Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


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The Market and Perseverance

One of my favorite pastimes is finding the local open-air markets in a new city.

A quick search on the internet brings up “Mercado Itinerante de Productores.” The site describes a market with only locally grown fruits & veggies as well as cheeses, breads, and other goodies. It sounds like a Jane place.

It’s a Saturday market that changes location each week. Our first Saturday here, I headed out to Plaza Easo with my new cart (more on the cart later). It was a perfect excuse to navigate the city with a destination in mind. The route took me along the River Urumea, through some posh neighborhoods which opened up to the lovely Plaza Easo.

But NO market.

I knew my mistake instantly. This was the second Saturday of the month, not the first, classic Jane mistake; reading something too quickly.

One little mistake isn’t going to stop me from finding the Mercado Itinerante de Productores. I pull out my phone, get online and find the location for the second Saturday of the month. I enter the plaza into Google Maps and I’m pleased to see that this plaza is on my way home.

Dutifully, I follow my directions which take me to a street with only apartments. No plaza. I decide I must have made a wrong turn and wander around the area looking for the market. About now I’m thinking this market has an invisibility cloaking device and then I have another aha moment. I bet it’s in another town.

Sitting on a bench in the shade, I get back online, and yep, this week it’s in another town. There’ll be no Mercado Itinerante de Productores today. Next week it is.

The third Saturday of the month arrives and with a spring in my step, I’m off to the market. I get to the street and… no market. Now I’m sure there’s a cloaking device. Where is this frickin’ market?

Oh, vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary. Once again, I find a bench in the shade, pull out my phone, check the website and I read, “Penultimate Saturday of the Month.” I thought perhaps this is the name of another town, but I’m also confused because Gros, our neighborhood, is listed as the location.

“What does penultimate mean? It can’t be a town.” A quick bit of research and it means … the second to the last. The market is the second to the last Saturday of the month. There are five Saturdays this September, so NO market, it’s next week.

I regroup, collecting that spring in my step, explore Old Town, and enjoyed a few pintxos along the way.

So, on the penultimate Saturday of the month, I finally experienced the Mercado Itinerante de Productores in Gros.  I bought a tasty local honey and a few other products. I now know the secret to the magical cloaking device and will return to Plaza Easo on the first Saturday in the month of October. That will be Oct. 6th, right?

As for my new cart, I have officially become a cart lady. I walk the streets of San Sebastian with my fashionable black cart in tow. I just got tired of lugging groceries. Having a cart is “a thing “ here.  Most women, young and old use carts. I’ve even seen a few men pushing one. My new cart might just be partly responsible for that spring in my step, especially on a trek home loaded with groceries.

Until Later.

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First Few Weeks in San Sebastian

Almost three weeks in San Sebastian, Spain and I’m in love. She’s a city that instantly welcomes. The wide tiled sidewalks, and the tree-lined streets shading me from the heat of the sun, inspire me to keep exploring. It’s definitely a place to spend some time.

Every few blocks, there’s a green space, often with a playground. Smiling people rest on the benches absorbed in conversations. Sometimes, I take a sit just to take in the positive vibes. It’s a happy culture.

Small markets dot the street every few blocks. Fruits and vegetables on display outside the stores draw me in to search the shelves filled with jars of beans, bottles of wine, cheeses and fresh breads for something new to try. I haven’t found a favorite and I’m not sure I will. They all feel special.   

And the hiking… In 20 minutes, we walk through a mountainside neighborhood and are on the trails that wind through the forest, often with views of the crashing waves of the Atlantic coast. Bob says it reminds him of Big Sur in California. Part of the hiking is on El Camino de Santiago. I can now say, I’ve been on the pilgrimage, but not really, just 20 minutes of it. People hiking El Camino for “real” attach a shell on their backpacks that identifies them. I have great respect for their challenge.  I could hike these trails for the rest of our stay here. Nature is within minutes of our apartment.

San Sebastian is known for the pintxos bars. Every day the bars offer a display of tasty bite-size savory treats. I’m getting quite good at ordering pintxos. I study, guess, and sometimes know what I’m ordering. Perhaps a tuna salad or an anchovy and goat cheese drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar on top of a crusty bread. So far, I’ve enjoyed each and every one. The barkeeps have been patient and kind as I learn to navigate the pintxos scene.

