Homeward Bound

December 9, 2015

Our taxi arrives right on time at 9:00 am and we are soon on our way to the airport. I snap one last picture from the cab window of an interesting looking building that is dripping with green foliage off every balcony. I wonder if it is an office building, and who takes care of all this greenery.FullSizeRender

We arrive at the airport in lots of time to relax a bit before we get on the plane, which I really appreciate.  I always like it when we are through security, and settled with a cup of tea. It is only then that I can relax and feel that we are truly on our way to wherever we are going.FullSizeRender

Our good friends meet us at the Edmonton airport with our winter coats.  Yes, we are certainly home. There is snow on the ground and it is a bit colder than Barcelona!  We were up early this morning and by the time we finally climb into our bed at home we have been up for well over 26 hours.  It is always hard to believe that we can travel halfway across the world so quickly.

Thank you to everyone who has been following along on our travels, especially those  who have waited so patiently for these last few posts.  I truly appreciated all the comments and ‘likes’. It helps to feel connected to everyone when we are away. I started blogging to keep in touch with family and friends and as a way to journal for myself.  I was surprised and delighted to discover that people in thirty-five countries were interested in reading about our travels! I also discovered many interesting blogs when I replied to comments and likes.  Blogging is certainly a phenomenon, and one I believe is here to stay.

So, I am often asked where we are travelling to next.  Right now, we have no travel plans for the rest of the year other than some short trips to visit family in Jasper, Revelstoke and Portland.  It is time for some gardening, a few home renovations and making art.  I will keep blogging, perhaps a post every week or two.  Stop by for some gardening and art photos.

 

 

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bob isn’t sure he wants to visit yet another church but I insist that we visit Antoni Guadi’s Sagrada Familia. This basilica is so huge it is really difficult to get a good photo.  These photos are from the Wikipedia information of the Sagrada Familia. This is the Passion Façade…800px-Barcelona_Temple_Expiatori_de_la_Sagrada_Fam_lia_(2050445207)…and here is the Nativity Façade. We purchased our tickets yesterday so we won’t have to wait in line, but we arrive a bit early so we walk around the exterior of the Cathedral until it is time for our entry.  I must warn you that I took 458 photos today!!  I am doing my best to only pick a few for today’s post but it is a difficult job.  The first stone was laid for this church in 1882 and it is scheduled to be completed in 2026!  Construction is now funded by the tourists who come to visit.1280px-Sagfampassion

Here are only a few of the sculptural details we saw as we walked around the church.Image-1There is so much history and information about this amazing church. This Sagrada Familia site has lots of information. The ‘History and Architecture’ and ‘The Basilica’ sections are presented in a simple format with lots of great pictures. The ‘Symbolic Visit’ in the Basilica Section gives great close up photos of the façade with brief descriptions and be sure to check out what the Sagrada Familia will look like when it is finally finished.

We arrived late morning, entering through the Passion Facade and the sun was shining through the green, blue and purple stained glass windows on the East side of the Church.  Our first view inside the Sagrada Familia was breathtaking. FullSizeRender

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We had booked a time to climb up the Nativity Tower so that was our first priority. There is an elevator up to the top of the tower which gave wonderful views of some of the other towers… Image-1

…and the City of Barcelona. When Gaudi was asked why he lavished so much care on the tops of the spires, where they are not easily seen, he answered: ‘The angels will see them.’Image-1

We had a choice of taking the elevator or the stone staircase down. So, of course we chose the staircase! At first the stairs spiral around the open centre of the tower but then they change into a narrow spiral staircase of 370 stone steps!Image-1

We find a place outside to eat our lunch and then visit the museum in the basement before continuing our visit inside the church.  This was an excellent decision as we learned so much about the construction and history of this incredible building. There were many working models ranging from small to very large.  Can you spot me in the reflection?Image-1

Models continue to be built and used daily as the church is still under construction. There were people on the scaffolding working on this one earlier.FullSizeRender_4Back upstairs and the sun has now moved around to the west side and it spills into the church in a riot of colour.  These photos have not been colour enhanced, and they do not even begin to compare with actually standing in the church and being bathed in a rainbow of colour.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_5The pillars are meant to look like trees in a forest and the light to appear like dappled sunlight, but it is so much more than just that.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Looking up, there is so much to see here wherever we look.FullSizeRender_4

