Saturday, November 03, 2018

Madrid Day 6

Slept in a bit, as we had no plans until 10:00, when we were doing a winery tour, so we had breakfast at the hostel (which was free), and headed to the pickup point around the Prado Museum.

We went to a winery that is higher up in the mountains, a small one that grows both red and green grapes (hence, both red and white wines). Some of the vines they grow grapes on are over 100 years old. They don't use trellises here, but keep the plants more separated, giving each more space. They are done harvesting for the season, but there was a lot of late grapes still growing on both the red and green grape vines, so we could pick and eat grapes to our hearts content. They are so delicious, way better than the grocery store grapes. They also don't water any of their vines. It's quite dry here, but the grapes that grow here are native to this area, so get all the moisture they need from the rains that come in the spring, so very environmentally friendly. This specific vineyard doesn't use any pesticides or insecticides or anything like that either.

After walking the vineyard (with amazing views), we headed to the town, where they turn the grapes into wine. They were soft squeezing red grapes to make red wine when we were there. After squeezing them, they ferment them twice, first in oak barrels, then in aluminum vats. As this was a small winery, it's size was very similar to some of the craft breweries in Calgary.

We had three samples of wine, along with Iberian ham and cheese, then headed back to Madrid.

The whole tour was guided, with just Tracy and I, but the winery had a surprise visit from another group today, so there was a small group of us doing the tasting. The company we booked through were hilarious, it's obvious she's trying to get her wine tour business off the ground, her photographer came with us (also the driver), and they picked us up in a car sharing service car (like Car2Go, but different company). On the drive to and from the vineyard and winery, they were constantly getting lost, neither of them could read Google Maps correctly, and the photographer was taking tons of pictures of us. I'm positive we'll see ourselves in marketing material and the website of the tour company!

After we got back, we walked around, looking for a place to have supper. It's really nice again today (high teens and sunny), and so many people about. We ended up going to the place we went on the first night in Madrid, as it was very good.

We then wandered around, and ended up in Plaza Mayor, and a busker was just starting his show, and while he did it (mostly) in Spanish, he was hilarious, as he engaged the audience a lot, and had them be part of the show, doing hilarious and stupid things. It's hard to explain, but both Tracy and I were laughing, and I'm sure it would have been ever funnier if we could understand the remarks he was making to the members of the crowd helping him.

We then headed back to the hostel, and packed our things, as we have a 4:30 taxi to the airport for our trip home.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Madrid Day 5

We slept in for a bit, as we had no plans early in the day. We slept in until after 8:00 sometime. The noise was significantly less last night. There was still lots of activity outside, but no partiers, except for once in a while, we both slept pretty good.

After a quite delicious breakfast, we we headed to El Retiro Park, a really large park in the middle of town. It was really nice, but the park was kind of bipolar. Half of the park was really quiet, with lots of joggers running around, lots of greenery, pathways amongst the bushes and trees, fountains, small pounds, a few small cafes, really tranquil and quiet. The other half was the busy, touristy half, with a small lake where you could rent row boats, lots and lots of buskers doing different things, busy cafes, and generally really "in your face", less green space, and not as quiet. One of the coolest "buskers" was a costume of Predator, with a bowl out front for people to put money in. The funny part was, nobody was sure if there was anyone in the Predator costume. People were afraid to approach to get their picture with him/it, afraid it would move or jump, but it literally never moved. But good human statues are great at not moving, so people were standing around for a long time, just waiting for some movement, and nothing, except for a bit of swaying in the breeze. We decided there was actually nobody in the costume...which makes it that much more amazing. Somebody setup the costume, then went off to the pub, and would come back later in the day to a hat full of money!

We had a snack at a cafe in the park, then headed over to the Royal Palace, which we had tickets for at 1:30pm. We skipped the main line, because we had purchased tickets in advance, which is a good thing, as the line was looooong for non-ticket holders. The palace is really spectacular, maybe not on par with the Palace of Versailles in France (which was amazing), but still incredibly spectacular. It really makes you think (along with the churches), how much royalty and religions spent on such opulence, to put on a show that they are somehow better than the commoner....when really they poop just like everyone else. Regardless, it was still pretty cool to see.
After that, we walked around various shops for a while, along all the small alleyways littering the city, with so many shops. Tracy can't get enough of the shopping (thanks Mom, since you made her buy stuff, she can't stop). She's got lots of cool clothes. We went for an early (by Spanish standards) supper (around 4:30-5:00) to a pasta place called Nina's Pasta Bar, which was rated 4.9/5 on Google, and a bit out of the tourist area. When we went in, it was busy, and she (Nina) apologized for not having any English menus, she didn't imagine that she's have so many English speakers coming in, so she was working on getting English menus. She explained all the menu items, and we choose what we wanted, and it was amazing. She's from Italy, and they specialize in Italian good. When we were done, she asked us how we heard about her place, and we told her she came up in Google when I searched for pasta, with a rating of 4.9/5. Well, she was sooooo happy to hear that! She did a little dance, and offered us a shot of liqueur on the house, she was so ecstatic! She's was so friendly, really enjoyed going there.

We then headed to the Temple of Debod, an temple gifted to Spain by Egypt back in the 1970's for something that I can't remember right now. They say to go at sunset, which we did. Along with everyone else in the city! The sunset was very nice, it was cool to see an Egyptian temple in Madrid. As I understand, this was an actual temple in Egypt, and it was dismantled and moved to Madrid and constructed again. Anyway, very cool.

After that we walked and shopped and stopped here and there for a drink or snack until we finally made our way back to the hostel. Beautiful weather today, the evening was nice. So many buskers all over the place with the nice weather.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Madrid Day 4

Last night was noisy. There were partiers out until like 4:00am. Hopefully this is not a regular occurrence, but halloween partiers. I slept ok, but Tracy didn't sleep at all, until all the noise died down after 4:00am, she said. I thought I set my alarm for 7:30, so we could get up in plenty of time for our day trip to Toledo. But Tracy woke me up at 7:45. That still gave us plenty of time, so it's a good thing Tracy was on the ball there. Apparently I didn't set my alarm at all.

We had breakfast and headed to the Neptune fountain for our pickup. It was about a 50 minute drive to Toledo, and we had a tour of a city with a lot of history, starting back in the year 900 or so. It has Jewish, Muslim and Christian roots, having being ruled and conquered by each at various times throughout recorded history. It's also one of the new cities in Spain that has a Jewish quarter.

We also had a wine and tapas tasting. I'm not a wine fan, but Tracy is. Unfortunately it was not at a vineyard (which is actually what we wanted), but it was still ok.

The tour lasted all day, and we got back to Madrid around 7:00, and went to a rather crappy Irish pub for supper, then back to the hostel and to bed.