A Great Trip to Spain!

Jul 3rd, 2019, 12:42 PM
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A Great Trip to Spain!

I'm a little behind in writing this from a trip the last week in April/first week in May. Computer trouble and then a lot going on, but thought I better get to it. Had a wonderful 14 nights in Spain! My first time there. Weather was pretty cool in the morning but warmed up in the afternoon. I could have used a sweater or light jacket when starting out but didn’t want to have to carry it around when it warmed up, so I went without. It wasn’t that bad.

I move more slowly than most and don’t try to cram in many sites per day. Since I travel alone, this isn’t a problem—no companion to get frustrated by wanting to move faster and see more. I had 4 nights in Sevilla, 2 in Cordoba, 3 in Toledo and 5 in Madrid.

I was a little surprised at how few people spoke English. Not complaining, it’s their country, but compared to Italy, there were far fewer waiters/waitresses, taxi drivers, shop clerks, etc. who spoke English, even though I was in areas where lots of tourists go. Even though I speak very little Spanish (just the usual hello/goodbye, please/thank you, do you speak English), I didn’t have a problem, just making an observation. You can do a lot with gestures!

I was very happy with all my hotels. Important things to me are location (close to the things I want to see with restaurants nearby), an elevator or not many stairs, and a shower instead of bath. All had these things. Rooms were small as expected but not too small. All had nice bathrooms with good water pressure in the shower.

Sevilla - Hotel Maestranza, Calle Gamazo, 12, €72.50. Lovely hotel with lots of Spanish tiles in the décor of the reception area. Not too far from either the cathedral, which is also close to the Alcazar, or Iglesia San Salvador. I arrived early, so as expected, the room wasn’t ready. It was quite chilly and raining, so this is one day I did pull out a sweater and my umbrella. I’ll just give some highlights:

Sevilla Cathedral, of course amazing. I read that it’s the world’s largest alterpiece, wood overlaid with gold, but Toledo’s certainly comes close in size. Tombs of Cervantes and an even more impressive one of Columbus. You can buy a ticket ahead of time that includes San Salvador and lets you skip the very long line.

Iglesia de la Anunciacion is under restoration but has an impressive gold alterpiece.

Iglesia San Salvador is a must-see. Unbelievable Baroque interior, lots of ornate gold décor and unusual statues, including Jesus on a donkey.

While wandering (can’t remember now what I was looking for), came upon Plaza de D’Elivra, a lovely little square with beautiful tile-covered benches and orange trees. Very pleasant spot for a rest.

Casa de Pilatos, beautiful place, tile-covered walls, ornate arches, lovely gardens.

Alcazar, of course tile-covered walls here as well, lots of ornate ceilings and arches. This is another place where you can buy a ticket ahead of time that lets you skip the line, but when I tried to do so, they were sold out, so don’t wait. I opted to book a tour instead that would also skip the line and it wasn’t a bad idea. The guide was very good and I learned a lot more about the place.

Plaza Nueva, nice square with lots of trees and benches. There seemed to be a lot of locals here and there was a wedding going on.

Toro d’Oro—I don’t tend to climb lots and lots of stairs, so only saw this from the outside, mainly because it wasn’t far from the flamenco show I was going to and I thought I might as well take a look.

El Arenal for a flamenco show. Very good but I wouldn’t say fantastic. You can buy a ticket that included dinner, and I was wishing I had done that, because the food looked good.

Restaurants in Sevilla—I had maitaitom’s and ekscrunchy’s recommendations, so figured I was in good shape. Some were too far from my hotel. In general, I don’t want to have to walk far after a day of sightseeing.

Enrique Becerra (from ek), just a few doors down from the hotel. Fish & seafood soup, Leg of Lamb stuffed with spinach and pine nuts in a honey sauce with couscous. Delicious!

Bodeguita La Parihuela for lunch, didn’t write down the address, it was north of the cathedral. Three tapas (jambon, chorizo, shrimp) were delicious.

La Azotea, Calle Zaragoza. While ek said the Ensaladillo de la casa was “essential,” I’m not sure I agree. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good, but really just potato salad with smoked trout and salmon added. I felt there wasn’t enough of these two ingredients. Loved the white wine, Chan de Rosas.

Patio San Eloy for lunch, I think Calle Gago, just north of the cathedral. Ensalada de ahumados (salmon, cod, lettuce, carrot, tomatoes, yogurt cream). Delicious.

Boca a Boca, just down the street from my hotel where Calle Gamazo meets the corner of Barcelona & Joaquin Guichot. Paella con Carnes was delicious. Decided to have dessert, Flan de Hueva, also very good.

