Madrid and Segovia our last day on tour
29.06.2007 26 °C
June 28, 2007
Ah Madrid. A beautiful mix of sights and sounds, people and traffic, horns and the sounds of the Spanish language where ever you know. Ah Madrid amazing.
Today we meet our local guide and head to the Prado Museum. Prado means prairie and is houses in what was once a residence of the Kings of Spain. The Prado is the most famous museum in Spain with a collection of over 8000 canvases and statues. There are only 1000 on view at any time with others houses elsewhere and some in the basement.
Today we learn another advantage of taking a tour. We have an appointment time at the museum, meaning no line. We arrive at the Prado at 9:00 am and are promptly ushered past long lines of “common folk” waiting to see the Goya, Velasquez, and of course El Greco. Another advantage is we have a tour guide well versed in the art contained in the museum and we have little radios in which she whispers but we hear clearly. It is good to be on a tour.
For the next two and one half hours we tour the museum and see up close many of the art we only see in print or on film. We were very up close in fact a little too up close. You see Bill; one of our tour family from Ohio (of course), is very tall and as such tends not to see objects below his knees. (Can you guess what’s coming?). He was walking forward and looking at a canvas to his right and BLAM out of no where comes a bench below knee height and Bill goes sprawling in the direction of some priceless Greco Roman Statue. The Guard rises quickly, face blanched white, not easy for a dark skinned Spaniard, Bill falls fast but bounces off the bench just in time to right himself just before a costly collision. The guard runs over to see if he (the statue not Bill) is all right and after a few watch were you are going looks, we proceed with the rest of the tour, with less drama. Bill of course sustains damage to his leg but the guard is satisfied and returns to his chair.
The priceless art work in the Prado goes on for room after room and is simply amazing but after two hours we are on art overload. It is a known fact that psychologists say that the average person can not take more then two hours in a museum and since we are a little above average we last until 2.5 hours but as a group we have had it. So we leave the museum and head back to the bus for a very short return to the Hotel.
This afternoon some of us are heading to the small town of Segovia another hill top city in which a King built another Castle called the Alcazar of Segovia. Apparently all castles are called Alcazar. So some of us are back on the bus for the 1.5 hour drive, or as I say nap, to Segovia.
Segovia is a beautiful small town that time has forgotten. It boasts three main attractions, The Alcazar, a Roman Aqueduct build 200 BC and still working, and a gastronomical delight roast suckling pig.
First stop is a visit to the aqueduct. It is amazing. More then 90 meters high with arches extending 750 meters it was built by the Romans with out use of mortar or cement. It is held together simply by precise fitting of stone and perfect engineering. The length of the aqueduct is relatively short as there was a small reservoir a short distance from town. With only a modest restoration the aqueduct can still conduct water from the reservoir to town but does not do so now. We take our photos and look for food.
As I said the feature food is suckling pig slow roasted and served as an entire pig on a plate. The pig is only 5 – 10 days old and is slow roasted in a very special spit until it is so tender they cut it with a plate and not a knife. There is a statue in the middle of town dedicated to the chef who invented the feast and past his recipe along so others can prepare this local dish.
We past several of the local restaurants that serve this meal but neither Cathy nor Chris were adventurous enough to partake. We passed up the chance to eat a baby pig and moved along to more normal fare, adult ham sliced thin with cheese and tuna sandwiches.
After lunch we headed to the Alcazar. This castle was said to have inspired Walt Disney’s design of the castle at Disney Land. There is some resemblance but this castle is huge and very well preserved. Among the Kings in residence here were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Columbus fame. In the throne room we say the two chairs side by side of a King and Queen who both ruled as powerful leaders over the Spanish Empire.
Unlike other castles we saw this one was furnished as it was expected to be when the castle was used as a palace and court. The building is very open and since it was a summer residence it was filled with open courtyards and high windows. Tapestries were on the walls and the furniture was elegant throughout. It’s good to be the king.
The castle was built upon a Roman Garrison so under the castle is a foundation dating back to 200 BC so Segovia was inhabited for a very long time. The present castle was built in the 12th century and with very little restoration looks amazing. After a little shopping we board our tour bus, for the last time, for the trip back to the hotel.
As we arrive at the hotel it marks the official end of the Highlights of Spain and Portugal Tour. Thirteen days of fun, sights, foods and of course wine. Tonight we are all exhausted and a little sad as we will now be saying good bye to some new friends from all over the world. Since there is no scheduled dinner with Trafalgar tonight we retire to our rooms for a little rest and to make our own dinner plans.
It seems however that some people are not ready for the tour to end, however and soon a dinner is planned by 17 of us! We agree to meet in the lobby at 7:30 and to walk along the city until we find a place to eat.
So there we are, Americans, Germans, Australians and Canadians all coming together to have one more chance to make a lasting memory. We walk along for about a half hour and agree to dine at a small local restaurant with outside tables. The temperature is about 70 and the sun is going down soon so we settle in for a pleasant dinner.
Of course no one speaks or reads Spanish and the Korean family that owns the Spanish restaurant speaks no English and some Spanish. I know we will eat something just what however is up for grabs. Soon our waiter comes to the table and we communicate by picture, gesture, bad Spanish and much laughing our drink orders. It if take this long to order a beverage how long will it take to get dinner orders for 17?
We look at the menu; have no idea what it says. On the wall of the restaurant they list a special of the day which is kind of like a Chinese menu idea. Pick one from column A and once from column B and drinks are included. Sounds easy enough so we begin to decipher the food options. With help of high school Spanish, life experience, and Chris’ command of Latin we settle our choices only to be told by the lovely Korean hostess, this is the DAY menu and it is night now. She turns over the menu and there on the back are completely different options and so we order another round of beers as we try once again to decipher the menu.
The Farina family decides on a first course of Spaghetti followed by a Salad and finished off with a Veal Milanese. Ok folks catch this, we are in a restaurant in SPAIN, owned by KOREANS, ordering in ENGLISH, a full ITALIAN meal! Only us!!!!
The food come very slowly as there is no rush in Spain and we appreciate it as we are not in any hurry to say good bye. Our spaghetti comes perfectly prepared in a sweet red sauce. The portion is HUGE. Next came a salad of mixed greens, tuna egg and tomato. It too is delicious and we are well fed, but we just remember we have another course. We have been eating for 90 minutes and we are not nearly done. The veal comes out and the portion is amazing. Try as we might Cathy or I left half each while Chris managed to finish it all.
We talked and told stories for another half hour and by 10:30 we knew the inevitable time has come to say good bye and return to our normal lives back home. We walk back to the hotel and say Adios and promise to send e-mail and share photos. We head back to our room exhausted and ready for the next phase of the Farina vacation, GREECE.