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MadridMan'sMadrid '99:
Part 1

MadridMan has video of THIS 1999 trip. Click HERE for details.

Updated while in Madrid March 20 - April 18, 1999.

[ Also, read about my Madrid '98 & Madrid '95 trips. ]

[3/7] Still at home in the US: I'm counting the days!!! Preparing for a one-month vacation can be a daunting task, but I'm trying to take things one day at a time. Already started packing, in fact. I want to make THIS trip THE BEST ever. Who knows? It could be my last. BE SURE to check back here at/after Saturday, March 20th for my first entries. Also, during Semana Santa (Holy Week), I plan to spend a few days in Barcelona and Santander. This will be my first time to norther Spain so I'm very excited. The following week I hope to spend 2 or 3 days in Málaga, but we'll see about this one. See you in a FEW days!!!

[3/19] I'm all packed and finishing up all those little things one does before going on such a long trip as this; wash dishes, unplug everything, double-check luggage and make last minute clothing changes. Hahaa! I'll tell you, I'm more excited for THIS trip than the last two put together. My Madrid books are easily accessible in my carry-on bag so I can prepare myself (again) for what I'm about to see and videorecord. Don't worry, this video be narrated. 8-) So, I'm killing time, stewing with anticipation for 10:30am to come so I can leave for the airport. I fly on Delta from Columbus, Ohio, 3-hour layover in Atlanta, Georgia, and then to Madrid where I'll arrive at 8am tomorrow/Saturday morning. I just hope I can sleep on the plane. DOUBT IT!!!! Be sure to check back whenever you can for my daily updates. See you in Madrid!!!! Actually, I WILL see some of you in Madrid. 8-)

[3/20]What a perfect (and restful) first day in Madrid!!!! My flight arrived at Madrid Barajas airport a little late, but I didn´t care. The morning weather couldn´t have been better; cool, clear skies, and oh-so-sunny. Rosa picked me up and drove me through the city and past Calle Serrano to the Puerta de Alcalá (Gate of Madrid), to Plaza de Cibeles and down Paseo del Prado to Puerta de Toledo (Gate of Toledo) and crossed the Rio/River Manzanares to the old, working class neighborhood where I´m staying. After many double-cheeked kisses hello to the family mother, I sat down for some converstaion and breakfast of toasted bread (in the barra/baguette style) with garlic rubbed over it and then olive oil poured on top and drank my first REAL Spanish café con leche (coffee with milk) for this trip. Then, Rosa and I went to several little shops for vegetables, fruit, fish, and bread. Upon returning home, I took a ´short´ 3-hour nap and missed the family´s 2pm lunch of lentil soup, ham, bread, but I ate at 3pm and I thanked them for letting me sleep. At about 9pm, Rosa and I walked down the hill of Paseo Extremadura where the street nearly meets the Rio Manzanares. Here, we stopped into a corner bar/eatery, stood at the bar, and ate pulpo de la Gallega (olive-oil boiled squid), boiled potatoes, and bread with our glasses of Mahou beer, all the while talking about the weeks to come and admiring the nighttime view across the river and up the hill to the illuminated Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and the church of Nuestra Señora de la Almudena through the wrought iron barred windows. Oh what a wonderful beginning to what I´m sure will be an incredible 4-week stay here in Spain.

[3/21] Another beatiful day in Madrid. Today, I slept until 9am (VERY late) and had split & toasted bread (in the bar/baguette style) with garlic and olive oil with my café con leche (coffee with milk). Then, to begin another relatively easy day, Rosa and I went to El Rastro, a Sunday tradition in Madrid which has existed since the 16th century. El Rastro is a HUGE flea market in the neighborhood of Lavapies, very close to the Puerta de Toledo. You can find many odd things here: antiques, old books, plumbing fixtures, leather goods, almost anything. We walked around for awhile, took some video and photos, and eventually made our way to Rosa´s sister´s house where she and her husband prepared hors d´oevres of chorizo (spicey sausage), morcilla (a blood pork sausage with onion), green olives stuffed with anchovies, and bread (but of course!). Next came a noodle soup, and the main course was a bowl of beef, chorizo, green beans, and garbanzo beans, all the while drinking 2 or 3 bottes of Rioja wine amongst the 5 of us outside on the 6th floor terraza (balcony) and speaking for hours about whatever came to mind, and all in Spanish. This is, essentially, where the day ended at about 7:30pm (the 4-hour lunch was from 2-6pm!!!). Now, just having a Pepsi at ¨home¨, talking with the family, and making plans to upgrading their computer this week. Tomorrow is a big day for me. I´ll be awaiting a very important phone call at 10am from a Canadian free-lance journalist who is beginning her world tour in Madrid and would like to meet and interview me about MadridMan´s Yankee Home Page and my obsession with Madrid. She intends to write a feature article which will without doubt, if sold, be wonderful exposure for my labor of love, MadridMan.com. We´ll see if things go the way she hopes. I have my fingers crossed!

