Had a pretty uneventful series of travel legs out of Houston. The flying time from Newark to Madrid (just under 7 hours) seems too short for an overnight flight now, after doing many Houston-Tokyo trips in the last couple of years, where flights tend to be 13-14 hours.
The taxi ride to the hotel in Madrid produced a little excitement as the downtown area was blocked up for a bicycle festival. Our taxi driver earned her fare by navigating a large number of backstreets to get to the hotel. We very much enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Preciados, recommended in the Lonely Planet Spain guidebook.
Foolishly, but necessarily, we took a nap after getting into the hotel from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. I think this was the root cause of my relative poor sleeping habits over the next two weeks.
After a refreshing shower, we enjoyed the views from the hotel room balcony and then set off on a little walk.
We walked from our hotel past the Puerto del Sol, the Teatro Real, the Plaza de Oriente, the Jardins de Sabatini and the Templeo de Debod and back to the hotel, stopping at many places to take photographs.
- a wedding party in the Jardins de Sabatini, the groom wearing a traditional tuxedo but with a blindingly bright orange tie and hankerchief
- lots of people out lounging around in the park enjoying the beautiful weather
- lots of construction and streets being ripped up
- lots of bars open and packed for the Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid football match
We had dinner at the hotel in the couple's table in the big glass window at the front of the restaurant. A great meal and nice after-dinner liquors.
Up late again and missed breakfast. I needed a coffee bad so we Starbucks breakfast, starting a traditional we held throughout the trip. Been brushing up on our Spanish to be able to order food, etc, but completely failed to order muffins correctly.
Spent the day walking around the city, poking our noses into different places: the Plaza Mayor, the Real Jardín Botánico and the Parque del Retiro. Stopped into the Atocha train station to reserve our tickets to Valencia.
Had a very late lunch in the Plaza Santa Anna; good ham, cheese, bread and beer.
Robin spent a good time shopping in a vast linen store just off the Plaza Mayour before dinner. Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant; we were curious on how the Spanish did Mexican food; very good dinner. Because it did not open until 9:00 pm, we spent an hour outside at a sidewalk cafe enjoying a beer.
We got back on the tourist trail a bit today. We took in the Prado which every other tourist in Madrid seemed like they decided to do today. We had about 20 minute wait at noon before getting in. Pretty impressive collection; Robin and I were both extremely impressed with the Goya's; he definitely had a heck of a career and was ahead of his time in many ways.
We wandered around some more before returning to the hotel in the alte afternoon. I had a nap and Robin read; this is our vacation.
Dinner was some more tapas and dessert was the deadly churros and chocolate at the Chocolatería San Gines. Whoa baby, those things were rich...
Robin's developed a bit of cold so we hung around the hotel before leaving by taxi to the train station. There we grabbed some breakfast and hopped on the train around 11:00 am.
We booked Preferentre seating which gave us a lot of room. We enjoyed watching La Mancha and Castille roll by outside our windows. Even lunch was good; a little vino tinto, a little meat (this is Spain you know), a little dessert.
We arrived in Valenica on time around 2:45 pm and walked up to our hotel. We checked in to our home for the next six days.
I called Dimitris and Delfina from the hotel and we agreed to try to meet in the evening for a quick drink, since they were only four days away from the wedding.
Robin and I then do what we do everywhere: grab the cameras and go for a walk.
We both like Valencia immediately; nicely sized, lots of interesting things to see, beautiful weather.
We did meet up with D&D and ended up having dinner with them in a very traditional tapas restaurant. It was great to finally meet Delfina before the wedding.
Dimitris and Delfina mentioned that there were several holidays coming up over the next week and they recommended that we book our remaining train trips today. Got to the train station and could tell immediately that this was going to take awhile: when we pulled ticket A424 for service, they were serving A283! We bunked down for a long wait and amused ourselves watching people's reactions when they got their numbers and realized how long the wait was. Having the train schedules printed off at home and then just pointing to the train we wanted made the actual reservations go quickly when we finally got served.
Having said all of the that, the Valenica train station is a beautiful building done in wood and mosaics.
We grabbed some lunch at the pizzeria beside the hotel (very good). Exiting the restaurant, we ran into some friends who were also in town for the wedding.
We spent the afternoon walking through the old city and then around the park created from the old riverbed of the Turia river after they diverted west of the city in the 1960's. A beautiful day with many pictures taken.
Well, our last full day in Barcelona got washed out by a constant rain. We tried to see all the sites in Montjuic, but decided to turn around short of the castle because of the rain.
We also encountered two women who on reflection were trying to pick my pocket. Good for us that the Tilley jacket had everything under control.
Well, after a long but visually interesting trip from Barcelona to Madrid, Robin and I are now at the High Tech Hotel at the Madrid Airport. Nice hotel with a PC in our room so we can check some email.
Waiting until 8:30 pm for the restaurant to open for some dinner.