Sunday, April 17, 2011


The next stop for us after Portugal was Spain. Spain was easily a step or two up than its neighbor to the west. In Spain we met up with Alethea's mom and husband Ronnie. We visited a total of three cities during our 9 night stay in Spain. We started in Barcelona then traveled half way across the country to Toledo. We then traveled a short but confusing distance from Toledo to Madrid for our last stop.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph the first stop for us in Spain was in Barcelona. Alethea and I flew from Porto, Portugal while Alethea's mom and Ronnie flew from Nashville to Atlanta to Barcelona. We met up at the designated meeting point inside the terminal that Alethea and I flew in to. We then hopped into a taxi to reach our apartment in Barcelona. Our taxi driver kind of ripped us off a little by not driving up the street to our apartment. He said the roads were too narrow and the apartment was only 50 meters away which was not true. We had to walk multiple blocks up to our apartment but it wasn't too bad. Taxi drivers are one of the groups of people I trust the least. It's a hard life but quite a few of them seem like they are trying to hustle people versus providing a valuable service. I'll stop before going too much further.

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona, Spain

We spent a total of three nights in Barcelona seeing the major attractions of the city. We spent the first afternoon walking down the Ramblas (mile long street) and the La Boquería food market before retiring for the evening. We were all pretty tired. I was quite exhausted since I didn't sleep well the night before and got up at 4 am to catch a taxi to the Porto airport to start the day. Once I met up with Alethea's mom I started taking benadryl which makes me very drowsy so I was glad we had a light day.

Our second and third days in Barcelona were full sightseeing days. On our first full day we visited Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, and walked down the Passeig de Garcia. Park Guell was a neat funky park that was supposed to be a housing development. It has some weird designs but also offered some great views of the city. Our second stop was my favorite of Barcelona and that was the Sagrada Familia. The construction for this church started in 1882 and it is still under construction. It is scheduled to be completed in 2026 although it was dedicated by the pope last November as being open for business. The outside of the church looks nothing like any other church I've even seen. It was mostly designed by Barcelona's own Antoni Gaudi in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The inside has recently been mostly completed and looks very modern and quite beautiful. We spent a few hours touring the outside, inside, and taking the elevator up to an observation platform before walking down. One our third day of sightseeing we strolled around the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona Cathedral, and the Olympic Village areas. I thought the Olympic Village area was the neatest.

Olympic Park - Barcelona, Spain

Next stop after Barcelona was Toledo. We decided to travel from Barcelona via car. We tried to purchase train tickets but weren't able to do so at an acceptable price while in Italy which turned out to be a good thing since traveling by car was cheaper than train (even with gas and tolls). It took about 9 hours including some pit stops and lunch but it was a nice scenic drive. The scenery reminded me of driving out west with some parts looking like Texas, Nevada, and Wyoming. We saw plenty of wind turbines too which is a good sign for the environment. Spain is actually one of the leading producers of wind power in Europe.

We spent a total of two nights in Toledo. The first night was the night we arrived which wasn't until 9 pm. We essentially had one full day of sightseeing. It was a full day but we saw all the sights we wanted to see. Toledo reminded me quite a bit of Siena, Italy. It is a hilly old city about a hour south of Madrid. It used to be capital of Spain. We spent most of our day visiting churches. We bought a church pass and visited multiple churches, a synagogue, and even a 1,000 mosque that later became a church. The most impressive thing by far was the Holy Church Cathedral. The cathedral's construction started in 1226 and wasn't finished until 1493. It was built on top of a Moorish mosque. The cathedral is massive and has numerous chapels on the inside along with some original El Greco paintings. I think it is one of the top churches in Europe that I've seen.

