Entries in ‘Spain’ Journal

Budget Friendly, Green European Travel Options

Monday October 20, 2008 at 2:02 AM | 3 Comments

Budget Friendly, Green European Travel Options


Budget-friendly bicycles for rent in Seville, Spain

“Are you looking for budget friendly ways to travel in Europe without harming the environment? I wrote this post for the Uptake blog and outlined some alternative forms of transportation.  While Americans like to travel by automobile, in some parts of the world, cars are a luxury and in other places they are a nuisance.

“Bicycles are sacred in Amsterdam,” said Michiel Laterveer, director of sales and marketing at the Amsterdam Renaissance Hotel.  “Like cows are to India.”

On a recent trip to Europe, I was struck by the green transportation efficiencies that were created out of necessity.

“You don’t want a car in Amsterdam,” added Brigitta Kroon-Fiorita of the Netherlands Board of Tourism.  “Everyone rides a bicycle.”

In fact, I spotted several business men and women talking on their cell phones as they peddled to work.  The Amsterdam train station had a three level parking garage specifically designed for bicycles.  With its cobblestone streets and numerous canals, Amsterdam is a city to be enjoyed on foot.

Scooters in Cadiz, Spain

Scooters and motorcycles are popular transportation in the narrow streets of Cadiz, Spain

Scooters and Motorcycles Preferred in Spain and Portugal

Scooters were the preferred mode of transportation in the narrow streets of Madrid and Seville, Spain, as well as Lisbon, Portugal.  While there isn’t a helmet law, most riders sported helmets in the heavily congested city of Madrid.  The upscale city also offers an easily accessible underground and affordable subway system.  The Sunday that I visited Madrid, thousands of bicyclists swarmed the Paseo de la Castellana that had been closed to cars for the event.  I watched from my club room at the Intercontinental as the bicyclists demonstrated their solidarity in demanding bike lanes for riders.  Unfortunately, there is not much room to expand for bicycle lanes in downtown Madrid.

"Eurail Train"

Budget friendly, green European travel by train with Eurail

Eurail Offers Transportation From Train to Boat

For the green traveler looking to cover a lot of Europe, Eurail offers many alternatives from train to boat.  I selected the 10 day, first class Global Pass, which is valid within a two month period.  For Lisbon, Portugal I took a day trip to the charming city of Sintra.  After several days in Lisbon, I boarded the overnight train, #385, to Seville, staying at NH Plaza de Armas.  The hotel was a 10 minute cab ride from the train station.  For a lovely day excursion, I recommend a train ride to the waterfront town of Cadiz.

"horse & carriage"

Horse and carriage in Seville, Spain

Smart Car – Smart Mode of Transportation

Finally, a common mode of transportation spotted throughout my 10 day tour of Europe was the adorable Smart Car.  Squeezed between bicycles and barges in Amsterdam or cozied up next to horsedrawn carriages in Seville, the Smart Car is slowly making its debut in the United States.

While I drive the fuel-efficient and sporty BMW Mini Cooper, I would happily convert to a Smart Car if I didn’t have to contend with SUV’s, Humvee’s and tanker trucks sharing California’s highways.  Our gas guzzling USA would benefit greatly if we were to implement many of the green transportation alternatives offered in Europe.

Is green travel important to you?  Do you find that you travel differently abroad than when traveling in the United States?  For more information on this topic check out the Go Green Travel Green blog.  I look forward to hearing about your travels.

Seville bicycle photo, Cadiz scooters, Eurail train and horse and carriage photos by Nancy D. Brown

Related Post:

Best Things to See and Do in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Travel Tips on raveable

Spanish pilgrimage, Treking in Bhutan and Luxury Travel Expo – What a Trip

Saturday December 29, 2007 at 12:12 AM | 0 Comments

No one snoozed in the pews when visiting Santiago City’s church service.  “It was theatrical,” marveled Lafayette’s Marcia Linn.  “There were four monks harnessed in a basket that allowed them to work a pulley system to propel an incense burner filled with hot coals fifty feet into the air.  Every day we saw hundreds of people arriving as pilgrims to attend the service and take communion in every possible language.  Everyone hugged the statue of St. James.”

Linn stayed at northern Spain’s five star Parador Santiago de Compostela, considered to be the oldest hotel in the world.  The plumbing has been upgraded since its transformation from a Royal Hospital in 1499, where it sheltered numerous pilgrims.

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela or “Way of St. James” path begins in many European locales including Le Puy, France, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The journey is marked with scallop shells along the 326 mile route.  The shell, found along the shores of Galicia, serves as a metaphor for the pilgrims.  As the waves of the ocean wash the shells on the shore, God’s hand guides the pilgrims to Santiago.

