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Tenerife & Lanzarote - Amazing in Their Diversity (Part 2)

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Continuing with our posts from Sunny Spain to warm all of you up back home, up next Lanzarote. Be sure to check out Time Out in Tenerife and Tenerife & Lanzarote - Amazing in Their Diversity (Part 1), for our take on Tenerife.

Before we get into the stark differences in the landscape, the difference in the "authenticity" is also worth mentioning. Tenerife is the largest and most populated island of the seven Canary Islands with a land area of 785 square miles and 904,713 inhabitants. By comparison, Lanzarote is just 326 square miles with 149,183 inhabitants. Tenerife first started receiving, mainly British, tourists in the late 1800's but tourism really took off in the about the 60's and today close to 5 million tourists visit each year. The development is extensive and geared at European tourists. As a result, much of the authenticity of visiting Spain can only be found in the highland villages.


Lanzarote got a later start and got lucky in its native son, César Manrique. Born on Lanzarote in 1919, he went on to become a famous artist before returning to Lanzarote and starting a crusade to preserve it's traditional building methods, banning roadside billboards, and helping to design visitors centers and tourist attractions in a sensitive way. As a result, developments are smaller, shorter, and more contained solely along the coast, not rising unchecked up the sides of every hill with a view. They are all white, as are the traditional villages, and most incorporate the local architectural features of green or black wood trim, cupolas, and onion-shaped chimney pots.

His sculptures adorn many of the round-abouts.

And he designed, with an architect friend, the important visitor centers, miradors, and the cactus garden.

As a result of his efforts and the adoption of his beliefs by a non-profit that now monitors development, Lanzarote still feels like Spain. It's much easier to get away from the "international" areas (aka British pubs and Chinese restaurants) and see traditional ways of life. And the natural landscape is accessible, protected, and unspoiled. The villages are well maintained and hide beauty around each corner.



Saying Lanzarote is a volcanic island is like saying New York City is a village. There are over 300 volcanoes on Lanzarote! The close up from Google Maps above shows the greatest concentration of them in Timanfaya National Park and the dark, black landscape of the area. The island's volcanoes erupted over six years in the 1730's. Amazingly no one died but whole villages were destroyed and the landscape changed forever. Tour guides say that Lanzarote looks like the moon and when I read that I thought it was just a tease but there is no escaping that the place is otherworldly.

That last shot is of a volcano with a bunch of antennas on top and could easily pass for some kind of sci-fi civilization. There is virtually no naturally occurring vegetation other than a few hardy shrubs in some of the lava fields and tons of different varieties and colors of lichen. The lack of vegetation adds to the sense of being somewhere "other". The closest we could come to thinking of other similar places are some places in Baja and the American Southwest but they really don't compare. We are so glad we decided to come see the island and highly recommend you add it to your list. Rent a car, drive around, be amazed by the colors (these photos are not photoshopped!), and see if you can keep from saying "it's like being on the moon!"

Timanfaya National Park - Montañas del Fuego
The National Park is accessible by a short road to the parking area and restaurant from which the only access into the park is on tour buses. The entire area is so well done and well preserved it is a real gem of sensitive land use. There is no trash, no footsteps, and no ATV tracks disturbing the smooth ash fields. It's as it was the days after it happened. Truly amazing!

Check out this video to ride along on the tour.

The visitor center and restaurant are built above a number of hot-spots. Where else can you get food cooked by a volcano??

Jardín de Cactus de Lanzarote
The Cactus Garden is located in an old quarry that César Manrique re-designed into a garden with 1,000s of different species of cactus, large and small, from all over the world. It is a really beautiful and peaceful place to visit. A word on visiting these sights. There is pass available for discounted admission to the six most popular sights that is a bargain and available to purchase at whichever you visit first.

The garden is surrounded by fields of Opuntia cactus that are grown to support Cochineal, a scale insect used to produce a red dye by the same name. With the advent of synthetic dyes, production dropped significantly but it is making a comeback as the desire for natural products grows.

