Thursday, September 2

Luis picked us up and took us to the Barcelona airport. We managed to do a little shopping before our Spanair flight to Madrid. This time we are in the Palace Hotel - built in 1912 and very opulent and lovely.  Madrid is a beautiful city - with both lots of old big heavy buildings and many 20th century skyscrapers. And lots and lots of plazas (plathas), and statues and fountains.  Again, as we got in around 2:00, we had the afternoon to ourselves, so we went for a walk.  First, we stopped for tapas (surprise!) at Trucha's. Small, authentic, outdoors; cerveza, clara, peppers and mixed fish pates. Then we walked to the Parque Retiro....

...a huge park which used to be first, a private royal retreat, and then later, the site of a porcelain factory.  A beautiful park; mostly trees, but some flowers and lots of statues and a big monument to Alfonso XII.  By the way - the weather - it was delightful!  70s in Barcelona, and a little warmer here in Madrid. We see from CNN that showers are coming to north and central Spain!

Then we walked up the main shopping street of Calle de Serrano. Al the big (international) shops are here so it was easy to look and not buy. Then back to the hotel  to get ready for - you guessed it - dinner!  Restarante Lucio - a rustic sort of place with hearty fare. They start with the traditional Madrid ring of bread (in Barcelona it is a lump with 13 little lumps sticking out). Wayne had Poor man's soup: garlic, bread, eggs in broth. Hmmm.....  Then fish and fried chicken - which was wonderful. Salty of course, but weird: it was all white meat (with bones) but we could not identify any of the pieces!. We suspect it was the neck. We were stuffed, so no dessert, but by the time we cabbed back to the hotel we forced ourselves (nyuk, nyuk) to have some: 3 scoops of ice cream and 3 scoops of sorbet. Muy bien!!

Our Spanish has been improving all week, though only on our side; they know what we're saying but we still mostly don't know what they're saying. "And they speak so fast"!!!!!

Friday, September 3

Today we met our Madrid guide, Anjela. A really nice lady who was also fond of saying "Si, si, claro" (not to be confused with "clara" the drink). Our driver was R-r-r-r-oberto - also very nice, and he knew English too. We did the 1/2 day tour of the city. Started at the palace (the real one, not the hotel!). Wow!!! Some great rooms. not as ornate as we remember from Versailles, but a nice place to live (3,000 rooms!). Lots of silverware, armor, porcelain, not too much artwork. learned all about the history if the 17th and 18th centuries.

Then across to the Royal Church which was actually blessed by the Pope just a few years ago. Then we went to some other really old churches; beautiful, but we're starting to suffer from the "bam-BIN-o there, ma-DON-na that" syndrome. Saw where the Inquisitions were in the Plaza Mayor (not as nice as Saint mark's in Venice). Anjela really knew a lot - it was a great experience. When the tour was over we told her we wanted real, authentic Paella so she told us to go to Barracca.  We actually
found it (the maps and concierge directions are quite good). ince it was 2:00 (siesta time!), we were the only ones there, but some folks did come in while we were eating. We had bread garlic mayonnaise (to die for) and sautéed mushrooms and wonderful seafood paella.

They bring it in a pan (at least 10" across), and serve it so beautifully. This is just for the two of us! Way too much to eat and yes, very, very heavy (now we know why they need a siesta). So, no dessert! (We couldn't even finish the whole thing.)  Since it was 3:00, the stores were closed (usually from 12 - 4 for siesta), so we decided to go to the Reina Sofia Art Museum. But when we went outside it was raining!  A medium rain, perfect for vacation and we had our umbrellas (thanks CNN). It was too far to walk, so we went for a cab, but of course, with the rain, they were all occupied! So...let's take the metro! It was easy enough to figure out from the map and the entrance to the museum was right at the Plaza del Sol stop. Two stops on the Purple line and three on the Yellow and there we were (only E1.10 each). When we came up, the rain had stopped.  It was an OK museum, but without a guide we were pretty clueless ("That's a nice picture").  Then we walked back into the shopping area.  Along the way we kept passing restarantes that said "Museo Jamon". We were sure that that meant "Ham Museum", and we know the Spanish like their ham, but how many ham museums can there be??  later we asked Anjela and she said "Si, si, claro. It does mean ham museum, but that is the name of the restaurant chain"!!!  We shopped (4 sweaters) and looked for a nice photo album but couldn't find one and finally, about 7:00, walked back to the palace (hotel!). We were really thirsty (all that salt and walking) so we decided to have a drink in La Rotunda, which for us was orange Schweppes and Schweppes tonic. We also noticed that many rooms were reserved for the Moises Cohen bar Mitzvah! And also, the Chinese ambassador was having a reception so there was a lot of activity. So after a while we went upstairs and surrendered to fatigue and gluttony and decided just to have room service (burgers and French fries!). We thought about getting dessert, but there was just no way. Exhausted and full.

Tomorrow we tour Toledo!

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