Tuesday we took the Metro to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace of Madrid). Inside the Palacio, we saw the Royal Armory which was super cool and included all sorts of antique armor for men, horses, children, and even dogs! We saw probably 30 rooms inside the palace and that couldn’t have even been ¼ the total number of rooms. We saw major meeting rooms like the Hall of Colums (http://bit.ly/pCs37M) where Spain signed a treaty to join the European Union in 1985, the Throne Room (http://bit.ly/rmr4V2), and many personal rooms of previous kings and queens. Every room inside the palace appeared to be decorated in a completely different, but equally ornate style. Even the majority of the ceilings were painted with detailed frescoes. We saw a large dining room, a king’s dressing and sitting room, a small billiards room, and a room dedicated to the Palace’s silver, china, crystal, and porcelain. We also visited the Royal Pharmacy at the end of the tour, where the King kept a pharmacist on staff along with 3 full rooms of jars, pots, and a working alchemist’s laboratory. You can view a portion of one of the rooms here: http://bit.ly/p7T8V3. My guidebooks state that the Palace is still used on occasion for state functions, but that the current King/President of Spain, Juan Carlos I, and his family reside at a smaller, more modest estate on the outskirts of Madrid called La Zarzuela Palace.
In total we spent about 2.5 hours visiting the palace but unfortunately we were not able to take any personal pictures while inside, so all the photos that I’ve linked to in this post I’ve obtained via Google (and rights go to their respective owners). There were guards, sometimes more than 1, in every room who were ready at the drop of a hat to yell “No photo!” at anyone who even looked at their camera. We were, however, able to take pictures inside the courtyard of the Palace, and we’ve posted those pictures to the MADRID PICTURES link.
After visiting the Palacio, we went shopping on Gran Via in Madrid and it was wonderful! We stopped at multiple souvenir shops, found a store having a major shoe and handbag sale, and also went clothes shopping. Kat is bringing home a new winter coat, a blouse, and a new handbag. Joe is bringing home a tshirt. Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles
We also stopped at the Telefónica flagship store, where Joe got to play like a kid in a candy store. Telefónica is the number 1 telecommunications company in Spain, and one of the largest in the world. Their flagship store layout reminded Joe a lot of an Apple store – there were tons of cell phones on display to play with, and a bunch of touch-screen tvs with games to play, sweet stairs that showed electronic pictures as you looked up them (see an example here: http://bit.ly/rrqDEb), Kinnects on display and lots more. Joe is still itching to get a tablet, and this did nothing to take care of that.
After we shopped til we dropped – literally, we went back to the hotel and took our regular afternoon siesta – we worked on updating our blog and pictures for a few hours. We then decided to go out around 10p to a café recommended to Kat by a friend, La Tia Cebolla. We sat outside on the terrace and drank a few beers, ate some seafood paella (Kat loved it, Joe didn’t), and shared a pitcher of Sangria. After La Tia Cebolla, we walked around for a bit before deciding to head to one more bar called The Dubliner – which turned out to be a very American bar! They were playing all current American music, served us Corona’s with chicken fingers, and played ESPN America on the big screen. We met a girl and her family from Long Island, NY who will be studying in Madrid for a semester and she was very nice. The Dubliner was a lot of fun, and a nice slice of home. We made it back to our hotel around 2a, long before the crowds of people on the streets and restaurants were heading home, and fell asleep almost immediately.
On Wednesday we headed out to the Museo del Prado and stopped at a local café for a lunch of sandwiches and coffee. We arrived at the Prado around 2:30p and purchased our entrance tickets. The Museo del Prado houses an amazing collection of art, which includes mostly paintings and a few sculptures. We spent approximately 3.5 hours at the museum and saw such famous paintings as “Adam & Eve” by Dürer (http://bit.ly/o1n4yA), “The Garden of Delights” by Bosch (http://bit.ly/1QHkkf), and “The Adoration of the Shephards” by El Greco (http://bit.ly/oSpiJu), along with countless others. The most amazing part of our trip to the Prado is that in 3.5 hours we still didn’t see everything that the museum has to offer! Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures or videos inside the Prado either, so all images (again) came from Google and rights go to their respective owners.
