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My whirlwind trip to Spain (not a ride report, unfortunately)

Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Katy
I came back last friday from a quick, crazy-paced trip to Spain. I've been having some issues at work and on a personal level, so I had this big urge to just take off for a week and try to take my mind off of things for a few days.

I've been really longing on a trip to Spain, especially after going through some old photos I've been scanning as part of a little project of mine to digitize most of my pre-digital era photographs and negatives. I don't get a lot of vacations at work, so every year I have to choose wisely what to do with my precious days off. With my parents being from Spain, I have a lot of family over there, but this time I just wanted to spend a few days with friends.

So, on a whim I went online to look up air fares, and after almost fainting at the insane prices for a ticket to Europe (and I checked all the way into September), i decided to use my frequent flyer miles. Long story short, after clearing it by my boss, I booked my flight to Spain, with Air France, so I would have to change planes in Paris. Now, I remembered, my best friend from highschool lives in Paris, although any friend in Paris is your best friend, right? So a quick change of plans, and I would spend five days in Spain and almost a whole day in Paris.

I arrived in Madrid saturday afternoon, and while changing trains at the Madrid subway, my trip almost went REALLY sour when I was this close of being robbed by some lowlifes. I already knew about the dangers of pickpocketers all over europe, and yet I almost fell victim of them for a few careless seconds I did not pay attention to my surroundings!!!

I brought my SPOT tracker with me since I thought it would be fun to have some tracks in Europe. Well, I was a bit dissapointed with it, since as the SPOT user manual says, if you haven't powered the unit for a while, or you have moved I don't know how many miles since you last powered it, it takes FOREVER for it to aquire a satelite. Ok, not forever, but 20 minutes is a bit of a stretch -however the SPOT design intent is not for it to be used as I wanted for this trip-. Even after that, once you hit the "Ok" button, it would still take a few minutes to transmit the message.

I spent the night in Madrid with my godparents' daughter. I had to leave the SPOT sitting outside in her balcony while we went out for a bite to eat, and see if the silly thing would actually transmitt a message. Not that it would care, but at least I left it in front of some eye-candy... (who knew Clive Owen would look so good on a Dewars ad? :lol2: )

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A quick walk around the corner to say hi to my godparents, and then back and off to bed. Next morning I was taking a fast train, or "AVE", to the city of Zaragoza, where I would spend some days with an old college friend. What would be a 4 hr trip on a bus or a regular train, would take a mere 1 hr on the AVE.

I had a quick bite to eat at the station, and knowing the fetish TWTer's have for food, I took a pic of my sandwich and an excellent cup of coffee.

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The train station in Zaragoza looked in great shape, thanks in part that this year Zaragoza is hosting an "Expo".

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I met my friend at the station, and after dropping off my luggage at her apartment we were off to start touring the city. She lives right in the heart of Zaragoza's downtown and the main tourist attractions. So we round the corner from her street and then I see something I did not expect to see there, especially coming from Texas.... :rofl:

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Sooo....anyhoo...We walked to the Palacio de la Aljaferia. It was built by the Moors, and later used by the christian kings of the Kingdom of Aragon after the city was conquered during the reconquista. It's in great shape, and the confluence of different architectural styles and influences can be seen all over it, just as it does all over so many other buildings in Zaragoza.
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Beautiful and highly decorated archways and courtyards,

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..are accompanied by rooms where their symbols speak of an era where all three major cultures coexisted...arab, christians and jews.

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More on the Aljaferia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aljaferia

It was finally lunchtime ( it was like 2:00 pm!!! :doh: ) so we started off with some tapas...
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followed by the main course, a seafood paella, and white wine from Galicia:

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...more later.
 
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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Katy
After lunch we headed to a nearby town, called Muel. Muel is very known in the area for its tiles, pottery, china, anything involving clay and fire. That day the locals where having some festivities, with demos on open fire (as opssed to in an oven) pottery and other handy work. The town has an interest topography, the hills were not particularly high but small cliffs and crevasses and a river run through it.