The cuisine of the area offers Spanish style seafood with fresh, local ingredients and wines.  Don’t miss the Galacian almond cakes, “polvorones” cookies or apple and caramel cream “filloas” pancakes.

While today’s pilgrims might carry Palm Pilots, a recent survey by Forrester Research found that nine percent fewer people booked travel online this year than in 2005.  Information junkies may roam the web, but travel agents still provide value in taking the stress out of vacation planning.

The government of Bhutan, situated between India and Tibet, requires guided assistance when traveling in their country.  Guide Tenpa Chophel spoke recently at REI Concord about Bhutan’s high value, low impact tourism policy launched in 1974.  “Visiting Bhutan is not easy,” notes Chophel.  “Visitors must spend $200 per night minimum, with 30% of that fee returning to the government for development.  By charging a tariff, it limits visitors and preserves our culture, heritage and traditions.”  Low impact translates to less garbage and allows the trekking routes to remain pristine.

Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, is located along the southern slopes of the Himalaya mountain range.  In this isolated local, the Buddhist culture remains untouched by the outside world.  In 18,000 square miles of jungle and Himalayas, there are more than 165 animal species.  It is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.  For further information on a Chomolhari Trek visit reiadventures.com.

As we close the travel books on 2007, I’d like to share some trips and trends that I discovered while attending the Luxury Travel Expo in Las Vegas.  Author Pamela Danziger, “Let Them Eat Cake – Marketing Luxury to the Masses” notes, “old luxury is about a thing, while new luxury is about an experience.”

Is a Mexican experience on your travel agenda? Cancun’s Ritz-Carlton is offering wine and tequila tasting and Chef’s Table sessions in their new culinary center.  Perhaps you are worried about Europe’s weak exchange?  Your dollar will stretch farther in South Africa.  On my wish list to visit; the Singita Game Reserves, or the Royal Malewane in Kruger National Park. Are you looking to give back to a community while on vacation? Voluntourism is on the rise with tax-deductible programs in place to the Peruvian Amazon jungle community of Yantalo.  In closing, not only were Actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson recently spotted in Peru; several Lamorinda residents are off to ring in the New Year in Machu Picchu.  Have a Pisco Sour for me!

Around the world with a mother and daughter

Saturday December 22, 2007 at 10:10 PM | 0 Comments

"Espani Fountain" Zaragoza

Nancy Brown with her mother Janet Mooers at Espani Fountain in Zaragoza, Spain circa 2007

Traveling with multi-generations
THE TRAVELERS: Lafayette, California mom and consultant Nancy Brown, age 40-plus; and her mother, Janet Mooers, former Moraga resident and international traveler, age 80-plus.

THE TREK IN A SEC: This mother-daughter duo was Barcelona-bound. Janet Mooers, a recent widow, wanted to see a few more sights before she retired her passport. Daughter Nancy was excited but hadn’t traveled with her mother since her high school days.

BEST ADVICE FOR TRAVELING WITH MULTIPLE GENERATIONS: Be patient when traveling with someone who hasn’t flown internationally since Sept. 11. Make sure passports are current. If you are sharing a room, try to fit in some alone time during your travels. Check in with your travel partner regarding the pace of the trip. Is she feeling rushed or tired, but doesn’t want to hold the other back?

COOLEST SIGHTS: Nancy’s highlight was Pamplona and the Ernest Hemingway sights: “I’d just read ‘The Sun Also Rises’ so Pamplona and San Sebastian were brought to life for me.” Janet’s highlight was the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

"Nancy Brown" Spain

Janet Mooers and Nancy Brown on a mother daughter trip to Spain

MOST MEMORABLE DINING EXPERIENCE: The pair had walked Barcelona’s La Rambla Boulevard down to the harbor in search of some seafood. Janet wanted a shrimp salad. At this particular restaurant you had to purchase the shrimp farmer’s market style. Due to the language barrier, a platter of cooked shrimp was brought to the table with their heads and tails attached. Eventually salad followed. The women spent the entire lunch prepping the shrimp for the salad. “It was frustrating at the moment, but quite hilarious looking back on our lunch,” remembers Nancy.

Insider Tip
Ours was a group tour with the majority of the travelers comprised of senior citizens. If you are an active adventure traveler or boomer traveler, be prepared to adjust your travel schedule to your traveling companion’s needs. My key word phrase for this mother daughter trip – be flexible.

You might also like Bilbao: Dining in Basque Country