• Category Archives Spain
  • Last Day in Spain

    July 19, 2021

    I started my day with the “new normal” for international travel…a covid test. I had an antigen test I brought with me…you connect online, and the proctor goes through certifying your ID, date of birth, and putting together the test…the regent for the test, the nasal swab, followed by a 15 minute wait, then reconnecting with a proctor to view the results. Mine was negative (vaccinations do work), so I was able to check in and my test was approved.

    Next I played tennis with Lisa from Florida at the Real Club de Tennis de Barcelona. It turned out that we’d been staying not 5 minutes apart all week and I was a 9 minute walk from the club. The club, established in 1899 is the site of the ATP 500 event which Nadal won this year. Members there include Feliciano Lopez, Karen Khachenov, Carlos Costa, Andrei Rublev and more…tons of good players. There are lots of courts, a restaurant, gym, padel courts and more.

    After tennis we went shopping, me for chocolate and Lisa for gifts for her friends. The walk took us past another Gaudi creation, the Guell Pavillions. It’s closed for restoration but the main gate is on the Pedrables street and quite interesting, with a dragon on the front. The classic Gaudi mosaics and undulating waves.

    And that’s a wrap on this European adventure…thanks everyone for following along.


  • Montserrat

    Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain range not far from Barcelona. It’s known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Montserrat in Catalan means serrated mountain, and the mountains appear to have sharp edges. The Monastery of Montserrat which houses the virgin that gives its name to the monastery is also on the mountain.

    To get there I took the Metro to the Espana (also the stop for the circular Plaza de Espana and Montjuic castle) on the L3, then got lost long enough to miss my train…what I needed to do was go up into the Plaza and follow the signs to L1 Metro line (and the green/white swirly icon below)…when I finally did that there were signs for the R5 train which goes directly to Montserrat. Tickets can be bought at a ticket machine there…you have to decide whether you want to take a funicular train up to the monastery or a cable car. The cable car is quicker so I chose that option.

    After I exited the train, I took the cable car up to the monastery (and it’s straight up the sharp face of the mountain, a five minute ride), then another funicular, St. Joan, up to the top of the mountain. At the top there are some hiking options. I took a short hike which had very nice views, to St. Joan. There is a further 15 minute hike to Santa Magdalena, which is pretty steep…I went part way but stopped at the bottom of the stairs…they were pretty crumbly and I didn’t have hiking shoes on. I went back and then part way up the other side before taking the funicular back down and viewing the monastery.

    The monastery is right on the edge of the mountain…it’s amazing that something was built so long ago in such a seemingly inhospitable place. The outside was not too fancy, but the interior courtyard was pretty and the church was gorgeous. Beautiful lanterns on either side, and gorgeous stained glass windows.

    The trip back was easier but still took a while…cable car to the train, wait 30 minutes, then a one hour plus ride back to Espana, then Metro back to my stop and a 10 minute walk

    Montserrat is a special place. It’s worth a visit…preferably with a friend who owns a car! (By car. it’s only 40 minutes to the bottom of the cable car).


  • Girona & Barcelona Gothic Quarter

    Today I went to Girona, about 45 minutes NE from the Barcelona Sants station by fast train. I just missed the first subway train at Maria Christina, so had only 10 minutes to make the train when I got to Sants…I had to run and made it by seconds. On the AVE and AVANT trains you have to show your tickets before getting on the train and put any bags through a metal detector…good thing I sliced up my apple instead of taking a Swiss army knife on the train! Tip: you can buy the tickets using the RENFE website or app and then showing the ticket (with the QR code) to the ticket taker from your phone…no printing necessary.

    Girona is a town of about 100,000 people and is an ancient town..and it’s been conquered seven times. It was founded by Romans, and conquered by the French. There’s part of an old city wall still intact and a famous cathedral, and many museums. Many of the streets are mostly pedestrian and quite narrow. The Onyar River flows through the town and is lined by colorful buildings.

    I walked from the train station down some pedestrian shopping streets. When I got to the bridge, one of several which cross the Onyar, I saw the colorful buildings and church spires. I crossed the river and meandered towards the cathedral…which has 90 steps to the entrance. I bought a ticket and walked into the cathedral. It wasn’t as spectacular as the one in Seville but was still impressive with a huge nave, some stained glass windows and lots of carvings. There was also a nice courtyard, and a small museum.

    After leaving the cathedral I went to the art museum which was mainly full of religious art depicting lots of suffering.

    I next wandered through some of the old town and also went to most of the bridges to take photos of the buildings in the changing light. I walked in and out of some shops and then headed back to the train station to catch the 4:15 train. This time I was early and easily made the train.

