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Trip Report Marvelous Madrid (and Toledo and Segovia)

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The Trip Report: I don’t have lots of expertise about Madrid and nearby cities, nor do I have the wit and writing ability of many who have shared on this Forum about their travel experiences to these spots. But we do like to share what we did and what we learned, so perhaps something will help or encourage or prompt a memory. It becomes increasingly obvious to me that each traveler (even if traveling “together”) has his or her own style and preferences for what makes the best trip. But with that being said, there is something to be gleaned usually from the experiences of others, so in that spirit I offer up an account of our 6 (almost) days in Madrid, Toledo and Segovia.

The Destination: In early 2015, we decided we’d make one trip to Europe together this year and we chose Madrid. I had Fall Break in October, so we planned a trip from Saturday to Saturday, giving us 5 full days (and maybe a half day on arrival) there, and this also gave me a whole day to recuperate before heading back to school (and a 4-day excursion with the students to a camp in the Texas Hill Country!)

The Planning: DH had been to Madrid 4 times on business, really enjoying the city and some day trips, but my breaks has never coincided with his trips, so he wanted to show me around. We purchased coach airline tickets in April and he requested upgrades to business class at that time. He h stayed at the AC Hotel Recoletos on Calle de Recoletos and found it to be in a good location and a fine room, so he made reservations there. I researched a bit in books like Fodors and Doris Kinderley, explored Fodors Forum a little, and got out the maps, brochures and pamphlets he’d brought back; from this I made a short list of “definitely want to see” places. We discussed and explored various day-trips, planning to try to do only 2; we ended up choosing to go to places he’d been, as they were on the top of my “top 4” list. Beyond that, we didn’t do much planning, which is a definite departure from our normal trips. I usually do tons of in-depth reading and research and plan out busy days. But this time, since he’d been there and we’d mostly be going back to sites he’d been to or at least been near, and since we were going to try to view this as somewhat of a vacation and not the usual “adventure” that we consider trips to Europe, I didn’t do a lot of planning at all.

The Preparation: We did all the normal calling of financial institutions and leaving info with people. I had to close out my quarter at school and thought I might have to take grading with me but finished—whew. DD would be house- and dog-sitting, yard would need no care, and DS would be our airport transport. When I called Sprint the second time to make sure our phones were all set to go, I found I hadn’t been told things correctly—but by the end of the call, both our phones were good to go, we had clear instructions of how to connect once there, AND it turns out Spain is an “unlimited data” partner so we’d be using our phones much more and have more direct contact with friends and family than we thought we were going to. This was a good change! We rounded up our leftover Euros and our backpacks and under-clothing passport bags.

The People: We are both 60 or so and in generally good health; we are flat-land-inhabitants so walking in European cities is a bit of a challenge. DH has traveled to Europe and Asia quite a lot in the last 10 years, and I have been to Europe with and without him (with students sometimes) about a dozen times. We went to Barcelona/Tarragona/Salou-area in 2012(and LOVED Tarragona and the Spanish mountain villages from which we watched various stages of the WRC Rallye de Espana). We don’t go on trips to eat; we enjoy good food but don’t seek out gourmet or time-consuming meals. We like to take photos and stroll (ok, a stroll for us is still often at a brisk pace!) around neighborhoods just to enjoy the different areas and to see how people really live. I teach history and literature, so things that connect to those interests are the best for me. But our lack of knowledge both of the Spanish language and of very much Spanish history would in a small way limit what interested us on this trip.

Here are the first 2 days:

October 3-4—Flight/Arrival/Madrid: Retiro Park/Sophia Reina Museum

The morning of our flight I was able to wrap up all my grading due for quarter’s end, so I didn’t have to take any work with me. We did the last minute packing and DS drove us to the airport about 11. We had not been confirmed on any upgrades, but at our departure airport we found we were upgraded to Business on our second leg from DFW to MAD—yay! The plane left right on time in clear skies. DH had decided to check a bag each, so we were traveling light on the plane. Our original schedule gave us a bare hour in DFW, but the first leg was rescheduled a few minutes earlier and DFW-MAD 20 minutes later, so we ended up with a comfortable 90 minutes or so, time to go to the AA Lounge for a rest and mini-lunch. At the gate, a little earlier than the scheduled 3:15 boarding, we found the typical big mess of people milling around right next to a big crowd at the neighboring gate boarding a flight for Frankfurt. Then DH thought he heard his name called; sure enough, he did—we were upgraded from our upgrade and would be in First! Wahoo! Nice perks from all his hard work and the stress of business travel! DH has an AA ExecPlatinum/Concierge Key membership this year and so we were escorted by the AA concierge onboard, then settled into row 1 of First. We had a slight delay for departure.

