Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Spain Part 1

We crossed from France to Spain without even knowing it. This is the joy of The Schengen Zone. The misery is that the clock won’t stop on our 90 days until we enter Morocco. Doesn’t matter. The cold of the north is melting away, and like the little flower that could, we are about to bloom in the sunshine of the south.

Let the Culinary Delights Begin!

The pastis de xocolata was probably the singularly greatest thing my taste buds had ever sampled. The consistency of that velvet dense chocolate was so pure and uninterrupted in its excellence that I went silent in awe. I was 5 mouthfuls in and almost done when the heavenly feeling that levitated me and bathed me in a warm glow began to reveal itself for what it truly was: diabetes. I'm pretty sure that's the night I got diabetes, and damn, it was worth it!

The food is hearty and plentiful. The prices are more than fair. The menu of the day is often a choice of 3 mains. When the waiter asked us if we wanted wine with lunch, we responded by asking for the price; he was incredulous: “Incluido!”. He placed a full bottle on the table. I secretly thought of defecting to Spain.


It’s uncontested that the Romans gave genesis to this city in 138 BC. And what a city it is – I could live here. I’d explore a new museum every week, drink tinto verano instead of sangria, nail down my favorite steak house, and brush up on my lisp. 

Great museum. Underground (that's how you know it's in situ)

This language really isn't Spanish

Those are cannonball holes that the birds have now made nests in

Latins Are Really Good At Waking Me Up

It's 02:30. We’re parked in some inland village that I’ll never revisit. Juan and his hooker wedge his car covertly in-between me and the other moho. Doors open and close. Non whispered voices. They get in the back seat and make sure I can’t sleep for the next hour. Then the opening and slamming of doors again and he drives off with his renewed macho. My life is so glamorous.

End Of The World

Cabo de Gata was good training for Morocco. Unbroken drab brown as far as one could see. Constant honking wind. Locked in poverty, and strewn with trash, we heard the Mosque warbling in the distance. An out of business beach with wood rot fishing skiffs. That smell is regret for buying this declining real estate. We only came because the campground wifi was highly rated and I had bought my NFL pass to the SuperBowl. We watched and drove away.  

Granada (It means Pomegranate)

From the worst to the best – I love Granada! I could live here for 2 months. Now for some history. This would be a good time for the cretins among you to take a bathroom break. 

The Alhambra is above but the hints of history are everywhere

Early populations of ancient bronze age tribes, Romans and then Visigoths passed through this city’s hall of fame. Around the year 711 AD the Islamic world began to conquer large swaths of what is today Spain. They ruled for 700 years and the final hold out under the forces of the Spanish Crown was the last Muslim ruled city of Granada. The entire city is an archeological treasure. You could stab a spade into the ground anywhere and find ancient artifacts. 

The Alhambra

The richly detailed designs of the Nasrid palaces that are the focal point of the following pictures date from the reigns of Yusuf I (1333 – 1354) and his son Muhammad V (1354 - 1391 AD). In 1811 Napoleon’s army tried to dynamite the whole complex and managed to blow up 8 towers before the hero Jose Garcia snuffed out the remaining fuses and saved the rest. 

As magnificent as it is ... it's even better when you realize that it was painted!

Romantic Travelers

This is how it all started. You can blame the insipid Instagram poseurs and social media influencers on the writers of the early 1800’s who as a reaction to the industrial revolution glamourized romantic travel to far away lost places. Weaving painting and (later) photography’s visual allure together with the culturally fascinating, these authors spun up a whole generation of affluent youth who ventured out into the world to see it for themselves. In 1832 Washington Irving wrote “Tale of the Alhambra” and in 1845 Richard Ford wrote “A Handbook for Travelers in Spain”. 

The word was out and the precursor to the backpacking hordes, which eventually became the jet setting tourists were coming to the Iberian Peninsula. You couldn’t stop them now if you tried. I strive to be a traveler, but occasionally it’s nice to lean into being a tourist and following the herd through the stunning buildings, through the gift shop, and right out the door to the gelato vendor. I make no apologies. I’ve paid my dues. 

