There and Back Again, A Dunbar’s Tale

I’ve been meaning to update for the last three weeks, but keep getting sidetracked!  So, friends, I’m sorry for the delay, but at long last, more photos from the Dunbars.

First of all, we’re back in Portland!  We’ve been back for about a week, looking for work.  Jason has almost found a job– on Monday he starts with a temp-to-hire position that could become permanent.  I have not had any such luck, but I’m applying away regardless.  We’re staying with the infamous Stephen Meinhold (aka Mind-bomb, aka Mind-meld) in Sellwood, and it still doesn’t feel quite like we’re here permanently, but I’m getting used to the idea.  I’ve hung out with the family a little bit, seen a few friends, taken a couple yoga classes… it feels good to be creating a bit of a routine, even if it isn’t work quite yet.

But, I also have more Spain pictures to show!

We visited several of the Pueblos Blancos, really cool towns north of the Costa Blanca.  All of the towns, for the most part, are set up high on plateaus and mountains.  Many of them are called ‘de la Frontera’, because they were frontier towns on the border of Moorish controlled lands for a period of time.

One of the towns is named Ronda, and is now a more popular tourist destination than Cordoba.  The scenery is beautiful, and they have some awesome buildings and museums. 

Moorish bath house with natural lighting.

Up on top of a guard tower in Ronda.

Hallway in an old palace.

Beautiful gardens.

Ronda itself, protected from invaders.

I ate the most amazing duck of my life in Ronda.  It was a random restaurant on a pedestrian street, and it was mind-blowing.  Delicious.

So. Good.

We stayed one night in Ronda, and checked out a few more Pueblos Blancos the next day.  One of the towns, called Setenil de las Bodegas, sounded really interesting, but as we drove up didn’t look like much.  We saw a sign pointing to the city center, and headed that direction.  Turns out that Setenil has streets barely wide enough for a car, and definitely not wide enough for both a car and pedestrians!  People had to step into doorways in order to make room for us to drive through.

Apparently this is entirely normal, but it was really nerve wracking.  At one point there wasn’t more than in inch on either side of our mirrors between us and buildings.  We must have driven like tourists, because a helpful Spaniard pointed us towards both the exit and parking, so we could explore the city.

Setenil de las Bodegas isn’t built on TOP of a hill like the rest of the Pueblos Blancos.  It’s built into a ravine, in the center  of a hill.  It was AMAZING.  No one knows how old Setenil is.  It can be traced back to ancient cliff-dwellings, where prehistoric artists left paintings.  The houses in Setenil are still simliar to cliff-dwellings– in many places, the rock forms both the back wall and the roof of these homes!  Many homes have storage in the cliffs, where inside their homes additional caves have been carved out of the rock behind them.  In some places, the rock forms a giant scoop, and homes are both below the rock, using it as a roof, as well as above the scoop, using it as a foundation.

Some of the streets in Setenil are literally tunnels.

Cova de la Sombra, Cave of the Shade.

Setenil, down in the ravine.  Below the rock band in the right of the photo lies Cova de la Sombra.

After Setenil, we visited a small town called Grazalema, a town known for producing textiles.  Sheep have been raised in the area for thousands of years, and there is even a breed of sheep so specific to the area the breed has been named after it.  Blankets and textiles have been exported from Grazalema for over 1,000 years, so we had to stop by and pick one up.  I didn’t take a picture, but needless to say, that blanket is one sweet souv.

Exiting the Pueblos Blancos is gorgeous… you literally drive down a mountain.

Gratuitous self-portrait.

We ended our tour of the Pueblos Blancos in a town called Jerez de la Frontera, which is the town in which sherry was invented!  Jerez, the spanish word for sherry, comes from the old Moorish name for the town, Sheres.  Sherry and wines have been exported from this area of Spain for three thousand years– literally every group of people to occupy this place have grown grapes here.

While there, we wanted to do a tour of a sherry facility, and ended up sort of randomly picking a brand called Tio Pepe.  Only later did we discover that Tio Pepe sherry is the number one export of any kind from Spain– more than olive oil and olives!  I was quite impressed.  The distillery is still owned by family members, more than 300 years after the company began.  I’d never had sherry before, but I loved it!  We had an awesome tour, and an excellent tasting.

Gonzalez Byass is the company that owns Tio Pepe.

One of the most recognizable icons of Spain, the Tio himself.

Among other notable visitors, Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg.

Four kinds of sherry!

A twist on the bottle with jacket and hat.

After Jerez, we drove to Sevilla to spend a few days.  It was right smack in the middle of Feria, which is an annual festival for Sevillanos.  They all dress up in traditional dress, and the fairgrounds is converted into a huge parade grounds, essentially.  Sevillanos show off their horses and dresses by driving up and down the roads, and they party all week in privately owned casetas that line the roads.  They dance the sevillana, they drink manzanilla, a type of dry sherry.  We couldn’t enter into any of the private casetas, but we did get an awesome taste of the Sevillano culture.

On parade.

There were beautiful horses and carts everywhere.

Texting while on a break from parading.

Cute little girls in traditional attire.

Downtown Sevilla.

The university.

Trolley tracks and palaces.

I ate one of the strangest meals of my life in Sevilla.  I asked for the assorted fried fish plate, and it turns out that not only are all the fish fried whole, but they were very artistic in their presentation– the fish were fried with their tails in their mouths!