    Once I was back at Sants I decided to go to an eyeglass store in Barcelona which was in the gothic quarter…which was pretty crowded. I got off at Liceau in front of the theatre, on Las Ramblas, a tree lined boulevard that was packed with restaurants and people, though not quite as packed as I’ve seen it in the past. It was about a 15 minute walk from there. I came across a gathering of supporters for Cuban freedom in front of an official building.

    The street turned into the Gothic quarters, lots of very narrow quaint streets. I found my eyeglass store and looked around for a while. Then it was back to my hotel which I reached before 8pm for the first time all week!


  • Barcelona Singles Champion

    Saturday Morning July 17, 2021

    I played my final tournament match in Barcelona last night. I had the “early” start time of 6pm, and we started right on time. I played Carmen Chilleda-Belzunce and played well to win. I played on a sunny day on an East/West facing court and it was tough to see on the side facing West!

    After winning the singles, I watches several matches and had dinner. I watched a few games of the 60 singles final between American Veronica Lima De Angelis and Giovanna Tortorella of Italy. Tortorella is a very good player…smooth, accurate strokes and good anticipation. That match went pretty quickly, in contrast to the one between 55s players Sophie Orsini (FRA) and Elisabetta Morici (ITA). Orsini was the more expressive of the two, and she started the match very frustrated, losing the opening set 60…Orsini though found her range on drop shots and steadied her shots from the baseline to finish the mach 64 63. Both players have loopy western forehands, but Orsini has both a slice and two-handed backhand; Morici has a very good one-hander.

    I finished the evening watching Lisa play mixed…it was a good match though tough to see the ball, especially high balls, under the lights…both guys had great forehands; the opposing woman had good court sense and cutaway volleys, and there were far more winners than errors. I finally tried one of the crepes being sold at a food truck and it was very good (goat cheese, spinach and walnuts in case you were wondering). The match finished within 30 minutes of the end time for sporting events due to the curfew. Susana Amelia Diaz and Ramzi Shuaibi-Morales won 64 63 over Lisa and Martin. I ran for the tram after the match finished (and made it).

    And that’s a wrap on the ITF Seniors Barcelona 2021. Draws and results are here.

    Tomorrow will be a sight seeing day somewhere…more on that tonight.


  • Barcelona Doubles Success; Singles Final Tonight

    Draws and order of play are here.

    Last night we were scheduled for doubles at 9pm but our match went on about 15 minutes early.. I was scouting my singles opponent for tonight…their (not before) 7:30 pm match started around 8:30, so I didn’t get to see much before doubles. Kim Reed and I played a decent team, the #1 seed in 60 singles and her partner. We had some nice points but won 62 61. Playing under the lights was a bit challenging, though the lights are decent. As we were warming up an official came out to tell us the scoring for doubles had changed to no-ad and a 10 point Match Tiebreak for a third set due to the new curfew (of 1am).

    Kim is to my right above and our opponents are on either side of us. Kim just switched racquets and as it turns out we play with the same Volkl model, the V Cell 4. We play rather similarly so that makes sense.

    After we finished and took photos, it turns out the match I was scouting (which was on an adjacent court) was till ongoing. Carmen Chillidea-Belzunce, who I play tonight, won the first set 60 before it got dark, but the second set was turning into quite a battle. She was playing Mireia de Gispert Talavera who I played Monday night. Mireia was playing a lot of high topspin balls and coming to net behind some of them, pretty successfully, and pounding some two-handed backhands to good effect. She held off some match points at 5-6 and got the match into a tiebreak, which was even to 3-3…then Mireia stopped hitting high balls and lost four straight points and the match. Carmen stayed pretty calm to finish out the win.

    This morning I practiced again with Lisa for about an hour, then took the tram back to the hotel. Just before we started the club had all the kids from the camp on our court to take a photo…there are a lot of them of all ages, from about 3 years to teenagers. She plays mixed not before 10pm. It’s not bad playing at 6 and even 8:45 wasn’t terrible, at least it was light during warm up, but 10pm is tough!

    My tram stop going back to hotel.


  • Into the Singles Final; Doubles Final Under the Lights Tonight

    Thursday July 15, 2021

    Draws and order of play are here.

    Yesterday I practiced in the late morning (the earliest practice times are 11am) with Lisa B, then went back to the hotel to write my blog and relax before my 6pm singles match. There aren’t many people practicing in the mornings, Reinheld Adams and Michelle Bichon have been out every morning at 11am though. I played Magdalena Gual Pascual, a club member whom I have played her a few times before. She’s very nice and we had a pretty good match. I won 61 61. She whacks her forehand if it’s in her strike zone…but didn’t like my drop shots so much. The other RR match will be played tonight at 7:30 so I’ll go and scout the players.

