Madrid – Day 2 – El Escorial & The Valley of the Fallen

Day 2 ! We headed out for Monte El Escorial and the Valley of The Fallen .

The El Escorial is basically like a Royal Palace and has a cathedral as well as a monastery and a university library as a part of the main structure.

The route was absolutely beautiful with snow capped mountains and green fields.

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It is situated in the north west region and it is really cold up there ,about 3 degrees !

We were taken on a guided tour by one of the staff and they showed us the rooms of the King and Queen, starting from Charles the First in Spain ( who was Charles the Fifth in Germany) to Alphonse the Third. We saw the various rooms of the palace, the walking room ( as they called it since the King who has gout, used to walk there) , the offices etc.

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The cathedral was beautiful. AHigh glass domes with a transparent behind the altar ( which is a hole in the wall through which light falls in from the room behind) .

We did not get a chance to spend a lot of time there though, and rushed off to see the Valley of the Fallen which is made as a tribute to all those who lost their lives in the civil war. It is created inside a mountain and is a work of architecture ! The whole mountain was hollowed out and there is a huge cross in top. Almost 200 kilos !

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The views were gorgeous and I would have loved to spend more time in both the places. Due to the fact that we were on a guided tour and that it was verrrryyy cold we got back to Madrid by the afternoon.

The rest of the day was spent walking down the streets of Madrid. Spending time in Isabelle Square and the Mayor Square.

The squares are really lively and have people dressed up in various costumes where you could go and get pictures clicked. They have a lot of cafes where one can just hang out and chill 🙂
There are also loads of shops to buy souvenirs from.
There is this bakery at Isabelle, called LA Mallorquina which had amazing sweet treats !

This is all for day 2 !

Madrid Day 1

Hola ! 

The Madrid experience has been amazing so far.

We took a train from Sevilla to Madrid and arrived in the afternoon. After checking in to Hotel Paseo Del Arte, we took off for a Segaway tour.
The tour guide, Carlos, taught us how to use the segaway, which is very simple. It is based on the principle of balance. You need to find your point of balance and lean forward to move forward and backwards to reverse. To stop you go back into the equibrium point.
After familiarising ourselves with it, we started off with the tour where he showed us the royal palace, the square of Spain, an Egyptian temple which was the gift of the Egyptians to Spain.

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The Egyptian Temple

We rode our segaways through many beautiful gardens and picture points from where we could see the city of Madrid.

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Segaway Practice !

Madrid of course is cold in comparison to both Barcelona and Sevilla. We froze on the Segaways and couldn’t feel our hands after the ride since we didn’t have gloves !

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The Royal Palace

The segaway tour has been one of the best tours so far and was enjoyed thoroughly by everyone. It was exhilarating and it is a MUST do for everyone in my opinion 🙂

Post that we went to Cafe&Tapas in Mayor Square and had hot chocolate and ate dinner at a pizzeria just opposite to that.
It had decent vegetarian options as well 🙂

And that was our first day in Madrid !
Stay tuned for more !

Seville Day 3 – Cordoba

Cordoba is one of the provinces In the city of Andalucia along with Malaga, Cadiz etc.
Located 150 km from Seville, we took a tour bus to the place.
On arriving, we visited the Alcazar fort which was built during the roman period. Many of the remains are now underground and have been destroyed by the weather.

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Alcazar Fort

The fort had old preserved mosaics and well kept gardens and patios.

Along the streets of the province one would find parts of this fort which are now turned into hotels, restaurants, museums etc with a lot of patios. There is also an annual Patio competition that is held in May.

The province has a lot of Islamic culture since many Muslims also stayed there after the Romans.

We then went on to the old Jewish section of the city. Earlier there was a huge Jewish community which stayed there. They built a Synagogue , which was used as a church up until the priests discovered Hebrew inscriptions and remains of the balconies where the women and children would sit.
There are only 3 synagogues in Spain.  The other two located in Toledo.

We then went on to see the Cathedral. this was a mosque in the earlier times and had beautiful double arches of red bricks and limestone. The pillars there are of red and black marble and no two are similar. They also have the mason’s names marked on them. The Mosque later had more construction done as an add on to it and is used present day as a church.

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The Mosque

This is an exquisite piece of architecture and legend has it, that when the King wanted to convert it into a Church, the Muslims were a little uncertain as whether the mosque would be destroyed. The King promised them, that if a single pillar was touched he  would massacre everyone. And thus there are only add-ons .

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The Altar used for daily services.

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We proceeded for lunch after that to a place called Amaltea, which is known to have good vegetarian food ( since some of the people with us were vegetarian ). The veg lasagna was good. I didn’t particularly enjoy the pasta with artichokes and arugala, since it was bland. It needed to be spiced up with tobasco and needed more salt.

Post lunch we headed back to Seville 🙂

We proceeded for lunch after that to a place called Amaltea, which is known to have good vegetarian food ( since some of the people with us were vegetarian ). The veg lasagna was good. I didn’t particularly enjoy the pasta with artichokes and arugala, since it was bland. It needed to be spiced up with tobasco and needed more salt.

Post lunch we headed back to Seville 🙂

Seville Day 2 – Cadiz

Today was a packed day 🙂
We went to Cadiz. On the way we got a short city tour, by our guide Melissa, of the various sites in Seville which we passed on the way out – La Macarina, the olive farms etc.

We started off in the morning by going to the winery Gonzalez Byass  that produces Sherry wine. They produce a brand which  is also popularly known as Tio  Peppe.

