Category: Uncategorized

The Mansion We Stayed In

The main courtyard of Saratha Vilas (with sunbeams)

The Chettinad mansion in Kothamangalam that we stayed in for three nights was restored by a pair of French architects who had been able to cut a long-term lease deal with the sole owner. The architects had fallen in love with the style and found themselves inspired to bring one of the mansions back to life. The result is Saratha Vilas, a boutique hotel with comfortable rooms and a fantastic kitchen (there being no other places to eat in the village.)

Living like a princess

I look back with pleasure on this stop on our tour for several reasons. This was the first completely relaxing place we arrived at after time in the loud and busy cities of Mumbai and Chennai and a couple of internal flights. Saratha has a green, tranquil garden where I often heard Hindu temple music coming over a loudspeaker. The video below was taken in the garden:

This was the only village we stayed in, so we got to see a bit of village life. The bathroom window of my room looked out on the main street. In the middle of the night a couple of cows would be lying in front of the store across the street: now I know that Indian cows have owners and their own place to stay at night even it if isn’t a barn or stable. Then, around 5 am the road was busy with people coming into town by foot or motorcycle to work.

Path to the Ayyanar shrine at Kothamangalam, Tamil Nadu

When we walked down the main road much later in the morning, we would see a crowd of men at the open-air chai shop next door drinking chai out of tin cups and gossiping like crazy. The town also had its own Ayyanar shrine (see Village Shrine) which we walked to one morning. On the way back through a middle-class neighborhood we met some school girls and their mothers outside of their homes: these girls went to good schools so we spoke with them in English, with both sides expressing delight and curiosity at the meeting.


Our visit also coincided with the weekly market. While some of the village markets around the world that I’ve seen sell livestock, clothing, pots and pans, etc., this one was pretty much a food market. There were all kinds of vegetables, herbs and spices that I didn’t recognize. Markets like this rotate weekly from village to village: this is people’s chance to do the shopping for the week without having to drive or take the bus someplace. I’ve always wondered about the merchants’ lives: they have to show up at the crack of dawn to set up, then in the afternoon pack and put everything away for the next village and the next day. In the meantime at home they’re picking and packing their own harvest or receiving goods from other suppliers. While people now use trucks and vans to bring their produce to market, once upon a time these markets were served by farmers coming in with animal-driven carts.



Chettinad Mansions

Venice of course

I’m intrigued by states and groups in history that are known for being traders. The culture of such groups is rich and heterogenous because of the worldwide travel and extensive interactions with other cultures that enabled their success.  One example of course is the Republic of Venice,  a city-state of maritime traders and canny politicians. The architecture of the Renaissance palaces along the canals, with its uniquely Venetian blend of European and Moorish features, is one of the great treasures of the world.

In southern India, the Nagarathar or Nattukkottai Chettiar was another group of maritime traders, who left their architectural mark in what is now the state of Tamil Nadu. This community was sailing all over Southeast Asia in the 11th and 12th centuries. Later in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when their trade also took them to the West, they filled villages with ornate mansions. (See  and . ) These mansions share a common style of floor plan, but their exterior and interior ornamentation differs according to their owners’ tastes in architecture. During our tour in December, 2017 we drove by or toured mansions that displayed Baroque, Art-Deco, Art Nouveau and Asian influences.

Google Satellite view of mansions in the village of Kothamangalam, where we stayed at the one in the upper left

Most of these mansions are deteriorating. We were in villages that had dozens of mouldering mansions crowded together like an Indian Fifth Avenue of the Gilded Age. From the beginning homes of extended families, their ownership is now divided among multiple children and grandchildren who are dispersed in other Indian cities. Finding consensus on the disposition of the mansions is difficult. Some of the buildings open for tours are tenanted by poorer family members who show visitors around.

A few mansions have been restored as hotels, including the one we stayed in (coming soon in the next post.)

Note the dogs hanging out in the shade.
Photo of type of cooking fire used in the mansions (and apparently still in India):

It’s hard to imagine what life was like in the big houses, but I’m guessing they were crowded, noisy and extremely sociable with all the pros and cons of close family life. The mansions are built around three long, open courtyards. Small rooms along the side supplied storage space for the couples who lived there, but sleeping was separate between men and women (in fact, the women could lock themselves into the back of the house at night.)   The women had the two back courtyards: one for sleeping and socializing, and the other for cooking. The kitchen was communal, with each family having its own stoves, cooking pots, and utensils. The stoves were simply a long line of narrow stone low fireplaces with room for one pot each. (The main resting posture was squatting, so people worked, ate and talked on the floor.)

