Day 28: The Real Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona and Florence

A busker on the train plays a violumpet. Ok, it's not a called violumpet, but it should be - it's a Stroh violin. It sounds like a mouse singing opera through a gramophone.

Well, here we are in Florence! I’m hoping this will be a catch up entry as last I left you we were in Paris, and we’ve visited five places in two countries since then! You’ll understand if it’s a bit rushed…

  • Our last day in Paris – we had been saving the pleasure of visiting the Musee d’Orsay (a gallery of the impressionist masters Van Gough, Picasso et al.). However, much to our baffled disappointment, the museum is closed on Mondays! So we spent the day wandering around the lovely sites of Paris. From Paris we flew to Madrid.

    We were not the only poor souls who didn't realise the musuem was closed on Mondays.

    We were not the only poor souls who didn't realise the musuem was closed on Mondays.

  • On arrival in Madrid we made our way to our hotel, catching the very efficient Madrid underground railway. Our hotel was on the “Gran Via”, a main street in the city centre. After finding our hotel, checking in and having a little siesta, we wandered out at about 9pm, hoping to find some place still open and serving dinner. Well it turns out that 9pm is actually the hour things start to get moving in Madrid. We enjoyed a nice meal and wandered home around 10.30pm and noticed that the Gran Via was even busier than it had been an hour ago!
  • The following morning we explored the city a bit more. There were plenty of old buildings, shops and people. We found the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art. This was quite an interesting art gallery in that you began on the third floor in early 1300s and worked your way down the building, chronologically through through the paintings until you got to the post-modern pieces on the ground floor. We got to see a couple of Picassos and van Goughs, which took the edge of missing the them in Paris.

    A decorated bull we met in Madrid.

    A decorated bull we met in Madrid.

  • I can’t say enough about how pleasant it is to travel through Europe by train, and that afternoon’s trip to Malaga was no exception. From Malaga we caught another train to Benalmadena, where we were staying for a couple of days to enjoy some elusive warmth and the company of some old friends, Ana and Omar.
  • Our hotel in Benalmadena was clean and comfortable – I was a little unnerved by the fact that the room’s security seemed to have been designed along the same lines as Fort Knox, complete with several bolts up the door frame and an electric roller shutter onto the balcony. Fortunately we were not bothered by the criminal element for the duration of our stay. The town was relaxing, friendly and seemed to have a higher proportion of English retirees that most places we visited in England. It was terrific to catch up with Ana and meet Omar and their to kids. The beaches in Benalmadena were no match for the ones we have at home, but it was wonderful to have the temperature in double figures.

    Me and the Mediterranean.

    Me and the Mediterranean.

  • On more than one occasion we have found ourselves yielding to the temptation of pretending that we are contestants on the TV show “The Amazing Race”, largely due to the joys and pressures of racing around beautiful places with heavy backpacks. If that were the case, we narrowly avoided being eliminated on our way back to Madrid. We missed the all-important train connection from Benalmadena to Malaga. Fortunately Omar (with our eternal gratitude) was able to drive us to Malaga himself, not sparing the horses, as the saying goes. Arriving at Malaga station and sprinting through the crowds to the platform, we arrived at our train with only three minutes to spare. Shaken and completely out of breath, we took our seats and enjoyed yet another European rail journey from Malaga to Madrid, then from Madrid to Barcelona.
  • In Barcelona we enjoyed:
  • La Ramblas, a pedestrian street running a couple of kilometres from the centre of the city to the waterfront was packed with street performers (mostly of the ‘dress up, stay very still and pretend to be a statue, and pose for photographs’ variety), stalls, cafes and tourists.
  • The waterfront, complete with a boats, water, fish and a wonderful full-sized replica of the Ictino II, a wooden submarine, the world’s first combustion-engine submarine, built in 1864. Have I ever mentioned that I love submarines?

    We all live in a wooden submarine...

    We all live in a wooden submarine...

  • The Barcelona Cathedral, a beautiful gothic cathedral. Unlike the churches we visited in Paris, the Barcelona Cathedral upheld the serenity of a church, despite having its fair share of tourists wandering about. An elevator up to the rooftop provided a remarkable view of the city.
    The gardens in the cathedral's courtyard.

    The gardens in the cathedral's courtyard.

    Barcelona from the cathedral roof

    Barcelona from the cathedral roof

  • A city square full of pidgeons.

    The bird man

    The bird man

  • After two nights in Barcelona we tempted fate once more and checked in for our flight to Italy with only fifteen minutes to spare.
  • Arriving in Florence, we enjoyed another pain-free EU border-crossing, this time getting through with merely a sniff from a bored-looking Alsatian.
  • We made our way to our hotel, located in the narrow labyrinthian streets of Florence’s historic city centre. From there we explored some market stands and enjoyed another late dinner.
  • Florence was established in 59 BC by Julius Ceasar as a place for his veteran soldiers. Things have moved along considerably since then. Florence is considered as the birthplace of Italian renaissance. Among its famous residents are such luminaries as Galileo, Dante, Amerigo Vespucci, Guccio Gucci and all four ninja turtles.

    The Ponte Vecchio dating from 1345. Jewellery shops from end to end.

    The Ponte Vecchio dating from 1345. Jewellery shops from end to end.

  • We spent the day wandering the ancient narrow streets, bustling city squares, amazing churches and closed museums. The cathedral in Florence was another beautiful and huge structure. Construction began in 1296. Its most impressive feature is the 42 metre octagonal dome roof, quite a feat of engineering for 1420. In the evening we managed to find a small Italian restaurant.
      Tomorrow we head for Rome, so stay tuned!

3 Comments

  • Hi Tom and Anna – Keep up the great blogwork! I keep waiting to hear that you have tempted fate and plane timetables once too often – how about you put your watches forward or something? Australia is still here – traffic terrible in Sydney – & lots of people being bitten by sharks. Bushfires extra bad tomorrow in Vic, whales beached in Tassie. Miss you!

  • Hi guys, thanks for the great updates! This will be awesome for you both to look back on, appears the old travel diaries are out of fashion now! Glad you are having a blast, love all your pics. Anna you look quite the natural at the moulin rouge! excpet your high leg kick wasn’t visable? Is that in the next pic to come ;) And obviously too cold to wear a corsett ;) Enjoy Italy, love Shaye

  • How do you make a wooden submarine sink?

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