Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Curse of Debod, otherwise known as, our inability to order Tapas

Eric and I went out to a tapas bar last night, so I was a little delayed posting this, basically, I didn't finish it before I figured I should go to bed, so this got delayed. I thought I might be able to finish in the morning, but I mistimed the time it takes to get all packed and ready.... so this blog post will be severally delayed as at the moment the internet is AWOL. This hotel has wireless internet... just really really bad wifi. I walked all over our room and all over the lobby on the main floor. I only got it to work in two places.

The first was after walking around the lobby for several minutes not seeing any network that seemed associated to our hotel, I walked up to the desk to ask the guy. As I opened the page to show him that there were no networks... the Carlos V network popped up... making me look... a little silly. And the guy was like, Yes, this one! lol... oh right! the one named after the hotel? really? :P

So then I moved back away from the desk and all of a sudden the network wouldn't connect at all... so then I walked around trying to find it... the only place I could get it to work was standing in front of the main door. I am assuming I could get it to work at the main desk... but I figured the guy would have been annoyed at me for standing at the desk.

Anyway, rant over, wait... the WiFi in spain is severely lacking! Ok, rant over.

AHHA! I got the wifi working, my computer can pick it up if I sit in the lobby.

So... Friday the... 10th? lol, I don't actually know, the days run together here a lot. Yes, Friday the 10th. This was our last full day in Madrid until the 19th, when we will arrive back for the conference, which starts on the 21st.

The day started late, with both Eric and Allison sleeping later than me, despite the fact that they both took a siesta and that I had gone to bed before both of them. But that was ok, it meant that I had free reign over the bathroom, which I used to full effect, showering and shaving, which was good.

So eventually, my travel companions woke up... maybe around 10 or so, and slowly started getting ready. The fact that it was slow probably means that we are fully adjusted to the attitude in Spain, which is basically this:
1) Refuse to use the Western EU timezone so you have an excuse to wake up late and start things later
2) Shut everything down in the middle of the day and close everything from 2-5 PM for siesta!
3) Party late in the night!

Ok... we may not have the partying part down, as you will see in the blog post, bust adjusting to the laziest place I've been has been fairly easy.

So once we started rolling, we decided to head to the Temple of Debod, which had a siesta from 2-5. The palace, which was the other main stop of the day, did not have a siesta. This choice was pretty good, since had we gone to the palace first we probably would have missed the temple.

Our first stop, however, was breakfast. Yesterday we had stopped at a little bakery and we got some sweet breakfast things. Today Allison was craving fruit and so we headed to this little grocery that we had walked by previously (the first night). We walked around and saw a couple of interesting things:

The first was a picture of Rudy Fernandez, a current member of the Portland Trailblazers and of the Spanish National Team on a box of beer. Rudy is currently not popular in Portland as he is trying to force a trade or force the blazers to cut him. Actually, he reminds me of a lot of the charming guys in Spain, they swoop in and charm you and then scam you out of your money! Props to Allison who always hated Rudy.

The second exciting thing, was a box of Sangria for 1 Euro!!! That is so cheap! Sadly, we did not get this.

For breakfast Eric and I split a baguette, and each got a soda/fruity beverage, while Allison got some peaches and granola bars.

We ate these on our way to the palace, and Eric was able to guide us pretty well. We came out right by the palace, which was really close to the park that had the temple, and right in front of the royal garden, which had a ton of statues of the past kings, non of whom where Spanish, and some bushes. It also had one couple making out!

Here is Eric and I eating our baguettes in the Garden. Eric may or may not be trying to impersonate a French person.
We soon found ourselves in the park with the temple and after climbing some stairs and managing to resist the urge to play Wii (There was a huge wii tent setup at the foot ... end?... near the temple.), we were there!

The temple is pretty basic, but it is a pretty setting. It is shown below:

Eric and I walked over to it, so we could get a picture in one of the archs. Allison waited, snapped a few pictures and joined us by the doors.

The temple itself is pretty dark, and flash is not allowed on pictures, so only some of the pictures came made sense to take. The temple consisted of three main rooms on the first floor. The first room had some stone thing that used to make up the doorway. it was pretty cool, a lot of the stone has faded away. This is Eric and I looking at the stone, or I guess looking at the description of the stone. Eric and Allison also took some pictures of Eric saying RA!, which is the name of a board game. (Note: Eric also owns this board game, but considering that I believe Eric to own all board games, I figure this was self evident, I am however pointing this out, just in case)

The other rooms had either movies playing in them or it had words being projected onto the walls. We used the iphone to translate and sort of got what they were saying. (OT: the lobby kind of smells like cigarette smoke... that is annoying).

