Sunday, October 11, 2015
Did I mention that the hotel stole our towels? Yes, it's true!

We had bought towels and they were still damp from use so we laid them out on a chair to dry. That was when we first arrived at our hotel. We notified the front desk. They had inadvertently sent them to the linen service thinking they would be back when we were ready to leave. I know it was just one of those things the housekeeper did accidentally and probably mindlessly. It does, however, make a great story. Usually it's the other way around where the customer is stealing the hotels towels. The hotel did offer to mail them back to us in Canada but Ken suggested they donate the towels to a homeless shelter.

The Drive to Madrid
The landscape varied greatly between before Valencia and Madrid. At one point we would be driving through areas of hills where they've had to blast through the rock to build the road. In these areas the earth seem to be full of iron and quite red. We'd drive through another area where there were many pine trees beside the road. Other area would have rolling hills with olive trees growing in the fields. There was also mostly flat land where you could see the different crops the farmer had planted, for example some flowers, etc.

Cuenca was a small city that we went to today. Just as we arrived there it started to rain. Ken had originally picked this place because it had houses built on cliffs, which we never did find. Our picture of the cliff houses is from Wikipedia. We were expecting some little town with hardly anyone around and few cars. We were rather surprised that the place was packed with people and cars. We got driving on one street that was obviously packed with the many tourist attractions. It was like one slow gridlock, going up the hill and coming back down. We saw about three different architecturally wonderful cathedrals and streets lined with colourful big homes from centuries past. 

Segobrigo was an empty city that we visited today is it was a Roman ruin from about 2000 years old. It was near the now Spanish town of Saelices. It is a well preserved Roman city and the most important archaeological site in the Spanish Maseta. The ruin of the city of Segobrigo included an aqueduct, grave sites, a theater, a basilica, Multicolumned buildings, part of the wall of the old city, etc. They started doing horse races there and had an area called the circus. We saw a replica of mosaic tile floor, statues of people in Roman dress made out of a white type of rock, likely marble. Something I found very interesting were the day to day items of the Roman people, items such as dishes, jewelry, needles, pots, glassware, etc. This fascinating old city was built on a hill which now over looks Spanish farm country.

We arrived in Madrid and to the place were staying at rather hungry. We decided to go to a mall rather than drive downtown because it was now dusk. We wondered if the mall is closing her what was going on because the traffic was almost at a standstill not moving. We soon came to realize the mall was absolutely swamped with people. Even in the mall parking lot it was hard to get a place for your vehicle we figured out how to do it. We followed people who were returning to their cars to go home, that left a parking spot for us. We had never been in a busier mall, never, ever. Plus this place was absolutely huge - acres. It didn't only have a regular type food court it had restaurants built around a huge fountain. We went into a game room, rooms not really the right word. It was a bowling alley, it was a pool hall and it was video-game arcade all in one. It's nice to get out and mix it up with the average people of the area, to see how they shop, and what they have to deal with on their shopping trips. Shopping in Canada is a breeze comparatively speaking.

Monday, October 12, 2015
We just realized that this is the second Thanksgiving in a row that we have not been in Canada. To all our friends and family in Canada happy Thanksgiving!

We are staying at another student residence called this time called Vertice hotels here in the southern industrial zone of Madrid, Spain. Today is a bank holiday in Madrid. They have the parade and other festivities. As we are waiting for the metro we see a flyby of some jets from the Spanish Air Force. The metro is full of people going downtown to celebrate. The metro station where we got off was several layers deep. It is one of two major railway stations in Madrid. The Atocha Railway Station was a massive red brick older looking building that was amazing to us Canadians. This is where the Madrid train bombing suspect took place on the morning of 11 March 2004. This was the first of many architecturally significant structures we would see you today. The crowd was quite massive as we made our way across the first major street we came to. We believe the parade was just ending as it was just about noon.

We made our way past the national Museum of art called Reina Sofia. We found the wonderful little small café called Del Azul. It appears that Spanish people eat sandwiches for breakfast, as this café serve breakfast. Sandwiches were the main part of the breakfast menu. We took pictures because these are sandwiches we want to duplicate at home.

From the Atocha District we walked on to the Los Cortes District. We saw many interesting cafes with tile or wood trim, Congreso de los diputados, the lower house of the Spanish parliament, the Zarzuela Theater, the Bank of Spain, part of the Cybele Palace (City Hall) and much more.  

Our aim had been the Gran Via. According to Wikipedia, "Gran Via (literally "Great Way") is an ornate and upscale shopping street located in central Madrid. Now, the street is known as the Spanish Broadway, and is one of the streets with more nightlife in Europe. It is known as the street that never sleeps." It was the buildings that we went to see - Metropolis Building, Cines Callao, etc. It is a 20th century architectural showcase of outstanding buildings. We couldn't resist going into one of the tall, old hotels call the Senator with an interior glass faced elevator and white marble, curved staircase.  

We went to McDonald's to get a bottle of water. I wouldn't normally mention such an occurrence but the building was spectacular with many architectural features and lots of marble.

Next we walk to Jardines Plaza de Espana, which is like a giant park
at the end of the Gran Via. It has statues including one of Don Quixote and Sancho, huge pools, old twisted trunks of still fruitful olive trees and shaded pathways are some of the other attractions of this plaza. 