Agriculture and Wineries
One of the most striking aspects of the landscape is that almost everything is black, volcanic black. Homes and other structures are made from the black rock but most strikingly the "soil" is volcanic ash that retains both heat and moisture. Depending how hot the ground is underneath, they add depth to the ash to insulate and achieve the right growing temperatures - anywhere from one to six meters. In addition, they build retaining walls to protect the plants from the strong winds that whip across the island with nothing in their path otherwise. The traditional method was semi-circular walls that produce sunken growing beds but many have been straightened now for ease of harvest. It makes the landscape into the most incredible patterns and everywhere you see them they remind you of the incredible resilience of the islanders.

Lanzarote is known for the white Malvasia grape grown here. Although there is a red they cultivate as well and from which they make a rosado, the white is the best. People especially like the sweet Malvasias but the dry, which we prefer, is quite good. There are dozens of wineries so, of course, we had to patronize a few. The best among them, in our opinion, although it actually didn't have the best wine, was El Grifo. They are the oldest winery on the island dating from the early 1700's after the eruptions and the 10th oldest in Spain. They have lovely grounds, their own cactus garden, and a really well done museum. We did a sampling of their wines and, again, we'd stick to the whites.

Our favorite wine and a spectacular view can be found at La Geria. Set on the edge of the open fields and plains below Timanfaya, it should not be missed.

The black ash is also used everywhere instead of turf or gravel, around housing, restaurants, just everywhere.

The Malpaís de la Corona (Badlands of the Crown)
The far northern tip of the island is dominated by the results of the eruption of the Volcán de la Corona. An area of desolate lava fields, it is home to cliffs and caves. Notice he hardy shrubs and lichens.

In this area, north of the town of Yé, the Mirador del Rio (again built by Manrique) is an astonishing overlook off the cliffs. Built of lava rock and set into the cliffs, you'd hardly be able to pick it out as a manmade structure. The views of the cliffs and Isla Graciosa are amazing!

Also in this area are two caves, Cueva de los Verdes and Jameos del Agua. Cueva de los Verdes is an eight kilometer lava tunnel of which the first kilometer is open to the public. It's an amazing place and definitely worth a visit. I will pass on this information from the public website and highly recommend you DO NOT read much before you go.

We recommend you stay close to the tour guide during your visit in order to be able to listen to the characteristics, peculiarities, and secrets of Cueva de los Verdes. It is better if you do not look up too much information prior to your visit, let yourself be surprised.

Suffice it to say there is an AMAZING surprise in store for you inside the cave!

Jameos del Agua is a large cavern converted into a restaurant and pool with a few rooms (closed for renovation while we were there). It's claim to fame is the small albino blind crabs that live in the pool inside the cave. If you have time, it's fine to see and on your pass but don't go out of your way for it. DO you out of your way for Lanzarote!


It's been an amazing summer and fall! Since May 1st we've been in:

  • Malaga, Cadiz, and Jerez, Spain
  • Montpellier, France
  • Sintra, Lisbon, and Porto, Portugal
  • Amsterdam
  • Split, Croatia
  • Larnaca and Paphos, Cyprus
  • Marrakesh
  • and, Tenerife and Lanzarote, Spain!

We have seen so much, done so much, and learned so much. Tomorrow we head back to the DMV to celebrate our anniversary with our friends at the Scottish Walk in Alexandria and Morgan and Courtney's graduations. Then we go on to Colorado to celebrate Christmas with Marcy's family. It's going to be COLD but it's also going to be nice to see everyone! And then it's Vietnam! Stay tuned for more of Arrradventures and Happy Holidays to you all.

Posted by mrb430 07:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Tenerife & Lanzarote - Amazing in Their Diversity (Part 1)

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The Canary Islands certainly are a diverse bunch! We're only seeing two but from the mountains, deep ravines, forests, and hill towns of Tenerife to the lunar landscape of Lanzarote, they are some of the most amazing places we've seen. Spending the month of November here has been a wonderful experience. The weather is amazingly pleasant. The sun is strong and warm during the day and the evenings are cool and fall-like. We're in bathing suits during the day and sweaters at night. Fall being my favorite season, it's nice to get a bit of a chill so you can cuddle up but unfortunately it leads to winter and in just a few days now we will be back in it. We're looking forward to being back "home" for the holidays but not looking forward to long underwear and heavy coats! So for you already in the throws of winter, I hope you enjoy these posts from Sunny Spain! First up, Tenerife.



