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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 24, 2015

Saturday - a triumph and a disappointment

The triumph was I actually took the metro!  Of course, I had a fair amount of help.  I've discovered the best people to ask for help are young people early 20's or less.  They seem to think it's a lark to be able to help this old woman.  Today three were going into the metro station at the same time as I was so I asked them to show me how the machine worked.  It was all in Spanish of course and the girl just ended up doing the whole process for me so I got my ticket.  Then I asked about where I needed to go to catch the train to Puerta del Sol and she showed me where I needed to go so I went.  When I got down there I was still uneasy about getting the right train cause the signs that tell you what train is coming next didn't seem to match the names of any of the stops on the map.  So I inquired of someone about that and they told me which one I needed.  We both got on that one and she told me how many stops till I would get off and it all worked like a charm.  So I suppose really I can't call it a triumph since all I did was follow instructions but, hey, I did that real well.  Here's a picture to prove it happened:   Not quite as busy as Paris, NYC or DC!  Probably commuter times are pretty hectic.



So I took the metro to Puerta del Sol where I had been before without my camera so I took just a few pictures.  It is SO jammed with people always that it's kind of a hopeless proposition.  But this is the government building (I think city government) and in front of it is ...

 this, which is the center of all spain (that little circle in the center of the country  The six gold lines are the major highways and apparently it's tradition to put your foot on it - not sure why but that's my foot.
 All the buildings around the plaza are built to pretty much match - four stories, the same color and windows, etc., so if it wasn't totally jammed with people, it would be attractive.
 I don't think I know what this is - it was just a pretty church I saw while walking from Puerta del Sol to the Palacio Real.  While walking there, I was pondering things because I had read that no photos could be taken inside the castle and the day was becoming lovelier and lovelier as I walked.  The idea was forming to skip the inside of the palace and walk on to the Gran Via which the guidebook says is Madrid's NYC Fifth Avenue type boulevard and was built in stages between 1910 and 1930 and all the buildings, essentially,  are gorgeous and I could take as many pictures as I wanted.
 course, they're gorgeous everywhere basically and these are a few I saw on my walk to the Palace.  And they're just buildings - with businesses and probably some with apartments - no palaces or government buildings or things like that.  And, I mean, look at the trim on this building - each bust is different - no assembly line here.
So what you'll mostly see from here on is pictures of buildings - I'll pop in if I know anything about them for for the most part, they're buildings.
Although, right away I'll say I went around a curve in this pedestrian street and there at the end was the palace but I wasn't there yet and so here's another building I couldn't pass up.

And here is the palace or at least a major portion of it.  It is huge as advertised - that one story section on the far left side is still part of it and there's a matching "jut out" section on the right end of the building.
These are a bit of the grounds out in from of the palace.
 And this is a not very good picture of one of two lampposts at what the guidebook said is a fake front entrance.
 Here's another one of those bases although this one doesn't say Edge London.
 I stopped for a bit to watch this performance more for the totally absorbed little boy on the right than for the show.  Although they were quite talented with moving the marionettes.  The girl had a very sexy marionette dressed scantily singing a sad French song and I couldn't tell for sure if she had just broken off with the man marionette or if he had broken off with her.  But the girl could move the singer's mouth so precisely that it matched the drawn out words she was sighing over.  Quite good.

 Another view showing the dome and large statue up above.
Walking away from the palace, (yep, I decided not to go in)  here's an actual skyscraper but even it's quite in keeping with the older buildings, and what I really loved was the building in front of it.

 
So I started my trek to Gran Via, snapping way more pictures than was sensible but it's just hard not to.  Our major cities seem to be mostly towering skyscrapers which also has an appeal but I love that European cities seem to manage to keep the old and build the new around it.

 Whoopie!  This building names itself.  And after showing the top as clearly as possible, below is the bottom with its mighty statues.

This one is certainly pretty too, but I took it mainly cause it's the only Halloween decorations I've seen on all my walks.
 I loved this - there's a big sign explaining that when finished this will be a place where people will be able to learn the history of their city.  Meanwhile, it's the front only of a building that has otherwise been completely torn down!  I wonder if they saved the front to save money on getting new windows?  I'd say this is carrying preserving their old buildings to a whole new level.
 That little minaret type thing is part of the torn down but not all the way building.

Another stunner.

 This I took especially for Chris because of the ironwork doors.


So, as I walked down (or up) Gran Via, I would just take another picture every block or so.  So basically these pictures show one side of the street pretty thoroughly.  And the side I was on would be just as splendiferous.


 The one above was on my side of the street and I loved this window.  A lot of buildings that I've seen that apparently are mostly apartments seem to have some of the windows boxed in like this.


 

 This is a neat one - very 1930's New York I think.
 So, I finally got done with Gran Via and ended up back at Puerta del Sol.  I've been seeing these living statues ever since I got here at all sorts of places and they are fantastic.  I'd seen them in Florence but they were mostly just imitating famous statues and stood there being a statue.  These in Madrid go to great lengths to establish a scene and the most fantastic ones are the ones that seem to be suspended in mid-air using only one of their hands as support.  (I saw another one of those today and think I finally figured out how they do it).  But I had not taken any pictures because when you do you're supposed to leave them a little loose change and I never seem to have any cause I use my credit card everywhere.  But today I had some and took a picture of this group.  Just wish I had done a better job because I totally chopped off the bottom.  But all day I was having trouble in the sunshine seeing what I was actually getting in the view screen.  But this gives an idea of how unbelievable it is that they stay in this with all the make-up, etc. and barely even blink, let alone move.  The first one I saw in Madrid was here the other day and I thought it was a metal work statue of Don Quixote on a donkey cause that's what it looked like.  I was liking it cause it was like small metal-work pieces I've seen so I looked all around at it and spent some time there and finally noticed that his eyelids were just barely moving.  I was totally surprised.

And believe it or not, that's it for pictures.  I came on back to the hotel to rest up and start editing some of them figuring I would go to the Thyssen Museum around 6pm which would give me two hours.  I didn't get there until 6:30 and discovered that they close at 7:00 p.m. so that was my disappointment.  I'm considering a change in plans for tomorrow that would involve giving up on going to Toledo and staying here to visit the museum and maybe pay to see the inside of the palace after all.  I read the guidebook's 20-room self-guided tour and it does sound fantastic as far as how opulent it is.  It's still in uses today because Spain does have a king and queen (even though they manage to stay out of the news way more than the British royals) and when there's a special function or a royal wedding or something along those lines they use the palace for that.  Wash up all the china, polish all the silver and put on the glitz.

But for now I'm going to go to bed - if I wake up early I may do Toledo.  But I'm not setting an alarm!  Oh, and I've heard from Chris - he was getting ready to board his plane for Rome where he will have tomorrow to wander and then head to Barcelona on Monday as will I and Heather who made it safely to Morocco.


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