Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Traveling For Research

Sandra here and I am feeling thankful to be back home after a month long journey across Spain.

How many of you have traveled specifically to do research for your novel?

As the title states, I want to give you some practical tips for traveling for research based on my experiences. And then I will follow with some of the things I learned that will be important for my novel. These are the subtle nuances I picked up that wouldn’t have necessarily been found in online or paper research. This part will include a sharing of photos so I wanted to let you know that the nuts and bolts will be first, followed by fluff (in case you are in a time crunch) smile

I needed to do research for a story that has been in my heart to write for years. I could have written this book when it first appeared in my head. After all we do have the Internet and plenty of travel books to peruse, but I really wanted to travel to Spain. I am a kinetic learner and need to experience the hands on feel of a place to get the setting just right.

I finally had the opportunity to travel to Spain. My hubby wasn’t interested, but a girlfriend wanted to rent a car and drive around the country and she needed someone along who spoke Spanish. My hand went up immediately.  And we all know how God's perfect timing works. I was free for the first time in years to go that far away from home and I had the money.

¡Óla, España!

Coast near Navia, Spain

Nuts and Bolts of traveling to Europe (specifically Spain)

1. RICK STEVES TRAVEL GUIDE is a must. He focuses on cultural history sites to visit and sets you right in the heart of the interesting tourist part of the site. He even gives recommendations for places to stay in a range of prices. So we were able to stay in nice places at really reasonable prices where we could walk around and enjoy his self guided tours. He gives information for walking tours and recommendations for professional tours.

2. PACK LIGHT. Did you hear me?  I took one small suitcase and had everything I need.  See the photo below? My apartment in Seville was on the third floor of the building to the right. See why you travel light? We had to roll our luggage from the parking lot, down this narrow street and up three flights of stairs. The good thing about that is you can eat all the bread and fried potatoes they serve in Spain with every meal. LOL

My apartment in Seville is on third floor above me

Plan ahead to save sample containers of makeup and toothpaste, etc. Bring clothing that is polyester because they don’t wrinkle and when you hand wash, they dry overnight. My favorite pants were by PrAna. The pant legs zip off below the knee so they make capris or long pants and look dressy.

Pack everything in zip lock baggies. Take quart, gallon and two gallon spares. This makes it easier to sort through what you have. By squeezing air out of bags, you can fit more in your SMALL case.

3. Leave one fourth of your suitcase empty so you have room to bring back the things you want to buy.

4. COMMUNICATION:  International phone service on your cell phone is available, but pricey. You can set up SKYPE. I talked to hubby every morning for free. I took a Kindle Fire HD to use for internet. My friend used her I Phone for Internet (not phone service). All the places we stayed had free wi fi.  We purchased a cheap burner phone in Spain and bought minutes so we could call and make reservations, get directions, etc.    By the way, in Spain they have traffic circles so you can just drive around and around until you figure out where you are. LOL

5. TRANSPORTATION: We rented a car before we left and it only cost us a little over $300 for the whole month. So you can see it is cheaper to do it ahead of time and while home. You can shop around for the best deal and also have it all set up so when you arrive at the airport, you hop right into your car. (Well after standing in line LOL)

All major airports have information booths with multilingual staff so you can get bus and train schedules. We took local buses and the metro while in big cities. It is easy to do with a schedule in hand. Every town in Spain had an information booth and I got the impression that most of the towns in Europe provide these.  However, keep in mind that in Spain everything shuts down in the afternoon. They do take their siesta time seriously. You night owls will love it though because the towns are alive with shops and restaurants open until eleven or midnight.

6. MONEY: Spain uses Euros. No need to pay the exorbitant fees of money changers. Major airports have ATM machines. Most banks do charge for each ATM transaction so when you do get cash, get the full amount allowed. You will be charged the same fee for a $20.00 deduction as for a $200.00. So go for the one time fee.  If you can find a bank that is online only, they have to give you ATM cards with no fees. My friend does this and saved lots of money. My ATM fees were more than my credit card fees.