I don’t remember ever being in First, definitely not recently or on an international flight. It is a pampering experience. So roomy and SO MUCH FOOD! And choices. And drinks. After all the food, I found that not much on the movie/tv channel interested me, so I slid the seat to its prone position! It definitely made the 10ish hour flight so much more comfortable; we both actually slept some, which I never do on the way east, despite some stretches of pretty constant bumpiness. They made sure we were awake (as requested) at 6:30 for breakfast. We landed on time despite our late start, but then we were held on the plane a few minutes as they waited for some EMT’s to get a lady off. We were again met by an AA concierge to welcome us and point us in the right direction.

I do not care for Madrid’s airport. It seems unnecessarily spread out and convoluted. We had a LONG long walk, with no one around, and then more long long walk. There was practically no one at Passport Control, so that took like 30 seconds. I don’t remember if it was all well-signed or not, because DH had begun his excellent tour-group-director thing and I was just following him! Then more walks and rides (escalators) to baggage; had to wait maybe 5 minutes. Then on to the Metro; on the way we got two 10-ride tickets for €15.20 each, including a €3ish airport supplement. The ride was pretty easy, with 3 changes, only a few stairs, and not crowded. Took a bit over 30 minutes to Retiro Metro Station and then it is less than a10-minute walk to the hotel on Calle de Recoletos very near Puerta de Alcala. The weather was good; it was still a little overcast and had rained, it looked like, but refreshingly cool and the sky was going to clear up some. Our room, at about 9:30, as we expected wasn’t ready, but they showed us where we could freshen up (even shower if we’d wanted) and we left our luggage.

The only thing we’d said was pretty definite this day was a walk through at least part of Retiro Park. As it was sprinkling, we thought maybe a short walk and on into the Prado, even if that meant we’d return to the Prado on another day. But by the time we got to the Park, it was not raining, so it turned into a long walk. It is a great park, with fountains, paths, trees, benches, ponds, statues, etc., etc. Made a point to go by the Crystal Palace. It is all very very nice. This day the streets all around were closed for some sort of bicycle day, so there were lots of bikers of all ages, as well as runners. Next to the pond we rested with a coke and crepe and decided we’d go to the Reina Sophia for a short visit instead of the Prado. I had 3 art museums on my “hope to get to” list, but I didn’t have any specific plans. I had thought we might try one today, even though the best thing we know is to stay outside on arrival day. I figured the Prado would take most of a day and the Sophia less than 2 hours—for us and our tastes. So it looked like we could squeeze in a short visit to the Sophia, and then I could cross that one off the list.

It was a longish walk on jet-lagged legs to get there. We paid the €8 and spend a bit over an hour. It is a spacious and airy building. The only “goal” was Guernica, so we sped past the other Picasso’s and Miro’s and Dali’s and such. There is much art from the Spanish Civil War/Franco era. Twentieth century art, as a whole, is not our….favorite, but the skill and originality in many of these works still impressed me. And Guernica, even for a person who is not a fan of the style and who has only a limited understanding of the subject matter, was disturbing and moving. It was worth the whole price of admission. As we left, there was a HUGE line, as the free hours had begun. Glad we had paid, as we thus missed the press of the crowd.

Then we walked back to the hotel past pretty fountains, apartment buildings, museums. I was already liking the look of Madrid better than Barcelona—seemed cleaner, less thronged, and just nicer. I also noticed all week that there was less graffiti, at least where we were, than in a lot of Europe. I saw some evidences of removal from private business’s walls, but in general it seemed there was less. Back in the room, maybe around 2:30? we found our room ready and we just collapsed for a short nap. (I know—not usually the best thing. But it didn’t seem to hurt us later. Maybe aging has made a nap on arrival day a good thing!)

The room was nice-sized with a surprisingly comfortable king bed and a roomy bathroom with tub and shower. There’s plenty of storage, free wi-fi, and a desk area. Our room was on the front and looked out on the narrow one-way street; there was never much noise at all. The staff was pleasant, most spoke enough English to help us, and some gave great advice. Bar, restaurant and fitness area available, too. We really like the location—near Metro and Renfe stations, near major roads and restaurants of all sorts, pharmacy across the road and little markets 2 minutes away—a nice safe pleasant place all in all.

