very emotional dance

Of course always being a Three Dog Night fan, I probably decided when I was little that Spain would be on the horizon.  It took me till the year 2012 to make that happen but hey better late than never.

for your listening pleasure, the song I mention: http://youtu.be/dm6qw_yeo6o

This trip included Madrid, Segovia and Toledo.  It started with four days in London, a flight to Spain and later a flight back to London in time for some Diamond Jubilee celebrations before heading home to the good ol’ US of A.

Flight over not too bad, about 24 hours before the flight I was armed and dangerous at the computer for check-in for my beloved seat with LEG ROOM J16, well a girl from Egypt beat me to it because I got K16 right next to her, my friend Kelly’s usual seat but hey no screaming baby.  I love babies….I don’t like babies during flights unless they are sleeping.  Sorry.

The plan is Chris my friend from the UK is picking me up from Heathrow.  I warned her look for Godzilla because I can’t sleep on planes.  I worked 10-1/2 hours the day of the flight than flew all night arriving 9:30 a.m. looking just like Godzilla as promised but alas she found me!

Two days in South End Sea….

The people:  Sir Winston Churchill & Anne Boleyn

Once picked up by Chris and her family, we all head to the South End where she lives.  It feels weird driving on the wrong side.  Is it the wrong side?  I’d like a list of who’s driving where now.

Jet lag heavy we plan nothing really but relaxing for Day One and dinner by the pier for dinner, longest pleasure pier I might add.   Out back we sit catching up; laughing having wine and I get my first “spotted dick”.  Candy bar that is……it’s a famous dessert in the UK, kind of clever with the name wouldn’t you say?

Did I tell you London was boiling?  I joked some two weeks before leaving.  London put away those umbrellas; get out that sunscreen the sun is going to shine everyday because I’m coming.  That was a joke of course but you check the weather reports and you will find I was right!  So we sit out in the fantastic sunshine and enjoy the heat.

In a while, I’m down for the count and have a nap but not too much.   Me, Chris, Stuart, Janet & Paul head to the Fisherman’s Wharf.  I like it a lot.  Those who know me can imagine my sheer delight on finding Corona on the menu.  Me and Stuart, Chris’s son had two!  This place would make a true Marylander’s heart jump, seafood is all over the menu and some things are done in a new way like Chris’s shrimp and guacamole, two things I never would dream of merging but darn it was good.   I had fish and chips.  I ordered the small and wow it came out big!

http://www.fishermanswharfsouthend.co.uk/history.html  (the place)

So with a lovely dinner, cold beer, GREAT company and a view I end day number one.  Thank you Chris, Stuart, Janet & Paul.

Tomorrow I’m visiting Mr. Winston Churchill, well not really him but as close as I can get and that’s his home in Chartwell.  After that, Anne Boleyn and her childhood home, kind of creepy knowing what happened to her.

What’s not to love about Winston Churchill?  That cigar….  J

Next morning:

We rise early and I am refreshed.  Chris’s sister & hubby are driving us to Chartwell.  This is the home of Winston Churchill till his death.  I admire this man; he was a symbol of courage, a good author, decent painter and stood up to Hitler.  With that alone I’m hooked on the man.   That I get to step foot in his home, an absolute honour.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill

It’s an easy ride there and I am enjoying reading some of the road signs.  US and UK to me are so much alike but at the same time so very different, signs being one of them.  My personal favorites:

Emergency Escape Lane (who are we escaping from, a monster, aliens?)

No hard shoulder for 150 yards (aren’t all shoulders on the road hard, will we sink?)  Later I saw “soft shoulders”?  Maybe we will sink?

 ! Caution Wild Animals (what kind? Lions and tigers and bears oh my?)

Chris thinks maybe badgers.

Upon arrival, I meet the chickens, a sign reads:  Chickens were an important part of Chartwell life and his daughter Mary kept Bantams here.  Honestly I had to look that up.  Bantams:

(In contrast, the Bantam rooster is famous in rural areas throughout the United Kingdom and the United States for its aggressive, “puffed-up” disposition that can be comedic in stature. It is often called a “Banty” in the rural United States.)

LOL —  puffed up disposition, I like that!!!  I’m going to have to use that term for now on when someone is getting feisty!!!  What are you getting a puffed up disposition?

A winding path takes you along gardens and views to the ponds.  Black swans are supposed to be in there but I didn’t get up close.  Making our way thru we reach the goldfish pond, stones Winston Churchill stepped thru to get to his chair for meditation and feeding those goldfish.  This touched me the most.   There is something very personable about that very spot.  I could feel it and imagine him sitting right there.   I found myself thru out the tour of the house and grounds looking back to that chair.   We had a talk with a guy who works there, he says those fish have had a lot of inbreeding and it’s created some unique spots on them.  He is right, they did look unusual and were as fat as Thanksgiving butterball turkeys, life is good for a goldfish at Chartwell!!  I’ve added a slide show so while I write about things I’ll be adding to the slide show.  Tried posting in the story but it’s just not working correctly.

How to describe Chartwell?  It has fantastic gardens, views, arches and brick walls which he built.  I won’t forget in college studying Churchill in a Psychology class.  We did an analysis of two men.  Winston Churchill and Hitler, (fascinating class) one thing I remember learning about was Churchill’s Black Dog, his phrase for depression and a remedy he had for it—-the brick laying.  I can remember the professor’s eyes sparkling talking about this.  Fascinating……..

I think if you have not been and you are interested you should really go and see for yourself what I mean.  It’s a simple house, not over the top and you can really imagine a family living there, it looks like any minute they may pop in one of those doors.  That photo of me sitting on the steps, it looks like he is coming right up the steps to me doesn’t it ?  I never noticed that till I got home looking at the photos.

While there, I was telling Chris can you just imagine walking around here talking to him?  Gosh I would have loved that conversation.  His humor is another thing I admire with his sarcastic twist.  Once you go thru his art studio (left just how he had it) you’ll come to a little hall.  In this hall, on your way out are letters on the wall.  I mosey around reading them than I find one that in my mind is the best!  I believe it may have been to a secretary.  In it, he is saying :  now I appreciate you signing my letter, eternally grateful or very grateful but since I am the only one who can decide if I’m grateful at all, let’s leave that part up to me huh ?  Now I do not know the exact wording but that’s the jest.  Love it !

I so wanted to break the law there and take a photo of that letter.  I would not break the rules at Chartwell, it’s a matter of respect.  I save that later for other places, shame on me.  There’s also a room with awards and in one I saw a paper from President Kennedy giving him US citizenship.  I’m not done with Mr. Churchill yet, later in London I’ll pick up my quest for him but for now we’ve got to leave Chartwell and head to Anne Boleyn’s house, Hever Castle.  We’ll be having a picnic, explore the house, get wet, laugh like children and feel something  eerie.  Also let me add, it’s still Tarzan hot in England this day too!

One last thing about Chartwell, I found a great website about it and I enjoyed reading the quotes and information.  Here’s a teaser from this link: (check it out)

http://www.travellinghistorian.com/church.html

Churchill decided the family, “should live off the land.” He knew absolutely nothing about farming and his ventures on the whole were financial failures. Poultry, pigs, sheep, cattle – all languished and left him the poorer. He loved all creatures and thought the world a better place if, “inhabited only by animals.” He resisted modern farming methods and indignantly rejected artificial insemination, growling, “My beasts will not be deprived.” He also found it difficult to contemplate slaughtering livestock. Once when Clementine had a goose cooked for dinner, he handed her the carving knife with the words, “You carve him Clemmie, he was a friend of mine.”

Clementine’s lingering reserve about ‘Cosy Pig,’ stemmed largely from its cost. The payroll was staggering: a cook, a farm hand, a groom, three gardeners, a nanny, a nursery maid, an odd man for boilers and boot, two housemaids, two kitchen maids, a lady’s maid and two secretaries. When she complained about the backlog of bills, he suggested he could put them in the black by “going into milk.” She promptly reminded him of the red mite and vermin that had decimated the chickens and the sow “covered with lice.” No more was heard of milk.

I don’t know how you all got to know Anne Boleyn; of course I remember King Henry VIII history and off with your heads dear wifey.  Did it seem alive to me? No not really.

Now, you can laugh if you like but she came alive for me watching the series The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry.  The actress who played Anne could not have been more perfect.   I did not fully understand why a man would go thru all that trouble for a woman till I saw her in that film.  You watch him be consumed and she’s the girl to make it happen.  She’s got beauty, facial expressions that say everything and sheer determination.  She schemes and she plots.  She was human to me now and not a person in a history book.  The actress who plays her is spitting fire.  I suggest you watch this series.  When Chris said do you want to go to Hever Castle too?  I jumped for joy.

http://www.sho.com/sho/the-tudors/home  (the series)

We pull up to the parking lot near the castle to have a picnic.  Wow Chris and Janet thought of everything!  I imagined the picnic to be maybe a wrapped sandwich and a bag of chips but this was a spread and let me add with proper plates and silverware!   I’ve recently become a big fan of Keeping up Appearances with Hyacinth, whose last name is Bucket which she refuses to say (or allows anyone else to say) and has deemed herself Mrs. Bouquet !!!!!!!!  pronounced:  bewwwwwww kayyyyyyyy !  Well once seeing this I could not help joking “okay Mrs. Bouquet and when am I going to be invited to one of your candlelight suppers?”  We had beautiful sandwiches, sausages, meat, garden salad, potato salad, fruit and much much more along with a bottle of wine to top it off.    The sky was so blue and the grass so green.  England is stunning when the sun shines.  She just glows.

Upon arrival, Janet buys me the Hever Castle guidebook as a keepsake.  So sweet!  That book and the one from Chartwell are going with me this weekend for a small overnight trip on my sister’s boat.  The approach to the castle is very cool  I feel twinges in my tummy, here at this place a little girl played.  She did not know what was going to happen to her.  Well none of us do really but I do know what happened to her.

Stand out moments for me:

*Being in Anne’s bedroom, I could imagine her looking out the window. I did too!

*The love letters from Henry

*The Tudor paintings

*The room they said was Henry’s

Hair standing up on my arms moments:

*Her book of Hours, it started making me get tears.

*The words:  Remember me

*The gallery – there is a long gallery which has full life-size figures of Henry and the six wives.   The ladies are all different.  Each has their own manner of dress, hair, jewelry and expression.  I was really taken by this room but seeing Henry VIII and Anne standing alone together it gave me cold chills right up my spine I tell you.   History coming alive!  I wasn’t the only one to feel it, Chris did too!

Eventually we find our way to the room filled with instruments of torture.  YIKES!  Looking at these things I would try to figure out what it does than read the description.  Thumb screws?  OUCHHHH!   Creepy stuff in there!