You can shop for credit cards that don't charge international exchange fees. I didn't know to do that, (sigh) but did save myself tons of money by putting a credit on my account. My bank charged 3% daily. So if you charge something at the beginning of your billing cycle, that purchase will get charged 3% every day. By having a credit in my account, the purchase was paid off so only got charged the minute it came in.  This saved me money. I used my credit card for most purchases.

A money belt is wise in crowded areas where pick pockets can abound.  I rarely had to worry about this, but was glad to have the belt when I needed it.

7. TAX DEDUCTION: Remember any travel you do for your writing is tax deductible. SAVE RECEIPTS. These are a must. Keep a daily log with references to all the places you went that pertain to the research and why. Keep a log of expenses so if audited you can present your expenses in an organized and precise manner. Travel expenses are allowed, but you must use them in a book within two years. Oh dear--a deadline already.

8. RESEARCH: There are many ways to take notes: dictate in your electronic device, photos, write notes, send yourself emails.  I took lots of photos of the displays in museums including the written descriptions and info so I will have a reminder of what they said. (See sample below)  We took tours in each major city to start with which would lead us to specific places to find info. I also collected email addresses of people willing to help and answer questions that might come up in the future while writing the manuscript.

Do you have to travel to your location to write an authentic setting? No. Just ask the other Seekers. There is plenty of info out there on the Internet and with the Internet you can connect with people who live in the areas you are writing about.


I am a writer who tends to make my settings a very integral part of my story and in order to do that, I have to experience the setting in person.

Anyone else out there like that?

All of my books are set in locations I have lived in or traveled to. My current release, LOVE’S REFUGE is set on an island in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington. My hubby and I spent a couple of weeks on a similar island where my aunt and uncle had built a cabin. The setting was so unique that I just had to use it for a novel. Then I had to think of characters who would live on that island or visit it. Hence, Skye and Danny were born. And many of their experiences on the island are similar to those hubby and I experienced.

CURRENT OF LOVE was set on a steamboat cruise up the Mississippi River. Hubby and I had won a trip to New Orleans and decided on taking the same cruise described in the novel. I interviewed crew members while on the cruise (hey, I’m a writer—what can I say?). I then came up with reasons my characters would be on the same steamboat. Hence Janelle and Rett were born. And many of their experiences are similar to those hubby and I experienced.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Can you catch a glimpse of the added value of traveling to the location of the setting of your novel?

Travel to these locations not only gave me hands on experience to write into my setting, but inspired the plot and characters of the novels.

Now my book set in Spain started with the character. I have had this character prowling around in my head for years demanding that his story be told. But he was born in Spain and I could have written him there with info gleaned from online/paper research but as I said before, I'm a kinetic learner.  I am glad I traveled to Spain because I did pick up plenty of things that will deepen his personality.

I loved Spain. They have statues of Jesus everywhere. And holy days are national holidays. All Soul's day fell on a Friday so the Spanish had a three day weekend.

Statue of Jesus

My character lived in the 15th century. As a boy he would have traveled on foot or horseback. I hiked in many of the Natural Parks and rode horses in the pine forests and on the beaches. Now I've hiked and ridden horses here but I can now relate to the flora and fauna my character would have seen. I will know what wildlife he would see.

Hiking in Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Picos de Europa Natural Park (We hiked 9 miles here)
One of the Natural Parks we visited used to be the hunting palace of the king. My hero's family would have hunted here. I know what it feels like to climb the steps of the palace and see the view over the tree tops. I know what eagles he will see flying overhead.

View of the forest from the hunting palace of the king

A last minute decision was to swing by Jerez and go see the horse show put on by the Andalusian School. What beautiful horses and riders. Now my character will certainly use some of these moves to impress the ladies. smile I would't have thought to use them before this.