Tenerife, like all of the Canary Islands, is of volcanic origin. It has one large volcano at its center, Teide. The island is divided by the spine of mountains created by the volcano and they catch all of the weather coming onto the island with the prevailing winds from the northeast. The southwest is almost always sunny and the north is almost always cloudy, at least at this time of year. We went across from Adeje where we stayed to Puerto de la Cruz and the difference was stark. If you plan to come, definitely stay on the southern coast!

Costa Adeje and the Southern Highway

Puerto De la Cruz and the Northern Road

For some of the highlights of the steep southern slopes of Teide, see our last post.

On the very northeastern tip of Tenerife, is the Anaga Rural Park, certainly the most lush and green area of the island. It's a dense forest of pine and laurel with amazing views down to the coast across the deep ravines. The contrast between this and the more arid southern side is extreme. It's moist with moss and ferns growing everywhere.

The drive through there park follows a twisty-turny road through laurel tunnels.

Then, as you come out the northern side, cross the spine of the mountain range, and head down the switch-backs towards the village of Taganana...

...the amazing landscape of steeply terraced farms and precariously situated villages expands before you.

All along the way are incredibly views and roadside vista points.

This area is not to be missed and certainly has some of the best views and most challenging roads of the whole island.

I would be remiss, however, if I led you to believe we spent most of our month exploring. The truth is, we redefined the term "couch potato", or maybe for us it was "lounge chair potato"! It was hard to leave our little corner of heaven in Adeje where the sun was out every day, the weather was warm, and each evening treated us to the most amazing and unique sunsets. So I'll end Part 1 with some of the best!

Don't miss Part 2 - Lanzarote!

Posted by mrb430 03:49 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Time Out In Tenerife

Relaxing and Planning 2020

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We arrived on Tenerife in the Canary Islands two weeks ago after leaving Marrakesh (by way of Gatwick, of course!). It's warm and sunny here and we're staying in the best place we have ever stayed during our time traveling. We have an unobstructed view of the water from every room and a huge balcony to while away the hours.

The ever-present sound of waves crashing against the rocky volcanic coastline lulls us as we watch tourists para-gliding, para-sailing, jet-skiing, and sailing during the day and watch the sun set every night.

And it's good we have this place to relax because we both got sick on the trip here and have been recuperating. Most days are really quiet and we spend hours reading - even Scott has read two books! We have ventured out once so far though.


Southern Tenerife is dominated by the view of Mount Teide. Teide is a volcano that is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic at an elevation of 12,198′ and also by Roque del Conde, a "table top" mountain just outside Costa Adeje where we are staying.

Teide even has a bit of snow on the top still. Apparently it will start snowing again up there this month.


We drove around the southern coast and up into the mountains towards the town of Masca. As we climbed in elevation the weather turned downright cold and the clouds hanging on the mountains were full of mist. We stopped in Santiago for lunch, leaving Masca further up the road for another day when we could bring the proper clothes!


We opted instead to head back down to the coast and the massive cliffs called Los Gigantes. The drive down is filled with corkscrew turns and views down to the villages.

We were surprised by how green it was - almost like cloud forest.

And then at the bottom you reach the massive cliffs.

We drove back down the coast past hundreds and hundreds of acres of banana plantations, almost 9,000 hectares to be exact. It's quite a sight.


But most of our time is spent here along the waterfront. This area was built up starting in the 60's and today is a solid stretch of hotels, apartments, shopping, and restaurants. All along there is a walkway with overlooks to the best views and bars and restaurants serving cold drinks at sunset. Most travelers here are European, mainly British. In fact, we always elicit comments on how few Americans travel here. I would definitely put it on your list though as it's such a beautiful place.


As I mentioned in an earlier post, we've decided to try a new approach in 2020 of picking a single spot to live and then doing trips from there. After a lot of research into visa requirements, weather, natural distaster risk, food, politics, cost of living and quality of life, we've settled on Nha Trang, Vietnam. We want to explore Southeast Asia and it will be a good home base from which to do it. The weather is good, the monsoon season is shorter, there's a good airport and good diving for Scott and it's a fairly large city located on a beautiful beach. We're really excited for this next chapter!