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Some demos were set up on a little park near the river.

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while other events were taking place near the town square.
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My friend got nothing short of infatuated with a little piece made by one of the artists. After tracking down the guy who made it to see if he would sell it to her, he just gave it to her for free!

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The last couple of pics from Muel, and this is it for sunday.

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Joined
Aug 1, 2007
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Fort Worth
Beautiful pics! I love the arches in the Moorish castle. But I wish I hadn't seen that paella before lunch! Yum! :eat:
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Katy
Before I move on to Monday, another photo inside the Aljaferia. The events that occured in this tower inspired a play that was eventually adapted to an Opera by Verdi, Il trovattore. And besides the little bit of trivia I just liked the photo and forgot to post it above...

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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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1,147
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Katy
Monday we continued visiting Zaragoza. It was founded by the roman empire, under caesaraugusta, later conquered by the Moors, who named it Saraqusta, and later conquered back by the aragonese.

Today the city is known the most, at least among the roman catholics, for being home to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, one of the two Cathedrals in the city (they are a few hundred feet from each other).

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You can read more about the Basilica and the legend surrounding its origins in here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Our_Lady_of_the_Pillar.

Walking through the square I saw a very familiar scene you see all over Spain--the old folks enjoying the afternoon sitting out with their old pals, reminiscing over the past, talking about current events, or just going through their routinely critique of the passer-bys and how when they were younger people wouldn't dress like that...Overall as my friend pointed out the elders out there seem to have a great time in their retirement years.

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So, forgive me for waiting until now for some two-wheeled related photos. There is a great variety of bikes to be found everywhere. Scooters are hands down the most predominant, followed by standards and sport bikes, but I got to see quite a few cruisers too.

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One scooter, which I saw on another post on the board, was surprisingly popular:

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Most of the cruisers where more about looking the part than nothing else. This one for instance is a 125 cc cruiser. It says "Ipanema 125 cc", no clue who made it, as I saw a lot of chinese bikes I did not recognize.

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And a thre-wheeled contraption that almost brought me back in time, I did nto know they still make these:

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Joined
Apr 13, 2008
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Waller
Sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing and can't wait to read the rest of the vaca report.
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Katy
The Basilica was built right next to the Ebro, the river that goes through the city:
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There is plenty of contrast throughout the city between new, not so new and plain old:

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The city might not be as known or popular as Madrid or Barcelona, but it certainly had its flair, leaving me pleasantly surprised at it beauty and the rich multi-cultural heritage it posseses...

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...like the "roman" caesaraugusta...

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...the moorish Saraqusta...

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...the christian Zaragoza...

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...or the modern Zaragoza

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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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1,147
Location
Katy
...or perhapsI just liked the city because they appreciate fine bikes like the V-Strom??? :trust:

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Ok ok, that's a stretch I know...But they do seem to have a good taste in bikes, like this Triumph Scrambler:

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Or... (keep clear from your keeboards while you drool, you beemer freaks!!)

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I saw so many of these, the Honda Deauville, even the city police use them as police bikes. I SOOOOOOOOOOO want Honda to bring this!!!!!! This mid-size tourer is what I've been lusting after for a long time, but I have to settle for the Strom meanwhile:

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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
Messages
1,147
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Katy
On tusday we went to a small city nearby, Calatayud. It's old city center is very quaint, and shares some historical and cultural traits with Zaragoza. We took a train to get there, where I got to observe the typical landscape of the region of Aragon:

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Most streets whithin the old city center are quite narrow...

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...which I guess makes these scooters a better choice for police bikes:

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There's a lot of renovation and construction going on, and on the more touristy areas the buildings looked great:

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An old Jota, or song, sings something to the tune of "If you go to Calatayud, say hi to Dolores", refering to an old character part of the city's history. Now her house is a "Meson", sort of a hotel/restaurant, very well run and kept.