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They took us on a guided tour around the winery and showed us the barrels. There are 90000 barrels there at present filled with sherry. They are placed in rows one on top of each other. The oldest on the ground placed on top of a layer of yellow sand which is watered to give the sherry the humidity that it needs. Every time they need to take out sherry, they take it out from the lowermost barrel ( that is the one on the ground) and only take out one third of the contents. This barrel is now filled with sherry from the barrel placed on the row above and the one on the first layer is filled by the barrel in the third layer.

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The royal family of Spain has also signed some of the barrels there. There is also a cellar with 152 barrels which have flags of all the countries the company exports to.

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Post that we went to the Royal School of Equestrian Art to see a horse show. It was breathtaking. The horses were we’ll kept and looked very happy. There are no words to express how wonderful the show was. The horses trotted cantered in perfect synchronization with the Spanish music. The show is titled ‘ How the Andalusian Horses Dance’. And the name says it all.

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After that we went to Cadiz and spent a couple of hours walking through the old and new town. We had lunch at a Cerveseria Montadella ( don’t remember the exact name, apologies!). This was followed by a bus tour across the city where we saw the bay, the catherdrals, the beaches, the old tobacco factory, the city wall remnants, a beautifully manicured garden dedicated to Christopher Columbus etc.

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And then we headed back to Seville. 🙂
Shopped around the streets near our hotel and ended up having an excellent dinner at Pomodoro.

Barcelona Day 3 – Figueres – Dali’s City and Girona

Today we went to see Dali Figurines and Girona village.
Girona was founded by the Romans and has a plethora of fine architectural delights including medieval walls, Gothic monuments, a Jewish museum and a cathedral. Dali has apparently been said to claim that his face resembles one of the sculptures on the facade of the cathedral.
We were lucky enough to be able to witness the easter mass today 🙂

New and old girona is divided by a river.

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One of the interesting legends of the place is a lion on one of the pillars. They say if you want to come back you must kiss the lion’s bottom.

A part of the TV series, Game of Thrones has also been filmed here along with climax scenes from the movie Perfume. The guide also told us proudly, that Mark Zuckerberg had also stayed for a couple of days here !

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We went next to Figueres, which is Dali’s City and theain attraction is Dali’s theatre museum.
And it was EXQUISITE !

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I am not much of an artist and I don’t understand art. Nor do I like museums. But this. This was something else. His paintings and sculptures glaze over a wide range of techniques and methods.
His museum also contains his tomb and is also called a theatrical museum. It was resigned by him and he worked on it for thirteen to fourteen years.

There are also lots of jewel pieces which are inspired by certain paintings.
Words aren’t enough to express the beauty of his vast body of work.

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His wife -Gala, Costa Brava, Girona, flies ( which are a symbol of protection) are integral parts of his work. One can also find dragons, lips and eggs in his work. He also stayed in the United states where he bought a Cadillac which is displayed in the museum. This is known as the arinkng Cadillac which has a mechanism, if one puts a coin into it, an umbrella opens up on top and it begins to rain actual water inside the car.

There are a lot of optical illusions in his work. Also there is a section devoted to May West , the Hollywood actress.

This is a MUST do for everyone. Even those who don’t like art.

Barcelona Day 2 – Montserrat

Today was the Montserrat Monastry tour in the first half of the day. We crossed the FCB football grounds and training areas on the way. Any football fan would love the place.

Montserrat is basically a multipeak mountain feature which is composed of a pink coloured conglomerate of sedimentary rocks about 45 kms away from Barcelona in the mountains.
There is also a monastery of the Benedictine Monks there.
There is a cathedral there as well and is host to the ‘Black Madonna’.

A museum with works of famous artists such as Dali is located in the area along with an exquisite wine tasting
tour which is a must do for all the wine lovers !

It has a tram which takes you to the peaks, which we visited ofcourse and is great for hiking. Needless to say the view is amazing 🙂

I am not much of the history types and was more interested in the hiking bit of things and spent most of my time there on the trails, hanging out with the cliffs &
clouds !
A visit to Barcelona, one would expect beaches but right now the weather in Barcelona isn’t the beach type !

We also went to La Rambla which is the lower part of the city and is a great place to walk around. It’s very near the city center. The only thing – beware of pocket pickers. You also get great souvenirs over where along with interesting places to eat. Specially of you want to sit out in the open and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

Plaza Catalunya is another great place to spend time in. Its very lively with something or the other going on all the time.

My suggestion – walk down La Rambla and take a left at the end of it and come out via any of the parallel roads.

Tips and tricks : wear comfortable shoes. The tracks are really steep with loose rocks and pebbles.
Its sometimes foggy so the views may be clouded up !

Lessons learnt : try not to take pictures at the edge of the cliff. You may fall and definitely no striking yoga poses !  :p

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It’s All in the Head !

As I started going for a jog everyday, I began to target jogging 10 kilometres without stopping.

There were good days and bad days.

And then finally in February 2014 I managed to make it to the magic number! And boy was I overjoyed ?

It was one of the best days ever. The feeling of satisfaction. The elation. The empowerment it gave !

On that day I weighed in at 68 kilos.

And I kept at it .

I have realised. Weighloss is psychological. If you think you can run , you can. If you delude yourself into thinking you’re not hungry, you don’t feel hungry. If you think you are not tired and can still go on jogging, you will.

Its all in the head !
I am absolutely noone to lecture anyone on how to go about it. But experience tells me its a mind game. And for all those watching their weight and finding it tough, this is both good news and bad. Bad because some of us have a hard time with will power. And good because now you know what’s your Waterloo 🙂