About 7 I think we walked about 5 minutes to The James Joyce. This is an “official” Irish pub with British-style food. DH has eaten here a lot on business trips as he found it convenient with decent food served any time. And when he’s tired, like after a plane ride, he opts to eat at familiar restaurants. Plus we’d sorta skipped lunch and were ready for an early dinner. So we headed to James Joyce—to find it packed with people watching Sunday night football (NOT NFL!). He had Plan B--we headed north to the Hard Rock Café on Paseo de la Castellana, another familiar yet popular ] place, and had really good BBQ (chicken and ribs) with good veggies. So not “Spanish” food yet, but it was great.

It was a gorgeous evening for a stroll back, along a different route. We popped into a couple food stores to look at wines and , glanced in the Parroquia de la Concepción, and generally enjoyed the walk. Got a brownie thing with gnosh topping and bit of coffee flavor--???don’t remember where. It was delicious. We finished unpacking and got ready for our first full day, needing a very early “lights out.”

Oct. 5—Madrid: The Prado

We headed to breakfast downstairs before 10. (Breakfast for one, we understood, was included; I don’t eat a lot but I went to check it out this day. It was not going to be worth spending much money just for yogurt and hot water for the tea bag I brought, so for the rest of the week I stayed in the room and ate yogurt and fruit we got from market around the corner from the hotel. The hotel room had a frig---but no coffee maker! So no way to make hot water for tea. Oh, well—worst thing about room really. Turned out they didn’t charge us at all for my food on that first day, so maybe I could have eaten all week.)

It was a grey but pleasant day; this made it a good day for a museum, maybe, as not great for outdoor picture-taking. First we walked to a Santander ATM near the Puerta del Alcala--plenty of ATM’s everywhere—didn’t see any inside a bank lobby like we like to use in Germany, but ubiquitous. DH led us to this one he’d used safely before. Then we headed to the Prado, walking about 15 minutes, and got there about 10:45. The line for tickets took at most 15 minutes. We left our rain jackets in a locker, got audio guides, purchased a little book about the masterpieces, had a coke break, and were ready to go by 11:30.

We stayed until 6:00. Wow. There’s a lot of art! DH was my guide, and he led us to 47 of the 50 masterpieces in the guide pamphlet (one piece was on loan and we decided not to back track to 2 ancient pieces). We broke for lunch in the café about 1—got all kinds of veggie dishes to share and a piece of carrot cake. Costly as at all museums, but it was good. The rooms were not too crowded. We love the building and layout. It’s much easier to navigate than the Louvre and not as big as the British Museum so it’s just easier to find things. We loved its openness. They could use more toilets. My favorite things were actually some pictures that weren’t on the list, and no photos are allowed, so I probably don’t remember all of them. I did enjoy seeing so many pictures about Greek and Roman mythology or about events from history I was aware of, so I liked knowing the stories. There is a lot of art by Spaniards—a lot. We went from room to room trying to make sure we didn’t miss any areas and looking first for the piece on our “list” but admiring others, too. The facial expressions and minute details in some just amazed me. In a museum you see the canvases and the brushstrokes and even the frames sometimes—this all adds something to the experience you don’t get by looking at a photo of something. But I did wish to take pics—I snuck some, avoiding the guards who were present in almost every room, but the pics are not from eye level! I got a bunch of postcards and a few bookmarks.

We went back to James Joyce which was not crowded at all and got cottage (shepherd’s) pie and peas and chips. It was quite fine, quiet, pleasant, and quick. On the way back to the hotel, we went to Moulin Chocolates nearby but found it closed on Monday, despite what it says on internet. Will return later. We found some Haagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate at a market (plus my breakfast stuff) and ate dessert in the room. We fell in bed before 9, planning an early start for Toledo.

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    Thanks for posting.
    I stayed at AC Recoletos a few years the location.
    Serrano- Salamanca - Retiro is my favorite part of Madrid.
    A few weeks ago , we stayed on Villanueva next to the Library.

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    October 6—Toledo

    Today we would ride the train to Toledo, to which DH had been and thoroughly enjoyed, so we were looking forward to his showing me around the city. About 8ish we left and opted to get a cab to the train station. We hopped in one sitting out front and were about to head to Atocha Station—oops, the hotel guy came out and said the cab was for another resident. He offered to call one for us, but we just walked up to the corner at Calle de Serrano like DH does when he is there on business and caught one in a few seconds. The traffic going south wasn’t bad at all but was definitely rush-hour-stalled going north. The ride was about €6 ---easy-peasy.

