Spain: Sightseeing in Madrid

Spain was always on my bucket list of travel places to visit. However when I dreamed of Spain my thoughts leaned towards the Seville and Barcelona. I thought Madrid would be my least favorite part of my recent trip there but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the sights and food.

We started off our most recent visit checking into the modern style Hotel Regina (see room above). The hotel was affordable and in walking distance to most areas of interest – including Puerta del Sol where we saw these ladies below trying to work the crowd.

We also saw elmo and others but could only deal with so many poorly made character costumes so we headed over to Plaza Mayor where we saw this really weird goat thing.

Bubble fun…..

Interesting frescos in plaza.

Later on in the evening we happened upon a used book store.

And a store all about SHUTTING YOUR MOUTH.

Puerta del Sol was much nicer in the evening. Many people gathering around socializing. Madrid is a very social city.

Walking back to our hotel.

The next day we set out for the Royal Palace.

Official designs of the royal palace.

After we visited the palaces we stopped for tapas. Olives and sardines are a staple of tapas cusine.

We also had some chicken and tripe soup.

And Churros con chocolate

If you wander around the city enough you will happen upon small markets like this one. I liked the war machines made out of bullets.

There was also a great supply of Greek sweets.

And some fur accessories if you need them.

Nice fountain near the market.

Some beautiful night views of Madrid.

And back to our hotel to bed.

If you want to experience more of the food night life of Madrid, visit the past posts of Mercado de San Miguel and Tapas in Calle Cava Baja.

Varanasi: Aarti

We traveled to Varanasi by small airline. We arrived mid-day and were given some time to rest at the hotel before attending an Hindu Aarti ceremony by the Ganges.
The ceremony was at one of the ghats, or stairs, along the Ganges. A car could only take us so far so we had to walk the rest of the way to the river. We saw many bike commuters and rickshaws

And some cows in an argument.

Some half constructed buildings.

An american who now lives there makes an offering to a temple.

Crowds start gathering for the best seats.

We had the choice to sit in the middle of the action but instead we chose an aerial view and watched from a balcony.

As the sun set, the ceremony began.

People watching from boats

Making an offering

Short video of the ceremony.

Why I continue to run

Recently I read one of those articles – with the before and after picture of a person telling me how running is bad and weight training is good.
Yes, I know the advantages of weight training. Weight training is good. Building more muscle burns more calories. Weight training allows you to “shape” your body better.
And last year my doctor told me to stop running. Said I didn’t have the body type for it; said I should do other activities instead.
Friends and acquaintances tell me how running is not fun, and I often agree with them.
I have so many runs where I just want to give up.
I still have problems with weight loss even when running.

So why do I continue to run?

1. Exercise is better than no exercise

Running may not be the best form of exercise but it still burns calories. When I start doing my long runs I burn many calories and do start to see weight loss.
1.5 hours jogging is better than 1.5 hours on the couch in front of boob tube.
If I can’t be motivated to do anything but run isn’t it better that I run?

2. Still haven’t gotten a big injury. 

Many runners complain about injuries. I carry an extra 20+ pounds when I run and besides sore bunions I have never really had an injury that has put me out for a considerable amount of time.

3. Goal setting

 Running helps me with goal setting. When I get a race on the schedule my life just flows better. I have scheduled workouts that I accomplish. I am better able to manage my time because I am forced to. During running season I find myself accomplishing much more in my professional life.

4. There is a high

 I starting running about 9 years ago and it took me a while to finally get a runners high. I only get it once in a while but when it comes it is nice. You feel like you are on top of the world.

5. Camaraderie

Running can be a social activity. I have made friends through running and strengthened existing friendships by realizing we have a common hobby. I don’t usually run races with friends but I enjoy meeting them before and after races. I like talking about our running experiences.

5. Some races are fun

Races can be like huge parties but the admission is just completing a run first. Disney puts on some great after parties at the theme parks. Many races now have free beer afterwards. I really enjoy the races that have musical acts playing along the course.

6. Competition

I am so slow but even I get to pass up people in races. Sometimes you just want to be better at something than someone else. There is always someone to beat or to try to beat. (It just blows when the 70 year-old passes me up!!!)

