|Plaza Espana near our hotel with the largest billboard we ever saw. For an American series on Netflix of all things|
|Most of our walk was along Gran Via, sort of the Fifth Avenue of Madrid but if you can believe it, much more crowded I loved the Art Noveau buildings|
|Palacio Cilibes now a civic building. If you blow it up, you see they welcome refuges|
|It was a magic moment when all the street lights turned on|
|Puerta de Acala Using a long exposure, I could get rid of the pesky cars but need a steady hand. Note flowers still. Madrid can go below freezing but the ground stays warm enough for palm trees|
|Each block had a different style as did the side streets|
|I loved all the colors|
|lots of manicured gardens|
|Front of the palace. It has 2800 rooms. Maybe we saw 50?|
|Rick Steves, whose advice we often take, rated this palace's interiors as the third best in Europe behind Versailles in France ( I like the Spanish one better, more variety in design) and the Schoenbronn in Vienna, where I haven't been|
|Huge downside to this place is that except for a few rooms, photos were NOT allowed. This is a forbidden photo. Steve took more even though he has a much more obvious camera|
|Me in a guard station|
I can now edit stuff. Not sure why one day nothing works and then all is fine.
We returned at midnight Friday after getting up the equivalent of midnight the day before for our long flights and waiting, waiting, home, lengthened due to bad weather in the USA, de-icing, poor planning on Delta, bad equipment, etc. Going from sunny palm trees to a driveway with 8 inches of snow so we had to carry things and our sleeping granddaughter, who we were to watch for the weekend was a shock to our very tired bodies.
All in all a good trip though it had some moments of huge stress no thanks to some dyslexic Air France baggage handler in Paris who failed to note the MAD tag and read it as CDG. In the past, I've done trips here on the cheap but as it was our anniversary, we had Costco handle most of the details. 3 star hotel in Madrid in a good location; 4 star one in Sevilla far from everything; 5 star in Barcelona in a perfect location and was over the top in every way. Barcelona was both of our favorites. This was my third visit here but I will never be able to see everything I want unless I am here for weeks.
Spain has changed since I've been there last, much more expensive and much more English speaking. The people we dealt with by far our the most helpful, friendly in Europe. Very, very kind. Where did we find the least kind people in our limited travels? England. A gross stereotype I know and I feel guilty as when I was travelling by myself there for a week (Steve was working there on a short term assignment) various people would reach out to help me. And the Spanish I've been studying for 3 months? European Spanish is much different than the Latin American Spanish I was learning. And I kept using Italian words and freezing at the wrong times. I could barely eke out a competent sentence. And forget about Catalan, the official language of Barcelona. Even some of the locals have trouble with it. On our final day, our airport driver (on time, bless him)was a very handsome, sweet man from Madrid talked to us (mainly me, Steve never engages). In Mexico, he would be known as a guapo, a very good looking guy. Not sure if they use that term in Spain. He now lives with his Catalan girlfriend in Barcelona but she says his Catalan is so bad, he needs to speak Spanish with her.
We took an overnight flight on Air France to Paris on a very old, huge plane. Upside: much better food and wine. Downside: crappy video player and selection. I only slept a little. The plane was late which was stressful as we had only a short layover in Paris and had to scramble from one place to another though the flight attendant told us we would be OK, which we were. Costco told us that our airport pick-up would wait only an hour after our scheduled flight was to come and if we were late, to call this number, which we had to buy a special phone plan full of lots of rules and changing settings, in advance. I also thought the pick-up person would be right outside the baggage area with our name on a card. I couldn't find him nor could I run to the curb or I would be locked out of the airport. We waited and waited for our luggage with the minutes ticking down to when he would leave. I tried to call the help line while reading all the rules about international calling only to be put on hold. I thought I would be talking to the local transport office but no, some help desk way off in the Baleric Islands where I was put on hold for eternity it seems ( I was allowed only so many minutes). Meanwhile everyone had left the luggage area and no baggage. F@#$#! We waited in a long line with the missing luggage person who wanted a complete description of everything in the bags. Good news though. They found our luggage back in Paris rotating around an empty carousel and it will be here on the next flight and eventually delivered to our hotel. It ended up not coming until we were asleep and after more expensive phone calls. Meanwhile the travel help desk said a new driver has been sent and will be waiting for us in area 6 wherever that was. We went to search for that area, never found but we did find a man holding Steve's name. Yay! To the hotel, much later than planned. Thanks Air France! Did I say how tired we were? Some time during the evening I got a text from Verizon saying how much data I was using and all the extras we will now have to pay. Steve was furious with me as I must have had the wrong settings. They have since reversed these charges but only after we threatened to cancel the 5 accounts we have with them.
In advance, I had planned the sites to see but didn't plan out transportation options. Also I hate to be the sole planner (though Steve did buy the package and our commuter plane flight when our train was canceled) so when things don't work out, it is all MY fault. This issue came up much too often.
So my warm coat was in my suitcase for our walk into Madrid but I wasn't cold. I thought we would have time for the nearby palace but scratch that. But it was a nice evening and when the lights came on, it was so, so beautiful! We bought stuff at a good bakery and later stopped at the big chain El Cortes Ingles, which I had heavily relied on in the past for about everything for additional stuff (wine!!!) We were so tired. I fretted abut the luggage regretting stuff I might not ever see again. Did they ever put our stuff on the plane? The hotel was called to confirm we were actually staying there but no details whether or when it would come. In my stupor, I heard the hotel phone but couldn't answer it in time. The staff then entered our room (probably thought we weren't there) with our bags.I keep my toiletries in the front pocket. After a long time of no teeth brushing I could feel cavities growing. Front pockets were empty! But in the dark I finally realized I was searching in Steve's bag, not mine. Fell asleep with clean teeth.
A new day starting with an excellent buffet and coffee. To the palace and then more!.