I'm in Lisbon now, solo, but I'm gonna post about Madrid and Valencia before I totally forget what my sister and I did while we were in Spain.
On Saturday morning, we hunted for Bodega de Ardosa, but the place we saw was not appealing so we got croissants (mm) and hot chocolate at a nearby cafe. Don't recall the name, but I thought going with the Nutella-esque hot chocolate was a good idea. I'm a dolt.
After that, I think we took a siesta. A long one? I'm having a bit of trouble remembering. What I do know is we headed back to the Mercado Mayor where I bought something called a salame, which was KICK ASS, for later, and we had some gelato. Then we found the tapas place my sister's friend had told her about, Turf. The chicken curry was awful, and I ordered a plate of potatoes thinking something would be done to them, but, no, just baby potatoes. Allie liked her plates, though, so what do I know?
On Sunday morning, we headed to El Rastro, which is INSANE. It covers the entire neighborhood and is about 90% brass knobs, DVDs (legit??), and other random assorted junk. But the experience is something alright. Then on the walk back towards Atocha I got crazy hungry. Like, crazy psycho hungry. But there's not much on the road from Puerta Toledo to the Reina Sofia, so we had some Burger King, which has free WiFi that's actually accessible, unlike another nearby fast food chain (ahem, McD's).
Then we went to the Reina Sofia, which was quite cool and free on Sundays, and then we went to the Parque del Buen Retiro to wile away the hours until we had to grab the train to the airport and take the plane to Valencia.
But before we came back to Atocha, we ate at an Irish pub just north of the park--so nice to talk with people who speak English, but there was an exceedingly unimportant soccer game on and a group of young teen Irish girls at the table next to us pretending to be bratty Barbies, so it was a tad odd.
Then we took a quick tour of Cibeles, which I expected to be a church, but is not, and watched weird tourists take inappropriate snapshots of themselves in a 9/11 photo memorial exhibit.
Then we ducked into the Ritz to try to find a Do Not Disturb sign for my mildly naughty collection, but found nothing.
Btw, Barajas is a devil airport and Atocha is a challenging train station if you have a lot of luggage. Just FYI.
So we got to Valencia late and since we were staying at the Solvasa, which is east of the riverbed, and the Metro (I heard) closes at 11pm, we took a rather pricy cab drive to the hotel. If you like body pillows for beds, this is your hotel. If you don't, you might want to look elsewhere.
The next day, it rained, but I got things off right by finding some amazing ensaimadas at a bread shop just behind the Solvasa (kind of worth the crap beds). After, we braved the storm and hit the Oceanografic, which is part of the City of Arts and Sciences, WHICH. IS. AWESOME.
My favorites from the Oceanografic:
1. sea dragons...
Who knew they existed? I feel like there's a Disney movie in this creature that needs to happen.
2. walruses! They're huge and terrifying and breathtaking. Just the broad brown back breaching the water, you can sense the kind of power a walrus has and suddenly become very thankful you're not in the Arctic between that walrus and something it wants to eat.
3. guitarfish! I think the name speaks for itself.
Then we had a weird lunch of spaghetti, chicken, and French fries called the cabin boy meal. The tomato sauce tasted like and had the consistency of warm ketchup, but the rest of it was fine.
After that, the rain had calmed and we walked back to our room for a siesta. That night, we walked back through the park towards Colon to try to find Fast Good again, but really that restaurant chain is gone, so SOL. On the way through the park, however, we found Gulliver, which is both a giant sculpture of the fictional hero and a playground. It was night, but the security guard still let us wander around and slide down his left sleeve. Anyway, we went to the Mercado Colon for dinner, which is lovely to look at, and I ate half a crappy burger at a crappy restaurant on the main floor.
On Tuesday, we did old Valencia, sniffing around the Cathedral de Valencia, but in our cheapness not paying to actually tour the inside, but we did drop two euros each on the Torres de Serrano, which is a gate that you climb up and get a great view of the city. Then we had lunch at Cappuccino, bought a new converter at El Corte Ingles 'cause my old one blew both its fuses, and headed back to the homestead. At some point, we stopped at the Mercado Central, but we got there just as it was closing, so not much happened.
Then we chilled out for the night, had some cheese, soda, ice cream, and store-bought tostadas at home for dinner.
The next morning was all about the beach! We checked out the America's Cup Museum b/c it's free and the whole reason Valencia in that area is built up, and then we hung out on the playa, my sister dipped her toes in the sea, and then I swung on some swings for a bit. We considered having paella, and then decided to go back to Aqua, the mall across from the Oceanografic, and eat at Foster's Hollywood. It's like a bizarro American restaurant--its heart is in the right, artery-clogged place, but it still feels off.
I bought socks.
We killed some time, then headed to the North Station to take the high speed train back to Atocha, where we'd take the Cercanias to San Fernando de Hernanes and somehow get to the AC Coslada so my sister could take the free shuttle to the airport the next morning and grab her flight back to America and I could fly to Lisbon. This went wrong in so many ways.
First, our train wasn't leaving from Norte. It was leaving from Joaquin Sorolla. Luckily, JS is a short walk from Norte and we had plenty of time to get there, but I only realized the problem by happenstance.
The AVE, though, is quite lovely. I highly recommend it. Much less stress than plane travel.
HOWEVER, Atocha sucks, and then when we got to San Fernando de Hernanes, we had a problem. No cabs were there, and no buses go to the hotel. It's an industrial, fairly creepy area, and from the Google map searches I had done, even though Google said you could walk to the hotel, by street viewing it, I realized there was an underground pass we'd have to walk through that had no sidewalk. We'd get slaughtered.
So adventurously we set off, with vague instructions from some fellow Cercanias rider that cabs were to be found in the direction we were headed.
It was dead nothingness for a while, and we started to get that icky feeling in our stomachs that our mutilated bodies would be found in the nearby brush or some abandoned building in the vicinity two weeks from now, but finally we hit a BP gas station and the lovely attendant called us a cab. If I ever win the lottery, I'm coming back to Madrid, finding her, and giving her lots of money.
Other than that, the AC Coslada was a fine hotel--my sister really liked it--what with free minibar beverages, nice beds, and that free airport shuttle. Just make sure you know how to get there.
Anyhow, I'll report on Lisbon when I can and I'm gonna do photos in a separate blog.