Spain - April 19-25, 2023
This started out to be a trip to Spain - Madrid, Barcelona and Seville - from 19 April to 05 May - but ended up being only for Madrid, and ending April 25. Tragically, we received word on April 24 that Lawson's nephew, Kennith Phillips, had suddenly passed away. This ended our trip and we returned home to Houston the next day.
We had planned to spend 5 days in each of the cities. We were able to do all the things we planned for Madrid, and were planning to go by train to Barcelona on the 25th.
Perhaps at some time in the future, Lord willing, we will complete the trip, but by May it is getting pretty warm in Southern Spain.
We hope you enjoy our brief trip report and a few photos.
[Wednesday] We got up this morning at 6:15 AM and left for the airport at 8:00 AM. We got checked into security and at the gate in Terminal E at 10:30 AM. We boarded United UA1429, a Boeing 737-MAX 8 to Newark for the 12:10 PM flight. In Newark we had to change terminals and took United UA51, a Boeing 767-300 to Madrid. We arrived in Madrid on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM.
< Almost to Madrid from Newark.
[Thursday] We arrived in Madrid this morning at 9:00 AM and after we had cleared immigration, we took a taxi to the hotel. The taxi driver was very aggressive in his driving, and it was like riding with a race driver. Such actions in Houston would leave you full of bullet holes.
After checking into the Petit Palace Preciados Hotel, we walked around the area. The hotel is adjacent to the Puerta del Sol. This square's clock tower bell famously rings in each New Year, heralding a customary consumption of 12 grapes - one with each bell toll - for a prosperous New Year.
< View of the street from our hotel balcony.
< < < Area around the Puerta del Sol.At 4:00 PM, we took a city tour on an electric tuk-tuk. Following is a description from the tour operator.
Travelers who want a fun and easy overview of Madrid will love this 90-minute electric tuk-tuk tour. Pass by numerous must-see places in Madrid, such as the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, and the Almudena Cathedral. Take note of the places you want to return to later on your own. Enjoy the novelty of touring by electric tuk-tuk. This is a private tour just for you and your party. Blankets are available for winter touring. An ideal tour for first-time visitors to Madrid.
Afterwards we ate supper at the restaurant at where the tour ended.
< < Crowded streets in the area.
[Friday] This morning at 9:45 AM we took a guided tour of the Madrid Royal Palace. The palace was built to impress. It is located on a high bluff over the Rio Manzanares. The construction lasted 17 years.Today it is not the residence of the Spanish royalty, but is used for state occasions. Of course now it is mostly overrun with tourists. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the most beautiful rooms.
Following is a description of the tour from the operator:
The magnificent Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the official residences of the King of Spain and one of Madrid’s most popular attractions. On this skip-the-line tour, avoid the queues which can take over an hour at peak times, and gain extra insight into the Spanish royal family on a guided tour. Visit the Throne Room, Hall of Mirrors, and Banquet Hall; peek into the Royal Apartments; then stroll around the beautiful palace gardens. Magnificent views and photo opportunities of the Palace and Gardens. Skip the line entrance: avoid the long queues and go straight inside Learn about Spain’s royal history and heritage from an expert guide Walking tour of the palace grounds and 19th-century gardens.
Afterwords we went into the Cathedral de la Almudena that is next to the palace. Dedicated to the cities patron, the cathedral was begun in 1883 and completed over a century later.
We then walked back to the hotel and ate lunch at a small restaurant around the corner from the hotel.In the afternoon at 4:00 PM, we took a guided toured the Prado Museum. The museum contains the world's greatest collection of Spanish painting - especially works by Velazquez and Goya - ranging from the 12th to the 19th centuries. Our tour guide was excellent. Unfortunately, again we were not allowed to photograph inside.
Following is a description of the tour from the operator:
The Prado Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Madrid and without this handy skip-the-line guided tour you could be waiting a long time to get in. Simplify your visit to one of Europe’s top art galleries and learn more about Spanish art and culture than you could touring alone. This small-group tour can be customized to suit your interests. See the highlights of the enormous Prado Museum. Entry tickets are included. Art enthusiasts and total beginners will both enjoy this tour. A great introduction so you know what to come back and see later.
After we finished the tour, we walked back to the hotel, stopping to eat dinner at a restaurant along the route.
[Saturday] This morning we woke up to the sound of raindrops falling on the balcony. Fortunately, it ended at around 10:30 AM. Also, fortunately, we didn’t have anything planned for this morning.