Practicing for the show at the Andalusian School in Jerez

We toured the bull fight ring and in the museum I discovered that my hero would be living in the period of time bullfighting evolved. The men training for battle would practice their horsemanship skills in the plazas and the bulls would provide the role of the enemy.

Painting in museum shows evolving of bullfighting

While roaming around the countryside, my character will be using old Roman ruins that are still in use today.

Roman bridge in Ronda-Buses and trucks still travel on this bridge.

Roman bridge (See people walking on the top)

Architecture in Spain is amazing because the Romans built large cities and when the Moors conquered Spain they built their mosques on top of the Roman buildings. In other words they recycled and reused the existing structures to build towers and other buildings. Then when the Christians reconquered Spain, they did not tear down these mosques. They converted them to the cathedrals. They extended the towers  and placed the bells inside. The muslim prayer rooms became the church.  So when you tour the cathedrals and palaces, each building becomes a lesson in architecture. My hero will see the construction changing the mosques into cathedrals.

Cathedral in Segovia

Cathedral in Ronda
My character wanted to serve God, so he thought he should be a priest. Circumstances prevent this but he does serve God in a mighty way that he isn't even aware of.  (Don't we all know how that happens?)
Anyway, I visited the churches he would have worshiped in--huge cathedrals filled with statues and paintings on the ceilings and walls. To me, they seemed rather gaudy, but I was reminded by a tour guide that in the days these cathedrals were built, the people did not read. So the statues and paintings were put there to tell the stories in the Bible. In other words, these cathedrals are giant picture books.  Now that tidbit of knowledge is going to change big time how my character views his time in church and his memories and thoughts of church.

Gabriel talking to Mary (this is not old, but I really loved it)

In Spain the story of Jesus is still told in the manner they used for centuries. Each church builds a float that tells part of the story of Jesus' life. On special holy days, they parade their floats in the order the story goes. As the floats passed by, parents tell their children the story. In Seville, the parade during Easter week is world renowned. One and a half million people come to see this event. The floats are huge. They weigh over a ton and are carried by the men of their parish. They have two sets of forty men who walk under the float and they take twenty minute shifts carrying this huge float. 

The float of the Roman soldiers confronting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane

Close up of the float with Roman soldiers

The floats are costly as you can imagine so in small towns, they pick one scene. Mary is a favorite because the story of Jesus usually starts with Gabriel coming to tell her she will be with child. Because of this many Protestants think Catholics pray to Mary, but they don't. When they go to a statue of Mary and talk to her, they are asking for her to intercede for them and give their prayers to her son, Jesus.  Very much like you would ask a friend to pray for you. 

Famous float of Mary (as described in Revelations ) at the Cathedral of Macarena in Seville

All of this information gleaned from touring the cathedrals in Spain will change how I portray my character as he attends church.  I might not have picked up many of these subtle nuances from books.

Well, I hope I haven't bored you to tears.  I actually have over 700 photos so be thankful. LOL

Pork is a favorite food in Spain so I will serve tapas with jamon (ham) and cheese. We have potato tortillas (these sound weird but they are to die for),  paella, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Fresh bread and olives are always served with every meal.  Most meals include fried potatoes and yummy salads. Deserts include a delicious pudding type crema. 

Every block has a bakery with breads and pastries. Lots of chocolate too (after all they brought chocolate from the Americas).   They also make churros to dip in hot chocolate.  Every block has bars that serve drinks at night, but I loved them because they served coffee in the mornings.  Expresso lattes are a favorite there. Be careful though because they make their coffee STRONG.  

So enjoy the feast. 

And tell us about any travels you did for research. All who comment will be put in a drawing for your choice of a copy of my new release LOVE'S REFUGE or a copy of my new audio release of LOVE'S MIRACLES.  Or if you're traveling and want a Rick Steves travel guide you can choose that as well.

If you haven't already, join us for the blog tour of LOVE'S REFUGE set up by the amazing Amber Stokes at SEASONS OF HUMILITY and enter the rafflecopter contest for a kindle loaded with all of my ebooks. 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING.  I am always thankful for the Seekers and our friends in Seekerville.

