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10 Days in Madrid and Valencia.

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Jul 19th, 2011, 03:37 PM
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10 Days in Madrid and Valencia.

Madrid-Valencia-Madrid,june 2011

This report is about the second part of our 2001 trip;first part of the trip was the subject of another report tagged Turkey.
Madrid-Wednesday june 8th.

Our flight from Istanbul arrived in Barajas on time; but had to wait almost an hour to pick up our luggage and decided to take a van(shared) to our hotel.By 11 p.m.we reached the hotel.The Regente hotel on Gran Via at Mesonero Romanos is our hotel since 1981!!!! Not that it is luxurious, but has good size rooms and bathrooms,is updated,and location is ideal for us(any thing you need is one or two blocks away,Zara,Mango,El Corte Ingles, the Metro, Pans and Co for breakfast; dozens of restaurants).

We have been to Madrid many times(not less than 6, so we know the city pretty well,but we enjoy returning again and again).

Thursday(when we went to have breakfast and ended in Alcala de Henares):
As usual when in Madrid, we had breakfast at Pans & Company; and then go a few blocks to Hotel Maria Elena Palace to share a few minutes wth friends that made a stop in Madrid going back to Uruguay from Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
They are four persons, a couple friends of us(he is a chem.engr. as I am) and another couple of friends. e meet and they said they are going to Alcala de Henares(the birthplace of Cervantes); will we like to go? Of course; and a group of 6 starts immediately towards Atocha, to take the train.
At the station a niece of one of the couples, who lives in Madrid, is waiting us to be our “tour guide”; and a real good one she was!

This is a short and inexpensive trip, and the city ended being really interesting; home for lots of lovely storks, who have their nests in every bell tower.

We wandered trough the city, the ladies did a little shopping and the gentlemen decided to go to visit a church,then,the ladies come to the church,but it was closing time; fortunately,the lady in charge at the church decided there is no problem, and we can visit the church.

At the end of the visit we asked her for a good place to have lunch…and she takes the time to go with us some 5 blocks to a restaurant she likes,and where we have a good meal of asparagus(appetizer), sword fish with French fries for 4 persons,one choose “callos” and another a paella) and coffe or ice cream (8.50 euro per person).

Then we went to the archeological museum, (free admission); really a must ,with outstanding roman mosaics and a hall devoted to fossils;and to the house where Cervantes was born and lived part of his life(also free admission).In front of the house is a nice monument depicting Don Quijote and Sancho Panza; and we took lots of pictures.

Went back to the train station through a beautiful pedestrian street and the city market. Cherries are in season; and 1 kilogram vanishes in less than 10 minutes!!!

Back to Madrid we said good bye as our friends are returning to Montevideo next day(but a volcano in Chile has its own agenda).

Back to the hotel, we rest a little and decided it is time to visit El Corte Inglés, something we usually did almost every day.
We start to take a look at different things we will buy(all in the same day, in order to qualify to VAT discount), and also asked about the cart that entitles us for an additional 10 % discount.

We ended in the supermarket; where we have yogurts, “lomo iberico”, fruits and, as per Ekscrunchy advice, Tortas de Aceite.

I must confess I became addict to those Tortas de Aceite, sweet and anise seed flavored, they are good anytime of the day!!!.

We have a pic nic dinner at the hotel and went to bed.

Tomorrow: the day when we paid to meet a beautiful young lady.
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Jul 20th, 2011, 04:35 AM
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jelopez33,

i traveled with you in Madrid. Thanks.

It is also interesting how much the common language and the familiarity makes a difference. I can visualize your eyes lighting up and you getting more energetic as you walk there, meet your friends and then eventually write this first instalment of your trip report. Even, your use of the English language has become truely perfect!

we were there for only two and a half days three years ago and loved it. We managed to squeeze Toledo, Cordoba, Sevilla, Malaga, Granada and Valencia within only ten days by rental car and staying at Paradores. So it was a great taste but still just a taste.
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Jul 20th, 2011, 06:07 AM
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JE: I hope that you will not be angry at me for "addicting" you to the tortas de aceite! Truly, Spain is a wonderful country for food. So many delights surely remain to be discovered!