After the rain stopped, we walked to the Plaza Mayor area. Plaza Mayor forms a rectangular square that has been used for many purposes in history and now is a gathering place of tourists. Then we continued to walk in a large circle around where our hotel was located. We stopped and ate lunch at La Rollerie. We continued to walk in the area and we walked down the Gran Via, then back to the hotel. The Gran Via is a showcase street of the city, with many high end stores and buildings.
In the afternoon we took a taxi to the Alonso Cano subway entrance to meet our Old Madrid Tapa Crawl for a 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM tour. Simply put, the Spanish tapa is a small dish of food served with a drink. But for Spaniards the custom of tapas is much more. In some areas tapas are served free with your drink, and people bounce from bar to bar trying the different dishes. Tapas can vary from a dish of great olives to a small gourmet meal in itself. But the most important part of enjoying tapas is sharing good times with friends. Our tour group were taken to 4 different tapa bars for samples.
Here is a description from our tour operator:
Taste your way through Madrid with a small-group tapas tour. Meet your guide for a city stroll that includes stops at four family-owned establishments in Madrid. Eat and drink traditional fare and learn about Madrid’s food culture during the tour. See where locals like to eat in the Spanish capital city during this tapas crawl. Explore Madrid through its many flavors. Learn about local tapas and drinks. Support four family-owned businesses. Go off-the-beaten path to tapas bars loved by locals.
After the tour, we bought a subway card and rode the subway to the Sol station near the hotel.
[Sunday] This morning we awoke to the sound of the Zurich Rock 'n' Roll Running Series Madrid Marathon outside our window. It was noisy with people cheering the runners on.
< The Marathon from our balcony.
After breakfast in the hotel, we rode the subway to the Retiro train station and looked at the Puerto de Alcala at a distance. It was covered for restoration work. The Puerta de Alcala is a Neo-classical gate in the Plaza de la Independencia.
< The Puerto de Alcala was covered for restoration.
Since we weren't able to see the Puerto de Alcala, We went into the nearby church for a few minutes where Mass was being held. It was the Church of Saint Manuel and Saint Benedict.
< < Church of Saint Manuel and Saint Benedict.
We then went via subway to the Madrid Porto Atocha train station to see it for tomorrow. We planned to take the train to the village of Toledo and take a tour of the city. We returned to the hotel via a packed subway train. We then ate lunch nearby.
[Monday] This morning, we took the 8:45 AM train from Madrid to Toledo. We ate breakfast at the Atcho train station in Madrid.
After we arrived in Toledo, we walked up the hill to the meeting place for our 11:00 AM tour of the historic village. Our guide was very good. It was during this tour in the afternoon after lunch that we received the text from Lawson's sister informing us of her son's passing. We finished the tour, then rode a bus to the train station, and took the train back to Madrid.
Tour information follows:
The perfect tour to see the highlights of the city. Discover the fascinating history of Toledo with your guide, while you walk through its streets and squares, and visit the most significant monuments: The Church of Santo Tomé, where the famous painting by El Greco, "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" is found; the Synagogue of Santa María La Blanca; the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, and after the lunch, at 4:15 pm, you will visit the jewel in the crown: The Primatial Cathedral.
Here are some scenes from our tour. In front of Cristo de la Luz is a portion of an old Roman road, with the large stones still in place.
< Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz.
< < Iglesia de los Jesuitas (San Ildefonso).
Santa María la Blanca is a church in a converted 12th-century, Moorish-style synagogue with a hall of horseshoe-shaped arches.
This monastery is a Gothic-Flemish church from the 15th-century, with ornate 2-tiered cloisters, now run by Franciscans.
< < < Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes.
Finally, we ended our tour at the awe inspiring Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo. The splendor of Toledo's massive cathedral reflects its history as the spiritual heart of the Church in Spain. The present cathedral was built on the site of a 7th-century church. Work began in 1226 and spanned three centuries, until the completion of the last vaults in 1493. This cathedral is over the top in so many ways, it is impossible in a single visit to get a true appreciation of it.
< < The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo.
On our way back to the bus, we passed by several sword stores. Toledo, an ancient walled city, has been the center of sword making for thousands of years. The city's weaponry history dates back to the Roman Empire, when emperors took a liking to the blades crafted in Toledo due to their strength and quality.< Need a sword?
[Tuesday] This morning we got up early and finished packing. We caught a taxi to the Madrid airport. We checked with United and fortunately were able to arrange a morning flight back to Newark and another onward to Houston. Unfortunately the plane from Newark to Houston was delayed on arrival and we were late leaving Newark. We finally arrived in Houston and made it home a little after midnight.
< View of NYC in the distance from our gate area.
This draws to a close our very brief trip to Spain. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.
Goodbye for now,
Lawson & Kay
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 NKJV)