Madrid and London

Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 12:17 PM
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Madrid and London

Hi to All, As usual, I'm starting my TR ahead of the trip (about a month) so others can gauge how much pre-planning they need.

A little background: I'm a 65+ yo widow and haven't travelled overseas solo since 1969. Starting in the 1980's, DH and I took quite a few trips to Italy, France, and one each to London and Greece. We started out with guided tours and "graduated" to DIY over the years.

We got to the point where we spent extra for non-stop flights if they were available and for vans or taxis to and from the airport. It saved so much stress for both of us. Hot-footing it from one terminal to the other to catch a connection got old (as we did!).

Seeing art was always an important part of our trips. After reading a list of the greatest art museums here on Fodor's, I decided that seeing the ones I've missed would make a reasonable bucket list.

The Tates were not opened when we were in London so that was an easy choice. Many friends have raved about the Prado in Madrid, and in Venice, I fell in love with the artist Sorolla. Reading that his home was in Madrid and is now a museum, a second city was chosen.

I started thinking about this trip in August 2013. Is 8 months too far in advance? Using kayak then Orbitz, I looked for non-stop trips flying into Madrid and out of London. DH and I have used Orbitz for San Francisco and a Nice/Lyon trip and it worked fine. We had to come home early when DH was ill and it was an easy procedure by hotel phone.

I chose two hotels by a combination of Fodor's suggestions, Orbitz offers, TripAdvisor and actually emailing hotels asking for quotes. Here are the hotels I chose:

Madrid (contacted them):
NH Paseo del Prado
Plaza Cánovas del Castillo, 4. 28014 Madrid

London (Orbitz had better price):
Strand Palace Hotel
372 Strand, London WC2R 0JJ

I started my trip folder with Orbitz and hotel printouts and, on the front, a list of things to check into and musts to pack. Should I include that in the next portion?
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 12:37 PM
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Can't wait to hear about your trip to Madrid. Just booked ours!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 11:27 AM
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When are you going, travelmamana?

In 2013 I joined the trusted traveler program. It took from August when I signed up to early October when the card actually arrived. I believe others have experienced longer times.

In 2014, I confirmed hotel reservations and arranged pick-ups/drop-offs at airports. In Madrid, the hotel is doing it; in London, Just Airports. Please don't make fun of my wuss ways.

In April I'll check out what's special at the galleries and see if advance reservations make sense. Compare Oyster and plain travel passes in London and scout out Madrid museum pass information.

On my To Pack list:
computer or kindle (or both?)
ear plugs
compass
alarm clock
chargers
bandaids
2 face cloths (will leave them)
travel sized mouthwash and makeup
extra camera SD card and battery

Make copies of:
passwords, passport, trusted traveler, credit cards, prescriptions

Clothes: 3 changes: 2 regular slacks and one dressy (or a skirt); 4 tops (one dressy). Wear black crocs and pack black flats for night.

Except for a couple of things (make up and mouthwash), I will buy personal items over there. Expect hotels to provide shampoo and soap.

For you old hands at travel, forgive me if this is too much information. On the other hand, does it help newbies? Anyone, what am I missing?
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 11:41 AM
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TD - I know that you said that you'd be checking what's on etc in April, but I couldn't resist giving you a preview of this:

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/wh...issance-venice

There was a piece about it on Radio 4 last night - there are some 50 works, I believe including the "Supper in the House of Levi’" from the Accademia in Venice which is one of my all time favourites. I'm sure you'll find a lot of other wonderful things to see too - the Turner collection at the Tate springs to mind.

Good for you doing this trip by yourself - and you can't provide too much detail for me - I'm lapping it all up! What is the trusted traveller programme, BTW? I've never heard of it!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 12:07 PM
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Hey annhig, thanks for the link. DH and I loved the National Gallery and it's close to my hotel so it's is going on the "To See" list.

I think trusted traveler (search "Global Entry" on Fodors for more particulars) is a U.S. program. Anyone know otherwise?

