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  • Adios Madrid, Hola Mallorca

    Madrid Airport, Monday August 26th 2019

    And then there was one…today Tracey and I took an early cab to the airport, which wasn’t far from our apartment (I woke up at 4:30 and was at the airport by 5!). Madrid has four 1/2 terminals (1-3, 4 & 4S). Terminals 4/4S are about 10 minutes by car from the other three. We dropped off Tracey at 2 and I continued to 4. Susan & Tim leave a few hours later, while I am going to Mallorca for a week of training before my next tournament.

    Andy Murray is playing a challenger this week…at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, so I hope to see him play this week. He’s one of my favorite players. And entry is free to the tournament.

    Yesterday was a pretty mellow day. Tracey tried to check in for her flight and somehow, after calling the airline and being put on hold for a long time, we were told her reservation had been cancelled. Fortunately there were several alternate flights which were only a few dollars more, but that took up a good part of the morning. Travel is fun but there can be bumps along the way.

    We had decided to go to the El Rastro Market, the biggest Sunday market in Madrid. It was a pretty typical street market…jewelry (lots of silver), leather goods, t-shirts galore, but no food, though shops were all around selling food. We walked through the market for about 45 minutes, found a good bakery and had empanadas for lunch (sort of a turnover except with bread instead of pie dough for the crust).

    Tim then went to a museum and Susan, Tracey and I wandered the streets looking at small shops (most were open in Madrid on Sunday, unlike Barcelona, though some smaller shops were closed). We ended up at El Cortez Ingles’s grocery store for our final stop, fitting, as that’s where I started in Lisbon, weeks ago. I got some Spanish sweets..turron consisting mainly of almonds & honey) and some curry mango sauce (like a mayonnaise) and manchego cheese to go with bread I got earlier.

    We returned to our flat, had a Spanish tapas sort of dinner with olives, ham, cheese, crackers and some carrots and salad, very tasty for a last supper so to speak.

    And now we scatter to the East and West Coast and Spain…it was a terrific trip, to be continued solo for me. Thanks for reading!


  • Getting Lost in Holy Toledo

    Madrid, Spain, Sunday Morning, August 25th

    I think there must be a lot of people with hangovers in Madrid today judging by the noise that was still emanating from the street at 4am. We are near the Puerta del Sol plaza and even at the relatively early hour of 8:30pm it was wild, which protestors (animal rights or the environment I think or both) chanting, street artists performing, music blasting.. I had to go to get a new SIM card for my phone (out of a vending machine basically…easy and inexpensive and lots of data) and had to dodge people right and left. My room is just above a street a block from the plaza and all night long there was music, singing, etc. It stopped I think around 5am.

    We took the fast train to Toledo from the Atocha station in Madrid, walking distance from our apartment. It took about 30 minutes but one needs to arrive a little earlier as there’s security to go through. And liquids (open ones anyway, such as a cup of coffee or tea) aren’t allowed through. Bottles of water are though. Tracey and Susan had their tea and coffee confiscated. The Toledo train station was very pretty inside and out.

    But Toledo…it really is Holy Toledo, filled with churches and a monastery. It’s also a world heritage site. The old town is partially walled, dominated by the church, the Alcazar (palace, now a museum) and monastery. There are lots of other churches sprinkled throughout the city. Toledo has narrow, cobblestones streets lined with plastered and stone buildings with shuttered windows and barrel tiled roofs. Even in the midday sun, many of the streets are so narrow that they were shady and cool.

    We visited the magnificent Gothic cathedral, again built, as many in Spain seem to be, over the site of a mosque. The Toledo Cathedral has a beautiful choir with carved seats and two organs, one much more ornately decorated than the other. The high alter was even more beautiful I think than the Seville Cathedral, which I didn’t think possible and also tells the story of Christ from the birth to the crucification. There’s also a painting gallery which has 19 Goya paintings, like a mini Prado. We spent over an hour looking around.

    The painting on the bottom is of the 7 deadly sins. Can you pick them out?

    We also went into the Alcazar, which is now a military museum. It was interesting but not a highlight of Toledo. It’s built over the remains of the Roman fort that was there and part of the cistern (water system) is still visible inside, and the views were good.

    After lunch we went to the Goya museum and house. The house was typical of the times with an interior courtyard surrounded by rooms on the ground and first floors and of course there were more Goya paintings there.