Once we finished viewing the castle, we made our way to the grounds.  These are very impressive grounds.  There is much to see and do here.  We never got to complete all of it but we did see tents, heard merry music, saw some of the stunning gardens, archery lessons, fountains and swans, swans-to-be as well.  There were four eggs in the nest and the attendant told me in about two-weeks they will hatch.   The swans didn’t want me talking to them either.  One made a mean face at me.  I thought well if I had to look at tourists gawking at me all day I’d make a mean swan face too!   I wonder how those baby swans are doing?

I believe we were off to find the garden maze and instead found a splashing water maze.  Like nice adults we stand there a bit and watch the kids skipping along the rocks and getting wet laughing like crazy.  Some rocks have triggers on them and you will get wet!    I give Chris a look of I’ll go if you go and we did.  Next thing you know we are giggling and hopping along too.  The object is to get to the center without getting wet.  We are so good at this I tell you!  Feeling proud we decide to get off and as I’m taking a step I set off a water fall right on Chris!  I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.  Chris is looking at me with blinking wet eyes and I am dying a thousand deaths looking at her.  Hysterical!

We’ve got to get going for the drive back and what a day it’s been.  Two historical figures in one day, can’t ask for better than that.   Right outside Hever Castle stands a pub called the Henry VIII Inn.  We decide that’s a Kodak moment for sure and go take some photos.  One day I’d like to go in there and have a meal.  It looks so charming!    Matter of fact, I’ve got to get to this castle again and explore the grounds more.  We would like an overnight nearby.

Here’s some reviews on the pub:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g503908-d1507180-Reviews-King_Henry_VIII_Inn-Hever_Sevenoaks_District_Kent_England.html

Well once again, I am admiring the British signs along the way and the pretty houses.  I like them being named as well.  Chatting away nearing Chris’s house, I suddenly hear a tone.  Well kind of chirp, a slight screech and a woo sound.  There’s a sound emitting from Chris!   She’s like a robot.  I look at her wide-eyed and she says, Ohhhh that’s my hearing aid!    I told her I was beginning to think you were the bionic woman!  After that, each and every time that hearing aid (I think secretly conversing with Mars) made a sound we both were no more good.   I was dying laughing and she’s trying to explain to me it needs a part and can’t stop laughing to even finish the sentence which has me wailing.  Tears are flowing and my sides are splitting as we are pulling up to the house and that thing is still talking.   I am making that motion like I’m going to spring up in the air like Jamie Sommers.   Remember that show?  http://www.thebionicwoman.com/    We could hardly get in the house.  I bet the neighbors thought we were drunk!

What a day, what fun!  I won’t ever forget it and Lady J will be coming back!  That’s how I like to be titled when I’m in England.  I’m Giannetta when I’m in Italy, I’m Jeannette when I’m home.  Thought I’d let you know so there can be no confusion.

Joking… Don’t know who I’m going to be in Ireland and Amsterdam yet!  Tomorrow I head to central London!

(to be continued)……am steadily writing each day, each minute that I can

That evening we relax and I pack up for Central London, I’ll be staying at a hostel, YHA Central.  Me, Chris & Stuart take the train from Southend.  Seated behind Stuart and Chris is a girl.  I’m germ phobic and get sick with colds easy when traveling.   So I’m keenly aware of sniffers, coughers, red noses and watery eyes.  Well she is one of them.  If I can “runnnnn Forest” far away from them I do but there are times your trapped and cannot escape.   I secretly try and warn Stuart and Chris!  Don’t touch anything behind you!   She’s a cute little girl about 20 years old with reddish hair and dressed in black and white.  She must be going to work.  She’s got that cold so I want nothing to do with her, no smiles, no small talk out of me.  Matter of fact, I hope never to see her again!  Well that was not to be the case but I’ll tell you about that later!
I believe at the Tower tube stop we have a problem with the line we need and it’s delayed. Chris who’s good at this tube business finds us an alternative route we switch to a bus, the pretty double-decker red ones.  I’d like to also add the suitcase I brought to this trip is one of my news ones, famous deluxe spinner wheels or so they say.  I’m here to tell you that thing is good in one place only.  The airport.  The buggers locked up, would spin the wrong way, you get heavy resistance when you pull it with the handle.  Inch by inch, I’m getting nowhere and Stuart rescues me and takes the beast off my hands. This bus ride was a good sightseeing method in itself!  Chris points out things to me and I’m busily trying to take it all in and snap some photos. It takes us a lot longer than we thought to get to the hostel for me to check in but finally it’s done.  Kind of cute guy behind the counter checks me in and asks where you from?  I said“America”  and asked him “what about you”?  He has an accent.  He says “Spain” !   I tell him I’m going to Spain after London.  Gosh I’ll be in trouble if they all look like that in Spain I’m thinking.  Up to my room for a quick survey, get my locker and all that good stuff.  The hostel has a bar so Chris and Stuart have a beer called “Sol”  I believe and we order up some nachos and French fries. The hostel doesn’t have a lot of food but what they do have is not too bad.  It’s a lively atmosphere in this hostel, bright with color and signs.  It’s Tarzan hot in London so that beer is going down very well.  It’s all ages which is nice because I don’t want to be looking like everyone’s momma! I’ll post photos for your viewing pleasure.  I didn’t get to meet my bunk mates but I will later, a little earlier than I anticipated. I’ll cover that in a bit.  Oh and I have a top bunk.  After proper nourishment, we head to the National Portrait gallery for the special exhibit on the Queen since it’s her diamond jubilee.  I could not take photos in here but managed one while I didn’t know the rule.   I think it was a great exhibition and I loved what I saw but wished there had been more.   There’s a kind of 3-d photo up where she’s waiting in-between shots and just closes her eye for a second and he snapped it and I think it turned out beautiful!

Stuart went to a shop he likes and we plan to meet him later.  Chris and I make our way to Covent Garden which is PACKED!  On the approach, I see there is a street performer.  This one I had to look twice at to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me.  They were not.  There is a guy who’s wearing nothing but a pair of skin-tight undies the color of salmon.  Inside the color of salmon area, if you ask me, he has added extra kibbles and bits.  Chris doesn’t see him.  Chris look!  I point her the direction of the pink boulder.  I am laughing so hard while watching her face register shock.   You know I don’t even know what his performance was about but I won’t soon forget those undies!  Chris your London I see is going to be a fun and CRAZY town.  What a vibe.  Off thru the market we go finding a place for some wine.  We settle on an italian place.  We have wine, toasts and a pizza.  A person could people watch like nobody’s business here at this Covent Garden.  Stuart joins us and I’m not sure if we told him about the salmon fellow.  I think I did !  Stuart has a great sense of humor so I know he won’t mind.

It’s time to wind up night number one and we figure the best way for me to get back to my hostel is the taxi.  Off I go in one of those big black taxis.  Gosh you get some leg room!  When we arrive to the hostel the taxi man gives me his card because I mentioned I’m coming back in September.   He’s a nice guy.

I go up to the room and it’s baking.  I never researched one bit on getting a place with a/c in London.  I was pretty sure I was only going to be either wet or cold in London.  Maybe both.  I leave the room and go back outside the hostel.  There’s a lively group out there.  A few from Brazil, two fellows from Amsterdam with magnificent hair and a girl from Canada.  They are having some drinks which you can only do out front till 11 p.m.   I decide a Corona might be in order.  I get directions from them on the convenience store down the street.  Come back and chat with the group.  A guy comes up with a guitar, very Russian sounding to me, there’s chit chat going on with him.  I think he is three sheets to the wind.  He’s asking “you American”?  to the group of us out there and not for all the tea in China am I going to open my mouth.  He “like de Amerdican voman”  he says !   well….he must of caught a whisper I said to the Canadian girl and zeros in on me.   He’s talking kind of raunchy and we say  “you ought to leave.” One of the hostel staff comes out and tells him he has to leave.  Now.  He leaves cussing all the way.   Funny the next day, I see the staff member who rescued us and he says to me “hello troublemaker”   Eyes big, I say “what”?  He laughs and says “kidding that’s not the first time they had trouble out of this guy hanging around.”   What’s his problem I ask?  Answer:  Alcohol.

Well after this rather exciting finish to the night I go back into the hostel for nite nite.  There are eight of us to this room.    The window only opens a crack, there’s no fan and I’m boiling.   I put on my unattractive granny looking night-gown that is good for warm temps, it’s light and fluffy.   I try to make sure no skin touches skin.  Sprawled out I wait for hot sleep.  I get it till I hear  loud piercing phone ringing type sound early in the morning.  Dazed sitting up,  I look down from my upper bunk and like the boy in that movie from Sixth Sense that says “I see dead people” well,  “I see naked people.:   Well bare *sses actually.  I wasn’t the only one boiling in that room.   All heads are popping up now and we are saying what is that?  Is that anyone’s phone?  No it’s not, it’s a fire alarm in the hostel.   What do we do?  Get out.   I know this, I am not going out in my granny night-gown that’s for sure so I slip my dress on from last night grab the purse and follow the crowds down the steps and out of the hostel.   The street is line up with us.  After about a forty-five minute wait we get the all clear.   Do you have to see the people from last night wearing the same dress you had on last night?  Yes you do…. and I’m thinking I hope they know I was in bed and not coming home from some  “walk of shame.”?

Today my concentration is going to be on seeing the sites as well as Winston Churchill history.   Oh my….. and before I forget I’ve got to tell you about while we were in the tube station getting to my hostel.  There is an older fellow wearing a suit filled with sequins.  Well not sequins but pearls.  For a second I thought of Elvis.  Chris tells me he is a “pearly king”.  I never heard of such a thing.  Well a pearly king is this from wiki:

The practice of wearing clothes decorated with pearl buttons originated in the 19th century. It is first associated with Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who collected money for charity. At the time, London costermongers (apple sellers) were in the habit of wearing trousers decorated at the seams with pearl buttons that had been found by market traders. Croft adapted this to create a pearly suit to draw attention to himself and aid his fund-raising activities. In 1911 an organised pearly society was formed in Finchley,   North London

Death and memorial

Croft died in January 1930 and his funeral was attended by 400 followers from all over London receiving national media coverage. In 1934 a memorial was unveiled to him in St Pancras Cemetery and at a speech to mark the occasion he was said to have raised £5,000 for those suffering in London’s hospitals. The statue was later moved to the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields,Westminster. The inscription reads:

In memory of Henry Croft who died March 16th 1930 aged 68 years. The original Pearly King.

 Pearly organisations

The pearlies are now divided into several active groups. Croft’s founding organisation is called the Original London Pearly Kings and Queens Association. It was reformed in 1975. Other groups have also been established over the years. The oldest is the Pearly Guild, which began in 1902; modern additions include the London Pearly Kings and Queens Society which started in 2001 following a disagreement, another is the Pearly Kings and Queens Guild Despite the rivalries, each group is associated with a church in central London and is committed to raising money for London-based charities.

He is as cute as a button!  A pearly button!  I ask him if I may take a photo and he lets me.