Vegetarians – Look Away Now!

For 700 years, the piglets had it really easy under the Islamic Sultanate. However, during the Reconquista, when the Spanish retook Andalucía and ejected the Muslims and Jews (non ham eaters) in 1492. . . Well, let’s just say it was a bad year for the piggies. No one can do pork better than the Spanish. Jamon Serrano is delicious and yet, it’s just for rookies. The Jamon Iberico is a meditation on cured meat (free ranging pigs fed only acorns). It’s the perfect zenith of the decadence of Spain. The meat, coupled with the red wine sloshing over the rim as you inspect its legs because it’s so plentiful and luscious is just one example. The tradition of tapas essentially says, “Yeah – I want that, and that, and that too. I’m not settling for a single entrée. Make me fat on starters!” The lifting of that delicious Rioja to your pulpo greasy lips is slo-mo ecstasy as the inebriation kicks in and weighs like an opioid on the weary traveler who now realizes “Spain…I made it.” This is why most of Europe with a keyboard career are slowly migrating south. 

I don’t have a career and I’m not feeling too weary. I stare at maps and drive towards inspiration. Spain checks that box.


I had never heard of it. Didn't plan to come here. Would have missed it completely. Then a girl we know posted pictures.... That’s the beauty of long-term travel. “Looks good. Let’s go!” We went. I could live there for a month. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles did. More than once.

The world's oldest bull ring


This made my “cool thing” list. These are three original Roman columns built during Hadrian's rule in the first century AD. They're all that's left from an ancient Temple and they are 14 ft below the current street level. There are houses on either side of them and nothing else remaining of the original Temple. Just a piece of Roman history from 2000 years ago stuck in the middle of a Spanish City. Super cool! How would you like to live next door to these?

These Euro cities are a wonderful reveal of the permanence of human culture. It thrills me to know that I'm part of a nano second in their cycle. Que rico. Que chévere.

Warm enough for us to finally take out the scooters and zip around the skinny alleys 

What is now a church began as a mosque. The minaret is the proof 

We loved Sevilla and played tourists for 5 days taking walking tours and sampling all the delicious food we could. Can you guess what I’m going to write now…? “I could live here for 4 months!” Sevilla is that good. 

Flamenco Is Bullfighting Without The Violence

This is a dance that encourages public participation. Well – maybe not from a hardened white man, but little Aleja segues right into it with nary a pause. I need to buy her a big frilly red dress. Surfer Rosa!

Faults of Spain

No country is perfect, and as much as I love Spain there is the whole dog poop issue that we need to talk about. It's everywhere. The Spanish are terrible about cleaning up after their dogs. That’s a huge strike in my ratings metric. The other is the vehicle emissions. I know they are part of the EU but it’s obvious as soon as you leave France that Spain isn’t playing by the same rules. You never see clouds of exhaust emanating from vehicles in Germany. This is almost third world urban air quality. I don’t cough this much in Northern Europe. Dog crap and unregulated car emissions – come on Spain – clean up your act. You’re better than this. 

The other notation I have on Spain being closer to the third world are the buildings. Sure, the ancient edifices are stunning and plentiful but the modern buildings seem to have zero maintenance budget. Nothing gets a second coat of paint and when they start to stain and peel the residents just accept it. There doesn’t seem to be any pushback against the eyesores of dilapidation. They just deteriorate. The design is good, the original execution is good but then it’s left to rot. What happened to your capital reserves? Where’s your line item for maintenance? They can’t all be broke. I think it’s cultural. It’s what they know and expect. The new buildings of Spain certainly don’t live up to their old noble ancestors.

“I’d Like To Make A Reservation Please”

If you’ve been paying attention to the above proclamations then you have surmised that I love it here and will probably someday live in Spain. The people are correct, there’s an overabundance of goodness, the prices are right, and the food is worthy of wrecking yourself. In addition – there is still so much more to see! We’ve barely scratched the surface. Part 2 of Spain will be forthcoming after the Portugal and Morocco dispatches.