[3/22] I´m SO wonderfully tired. I must have seen almost half of Madrid today and my sore feet are the proof. I woke at 7:30am, had (barra/baguette) toasted bread with olive oil and café con leche for breakfast. At about 9:00am, I took the #36 bus from Paseo Extremadura, across Rio Manzanares, and east to the Puente de Toledo (Bridge of Toledo) where I got off and walked along the now-pedestrian, Barroque style, 18th century bridge. VERY nice! Walking up the hill on Calle de Toledo to Puerta de Toledo (Gate of Toledo) where I exchanged some travellers checks to pesetas at a Caja Madrid (Bank of Madrid) and nearly left my passport with the ¨teller¨. Whew! That was close! So, I continued east all the way to the Atocha train station where I entered and visited the ¨rainforest¨ inside. After, I went up Paseo del Prado a little ways and paused at street of Claudio Moyano, on the southernmost edge of the Retiro Park, for the Feria de Libros (Fair of Books) which is a long row of very small shops/stalls where one can find a WIDE variety of old books on almost any topic. Up Paseo del Prado and west on Calle de las Huertas, stopped and looked over Hostal Lopez and the nice old neighborhood around it. I´ll stop in this week to speak with the family. The Lopez family is very nice. I stayed there one night last year and I know their son, Florencio. West to Plaza Santa Ana where I had lunch at about 2:30pm at Cerveceria Aleman, a popular bar/eatery where Ernest Hemingway used to visit. I ate tortilla español, choricito, croquetas, bread, and a Mahou beer while looking over the bullfighting photos on the wall. The floors were white with black marble to match the white marble top tables. Up to Calle de Alcalá, east to Plaza de Cibeles and Palacio de Comunicaciones (Madrid´s main post office), north, passing Café Gijon & Café El Espejo to Plaza de Colón (Plaza de Christopher Columbus), west on Calle de Genova to Plaza Alonso Martinez and south on Calle de Hortaleza where I stopped for a café con leche in Cerveceria Bacata y Olé which was a nice little bar/eatery which also had white marble floors and tables, but the walls had large white tiles painted with mainly yellow and other colors of scenes of people frolicking in nature. It was interesting to listen to American Rock and Roll in this place in Madrid. Then, south to Puerta del Sol (Gate Of The Sun) where I visited the Oso y el Madroño (the Bear and the Madroño tree, the symbol of Madrid) sculpture, the sun was low so the Tío Pepe sign and building had a warm yellow color as did the clock towered government building of the Community of Madrid. This was nearly the end of my touring day, but I had to rest my feet and have a beer and un pincho de tortilla (a small portion of tortilla patata) while writing in my journal and waiting for the sun to go down so I could record some more video for my new Madrid video. Finally, I walked through Plaza de España at night and enjoyed the view of illuminated Cervantes and his Don Quijote and Sancho Panza with Edificio de España (Building of Spain) behind and Torre de Madrid (Tower of Madrid) to the left. That was it for the day and that was ENOUGH!! 8-) It was a great day with perfect weather again; not a cloud in the sky and warm in the sun. I may want to rest my feet tomorrow, but we´ll see. OH! The Canadian woman who was going to interview me today sent an email saying she had flight reservation problems and won´t arrive until the 23rd or 24th so we´ll see if this interview even happens. Again, my fingers are crossed!!!!

Many things mentioned above (and others not mentioned) can be found on the new
MadridMan´s Madrid Video. I had my camcorder with me for 12 hours today!

