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Back from Spain, still recovering – as in, my body’s still on Europe time, awakening at img_20190616_174550about 4-5 am every morning. Which is a good thing! Every time this happens, I think, “This is definitely a lifestyle I should embrace.” And then a week later, there I am back in the old cycle of finally hitting the sack at about 1 am.

Because I’m lazy and unimaginative and have another writing assignment due today (Friday), I’m going to take the super easy way out of this and post information about where we stayed in Spain and why. This is part of how I begin to systematically blog the trip.

Previously:

Overview

Driving in Spain

— 1 —

But first!

 

 

 — 2 —

Oh, one more thing:

The only thing I regret about going to Spain at this point in time is that because of the trip, I missed the Eucharistic Congress held in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Birmingham. It was, by all accounts, a wonderful event, the climax of which was a Eucharistic procession through the streets of the city, thousands of participants strong. Thousands! In Birmingham, Alabama!

For more, you can check out the Facebook pages of either the Cathedral of St. Paul or the Diocese.

 

Image may contain: 13 people, people standing and crowd

— 3 —

Now for some more practicalities of the trip to Spain: where we stayed.

First was the big chunk – two weeks – in Seville. I’d be hosting my son, his wife and son, so we needed a place big enough for all of us – and I found it!

I rented this via Homeaway/VRBO. You can read my review on the site. And while I really understand and even in some ways sympathize with views against the mass-marketing of vacation rentals through this agency and especially AirBnB (more on that at the end of this post), I mean – what can you say? Four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths for less than I’d pay for a chain hotel room in Birmingham, Alabama.

And having a washing machine meant that we, at least, could travel with one very small suitcase apiece.

(No dryer – dryers are not common in southern Europe. The apartment had a clothesline reachable from the kitchen window, hanging over a courtyard.)

-4–

Caceres: This hotel – family room, with three single beds. 

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This is part of the Corpus Christi procession in Caceres, but the building in the middle on the corner, between the two restaurants, is our hotel. The family room was basically in the attic – the only window was in the roof. But it was fine!

 

Guadalupe: This lovely little hotel. This was perhaps my favorite of the hotels, and not just because they welcome you with a small bottle of wine. It was tidy and neat, with a sweet balcony – just the kind of place I’d stay in all the time if I were traveling by myself, and perhaps with just one other kid. It was so inexpensive – E30/night for a double room – that I was able to get two rooms.

 

First things first;view from the balcony; view of  the balcony from the street to the rear of the hotel. 

–5 —

For Toledo, we went corporate with an AC/Marriott hotel. Here’s the reason – parking. Not being familiar at all with Toledo, and knowing only “Medieval city on a hill painted by El Greco,” I couldn’t imagine that I’d be able to find a hotel with parking in the city itself, and had no concept of the geography of parking garages. This Marriott sits about a kilometer away from the city – it’s not a bad walk at all  – except, as I keep telling you, in 100-degree heat. Fortunately, it’s right on a bus line as well, a bus that shot right into the city and ended up at the main plaza.

In retrospect, and having walked around the city and observed the layout – I’d make a different decision about that today. I wouldn’t be afraid to take a car into the city, if a hotel indicated it had parking.

Anyway, the hotel was fine – a good breakfast, although the boys’ hopes of a waffle-maker, since you know, it’s an American chain – were not met. It was the typical Spanish breakfast with pastries, thick-cut bread for toast, cold cuts, cheese, cereals, yogurt, fruit and tortilla – a Spanish tortilla, remember, is a potato-and-egg baked concoction.

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Hotels in Spain do provide butter, but in cafes – at least in southern and central Spain – one puts olive oil, not butter, on toast. Cafes and bakeries that serve breakfast provide bottles of olive oil on the counter and on tables for breakfast toast. If you think about it, it makes sense. Butter wouldn’t be something that had developed in traditional cuisine in a climate like this. 

— 6 —

Over in Lucca, we went with AirBnB. There were no hotel rooms available by the time I got to planning this part of the trip which was, I hasten to add, not last minute. I mean – six weeks? That’s not at all last minute in my book. There weren’t even many apartments available – the Lucca Music Festival was going on, with a Friday concert by a 90’s band called Take That, which I might have heard of? Probably not. But a lot of women in their mid-30’s were there for it.  And then Saturday night, the reason for our jump over, was the supposedly (as advertised) “Last Concert” of Ennio Morricone – the great film score composer. I’ll write more on it later, but just know that I have a musician son who’s a yuge fan of the Leone Spaghetti Westerns and has Morricone’s scores on repeat, constantly. (Morricone wrote hundreds of other scores, including for The Mission.) 

So, yeah – no hotel rooms in a probably already tight market. I am honestly trying to avoid using AirBnB – I don’t like their Wokeness and while I had a good experience with them last year during the Japan trip and their response to the sudden changes in Japanese law, I don’t really trust them and am suspicious of the business model. But – well, you know? Here I was, so off to the AirBnB site I went.

I rented this apartment – which was in a great location (probably everywhere in Lucca is a great location) and run by very nice people. The only problem was it was SO HOT, even though I could tell the apartment was probably usually very comfortable with its thick stone walls – this heat was too much for it. We didn’t spend tons of time there, and we did what we could to keep it cool, but late Friday afternoon, we were walking by a store, saw a small box fan for sale in the window – and welp – the apartment owners now have a fan for the next guests. No regrets. J said that night was the best sleep he’d had the whole trip.