So symbolic.

It freaked me out, but you better believe I ate it.

Oh yeah.  I went for it.

I’d look good in the ‘traje gitano’, no?

Posing for the camera.

We also finally got to watch a flamenco show– I really wish we could have seen more live music and dancing, but we were always so dedicated to seeing stuff that by the time the evening rolled around, we were POOPED.  But this show was really awesome, in one of the typical indoor gardens that many homes in this area adopted from the Moorish style.

And after Sevilla, Cordoba.  By this point, we only had two days left in Spain, and we were WORN. OUT.  We’d been putting in 12 hour days walking and touristing!  We only spent one day in Cordoba, but I would love to go back.  Of all the towns in Andalusia, this had the most Moorish influence.  The downtown is called the Jewish Quarter, and the whole area has World Heritage Site status.  We spent several hours wandering around.

My favorite part was the indoor patio/gardens that very nearly every home had.  Apparently it is a thing many Cordobans are proud of, so door were left open with views of the patios, so everyone could appreciate them.  We stopped in a tea house, also pretty much everywhere, and drank this amazing dark tea with mint, and as a topper– pine nuts!  It was delicious.

Tea house/ garden.

Jason loves it.

Tea with pine nuts!

One of the major draws to Cordoba, in addition to the Jewish quarter, is another World Heritage site, the Mezquita-Catedral.  We arrived just as it was closing, so didn’t get to go inside, but on another trip, it will be first on the list.  It is one of the most accomplished monuments of Islamic architecture, and has been the site of religious buildings for a very long time.  It is both a mosque and a catholic church– in fact, the catholic church was literally plopped down right in the center of it.  Check out the wiki link here:

A terrible photo, but all we could get.

I also stole this photo from Wikipedia to show you the awesomeness of the inside:

Yep.  Gotta go there.
Awesome facade in Cordoba.

One outside door of the Mezquita-Catedral.

After Cordoba, it was a whirlwind trip to Madrid, turn in the rental car, leave luggage at the airport, find our hotel, get last minute presents, back to the airport, get our luggage, we were late to our flight, pay fee to get on flight the next day, put luggage back into storage, find another hotel, go back to the airport and actually get on the flight, layover in Atlanta, and then, finally, we made it back to Albuquerque.  It was CRAZY.  We were quite tired, and spent just a few days relaxing and getting our bearings in ABQ with Jason’s sister, step-mom, and dad.

After a few days there, we spent a week in Kansas visiting more of Jason’s family, and then went back to Albuquerque for Miranda’s graduation from college (Jason’s youngest sister).  It was awesome.  Here are some photos:

Me and Mir!  Courtesy of Alex Tran @

Jason and Miranda. 

Courtesy of Alex Tran @
Courtesy of Alex Tran @

All the girls and Jason.  Courtesy of Alex Tran @
Mirand and Alex.  Courtesy of Alex Tran @
Kari, Jason’s oldest sister, and three of her 5 children: Jaden, Jacob and Josie.

Jason and El, as in ‘The’.

 After the graduation, we took two of the three nieces/nephews on a hike at the top of Sandia Mountain, where it actually snowed! 

Jason, Jacob, Larry and Josie.

Uncle, Aunt, Nephew, Niece.

After that, we headed west.  We stopped in Flagstaff again to say hi to Rayne Zaughsome, visited Vegas once again, had a car issue temporarily, and then made it to LA to visit Aunt Mia and Uncle Tom again.  We spent one night there and then went to San Diego where an old college friend of mine named Paloma picked us up, and we went to Mexico!  Paloma is a diplomat at the embassy there, and we had an awesome time.  We got to see a bit of Tijuana, and went wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe, south of Tijuana near Ensenada.  We had a blast.

Beautiful view of TJ at night.

At the waterfront in San Diego.

The best tacos and horchata of my life!

I was trying to catch a chiquiliqui!

Delicious chili breakfast.

Valle de Guadalupe.

Amazing coast.

Fresh coconut milk!

Paloma and mango with chili.

This may be my new favorite food ever.

But this is a really close runner up.  Coconut with chili.

Jason and Paloma.

I love you Paloma!

Our wine tasting picnic.


Paloma, thank you for a wonderful visit!  Come to Portland!

After that awesome weekend, we spent another few amazing days in Los Angeles, where I once again got beaten at Settlers of Catan by Uncle Tom.  The man is a board game shark!  Don’t let him fool you, he’ll school you!  🙂  They were also fostering two adorable kittens that they have since found a home for, so I spent wonderful amounts of time playing with those two bundles of cuteness.

We also got to spend some time applying for jobs, and on Tuesday May 22nd Jason got a call for an interview that Friday.  All of our stuff is still in storage, and we had no appropriate work clothes available, so Jason and I went and did a bit of shopping, and the next day started our ridiculous push back to Portland.  We did the whole thing in one day– 16 1/2 hours, almost 1,000 miles.  We got in at 2:30 am on the 24th, and have been getting settled into Stephen’s apartment for the summer ever since!

So that’s the story!  The end of Can-Am Flight 5.14.  Soon I may change the name of the blog, but I’ll keep blogging about our Portland adventures.  To everyone we saw on our trip, thank you for helping to make it amazing!  And to our SE friends… man, we miss you!  Come visit Portland!

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