Madrid is a lovely, graceful city. After returning to Gibraltar from Seville and Cordoba we knew we were going to do some more land travel before departing for the Canaries. The question was, where? We had considered going down into Morocco to Casablanca or Marrakech. We looked into ways and means for a short, easy and inexpensive way to see what we wanted to see. Nothing seemed to quite work. And Madrid beckoned. We had enjoyed our travels in southern Spain, especially Seville, so it was just right and proper that we visit Madrid.
|The Plaza Major, Madrid, equestrian Philip III|
The train seemed the way to go. It would have been a long drive and we were tired of rental car logistics. Flying would not allow us to see the country and for both of us seeing the countryside is half the fun of a journey. For those who might be contemplating a little travel by train I very highly recommend the website, "The Man In Seat Sixty One": http://www.seat61.com This is really an amazing site with very comprehensive and detailed info on train travel anywhere in the world. We've used the site as a starting point for travel to a lot of places and it is a great resource. A more specific resource for those interested in train travel in Spain is: www.loco2.com which is a little easier place to buy tickets with a foreign credit card than the official site of the Spanish rail company Renfe.
There are no trains out of Gibraltar so one takes a cab to the border, walks across, is waved through by customs on both sides, grabs a Spanish cab to to Algeciras, the Spanish city across the bay from Gibraltar and takes the train. In this case our taxi driver knew a little better way and took us to La Linea, between Gib and Algeciras, which was closer and more convenient and where we caught the same train we had purchased tickets for out of Algeciras. Saved us some time and money. First Class costs little more than tourist class and gives you a quieter and more spacious ride.
The trip was five hours and the first the two and one half hours were spent at less than 50 miles an hour on an old road bed through the coastal mountains north of Gibraltar. But then, at some point in the country side after leaving the mountains, we switched engines and moved onto a new roadbed and things speeded up a lot. 200 km per hour (120 mph) was more like it and we were whizzing right along through country that, more than anywhere else in the world, reminded me of the American west. The mountains could have been the foothills of the Sierra and much of the interior plain could be western North Dakota or Eastern Montana. The more agricultural areas seemed much like the Sacramento Valley. True, there's generally more population than in high plains of the western USA, but the countryside is amazingly similar, big sky country, very appealing to my western sensibilities.
|Modern business Madrid|
Steven and Carol of Seabird had made plans to come in from Barcelona and Carol arranged hotel accommodations at a lovely hotel, the Catalonia Las Cortes, in a great location near the museums and the city center. She also booked us all on a guided bus tour so that the first thing we did was get the lay of land. Very handy in a city the size of Madrid. So for three nights we enjoyed lovely Madrid from a very nice hotel. I had expected to find a bustling, crowded, probably rather dirty but interesting city, perhaps a little shabby but with great art and museums. I was right about the art and museums but central Madrid is far more elegant and cleaner and more specious than most cities. The architecture is beautiful, the settings historic.
We did a serious visit to the Museo del Prado and the Museo Thessyn-Bornemisza and a quick trip to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia to see Picasso's "Guernica". Of course I knew the reputation of the Prado, which is very well deserved, but knew nothing of the Thessyn before planning this trip. It may be the finest private gallery in the world. I certainly enhanced my appreciation for Goya, and asking Janet, the Goya's and Gauguin's impressed her most.
So we prowled the city center in the morning before the museums opened. Did museums until our feet were worn out and relaxed out of the heat until getting together again for dinners. Early dinner in Spain for the Spanish is around nine in the evening. Luckily many places are used to heathen foreigners and open earlier.
We loved Madrid. We had great fun with Steven and Carol. The trip back to Gibraltar went as planned. Now we're back on the boat and beginning to get into passage mode. Its cooled down a little and forecast to stay that way, the 'eighties' sure beats the 'one hundreds' as a temperature to live in all day. We had about given up on the idea of going over to Morocco but this morning we saw a travel agency ad that got our attention. We'll investigate that tomorrow.
Love to all,
Bill & Janet
Love to all,
Bill & Janet