So back to the next day, I notice a sign while having breakfast that there is a free walking tour of London at the hostel at 10:30 a.m.   I decide I will go on that.  I like this hostel for their activities.  If I had more time, I would have done more.  A guide shows up for the tour and it is about 15 of us.  She’s originally from Australia.  She came to London to study and has never left.  She is involved in a host of different jobs in London but her passion is acting and she’s got some parts too!    She’s a pretty girl with a great sense of humor and I really hope this works out for her.    I know all this because I am a fast walker and so is she so while we walk fast and wait for the others to catch up we chat.   We are heading over to Buckingham Palace.  On the way, we go thru Green Park and she explains how the park is green because a former King used to come here and pick the flowers for his mistress.  Well the Queen wasn’t having any of that business and she had every bit of flowers removed.  This park is still, just green.

How lucky was I to see the approach of the changing of the guard procession.  I didn’t get to stay long for this but wow…..this is the British Empire you’ve been reading or hearing about all your life.  This pageantry says it all.   After this tour, we depart near Westminster Alley.  This was a very nice tour.  I’m glad I went with them.  Now on my own, I decide I’m not going in Westminster Abbey but I’m going to try to walk all the way around it and study it like sculpture from the outside.    It is incredible beauty.  I cannot wait to see the inside come September on my next trip.  I had to make sure I didn’t put all my travel goodies in one basket.   That was hard.  After my exploration here ,I make my way down to the Thames.   Who do I see on the way walking toward me?  The girl from the train with the cold.  What are the chances of that?

So  I’m watching the people and the boats and decide on a stuffed pancake from a stand.  In the shade because London is still Tarzan hot I decide I’m getting on one of those boats too!  I’ll get the one to the Tower of London.   One day I’d like to do more of these boat trips but for now this will be enough.  The breeze feels great.  My big highlight is approaching the London Bridge, Tower Bridge as it’s called here.   Riding upon the Thames with a big blue sky and warm sunshine on your skin is a London blessing I decide.

Warm and happy,  I set off for the Churchill War Rooms.  Today I’ll be going down right to the place of action.   When I travel I do try to get in a bit of WWII history if it is available.   Sometimes I travel just for history.  I’ve been to Normandy to pay my respects. Normandy is incredible and I feel like this museum is going to be the same.  It’s not too crowded so it feels like I almost have the place to myself.   I find it fascinating being transported back in time to a place in history.  The exhibits which are many are full of interesting information.

Highlights for me:

The transatlantic telephone room

The photos of Winston Churchill among the rubble

The photos of soldiers

There is a lot of personal information about Churchill, his work ethic and the difficulty in dealing with him at times.  I think he drove a hard bargain but gave just as much or more than he asked of others.

The Churchill quote:  No lover ever studied the whims of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt.

The sleeping quarters.   The maps.  I could list many more things.  This is a place to take your time visiting.  There is a lot to absorb.  I could go again.  I highly recommend a visit here.

Next I head to the park.  I believe St. James Park.   With the beautiful weather there are a lot of families out on this day and I saw the dreaded grey squirrel!   I remember reading an article at home that there was some problem with the grey squirrels in the UK.  I can’t remember what the problem was?  Eating too much?  Fighting the red squirrels?  For the life of me,  I couldn’t remember but I did snap a photo of one and whispered “troublemaker” to him.  I think it was a him.    I’ll post some photos in the slide show of the war rooms and the park shortly.

From after this park till later in the evening at dark, I have no idea where I went?  That’s what you get for waiting a couple of months and start writing or for not making notes for each day.  I have no discipline.   What I do remember is telling the girl I met from Canada that I was heading to the theater district to take night photos if my camera would cooperate.  It is hit or miss with night shots for me.  Tomorrow I am leaving London and will be headed to Spain.  I cannot go home without trying at least.  It’s a great long walk I take thru warm London.  I try my best with the night shots.  I get lost a bit and remember going thru a kind of Chinatown and then must have stumbled upon some red light district because the signs were changing to things like “nude” “girls” and things like that.  I find my way out and by the time I am back to the hostel I am very tired.  I’ve got to pack for Spain tomorrow.  Later I’ll come back to London after the Spain part of the trip right smack into Diamond Jubilee.  Very exciting times and beat to London.   Little do I know there is going to be a problem tomorrow and I will miss my flight to Madrid.

I get up am proud of myself being all ready for the flight but I’ve got time to kill so I decide I’ll go to the nearby Regents Park and explore that, it’s not a far walk from the hostel.  Something is going on and I can’t get into the gate so I keep walking down a road parallel to the park till I see an opening that does not have a policeman blocking the entrance.  I decide to approach the police and ask what is going on here.  He said there was an assault.  He didn’t say what kind but told me the other half of the park is open.  I head in that direction.   I took a book with me to read and find me a nice bench in the shade and really just relax.  I like this park.  I am wondering how Spain is going to be and thinking of all the cool things I saw and did  in London.  I like London a lot.  The people were very nice, friendly and funny.  There’s a reason why New York is NY, Paris is Paris.  I’ve been there and I get it but now I know why London is London.  It’s one of those kind places with a large personality.   After a bit, I’m off to lunch but really breakfast for me.  On the way, I almost tripped over my own two feet seeing Kennedy.  Well a bust of him.

After eating, I am stuffed but make my way to the hostel and get my suitcase which I’ve named the *astardo on account of the spinner wheels that don’t spin.  Arriving at Heathrow , I get out my electronic ticket copy and sit down to have a look at it and I’ll be a SOB== I’ve missed my flight!!!  I have messed up the times.  I read the paper wrong earlier in the trip and have another flight time mixed up with this one!

With the heart racing,  I make my way to the counter.  I explain my mistake and the lady at the counter does some checking for me and can get me on another flight two hours after my original flight time.  I thank her tremendously and want to go outside and kick my own *** !!!  On top of it, I am meeting two friends (there’s a group of us girls who travel together from around the world)  we call ourselves the traveling scarves of Italy.  We LOVE Italy and we love scarves.  Long story on all that….but I am meeting two of them.  We all met on TA back in the day.    I am meeting Julie who is from near Liverpool and Kathleen who lives in Ireland but is British.  Goodness sake they are going to wonder what the heck has happened to me.

When I get back to London, Chris is going to meet me at the London City Airport.

Madrid

On the plane to Madrid, I am with a big class who is returning from San Diego.  I believe they have been in California for six-months to a year?  I was talking to the girl next to me and asked her “you excited to come home”?  Not really she said.  I’m thinking she must have really enjoyed herself in the US.  I’m heavy hearted too when I come back from trips.  Only cure I know of is the next one!   The Madrid airport looks like a scene right out of star wars if you ask me, very cool, very different!

I’ve got a text out to Julie and Kathleen that I have missed my flight.  My plan is to get the airport bus to La Plaza de Cibeles.  (Cibeles fountain)  I should be able to walk from there to the hotel which should be about 15 minutes.  Coming out I’m not real sure where is that bus stop?  I go back inside to the information desk.  I think it was by a yellow pole but I’ll have to check with Julie on that one.   My memory is sketchy.  I’ve got to wait a good bit for the bus.  On board now I’m taking in the scenery of Madrid.  It’s so neat for me arriving at a new place while you know nothing.  What’s it going to be like, what’s the vibe?   My first introduction to Spanish people is really on the bus.  The suitcase with the sticky wheels which won’t roll or spin properly on any street decides on certain surfaces to work with spinning precision.   Like on a bus to Madrid center, I’m seated near the back of the bus, the case next to me on the floor.  I do have my hand on it but at one point it gets away from me.  Seated around me are four guys.  They are together but not sitting next to each other.  Well one of them jumps for it and saves it from crashing thru the front window of the bus. (Exaggeration I know)  He’s in a block of four-seats and holds it for me on another open chair.   He steadied it with his knee and everything.  That was very nice.   He made sure I had it secure as I disembark at the Cibeles.  Nice fellow.

I decide no way am I taking that suitcase with the sticking wheels except on a bus thru this crowd.  I get a taxi to my hotel which is near Puerto Del Sol.  The Hostal Plaza D’ort.  It was inexpensive, clean and a good location.  I’ll write a review later.  Here is the link:  http://www.plazadort.com/en/

Julie and Kathleen are going to wait for me outside my hotel.  I believe it’s about 9:30 p.m. and this area is packed with people.  It was like a scene out of New York.  People are everywhere!  Oh wow, how am I going to find them?  I do find the hotel on the plaza and proceed to check-in.  I do not see Julie or Kathleen.  I get my room, it’s small but I knew that and I don’t care because I need a place to sleep, shower and dress.  This suited me perfectly.   I just dump the suitcase and set out to find my friends.  They can’t believe I got by them but somehow I did.  It’s a Saturday night so the crowd is in full swing to enjoy their weekend.  I’m kind of overwhelmed but I don’t believe that is the correct word.   My senses were in overload trying to take in the scenery with the shops, restaurants, cafes, how words were written, and the sounds.  It’s an exciting overload. Madrid is a living breathing machine.  It’s high-energy with it’s own unique vibe especially on a Saturday night.

All three of us are starved.  Where to eat?  We start walking.  Into the crowds, out of the crowds we finally settle on something.  La Puebla Restaurant.  Here is their website:  http://www.restaurantelapuebla.es/  If someone could translate the history that’s noted there I would love to know.

I believe we were the only tourists there.  The waiter does not speak English and the menu is in Spanish.  That is going to become a theme on this trip.  I am not complaining one bit.  I am in Spain and the language is Spanish.  I travel for places that are not like home.  It’s the differences I find sheer joy in experiencing.  It’s a type of challenge.  Kathleen has a mini-guide book with some translations for menu’s but we are having no luck with that but a few words.  Sangria is universal word and that worked!  It may be a tourist drink but I like it, I love the look of it in the pitcher and in the glass.  Julie and I order some and Kathleen beer.  The waiter has great patience with us because trust me we had to take a long time looking at that menu.  Kathleen ordered salmon and truthfully I have no idea what I had.  Why do I remember Kathleen’s salmon and not my own plate?

There’s something about older Spanish men.  I have to smile as I write this, that something is they are older yes, some very older yes but they are not dead and they like the ladies.  They will always like the ladies.  Till their dying day!  It is a kind of subtle flirtation.  This restaurant is my first experience with this but it won’t be the last.

At some point, I noticed a few tables of them because are they staring at me I’m thinking?   Am I holding the fork wrong?  Eating the food wrong?  You know how you can go into that self-conscious mode.  While walking by our table out to smoke I think they would smile a bit as they walk by but with a sort of twinkle in their eye.

As I am out to smoke later, see them again, some come out, the eye twinkle , appreciate nod with a once over look.   Not rude at all.  The young ones are different and I’ll get to that later.  The younger ones do something with their mouth and it makes a clicking sound which I cannot do because I tried.  It almost sounds like a woodpecker tapping on a tree.

I said to Julie I believe I think the Spanish older men are still spitting fire!   75 or 80 years old too!   Wow!

I grew to love those men.  Especially in their groups walking, hands behind their back walking slow, talking.  I could watch them for ages.  I did try to snap photos later.