Bread Originals, I think Calle las Sierpes just north of Plaza Nueva. Pizza was good.

While doing a little shopping, later had a Pina Colada Smoothie, I think on Calle Cuna. It was hot by that time, and it tasted so good and refreshing. Was more like a snow cone than a smoothie.

El Atuna, again just down from the hotel across from Boca a Boca on Calle Joaquin Guichot. Three tapas: Tuna in Green Sauce with nuts, Garlic Shrimp (yum!) and Pork in sauce. All delicious, as was the Orange Flan for dessert. It was so pretty that I took a picture (not so unusual for me).

More later...

Last edited by SusanP; Jul 3rd, 2019 at 12:52 PM.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 02:25 PM
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Here's Cordoba:
Hotel Maestre, Calle Romano Barros, 4 y 6, €40. A fantastic value, I thought. Not too far from the Mezquita. Very close to Ronda de Isasa, a lovely walk to the Roman Bridge, past the Plaza del Triunfo and the Albdafia Water Mill and then further to the Alcazar. Very short detour off it to the Mezquita.

Alcazar, it’s about the building itself, not a whole lot inside. Does have some neat mosaics in one area. I like really old buildings like that, even if they’re not filled with stuff. Outside was a man doing small oil paintings on glass (around 3x5) that were great. And he did it all with his finger, no brush. Amazing that he can do such fine detail with a finger. I bought one of the Roman Bridge that I love.

Mezquita, not much needs to be said. The red/white striped arches seem to go on forever when you first enter. The small Christian church in one corner wasn’t open, so we could only get a peek of some of it. I’m not an early riser but did get up to arrive before it opened to try to avoid a very long line. This worked, and then there was a further surprise. The line seemed to be moving very quickly considering people would have to stop to pay. That was because they were letting everybody in free. Don’t know why. I know a lot of places have one free Sunday per month, but it wasn’t Sunday.

Walked along the Old Wall to Puerta de Almovar Gate, a nice walk. Just inside the gate is a pottery shop on the left with nice items if you like that sort of thing.

Started back along Calle de los Judios and found the Zoco Mercado Municipal Artesano artisan market. A lot of beautiful stuff here.

Restaurants in Cordoba:

Taberna Bar Santos for lunch, Corregidor Luis de la Cerda, 85. Croquettes Jamon were good. Then I had to try the Berenjenas con Miel de Cana, fried eggplant with honey, because maitaitom had raved about them. Delicious! Very sweet, really more like dessert.

La Furgo, on Ronda de Isasa. Pork Iberica with vichychoise sauce and dried fruit/nuts/rosemary crumble. Delicious again. Stopped for gelato on the way back to the hotel.

El Extremeno for lunch, Plaza de la Agrupacion De Cafradins, Blanco Belmonte. Two tapas: Artichokes in Sauce and Roasted Peppers with Tuna. Yum! For both!

El Paseo, Calle San Fernando. Guise de Rabo de Toro (traditional Cordoban Oxtail Stew). I thought it might be a little different from the Italian Coda alla Vaccinara, different flavorings, but it was really very similar. That’s OK, because it was another Yum! Thought I should try the Cordoba Cake for dessert. OK, but nothing to write home about.

Last edited by SusanP; Jul 3rd, 2019 at 02:28 PM.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 03:33 PM
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Thx for posting. I love Spain .
I speak the language and often try to initiate a conversation with taxi drivers and others
in the travel industry. I have found that quite a few are immigrants from South America.


danon is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2019, 05:00 PM
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Enjoying your report! We were in Andalucia in 2017 and it is one of my favorite places! What is your itinerary? How many nights in each place? I am so happy that you stayed overnight in Cordoba! We spent 2 nights there, and it was one of our favorite places. I think people who only see Cordoba as a day trip do it a great injustice. But I realize not everyone has the time to stay overnight, and seeing Cordoba as a day trip is better than not seeing it at all. The Alcazar gardens are stunning!

And we loved Casa di Pilatos in Sevilla!! Not only is it beautiful, but it was an oasis from the maddening crowds of the rest of Sevilla. Casa di Pilatos is definitely a hidden gem, at least when we were there it was not crowded at all. And the rest of Seville was jam-packed with large group tours.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 06:57 PM
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danon, lucky you to speak the language!
Karen, glad you're enjoying it. Yes, Casa de Pilatos in Sevilla was lovely and uncrowded. While Sevilla had long lines at the cathedral and Alcazar, it didn't feel mobbed elsewhere. Forgot to mention that I had a lovely conversation with 4 friends from England at El Atun. It's always fun to meet other travellers, and people are more likely to talk to you if you're alone. As mentioned, I had 4 nights Sevilla, 2 in Cordoba, 3 in Toledo and 5 in Madrid. I tend to stay longer than many do in each place if possible.

