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Trip report--Peggy & Maryfran's trip to Spain

Trip report--Peggy & Maryfran's trip to Spain

Nov 28th, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Caceres, continued...

After our visit to the prehistory museum, we pressed on in our search for Plaza Mayor and the hold grail - replenishment for our supply of coffee grounds.

It should come as no surprise that we became quite lost, 180 degrees off course, finally admitting our folly near the university. We stopped for a drink at a sidewalk bar, where I prodded Peg into asking for directions of our server, who did her best and was joined in offering directions by two lovely young men.

After much nodding of heads and general agreement, I asked Peg, my Spanish-speaking sister, "What did they say?" "I have no idea." That was often the case for her in Spain. She's been taking university classes for about three years, and she understands her teachers perfectly and is a star student.

However, understanding the speakers in Spain is something else again. She speaks quite well, so when she asked questions in Spanish, the reply would come in a blizzard of words, leaving her baffled.

In the States, one might say, "I'm going to the store. Do you want to go?" But it may come out as "Mgwin t tha store. Dyawannago?" The same thing seemed to be true in Spain.

In any event, we trudged on back toward the general direction of the golden city on the hill and finally stumbled, quite accidentally, on Plaza Mayor. Later, consulting a map, I realized that at one point in our quest we were approximately two blocks from the Plaza Mayor but, oblivious, made the wrong turn at the fabled "fork in the road."

That evening, we would have our encounter with roast suckling pig at the Parador, which I described on our post, "Trauma in the Spanish Dining Room."

Next, Salamanca.
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 01:04 PM
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Salamanca: A gem of a city.

We left Caceres for the easy drive to Salamanca. The countryside reminded us much of the land in our own eastern Washington, with golden fields of grain and a similar landscape, but minus the black lava outcroppings we have here.

Hotel Rector was easy to find. We stopped in front of the unimposing hotel to unexterior load our bags and stepped into the hotel, a whole 'nother world. Wonderful modern stain glassed windows, highly polished hardwood floors, brass trim, and the warm rosy hued walls we'd loved in so many places in Spain.

We were directed to the garage behind the hotel and were helped to our room with our luggage by a lovely man. The staff and admosphere at this hotel is warm and cordial.

Having dropped off our luggage and admired our pleasant room, we set off for the old town, through the entrance just across the street. I found an shop to burn a CD of the photos accumulated on my digital camera cards, for a total of 3 euros - 1.5 for the CD and 1.5 for burning the CD. Seemed like a great bargain to me.
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 01:32 PM
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First stop on our sightseeing was Iglesia-Convento de San Esteban, with its Plateresque facade and Jose Churriguera altar, dating from 1693.

We walked a good deal and saw many of the classic buildings, but for some reason, the university seemed mysteriously (but not surprisingly, considering our history of getting lost) elusive.

It must have been the next day that Peg became seized with the need to search out a laundromat. We found one described in Rick Steves, and I persuaded Peg we should take a cab, rather than roll our suitcases along with us. We arrived about 3:00, I think, to find the laundromat closed for siesta. One must always keep siesta in mind when planning such tasks as shopping or doing laundry in Spain.

I think that we decided to trundle our bags full of laundry with us to Plaza Mayor, to kill the hour and a half until the laundry would reopen.

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is quite wonderful, built of warm golden sandstone. We had something to eat (not confessing where) and eventually found our way back to the laundromat, now open after siesta, which also offered internet access, so I could upload my digital photos and organize them, while Peg stoked the fires on the washing and drying machines.

Link to my photos of Salamanca:

Next: Avila
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 02:02 PM
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Avila: Another easy drive, this time 1 1/2 hours from Salamanca. We stayed at the Parador in Avila, which was wonderfully located and very nice, but we found the atmosphere in the Paradors to be aloof and cool.