Your man on point,

Captain Bobby

P.S./ I don’t have diabetes. Just funning ya.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Random European Clearing House

Returning to France

One must remember that our vehicle is French, and our license plate is French, so that “F” denotes to the world that we are French. We are constantly confused for being French. We open the car door in Serbia and someone says, “Bonjour!”. I got a parking ticket in England and some nice man walked up to me to apologize in French. Since everyone treats us like the French, even though we're not French, our return to France, was in some ways . . . a homecoming of sorts. When your last memory of driving in the UK, is the M25 and your first experience after setting foot in France Is the A1 you are in love with France. I guarantee it. The roads, the food, the wine – I could be French. 

But I do miss the British Isles. Travel is the stitching in the fabric that blends it together and generates new hybrids of joy. English apple butter smeared on a French croissant – se magnifique!

Then I went to The States and Aleja went to Colombia.

Christmas with Cousins! Bill and Linda Orr

Can your brother do De Niro?

Has your girlfriend mastered pet impressions?


I reconnected the batteries & the water system in Encore and we unpacked our goodies from our respective countries. Going home is nice. Returning is nice. Change is nice. There was no mildew and no pipes burst in the freeze of winter. Encore forgave us for deserting her and we sped south for the Spanish border and hopefully some warmth.

Today is our 1-year anniversary of moving into our beloved Encore. We chose well and are very happy to live in this Freedom Machine. Here’s a visualization of our previous 12 months

Feb 2 2022 - Feb 2 2023

And Without Further Delay – The Unrequested Random Clearing House

Not every idea I have fits cleanly into a topic thesis, or supports a through line of thought. Here are those left-over orphaned ideas and half-baked musings.  They are the underdeveloped notions that refused to play nice with others. Let’s just acknowledge that not everything can be an anecdote, but, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to abort these zygotes with the delete key. Congratulations folks, it’s another unrequested episode of Bobby’s Random European Clearing House. 

The Height Of Civilization

If you had to distill it down to just one question, and one question only, to determine if a culture was civilized. I think it would have to be “how do they treat their pedestrians?” In parts of Europe the citizens don’t even look up before stepping into the crossing walk, let alone pause and look both ways. Their culture has made them so supremely confident in their right to be treated safely as a pedestrian on the roadways that they trust blindly. And so far, I’ve never seen the results of a collision.

In Denmark, the bike lanes were so big and wide that I almost mistook them for being a frontage road and turned onto them with Encore, and she would have fit! That's what prioritizing a healthy lifestyle looks like: bike lanes the width of roads. Kudos Denmark!

More Indices Of Civilization

The duck stairs of Haarlem almost knocked me over. This photo below might prove that the Dutch are the most righteous humans on the planet (As if they really need the extra superlatives - they are already the tallest, most attractive polyglots.). This was not a one off. I saw many of these duck stairs. Maybe the 1 question to ask should be 2 questions: “How do they treat their pedestrians and their animals?”. The other obvious giveaway is the hydrating dog bowls you’ll find at most restos in Europe. 

These stairs allow the ducks to enter and more importantly exit the canals

On The Subject Of The Dutch…

This is direct from my journal: “Got to Amsterdam yesterday. Parked. Plugged in. Headed off on the e-scooters. They buzz along at 25kph. The Dutch do an amazing job accommodating two wheeled vehicles. We blazed through farmer's fields on an Olympic quality track and crossed canals with young Dutch sunbathers partying on their boats. Naked full breasts everywhere. By the time we got to the free ferry to cross the river and enter the city center I was already in love. We shared a bottle of wine with my friend of 30 years ago and had a fine meal. Then got whacked on space cakes and wheat beer and raced 45 minutes back to Encore. This is urban paradise. I'm strongly considering buying a boat for these endless canals and living on it until I grow barnacles or learn the language. Either way, by that time I’d be too old and spoiled to leave.”

The Dutch all ride bikes. They probably learned how to ride a bike the day after they took their first steps and they ride fast, real fast. Force is the following formula: “Mass of giant Dutchman x Acceleration of bike.” You look both ways or you die in a bike lane.  