Looking forward to continuing our travels here!
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Jul 20th, 2011, 02:29 PM
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Looking forward to your impressions of the rest of the trip. It sounds like you had a wonderful time everywhere so far.
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Jul 20th, 2011, 02:46 PM
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Otherchelebi:
You read my mind!!!We really loved Turkey,but of course,the language was a little barrier;as every one speaks almost any language at bazaars;people at hotels were fluent in english and sometimes speak a little spanish and our tour guide was fluent in spanish.i am sure you will enjoy a future and more in depth visit to Spain.

Ekscrunchy: Angry? Are you kidding? tortas de aceite are a most wonderful addiction; they are really good (and inexpensive also).Thanks for this tip and for your reports(all of them are a classic in the forum).and for sure,we experienced some more delights in this trip.

Lincasanova:Yes,we had a wonderful trip,almost perfect(we didn't reach absolute perfection because of a bad paella in Valencia,but really it was our fault!!!,more on this later).

Lincasanova:
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Jul 20th, 2011, 03:35 PM
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Friday: We paid to visit a beautiful lady(they were two,really).

I saw the news a couple of days before leaving Montevideo: Cecilia Gallerani will be in Madrid for the next three months.

As Cecilia is the Lady with an Ermine(Leonardo’s famous painting, my favourite); I knew we will be going to the Royal Palace as soon as we can; and this is the start of our friday.We arrived before 10 a.m.,the opening time.We were no more than 10 persons in line,and tickets are 10 euro per person; a bargain if one thinks about what is exhibited.This is the cost of the admission to the exhibition, the visit to the Roya Palace is not include,and we were not interested ,as we were there in 2010.

“Poland Treasures and Art Collections”(Palacio Real, june1 to September 4) is a marvel.Not only we had seen The Lady with an Ermine, also Rembrandt’s Girl in a Picture frame was shown, and is also a one of a kind paint, playing with a 3D sensation, I think it is as good as Loenardo’s paint..
The exhibition includes many other unique pieces, from history,science,religion and art; a not miss if you are interested in art,history or beauty.

Then,we proceed to our usual mandatory visit to Almudena Cathedral,Plaza Mayor, and then decided to walk towards the Caixa Forum.

The vertical gardens outside Caixa Forum are a real marvel; and also the building ( an ancient industrial plant remodelated) is something that merit a visit.

We saw(for free) two exhibitions: Architecture in the Soviet Union (boring) and A Floating World( photographs by Jacques Enri Lartigue),very good.

It was time to lunch,and we decided to go the restaurant in the third floor of the Caixa Forum.

The Menu del Dia has many options for each dish,(appetizer,main dish,dessert,wine or beer or water); at 12 euro looks like a bargain.The surprise comes when the food arrived,everything was delicious, with an outstanding presentation.A place not to miss.a curiosity:the table clothes are a botanical map showing all the plants that are planted in the vertical garden.

Then we went to Atocha station,to check the AVE departures for our trip to Valencia,next sunday; took the metro to Sol and did some shopping in our neighborhood.
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Jul 23rd, 2011, 10:21 AM
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Saturday: unexpected day trip to Aranjuez.

Early in the morning we made a phone call to our friends asking if they arrived to Montevideo without problems. Surprise !!! they are at the Tryp Atocha, where Iberia has sent them as their flight to Montevideo was cancelled because of the ashes from the Chilean volcano.
A trip to Aranjuez is arranged, will the niece that lives in Madrid come with us? Of course!! And there we go.

Another perfect day trip; we walket to Atocha station, a few blocks from their hotel, bought our tickets and depart after a few minutes of wait.

A short un pleasant trip, talking about what we have learnt, many years ago about the palace and the gardens. Then, I remembered that we are entering the strawberries season, and Aranjuez is the zone that is said to produce the best strawberries in Spain. We made plans to have strawberries for dessert at lunch, yum!

We arrived at the train station, made a short walk to the palace, and go for a wheel chair,as one of the ladies in the team is having pain in a knee. No problem, the palace has wheelchairs for free and is mostly accessible(later, when we go to town for lunch, they authorized us to take the wheelchair and return it after lunch, wow, they were good to us).
The Palace is wonderful, with some rooms that are of an incredible beauty( the arab room, the Ambassadors room, the porcelain room).

There is another exhibition that captivates the ladies: the bridal dresses of the queen and princesses of Spain, also the uniforms on many Kings.
After the visit to the palace, we went to the city(another short walk of not more than 500 m ) to have lunch.