Posted by mrb430 02:43 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Cádiz and Jerez de la Frontera and Amsterdam - Oh My!

From Vermouth to Sherry to...

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Lots has happened since we left Málaga! As I write I am sitting in a cafe in Sintra, Portugal but before we get to that, let's catch up a bit.


To travel across the Andalusian peninsula from the eastern Málaga to the western Cádiz, we rented a car so that we could stop at some of the famous white villages of Andalusia. Our first stop was RONDA, home to the famous Puente Nuevo ("new bridge" actually finished in 1793) that crosses the deep gorge El Tajo. It is 390 feet above the canyon floor. Ronda is a beautiful town, even filled with bus loads of tourists.

Having seen the gorge, we opted to go on and, hopefully, escape the hordes. Our next stop was SETENIL de las BODEGAS. Famous as most likely having started out with cave-dwelling societies 25,000 years ago, it has been continuously inhabited since at least the 1200 AD. The houses and stores are built directly into the rock overhangs, caves, with many having the rock wall as their back interior wall. It is a fascinating place to explore, built up each side of the river gorge.

We wandered upon and down the stairs and streets, sat at a cafe, and totally enjoyed this much less touristed town.

The landscape of this area is amazingly beautiful. Filled with row after row of olive trees interspersed with fields of sunflowers and punctuated by the white villages that show in the distance from miles away. The road winds and curves up and down gorges and through vast open fields with the mountains as a backdrop.

By the time we got to ARCOS de la FRONTERA, we were ready to be out of the car and into Cádiz so we just did a "drive by" of the castle.


Cádiz claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe and it is definitely among the top five, founded around 1100 BC by the Phoenicians. It is at a strategic point at the mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar. It has many beautiful little streets in its old town and a few nice plazas and cathedrals. There is an old Roman Theatre that is really amazing as you can walk through the tunnels beneath it. The most interesting parts are the layers and layers of history built on top of each other from Roman walls, to Gothic and Romantic churches and homes. And the fact that it's surrounded by water.

Also, in the harbor, there are two fortifications that have stood for centuries guarding the port. To one, there is a long walkway out that's a fun place but very windy! Actually Cádiz as a whole is very windy. Like the winds in southern France, they say it makes people crazy and suicidal - yikes!large_IMG_1183.JPGlarge_IMG_1167.JPGlarge_IMG_1188.JPG

The other fortress is open to tour and was pretty good.

All in all though, it seemed a poorer cousin to Málaga and we were glad we didn't stay too long - just long enough for one more glass of Vermouth before we moved onto the Sherry capitol of the world.


Jerez is a sprawling, large city. We took the train up, just an hour ride to Jerez's beautiful train station.

Mainly we came here for two reasons, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts and the Sherry. This was definitely a "Marcy spot" but Scott humored me and persevered! It does have a historic center with good plazas and restaurants and also a great Flamenco bar that is truly a gem. The stage is tiny and the bar is stocked with all varieties of Sherry for amazingly low prices. large_IMG_1265.JPGlarge_IMG_1272.JPG

And our place had a nice view of the plaza.

Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts
The highlight for me was seeing the performance of the Andalusian horses and riders. Alas, no pictures allowed during the performance so we had to make do with pictures of the fabulous palace, performance arena, and a practice session in the outdoor ring.

After the performance, we attempted visits to some of the Sherry Bodegas of the famous producers but they wanted ridiculous sums for a short tour and a couple of glasses of Sherry, and after having paid 1-2 Euros per glass the night before at the bar, we opted out.

So we wandered around and saw the partially restored Alcazaba and the Cathedral before settling into a cafe for the afternoon.

We have come to a conclusion about ourselves. We do "cafeism" much better than "tourism"!


It was finally time to say goodbye to Spain.