[3/23] The mighty MadridMan traveler took the day off. I know, I know. This isn´t what you wanted to read, but I just had to rest after yesterday´s 12-hour foot tour of much of the city. Whew! My feet and lower legs REALLY hurt this morning. I slept very very late, upgraded the family computer, hung off the balcony from the 5th floor and just watched people walking and cars passing. I did watch many American TV programs dubbed in Spanish like Home Improvement, Family Matters, The Simpsons, and that other comedy with the 3-guys and their kids who share one house in San Francisco. All comedies, of course. I also watched some news and daytime drama. Ha ha ha... The family mother did fix for me a wonderful lunch of pasta with chorizo sauce and ham croquetas. Mmmmm.. I love ham croquetas. Unfortunately, I haven´t heard from the Canadian journalist yet. Darnit! We´ll see. Tomorrow should be another big day for me. I plan to go to the tourist offices, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de España, the national opera house, Plaza de Oriente, as well as the Templo de Debod. This may also be a good day for El Faro (the space needle thingy on the western edge of the city) and/or el Teleférico (the ski-lift thing which carries one from La Rosaleda park to Casa de Campo park). Hoping for continued perfect weather. It was cooler and windier today, but still cloudless. Sorry for the boring entry. I´ll make it up to you all tomorrow, on Rosa´s birthday. Hasta mañana!!!

[3/24] Today it has been raining almost all day, but that didn´t stop me from seeing some very beatiful parts of older, lower Madrid. First, I took at taxi through a typical atasco (traffic jam) at about 9am and arrived at almost 10am to Paseo del Prado via Puerta del Sol. I saw on Paseo del Prado that Museo del Prado estaba en obras todavia (that it was still in the renovation stage). The world reknowned museum was covered in a huge, solid awning. It seems they´re replacing the roof....since LAST year when I was here. We stopped into a small café along the street called "Mesón Restaurante <>". Here, I had a café con leche and Rosa had a cortado (like an espresso...I think) while talking about the day ahead. The little café was very cute with columns, paintings (as well as on some tiles) and a nice bar where we sat on stools. In the back, there was a VERY elegant little dining room. From here, we went to the Barrio (neighborhood) Lavapies (and metro stop Lavapies) where Rosa showed me where she used to live on Calle de Salitre. Rosa told me this used to be a jewish neighborhood in Madrid and now it is home to a wide range of peoples from punks to old people and is known for its bohemian inner culture. The neighborhood was just wonderful with narrow streets, old 19th century buildings and almost totally balconied windows (I just love those old, full length wooden shutter doors). There were some hills and wonderful old, large wooden doors. We walked through a couple markets where the individual sections/counters sold fresh seafood, meats, fruits, vegetables, and canned foods along with other little things. I love these kinds of markets for their social nature. The Plaza Lavapies is/was, as Rosa told me, a plaza full of terrazas (terraces) and people during the summers, usually seeing the same people each evening for a drink and a little something to eat until the early morning hours. I realize now, after 3 visits to Spain that it´s the siesta that keep this VERY social people going. When at home, I take a one or two hour siesta after lunch each day and it is REALLY refreshing and allows me to stay awake (and social) until 2am or thereabouts. Tomorrow is another day and I´m hoping for better weather. There are still MANY things I want to see and do. Good news!! We´ve (finally found and) made firm reservations for a hotel in Barcelona and we leave Madrid on Saturday for three nights, but upon return I´ll fill you all in on what we did. BUT, that´s 3 days in the future. I have a lot of sight seeing to do before then. Until tomorrow!!