    On the way into the club I watched some of the kids activities…some were learning to ride horses and others were learning to hit a golf ball. I saw yet another big hockey field (and no soccer fields)…hockey is the big game at the Polo Club.

    Top, the view from my room; bottom left, the large polo field being used for camps, golf and riding lessons; bottom right, part of a massive hockey field

    The order of play for the evening only comes out the morning of play…till then players don’t know from one day to the next if they have a match. Luckily for me, the referee told me my schedule yesterday, so I knew I was playing the doubles final tonight, and not singles. We play doubles at 9pm against the #2 seeds (one of whom is the #1 singles seed in 60s), and Kim Reed, my doubles partner, plays her singles semi at 6pm. There are matches scheduled till 10:30…one player has a 9pm and 10:30 pm match. However, due to new curfews in Barcelona from tonight, all sporting events have to be finished by midnight and the club will close at 12:30am.

    I practiced with Lisa again today, and we got in nearly two hours before being bumped. Again, only the 70 women were out practicing till we were bumped by two guys around 12:45. We did move courts after an hour and the second court was much drier and faster than the first one, even though they were side by side in the stadium.

    After practice I made another trip to the grocery store, for apples and snacks. This time I found the bakery and gourmet part of the grocery, and a Lindt store. I looked at the fish department because it’s so extensive and different from those at home. Normally one doesn’t see three types of squid for example.


  • Tennis Under the Lights in Barcelona

    Wednesday July 14 (Happy Bastille Day), 2021

    Draws, schedule of play and tournament information is available here.

    Last night I caught the tram just before midnight back to the hotel after a “not before” 10pm start for doubles. The tournament was behind schedule but fortunately our match was quick. I played with Kim Reed, a Brit who lives in Marbella, and she’s a solid singles and doubles player.

    Earlier in the day I went to the club to practice serves again, and Kim and her husband ran into me. So I had a good hit with Kim which was great. We warmed up on one of the two center courts which are very deep…good for running, not so good for walking to pick up balls.

    After tennis, I took the subway to the L3 Diagonal stop on the Passeig de Gracia, a broad tree-lined shopping street. My destination was Tennis Point Barcelona. I was on the hunt for tennis balls and practice balls for the tournament. I found the latter Wilson French Open balls but no Head tour XT balls. The shop also had a huge selection of Padel racquets which are large thick paddles with holes in them and brightly colored. There was also a large selection of clay court tennis shoes.

    The subway stop was also near La Pedrera, a Gaudi designed apartment house which I toured a couple of years ago. There weren’t many tourists around compared to August of 2019.

    After that adventure, I returned to my hotel for a late lunch, late because my doubles match wasn’t till 10pm. I returned to the club around 7pm, so I could scout my next opponents. I got there just in time to see the last 20 minutes of the match. Then I waited three hours or so for my match, but ran into some Brits, Alex, Liz and Peter and also an American friend of mine from Florida who was playing mixed. Alex practices with Sue Bartlett of GBR (and Tennessee) when she’s there and just played American Michael Beautyman in the final of the European Championships…both Lisa and I practice with him. Tennis is a small world.

    By 8pm, the food trucks were open, champagne was popped and there was a musical entertainment (a woman singer who was pretty good). By 9:30 Lisa and I were both yawning.

    Kim and I played our match under the lights. It was pretty dark, but since our opponents were not very experienced, it was ok. After the match we walked to the tram station and got one of the last trams of the night back to our respective stops.

    Today I play singles at 6pm. But that’s an article for another day.


  • Successful Tournament Start in Barcelona

    Draws and order of play: https://itfseniorsbarcelona.com/en/cuadros.

    Yesterday, after I went to the club (via the tram) I went to El Cortez Ingles, a huge department store about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. It’s 4 or 5 stories…two of which are below street level. I went to the large grocery store in the basement. The Spanish love tinned and fresh fish, along with Iberico ham, sweets and fruits and vegetables. The milk aisle (unrefrigerated) and yogurt (refrigerated) were also large. I got some cooked mussels (delicious with lemon and a salad) and a couple of tins of shellfish…and of course a chocolate bar and apples.

    I played my first match in Barcelona at 6pm on Monday night, which is the earliest any matches are scheduled here. I got to the club around 4pm and it took me about 20 minutes to get practice balls and find my court. The kids camps were still going strong with hundreds of kids playing tennis, running through sprinklers on the soccer fields and generally seeming to have a good time.

