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Madrid and surrounding cities/countryside

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My wife and I are veteran travelers and we normally spend 2 months vacationing in Europe every year – usually 2-3 trips (June/July and Sept/Oct). About 75% of our time is spent in France, 15% Italy, and the remaining elsewhere. We are independent travelers - no cruises, large tour groups, etc.

Our Sept/Oct trip this year in Northern Calif (we’re 38 year San Francisco Bay Area residents) had some problems (long story), so I’ve decided to visit Madrid and the cities/countryside around Madrid instead.

We’ve spent very little time in Spain, except for an overnight to Barcelona from our gite/house just across the border near Perpignan France. Our June/July trip this year will be to the Pays Basque area in France for 2 weeks, then into the Pyrenees for 3 weeks. We plan to spend several days in San Sebastian and also the Spanish Pyrenees on this trip.

I would like a “reasonability” check on my tentative Sept/Oct Madrid & surrounding area itinerary.

Our likes/dislikes & how we travel:
- We are not interested in visiting any museum of paintings – so no Prada or Thyssen-Bornermisza. But we do plan to visit the Railway museum and perhaps the Lazaro Galdiano.
- We love “old building” architecture – don’t like modern architecture.
- We don’t have much interest in visiting religious stuff. We’ve visited perhaps 500 churches in Europe. We will see all the “major” churches in the cities we’re visiting – but a visit for us is not more than 30 mins. Same with Monasteries. We stayed for 5 nights in Melk in Austria and loved that Monastery. But others have left us “cold” after our first 30 or so monastery visits in Europe.
- We love castles – we’ll go out of our way to visit one.
- We like quiet/quaint neighborhoods
- We don’t like hot weather in Cities.
- We do a lot of walking. We have also taken about 15-20 organized walks with London_walks and about 6-10 with Paris-Walks.
- We’re big foodies – but we don’t “lunch”. Our main meal is dinner – and usually that’s also the extent of our evening entertainment.
- We retired in our early 50s in 1999 so we could travel more. So the amount of time we spend in any single place is not an “issue”, and neither is the time of year nor the start/stop days of our itinerary.
- Cost is not an issue.
- We get an early start in the morning, but we begin to run out of energy around 4pm
- We don’t take naps during the day.

OK – here is my “in process” itinerary. Our current plan is to land in Madrid around noon on Sept 24.

Mon – Madrid
Tues – Madrid
Wed – Madrid
Thurs – Madrid
Fri – Early train to Toledo & sleep in Toledo
Sat – Toledo.
Sunday – early train to Salamanca. There is a station change in Madrid. About a 4 ½ hr trip. Sleep in Salamanca
Monday – Salmanaca
Tues – pick up a car & drive through the countryside visiting Cuidad Rodrigo, Pena de Francia road, Carretera de las Batuecas, La Alberca, Miranda del Castanar, then back to Salmanaca.
Wed – Drive to Avila, visit, and stay overnight
Thurs – El Escorial, Riofrio and palace, then on to Segovia.
Fri – Segovia
Sat – Coca Castle, Pedraza de la Sierra, San Ildefonsa la Grania, then back to Segovia
Sunday – drive from Segovia to the Madrid airport for an afternoon flight. Traffic should be light on a Sunday.

Concerns:
- Is this too many days in Madrid?
- I plan on taking metro line 1 from the Atocha to Chamartin Madrid stations for my train trip from Toledo to Salmanaca. My guide book says that there are 6 trains per hour. Is there a reduced schedule on Sunday – the day we travel? What is the web site for the Madrid transportation schedules? Any advantage to purchasing tickets in advance, or can I wait until we get to Madrid?
- Is Avila an overnight or just a 1 hr visit?
- I planned a similar trip about 2 years ago, but never did it. I had circled Cuidad Rodrigo on my map – but I don’t know why. Does anyone know anything about “what’s there”?
- Pena de Francia road and Carretera de las Batuecas road are both mentioned as ** and * sites in my Michelin Green Guide. But I don could not find any reference to them on my Spain map. The Green Guide said they were west of La Alberca. Anyone know something about these areas?

If someone with similar “taste” in travel to ours asked me how much time I would recommend for cities we’ve visited, here is how I would answer.
Paris (forever), London (4 weeks), Rome (1 week), Budapest (4 1/2 days), Prague (3 1/2 days), Amsterdam (3 dys), Bruges (1 ½ dys), Ghent (1 ½ dys), Antwerp (1 ½ dys), Dijon (1 ½ dys), Aix en Provence (1 ½ dys), Avignon (1 ½ dys), Toulouse (1 ½ dys), Florence (3 dys), Siena (1 dy), Lyon (2 dys).

Stu Dudley

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