[3/25] No more Mr. Nice Guy traveler. 8-) Braving the cloudy & cold, rainy-ish weather this morning and using my 10-trip MetroBus ticket (660 ptas.), I took the #31 bus from Paseo de Extremadura to the end of the line near Plaza Mayor, knowing full well this was only the beginning for me. I saw the Plaza Mayor for the first time this trip, but from a distance, circling the plaza to the west in order to find Calle de Cuchilleros. And there it was, the lone painted white tile on the wall of Plaza de Puerta Cerrada which said, "Calle de Cuchilleros" and showing a man on his horse wielding several swords. Turning right and making my way up the slope, I saw, on my right, the famous Casa Botín restaurant, the Guinness Book of World Records´oldest restaurant on the planet and where Hemingway used to eat at time (it seems Hemingway took full advantage of most of Madrid´s bars and restaurants!). After taking a photo of the old 4 story building of brick and wood, I climbed the stairs leading to the southwest corner entrance of Plaza Mayor.....and there it was; the frescoed face of Casa de la Panadería and Felipe III in the center with bricks of red, black, and white patch-work. Walking around the arcade on all 4 sides, I stopped into La Torre del Oro Bar Andalús for a draft beer of Cruzcampo and a small dish of paella. (Thursdays are always THE day to have/serve paella in Spain) This is a bar dedicated to Sevilla and bullfighting there as well as in Madrid. This narrow, little bar had 6 bull heads and countless bullfighting, framed photos of important moments in las corridas (the bullfights). I recommend this bar for those who are not squeemish of dead bull-heads on the walls or plastic grape bunches, famous bull-gorings, or bunches of plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling. 8-) Then, I went to the free museum of history of Plaza Mayor on the (inside) north side of the plaza, went downstairs and there I saw, in the underground (concave brick ceiling with arches) museum, a special exposition of the history of the Puerta del Sol. I didn´t stay long, but long enough to read some of the history of both the plaza and sol and see some wonderful old photos and paintings. I then took a seat at the NE corner lamp post in the plaza and wrote in my journal, waiting for the sun to poke out so I could take my Plaza Mayor photos. Leaving the plaza and walking around the narrow and winding old streets to the north, I slowly strolled through the old neighborhoods, stopping frequently to absorb my surroundings and marvelling at the beautiful little plazas & their surrounding old buildings with miradores (window enclosed balconies). The time soon came for lunch, about 2:15pm, and I´d been casually looking for the Menú del Día (Menu of the day) in the different restaurants while enjoying my time in this old part of Madrid. I decided upon a well priced window advertise at La Boutique del Bocadillo on the corner of Calle Arenal and Plaza Celenque. For 950 pesetas, I chose for the first course the Paella Valenciana which was a medium sized dish wonderful yellow saffron, a mejillone (mussel) in the shell, red pepper, rabbit, and a little red crab on top of it all, looking directly at me on the table. For the second course, I decided on the chuleta de cerdo (pork chop) and fried potatoes. Along with all this came the bread, vino de mesa (red table wine), and then the dessert of strawberries with cream. After, I was pleasantly full and satisfied with my choices in this simple, nothing-special restaurant (it did have white marbel floor and a green and red marble bar though). After lunch, it wasn´t long before I found myself in the Calle de Preciados which connect Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Callao on the Gran Vía. I did some shopping in the big Casa de Libros (House of Books) to look for maps, FNAC, the Swatch Store to buy a new (S)watch band, and into an Estanco/Tabacos store to buy postcard stamps. I took a seat in the Plaza de Callao to write in my personal journal and look over the Gran Vía with it´s building size banners (painted individually by hand...still!!!) of upcoming movies, mainly American...what a shame. Most of the day, the HUGE national opera house was visible over the rooftops or down the streets to the west. ***NOTE: I´ve come to an important realization; after this, my third trip to Madrid, I´ve concluded that Spain holds the world´s MOST beautiful women. It seems that if the female is under/around 30 years old, chances are VERY good they are beautiful....and wearing skin-tight pants (the latter having nothing to do with my appreciation of the former...of course!). And many have a VERY keen sense of fashion. I just love their black pin-striped pants with black platform shoes/boots. ***END NOTE So! This ended my day in Madrid center at about 4:45pm. I took the #31 bus bus back across Rio Manzanares and up Paseo de Extremadura and got off near my neighborhood. Arriving home, had another café con leche, chocolate, and toasted bread para menendar (for the late afternoon snack). GOOD NEWS!! Upon walking through the door here at home, the Canadian journalist called and we´re meeting tomorrow morning under the statue of Felipe III in the Plaza Mayor for photos and to go to some café, possibly near the Opera, for a 2-hour interview about me and MadridMan.com. I´m VERY excited!!!! Until tomorrow!

[3/26] Partly cloudy, cold, and windy most of today, but I was STILL in old center of Madrid. In fact, I met the journalist, Tania, at the base of the statue of Felipe III in Plaza Mayor at 10am. After giving her the obligatory double-cheek kiss (since she was in Spain, A MUST!), she took a few photos of me around the Plaza and then walked diagonally to the northwest towards the national opera house via Plaza Ramales and winding our way through the odd-angled streets, occasionally stopping to take photos in front of particularly picturesque buildings and streets. We found our way to Plaza de Isabell III, circled the plaza, and chose El Café de la Opera, directly across the street and facing the old opera house. Here, Tania would conduct her interview over café con leche for me and manzanilla for her. This 2-hour interview was an egotist´s dream to be sure as we talked about ME ME ME and MadridMan.com, its beginning, reason, and future. After the comfortable spilling of information to Tania´s notebook, we walked along Calle Arenal and stopped in Puerta del Sol for more photos (I was beginning to feel like a top fashion model....right!!). Along Carrera de San Jerónimo, past the romanesque/Wall Street like structure of the Congreso de los Diputados to the Plaza Cánovas del Castillo and the foutain of Neptune. Crossing Paseo del Prado, we bought postcards along the center paseo, dividing the traffic directions, crossed the street in front of the the constantly-renovated-Museo del Prado, and south to Plaza Emperador Carlos V, crossed again towards the museum of Reina Sofía, and stopped into the local favorite, El Brillante bar/eatery where we had a caña de cerveza (glass of draught beer), I had my FIRST bocadillo de calamares (fried squid sandwich--I was in heaven!), and she had the bocadillo de tortilla (a sandwich of a the kind-of omelette of eggs, potatoes, and onion). So, this ended my day with Tania and the interview. I returned home and almost immediately took a 2-hour siesta. We´re planning for our trip to Barcelona, leaving in the morning, but I´ll send a final, short journal entry before going to pick up the rental car near Plaza de España. GREAT NEWS!!!! Last night, I received an email from the producers of a new CBS (United States) television program called "Wild Wild Web" and they would like to interview me while I´m here in Madrid. How exciting!!!!!! If all goes well, I´ll be meeting with them in about 10 days from now. I almost couldn´t sleep last night with the anticipation of today´s interview with Tania AND this new television opportunity for exposure of MadridMan.com. Things are REALLY starting to take off. Until tomorrow!!

