Mala Suerte Con Los Lentes

We got up this morning to drop some laundry off at a nearby laundromat. We decided it was worth the few extra euros to have them do it for us rather than sit there for the few hours it would take to do it ourselves.

It’s been raining this morning so we made our way to the local Starbucks for shelter and coffee and a chance to review our rainy day options.

I took the opportunity to see if I could clean my glasses and I guess I was a tad bit more vigorous than was prudent as I suddenly found myself holding only half of my glasses in one hand as the other half clattered across the table top…

There’s no amount of nerdly electrical tape in the world that’s going to patch this geek’s glasses back together.

Cynthia suggested we head over to the Cortes Ingles optical department where she had purchased her contact lens solution previously and see if they might be able to repair them.

They said it would be no problem, but they would need to send them off to be repaired and we would have them back in three days. With any luck I will have them back on Saturday or, worst case, I will get them when we return to Madrid at the end of the month.

Once again Cynthia’s Spanish language skills have saved the day.

Fortunately for me, I decided to carry my extra pair of glasses just in case of emergency…

Madrid – Wednesday

After dropping off the laundry at the laundromat and the broken glasses off at Corte Ingles we headed off to the Thyssen Museum to complete the Madrid art museum triumvirate which began with our visits to The Prado and The Reina Sofia.

Some call this the “”Golden Triangle of Art” but to me The Golden Triangle will always be the area of Southeast Texas between the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange which was immortalized in the song of the same name by the Austin Lounge Lizards on their album Creatures From the Black Saloon.

This museum houses a collection of art that originally started as a private collection by the late Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Some have described this collection as having many lesser works by the great masters and greater works by the lesser known.

It is a wonderful gallery and an excellent collection. The museum was not overly crowded and was a very pleasant place to while away a few hours.

When we emerged from the gallery the sun was shining brightly and we were a hop skip and a jump from Retiro Park so we decided to head over there to see if we could capture some of the highlights in the sun light.

I’m glad we did!

Monument to Alfonso XII


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William The Sheep had to have his picture taken in front of the monument…


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The Crystal Palace


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The Fuente de Alcachofa (Artichoke Fountain)

We left the park and caught The Metro to pick up our laundry. When we arrived at the laundromat there was a bit of a commotion.

There was a film crew in the laundromat filming a scene for their movie. Either that, or it was a Spanish documentary on the horror of well worn tourist socks and underwear…

We had to wait a bit to collect our laundry, but before long we were back on The Metro and headed for home (the hotel).

Once we dropped off our things we headed out to the local Museo de Jamon to purchase some ham and bread to take back to the room for sandwiches.

After we had sated our hunger we determined that we’d had enough and called it a day.

BTW, Cynthia has really enjoyed the comments that you guys have been making to these posts. Keep ’em coming!

Madrid – Thursday

We’ve been here a week now. It’s been a lot of fun so far. The hotel room is situated such that it’s pretty late in the morning before the sun lights up the room. On several occasions it’s seemed that it should be around 6:00 am and it ended up being 9:30. Thank goodness we’re not on a rigid schedule. This is a vacation after all!

This morning we actually got up around 7:00 since we had gone to bed relatively early last night. Checking the balcony and looking down the street we were able to tell this was going to be a glorious sunny day.

After breakfast we headed out to go see the Egyptian Temple of Debod because you just don’t turn down an opportunity to see a 2000 year old Egyptian temple in person, especially with things as tense as they are in the Middle East right now.

There was plenty to see as we made our way to the temple. Right off the bat I noticed this statue of an angel standing on it’s head…


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*edit* we discovered later that his was a privatlely owned sculpture of Icarus and that it belongs to the sculptor who made it and that is his private residence.

Just a bit further down the road we came to the Royal Palace of Madrid


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Then William had to get in on the act…


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Tip: It’s always good to visit sites like this early in the morning. You beat the throngs of tourists and get a better view of the thing your going to see…

We walked on down the side of the palace and headed to the park


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Cynthia and William got to ham it up with the local constabulary…

Before long we reached our destination, The Egyptian Temple of Debod


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After that we hiked back to the Puerto Del Sol for some lunch and then headed back to the hotel room for a nice long siesta, but not before spotting an “old friend” at Kilometer Zero


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Madrid – Thursday Evening

The Rick Steves guide book indicated that the Egyptian Temple of Debod was a good vantage point to catch the sunset in Madrid. Since it is a relatively short walk from the hotel we decided to head out after our siesta and catch it.