And the ocean… the beaches… A 10-minute walk and I’m at the beach. It’s a great surfer scene. When walking around town, a surfer can step out of an apartment building, wetsuit peeled to the waist, barefooted, carrying a surfboard on the way to the beach. The surf’s up and they’re on their way to catch it. For me, a towel in the sand, a dip in the ocean, and a good book are all I need. I’m trying to take full advantage of the ocean before the temperature drops.

As I said, I’m in love with this city. In the coming weeks, I will learn more of her secrets and can’t wait to share.

PS – I have received a few comments that there were no pictures of me in the last blog. Seriously, I had no pictures of me. I’m always behind the camera. Bob and I took note and are taking more pictures of me. This blog has a few more than normal to make up for the last blog.

Until later.

 


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August in the London Area

We spent the month of August in a holding pattern before traveling to San Sebastian, Spain for the fall. And what a wonderful pattern it was.

Because we have always wanted to spend more time in London, Bob found two house sits in the area, one in Wallington and the other in Godalming.

Our first sit was caring for a house and garden. The ample zucchini harvest had me researching zucchini recipes and I discovered zucchini curry soup and zucchini fritters. Both recipes made the gotta-make-that-again list. Here are the recipes, just in case you have a few zucchini lying around.

I added potatoes to the zucchini soup

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12547-pureed-zucchini-soup-with-curry?action=click&module=Global%20Search%20Recipe%20Card&pgType=search&rank=2

Fritters

https://www.melskitchencafe.com/baked-cheesy-zucchini-bites/

We often took the train into London and played tourist. We visited the National Gallery, the Tate, the British Library, London Tower, Notting Hill, and Westminster Abbey, just to name a few. Because the train only took 30 minutes, it was easy to run in for a half day or so and just play. It was no stress touring.

On our last trip to London, we met up with friends from Milwaukee who now live in Bristol and they treated us to a wonderful Chinese lunch, a perfect day!

Our next house sit took us to Godalming in the Surrey Hills. This quaint market town has an amazing yoga studio that I took full advantage of. Our new dog friend Minty has a magnetic personality that I can’t get enough of. Every morning Minty took me into the wooded trails near the house and I laughed every day as she bound through the woods exploring.

We were sad to leave England, but it was time to move on to San Sebastian, Spain. We arrived here late Monday night for a three-month stay. I can’t wait to explore this amazing city.


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Four Years … Traveling …

Four years on the road, 17 countries, and counting. On July 25th, 2014 we drove away from Fox Point and began “the experiment”–living around the world 2-3 months at a time. Somewhere along the way, we stopped calling it “the experiment” and it became our lifestyle.

I never would have imagined that this would be my life. The idea just kind of evolved and happened, lucky me. We took the leap and haven’t looked back since.

Experiencing so many different cultures is a true gift. My perspective of the world has changed for the better learning that we are all the same. We all seek to be loved and to be safe.  Our food and clothes might be different, but we are the same inside. We have experienced so much kindness during our travels that we feel loved and safe.

This quote sums up one big lesson learned:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”   Lao Tzu

What is, is. Celebrate it. With so much change it’s simple to cherish each moment. The new apartment has a view that takes my breath away. I savor it. The cafe around the corner has a perfect table for writing, so I write and the city’s energy energizes me. I soak it in.  

It’s all about going with the flow. Not everything turns out so perfect, but the same philosophy applies. If I have ten hours in an airport, I explore. If what I ordered at a restaurant isn’t close to what I thought it was, I try it. It might be a new favorite. Perhaps, the apartment isn’t as clean as I would like. I clean it and get on with the fun. I’m confident that relaxing into each experience has kept us loving this lifestyle for all this time.

So, we celebrate the change.

The funniest fact is that Bob and I are both homebodies. We like settling in and nesting in our space which we do quickly these days. Bob finds a place for his hat and to play guitar, I find a place for my yoga mat and art supplies, then I head straight to the kitchen to see what it offers. When your home changes every few months, it’s important to make the place feel like a home away from home and creating food seems to do the trick.

I plan my menus based on what the kitchen can support. Our apartments in Peru and Hong Kong only had a stove top, so I learned one-pan meals. Malaysia had a great wok, so lots of stir-fried noodles. And of course, Costa Rica’s house sit had the perfect kitchen for sourdough bread making. You get the idea, the kitchen setup drives the menus. The change of kitchens feeds my creative edge.