    My practice court was court 38 which is a few hundred meters from court 37. I walked past courts and two field hockey (not soccer) fields to find it. There’s one hard court at the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona and I could hear the sound of the players on that court…the sound of very good players hitting. When I got closer, I saw that one of them was Carla Suarez Navarro of the beautiful one-handed backhand club.

    I finally found my court and a pro with a bunch of students came on the court within minutes…but also moved to another court, maybe she was lost too. I hit some serves and bounced some balls and did a bit of running…that was my warm up yesterday. At 4:45, there were. still lots of people running around the tournament check-in site, setting up food trucks, the check-in area, etc, but by 6pm everything was fairly sorted out. There was a long line to pay entry fees. Everyone was given a nice shirt (v-necks for women, polos for men, lime green), and a mask from the sponsor. No one asked for the ITF form that everyone was supposed to fill out and show the tournament before playing. The only ask was for proof of payment of the entry fee (80 euros plus a 5 euro IPIN fee). When I left around 7:45, there was music going, champagne being handed out and the food trucks were operational, though things don’t really get going there till well after 8pm.

    I played Mireia de Gispert Talavera. I played her here 3 years ago and won 60 60 this time. We played on a court that went east/west, but fortunately it was cloudy or the sun would have been a problem. I was going to watch my future opponents play but ran into one of them…she said her opponent couldn’t play Monday so asked if she could play Tuesday…so I know I don’t play singles today. However, the order of play for today came out as I was writing this (at 10:22am) and I play doubles not before….10 pm!


  • Hola Espana

    This morning I left rainy Essen, Germany for sunny Barcelona, Spain. I flew Vueling airlines (affiliated with Iberia), a discount airline that had the best nonstop flight today to Barcelona from Dusseldorf. I think Sunday may not be a great day to fly in Germany in particular. There was one woman at the check in counter for the entire plane full of people. And the way some of the fares work, is that a cabin bag (such as a small roller bag…anything that won’t fit under the seat) has to be checked. I got there early when there were only 30 minutes of people in front of me. But the check in counter only opened a bit less than two hours before the flight was to take off. By the time I’d checked my bags, the line was several hundred feet long. On the other hand, there were few people at security, most of the TSA equivalents were standing around. The security guy though where my bags were inspected decided to check everyone’s bags for what I assume was explosive residue. I still had plenty of time though and the flight was on time. By noon I was in warm Barcelona and at my hotel by 1pm.

    Long line to check in this morning in Dusseldorf
    Plane to Barcelona is at the gate

    After checking in and organizing my stuff, I walked to the Reial Club do Polo de Barcelona to meet the Guille, the son-in-law of members of my club at home. We’d hit once before when his family visited there, and they’ve since moved back to Barcelona. We had a good hit. The tournament is using the same Wilson balls as were used at the French Open and they were good to hit with, a little less flighty than the heavy duty Wilson US Open balls used three years ago. They seemed more durable too.

    After hitting, I walked to a gas station to get more water and snacks (all other stores are closed on Sundays) and then back to the hotel.

    Avenida Diagonal, Barcelona on a quiet Sunday afternoon

    I play my first match tomorrow at 6pm.

    Draws and results are here.


  • Adios Mallorca

    Today was my last day on this trip in Mallorca. It didn’t start out very promisingly…I drove to play tennis and got there (10 min walk plus 30 min drive)…and realized my shoes were back in Sa Pobla…I’d taken them out of the car for the first time, thinking I’d pack them and wear my other shoes today. So I got in a shorter hit then watched the kids at the academy hitting some. They were doing a drill where one player was in the alley on the deuce side, the other next to the fence on the other end on the deuce side and the pro fed a ball by bouncing it on the ground, wide to the first player’s backhand. The first player also had to do a 360 spin as the pro was hitting the ball then run to hit a difficult ball and try to hit it wide cross court. Apparently you have to be young to do this, players even in their mid-20s who try this get dizzy after a few times. After a while the twirl was left out of the drill.

    After tennis and lunch I walked a bit around Sa Pobla. I figured out why the parking changed on the street nearest to me…in even months (June) parking is only allowed on the left side of certain streets and in odd months, only on the right side. I watched an ambulance try to navigate one of the narrow streets and it was tricky, even though most of the cars were parked partly up on the sidewalk and the ambulance as well had to go up on the sidewalk to get past the cars. It made it but I think bumped a pipe in the process.

    The streets in old Sa Pobla are really narrow.
    No parking on the right in even months; no parking on the left in odd months.
    Old buildings in Sa Pobla and Hollywood-worthy pedestrian streets.