When we were there earilier in the day I surmised that as the sun went down the palace and the cathedral would be well lit for a photograph and I was right…


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A small crowd gathered as the sun slowly descended toward the western horizon. It was absolutely beautiful and quite romantic…

Spain is so lovely at night. This is the cathedral that you see in the center of the first picture and is right next to the royal palace


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We grabbed dinner at one of the local restaurants and drank some sangria while chatting with some fellow travellers who were from Toronto, Canada. Oddly enough, all the English speaking tourists we have interacted with have been from Canada.

Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette

In Madrid it’s almost as if smoking is mandatory. Everywhere you go, you see people smoking. With most restaurants offering sidewalk dining there’s no problem sitting down for a meal and lighting up. At one point Cynthia asked the waitress if smoking was allowed (she was concerned I was breaking the rules) and the she looked surprised. She said (in Spanish) that we’re outside, why would you NOT be able to smoke? She seemed dumbfounded.

If it weren’t for the army of sanitation workers patrolling the streets with there brooms, dust-bins and walk-behind mechanical street-sweepers this place might resemble one huge ashtray.

There’s even the local joke that the reason the Spanish Guardia Civil tricornio hat is flat in the back is so it will be easier for them to lean against a wall and smoke without damaging the hat.


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Oddly enough, you can’t buy cigarettes in the local stores. You have to go to specialized tobacco shops to get them or purchase them from a vending machine in a bar. And all tobacco products are labeled with a huge sticker warning you of the hazards of smoking.

Since I am travelling abroad I am taking the opportunity to show my opposition to a certain US foreign policy

Mmmmm….cuban cigars! Viva La Resistencia!

Madrid Segway Tour

When we were in Paris a few years back we did the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour to see a lot of sights real quick. While we were on that tour we noticed a group of tourists tooling around on Segways and I commented that I thought that would be a nifty thing to do, but we didn’t really pursue it.

During our research for this trip Cynthia happened upon the web site for Madsegs Tours. She recalled my interest and suggested we might look into this while we were in Madrid.

Once we got here we sorta put it on the back burner. I could tell that Cynthia was apprehensive about the whole idea. She was not at all familiar with the Segway and was not convinced she could operate one without hurting herself.

During our wanderings we noticed the Segways here and there and last night we saw them touring past the palace. Of particular note was a woman who was easily in her 60’s putting along and, by all appearances, managing the Segway quite handily. This seemed to tip the balance and we booked ourselves a tour for the following day.

We were instructed to meet our guides, Antony and Marta, at Plaza de España in front of the big horse at 10 am.

They should just say it’s in front of the bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza…

Ah well, we got there early and it wasn’t long before we spotted Antony and Marta gliding into the park, Segways in tow.

Antony is Scottish, hailing from Edinburgh and Marta is a Spanish native so Cynthia had someone to speak Spanish with while I had someone who spoke my language.

Antony was GREAT! He took the time to go over the basics of how to use a Segway. He covered turning, going forward, in reverse, stopping and dismounting. Before long Cynthia had it down and he turned his attention to me and I quickly picked up the basics. He and Marta were very patient and let us go at our own pace and we didn’t move out till we were both confident.

Once we were ready we rolled out and started the tour.

Antony took us to the The Egyptian Temple of Debod


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We moved around and visited several other sites. Honeslty, for us it was not about the sites, it was about the Segways…but Antony was a great tour guide and we did learn some interesting facts about Madrid.

Antony told us that our Segways were set on the beginner’s setting which was very low power. He said that once we got more comfortable he would move it up to the intermediate setting which was a little faster and more responsive. Cynthia said that would not be necessary, but by the time we got to the palace she was willing to give it a try.

Antony showed us a maneuver he calls “The Titanic” which involves letting go of the handlebars, leaning forward and zooming at full speed. He suggested Cynthia try it and she was nervous at first, but she quickly became a HUGE fan of “The Titanic” …

I got hooked on the maneuver as well, but was also quite fond of slaloming.

Man, what a blast! Cynthia totally enjoyed it as did I. I would totally recommend MadSegs to anyone visiting Madrid. It’s truly a fun and unique experience.

Retiro Park – Do Over

We ended up cancelling one of our day trips (Valley Of The Fallen and El Escorial) so we had an extra day before heading off on the next leg of our journey tomorrow which is Seville.

The sun was up and it was a glorious day so we opted to take another run at Retiro Park since it was overcast and rainy the last two times.