I didn’t want to ever forget them.

We are all in different hotels and Julie and Kathleen walk me back to mine.  The streets and plaza are still very alive and will be long into the night.  Back to my room, settled in the bed I’m thinking so this is Madrid.  I like it.

Day Two in Madrid

We are catching the hop on bus.  Julie has a bar under her hotel and you stand up and get food and beer or whatever you want to drink.  It’s always crowded.  The people behind the counter work very hard getting to all these customers.   It was Museo del Jamon near Puerto del Sol with great prices and cold beer.  We got sandwiches for the bus and I believe an Amstel draft for breakfast!  Won’t be the first time either!  I sampled many different beers on this Spain trip.  This Museo del Jamon for me became a ritual a plate of that ham and a cold beer.  Heaven.  Jamon everywhere in Spain.  Double-heaven.  The conversations I tried to have at that counter with the people standing with you with my three words of Spanish, their three words of english (some of which were those spitting fire older Spanish men) couples, other travelers.  Priceless.

So here we go, we are going to see Madrid.  We head to the open deck of the bus and it’s a blue Madrid sky.

Madrid is beautiful.  It’s new and it is old.  I sit back and take in the buildings, green spaces and streets of people.  There are beautiful statues, gates and shoes!  Yes shoes done in art!   I don’t know why they were there.  Maybe someone else could explain this to me.  I’ve seen this kind of thing done in New York with painted cows by artists scattered all over the city but these were heels.   These shoes were absolutely cool!    I do have a few photos of them. I am going to upload them now in the slide show.  You can always click the arrows to go thru the photos faster.  Sometimes I don’t have patience for slide-shows.

Highlights of this day for me:

Seeing the streets Madrid

The Templo de Debold (we missed getting in by five-minutes)

http://www.gomadrid.com/sights/templo-debod.html

cold beer under the trees outside

Keeping in touch with the inner child while we got on the swings yelling “weeeeeee”!

Paello – my first one!  I’m hooked.

At some point we are at the palace and they have the wonderful fountains. Madrid is hot!  Real hot!  Wonder if we’ll go to a Spanish jail if we take off our shoes and put our feet in for a bit?  A paddle as my friend Kathleen calls it—if you do it, I’ll do it!  We did it!

My gosh, that is just what the doctor ordered, that nice cold water on our feet that were a bit sore from all the walking.  It gave them new life!  From the street above that kind of looks down to the palace gardens with steps are two men.  I think one is waving and yelling something?  I ask the girls see that man up there is he saying something to us?  Maybe I am going to Spanish prison?   He waves more, I wave back and down the steps he comes with another fellow.  I tell J&K I think he is coming here to us.  We’ll find out soon enough.  He did.

He is with a friend visiting from Cuba who wears a lot of gold.  He’s very friendly and I cannot tell you a whole lot of what was said he knew some English.  He was from Madrid and excited we liked Madrid.  The guy from Cuba could just smile.  We talk of that trolley car you take across parts of Madrid and I believe that was where they were off to visit which has been something me and Kathleen planned to do at some point.   They take some photos of us– some with them for his friend to take back to Cuba.  We get smooches on the cheeks and big hugs when they leave like we were family.  He’s a jolly soul this man and is less reserved than I notice in Madrid.  I am getting a vibe from the people of Madrid of an initial barrier and that may not be the correct word but they kind of almost squint their eyes sizing you up and check you out before they are going to warm up to you.   Once this initial phase passes,  it becomes a whole different approach.  It’s than more warm and friendly but you better pass the test!   That’s how I felt anyway.

Tearing ourselves away from the fountain, we carry on to the palace and listen to the fellow making music with the glass harps.   He’s quite good!  We go on a tour thru the palace.

Highlights for me:

The main staircase

The fancy dining room

The Throne room

The old violin displays

The Porcelain Room

The Royal Pharmacy

There are lots more to list and I do recommend a visit to the palace.  I love all the grounds around the palace.

Now to clarify something I don’t mean to imply the Spanish are not friendly.  People are busy, they have tourists running all around, things on their mind, economic worries, a lot of things are going on and if that was the case and I felt unwanted as a visitor, I would not have booked another Spain trip in six-months.

Now…..on to the flamenco something I have fallen head over heels for….the dance!  Julie too!

We decide on Villa Rosa.  It is close and has decent reviews.  Here is the website:

http://www.villa-rosa.es/English/inicio.php

We start out at an Irish bar first.  Some special… one of the fellows outside convinced us to try so in we go and I am not a shot person.  If I do shots, it’s not going to be pretty!  I’ll be hanging from the chandeliers or something!  Julie gets tequila with her drink!   I need to stop a minute and talk about the sun.  I am getting royally ripped off with sunshine over here in the US.  It’s 10 at night and the sun is out the sky is blue?  Maybe even later I’m not sure but it messes me up with my sense of time.  We have a plan to have drinks, eat than the flamenco show.   With the sunshine, I’m thinking we have way more time than we do when suddenly Julie or Kathleen says oh we have to go, Kathleen is skipping this show.  Oh no!  What about food?  We talk to the guy at the show and ask can we switch to dinner with the show?  No problem he says.  I don’t need much but do need a little something.  He leads us to the tables.  Gosh we are not going to be close to the stage and I get up my nerve to ask can we sit close to the stage for our first flamenco?  The tables right by the stage have been reserved.   He thinks it over and takes us to the 2nd table to the stage.  Fantastic spot!   Later the people enter who are at that first table.  It is two couples and a wonderful fun group.  They order so much food!   The man next to me offers assistance with the menu and they offer us tastings of their items and explain the flamenco a bit to us.   He says I can take photos but not a video.   Their wives have such pretty outfits and hair.  Spanish women are very beautiful.  Their skin is gorgeous!    I’m so happy these two couples sat next to us!

The place is packed now.

Now the performers come on stage.  When they are performing you should not talk.  It will ruin the concentration.   The first dancer for me was the best!  Lots of emotional intensity! There is hand clapping, guitar, singing, foot stomping and shouts.   At times, she would be up on her tip toes, she would be very still–eyes closed than burst into a frenzy of dance and stomping.    Her fingers and her arms had a life of their own as well!   Absolutely incredible!  At times she was moving so fast I could not even get a photo.   Me and Julie looked at each other and mouth the words “oh my gosh” !!   By the time she was finished, I was ready to collapse on the floor drained!   Julie had a tear and we were in awe.

I enjoyed the rest of the show as well tremendously but for me, this first dancer sent out an energy that just captivated you from start to finish.   That’s why she’s right up on top of the trip report.  I don’t know her name or any information but if you can go see her, do go!!!   If you can see flamenco go!   I am no expert on the best places but ask around and try to make it happen.  I hope your experience will be as good as mine.

Leaving I was telling Julie, I could see this every night!  We head back to near my hostel which has a type of indoor/outdoor bar right near the door.  There’s a large group of men with matching yellow t-shirts on and I am not sure where they were from but they start saying “hey come over”  “mohito”  !   We reply thanks but we are going to bed.  The entire group starts shouting at the same time, NO  NO  NO!!    Mojito !  Mojito !

Heavens to betsy , what to do?  They kind of shuffle us in and ask names and all that good jazz.   It’s a lot of them.  After a bit, me and Julie make a break for it and scramble right thru them and hope they don’t notice.  Well they did and they are all shouting in a chant, “ NO NO NO!    Before you can say hop, skip and a jump I am in that hotel door in a flash.  Julie has flown like a bird down to her hotel.    Good golly miss molly you could have heard them from Puerto del Sol.  I’d say for them the mojitos must have been going down very smooth that evening!

Two things the next day, one I can’t find my watch, the second I am getting moved to a bigger room!   I didn’t ask they just said they will move me.  Woo hoo!  I’ll be on a lower floor too!  Julie and Kathleen are going to the Prado.  I plan to meet them but everything about that day takes longer.    The guy from the hotel I could speak the best with helps me move after house keeping has been complete.  He’s a good guy with a smiling face.  I told him about my flamenco last night and he gave me a name of one he likes to go to when he goes, thru out my stay he looks out for me.   Once finally out and about, I get on the hop on bus which goes in a totally different route than I thought it would, ok np, let’s see what this one has to offer.  I guess I’m not meeting Julie and Kathleen anytime soon.

Eventually I do get to the Prado.  Julie’s been there about three hours and was headed to another museum and Kathleen wanted to rest back at her room.  We makes plans to meet in the evening for dinner.   I did not get to explore the Prado as much as I wanted to but I am happy with what I saw which mainly was some El Greco, Goya and others.  When Julie and Kathleen go back home I’ll be headed to Toledo for more El Greco.

Eventually I do get to the Prado.  Julie’s been there about three hours and was headed to another museum and Kathleen wanted to rest back at her room.  We makes plans to meet in the evening for dinner.   I did not get to explore the Prado as much as I wanted to but I am happy with what I saw which mainly was some El Greco, Goya and others.  When Julie and Kathleen go back home I’ll be headed to Toledo for more El Greco.

After meeting up with Julie and Kathleen, we head to the Plaza Mayor which I have not seen.  It is a pretty square and we settle down for a drink.  Problem was teeny tiny black bugs the size of gnats settle down with us.   We’re lighting cigarettes and doing anything we can to keep them away which is futile because you see them all over your clothes and on the waiters.  I don’t know where they came from but it was a swarm all over the plaza.  At first I thought it was just us but I saw many others trying to get them away or off their clothes.    Yikes!   We decide to leave but not before seeing the police on horses and get a pet in if they will let us.    Horses are beautiful!

We stop in the cathedral and have a look around.  It’s a pretty cathedral and we are unable to go in the crypt because it is closing.

The museum restaurant we had a drink at before near the palace is where we decide to go and get something to eat.  We eat inside because it’s nice and cool.  It’s empty plus early still for Spain dinner time.  I’m not real crazy about the food here but it was okay.   I do like sitting out on their patio chairs and people watch.

Me and Julie see Kathleen off and head to the Plaza Santa Ana for a drink, it’s her last night and speaking of people watching this is a good spot for it too!    There are neck massages going on and if you look at them they will be right over to you asking if you want one.    Our waiter is funny and a smart *ss who proceeds to correct me on everything I pronounce wrong like Pilzner Urquell!    A girl comes near the massagers and plays guitar which is really nice.  An accordion player tried to move in close and thankfully someone made him move because we couldn’t hear the girl.  She was lovely!     After a while, we call it a night, Julie has a flight the next day.  Kathleen and I have a  train the next day to Segovia.   We are going to stay overnight.  It’s time to play Cinderella because Segovia has a castle!     Yipee!    Girls love castles.  We do anyway!  I’ll get back to Madrid to do more things but for now I’m excited about this castle!