The Dutch people are so tall that I have to stand on my tiptoes to use the urinal. Try to pee on your tiptoes. Go ahead. It's not easy.

The Dutch conversation is a lot of spitting and sore throats. Small price to pay to hang out with the world’s finest people. Who could give them a run for the title? Only the Scandinavians. There – I said it. My tribe didn’t even make the top 3. I’ll let you guess at third place. 


Are the Belch just watered down Dutchies? And can we call them Belch? 3 out of 5 dentists say we can. We loved Belgium, but these cobblestones are making it almost impossible to ride on two wheels with a beer in my hand. I think maybe this Lifestyle should be called "Chasing Beauty". We went to Ghent and then drove 30 miles to Brugge. Chasing beauty.

Ahh – The Cuisine

Europe is the height of civilization and I am embracing her varied and storied cultures with vigor. Along the way - I may have noticed something. There seems to be Food based cultures and Economic based cultures. Germans don't emphasis cheese and wine like the French. Yes, they are excellent at beer, but wine takes time and their wine misses the mark. Could they be a little impatient? They have the biggest economy in Europe and they worked hard for that. However, their food hasn’t matured. It’s less imaginative with fewer ingredients, but . . . it gets served on time. Have I found an inverse correlation between productiveness and gourmet food? 

“I Like To Sweat And Swat Mozzies”

Euros and their funny ideas about air conditioning. Would you like uncomfortably high heat, with sweltering humidity and mosquitoes, or do you like cool dry and bug free? An air conditioner is a dehumidifier that makes for cool deep sleep and doubles as a white noise maker. The Euros choose the former and smirk at us for choosing the later. I’ll never understand their rationale.

Global Ne’er-Do-Well

I have a great affection for directionless leisure. Some would say I excel at it. 

                    You know you have too much free time when this is of interest

We spend a lot of time being lazy on the shores of a lake with our toes in the sand, writing in journals, flying the drone or throwing the fishing magnets. “It's 3. Should we start dicing fruit for the sangria?” It’s a languid existence on the periphery of society. I commented earlier about civilization, and though we hold valid passports, we don’t really belong to any specific culture. We’re international voyeurs coming to a city nowhere near yours. “No thanks, just looking.” And then we’re gone. Societal parasites flitting about the continent taking notes and smiling widely. And Europe is weird and wild enough to take us in. Thank you, Europe. 

I've lived in Europe now for a year, which... pretty much makes me European. Yeah, I'm European now. I drink Aperol spritzers, I smoke cigarettes, and I support a premier league team. No. None of that is true. But after a year, I might have a slightly better understanding of Europe, but only slightly. I believe the prudent choice would be to continue the research for many more years. And that’s just what we’re going to do.

Your man on point….

Captain Bobby 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The British Isles Part 3 Finale

The Republic Of Ireland

Ireland. What a place. So much optimism and wit but always a sad ending. These people know they've suffered, and they’ve smile thru it. Their humor carries them. Ireland is fueled on dreams, tragedy and peat fired hearths (peat smells like a cross between an electrical fire and how every fishing trip begins: digging for worms). They’ve spent lifetimes clawing at the soil that the English kings of old yanked from them, and when they couldn’t steal it away, they tried to starve them out. It’s an old land with regal peasants and a buoyancy that can’t be drowned. Try to keep me away. I’ll always go back. 

The Wild Atlantic Way

This majestic drive along the entire western coast of Ireland runs for 2,500 KM and varies from absolutely stunning to starkly violent. The sea is always trying to destroy and makes a dramatic showing of it. We couldn’t possibly have driven every bit of it so we didn’t even try but we covered a lot and we can always return. 

Twas an easy stroll home after a hard night at the pub

Those wee windy towns on the coast reward those passing through with unique pubs that feel as friendly as your grannies living room and look about the same.  

Met a Galway girl – but she was from The Ukraine:

"Trouble in transit. Got through the roadblock. We blended in with the crowd.

