Peggy and Sandy's Spain trip

May 7th, 2011, 09:43 AM
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Peggy and Sandy's Spain trip

I don't know how far I'll get on this trip report, but I'll take a stab at it. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the little digital recorder that helps me remember all the good details I like to include in a trip report, so you may find yourself dozing off as you read.

I've been wanting to go to Semana Santa in Spain for a while, and I decided I'd better do it before I get too much older, while I can still hobble around. I made plane and hotel reservations in December and January, and then in March I thought I'd see if a college friend, Sandy, wanted to go with me.

Sandy eagerly agreed when I first called her, and we made her plane reservations. Within a couple of weeks she began to worry whether she could keep up with me, but I brushed aside her worries with mentions of my sister Maryfran 's troubles walking on the seven European trips we took together. Sandy is such a nice person and so much fun that I was sure we'd work around her physical deficiencies. I was right. it really was fun traveling with her, though we had problems from the first.

The first problem was that her original flight (with United, on Aer Lingus as the carrier) was canceled, and she was rescheduled. Instead of going from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to Madrid, she had to go to D.C., then to Brussels, then to Madrid via Brussels airline, and she landed three hours later than I did.

I waited anxiously at the arrival gate, but she didn't emerge along with all the others on her flight. I was afraid she'd missed the flight or something equally disastrous, but finally I caught a glimpse of her before she disappeared back into the arrival area, so I charged into that area, where I found her at the lost luggage desk. Bad sign.

Brussels Airline had lost her luggage, so we gave them the names of the next few hotels at which we'd be staying and went on our way. Our Madrid hotel was Intur Palacio San Martín, where my sister and I had stayed in our 2004 trip to Madrid. I like this hotel, despite the fact that set up in the area in front of it are kiosks selling all manner of craft materials. The hotel is classy, and the receptionists are helpful.

Our room was quite elegant, with a slightly elevated area containing a sofa and the TV. Since we were tired and jet-lagged and not up to hunting for a restaurant, we ate at the cafeteria of El Corte Inglés, which is just down the street.

I decided that in solidarity with Sandy, I wouldn't change my clothes until her suitcase arrived. Since we didn't feel especially grubby and nobody appeared to sidle away from us during the next few days, that decision seemed to go well. We kept our fingers crossed that her stuff would catch up with us soon.

I had planned on first going to Cuenca and then Valencia, but since Sandy has never been to Spain, I changed the itinerary to include Córdoba and Granada, so that she could see the Mezquita and the Alhambra.

The next day we took a taxi to Atocha ( which I love on account of the jungle right smack in the middle of it) and took the train to Córdoba. The trip took less than an hour and a half. We stayed at the Hotel Mezquita, right across from the mosque itself. The hotel was pleasant enough, though our windows opened onto the breakfast room/patio, so that we had to be careful to be fully dressed before we opened the windows for air.

We wandered the town a little, where we really began to appreciate Sandy's limitations as a walker and my limitations as a pathfinder. ( Good thing I wasn't a scout for the covered wagons in the old west. The pioneers would have ended up in Saudi Arabia.) The other difficulty we had when we explored the towns is that I am always absolutely sure I'm right. By the end of the trip I had learned to accept Sandy's ideas about which direction we should go. Despite the fact that she thinks she has a poor sense of direction, hers is waaaaay better than mine.

Córdoba was filled with tourists and also with screaming teenagers who congregated along one wall of the Mezquita, often shrieking things at passers-by.

We visited the Mezquita, and I was stunned once again by its beauty--and bemused by the cathedral placed right smack in the middle of it. I console myself by saying that if it were not for the cathedral, the Mosque might well have been destroyed by now.

In Córdoba, we discovered the second problem. Sandy's ATM card didn't work, no matter how many places we tried. She had gone to her bank in Bellingham to ensure that she'd be able to get cash, and she''d been assured that she was good to go. But when she actually got to Spain, she had no luck. Since I had enough money for both of us, I used my card and lent her money. I think it was also in Córdoba that she discovered her third problem: her camera didn't work. The battery was dead. By this time, she'd started to laugh about the "black cloud" hovering over her head.