— 7 —

And Bilbao? Also corporate – a Holiday Inn Express. It was five minutes from the airport where I’d be returning the car and flying out of. It worked out great – the night crew at reception was composed of two lovely young women who both accepted new guests and tended bar.

And when you can get a glass of good local wine for E1.80?

You’ve got my vote….for…something.

***

I don’t know where I ultimately come down on the hotel v. vacation rental issue. I absolutely see how the latter has been exploited. It’s no longer just you renting out your dead parents’ charming apartment in the city while you come in from your more modern suburban digs to give the key to the tourists and tell them about your favorite restaurants. It’s people buying up blocks of apartments – and whole buildings – and turning them into what amount to hotels without having to pay the same taxes and meet the same regulations as hoteliers. We stayed in an apartment in Barcelona ten years ago, well before AirBnB exploded, but I could already see it happening then. We stayed in a fantastic art nouveau apartment there, but as I recall from the listing, essentially the whole building was rented out as vacation stays. What happens to neighborhoods and communities at that point?

Also, if I lived in an apartment in close proximity to a bunch of now-vacation rentals, I don’t know how I’d feel about that. Probably…not happy.

 

 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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The Kindle version of The Fourth Rule: St. Benedict’s Guide to Life is up. It’s odd that the book description isn’t up, but maybe I missed a step on that one. I’ll have to go back and look.

It’s very strange and startling to me that this can be so easily done.  I had reformatted the book for Smashwords, which took about 30 minutes to get the Word document in the shape in which they require, and didn’t change much for the Kindle edition.  I clicked a few buttons and it was done – tossed out there into the deep…a published book.  Okay, e-book. With a limited potential audience. But honestly…think about the alternative. Even if I could get a publisher to pick this one up or self-publish it, would it be reaching any more people? If I got a few copies on bookshelves in the midst of thousands of other titles in real bookstores, would anyone find them?

It’s a tiny part of the market at this point, but the potential is..interesting.

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To bring you a Thursday blegging post.

Not as many of you are reading this as before, but perhaps those of you who are hanging around can answer this, or maybe pass it on to others who might have an interest.

I’m really interested in exploring ebooks.

Now, some of our books are already on Kindle – for example, the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints has done well there, and I should know exactly what “done well” on Kindle should mean in a couple of weeks as I get my first post-Kindle royalty statement from Loyola. The How-to Book of the Mass is on Kindle.  And others.

(By the way, I’ve done a separate webpage on The How-To Book of the Mass here. With the forthcoming new translation, we have what we call a “teaching moment” coming on the Mass, and this is an excellent resource – for the second edition, Michael took into account the proposed changes to the translation that were most likely to pass muster – like “and with your spirit,” for example. More here. Pass the link on to RCIA directors, and so on if you’ve a mind, too. )

Okay, back to the ebooks. Ebooks are still a tiny segment of the market, but they are there and they’re growing. All kinds and all formats -from pdfs you read on your computer to Kindles and Sony Readers to IPhone apps.  A lot of ebooks are uploaded for free, some for a price. Different types of reading is done on different devices by different demographics. I’m just trying to understand it all and make some moves in that direction.  And I’m mostly doing it from the outside because as we’ve discussed before, as much time as I spend on the computer, I am still a between-the-covers girl when it comes to books and longer magazine pieces – but I have friends who love their e-readers, so I’m a believer on their behalf.

The reason I’m looking at this is because I have quite a bit of unpublished material hanging around here. Some of it is mine, a lot of it is Michael’s. He was an idea man – anyone who knew him will tell you that – and his computer is filled with projects, some just seeds, but a surprising number either completed or nearly so. I’ve run a couple by traditional publishers with mixed results. I’m in the process of trying to learn about ebook publishing and figure out the best direction for these projects  – which will be varied, according to the nature of the work.  I have a couple that I think I will upload to be free for the taking and few others I will attempt to actually sell, including the YA novel that many publishers said was very good and well-written but couldn’t sell because it did not feature vampire girls shopping and gossiping. And as for Michael’s work, there was is good stuff there, and it would be a shame to just let it sit in computer files, and giving a shot with some free and some low-priced ebooks seems a good way to get it out there so others can benefit.

So…here are my questions.

If you are a reader of ebooks…tell me about it. Do you buy ebooks or limit yourself to what you can get for free? If you buy, what is your preferred price point?  Do you have preferred formats? Have you encountered any really disastrous programs or applications which you want to warn me (or others!) away from?

If you have written, designed or sold ebooks…tell me about it.   Any recommendations?

In particular, I am wondering about Smashwords.

I’m also wondering about Wattpad. What I’m wondering if anyone uses Wattpad as a marketing tool – that is uploading a part of a book for a free read, which then leads to a point of purchase at another site. Does anyone do this? Is it allowed?

Oh, and if there is anyone who is experienced at such things out there who would like to work with me on developing an Iphone app pro bono or close to it, let  me know. I have some ideas.

(Speaking of digital/electronic media and such – today is a very exciting day because a new series of In Our Time begins on BBC radio 4, and best of all, the subject this week is Thomas Aquinas. You can download the podcast here, but only for a week, then you can only listen to it online.

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