This view looks down the main aisle to the altar.  FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_2

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The ceiling is not to be believed, and..Image-1

the doors are incredible too.  These are the Nativity Façade doors…Image-1

and the Passion Façade doors.Image-1We spent the entire day here, only leaving once it was starting to get dark outside.  I wanted to see the church with its inside lights on, but it was not nearly as spectacular as it was with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows.  I feel a bit sorry for all the people who are only now entering the church for their visit.  Although it is still very beautiful, they will never know what they have missed. Compare these photos with similar ones taken when the sun is shining. FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

This model of the Sagrada Familia shows the finished views from all sides.  It is scheduled to be completed in 2026 and we would love to be able to return to Barcelona to see it in all its splendour. Who knows?Image-1

If you didn’t see this on the Sagrada Familia link provided earlier, you really must take a couple minutes to watch this video to see a computer simulation of the Sagrada Familia when all its towers are completed in 2026. It is phenomenal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in Barcelona!

Monday, November 30, 2015

This is our last Airbnb apartment for this trip.  We have been very happy with the selection of accommodations available and we enjoyed staying at all of our apartments.  Yes, some were better than others but they were all more than adequate and it was great having a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Prices were very reasonable too, they ranged from $32 to $94 Canadian with an average of about $65 a night. I know it would have been much more expensive to stay in hotels and I really preferred our little apartments.  We are located in Sant Andreu, a Barcelona neighbourhood north of the main tourist area of the Old Town. There are not many tourists here, which is rather nice.  Lots of little shops in our neighbourhood and easy access to the metro and bus.  Image 2016-01-24 at 5.26 PMWe are up early to return our rental car, and catch the bus back to our apartment. I took this photo from the bus window and I kind of like the reflections in it.DSC01829That is quite enough for me today and I am looking forward to staying put the rest of the day and doing a bit of journaling and blogging. As you know, I am rather behind. This little fellow was quite happy to have me take his photo on our walk home from the bus stop. DSC01832

Bob went exploring while I had a relaxing day. We head back out tonight to check out the local fair as Bob has his heart set on a foot long hot dog for supper.DSC01835_3On the way home we peeked into this garage. All the shops here are very tiny, this one isn’t much wider than what you see here, so they need to put one car on top of the other.
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Los Alcázares

 

Wednesday November 25

Guess whose birthday it is today? DSC01421 - Version 2

We had a lovely leisurely day walking along the beach.  There aren’t many people here this time of the year so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.DSC01433 - Version 2We did see a rather interesting sculpture on the beach but had no idea what it was supposed to represent.DSC01431After a long walk, we stopped at the far end of the beach for tea and tapas on the patio of an old hotel overlooking the ocean. Perhaps we could get used to this!DSC01428

On the way home we checked out local restaurants for a birthday dinner, but when we went back in the evening we discovered that the restaurants were closed for the season. We had checked out the menus posted outside but hadn’t noticed the closed signs on the doors so we headed back to our apartment for a home cooked birthday dinner. I had some pastries and candles for Bob’s birthday dessert but forgot all about matches…so he had to pretend to blow out his candles and make a wish.

One final birthday gift, the prettiest sunset we have seen yet on this trip.DSC01436

Granada Cathedral and Alcaiceria Market

We are back home and although we had a good flight home it was still 24 hours from the time we got up until we arrived home. It is going to take a while to get back on Alberta time. I have fallen behind on my blogging but I am going to continue posting until I have it completed. Thank you for following along with us so far and I hope you will enjoy the rest of our trip.

Saturday, November 21

We spend another day in Granada, as we want to visit the Cathedral and the Alcaiceria, which is a reconstruction of the Moorish Market that burned down in 1843. This market is a maze of narrow streets and colourful shops that are absolutely crammed full of merchandise. We purchase a few souvenirs and Bob has a few laughs at my rather pathetic attempts at bargaining.

