Madrid, March 2003

Day One:  Wednesday 03/19/03

10:00: Arrived London after about a seven hour flight. Our connecting flight was delayed, which was good since we went to the wrong gate and tried to fly to Seville. In our defense, the ticket agent signed us in without noticing the discrepancy, too. Another agent realized the mistake and saved us from what could have been a pretty big inconvenience, to say the least.

13:00: Departed London on the correct flight, about 90 minutes later than scheduled.

16:05: Arrived in Madrid. Called mom to let her know we were okay, and to make sure my trusty new “world phone” cell plan was actually working. No problem.

17:00: Arrived at our hotel. Immediately upon steeping out of the cab, Monty was standing face-to-face with actor Colm Meany, who played Engineer Miles O’Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Brush with greatness. We checked in, unpacked and showered the travel off of ourselves.

Views from our room in the Hotel El Coloso

18:00: Met Frank at his hotel; walked around town a little, and tried out a tapas bar recommended in our guidebook. It was relatively confusing and not particularly pleasant. The problem was compounded by the fact that our waiter was clearly not interested in helping us get through the experience. As quickly as we could, we left and got dinner somewhere else.

Puerta Del Sol, the town square of Madrid and the geographical center of Spain.


Day Two:  Thursday 03/20/03

8:30: Breakfast at our hotel, a spread easily as lavish as any we had in Paris on our last vacation.

9:45: Met Frank at Palacio Real for a tour, after which we quickly walked through the nearby Cathedral of Almudena.

The Palacio Real (click any image)

The Cathedral of Almudena (click any image)

12:30: Ate lunch at the bus station (which is not such a bad thing in Madrid), before leaving for an overnight in Toledo.

15:00: After checking in at our hotel, we walked all over Toledo. Saw Santa Cruz Museum, Cathedral, and Santa Tome. The Cathedral in Toledo is almost more than you can believe. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed inside the Cathedral, so it is impossible to convey the experience here. We did, however, get some pretty impressive exterior shots.

Toledo (click any image)

19:00: After a long day of sightseeing and walking around, we returned to our hotel for a bit of a rest. Later, we walked to a litle pasta restaurant recommended in our guidebook called Pastucci. The food and wine was wonderful.

22:30: On our way home from dinner we photographed Plaza de Zocodover following an anti-war protest that had taken place there earlier in the evening.

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Day Three:  Friday 03/21/03

9:15: Breakfast at a restaurant next to our hotel.

10:00: Walked around town a bit and toured El Greco Museum. El Greco was not originally from Toledo, but he chose it as his home and his works are everyhere. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed inside.

12:30: Return bus to Madrid. The ride takes about an hour, and I can assure you we were welcoming the rest at this point in our trip. When we got back to Madrid, we split from Frank and had a little down time at the hotel before hitting the streets again.

14:30: We all met back up and went to VIPS, a restaurant recommended in our guidebook, for lunch. Great salad selection, and everything was good except the flat Cokes (which is how they drink ’em).

16:30: We hit the Starbucks next to VIPS while Frank went to a couple of museums. We drank our coffees outside and enjoyed the atmosphere. Given that the war in Iraq was now underway, we took a few minutes to call home and check in with the folks.

17:00: We toured the Thyssen Museum, conveniently located across the street from Starbucks. We saw a special exhibit of Kandinsky and his contemporaries, concentrating on works relating to music. Again, no pictures allowed inside.

19:30: We followed a walk around Madrid that was layed out in our guidebook.

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21:00: Met Frank for dinner at Artemisia II, an absolutely fabulous vegetarian restaurant (made even more fabulous by the fact that they feature a chicken menu for those of us who aren’t vegetarians).


Day Four:  Saturday 03/22/03

11:00: Slept in a little and almost missed breakfast at our hotel. Man, that would have been bad!

12:00: Took the metro back downtown and had more coffee, outside at Starbucks again.

12:15: Walked over to Retiro Park just to see what and where it was. It’s a very nice, large park like Central park in New York City. Unfortunately, at this point in our trip we were feeling the need to concerve our energy and our feet, and we did not take the time to enjoy the park as we might have. A good enough reason to go again sometime.

12:35: Returned to El Prado museum and took the self-guided tour in our guidebook. This museum houses arguably the single most important collection of paintings anywhere. Consisting mostly of portraits, however, it is as much a history museum as an art museum. We spent about two and a half hours on the tour, and although it never gets boring, all those dignitaries staring out of all those canvases do start to blend togeter after awhile. As always, no photos were allowed.

15:00: Even more coffee outside at Starbucks!!

15:30: In keeping with our current theme of visiting museums where we can’t take pictures, we visited the Reina Sofia Museum, famous as the place where Picasso’s Guernica is displayed. Just as it is surprising to see how small the Mona Lisa is when you visit the Louvre in Paris, it is staggering to see how tremendously huge Guernica actually is.

18:45: Returned to hotel for short rest. An anti-war protest was getting under way on the next block.

20:30: Met Frank at his hotel to go to dinner, and saw a huge anti-war protest in Puerta del Sol. We returned to Artemisia II for dinner, where the protesters were right outside the window. After dinner, we said our goodbyes to Frank (who stayed another day). The protests were over, and we had a nice stroll back to the hotel.

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23:30: Packed for the trip home.