Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Madrid Photos

Here are a few of my favorites from Madrid.

The rest are located at


Read the blog about our time in Madrid


Monday, September 27, 2010

Seville Photos

Here are a few of my favorites from Seville.

The rest are located at


Read the blog about our time in Andalucia (including Seville)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Andalucia Photos

Here are a few of my favorites from Cordoba and Granada.

The rest are located at


Read the blog about our time in Andalucia


Friday, September 24, 2010

Barcelona Photos

Here are a few of my favorites from Barcelona.

The rest are located at


Read the blog about our time in Barcelona


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lisbon Photos

Here are a few of my favorites from Lisbon.

The rest are located at


Read the blog about our time in Lisbon


Friday, September 17, 2010

London Photos

Here are a few of my favorites from London.

The rest are located at


Read the blog about our time in London


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last Stop! Madrid!

Day 12 – Sep 9: Seville to Madrid

In the morning, the plan was to visit the advertised open air clothing markets, unfortunately when we got there, they were basically purse and nick-knack vendors. We decided to check out the Fine Arts Museum instead, but Apryl called it the “Religious Paintings museum” and we hurried through. Some ice cream before the train, not knowing that it was going to be our last good ice cream of the trip.

We boarded the high speed train to Madrid, taking about 2 hours. After checking in to the Westin Palace Hotel for a little relaxing, we walked 20 minutes up the street passing not one but two Museo del Jamon (Museum of Ham) shops to get to our wine and tapas tour called “Walks of Spain”. I mention how long it took us to get there, because the amount of walking we actually did on the “Walking” tour was about 10 minutes.

After introducing himself and taking us to a traditional Vermouth bar, where the wine comes out of a tap and is mixed with soda water, then placed in a glass of ice. This is a “refreshing” drink that locals come and get during lunch or after work. I thought it wasn’t bad, Apryl thought no bueno.

From here we went to a Sherry bar and sat out on the patio. Supposedly we got some of the best top 4% of the Iberian Ham in the world, because they eat 100% acorns and the fat is a liquid at room temperature. We also got to try a sherry that was from the region where we went wine tasting a couple of days prior, needless to say, it wasn’t our favorite.

Our last stop was at a restaurant where the tour said we would get paella. We tried two white wines that were fairly decent and it was served with mussels in a broth that was really good. Two local red wines were served with cheese croquettes (think mozzarella sticks), beef wonton type things and then chicken fingers.. We finished up with a traditional sweet sherry and a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Some girls that were on the tour asked where they could buy some of the wine, he said we couldn’t, that he bought them from a collector and he only tastes the best Spanish wines. When Apryl asked some basic questions like where is a good wine shop, or where can we get good Paella since it wasn’t served (he told me they stopped that two years ago, I mentioned it was on the website and he said oh no, they took it off.. nope, I checked), he didn’t really have good answers. Recap, food decent, wine above average, “tour guide” and “walks of Spain”.. Thumbs down.

Day 13 – Sep 10: Madrid

A trip to Starbucks around the corner started our day, then up the street to the Royal Palace and Cathedral. The Palace was pretty cool, kind of like the Versailles, the King doesn’t live there anymore, but they still have state functions when necessary. The best part of the Palace tour was the Royal Armory. Lots of old knight and horse armor, definitely the highlight.

Across the plaza was the Royal Cathedral, pretty plain compared to all the Cathedrals we’ve visited, but I actually appreciated that, didn’t feel like I was on sensory overload. We walked back up the street to where we came, to a Market that had little food shops from “all the best chefs in town”. Definitely a gathering place for lunch, we picked a few ham sandwiches, some empanadas and of course, wine. Finally we were able to buy a few good bottles for a good price.

The afternoon brought us to two museums, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum was first. Originally a private collection of artwork from the 1400s to modern day, including artwork from around the world, his wife persuaded the Baron to donate the collection to Spain, as long as they would publicly display them. This was one of our more favorite museums on our travels.

The Prado museum was next. It is considered to house the world’s finest collection of European art, from the 12th to 19th century. Originally part of the Spanish Royal Collection and is considered one of the most visited sites in the world and the greatest museums of art (yes, I just got all that from Wikipedia). Sort of like the Louvre, but smaller and all works after the 19th century is in the Reina Sofia museum that we went to the next day.

We bought a 1 Euro guide that had a list (and pictures) of all the most famous art works in the museum. Since this isn’t our favorite art and we were tired, but knew the importance of seeing this museum, we made a game of it and tried to find all the artwork in the book. We did a pretty good job and called it a day with some beer and sangria.

Not knowing what to do for dinner, Apryl suggested Italian or Argentine (we had seen a few touristy type Argentine restaurants in our walks, yet we still hadn’t found ANY ice cream, we even asked the concierge and he sent us to a location, yet it wasn’t there). On our walk back to the hotel, we found both a pizza place and an Argentine place, so we looked them up at the hotel and decided on Argentina.

We arrived at 9pm and the place was empty (cept for a party in the back). Not a good sign on a Friday night. Or meat came out just seared, but then we got a little pan to cook it to our liking. Kind of like Argentina parillada meets Korean BBQ. The food was pretty good and the place started to fill up a little later.

Day 14 – Sep 11: Madrid

First, we headed to the Reina Sofia museum to complete the triangle of museums and see the art we are more interested in. Many Dali and Picasso paintings are here, including Picasso’s most famous, the Guernica, which depicts a scene from the Civil War when the government actually purposefully bombed civilians. The artwork was cool, but the museum was a little confusing. Plus, we think they ran out of places to store old tires, so they piled them up in a hallway and called it art. Still not able to find ice cream, we gave up and had a McFlurry at McDonalds. The cool part was they add caramel to it. So it wasn’t a complete loss.

Today was shopping day. Our last full day in Spain and the promise to check out the shops, we took the metro for the first time, so that we could get to the farthest point and walk back to our hotel. Our first stop was another wine bar that was suggested to us. It was really nice, you are allowed to taste any bottle in the facility and we found one we liked. The shopping in the immediate area was mostly high high end stuff (ie, Louis V.) so we skipped past that and made it to more manageable stuff. Apryl was disappointed in the lack of boutique type stores (although you would never know it by the size and weight of our luggage coming home).

In the evening, we had reservations at a paella restaurant. The paella and wine was good and Apryl left satisfied from having proper paella. Tonight was something called La Noche en Blanco. The streets of the entire city were literally closed off, no vehicles allowed in or out of the city. At every city circle, there was either an art display or a band playing. There were people packed everywhere, but it wasn’t bad, it was fun and energetic and exciting. The complete opposite of the carnival we got mobbed at in London. You’d think it’d be the other way around. We had a good time checking out some of the entertainment and headed back to the hotel. The city would continue to party it up until sunrise, but even when we went to the airport the next morning, you couldn’t even tell anything had happened. The city knows what they were doing with this.

So we started our trip with a carnival, ended it with a celebration. Not a bad thing at all. We had a great, amazing vacation and wouldn’t have had the trip any other way (sure, I’d change a few things here and there if I were to plan it again, but nothing took away from our trip). We’ve got some catching up to do at home, so the pictures might take a couple of weeks, but they should trickle in as I have time and I’ll post them here, Facebook, Picasa, etc.

Thanks for reading and ‘Til Next Time!

Dave and Apryl