We took the 6:15 am train to Seville Airport and flew to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was a last minute addition to our travels after we realized Scott has been a year free of smoking cigarettes (YAY!) and we needed to celebrate. He has been trying to fit a visit to Amsterdam into our plans for months now so I knew it was the place we needed to go! So glad we did. He has always loved it - he says it's his New York City - and I am glad to have gone with him and seen his interest and excitement to be back. Technically, I have been to Amsterdam once before but it was my nineteenth birthday and, well, let's just say I don't remember much.

We arrived and found our cute little house in the Jordaan neighborhood.

Turns out we serendipitously picked the coolest neighborhood. More local than tourist, it was filled with canals and cafes. We spent the first day just walking the streets and stopping in cafes every time the weather got bad. It was a cold, cloudy, rainy day and we actually bought hats and gloves! But we walked eight miles by the end of the day and saw the flower market, the Albert Cuyp Market, the Nieuwmarkt (New Market), and most of central Amsterdam in between. The next day was beautiful, warm, and sunny. We took the train out to Muiderslot Castle and admired the countryside and this quintessential moated castle and beautiful gardens. We got back into town and grabbed a last minute canal boat ride before dinner. Our last day, we had tickets to the Van Gogh museum, which is definitely worth the admission. It tells the story of his artistic development really well and has so many paintings of his as well as those other artists that inspired him. We also visited the Museum Van Loon, a historic house museum. But mainly, we visited tons of bars and cafes. Each one has its own beer list of draft beers, a variety of sherrys and ports, and Genever, the locally made version of gin. Oh, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese!


The new market is around the De Waag, which was originally St. Anthony's Gate, and was a major entry point to the city before the old city walls were torn down.

The castle is so well preserved it almost looks new or fake. It's really cool because you can walk all through the house, which was last inhabited in the 16th century, by P.C. Hooft (1581-1647), an author, poet and historian who took over sheriff and bailiff duties for the area. After that, it fell into neglect until the late 1800's but, thankfully, was then restored (hence the newness) and refurnished with period furnishings.

The town is very quant as well and has a working lock on the canal.

But back to Amsterdam!


Proost to the canals! And to all the little bars along them!


There are so many different periods of architecture in Amsterdam but of course our favorites are the oldest ones. They tilt and lean, some on purpose some not.

And then the grand architecture of the fabulous palaces, train stations, and civic buildings.

The Van Loon house was really special for its internal courtyard garden leading back to the intact carriage house.

And some have sayings that sum it all up!

Bikes and Amsterdam of course go hand in hand but until you are here you really don't realize how crazy it is. There are as many bikes as people in Amsterdam, literally almost a million. They are parked everywhere and the Dutch have perfected the bicycle parking garage concept - some are even double decker.

Scott is already trying to figure out where to stay when we go back next year for a month (maybe)! We've definitely found another maybe place. Of course, not for the full year but maybe a few months here and there. We're still not doing winter!

Next up, we're in Portugal for the rest of June. Stay tuned and don't forget to follow us @arrradventures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 05:56 Archived in Spain Tagged amsterdam Comments (0)

Last Days in Málaga

Finally Saw the Sights!

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Just a short update this morning as we prepare to leave Málaga tomorrow. We've spent our last two weeks mainly just chilling. Unfortunately, I was sick for a week with a cold so that slowed us down. That's when it's nice that we rent houses and can just relax at home. Catching a cold happens and dealing with it in a foreign country is all part of life on the road. I would give a shout out to our healthcare company CIGNA world travel plan. They are awesome in having doctors by phone, assistance in finding direct charge clinics, and they call and email to follow up on how the care was. They really provide excellent service - in English!.

Otherwise, we've been having fun! We tried out scooters on our trip to the Gibralfaro Castle. They were definitely fun but they are expensive compared to the bikes and even to just taking a cab. We did another bike ride to the beach and had a great beach day.

I even got to finally have Sardines Espito! Grilled on an open wood fire outside the Chiringuita (restaurant) on the beach, seasoned with lemon and sea salt, they are amazing! You just pick them up and eat them with your fingers (not the bones or head!)

And we've been sampling the local Vermut (vermouth) with tapas. Yes, that's a giant sardine in the last picture!
large_c43217a0-85db-11e9-80a1-135c9157ed74.JPGlarge_IMG_0799.JPGlarge_IMG_0800.JPG large_IMG_0961.JPGlarge_IMG_0964.JPG

The variety of locally made Vermut is amazing and so very good. I had no idea it was anything other than a martini ingredient before we came here.

