best part about the store was that the prices were reasonable. With all the fancy outdoor scenes, I was expecting to find high prices. I didn't find low prices either. What I did find was really good prices on really good quality products. The clothes were good too. I even bought a pair of summer hikers. It was great.
But, the stores are not the only story by a long shot. Over the years, Johnny Morris not only opened Big Cedar Lodge, but Big Cypress Lodge in Memphis, TN as well. Big Cypress has one of the largest retail spaces in the world. The hotel has all kinds of amazing rooms; even tree houses.
But even more. Johnny Morris is famous for his conservation and wildlife management beliefs. Dogwood Canyon in Missouri is one of the places that he purchased and opened as a protected wildlife area. The resorts are all dedicated to wildlife preservation. He's spent millions on supporting these efforts. He's a legend in Missouri.
It takes a lot of hutspa to start all of this, let alone back in the 1980's and 90's. It was before it was truly fashionable. He may be a hunter and fisherman, but he does not believe in destroying any species. It's amazing that he's done all of this with the money that he's made from his chain of giant stores.
So, here's to you, Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops. I'm so glad I finally got to go to one of these amazing stores. I only hope that I get to go to one of the resorts one day. For an enthusiast like me, I can't get enough of the atmosphere, the local maps and the rustic bathrooms. If you don't have time to head out to a trip any time soon, stop by the amazing Bass Pro Shops and get some gear so at least you can enjoy the outdoors around you. Enjoy!