We then explored this little side cave that had a trashcan and a TV!!! The Egyptians really knew how to live! I am not sure what Debod was doing to get such extravagant things, but he must have been a good egyptian.

After that, we headed upstairs, where they had a giant map that showed where all the temples were and where the temple of Debod was. This is me poking the lights to make the board light up. My first thought when I saw it was that Eric would probably really like to play some board game on it. I then knocked my head on the ceiling, since it was super low and sort of chuckled to myself since it was silly. The girl smirked at me, I think it must happen to a lot of tourists. The final stop in the temple was a little model of what the temple used to look like. none of us took a picture of this, because it was boiling hot upstairs and it didn't seem important.

Once outside again, in the only slightly cooler sun, we headed to Eric's favorite view. According to Rick Steve's the view was uninspiring, which... was sad, and we argued about that, and it made me not like Rick Steve's. Now whenever something he advises is wrong, I am sort of happy. lol... but he is based in seattle, so that is cool... anyway, we took a few pictures and we did a panorama jama.

Next we headed out of the park to the Palace. On the way to the palace we walked through the Royal Gardens, which was nice. A lot of fountains and sort of mazes, only really low, and not mazes since there was a path directly to the middle. So that was a little disappointing. We took a few pictures again, one a group shot, Eric's specialty, and then sat in the shade. It was a lot warmer than the day before and either we were dehydrated (probably) or biking wore us out (probably both!)

The group shot turned out well I think. That is the side of the palace in the background. After resting in the shade we headed up the steps to the palace. And then we waited in line for a bit. There was a guy that really wanted to sell us water, despite us telling him no... actually he never talked to us, but every time he said Aqua Fria it felt like he was talking to us. We finally got in and we were able to get the student rate!!!! Yay student discount. They didn't really look at the cards, so we probably could have held up anything and gotten away with it, but still.. Yay student discount!

So we got in and after putting the walkies bag away we headed in. Our first stop was at the armory. Now I must warn you, pictures are strickly forbidden in the palace area and so all of the pictures you are about to see came to you because I risked my life and limbs to take them. It helped that I had an iPhone which didn't flash and was small. Eric and Allison thought I was ridiculous.... well... maybe I was, but the armory and some of the stuff in the palace was cool... I thought it deserved a few pictures... Enjoy!

This is a picture of a childs suit or armor. I can't figure out why a kid would need armor, since it seems like they would just outgrow it. But they probably all wanted one. Who wouldn't they are pretty awesome!

This next picture is of a knight on horseback. Both the knight and the horse are decked out in full armor and costume. They look pretty imposing.

The armory also had a bunch of cool suits of armor and some big, huge muskets as well as some stuff that the Spanish royal family had won in battle or gotten as gifts. One of them reminded me of the third ninja turtle movie. it was a samurai outfit from japan.

After the armory we headed upstairs and we got some food, and then we were quickly back to the palace. We took a few pictures in the courtyard. (actually some of these pictures came after the palace walk through, but they lump together nicely)

Eric and Allison standing in the courtyard with the cathedral in the background.

The front of the palace with a group of tourists walking off to the left:

Allison in the guardhouse:

And then we were finally in the palace. We needed to show our tickets to get in, but Allison had left hers in her purse, so we were worried, luckily they trusted us, which was good since then Eric didn't have to run back to the locker.

They were even strickter in the palace about pictures and there was basically a guard in every room. So I only got a few pictures. This is of the main stairway with Allison and Eric at the top.

The rest of the palace was pretty cool. I think the throne room was probably my favorite room. It was covered in red velvet and had four lion statues and then several greek god statues, such as mercury. It is amazing how extravagant each room was, just lots and lots of stuff.

After we got done walking through the palace we headed to the gift shop were Allison bought a lot of postcards to make up for the fact that they didn't take any pictures.... And then we were done. We headed to the shade to rest a little and see what we should do next. Allison bought a fan from a local street vendor and fanned herself a little while we decided what to do. The street vendor was pretty smooth. She noticed that Allison was wearing green and she picked out a fan that was the exact same color as her shirt.