[3/27: morning before leaving for Barcelona] Feeling a little heavy-headed after a few glasses of sidra with our typically late dinner last night, Rosa and I will soon be picking up the rental car and making the slow, easy, 8-hour (or so) trip to Barcelona, stopping in Zaragoza along the way for a little visit. It should be an enjoyable trip and I´m really looking forward to it, but expected to be cold, partly cloudy, and in the hight 50s F. The forecast is excellent though, getting better everyday until we leave on Tuesday afternoon, the days should be sunny and in the high 60s F or low 70s F. Check back to read all about it on Tuesday or Wednesday night. This will be my first visit to coastal Spain!!! Hasta Miercoles! (Until Wednesday!)

[3/27 written after returning to Madrid] After a late start (had some problems with rental car paperwork), Rosa and I took the N-II past Zaragoza and stopped in Medinaceli (a small village at the top of a small mountain) to visit the old roman arch and plaza mayor as well as walk the narrow streets of this high elevation, very cold and windy town and had a café con leche (me) and a vermuth (Rosa) in one of their few bars. What a great view of the valley atop this mountain. We continued on to Santa María de Huerta where we ate our premade sandwiches of chorizo and luomo (embutidos-hams) outside of an old church. It was cloudy and rained off and on the closer we got to the Sierra de Monserrat and with the sun setting behind us we had a double-ended-land-touching rainbow over our heads, but we didn´t stop to look for the pot of gold...it must have been closeby though. Counted 12(!!!!!!!) castles along the route from Madrid and finally arrived to a cloudy Barcelona around 7pm, found the Avenida Diagonal, and followed it (and the traffic jam) to our Hotel Europark (***, 14,500 ptas/night) and parked (2,000 ptas / 24 hours) directly next to the hotel in the parking garage. Believe it or not, we were too tired to venture ouf of the hotel once we arrived and decided to just order a pizza (ham and pineapple) and a beer (Estrella-Hamm) and just rest for a big next day of sightseeing.

[3/28 written after returning to Madrid] Woke up an hour late because of the time change overnight and at 10am almost missed the hotel included breakfast (Sat., Sun., Mon. only); buffet of coffee, 4 different juices, hams cheeses, yogurts, cereals, croissants and other breads, fruit, a breakfast cake, and many more things. We were stuffed! With full bellies, we walk to Paseo de Gracias to see two of Gaudí´s buildings and then, since it´s Sunday, so we decide to first go to the famed (& perpetually unfinished) Gaudía cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, only 5 blocks northeast from our hotel. The cathedral and adjoining park was FULL of well-dressed people on this Palm Sunday and many people carried the long palm branches, sometimes folded, bent, & ribboned into beautiful works of art. From the cathedral, we took the metro to Plaza de Catalunya, then walked along Las Ramblas and WOW! were there a lot of people, mostly tourists (like us) walked through the BEAUTIFUL, OLD gothic neighborhood. This was the most impressive part of Barcelona for me. I SO enjoyed ambling through the ALWAYS narrow, angled, & shadowed streets, always balconies, very cool from all the stone walls. Get This!! After walking around for maybe one hour we encountered Tania, the journalist who interviewed me last week! What a wild coincidence!? The three of us walked to the Royal Plaza and parted ways there. Finally, we made our way to the ocean, walked along Paseo de Colón to Correos (the old, main post office), and then back through the Gothic Neighborhood. We ended the evening at La Tramoia restaurant 4,528 ptas. with a bottle of house wine and dessert) on Rambla de Catalunya (just 1 block north of the end of Las Ramblas, at the corner of Gran Vía) and had a wonderful late-night meal at our second floor window table.

