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Spain #5, Singapore #1 Home

Graeme & Vicky go shopping, shopping and more shopping. Oh and a bit more shopping.

all seasons in one day 26 °C

Our last day in Madrid started with a visit to the Serrano district of high end retail shopping. Features included shoes and shirt for Vicky and a funny three course lunch for both of us. The Spanish are big on lunch out and we had to try several places to find a table. we also visited an exhibition of the latest work by Roy Liechtenstein which was very strong and eyecatching.
After siesta we made our way back to the centre of Madrid for sangria and calamari in the Plaza Mayor and then a sentimental final visit to our favourite mushroom house.

The homeward journey started in the dark with a taxi ride at 150km per hour along the empty freeway to the airport. A 6:30am flight means a 4:30 arrival which means a 3:30 wake up! The first flight was to Roma, then after a three hour wait, we flew to Singapore to arrive just as dawn broke on ANZAC Day.

We had booked a room at the Swissotel the Stamford which would have to be the best hotel room we have ever had. Our deluxe room with two double beds, 28 floors of view over the harbour, desk and leather chair, etc etc. They gave us a hospitality room until our room was available at ten. This included access to pool and ablutions. This was handy given that we had a Breakfast plate number 3 at a joint down the road. The place seemed very busy ergo you might think popular which should equal good. And you would be wrong. Two five second boiled eggs and some sweet apple jam in a toasted sandwich really was quite vomitous considering our lack of sleep and the sudden impact of 32 degrees and very humid.

Singapore was a great diversion, and a great way to break up a very long trip that had caused some consternation on our previous journey four years ago.
Features of our visit include:
Getting lost in a maze of passages that link hotels and metro stations and shopping malls.
Visiting the Changi memorial and Kranji War Cemetery for ANZAC day.
Having a suit made.
Eating very cheaply in Chinatown and riskily in Little India - Marsala Chicken knees seems to be the most adequate description.
Finding that designer clothing is about double the price for the same article in Europe.
Dodging tropical rain storms that come out of nowhere.
Finding everything very clean and well organised especially the excellent metro system.
Singapore slings in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel with peanuts that you shell and toss on the floor.

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And all of a sudden we are home. Bags just over the limit but hand luggage that managed to fill up one and a half of those overhead locker things.

We have almost got over changes in time and climate and food and traffic and money and the way the way the water goes down the drain. But don't be suprised if we look a bit peaky at recess time, try to change 5 euro at the canteen, take a siesta and miss yard duty or drive the car out the in gate.

Farewell and thanks for visiting our site. Please feel free to retun in about four years when we do it all again.

Posted by GVCharlton 21:47 Archived in Spain Tagged events Comments (0)

Spain # 4

Granada, Toledo and Madrid

sunny 26 °C

After our adventure with the Granada Police we settled into our excellent hotel room - which we could not have found without them just by the way. A short sleep followed by a wander into the old town, characterised by little lanes, plazas and surprises at every corner. The shops in this part of town have a very north african feel without the spruiking and harassment. The rest of the evening was tapas, excellent local red wine and coffee with amoretto.

The Alhambra Place is built on the hill above Granada and was begun as a moorish castle about a thousand years ago. It is a magnificent complex of buildings and gardens featuring tiles and water. We spent about five hours wandering through everything. The gardens were spectacular and are very well maintained. They are made up of beds fringed with hedges and filled with every sort of flower and water features of every type. The buildings are reminiscent of many we have seen in Morocco and Tunisia. They are made up of chambers covered in tiles and arab script inscribed into plaster that lead into each other and then suddenly into a courtyard. There is no furniture, artwork or adornments, just the walls and ceilings.

Another evening of tapas, red wine and amoretto and we were off to Toledo. This place is as gorgeous as the walled villages in Italy but quite a bit bigger. We visited the cathedral which is absolutely magnificent with the highest ceiling we have seen. The choir stalls were a high point. In a side room they have cardinals robes going back for 1000 years and in another a few paintings collected over the years. In this one room, about the size of a double classroom, they had about 10 El Grecos, 3 Titians and even a Raphael.

We drove to Madrid yesterday and are ensconced in our hotel in the busiest street in the world, The Gran Via. Last night we revisited our little Mushroom and Sangia bar and then the Fish and beer bar and were very pleased to see they had not changed at all. Today we revisited the Reinier Sofia Gallery to see Picasso´s Geurnica. This was just as fabulous as last time.
We resisted the temptation to go to see Real Madrid play Valencia last night. We met some English chaps in the Plaza Mayor who had come over for the game. The tickets were 93 pounds which is about $220!!! and the game started at 10. It was live on local TV and ended at about midnight. The stadium, which holds 83 000 was a sellout.

Tomorrow is our last whole day in Europe and we plan to do a bit of shopping and try to bring our luggage down by about half to the requisite 20 Kg. We are both going to have to wear 18 layers of clothes to get away with it.

Posted by GVCharlton 08:49 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Spain # 3

Graeme meets a Spanish policeman

sunny 19 °C

We had a great drive 400 Km across southern Spain to Granada. The scenery improved from the skyscraper apartments of the tourist coast to the beautiful scenery of Andalucia where it is very like Australia but the valleys are deeper and the mountains higher.

We drove into Granada and stopped at a busy intersection being managed by a traffic policemen. Although the lights had just turned red the policeman waved us through and we set off in search off our hotel. Soon we were accompanied by two Spanish policemen on motorcycles who followed us closely for about 200m until signalling for us to pull over.