Last edited by SusanP; Jul 3rd, 2019 at 07:00 PM.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 08:23 PM
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Enjoying your TR! Thanks!
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 08:33 PM
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Thank you for your report, looking forward to more!

Regarding English not being that prevalent, that's true. Spanish is my native language, so not a problem, but somehow non Spanish speakers can deal with it and keep coming and enjoying this beautiful country. In my experience, in the North, like Galicia or Asturias, the lack of English is more common.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 03:52 AM
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Thank you for posting. I’m following along too and look forward to more. My only time visiting Spain was to Barcelona 12 years ago. English seemed to be widely used there and even preferred to Spanish, perhaps given the politics.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 11:24 AM
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Glad you're enjoying it. Yes, I did OK without knowing much Spanish!

Here's Toledo:

La Posada de Manolo, Calle de Sixto Ramon Parro, 8, €62.73 plus you could add the buffet breakfast for €5. I did so the first two nights (left too early the third) and it was very good and included breads, muffins, croissants, jambon, cheese, cereal, coffee cake, yogurt (including liquid that was delicious). I loved this hotel! A perfect example of taking a 15th C building and updating it to make it comfortable while keeping all the old-world features and charm. Beautiful! Really nice shower with one of those rain shower heads. Great plush towels, and plenty of them. Great location as well, literally right around the corner from the cathedral. This hotel doesn’t have an elevator, but I had requested a room with the least amount of stairs possible and was given a room on the ground floor. Note, however, that the breakfast buffet is on the top floor, 34 steps, so not so bad. Worth it, as there is a small balcony off the breakfast room and you can eat your breakfast with the cathedral right there.

Things start right off with the train station. Beautiful!

Toledo Cathedral, obviously the main reason to go there. Buy the ticket, which includes the audio guide, across the street from the entrance. I had read that it was the most amazing cathedral in Spain (or was it the best in Europe?). This is very true! I have been to Paris, London, Italy from Venice down to Capri and everything in between, so I’ve seen a LOT of churches, cathedrals, duomos. The Toledo Cathedral beats them all. Every time you turn around, you will be saying “Wow!” at the wonders there. In one section, a half dome with frescoes had statues at the edge, made it look like they came out of the painting. I’ve never seen anything like it. But there is much more in Toledo…

The Jewish Quarter gives you a chance to see a bunch of things close together: Monastery San Juando los Reyes (gorgeous), Sinagoga Santa Maria la Blanca, Museo del Greco, Iglesia de Santa Tome (El Greco’s The Burial of Count Orgaz, amazing), Iglesia del Salvador. All of these are worth seeing! I was in this area on the May 1 holiday. The only one closed was Museo del Greco, even though several people had told me it would be open. Unfortunately, I didn’t get back there.

Santa Cruz Museum, lots of great art here, including a section of El Greco.

Plaza Zodocover: Other than a few benches with nice tile scenes on the side, there’s nothing to bring you here. It’s just a big empty square. Two of the three restaurants right on the square are McDonald’s and Burger King. However, this is where you can buy a ticket for..

Tourist Train, a ride around the city with wonderful views of the whole city. Makes one stop along the way so you can get out and take pictures.

Best view of the cathedral to see the whole thing is the rooftop bar at Hotel Carlos V. Amazing views all around but especially of the cathedral. I enjoyed a Mexico Lindo (Tequila, Grandizado de Pina, Zumode Navanja y Grenadina) served in a black skull glass!

Toledo Restaurants:

La Abadia, Plaza San Nicolas, 3. A bit grungy, the section down a few steps had velvet or velveteen benches around the edge of the room that looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in many years. I got here too early because I had planned to take the Tourist Train and couldn’t, the time I wanted was sold out. Most of the menu wasn’t available yet, but they had four or five tapas items that could be ordered anytime. I thought I would order one of those, and by the time I finished, it would be time for the others to be available. Had the Calamari with lime and ginger mayo. Yum! Really good, and a much bigger serving than expected. I was full and didn’t need to order any more. I wandered back to the hotel, thinking maybe I would get some dessert, but I couldn’t find anyplace that would let me order just dessert.