What an incredibly beautiful town, amazingly photogenic. If you'd like, you can see what I mean on this link to my photos of Avila:


One of our fondest memories of Avila was a stop we made for a soft drink while we were walking. It was chilly, so we sat inside the tapas bar (can't remember the name offhand, but I can get it for you if you want it). We had some great tapas, but mostly we enjoyed watching the people, especially the handsome and charming young bartender. A group of his family or friends arrived, and he roundly kissed them all on both cheeks warmly. Great admosphere!

Tomorrow we're on to Segovia.
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 02:42 PM
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Segovia: Another gorgeous Spanish city in Spain.

We parked easily in front of the Hotel Infanta Isabella and unloaded our bags. Hotel staff whisked our car away and parked it, essentially valet parking for us.

We thought the hotel quite wonderful. Our room faced on the charming Plaza Mayor, with a great view of the Cathedral to the left. I was on the little balcony every opportunity, taking pictures night and day.

We'd have only one day in Segovia, but we enjoyed it immensely.

Photos: http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...ID=6331&Show=Y
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 03:09 PM
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Toledo: Another easy drive, two hours from Segovia.

Our only driving challenge was finding the Parador, which turned out to be a considerable distance from the old town, on that wonderful hill of the El Greco view.

The Toledo Parador is lovely, and the view from our private balcony magical. Nevertheless, next time, I'd stay in town and make a side trip for the photo op for the view of the city. I like to sightsee for a while, check back into the hotel for a rest, and go out again later.

In Toledo, that would mean a 7 euro cab ride into town, a 7 euro ride back, and a repeat for a follow up.

In the old town, after visiting the cathedral, stolling a good bit, and having an ice cream at Plaza de Zocodover, where we caught the little "Zocotren," a little train offering a 50 minute tour of Toledo, which turned out to be really neat, especially since we shared the train with a hysterically funny and enthusiastic group of friends from Granada on vacation.

We also visited the cathedral, but my recollection is that much of the interior was blocked off and/or under scaffolding, so I don't think I got the view others have.

Photos of our stay in Toledo:

Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 03:12 PM
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Apologies for all the typos on this thread. Hard to believe I'm a paralegal, where typos aren't greeted with sympathy and tolerance!
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 03:48 PM
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Your trip sounds wonderful, and you must have really kept up your journal on a day to day basis. That is something that I must learn to do.

I read questions from posters asking for example good restaurants in Bologna. If I were there I could walk them right to the restaurant. But remember the name - NO. I get very frustrated with myself.

I am enjoying your report.
LoveItaly is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 04:27 PM
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LoveItaly, you jest, of course, about keeping up my journal. My MO is to download my photos to my laptop in the evening and annotate the pictures, which ends up with a jounal being produced.

This trip, however, my laptop, which had been showing signs of ill health before the trip, sudddenly refused to boot ("Dammit! I tried to tell you I was sick!"). (She's at the computer hospital now, and I'm hoping for a full recovery - at least of my photos of Barcelona and Sevilla trapped on her crashed hard drive.)

In any event, I press on to the last chapter of our visit, Madrid.

We were to turn in our trusty little Renault Clio at the Madrid airport, after our drive from Cuenca, and were amazed aour our incredible navigational skills (i.e., dumb luck) in finding our way to the rental return so easily, when, at the last moment I shrieked, "We forgot to fill up the tank!"

The last time we'd done that we were dinged for....are your ready?....95 euros. We careened back out onto the freeway and found a diesel station not far away.

Our home in Madrid would be Palacio San Martin, a wonderful recommendation I found on this site. Palacio San Martin is wonderfully located, a very nice hotel, with helpful, cordial staff, and our room was very nice, for an amazing rate of 109 euros. We felt like thieves for scoring such a great room for such a bargain rate.

There were a couple of fellows near the hotel in leopard skin leotards, sporting orange mohawks. One of the raps on the hotel is that there are some undesirables nearby, but other than offending our fashion senses, they caused us no grief.

