Night Life

Cynthia has never been a night owl. She’s usually down for the count by 9:30 or 10:00 pm and would certainly NEVER consider going out for a bite to eat at 10:00 on a Sunday night.

Not so in Madrid. This town has changed her.

We got back from Segovia and I was beat. I laid down and napped for a few hours only to wake up to the sounds of Cynthia changing clothes. She said she’d like to go out for a walk and maybe have a bocadillo (sandwich) and maybe a sangria.

I got up and got dressed and we headed out. The evening weather was absolutely perfect. No coat was needed and we were perfectly comfortable.

We walked over to the Plaza Mayor and found a table at the restaurant we discovered the previous night and sat down. We ordered our food and sangria and sat to watch the worlds go by.

Many, many people wandering the square. Young lovers walking hand in hand, a group of old ladies all sitting beneath one of the lamps in the square who I would bet are there each Sunday night, odd groups of tourists here and there. Simply magical.

And the music! There was this band starting to play near us. Just 3 guys. I got up to take a picture as a 4th was arriving.

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I figured since he had an upright bass and there was already an upright bass player he was just going to talk to someone and move on.


By the time I took this picture there were 3 upright bass players.

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By the time we moved on there were about 12 musicians in total. Horns, percussion, guitar and the three bass players. And they were good, too! Swing music with heavy Latin overtones. They would be a huge hit at the Continental Club for sure!

Lazy Day

Today we decided we would go to the store and buy some supplies. I needed razors and Cynthia needed contact lens solution. The store to buy ANYTHING in this town is El Corte Inglés.

When I say anything, I mean ANYTHING. The store occupies several buildings over several blocks right off the Peurta Del Sol. If you go in one door it’s electronics, another door it’s books and so on. It’s like a US mall but all the stores are one company.

We got what we needed, but will return just to have a look around. It’s always fascinating to me to wander a department or grocery store in a foreign country.

After dropping off our purchase in our hotel room we made our way to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The Reina Sofia is a world renown modern art museum and houses many great paintings by Picasso and Salvador Dali just to name the big ones. We were there specifically to see Guernica, the piece done by Pablo Picasso depicting the Nazi German bombing of Guernica, Spain by twenty-four bombers on April 26, 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

Image taken from The Elegant Variation

You read about this painting, you see it on TV or even in the occasional movie, but there’s nothing that compares to actually standing in front of it and gaping in slack-jawed awe at it’s larger-than-life magnificence.

As I’ve heard it said before: You know, I’m no art critic. But I know what I hate..

In many ways, my going to these art galleries is like cultural chemotherapy. Hopefully the exposure will have a positive and life enriching effect.

I did see some amazing things and there are more art galleries to come.

We’re back at the hotel now and it’s siesta time.

One last note, I wish I could have all my prescriptions filled here for the rest of my life…

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The tile work is amazing…


In our downtime we’ve been checking out Spanish TV.
The only option in English is a European version of CNN which covers a LOT of information about the global market (yawn) …

There’s one station that has taken very odd American shows and dubbed them into German … ???

Cynthia’s currently hooked on a TeleMadrid show called Metro a Metro, a game show that uses the Madrid Metro as the the playing board and the contestants advance by answering questions about the City.

Cynthia shouts out answers in Spanish and has been getting some of them correct, including one about the Metro itself.

It’s rather surreal…

Retiro Park

Check out this page for all my photos of Retiro Park.

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Yesterday afternoon we decided to head over to Retiro Park. It was threatening rain but we wanted to see it while we had the chance.

Retiro Park is is to Madrid what Central Park is to New York.

Even on an overcast day this place is spectacular. Sculpted gardens and magnificent fountains adorn this 350 acre park in the city center of Madrid.

We didn’t see much wildlife. No obvious squirrels or other critters. We did see many Magpies, though

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I wish we had Magpies back home.

As the weather began to get worse we made our way to the one “must see” attraction in the park, and that’s the Fountain of the Fallen Angel.

The sculpture at the top is a work by Ricardo Bellver (1845″“1924) which represents Lucifer falling from Heaven.

