* Segovia * Di-Vino * Flamenco Dance
* Museo Nacional del Prado * Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Wednesday 8.12.09 -- Segovia
The water was leaking from the ceiling of our hotel room and we had to change rooms around 1 AM last night. I guess sleep was a luxury on this trip.
E and I had planned to visit Segovia and to catch the 8:30 AM AVANT express train at Chamartin train station. Unfortunately, the metro ride from Sol to Chamartin was longer than what the hotel front desk quoted. We missed the train by two minutes and had to wait for the next train at 10:30 AM. I was so miserable learning that there was nothing else we could do but to wait in the train station for two hours. What a waste of time! So, I finally had some downtime to catch up with my postcard writing and mailed them in the station. I guess it was not a total waste of time after all.
The first thing I noticed about the train station were the x-ray machines. Since we did not go through the security check procedure when we took a train in Barcelona, I assumed that it was implemented after the 2004 terrorist bombing attack.
After a 30 minute train ride, we were at the Segovia train station. Bus 11 was waiting outside the train station to take us to the Segovia town center. As the bus pulled into the town center, there was this architectural marvel of Roman Aqueduct standing before your eyes. The Aqueduct was built around 2000 years ago. It consists of 118 arches, and is 95 feet at it's highest point.
E and I got a town map from the tourist information office located on the right corner of the square when you pass through the Roman Aqueduct, and began to wonder around the streets of Segovia. It did not take me long to fall in love with this quaint and enchanting old town. Everywhere you landed your eyes on was just picturesque. I felt like I was traveling back in time, or in an almost too pretty to be real movie set. E and I were so engrossed in our surroundings that we lost trace of each other. I continued on passing through plaza mayor, Cabildo Catedral de Segovia, and came to Alcazar de Segovia. The castle was lovely, just what you expected it would be in such an adorable town. But what I enjoyed the most was the panoramic view of Segovia when taking the narrow stairs up to the tower. After the tour of the castle, I got a call from E. We decided to meet up at the restaurant that I reserved for lunch, Di Vino.
Di Vino was a modern restaurant that served creative gourmet cuisines. We ordered gazpacho (yummy), squid with potato (A bit too salty for me) for appetizers, raw thin slices of sirloin (fresh, tender, and tasted really good with cheese & maybe balsamic vinaigrette), and we were guessing some kind of local wild boar served medium rare with mustard sauce (again, delicious) for entrees, chocolate brownies (rich and decadent), mint watermelon (light and refreshing) for desserts, and vinos for both of us. The lunch was a total treat.
After lunch, E and I went to Cabildo Catedral de Segovia. I have never seen a catherdral this.... busy for the lack of a better word. It had a lot going on with all the chapel rooms, cloisters, and the choir stalls.
After we walked out of the cathedral, it was about time to head back to the city. A day trip to Segovia was sufficient, but I enjoyed the town so much that I would have loved to spend a night there. Of course we missed the bus 11 at the town center. I mean, what else is new? We took the cab to the train station for about 8 euros.
Because of the delay this morning, We decided to postpone our afternoon train from 4:08 PM to 6:20 PM. However, we did not know that we have to change the tickets prior to the departure time. The woman at the ticket booth did not want to change our tickets at first. I was thinking, "Great, now I have to buy another ticket." But I guess both E and I played the dumb tourist card pretty well. Eventually the woman gave in, changed the tickets for us, and charged us 3.8 Euro for the late fee.
We were back in the city around 8 PM. E planned on spending the night over at her sister's since it would be her sister's last night in Madrid. I asked the hotel front desk to book the flamenco dance show at Las Tablas for me. (By the 3rd day of my stay in Madrid, the lovely girl at hotel front desk was like my personal tour guide. I bothered her with all kind of questions at least twice a day if not more.) The show started at 10:30 PM. The performance venue was by Plaza de Espana, two metro stops from Sol. It would be my first time taking the metro by myself at night in Madrid. Even though I was comfortable walking around Madrid so far, I did not want to take any chances. I asked the front desk if it was safe to take the metro at night, especially after the performance ended close to midnight. She looked at me like I had two heads, and told me that it was safe to take the metro at that time. There will still be a lot of people around.
When I walked out of the Metro station and walked through the Plaza de Espana around 10 PM, there were many people out in the square, young couples sitting on the grass, family with babies walking around, and police patrolling. I almost felt a bit silly with my paranoia. Las Tablas was a small venue for flamenco dance. The show started promptly at 10:30 PM with a six people group. One female, one male dancer, and four other musicians playing instruments and singing. The first half of the performance was relatively tame and mundane. As the time went on, the music became more powerful, the singing more passionate, the temples turned faster, the dancers swift with their feet at an impossible speed, and the energy intensified in the whole room. It was a lot of fun to watch and the performance ended at a high note.
After the show, I made it back to the hotel safely without any problems.
Thursday Madrid 8.13.09 -- Last minute museum crunch
It was down to my last few hours in Madrid. The flight back to New York was this afternoon at 5:20 PM. I was planning on hitting the other two major museums before I leave.
I got up early again and headed to Prado Museum before 9 AM. The temporary exhibition already had a long line of people, but I was the first one in line waiting to see the permanent exhibition. Once I got in, there were already a few Japanese tour groups inside the museum. (If you don't know what to see, just follow the tour group, you are guaranteed to see the most important collections in the museum.) Prado museum has the most complete collection of Spanish painting from 11th-18th centuries. To be honest, as important as Prado Museum is in the art world, paintings from these periods were not really my thing. I spent two hours in the museum browsing through most Spanish painters' works, including Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, and Murillo. The highlight for me was seeing Velazquez's most famous painting, Las Meninas. After seeing Picasso's extensive study of the painting at Picasso museum in Barcelona, seeing the original painting was like meeting an old friend.
After Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum was the next. It was my favorite museum of all three. The museum houses European paintings from 13th to 20th centuries. Walking through the museum, you felt like you were getting a comprehensive art history lessons. I especially enjoyed the collections from 19th century on and some American painters' works.
Once I left Thyssen, I was running out of time. E's sister left early this morning, and E would stay in Madrid for one more night. We met up for our last lunch in Madrid. We randomly picked a restaurant near the hotel. Unfortunately, it was our WORST meal of the entire trip. What a let down. :( I guess it pays to do a little research on the restaurants, and stay out of tourist areas!
The past 10 days went by like the blink of an eye. It was such an action packed and sleep deprived trip. I enjoyed my Spain adventure, but I was also ready to go home to my husband.
Adios, Spain. In the mean time, I know that I have Xunta tapas bar and Sevilla restaurant in New York to satisfy my cravings when I miss you....