We decided to head back to the hotel briefly and then go finish up at the Prado. So we did that. The siesta this day was pretty short, only about 20 minutes, and then we headed for the museum to finish. We sort of finished, I think Allison was a little rushed, and may not have seen everything that she wanted too.

After the museum we decided to head to someplace and to try and get tapas..... lol... it was an interesting experience. The first places that we wanted to try were full, they all had outdoor seating that seemed really nice, but there were no tables available. So we headed up the road and found a place that advertised tapas... we decided to try it out...

So supposedly if you order a drink you get tapas with it for free... however... we are not good at this. I think they know what we are trying to do, and just dont do it since we can't speak enough english....

So eric and I ordered two beers and Allison got a Daiquiri. and then we waited... we got a bowl of peanuts... Was this the start of the tapas? We heard that they started light... so maybe?

Allison decided to order food since she thought we were probably wrong.... So she got a lasagna. Eric and I got two more beers... and we got.... another bowl of peanuts... YAY!!!

On a more entertaining note there was a couple that was just constantly making out in the corner of the place. We were able to snap a picture... sort of.... I couldn't see them because of the beam, but supposedly that was actually kind of tame for them.

We were unsuccessful with our tapas try, and our waitress gave up on us and decided to take a 30-40 minute break. We passed the time playing a block puzzle game on the iPhone:

So defeated, but not broken we headed back to the hotel... we decided that Eric and I would head out and that we would try it again. So we got back to the hotel. Did a little research and came up with a few places we could go. And we headed out determined to be confident and strong...

Long story short.. it didn't work. We couldn't find the place we wanted to go and we got a little flustered. mostly me... and so we ended up going to this place with belgian beer and tapas.... lol... but not free tapas.... So we ordered a beer and then the smooth little waiter talked us into getting a pot of mussels... hahahahaha... so that was our tapas!
The bouncer/owner of the place talked to us a little. he said he was cuban and that he was our mortal enemy. Then when Eric asked "la cuenta, por favor" he sort of laughed and said our spanish was good. lol... Eric took it as a criticism... I just thought he was being nice. As a special gift he gave us a pack of gum!!!!

Allison says the gum is sketchy... but it was free... so the night wasn't a total defeat. :)

We have vowed to try again until we succeed.

We headed back to the room and went to bed, knowing that the next day would be full of travel and exploring of Toledo.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cats in Madrd

Eric and Allison seem to be missing their cats, Klatuu and Gort, and so when Eric saw some cats near the Botanical Garden he went up to try and make friends. The result might, was not as he had hoped. (Sorry about the video quality, there was no way that I was going to actually upload a large video.)

Here are a few pictures of the cats we saw.
The cat that wouldn't be Eric's friend:

This cat was sunning itself. I looked happy and then yawned.
The botanical garden has tons and tons of cats, I think that you all would have fun, as long as they weren't too mean.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 3: A Bike tour, a Siesta, and Art

Ok... so this post ended up being slightly photo heavy... bit since my traffic load has increased by a whopping 400%!!!!!!!!!!!!! (from 1 to 40, lol, thanks ... whoever my loyal reader was who kept coming back only to be disappointed by my lack of posts, you are now being rewarded)

So all of us were able to sleep for about 12 hours, but we did it in totally different ways. I stayed up late and went to bed after my evening stroll at about 10 PM. I woke up at about 10 AM. Allison and Eric went to bed about 6:30 PM. Eric woke up at 6:30 AM and stayed up. Allison woke up at about 10:30 PM couldnt get back to sleep until about 1 AM and then slept until 10. So we all got the same amount of sleep... cool beans!

So we had decided yesterday that we would be doing a bike tour from Trixie Bike Tours. Mainly because they were close and they offered a free drink. Bravo Bike tours got rave reviews, but we didn't know where they were and we would have had to get up early to go there... so its good (for many reasons we choose trixie bikes). After getting lost a little bit finding our way there, we found the store. There were only 2 other customers. two ladies from Australia, and so it was a pretty small tour. They seemed disappointed when we showed up, since they thought they were going to get a private tour... lol....

Here are Eric and I posing with our bikes. Pretty stylish, 3 gear, jet black, california cruisers.