Excavation of Roman city of Baelo Claudia


  1. What a great trip. For me it's more economical to plan trips in my own backyard. Or to travel by cyberplane. LOL.

    Color me green!!!! What an awesome trip!

  2. Okay. I haven't traveled for research yet (and that future trip to India is always in my mind, if I ever take it). However, after spending four years in Japan, I feel like part of it I alread know.

    Trust me, though, if I could go back to Japan and then write it off, I would love to do so. (Granted, I need to make profit on said book to make it work, so I'm a long way away.)

  3. Thanks for sharing. That was my problem I didn't pack as light as needed. I tried as besides Hawaii and a few days on my tour most of the time was spent in jeans and sweaters. I took a couple I left behind. But then I did have quite a few gifts I had to take over. I ended up with quite a bit to bring home. I travel so much lighter in Australia.
    Im not a writer but if I was my trip to the states and the historical sites would have been on my list to visit.

    Oh on money here you can get what is called a cash passport. its used like a debit/credit card. You load it in the currency of where you are visiting and the first load is free. if you take money out from a bank you will pay more but I got money out at places like wallmart, brought goods and got cash out and no extra costs.

  4. Wow, what an adventure you had! It sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing some of it with us.

    Happy Tuesday, Seekerville!

  5. Echoing our delightful friend Annie Rains yes, what an adventure!

    I don't have the bankroll for this kind of excitement but I'm okay living vicariously through you, Sandra! What beautiful sights.

    I'm still waiting to hit the coast of Maine, LOL! Lame? Yes. But that's okay, nothing wrong with minor league travel dreams!

    (Note the baseball analogy??? Three months 'til spring training!!!)

    Sandra, I hope you love writing your book. That's the best gift ever, to be able to sit down, immerse yourself into a story and write.

    Love it!

    And Jenny, good advice on the monetary card! I think that's a wonderful idea, and so easy.

    Okay, I'm leaving nothing. I have no idea what fancy desserts or breakfasts they do in Spain.

    But I can leave COFFEE!!!!! Fresh, hot, we're buckling down for storm Boreas here in the Northeast so we'll see what this day brings!


  6. Hi Sandra,

    I want to be first in line to read your book!

    This fall for the first time ever my husband and I went to Europe. We spent about a week in Sevilla! Our son is studying Spanish there for a semester. He lives in Triana, and we stayed in a hotel close to him.

    We went to the cathedral on Wednesday night during a service. Amazing!

    I know what you mean about traveling light. We took bus from airport to taxi and dragged our suitcases from the bus stop in Sevilla to our hotel in Triana. We thought about taking a taxi, but our son who'd been living there a couple of months and was used to walking said it was a short walk! Ha! Short without luggage.

    We had a wonderful time and I enjoyed your post today!

  7. Morning TINA and RUTHY. When you travel with Rick Steves book, he recommends places that are very reasonable. In Europe, especially in the old town where you want to be anyway, there are pensions and hostels. They offer small rooms with their own bathroom and since I was sharing with my girlfriend, it only cost me on the average of $15.00 - $30.00 per night. Several of these included breakfast. And breakfast in Spain is mostly a hard roll filled with ham and cheese so we often made our own. Not pricey at all.

  8. RUTHY thanks for the coffee.

    My favorite pastry in the bakery were like sponge cakes filled with a pudding like filling called cremas. They could even be topped with chocolate. Lots of chocolate in Spain so all of you would be very happy.

  9. Hi WALT, Wow four years in Japan. Now I'm green along with TINA. And India would be fascinating.

    You have five years you can deduct before making a profit. And if the IRS or State tax folks audit, just show them all your rejection letters and if you have them, your published books. That proves you are not writing for a hobby. Also, keep precise records with what each expense is.

  10. Hi JENNY, I like the idea of the cash passport. I really didn't do enough research on the money before I left. I'll keep that in mind for next trip.

