Hola from the very beautiful country of Spain – our first touchdown on our European adventure!
Thursday/Friday – Dec 11/12
We flew today from Atlanta to Philly and then at 7PM, had a 7.5 hour flight into Madrid. We arrived at 8:30am the next day.
Man that was brutal jet lag for a few days! Almost nauseating by the end of the first day. That, coupled with the foreign language and food, made for a challenging day. (Translation: we were bitchy).
Our flat is fabulous and is in central Madrid so was great for self-guided walking tours. We went for Tapas and had an early night.
Today was our 34th Wedding Anniversary. Tomorrow would be a better day to celebrate it.
Saturday – Dec 13
Hello Madrid – we are almost back to ourselves now! Picked up muffins and fruit and had breakfast on our delightful covered patio.
We walked our neighbourhood that is filled with so many interesting things, people and places to see; makes photo op choices difficult.
Naturally we gravitate towards nature and walked through a lovely park.
We discovered an interesting art display in the middle of Madrid, in the middle of Parque Del Retiro, in the middle of Palacio de Cristal. A beat up old camper with various displays that creates an atmosphere in which objectivity and fiction become confused…
The camper had this license plate – it was from from Beautiful British Columbia!
This woman in the back of the camper looked so real – the other is a puppet.
We enjoyed two great meals out. Today we welcomed the challenge of the foreign language and food! We recognize a few words and the food is incredible. We are learning quickly. Joe keeps assuring me our weight will settle down now because we are on the Mediterranean Diet. Based on what we have comsumed, it must be some sort of miraculous diet!
I was pretty thrilled to discover the national drink of Spain is Gin and Tonic! There are several bars in our neighbourhood that only serve G&T. And Schwepps tonic seems to be the número uno choice here; but also the cheapest.
Our fist visit to a G&T bar they didn’t even serve red wine so Joe was squirming in his seat for awhile with what to drink; no Caesars for the next 9 months! Anyway, the bartender went below the bar in search for ginger ale and found a lone bottle of vino tinto – Bravo! The bartender set it aside and we returned the next day at cocktail time.
We are still having a few credit card and $ / € exchange issues but fixing as they occur. Also have a new global phone number but I am still confused on the coverage….sigh. Thank goodness for wifi and FaceTime Audio!
Sunday – Dec 14
Strolled the streets and saw the many beautiful Spanish historical buildings:
Jardines de Sabatini
Joe is going to contribute a couple of days of blog entries – one day we will be co-authors!
Monday – Dec 15
Joe here…I am the guest author for a couple of days. I will not be as elequent as Paula, but hopefully I can give you a sense of Madrid that we are seeing. Firstly, the people here are so friendly and laugh a lot and are quite vocal and passionate about things…they love life! Not knowing any Spanish has not been a big obstacle.
Today we got our Europass Train Ticket activated and made reservations for our Thursday trip to Granada which is 4 1/2 hour train trip. It took a couple of hours at busy train station to figure everything out but we were able to get it done.
After the train exercise we walked some more of old Madrid and stumbled upon the Market at San Miguel Square built in 1915. This is a very cool market similar to Granville Island in Vancouver – where many vendors are selling assorted tapas.
Each booth specializes in something…olives, fish, pizza, rice dishes, pasta dishes, wine, beer, cheese etc.
We enjoyed about 8 different dishes each plus beers for about 24 euro total…very enjoyable. This place was packed and very busy the entire time we were there.
We then walked over to Botin Restaurant Bar…this is the Oldest Restaurant in the World (on going steady operation) opened in 1725. It is recognized by Guinness World Records…check out the plaque and the certificate.
We wanted to go in for a glass of wine but we were not allowed as they wanted a full meal. Very pricy but very unique. There are other restaurants that lay claim to “oldest” but Botin is generally accepted as the winner.
Went to Paula’s favorite gin/ tonic bar for a cocktail before heading to an Italian place for a light dinner.
Tuesday – Dec 16
Walked up to Cibeles Square and saw the cool fountain there and then went to the Cibeles Palace - it is also a museum that has several different exhibits on the go. We opted to get a pass to the observation deck on 8th floor which provided some spectacular views of Madrid.
Took a bus ride up the main drag past the stadium and ended up in a newer part of the city…
Nothing much happening so we came back to the old city and even had lunch in San Miguel square again.
Had dinner at Casa Alberto – this is the oldest bar in Madrid – operating since 1827… Very neat. It was the childhood home of Miguel Cervantes the author of the famous book Don Quixote written in 1605 …Alberto’s is famous for it’s Ox Tail stew which we tried…delicious.
Sorry for all the dates and history lesson, but they add a little color to the story….back to Paula…
Wednesday – Dec 17
Joe is now sharing the responsibilities of the blog – yippee! He has his own way with words and his inflection will add a different flavour to the blog. He can be the wine and food critic! Easy job because everything is fantastic! House wine is excellent and cheaper than soft drinks. Most restaurants have a ‘meal of the day’ (for the big meal at lunch) which is 3-4 courses and includes beer or wine for around 11€. This is where we experiment by recognizing a word or the waitress helping with one word descriptions like ‘pork’. Always rewarding. We are doing our best at following the Spanish meal times. Lunch is 1:30 – 3:00 with dinner between 8:30 – 11PM. We usually hit the early times but we’re working our way up!
Our flat only had a washer; the dryer is the old fashioned type: clothes line and pegs. Good thing I started last night as washed the first load on gentle (unbeknownst to me) and it would take until Thursday morning to dry. I was so afraid something would drop down there and I wouldn’t be able to retrieve it!
We spent several hours in the Museao Del Prado that featured the works of Goya in addition to its’ own private collection of incredible paintings. Normally I would be taking pictures of a few favorite pieces but photographery was not allowed. Joe seemed very pleased about this as I annoy him with my constant picture taking.
We walked through the Madrid Botanical Gardens – obviously the middle of December is not the opportune time to view a garden but it was enjoyable just the same.
The vegetables were growing …..
And tequila for Michelle!
We saw massive trees indigenous to other parts of the world:
It was easy to visualize how lush and colorful the garden must be during the spring and summer in Madrid.
Thursday – Dec 18
This morning we departed for Granada on our first train ride. I am writing this as we speed through the country side; mountains, farms, small villages. Lots of olive trees; the branches are loaded with fruit. This train has a dining car and we shared a warm cheese and meat sandwich. Yummy. We are making 4 stops before Granada and dedect some of passengers are making their way to family and friends for Christmas. The sun is shining brightly, the fog covers us and leaves; coming and going as we climb. It is very relaxing and surreal. This experience was a soul enricher. Travelling by train is wonderful and we look forward to many more trips as we explore Europe. Here are a few ‘through the train window’ shots:
We are in Granada now enjoying this fantastic city…..
We aren’t sure when our next posting will be so we would like to take this time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. We will miss you all very much but know in our hearts, we will be with you.
Paula and Joe