A Travellerspoint blog

Madrid

1 September 2015, Tuesday

sunny 32 °C

Today was hot and sunny.

This morning was free time, but I opted for an optional tour to Toledo, one hour from Madrid. We left the hotel at 8:15am, and returned at 1:30pm. We had a local guide and local tour coach, and spent 3 hours walking through the medieval part of Toledo, which was spectacular. It has one of the largest cathedrals in the world (Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Barcelona), which was commenced in the 13th century and completed in the 15th century.
The interior of the cathedral is spectacular, bu a single photo cannot do it justice. Whilst vehicles are banned from the old town, this doesn’t apply to people who live or work in the area, so one has to be careful when travelling through the narrow streets.

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Following the Toledo tour, we had an hour to grab some lunch and freshen up before joining the rest of the group for the city tour, also with our local guide and local bus. Whilst we did stop once at a monument to the author of Man of La Mancha (Spains first book to be mass printed rather than hand printed), the bulk of our viewing was from a moving bus, which doesn’t make for good photos. We also spent an hour at the Prada Art Gallery, where our guide showed us some masterpieces by artists such as Goyer, Tiziano, Greco, as well as some Picasso’s works which were temporarily on display in the main gallery. Whilst I had intended to walk back to the hotel, given the long day, the heat, and the fact that I am tired, I caught the bus back the hotel with most of the others.

About 6:30pm, decided I would go for a walk, armed with a map I obtained from the hotel. However, once I deviated from the main street, I got hopelessly lost, and could not match street names to the map. Ended up hailing a cab, and doing a mini tour of the city (I am sure the cab ride was longer than my walk) before being dropped of at the front of the hotel a approx 9:00pm for Euro7:60. Saw Ashley (from our tour) sitting on a pavement table having a beer, so joined him for dinner of a hamburger and 3 beers. Being lost in a city when you don't speak the local language is an unnerving expeience. I wasn't panicking, but I was concerned. Our tour gide had already told us of a couple in Paris who caught a local train in Paris, and ended up in farmland, and phoned our tour director to say they were lost. After finding a local farmer to interpret for them, it was established that they had cuaght an intercity fast train rather than a local suburban train, and were 40 minutes out of Paris. They had to make their own way back to Paris.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 21:09 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona to Madrid

31 August 2015, Monday

sunny 32 °C

Today was another hot sunny day, reaching 30 C, although light overcast developed in the afternoon, and we had some light rain n Madrid as we arrived, and as we did our panoramic drive.

Today was a long driving day. We left our hotel at 7:45, and had our morning and afternoon tea breaks, well as lunch, at roadside cafes. So far, most staff know English so ordering food isn’t to bad, but at todays lunch stop, the staff didn’t know English, and we didn’t know what the food was. Fortunately, our tour director did all the interpretation’s for each food order.

We arrived at our hotel in Madrid at 4:15pm and had too quickly freshen up before joining an optional tour of panoramic drive, followed by a 4 course dinner with Sangria, wine or beer. Although it rained during the panoramic drive, we had a great meal with entertainment from a 3 piece singing group (with piano accordion and guitar). Walked back to our hotel by which time the rain had stopped. These optional dinners are proving to be a great night out!

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 14:15 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona

30 August 2015, Sunday

sunny 32 °C

Another hot and sunny day. Not sure what the temp was as we were only in the coach for a short while, but was 25 C at 9:00am.

Had a 3 hour guided tour (driving and walking) from 8:30, after which some of stayed in the city for a while before making our own way back to the hotel. The main attraction on Barelona is the Sagrida famililia Basilica, designed by Gaudi, and still under construction 170 years later. An impressive building by any standards, although we didn't get to go inside.

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The other issue that I noticed during this tour is that all the buildings still have balconies, as in Italy and much of Europe.

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After this city tour, a few of us elected to walk back to the hotel, although afterwards I continued on to the museum (formerly a palace) and to the top of the bull ring mall for some day time photos. The musem is spectacular, and is up a long street with many fountains, It is impossible to do justice to this palace and the myriad fountains in a single photograph.

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The views from the top of the mall were good too.

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Afterwards, I opted for another optional tour (yes, I have selected all but two of the optional tours), being a dinner and flamenco dancing night. Whilst this might sound boring, the dinner was a superb (but early by Spanish standards - 5:30pm) snd the flamenoco dancing was in an intmate staged area seating a maximum of 100 people. Whilst no photos were allowed until the end of the show, I did by a DVD, as it was a unique experience. So far, all the optional tours have been great.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 14:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Nice to Barcelona

29 August 2015, Saturday

sunny 33 °C

Another sunny and hot day reaching 33 C.

Today was a long driving day, although we had a lunch stop at Arles where we had time to look around the town including the Roman amphitheatre. Although not as large as the Colloseum in Rome, this amphitheatre is in very dood condition is is currently used as a bull fighting arena. Had a great time wandering around the town, which is also a stopping point for the river cruise ships. There is also the remains of bridge supports and a large bridge entry gate from Roman times.

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After lunch, continued our driving, passing the Pyrennees mountains, which are the border between France and Spain, Got to Barcelona just after 6:00pm, and checked into our hotel which is very large. It is also located next to an old bull ring stadeum which has been converted into a shopping mall. After our group dinner in the hotel, I went to the top of the mall for some night photos, and wandered along the nearby streets wtching the fountains change colour.

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Tomorrow we have an orientation drive through Barcelona in the morning before a free day to wander around at leisure.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 06:57 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Nice

29 August 2015 Friday

sunny 33 °C

Weather today was sunny and hot, reaching at least 30 C.

A free day in Nice, although I had two optional tours today.

The first was to St Paul de Vence, a medieval fortified village in the hills overlooking the Cote d'Azur, and famous as an artist colony. with many art shops. The village was beautiful and I could have spent more than 2 hours there, as I didn't make it to any of the stores. We were lucky to get their early (ie 9:00am) as the cruise ships normally send a lot of tourists to this place by late morning. The village has a beautiful cemetary just outside the town walls, and the views of the surrounding country side were superb. Left the village just after 11:00am and got back to the hotel at 11:45am in time to pick up those colleagues who were doing the 2nd optional tour.

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This tour was a drive up into the hills overlooking the Cote d'Azur, with a photo stop, before heading to the village of Eze for a 3 course lunch with wine. My meal comprised an entre of pork choruse, main course of duck leg, and desert of mousse. The meal was in an old converted farm shed where it is reported that Napoleon received funds from the Pope to finance his unification of Europe. Our meal was taken in a large room with open windows overlooking the valley and coast. We all had a great time before returning to the hotel at 2:30pm.

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Having had a few wines, and the weather being so hot, I took the opportunity to rest and do some domestic chores, such as washing clothes, before venturing out at 5:00pm. Wandered down towards the beach, and met up with some other members of the tour group. The buildings in Nice are surprisingly similar, with large shuttered windows and balconies. It was such a hot day that not only was the beach crowded, but a large area of fountains was also popular with kids and adults as a cooling off game.

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By 8:30, it was obvious that all the restaurants and eateries were packed (it is Friday evening) so we returned to the hotels rooftop bar for some beers and a hamburger. Adjourned about 9:30pm as tomorrow is an early start.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 13:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

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