Imagine a dozen of these little fireplaces lined up along the wall of the kitchen area. Photo from

The men had the first two courtyards for business and more intimate socializing. These rooms have raised platforms where people could sit and talk.

We traveled in our little bus to a few other mansions to see some of the variations in int

erior decoration. Some of these mansions survive because of the quality of their materials: teak from Southeast Asia, marbles from Europe, chandeliers from Murano. Some had people living in them: as we walked to the back of the house there were sectioned-off areas where people were watching TV. In one an old lady walked around with us telling us about her relatives in a language we couldn’t understand.

If your house is made up of courtyards, columns and their capitols are important

Mumbai’s 100-year-old Urban Lunchbox Courier Service

 A popular tourist activity in Mumbai is observing the amazing courier service that picks up and returns home-made lunchboxes (tiffins) for people at work and school. Our tour group’s glimpse of this system appealed to my interest in transport systems: this system, traditionally staffed by a members of a Hindu sect from Pune called the Varkari, has grown organically since 1890. The Indian name for these lunch box couriers is dabbawala. (There’s plenty of information online about this, so I’ll just summarize here.)

Transport vehicles include foot, bicycle and train. The city trains provide an important link for getting food downtown: the trains even have cars dedicated to dabbawala transport. There’s a sophisticated coding system for pallets and lunchboxes to ensure that everything gets to where it’s supposed to go, but personal knowledge of customers and routes is also a key to success. We stopped our little bus outside of the Churchgate station of the Western line around 11:30 to see the dabbawalas in action as they took trays of tiffins off the trains and set them up for local delivery by bike.

A tiffin is a lunchbox designed to keep the elements of the hearty mid-day meal
separated until it’s time to eat: the rice or lentils, the sauces or chutneys, and the breads.

Many people in Mumbai still have someone (Mom, or perhaps a servant) at home who can make home-cooked lunches for commuters and schoolchildren. A  The dabbawalas pick up lunch boxes from homes around 9:30 am and have them delivered to workplaces and schools by 1. Then, they return all the lunchboxes to their homes in the afternoon.

Village Shrine in Tamil Nadu

T.N. = Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is an agricultural state in Southeast India with many villages. Village life—to the inhabitants’ detriment, benefit or both—often appears to me to preserve centuries of tradition in spite of modern amenities like vehicles and electricity. In Tamil Nadu, India, we visited a couple of village shrines to the deity called Ayyanar. These simple shrines are found in uncultivated areas like small woods, whose trees are not especially ancient except perhaps for a few old, revered trees. Often those old trees provide the site for the Ayyanar shrine and other devotions.

This elephant at the shrine’s gateway is well maintained
The village keeps the god well supplied with steeds, servants and guards.
Gateway to the shrine (note the lighting in the upper left.)
The avenue of horses leading to the shrine’s gateway.

These photos were taken at a remote shrine that we got to by following some back roads past fields and woods (with our driver stopping frequently to ask directions.) The terra cotta animals in this shrine looked very old: as if they have been offered, renewed and rearranged for centuries.

As I understand it, Ayyanar is a local village god who rides through the village at night to protect the inhabitants. The shrines are entered via avenues of terra cotta horses and other animals. The avenue is then marked by a gateway that contains larger, freshly-painted statues. The newest terra cotta horses are grouped near the shrine itself. (I didn’t photograph the idol of the deity itself; I remember a small, black, fairly unremarkable statue of a man.)

Perhaps someday I’ll have a conversation with someone who has lived in one of these villages and can tell me more about some of the ways that people relate to these shrines and their very local deities. At this point I can only speculate about the fears and hopes of village inhabitants throughout the centuries, and the comfort and reassurance that might have resulted from occasionally hearing soft, rapid hoofbeats going past the house in the middle of the night.


Windmills, Polders and Dykes

The Zaanse Schans Windmill Park near Amsterdam

Lately on my travels I’ve given into taking bus tours and merged myself into the same kinds of large or small groups of tourists that I generally confront with scorn and impatience when I’m on my own. So far I’ve never been disappointed with these tours: it’s a good way to see the countryside and learn about a new place. In the Netherlands I joined a big-bus tour that my St. Petersburg travel companion (cousin Maryellen) had already booked for her one day in Amsterdam. That tour combined automated narrative with a live guide who spoke English, Dutch, Spanish and French. It turns out there’s a lot to learn about water management in the Netherlands, and most of it is amazing.