    Based on a previous experience, DH was a tad nervous about using ticket machines, but the ticket office was open with no line, after a long multi-escalator ride down and a glance at the unique tropical garden area. Atocha looks like a really cool station—but too dark and too little time for much photo-taking. We got tickets for an 8:50am to and 7:20pm from Toledo. The platform wasn’t posted yet, so we took a short walk outside for photos. It’s pretty. Inside they’d now posted platform 13—over that way. So through security; there’re the signs for Platforms 1-12 but not 13? We had 7 minutes. DH asked someone who pointed—it’s next to 12. Why don’t they put that on a sign? Anyway we went, had our ticked checked (ahh, before getting on the train, like the Eurostar, not like British and German trains I’ve been on where they checked on board—that means you need a few more minutes to board—plus security adds time, too). We found our car and seats with no problems. Right on time or a minute early, we left. The train was crowded but not quite full. We went about 50 feet—and stopped for about 10 minutes. Hmm. No further problem on the 30ish minute ride through countryside which began to have rolling hills and lots of orchards (almonds?).

    We arrived in Toledo by 9:30ish. What a pretty station both inside and out, with tiles and glass and arches. I noted the Moorish influence as soon as we arrived. (I don’t know much about art or architecture so may not use exactly proper terms.) At the toilet was the first of many long lines for such this day.

    Then we set off walking. I had 2 “goals” for this day—to go inside the cathedral and see the Alcazar maybe inside but not necessarily. DH wanted to show me as much of Toledo as he could, walking all around the maze of streets, ride the little tourist train this time, and maybe find a mosque/church he had missed before. The day was quite lovely—some blue skies and not a hint of rain; about 70 degrees and mostly pleasant, although inside some shops was overwarm. (DH had commented on how quickly the Spaniards he’d worked with put on jackets, like if temperatures went below 80. He was almost wishing he’d brought his shorts!)
    He filled our day non-stop just about until 6:30. We walked from the station so we’d have a view of the Roman bridge; it made quite a picture with the city rising behind it on its hill and the Tagus River running placidly beneath it, acting as a mirror for the bridge and town. It was a bit of a climb already now as we approached the city walls. We got to the main gate on the north, the Bisagra (Hinge) Gate rebuilt about 1550. There was a market in the area around this gate, but we didn’t go as it looked like mostly the “food and flea market” variety, not crafts. The Tourist Info office here was opening in 5 minutes at 10:00, so we waited and got good maps we used the rest of the day. (DH had one he’d bought before, but the one from the TI was actually better he said.) DH also doublechecked the directions to the mosque.

    Then it was into the city and up the first of many maze-y streets lined with shops and branching off in all directions, the side streets running up and down as well as right and left! This street had white paper flowers strung on wires overhead. Nice. DH wanted to find the mosque/church near here, and after a short backtrack, we did. Wow, this is a wiggly confusing city. Reminded me of the medieval parts I’ve seen in York, Barcelona, and London. But the map had most of even the small streets labeled, so it was helpful.

    The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is the only mosque of the ten that used to be in the city. It was built in 999 but began to be used as a church about 100 years later. This is the history of many religious buildings in Toledo, it seems—re-consecrated/designated for the ruling religion. With the 3 (at least!) cultures and religions co-existing much of the time—Christian, Jewish, and Arab—there are many evidences of both the co-operation and the conflicts. This was a lovely stop. The garden areas outside are nice and afford a fantastic view of the city. We had a short visit inside, too. Not much (anywhere, really, in all of our visits this whole week, except a very few things) is signed in English, which is not a complaint. But we didn’t know exactly what we were seeing a lot of the time. But we were glad DH had succeeded in finding it this time.

    Then off for more walking upwards and around. We stopped for lots of pics and went in and out of shops. I couldn’t decide what souvenir to get. I’d considered a fan—well, all I picked up were €100 up or else they were sorta tacky for under €10. Never mind. The bright enamel and tile work was pretty—again, though, everything I liked seemed way more than I wanted to spend for a souvenir, or, if it was affordable, it was nothing special. I eventually did find a pretty tile trivet for under €20—it’s not “art” but is lovely and something I can use (without worrying about it!). DH was flirting with idea of some sort of knife/tool but decided the hassle of transporting it back wasn’t worth it.

