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March 2012 - Spain

Spain | Madrid | Palacio Real

March 31, 2012

Hi everyone, We left Barcelona Tues. March 27 morning for Madrid in a Citron C5, very comfortable. We drove through mountains and valleys to Zargoso. Then flat rocky land with lots of windmills before finding deep cuts and gorges again. Beautiful drive. We arrived at our Hotel Francisco I in Madrid around 3. Nice clean hotel with a balcony overlooking Calle de Arenal a pedestrian walkway between Plaza Sol and Palacio Real. The only drawback was the noise that continued into the wee hours as in 5AM. We had a glass of wine and then went out for a stroll around Palacio Real and the Cathedral. We walked to La Latina tapas area and had a sandwich and some beer. Most of the tapas bars were just picking up business around 9PM. We circled through lovely Plaza Mayor and headed back to the hotel early after such a long day.

Spain | Madrid | Plaza Espana | Statue of Don Quixote and Sanchez Panza

Wed. Mar. 28

After our hotel breakfast we headed out early to do the Historic Madrid walking tour. We started the trail toward the end Palacio Real and followed it backwards. Plaza Espana had a big statue of Don Quixote and Sanchez Panza. Great sausage and ribs vendor but too early for lunch. hmm maybe tomorrow. On to Templo Debod moved from Egypt in 1968.

Spain | Madrid | Steve, Connie, Sally and Al Temple Debod moved here from Egypt

Then a long beautiful walk down Gran Via to Plaza Cibeles. The Palacio de Comunicaciones (Post Office). We went inside to tour the observation deck overlooking the city. Great views and free.

Spain | Madrid | Views of Madrid from Palacio de Comunicaciones free observation deck

We walked over to Puerto de Alcala and along Park Retiro before going to Museo Prado. What an amazing museum. We spent 3 hours there and could have easily spent the entire day. Reubans, van Dyke, Velazquez, El Greco and Goya and even a Rembrandt. Lots more to see and an excellent museum but not enough time. We went to lunch at El Brillante mentioned in the Lonely Planet for Bocadillo Calamari (fried squid sandwiches) and beer. Wandered about, stopped at Plaza Santa Ana for a beer at Cervercia Alemana. Lots of lively singing "drunk" Germans as Hanover was playing Madrid in Football (soccer) tonight. Plaza Sol was setting up big screens and speakers for the strike rally planned for tomorrow. We rested up but then headed out for dinner and an after dinner stroll about 8. Headed for La Latina area but El Madrano first. We had a great dinner. Al and I had a polpo and potato, Connie and Steve had sea bass. Lovely. Just fun to walk about and people watch.

Spain | Madrid | Plaza Mayor

Thurs. Mar. 29 After breakfast we watched/listened to Palace guard practice for changing of the guard. Then we did the Palace Reale tour. We were not expecting the fabulous furnishings and extent of the museum. Just when we thought we had seen it all we came upon the Armory which had huge displays of ornate armaments, and armour for man and horse. We decided to head back to Plaza Espagne (Don Quixote) for sausage but due to the strike it was closed. Actually most restaurants were closed. We remembered a place near Plaza Mayor who said he'd be open so we headed there. We had sangria, grilled vegetable platter and a mixed meat platter/fries. Once again we walked and walked and walked some more. Finally we visited the Basilica de San Francisco and the Cathedral de Neustra Senora de la Almudena. Our over all impression of Madrid is we loved it and could have spent more time there. What a vibrant, interesting city. Off to Toledo on Friday. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