El Greco Café for lunch, next to Iglesia de Santo Tome. Good panini which was pizza on bread (not what we would call a panini). Had a nice time talking to two ladies (ex-sisters-in-law) at the next table who were on a month-long trip, moving on to Morocco.

Los Cuatro Tiempos, diagonally across from my hotel. Wanted to try the Roast Suckling Pig. Not quite what I expected. It was very good but not great. However, the dessert was a Yum. 3-Chocolate Timbale with Lime Sauce and tiny orange slices and dark chocolate shavings on top. So good!

Tabernita for lunch, Calle Santa Fe just off Plaza Zodocover. Delicious Fried Calamari with black garlic mayo.

Cerveceria, Plaza Mayor, Sixto Ramon Parro, 1, a bit up the street from my hotel. Fixed-price menu included Shellfish Paella, Grilled Sea Bass, a glass of wine and profiteroles. It was pretty good, but the Sea Bass had not been deboned, and it was difficult to eat without choking on a bone! When you get the check, always really look at it. They had charged me for two fixed-price dinners. I was almost finished when someone was saying hello. It was the younger of the ladies I had met the previous day at lunch. What a coincidence that we would run into each other again! Had another great conversation.

Last edited by SusanP; Jul 4th, 2019 at 11:27 AM.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 12:40 PM
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Great trip report, I've been to most of these places and enjoy your perspectives. I like the way you have things organized, also.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 02:17 PM
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Thanks, Christina. I'll try to finish Madrid tonight or tomorrow.
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Jul 7th, 2019, 07:14 PM
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Finally finished, here is Madrid:

Hostal Gonzalo, Calle de Cervantes, 34. On the 3rd floor of the building. One of those old elevators that has been there since Otis was alive. But worked fine, room for a couple of people or one with luggage. Two guys who run it are great and helpful. One of them is also a taxi driver and will take you to the airport if desired for the €30 fixed rate. Just a block up from the Prado.

Plaza Puerto del Sol, not my favorite place. Maybe it’s because the metro station entrance is right in the middle of the square. Also the only place I ran into the ladies trying to “give” you sprigs of rosemary. I had read about them when planning the trip.

Plaza Santa Ana, a much nicer vibe. I had lunch there one day. On the weekend, there was an Art/Craft Show that is there once a month. I bought a neat clock for my son, handmade free-form fused glass with piano keys, as he loves the piano. Only €20, which I didn’t think was bad.

Cooking Point, tapas cooking class. I love to take cooking classes while traveling, they’re always a lot of fun. We made six dishes, all delicious.

On the way to Palacio Real, walked through Plaza Provincia and Plaza Mayor.

Palacio Real – another place where you’ll just keep saying “Wow!” over and over. Grand staircase with frescoed ceilings and sculpture. Then you get to the part where no pictures are allowed. One fantastic room after another. One was an entire room of green and white ceramic, amazing. In another, the ceiling was amazing. Instead of frescoes or paintings, the people and flowers/vines that would usually have been frescoes were 3-dimensional. Never seen anything like it.

Prado – what needs to be said? An incredible collection of art. No pictures allowed. I bought the ticket ahead of time online and again skipped a long line.

Iglesia Parroquial de San Jeronimo el Real, behind the Prado, has a beautiful exterior. Couldn’t go inside, as it was closed.

The next day, I didn’t feel like museums, so took a walk starting at the Neptune Fountain by the Prado, north to Palacio de Cibelas Ayuntamiento and the Fountain of Cybele, who is the Goddess of Nature and is driving a chariot pulled by lions. Then went back down through the park I had passed, Plaza de la Lealtad and Plaza Murillo. Ended up at…Real Jardin Botanico. I decided to go in. The regular price was €6, but seniors only pay €2.50. Can’t beat that! Some countries only give the senior discount to natives, but I got it several places in Spain. The garden is beautiful, of course. Lots of pretty flowers, but I thought there might be more in bloom. This was May 6, so I imagine there was a lot more in bloom a week or two later.

Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Monastery of the Barefoot Nuns. Supposed to be fantastic collection of art, but I didn’t get to see it. I knew there was a guided tour but didn’t realize that was the only way to get in. Also didn’t know I needed to get there early to reserve a spot on the tour. They were all sold out for the rest of the day. There was a nice small church attached. There was a service going on, so I only discretely took a couple of pictures.

The walk up there wasn’t wasted, as the El Corte Ingles Department Store was right at the end of the street, and it was the branch that has the food. I had wanted to go there but thought I wasn’t going to make it. I like to go to local grocery stores. They have a section of more specialized chocolate and other goodies, but also a part that was a grocery store. Got some chocolate, spices and cheese.