7. I have more energy

During running season I get less tired. I can hang out longer without getting tired. My volleyball skills improve. I am in a better mood.

8. Because I want to.

This reason should supersede all other reasons. Isn’t it really about what I want to do and not about others?
As long as this activity still makes me happy I keep running……

Beyond BBQ – Downtown Memphis Day 2

During my last visit to Memphis area I finally got to explore more of downtown Memphis. I wanted to visit the Civil Rights Museum however the day I chose to come I missed the opening hours. It is supposed to be a fabulous museum and I am sorry I missed it (I will have to catch it again on another trip). Fortunately there are some things to see outside the museum that I was able to catch for free.
The museum is located at the site of the Lorraine Motel – the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was shot on April 4, 1968.

Informative podiums line the sidewalk in front of the hotel and tell the history that led up to the day and after the day.

The impact of racism and this time is still felt today evidenced in this table set outside the exhibit.

This powerful message given right before his death lines one of the museum entrances.

After the visit to the King site, I decided to take a walk down Main Street. I took note of all the nice brick buildings and street cars that are in use today.

This old building is ready to be demolished. It made me sad because I think it has a lot of character and would have been good to keep around.

Almost at the famous Beale Street I came across the Orpheum Theater. Many notable acts perform there. I found out that I was going to miss out on Morrissey who was to perform there later in the month.

Turning the corner and walking a couple blocks takes you to the famous Beale Street that houses many blues joints. I stopped in to BB Kings for a bit to catch a couple songs of a live band.

Walking further down the street you can catch live musicians.

And interesting architecture….

.
After the music I wanted to stop for a brew. I walked a couple blocks over to the Flying Saucer to taste a local beer. Flying Saucer is a chain that has food and a great selection of foreign and craft beer. I would say I wish we had one of these in Orlando but Orlando has a pretty great selection already. It is nice to know I can find a place to try new things when I am traveling though.

After my brew I took a walk further down the Main Street where there are tons of restaurants to dine at.

It was getting late so I decided to take the streetcar down to where I had parked near the Lorraine Hotel. For $1 it was a cheap and convenient ride.

I almost can’t wait for my next trip to Memphis to explore more of what the city has to offer.

Beyond BBQ – Downtown Memphis Day 1

The corporate headquarters for my corporation is located outside of Memphis. I have visited there a time or two. During my last few visits I never ventured out of the suburbs. During my recent trip I had the majority of my evenings free so I was able to explore more of Memphis. I feel lucky that I got to visit during the month of May. I belive that is the time of the year when Memphis is at its best. The weather is awesome and there is so much to do (if you get past the allergens).
I came in a day early for my trip so I could take part in the Beale Street Music Festival.

I started my downtown experience by dining at the famous Arcade Restaurant. History states that it was a favorite dining spot for Elvis Presley when he was alive. I took reviewers advice and ordered the sweet potato pancakes. While it was true that they were good I think I would have enjoyed them more if they were whole grain. I have taken a liking to whole grain pancakes so white flour pancakes taste too much like dessert for breakfast to me now.

I easily found downtown parking for $10 a day and walked down to the festival gate near Beale Street. I visited on a Sunday about an hour after the gates opened. There were no lines to get in but it was hot.

Photo credit: Taken from beale street music festival facebook page.