    There’s really not much in the way of stores other than pharmacies in the old town area, and of course several restaurants and bars, mostly near the central plaza. I also found out that the mask mandate outdoors was terminated here on June 27th, which explains why pretty much everyone was masked when I arrived but I noticed few were as the week went on.

    Tomorrow I’m off to Germany. I think I only need a vaccination certificate (and passport) to get into the country. We’ll see…stay tuned.


  • Sunny Spanish Sunday: Morning Market, Tennis & Monastery Visit

    Sunday in Sa Pobla means that the central square, which yesterday was mostly deserted becomes the busy market hub, selling everything from Mallorcan cherries and apricots to Mallorcan cheese, and from local olives to live rabbits, chickens and even parakeets. There were a lot of chickens roasting when I went by around 10am…people could reserve one while it was cooking.

    Sa Pobla Sunday Market

    After the market visit I went to hit tennis balls. I was the only one there, as the club is mostly closed on Sundays…those kids (and instructors) need a day of rest…they work and train hard Monday-Saturday. We are using Head balls (the ones that will be used in Croatia for the Seniors and Young Seniors World Championships. They are quite heavy and slow. The nearest thing to them in the States that one can find is probably a Dunlop Fort ball. A “clay” ball in Europe is different from one in the States in general, heavier and longer lasting. I hit with a freshly strung racquet and 45 minutes in my string was fraying badly. I think I’m going to go through a lot of strings this trip.

    After lunch, I went to the Monastery near Lluc, north west of Sa Pobla, west of Pollenca. The last half of the trip was on another narrow and winding road. The views were beautiful, but there were no shoulders and no turnouts where one could stop for photos. I wandered around the courtyard which had many interesting statues, some from a temporary exhibit. I also walked into the Basilica which is quite ornate and pretty, updated in the style of Gaudi.

    Statues in Lucia Monastery Courtyard
    Basilica at Lluc Monastery

    Every day except (unfortunately for me) Sundays, there’s an afternoon boys choir which is quite famous.

    The monastery is located at the foot of the Serra de Tramuntana and is slightly elevated above a pretty valley..to view it there is about a 400 meter uphill walk to where a large cross is embedded.

    View of a pretty valley near the Monastery

    On the way down I could see the Port of Pollenca in the distance, a pretty bowl-shaped port. It was a gorgeous view, but not one where a driver could take any photos!


  • Super Senior USA Cups Announced by USTA

    • Location: Mallorca, Spain
    • Team Event: Sunday, Oct. 10 – Friday, Oct. 15, 2021
    • Individual Event: Saturday, Oct. 16 – Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021

  • 2021 Super Seniors (65,70, 75, 80, 85) Cup Team Information

    • Location: Mallorca, Spain
    • Team Event: Sunday, Oct. 10 – Friday, Oct. 15, 2021
    • Individual Event: Saturday, Oct. 16 – Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021

    Are you eligible to participate? Read the guidelines here. Of particular importance are the following changes which supersede the eligibility requirement and timelines as follows:

    • Approved 24-month USTA Category I USTA National Championship eligibility requirement, the option to participate in one USTA Super Category II National Tournament or one USTA Category II National Tournament within the last 24 months or participation in one Designated Open Sectional Championship within the last 12 months to fulfill the eligibility requirement; and
    • Approved to lengthen the selection time period for results that will be considered for selection from 24 months to 36 months.

    2021 Super Senior International Teams Timeline

    • Location: Mallorca, Spain
    • Team Event: Sunday, Oct. 10 – Friday, Oct. 15, 2021
    • Individual Event: Saturday, Oct. 16 – Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021
    • Applications Open: April 1, 2021 Click here to apply
    • Application Deadline: May 1, 2021
    • Players who have applied for consideration will be listed on the Preliminary Applicant List posted on USTA.com: May 5 See the list of applicants here.
    • Deadline to notify the USTA of any omissions to the posted Preliminary Applicant List (cutoff date for 24 month period for which to consider results): May 10
    • Team selection posted to USTA.com and players will be notified of their status: June 1 See team selections here.
    • All paperwork (excluding travel itinerary) due to USTA staff (including player agreement, media packet, copy of passport, & IPIN): July 1
    • Players may make their travel arrangements: August 1
    • Travel arrangements due to staff: September 1

    Fact sheets are now available from the ITF.

    2021 ITF Super-Seniors (65-70-75-80-85-90*) World Team & Individual Championships

    The 2021 ITF Super-Seniors (65-70-75-80-85-90* years) World Team & Individual Championships will take place in Mallorca, Spain from Sunday 10 October – Saturday 23 October 2021. The Team Event will take place from 10 – 15 October 2021. The Individual Event from 16 – 23 October 2021.