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Since it was lunchtime, we got a table over there. We lucked out and got a great table. The lunch menu consisted of an starter (soup or veggies/salad), and entree (fish or rabbit) and dessert, at 12.50 euros. Even with the lousy exchange rate it was a good deal.

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The atmosphere in that place was great, and it was even better when some folks from another table just felt like bursting into singing. It so felt like Spain!
Overall the food was great, I had the rabbit and my friend the fish. I like rabbit but this was the first time I had it grilled, and probably will be the last time.

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An interesting fact, as my friend explained, is that since the water table on the city is quite high, there is a lot of subsidence going on all the time. The effects are quite evident once you get to the city square...At first you feel like you had too much vino at lunch, then you realize all the crooked balconies are caused by the shifting foundations.

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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Katy
Crooked streets and crooked buildings abound...

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And like in Zaragoza, the Mudejar style can be seen all over the main landmarks...

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and colorful tiles adorn the top of the belltowers:

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We started climbing up a road, getting off the beaten path from the most touristy part of town to a not less colorful neighborhood. This house was built against the hill, using the rock as one of the walls for the house.

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As we go up we start getting a great view of the city down below:

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All the climbing combined with all the walking during the past days is making this weary traveler...well.. weary...:lol2:

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We keep walking and taking in the view...

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...until our trekking off the beaten path takes us literally...off the beaten path..

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Time to finally climb down and head to the rail station. Almost got run over by an old Citroen 2CV...

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On the way down and with all the old construction surrounding us, I felt like giving it a try to black and white photography...

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Finally one last look at the city of Calatayud

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and to one of its feathered mascots:

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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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1,147
Location
Katy
I did some more sightseeing in Zaragoza on wednesday, when I took some of the photos I already posted above. Not that I'm the one to talk, but I get a kick when spaniards translate signs into english trying to look really cool with quite hilarious results. Like a sign at the railway station that says "take a shift" after a word-by-word translation for "tome su turno", actually meaning "take a number".... :rofl:
...and I must have had my mind in the gutter down below somehwere, I couldn't stop laughing at this one...It may be grammatically correct, but still...

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Later I bade farewell to my friend, and headed for Madrid. Got there in the evening, and took a little stroll, where I was a bit dissapointed at how dirty Madrid has become. I did very little afterwards, since I had to wake up at 5 am to catch the flight to Paris. So ends the Spain portion of the trip.
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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1,147
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Katy
I arrived in Paris a little before noon, where I would meet an old friend from high school. While I waited for her I looked across the street at a girl gearing up to hop on her sport bike. I saw her pushing the bike out of the spot before straddling it. I understood why when she hopped on, she was barely tip-toeing! But obviously that did not intimidate her. I have no clue as to what is it that she was riding.

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Finally my friend arrived and we started walking right away, as I would only be in the city for less than a day, having to be at the airport next day at 3 pm.

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I gave it a try at taking a picture of both of us by holding the camera (a smaller one, not the DSLR!) with the right hand and trying to get that famous Paris landmark in the background. I don't know how, but it came out pretty good at the first try.

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I was starving, and luckily over there they eat lunch a bit earlier than in Spain. My friend picked a Belgian restaurant, which turned out to be an excellent choice. We had mussels and fries, which according to her should be called belgian fries...and belgian beer, followed by my ubiquitous cup of coffee.

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Now, with my belly full, I was ready for the lightning-fast tour of Paris. Is hard not to find anything nice to look at on every corner or every street...

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I saw this moped while crossing the street. It looked quite old, but what struck me odd is where the engine is at, just above the front wheel...guys, any ideas?

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I saw a BUNCH of Goldwings used as moto taxis. I SO wanted to ride back to the airport on one the next day, since I had already checked my luggage and was only carrying a backpack.

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That is, until I went online and checked their fare.... :eek2: ... Let's say I can buy a lot of gas for my own motorcycle with what they were charging!! It was not so different from what a regular cab charges, but then again, I was planning all along to get the train back to the airport anyways, WAY more cheaper.