[3/29 written after returning to Madrid] Had another huge breakfast at the hotel, took the bus north to Parc Guell on/near the top of the "mountains" of Barcelona. This park was, in itself, a work of art. We saw more works by Gaudí as well as other structures in a similar style along the many paths, all with a wonderful view of the city down below. Taking the bus back near the hotel, we jumped in the car and drove to/around the impressive Placa Espanya, through the twin towers, and towards the Nacional Palace, turning to Poble Espanyol ("Spanish Town" - 950 ptas/each entrance). This was created for the 1929 International Fair to give respresentative examples of typical "houses" from the different regions of Spain. Here, we spent many hours walking from one building to the other and finally stopped to have lunch in the Plaza Mayor in the sun. Leaving Poble Espanyol, we drove up the winding road of another Barcelona "mountain", Montjuic, just west of the city and very near the water. Driving past the olympic complex, swimming pool and stadium, we cam upon the Montjuic Castle at the top where we actually drove across a kind through part of the castle and parked alongside. We spent about an hour walking the grounds of this great castle-turned-military-defense-armory with an incredible view of both the ocean and the city of Barcelona. Driving down Montjuic, we drove along the ocean on Paseo Jose Carner/Paseo Colon to Parc de la Ciutadella ("Park of the walled city".... or something like this). This was a wonderful park with beautiful structures, small ponds, fountains, paseos, long flowerbeds, a zoo, and the parliament building of Catalunya. This park was especially nice during this time because the sun was just setting. We returned to the hotel for a siesta, then walked back down Las Ramblas to the Royal Plaza and began waiting in line at 10pm (for about 30 minutes, closes at 11pm) for the well-known restaurant (although, mostly by tourists, 3,818 ptas. with a bottle of house wine and dessert) "Les 15 Mits", somewhat affordable, decent-food, right on the Royal Plaza. We had a very nice dinner and finally left after midnight (1 hour past closing) and were 2 of the last 25 people in the place. We walked through the Gothic Neighborhood again and finally back to the hotel. What a great day, we were both exhausted.

[3/30 written after returning to Madrid] Had breakfast of café con leche and a coissant across the street from the hotel, checked out at 11:00am, and left Barcelona by way of the Paseo Diagonal towards Montserrat and its monastery. We drove up the long, winding, mountain road to the top and searched with hundreds of other tourists for parking. It´s an impressive location to be sure, but the high number of tourists took something away from its greatness. We visited the Basilica, strolled along the valley walkway, had a snack on the stairs with a fantastic view of the valley below. About an hour later at 3pm, we stopped in the small top-of-the-mountain town of Cervera where we had lunch at the valley-view local restaurant of Café Espanyol (which doubled, it seemed, for town meetings, games parlor, or even live plays). I had pasta with tomatoe sauce for the 1st course, and pork chops for the second course along with a beer and then yogurt and coffee for dessert (about 20,000 ptas. for us both). From Cervera, we drove along the highway, taking, in part, the Autopista (like the toll-turnpikes in the US) to near Zaragoza because of the high number of slow moving semi-trucks along the partially 2-lane highway. I saw most of the same castles as before, but added a few more during the 7-hour driving day and loved noting the huge, black bulls on some of the hills, advertising, without words, the well-known Osborne Cognac. We arrived in Madrid around 9pm and I was thoroughly tired of driving most of the way on this very sunny, but extremely pleasant and visually stimulating (for a foreignor, I suppose) stretch between the two great(est) cities of Spain. GREAT NEWS UPDATE!: Checked email and received a message from one of the CBS television producers of "The Wild Wild Web" and I´ll be meeting them on Tuesday, April 6th for the interview and giving them a short tour of my favorite city. They´ll also attend, with their mini cam-corders, the El Brillante bar/eatery get-together for some fun times.

[3/31] Did relatively little today and made this a post-trip-recovery day. We returned the rental car to the lot at Plaza de España, went to the bank of Caja Madrid near Puerta del Sol to change some more money as the banks will be closed until Monday for Semana Santa / Holy Week, window shopped in Sol for some good leather Spanish shoes for me, then grabbed the bus to near Puerta de Toledo, next to the Mahou beer distillery, to visit Rosa´s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew for a little while. We returned home, had an incredible lunch of paella, then I took a 2-hour siesta, planned my 2-night trip to Málaga on April 7th to visit my e-friend and host, Michelle Chaplow and her husband. Now, tonight, all I have planned is to take some video of illuminated Madrid (Palacio Real, the churches of La Almudena and San Francisco El Grande) from atop the neighborhood hill, across the river Rio Manzanares. There´s a fantastic view from here. We may be visiting Toledo tomorrow so I´m very excited. Until then!