    (* Refers to Individual Championships only). (**A final updated list will be published at the nomination deadline)


  • Adios Mallorca, Hello Hungary

    On an airplane somewhere between Mallorca and Munich….

    I had my last training in Mallorca today, then quickly made it to the airport. I checked in and then went to the first security station I saw and was surprised it was so empty. I used about 4-5 bins for my various electronics, hats, etc…never having noticed it was the security for only the Balearic Islands…Mallorca, Menorca etc. So I packed back up and went upstairs to regular security. I picked the expedited security line, because I had Gold status with Lufthansa, and the gate opened…followed by an alarm! But the security person waived me through and I did quickly make it through security the 2nd time. Moral of the story: pay more attention to the signs and pick out the English explanation among the four languages shown.

    My trip to Mallorca involved a lot of tennis; 12 hours to be exact and not a lot else, partly because I rented the aftorementioned electric Renault Zoe which demanded to be recharged frequently and which took it’s time to recharge. It spent a fair amount of time at the Lidl charging in the evenings so I could get to tennis practice and back a couple of times the next day!

    Inca was a fairly industrial town in the center of Mallorca…not one of the lovely mountain villages of the west coast or one of the beach towns on the east coast. It was convenient but not noteworthy. I did go into Inca to do laundry once. I went in the middle of the day, thinking the laundry would be quiet that time of day, only to encounter someone washing load after load for some local hotels (small ones, with 15 or fewer rooms he said). He left one small machine open though so I got my clothes washed and dried them in the car and later, in my hotel room.

    I finally tried the surimi shaped like eels that I kept seeing in tapas and at the stores. It was in a garlic/olive oil mixture and was pretty good in a salad.

    I didn’t get back to watch Andy Murray because if I had I would not have had enough charge for the next day to drive to Global Tennis Team…needless to say, I’m not renting an electric car again till there are fast chargers galore and at all gas stations! Andy by the way lost in the quarters 76 in the third and cramped in the third set, so for him it was a successful venture I imagine…he got matches and knows where his fitness level is.

    I had a great time practicing though and learned a lot. I watched the kids hit more this time. They work so hard, and the instructors do not let them get by with anything less than 100% effort…..those who put in less effort find themselves running laps at a minimum. The instructors never have more than four players to a court and often have more than one instructor on court for 2-4 players. And they are watching intently or feeding. The players are the ones doing the work and hitting. One warm up involves cross courts with 3 players and one ball..hit it into the net and the player runs to pick it up. A player not hitting is shadowing a stroke. The two players alternate for a certain number of balls or time, then one goes to join the solo player and the remaining player hits solo for a while. It’s high energy.

    Next up for me is a tournament a couple of hours outside of Budapest…but first a couple of nights in Budapest, in Hungary, a country I’ve never before visited. It’s a part of the European Union and Schengen (unified passport) area but still uses its own currency. The exchange rate is $1 to 300 Hungarian currency, so I’ll be doing math in my head a lot this weekend.

    Hopefully I’ll have wifi this week in my room. However, the sim card I bought in Madrid, $20 from Orange for 20-25 GB of data for a month really came in handy this week. It works as a hotspot too, so I can write my blog on an Ipad and upload it by connectiing it to my phone’s data via wifi. Not a new thing but magical anyway.

    And that’s a wrap on Spain for this year.


  • Rain in Spain (Thunder and Lightning Too)

    Inca, Mallorca, Spain

    Wednesday Morning, August 28th

    Monday it was nearly 100 degrees in Mallorca and sunny. Then yesterday, Tuesday, a “cota fria” hit Mallorca (a cold front) and it rained on and off most of the day. Nonetheless, I managed to get in two training sessions with only a 10 minute break when it poured. In between sessions, I went to charge my car for a couple of hours at Lidl. I’d planned on leaving it there while I walked to the hotel and back, but the sky absolutely opened and poured buckets. I got soaked just walking in and out of Lidl and plugging in the charger. So I had lunch in my car and read instead, and in two hours the car didn’t reach a 50% charge…

    The tournament in Manacor, where Andy Murray is playing was delayed for much of the day and several matches were moved indoors. I didn’t drive over to watch partly because Andy’s match was delayed till after 9pm, but mostly because it takes soooo long to charge the electric car I rented that I didn’t have enough range to drive to Manacor and back safely. I haven’t figured out where a fast charger is, so I ended up parking it at the Lidl when I came back around 7:30 from tennis and (after someone without an electric car moved her car from in front of one of the chargers) and leaving it there for nearly three hours, and walked to and from Lidl from my hotel which is only about 15 minutes. So it’s charged and ready to go today. And Andy won against the 3rd seed so maybe I can watch him again this week.