    We reached the square—Plaza Zocodover—and found the train about to depart in 15 minutes; he quickly got tickets and we lined up with what seemed like way too many people. He went to McD’s for drink and toilet and while he was gone the train came. Ooops—but he made it back—but oops, our tickets were for next train at 11:30! So I held our place in line while he had second breakfast back at McD’s. (I wish all public spaces even lines for things had no smoking rules—I had to breathe smoke for almost the whole wait). At 11:25 we boarded for a great 45-ish minute ride all around the edge of town. What views! There was an audio guide but it didn’t work real well (only in one ear) and the British accent made it harder to understand, so I didn’t gather much info about what we were seeing. It was a nice ride though. One thing I did learn—I noticed lots of really large, lovely, “haciendas” outside the walls—big homes with gardens and great views. They are called ”cigarrales” and perhaps named after an insect—the cicada?—and were country villas for families in town to come out to. But now they are so expensive to maintain that most are hotels and restaurants. We had a nice photo stop too—quite a view of the alcazar and cathedral standing out among all the tiled roofs and various churches and monasteries. Shades of ocher and orange, rust and brown—so pretty. I loved the light, the textures, the colors. Not just here, but all week.

    We were ready for late lunch after the train ride; we went down the hill from Plaza Zocodover to a doner debab place we’d passed, but as we arrived, he pulled down his metal garage-door-like front. So we decided to head to the cathedral and see what food we found. Lots of window shopping. Lots of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stuff everywhere--? We ended up in a little jamon specialty shop where we could sit and share a ham sandwich (good tender ham on dry crusty bread) and coke and use their facilities.

    Soon after that we arrived at the Cathedral where DH stood in line for tickets and audio guide. He told me to go to the reflection pool just up the street, but when I arrived, it was dry. We spent well over an hour there. It was begun in 1227, built over foundations of a 6th century cathedral that had been used as a mosque; it was completed in 1493. Gothic, it is huge and lavish; I have been in a good many cathedrals, but this one will stand out in my mind for its ornateness and expansiveness. So many side chapels. And in the chancery/museum was more art including Caravaggio, Rafael, VanDyke and more Greco. Amazing. We were getting tired, but we are so glad we went in there. There was a fresco about Sainte Criselda who had converted to Christianity and hidden the fact from her Arab father and whose hidden bread for Christian prisoners was miraculously turned into white roses. I wonder if that’s why there were white paper roses on the streets as we entered?

    Then more wandering/shopping/wiggling. We had seen the Alcazar from many vantage points; now we approached the entrance to the museum. But we found that we would only have less than an hour, so we decided not to go in. I hadn’t done any research on it so didn’t know anything about it, so I wasn’t disappointed to not go in. Sounded like much more “museum displays” about Spanish history; that’s important and should be preserved as precious, but I don’t know enough to make it meaningful.

    So we wandered some more back toward the Jewish quarter. DH pointed out little markers with Hebrew letters in the street but I’m not sure what they meant; maybe the boundaries of the old quarter? In there we went into a synagogue turned into a church—Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. It’s small; short visit. Just do.wn the street, there is a playground/park where DH rested on a previous trip. He talked to a tour guide with a large group of Chinese and learned they were all from Toronto.
    Turning to the northwest, we passed the monastery where prisoners were chained outside. Passing further to the north, we reached the Cambron Gate and climbed up for a look out over the countryside past the city wall.

    More wiggling around near the inner city walls and back to the main square at Plaza Zocodover for a short rest and pictures with the statue of Cervantes near there. Then we went back to the station, arriving about 6:45 for our 7:20 train. The ride back was fine. We tried to catch a taxi upon exiting Atocha but discovered you can’t get one where taxis let people out; you have to go stand in a line on the other side of the street. And wow looked like hundreds in line. So we crossed Paseo de la Infanta Isabel and after a few attempts flagged one down and whoosh, off we go—another well-spent €6. We were really tired and sore. We went to James Joyce about 8; I had a club sandwich and fries and DH had a yummy Guiness beef dish and some veggies, which we ate while rugby was on tv. We were in bed by 10.

    Toledo was fascinating. We could easily spend 2 days there, but in our one day DH showed me a lot! In the little streets it was amazingly quiet and often empty. Even the main streets which were busy were not packed, which was nice. It is definitely easy to get lost; we never did, but it could happen! While the cathedral and other buildings sit way up high, you can’t see anything as reference points in the caverns of tall narrow houses and little windy streets.

    Tomorrow I'll try to post the next couple of days' worth--Madrid and then Segovia.

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    I was reading along and enjoying this (cheering the upgrades), especially as I was reading it on the train from Madrid to Barcelona, until I got to the sneaking pictures part. That always infuriates me! Just what makes you so special you should take photos when others can't? What makes your photos better than the ones on the Prado's website? If you just want to be reminded which pictures interested you the most (and will you care two years from now?) write a note or send yourself a text.