Spain | Toledo | Catedral

Spain | Toledo | Catedral

Fri. Mar. 30

Hi everyone, Now we know why people say, "Holy Toledo!" The highlight of our visit yesterday to Toledo was the Catedral. It was absolutely amazing. The books refer to Toledo as the spiritual capital of Spain or a down sized Rome. Neat medieval town built on a hill with the Rio Tajo flowing on 3 sides. Unfortunately the winding streets kept winding down hill then a steep climb back up again. Our poor feet were struggling with the cobblestones, hills and steps. We visited Museo de Santa Cruz then had a great lunch at Santa Fe Restaurant mentioned in Lonely Planet After lunch we visited Alcazar fortress now a military museum and wandered down to the Catedral which took at least two hours to visit. It was one of those "you can't get there from here" experiences trying to find the exit Portal toward our hotel. finally back by 7. We had nice patio off our rooms so we had beer/wine before finding a restaurant nearby for dinner. Another great surprise. What looked like a little tapas bar had a lovely restaurant in the back. We settled on a starter only for dinner and a beer. It was a great baked dish of cod/egg/potato Yum.

Spain | Consuegra | Don Quijote windmills and castle

Sat. Mar. 31

Happy 5th birthday to Josie today. We took a detour to Consuegra to see Don Quijote windmills and castle. Connie and I walked the 700,052 steps from the town up to the windmills while Al and Steve went back to the car and drove up. Lots of farms, vineyards and huge olive groves. Great producers of saffron. We were not prepared for the gorgeous A4-E5 highway route. It took us through Montes de Toledo (1400m) Huge bridges, tunnels, gorges...beautiful. We also traveled through millions of olive trees between Toledo and Cordoba. Great road for inland travel. We arrived in Cordoba about 2:00. Whoa is this our hotel? Looks like a Country Club with a couple of weddings going on. Huge rooms... caught a bus to old town and had lunch. then we wandered around getting our bearings. Arrived back hotel about 8 and enjoyed kicking back.

March 25, 2012 Hi everyone, I guess I've been lazy with my log writing so here's what's been happening since last Wed. in Barcelona. Thursday we walked Passeig Gracia again to La Pedrera- Gaudi Apartments and museum. This is really a great place to start your Gaudi explorations because the audio guide gives great history of Gaudi, and museum shows timeline, models and videos of all his works. We stopped at St. Just to show Connie and Steve the most pregnant looking Madonna we have ever seen. Usually Mary is draped in robes or riding a donkey virtually hiding her pregnancy. We visited Palau de la Musica, and Mercat Caterina. Connie especially enjoyed all the fresh fish and unusual meats on display at the market. We stopped for a cup of traditional thick hot chocolate and churros. One dips the churros into the hot chocolate before drinking the rest.

Friday Mar. 23

We took a bus and cable car to Monjuic. We visited Fundacio Joan Miro. Now we all agreed Picasso was once what we would call a "normal" talented artist who found his fame in cubism which we really don't care for. We truly enjoyed Picasso's earlier works. But Miro...well Miro loves bright colors, red,yellow, blue and uses them to create "strange" sculptures, paintings and tapestries. His early works bordered on realism but eventually became art that even our wildest imaginations couldn't understand. Actually his works looked to us like art created in an elementary school classroom or by one of our grandchildren. I think kids would have fun copying his style. That said we still enjoyed our visit and thank goodness for audioguides.

Time to hit the Cava Bar. We have a favorite spot near the marina that the locals frequent for lunch. Standing room only so you squeeze your way through the people on the street and along the bar and walls of this little "Hole in the Wall" bar. for under 15 Euro we had a bottle of Cava and 4 big sausage and onions sandwiches. You stand "belly to belly" " butt to butt" balancing your cava and munching your sandwich. After lunch we sent Connie and Steve off to see Roman ruins at Museu d"Historia de la Ciutat and Al and I went back to the boat. Always some boat chore to do...