    Today’s adventure looks to be going to the laundromat here, probably while the car is charging, and of course playing a lot of tennis. I think renting an electric car has been a good learning experience but one I won’t repeat till fast chargers are everywhere and the range is better. It would be better as a 2nd car for around town than as a primary vehicle.


  • Mallorca Encore: Training and Watching Andy Murray

    Mallorca, Spain

    This trip I am staying in a completely different area from Bunyola, north of Palma in Inca. However, the hotel is in the middle of orchards and very quiet (completely the opposite of where we staying in Madrid for sure).

    I got to the airport and found out I’d reserved an all electric vehicle. It took Hertz a while to put in the SD card that had the navigation and for someone from Hertz to explain how to charge it. It had a range of 180 KM and they said no problem, Mallorca is small…well, it’s down to about 80km and that included a 30 minute charging stint at Lidl today, so I’m going to have to leave it there for a few hours tomorrow in between practice sessions. I don’t think I’m quite ready for a full on electric vehicle as range anxiety is real. On the other hand, the cost to refuel it this week is zero.

    I checked into my hotel…my room wasn’t ready but I was able to change and get ready to practice for 90 minutes. Then I charged the car a bit and shopped at Lidl more before getting ready to go watch Andy Murray. Murray has been one of my favorite players since I first saw him playing Clement at the US Open when he was 18. He is playing the Mallorca challenger this week in Manacor at the Rafael Nadal Academy. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive but it was a zoo parking. Entry is free and the center court was SRO. I got there about the middle of the first set but the match was quick. Murray was playing a 17 year old, Imran Sibille of France…with career earnings of $150. He was overwhelmed, couldn’t handle the pace of Murray’s shots and hit a much lighter ball than Murray. Murray looks a little rusty on the short balls, but then it was such a lopsided match, it was hard to tell. The crowd was very vocal every time Sibille won a point and when he won his only game…at 06 05 down, the crowd really roared! It was a fun atmosphere. Murray plays again at 6pm CET tomorrow.


  • Adios Madrid, Hola Mallorca

    Madrid Airport, Monday August 26th 2019

    And then there was one…today Tracey and I took an early cab to the airport, which wasn’t far from our apartment (I woke up at 4:30 and was at the airport by 5!). Madrid has four 1/2 terminals (1-3, 4 & 4S). Terminals 4/4S are about 10 minutes by car from the other three. We dropped off Tracey at 2 and I continued to 4. Susan & Tim leave a few hours later, while I am going to Mallorca for a week of training before my next tournament.

    Andy Murray is playing a challenger this week…at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, so I hope to see him play this week. He’s one of my favorite players. And entry is free to the tournament.

    Yesterday was a pretty mellow day. Tracey tried to check in for her flight and somehow, after calling the airline and being put on hold for a long time, we were told her reservation had been cancelled. Fortunately there were several alternate flights which were only a few dollars more, but that took up a good part of the morning. Travel is fun but there can be bumps along the way.

    We had decided to go to the El Rastro Market, the biggest Sunday market in Madrid. It was a pretty typical street market…jewelry (lots of silver), leather goods, t-shirts galore, but no food, though shops were all around selling food. We walked through the market for about 45 minutes, found a good bakery and had empanadas for lunch (sort of a turnover except with bread instead of pie dough for the crust).

    Tim then went to a museum and Susan, Tracey and I wandered the streets looking at small shops (most were open in Madrid on Sunday, unlike Barcelona, though some smaller shops were closed). We ended up at El Cortez Ingles’s grocery store for our final stop, fitting, as that’s where I started in Lisbon, weeks ago. I got some Spanish sweets..turron consisting mainly of almonds & honey) and some curry mango sauce (like a mayonnaise) and manchego cheese to go with bread I got earlier.

    We returned to our flat, had a Spanish tapas sort of dinner with olives, ham, cheese, crackers and some carrots and salad, very tasty for a last supper so to speak.

    And now we scatter to the East and West Coast and Spain…it was a terrific trip, to be continued solo for me. Thanks for reading!


  • Getting Lost in Holy Toledo

    Madrid, Spain, Sunday Morning, August 25th

    I think there must be a lot of people with hangovers in Madrid today judging by the noise that was still emanating from the street at 4am. We are near the Puerta del Sol plaza and even at the relatively early hour of 8:30pm it was wild, which protestors (animal rights or the environment I think or both) chanting, street artists performing, music blasting.. I had to go to get a new SIM card for my phone (out of a vending machine basically…easy and inexpensive and lots of data) and had to dodge people right and left. My room is just above a street a block from the plaza and all night long there was music, singing, etc. It stopped I think around 5am.

