Best of Spain

Day 16 – September 19, 2004 - Madrid

Even though our wake up call was at 6:45, breakfast did not start until 7:30 and they did not start to pick up the luggage until 7:45. I guess Saturday is a sleep in day for the Spanish!

It is 72 degrees outside at 8:15 as we left the city. Only a few joggers and a few walkers were out in the parks this morning. As we left Cordoba for our last day on the bus, the sun was beginning to peek out and it looks like it will be a nice day again! How lucky we have been - no rain on us at all.

We are heading North to Madrid –– we passed miles and miles of olive trees as far as the eye can see. This area is the biggest production in Spain and Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world.

Every once in awhile we saw a processing plant where they press the olives with big tanks for storage. We have seen several ceramic factories too –– but no stopping to shop or look! The factories have huge chimneys and large kilns to fire the pottery.

We were stopped by the Highway Police for a routine truck and bus stop. They checked to see if Francisco had been drinking as well as looked at his time logs to make sure he was well within the required limits of driving and the safety regulations.

We began to climb the winding roads up the Sierra Morenas Mountains. Napoleon was here in Spain and the French were defeated in the Battle of Bailen in 1808.

At 10:20 we stopped at a truck/bus stop for 30 minutes to have a snack and use the rest rooms. An interesting sign of the times, along with names written on the bathroom walls there are now e-mail addresses!

We left the truck stop and began our trip through La Mancha territory made famous by Miguel Cervantes and Don Quixote! This area is in the high plains and rolling hills. The red earth, green pastures, and golden wheat fields are beautiful!

La Mancha has excellent wines and they are picking the grapes right now. Many of the vines are not strung on lines, but are on the ground as it is so dry here. The people who pick these grapes have to bend over picking them by hand, reminds me of picking strawberries when I was a kid!

We were able to see a few of the old Moorish Windmills on the hillsides made so famous by Cervantes. Most of them are in disrepair, but a few are being restored. We have seen many of the modern windmills as Spain has many of them and uses wind power efficiently.

We at the hotel at 1:30 and were the first ones to get our keys. After getting our luggage and unpacked, we took a short walk and found a great little café to get a salad.

The mixed salads are always served with fresh tuna, green olives, and great fresh tomatoes. We walked to the local market and they were just cleaning up and getting ready for the 2:00 siesta and closing for the weekend.

At 3:00 we left for the Prado Art Museum at 3:00. We had 2 hours to see this huge art museum! Our guide Caesar told us this is the 3rd largest portrait museum in the world, with only the Louver in Paris and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg being larger.

We had to walk past many of the fabulous paintings as we were concentrating only on the Spanish influence and saw the works of Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and El Greco. We knew this would not be enough time but it was enough to let us know that we would like to go back and spend a few days here!

After missing the bus because our guide told us to be back at 5:30 not 5:15, our friend Ron, the Aussie, saw us walking and Francisco came back for us. Lucky us as we had just a short time to shower and change for our last dinner together.

We went to the center of the city and at the tiny little Avelan Restaurant we had a great meal, one of the few that were typical of Spain. We had our choice of salmon, steak, lamb, or pork. We had several choices of soups, Vic had garlic and I had gazpacho –– yummy!

After dinner we had a tour of the lights and fountains of Madrid and stopped at the Plaza Mayor where we saw our Indian friends who were eating there. We had time to walk around, watch the artists on the square, and see the fine dining in the small cafes.

We walked back to meet Francisco and the bus and then went to the hotel where we said goodbye to all of our new friends and then had to get to bed as our wake up call was at 4:30, taxi at 5:15 and flight back to Frankfurt and then on to Denver.


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