Well, enough for one day.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 7th, 2011, 01:03 PM
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seems a funny trip...
Revulgo2 is offline  
May 7th, 2011, 02:01 PM
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bardo1 is offline  
May 8th, 2011, 03:52 PM
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Can't wait for the next installment!
Ajilimojili is offline  
May 8th, 2011, 05:04 PM
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yes,please come back and tell us more!
cruiseluv is offline  
May 9th, 2011, 05:21 AM
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After reading all of your pretrip planning,I was hoping that we would have a trip report. I am not falling asleep and eagerly awaiting more. Thanks for sharing the good and the bad!
irishface is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 10:16 AM
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I didn't think anyone was reading this, so I gave up, but now I've decided to continue.

Since by now, our third day in Spain, we thought we were getting a little ripe, we headed off to El Corte Inglés, where we thought we might be able to find clothes in Sandy's size. On the way we found a farmacía and were able to buy some metformin and some lipitor (without a prescription!) since Sandy had only three days worth of medication with her.

At El Corte Inglés, we did find a nice pair of pants and a matching t-shirt and overshirt for the bargain price of $265! I was appalled, since the same thing at Macy's would have cost half the price, but Sandy loved the pants and wore them constantly. I was relieved for myself as well as for Sandy, since this meant that I felt free to change my clothes as also.

I was doing all the translating, and I received compliments on my Spanish, which thrilled me, though of course, the clerks had no idea how limited my vocabulary is. That's the story of my foreign-language life! I always feel like a fake.

On our third day, as we checked out of the Hotel Mezquita, Sandy's finally luggage showed up, so we happily set off for the train station and Granada.

In Granada, we stayed at the Hotel America, which is right on the grounds of the Alhambra. At first we weren't enthralled with our room, since it overlooked the patio, which was a noisy lunching area. However, lunch was served only on weekdays, and since we were staying Friday and Saturday nights, after the Friday lunch, it became quiet. There was a sort of fountain outside our room, so we heard tinkling water all the time--very pleasant.

Left to my own devices, I would probably have walked into Plaza Nueva for meals, but we decided to take taxis, since the walk would have been too much for Sandy. That was also a good excuse for me to sit back and relax, of course.

Our time for the Nasrid Palace was 5:30 p.m., since I'd waited until a month before the trip to make the reservations. At the time, I cursed myself roundly for procrastinating long enough that this time was the earliest I could get, but it worked out quite well. We walked through the Generalife gardens for about an hour and then strolled through the Nasrid Palace, which was stunning. The only disappointment was that the lions were gone from the court of the lions--being restored, I think.

The Alhambra is one of the great sights of Europe, of course--so different from anything produced by Christian Spain. Just stunning! Though it was quite crowded, it was nevertheless memorable.

Later, as we waited for a taxi by a church, we came upon a really upscale wedding crowd and stood around gawking like a couple of hicks as the wedding guests arrived. You recall the clothes at the wedding of Kate and William? These folks were dressier. The women's dresses were gorgeous, their shoes were impossibly high-heeled, and many of them wore "fascinators," the feathery or be-ribboned thingies that often take the place of hats for events like these. Many of the men wore tails. (Knowing no one who wears this sort of clothing to weddings or anywhere else for that matter, I don't know the terminology for "tails.")

I'll have to get back to this later.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 10:29 AM
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Don't assume the number of posters equals the number of readers.

I suspect 90% of the people who read trip reports are lurking and don't comment at all. I, for one, rarely comment...

...Except now: Good writing - looking forward to more!
bardo1 is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 11:38 AM
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Tails = morning coat. Generally.
TorontoSteven is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 02:27 AM
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The male outfit worn by men at weddings here is Chaqué.
Nice report!
josele is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 03:48 AM
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Please don't quit writing!
irishface is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 05:04 AM
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Thank you, glad that Sandy's suitcase made it!
cruiseluv is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 08:04 AM
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I almost never comment either but AM LOVING this. (Particularly since we are in on the back story. Bravo. Didn't comment on your other posts either but am approx. your age and still walk relatively fast. I'm sure it would be hard for me to alter my travel style. But we will be there some day. (I"m not looking forward to that day.) CJ
CarolJean is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 08:08 AM
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I too, am a fan of pegontheroad trip reports. Keep it coming.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 08:43 AM
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...more, more, more...
immimi is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 04:32 PM
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And now for the real reason for our trip! Holy Week in Spain! We traveled to our first Semana Santa city, Málaga, by bus, as there wasn't a train connection directly from Granada. Good trip. Bus clean and comfortable. We taxied to the Hotel Don Curro, which we liked a lot. For one thing, it was the cheapest hotel of our trip--72 euros (about $104 per night) breakfast included. It was modern, clean, and comfortable, with a little balcony outside the window.