I’m certainly no devil-worshipper, but how can one resist going to see a statue of the devil in a public park?

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Holy Toledo!

Today was the day we slated for going to Toledo. It’s about 45 miles away and it’s only 30 minutes via the high speed Ave train which leaves from Atocha Station.

You might recognize the name as it is the location of the al-Qaeda lead train bombings that occurred on March 11th 2004.

In Spain they use 3-11 or 11-M the same way we use 9/11 in the US to describe the day the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed.

This train station is truly something to behold. The most breathtaking feature is the winter garden that sits in the middle of the station.

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The garden is bordered by a lily pond, replete with turtles and everything!

Cynthia’s Spanish again served us well as we purchased our tickets. I don’t know if we could have pulled that off nearly as easily as we did if she didn’t speak the language.

We boarded the train and in no time at all we were pulling into the station in Toledo.

Rick Steves had indicated in his travel guide that it was a 30 minute walk to the city entrance or you could catch a cab from the station for a few euros. What he did not mention is that there are far fewer cabs than there are people needing them at the station. There must have been 50 people or more waiting in a cab line and I only saw 2 or 3 cabs trickle in before I decided we should walk.

Now keep in mind that Toledo is a walled medieval city on the top of a HUGE hill.

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We walked toward the city, not really knowing where to go and we found an old arched entrance in one of the walls.

As it turned out, this was some kind of “back entrance” to the city. We were greeted by a very steep climb up to the city center of Toledo. Neither of us was all that happy by the time we found our way to the top. We knew there must be an easier way and there is, we just didn’t end up taking it.

Once we caught our breath we set out to explore this incredible city.

The most impressive structure within the well preserved walls of Toledo is the Cathedral of St. Mary.

We made our way down the winding street to the entrance to the church and went inside.

Like many cathedrals, photography is allowed as long as it is without a flash. That is where my high speed lens came in handy and I was able to shoot some pics inside and actually walk away with something worth looking at.

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Gorgeous statues everywhere you look. This one was located on a very dimly lit wall. It was all I could do to hold the camera steady during the 1/5 of a second exposure time needed to get it.

Thank you built in image stabilization!

After we toured the cathedral we jumped on the cheezy mini-train that trundles around the city and took in the rest of the sites. This allowed me to capture a few more worthy shots of the city

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After that Cynthia and I walked down and out (the easy way) and headed back to the train station for our return to Madrid.

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Once back in Madrid we activated our rail passes and made our reservations for the train ride to Seville this Sunday.

Holy Toledo – addendum

I’ve visited some of the greatest cathedrals in Europe and they all have their fair share of votive candles. I even lit a candle for my mother while in Notre Dame during our visit to Paris a few years back.

While visiting the cathedral in Toledo I was struck by a significant difference between their votive candles and all the ones I’ve seen previously in my life…

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They’re electric lights. You put your offering in the slot, say a prayer, push a button and a light comes on….

What’s the world coming to?

Mala Suerte Con Los Lentes

We got up this morning to drop some laundry off at a nearby laundromat. We decided it was worth the few extra euros to have them do it for us rather than sit there for the few hours it would take to do it ourselves.

It’s been raining this morning so we made our way to the local Starbucks for shelter and coffee and a chance to review our rainy day options.

I took the opportunity to see if I could clean my glasses and I guess I was a tad bit more vigorous than was prudent as I suddenly found myself holding only half of my glasses in one hand as the other half clattered across the table top…

There’s no amount of nerdly electrical tape in the world that’s going to patch this geek’s glasses back together.

Cynthia suggested we head over to the Cortes Ingles optical department where she had purchased her contact lens solution previously and see if they might be able to repair them.

They said it would be no problem, but they would need to send them off to be repaired and we would have them back in three days. With any luck I will have them back on Saturday or, worst case, I will get them when we return to Madrid at the end of the month.

Once again Cynthia’s Spanish language skills have saved the day.

Fortunately for me, I decided to carry my extra pair of glasses just in case of emergency…