Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


Mijas, Spain

Unlike our entrance into Paris (see Paris blog), arriving in Mijas had more grace. We took a direct flight from Paris to the Malaga airport and were met by a prearranged car to drive us the 30 minutes to Mijas. Seamless.

It’s felt easy every since. The mountains watch over us, the wine is cheap, and a small, yet well-stocked grocery store is minutes away!

Bob’s done it yet again. Our apartment is minutes from a trailhead leading into the Sierra de Mijas. The workout starts instantly out our apartment door, with a left turn to face many stairs leading us to the mountain.

As we walk along the trail, the sun catches the many specks of marble making me wonder if I’m walking on diamond chips. I pause more than usual. I’d like to say it’s to take in the view of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, which is true, but also to sip water and take a breath as the trail is up, up and more up. With each hike, I got stronger. Mijas hiking has kept us in shape.

On our first hike, we were serenaded by The Blue Basement Big Band playing down in the main square. The acoustics of the mountain created the perfect amplifier. I found myself with an extra hop in my step for “Down by the Boardwalk” and a slower saunter for “Lover Man”. On the way back down the mountain, we decided to see if we could get to the city center in time for another set. We made it in time to enjoy our lunch and dance to the tunes, albeit in hiking boots.  

Things are more relaxed in Mijas. Bob joined a gym and normally he would be issued a  membership card. Here they simply turned over his receipt and drew lines on the back, dividing it into 6 sections. Each time he goes, someone initials the next section, noting his visit. We need to be careful not to toss that receipt. (Oh, I forgot, I learned not to toss receipts in Paris.)

Mijas is one of the “white villages” in Andalusia, hence all the buildings are painted white. One day I saw a painter working on a wall and chuckled to myself thinking about how little time he must spend thinking about paint color. There’s no choice.

Most of the white walls have potted plants affixed to them. Being the gardener that I am, my only thought besides how beautiful they are, was, “How do they keep all these pots watered?” I got my answer when I came upon a crew of people armed with wheelbarrows, buckets, and sticks with cans attached to the end. They haul the buckets of water in the wheelbarrows, scoop the can in the bucket, reach high and pour the water into the pot. I can’t imagine how often this crew will have to water when the summer temperatures rise. All for the beauty of Mijas Pueblo.

Since we are so close to Morocco, I decided to pop over and visit my friend Karla in Tangier for a few days. I took the ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar. Karla greeted me at the ferry gate and even though we hadn’t talked in almost four years, we picked right back up with that kindred spirit friendship thing. I love ya, Karla. It was a delightful visit. Thanks.

We also catch up with Joanna and Jose Marie, friends we met in Malaga years back. We hiked for a couple of hours up past the cute little chapel on the mountain, had a typical Spanish lunch complete with grilled sardines and fried calamari, and topped off the day with a visit to a local ice cream shop. All in a day’s fun.

We leave Mijas Wednesday with sadness in our hearts. Our choice would be to stay a few more weeks, but we are out of Schengen visa time, so off to Scotland we go (which is also a very good thing). We have eleven days in Edinburgh and then the rest of the summer in our “summer home” of Peebles with our usual three housesits plus a new one. The summer is looking good!

Until Later,



Bye San Sebastian

Well, one week left in San Sebastian, Spain, and it’s hard to leave.

We love it here, and I could easily move here. I’m not sure I can say that about any other city. Yes, Samantha, I know you told me I’d love it, and you were so right. All the places we have lived have offered amazing experiences, but San Sebastian has a little extra magic.

In these last days, we are getting in a bit more hiking and visiting a few our favorite spots.

Next up is a three-month visit to the States. We will be in Brooklyn and Albany for December, and Philadelphia for February. Albany and Philadelphia are housesitting near the grandkids. I don’t really like the winter temperatures anymore, so we’ll thaw a little in Gulf Shores, Al for January. (thank you, Kristin, for the condo!)

My policy has been to not blog when we visit family, so look for my next blog mid-February from Venasque, France. We are returning to care for the spitfire Jack Russell, Lolly.

Meanwhile, here’s another quick look at San Sebastian, Spain.

Until Later.

Sadly, my cart stays here, but I’m sure I’ll have another.


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.