After leaving the Prado, we walked back to our hotel to coordinate our pickup from the airport tomorrow night, and then walked to a pizza restaurant nearby our hotel. We split a pizza with ham, cheese, red bell peppers and tuna on it. Turns out that tuna on pizza is gross – we would not recommend that. Afterwards we came back to the hotel and began the awful task of packing our suitcases again. Flying between Spain and the Canary Islands we learned that Europe has no problems or rules regarding liquids in your carry-on, so we have to be extra careful now when packing to make sure that we’re following all the TSA guidelines. Hopefully we can get everything home in one piece, under the weight limits, and without having to throw anything away at the security gate!
Our flight leaves tomorrow at 12:35p Madrid time, and our layover in Philly is at 3:15p tomorrow (Philly cheesesteak here we come!) before arriving in Minneapolis at 8:30p CST, which would be around 3:30a in Madrid – yikes! Wish us safe travels, we’re excited to come home!
On Sunday morning we woke up early for us, 10a, and took the Metro to El Rastro – a famous flea market in Madrid that takes place on Sunday mornings. The market was huge, spanning many city blocks, and was crowded with people. There were quite a few booths selling clothing, leather goods, music/dvd’s/video games, and jewelry. We saw a couple booths selling cooking supplies, and only a few selling posters or art – surprising for a city that boasts such wonderful museums. El Rastro provided some excellent people-watching and a great walk around the city. There were some great deals (Kat bought an apron!) and it was a lot of fun.
After El Rastro, we took the Metro to the Parque del Retiro and stopped by an outdoor café to split a sandwich for lunch. The sandwich was “Spanish omelette”, which was essentially an egg/potato/onion mix with ham, and Joe enjoyed it (Kat didn’t like it quite so much). We walked around the park for a while, sat on a bench to do some more people-watching, and listened to the various music players in the park – particularly a bad saxophone player that was pretty funny. We saw the boating pond inside the park, and watched the fish for a while (they were ugly fish), and also visited the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace, according to my guidebook, was inspired by its British namesake in 1887. It’s a pretty glass and iron structure with a pond and fountain in front. After enjoying the beautiful day at the park, we walked back to our hotel, where we took a siesta before going out to dinner around 10:30p. We ate dinner at Gino’s, a chain Italian restaurant, which is close to our hotel. Joe had a margherita pizza and Kat had ravioli with shrimp – both were very good.
On Monday we woke up late, around 11:30, and ate sandwiches for lunch while lazing around our hotel for a while. We walked down to the Museo del Prado and stopped for coffee on our way. When we arrived at the Prado, we realized that it is closed on Mondays so we changed plans and headed to the Museo Reina Sofia instead, which is only a few blocks away. The Reina Sofia is a modern art museum that was incredibly interesting, but it can be hard to appreciate modern art when you don’t understand it. We spent most of our time looking at the 3 dimensional works, though we did stop to see some Salvador Dalí paintings, and of course Picasso’s most famous work inside the Reina Sofia: Guernica. Pictures were not allowed of Guernica, but you can see the work here: http://bit.ly/ud8r. Some of our favorite exhibits in the museum included works by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (temporary exhibit), the Dalí paintings, and two works by Lygia Pape: “Magnetic Space” and “Book of Time”.
After leaving the museum, we stopped by the hotel to grab our laptop and then went to the Plaza Mayor where we worked on our pictures that we’ve uploaded to the link on the right. The Plaza Mayor is a great place for people-watching, and is basically a large square with grand statues and archways surrounding the many terrace restaurants. We saw several street performers, like a really fat Spider-Man, Minnie Mouse, and an artist drawing tourist portraits while working on our photos. We went back to the hotel around 7p and uploaded several of our pictures and videos, but we were bored by 11:30p, so we decided to head to VIPS for a little late night snack: crispy chicken caesar salad and some croquettas – a great way to end the night!
We arrived in Madrid around 6p local time and decided to take the Metro to our hotel, which turned out to be a very easy, 40 min trip. We had to change trains twice, but the Metro here is really easy to use. When we arrived at our hotel, we unpacked our suitcases and took a little siesta – apparently traveling really wears us out!
We woke up around 11p and decided to find some food close by our hotel, on Gran Via. The McDonalds was pretty busy for that time of night, but it was also a Friday. We called it a night shortly after eating, and decided to get a fresh start the next morning.