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    Oct. 7—Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Temple of Dabod, and Madrid at night a little

    We had decided not to try to do our day trips back to back and knew we might need an “easy” day mid-week, so this Wednesday we were going to take it slow in the morning and go to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in the afternoon—or something like that. I got up 8ish and ate and backed up pictures and wrote in my journal for a while. At about 11 I decided I’d go on, leaving DH a note and hoping he’d feel like meeting me later. I double-checked my map and directions and about 11:30 headed out. I walked in the beautiful morning sunshine past fountains, squares and parks. By this time I had decided that Madrid, at least the areas I’m seeing, is a beautiful city. I love the green spaces and the architecture, especially all the different balconies on apartments. Another day of perfect weather—such a relief from the Texas heat.

    I was inside the Museum a little after noon; I got my tickets and bearings, then I went to the café for lunch. DH began texting me that he’d be along in a bit. The café was in no way as extensive as the Prado’s, but I managed to sit at the counter and be served a sandwich and cola quickly. I then secured an audio guide and headed up to the second level to commence my walk through art history, room by room.

    I love this museum. I could take pictures and there is a much broader spectrum of art than at the Prado, but much smaller and with less “big” works. But I enjoyed it. DH did join me in an hour or so (having also grabbed lunch in the café) despite his reluctance to being inside at another art museum on this beautiful day. But I enjoyed it thoroughly. Favorites? Not sure, but there was a picture of a Christian knight that will exactly go with what we’re doing in sophomore lit (finishing up writing a “quest” after reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight before we read Dante’s Inferno and later Spenser’s The Fairie Queene). That was fun. And a painting of a naughty drummer boy by someone I’d never heard of (Maes) that was absolutely astounding in its capture of the timeless conflict of older sibling/baby and what does mommy do!? About 4:30 we went to the shop for a while—I was a little disappointed but got a couple small prints. We stopped at Moulin Chocolate on the way back and got a couple things and some truffles.

    Then it was on to a site I’d found out about—the Temple of Debod in Parque del Oeste; this was a gift from Egypt for Spain’s help in moving antiquities when the Aswan Dam was created. I’d read it made for a cool photo op. We went via the Metro which was crowded but ok. We had one wrong turn but found it. DH has hoped to get good evening light—and we did. We took lots of pics. There were many others also enjoying the lovely spot for nice pictures of the temple pieces and the reflecting pool as well as nice views of the city. We were very tired and DH’s knee was bothering him some. We had rest on benches people-watching and enjoying the evening light. There was a bridal shoot with the bride and groom in Keds. There were guys on a bouncy tightrope. There were strollers and toddlers galore. There was a saxophone player. It was great. It is a good place for sunset views, too, but we didn’t wait that long.

    Then he escorted me to Gino’s not far away Calle de la Princesa about 7:50 where we waited until 8 for dinner. This is one of a chain of Italian restaurants he’d enjoyed a few times before; he’d never been to this particular location, but it lived up to his memory of nice service and delicious food. We ate outside and enjoyed the cool evening air.

    We rode to Plaza del Sol and got off the Metro for a peek. It was like a mini-Picadilly Circus, sorta, with buskers and tour groups and neon lights and lots of people—but not packed! He showed me the Madrid meridian, so now I’ve stood on it and the one at Greenwich! This was a fun stop to see young Madrid a little. Then on to our hotel to collapse about 10:30. Wow, only 2 more full days left!

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    I can't seem to copy and paste the rest (have tried about a dozen times over 3 days) and I refuse to re-write it here, so I will have to wait to see if editors/moderators ever figure out what the problem is. Too bad. I think this is running people off this forum. I write my trip reports for myself and family, but I also do them to enter into the travel conversations here, and not being able to finish this one is frustrating.

    We went to Segovia--great; had another day in Madrid--also great; made it home fine--also great. ho hum

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    Sorry--was experimenting with what I could paste and have this Forum/thread still work and what seemed to make it fail and I hit submit accidentally. I can NOT figure out why my Word document with NO links will not preview or submit. I will give up soon.

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    (I removed 2 semicolons in the first paragraph and now it will post--but that seems random!)


