July 12, 2009 - Madrid, Spain

Our journey to Spain was another marathon, involving a bus to Gruz, a ferry to Bari in Italy, a night train into Rome, another train to the airport, an early morning flight into Madrid, a shuttle train from the satellite terminal to the main airport building, then a series of three metro trains to our hotel!

The ferry was our old friend the Marko Polo, so we knew our way around and quickly nabbed a prime window table in the lounge, with plenty of room to lay out our sleeping bags on the carpet. Up on deck as we emerged from the harbor, we had a glimpse of the walled city of Dubrovnik, then watched the Croatian coast fade into the distance behind us. We ate the homemade sandwiches we'd brought with us for dinner, watched the sun set, then napped for an hour or so, before the twinkling lights of the coast of Italy appeared on the horizon ahead.

Unfortunately the ferry was running late, and dropped us in Bari just before midnight, leaving us only minutes to catch our train. The bane of our existence throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East was the constant clamor of taxi drivers waiting on literally every corner, but of course now that we desperately needed one, there was not a taxi in sight at the ferry terminal. We wandered the dark streets aimlessly for twenty minutes before finally flagging down a driver and being forced to accept his outrageous price of 20 euros for the 3km ride to the train station. But anything was worth making our connection and being able to finally climb aboard the train and get some sleep. The seats folded down into something resembling beds, which seemed to work better for the adults than the kids, but allowed us all a few hours of rest.

In Rome we had another tight connection, but everything went very smoothly, and before long we were aboard our plane. By now exhaustion was setting in, and none of us remember much of the flight! Before we knew it we were in Madrid, and four train rides later we finally reached our hotel. Thankfully Rachael had decided to splurge a little and booked us into Hotel Europa, right in the heart of the city at Puerta del Sol. We really felt we had landed in the lap of luxury, and decided to do like the Spanish and take a little siesta! We collapsed into the wonderfully comfortable beds and slept like babies for over two hours.

But we were determined to make the most of our limited time in Madrid, so at 4 o'clock we dragged ourselves back out of bed and set out to explore. After fabulous vegetarian sandwiches at a nearby cafe, we headed to the Prado museum just in time for free evening admission and a  whirlwind history lesson in Spanish art. Rachael our tour guide kept it brief and focused on the masters, and even Lucas found it an enjoyable experience! Next was a walk across town and past the Palacio Real, the official residence of the King of Spain, and the largest royal palace in western Europe. The gardens were beautiful and the palace impressive, but the biggest excitement was when we encountered a Harry Potter advertisement on the street outside, and realized that we had completely overlooked the movie release! And even worse, we won't likely be near a theater until we reach London! Now we are just hoping it is still showing there when we arrive at the beginning of August.

From the palace, we wandered up the Calle de Toledo into the impressive Plaza Mayor, which was full of street performers, including a skillful caricature artist, whom the kids watched with fascination. By now we were feeling hungry again, so we returned to a tapas bar near Plaza de Santa Ana, which Rachael had scoped out earlier in the day, and of course turned out to be fabulous. After a very satisfying meal of tapas and sangria, we headed back to our hotel, stopping at the Ben and Jerry's shop across the street, which the kids could not resist. It was our first Cherry Garcia since leaving home, and it tasted pretty darn good! We fell into bed feeling very satisfied with what we'd managed to achieve in just a few hours.

The following morning we were on our way to Peru for our final big adventure: hiking the Inca Trail. We had an early flight to catch, but one important Spanish experience remained: churros and chocolate for breakfast! We had a little trouble finding an restaurant that was open, as the Spanish seem to get going a little late in the mornings, but Rachael's culinary radar came to the rescue once again, and we soon found ourselves seated at a cosy little bar with a bunch of locals. We found the chocolate a little too rich for everyday consumption, but a very enjoyable authentic way to round off our visit to Spain.


Farewell to Croatia
Dubrovnik with the mountains of Montenegro behind
Sunset at sea
Napping on the ferry

1 Comment

July 22, 2009
I love the napping series!
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