Beach Eats at Gold Coast, Australia by da-AL

My new Gold Coast pal!

The city of Gold Coast is part of the Australian state of Queensland. Visitors flock there as much for its sunny subtropical temps as for its surfing beaches, architecture, theme parks, nightlife, and rainforest hinterland.

We stopped there to visit wonderful relatives, a cousin my husband hadn’t seen since he was a child, along with her marvelous family who we met for the first time. Little did we know, after seeing New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens — that Australia also had so much to offer! Starting with Tai Chi in Gold Coast, birds of Australia Part 1 and Part 2, and then great Gold Coast views to wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary …

From any angle, the city skyline to Gold Coast is wonderful…

Such stunning scenery (including my honey!).
Khashayar rests after a shoreline bike ride with Cousin Mark.

All the food we ate in Australia was tasty! For instance, we enjoyed an exceptional meal on the beach, at Rick Shores’ Restaurant. In addition, we were given great service everywhere. Here’s the menu just to give you an idea of prices (here’s a link for exchange rates) — keep in mind that prices pretty much always include sales tax and that tipping is not customary there…

This fine dining was worth the splurge.
Page 2 of Rick Shores Restaurant menu.
Gold Coast beach behind our dear family.
The food looked (and tasted!) too good to wait to snap photos until after we’d dug in.

Does your city have a mascot?

Part 4: Do Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Cats Pray? VIDEO by da-AL

It's magical how Wifi stands and waves his paws!... It’s magical how WiFi stands and waves his paws!

The marvels of Spain, too numerous to count (after all, my soon-to-be self-published novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) — were rendered all the more marvelous thanks to our kind hostess Henrietta Fielden (henriettafielden@gmail.com).

Her flat in Madrid is located within a theater building that’s over a hundred years old. Everything there is gorgeous, starting with the stairwell…

Madrid, Spain, stairwell skylight. Going up is lovely…
Madrid, Spain, stairwell. And so is going down…

…and ending with dear Henrietta herself! Starting each day at her table was a delight not merely because her breakfast spreads were feasts both eyes and tummy — she’s also fun and interesting to chat with, no matter how our sleepy bodies protested at waking early for more sighseeing …

Breakfast with hostess Henrietta Fielden and da-AL's husband.

…moreover, her little Wifi kitty could easily be a professional stand-er! According to Henrietta, he’s merited quite a few Japanese YouTube viewers since she hosted guests from there.

My husband and I are fortunate to have met WiFi’s equally handsome and charming brother. Alas, WiFi’s performance made me forget to photograph his brother who has since passed away, his life far too short.

When I uploaded this short video of WiFi to my YouTube channel, Henrietta contributed this enlightening note, “There’s my WiFi! To potential fans, I should let you know he lacks discrimination. He will do this to a bare wall sometimes, too. So perhaps it is a kind of praying…”

Both of them humored my taking many pictures of them to share with you…

Henrietta and Wifi cuddling.

In the end, it’s the kindness of the people I meet on a trip that most touch my heart.

Our trip included:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz, France

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid — Part 1Part 2Part 3 — this  post (Part 4)

What magic have you experienced on a vacation?

Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Flamenco by da-AL

Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya. Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya.

My father was from Spain, so even though I was born and mostly raised in the U.S., the music of my childhood was solely European classical and flamenco. That’s why my upcoming novel is named, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and here flamenco my marvelous visit to Madrid merits a post of its own.

When it comes to flamenco, Seville gets all of the attention. Madrid’s Casa Patas, however, was amazing!!! My photos turned out awful — instead, here’s someone else’s video from another show. Each night features different performers. As terrific as these young girls are — the adult performers were even better!!!

How I wish young girls everywhere knew that beauty has little to do with popularity, wealth, youth, and plastic surgery. If only every single one of them was encouraged to artistically express unrestrained exuberance, anger, strength, fury, humor, and passion …

The beauty of flamenco is very different from that of Hollywood…

All-time flamenco goddess, Carmen Amaya

Flamenco star of today, Sara Baras…

Next, in Part 4, Madrid hostess par excellence Henrietta Fielden, her home, and her pets — all delightful enough to merit a separate post and a video!

Other posts about our memorable vacation:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid, Spain — Part 1Part 2 — this post (Part 3) — Part 4

Have you ever been enchanted by a country’s special dance?

Part 2: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Parks, Prado, and Sofia by da-AL

Madrid is such a jam-packed marvel that it deserves more than one post. Spacious parks abound. Here I posed at one that displayed Don Quixote and his devoted Sancho Panza

da-AL stands beside statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at park in Madrid Thank goodness these aren’t the kinds of horses that need to be swept up after.

We could have spent way more than just a day at the Prado Museum, regarded as among world’s finest art museums. Outside in front of it, a bronze statue of painter Diego Velázquez made by Aniceto Marinas in 1899 greets visitors…

da-AL with Velázquez Statue at entry to Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

Even the gardens surrounding the Prado are amazing — my eyes were too busy taking it all in for my brain to remind me to take photos. No worries, dear readers. This short video offers a sampling of the collection … 

We also visited the National Museum Art Centre Queen Sofia, which is best for housing Picasso’s Guernica painting

Picasso's Guernica Painting.

