Cruising the Bosphorus

It may be a bit of an oversimplification, but you could probably say that Istanbul exists because of the Bosphorus. It was the first thing I wanted to see when we got there. We dropped our bags at the Empress Zoe hotel, and headed right out. We were only a few blocks away, and so our first impressions of Istanbul were those of the strong current flowing from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the ships lined up waiting for their pilots to take them through the strait, and the lines of fishermen with their lines in dark water.

A Little Treasure of Madrid, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales

When Kris and I lived in Madrid thirty-two years ago we worked at a language school that was about eight blocks from our apartment. One of the routes we often took to work took us past a nondescript building with two large oak doors and a small sign beside one of them which identified it as a convent. (Here’s the Google map.)

The same sign offered tours during limited hours, but in all the time we lived here, and in our many subsequent visits to Madrid, we never got around to seeing what was inside the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. We remedied that this time.

A Sunday Walk in Madrid

Madrid, first of all, is a great walking city. If you are staying anywhere near the Puerta del Sol. you’ll perhaps first notice that Madrid got smart several years ago and banned all car traffic in the Puerta itself as well as all streets leading out of it for a distance of several blocks. Usually the only vehicle you’ll ever have to contend with is the occasional taxi that has received dispensation to come into the center to drop passengers at the hotels.

Spaniards love to walk. They do it all the time, but particularly in the early evenings and Sundays when they habitually dar un paseo with their girlfriends, or their extended families, or whomever. They don’t necessarily have any destination in mind, except perhaps a restaurant or bar. They just like to walk.

The Ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplontis

I posted about Rome six days ago, and at the time promised to go on endlessly about our subsequent visits to the sites that were destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD, or as the secularists say, 79 CE. Since I’m a Latin guy though, I’m sticking with AD.

So, here goes. First there was a train ride from Rome to Naples, then a change for Pompeii. We had decided to stay in Pompeii, instead of Naples, for a couple of reasons. Number one is that Naples is pretty much of a shit hole, and I can’t remember the second one.

A Quick Visit to Rome, But Not the Churchy Stuff

I’ve been pretty lax in writing lately, at least for this blog. I keep telling myself I’ll write a long post when I get an internet connection, but they’ve been harder to come by lately it seems, and when I do get one, I have to spend an hour making train and hotel reservations, and, of course, screwing around on Facebook.

Kris and I just finished a 40 minute forced march across Rome (did you know we were in Rome?) to the train station. There was a hell of a lightning storm here this morning, and it took out the taxi dispatch system evidently, so because of that and because it was raining there were no taxis to be found anywhere. So, we were damn glad we’re in shape from having walked across Spain, because if we hadn’t been, we’d be dying somewhere on a Roman sidewalk and have missed our train to Pompeii.

On Journalism and Bullfights in Madrid

Ernest Hemingway

Madrileños, unlike most denizens of big cities, are genuinely friendly and eager to talk about their city, Spain, and almost anything else you want to discuss. Our first night here, we had a discussion about journalism and its position as a profession in Spanish society over beers and a plate of olives at an outdoor cafe in the Plaza Mayor with a young man named José Angel. José Angel’s girlfriend is a journalist and he’s a carpenter, so he allowed as there was some friction with her parents over his “station” in life. I assured him that their positions would probably be reversed if he came to the United States and he’d be welcome to visit us anytime the in-laws got to be too much.