So we packed the little Renault using our collective Tetris skills and headed off from San Sebastián. Our destination for the night was Astorga which is just outside Leon.
Astorga is a popular place for the Camino. This is where majority of local Spanish pilgrims commence their Camino so it would be fitting for Andrew and Nathalie to continue theirs from this location. There is a direct bus service to Ferrol, which is 100kms away from Santiago and located on the north western tip of the Iberian peninsula.
Well this was the plan. Unfortunately injury persisted and a few more days rest would be needed. Nathalie and Andrew continued with us to Madrid. More on that later.
First stop was Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Heard about this place from Rick Stein where they have a chicken and a rooster inside the cathedral. Something about good luck and has been going on since the 10th century.
On the way we stopped by Haro, which is in the Rioja region, well known by its wine.
It is on the Camino route so a few pilgrims walking through town. The sections we drove pat seemed very flat and wide paths. Much easier than my experience along the Northern route.
Walked through the town square on the way to the cathedral and there was some type of Islamic welcoming thing going. Billboards explaining the islamic faith, tea and sweets all for free. You could even put on some traditional garb.
Headed to the church next and there was a museum of sorts inside it. What I thought was a bit steep, the 5 euro entrance was well worth it. Some very old and very interesting exhibits there.
Pushed on to Astorga after this and got in just around dinner time.
Astorga is a lovely town. Scored an airbnb for the lot of us at very short notice across the road from the cathedral. Brilliant views, although the bells rang every 15minutes. Luckily they stopped at 2300.
Chocolate and pilgrims seem to be the game in town. Loads of shops for both.
Happened to come across some flamenco dancing in the main square as well which was nice. Seem to be quite lucky in the events we stumble across in the town squares.
Next morning did another Tetris job and headed South East to Madrid.
We were a lot closer than expected and needed to waste time as we were getting the keys to our apartment at 1930. We had rented a small apartment right in the centre of town. Luckily the apartment had a pull out couch so Andrew and Nathalie bunked with us.
This was only going to be 2 nights as they had plans to push on to Lisbon on Tuesday. You can read about their travels here.
Drove into Madrid early and parked in a city car park at a fraction of what it would’ve cost to do in Melbourne or Sydney. Looked around and plenty of things happening in the Plaza del Sol, our favourite was the mariachi band.
Unsuccessfully tried to get Andrew a photo with the local Madrid Policia, however I am pretty sure we came across two of the most laziest members in Spain. Dropped the bags and Saasha and Nathalie off at the Airbnb, Andrew and I dropped the car off. On the walk back we came across a religious parade. Very cool.
My Uncle and Aunty are also in Spain for May, but our paths only cross for one night. They had just been in Madrid and were going to San Sebastián and we did the opposite. Luckily we had one night where we caught up for dinner.
Nice vegan place with amazing deserts. It was good to catch up with them and to share and receive some travel tips.
Walking back to the apartment we encountered some of the festivities for Real Madrid winning the Spanish league final. Thousands of people partying in the streets. The party was set to go til around 0400, but we retired to bed earlier than this, mindful of waking up Andrew and Nathalie who were fast asleep on the sofa bed.
Next day we hit up a free walking tour. This was the same mob who does the Barcelona ones. It was good to do this on our first day there were some tips and hints of what to do and where to go.
Afterwards we got a photograph with the lovliest Policia Nacional members. They were from the riot squad, UIP, who gave Andrew a nice wrist band, key ring and an Policia Nacional Patch.
Siesta after this as it was very very hot (muy caliente). Tapas for dinner and another look around town.
Another hot day in Madrid followed. Early start to look at some free museums as the Reina Sofia was closed on Tuesday (unlike the Mondays we have encountered previously).
First stop was Museo ABC. Picked not only because of the name, but also for Saasha’s interests. Graphic design and modern art very cool exhibitions.
Checked out the museum of Madrid. Very helpful doing the tour the day before as this helped with the history of how Madrid became Madrid, including the key people.
Looked around the Parque de El Retiro for a bit. Saw there amazing trees, I think they are modified to look like this though. Loads of people sun bathing in the park, but I suppose when you are not near a beach, this’ll do.
Siesta again as approaching the mid 30’s and it was nearing time for Andrew and Nathalie to leave for the night train to Lisbon.
Headed to the train station early in case we got lost. With plenty of time to spare we checked out the local Burger King. Check out what you get for a salad!
After bidding them farewell, it was back to Saasha and I again, with the freedom associated with that.
One last full day in Madrid, needed to see the Reina Sofia and the Prado. More so the Reina Sofia. Booked our tickets online and planned to get there early, just after the gallery opened.
Before the place opened there was a huge line of people waiting to get in. Quickly learnt that the line was actually for people who are buying tickets and that if you bought it online you just walk right up. This probably saved us 30minutes of standing in the heat.
The gallery itself was ok. Large Picasso exhibition on the path to Guernica. Very busy painting with lots going on. Not a huge fan of Picasso, but good to see some of the work he has done and how this mural impacted him.
Bit annoying that there was a large troupe of media following these 3 people around the exhibit. Constant flashes of photographs. Turned out the guy who brokered the loan of Guernica from MoMA was receiving s private tour with his wife.
Saw some of Dali’s work. Some of his work it seems he wasn’t even trying but slap his name to it and people will love it. Most of them a little too busy for my liking, but found a favourite.
Overall my favourite pieces were done in 1890 and looked to be photographs. The plaque said Anonimo, which I assume is anonymous.
It was very exhausting walking around the huge gallery, and we didn’t have enough time to see the Prado.
Walked back to the apartment, via a churro place and started the daunting task of packing.
But this didn’t last long, as we got bored and then went for a walk around the city. Had a few drinks at a bar, then walked back to the apartment.
Next morning Saasha was getting a little agitated saying she was hungry. So off she went up the road searching for breakfast. Hours later she returns, and then needs to finish packing within 20minutes (and a good job she did).
Train to the airport was straight forward. Train from the local subway to Atocha. We were originally going to put the luggage in storage at Atocha, but thought we may as well keep going to the airport as I thought the amount of further time spent in Madrid wouldn’t be worth the cost of the storage. I thought our flight departed at 1630, however it actually departed at 6:30pm. So at the airport hours and hours too early, but have the opportunity to sit around in the lounge waiting. For some reason both of our boarding passes showed Saasha’s Oneworld Ruby status, so when we got to the lounge, the desk responded with “this is the VIP lounge”. Cleary we don’t look like we should be here. A quick check on the computer then let us in.
The architecture here at the Adolfo-Suez Madrid Barajas Airport is quite nice. Very open and airy and loads of natural light. Food options in the lounge weren’t that amazing, but they did have little bottles of olive oil and balsamic!
Unfortunately our flight was delayed an hour, so we have spent the majority of the day at the Airport, but Saasha has been keeping herself amused and I have been doing this blog.
Short flight to Palma, stuck way at the back in row 31. Iberia have this thing that you need to call up to reserve a particular seat. For an hour flight, compared the the costs of calling them on an overseas number didn’t really warrant the seat selection. Pretty quick trip, good views of Palma on the approach.
Things turned to shit on arrival though.
Taxi strike in Palma today, they are all getting hot and bothered by uber from the looks of it.
Hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for busses and taxi’s that wouldn’t show up.
Hoards of English and German groups of young people, very difficult situation.
Around an hour later, we needed to push ourselves onto the bus. This was one occasion where being polite and courteous would’ve seen us still be at the airport 2 days later.
Finally in the hotel room, nice views, but very exhausted from the ordeal of getting here.
Signing off from Palma de Mallorca.
Here are some other photo’s from around Madrid: