Saturday, September 13, 2008

Madrid, Spain

Welcome to Spain!
I came back from Spain with a nasty sinus infection so I have been in bed for 4 days straight. Ahhh, I hate being sick and I am not a good patient! Anyway, I am feeling better today so I wanted to get some Spain pictures posted.

The first stop of our little tour of Spain was Madrid. Since I did very little research on Madrid prior to the flight over (where I did actually read my tour book), I knew very little. I did learn that Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain and the third-most populous city in the European Union.

The hotel where we stayed was fabulous! I was very impressed with what the Best Western had to offer! Seriously, if you are ever in Madrid and need a nice place, stay here! It was in a perfect location, fantastic room with air conditioning and large bathroom....all of which are hit and miss in some hotels I have stayed in around Europe!!!
After taking a little siesta (gotta love Spain and their siestas!!), we walked around the hotel a little. This is a funny story....Jennie needed some cash so we stopped at an ATM. I was standing back a little and noticed 2 boys (probably around 10-11 years old) start putting a piece of paper in front of her while she was trying to get money. She kept telling them "no" but they would not leave her alone. I walked over to try and help. These kids were little thugs in the making....they were pulling at our bags, pushing us, etc. We were not scared at all and actually thought it was really funny. Seriously, we could have taken these little boys out(and almost did if they did not stop). We just started walking away laughing and they eventually left us alone. I guess they train them early in Spain, so watch out!!

The next day we took the bus tour around the city. My first impression of Madrid was just how gorgeous city is. The architecture is unbelievable. Also, there is very little English spoken here. Really, not much at all. I was surprised. Most cities, at least in the touristy areas, speak a little English....but not in Spain. I know a little Spanish and Jennie knows more than me, but it was REALLY hard. We had lunch at Burger King one day and ordering was horrible!!!

This is me in The Puerta del Sol (Spanish for "Gate of the Sun"). This is the center of the radial network of Spanish roads....meaning all the street addresses start with 1 here. The square also has the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year.
Statue of the Bear of Madrono Tree, the heraldic symbol of Madrid.
I have no idea what is going on here but it looks like some type of protest at McDonalds and/or KFC. It was so crazy....and so many people!
Metropolis Building
A really bad picture of the Royal Palace. I opted to not tour the palace (after seeing so many, they all start looking the same to me after a while), but beautiful nonetheless!
The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of many events: markets, bullfights, soccer games, public executions. It was a great place to have lunch and enjoy a little sangria!! YUM!!!!
The Puerta de Alcalá ("Alcalá Gate") is a monument in the Plaza de la Independencia ("Independence Square"). It was built by order of king Carlos III as a monumental gate in the city wall to pass the road which leads to the city of Alcalá, replacing an older, smaller, gate which stood nearby. It was inaugurated in 1778. Plaza de Colón is located in the Alonso Martínez district. This plaza and its fountain commemorate the explorer Christopher Columbus (yes, THE Christopher Columbus), whose name in Spanish was Cristóbal Colón. In the statue, he appears to be pointing west, indicating the route he would take towards the islands of the Caribbean.

I had to go back and refresh my memory as to why Columbus was so popular in Spain. This is what I found:

Though not the first to reach the Americas from Afro-Eurasia — preceded some five hundred years by Leif Ericson, and perhaps by others — Columbus initiated widespread contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans. With his several hapless attempts at establishing a settlement on the island of Hispaniola, he personally initiated the process of Spanish colonization which foreshadowed general European colonization of the "New World." (The term "pre-Columbian" is sometimes used to refer to the peoples and cultures of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and his European successors.

His initial 1492 voyage came at a critical time of growing national imperialism and economic competition between developing nation states seeking wealth from the establishment of trade routes and colonies. In this sociopolitical climate, Columbus's far-fetched scheme won the attention of Queen Isabella of Spain. Severely underestimating the circumference of the Earth, he hypothesized that a westward route from Iberia to the Indies would be shorter and more direct than the overland trade route through Arabia. If true, this would allow Spain entry into the lucrative spice trade — heretofore commanded by the Arabs and Italians. Following his plotted course, he instead landed within the Bahamas Archipelago at a locale he named San Salvador. Mistaking the North-American island for the East-Asian mainland, he referred to its inhabitants as "Indians".

Interesting, uh!!?? Anyway, here is the pic! Museo del Prado... We had a great time in Madrid...and it was sooooooo hot! I am not used to the heat anymore. I did remember my sunblock...thank goodness!

We took a train from Madrid to Barcelona. Check out the Madrid train station below. The train was soooo awesome! You all know my love of train travel, and this train did not disappoint. It was obviously new. The seats were nice and they even played a movie. I felt like I was flying! I cannot believe I did not take a picture while on board!Barcelona up next....


  1. Anonymous2:07 AM

    i'd LOVE to do europe. i'm gonna start following this blog so i can live vicariously through you!! :)

  2. Fantastic photos. I want to go! You should be online soon for another one of our now infamous late night (for me) early morning (for you) chats :)