IMG_2488The Cathedral is right beside the market so that is our next stop.  Upon entering the front door this is the what we see.FullSizeRender  Here is a closer view of the magnificent dome over the altar.  FullSizeRender_3This cathedral has a very ornate very large organ. FullSizeRender_4I spotted this stand with several huge medieval books but it was in a roped off area so I couldn’t get any closer to get a good look.FullSizeRenderA bit further on down one of the side aisles I was thrilled to find a display of these ancient books. They were behind glass but I was able to get a much better look at them.FullSizeRender_4The lighting wasn’t the best, but there were several cabinets with books inside. While I was absorbed in studying the calligraphy and painted images, the lights in the cabinets shut off and it was too dark to see them anymore.  I had no idea why the lights shut off and although we returned a couple of times to check if the lights had been turned back on I was out of luck. I am glad that I at least had the opportunity to see what I had.
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We have seen similar skull and crossbones in almost every cathedral we have visited. They are on tombstones embedded in the cathedral floors.FullSizeRender_2The pillars and ceiling are quite ornate and the space they enclose is immense.  Notice how small the people are.
FullSizeRender_3This is a view of the back side of the Cathedral, seems I didn’t take one of the front. If you want to know a bit more about the Cathedral check out this link.  http://www.thousandwonders.net/Granada+Cathedral  It also has some nice pictures.DSC01159There is a suggested walk through the Albaicin, on the hillside opposite the Alhambra so we head out to explore it.  The beginning of the walk was quite nice.FullSizeRender_3I quite liked this ‘Granada’, or pomegranate, on the front of one of the buildings we passed on our walk.FullSizeRender_2We do find this lovely little garden and one other garden attached to a little museum along the way.  In the museum garden there are several orange trees loaded with ripe oranges, and we ‘borrow’ one to eat later.FullSizeRender

We spent a fair amount of time checking our map and trying to figure out which way to go. The route was not well-marked and we had to backtrack more than once. It was a long walk up lots of steep roads and really for what we saw we weren’t sure it was worth the effort and time, but at least we got some exercise.FullSizeRender_2

This is a view of the Alhambra from a viewpoint on a terrace by some restaurants near the end of our walk.FullSizeRender_4

On the way back to the bus we pass this building with its ‘street art’ and bricked up windows.  We saw so many apartments and buildings like this, empty and/or abandoned, right beside occupied buildings and shops. I sure wouldn’t want to be living in an apartment next to an abandoned empty building.  FullSizeRender

Tangier, Morocco, Africa

Sunday, November 15

I am behind on my blog, as you already know. I really wanted to keep it current but it hasn’t been possible. I will just continue to post when I can and I will finish blogging about our holiday after we get home if need be.

We are still in shock over the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday.  I spent a month in Paris last fall and it holds a special place in my heart.  ‘My’ neighbourhood was just north of where the Bataclan Theatre is located.  Having a connection, even one as remote as this, makes these attacks seem a little bit closer than they may have been otherwise.  It is scary and I can’t help but wonder where it will all end. We check the internet for updates and try to figure out the Spanish news on TV.

Today we have a day trip booked for Morocco so we catch a 10:00 bus to take us to the ferry at Tarifa on the southern corner of Spain. This is Tarifa looking out from the ferry.image

Before long we are in Morocco! This is the third time we have been to Africa.   We have traveled from the East to the West coast of South Africa on a train called the Shongololo Express and we have spent a couple weeks in Egypt.  Bob really wanted to go to Morocco, I wasn’t so sure. Egypt was quite challenging and we had lots of difficulties and I wonder if Morocco will be a similar situation. This is our first glimpse of the city of Tangier, Morocco from the ferry.imageThe tour we booked is excellent.  There are only five of us in our group and we have a guide and a driver.  We first drive through the city to get an idea of what Tangier is like and we are surprised by how beautiful the city is.  It is clean and it has lots of trees and flowers planted along the roads.  We are shown an area with palaces for Kings from Morocco and royalty from several other countries.  Then we drive along the ocean to Cap Spartel, which is Africa’s most north westerly promontory, and see the place where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Oceans meet. There are street vendors here but they are no where near as aggresive as the ones we had encountered in Egypt.image

