I guess that this post is really in 2 sections. First is the 40th Anniversary reunion with our good friends Ray and Jan and Theo and Jan. Together we shared our honeymoon venue, Hayman Island. Then anniversaries (reunions) with our now good friends Ray and Jan Williamson and Theo Kiekebosch and Jan at 20 years in Melbourne, 25 years on the Gold Coast, 30 years in Perth and 35 years in Sydney. For those who may not know we are now celebrating with Ray and Theo and the two Jans in Madrid Spain for our 40th on the 3rd April 2016. Linda and I are certainly looking forward to this one and many more to come. Together the 6 of us are also touring southern Spain The second part after a few other group activities, is when Linda and I set off on the Portuguese Camino leaving from Porto.
23rd March - Madrid
We arrived around 8pm on Tuesday night and spent our first night in Spain in the airport hotel, which was clean and their breakfast was great. We got a taxi into town. Our apartment was right near the Plaza Mayor and walking distance to most services. So over the three days we booked our train tickets to Lisbon, watched the Easter pageants and generally had a great time.. Theo and Jan arrived on the Wednesday morning and Ray and Jan on Thursday afternoon. We caught the hop-on-hop off bus on Friday and took a good look around.
Day trip to Toledo
Toledo bus trip today. We had no trouble finding the Tour Bus and we found that Julia Travel was also our bus for our upcoming 7 day tour. . We enjoyed Toledo immensely. A beautiful walled city perched on the top of the hill and with a mixed history of Iberian, Roman, Visigoth, Arabian, Jewish and Spanish. The 12C saw Christianity arrive and mostly all lived in relative harmony.
The Bus Trip
The trip to Cordoba and Seville What a way to start a bus trip by forgetting to turn your watch back and missing the departure by over an hour. Still with quick wits and just a bit of luck, we gathered up all our gear and hustled down to the metro. There we caught a train to Atocha Renfe and then the fast train down to Cordoba. We beat the bus by 2 hours for Euro 65 each. We were there waiting when the bus pulled up for the tour of Cordoba. Cordoba was great with the Grand Mosque the highlight. Then it was back on the bus for the first night in Seville. What a day! As an aside, I don't know how many tourists the bus could carry but the 41 we had pretty much filled the bus. We woke up refreshed and got the full tour of Seville. A river city with navigable waters right out to the Atlantic and home to Phoneticians, Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, Jews and Christians. This city handled all the gold and goods imported from the New World and Columbus called it home for many years. The day was filled with walking through the old town, a river cruise, a tour of the 1929 Exposition Site and finally after dinner, a flamenco concert (which featured a dance from Carmen).
Seville to Granada Up early this morning to be on the bus by 5.30. No not kidding as we had to cover a lot of ground to get to Granada and the Alhambra by a certain time (before the 5k to 8k visitors it gets each day). The Alhambra was a pretty poor shape after years of neglect, habitation by Gypsies and the sell off of tiles etc and trophies but still magnificent. We were also just a bit early in the year for the gardens which would have been a picture in summer. That night we also visited a gypsy flamenco dance in the old Arabic quarter. The night view of the Alhambra was amazing. The day was also a bit cool as snow was still evident of the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains.
Granada to Valencia This day was interesting for two main reasons. Firstly over half the tour was going back to Toledo and then Madrid. The rest of us continuing on the Valencia, We were transferred to another bus at a road house and then about 20 of us continued. That was a shame as the tour guide Grace was a real entertainer and she was missed over the remainder of our tour. Valencia was an amazing town as after a huge flood, with a death toll over 80, the government redirected the river and built their new Science and Art city over the old river bed. After settling into the hotel we went for a walk through the Science and Arts site and finished the evening with tapas We had a bit of a tour the next morning of the old town. I sampled one of their traditional drinks - orange juice, milk and a liqueur - but not to sure if I liked it much.
Valencia to Barcelona After the tour of Valencia we boarded the bus for Barcelona for 2 nights. After checking in we walked across the road to the bull ring which has now been converted into a shopping center. Barcelona has banned bull fighting. Even though we have been to this city twice before, we still managed to see stuff that was new to us. We also had a walking tour through the old town and then on to check the progress of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. Barcelona hope to have it finished by 2026, the 200th anniversary. We went back to the Rambla for some gigantic Sangria drinks and beer.
Barcelona to Zaragoza In the morning we exchanged small gifts at breakfast to mark our 40th anniversary and then boarded the bus. It was to be a full day back to Madrid but stopping at Zaragoza for lunch and free time. the cathedral here is quite unlike any other with its tiled domes. Goya was a local and celebrated artist and the town was the most northern Moorish kingdom.
Final days in Madrid Monday the 4th. We had a late start, did a bit of washing and had a walk around Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Sol. The next day, Ray and Jan headed off back to Belfast and we bided our time and got the late and overnight train to Lisbon with Theo and Jan.
Post Script After a month or so in Portugal and walking the Portuguese Camino, Linda and I returned to Madrid and visited the Prado museum and also the Palace. Both venues are remarkable.