Segovia

We just pack an overnight bag for Segovia.  I’ve got a backpack, valuables secured but not in the backpack.  Girls, bra stashes are your best friend, especially on subways and that’s for anywhere in the world.   Plus we’ve got good radar in that region, if someone goes messing about… we will know it instantly.    After a purse theft in Prague, passport and all, I try not to take chances.   Why risk it?  I don’t have time for embassies when I am on vacation.

I meet Kathleen at the bear.  I feel affectionate toward that bear and the strawberry tree.  I love that symbol of Madrid.  We did see one on someone’s weather vane too!  How cool is that?

Spain you’ve got wonderful trains.  I now regret buying a flight from Barcelona to Seville for a later trip in the winter.  I wish I would have booked a train instead.   In a hop, skip and a jump we are in Segovia.   Once off the bus that takes you into town, you are faced with the aqueducts.  They are dramatic!  No photo can do them justice as far as I am concerned.  I came for the castle but these aqueducts pull you in and I find myself staring at them all the time, very captivating.  I could not stop taking photos of them in all the different shades of light thru out the day and evening.  They change. We get welcome calls from the starlings or sparrows, not sure what birds they are but I like their sound.  They are flying to and fro and having a good time of it near the aqueducts.  Matter of fact, they party here quite often.

We go uphill past the aqueducts to our hotel.  Right across the street is a church but the best part of all is who lives at the church.  Storks!   BIG ONES!  They’ve got nests on top!  They preen, show off and impress!   I’m impressed!  Kathleen too!  Once in our hotel, we drop the bag and head for the castle.  We stop at the tourist information desk and they suggest walking there which we did plus this gives us an opportunity to see Segovia.  I have to say this, Segovia is stunning.  If you are in Madrid and can go for a day trip, I highly recommend it but what I recommend more is a few nights.  I could stay here a week myself.  I already have the wheels spinning in my head on how one day I can do just that.

Butterflies are in my tummy as we head to the castle.  Fairytales, playing dress up when you’re small, pretending you are a princess, these things must have made quite an impression on me when I was small because getting to visit a castle is like a fantasy come true.  I so wish I had a twirling dress on but for today it’s jeans.  blaaah !  Me and Kathleen love a castle and she can fill you in on her feelings about Segovia.

Here is some history of the Alcazar of Segovia from Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alc%C3%A1zar_of_Segovia

http://www.feelmadrid.com/segovia.html

We wander slowly thru the castle admiring the throne room, the ceilings, furniture, tapestries and armor.  There is a king’s room, a chapel and while we are enjoying this, there is a cool gentle breeze blowing thru the castle.   It’s like walking back in time!!!  So this is how a princess lives!   You can buy a ticket and take the winding staircase to the tower!  Should we?  We shall!!!  My advice, don’t miss this opportunity. The views are truly incredible.  Matter of fact, we just sat up there for a while pretending we lived there!  Ha ha!  How do you tear yourself away from a fairy tale?   I’ll tell you how, by being hungry!

Heading to the plaza where the cathedral is we decide on an outdoor café for a drink than made a decision to have food there as well. Food at these types of places is not usually good but I was happy with it and even happier with the Sangria. Soon the cathedral is going to have visitors! Like the Italians with their evening passeggiata, the storks congregate on the cathedral which is an incredible sight at night.  I surely wish my camera captured how beautiful this looked at night.   As you admire the beautiful streets, buildings and charm of Segovia you also must consider the legends.

Aqueducts – according to legend, the Devil in love with a beautiful young woman who fetched water every day from a spring, offered to build the Aqueduct in just one night in exchange for her soul. Luckily for her, the Virgin interceded in his plan and brought an early dawn surprising the devil before he had time to place the very last stone. The young woman’s soul was saved and at the same time she was set free from her daily toil of fetching water from the spring. Supposedly each of the tiny holes left in the stones represent the dents made by the Devil’s fingers as he picked them up!

Cathedral – The Devil’s Cart

It was a very common practice in Spain to attribute the building of large monuments to the Devil. There is a legend regarding the devil’s cart and the Segovia Cathedral architect. When the architect realized he was not going to finish on time, he made a pact with the Devil. Just before finishing, he broke the pact and the devil was furious, he petrified the last shipment of ashlars. This explains why one of the cathedral’s towers is much flatter than the other.

The Casa de los Picos – I call it the house with points

Legend is that while fighting the Arabs, the owner captured and tortured an important man. Once back in Segovia, he dedicated himself to raising his only daughter. Guiomar, who claimed to have been impregnated by a youth who climbed over the wall of the house. On hearing this, her father ordered points to be placed on the walls to prevent the youth from returning. Before fleeing the young man revealed that it had been an act of revenge as he was the son of the Arab who had been tortured. According to legend, there is a hidden treasure inside on of the points. sigh…sadly I didn’t find the treasure.

It’s been a wonderful first day in Segovia.  As soon as my head hits the pillow, I am asleep!

Day Two in Segovia

When we were near the castle the day before we noticed a path running in the woods under the castle, where did it go what would you see, we didn’t know.  We decided to stop in the tourist information office and ask.  The fellow was extremely helpful; he gave us a map and plotted a course for us to walk.  He said it would be well worth our time.  To the shop we go for a sandwich and water, we’ll make a picnic at some point blazing our trail.  This walk is delightful.  I would take it slow while you are going downhill.  At points you will come along side the water.  It’s snowing in Segovia.  It’s snowing flower fuzzies.  We have seen them fly a bit in the air in town but down here it’s a blizzard and so pretty!  In places it completely covers the grass in thick piles.  Red poppies pop out their head time to time and let me add, while you walk, who dominates you from above, the beautiful castle.  This view-point and angles are magnificent and always changing.  I dare say this walk took us two hours but we did take our time.  We rested and took in the surroundings.  At one point, we came to a wide open area with people on blankets and sat down to have our sandwich.   We wondered if the people who come to Segovia know of this path.  If not, remember I told you!   Matter of fact, we clued in a couple of guys from Spain who did not know and come for the suckling pig but I’ll get to them later.    This is why I recommend at least an overnight trip if you can manage it because by the time you explore the town, the churches, the charming lanes and the castle you’ll never have time for this walk.  You also have to sit down for some café life and feel the people and the places.  Huffing and puffing our way uphill now we come out into what I would call the Jewish quarters.  There’s a small café with a few tables on a roadside and someone had a big beer, we had a look and said let’s stop for a cold one.   I wish I knew how to order food in Spain or at least knew the menu.  I saw a woman get a big beer too and order some delightful looking food.  I don’t know what it was but it looked good.  This happened to me in Toledo as well.  Ordered something, while waiting saw a waiter bring another table food and thought darn I wish I knew that was on the menu.   Kathleen my friend doesn’t eat meat and I feel Spain is a meat-eating nation.  I’m sure there’s lots of vegetarian choices available but we couldn’t find much and after Kathleen knowledge of ordering” rough potatoes” and  “asparagus”  I said Kathleen you are going to have to eat more than rough potatoes!    Kathleen goes back for a nap and I head to the cathedral, after that wandered back to the hotel near the aqueducts and found a small bar with a few outside tables with a view of the storks.  Oh this will suit me!  I get a few bowls of olives and enjoy sitting here sipping and munching on my beloved olives.  I’d rather buy olives than clothes!  I give up some of my chairs for another table who needs them.  This seems like a spot where locals like to come.   After freshening up a bit, I meet Kathleen and we head to the cathedral because Kathleen has not seen it, I still have my ticket so I think they will let me in and they did.  It’s a pretty cathedral and it’s not so big that it is overwhelming.   I’ll post photos from inside.  After some wandering, we are thirsty and decide on another café in the plaza by the cathedral.   I was going to leave Kathleen there for a bit and wander but sitting down felt so good with the atmosphere that surrounds this cathedral that I changed my mind.   I love café life.

Along come two guys, and sit next to us at a table.  Friendly fellows, smile and say ola and somehow we get talking.  One is pretty good at the English and the other is not and so Ernesto becomes the translator.  These were lovely young guys.  We had conversations about lots of things, Picasso, Segovia, our lives, what we like to do, the trek to Santiago and Ernesto asked me, why are you here in Spain?

We told him we travel for art and history and Spain has a tremendous amount.  He says, I like that, I like that you travel for history, when I’m older I’m going to do that too!   I told him about some of the things to be seen in Segovia and he’s never seen them.  Carlos the other fellow, his father is originally from Segovia.   I told him some of the things coming up we were going to see in Madrid when we get back.  He says I usually travel for party since he’s young and that’s how he’s in Madrid (where he was born)  he’s on vacation than will be going to Cancun soon and then a boat trip with his family.   Carlos spends a lot of time researching and writing about Picasso.  It’s his passion.

We told him of the path thru the woods below the castle and some of the things in Madrid we will see when we get back and they were like wow didn’t ever go there!  We told him please do, you have so many quality things here right in your backyard.   If you get sometime one day, check it out and I think they will.  It was just a completely lovely conversation.   They were very smart, curious, interesting and handsome.  Carlos has a cute shy smile and twinkly eyes and Ernesto has a beautiful face and eyes.  They ordered us a drink explaining it is custom if they are drinking.  They are going back to Madrid this evening like us.  We exchange phone numbers and the plan is we’ll meet again tonight in Madrid for drinks.  They drove to Segovia to eat the suckling pig.   At some point, the conversation comes up what do you do?  Carlos is in the IT field and Ernesto said “sport” Cool we say and what do you do in “sport” thinking he must sell things or make or market sport equipment things like that and he says he plays professional soccer (football) for a team in Barcelona. Wow that’s cool and I know of the passion for soccer in Europe.  I say what an accomplishment to be proud of, it has to be a great life and a hard life I would think?   He shows us photos of him playing. He plays for a team called RCD Espanyol.  The photos were fantastic!    You can google Ernesto Galan and you can see some of the great action plays as well.

Well time flies when you’re having fun and interesting conversation and again with how long the sun shines in Spain (in May)  which makes me thinks it’s way earlier than it really is, we lost track of time and missed our train back to Madrid.  We say goodbye to Ernesto and Carlos and off we rush to the hotel to get our luggage and to find the bus stop to take us back to Madrid.  I remember I believe Revulgo here on TA saying that it is a nice ride to Madrid and we must do this because the last train if gone.  Finally making our way to the bus we find we have missed the last bus by five minutes. Yes five minutes.  What to do?  We walk back to the center of Segovia near the aqueducts and I tell Kathleen sit here, I’m going to go knock on hotels and find us something so off I go.  It didn’t take long before I found us one and the man takes me upstairs to fill out paperwork and get the keys.  It’s a nice place!   He was a sweet man and the smell of this hotel was good.  I get back to Kathleen and we get settled in our room.  It’s a pretty room and this location I like better than the one we had.   Let’s make the best of it, we get to enjoy Segovia even more, two-nights is better than one.  Off to find dinner, we wander along Calle Real I believe and settle on a scenic restaurant there with tables outside.   It was El Bernardino and here is there link.  http://www.elbernardino.com/i-especialidades.php

Again I don’t know what to order and decide on the special.   It was a bean soup, the suckling pig and dessert.  Meanwhile, I have not seen this dish served and I would like to try it but I don’t want it to look like a pig if that makes any sense.  The photos I’ve seen of it look like you are getting just that!   A table full of men with lots of food get it too and we see them come out with the suckling pig whole which the waitress starts to carve up and I am looking at Kathleen  and her eyes are as big as saucers.  She’s an animal lover and for that reason will not eat meat.  Oh sweet Jesus what am I going to do if they bring me out one like that with poor Kathleen sitting right there!   I get the soup first, a heavy bean soup that is absolutely delicious.  My cochinillo comes and thank heavens it was not a whole little pig, it was a section and only thing was that I thought would make Kathleen faint was little leg which I offered to cover up.  It was a dramatic meal!!!   Well I have not had this before and it’s skin is crunchy, the meat very juicy and tender and I liked it very much!  I could not eat it all though because of the heavy soup.  I did my best though!