We choose the place that has more patrons( I think the name was Amsterdam); must seat indoors, as outdoors is full; but were comfortable anyway. Once again many of us had asparagus as first course(this time the green asparagus; and veal as second course. Everything is more than good and as dessert we asked for strawberries( with whipped cream or with ice cream), and they were superb!
Returning to the palace, we visited the gardens, really beautiful; but too big to cover with a person in a wheelchair; we spent some one hour at the gardens and returned the wheelchair, call two taxis and go to the train station, and return to Madrid.

Once in Madrid, we said our good bye (again) and hopped they can travel tomorrow(they really ended being transferred to another hotel, near the airport and spent two more days waiting for their flight!!!).
We arrive to the hotel and rest for a while, before meeting a couple, friends for long time that live in Madrid, and they had reservation for dinning at La Paloma, in Barrio de Salamanca(Barrio de Salamanca a hot spot for dining in Madrid; last year we went with them to Sanxenxo,also in Salamanca,a restaurant known for superb fish and seafood). We have a lovely diner, food was really good,had a god chat with our friends and past midnight returned to the hotel to sleep some hours before going to Valencia.
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Jul 24th, 2011, 03:17 AM
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Following along with enthusiasm..

JEL: You might be interested (or perhaps not!) in two short articles on Uruguay that appears in today's NYTimes Travel section:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/07/24...tml?ref=travel

http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/07/24...tml?ref=travel
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Jul 24th, 2011, 05:37 AM
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Ekscrunchy:

Thanks for your support and for the links.Articles seem very well documented, and without a single error.The prison that is turning into art gallery was named Carcel de Miguelete.And as a curious data; the best and biggest shopping mall in Montevideo is located in the premises of another old prison(Punta Carretas).
We will receive family at home today; tomorrow I will contunue with the trip report,this time about the wonderful Valencia.Enjoy Sunday and once again,thenks for the links.
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Jul 24th, 2011, 07:02 AM
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De nada! We will stay tuned!
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Jul 24th, 2011, 07:17 AM
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Yes. I am tuned here,too. anxious to see where you went and what you like and didn't about the Valencia segment. I'll feel like I am returning home after following you around from Istanbul to Madrid and now back home!
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Jul 25th, 2011, 03:21 PM
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Lincasanova: How lucky are you that can call Valencia your home!!!.
Now,lets start with Valencia.

Sunday: Starting the Valencia leg of the trip.

Almost nothing to do before our 2.10 p.m. train to Valencia. Just had a late breakfast and then take a taxi to Atocha Station(6 euro).

I think Atocha is one of of a kind train station, with the big garden inside(and I mean really big).
As mandatory AVE starts in time; and we had a most pleasant relatively short trip(95 minutes).Our price for the trip was very good, as we bought or tickets well in advance (forget about Renfe’s site,didn’t work); we had our tickets at Logitravel’s site without any problem and almost at half the normal rate (of course availability is limited, plan to buy in advance).

Ave trains are fabulous, extremely comfortable, clean, with good seats and ample space for luggage.Cannot think of any other transportation.Speed reached 300 km/hr (hey that’s Formula One speed!!!).

We arrived at Sorolla station (a new station built for high speed trains, I think). A shuttle bus(free) took us to the really close low speed train station( Estación del Norte); we went to Tourist information, picked up a city map and walked to hour hotel(no more than 15 minutes).

We had a bargain rate for the SH Ingles hotel ( the former palace of the Duques de Cardona), and location is supercan’t go wrong with neighbors as Vuitton, E.Zegna or the Ceramics Museum) .

We did all of our visits by walking, with the exception of the City of Arts and Science and the beaches.

In planning our visit to the city we profited from tips from Lincasanova and from Ekscrunchy’s report ( a big thanks for both of them).

Another interesting thing for those planning to visit the city is that the official website of the city permits to print two walking circuits, with pictures , description and opening hours of the main attractions.

After our check in (great hotel),we started a walk to contact the main attractions in the old city.We went to the Cathedral, Basilica de los Desamparados, Generalitat, Iglesia de los Santos Juanes; the Market(closed today), “Round Square” and Plaza de la Reina(Queen’s Square).
The Cathedral and Basilica de los Desamparados were having Mass,and were full of people, really full; but for some extrange reason, Mass at Los Santos Juanes had only two persons,and we decided to stay there until the end of the Mass.

All three churches are really beautiful ( but we preferred a jewel of a church we visited in our last day, on a tip from Lincasanova).