This recent New York Times article explains some of it:

Zaanse Schans Windmill Park

In this post I want to talk about windmills. The iconic Holland windmills are disappearing, but like steam engines, there are folks dedicated to preserving some of this traditional technology. Preservation is also supported by the Dutch government.

We often forget that “drive” shafts are older than steam and internal combustion. Traditional labor saving drive shafts were originally driven by water and wind (not to mention horses, donkeys and humans.)

The ubiquity of windmills in the Netherlands was due to their use for pumping water. You can read specifics here:

Some of the things I learned on the bus tour were:

  • Everyone in the Netherlands has been paying taxes for centuries for water management and flood control.
  • The Dutch know how to reclaim below-sea-level land for agriculture by multi-decade projects that involve diking and pumping.
  • When they got tired of major floods from the huge shallow bay called the Zuiderzee, they closed it off and turned it into a freshwater lake.
Working windmill making linseed oil at Zaanse Schans

But windmills, being motivation for drive shafts, don’t just pump water. Some of the other functions I saw demonstrated were grinding grain, making oils such as linseed oil, and sawing wood. You can also grind pigment for paint.

Sawmill at Zaanse Schans

One of the Zaanse Schans windmills is a working sawmill. When I saw this, the penny dropped about how much work goes into creating planks for houses, ships, palaces and other structures. The windmill guide told us in his spiel (in English) how much quicker it was to use a windmill to saw planks as opposed to two guys with a big saw. (I forgot the relative hour statistics.) That brought to mind the Dutch East India Company and the navy that made it possible, and indeed, all the major European wooden navies.

Sawmill ramp
Sawmill yard


Model of a windmill using a screw pump to move water to a higher level (Molen de Adriaan, Haarlem)

Another concept I managed to absorb was the incremental process of draining water from below sea level. The Dutch do it in a step-wise process, using polders (isolated “hydrological entities” as Wikipedia calls them) of different levels. Basically you pump water from a polder at one level to an adjoining one at a higher level. Eventually you’ve got a polder or canal that’s high enough to drain into the sea by gravity.

After this lecture on the bus, I started noticing how the ubiquitous canals and ponds all have different levels. Then I tried to imagine the complexity of managing water levels in all these hydrological entities but gave up. It makes sense that King Willem-Alexander is deeply involved in water management (when he isn’t sneaking off to fly for KLM:

Wind turbines in the Rotterdam Port area

Nowadays the ever-present waterpumps are invisible, at least to me. Since they’re electric, it’s possible they are run on coal power, which is a major source of power for the Netherlands.  But the Dutch are also building wind turbine farms.

Molen de Adriaan art shot. This is a rebuilt, non-working windmill that was located on one of the city wall towers of Haarlem.







Russian Buses

Russian Buses

If you Google Saint Petersburg transport, one of the first webpages that comes up says that the buses are just too hard for visitors to use so you might as well use the Metro. Of course I accepted this challenge. For a transit geek like me, buses turned out to be easy for the most part. One big help these days is that Google maps plots travel directions using local public transport—not just in Russia but anyplace in the world that publishes their transit data. My cousin Maryellen and I did most of our sightseeing along the Nevsky Prospect, so we took the same routes over and over again during our seven-day stay, commuting from our airBnb apartment on Vasilevsky Island.

Buses are just fun to take in strange cities. I prefer them over metros for several reasons:

  • You can see more from a bus
  • Bus stops can get you closer to your destination
  • Metros involve a lot of walking and stairs
  • Metros are dark, noisy and crowded

Sometimes I get social on buses. For example, I had a “conversation” in Russian with one lady where we understood each other about 25% of the time, but we made contact. She didn’t seem to mind that I kept saying “Izvinite, ya ne ponimaiyu” (“sorry, I don’t understand” – Lots of people have this conversation habit—as long as you let them talk, they’re happy.) She had helped us find our bus stop, and then we talked during the trip.