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 green space, often with a playground. Smiling people rest on the benches absorbed in conversations. Sometimes, I take a seat 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 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.



A Pattern is Developing

My goodness, time certainly does fly by…. We have been in Spain for just over two and a half months now and soon we are off to another adventure…

Bob and I have noticed a pattern in our new lifestyle. It’s been true for all four countries so far.  

Phase One:

We arrive and instantly begin to explore. Where’s the market, the grocery, the cafes? What are the historical sites and the museums to visit? We dive into the city wanting to know what we can learn from this city and country. The newness brings an excitement and renewed energy.  I like this phase.

Phase Two:

Of course as we explore and try, our favorites soon emerge. “Ah, this is the cafe that will inspire the next blog. It has perfect coffee, a kind staff and a stunning view.“ I return a few times and  the staff smiles recognizing that I’m in the city for longer than the average stranger and this brings me comfort. The markets reveal my favorite vendors and my walking routes pass through my favorite neighborhoods. It’s a sweet place to be. I like this phase too.

Phase Three:

Slowly a feeling of , “Hey, I’m leaving soon. What haven’t we done yet?” creeps into my mood. Bob and I sit down and create a list, actually schedule the “musts” on a calendar and happily soak in the last weeks of the county. Another part of this phase is the anticipation of the next country. I start to “Google” and collecting a few ideas. ok, I like this phase as well.

Here in Spain our “must-list” included Ronda and Cordoba.

Our new friend Nacho graciously became our tour guide and drove us to Ronda and a couple of nearby towns for a delightful day of sightseeing. Ronda offers a grand history, first settled by the Celts in the 6th century. It’s famous for the Puente Nuevo (The New Bridge) which started being built in 1751. Nacho tooks us on a secret path that wound down below the bridge and revealed an intricate system of pipes and valves that controlled the river.

After leaving Ronda, we drove to the town of Setenil de las Bodegas. Many of the houses and buildings were built right into the sides of a cliff. When you go inside, the back walls are the cliff. Crazy! They did this to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. I’d worry about spiders.

On our way back to Malaga we made a quick stop in Antequera, known for its 52 churches and its cathedral.

Nacho’s generosity of time and knowledge made for a perfect day. The Spanish people are truly kindhearted. And Nacho tops the list.

Next, Bob planned a wonderful day for us in Cordoba. We were blown away by the Mosque, completed in 987. A cathedral was built in the center of it in the 1500’s. The mosque is so big that when you enter the mosque you have no sense that a full size cathedral is in there somewhere. It kind of just pops out as you take a turn and bang, there is it. It’s so perfectly blended with the mosque (go figure that one) that you just think it’s “normal” for a second. Sitting in the pews in the middle of a cathedral in the middle of a mosque. All good vibes. It was an incredibly peaceful and calming space to be.

An unexpected surprise was a trip to Gibraltar with our Spanish hiking group–Las Rutitas de Domingos (“the little Sunday hikes”–not so little really!) . We actually hiked from the sea to the top of the rock. Prudential would be proud. We could have been a commercial. This Sunday will be our last hike with our beloved hiking group. It has been one of the highlights of Spain for us..

Flashback…, we had three visitors in Spain

Lori and her son Spencer came in October and Ed in November.

Lori and Spence were here for a week and we did a great job of exploring Malaga. We insisted that Spencer (13 years old) go to the Picasso Museum. I’m not sure it was his favorite part of the visit, but he did it. I loved it. The four of us had a wonderful day in Granada. Bob and Spence enjoyed hot chocolate and churros (Lori and I had red wine) and we toured the Alhambra. Wow, what a castle. I am now in love with the moorish design. The colors, the use of water and geometric design seem to agree with me. (Robin, you would go nuts with this design.)

Ed came in November, staying with us for one quick night before he was off to Morocco for four days, and then he returned to join us for the weekend. We played in Spain, riding bikes next to the sea and eating the “typical” Malaga foods and celebrated Thanksgiving a bit early.

We have loved our time in Malaga and I do hope to return here in the future.
Next stop, Tangier, Morocco. On Dec 6th we jump on a bus to Tarifa, Spain, which is the southernmost point of mainland Europe, hop a ferry and cross the 9 mile wide Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier for a two month stay. Africa here we come.