Madrid – where if you speak Spanish, you understand it here

Whether it was the language or navigation, I found in Barcelona at a disadvantage in both. I consider myself a fairly good navigator. In Barcelona, I could not get the directions right. I was backtracking all the time. Whereas Madrid is easier both linguistically and navigation wise. Perhaps it was my energy levels as well. I was exhausted when I arrived from Paris. I spent too much time and energy dealing with a difficult situation and my tolerance was at its lowest. On the train to Madrid, I had a breakdown- through about John. I just keep on grieving his absence in my life. It’s hard to put into words the bond we shared for so long. I miss him every day.

So back to Madrid. I am more comfortable here although my body is having a bit of a breakdown. My ankles are swollen and I am trying to reduce the sodium I am consuming as well as the amount of cigarettes I smoke. This is a habit that will be broken yet again upon my return back to the States.

The best thing about Madrid is that I am understood. So much so that people are speaking to me in Spanish even after I greet them or ask for something. Barcelona was NOT like this. In fact, all I would utter was, “Buenos Dias or Hola’ and they would say,”English” or just hand me an English menu. 

Barcelona, Gaudi, and Modernisma

I decided as my trip wound down, I would skip some museums in Barcelona proper. I made it out to the Dalí museo in Figueres, but I have been hitting the pavement hard with my itinerary in regards to museums. Therefore, along with the Barcelona card that was pre-purchased, I opted to  get a ‘hop on hop off’ bus pass here. This really solidified my decision to not go to the museums. I have a couple of big ones in Madrid, so I want to be rested for those. I spent some time in Barcelona getting lost – the streets are not so small, it’s a big city, so like Paris, I was navigating poorly (and I’ve been to Paris before). I didn’t even attempt the subway or bus system as I didn’t want to backtrack the way I had in Paris. Plus – I was staying out of the center in L’Eixample neighborhood at the Sunotel Club Hotel.

I never went down to the beach, but had an amazing experience with a Flamenco Event at Flamenco Cordobes. Incredible and authentic dining and dancing experience I will forever remember.

Girona and Figueres

If you don’t know about these Catalonian towns north of Barcelona, you should. Most Roman settlements in Spain start here and contain some of the original Roman roads through them.  

Girona sports a Roman wall with several medieval churches. It leads a tour through many centuries of architecture and cultures.

  

Figueres is where Dalí grew up, in a wealthy family. This town is one of the places Dalí built a casa for his beloved Gala. Our tour guide was very informative about Dalí’s work and life. I can’t express my excitement to discover many of this artist’s previously unknown works. Works such as his rocks in historical figurative compositions, his jewelry designs, and of course, the sculptures. He was the Renaissance man to Surrealism – I have a greater appreciation for his work and life.


                

Both of these towns reminded me of living in Italy – the small cobblestone streets, surprises at every turn, and the quiet, reserved nature they convey.

Necessaries in Paris

To really get a sense of eating habits in Paris, it is necessary to eat with locals (if you know them, great, if not – here’s a few tips):

1. Have a Parisienne staple (foie gras, escargot, steak tartar, steak au poivre, fromage fromage fromage)

2. Don’t stack plates or clean up when you are done (OCD-ers will hate this)

3. Know your wines, know your food – eat the bread.

I was lucky enough to do all of these PLUS attended the ‘Taste of Paris‘ – a culinary must do if you get the chance. My advice – get the Premiere Pass – it is really worth it. The Grand Palais was amazing, the food by world renown chefs was sublime.

 

Madrid Departure – Rough Trip Back

Mercury in retrograde assured of some delays and issues with scheduling. I had been pretty lucky with schedules, reservations and the sort. But now it was time for MR in full effect – flight from Madrid was delayed 30 minutes not knowing if I was going to make my flight from London to Phoenix.

Of course my arrival at Heathrow was late, therefore was booked by British Airways on another flight (American Airlines – grrr) in, get this – an aisle exit seat with 3 screaming, kicking children behind me. I was close to the loo, at least there was that.

Once you hit the States, it is necessary to claim your baggage in customs, then re-check it for any other destinations – at Chicago O’Hare, this is not an easy task. The connecting flight BA had booked from Chicago back to Phoenix was in a different terminal as well, plus the arrival departure screens were blacked out when you come through security – overall ensuring that I was to miss that flight as well. Ugggh – back again to another terminal with all my bags to the American Airlines desk to get a room for the night (By the way, $50 food allowance only covers – barely – one meal, and everything, including water and a side of ranch costs $5). My flight home was over 24 hours later than I left from Madrid, and my bags made it before I did. What a trip home.