We got computers. We're tapping phone lines. I know that that ain't allowed" 

- Life During Wartime -

The Irish are so dedicated to drinking that they get panicked if their current beer drops below 50% and they order a second to wait on deck. I did some nervous drinking myself after listening to her stories. A night with Olena and perspective becomes a little more focused. Lordy - do we have it good.

Your 14 seconds of dead castle Irish zen

The Leak

Came home from the pub to find a fast-paced drip coming right out of the middle sunroof. Goddammit. I bragged about being leak free. Awoke the next morning ready to deal with the leak only to find out my leisure battery was dead. When it rains it pours. It was a busy day. I bought a new battery and installed it. Dumped the black water toilet (we have to do this every 3 days. The most disgusting thing you can imagine) found a place to park for the night with power. That's not easy now that most campgrounds closed November 1. Woke up at 6:30 to check the weather. Now’s my chance! I’ve got a dry break in the Irish wet. I suited up in my hostile weather suit and climbed up on the roof with my emergency "can be applied wet sealant". Got the job done and I'm now waiting for the rain. See.... Just like living on a boat! 

I need you to know #VanLife isn’t all sunsets on beaches with sand castles and pina coladas. The umbrellas aren't in our drinks. They are real and we need them over our heads

November In Ireland

I embrace science and I've run the experiments. Our duvet clad comforter begins to lose the fight for heat retention at 40° F. It's at this temperature value that the Seal Pup of Love moves from the column of thermal liability to thermal asset. Said differently, "the girl runs hot". In the summer months it's difficult to even hold hands because she suffers from a medical condition that's clinical referred to as "child paws", due to them being sticky hot and wet. We have to use the tropical grip in which only our pinkies are intertwined. Life comes with its own set of challenges when a woman is a smoking hot stack pack rated at 30,000 BTU. Croatia in June, and families mistakenly ask the waiter if they can be seated further from the kitchen, when in reality it's just the Cocoa Bear flaring like a super nova.... But lord does she shine in November in Ireland!

We completed our lap around Ireland and made landfall back in Scotland. It was a quick drive back to England.

The Lake District

“As leaves pour down, Splash autumn on gardens, As colder nights harden, Their moonlit delights” – The Lightning Seeds -

Beautiful, and approaching pristine in its cold fall colors, we drove the scenic roads and collected mud in the tread of our shoes while hiking the streams.


I came to see my old friend Fraser Mummery with whom I used to work at the “chippy” back in Edinburgh all those years ago. We stood next to each other for long hours in our white doctor smocks serving fried everything. The grease so thick it hung like a mist in the air. 

The 2nd reason I was there was for my yearly bloodwork and physical. I laughed out loud when reading the British recommendation regarding limiting your alcohol consumption to less than 14 units per week. That’s 2 drinks a day every day and that’s coming from the health officials. Cardiovascular diseases affect over 7 million people in the UK, and are responsible for more than 1 in 4 deaths. Makes you think twice about that deep fried Mars bar and the can of soda. 

Aleja asked, “why do you think they have so many defibrillators in the UK?” Obvious... 

Not a phone booth. Look closer


We met Max and Jolene when we swapped phones at a waterfall in Croatia to take pictures of each other. The typical, “Want me to take that so you can get in there with your family?” He returned the favor and a couple days later he saw the photo he had taken on Instagram. We’d been in touch ever since and met up in their hometown as we were coming south. It was a nice cultural experience to watch the US vs. England World Cup match in a small-town men’s club with fair drink prices and loads of friendly comradery. I’ve been an Anglophile for decades and would go to sea with the Brits any day. They are jovial, full of pluck, and mostly correct upstanding citizens. I will always have real estate in my heart for the English hamlets and her people. 

2 Cultures Separated by a Common Language

There are hundreds of English accents but they can all be broken down into 3 categories: 1.) Nothing but “Sss” (The King’s English. The only group on the planet who can whisper and mumble at the same time) 2.) The Cockneys (difficult to understand more than 3 out of 5 words. If bulldogs could speak) 3.) Then there are the Northerners. . . .

