Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 3 in Spain - Tuesday - first transition day

I figured I'd better get more of the story written before all the details fade out of my memory and I can't remember what to write. (You may laugh at me but oddly enough I'm remembering a lot of what we did based on what I was wearing that day. I can look at the photos, see what I was wearing in different photos and that's jogging the memory of what we did that day. But hey, as long as something helps me remember. LOL)

Tuesday was our transition day from Barcelona to Madrid. We had repacked our suitcases the night before to accommodate all the wine and souvenirs we'd already bought so we could leave the big bags at the hotel we'd be coming back to at the end of our trip, when we returned to Barcelona. So we stopped at that hotel on the way to the airport (which wasn't far since it was an
airport hotel) and checked our big suitcases there. Then we headed to the airport. We had left early in the hopes of maybe catching an earlier flight to Madrid but apparently there was some sort of limitation on our fare we purchased that did not allow for changing the flights or even going stand by unless we wanted to pay for it. So we sat at the airport for quite a while and I got a lot of reading in while we waited.

We got to Madrid about 12:30 or so and by the time we collected our bags and headed to the train station, we had missed the train to Toledo for a while. We had thought we'd head there, drop our stuff at the hotel and sightsee in Toledo that afternoon. But though the trains usually run every hour, there are two hours during the day it doesn't run and we arrived then. We didn't want to sit around waiting even more so we decided to start touring Madrid that afternoon instead. We found a baggage check at the train station, dropped our stuff off and headed to the metro to go in to the city.

After probably a good half hour trying to figure out the metro system and the maps to where we wanted to go, we rode into town. And honestly, my memory of this day is a little hazy. I forget what all we did. Probably because I was SOOO tired that day after little sleep the night before then getting up early to catch an early plane only to find we couldn't.

I know we headed into town and stopped at Plaza Mayor. I had purchased City Cards for us, which got us free tickets on the Tourist Bus, free entry to numerous museums and the Royal Palace and Gardens, and discounts many other places and with a couple tour companies. So we stopped at the tourist office to pick them up and while at Plaza Mayor, we walked around the square looking at all the shops and restaurants. We also did quite a bit of shopping right off the bat. Go figure. Two women in a foreign country and one of the first things we do in a new city is shop! LOL But it worked out because we got almost all of our souvenir shopping in Madrid done there. And in my case, most of my Christmas shopping too. :-) I knew the only way I'd be able to afford Christmas presents this year was to make them the souvenirs I brought home for my family. Of course the kids will all get their souvenirs right away but...

About when we decided we were hungry, we found a little hole in the wall restaurant and got some lunch. Most of what was on the menu I could only make out a few words, but there were some pictures too of some dishes to help. I ended up ordering this dish that all it was is green beans and ham. But it was REALLY good! I don't know what kind of broth or seasoning they
used but it was "muy delicioso." L had ordered something that looked quite a bit like stew as we figured we could share each other's meals to try more food. We did that a lot over there. Ordered different dinners so we could try more stuff. Well after she tasted my lunch, L decided she liked it better than her own lunch so she too ordered some. So we shared her original lunch between the two of us and I didn't have to share my yummy beans and ham after that and neither did she. LOL

We hopped on the tourist bus at some point too and started touring the city that way. We decided to visit El Parque del Retiro that day and explore the gardens and sculpture there. I'm a big fan of parks and botanical gardens. I like to see what kinds of flowers and artwork is displayed in parks and gardens around the world. We spent a couple hours there. It was a nice way to relax and digest our lunches while we walked around. There were some beautiful fountains and sculptures all over the place and we didn't even begin to see the whole park. If I remember correctly, it's the largest park in the city and it's a significant amount of acreage. Of course I took tons of photos, just like I did everywhere. LOL

I had purchased a bunch of post cards earlier in the day and there was this one really cool looking building called Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) that I fell in love with from the photo on the post card. I had no idea where it was, since it didn't say but I had mentioned to L that I'd love to see it if we could figure out where it was. As it turns out, it is in the center of Parque del Retiro and we happened across it by accident. As soon as I realized what it was I got quite excited to see it. The photos I took didn't do it justice so I kept the post card for the picture. :-)

As we were walking in to the park, we came across what I have since jokingly dubbed the "Mickey Ménage Trois." All over the park were folks dressed up in different costumes doing balloon animals and such for a couple euros. In this one area there was a Mickey and not one but TWO Minnies. So I dubbed them the ménage and of course had to get my photo taken with them. One Minnie was greedy tough and when L paid them a few euros for posting with us, she handed them all to the one Minnie, assuming the three of them were working together. Well they weren't. So Minnie kept all the money and wouldn't share! And poor Mickey and the other Minnie didn't get anything! We got a chuckle out of the selfish Minnie after that.

After we had walked our fill for the time being and taken quite a lot of pictures, we looked at our watches and decided it was time to head back to the metro and the train station. (Well I think that was the last place we went this day anyhow. I honestly can't remember.) So we got there, and I was beginning to feel like an old pro on the Madrid metro already. As son as I figured the metro lines out, I had no problem determining where we needed to go to get where we wanted or switch lines. So we headed back to the train station (which is gorgeous by the way - they have a tropical solarium in the center of the train station with beautiful trees and greenery and either a really good sound system for playing animal sounds - it sounded real and not recorded at all - or there were real birds and frogs and such in there.) and reclaimed our baggage. We still had about half an hour till it was time to catch our train so I sat and read my book a little while we waited.

The train ride to Toledo takes about half an hour and then we had to catch a cab up to our hotel. We were way on the outskirts of the city, on the other side from the station. We were in a brand new Hilton there and it was incredible! Probably the swankiest hotel I've ever stayed in! And it was all free since we had our hotel points we were using. I've stayed at some pretty nice looking hotels on other trips to Europe but this one takes the cake. I took a few photos but forgot to take a lot of the ones I wanted since I was tired. LOL

After we dropped our luggage and freshened up a bit, we had the front desk suggest some nice restaurants for tapas and asked them to call us a cab. So we went off to dinner, ate our fill and came back to the hotel, completely worn out after the long day.

Next post - 4th of July


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