When we started, I’d get in a tizzy if I didn’t have the right pan or a way to make coffee. But now, it’s just a reason to get resourceful or decide it’s not necessary. I’m learning when to do which.  

In Italy, our first country, I made an “American meal” for our hiking friends. I didn’t have a good pan for the roast, but I thought a broiler pan with aluminum foil tightly wrapped around the edges would do work. Nope. Six people at my dinner table and all I had to serve was a leather-meat-thing. It was bad, really bad!

Thank goodness I watched my mom make gravy all those Thanksgivings. I whipped up a gravy, cracked some jokes warning our guests and told them we have lots of veggies, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and salad. Everyone was polite but no one asked for a doggy bag. That was the beginning of only cooking what the kitchen can support, or go out and buy the right pan.

The hard part about this lifestyle is being far from family and friends. Thank goodness for Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts and friends that come to visit. The technology keeps me connected. I talk to my mom more now that I did before I left.

Making the photo movie for this blog seemed almost impossible. It’s been fun going through over 10,000 photos, but which ones to pick?

My solution was to make three photo movies:

  1. Silly poses over the years. Lots of Bob and Jane. 2:21
  2. Friends, new and old. I didn’t get a photo of a few people and I do apologize. 3:05
  3. Each country in two pictures. No people in this movie. 2:30

Until later

Next up, San Sebastian, Spain

Silly Poses – 2:20

 

Friends, New and Old – 3:05

 

Each Country in Two Pictures – 2:30


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Costa Rica in May

The rainy season came with May. Most days start sunny, and by mid-afternoon, the clouds roll in and the rain dumps from the sky. Now I understand the deep gutters on the sides of the roads. The temperature drops a bit and the soup and bread making begin.

When we were in Norway, I started making rolls from scratch. Somewhere along the way, I got the idea to learn sourdough bread.  With Linda’s well-equipped kitchen and the rainy season upon us, sourdough bread making seemed right.

I read many articles and consulted Sam, the family bread expert. I’m proud to report after five rounds, all loaves were edible and are improving with each new attempt.

One article explained it’s an art as much as a science and as Sam pointed out, everything will change with each new kitchen. Let the art begin.

If you want to stay dry in May, outside activities take place in the morning. Chelsey and I walk the countryside early mornings and occasionally I do a bit of gardening before the rain starts.

One morning Bob and I headed to Los Alpes, a private rainforest reserve at 1400 meters. Warren, the caretaker, took us on a 5k hike through the virgin rainforest.  Chelsey came but needed to stay on her leash because she might take off following the scent of a puma or a monkey or a jaguar. How often do you get to write that?

Gigantic green leaves, ferns, and sweet humid air dominated the scenery. The vines were strong enough for Tarzan and Bob did his usual “Me Tarzan, you Jane” imitation. Watching Warren’s relaxed manner and ease helped to lessen my fear of snakes, spiders, and pumas, oh my. I didn’t see any but I thought about them. When navigating the trails, I hesitated to grab vines or branches thinking there might be a snake there, or something worse. Actually, I loved our rainforest hike and was grateful that Warren took the time to guide us.

We drive into San Ramon for the Friday farmer’s market and other days just to explore. The main park across from the cathedral is my favorite area of town. It’s great people watching.  

Our time in Costa Rica comes to a close June 5th. We travel back to the rolling hills of Peebles, Scotland for our third year in a row.

Stay tuned –

 

Just in case you missed the Sesquiáltera – Música Antigua Iberoamericana from my last blog, take a minute to listen. My favorite is Credidi de 6.

https://sesquialtera.bandcamp.com/album/sesqui-ltera

 


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Costa Rica, April 2018

As wonderful as the experiences over the past four months have been, we moved around a lot. So, living on a mountaintop in Costa Rica for a two-month stretch soothes my soul.

We flew into San Jose in the evening of April 3rd and were greeted by Scott, our host, holding a sign, “Bob and Jane.” Being met at the airport, not having to navigate to the house sit after traveling all day is one HUGE gift. Thank you, Scott! We drove the hour and a half to the house and were greeted by Linda offering fine wine. Again, a gift.

We settled in for a great night’s sleep, and then Scott and Linda taught us about the house and the area. We went to the spectacular farmer’s market and Linda introduced us to her favorite vendors and showed us around town. Our orientation set us up for a wonderful stay in Costa Rica.