    I'm so glad you traveled to the US. I know our Seeker friends loved meeting you. I want to travel to Australia sometime.

  11. Hi ANNIE, Happy Tuesday to you also. Have a wonderful holiday.

  12. Hi JACKIE, Wow, how fun. Didn't you love Sevilla? And what a bonus to have your son to show you around.

    I'm laughing at the short walk thing. Sure and those sidewalks and streets are cobblestone.

    What other countries did you visit?

  13. WOW!

    I'm totally blown away. At this point in my life, the last thing I want to do is leave the house, even to go the store. I hate going anywhere, even on a short trip. I used to travel a lot, but now you couldn't pay me to get on a plane with all the planning, money exchanging, figuring out technology that works and what does, etc.

    BUT you got me. I've never been to Spain. And now I want to go.

    I'll have to settle for reading that book. (It sounds AMAZING.)

  14. HI VIRGINIA, I did go to Spain, but I think I am more like you. It is a lot of work to travel afar and it does take a lot of figuring. Some of the times I was hauling my suitcase up the stairs I was thinking "I'm too old for this." lol But then I'd see an amazing sight.

    But truthfully, I much prefer traveling in the motorhome.

    And there is nothing wrong with staying home and reading a good book. You can travel anywhere that way. smile

  15. Thanks for the 'tour', loved the photographs! I'm not much of a traveler myself, but I enjoyed your trip! :-) I've learned to pack light for the short three day trips that I make. :-)

    Glad you had a safe trip.

  16. Hi MARY, Yes, it is important to pack light for those short trips too. That is how I learned to pack light is from all the short trips I used to make to help out with the folks.

    Happy holidays.

  17. I'm so envious. I love to travel, though I've never been to Spain. And a whole month to sightsee? That sounds amazing. I'd love to visit Ireland. I have this fascination with their leprechauns and fairy folktales.

    And what a research trip. I like to research on the web, but a hands on experience gives a realism to the setting and characters, because you can see through their eyes.

    Thanks for sharing your trip. And I can't wait to read the book.

  18. Oh Sandra, what an adventure! You could have shared all 700 pictures and I would have been happy. Now you've really got me anxious to read about this Spanish hero of yours!

    I think I'd like to do that kind of trip to Ireland. I was born there and I went back to live for nearly two years after college but I'd still like to go back and really take my time touring every nook and cranny. I'm sure there would be lots of scope for the imagination as far as stories go.

  19. This is all just so beautiful, Sandra.

    Traveling for research...well, Hmmmm surely I've done SOMETHING.

    I guess going to Fort Atkinson, a restored 1820s fort an hour from my home counts, though I wasn't specifically researching anything. Just interested.

    There's a really cool (to me!) Civil War museum in Battle Lake, MN I love walking through.

    It's four blocks from the cabin I stay in when my family goes fishing.

    It ain't Spain. But I did get a really close look at a Yellowboy Rifle.

  20. Enjoyed your post! Great tips for writers, but also for others. I told my husband about the tips for saving money on your money and credit cards. he wanted the link.

    I'm writing a Biblical historical middle grade fiction. We went to Israel and participated in an archeological dig just 5 miles, as the crow flies, from the site of my story. However, you can't get there without going way out of your way to go through a check point at Nazareth. The old joke "you can't get there from here" almost came true. One was Israeli territory and the other was Palestinian West Bank territory.

    As I write about my little family living in Late Bronze Age Gibeon, my time on the summit of El Jib gives me such "scope for the imagination."

  21. Love this! And I totally agree!

    I need to look back over my trips and see what seeds are planted.

    Peace, Julie

  22. Sandra, thanks for the research travel tips and for sharing the awesome photos of your trip to Spain. Makes me want to go! A month gave you time to experience so much! Fun to see how God provided a way for you to go!

    Years ago we took a tour of Italy for a couple of weeks. We also traveled light, at least compared to normal. :-) I used the large zip lock bags to organize my clothes. This was a fabulous experience, but I write small town settings so this was not a research trip.