    The painting is of Goya’s family.

    We did a bit of souvenir shopping…Toledo is famous for its metal works, swords, knives and leather. So now I have a letter opener that looks like a sword..not made of silver though.

    After the Goya visit I went one way and Tracey, Susan and Tim went another. One thing the guidebooks said was to wander the streets of the old town and get lost…I didn’t mean to get lost but at one point I walked down a narrow street and ended up in at a dead end…I did get lost.

    I left the old city after that, walked to the train station to get a taxi to take me around to a viewing point I was searching for. I was going to walk there but ran out of time for that. The taxi driver took me to the Mirador del Valle and various other spots to see the city from afar which was great.

    We all met up at the train station and returned to Madrid. Today we’ll wander around the city on our last day here.

    Robin left yesterday at 3:30am and just got home around 8:30 am Madrid time to California. So our party of six is now scattered to three continents!


  • Madrid Day 2: Gran Via, Retiro Park, Mercado de San Anton

    Madrid Spain

    August 23, 2019

    Today was a busy but relaxing day at once. We started by doing some shopping along the way to the Gran Via, the 5th (or perhaps Madison) Avenue of Madrid, lined with beautiful buildings.

    We detoured partway down to the Temple of Debod, an Ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and moved to Madrid. However, the lines were very long so we didn’t go in but instead went on to the Mercado de San Anton. We walked through a bohemian area with vintage clothing, lots of graffiti, plants growing in pants and shoes and a really nice organic bakery which had warm bread.

    We reached the market and found something for lunch…I had a potato torta, ie a Spanish omelette, similar to a fritatta, which was quite good.

    Next Susan and I wandered through some shops and eventually reached Retiro Park, the Central Park of Madrid. We walked past the famous Prado Museum into the park and met up with Tracey and Tim at the Crystal Palace, in front of a pond. There were turtles (sunbathing) and ducks (in the shade) and both in the water at times. We wandered back out of the park via the avenue of statues of famous Spaniards, and walked back towards the Grand Via. Susan and I shopped for a while and eventually went back to the apartment for dinner.

    After dinner we wandered around. At 9pm, the place is really hopping…even at 10pm the Puerta del Sol is crammed.

    Robin leaves here tomorrow around 3:30am, so that will leave just the four of us…we’re going to Toledo tomorrow for the day. Jenny has arrived safely back in South Africa and already back at work.


  • Fast Train to Madrid to See Royal Palace & Church: Madrid Day 1

    Centro District, Madrid, Spain

    Early AM, August 23

    We started the day with a quick walk to the nearby tower and walked up as high as possible, where we could see the river and the oldest metal bridge in Europe.

    Then it was off to catch the fast (AVE) train to Madrid…only a 2.5 hour ride and a very pleasant one. The Seville train station was quiet, but the Madrid station was huge and busy.

    We caught taxis to our hotel (which is on a pedestrian street, so we had to walk a few blocks with our luggage.). Each apartment has been a bit smaller than the last…this one has one bedroom with no window and one which literally fits 2 twin beds (has a window though) and nothing else, no closet, no room to walk from one bed to the next (crawling over the first bed is recommended) and the smallest half bath we’ve seen! With only one full bathroom (and a small one at that) we have to organize a bathroom schedule…feels a bit like the Big Bang Theory! However, it’s clean, has a kitchen, AC and a washer and the location is perfect, walking distance to the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and Retiro Park and the Prado.

    After getting situated we walked to the Royal Palace and the church next door, the Almudena Cathedral. We first went to the Cathedral which was beautiful, especially the painted ceilings. It was only finished in 1993, and though originally designed to be Gothic in style ended up in a more simple Baroque style to blend with the Palace next door.

    Next we visited the huge Royal Castle, and walked around the entire ground floor…..there was one room entirely made of porcelain, and one that was so ornately decorated it took over 50 years to complete. The chandeliers were magnificent and there is even a beautiful chapel in the church, which has a very high ceiling, ornately painted. The palace is home to the Royal kings from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. It was built somewhat along the lines of Versailles in the 1700s and has over 3000 rooms.

    We had dinner on the way back (again early for Madrid, only 8:00 or so) and when we finished, the plazas which were so sleepy and empty hours earlier were bursting with people and music. We hit the grocery store, barely arriving by its 10pm close and returned to our apartment.