For a $100, one gets finger-printed and interviewed and given a card that allows him or her to bypass the long re-entry U.S. Customs lines. Also, the airlines that honor the program, permit the holder to go through a separate security line. I forgot to mention in my planning post that I contacted Orbitz and Southwest (for the WFD GTG) and am so listed. I'll let everyone know how it worked.

Say, now that you're here, do you suppose you (and any other Fodorites) will be in London 21-25 April?
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 12:48 PM
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Hi TDudette,

You go, girl! So glad you decided to do a solo art junket. Recall, we spoke about this in one of my old TRs. Although there are many great hotels in London, the STRAND PALACE works best for me because of location and price point.

I hope to return there (for the 3rd time!) in June. Basically they cater to single travelers. Believe me, I checked out many others which were more expensive. It’s not fancy but has a great breakfast and good service.

There are so many museums in London, but please do not miss THE COURTAULD GALLERY (loads of Impressionist paintings) which is only a few minutes walk from the hotel, and the WALLACE COLLECTION, off Oxford Street not that far from Marble Arch. The latter contains a lovely restaurant. Both are very special and in historic settings.

www.wallacecollection.org/

www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/index.shtml

Of course, you can saunter in and out of the NATIONAL GALLERY and the PORTRAIT GALLERY in Trafalgar Square just down the street. I usually reserve those museums for the evenings they are open (Friday for NG and Thursday and Friday for the PG).

I really enjoyed the Prado in Madrid, but that was so long ago. Looking forward to your detailed trip report also…
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 06:58 PM
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Tdudette- Yesterday I was looking for summer travel and came across a great deal for next week...and I booked it. Now it's a mad rush to get everything done on the home front before I leave! 6 nights in Madrid. Will try to catch a bullfight on Sunday. Hoping I can just buy tickets the day before or morning of. Do a flamenco/dinner and then visit the museums in the eves and the palace & park. My hotel is close to Prado. Maybe a day trip to Toledo. I think I can do that without a guide but would love more instructions on how to get there via train. Other than that, it's just to relax. I really am a detailed planner so while I'm am excited to do this on a whim, I feel so unprepared!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 07:32 PM
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Hi tdudette - good thread. Do I understand you booked flights thru Orbitz? May I suggest that you double check with your airline directly to ensure your Global Entry number is in fact entered. You need that to get the TSA Precheck for getting that designation.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 07:43 PM
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TDudette - Sounds like a great trip! London is always a great destination. We were in Madrid last summer and adored it, even in the heat. The Prado is magnificent. Your NH hotel is perfectly located for the Prado, too - just a walk across the esplanade and you are there. Have not stayed there but have been quite pleased with other NH properties.

No need to feel wussy about arranging airport transfers in advance - makes good sense and it's not like you are reserving a fleet of Escalades.

Only thing I see on your packing list is about shoes - if by Crocs you mean the plastic cloggy things, are you sure you will be OK with that as your only daytime shoe? Please note I am not talking fashion here, but function. If it is cool or wet they may not work well. How are they on cobblestone type pavement? Plus, do they really offer the kind of support you would want for the amount of walking you are likely to be doing?

And a friendly amendment to your description of the Trusted Traveler program - it is indeed only for US citizens and allows the holder to bypass lines at immigration/passport control (by using a kiosk) but not customs.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 08:22 PM
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At IAD there is special line for customs for Global Entry people - so one does byass the long line at Customs.
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 06:27 AM
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latedaytraveler, all of your suggestions are on my list! Thanks so much.

travelmamana, here's lincasanova's info about the express bus, fyi:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...m#last-comment
Search fodor's and online as there are trains at the airport that go to major stations. I just didn't look into them as much as that express bus. Have a great trip! FYI, per a Fodorite suggestion, I printed out a Maribel Guide from online. Haven't sat down to read it yet. Others here can help about bull fights and trains.