    To research what turned out to be my debut setting, I spent time in Noblesville, IN. I didn't think to record gas and mileage but then this was before I sold. I'm smarter now.

    Thanks for the buffet!


  23. Sandra...I just finished LOVE'S MIRACLES. Totally awesome! Review coming soon. Doesn't look like I have any trip in the immediate future....not even Arizona. Hopefully after the New Year! Looking forward to seeing Spain through your eyes! Have an awesome day, seekervillagers

  24. Hi BRIDGETT, I flew over Ireland on the way home and it really is green. It took years to achieve my dream of travel to Spain so don't give up yours. You'll see Ireland one of these days.

    Happy holidays.

  25. Hi KAV, You and Bridgett should get together and GO. Ireland sounds so fun. I have relatives from Ireland.

    You're sweet to look at all 700 photos. smile

  26. HI MARY, You've traveled where it counts. Right where your characters reside. smile And I've seen your photos from the museum. You're the one who gave me the idea to photograph the museum info in Spain because at this age memory is iffy. lol

    Happy holidays.

  27. Hi PEGGY Wow, what an experience to travel to Israel and Palestine. I just know those experiences will deepen your book. Can hardly wait. smile Sounds really interesting.

    Happy holidays.

  28. Sandra,
    What an amazing trip. Sounds as if you experienced everything! And you speak Spanish. What a plus.

    Loved the pictures and all the special details you provided. Your book will be so rich with authenticity!!!

    Thanks for the travel tips about credit cards and connecting with folks in the US. So important when we travel.

    I'm coming back later to read this again...wonderful information.

    Glad you're back. Glad you had such a fantastic trip!

  29. Hi JULIE HS, Great to hear you've traveled too. You'll be surprised how much you use the info.

    Happy holidays.

  30. Hi JANET, Your trip to Italy sounds fun. I bet you know what I meant about the narrow streets and flights of stairs. smile

    Hey, traveling to Noblesville, Indiana definitely counts since that is where your books are set. Love the history that comes through in your writing. Hope I can do as well.

    Happy holidays.

  31. Hi MARIANNE, Oh I do so hope you make it to Arizona this winter. Thanks for reviewing Love's Miracles. It really helps when the reviews go on Amazon. Amazon uses them a lot when marketing.
    Thanks again.

    Happy holidays.

  32. Hi DEBBY, I bet you could teach me plenty of travel tips yourself since you've been everywhere. smile

    Happy holidays.

  33. So true, Sandra! My feet took a beating in Italy. We took in every museum and side tour, all of which required walking.

    Looking forward to your story. You'll do a fabulous job with the history and setting!


  34. Wow, what a trip, Sandra! And your story idea sounds so intriguing!

    I've done some traveling overseas, but the only trips I've seriously used for book research are our (almost) annual escapes to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the setting for my Till We Meet Again historical series.

    Someday, though, I'd really love to use our Ethiopia/Kenya travels in a novel. Just have to figure out the right characters and situation.

    And maybe someday you'll teach me how to pack light??? My husband would be SOOOO thankful! My problem isn't so much what clothes to take as all the little necessities for staying healthy (vitamins, prescriptions, etc.) plus staying comfortable with an ever-growing array of inflatable pillows!

  35. MYRA I am soooo laughing. I would have given anything for an inflatable pillow. The pillows in Spain are hard. And long.

    You have two years to think of a story. I bet one will come along just at the right time. smile

    Happy holidays.

  36. Oh Sandra, looks like you had a blast and you got such a feel for you book now.

    I would love to travel. Hey, I'm just hoping to go to Alabama or Georgia and see some of the plantations. In a couple of years, we're supposed to go to Corinth and Ephesus.

    Happy for you.

  37. So outstanding. Sandra, I'm with you 100%. Traveling to the setting makes all the difference, and readers notice.

    I'd been so excited to read about your adventures to Spain, a place I'd love to visit. Your tips are excellent and I learned a few more things to use in my own business dealings (like a 2 yr deadline to write things off).