Holy Cathedral Church - Toledo, Spain

The final stop on our tour of Spain was the capital city of Madrid. It is a one hour drive from Toledo to Madrid. It wasn't exactly easy though. Our directions from Google Maps didn't match the reality on the ground plus streets weren't labeled that well in Madrid. It was a frustrating drive from Toledo to Madrid but we eventually found our hotel. We stayed in Madrid for a total of three nights. However, we only went out sightseeing for two days. We spent the afternoon after we arrived walking around Retiro Park which is a 300 plus acre park. We then visited the Prado Museum which is one of the top art museums in all of Europe. It is free Tuesday through Saturday from 6 pm to 8 pm so we arrived shortly before 6 pm and kind of did a speed museum tour using the Rick Steve's Spain book as a guide. We spent our second day in Madrid visiting the Royal Palace which is one of the top palaces in Europe. We then visited a few churches before visiting the Plaza Mayor and the Puerto del Sol. Minutes after we left the Puerto del Sol we came across a steady stream of protestors who were marching towad the Puerto del Sol. These were mostly political protestors for the upcoming May elections. We saw groups that were socialist, communist, and pro or against the king. We didn't do any sightseeing on our final full day in Madrid. Alethea' mom and Ronnie decided to fly back to the US one day earlier than planned. Alethea's mom works for Delta and can fly for free based on seat availability and the odds of them getting home looked far better on Friday than they did on Saturday. Alethea and I stayed in and rested on our last day in Spain. Alethea's head cold has gotten worse and I benefited from a day of rest after suffering the effects of allergies over the last two weeks. The only thing we did was work on pictures, blogs, and walked to the train office to pick up our train tickets for our overnight train from Madrid to Paris.

Royal Palace - Madrid, Spain

his concludes our nine night sprint through Spain. I really enjoyed Spain. We pretty much stuck to the general tourist circuit of Barcelona, Toledo, and Spain but I thought it was well worth it. I probably enjoyed Barcelona the most. It is a different funky city but at times reminded me a little bit of Rome. Spain is definitely a country that I could see myself visiting again in the future. There are more destinations that I would like to see. I cannot really think of any negatives for our stop in Spain. Accommodations in Barcelona and Madrid were a little expensive but we booked only a week or so out and were trying to book family or quad type room but it wasn't too bad. It was pretty easy to get around and the people were nice and helpful throughout Spain. You run into a few language issues but nothing that can't be overcome. I would highly recommend Spain as a place for a week to 10 day vacation. The only real negative for me were my allergies which I cannot blame on Spain. They started to get pretty bad in Portugal and stayed bad throughout Spain. I've used quite a bit of the benadryl that Alethea's mom brought over. It is has often left me exhausted during the day while sightseeing after having taken a couple doses during the day. I think it has also contributed to my overall travel fatigue as well. Traveling can be kind of rough when feeling well but can be especially rough when not feeling well. I am definitely ready to head home at this point and just relax for a little bit.

Even though I just commented that I am ready now to head home, we still have two stops planned out on our trip :-). The next stop for us will be France. We've both been to France before but would like to visit it again before concluding our travels. We plan on spending just under two weeks in France. We'll take an overnight train (it was cheaper than flying) from Madrid to Paris then spend 5 nights in Paris before heading to Colmar in the Alsace region. We'll wrap up our France stay in the Normandy area visiting the countryside and the D-day beaches along with U.S. military cemeteries before heading to Belgium.

Diane and Ronnie - Retiro Park Madrid, Spain

That is all from Spain. I would like to thank Diane and Ronnie for joining us on our travels throughout the country. We enjoyed their company and I hope they had a good time!

Links to photo albums:

Daily Log:

Friday April 8th
Arrived around 9:30 am into Barcelona airport with no issues. Sinuses were really bothering me. One of the worst days for sinus issues on are whole trip. Constantly was blowing my nose non stop for over half the day.
Waited about 10 minutes for Ronnie and Diane.
Took taxi to apartment. Got overcharged @ 42 euros. Was charged 2 euros per bag plus driver didn't go to our street.
Waited in front of apartment for about 15 minutes then checked in.
Took nap for 2 hours.
Woke up went out.
Ate lunch at nice restaurant.
Walked down Ramblas. It is one mile one way.
Wakled around La Boquería market. It was Ok but not as big as I thought.
Went to grocery store and came back to apartment.