Then we moved on to a different garden, Jardines de Sabatini. It featured a boxwood hedge maze and more pools and water features. 

Then there was the Plaza de Oriente which is located outside the royal palace of Madrid. The plaza seems to be centered around huge fountain and a statue of a man on a horse. Today, however, the entertainment was a Michael Jackson imitator who did a dang good job. 

Plaza mayor was the next major area. Wikipedia tells us that, "The Plaza Mayor (english Main Square) was built during Philip III's reign (1598–1621) and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid, Spain. " It was absolutely use huge and today likely because of the holiday was packed with people. Unfortunately for us it was under construction in some areas.

We also walk through the Puerta del Sol area. The building with the Clocktower is where on New Year's Eve many Spaniards gather to ring in the new year. This is the most famous and Central Square in Madrid. It was renovated to mostly its present state in the mid - 1800's. 

We returned to the mall that we were at last evening - Parque Sud. Luckily this evening it was only medium crazy busy. We found a parking spot right away. We have not seen any single-family homes at all here, only high rise apartment  to buildings.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Ken and I took the train into downtown Madrid and again started our day's adventure in the Atocha District.

Yesterday I did not notice the huge Ministry of Agriculture building, I was so distracted by all of the people in that area. Policeman on horseback rode by us on the sidewalk. A rather unusual sight to see in such a huge city in Europe. We also did a repeat visit to Del Azul café and their delicious menu.   

Our main objective for the day was to visit to the huge Prado Museum in the Cortes district. The building itself was commissioned by Charles III in 1785 on the Paseo del Prado (meaning meadow). The collection includes Spanish paintings from 1100 to 1910, Italian paintings from 1300 to 1800, German paintings from 1450 to 1800, British paintings from 1750 to 1800, Flemish paintings from 1430 to 1700, French paintings from 1600 to 1800 and the collection also include sculpture etc. I listed them in this manner just to give you some idea of the magnitude of the size of the collection. According to Wikipedia the collection now is of around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents. We definitely did not see everything, nor come close. Some of the painters who created the masterpieces that were in this collection were Rubens, van Dyck, Goya, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Dürer and many, many more. The Prado is one of the top rated art galleries in the world.

Unfortunately photographs were not allowed inside the museum.  You will have to go yourself to experience the grandeur.

We did not have enough of Madrid yesterday so we decided to walk about after our art gallery experience. San Jerónimo el Real is a Catholic Church from the 16th century. It is located across the street from the Prado Museum. Buen Retiro Park is one of the next must sees. The Park has many things to boast about - Monument to Alfonso XII with its many columns facing a small lake, Paseo de la Argentina with its many statues lining the walkway, and Avenida de México, to name a few highlights of places we saw in the park. 

We still hadn't taken in enough of the Madrid so on we went. Upon leaving Buen Retiro Park we found ourselves staring at a 20 metre high, granite and lime stone arch that had been built in the 18th century.

We took the subway to the La Latina district of Madrid, the oldest area of the city. I must say that by this time we were pretty tired and we did miss some of the good features that we may not of been we may have only been a few blocks from. You will be able to see from the pictures, however, we did find some very old and interesting buildings. This is also an arts and cultural centre now for the city. We were also in the Embajadores part of the city. It is a bit hard to distinguish between each area of the city especially when you're just new here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
We were packed up and out on the road before 8 AM this morning.

Somehow we had confused our flight time departure for Madrid as Barcelona's. We did, however, leave the place we were staying at in good time to return our rental car. Ken was able to maneuver us safely through the heavy traffic on the way to the airport. We were able to see dawn in Madrid.

We had a domestic flight to Barcelona on Vueling Air. I was sad to be leaving Spain as we have been here since the end of August. 

We ate our lunch in the airport in Barcelona. It was an out-of-the-way restaurant with not a lot of traffic going by it. We had a delicious meal with linen napkins and tablecloth to up the atmosphere. Our baked potatoes were grilled to perfection. We also discovered that olive oil and balsamic vinegar are very delicious on baked potato and grilled vegetables.

Our next flight for the day was from Barcelona to Venice, Italy. On this flight we were able to sit together, however, I was able to doze off for some of the flight. I am sure I wasn't very good company. 

The Venice airport is rather small in size at least compared to Barcelona and Madrid. Madrid's airport was even bigger than Barcelona's, it was absolutely huge with four terminals. 

We walked along a covered pathway from the airport in Venice to the water taxi, actually a water bus named Alilaguna. To us two island residents it reminded us of taking ferries back in British Columbia, Canada. Much to our dismay it was raining out thusly obstructing our view through the window. We did make a few stops on our hour and a half boat trip - Murano Colonnade, Nova, Ospedale, Bacini, Certosa and finally Lido where we are staying. Lido is an island, one of many surrounding the bigger island of Venice.

We took the bus from where the boat dropped us off to our hotel, Ca' Del Moro. We got off quite a few blocks too soon and had to walk dragging our suitcases behind us. We were rewarded with a fairly nice hotel that was very clean and has all the necessities, including the restaurant where we ate supper.

We are both looking forward to tomorrow and seeing Venice. Last night we watched a YouTube episode of Rick Steve's Venice, can hardly wait.

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