    Excellent excellent all the way around!

    Appreciate your sharing the story with us!!!

  38. Hi CONNIE QUEEN, Now I haven't bee to Alabama and just Atlanta last summer at RWA in Georgia. So we both need to do that trip. smile

    Greece sounds fun. Will it be for research?

    Happy holidays.

  39. Hi KC, I just learned about the two year deadline myself. Good to know.

    Happy holidays. Have a pawsome day. :)

  40. What a wonderful post, sharing what you learned along with pictures of your trip. The advice is awesome as well. I learned to pack light when I went on missions trips as a teen and everything for a whole summer had to fit in one duffle bag (this included a small tub in which to wash laundry). I'm sure at some time I will use my missions trip experiences in stories at sometime - too many neat experiences to NOT use something. I've been to Israel (my fave spot: wilderness of Engedi), Eqgypt, Greece, the Phillipines, Ukraine, Germany, and Honduras. And, well, touched quite a few other countries on the travel path to said countries.

    I would love to go to Australia sometime. As a diver, I'd like to dive the Great Barrier Reef.

    I would very much like to be in the running for Love's Refuge, because I remember you talking about the setting and I fell in love with the book from that.

    Oooo, my brain is all abuzz with ideas now as I access travel memories... Thanks Sandra!!!!!!!

  41. Wow DEBH You do have a treasure trove of travel experiences. I'm sure some of those will be in your stories. They just sound like they have to. smile

    I'm with you on seeing the Great Barrier Reef. I know its a dream of hubby's so some day soon I hope.

    Happy writing and happy holidays.

  42. Sandra, absolutely loved your blog and the photos. I've always wanted to go to Spain.
    I have to experience the setting of my story, too. In my case the foreign setting was first and then the ideas for stories. Since hubby is British and we travel extensively throughout the U.K. I have him to guide me around the countryside. But London was a challenge when doing research on WIP and the tour guides extremely helpful.

    Have used many of your suggestions, but still learned from your blog today.
    Have used Rick Steve's travel guide and Michael Portello's railway journeys. When it comes to sightseeing we hire a car and hubby does the driving on the left while I enjoy the scenery. But the railway system and other means of making connections is fantastic so we've come to depend on them just as much. Is this true for Spain as well?
    Please don't put me in for the drawing for Love's Miracles. I have it and plan to get to it soon. Marianne's comment here on the book is noted. Thank you, Sandra.

  43. Hi Sandra. What a fantastic trip and it's fun to live vicariously through you. Thanks for sharing.

    I connected with what you said about looking at the land and thinking about the eagles overhead. When we went to the holy land, I just didn't feel connected until we got to the Sea of Galilee. The holy sites seemed contrived and commercial to me, but the sea was the same as it had always been and I could picture Jesus and the disciples fishing on that very water. It was emotional.

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. Hi PAT JEANNE, We had no problem with the transportation in Spain. The trains, buses and metro were great. Of course the car was helpful in getting to out of the way places, but when in the cities we relied on local transpo or walking.

    I bet it was great traveling the UK with an expert.

    Happy holidays

  46. Hi LYNDEE, Wow, I would love to see that. I bet it was emotional. And powerful. Have you used your experiences in any books? You need to capture that emotion. smile

    Happy holidays.

  47. Sandra, how wonderful that you finally saw Spain! I'm sure your story will be even more rich for experiencing the locales. I am always amazed at the Roman architecture and aqueducts that have survived ... especially considering all the natural and human-made disasters since they were constructed.

    Thanks for sharing the pix and the travel tips. Traveling 'light' is a must when you're catching trains, especially, because they don't wait for anyone :-)

    Looking forward to your book,
    Nancy C

  48. Well its around 4:00 pm here in Arizona and in Spain, people start heading for the bars where you can buy a drink. They have sodas, wine and coffee. If you order a drink, they offer free tapas which are yummy snacks. They are usually some kind of meat like shish kebob style, fried prawns, sliced bread with some kind of topping similar to bruschetta. Fresh fruit and nuts and always olives are offered as well.