    We headed out about 7:30. At the desk the clerk said the quickest way to the train station was not the Metro but a train. So we walked less than 10 minutes to the Recoletes entrance and went down to the station. At a ticket desk, we were sold a ticket for 3.40 to Chemartain, where we got tickets from a manned office for 10:15 to and 9:12 pm, the last train, from Segovia. DH grabbed some breakfast and we waited about 30 minutes for the platform posting, went through security and the ticket-check, and boarded to find our seats faced backwards—not good for DH. The train left on time and was not crowded at all, so we changed seats. A 35 minute ride got us there. At the station we went out front with the rest of the train passengers to board the 11 bus waiting. There are hardly any seats on this bus but plenty of standing room, so we all packed on and had a 20 minute ride into Segovia. The cost was €1.03 each. (DH caught a taxi once, and it was about 10 times that for a ride to the Plaza Mayor TI office.) The bus deposits you right at the foot of that awesome aqueduct—wow. I wasn’t surprised by its size or beauty, but boy, is it impressive! As I texted DD later, Roman engineers rock! (as does my engineer, DH)

    We had a coke break at McD’s right there across from bus stop; DH said we should walk the city and come back for pictures of the aqueduct with later-light. First we went into the TI right next to the Aqueduct. We checked on bus connections and found that we should take the 8 pm bus back for our 9:12 train. We learned later that it is actually a 7:55 departure but close enough for us. At the TI I got the only tote bag of this trip and later bought a mug there. (I have collected mugs and totes from travels and don’t really “need” any more but….Also later we got a spoon rest; I’d broken the one DH had gotten me from Madrid; the spoon rest was the only thing that got damaged on the way home! But they both got glued back together, so I can use them anyway!)

    So off we went for a 600-picture day! We walked all over—went in some churches, the cathedral, and the palace; on the wall; and through the knights’ and Jewish quarters; and in and out of shops. Full day! I really loved Segovia. Like it Toledo there were lots of quiet and empty little lanes and alleys; the light was lovely and warm all day; there were interesting and contrasting textures and walls everywhere; the streets went every-which-way but it was flatter, smaller, and less confusing than Toledo.

    We went into the cathedral which is absolutely lovely. It is less “Baroque” inside than Toledo and has more side chapels open than any cathedral I’ve been in I think. It is big. There’s nothing especially different or spectacular in comparison to others I’ve seen, but the pillars, arches, light, and expanses in these structures never ceases to amaze me.

    At Plaza Major we had lunch at La Concepcion, a sandwich for me and a scrambled egg and mushroom dish for DH. It was a good rest with friendly service, if not outstanding food. There was a market this day filling up the plaza so we sat inside and markets “mess up” any pretty views of the square.

    We left to make our way to the Alcazar de Segovia. The castle was fun if exhausting! We didn’t linger in the rooms as we went through—great hall, bedroom, armory, etc. Not new concepts to us and displays in Spanish about Spanish history—again, not complaining as that is as it should be, but it just means we didn’t get much out of it, and, again, DH had done all this before. We did climb the 150+ stairs of the tower. Whew! But the views from there were gorgeous so of course worth it. We met an Aussie couple with whom we swapped picture-taking duties and visited a bit. Somewhere near here we got a typical pitcher to go with our collection of jugs and vases. Then we found access to the city wall at Plazuela del Socorro/Puerta de San Andres and enjoyed another vantage of the city and the palace. We also walked through the Jewish quarter near there a bit.

    We decided we wouldn’t eat dinner but just grab a snack or something, maybe at McD’s as we left. So we went back to the aqueduct area and got an ice cream from a disaffected girl that reminded DH of the Brad Paisley lyric “…to the [girl] at the ice cream store, you’re just another dip.” We took lots of pictures around Plaza del Azoguejo and then took another walk, heading east around the city wall. We wound through the Knights’ quarter and also re-visited Plaza Major for pictures without all the stands and such from the market.

    About 7 we ended up back at Plaza Artilleria near the aqueduct again and just got some fries (and beer?!) at McD’s and rested until about 7:40 where we got in line for the bus which was already there but didn’t open its doors until about 7:54. We stood again but the ride is only 20 minutes. Most of these passengers flew off the bus and ran to catch a train—seemed like they had about 8 minutes between scheduled bus arrival and scheduled train departure—too close for me. So we sat in the almost empty station and waited. Our train was a couple minutes late leaving.

    Back at Chemartain we wanted to get a train ticket to retrace our route of the morning instead of taking the Metro. But the guy in the office wouldn’t sell us a ticket; he just pointed to the machines. At the end of this long day it seemed confusing (and the guy in the morning sold us a ticket—why not this one?). We had to go to the 3rd kind of ticket machine before we figured out how to get the ticket. DH was irritated; he got the tickets but then we had to ask where to go; we were rather frustrated by the lack of help. Not much in the stations is in English. In general, it seemed all week that there weren’t as many English-speaking people or signage as other places we’ve been (including Barcelona) but that wasn’t a problem—and people were helpful and patient--except this night, at Chemartain. Oh well.