Saturday morning we slept in (this is turning out to be normal for every day of the week) and woke up around 11am. We stopped by a convenience store to purchase some sandwiches for lunch, and then decided to purchase tickets for a hop on / hop off tourist bus. The tickets were cheaper in Madrid than they had been in Barcelona, but it was the same setup. The bus provides you with headphones that you plug into the seat in front of you, you select your language, and then you listen to the tour of the city as you drive by. The bus had both a “Historic” route and a “Modern” route, so we made sure to catch both trips. We saw a ton of beautiful and interesting sites, such as the Museo del Prado, Gran Via (what used to be a major thoroughfare in Madrid), the Plaza de España, the Templo de Debod, the Palacio Real (Royal Palace of Madrid), the Plaza Mayor, the Puerta del Sol, the Museo Thyssen, the Museo Reina Sofia (modern art museum), the first Post Office, the Naval Museum, Santiago Bernabeu (stadium for Real Madrid), and the US Embassy.
At the Templo de Debod, we stopped to get out and walk around. It was a very pretty park with views over the city of Madrid, and contained a temple that was a gift to Spain from Egypt. We were not able to go inside the temple because it was on siesta, but the park was still beautiful. We took a video of the park and will post it to our pictures section.
After riding both the Historic and the Modern routes on the tourist bus, we came back to our hotel and took a short siesta before heading out for dinner. We found a diner-type chain restaurant by our hotel named VIPS and decided to eat there. We ordered croquettas for an appetizer and Joe had a “Brooklyn” wrap, which consisted of toasted white bread wrapped around ham and cheese served with honey mustard sauce and french fries – it was really good. Kat ordered the barbeque chicken flatbread, which was pretty good, but the croquettas were awesome (so was the sangria)! We headed back to the hotel that night around 10:30p and lounged around before falling asleep.
Today we left the hotel around 10:30am and drove to a winery not far from our hotel. Bodegas Monje was located in El Sauzal and was high enough above sea level to have a gorgeous view of the ocean and vineyards. We had a personal tour of the winery (probably because we were the only English speakers) and it was amazing. The old caskets of wine, the new technology they are using, the special wine tasting room, and the restaurant/patio were just beautiful. It was very interesting to see how they mixed the old, traditional style of wine-making with the new technologies of today. The winery has been a family business for 5 generations, and it made some seriously excellent wine. We tasted 6 different types of wine, 2 butter and cheese spreads, and some chocolates all made by the winery itself. The winery holds an event 4 times each year called “Wine & Sex” where patrons sample wine and indulge in the purchase of exotic toys. Our tour guide said that they sell out of tickets for each W&S event about 2 months prior to the date. After purchasing our souvenirs, we said goodbye and headed out to the Monkey Park.
We drove about an hour to the southern part of Tenerife where we found the Monkey Park (mostly by accident, we had actually given up on finding the Park and were looking for McDonalds when we found the monkeys). The park sold “goody bags” of food for monkeys, containing pieces of bread, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc., and we walked into the monkey cages armed with food! Of course, the monkeys were particular about what they actually wanted, because all day long they’re fed the same food from the same goody bags. But we got a few monkeys to eat out of our hands and got some of it on video as well! We toured the rest of the facilities and said goodbye to the monkeys… they weren’t quite as cool as the camellos… and eventually found the McDonalds, where we had lunch. The best part about eating at McDonalds in the Canary Islands, is that it tasted just like a McDonalds in the US! Of course, they had some things on their menu that we don’t have at home, but a Big Mac is a Big Mac whether you’re in Tenerife or Minnesota. Delicious.
The day was winding down, but we still had time to check out a beach and we had heard that the beaches on the southern part of the island were quite a bit different than the beaches in the North (where our hotel was located). We made our way to Playa de las Americas, and it turned out to be one of the most gorgeous, amazing beaches that either Joe or I had been to. Joe said it might have even been better than Waikiki in Hawaii! The sand was white, and it was SO soft it was ridiculous. The ocean was relatively warm, and we were sad that we only had a couple hours to spend in the sun. It appeared that there were many more tourist hotels and hotspots in this part of the island, and we heard that the southern part of the island has many more sunny days. Around 7:30p, we packed up our things and drove the 1.5 hours home to our hotel. The trip took longer because we had to drive almost the entire trip around the outside of the island, to avoid the crazy curvy roads on the inside part of the island.