After the excitement of the night missing a train and all that good jazz we head back to the hotel.  I’m to keyed up and decide not to go to bed I will go back out and have a drink somewhere or walk.  I head back up the Calle Real and settle on a place there and meet a lovely German couple who are big travelers.  They enjoy their life and are very knowledgeable. The waiter is very friendly as well and I meet some miscellaneous people in-between.  The weather is great and the beer was cold.  I’m really I glad I decided to come out for a bit and squeeze in more Segovia and neat people.  Atmosphere was a ten!

Now properly tired, I say my goodbyes and head to the hotel.  Kathleen is fast asleep.  My phone’s battery is now dead.  I take a shower and then head out to the balcony.  It’s very quiet and nice to be able to study a place in the dark from above where no one can see you; feeling very satisfied I go to sleep.  Coffee at the aqueducts tomorrow and back to Madrid which gives me more to look forward to, I think Kathleen must be dreaming of that castle!  I so wish Julie would have come to Segovia with us, this place would be exactly her cup of tea but she is back in Spain now as I write.  She’s gone to Tarragona with her mom. 🙂  seeing cool stuff without us, I’m green with envy in a good way.

Next morning, the Segovian birds are in full-swing with their chirping (which will always remind me of Segovia)  and it’s coffee near the aqueduct.  I check my phone that is now charged and Ernesto had texted me last night when they were back in Madrid to meet for drinks and I felt bad he got no response from me.  They didn’t know we were still in Segovia.

While waiting at the bus stop what do I see but a cute twinkly-eyed older man dressed nice with slow smiles and nods.  That’s all we could do because we couldn’t talk which is a benefit for him because if we could my nature would have been to ask him a 1000 questions and discuss everything!

For a bit, it is just us. Prior to the doors opening wow lot’s of people show up all the sudden.  The bus is nice and clean and even though I am not much of a bus person this ride is rather nice.  I was going to read my little Segovia guide I bought but the draw from window was too great to ignore so I just studied the landscapes as we drove by.     I could feel Madrid as we got closer.  It’s a high-energy city.  Hey I missed you Madrid!  Little do I know that on this particular evening in Madrid, it’s about to get a little wild and crazy.

Before the nights revelry we need our culture.

Wild and crazy Madrid

After a paddle at the palace, we walk back toward the Cerralbo museum area.  While resting on a bench in the shade along the palace, we see a well-built shirtless man.   Kathleen teases me saying Giannetta you’ve got a suitor who is looking at you and has taken in a big breath.  (he didn’t need to with all that muscle)  he still didn’t breathe Giannetta!  He’s got to breathe soon!  We are kind of are chuckling and I see him glancing over.    He is attractive yes.  Darn good body.  Six pack and all.  He looks over and smiles a couple of times than in two-seconds flat he killed our great love affair in the park, he spit!   He spit right on the ground.  Ewwww yuck!!!!  That grosses me out.   I said “Kathleen let’s go”!   He is now waving for me to come over to him on a bench.  “No I shout I have to leave,”  I thought I heard him say “vardyy nice”  “nope gotta go I say,” walk fast Kathleen, walk fast!   He’s still saying something but we scurry away.  Kathleen with her dead pan sense of humor says “now he can breathe”!

Now one thing Ernesto and Carlos told us they would not do is take the sky lift over Madrid because they hear of accidents on the news.  Takes *alls, he said,  well he told us the spanish word for it but I can’t remember  but you get my drift… but we had it on our list!  How can we not go?  We decide to check it out and see how it looks (like we’re experts at sky lift engineering) if we don’t like the look of it we won’t go, it’s closed but due to open in an hour I think and there are people waiting.  Well they wouldn’t go if it was dangerous right?  We wait and peer into the windows trying to check out their system.  Looks okay we think.   We hope.

I get something god awful on my dress.  Its sticky little pebbles, teeny tiny like sand and they are stuck on my “bottom” area from sitting on the concrete.  That’s attractive.  Yuck!    Kathleen tries to scrape them off me the best she can but there’s just too many.  You know you have a good friend when they take the time to scrape stuff off your dress in the hiney area.

Now here’s something funny, I’m afraid of heights but somehow get myself into activities that involve heights.  Like the time when me, Kelly and Ellen do the walk of the Gods in Italy.   The walk I insisted upon.  The walk that nearly killed me as I am belly crawling over rocks and cliffs with mind boggling drops frozen in fear.   The walk that will surely lead you to your maker.  They should name it “walk to your god”  We have no water, no hiking shoes. Nothing.  The walk was supposed to include wild goats and the only one that I saw was when we finally reached a town (after God was kind enough to let me live) a creepy town at that—- and there was a goat in a yard but that’s a story for another day but you see my point.

So here I am feeling fearful about the height, if we are not way up over the ground I’ll be okay I think, I’ll fall into the trees, grab a branch swing down like Tarzan and live.  It’s our turn; off we go and forget to tell them English because the speaker is playing something loud in Spanish.  There was a sign saying tell them if you want English.  We didn’t of course.

Kathleen read in a travel guide that people make whoopee  in the park below and people have seen it from these trolleys so with that you know our eyes are peeled to the ground trying to witness such an event!   No such luck.  At some point on this ride, we now cross a big highway with lots of lanes, lots of cars and my heart starts racing a bit because now I know I have no tree branch to grab onto and those cars are surely going to run me over me, lots of them.  With slow breaths, I wait for this part of the ride to be done.

Relief it is!  It’s hotter than *ell in this cart and my curls I tried to have today have gone flatter than a pancake.  Ponytail is soon in order which I like to refer to as casual elegance.  A woman can fool herself by any means necessary in that department when you’re lazy like me.

Out of the trolley and thru a park, we spot an outdoor café.  It’s really hot in Madrid today and this café has just squirted off their outdoor tables with a hose and the waiter says wait that chair is wet and we tell him don’t bother that would feel so good right about now and could you squirt me with the hose too?   I’ve already got sticky sand rocks on my dress what’s a little water going to do?   He’s a lively waiter and Kathleen and I both liked his jolly personality.  He brings you olives and kisses your hand and I don’t know about others but I like unexpected smooches like that.  Unexpected smooches abroad that is, I don’t like men to be like that at home.  I would punch them out!  The beer is nice and cold and just what the doctor ordered.  I could sit here all day with the jolly waiter and sip cold beer and eat olives under the trees with my wet butt and dirty dress at bliss with the world.

Eventually culture calls and we must leave.  But before I get into that remember I told you that we saw a bear and strawberry tree on a rooftop weathervane.  Here it is, we found it once we left this park.

The XVII Marquis of Cerralbo  is calling and he wants us to know how it feels to be an aristocrat.  We head to Museo Cerralbo to discover just that.  This is one place, we told the Spaniards Ernesto and Carlos they much see.   In my opinion, no trip to Madrid should be without a visit here.  It is stupendous.

This is what the Cerrablo museum has to say about the man.

http://en.museocerralbo.mcu.es/investigacion/elMuseoInvestiga/marquesYColecciones.html

We were first greeted by the garden in all honesty because we were trying to find the bathroom.   There’s a small pond with greenery and Roman busts.  The fellow that catches my eye first is the marble wild boar.  It reminds me of the one in Florence that you rub for good luck.  I don’t think I can list all the delights this place has to offer.  There is the grand staircase, the ballroom, the paintings, tapestries, knick-knacks, sculpture, and absolutely stunning rooms.  I can’t list it all; it’s smaller, personal and feels real.   Now the part that knocked my socks off, matter of fact hearing of this one particular item is what truly set me off on a path to this museum and that is the Venetian glass chandelier shaped like a gondola.  I imagined it in a thousand different ways in my head before I left America.   Seeing it right before me, it was not what I imagined, it was better!  I stood a long time looking at it and I even murmured out load wow this is the gondola.  A tour guide comes thru with a few people and listens to what I am saying and says “there’s no gondola chandelier.”   A museum attendant standing there told her yes it is, look!   I ought to take her people around I think to myself!  It’s called the La Gondola and I remember Benny writing that it had won the first prize in the Turin Expo of 1884.  How could it not, it’s stunning!!   This room could be mine forever!  I took many photos of it, NONE give it justice.  That’s not the last bit of Venetian glass chandelier’s you are going to see throughout this museum but none hold a candle to this one.  The ballroom  is so very impressive and what I really like about it is that it’s not really over the top but exquisite all the same.  If you look at the ceiling in the far corner and see a man in red doing a type of jig.  That is supposed to be the Marquis.  I’ll post a photo of that along with a host of others.  If I go back to Madrid, I will come here again.  Allow time for this visit.   You’ll see his room also and if my memory serves me right the chair alongside his bed is where he died.  Benny Malaga, there is not enough thanks in the world for clueing me in on this museum.\

We head to the fountain and there are other paddlers too! We saw a dog jump in, have a swim than off he went and I couldn’t get a photo. Bummer. We are hungry and decide to have food at a pizza place outside the Mercato San Miguel (market). This should be a good place for Kathleen. Cold beer is in order though Kathleen has been ordering a lot of those lemon beers this trip which is refreshing. I’ve had one.

After our slow leisurely pizza we have the San Miguel in our sights. It’s like being in kid in a candy store once we first go in, pretty much anything and everything looks available one being seafood. I saw seafood I never heard. It’s bright, boisterous and filled with people. It’s pure delight just wandering and havKathleen was very pleased with this museum also.On our feet a lot that day what are we in need of, another paddle.This time we go to the large ing a look around. We head back to the end and decide on the shrimp (with their eyes still on) Oh baby, it’s good! Now to the opposite end we see a deli looking place with mounds and mounds of items in dishes. Every color of the rainbow. This place must be very popular because it is really busy. I can’t make up my mind what I want, some things I don’t know and a Spanish man next to me says to me that this place is the best, very good! He orders lots of things, lots!!! He helps me order as well. Taking my bounty to the bar across, we settle down for a drink. Their speciality is mojitos type things and they are very artsy making them. There’s some sitting there a bit like in a display and I think they are samples and are made of wax. I don’t know why the devil made me do it but I reach out and shake one a bit and it’s real liquid and spills some. I have a mini-heart attack did I just touch someone’s drink. Well they were on display and they are not wax in case you are ever there and wondering like the goofball that I am. Along comes a man, he is a stocky fellow, with whitish hair. Kathleen can fill you in much more about him than I can at the beginning. He speaks to us and low and behold, he’s Irish! He wants a mojito and doesn’t want to drink one alone so somehow he gets me one. Gosh it’s good I think ==while looking up thinking I hope they don’t have chandeliers for me to swing from, I’m not a liquor person. This one and no more.