We enjoyed the city in this sunday, found it clean, vibrant, and friendly. We decided to have diner at a little restaurant, and we made a big mistake. We discovered it is possible to have a bad, really bad, paella in Valencia, but it was our fault, we went to the first tourist restaurant we found, almost empty, so, how can we expect something good?… live and learn.(sixty years living and learning…).

We continue our walk, had a cornetto ice cream and eventually returned to the hotel and that was the end of the day.
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Jul 25th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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Yes, I am lucky. Valencia is such a manageable city to live in /near. But getaways to Madrid for theater, dance and flamenco are a must a couple times a year.

I am so glad you enjoyed your Valencia visit. You must be referring to the Patriarca church next to the original University of Valencia? I am happy you found it open as it only opens for mass.

I remember you were trying to decide between which hotel .. and I see you were happy with the final decision! Waiting for more! Ekscrunchy's food reports need to be taken to every part of the world! It seems she has been everywhere and is definitely a true food critic.

The free shuttle bus between stations has been eliminated as it was really until everyone got used to the new location of the AVE station. It's only a short walk away.


Oh no. Paella downtown Valencia at night.. what a shame. I hope your other meals are better.

Waiting for more!
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Jul 25th, 2011, 04:09 PM
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Lincasanova:
Yes,it was the Patriarca Church,and it was open because it was the 100 aniversary or something like that.Wow,what a beautiful church!!! not many in the world can match; really,as you said,it is like being in Italy.And yes,we enjoyed the SH Ingles.
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Jul 26th, 2011, 02:02 PM
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Monday:

We had a really good breakfast at the hotel and ask the person at the front desk for directions to reach the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.We took a bus 35 at a bus stop a few blocks away and in a few minutes we reached the Ciudad de las Artes.

Went directly to the line to get tickets for the “Oceanografic” ; and we wait some minutes as it is too early.
We paid 24.5 euro each tickets and proceed to visit the whole site. The Oceanografic is magnificent, we saw the dolphin’s show, visit the wetlands, the oceans, the islands environment, the Mediterranean and best of all, the “Artic” with the belugas. Belugas are really cute, so white, and have an almost human face. We spent almost four ours there.

Out of the Oceanografic, we did a external visit to the ponds, the Museum of Science,the Hemisferic, the Umbracle ,the Center for Arts and the Agora.

Everything is 21 century (or should I say 22 century?); so modern and well cared. I cannot even think of how much money they put in to build the whole site, but we really liked it( but I assume it is not for everyone’s taste).
We were few people wandering at the City( but the Oceanografic had many visitors); the surroundings are modern also, with some residential buildings, a hospital and a shopping mall.

Back at the hotel we rest for a while and once again asked the front desk, this time how can we go to the Malvarrosa beach.Cannot be more easy,just walk 10 meters and take a bus,nº 31 direct to the beach.

In less than half an hour we are at the Patacona beach, walk along this beach and go to the Malvarrosa beach. Beautiful sand and many topless women(and we are at the end of the spring); but we still prefer the beaches at Montevideo and Punta del Este, with better buildings and ambient at the beaches. May be the beaches are more charming in season, july-august; but they are good anyway.

Returning to hour hotel, across the city, we agree that this is a city where we would be more than happy to live. We really are enjoying the city, friendly people, built on a human scale, full of attractions( later will see even more cultural marvels),in front of the sea the sea, really what we like!!!
We went again wander at the neighborhood of Plaza de la Reina, and had our diner at Casa Eulogio a good place,where we had ham and melon, grilled swordfisf with salad and fries , a coconut flavored cream and beers for 24 euro; a place to return(and we returned the next day).
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Jul 26th, 2011, 02:28 PM
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Valencia city beaches are not "charming", as yo have noted, They are just wide sand and water. If you go south to Denia/Javea/moraira.. then you get the rocks and coves.

For anyone going to the Malvarrosa beach you MUST stop for a coffee/beer on the outdoor terrace of the 5* Hotel Las Arenas. Beautiful, day or night.
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Jul 29th, 2011, 04:10 PM
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Tuesday#168;We more or less follow the walking tours given in the city’s website.They proved interesting and covered many central attractions.
Some of those attrations were:

Torres de Serranos: good views towards all the city; 147 steps!!
Museo de Los Roques (Las Rocas, The Rocks); sculptures made to be shown specifically in Corpus Christy. superb sculptures simply stored in a big deposit, not a real museum, but not to be missed.