We stopped off at the local Starbucks and I noticed this sign hanging over the station where you doctor up your coffee with cream and sugar and so forth…


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Cynthia and I were rather amused by the warning symbol featuring the purse and the hand…

After getting our coffee we proceeded to the Metro station and rode to Retiro Park. Am I ever glad we went again. The weather was perfect and I was able to re-shoot some things, like the The Fuente de Alcachofa (Artichoke Fountain)

As well as some detail shots…

And, more importantly, The Fountain of the Fallen Angel

I’m particularly fond of this one…


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We continued to wander the park and we saw a puppet show called El diablo y El Panadero

And as we were leaving we noticed the oddest tree


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We set off in search of a vegetarian restaurant that was recommended to us called La Isla Del Tesoro (Treasure Island). As it turns out, it’s health food restaurant and it’s very nice. Certainly not a tourist trap.

Cynthia enjoyed her meal of pasta and zucchini. I had a veggie burger that tasted more like an oatmeal sandwich. Cynthia asked how it was and I said it was “a delightful blend of textures and flavors, some of which resembled food”.

Regardless, it was filling and Cynthia had a good meal so it worked out.

We headed back to the hotel and we took a 2 hour siesta which I really needed as I am starting to feel a little worn around the edges.

Tomorrow is the high speed Ave train to Seville. Should be a nice change of pace for a few days.

Seville

We got up this morning and checked out of our hotel in Madrid. Boy, are we going to miss that place! What a wonderful city! At least we get to come back at the end of our trip for a few days.

We caught a cab to the Atocha Station for our 11:00 am high speed AVE train to Seville. Over 500 miles in just under 2 1/2 hours. Not bad.

Seville is a bit warmer than Madrid. Highs in the low 80’s. The streets are narrow and the sidewalks even more so. They say it’s like this to keep the sun from hitting the sides of the buildings. Makes sense. As long as you are in the shade it’s quite pleasant although I would imagine that’s not the case in the middle of the summer when temperatures soar up around 105 to 115 degrees fahrenheit.

The hotel is nice. The wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee in Spain) does not work well in our third floor room so I am in the lobby updating and checking e-mail.

We took a tour of the Alcazar of Seville which was pretty spectacular. The lines to get into the cathedral and the bell tower were too long to deal with so we hope to try again in the morning when crowds are usually much smaller. Plus Sundays are free admission so it could account for the longer lines and will not be a contributing factor come Monday morning.

Pictures later. Now is time to find food!

Seville – Day 1

Having arrived in Seville and doing a little exploring our attention turned to the matter of negotiating travel from Seville to Gibraltar. It would seem that the Spanish have no desire to provide easy access to the British territory that occupies the southern tip of Spain.

It would require over 5 hours on a bus each way to get in an out of Gibraltar and that’s only if everything came together perfectly.

We discussed our options and decided to eliminate the one day Gibraltar leg of this journey.

This left us with a need to decide if we wanted to go somewhere else, or just stay an extra day in Seville. Once we decided that we would just stay here we had to see about accommodations. We checked with our current hotel and they were booked. Fortunately we were able to book a room at the hotel down the street so we’re all set.

Tomorrow we’ll see if we can get into the cathedral and perhaps on Wednesday we’ll day trip to Cordoba. It all depends on how we feel. For now we’re just relieved to have all the details re-mapped so we can rest a little easier knowing we won’t have to hunker down for the night in some dark alley or at the train station.

Alcazar of Seville

If you find your way to Seville be sure and visit the Alcazar, you won’t be disappointed. When we first passed it, I was not so sure I wanted to go inside but Cynthia was ever so slightly insistent so I agreed.

We queued up in a relatively short line and we were inside in no time.

The place really gives you a sense of the Moorish history of this region of Spain.

In all honestly, it was difficult to shoot in a way that captures the size and the magnificence of this place. All I could do is try to highlight some things that caught my eye:


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The detail in much of the ornamentation was just gorgeous

The most surprising feature was the garden/park within the fortress walls. Fountains, giant palm trees, rose gardens and more on a scale as to boggle the mind. I bet we could have wandered for hours and not seen it all


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Interestingly enough, the garden was very cool temperature-wise. It also seems to be the home of some wild parrots. They fly way up in the canopy of the tallest trees so we haven’t had a good look, but they appear to be some type of green ring-neck. Hopefully one of us will grab a snapshot of one before we leave.