    We took the fast train to Toledo from the Atocha station in Madrid, walking distance from our apartment. It took about 30 minutes but one needs to arrive a little earlier as there’s security to go through. And liquids (open ones anyway, such as a cup of coffee or tea) aren’t allowed through. Bottles of water are though. Tracey and Susan had their tea and coffee confiscated. The Toledo train station was very pretty inside and out.

    But Toledo…it really is Holy Toledo, filled with churches and a monastery. It’s also a world heritage site. The old town is partially walled, dominated by the church, the Alcazar (palace, now a museum) and monastery. There are lots of other churches sprinkled throughout the city. Toledo has narrow, cobblestones streets lined with plastered and stone buildings with shuttered windows and barrel tiled roofs. Even in the midday sun, many of the streets are so narrow that they were shady and cool.

    We visited the magnificent Gothic cathedral, again built, as many in Spain seem to be, over the site of a mosque. The Toledo Cathedral has a beautiful choir with carved seats and two organs, one much more ornately decorated than the other. The high alter was even more beautiful I think than the Seville Cathedral, which I didn’t think possible and also tells the story of Christ from the birth to the crucification. There’s also a painting gallery which has 19 Goya paintings, like a mini Prado. We spent over an hour looking around.

    The painting on the bottom is of the 7 deadly sins. Can you pick them out?

    We also went into the Alcazar, which is now a military museum. It was interesting but not a highlight of Toledo. It’s built over the remains of the Roman fort that was there and part of the cistern (water system) is still visible inside, and the views were good.

    After lunch we went to the Goya museum and house. The house was typical of the times with an interior courtyard surrounded by rooms on the ground and first floors and of course there were more Goya paintings there.

    The painting is of Goya’s family.

    We did a bit of souvenir shopping…Toledo is famous for its metal works, swords, knives and leather. So now I have a letter opener that looks like a sword..not made of silver though.

    After the Goya visit I went one way and Tracey, Susan and Tim went another. One thing the guidebooks said was to wander the streets of the old town and get lost…I didn’t mean to get lost but at one point I walked down a narrow street and ended up in at a dead end…I did get lost.

    I left the old city after that, walked to the train station to get a taxi to take me around to a viewing point I was searching for. I was going to walk there but ran out of time for that. The taxi driver took me to the Mirador del Valle and various other spots to see the city from afar which was great.

    We all met up at the train station and returned to Madrid. Today we’ll wander around the city on our last day here.

    Robin left yesterday at 3:30am and just got home around 8:30 am Madrid time to California. So our party of six is now scattered to three continents!


  • Madrid Day 2: Gran Via, Retiro Park, Mercado de San Anton

    Madrid Spain

    August 23, 2019

    Today was a busy but relaxing day at once. We started by doing some shopping along the way to the Gran Via, the 5th (or perhaps Madison) Avenue of Madrid, lined with beautiful buildings.

    We detoured partway down to the Temple of Debod, an Ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and moved to Madrid. However, the lines were very long so we didn’t go in but instead went on to the Mercado de San Anton. We walked through a bohemian area with vintage clothing, lots of graffiti, plants growing in pants and shoes and a really nice organic bakery which had warm bread.

    We reached the market and found something for lunch…I had a potato torta, ie a Spanish omelette, similar to a fritatta, which was quite good.

    Next Susan and I wandered through some shops and eventually reached Retiro Park, the Central Park of Madrid. We walked past the famous Prado Museum into the park and met up with Tracey and Tim at the Crystal Palace, in front of a pond. There were turtles (sunbathing) and ducks (in the shade) and both in the water at times. We wandered back out of the park via the avenue of statues of famous Spaniards, and walked back towards the Grand Via. Susan and I shopped for a while and eventually went back to the apartment for dinner.

    After dinner we wandered around. At 9pm, the place is really hopping…even at 10pm the Puerta del Sol is crammed.

    Robin leaves here tomorrow around 3:30am, so that will leave just the four of us…we’re going to Toledo tomorrow for the day. Jenny has arrived safely back in South Africa and already back at work.


  • Fast Train to Madrid to See Royal Palace & Church: Madrid Day 1

    Centro District, Madrid, Spain

    Early AM, August 23

    We started the day with a quick walk to the nearby tower and walked up as high as possible, where we could see the river and the oldest metal bridge in Europe.

    Then it was off to catch the fast (AVE) train to Madrid…only a 2.5 hour ride and a very pleasant one. The Seville train station was quiet, but the Madrid station was huge and busy.