Good idea, yestravel. I will check with US Airways directly to double-check.

Dang, Seamus, I could have gotten an Escalade? LOL. Yes, those crocs. I think they'll work out fine for walks. I bought them in Florida when my usual comfy shoes failed and they were fine. I want to say they are rubber but am not sure. Because of my asthma, my walking is not in the 'Bataan Death March' category that described walks of my young days! Plus, as DH and I aged, we started taking a taxi (or bus) to the most distant of our day's visits then slowly wended our way back.

Thanks yes and Seamus re Global Entry. They told me at the GE interview that there would be a different line as one enters the country. I still go through the "declare" line.

Forgot reminder to call credit card companies to let them know I'd be traveling. And to pack a new little notebook/diary. How am I going to get this in one bag is a mystery.

BTW, in 2009 we got an American Express card that supposedly has chip technology. We took it to France but never got the opportunity to try it out on the unmanned ticket machines.

I do like to have some cash in my hands when arriving in another country. Visited AAA to see about travel packs of Euros and Pounds and the clerk suggested that I order the money online through them to save some money. If one buys the packs in person, there's a surcharge for each pack. I did that and am supposed to have the money delivered to my home tomorrow. We shall see. The exchange wasn't great.
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 12:03 PM
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yestravel - that is great about IAD's GE customs line, especially since United (my loyalty carrier) is trying to make it a hub for European travel. The same has not been the case at other airports at which which I have arrived in the last couple years, let's hope it expands!
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 01:38 PM
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Signing on for the trip! Love the details - planning is such great fun, isn't it?

I find the Strand Palace Hotel to be quite perfect, although I usually stay with friends nowadays. Will you be seeing any West End shows while in London?
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 07:52 AM
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Have you landed in Philly, Seamus?

Hi and thanks, LCBoniti. How lovely to have pals there. I do hope to see something while there. Adding play/performances to the 'to check for' list. Staying awake late is often a problem after a day of walking. Maybe I'll check for a matinee.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 12:40 PM
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FYI, the currencies arrived as promised. Based upon this one experience, ordering online through AAA worked just fine.

Today I found the Spanish words for my allergy and medication card and printed it out. I will keep a laminated copy in my purse.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 08:49 PM
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Have not landed at PHL from an international flight, only domestic, TDudette.
[BTW I went to Temple many years ago, have a niece who finished there last year and now works in Center City, lives in Germantown.]

If you do want to check out a show or two in London, don't forget about the TKTS booth at Leicester Square, the stone building at the south (I think!) end of the square itself. If you go to www.tkts.co.uk you can both see the location and what is currently on sale.
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 06:52 AM
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I'll be leaving/returning from/to Philly so I'll let you know how it goes there, Seamus. Philadelphia is a wonderful city and I want to say that the daughter of a friend of mine participated in a Temple orchestra for youth. A great school.

Thanks for the tickets link. I've added it to my list of reference material. I generally play such things by ear as the weather and stamina dictate my diy schedule.
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 10:50 AM
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Once. I loved it. The Phoenix Theater, as I recall.

And having friends in London is wonderful - it allows me to travel there much more often than I would otherwise be able to.

Are you headed first to Madrid?
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 12:06 PM
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Yes, LCBoniti, Madrid first.

Here's some more info and I'm going to copy it to the most recent thread I can find about this subject. When I called American Express to let them know I'd be using the card out of the country, I took the opportunity to confirm that my new card still had the chip technology. I thought the first one had had it but we never got to try it out. She said no but they are sending me a new card WITH chip technology.

I think she said I'd be able to use it in the U.S. AND overseas. I'll let you know if it works.
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 09:54 PM
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A few places in London and Seville the past month, when I got out my Visa card to pay for something, the clerk said, "Oh, no, that's not an American Express card, is it?" I'm sure you'll have a backup for that situation.

Sounds like a wonderful trip, TD. I wish I could turn around and do it all over again myself.
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