Monday, June 26, 2017

Life's Challenges - Our Unique Journey

Life is never truly real. Our perception of the world is unique to us and only exists in our reality and through our experiences. As much as we think everyone sees and experiences the world as we do there can really be nothing more further from the truth. We are born, we grow, we love, we mate, and some of us create offspring and then we die.... No different than any of the plants and animals of the earth. I have been fortunate to have really done it all. I have lived and continue to live a full life. I have done far more than I ever imagined as a child. I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams with three beautiful daughters who I love more than they will ever know. I have married and divorced, married and divorced and finally married my dream love of my life - my Isabel. It is all my reality..... No one else can understand my experience and none of us have any idea where life will take us from here. 

What I have learned is life is constantly changing, evolving, and provoking us. Just when you think you have made it through all the potholes and hurdles of life, God in his infinite wisdom finds new challenges to confront you with. And so God, and his unfathomable sense of humor, has set before Isabel and I a whole new reality that we will now deal with. You see a few weeks ago, my lovely Isabel, the love of my life, my angel on earth, was diagnosed with cancer. It doesn't even seem real that I'm typing this yet in some strange way it is so therapeutic to get this out and share it with all of you. I know how much I love her and I also know how much you all do too. There is so much strength in sharing this and the healing energy it will manifest. 

In the weeks and months ahead this will be of primary focus along with the needs of my family. My team at Candelaria Design and Isabel's team at Earth and Images are ready and more than willing to help us through this. Isabel and I will still be designing and working on all of our shared projects as our work is really who we are, but we will be doing so more from home and calling in for meetings so I hope you all understand and we both thank you all in advance. We will likely have some meetings at Casa Candelaria and of course will do our best to keep yo with the Sunday Family Meals at Casa Candelaria. We hope you can all come by as these are healing for both of us.

I ask you to all hold Isabel in your prayers in the weeks and months ahead. She had her first surgery yesterday to get her "port" installed for her chemo delivery system and is resting this weekend. Overall she is feeling fine and is strong and ready for this challenge. Of course we are both apprehensive of what lies ahead but we are willed with faith in God's path for us and knowing our friends and family are there makes an enormous difference. God bless you all and we will do our best to keep you informed of her progress with her fight ahead. 

A Free Day In The Basque Wine Country

It's about this point on our tours where everyone just needs a good down day and given it was Sunday and we had all settled into the Basque Wine Country it was the perfect day to just chill. 

Our Hospederia de los Parajes has a lovely spa so Isabel and I decided that today we would sleep in and then start our day with some spa time at 11 am followed by a massage. Not a bad way to unwind for sure. The spa here is down in the basement in essence a cave - what a great feeling, dark, cool and because you reserve the spa area it was nice and private. Alternating between the spa and the steam shower for an hour followed by the massage was absolute heaven.

We then went for a walk through the village and a wonderful lunch on the street - likely one of my best meals of the trip. So nice to just chill and have nothing on our agenda but to sit and chat about our lives, our futures, and our dreams to the sound of conversations in Spanish that we cannot understand so they sort of become this lovely non distracting background noise. 

Another afternoon siesta and then it was time to gather our troops, who had also all had a free day, and head to the Rioja capital of Haro. Isabel, my good friend Laurie, my girls and I stayed here over the Holidays on our scouting trip and so it was quite interesting to see it now in the summer. Just as lovely but definitely with more upbeat and lively vibe. We enjoyed cocktails first at our rendezvous spot, the Hotel Los Agustinos. and its lovely atrium courtyard. Gradually all of our travelers made it and we all began to compare notes on our free day. It was wonderful to hear all of the stories from spa time for some, to some who got an early start on the wine tours, another two went and explored nearby villages and then finally two of my travelers who found a golf course and got 18 holes in and buried a golf cart in quicksand along the way! Like I say, having our own cars is the best and I could see my travelers starting to get their wings underneath them and starting to explore!

With our initial cocktails enjoyed we then walked the streets of Haro past the main plaza to the street with the cathedral and our restaurant, Beethoven My family and our good friend Laurie had a fabulous dinner here during the Holidays, and it did not disappoint again!

With dinner completed along with several bottles of wine it was time to make our way back but not until I caught the sound of a local gentleman singing to a friend. I could not resist and came up on them to capture his singing in a video, whereby when he finished I commenced to offer my own part to this composition! I loved the look on his buddies when I broke into full opera. What fun and what a great way to make more friends in Spain! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

On The Road To Laguardia And The Basque Wine Country

We had a fantastic time in San Sebastian - its pretty hard not to!

So now it was time to head to the country just like we do on our Italy tours. Of course most tours would charter a bus but I have found that my travelers love having their own cars and the freedom and privacy it affords them, especially in the country. So we did board several vans at the Hotel Londres for the San Sebastian airport and Europcar where we rented our sedans. Each couple had their own car and we got out convoy in order and head out for the Basque Wine country.

First, I cannot tell you how nice the roads and highways are in Spain! Impeccable! Wider than Italy, well marked, and not one pothole this entire trip. Yes there are tolls along the way, but I would say well worth the price.

The road trip from San Sebastian to the Basque Wine country starts with lush greenery brought to life from the sea. As you rise in elevation the trees transition to pines and if I just woke up from a nap you would swear you were on I-90 driving through western Montana. Absolutely beautiful.

Once you cross the divide the mountains act as a dam for the sea moisture just like the Sierra Nevada do in California and then the air dries and the greenery slowly diminishes to what then looks like the landscape around Cordes Junction which also has now a number of wineries. Rolling hills line with vineyards all embraced by lovely mountain ranges.

We drive up and down the hills slowly make our way to our next venue, Laguardia. Laguardia is one of many little walled, medieval, hilltop villages that time has forgotten. Of course we were arriving on a Saturday and let's just say the tourists as well as the locals have not forgotten this town - it was packed. No place to park so we just had to wait our turns for stalls to open in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. With the cars parked we needed to schlep our bags up the hill, through the walled entrance, and through the narrow streets to our hotel, the Hospenderia de Los Parajes.

What a lovely spot right in the middle of the village and a very cool mix of the old with the modern. We got settled in and then all made our way outside to explore the village, grab some lunch and then a nice siesta.... Yes we were all unknowingly embracing the life of a Spaniard!

Well, one true trait of Spanish culture is the fact that dinner does not start until 9 pm.Usually, Isabel and I are just wrapping up for the evening as we both like to get up at 4 am. But not here in Spain. Our first dinner in the country was a welcome dinner hosted by Candelaria Design right here in the hotel and starting at 9 pm and finishing sometime around midnight! Fabulous way to start our time in the country and the food was fantastic.

The evening finished with a walk around the village perimeter and then down the narrow streets with a nightcap and a cigar and stories shared by all of our journey to the Basque Wine Country.