Plaza Mayor, Madrid


Thursday April 2, 2015
Sitting at Plaza Mayor, trying to reflect on the trip as it comes to an end.  What are the lessons?  What part is the Camino or, is it all the Camino.  It certainly didn’t go as expected.  I was rather enjoying being able to crank out 30km days without undue stress, and then all of a sudden, pain in an unexpected place and way.  I would have thought about toughing it out, but it was clear that it would get worse, and that I could risk more permanent damage.  Oh well, the Camino has been there for more than 1200 years and will still be there in the future.  The plus was getting to spend a meaningful length of time in Sevilla.  The Semana Santa was an added bonus, but, truthfully, Seville is way nicer without all of the crowds.  Even if you do your homework and are a very efficient traveler, I’m convinced that in many places, there is no substitute for wandering around for a week or so.  Rich and I have made repeated trips to San Francisco and we are still discovering new things, but our feel for the city has really increased over the many trips.  One of the things that I learned from this is that flexibility is the hallmark of good travel.  I generally don’t like to be locked into things anyway, but the Camino really teaches you that you have to be able to change it up if necessary.  For example, I ran into some kids who had walked way too far and done some damage to their feet.  They ended up renting bicycles in Burgos to do the Meseta part.  I spent a few days in Leon, and ran down various options, different boots?  Nothing to be found in my size.  Rent a bike?  Not available at the store in Leon.  Plan to head home early, but then the only flight available on my miles ticket wouldn’t have gotten me home more than a few days early and wasn’t worth the change fees.  As it was, my hassle with Air Bnb resulted in saving a lot of money as I found the rental agency.  A couple of days in Madrid has given me a whole different feel for this city, which actually seems calm after Semana Santa in Seville.  Last I was here was with a Rick Steves Tour in 2009 for two nights, and I never got the feel for the city.  Rick believes in giving you lots of museums, I believe that more than a brief morning dose is too much.  Better to go to local markets!  I should write a Non Rick Steves tour…Although Rick gets a lot right.  Especially his Travel light philosophy; I’m sure everyone reading this has heard me rant about that.  For those of you planning to travel or do the Camino, I can’t stress enough how the ability to access information can help you when things change.  Get yourself on a good roaming plan and/or buy a local SIM with lots of data.  These things will more than pay for themselves in daily use, but if things change, they will be worth their weight in gold.  I literally made the arrangements for the Apt. in Seville while on the train going over 100mph using my 10 euro SIM in the ipad mini.  I constantly use google maps on the phone when “lost” in a city.  TripAdvisor and Yelp are also ready companions.  Train schedules, bus schedule, in city navigation, hours of tourist sites etc. all easily found on the web.  Local milongas:  To paraphrase Mark Twain “I’ve been to a lot milongas in Spain, most of which never happened.”  Anyway, if you are thinking of going to Europe and want a more economical alternative to Italy or France, definitely think about Spain.  Good food, friendly people, reasonable prices, good transport, it’s all there.  Tomorrow, British Airways to LHR and then straight to SEA.

Seville to Madrid


April 1st, 2015
Took the highspeed train from Sevilla to Madrid yesterday.  Wonderful things, comfortable and take you city center to city center.  In this case a little over 2 hours at speeds of over 150mph.  Really nice.  Believe it or not, Madrid seems relatively calm compared to Seville during Semana Santa.  There are lots of people here, but not the same density of crowding going on.  I’m staying at a small hotel on one of the Tapas oriented streets called Cava Baja.  It’s a few blocks from the Plaza Mayor, so very central.  Aiming for a visit to the famed Guernica painting as well as to the Royal Palace today.  As usual last nights attempt to go to a milonga resulted in nothing, change of ownership at the place.  Fortunately it wasn’t far from the hotel, but it really does make you wonder how many of the milongas listed on the web are still going. Tapas in Madrid are not pursued with quite the same vigor as they are in Seville or Leon.  At least on Cava Baja, there isn’t any outdoor seating, so that puts a damper on things.


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