He is a pistol let me just tell you that. A sense of humor out of this world. I’d say he is 40. He owns a house somewhere, Malaga maybe and work is being done and he’s in to check it, he couldn’t get there the way he planned so he’s doing an overnight in Madrid than going by train I believe.

Here’s what I like about the Irish, 3:30==== the thaaa sound is said like “tree” but I like the way they say it. My mom and sister have been to Ireland and they swear that the Irish are the most friendly people in the world. In my mind, it’s the italians but I have not been to Ireland. I’m glad he came by because this will give me a brief preview to the Irish before my trip to Ireland which is in two-months. Two words, fun & crazy! We have a good time with him. He’s a wise cracker but certainy jolly. After the market, the three of us decide to have drinks somewhere else and we settle on an outdoor cafe. We settle down and the bar inside has a backroom with all kinds of cushions and pillows. They have hooka in the front and a bar there as well too. Three fellows sit down at the table next to me, they are british. One asks me if he can use my lighter. We chat a bit. He’s got longish blonde hair and a lot of tattoos so I say to him, are you in a band? He says no and are you from the south in the US? I said well, I used to live there for a few years when I was small. He says I go to the south quite a bit and I can tell from your accent. I explain that I’ve lost most of it but do have people who pick up on it and ask me. I was telling him of an 8mm film of me small (like four) of me coming back for a visit and saying to my grandfather, Pop Pop you like my pretty dress! (in a very heavy southern accent) oh they loved it, (because i imitated it) oh please do it again, I love that he says, the other one says yes let me hear it again pleaseeee, i said one more time and that’s it ! The third one liked it too! The third one is an Elvis fanatic, loves Graceland and is going there again soon. He said let me sing you a great song Elvis song that’s fitting here in Spain. Well what does he sing? Never Been to Spain. Never in my life have I heard Elvis sing this song. The only band I remember when I was small singing it was Three Dog Night on the radio. I still like  Three Dog Night (hence the j3dnight TA name) he sang it kinda nice really, once we sang it together because I really like that song.  elvis singing it :  http://youtu.be/de5TCblUhi0  (the beginning of this post has the 3DN version)

Well the irishman is just having a good ole time giving me looks like OHHH you’ve got yourself some a man kind of thing. I’m making eyes to him, like “no” I am not. The younger of the three is a bit drunk I think. He’s telling the other ones, get away from her, I like her. He’s persistant, pushy and pissed. (which means drunk,,,, not mad like we use the term for at home. my british friends taught me that) So I’ll nickname him the 3P’s because I can’t remember his name. I’m going to choke the irish man because he’s egging it on and Kathleen and I are flashing him every kind of eye that means “you better stop”!

The flower seller comes by and the 3p’s gets me one and I don’t like flower sellers, I don’t like them coming up near me or to my table. I had one steal my purse with passport and all in a restaurant distracting the table with the flowers. My friend from England, Les can vouch for that because he was going to buy me one once out of kindness when we were in Sicily and I almost shouted “no” and Les’s eyes went big as saucers.  He didn’t know of my former robbery.

We are drinking the DAM beer and I’ll have google that quick because I can’t remember the name. Estrella Dam, that’s what google says. For me, that is strong beer and I’m feeling tipsy. The Elvis singer tells me it’s getting down to decision time. I have to pick one of them because it’s getting complicated with all three of them. I said are you out of your tree? (or something like that) I didn’t come to Spain to HAVE to make decisions regarding “men”.  Something started to go down with the 3p’s and the irish man for a moment with “words to each other ” whatever it was it was worked out quick thankfully.

Kathleen is getting tired because she goes in earlier than me usually and she makes sure the Irish man is going to look out for me, she’s not keen on these three fellows at all. She doesn’t like them. I’ll be okay I assure her and me, the british fellows and the Irish man head inside to the bar. We start smoking hooka which I like. The 3P’s is getting far more pushy and I tell the Irish man I want to go, he’s says wait till they are not looking, we’ll lock arms and run and that’s just what we did!

Two blocks down or so we stop leaning against a building and are huffing and puffing out of breath laughing our butts off. We are about three sheets to the wind ourselves. That DAM beer! shew!

We go walking and wind up at a bar near by place. His hotel was not far from my hotel. It’s crowded and we make our way to the back bar and it could have been the Irish bar I had been in earlier in the trip, The Dubliner? We get a drink and are talking (well trying to) it’s quite loud and he says “oh my god” did you see what that guy did to me, did he ???  me? Well I can’t hear him because it is so loud. Did he do what you I’m saying? He answers again and I still don’t get what the heck he is talking about and he turns his back to me and shows me. Did he throw up on me? Oh my Gosh!!!! HE DID!!! lots and I am dying a thousand deaths. I’m horrified and laughing at the same time.

I get him to the bartender and we tell what that guy did to him and show him and two or three of them rush him into the backroom as if as if he’s off to surgery! When he finally came out after they washed him up and changed him and I nearly died a thousand deaths all over again. He comes out sporting a red shirt exactly like what the employees wear who work there. More buff guys lets say and far smaller. Far smaller, it’s tight on him, too tight and isn’t as long as it should be, trust me I am no more good looking at him , the more I look the more I laugh, which makes him laugh. We were hysterical! I said that’s what you get for getting that British guy after me, serves you right! Paybacks baby! Gosh I’ll never forget that, never. I’ve got a photo of him wearing the blue shirt he came out with and than I have a photo of him wearing the employee’s red shirt the bar gave him. Priceless. I should frame it! What a trip he was and I think the Irish are going to be very fun. Wild but fun. We say our goodbyes and I’m out to smoke right by my hotel door and comprehend this evening. I thought the night was already crazy but like the songs says “you ain’t seen nothin yet” but I’m going to very soon.

That’s a favorite tune from when I was in junior high school going to my first dances. (here’s a youtube video of it in case you don’t know the song. http://youtu.be/7miRCLeFSJo

Let me describe Madrid first….at night, this city doesn’t sleep, when it’s party time, it’s party time ALL NIGHT LONG! The streets are filled with people and everyone is having a good time, they like to enjoy themselves and do, till the sun comes up and the birds are chirping and than MAYBE ??? they might be going home, a big maybe, I think they rule the night ….I surely can’t hang like I used to and Madrid shows me that. I’m a midnight kind of girl but tonight I’m a Madrid kind of girl.

So smoking away and watching all the people, three men walk by me. Two look like businessmen with nice jackets on and one looks like how I thought all Spanish men would look, long beautiful straight black hair and a mustache or something. Don’t ask me why but that’s what I envisioned. (and some do)  Spanish men are handsome I think.  anyway, I think they wanted to use my lighter. We start talking. All three seem very nice and very curious what I am doing here. We talk about my trip.

One of them has a business with branches in the US I think something to do with light fixtures, he seems like a well traveled Spanish business man with very good english. His friend (or cousin) a business man too but with limited english. The long haired one not a whole lot of english either but some. He’s the wild one I can tell and maybe a nephew or employee because he’s younger than the two of them. The well traveled one is definitely the boss I’d say in that the other two look up to him. Extremely polite and gentlemen.

After a while of conversation, they invite me down the street some where at a place they like to have a drink at and the music played. If Kathleen knew I was headed off in the company of three spanish men at this hour she’d kill me. Their vibe made me have no sense of danger. So off we go, we get to the place and now I have Cornita and the music is good. They like to dance and it’s spanish music and I don’t know how to dance like that and they all take turns teaching me.

We were having the best time ever. I was terrible at the dance but they are so kind, nice and encouraging. At one point the long haired one says to me, so how you like Spanish man? Before I could open my mouth, the business an with light fixtures says to him with a pointing finger and says, uh uh uh. Like no no no, you do not ask that. They have some sort of discussion together in spanish (softly) and that was settled, he didn’t ask me again about spanish men. I think he must of said something like you do not ask her such a question.

Now the other one is from Toledo and they now know that I am going to Toledo in a couple of days for an overnight. I already told them about me going to El Greco paintings, a new artist (to me) that I’m interested in, well they decide that George (his name sounded like that) should take me in the car to Toledo since this is hometown and he knows everything there and than George can practice the english with me all day long and show me Toledo all day long. George really wants to improve his english. I am not sure about this and they act like they won’t hear of anything else. George should escort me in Toledo.

After much fun dancing (and it was) we leave and all are a bit hungry. He says you want a hot dog? Sure I say, and off we walk thru some crowds on the street to a place they like which looked more like sausage to me but they said it’s good, I decide to wait outside and they go in to get my hotdog. As I’m standing there, close to me are three men and a girl. I see them kind of looking at me and probably can spot a tourist right off. One of the men gets closer and says something to me, what i have no idea, I may have said back, sorry no spanish. something like that, he says something else, a couple of sentences but I’m just staring at him blankly because I don’t understand. Well George comes out and hears something of what he said and doesn’t like it, he says something to that guy, they have words, George goes in and tells the other two and they all come out and there is heated exchanges. I’m a bit stunned what the heck is going on? All six of them now are having heated exchanges and I can’t tell one word of what is being said and I’m dumbfounded. Next thing you know jackets come off, belts I believe and they are going to fight! All this pushing and kaos starts taking place which freaks me out, I hate fights, didn’t care for that in school either when someone would fight, people would rush in to see and I would run away in the opposite direction.

I’m scared and want it to stop immediately and grab anyone I could get pleading STOP THIS !   Well no one is listening to me, the long haired one has his hair in a ponytail now so his hair doesn’t get pulled out I suppose. They were in a zone and angry. That’s it I’m getting the *ell out here let them beat each other to a pulp.

I storm off while they are all at it and storm off in the wrong direction and get myself completely lost, really lost for quite awhile. I don’t know any of these streets or where the heck I am? I see people around so I feel safe. Thank you Madrid for not sleeping at night. Finally I ask directions to Puerto del Sol, before that I was just too freaked out to talk to anyone. I know if I can get to that place I can find my hotel.

I get side-tracked again not going the right way but keep asking and finally I come to Puerto del Sol. I must have been completely going in the wrong direction. When I saw Puerto, It was the most beautiful sight in the world for me at that moment. As I’m walking thru low and behold who do I see? The three men and the girl who said something to me, my friends didn’t like. The girl notices me first and comes toward me. She knows some english and I say to her, what the *ell was that I don’t understand? She says, your friend think my friend say something bad to you and he was not , it was misunderstanding, now the man who said the bad thing to me, he’s know holding his heart with his hand, saying over and over sorry sorry sorry, kinda like sardy, sardy, and she tells me it’s a man thing and nothing we can do or nothing for me to understand so off I go now to my hotel with all four of them saying bye to me, the one still holding his heart like i’m family.