[4/1] Happy April!! It´s 2am here so it´s actually 4/2, but who´s watching the clock in Spain? Not me! Until noon it was cold and rainy and looked like a good day to stay indoors, but as is typical the weather here in Castilla it changes quickly and gave way to mostly clear skies and pleasant temperatures. Rosa and I drove the 47 kilometers on the N-IV highway in the late afternoon to Aranjuez and walked around the GRAND Royal Palace where, since the 15th century, the royals and their court would retreat from Madrid for the summers. We walked around the impressive palace and spent at least an hour in and around the very sizable royal gardens. Rosa tells me this is one of the most popular and romantic places couples can go. Aranjuez is certainly worth the trip and is well known for its local specialty of Fresas con Nata (strawberries with cream), but we didn´t partake this time. From here, we drove just after sunset to Navalcamero, a little closer to and just southwest of Madrid. Here, we walked through the old, cobblestoned streets under the full moon around the old Plaza Mayor which was lined with nice, old restaurants, but we opted for the well known, just-off-the-plaza restaurant of Las Cuevas del Carnero (The Caves of the Male Goat) and, at 10pm-12midnight had a large plate of embutidos (different kinds of hams: jamon serrano, salchichon, lomo, murcilla) and cheese along with a bottle of house wine (total: 3,800 ptas). It was a little expensive for what we had, I thought, but the bullfighter atmosphere, spanish music, and deep DEEP underground individual wine cellar caves and dining rooms made this all worth it. While we were eating and talking about the differences between Spanish and US cultures, we could hear the drum beats of the slow, Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions passing down the street outside. It was a great afternoon/evening outside of Madrid. We drove home under the moon and upon arriving, we had a dessert of torrijas (similar to french toast) and warm milk while watching the US movie "Twister", dubbed in Spanish. It´s now 2:30am and time for bed. We´ll be spending most of tomorrow in the west-by-northwestern city of Salamanca, about 212 kilometers from Madrid (I have NO idea how far this is in miles, sorry). This will make my second visit there, but I´m still anxious to see it again. Their Plaza Mayor is absolutely beautiful.

[4/2] It was a beautiful day in central Spain today. We were on the road early today, but apparently not early enough as we encountered an atasco (traffic jam) between Madrid and the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains on our way to Salamanca. We drove through the countryside, stopping a couple times for a coffee, and finally arrived just after noon with, it seemed, the rest of the Madrid population, looking for someplace interesting to visit as well as endlessly searching for a place to park! This was my second visit to Salamanca, but didn´t compare to my first time in 1995 mainly because this time around it seemed the entire town was "en obras" (under construction/in repairs) including, sadly, about 25% of the interior walls of the old Plaza Mayor and the dome/entire-upper-portion of one of the two cathedrals. This was especially sad because Rosa and I brought along her 70-something year old mother who had never visited Salamanca, 212 kilometers from Madrid . Still, we enjoyed the Old and New Cathedrals (as well as other churches), the university, and the streets in general. We ate at what seemed to be a popular University of Salamanca eatery called Don Quijote Café where we all had inexpensive combination dinners. We left Salamanca around 6:30pm (*I* drove this time....faster, and on the autopista--somewhat like the German Autobahn where speed limits don´t seem to exist) and drove by Avila, only stopping at a scenic spot to take a couple photos of the beautifully walled city at low-sun level...VERY nice! I´d spent a couple days in Avila in 1995 already and it was getting late. Driving again through the long tunnel under the snow-capped Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, drove down the outer/western side of Madrid, along the Rio Manzanares and up Paseo de Extremadura at about 8:00pm and had a great sunset view of the river-side/west-face of the Royal Palace. So! Another fine day in Spain. We may be visiting Toledo tomorrow, but that remains to be seen. We´ll see how we feel when we wake up in the morning. Until then!