We would only have two nights in Madrid, which I really regretted, because Madrid intrigued me. I like to visit cities that have a life beside tourism, that reflect something of a people doing things and going places. Madrid is all that.

Because we had so little time, we focused on just two sites - the Prado and the Palacio Real, both of which we enjoyed thoroughly.

At the Prado, I was especially enchanted with the timeline of Goya's art that I saw. Please overlook my lack of artistic knowledge, but I was intrigued to see his transformation from a brilliant portraitist to a very modern artist, to see the angst come out. It's quite startling to observe.

One of the neatest things about travel, for me, is what it teaches me about what I need/want to know more about - in this case, Goya.

We had lunch in the museum's cafeteria, which we were quite satisfied with.

The Palacio Real was great, too. Very beautiful. We arrived late in the day, close to the cutoff time for admittance, so we felt fortunate to be able to gain entrance. While we were in the museum, the weather changed dramatically, and by the time we had to leave, it was pouring rain. We sprinted, giggling, across the interior plaza, and made our way to a tapas bar not far from our hotel, where we chose some tasty tapas to accompany our drinks, a nice way to wrap up the day.

Our last day, we set the alarm for 2:00 a.m., so we'd be shiny and bright for the cab ride to the airport for our 6-ish flight from Madrid to Frankfurt to Portland, Oregon. Our cab driver had gotten out of bed specially to take us, so we tipped him generously.

Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 04:49 PM
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Here my normally razor-sharp memory (in my dreams!) memory is failing me, because I can't remember if it was in Madrid or in Frankfurt we had such interesting times in the airport...

Let's agree that it was in Frankfurt, Lufthansa's hub. We had two and a half hours to make our connection from Madrid, and we barely made it, despite the fact our Madrid flight was on time.

First, there was the incredible distance to confront, from our arrival gate to our departure gate. Amazing! First, we traveled a great distance via a moving sidewalk. Then the moving sidewalk in the next leg wasn't operating, so a long walk followed, next, a long flight of stairs down to the tarmac, where we boarded a bus for the next leg, finally arriving in the general area of our departure gate. At some point in this mess, we stood in line through a very long security check. Each passenger was "wanded." Of course, the US is blamed for this inconvenience. However, I was singularly unimpressed with the security on this international flight.

My sister's stainless steel knee replacement never fails to set off the beeping noises in US airports. Here, with the wand, there was nary a bleep. Not only was the wanding of all passengers a time waster, it was ineffective.

At last, we were at the front of the line, awaiting entrance to our boarding area, when a gate attendant told us we were TOO EARLY and should go away and come back later.

I DON'T THINK SO, I told him. Fortunately, seeing how buff I was, he decided discretion was the better part, and all that, and let us into the area where we would wait for our flight.

The highlight of the wait, for me, was my occasional forays to one of the smoking kiosks, where a young American soldier in fatigues, waited for his connection for his two-week leave in the U.S., and swapped war stories with two "old" (i.e., maybe 45) Viet Nam vets. The young soldier appeared to be all of 14. My world doesn't intersect on a daily basis with your soldiers and Iraq is far, far away from my home town, so I felt privileged to be able to eavesdrop on their reminisces.

So it's on to Portland and eventually to Spokane.

Sorry to have our vacation end, but grateful for the familiar crab salad I'd enjoy in the Rose's cafe in the Portland airport, to have my diet coke topped off no charge, to be able to put my purse beneath my chair and not worry it would be snatched, to have a man at a neighboring table ask if I'd mind watching his briefcase while he went to the boys' room.

I love travel, love Italy, love Spain, but I love home, my home. And it was great to be back!
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 04:53 PM
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An entertaining and enjoyable trip report! Thank you!

LOL, I am now becoming spoiled by that free topping of drinks, in Portland and here in Fl
Scarlett is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 04:54 PM
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Maryfran and Peggy,, you have a great report, but more important, a great attitude.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 05:17 PM
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Yes, thank you again. Sorry to see your report end. I truly enjoyed reading it. I, and I am sure others that have commented, feel as though we were there with you two during this trip.