If you notice on the pillion seat, there is some sort of skirt for lack of a better word on it. The temps in Paris were a tad cool in the morning, and a lot of people outfit their scooters with those to keep their legs warm. I also saw that for the first time on a regular standard bike. It's really common over there, I wonder why we don't see that in the states? Here's a poor picture of a couple scooters with that "skirt" on, plus one with something similar to the "biker paws" on.

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We made it to the Louvre, which I didn't visit. I just did not have the time to visit, or to enter to any of the major attractions in the area. My goal, since I had never been there before, was to see the main landmarks, at least from the outside.

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After sitting down for a few minutes and catching up on what each others life has been in the last years (and waiting for the Spot to send out an OK signal) we started walking again. The city is quite beautiful, with parks all over the place...

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as well as colorful characters...

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From there to one of her favorite buildings, the Opera house:

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And then to one of her not so favorite buildings, but one that pays her bills...where she works...

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The reason we stopped by her office was that there is access to the rooftop, where I got undisputedly one of the best views of the city, not available to every tourist!

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She lives just outside the city so we left after that. Which was a good thing since I was beat!!!
 
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Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Katy
Next morning we went first to Montmartre and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It was really hard for me to find a favorite angle on that church, they are all different:

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Then I took another hack at the B&W photo thingy...

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Time was ticking, and I wanted to at the very least see the Eiffel Tower, not exactly around the corner from Montmartre. Not far either, but when you're on such a tight schedule, well...you understand...

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Obviously I had no time to ride the elevator up, let alone to do the line just to buy the tickets to it...But like I said, just being there was more than good enough!!!

Last stop, Notre Dame. Earlier we thought we wouldn't have time to stop by it, but as it turned out, the station were I had to catch the train to the airport was right at Notre Dame.

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So amazingly, we managed to accomplish to visit all the main landmarks my friend and I wanted for me to see, and even had time for lunch before we had to say good bye and I had to leave for the airport. I was home in Katy about 10 pm, and needless to say, I was a really tired but happy puppy during the weekend!!

Thanks for reading!! :sun:
 
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
452
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FBG, TX
I enjoyed reading your travelogue and perusing the photos. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

The odd French moped is a Solex. It's essentially a heavy, single speed bicycle with a small 2-stroke engine. The engine drives the front wheel via a rubber disk pressed against the tire. The engine can be engaged or disengaged by using a lever to move it up and away from the tire. Starting involves engaging the engine, then pedaling furiously. Like most mopeds, top speed is 25MPH and it delivers ~100MPG.

My younger brother had one as a kid, more years ago than I care to think. Strangely enough, just a few weeks ago he mentioned that he was restoring it, just for kicks. I was surprised to find out it was still extant.

- JimY
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2007
Messages
891
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Central Texas
Ana, Thank you. You do such fine vacations. Hope this one holds you till next year.;-) I guess your foot has healed considering the amount of walking you wrote about. That's good.

The photos and writeup were so good that I feel like I just returned from Spain and France. You saved me a bundle.:)

It's great that at your young age you can see so much of the world. Keep your travels going forever and you will never be lonely. You can live off your memories.:)
 

Gilk51

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Joined
Jan 14, 2005
Messages
17,293
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Arlington, Texas
Yep, you did it again! You made me hungry! ;-)

Excellent report - sorry to hear about your disappointment with Madrid, I spent 2 months working there back in '91. It was great having a local help show you the sights, though!

My evaluation: :thumb: :thumb:
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2007
Messages
937
Location
lake hughes CA USA
your casual presentation of so many places, and people, coupled with things that look strange to me, caught my attention and i felt open and free.

you and your friend make the pictures come alive.

right now in my life i needed somethign like that, neat.

thanks , joe
 

drfood

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Oct 7, 2007
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Houston
Ana-
Thanks for the wonderful report. My employer's parent company is based in Madrid so I have had the opportunity to go there 3 times and travel by the AVE to Sevilla. You are right, Madrid seems to be getting "dirtier" and less safe each time I go. But I would not trade their Metro system for the world. And the AVE. From Madrid to Seville is heaven and extremely comfortable. The amazing thing is how much alike the Madrid, Zaragosa, and Sevilla train stations all look alike.