[4/3] What a perfect spring day we had here in Madrid. After a few hours of "discussion" this morning, Rosa and I decided to visit with our friend Florencio Lopez, the son of the famed Hostal Lopez. Florencio is now out of college, with a good job, and lives on his own. I´ve known him for a number of years as an e-pal via email, but just met him for the first time last year while in Madrid. As Rosa calls him is true, "Super-amable" (VERY-nice). The three of us spent all day together meeting at Café Gijon on Paseo de Recoletos and had a beer/beer/vermuth (around 19,000 ptas/$14 for our three drinks...pricey, yes) and the two of them, Rosa and Florencio, spotted a number of well-known Spanish actors who were having a drink or just passing by as we sat under the perfect Madrid sky on the terraza/terrace. Café Gijon is popular for the intellectual, artistic, actors, and models crowd and proved to be true today. Next, we walked a little ways up the Paseo to the totally glass enclosed café, El Pabellón Del Espejo and sat inside to really enjoy the tall wooded ceiling and the stained glass window portions towards the top of each window. "El Espejo" is another VERY well known place and the price shows this, but it was worth it for our 3 drinks and snack. Next, Florencio invited us to Restaurante Boñar de León (San Bernardo, 40: Just north of the Gran Vía) for lunch. It is located in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Madrid, but known for its wonderful, typically Spanish food at good prices. For the first course I had the potaje (a kind of soup with garbanzo beans, spinach, cod fish, potatoes -- I´m not a big fish fan, but it was fine) and the second course was callo (sliced cow intestines in a spicey sauce -- very flavorful, but an extremely "chewy" and heavy food. We all enjoyed our 2-hour lunch and the bottle of Vino de Mesa (table wine), but left late in the afternoon for the Casa de Campo park. After driving through the expAnsive park on this beautiful day, we drove to the top of the largest hill to El Teleférico, the LONG ski-lift like ride which goes from Casa de Campo to the Rosales Park at the edge of the city. We went to the café on the wide, skyline-view deck for a Coke (for me, horchata for Florencio, and Vermuth for Rosa). So then, I boarded the "pod" alone to take some good video, but the ride was a little bumpy so I just enjoyed the ride, narration (in Spanish) along the way, and the western edge of Madrid at low-sun level, casting a glow on the west face of the Royal Palace and La Almudena cathedral. Rosa and Florencio met me on the other side and we walked to the Templo de Debod just to the south and then drove to and parked aside the National Opera House and walked through Plaza de Oriente and enjoyed the view of the setting sun from the west-city-side through the fence between the Royal Palace and La Almudena. Then it happens.... darkness falls and the lights turn on, illuminating the area and.....history. We said goodbye to Florencio on the Plaza de Isabell II, next to the Opera, and I hope to see him again on Tuesday, the night of the big "Party With MadridMan" gathering at El Brillante for bocadillos de calamares and cañas of cerveza. I look forward to that.

[4/4] It was a warm day today (mid 70s F), nearly clear skies, and a relatively easy day for me. Rosa drove me to the bus station where I purchased my round-trip ticket (4,485 ptas. = $31 US VERY cheap!) to Málaga this Wednesday at 8:30am and will leave for Madrid on Friday at 9:30am. I was going to take the train, but it was almost 3-times as expensive and the travel time nearly the same. This trip is 6-hours each way and these buses are REALLY special compared to those in the US. These are new, near-luxury buses with air conditioning, of course, but also, television, radio, beverage service, restroom, and very comfortable chairs, better than those on airplanes. I´m looking forward to this trip to visit Michelle Chaplow and her husband for the first time and will be staying with them. After getting the ticket, we drove to El Faro de Moncloa (the space-needle like observation tower on the northwest side of Madrid), but it was about to close for the mid-day break so we didn´t go up at this time. From here, Rosa drove while I videotaped our way through Madrid from Moncloa, Gran Vía, Cibeles & Palacio de Comunicaciones, Puerta de Alcalá, turned around and back up Calle de Alcalá to Puerta del Sol, Opera, Palacio Real & Plaza de Oriente, El Viaducto (tall bridge over Calle de Segovia) to Puerta de Toledo, Puerta de Toledo, and finally across Rio Manzanares where we crossed the Puente de Segovia. This is where the video-by-car portion ended and I thanked Rosa for being my Chaufer. We arrived home at about 2:30pm, just in time for lunch and had cocido madrileño. Cocido madrileño has two parts/courses: Part 1) sopa de fideos (thin noodle soup with ham and egg) and Part 2) bowl of garbanzos, beef, and potatoes). We also had bread and I had a Mahou beer. For dessert, it was arroz con leche (cooked rice with milk, cinnamon sticks, and lemon peel). Oh!!! I was in heaven. After all this wonderful food, at about 3:30pm, I took a much-needed 2-hour siesta and have spent the evening relaxing and watching TV. More tomorrow!!

Continue with the 2nd two weeks of Madrid ´99

[ Also, read about my Madrid '98 & Madrid '95 trips. ]

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