That night we packed up our things with a bottle of wine, and planned how to get to the airport the next morning. It was pretty sad to leave Tenerife, but we had an excellent time!
Side note: The trip from Tenerife to Madrid was pretty painless. We took a bus from our hotel right to the airport, and our flight was only delayed by about 20 minutes. We arrived in Madrid safely and took the Metro to our hotel, which is in a great location. We’ll post about Madrid soon!
We picked up our rental car at 9:30am and received absolutely no instructions from the car company. I asked the representative for a “crash course” in road signs and driving in Tenerife and he looked a little scared… apparently that expression doesn’t translate well to Spanish. The representative also parked our rental car on the hill next to our hotel pointing down, and the hill was so steep we couldn’t back the car out! We had to ask the reception desk at our hotel to help us back the car out, which she did by using the E-brake and reversing at the same time. It was pretty cool, and I learned something new about driving a manual. It was also pretty funny, trying to explain to the reception desk that we could, in fact, drive a manual transmission car… but that we couldn’t back it out of such a steep parking spot! And then we were off.
We chose to visit El Teide first, which is an active volcano located in a national park in the center of the island of Tenerife. It has only erupted once (so according to Joe, “it’s due again”), and is surrounded by other, smaller volcanoes that were formed when El Teide first erupted (or something like that). From our hotel it was about an hour drive through the craziest uphill and curvy roads; we have fantastic video footage of the drive. The scenery up to El Teide was gorgeous, with all the trees, driving through the clouds, above the clouds, watching the mountains and various peaks appear to grow before our eyes – we have video footage and pictures of all this too. We stopped at several “lookout / photo” points in the National Park on our way to the cable car that would take us near the top of El Teide. When we finally reached El Teide, we parked the car and walked up a short hill to stand in line for tickets to the cable car. Joe purchased some awesome donuts from the café to eat while we waited in line for tickets. We finally purchased tickets and boarded the cable car, which held about 20 people, and made the 8 minute trip to the (almost) top of El Teide. The public is allowed to hike to the top of El Teide and actually into the crater itself, but you have to stop at the Park office in town and get a permit – which is free – but that sounded like a lot of work to us. Plus, the hike to the top was taller than we thought it would be, so it’s probably a good thing we didn’t pursue that idea. The cable car station at the top had various walking/hiking paths to cover and took us through some very rocky terrain. We hiked almost a mile on one path before turning back to check out other paths. The view was spectacular from such a height. We were above the cloud line again, and above the tree line as well. We could see several other craters/volcanoes from this vantage point and took a ton of pictures. We stayed about 2 hours up top, and then took the cable car back down to the base again, where we split a sandwich for lunch and checked out the souvenir shop, before heading out.
We continued driving through the state park and back down the mountain, the opposite way of which we came, so that we could continue to see the beautiful sights in the state park. We drove through a segment of desert and black rock that was really cool, before finally finding the tree line again and heading down the mountain. The views driving down the mountain were just as amazing as driving up, and we could see 2 other islands off the coast of Tenerife. We didn’t seem to see any wildlife in the hills/trees on our way up or down the mountain, but we did see plenty of trails for hikers.
After leaving El Teide and the national park, we attempted to drive to the Camello Center to ride camels, but we managed to get lost. Turns out our directions took us to the back gate of the Camello Center which did not contain any signs, so we didn’t even know we were there! We stopped at a park nearby and attempted to speak with the boy running the ice cream and beer stand. Between his limited English and my limited Spanish, we were halfway able to understand his directions… but not entirely. Then one of the old men at the stand drinking his beer informed us (in Spanish) that he would show us how to get there. So we jumped back in our car and followed the old man through town for about 10 minutes. Just when we thought he might not have understood where we wanted to go, he pulled up in front of the Camello Center! Such a sweet man, and he refused any offer of a tip. We then went inside and paid for our tickets to ride the camellos and waited by the entrance to the trail.
