I have had Spain on my bucket list since being stationed in Germany in the early-1990’s. I actually wished I had visited then when my Spanish was a lot better.
Last October, after I finished the Fantastic 3 Workshop with Nik Pekridis, Keda.Z, and Johnson Wee, I embarked on the vacation of a lifetime. I stayed an additional 17 days touring through six other European countries after leaving Scotland. I visited the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and France.
[I planned this whole trip on my own using Route Perfect, Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Euro Rail’s web sites.]
European Tour: Madrid Review
We stayed in Spain for three full days—probably longer than we needed to. But, Spain was peaceful. We didn’t walk much in this city. I think it was a subconscious decision because we walked so much in London. We did, however, use the heck out of that hop on/hop off bus. We must have completed two of the routes at least three times.
I really tried to speak the native tongue in this country… I really did. As I alluded to earlier, my Spanish skills were pretty much useless here. Unless someone was willing to slow down and enunciate each word independently of the next, I had no clue what “puedescaminaralcaféperotellevarátreintaminutos” meant. Even when we’d ask for directions or a recommendation, I would listen intently. I could get some of it. Calle. Derecho. Caminar or tren. Yolanda, a more-fluent Spanish speaking person than I, would thank the Spaniard for their help and we’d turn to walk away and I’d ask her what they said. She’d answer, “I have no idea.” It was pretty comical that this was the country where our language skills would have been most beneficial but were actually useless. So, we’d just continue to ask people every few minutes until we could piece together enough solid information to make sense of what the locals were telling us. OR, we’d just guess where/what we needed to go/do and hope for the best.
The main attractions we visited were:
Plaza de Espana—Within walking distance from our hotel, this was a beautiful little, quaint park. The day we visited there was a small market full of arts and crafts and some live performers. I also had a small breakdown here because I saw a chihuahua who looked just like my Ozzie.
Templo de Debod—This is an Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid in 1968 when it was threatened by a dam being built. Even though we stood in line for a good 30 minutes, we didn’t visit the inside of the temple. We gave up hope after the line failed to make any progress toward the entrance. The wait in line was bearable while a street performer played his string instrument, but when no one offered any tips (except us), he moved to another location. We followed suit. We did remain in the park. It was beautiful.
Palacio Real de Madrid—This is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, but they don’t reside here. They only use the palace for state ceremonies. We didn’t visit the inside, though there were tours. Only a few rooms were open for public observation out of its 3,418. The entire palace consists of 1,450,000 square feet. Talk about an electric bill! This is the largest royal palace in Europe when measured by square footage. The palace sits adjacent to the church below and the two share a courtyard.
Catedral de la Almudena—Hands down, this is the most beautiful church I have ever been in, and I am counting Notre Dame—and visiting again on this trip just to make sure. Inside this Catholic church was the first time I saw electric prayer candles—though I haven’t visited the prayer candles in a Catholic church in years, so this may not be a new thing. However, I decided to light some for Yolanda’s mom and two brothers since she had just lost the three prior to our visit. Edmund, the most recent loss, was a devout Catholic, as was Yolanda’s mom, and they would have loved this church. I asked her to video me “lighting” our candle ceremony so we could share it with her younger sister, Yvette. I dropped a few Euros into the prayer candle coin slot and one by one, candles started to “ignite.” It was fascinating. When the candles finished lighting, my camerawoman, Yolanda, panned around the church to capture all the beauty of the nave, the altar, the organ pipes, the pews, the marble floors, and the beautiful stained glass windows. I imagined her video to be very melodramatic, like an IMAX® movie complete with climactic music. When we were safely back in our room that night, I asked the camerawoman to see the video. She reluctantly confessed. She had never pressed record. Doh! Just imagine her panning and zooming all around the church and recording nothing. I think I wet my pants.
Here are some more of my favorite images and memories of Madrid:
Please stay tuned for our next stop… Italy!!
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