    We did make it to the room about 10:30. There was jazz in the bar downstairs but we decided not to go. We ate one of the chocolate “things” from Moulin—wow, it was good but I forgot to write down what it was—layers with some cream and then a ganache topping—all dark chocolate. YUM! We’d had a couple truffles in Segovia DH carried—also very YUM!

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    October 9—Last full day—Palace, cathedral, many neighborhoods, and Spanish food

    We took it easy in the morning and packed up some. We left about 11 and rode the Metro with no problems to Espana again. All week as we rode the Metro (about 8 or 9 trips), we found it not too crowded and quite efficient and pretty clean. We are always aware of our surroundings and have our passport and cards under our clothing and carry our bags (purse/backpack) close to us in the front, but I never felt a threat at all. Madrid just felt safe to me—more than Paris or Barcelona feel.

    We walked to the Royal Palace, largest royal palace in Europe, under bright blue skies and in warm air; the line was long but went fast on this beautiful morning. We were inside by 12:30 I think. It was quite crowded, the most of any place we went all week. It is of course very ornate and the tour route is quite well done with English signs in each room bur we didn’t linger (and had opted to not get an audio guide). No photos in the 2000-odd rooms, either (Of course, the public only goes in about 50!). Nothing particular struck me, but it is like other great houses and palaces with its tapestries, lovely flooring, gaudy rooms, velvet and moiré draperies, big chandeliers, big portraits. Several rooms are still used for state occasions like the dining hall with maybe the longest table I’ve ever seen; it seats about 50.

    We went “next door” to Almudena Cathedral after a rest. This is a newer construction, begun in 1879 but not finished until about 20 years ago, with much modern glasswork in the neo-Gothic interior. We didn’t spend long but it was an interesting stop.

    Then we took a long stroll along a different route for DH—down Calle de Bailen to Plaza de San Francisco, then Gran Via de Sanfranciso to Puerta de Toledo and then up the hill to Plaza Major where we had lunch from 3-4 at Eboli (we were a bit put off by the disease-sounding name but no problems!). It was not fast but it was nice sitting on the pleasant square watching people and enjoying our paella. The pleasant English-speaking waiter tried to sell us two skillet-fuls (14 each) but one was quite enough and very good.

    Then more strolling past more fountains, an arch, and shops and apartments to the hotel where we rested from 5-7. Then we walked a block to a.n.E.L. for tapas. DH had been a bit reluctant but was willing to take me since had requested tapas, and it was far from a disaster. We had potatoes (I liked them), meatballs (delicious), and excellent risotto with mushrooms. Back in the room we ate the icing off the little cake from Moulin; I’m sure it had been excellent but it had dried out a bit. We finished packing and called it at night.

    October 10—Flight home

    We were up at 6:30 and left at 7:30; we had planned to take the Metro if we could figure out how to add the airport supplement charge to our leftover tickets, but the hotel lady suggested we again take a train from Recoletos. It was a tiny bit confusing but DH figured out the ticket-purchase more easily, we found the train the Chemartain and changed by walking across the platform and waiting like 2 minutes, and the train to the airport was quicker, more pleasant, and roomier than the Metro would have been. (Maybe total of 30ish minutes?) As I said earlier, the Madrid airport is really spread out. At the American desk there is actually a sign warning that the gates are at least 45 minutes from the check-in area. Wow. We checked in the Business class line fairly quickly and then went up and down and around and through all the portals, which are pretty well signed. We did try to go into the close-by Iberian--AA lounge but they said to go to the one near the gate, so we had to travel a long way more, over 20 minutes, until we finally got to that lounge. It is very nice and we got overdue breakfast about 9:15. We boarded at 9:55, escorted once again by a Concierge, and seated—yay again!—in Business. Nice! The flight was fine; I re-watched 2/3 of Wolf Hall and Ant Man. Food good again. DH slept more than me. We arrived about an hour early so we ended up with a huge layover of about 5 hours, which we spent in the AA lounge in DFW. Our flight home was on-time and uneventful, and DS met us and all went smoothly.

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    Adelaidean--Hope you make it one day; we're glad we had our time. And thanks for hanging in their with this delayed TR; I got so caught up in trying to get it to post that I left several mistakes in it--oops

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    wow, wow, wow!! I need to come back and read all of this later, just read the initial post and you are a great writer! thanks for taking the time to post so much detail.

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