If you stuck a needle in my tongue and filled it with Novocaine I’d sound just like a Cockney (It’s like they have a dead fish in their mouth), but now let’s move north to Leeds - So much worse! Is it really an accent, or is it a cultivated speech impediment? If you are from Northern England, you are nearly unintelligible to begin with, but when you have a tongue piercing you just further handicap yourself to the point of being non-communicative. I love them, and it is true that they are friendlier than the Southerners, but come on Northerners – don’t pierce your tongues.

Let’s review - The English invented English, the Northerners have screwed it blue, and the Americans perfected it. German is the language of evil and no one contests that. Vietnamese is the ugliest language. It will make you stick an icepick in your own ear. Arabic makes you want to buy a sympathy lozenge for the sore throat of the speaker . . . . Are we clear?


We’re going to have to go back. Even though I saw lots of pretty countryside and enjoyed the few days we were there…I have nothing yet to contribute regarding a cultural epiphany. More research is warranted. 

Sick And Driving To The Ferry

Our time was winding down. We had the ferry to France booked and airline tickets home for Xmas. The drive from Aberystwyth to Dover was one of self-imposed isolation with lots of flu meds. It was an anticlimactic ending to a wonderful lap around the British Isles. I’m fortunate to have so many British friends and I’ll always return. Now here’s where I insult you all:

Here's the deal - buy a meal, park for free behind the pub. Pay a couple quid extra and
you can plug in for 240 volt and run your space heater. Take water if you need it, leave waste if you got it. Pub culture is even better in a Moho!

“Pop down to the shops”

Scanning the main street of any UK town you would have to believe that the economy runs on tanning salons, hair stylists and dog groomers. The latter are identical skills, just practiced upon different species. Add to that fish and chip shops and I think you’ve seen the cornerstone of the British economy. I’m sure the ruling class would chortle at my reductionist notation but I’m guessing the working class might be smiling. 

Enormous privately owned castle on the Scottish border. This thing is owned by one man

The English

I rubbed elbows with the ruling class but spent the majority of my time sharing meals, drinks and general conviviality with the working class. Their drinks and eye contact are stronger, and that’s appreciated. The other difference is the biodiversity. The ruling class traded in strong genes for hemophilia. That's what you get for 1000+ years of inbreeding. The caste system remains and I’ve chosen my side. Give me a commoner any day (minus the chav).

These people ruled the world for centuries and they still can't figure out that a single tap with a mixer valve is better than this. In what bizzarro alternate universe does this make sense? "Too Cold. Too Hot. Too Cold. Too Hot." - As you jerk your hands from one side to the other

Arnica – they don’t pronounce the “r” and they think it’s the cure for bruises and will get the job done in 72 hours. Hell – bruises fix themselves in 72 hours. It’s the English equivalent of Tiger Balm. I can’t believe they’ve been so duped.

The Brits love to put the four-letter word "slow" all over the roads. And when we first got here, I was constantly slamming the brakes, but gradually it became the little boy who cried wolf ...you just ignore them. Now I don't even see them anymore. I must drive over 30 a day. They're trying to warn you when you go into a corner, I guess. But you know what works better than the single word “slow”? - A posted speed limit with a definitive number! Slow is meaningless. What I consider slow isn't what you consider slow. Give me a number please.

The Irish

If the Irish accent didn't exist, some YouTuber would invent it since it's so pleasing on the ear. That accent goes a long way in forgiving the eye sore of an Irish girl with her 2-millimeter-thick makeup that’s 50 % built-in bronzer. It’s as startling as the glued-on eyelashes they’ve special ordered from China. None are larger. I believe they do eyelid weight training to support them. Add to that... wearing shorts in Nov, and no one is better at looking like a cheap tart than an Irish girl in a dead-end town.

I fear someone has been molesting Molly Malone
The Scottish

I’m a huge fan and Edinburgh is my favorite British city. I lived there once and I hope to live there again someday. For that reason, I’m going to hold my tongue regarding their silly accent and life shortening cuisine. Damn. I guess that slipped out. Freedom!!!

Your man on point,

One more picture of Edinburgh
Bob Friedman - The Ugly American