Spain | Barcelona | National Art Museum | Font Magica music/light show

Saturday Mar. 24 We gave Connie and Steve the day off so they went to the beach with their Kindles to read and people watch. Al and I went for a bike ride and found the car rental place to change our pick up times for Monday and return Apr. 5 After lunch Steve helped me pull Al up the mast to tape the spreaders and Al found a couple other projects needing his attention...a hose blown off the head and an airlock in the water tank. Nothing big but needed to be taken care of. We ate an early dinner aboard so we could see the new Goya exhibit at Caxia Forum and catch the music/light show at Font Magica. Both were excellent. Font Magica is amazing. Each 15 minute show (on the half hour 7-8:30)uses different type of music. We heard/saw kid show tunes i.e. Little Mermaid, jazz and classical shows but missed the 7:00 one so not sure what the used for that production. Hundreds of people/families lined the streets and filled the steps leading up to National Art Museum on Montjuic. Great fun night.

Sunday Mar. 25 Our plans were canceled because the Zurich Marathon stopped buses from running. So we walked the beach and parks lazin' on benches people watching and enjoying the sunshine. Connie and I did laundry preparing for our trip this week. Our entertain was a young woman dressed seductively being photographed by another woman in the laundramat using the washers and driers as their backdrop. I don't even want to know what those pictures were for.

Monday Mar. 26 Today we packed, emptied the frig, stored our bicycles and basically rested in preparation for tomorrow the start of our nine day road trip. We will be forced to see "it all" in a short time. We have 3 nights in Madrid, 1 night in Toledo, 2 nights in Cordoba, day trip to Seville before going to Granada for 2 nights. We plan to drive back to Barcelona (10 hours) on Wed. but left room in our schedule to stop in Valencia for a night if we want before returning. Al's calling. He wants to go for a walk before we pick up the car at 5. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

March 21, 2012 Hi everyone, this is the continuing story of "Steve and Connie's Adventures in Barcelona". We're really getting into a routine now. Steve gets up and makes the coffee. That entices everyone else to crawl out and start our day. Breakfast usually involves yogurt, fruit and for some cereal. Showers are next on the agenda and then it's tourist time.

Monday we walked the Ramblas again up to Placa de Catalunya and then to Passeig de Gracia. This is a gorgeous street lined with trees, mosaic benches, and wrought iron street lamps. But the architecture is the biggest draw. We love walking and gawking on this street. Steve and Connie did the tour of Casa Batllo another Gaudi designed building. Connie commented on what fun the grand kids would have running and hiding in all the unusual spaces he designed. The woodwork, the stained glass, the arches, the mosaic chimney pots, the use of natural lighting, all lead you to know it's a Gaudi design. After their tour we continued up Passeig de Gracia past La Pedrera another Gaudi design. This one being an apartment building and museum. We plan to tour it later in the week. We wandered well above Diagonal looking for a remembered "cute sandwich shop" but finally our stomachs gave in and we stopped at a "Menu of the day" spot. Everyone was happy with their meal except Sally who ended up with a starter consisting mainly of peas and then when my main plate of calamari and fried onions arrived it was floating in a sauce with another can of peas. Yuck I think I hate peas! We discovered Lidl's Supermarket was near by so we did a bit of shopping and caught a bus back to Artemis. Our feet are beginning to complain...

Spain | Barcelona | Monjuic | Museum of National Art of Catalonia

Tues. Mar. 20 Yesterday we visited Montjuic. We took advantage of the sunny warmer morning to hike up to the castle and wander around enjoying the beautiful views of the city. We had a picnic lunch along so we ate at the castle before walking down to Museu de National d'Art de Catalunya. Our walk took us along several of the beautiful gardens of Montjuic and the Olympic buildings. We timed the weather perfectly. The wind and cooler temperatures arrived while we were inside the museum. Three hours of art was enough for our now protesting feet so we did one final walk down the staircases, past the gorgeous terraces and fountains leading back to Placa d'Espanya. Thankfully our marina bus arrived immediately and we were dropped not a 100 yards from the boat.