We also finally got around to going to the cathedral, castle, and palace.

One of the most interesting features of this cathedral is that they never finished it and now they think it's whimsical not to so they never will. There are towers on one side that were literally stopped as if the workers just set their tools down one day and walked away. One whole side is unadorned. There are niches for gargoyles and statuary that never came, pediments with no friezes, pillars with nothing on top of them.

The inside however, is beautiful and mainly complete. One portion does have simple stained glass instead of painted but this does not detract. The highlight is the ceiling, intricately carved in Gothic and Renaissance styles, and the columns that are constructed in two parts and are so fascinating.

Constructed on the ruins of a Roman fortification around 756-780 AD, the Alcazaba's original purpose was as a defense against pirates. It became, however, both a fortification and a residence, similar to the more famous ones in Seville and Granada. Built 300 years before those, it is smaller, more intimate, and in many ways more beautiful for that. It has not been maintained in the same way and so has lost much of it's original tile-work and plasterwork but the ceilings, walls, and most importantly the doorways remain.

And they had the water running for all the pools and fountains and the little channels between them, which was special since the one in Seville did not.

I really loved this place.

Built in 929 AD and in use until 1925, the castle today is mainly notable for it's huge walls and the walkways along the tops of these that give amazing views in all directions. It was built as a secondary defense above and after the Alcazaba. The climb to the top is not for sissies but you can take a taxi or the bus if you need.

Here's a view looking down the fortified path that connected the castle and the Alcazaba, seen in the distance down below.

It was really fun to be a tourist for a day!


We're one month into our European summer and Central America seems a long way away, in time and reality. In reflecting on the changes, here's the top things we've noticed.

  1. It's really pleasant to have better infrastructure and fewer buildings in disrepair. Not having to worry about falling into holes tripping over uneven surfaces is a serious plus.
  2. We've gotten rid of worn out shorts and tank tops to make room for the clothes we bought here and it's bittersweet. It's nice to have nice things to wear but we miss just throwing on a bathing suit and tank top and not worrying about appearances.
  3. Public transit is easier here. There are routes, schedules, tickets, and multiple options from buses to trains to bikes to scooters.
  4. Cell phone and internet is much better. It's definitely one of the major factors in our consideration of places like Roatan where service was absolutely abysmal.
  5. This area is dry! It's taken a lot of getting used to...I haven't drunk this much water...well maybe ever in my life. It is green, which is nice, as there are lots of plants acclimatized to it like in Baja but there are days we miss the humidity and lushness.
  6. The schedule of life here suits us, although it's completely different. In beach mode, we get up pretty early, start cocktail hour pretty early, and go to bed pretty early. Here, it's all moved back about four hours. It's been fun to actually be awake to see the younger people out and about and to participate in the late night fun.


We've changed up our plans a bit after realizing that Scott's one year anniversary of not smoking is coming up. To celebrate, we're going to Amsterdam for four days! Scott's been talking about Amsterdam for months, trying to figure out when we could fit it in. Well, no time like the present!

So from here we will drive a rental car across the peninsula to Cadíz and spend the night and the next day there. On the way, we'll stop off at some more white villages and Ronda. We had planned to spend more time in Cadíz, but after talking with a friend that had been there and judging it would be much like Málaga, we cut back. From there we will spend two nights in Jerez de la Frontera, mainly to fulfill my bucket list items of seeing the horses perform at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and going to a sherry tasting!

Then we fly from Seville, a short train ride from Jerez, to Amsterdam and, after four days, back to Lisbon.

After that, we continue with our regularly scheduled programing. No, not the most efficient but that isn't the goal! Just wait until you see what we plan to do later this year. Since learning that Courtney will graduate in December, we've changed our plans and now have two, maybe three, trips scheduled back to the US between September and May, 2020. But that's the beauty of this life - plans are just placeholders and can be changed to accommodate life!

Don't forget to follow us @Arrradventures on Instagram for more frequent updates.

Posted by mrb430 06:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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