One benefit of house sitting is instant friends. Joanna and Victor invited us to a free concert in San Ramon. Sesquiáltera – Música Antigua Iberoamericana, performed, captivating the audience. From the moment the concert started, I was in. Take a minute to listen. My favorite is Credidi de 6.

https://sesquialtera.bandcamp.com/album/sesqui-ltera

So, the concert started at 4:00 pm, which created a small “issue.” Sunset is about 5:50 and I’m not a big fan of driving at night on these country roads. Driving in daylight is harrowing enough. Think driver’s ed simulator times ten and you have a good idea of driving in rural Costa Rica. Anything or anyone can pop out at you at any time.

Perhaps it’s a mom and child walking in your lane. The roads have no shoulders, just rain ditches, so the people have no choice but to walk on the road. I get it, but it makes driving tricky. My hands haven’t been at 2 and 10 since my driver’s test in 1977.

One day, Bob and I were coming back from town. We rounded a hairpin turn and there in front of us was a truck with a flat tire and a motorcyclist helping with his bike parked across the road.  Another time, a mom was pushing her toddler in a plastic toy car up the hill, of course in the driving lane.

And another time, a frail elderly man with a cane stepped out in front of our SUV. We stopped to avoid hitting him, and he just got into the back seat. He calmly told us to take him to the grocery. So, we drove him to the grocery.

Add in numerous dogs treating the roads as their backyards and you get a pretty good impression of driving in our area. In the three-plus weeks we have been here, my hands are still at 10 and 2, but my shoulders are no longer up to my ears.

Thank goodness we are driving an SUV as we took the gorgeous valley route to Punta Arena. The road was labeled “route 742”, which led us to believe it was very drivable. Google Maps presented it as a good route to the beach. Well, it did get us to the beach.

The first 30 minutes were what we expected with a mix of blacktop and smooth gravel roads. All good. As we continued on route 742, the road became a bit bumpy. My focus became avoiding potholes and soon included avoiding large rocks protruding from the road. Our driving speed slowed to a creep.

Now, the views were spectacular and moving at a creep let me take it all in. The scary moment was coming face to face with a rickety makeshift bridge. Driving a 2 ton SUV over a few pieces of sheet metal to get to the other side of the river didn’t make my to-do list that day. Well, I had no choice.

My first instinct was to floor it and get over it really fast, but I reconsidered. Slow and steady was the way to go. I wanted to close my eyes, but not a good plan while driving over a bridge. So I pushed the accelerator and low and behold, the bridge held and I’m here today to tell the story. OK, I’m sure the bridge was safe, but it’s not what I’m used to.

We spend most days enjoying the house. I’m taking advantage of Linda’s amazing kitchen and relaxing into the calm of the house and the spectacular view from 3000 feet, which, on a clear day, stretches all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Next up, a hike into the mountains and a look at San Ramon.


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Venasque & Martinique & More… Jane Catching Up

Well, I’m WAY behind on the blogs. It’s time to catch up with a quick look back. France, Martinique, Philadelphia, Albany, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, and now Costa Rica. There, you’re all caught up!

Now for a few, but not all the details.

We left Dubrovnik, Croatia Dec 8th (yes, that’s how far behind I am, yikes) and headed to Venasque, France for a three week house sit. We found this house sit through Linda, a friend of Bob’s from over 40 years ago. We house sat for her neighbor. Linda and Dan took us under their wings, included us in all the holiday celebrations, introduced us to wonderful people and showed us the sites.

Venasque sits high on a mesa creating striking views in all directions. At least once a day, I was compelled to pause to take it all in.  It’s a hiking community with well marked trails, so a perfect stop for us.

Lolly, the Jack Russell with never ending energy, kept us moving with at least three walks a day winding us through those trails with the stunning views of the Provence countryside.

Our time in Venasque was too short and we hope to return for more of its beauty and time with Linda and Dan.

The next stop was Martinique for a three week dose of ocean and sun. A bit of hiking, lots of exploring and a fun week visit from Michael and Randy filled out the time. Again, too short.

We spent February in Philadelphia at a fabulous house sit around the corner from our grandkids. We took care of a cute little dog named Yaffa, who stole our hearts. In March, we visited the rest of the family in New York and friends and family in Wisconsin.  Now we are near San Ramon, Costa Rica for a 2 month house sit.

Sorry for not blogging and thanks to all who so kindly reminded me to get my butt in gear and get writing.