Then, we went to the Carmen church,closed, but we found the Centre del Carme ; (a former cloister?); with some temporary exhibitions that really were a high point in our visit to the city:

-Retratos de la Belle Epoque, (Portraits from the Belle Epoque);many Sorollas,4 Toulouse Lautrec, John singer Sargent,Boldini,Alexandre Steinlen, Egon Schiele, Caillebote, Pere Magloire, Klimt, Kokoshka !!!! Wow, that’s an exhibition!!!!

-L’Art des Vellutiers (Silk); from the XV and XVI centuries. Amazing exhibition about silk,(a good introduction to an architectural jewel, the Lonja de la Seda, (Silk Market).

Then we proceed to the Torres de Quart (no climbing this time),and went to the Central Market; a dream of a market, big and, clean, with everything you can need in therms of food.Once again we choose the most beautiful cherries to enjoy on the go.

Just in front of the Central Market, we visited an outstanding building, la Lonja de la Seda( the Silk Market), erected in the XV century. A jewel of a building, with the most beautiful columns you can see or ever dream of.

By 2 p.m. we took a little nap at the hotel, and then visited the Museo de la Cerámica(Ceramics Museum), across the street from our hotel, located in the former residence of the Marques de Dos Aguas.
Must be seen to really understand the wealth of the family, and the work later done in collecting ceramics for the museum, another “not to be missed”( those visiting should pay special attention to ceramica de Manises and to the ball room), I know, I know, it seems we are in love with the city…. and we really are!!!

Then we stroll to the Almudin, San Esteban church, Basilica de los Desamparados (second visit), Santa Catalina church.

A little tired we decided to test the famous local drink, Horchata de Chufa; and nothing better that seating outdoors at Horchateria el Siglo. We saw everyone ask for horchata plus some sweet pastry, we asked and those pastries are named fartons, and the combination of horchata plus fartons is really good (plus the view towards the Miguelete, the cathedral’s tower).

We spent some time at Plaza de la Reina, crowded as always and dine again at Casa Eulogio.

Wednesday:
Last hours in Valencia!!!, as we have an AVE train to Madrid at 4.30 p.m.

Any way, we manage to reach other good point in our visit:

We tried the Iglesia del Patriarca( Patriarch church), and we found it is open as they are celebrating some anniversary.This church was a tip from Lincasanova, and we are grateful to her, as the church has a glorious beauty; covered in frescoes, words cannot do justice to hou beautiful this churc is .Thanks Lincasanova!!!… another plus…as far as I know this is the only churc with its own alligator( and a really big one)…it seems that the alligator was a present the Patriarca received from a friend, it becomes his pet and later was put in the church to remind the visitors to stay silent and wellbehaved!!!!

From the churc it is a little walk to reach some cute bridgesuente de la Exposición(or Peineta bridge);Puente de las Flores( Bridge of the Flowers),with really thousands of flowers,Puente del Mar.

This was followed by a short visit to the Mercado de Colon(Columbus Market); a former market transformed in a shopping mall, but still some gourmet food available.
We returned to the hotel via the Puerta del Mar ( something like a mini Puerta de Alcalá); and Candy managed to buy some shoes( always in need of shoes).

Our return to Madrid was of course absolutely on time, fast and uneventful.But we miss Valencia,definitely a charming city,a place to live!!!!!!
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Jul 29th, 2011, 04:25 PM
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great report. I am so glad you enjoyed our city! You certainly did see it all! You were very well organized and saw so many things/places most people don't.

I hope your report has encouraged others to follow your footsteps! Thanks for posting such a lovely, detailed report.
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Jul 30th, 2011, 06:57 AM
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Thanks you Lincasanova!!! you were of great help in planning our visit; we are really in debt with you.
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Jul 31st, 2011, 03:37 AM
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JE: I am so glad that you enjoyed Valencia as much as I did! I had no idea that the new trains cut the trip down to only 95 minutes! The tip about Logitravel is a good one; I was also among the multitudes that had trouble with the RENFE site!

http://www.logitravel.com/

Speaking about horchata, I was in a take-out place on Long Island yesterday with a friend of mine who noticed a large vessel filled with a milky white drink. She asked what this drink was and the owner told her it was horchata. So my friend asked, "What is that?" Well, having been in Valencia, I knew the answer and began explaining about the chufa, only to be told by the owner that this horchata was made with rice and cinnamon(!!??) This place serves a Latin American clientele and apparently they have their own definition of horchata....
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