Our next stop was an unexpected surprise. For just 2€ we have a camel ride!  When we were in Egypt I wanted to ride a camel but it never worked out.  Today I get my camel ride!image

Next stop, the Caves of Hercules. These were several really big caverns and if you look closely you can make out where round disks were cut from the rock to be used as mill stones.  There is also an opening in one of the caves that is the shape of the continent of Africa in reverse.imageOn the way back into town we were almost in a car accident.  A car came within inches of crashing into the side of our van right where I was sitting. I think that the driver’s wife was in labour, she looked very pregnant and very scared and her husband was driving like a crazy man! We were very lucky that he managed to stop before hitting us.  Once back in the town, we spend a couple hours on a walking tour through the medina in the old town of Tangier. The streets are narrow and twist and turn in all directions. Our guide also shows us a couple places that were used as sets in the Bourne Ultimatum movie and the new James Bond movie.image

Without a guide we would have been hopelessly lost.  One area’s buildings were all painted a bright blue colour.image

We stop in a Spice shop where a young man, who tells us he is a trained massage therapist, convinces us to buy a special oil that is good for aches and pains.  Bob gets a hand massage to try it out.image

While we have our lunch at a local restaurant these musicians provide the background music.imageAfter our meal we check out the local veggie and fruit markets.  The ladies in the interesting costumes and hats are from the hill towns outside Tangier.  They dress in their traditional costumes to come to market twice a week. We buy the biggest pomegranate we have ever seen for 1€. I think it must be hard to make a living selling produce.  Some farmers just have a small table, or a cloth on the ground with a few items for sale.

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The shops are very tiny, sometimes just a few feet square and we see a couple shops that bake bread for the locals in wood fired ovens for a few cents a loaf.

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We also visit a fabric shop and I buy a shawl.  I am sure I paid too much for it as I am not a very good bargainer!image

Finally, we visit the once grand Continental Hotel.  Many famous people and movie stars have stayed here but it does not appear to be doing all that well now.  We sit on the balcony just to the right of the red flag in the picture below, overlooking the Mediterranean sea and have mint tea and chat with our guide and one of the other fellows on the tour.  He doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Italian but we both managed to communicate in French and our guide speaks to us in English and to our new Italian friend in Spanish! We talk about life in Morocco and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Flags in Tangier are flying at half mast because of this.image

It is a long day by the time we get back to Tafira and then we still have a bus ride back to our car in Algacires. We don’t get home until almost ten, but we were both quite impressed by Tangier and I think I would be willing to spend more time in Morocco some day.

The Pueblo Blanco of Ronda

Friday, November 13

It is our grandson’s seventh birthday today!  I do miss not being home to celebrate it with him.

I forgot to mention the surprise we had yesterday morning.  We were still in bed, with our balcony door open to enjoy the ocean breezes and the view, when we were shocked to see workmen standing on our balcony!  Remember, we are in a penthouse apartment on the seventh floor!  Turns out they are painting the building.  There was a bit of paint smell yesterday but we thought they would be finished and we could put up with it for one day. Well, today we discover they are putting up more scaffolding, for more painting….

imageWe contact the owner to see what is going on and plan a day trip to Ronda.  The apartment is very nice otherwise.imageRonda is one of the Pueblos Blanco, or White Villages that is located about an hour from our Airbnb apartment in Algeciras.   The white villages are fortified hilltop towns and villages that are whitewashed in the Moorish tradition. Ronda sits on a massive rocky cliff and it straddles a deep limestone gorge.  Because it was so heavily fortified and difficult to attack it was one of the last Moorish towns to fall to the Christians in 1485. It is still hard to realize that all this was happening before Columbus even set sail to discover the Americas! There is just so much history here.imageRonda’s bullring is one of the oldest and most important bullrings in Spain, built in 1785.  The dream of every matador is to fight here at Ronda.image

We sit and have our lunch near the bullring, overlooking this valley below the town.image

Then we wander along the cliff top and stop at a view point to take a few photos.
imageA bit further along at another viewpoint I am a bit horrified to realize we were standing on a balcony like affair hanging out over the gorge.  Look closely and you will see this liitle balcony. It doesn’t look very sturdy to me!imageThe Puente Neuvo, or the New Bridge, was built in the 18th Century, and connects the newer part of town to the oldest area of town.  We walk across it, and of course stop for even more photos. It is an amazing bridge, 120 meters above the river below.