Another interesting conversation I had in English was with a Chinese student who was studying Russian literature down the street on our island. On a hunch, I started speaking with her in English. She loaded that language right up into her brain and started communicating with me, after what had probably been a long day doing Russian and then  talking with her friends in Mandarin. I don’t think she appreciated how truly impressive her language skills were. (Later at a restaurant Maryellen and I sat next to a table of students doing a Russian / Mandarin language exchange.)

This is “Big Street” (prospekt Bolshoy) on Vasilevsky Island. We must of have looked pretty silly waiting for a bus on this street. (Photo by Maryellen Harrington)

Our attempt to get to the Hermitage on our very first morning in Russia was saved by a passer-by. We were waiting at a stop on Prospekt Bolshoy (“Big Street”) whose sign clearly indicated the buses we needed to get downtown. However, there was a strange dearth of traffic on that street (not to mention bulldozers and other construction equipment.) A woman came by and conveyed to us in Russian and with gestures that the buses weren’t running on this street. We sheepishly found our buses rerouted up to the next street up (Sredny Prospekt or “Medium Street”).

(In retrospect, the problems I had during the first few jetlagged, disoriented and culture-shocked days in Russian seem silly. That first day, my mind was obstinately insisting that of course there would be buses on Big Street.  It also took me a few days to figure out which direction to go on the #1 bus running outside our building, since I just couldn’t accept that the route initially took us in the opposite direction from our destination. I will watch out for this peculiar type of stubborn cognitive impairment the next time I travel!)

These tickets from the St. Petersburg bus conductors are prettier than the ones we used to get in Chișinau.

We had planned to get a “Podorozhnik” contactless travel card. These weren’t sold at our local metro, so we never got around to buying them. Bus fare was 40 rubles (about 80 cents) so we just paid cash for every trip.

We also never got around to taking one of the “shared taxis” (also called mini-buses or marshrutkas.) These are the same type of transport as the “rutieras” in Moldova, which I often relied upon for trips not covered by regular bus routes. The problem with them is that you have to call out to the driver (in Russian of course) when you want off, which means you have to know exactly where you are.

As for the rest of my trip: Amsterdam and Haarlem had plenty of transport but fares were confusing as they are moving to a cashless system, and the cost of buying electronic fare instruments seemed excessive (maybe even exploitative) for tourists. My sister and I used the trains, buses and trams for more major trips, usually visiting a ticket window with a real person in order to purchase a fare. At any rate, my airBnb host had a bicycle I could use!

As for Edinburgh I just bought four ₤4 day tickets and hopped on and off the buses all day: even made it out of town to Roslyn chapel on a city bus. For the single trip between train stations in London (on the Tube this time) I had money on my Oystercard from my last visit to England.

(Apologies here for boring photos. While on the street with my camera, I wasn’t thinking about specific images that might go into a blog posting like this.)

Bus stop signs were informative about times even if you have to figure out the Cyrillic.
Screenshot of #1’s route from an online route mapper.
We usually got a seat after the first few stops in the city center.
Technically this bus could take a wheelchair, but I didn’t see anyone using mobility devices on the buses (or on the streets for that matter.)

Jumpstart English Camp in La Cruz, Guanacaste, Costa Rica


I spent January in the small town of La Cruz teaching English to twenty-three seventh graders for four hours a day. Jumpstart camps are held all over Costa Rica to prepare kids for entering high school in February, when the Costa Rican school year begins. (Seventh grade is when Costa Rican kids enter high school.)


The Beginning …

lorenzo 2017-01-17-08-21-082017-01-17-10-52-20

Most Jumpstart camps are run by Peace Corps TEFL volunteers, but the Oregon chapter of Partners of the Americas fields three or four camps a year, depending on how many volunteers step up to teach.

The Jumpstart curriculum was developed by a former government organization called Multilingüe, and has been taken over by the Peace Corps.  My first thought on seeing the curriculum was, “That’s the kind of stuff I write for beginners!” Of course it’s much, much better. The short-term camp format allows for lots of speaking practice, games, activities and colorful materials. The curriculum came with everything we needed. We spent most of our planning time personalizing the lessons for our group and making posters and signs for the classroom.

This Is Me Teaching!
We had to put up pics of our own families, so someone with sharp eyes will see my brother and his family. Cristina is the other teacher in the picture.
Airon coaching a brave speaker

I had three partners in the classroom: Cristina took a two-week vacation from teaching English to young adults in the INA program to come to La Cruz and teach to a younger group. Daniel, a Peace Corps volunteer, came to replace Cristina for the second two weeks. Airon, an SED Peace Corps volunteer working in La Cruz was also there almost every day. She knew lots of good games, and organized some wonderful snacks from a local baker.