Your delightful sense of humor also added so much to this reading.

I sometimes think that Fodorites write better than some well known authors.

Take good care.
LoveItaly is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 05:30 PM
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Wonderful trip report and photos! I visited Spain last summer, and reading your report makes me want to go back! I also stayed at the Inglaterra in Granada and very much enjoyed it.
abby97 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 06:59 PM
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Argh! Somehow amidst the seizures Fodors has been experiencing lately, my not-very-well crafted post about our visit to Cuenca fell by the wayside.

Peg had always wanted to see the hanging houses at Cuenca, so we added it to our itinerary and kept it there, despite the fact we'd need to drive three hours out of our way to get there from Toledo for our one-night stay, and another three hours for the return trip, to Madrid.

The drive was okay, but nothing to write home about, but the traffic through the city in search of the Parador was a mess. Narrow, congested, hilly streets, with hints at a route to our Parador that petered out fruitlessly.

I remember Peg inching up a congested street toward a traffic light, trying to keep our little car from backing into the car behind us, only to have the car stall when at last it was our turn to proceed through the intersection, followed by rude honking from the person behind us, who subsequently bumped us. I jumped out to check for damage and to glare at the offending honker.

Eventually, we would find a gas station where Peg would successfully score succinct directions to the Parador. We'd be greeted there, once again, by gypsy parking freelancers, who we were glad to pay the 5 euro duty for parking assistance.

Our view room was pleasant, though the view was not of the hanging houses but of another portion of the ravine.

The weather, which had been threatening, now turned into a downpour, for which I was secretly thrilled, as it meant we'd have to hunker down in the hotel, with no responsibility to venture back to that tangled mess in the town.

Peg gamely tried to catch a glimpse of the lighted hanging houses, amidst the pouring rain in front of the Parador. I, on the other hand, merly stepped out briefly in the rain and said, "Brrrr!" and retreated shamelessly to our snuggy room.

When we left the next day for the last leg of our trip, to Madrid, we made a wrong turn (you're surprised, right?)and ended up driving a considerable distance on a phenomenal road through some of the most amazing rock formations and foliage I've ever seen. Eventually, however, it was necessary to head for Madrid, so we turned around and eventually hooked up with the right route.

Quenca was a bit of a blur for us, but of course you realize it wasn't our fault, don't you, what with the traffic and rain and all?
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 07:27 PM
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Quenca? Quenca? My gray matter obviously has been suffering serious erosion, what with the rain and all in CUENCA.

Thanks, LoveItaly, Scarlett, Cigalechanta, and Abby, for the nice compliments. I'd been delaying posting a trip report because I really didn't think I had anything to say. All goes to prove, not having anything to say need not be an impediment to having some fun posting a trip report!
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 07:38 PM
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MaryFran, now what is this about hanging houses??? Please, when you have time, do explain? My mind is wondering. Hanging from trees? Please do explain or I will be confused on this subject for ever. Thank you dear.
LoveItaly is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 07:45 PM
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The "Hanging Houses" are built at the very edge of a sheer ravine - or so they say. As I explained, what with the pouring rain and all while we were there for our brief stay, I have to take it on faith that they are indeed there on the edge of the cliff, precariously perched.
Mary_Fran is offline  
Nov 28th, 2004, 07:57 PM
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Thank you MaryFran. That makes more sense. But do not think I would want to live in one.
LoveItaly is offline  
Nov 29th, 2004, 08:00 AM
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Thank you so much for sharing! The pics were lovely and quite a few took my breath away!

Truly enjoyed your experiences as well. Thank you so much.

I'll be going to Spain next Sept/Oct, so naturally I'm interested in anyone's experiences, and after reading your trip report, I'm even more excited to be going.

Again, thank you!
Chele60 is offline  

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