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There is a stone staircase of 231 steps down to the river in the Gorge.  I was trying to convince Bob that we should walk down but once we saw this sign we changed our minds.imageInstead we walk through the old town, popping in and out of the shops to see what we might discover and then head out to find the Puente Viego, or the Old Bridge which was built in 1616.  Today it is a pedestrian bridge and I stop to sit on “The Moor’s Armchair” right in the crook of the hairpin turn on the road to the bridge.

imageThis Old Bridge spans the same gorge as the New Bridge, just in a different place. imageAfter crossing the bridge we head up a path towards some terraced viewing platforms and garden areas.imageAnother view of the Old Bridge and the country side beyond the town, and the terraced gardens.imageThis is the New Bridge from the terraced gardens below. Notice the white houses tucked into the cliffs in the shadow of the bridge.imageWe wander through more of the Old Town, and I marvel at some of the places we find cars parked.imageOn the drive home the air is very misty and there is this great example of arial perspective. Check out this link if you aren’t sure what arial perspective is all about. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_perspective
imageMy camera has been giving me problems this entire trip.  There is dust inside it that causes the spot visible in the sky in this picture and sometimes the settings just start jumping around and changing all on their own! One time it started taking every picture in triplicate! I am hoping it will keep working until the end of this trip.  Any suggestions for a good camera?  I think I will need to buy myself one for Christmas when I get home.

Exploring Near Lagos, Portugal

First thing on the agenda this morning is a trip to Lagos to visit an Osteopath.  When we arrived there, we realized that we had left our red bag sitting on the road in front of the car back at our apartment.  We sent an email to our AIrbnb host who kindly called the cleaning lady at the apartment and located the bag for us. I was very happy, most of the stuff in the bag could have been replaced, but not my travel journal.

Bob waited for me near the beach which had streets with more great cobblestone designs. We both really liked this one.

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Next stop is Farol da Ponta da Piedade. This is an area near Lagos that has a lighthouse, which didn’t seem all that special, but it is situated in a pretty spectacular area. image imageWe decide we need to climb down this staircase to see what is down there. There are 191 steps down and of course, 191 steps back up!

image Here is what we found.image imageA short drive along the road takes us to Camilo Beach, with a view of Portimáo in the distance.image

Of course, to get to the beach there are more steps, another 225!image

This beach has brightly coloured rock cliffs on all sides, and the really red sand you can see in this picture at the base of the stairs was very slippery and stuck to my shoes like glue!  I have no idea why, other than it was washed down from the cliffs and was different than the rest of the sand on the beach.  I wonder if it is some sort of clay.imageBob notices a tunnel that goes right through the base of one of the cliffs so we walk through it and discover another beach area.image

We sit for a while enjoying the view, then we head back through the tunnel, up the 225 stairs, and we are on our way back to Portimáo, which is only about a half hour drive from here.image

On the way home I manage to snap a couple photos of some street art.  I’ve seen some really interesting stuff, but most of the time we have pased it before I can get a photo.  Traffic was a bit backed up so I managed to get these two pictures.image image

We leave for Seville, Spain in the morning, so we tidy up the apartment and pack most of our stuff tonight.  We are hoping for an earlier start tomorrow.

Lisbon to the Algarves in Southern Portugal

Monday, October 26

Finding an osteopath when we are on holidays is always a bit of a challenge.  I locate one not far from us and go for a treatment this morning.  Afterwards I have a quiet time at our apartment and Bob goes into Lisbon. He went for a ferry ride to the other side of the river in Lisbon and back again on a boat like the one in the picture.imageThen he takes the famous, crowded #28 tram ride to the Castle San Jorge which is high on a hill over the old city.