The four Oregon camps are coordinated in Costa Rica by the organization Aliarse through their Evolc project ( Our camp in La Cruz is sponsored by the Santa Elena Development Corp. They’re interested in helping locals learn English so they can work in the local tourist industry.

Here I am wearing the Spanish Hat, which allows me to speak in Spanish. (My limited Spanish mainly gave the kids a model of someone communicating in a language she was learning.) Students had to ask for the Spanish Hat before they could speak Spanish. We didn’t enforce this 100%, but it got them asking for things in English (especially if they wanted something from me!)

While there was a large luxury resort, developed by Santa Elena, on the peninsula 22 km away, as well as several smaller hotels and several excellent beaches, I didn’t see too much of the tourist industry.  I preferred to spend my weekends relaxing at home. La Cruz is an unspoiled small town with a couple of small hotels and restaurants but virtually no tourist-oriented retail. The town has spectacular views of the bay. Walking downtown to view the sunset was a pleasant evening activity.

This little homestay apartment had a tiny bedroom (mine), a loft (first Cristina and then Daniel,) a bathroom and a little kitchen with a rice cooker and a coffee maker. Cold water only … morning showers were very refreshing!
The Asian House Gecko makes a friendly chirping noise at night while it’s going after insects.
This is an Urraca or Magpie-Jay going after a ripe papaya.
This is an Urraca or Magpie-Jay going after a ripe papaya.

In La Cruz, Aliarse uses a homestay with a family that rents out small apartments very close to the school where we worked. We had room and  board: eating the delicious home-cooked Costa Rican food left us plenty of time to work on lessons (and recover from each day with a nice siesta.)


My four weeks of teaching was hard work, but energizing and positive. It was wonderful to spend part of the winter in warm and windy Guanacaste Province enjoying the good food and incredible views while at the same time helping a bunch of seventh graders gain some confidence in communicating in a foreign language.

You don’t have to live in Oregon in order to volunteer for this program: our teaching group this year included two people from Portland, one recent Portland State University graduate, a couple that someone had run into in New Orleans at a Habitat for Humanity project, and two people from London. We had two camps in San José and two camps in Guanacaste. Spanish fluency and/or EFL teaching experience are the main skills looked for. Volunteers pay only their own expenses; there are no additional charges for the privilege of volunteering as with some other programs.

Graduation Day: they look so quiet and attentive here, don’t they?

Tropical Relaxation: Earned!

I’m coming to the end of a leisurely weekend with perfect weather in La Cruz, Costa Rica. Temps have been in the mid-80s: perfect for that slightly sweaty feeling that you’ll never be cold again, but not hot enough to be enervating.

My weekend activities have alternated between total relaxation and materials preparation for our Jumpstart English classes next week. As a jubilada (retired person) I continue to find it curious that real enjoyment of leisure is contingent on some kind of project or work to recover from. If I didn’t have four hours of teaching, five days a week to prepare for and obsess about, I’d be threatened with ennui.

Jumpstart is a program to get rural or disadvantaged kids ready for studying English in high school, which starts with 7th grade in February. Many of the camps are run by Peace Corps Costa Rica, but Oregon’s Partners of the Americas also fields some teaching volunteers. Here’s the Facebook page link for Jumpstart: As of the date of this post (January 22) the kids in the top set of pictures are our students.

People have outside sinks here for laundry. All the water is cold, so it doesn’t much matter whether you’re doing the wash inside our outside.
Morning View of the Bay
The white lines are grazing cattle. Many of the cattle are white, with humps and floppy ears which are characteristic of the varieties of cattle that do well in the tropics.


Cuba from East to West

Beginning the Cuba series with a cliche
Beginning the Cuba series with a cliche: a minor bus breakdown in Havana led to a bonus taxi ride for us all!

These posts show some photos from the 17-day Road Scholar tour I just took in Cuba. We flew from Miami to Santiago de Cuba, the main city in the southeast of Cuba. We had a comfortable bus and drove all the way from Santiago to Havana, with stops (mostly in cities) along the way, but also the Unesco World Heritage town of Trinidad. The U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control specifies requirements for Educational and People-to-People travel. We’re supposed to have two educational and/or people-to-people events every day. This makes for a trip with a lot of interesting content: lectures from university professors and other professionals; dance and music demonstrations; meetings with artists; and a lunch with some seniors who run an activity center for jubilados  (retired folks).

