Madrid, Spain

 I think I could sum up Spain in two words: Nuns and Nudity. That wraps it up!

 My sentiments exactly while in Europe!

 In honor of a really groovy clothing store baring my name, we decided it would be most fitting to be patrons of the establishment.
 The store fronts were all well done!
 The H & M store was a true revelation. I am happy to report that an H & M store is currently being constructed in Salt Lake City and will be opening end of JULY! Jump for JOY!! H & M is a lot like OLD NAVY, but in my opinion, BETTER!
 The High Tech Clipper Hotel was a fine accommodation.

 The High Tech Clipper had vintage caged elevators which I scarcely used unless absolutely necessary!
 Madi stands in front of an active revolution with active protesters in Madrid. Revolutionaries became another theme of our tour as we spotted them in each country we visited. Les Meserables also embodied this theme.

 We ate at a famous cafe--Chocolataria San Gines--for churros and chocolate--a delicioso combo!!

Our tour group took a night train from Paris to Madrid, Spain. We loaded the train around 6:30 p.m. and drove through the night. We arrived in Madrid around 9:00 a.m. It was so Harry Potter! This was one of the experiences I was truly looking forward to--also on my bucket list--which is long and distinguished!
Point is I relished in the idea of riding on a night train which in my mind was wrought with so much mystery I thought I was going to burst then the dread came upon me--CLAUSTROPHOBIA! 
I was not fully versed in the actual accommodations--which were tight and confined. TIGHT AND CONFINED ARE NOT WORDS A PERSON WITH CLAUSTROPHOBIA  LIKE MUCH I can assure you. So what started out as romantic notions of traveling magically by train almost turned into a panic attack. One lady in our group had the forethought and state of mind to ask her doctor back home to prescribe her a valium. So as I squished through the 18 inch hallway connecting the dozens of couchettes, I really thought I was not going to die right there or jump back off. All I could think about was how stupid I was NOT to have had the insight and smarts to also have a dose of Valium on board! What was I thinking?
But I am happy to report with a lot, a lot, a lot of earnest prayer and pleading and Hannah's I-touch, I was able to work through and get passed my initial panic and calm myself to a point that I can truly say I enjoyed myself. I watched the movie "Fever Pitch" on Hannah's I-touch to get my mind off my predicament. Caroline offered me her Jane Austen book, "Hyde Park" and my daughter actually abdicated her bed on top for my accommodation. Sleeping on the top bunk allowed me an extra 3 feet head space which literally saved my life. If a bunk was anywhere near my face, it would have been over. 
Fortunately, we were given a four bed couchette instead of--heaven forbid--an eight bed couchette. Most passengers slept in a six bed couchette. So I felt truly lucky and blessed to say the least--a tender mercy!! Another thought, you don't want to be too heavy for these beds are held up with little more than fabric belts. 
In the end, I slept fairly well due to the gentle motion and rocking of the train. The little couchette was kept frigid and I only had a thin blanket to warm me, but one of the train compartments was without air conditioning and the temperatures were stifling. I rather freeze in a situation like this.

These pictures by the contemporary graffiti art at the train station almost cost us our transportation to Madrid. The group was loading the train as we snapped the last picture. It's not like there is some intercom announcement of train departures like in airports. You simply keep an eye on an electric monitor with lit up red lettering that is constantly being updated. Let's put it this way: "We made it by a whisker!," as our old London tour guide would have said.

 On the bus AGAIN touring and site seeing through glass--not an ideal way to see the world. I refused to take pictures through the windows. So I can assure you, my eyes saw more than my camera can tell. 
 Havier is our tour guide through Madrid. He reminded me of the actor Liam Neeson. He not only shared with us the history of Madrid, but also added his own tabloid flavored commentary which made for a much more delightful tour through yet another place of royalty--this time the palace of Queen Isabella and King Fernando.

 Outside the beautiful palace in the spacious courtyard with breathtaking views of Madrid.

 The sun was piping hot--not what we were accustomed to in England nor France. The heat was welcome, but with it also came humidity. Can you say, "Grandma curls?"
 We were very tempted to go to Kung Fu Panda in Spanish in Madrid. We thought a movie about Kung Fu in the language of Spanish would be most entertaining, but we could not justify spending the time.
 So instead of Kung Fu Panda, we thought we would go to the broadway production of Les Meserables in Madrid which would also be performed in Spanish. We felt like this would be good practice for our Spanish students. I personally did not catch a word of the musical, but have seen the musical in English twice, read the book, and have watched the contemporary movie drama starring Liam Neeson.

 Les Meserables would be Madi's first broadway musical/production and she was incredibly excited!

 After we purchased tickets, we stopped across the street to eat at a not so distinguished bar that sold Tapas. We were specifically instructed to eat Tapas for lunch. In case you are not familiar with Tapas, they have a long and proud history in Spain. See when men went to bars, the bartender would place a piece of bread on top of their beer glass to keep flies from diving in for a drink. Then the illustrious tradition metamorphed--grew to a time where the bartender would not only add a slice of bread but say a piece of cheese or if the patron would be so lucky a piece of Jamon--Ham. It took me a couple days to master jamon!
This particular eating establishment smelt like a tannery due to the proud display dozen of pigs' hind quarters, legs and hoofs hanging under lock and key with a cup attached at the cloven hoof to catch the fat drippings. This is where I almost vomited!! I kid not. I could hardly gag the food down and it was muy expensive even not factoring in the horrible exchange rate of one American dollar to 1.67 Euro.
The Spanish and Portuguese love their Sardines as well. Old women would be sitting outside a cafe feasting on a plate full of a dozen and half sardines. By the time they were done, a plate of sardine heads and backbones would be piled six inches high. Not the most appetizing scene!

 In Spain, the architecture often included tiled facades. The tile kept the buildings and apartments cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter.
 I particularly like the hoodlums in the doorway trying to get on the American Tourists Action! I guess you could say they are dos jamons!!

 I was really excited for Los Merables even in Spanish! And as it turned out, the music was especially delicious--beautiful because Espanol es (is) a romantic language.
 Since we were out late on the town and at the theater, we did not have the motivation to get up early. Several people in our tour group opted for a tour to Toledo, so we were finally free of a scheduled tour and might I add, we lived it up BIG TIME! We slept in until ten at the High Tech Clipper and still enjoyed a leisurely buffet breakfast that was FIVE STAR! For all the bread and food that was lacking in France, the bread and food in Spain made up for it.
I think I ate like five croissants every morning--some chocolate filled, others cream cheese filled or plain. The fruit was sweet. The mantequilla (butter) tasted like homemade. El zumo de naranja (the fresh orange juice) was phenomenal!

 Not only was the food muy bien, but also the shopping was fabulous as well!

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