Saturday April 9th
Woke up with the alarm at 8:30. Slept good thanks to benadryl
Left apt close to 11 am.
Took subway then bus to Park Guell. Stayed for about a hour. Very neat park with great view of the city.
Took bus to a few blocks away from the Sagrada Familia. Very impressive church. Unusual and looks modern but still beautiful.
Walked over to Passeig de Garcia. Strolled down the street checking out all the art nouveau styled buildings.

Sunday April 10th
2nd full day of sightseeing.
Visited the Barcelona Cathedral
Walked around the Gothic Quarter
Walked around Barcelona City Hall – it was like a museum
Took funicular to Montjuïc Hill
Walked around Olympic Village
Walked back to apartment and ate dinner
Allergies my quite a bit.

Monday, April 11th
We rented a car and drove across Spain today.
Left around noon and arrived in Toledo around 9:15.
Scenery was pretty. Felt like I was in Texas and/or Nevada at times.
Tolls and gas were expensive.

Tuesday, April 12th
Full day of sightseeing in Toledo. Left hotel around 10:15 to 10:30. Back in hotel around 7:00 pm.
Bought a church pass for 8 euros a piece. It paid for itself. Also paid to the main cathedral.
Visited the following sights:
Monastery of San Juan De Los Reyes
Sinagoga de Sta. M. la Blanca
El Entierro Del Senor De Orgaz
Isglesia Del Salvador
Holy Church Cathedral (main church)
Iglesia de Los Jesuitas
Mezquita Cristo de la Luz

Wednesday April 13th
Traveled from Toledo to Madrid via our rental car.
Got off to rough start. Directions didn't match reality plus the drive was unpleasant.
Made ti Madrid and dropped off Diane and Ronnie at the hotel while Alethea took the rental car back. We took the subway back to close to our hotel.
Ate a good lunch close to hotel.
Walked around Retiro park for a couple hours which was about the worse thing I could have done since my allergies are killing me. Pretty much taking benadryl 2-3 times a day.
Toured the Prado Museum. One of the top art museums in Europe. It is free from 6 pm to 8 pm Tues. through Saturday. Very impressed. Staff was very rude when we left when they wouldn't let us use the restroom.
Feel very tired and exhausted. Pretty much ready to go home at this stretch. Will continue on to France and Belgium but could really go home at this time.
Weighed myself for .20 euro today. Weighed in at 81.9 kg or 180 lbs. Height is 1.85 meters or 6 ft. 1 inches.

Thursday, April 14th
Full day of sightseeing in Madrid.
Visited Royal Palace for a couple hours
Ate good lunch a few blocks down.
Visited some churches that Diane was interested in visiting. Some were pretty good. Some were Ok.
Walked to Plaza Mayor
Toured Puerto del Sol.
After leaving Puerto del Sol we came across multiple groups of protestors who were marching to the square. They appeared to be anti Franco and Royal Family in addition to pro Communist and pro Socialist.

Friday, April 15th
Day of rest.
Diane and Ronnie left today in order to have a good chance to get back to the US. They made their flight.
Alethea and I stayed in and rested.
We did walk down to pick up our train tickets before dinner.

Saturday, April 16th
Pretty much stayed in the hotel. Alethea wasn't feeling good plus we had to check out at 12 noon. The woman working the hotel was very rude and wouldn't even let us use a toilet. We ended up going to a restaurant next door.
Left unfriendly hotel around 5 pm and made it Chamartin train station with no problem.
Waited an hour for the train. Didn't pull up or have a track assigned until less than 30 minutes before departure which is rare for an overnight train.
We had our own cabin which was nice. Cabin was pretty good and so were the bathrooms.
Scenery was nice. I worked on research our Paris itinerary while Alethea worked on editing pictures.
Went to bed around 10 pm ish.