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On the way home he stops for some groceries and then manges to get on an express train which tales him right past his stop.  After missing the next two trains, due to some confusion over which one he should be taking, he finally arrives home wet, cold, and an hour late.

Tuesday October 27

We set the alarm and get up early because I want to go watch the the training session at the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. These Lusitano horses have been used for equestrian art and bullfighting for centuries but were at risk of dying out.  The stud farm was revitalized in 1942 to revive the breeding and training of these beautiful horses.  We watched the training session for about an hour and a half. I was entranced and wished that we could have seen one of their performances, but the timing for that didn’t work out.

imageThere are up to nine horses in the ring at a time, and the riders change horses over the hour and a half.imageimageThey were teaching this horse to do the Capriole, where the horse rises into the air and forcefully stretches out his back legs.  It was very impressive.image

Now we are on our way to the Algarves where we have our next apartment in a town called Portimâo. We drive under this old looking bridge but have no information about it. imageThen we drive over the 13 kilometer long Vasco de Gama bridge as we leave Lisbon. It is probably one of the longest bridge we have travelled on.imageOne of my ‘driving ‘pictures of a garden right beside the main road just after we get off the bridge.  One of the interesting things about both Spain and Portugal is the mixed use of land.  It is common to see houses right next to apartments, industrial or commercial areas, and derelict buildings next to very well kept ones.  I find it rather fascinating, but I don’t think I would like to live somewhere with this sort of planning, or maybe it is no planning?imageWe are soon driving on roads that travel through farms of cork trees.  These trees have their cork harvested once they are 25 years old.  The cork is stripped from the trunks every nine years and the trees can live up to 300 years!  Over half of the world’s cork production comes from Portugal and Spain.image

Here’s a close up of the cork and the stripped trunk. Quite fascinating.imageThe roads here are very pretty and we enjoy the drive, stopping near here for our lunch.image

We meet our host, and his two children, at our Portimâo Airbnb apartment at 6:00.  It doesn’t take us long to decide to extend our stay here from four nights to a full week. It is a lovely apartment on the 11th floor of a new apartment building and the price is certainly right, only $35 Canadian a night!

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Cascais and the Casino

Friday October 23

We drove to Cascais today, a town about a half hour west of where we are staying near Lisbon. We walked along the pedestrian streets and visited a few shops, but no purchases.  Everything I like is either too expensive or too big or fragile to get home.  The cobblestone street was a bit disorienting as it created a bit of an optical illusion.imageThere were some people on the beach making sand sculptures to earn a bit of money.imageWe walked down along the docks past the fishing boat area and then through the Cascais Marina, which were both in the shadow of ancient fortress walls.
image  The view from the Marina back towards town.imageWe passed this interesting house, or maybe a small castle? on our walk towards the Boca de Inferno.imageBoca de Inferno, or Hell’s Mouth, is an interesting cliff formation about a forty minute walk from Cascais.The pounding of the Atlantic Ocean on the cliffs chiseled out a small cave, which then collapsed. There is a walkway so it is visible from both sides.image image imageBob wanted me to take this picture, he said it reminded him of a jigsaw puzzle.imageThe fortress walls I mentioned earlier now house a hotel and a bunch of artist studios, which unfortunately were all closed, but this quaint little bookstore was open.imageIt was full of interesting things, including this unique piece of furniture, made of all sorts of recycled bits of wood.  My nephew in Portland has started woodworking and has buit some beautiful pieces. I thought he might like to see this.image

The courtyard also had a few different sculptures, including these giant binoculars.

imageWe walk back above the dock with all the fishing paraphernalia that we walked by earlier.imageWe found a nice bit of beach and spent an hour or so just relaxing, watching the waves and the people.imageOn the way home we stop at a Casino in Estoril.  It is supposed to be the biggest Casino in Europe, but we are only able to find half a floor of slot machines on the main floor, and the gaming tables are closed.  Our casinos at home seem bigger than this one…We spent a couple of hours, won some and lost some and in the end it cost us 10€. 
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