It was also centrally located, so that we had to walk only about a block to the Alameda Principal, one of the great venues for the Semana Santa processions. I was surprised to see that there were rows of seats all along the procession route. We sat illegally in various seats, with our helpful and friendly Spanish neighbors telling us that it was okay--that the "owners" of the seats wouldn't get there till later. When said owners did come, me moved a bit further down.

What can I say about the processions? Simply fabulous! I could hear the band long before I saw anything. In those times when I was in the room and heard the drums and the trumpets and other horns, the music moved me and simply pulled me down to the street.

First came the nazarenos wearing the long robes and conical headpiece with eyeholes cut out. The colors of the robes and hoods depended on the cofradia (brotherhood) to which the nazarenos belonged. Some nazarenos wore long capes in addition to the robe and cone-shaped hood. There were often young men and women dressed in albs (long white tunics worde by Catholic priests) or in embroidered vestments. Many carried large candles, which were lit at night.

Among the nazarenos (I hope I have the terminology right)in addition to men, were children--even babies--and women, all dressed in the robes of the cofradia. Each group of children had a person who herded them along and kept them on track.

The pasos (floats) were carried by costaleros dressed in long robes or in black suits. In Málaga, the costaleros carried the paso on their shoulders, outside the paso (rather than being underneath the paso, which is the case in Sevilla) with perhaps 20-30 men on each side and four or five across the front and back. They wore headgear that reminded me of the head covering of Egyptian pharaohs. They wore white gloves, with each man resting his hand on the shoulder of the man in front of him. The four or five men ranged along the front crossed their arms.

The walked with a rhythmic gait, so that the paso swung gently back and forth with each step. I was fascinated at watching their feet as they paced.

The band members were all dressed in fancy uniforms of one kind or another. At times, all I heard was drums or maybe a trumpet would sound a plaintive melody. Then the whole band would join in. It was very moving. The pasos are huge floats with very realistic statues of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. They are laden with candles and all kinds of decorations. Hard to describe.

I probably don't have the order of the marchers right, but you get the general idea.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 05:35 PM
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great description, Peg. thank you.
jubilada is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 09:56 AM
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One of the things we noticed frequently was the beauty of the many children. They were just adorable. They were dressed very well, with lots of coordinating touches--orange stockings that matched the print in a dress and a ribbon in the hair, for instance. The women were also dressed noticeably well. I don't know if this was because of Holy Week or if our part of town was affluent and if they always dress this well.

I have a couple of great pictures of balconies on the beautiful buildings. We envied the people on those balconies who were able to get a great view of the processions, though Málaga is small enough that you are able to see quite a lot from the street.

However, if I am able to go back again, I will investigate to see if I can rent a seat, especially for the night processions. On our last evening, I walked a mile or so down the Alameda Principal where I was able to get a pretty good view of the processions. Unfortunately, I didn't get good pictures of the processions at night. I think it's time I read my camera guide all the way through.

Much as I liked Málaga, most of our stay blurs together. I do recall going to see the cathedral and the Picasso museum. The cathedral was like so many Spanish churches, imposing and dark--you've seen one, you've seen them all. Not that they're not impressive, but I've seen so many...We had planned on visiting the Picasso museum, but there was a long line leading to it, so we decided to eat instead.

The part of this day that I DO remember well is that I was quite sure (as I usually am) that I knew the right direction to get up back to the hotel. I was wrong (also as I usually am), and I got us well and truly lost--and remember that my travel partner has trouble walking. She became cranky with me, and I almost got cranky back. However, I couldn't really do that, considering it was my fault we were lost. Somehow we made it back to the hotel.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 11:30 AM
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Thank you for posting. Very interesting. Will be going to Madrid/Toledo at the end of the month.
Weekender is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 12:28 PM
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Take also a girl scout as companion on the next trip or put a GPS into your handbag!
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