    They do this because the restaurants are closed and they don't open until 8:00 pm for dinner. The tapas saved us because we didn't like eating that late. I would order sparkling water which is agua con gas. (water with gas) Isn't that a kick? It would always make me chuckle to order that.

    So anyway, I have asked a tapa bar to set out snacks and drinks so order away and enjoy.

  49. Hi NANCY, Sounds like you are speaking from experience. I know what you mean though. Not only do the trains not wait, but you better be set to go when they take off. smile

    I was truly amazed that all the ancient ruins were still in use. It was amazing. Thanks for joining us.

    Happy holidays.

  50. Oh Sandra, I laughed in recognition when I read your comment about agua con gas. When we were in England, I had to figure out the difference between 'still' and 'gassed' water. Sometimes I could get away with asking for 'sparkling,' ... and sometimes I couldn't :-)

    Nancy C

  51. Hello out there. Its slow today. I bet I know why. You are all out there shopping, baking, getting bedrooms ready for company, maybe entertaining guests already. Oh I'm having so much fun thinking of all the holiday activity. Me too. Me too.

    Hubby's cousin is already here and several friends have arrived. We are playing games, talking our ears off and helping prepare the goodies.

    I'm picturing that and hoping you all are tucked in safe from the storms reported back east.

  52. Wow, your trip to Spain sounds wonderful, Sandra! Thanks for sharing all the travel tips AND those great photos.

    If I ever traveled far away, I think my challenge would be packing light, LOL. Even going to ACFW, I always take WAY too much!

    So glad you had the opportunity to do some first-hand research in Spain, and glad you're back safe and sound.
    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  53. Sandra, what a great trip! I loved your tips for traveling light. Like I could ever travel anywhere light, LOL!

    The photos were gorgeous and I your tidbits of info terrific. I'm so jealous. What I wouldn't give for a trip like that. Of course, I get homesick so quickly, my month trip would have to last a week.

    Thanks for sharing. I'm waiting for the book born of this research!

  54. Hi PATTI JO, Yes, traveling light is a challenge. I did well but I thought for sure i wouldn't have enough.

    Happy Holidays

  55. Hi AUDRA, I did get homesick. I missed hubby of course and my motorhome--especially when we were in the mountains or on the beach. He would have loved those--the cities not so much. LOL

    Happy holidays.

  56. Time to sign off.

    Happy Holidays to all of you.

    We all have so much to be thankful for including this wonderful country.


  57. HOLY FREAKIN' COW, SANDRA ... WHAT A TRIP AND WHAT A POST!!! I am not much of a traveler, but WOW, if I were (and if I ever talk Keith into going to Ireland), this blog would be INVALUABLE!!!

    I absolutely LOVE how you write books based on your own experiences and travels -- you didn't mention Love's Miracles. Was that based on anything in your life?

    LOVE the pix, girl, and LOVE the fact that you got to do this in such a grand way. Can't WAIT to read the book!!


  58. What a blessing to be able to go on such an awesome trip. Your post offers invaluable info - thanks so much for sharing!

  59. I want to travel to a lot of places but the one place I really would like to visit is Mexico!!!
    If I win I would choose "LOVE'S REFUGE".
    Thanks for the awesome giveaway and God Bless!!!
    Sarah Richmond

  60. Last year I visited 4 countries in Europe (Ireland, Italy, Germany and England). The main purpose of my visit was to spend time with my daughter who was stationed over seas with the Air Force, but I took lots of notes and pictures and had great ideas for future stories. I would love to go back for the sole purpose of researching for a novel. I also found Rick Steves so helpful! I downloaded several podcasts of his guided tours and learned so much more than paying for a tour by someone whose English was so broken I couldn't understand it anyway!