Such is my love of Spain and Flamenco (after all, my novel-in-progress is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat) that here I include this endearing small pen and ink pen drawing, “Bailaora (Flamenco Dancer)” 1945 by Enrique Herreros that was also there…

“Bailaora (Flamenco Dancer)” 1945 by Enrique Herreros

Flamenco deserves its own post — visit soon to read Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain.

Our trip’s itinerary in posts:

1. Beautiful Barcelona

2. Wonderful Huesca

3. Pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

4. Enchanting Espelette

5. Phenomenal French Basque Country

6. Delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián

7. Breathtaking Bilbao

8. Lovely León

9. Marvelous Madrid — Part 1 — this post (Part 2) — Part 3Part 4

Are you planning a vacation?

Part 1: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Graffiti and Royal Palace by da-AL

da-AL and her husband on the balcony of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The king of Spain and his family weren’t in when we visited, but we still enjoyed his nice house.

Our three-week Spain/France adventure ended with four nights in Madrid — a city that needs far more time than that to fully appreciate all of its marvelousness — museums, architecture, public art, food (including the world’s oldest restaurant), parks (among them centuries-old gardens), nightlife, and on and on. So much so that this part of our vacation is split into more than one post!

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” my novel-in-progress, is titled for my love of Spain and multi-culturalism. My husband and I arrived tired and late. Driving from León took longer than we planned, and rain made finding our accommodations extra troublesome.

The next morning we slept in, and then took a leisurely stroll that quickly revealed tons of political graffiti, much of it for gender equality, amid the big city hustle-bustle…

After a stop for lunch, we started to feel ourselves again, so we ventured further to where the king and his family stay when they’re in town.

da-AL's husband stands before the palace of the king of Spain.

The Royal Palace of Madrid was built in 1764. From floors to ceilings, it’s packed with non-stop gorgeous art…

Ceiling art at the Royal Palace of Madrid. Does the royal family find their ceiling art a pain in the neck?

Ceiling art at the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Check out Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

In the meantime, if you’d like to know about the rest of our trip…

It started with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona …

where we rented a car and stopped in wonderful Huesca

Then crossed into France to pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port

and the next day spent an afternoon in enchanting Espelette

For several days in phenomenal French Basque Country, we enjoyed Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz …

Back in Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián

followed by the breathtaking city of Bilbao

Before we got to Madrid, there was lovely León!

What’s the longest you’ve taken on a vacation?

Breathtaking Bilbao, Spain by da-AL

The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, features many American artists, from Frank Geary’s architecture to Jeff Koon’s “Puppy” flower sculpture.

Sure Frank Gehry’s amazing architecture at the Guggenheim Museum helped put a failing Bilbao, Spain back on the map. Front, back, in, and out the Guggenheim Museum, Spain, turns perceptions upside down and inside out (tap or click each photo for more info)…

However, art and art-worthy architecture abound everywhere in Bilbao.

There's much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.
There’s much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.

Along the way to the museum, we stopped to see Azkuna Zentroa. Built in 1909, it now houses a building within a building balanced on unusual columns.

It’s part of the Spain half of Basque Country. That means that both Spanish and Euskara are spoken. Good food abounds, including pintxos, Northern Spain’s version of small delicious plates of tapas.

Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.
Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.

Our airbnb hostesses Iciar Ruiz (who owns her own design business) and her daughter, Alba, helped us decide what to see.

Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.
Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.

My love and I had just left the beaches of San Sebastián, toured the phenomenal French side of Basque Countrywonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. Our adventure started with beautiful Barcelona. There was more for us to see…

 

Food and Seaside Dogs of San Sebastián, Spain by da-AL

Ever been around so much scrumptiousness that only way to enjoy it all without exploding was to have little tastes and do a lot of sightseeing? San Sebastián, Spain, is known for pintxos (Northern Spain’s version of tapas), which small delicious plates, and plenty to see. Our incredible vacation kicked off with beautiful Barcelona, then we visited wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, enchanting Espelette, phenomenal French Basque Country. Dedicated readers of this Happiness Between Tails know that my upcoming novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” due in part to my love of Spain!

Now we were in San Sebastián, which turns out to be a great place for dogs too! We fortified our energy with pintxos for breakfast…

Pintxos for breakfast!
Pintxos for breakfast!

A big day was ahead — San Sebastián is known for the best churros and pudding-think hot chocolate, so why not?…

empty mug and plate of churros and hot chocolates
Sorry, all gone! Yum! San Sebastián is known for the best hot chocolate and churros in Spain.

We hiked to Mota Castle at the top of Monte Urgull…

Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Where there were great views of the city and Bahía de la Concha…

View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Back down in Parte Vieja, Old Town, we decided to walk to the steeple at the very end…

Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Along the way, we tasted the best cheesecake ever, made with ricotta cheese…

Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!
Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!

We met many dogs…

Dog at the bakery
Along the way we saw dogs at the bakery.
steeple in the distance
We’re getting closer!
A dog under a chair.
And dogs under chairs.

Even at the beach!…

La Concha Beach
Dogs at La Concha Beach.

 

black dog
My dogs would love it here.
black and white dog
Does everyone in San Sebastián own a dog?
A fluffy dog
Yet another dog.
It's getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
It’s getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
dogs and street performers at the park
Dogs and street performers at the park.

The long walk was worth it!…

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
It was worth the long walk to see this!

Even Itzi Orbegozo, the kind hostess of our Airbnb, had a lovely dog, Kanika!

Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog
Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog.

We were off to breathtaking Bilbao