Making it to the door of my blessed hotel, I need a smoke, BAD, home sweet home. Thank you dear God. As I’m smoking trying to wrap my mind around what has happened a car pulls near. It’s a guy with the window rolled down and it’s strange seeing a car there, I’ve never seen a car drive there that I can remember and he asks me “is the hotel expensive”? No I say, it’s okay. He says you want to smoke? I say, I’m already smoking. He says no “smoke”. I realize he means pot (or something ) I say to him, no I don’t smoke pot or do drugs thank you very much. He says, you wait I park and come back and off he drives. I threw that cigarette down with lightning speed and tore into that hotel and up the stairs as fast as my little legs would carry me, I locked the doors, sat on the bed exhausted, thinking Madrid you are wild and CRAZY tonight.

It’s getting daylight. I never got a hotdog. Go figure.

I text Kathleen that its a long story and I am just coming in and must sleep, to go about her activities that day. (I am probably going to be a zombie) and I was.

Awake the next morning, (or afternoon)  I wonder about George and guys.  No regrets about meeting them that evening.  None.  Us dancing, their patience in teaching me and our spontaneous fun is something I don’t want to forget.   Prior to the event, I could tell there was something very “chivalrous” about them and even with the hotdog incident which I was not happy about, my honor meant something, something they were willing to fight for.   This speaks volume for Spanish men I think.

I meet Kathleen later by the opera, fill her in and she is dying laughing about the red shirt incident.  Matter of fact, I can hardly get the story out to her and because I keep laughing so hard I can’t finish a sentence.   (btw he couldn’t stop laughing about it either, good sport)  Oh Ireland, I look forward to you.   He was crazy fun too!

This is our last bit together, me and Kathleen, she’s leaving for home and I’ll be headed to Toledo for El Greco.  I feel sad she is leaving.

We get our culture by visiting the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Monastery of the Barefoot Royals)

The history:   The convent was founded in 1559 by Joan of Austria, whose daughter hid away here rather than endure marriage to Felipe II. More aristocratic women soon followed, bringing their dowries with them. These dowries included such treasures as precious metals, paintings, and even religious relics. With all these possessions, the foundation soon became very wealthy.  By the mid-20th century, however, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales was mostly home to very poor women. It still held its priceless collection of treasures, but the nuns were forbidden to auction anything.  The state eventually intervened and, with a special dispensation from the pope, the convent was opened to the publc as a museum in 1960. 

We have a tour in Spanish but I brought paperwork with me that helped in understanding what we were looking at.  Highlights for me were the grand staircase frescoes and the tapestries.  I need to buy a gift.  A precious five year old at home is expecting a baby doll from Spain from her Nana.  For the longest time, I didn’t see anything worthy until Kathleen with the sharp eyes spots a baby doll shop called Asi.  This is an excellent baby doll store.  My precious cargo came wrapped in a nice box and was adorable.  There are hundreds of them in this shop.  It is a collector’s paradise.

Kathleen and I depart eventually and I am keeping myself confined to the hotel room tonight.  I’ve got to pack an overnight bag for Toledo and miss my Kathleen.  We’ve had a great trip together.

The next morning I’m off to the excellent train system in Spain.  I check-in at my hotel and set about exploring.  I have a rooftop terrace which is a delight to sit at during the day or the night.   Toledo is beautiful.  Canopy lined streets, stunning architecture and El Greco.  I came here really to see one painting and was rewarded with everything else.

Highlights for me:  El Greco!  El Greco!  El Greco! – the man who inspired me to discover Toledo

Streets lined with canopies and lanterns

San Juan de Los Reyes –  amazing cloisters

Climbing two towers with stupendous views

Secretly following a tour group of Asians trying to find something that I recognized while I was lost

The stunning cathedral with an opening to the sky to die for

And much more……, I’ll add photos so can see for yourself.

Back to Madrid, for my last night I enjoy café life and as much jamon as I could possible eat fearful of the days of living without this.  The next morning while dragging the suitcase near Cibeles trying to find the airport bus stop guess who walks me right to the bus stop?  A cute well-dressed elderly Spanish man.

Comments
  1. julie says:

    Hey I found you G !!! .. love that pic … looking forward to the read xxx

  2. thanks Julie ! I’m chiping away at it each day, love that pic too,

  3. Kathleen says:

    Yay – lovely – Southend on Sea!!! I miss the old stomping ground….

  4. Chris says:

    I am so enjoying this – it brings back such brilliant memories. Come back to Southend soon, Lady J!

  5. writing about it takes me right back too – than a bit of sadness, it is gone? why is it gone? sigh….we’ll have more, much much more, I’ll be back 🙂 -Lady J

  6. Chris says:

    I’m crying reading this … I’m still minus my spare part!!

  7. Chris says:

    Every time I beep, it just takes me right back! I dropped off to sleep on the train the other night and the beeping when I hit the side of the carriage woke me up!!!

  8. julie says:

    Lol !! so funny .. I had an aunty with a beeper like that !.. I really want to get to Hever Castle would love it there… J have you read The Other Boleyn Girl … a bit of Hever description in it. Read this too recently

    Alshttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Boleyn-Eric-Ives/dp/0631160655/ref=sr_1_31?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340402466&sr=1-31

  9. Pat says:

    So happy you started a new blog! Love reading your stuff. Makes me feel like I was there. LOL re Chris “chirping” My mom chirps at times too LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait for the rest……………

  10. we have had Tarzan heat and storms that made thousands lose power, it’s been so hot all your energy is zapped, that’s what’s delayed me in finishing this report. I plan to write more this weekend.

  11. Pat says:

    Can’t wait for the Spain part. This was great. Had read most of if earlier, but addiitons not. Photos came out great! Your camera did well at night! Without a tripod??

  12. Pat I was just lucky with the photos. Many night shots had to be deleted. Hope to work on Spain today. My first Monday off in a while !

  13. Flora I have been thinking about this Thames to HC on the way back, I want to feel like Henry floating down the Thames!

    Here is the thing, we have a 9:30 p.m. ticket into the Tower of London for the key ceremony (700 year tradition of locking the towers) have to be on time. how long would this boat take to get back in london central and do u have a long wait to get on it?

    i’m torn, get the train back so i don’t worry about time, or do this boat,

    our time for london is going to be sliced up a bit because we are going to do an overnight in liverpool ,an overnight in Chester (looking forward to the roman tidbits there) than on to ireland !

    i’m SO looking forward to it !

  14. Pat says:

    Great report! So now we finally get the “fight” in detail LOL! You are one brave and lucky girl. I would never go out drinking on my own like that. Photos are gorgeous — gondola chandelier!!!!!

    P.S. When I went to Hampton Court I took the boat down to it and the train back. That might make more sense to make sure you are back on time…

  15. Pat says:

    P.S. Did you notice that’s my headboard in one of your photos? LOL!!

  16. ty Pat ! how funny is that about the headboard? so torn about HC, are u going to madrid when i am in barcleona? with ellen? if so, get to that cerrablo museum, you’ll love it,

    • Pat says:

      I think it’s better to GO to HC by boat rather than returning by boat. It’s more dramatic to arrive there from the dock and walk.
      Haven’t made a decision yet re Spain. Have to see how much vacation time I have, etc. I really want to go back to Italy next year some time, but haven’t decided where or when yet. If I go to Spain, I was going to skip Madrid.

  17. MACPollo here’s some NY items you might find helpful:

    good gourmet market my friend who lives in NY loves, I’ll be testing it out, maybe for a picnic

    http://www.agatavalentina.com/
    Agata Valentina

    not sure of your son’s age but in Liberty park they had very fun fountains for the kids (ok big ones like me have went in them too) but its all kind of fountains shooting out of the ground onto the little ones, it’s fun to watch the kids there, so cute, especially on a hot day

    Katz delicatessen
    the movie: When Harry Met Sally, with Meg Ryan (and the famous restaurant scene “I”ll have what she’s having, was filmed here) is famous for the food too, (HUGE portions) http://katzsdelicatessen.com/

    this also might be nice: The High Line
    The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. Founded in 1999 by community residents,

    http://www.thehighline.org/about/park-information

    I’m actually going this weekend, I messed up on my date for NY,
    Hope you and your family have a wonderful time !!!!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot Jeanetta. These are good hints, will tell you how it went

  19. heavens, made an error , it’s “Battery Park” (not Liberty park)
    (where people get on the statue of liberty ferry) I always call it by the wrong name because of that ferry! here’s a little article on it,

    http://whoknewidgothisfar.blogspot.com/2011/06/battery-park-fountain.html

    happy travels !

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ok, I know Battery Park. Been to the city many times, I love it!

    Your blog is very amusing. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. And I love those Madrid crazy nights – if with a bit of nostalgia since it’s been ages since I last had one!

    • ty ! it was a FANTASTIC trip, crazy night and all !

      had a small problem in my next spain trip, got an email yesterday easyjet cancelled my flight to barcelona, so i got a refund and booked another flight over a day earlier, so it ends up looking like this :

      Amsterdam – 3 nights
      Barcelona – 3 nights
      Seville – 3 nights (booked 4 nights but will sleep in granada one of them)
      Granada – 1 night (for Alhambra because I think I will be pooped trying to take another bus back, too long of a journey for the same day
      Barcelona – 2 nights
      Amsterdam – 1 night before flight back to US !
      what do u think of it ?
      what’s your plan for Baltimore? the aquarium is nice! (and harbor area if the weather is nice) water isn’t pretty tho, and make use of the water taxi’s if possible, if you want to see canton, fells point, fort Mc Henry etc. crabs at Bo Brooks are good, http://www.bobrooks.com/

      New York is great isn’t it ?

  21. Pat sent you an email with the dates on spain, I’m thinking of Italy too. I want to somehow combine it with the germany trip 2013. i am thinking overnight train.

  22. A private sin is not so prejudicial in this world, as a public indecency.”
    — Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616)

    This bronze of Miguel Cervantes, Spanish writer, stands at the end of a long, narrow mews on the campus of New York University. Cervantes has his left hand on the hilt of a sword and his right hand is clutching a roll of paper, perhaps the manuscript of his novel Don Quixote, considered among the best novel ever written.

    The bronze was a gift of the mayor of Madrid and came to New York in 1986. Originally installed in New York’s Bryant Park, it was removed in 1989 as part of that park’s renovation. It was meant to be placed in Washington Square Park, but was decided that it is too delicate and it was placed in the Mews instead, just north of Washington Square Park.

    Born on 29.September.1547 Cervantes died in Madrid on April 23, 1616. He was a powerful influence on Spanish culture of the 16th century.

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