Madrid Restaurants:

Brown Bear for breakfast a couple of times, Calle Leon, 10. Close to my hotel. Delicious Napolitano Crema, better than the Cinnamon Bun.

Zascandil for another breakfast, across the street on Calle Leon. Realized I hadn’t had any hot chocolate and churros. Delicious.

La Fragua de Vulcano, Alvarez Gato 9 at the corner of Calle de Nunez de Arce for lunch. Thought I was ordering Garlic Shrimp, accidentally ordered Gulas with Garlic. It looks a little strange, so I ask what that is. Turns out it is tiny sea snakes. OK…I’ll try just about anything. It was actually delicious. The only thing was, the texture was a little weird. I couldn’t finish it. They gave me a complimentary glass of Pacharan, which I had never had. Delicious! I went back a few days later and this time ordered the right thing. Garlic Shrimp, Yum.

Café & Tapas for lunch, Plaza Santa Ana. Like a bruschetta, Cheddar & Emmental Cheese au Gratin with Salmon. Delicious.

Ginger, Plaza Angel, Gazpacho and Cod Risotto & Black Olives. Again, delicious.

La Enriquetta for lunch, Calle de Almaden, 8. Was looking for something else, but it was gone. Got the 1/2 menu of Pork with Green Curry Sause, wine, bread, and choice of coffee or dessert. I went with dessert, Chocolate Mousse. Very good.

El Barril, Calle Cervantes, just up the street from my hotel. I recommend making a reservation. If I hadn’t been alone, I would not have been able to get a table. There was one small one right up near the door, which was fine. Several other parties were turned away because they were full. When I have dinner, I can see why! Crunchy Lamb Chops (6 small chops) were divine. It came with Mushroom Risotto and included a small bowl of soup, small square of cake, olives marinated in olive oil & herbs. They had a dessert that sounded nice and light, Pineapple/Mango Sorbet. Oh, my. The whole meal a definite Yum! I made a reservation for two nights later to come back. Have to also mention that, as I was sitting facing the door, I could see a row of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Boxes along a ledge above the door. I had to know what that was about! Certainly didn’t go along with the feel of the restaurant! Turns out that they have them because the restaurant used to be a grocery store. Fun!

Café Murillo for lunch. Artichokes pan-fried with bacon, a drizzle of lemon & shavings of parmesan cheese. Yum! I’ve made this a couple of times since I’ve been home. Note that it’s 10% more to eat outside, which of course I did because it was a beautiful, hot day. Not a big deal, but don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

Casa Pueblo, Calle Leon 3. I didn’t want to go far, plus a couple of places I had on my list were closed that day. Not a good choice. Had a couple of tapas, chorizo and smoked red tuna. I love smoked salmon and smoked trout, so thought I would like smoked red tuna. Definitely a mistake. I ate some of it because I was hungry but did not like it at all. Chorizo was OK, just chorizo.

El Barril again, just as good. Veal filet with hint of chili & garlic. Had the same Pineapple/Mago Sorbet because it was so good. Again, the whole meal gets a yum, lovely for my last night in Spain!

All in all, a great trip!

Last edited by SusanP; Jul 7th, 2019 at 07:19 PM.
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Jul 12th, 2019, 06:33 AM
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Great trip report! I’m trying to plan a trip to Spain for April, and you have so much helpful information here. Thank you for posting this!
Chilismom is offline  
Jul 12th, 2019, 08:18 AM
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As someone who loves Madrid and visits every years ,I am sorry so many travellers miss
Retiro and a different part of Madrid
north of the Park - the area called Salamanca . There you would find
the best shops, numerous restaurants, small leafy streets , beautiful buildings, boutique hotels, elegant people, interesting galleries and less touristy / crowded feel to the city.

danon is offline  
Jul 12th, 2019, 10:16 AM
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Ah, GinTonic memories of Café Murillo...

maitaitom is offline  
Jul 12th, 2019, 07:19 PM
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Thanks, Chilismom, glad the information helps you.
danon, I almost made it as far north as Salamanca. 😀
Tom, that's a great picture! I got a lot of good information from your Spain trip report, so thanks. I'm afraid I don't really care for gin. I generally had wine with my meals. 😀
SusanP is offline  
Jul 13th, 2019, 08:11 AM
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Thanks got the report. I mention Salamanca because is is a very different area than Sol
or S. Ana . Sort of like T. Square and Upper East Side ..
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