Here is Allison posing with her bike. Also a pretty stylish, jet black, 3 gear california cruiser... turns out that was the only bike they had. :)
So the tour got underway... and Madrid is... not really the best city for biking, especially for people who live in Corvallis. So side note... I was driving with Eric a while back... and it was maybe like... 5:15.... and we stopped at a stop light, and there were 4 cars in front of us. The first comment and first thought in my mind... "Man, traffic is bad!" So you can see that I was very prepared for riding a bike through a city with no bike lanes and very little traffic regulations.. Bikes HO!!!!!

So yeah.... I managed to get lost within the first 10 minutes of riding. And the guide had to stop the tour and come back and get me. Its not that I got... lost per say. It is just I got freaked out because he rode across the street like there was no traffic when in reality there was lots... going muy rapido... so I waited... turns out he didnt like this... he came back and reprimanded me for not biking aggresively enough. I think living is better Mr. Bike Tour Guide! Gezo was his name by the way. He was from Hungary. He was a great guy, and everything from there was better.

Our first stop was at the temple de Debod, which was a temple that was moved all the way from egypt to spain to sit on this hill...... it seemed cool. Gezo didn't let us go in though, because we had to go see more exciting spots on the tour.
Eric and Allison sort of paid attention to the Temple talk.... at least Allison looks attentive.

Then we were off to our next desitination.. approximately 200 feet away! We stopped at this great little scenic overlooking place and we could see the palace and a cool roller coaster and a great view of the city. We are planning on going back. so not a lot of pictures.
This is a picture of the palace and the ... palace catherdral from that spot
Next we rode on, again merging with traffic, although this time fairly easily, and we made it to the Palace. It seems like a cool place, we are going to go there tomorrow. this is Gezo telling us about it and that it looks like a 7 story building but is really only 3 stories and has really high ceilings. oh... i just thought of this now. At the start of the tour, gezo started speaking in french and we all thought it was a joke.. and maybe it was, but he seemed confused when we asked him to speak in english.. lol... odd side story there... but important... maybe?
This is allison riding past the palace.

We next wove through the intertwining places of madrid, seeing the place where the arabs lived and the christians and the jews. Madrid was actually very segregated, but it seemed to work really way and according to gezo there was a lot of harmony amonst the people of the different religions... and actually it did sort of seem like that. Madrid definitely felt very culturally diverse and like everyone gets along.. but that could be because they won the World Cup. Our next stop was in the market of the straw plaza, which had a church that was really old, as well as a garden, which we took a tour through.

Here is the church, with me looking... something in the foreground... lol... I am probably realizing that I am not going to be on this blog. :)

Next we toured the garden a little, here is Eric checking out... a tree? I don't know what was so interesting about it. I don't think it is an ent... but I could be wrong.
Here is Allison and I posing at the end of the archway in the garden.
So we left that place and rode on, reaching our next stop rather quickly. In this case, the worlds oldest restaurant, as classified by the Guiness Book of World Records. It has been open since 1725... or something... I could look it up... but... I will leave that as an exercise to the reader :)
Our next stop was at the residence of Miquel Cervantes, the great author of the classic Don Quixote. He and Shakesphere died on the same date, same year! April 16.... I think, can't remember the year... long explanation from Gezo... not actually the same date, the two countries used different calendars, so it was actually 10 days apart... still really close though.

So we then wound our way through Madrid a little more and we stopped for a break in this big park with a huge monument. No pictures of the monument, but this is Eric and Allison relaxing... We got free drinks, so we tried an energy drink called aquarius, not bad at all.
After our "15 minute break" turned into a 40 minute one, Gezo realized we were late, and so we hurridly went off to the next stop, which was this cool Crystal Palace that was built to house things from the phillipeans, (spelling is off... lol its 2 AM, sorry readers) :)

Our tour continued through the park and then out back into the sprawling city of Madrid, and in front of the Barcelona gate, which was so named because it pointed in the direction of Barcelona.
Here is Eric and I marveling at the gate. Then Gezo hurried us along, since he felt like we were late. We all told him that we didn't care and that we had nothing to do, but he insisted that we go fast fast!
This is a picture of us biking in traffic.... ERic took it... i was too scared to even touch any electronic devices while on the bike :)
And... then we were done, the bike tour was great, we were able to see a lot of Centro Madrid, and we also got a recommendation for lunch. We went to........
THE MUSEUM OF HAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! woo hoo! It is an actual restaurant too... Gezo tried explaining where it was and I was like pishaw, I know where that is! Lol... it was pretty good... low priced and good food... 2 course lunch!