Wed. Mar. 21 Today was our first rainy weather since arriving back in Barcelona Feb. 22. We woke to rain and decided to sleep in, (past 8:00) Went to the fruit and vegetable market and the bakery between raindrops. Then quite a downpour hit as we walked back to the boat. We did some planning and printed some road maps for our road trip next week. Sally and Connie made a Goulash soup from leftovers for lunch. Then it was touristing time. Today we hit the Picasso Museum and it was fantastic! It was fun to see Picasso's earlier works. Our feet demanded a nap this afternoon.

Please send us your warmer weather. Love and God Bless Connie, Steve, Al and Sally

March 18, 2012

Hi everyone, We met Al's sister Connie and Steve at Barcelona airport on Friday morning March 16. All went well with their flights so we caught a bus and headed for Artemis. We dropped off luggage and took Connie and Steve on the first of many to come forced marches. We walked through Barceloneta and walked the waterfront to Olympia marina then up to Citudella Park and Arc de Triumphe and back to Port Vell. We then allowed them a two hour nap before beer thirty and Sally's seafood pasta. Connie hates mussels and such but has requested my seafood pasta again before they leave.

Spain | Barcelona | Sagrada Familia

Saturday March 17 we were up early to make our 9:00 Sagrada Familia appointment. "Incredible" as Steve described his experience. We took an elevator up one of the towers at 9:40 and then walked down so that we could walk out onto several alcoves before reaching the main floor again. We used the audio guides and had an awesome 3-4 hours exploring Sagrada Familia. Amazing...Come to Barcelona. Sagrada Familia is an experience that can't be described but must be done. This was Al's and my second visit and we could go back again tomorrow. We tried to visit a couple of Irish Pubs for St. Patrick's day but over flowing so we went to Sally's Irish Pub aboard the Artemis and had a heck of a good time:-)

Spain | Barcelona | Park Guell

Today we went to the Cathedral for mass after wandering around and visiting a bakery for pastries. After mass we visited the City Hall and then caught a bus to Park Guell. It was a beautiful day so had a lovely walk through the park. Ah Al said we should go to La Carreta and have steak. So we hiked down to Balmes Ave where we had lunch last week with our friends on Eirene. We made it just in time. We quickly ordered exactly what we had the week before. We had a great meal tomato/egg/tuna salad, tomato bread, steak, potato, wine and a peach schnapps gift at the end. We were their last customers of the day as Sunday's places close early or don't open at all. They didn't try to rush us but we knew everyone else was gone. We caught a bus back to Artemis and had a great evening visiting, looking at pictures and planning our days to come. Hope all is well. We understand your weather is as nice as ours but that's okay we're willing to share. Love and God bless Sally and Al

Spain | Barcelona |Tibidabo |Basilica and Amusement Park on mountain

March 7, 2012

Hi everyone,We had another good week in Barcelona. The weather has been good so we were able to play and get some things done. Saturday we went with friends on Eirene and Three Rivers to Caixa Forum art museum housed in a neat old textile factory. Then we went to a nice tapas restaurant for dinner with Pam and Steve. Sunday after mass we decided to go on another adventure with Steve and Pam to Tibidabo. Tibidabo is a mountain that over looks Barcelona. Half the fun is the tram and funicular that takes you to the top passing fabulous old mansions. There's a basilica and an amusement park up there but we went for the views. We found a fun Uruguay restaurant that specializes in meats much like the Argentinean restaurants do for late lunch/supper.

Monday we rode our bikes for a few hours looking for some pipe fittings with no luck but we did get our bike gear shifters repaired. We celebrated Al's birthday on Tuesday. We went to Museu d'Historia de la Ciutet. Most of the museum is below ground. The walk takes you through Roman and Visigothic ruins found beneath the city when they were moving a building. We had Al's requested seafood pasta for dinner. Today we went for a short bike ride and then did some sail repairs. We put on the jib and mizzen so we are one step closer to a clean V berth for Steve and Connie. It's been great having internet again and being able to skype sometimes:-) Hope all is well Love and God Bless Sally and Al


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