Spain Blog

Arrived Saturday Oct 1

Rented car in Madrid, drove to El Escorial, found the town no problemo, but trying to figure out how to park at the hotel, another matter. Streets in Madrid are bricks, cobblestones, and regular pavement. Learning to drive in Boston, you know that cobblestones are mostly pedestrian walks only. Turning onto cobblestone roads was nervewracking, always thinking we're on a pedestrian only street and will get pulled over and yelled at by the policia at any moment! After turning down a VERY narrow cobblestone "street" and making an incredibly tight downhil turn into the garage, we unpacked the car and checked into the hotel.

Had terrible tapas at a very touristy place (previously frozen very bready fish croquettes), but good coffee. Wandered around a little, went to bed early.

Sunday, Oct 2

Breakfast at hotel, nothing notable. Toured the monastery, pretty cool. Had lunch at outside restaurant, very nice, Joe and I are learning Spanish food words quickly! Went driving late afternoon for a "short drive in the hills" (Joe's words). Trying to find a way into the hills/mountains just behind Escorial turned into a 3 hour tour of Spain! We ended up driving further and further to avoid MASSIVE amounts of traffic heading back, and got alittle confused on the highways along the way. After making a large round about north of Escorial, and making our way around the walled city of Avila, we got back to our hotel long after dark, but just in time for dinner at 10:00. We went to a bar that a shopkeeper had recommended, but when we realized it sucked (about 5 minutes after we entered but stayed another 20 minutes to enjoy the pain) we found a great tapas restaurant. Ordering things that we have absolutely no clue what is in it is gutsy, but can be rewarding!

Monday, Oct 3

Solar Eclipse

Joe was in conference all day.

Hung out. Ate lunch by myself, ordered some things I wasn't sure about, it turned out okay, not great. Pretty much hung out, read, wandered, shoped a little, and tried to get used to the different way of life.

Dinner with Diana of Madrid and Kristin of Amsterdam, ate at a tiny Basque restaurant in Escorial.

Tuesday, Oct 4

Joe was in conference all day.

Dinner with conference attendees in our hotel. Expensive dinner, I was one of the few people dressed up, and I had to change and dress down after looking out our balcony and seeing what people were wearing (or not wearing). Dinner was decent, my pork had nice flavors, served with french fries, and not a vegetable in sight.

Wed, Oct 5

Joe was in conference all day.

We left for Madrid, got a little lost on the highways, then got REALLY turned around in the city of Madrid. I knew where we were, but just could NOT get to our hotel. One way streets, actual pedestrian ways, construction, we just couldn't get there. Finally we gave up and turned in our rental car and caught a taxi to our hotel. There is no way we ever would have found it!!

Thursday, Oct 6

Museo Prado, the gardens next to it, the post office.

Friday, Oct7

Wandered around La Latina area. No walking tour with Andres from walksofspain which was supposed to show us some good tapas bars and good wine. Went to dinner on a street Diana recommended, very good tapas and wine. Had final drinks at flamenca bar, no dancing but plenty of spontaneous guitar playing and singing.

Sat, Oct 8

Last full day, did some serious shopping, got my wallet stolen (so much for me being so paranoid it would never happen to me). 2 women returned my wallet to me that still had my credit card and driver's license. Only a few euros were stolen (since I had just spent the rest of them in the previous store). I realized the women wanted money for returning the wallet, and I began to suspect a rat, or 2. I feigned I didn't understand them, told them all my money was gone, kept shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head (since they were insistent about getting a reward even though my purse was empty), and they finally walked away. I was VERY lucky I only got ripped off about 5 euros. I needed some chocolate after that!

In America, we can order a fried chicken sandwich with mayonnaise, but instead I would like the chicken grilled and mustard instead of mayo, oh and with extra lettuce please. In Spain, if you order a standard ham sandwich with regular manchego cheese, that's what you get, If you order that sandwich, and in broken spanish ask for a specialty ham with a specialty manchego cheese, you will get the standard ham and cheese sandwich, along with an entire plate of specialty manchego cheese and an entire plate of specialty ham, with another large roll to boot. Your bill just increased from 2 euros to 19 euros. And your light lunch that was just right is now a major feast!

Random Thoughts about Spain

Most fun

Ordering ham and cheese sandwich (and ham and cheese) at Museo de Jamon Listening to flamenca singers burst out in song

Worst time

Realizing I was among the high statistics of tourists who get robbed in Madrid, and feeling like a chump.

Best meal

Tapas at La Camarilla, and believe it or not, ham sandwich at Museo de Jamon.

Worst meal

Tapas at crappy touristy place we first ate at ever in Spain in El Escorial.

2nd Worst meal

Awful caesar salad and thick and gummy spaghetti carbonara at italian place next to hotel.

Biggest adrenaline surge

Every time we walked into a bar or restaurant knowing very little spanish and expecting very little english (and seeing eyes turn our way as we walk in).

Biggest let down

It's a tie between thinking I covered the bases on not looking American, then getting pegged as Americans, and the food. Never found paella, and was overall disappointed with the food. I did find some good food, but I was searching for amazing.

Biggest surprise

American music is everywhere, whether old 70's music with Barry White, Abba, and Dionne Warwick, to listening to Simon and Garfunkel in muzak format, to hearing 80's Madonna and Cindi Lauper, to Motorhead and Metallica.

Story yet to tell...

German People at Italian Resaurant