The Camello Center (pronounced “Cah-máy-oh”) preferred to have everybody wear blue robes with a black turban-type head piece – we all looked like fools! (And the possibility of racism was a serious thought in our minds…). But we finally entered the camello trails and there they were – all of the camellos! It was fantastic and scary at the same time. The camellos looked kind of sad, and they all had their mouths covered with metal “muzzles”, possibly to keep them from biting. Each camello was tied to the camello in front of it and the line of camellos were lead by a man. It was basically like a trail ride with horses, but instead of horses we rode camellos. The ride was 20 minutes long, and the camello behind us kept trying to talk to Joe and I. He also spit on Joe – it was gross and hilarious all at the same time. We purchased the picture of us riding the camello from the Center, and decided that was enough adventure for one day. We headed home
We’ve spent the last couple days sleeping late, visiting the shops, and enjoying the beach here in Puerto de la Cruz. Monday we went to Playa Martianez, which is the nearest beach to our hotel. It seems that most of the beaches in Puerto de la Cruz are black sand beaches, and the sand was incredibly hot! We borrowed beach towels from the hotel and hung out in the sun for a few hours before Joe got a slight sunburn. Joe waded into the ocean but said the beach was so rocky that it was hard to enjoy being in the water. Later we ate lunch at restaurant on the boardwalk. Joe had a seafood dish cooked in tomato sauce, and the seafood was still all in the shells. Shrimp, prawns, oysters, muscles, and what appeared to be baby lobsters… all still with heads and shells intact! Kat had a “hamburger” that was actually some sort of sausage patty with cheese on top – no bun. It was a nice location to eat lunch, but perhaps not the best food. We walked further down the boardwalk before turning back toward the hotel. It was a very pretty area with the mountains and the ocean. Playa Martianez was busy, as well as beautiful.
Other than visiting the beach, we honestly haven’t done much of anything – and it’s been wonderful! Kat has read a few books, we’ve spent time surfing the internet, and Joe has been watching TV episodes on the computer.
On Tuesday we woke late and decided to rent a car to finish all the trips we wanted to do during our stay in Tenerife. However, we decided that we’d rather have the car for a full 2 days instead of 1.5 days, so we discussed our plans and did some serious shopping. That night, we did laundry for 3euros per wash and 3 euros per dry. We managed to do all our laundry in 2 loads, so it was only 12 euros. While waiting for our laundry we planned our day trips for Wed and Thurs, rented a car, and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Kat had lasagna and Joe had a breaded chicken patty with fries. We both had a small order of croquetas that were okay, but not as good as the ones from BarRaval in Barcelona. The hotel also had a singing/keyboard/saxophone duo who sang during dinner – such hits as Elvis, Billy Ray Cyrus (Achy Breaky Heart – in Spanish!), and more. It was pretty funny.
Tomorrow we’re renting a car and driving to Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide, which contains the highest peak in all of Spain and an active volcano. We’re also going to ride camels in the afternoon! Hopefully driving in Tenerife won’t be too difficult – they drive on the same side of the road as the US, so it can’t be too bad… Wish us luck!
After checking out of our hotel, we easily made it to the Barcelona airport with plenty of time for our next flight. The airport didn’t have any free WiFi though, so we had to sit for an hour with not much to do before our flight boarded. When they boarded our flight they put us on buses and transported us to the plane out on the tarmac. The flight to Tenerife was about 3 hours long, and pretty uneventful. However, when we landed, we realized that we hadn’t researched how to get to our hotel from the airport! The Tenerife airport did not have free WiFi either, so we had to wait an hour for the tourist office to open because the tourist office is closed for an hour each day for “siesta”. Once the office opened it was very easy to locate our hotel. We took bus 102 directly to a stop in front of our hotel and checked in. Our apartment is on the 5th floor of building number 6 – the way this resort is layed out reminds me a lot of the resorts in Mexico: numerous buildings, all centered around a pool, large lobby area, and restaurant/bar.
We walked to the supermarket here, which was larger than any of the markets we found in Barcelona, but still not as large as anything back home, and picked up some groceries for our first few days here. A couple frozen pizzas and some pasta with sauce, potato chips, eggs, and cheese. The resort was kind enough to leave us a basket of fruit, orange juice, milk, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine in our apartment so we didn’t need to purchase those items. We also walked to the pharmacy later that day because Kat had a cold. The pharmacy gave us a powder substance that has to be mixed with water and drank 3 times per day, but seems to be quite effective.
Today we are keeping it low-key, hanging out by the pool and in the WiFi area to update the blog and our pictures. We had a frozen pizza for lunch which was pretty good and are planning on making pasta for dinner tonight. Life is good in Tenerife!