Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spain, part dos

Thank you all so much for the sweet comments, emails and phone calls about my swollen knee.  I feel so lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who not only genuinely care that I have re-injured myself, but who understand how hard it is not to be able to engage in your normal exercise/running routine.  It’s amazing how just a day or two of forced rest can wreak havoc on your mental fitness; so just knowing there are others who have been there is very comforting.  And the prognosis?  My doctor drained my knee (again; I know, I thought I would die … again), injected me with cortisone, and ordered an MRI.  It seems he detests our annual meetings almost as much as I do.  Here’s hoping the MRI will finally answer that burning question of “what IS wrong with Lucy’s knee?”

But enough about my knee, let’s move on to Spain, shall we?!!


After our tours through Madrid, Seville, and Granada, Will and I took the bus to Malaga, a large city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  The entire reason for our Spanish holiday awaited us in the nearby town of Benalmadena:

The happy couple

Will’s cousin, Jen, and her now husband, Vesa, exchanged rings and vows in what has officially become my most favorite wedding ever. 

The wedding location
The best man
The children in attendance (most of whom stayed up much later than I did.  Endless energy.)
The romantic part (my favorite part!)

Cousin love

Vesa is from Finland, Jen’s father is British and her mother is from Atlanta, Georgia—needless to say, the wedding group was an eclectic but incredibly fun bunch.  The nights rarely ended before 3am (or so I hear.  They ended much earlier for me.  I am nothing if not a wimp at staying up late). 

Father of the bride

Father of the groom, standing next to best man extraordinaire (who was also performing his translating duties), Markus.

It also bears noting that in a party full of Fins, Brits, and Lithuanian descendants (Will’s family), I was by far the tannest person in the room.  And believe me, that doesn’t happen often to a blonde, German-blooded girl from Virginia.

We had a blast.  Everyone was unbelievably nice, and even though some of Vesa’s family spoke very little English (frighteningly enough, we spoke to some of them in Spanish), we all found out very quickly you didn’t need to understand each other to dance, sing and drink Spanish wine.

The guitar trio was great.  They played everything from La Bamba to the Macarena (the only time I've ever actually liked that song)

Cousins (and might I just add that Jen was simply the most stunning bride I have ever seen.  Oh to be tall, thin and gorgeous.  Vesa is a lucky man!)

Cousins (Carol, Will, and Jen) - not taken at the wedding, but I had to include it!


Besides the wedding itself, the guests bonded through a day trip to Gibraltar to see, what else, the Rock of Gibraltar (or just “The Rock” as the locals call it).

And now I must confess that The Rock was not for me--don't let that smiling girl fool you.  In fact, Will took all of our pictures of The Rock and the small town of Gibraltar because I was doubled-over, head between my legs, knees shaking like two dried leaves terrified of the entire experience.  It is absolutely not for those of us who are scared of heights. 

If you look closely at the middle of this picture, you can see the tiny airplane runway that services Gibraltar.  We watched military planes land on this small piece of land and even I have to admit that was pretty darn neat.

It was beautiful.  You could see Africa (AFRICA!).  It is a hugely significant part of history.  And I was a nervous wreck.

The view of Africa, very faint on the horizon
Will's aunt, Audrey, her daughter (his cousin) Carol, daughter Emerson, and husband Brandon.

There were also wild monkeys that live on the Rock, which only added to my anxiety.  These little furballs were aggressive and clearly convinced that I had some kind of monkey-nip hidden in my backpack because they kept trying to jump on my back.  I have to laugh now, but I’m fairly certain I cursed out my husband at least twice on the hike down The Rock.  If I haven’t apologized enough, I’m sorry Will! 

Just about to pounce.
The city of Gibraltar - very British!

Benalmedana (where the wedding took place) was utterly charming.  It reminded me a lot of Seville except it was even cleaner, even whiter and, with the blue Mediterranean Sea in every background shot, even more beautiful.  I was in heaven.

We stayed in a villa on the mountainside and awoke to this view every morning.

Siiiiighh, I miss that so much.  And in case you can’t tell from the pictures, the arid climate results in weather that is always sunny, zero clouds, zero humidity, zero rain, and zero bugs.  The villa owner mentioned that it rained “about two hours” in November and “maybe four hours” January.  Six hours total??  How is that for a guaranteed beautiful summer vacation spot!

Eventually though, our time in paradise had to end and we packed up and took the train to Cordoba.


Cordoba is about an hour train ride north of the coast, but still part of southern Spain’s Andalusia.  The city was charming and very tourist-friendly.  The main attraction in Cordoba is the incredible Mezquita.

The Mezquita is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in the middle of a mosque (which in turn had been built atop a destroyed Christian church).  During the Reconquista, the Catholic church destroyed many mosques to build their cathedrals, but much like the Alhambra in Granada, the mosque in Cordoba was simply too beautiful to destroy.

The cathedral

The mosque

I was in awe of the hundreds of candy cane arches (made out of stone and brick, so the colors have remained vibrant) in a giant room that was far too large to capture on film.  If you have a chance to see this cathedral in person, do it!  You will not believe your eyes.

The town of Cordoba is another beauty; small lanes, clean streets, and friendly people.  It was boiling hot (in all fairness, no different than any other place we’d visited), but I always feel like I can deal with any tough situation when the kids aren’t there.  I would have worried constantly about Frances and George’s comfort this entire trip, so it was nice to just worry about me (and Will, too, of course) for a change.

After only one night in Cordoba, we had to make our way back to Madrid to fly home the next day.  We were sad to leave Spain (and our beloved couple-time!), but very ready to see the kids and do laundry—ten days out of a suitcase is a long time.

MADRID (again!)

We did manage to squeeze in a bit more of Madrid before we flew out, including the Royal Palace (no cameras allowed inside):

The Prado museum (again, no cameras allowed inside):

And various other sites and sounds of Spain’s capital city (including a 50,000 person rally starting right outside of our hotel and ending at one of the city’s main squares.  It was exciting to see!):

Uncensored PDA - one of Europe's most frequent sites

Will took many of these evening pictures because I managed to catch a bad cold the last day we were in Spain and stayed in the room that night.  I was so impressed at his adventurous spirit—I had forgotten that Will spent most of his college abroad experience traveling alone.  I’m not sure I could do that, but I’m so glad that he didn’t let me slow him down.

The last picture of the trip—a typical nighttime stroll in Madrid.

We left that Sunday at 12 noon Madrid time and arrived safely home at 6:30pm Virginia time (about 12 hours of total travel time).  The kids seemed to have grown at least a foot each and were speaking in paragraphs (even George!) about their adventures with Nana, Gram-E and Mr. Pyles.  It was the ultimate homecoming—endless hugs, kisses and “I missed you, Mommy” to make any mother’s heart melt.

Before I sign off, I must thank my parents, the Pyles and Will’s parents for letting us take this incredible trip—we truly could not have done it without them.  My mother managed to do in 10 days what I could not accomplish in a year—replace our kitchen sink and garbage disposal, plant fresh flowers to replace the heat-exhausted geraniums I had been desperately trying to keep alive, polish many of our silver pieces, grocery shop, buy new napkins and other kitchen accessories, all the while keeping Frances and George happy, fed, clean, well-rested and entertained.  I have no idea how she did it, but I am so grateful that she did.

Thank you SO much to our Midlothian “village!”

And happy Tuesday, everyone!

*** Click here if you missed Part 1!***

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