Madrid on our own
30.06.2007 27 °C
June 29, 2007
Although our tour is over the Farina vacation is not. Today marks our first day on our own. We are in Madrid an extra day before we depart for Athens to drop Chris off for school. Cathy and I will have a few days to bum around Athens and Chris will stay until August 1. So today we explore Madrid on our own.
After another buffet breakfast we board our bus to Plaza Major. OK our bus today is public transportation and it cost us one Euro each but it is a bus right? Well the bus is crowded so we have to stand. There is A/C so we are dying hot but we are toe to toe with the locals.
One little girl is sharing a seat with her older sister and notices a small moth on the bus window. Apparently she is terrified of moths. Her mother, like mother everywhere, takes off her shoe and smashes the moth into the window, problem solved. We all laugh. Family in any language is the same. Believe me it is more comfortable to travel on the tour bus but this was a way to get closer to the people.
So we take the bus to the last stop and get off at the bus station and take a short walk to the Plaza Major which is the main plaza in Madrid. We learned yesterday that Madrid is the exact center of Spain. At the center of Madrid is a square where the mile market reads ZERO and there are four major roads emanating from this spot to the four corners of Spain.
The Plaza Major is once again very similar to the Plaza of St Mark in Venice. The center is a statue and the open plaza is filled with restaurants where seating is outside in the beautiful shade. The buildings are filled with high end shopping such as jewelry and clothes and other high end souvenirs. Out of our price range so we leave the plaza and begin to walk the area in search of shopping and we find it, everywhere.
For the next two hours we are in and out of stores of every kind. Indian, Moroccan, Spanish and other stores all selling things for you to take home. Chris finds the perfect gift for Lilly (sorry L I will not reveal the item you will just have to wait) and Cathy finds things for her friends and family. We buy a bull for ourselves and enjoy walking the streets of Spain.
The temperature today was in the mid 80’s and so we were getting a little warm so we decided to find a place to eat. Pizza was the target food. Yes we continue to eat Italian food even here in Spain, but the pizza is damn good and we just can not pass it up.
We try to find a restaurant outside the Plaza since we know the Plaza restaurants will be expensive. Although we could find many fine Spanish restaurants the only pizza was in the Plaza. So back to the Plaza we find a table in the shade and order 2 Marguerite pies and a salad. Beer and water were also on the menu. We slowly dined and watched the world go by. Fifty Six Euros later, I told you the Plaza restaurants were not cheap we decide to get a cab and return to the hotel for Siesta.
There are cabs everywhere so we thought this would not be a problem, wrong. Hailing a cab apparently is an art, one in which we have not been schooled in. So we walk in the direction of our hotel and figure we can get a cab.
Ok so we see a cab coming and wave only to see him pass us by. We did notice however, that in the window was a red sign saying Occupado. So now we know to look for a cab with Libre in the window. Unfortunately we see no Libre only Occupado so we keep walking.
Well it is now about 40 minutes since we started to try to get a cab. The temperature is getting hot and we are beginning to get desperate when a cab pulls up and drops some folks off. Yeah we are saved, wrong again. I try to get into the cab when the passengers depart but the driver waves me off and takes off. We learn this was a radio cab not a local cab. A radio cab is dispatched by a service and to get one you have to call the service. Ok now we have to eliminate Occupado and radio cabs and find the ever elusive Libre cab.
Soon we come to an intersection and traffic is much greater increasing our chances of finding the Libre. Soon sure enough we see a cab at the opposite corner and wave him down. He makes a turn and comes toward us and pulls over for us to get in. We are saved, wrong again.
I tell him we are going to the Hotel Agumar as I enter the cab. The driver begins gesturing wildly telling me to get out and go to the other corner, the corner he just came from to get a cab. Another lessen we learn is that a cab which is facing the wrong direction will not pick you up if you are going in the opposite direction. Since we really did not know where the hotel is we were at a quandary as to how to proceed.
So we continue our walk to the next intersection. Here we stop to figure out where we are and Cathy, ever vigilant now that her feet hurt, spots our white knight. There is a white Libre cab and we flag him down. Ok he was stuck at a stop light but the result was the same, we piled in.
A seven Euro cab ride later we were back at the Hotel and ready for Siesta. Tonight we planned to have dinner on our own and pack for the journey in the morning to Athens.
After a nice Siesta we dress and depart the hotel in search of a final Spanish meal. We walk along the road to a small outdoor restaurant with and English menu. We sit at a shady table; we are the only once there as it is much too early for any sane Spaniard to eat. We dive into the menu and choose our final Spanish meal. I choose a chicken Paella and Cathy and Chris dine on Pasta Bolognese. Yes the two of them choose Italian food in Spain and they said I have a fixation on Italy!
We top off the meal with a banana split and walk back to the hotel for packing and sleeping. We leave Spain in the morning to enjoy the 100 plus degree temperatures of Greece.