I decided to start at the Blues Tent close to the entrance to enjoy the shade for a while. The first act of the day was Dr. Herman Green. Herman is a spectacular saxophone player who still plays great at the age of 83. He has played with many notable blues legends but typically will do a set with the jam band FreeWorld at these festivals. Unfortunately they scheduled Herman Green and FreeWorld to perform at the same time this year. After enjoying Dr. Green for about 20 minutes, I wandered over to another tent to see the end of the set of FreeWorld.
FreeWorld is a fun jam band with a loyal following. They did some covers but even their originals were easily recognizable by the audience. I joined the energy at that stage and finished the set with them.
After they were finished I walked over to the stage where the Dandy Warhols were going to perform and caught the last few minutes of the energetic Latin band Los Rabanes. I can’t believe I have never heard of this ska-rock band. They had me dancing over to their stage with their version of “Electric Avenue”. They performed a few more covers and original songs with intense energy that made you feel foolish if you were in the crowd standing around. They were truly a fun band to watch.
While waiting for the next act I found a beer tent that had beers close to craft-beer like (since the event was sponsored by Bud). I picked up a Goose Island Urban Wheat Ale (Goose Island sits on the fence of big beer and craft beer anymore) and headed back to the stage to get a good spot for the Dandy Warhols. This was my first time seeing them live but I have enjoyed some of their tunes for a few years now. I was excited to hear their higher energy tunes when they were played; sadly the crowd was not. I suppose many in the crowd have never heard of them. The Dandy Warhol’s played a great set but it would have been just a bit better with a more excited crowd.
After Dandy Warhols I walked back over to the stage where Leftover Salmon was playing to catch their act. Leftover Salmon is a Colorado based jam-band that I have caught before at New Orleans Jazz Fest and other music festivals. They are fun to watch but I was getting hot standing around in the sun so I decided to leave the festival for the day. I took a re-entry ticket thinking maybe I would just hang out in a cool restaurant for a while and come back; but I was tired and I had to work the next day.

A couple of days later I headed back downtown to try to catch what I missed the first day.
However that evening I wanted to try to get dinner closer to my hotel. I stopped at the Hog & Hominy and enjoyed one of their delicious cocktails and pizzas.

I ordered the Bebop and Rocksteady – the pizza with sopressata and clams. I was curious because I have never tried clams on a pizza before. The whole flavor of the pizza was delicious, especially the sopressata, but the clams were chewier than I like.
After I finished my dinner it was off to bed early to make sure I got a good night’s sleep before work the next  morning.

Madrid Tapas stroll on Calle Cava Baja

Previously I have talked about my food experiences at the Mercado de San Miguel. It is tough to top the food choices at the mercado but we were determined to find more good food.
For a tapas crawl experience, our guide book recommended we visit the restaurants of Calle Cava Baja in Madrid.
We started in the early evening down the street whereas most locals do not go out until after 9. We were able to try some places out before they got crowded. We made our way down the street and sampled as much food and beverages as we could for the night.

It happened to be St Patrick’s day. I caught this festive guy on a cell phone break.

This place was packed everytime we walked by.

Albóndigas (meatballs and sauce) served with potatoes.

This was pretty good and I while I am still not 100% sure what it is, the waitress called them little fish.

We spent some time sitting at the bar at La Perejila. They have some nice vermouth and great tapas.

Love me some Spanish vermut!!!

Pate

More fishies…

This place wasn’t on Calle Cava Baja but was quite busy and recommended in the guidebook.

The night proved to be a success. I advise anyone who can to visit Madrid and do a tapas crawl. Your mouth will not regret it!

Early July Garden

It’s the 4th of July and the garden is doing fine.

We finally have a watermelon growing. The bees are no where to be seen so I have been hand pollinating these as I can.

We also have a great crop of plum tomatoes. I noticed some signs of caterpillar damage (but saw no caterpillars yet). I want to spray them but the rain is every day lately. Hopefully I can spray BT sometime soon.

In the distance you might be able to make out the corn plant that is hanging on. No corn yet but I am hoping for something.

I am doing a much better job at training the muscadine grape vine this year. Last year the weight of the vine made the trellis slant forward. The extra support I added this winter is holding up.

For the first time we will have grapefruit this year. I counted at least five that are growing. The leaves are still falling off though. I found a spray that may help with this but I am having a hard time applying it because of the constant rain.

Key limes are back again too. They have the same issue as the grapefruit tree.

I butchered the heck out of the viburnum in the backyard. I was trying to locate a lost sprinkler head and finally found it behind the middle bush. I will be replacing that sprinkler head with drip irrigation to provide better water to one of the square foot gardens. I would like to train the bush on the right to grow as a small shade tree to open that area for some shade plant opportunities…..we will see what happens.

Flowers doing well in one of the whisky barrels.

And finally the aloe plant is reproducing again this year. I might transplant some of the babies. We don’t take advantage of this plant as much as we should.

Hopefully I will have an update at the end of the month to see what makes it.