I’m going to concentrate here on showing you some interesting photos rather than try to explain what we learned about life in Cuba, its situation in relation to the U.S. etc. As I write, I’m at Amy’s house in Miami for a couple of days. As soon as I get home I’ll be busy looking for a new apartment and preparing to teach English in Costa Rica during January. So we’ll see how many photos I manage to publish of Cuba!

Santiago Bay- Spanish fleet was penned in here during the Spanish-American-Cuban war.
Santiago Bay: The Spanish fleet was penned in here during the Spanish-American-Cuban war.
View of Santiago de Cuba
View of Santiago de Cuba
Snapshot of the countryside from the bus
Snapshot of the countryside from the bus
The Cubans make nicely carved cane chairs. Don’t know why these are in the street (!)
During economic hard times in the 1990s (the “Special Period”, Cubans returned to using horses for public transport.


The cities we visited had pedestrian malls that ran two or three blocks. This is the city of Guantánamo. It’s a pretty mall, but shopping for Cuban residents is very, very sparse: not only do they have very little money, there’s not a lot on the shelves. (¡Cuidado! With a little reflection, most will realize that the bay and prison were named after a city where people have actually lived for a few centuries.)

Quick shot from the bus.

My Seaside Recovery in Cádiz


I really enjoyed myself in Cádiz even though I spent most of my time there lying around recovering from GI problems I picked up in Morocco (Netflix Spain had the Matrix films, so I watched those. I also had lots of thrillers and mysteries on Kindle to read.) After Morocco I switched to touristic apartments for Cádiz, Seville and Lisbon so that I could have absolute privacy and eat from the grocery store instead of always having to wait until dinnertime at restaurants. (I found tapas to be unsatisfying, because by early evening I’m generally ready for a full meal.) This was a good thing when I discovered that I needed some serious downtime when I got to Cádiz.

Playground with a theatrical theme
Playground with a theatrical theme

I had a sunny, comfortable apartment that overlooked a town square that was essentially the neighborhood playground. Every evening between around 6 and 9 the square was filled with kids playing and parents gossiping. No one was terribly hungry, nor were mothers worried about cooking dinner, because the kids went home from noon until 2pm to have a big lunch and a rest. Supper would be something that could be prepared quickly after the evening outing (at any rate, these are my assumptions.) The other wonderful thing about this apartment was that it was a five-minute walk from the sea.

This slide seemed pretty popular

There were a couple of (mis-named) supermercados very close to my place. One of my go-to supermercado comfort meals in Spain was frozen breaded chicken breasts, which I fried slowly in olive oil and usually had with couscous and a little salad. I was also addicted to anchovy-stuffed green olives. I always found oatmeal, but usually in large packages so I traveled with open packages of oatmeal, cans of olives, a little jar of Nescafe Classico instant coffee in case there wasn’t a coffee maker, and a package of tiny plastic vials of olive oil.  I found a type of turkey ham/salami that made a really good sandwich along with some cheese, but I also made great sandwiches with small packets of sliced chorizo. Across the plaza I also discovered a vending machine area where hungry visitors could get something to eat after all the stores were closed.

Vending machine mini-mart
Vending machine mini-mart
Food packed and taken to the next apartment
Food packed and taken to the next apartment. There’s a story about how I learned to make coffee without one of those Bialetta coffee makers.

When I felt up to walking, there were miles of seaside esplanade to stroll along. Part of my walking route went inland and high for views of the port and the train yard. Cádiz is a beautiful, clean city with an old town and another more modern area with wider streets and higher apartments. The yellow color of its buildings gives it a cheerful sunny atmosphere. I took a couple of buses along their routes to see some of these other parts of the city. Finally I ventured into the old town pedestrian areas, which were pretty much the same as the neighborhood I was staying in.

Port, trains, bridges
Port, trains, bridges
I finally found out the name of these trees, which were blooming all over Spain while I was there, but I didn't record it because I said "of course!" - then forgot...
I finally found out the name of these trees, which were blooming all over Spain while I was there, but I didn’t record it because I said “of course!” – then forgot…
Narrow street in the old town area
Narrow streets in the old town area
Nice old stone, impossible-to-photograph, church on a narrow street