Allison's first course was Melon and Ham... very interesting presentation. Eric and I both got Paella. It was interesting, a seafood mix, which an octopus, shrimp and clams in it, then it was time for the second dish. Eric and Allison got Pork covered in sauce with fries...
And.... I got a baked Mackeral... which was interesting.... Eric and Allison couldn't finish everything, but I was able to... so... I guess I win?
After lunch, it was like 330. The entire city, basically takes a break and does nothing from 2-5. So it was siesta time. My roomies took advantage of this and napped, or in Eric's case rested. I did not. I did get a spanish english dictionary for the iPhone.

After siesta it was time for the Prado Museum. Which was free from 6-8. We thought it was open until 10... sadly we were mistaken. So we got there, then we had to stand in line, which was long, but eventually started moving. The art was pretty cool, I wasn't sure what I was going to think of it, but it was interesting.

Eric and I had problems finding el bano! The signs basically pointed in conflicting directions, one up the stairs, one down the stairs... it made no sense... the bano was not on the stairs? I dinally asked someone and despite the fact that i had absolutely no idea what he said, i followed his hand and was able to find it... My instructions to Eric did not help... but he found it eventually! A picture from outside, since none are allowed inside... probably for the best given the amount of pictures already in this entry.
After we got kicked out at 8... we thought they were open til 10!... we decided to sit down and decide what we wanted to do... I was able to snap this wonderful picture :)So unsure about what to do, we went to walk around the botanical gardens... sadly they were closed, but we saw lots of stray cats. Eric tried to make friends.. it didn't really work. For my feline readership (Hi sprinks, klatuu, gort, and henry!) I will post pictures of the cats tomorrow.

We then walked around the park from the bike tour a little and saw some interesting flora, a weird man made hill, a inpromptu soccer game, that we watched from behind a fence. Well Eric and I did... Allison declared us creepers and went off exploring a little on her own. This is what she missed!
Super exciting... look at the action, the drama, the intrigue....this is the country that won the world cup! OK... it wasnt great... but it was fun for a little while.

We finished out walk through the park... which at this time.. about 930 PM consisted of a lot of couples making out with each other.. which was very odd... since it was a public park and they werent hidden at all.... also the police drive through and don't seem to care... so I guess it is cool with them?

Ok... final picture... after the park we found this wall garden, which was cool... then we went and ate dinner, and came back to the room... where I managed to look at way too many pictures trying to compile this blog. :)
I hope you all enjoyed Day 2! Come back again tomorrow or as they say in Madrid, Feliz Cumpleanos!!!!! ;)

A view from the other side!

So I am sure that you have enjoyed seeing the trip through my perspective, but as a special treat, I present a few pictures that show what life is like from the other side. I will actually be appearing in some of these:

The first picture is what Allison saw as she was trying to pass out. Right after we arrived at the hotel.

I am sure this has become an annoying sight for Eric and Allison, but it is much handier than using an actual camera (Thanks Katie and Will!). This is me taking a picture of Allison trying to sleep.
This is Eric's picture of Allison zonked out.
Eric's picture of the courtyard outside our window. Nice typical view of a European city I guess?
And now the much awaited pictures of Spiderman showing me and Eric how to fight crime. First he showed us how to shoot webs. Eric looks experienced at this. Spiderman better watch out!
Next spiderman asked us where we were from. Upon learning that we were from Oregon, he told us that he would show us how to fly back there. I was sort of all flied out.... since we had just landed, but we obliged him anyway, even though I don't think that Spiderman can actually fly.
Our final instruction was on how to do karate, or more accurately how to do the crane move from karate kid. Eric seems to be a little lost.

After our encounter with spiderman, it was time for a panoramajama, (several pictures taken while slowly doing a 360 to get a panorama shot of an area, for those of you who didn't follow the germany blog). This is what it looks like while I do that... looks fun for Eric. lol :)

Our first beer in Spain! Not quite as epic a moment as our first beer in Germany... but still great. Although, it was diminished by the fact that we got scammed a little bit by the waiter. He tricked us to eating there.

Last but not least, Allison loved this title over the top of a cafe near where we ate. Worst restaurant sign title ever?
Hopefully you enjoyed this look from the other side. These pictures will now be incorporated in, which may mean more pictures, as if my blog wasn't epic enough! Come back soon for the thrilling report of the second day.