Thank you for the photos of Paris. They brought back some great memories of the trip Jay and I took there in 2006. We're actually hoping to get back there this year. And I want to know how you did Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame to the airport in such quick order.

Glad you had a great trip. Hopefully the trip did exactly what you set out to do.
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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Ana-
Thanks for the wonderful report. My employer's parent company is based in Madrid so I have had the opportunity to go there 3 times and travel by the AVE to Sevilla. You are right, Madrid seems to be getting "dirtier" and less safe each time I go. But I would not trade their Metro system for the world. And the AVE. From Madrid to Seville is heaven and extremely comfortable. The amazing thing is how much alike the Madrid, Zaragosa, and Sevilla train stations all look alike.

Thank you for the photos of Paris. They brought back some great memories of the trip Jay and I took there in 2006. We're actually hoping to get back there this year. And I want to know how you did Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame to the airport in such quick order.

Glad you had a great trip. Hopefully the trip did exactly what you set out to do.
It helps a lot when you're with someone that knows her way around the city! My friend had also prebought metro tickets, so it saved some time not having to stop and buy a ticket every time. We went from the subway station to the top of the hill on Montmartre the most direct way, which is kind of a back way, instead of climbing the steps that lead to the front of the basilica. Steeper, but quick. We came down back to the station the same way. Then took the metro to a station that connected to one of the RER lines, which has a station around the corner from the Eiffel tower. To go to the airport, I had to take the RER in the opposite direction and then change to another RER line. The station were I had to change trains to the other RER line happened to be right at Notre Dame, so it just worked out. There's no way I could have done all that on foot and be in time for my flight!
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
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Virginia
I'm bound to make it to Texas again before the year is out. Just not sure when it will be...might not be until December. In October I plan on Riding the Great River Road from Itasca State Park in Minnesota to Mississippi and maybe all the way to New Orleans.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2004
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The Woodlands, TX
There is plenty of contrast throughout the city between new, not so new and plain old:

The city might not be as known or popular as Madrid or Barcelona, but it certainly had its flair, leaving me pleasantly surprised at it beauty and the rich multi-cultural heritage it posseses...

You are right, there is plenty of unknown towns that could deserve a whole week for themselves. I grew up in Barcelona and being there I always gave for granted being able to visit all those places anytime. After 9 years in TX I miss those places a lot.

Thanks for sharing this report.
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2004
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Austin Texas
I enjoyed the perspective in many of your shots. You have a good eye. It looks like a judicious use of your precious days off. Thanks for sharing.

Wouldn't you have loved being in Spain tonight? After the match today, the nation must be dancing in the street.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2006
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Rural Denton County
During my Air Force days, we used to spend 3 week rotations flying KC-10s out of Zaragoza. We got to know the chaplain on the base, and used to get him to drive us to town for dinner. When you show up at a Spanish restaurant with a catholic priest, the service gets much better! I'd like to go back for some more paella, or to see Jesus the bartender, who poured scotch like it was free. The "spanish side" of the base had a huge dining room which was lined with wine casks. The waiters would refill plain green bottles and keep them on the tables while we had lunch. As you can tell, we had a lot of free time.
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
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During my Air Force days, we used to spend 3 week rotations flying KC-10s out of Zaragoza. We got to know the chaplain on the base, and used to get him to drive us to town for dinner. When you show up at a Spanish restaurant with a catholic priest, the service gets much better! I'd like to go back for some more paella, or to see Jesus the bartender, who poured scotch like it was free. The "spanish side" of the base had a huge dining room which was lined with wine casks. The waiters would refill plain green bottles and keep them on the tables while we had lunch. As you can tell, we had a lot of free time.
Next time I'm over there I'll see if that works with nuns as well as for priests... One of my aunts is a nun, better known in the family as the "Tia Monja"....:trust:
 
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