A stern faced young police officer came to the window and spoke in gruff Spanish tones, something that sounded like;
" ¡Madrid aranxa sanchez vacchario paella!"
Graeme replied, "Me no speaky Espanole kind signor"
The policeman gestured for Graeme´s license which unfortunately did not satisfy his official requirements. He managed to convey that he required an international driver´s license which, wouldn´t you know it, was in the hand luggage in the boot. After some rummaging the aforementioned license was located and then followed a conversation between the two officers.
The first officer then said to Graeme, "Fernando alonso barcelona sangria", which we took to mean, You went through a red light you knob head.
Graeme responded with, "But oh handsome and erstwhile officer, I was signalled through by a gentleman wearing similar clothing to yourselves".
To which both officers responded with a succinct, "No"
The first officer then gave us a lecture that went something like, "Placido domingo seville tapas flamenco!"
We shook our heads and they shook theirs and then we shrugged our shoulders and they theirs.
They then decided that we were a dead loss and that the only way out was a stern warning, " Penelope cruz pamplona antonio banderas!"
Graeme, now on a winning streak, pointed to the name of our hotel on a piece of paper and asked, "Where, oh kind senor, would we locate this place?"
The two chaps conferred, shrugged their shoulders and gestured to follow them.
We then were whisked through lanes way and boulevard, street and plaza and, can you dear reader believe it THROUGH A RED LIGHT with pòlice escort, one in front one behind, for about fifteen minutes to our hotel.
With a brief gesture they were off, and we didn´t even get to thank them.

Posted by GVCharlton 10:23 Archived in Spain Tagged events Comments (2)

Spain #2

Barcelona, Valencia & Benidorm

sunny 25 °C

We are in Benidorm. a quaint little Spanish seaside village turned into a haven for thousands of overweight sunburnt poms. It is like Surfers Paradise only larger with every shop selling cheesy souvenirs and every restaurant selling delicacies like Cornish pasty, Baked beans and Chips for €5, and every club featuring someone like Wee Willy Matthews, Britains King of rock and roll or Peatloaf, the Irish Meatloaf show.
Everyone seems inclined to take their shirt off to grab a bit of Spanish sun to show off to the mates back in England. In most cases it is totally unacceptable behaviour for the blokes and in the case of the women it is even worse. The telling factor is that the shirtless people of which we speak are not from the Supermodel convention down the road, nor the Under 50 and Still Buff Club, of which most of you dear readers belong, but the blobby, aging, smoking, boozy type with all body parts heading south.

We had a pizza for dinner tonight which seemed like a good decison until both of our meals turned up with tuna on them - probably as a result of Vicky´s request for cheese.
Most disappointing, however, is the complete failure of the highly anticipated Fred Flinstone Theme in the hotel. A seedy Bam Bam and Pebbles child minding centre seems to be the sum of it.

Valencia (yesterday) is a large industrial city trying very hard to keep up with its much more attractive sisters Barcelona and Madrid. The big deal in Valencia at the moment is the America´s Cup. We visited the harbour area which is a bit like the pits at the Clipsal track, only a bit more upmarket. For example the Italian team is sponsored by Prada. Souvenir polo shirts there were €72, about $100, so needless to say we didn´t buy anything.

Our last days in Barcelona were fantastic. The weather cleared and we picked up our rental car - a red citreon C4 - and hit the road. We spent a day travelling to Monsterrat, a monastery in the mountains about 60K out of town. Strangely, it was a bit commercial but the physical beauty of the place was more than enough value for the drive and walk. We took a funicular to the top of the tallest peak and just as we looked down the clouds opened and sun streamed in on the monastery nestling in the valley below. Strewth!
We also visited the Joan Miro Gallery and the site of the Olympics, all on a large hill overlooking Barcelona. Our visit concluded with a visit to a park overlooking the sity that featured designs, building and mosaics from Gaudi, the bloke who designed the church we mentioned in our last posting.

So it is off with our shirts and on with the sombreros and off to Granada.

Posted by GVCharlton 13:07 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Spain #1

Barcelona

rain 16 °C

¡Hola! from Bacelona - drizzle capital of Spain.

It is the end of our third day here. The first doesnt really count because we spent most of it travelling from Florence via Milan.

Yesterday we ventured out to see the Temple of the Sagrada Familia. This is the enormous church commenced in the 1890s and still quite unfinished. The towers at each end were finished 110 years ago but the central church bit is what they are working on today. It is unusual to be in a church filled with scaffolding and building noise. The place was designed by Gaudi who was very original, so this place is similar yet very different from any church you will ever see. The towers are topped by mosaics. You can see them in the following picture which we took from the top of a tower very very high above the ground.

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Today we went to the Barcelona Cathedral which is much more along classic church lines. With all of these church visits Vicky is okay with all of her sins, but Graeme needs to go to many many more churches to be absolved from all of his. We also walked through all the skinny little lanes and corridors of the old city. If you have seen the movie "The Spanish Apartment" you will know exactly what we have seen. We went to the Museu Picasso which displays 3000 pictures from his earliest to last works. We also walked around the harbour area.

The food is great - cheap and interesting. We had a typical lunch today - Graeme a chunk of roasted boar clavicle and Vicky meatballs with peas - which could also have come from a boar. (not the peas) Because we have an apartment we have been shopping to stock up our fridge. Beer and wine are incredibly cheap €2 - thats about $3.40 - for a six pack of 220 ml bottles of beer and wine starting at about €1.50. We can´t remember what else we bought - except for the olives and chips we bought to have with the drinks! We are about to go to dinner at the little restaurant at the bottom of our apartment block where you can buy a very good steak for €8.80. After Italy where the same thing would have cost €18 this is a real blast.

Posted by GVCharlton 11:50 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

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