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.
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.
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.
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.