Aranjuez, Cuenca, Valencia Spain
9.26.13 77 °F
September 24, 2013
We were up early to finish packing and get ready leave London. I went to the tub station early to get the tickets. However, all the windows were closed. I looked at the self serve machines and said what the heck, how hard can it be. Well after 15 minutes of frustration, a nice lady from the office came over to lend a hand. Eleven euro’s later, and finding out you need a credit card with a chip, I was off with two tickets to the airport. I picked up two coffees and two croissants form a French bakery (s’il vous plait) and I was back at the room in 45 minutes, life is good. The ride to the airport takes a little over an hour and it’s much easier than driving. We checked in and were advised that many planes were delayed due to weather and other issues, like terrorism. Our flight that was scheduled for 2pm, finally left at 4:15pm. No problem what’s a couple of hours. We arrived at Madrid Spain and it takes at least 45 minutes to navigate through the airport including a train ride to another terminal on the other side of the field. We went to Thrifty for our car rental and of course it was already rented to someone else. They only hold a reservation for one hour. They found another vehicle that was a slight upgrade for no charge. The car was nice and even had a trunk. It also had a stick shift not an automatic like we ordered. Not to worry, I took my driving test on a stick shift back in 1960. Night had now descended on Madrid and we had a one hour drive to our hotel in Aranjuez. The first thing you hit when leaving the airport is a toll booth. They don’t take credit cards, just cash please, No pounds, no American, just Euros. I have euro’s somewhere in one of my pockets, it’s dark, the clutch is starting to smell of smoke and when I pulled the money out, it went flying all over the car. Annette was looking hard to find the $1.95 we needed. The bill was paid the traffic was flowing again and we were off once more. I just hope he didn’t report me to cops and they would have a roadblock 2 miles down the road, pulling over dumb Americans. Several wrong turns and somewhere around 10:30pm we arrived at the hotel. I do believe I dove a short distance on the sidewalk because I refused to go around the block one more time. The room was nice with a great view. The one thing we said before we left the states, we were not eating late like the locals do in Spain. Well off we went for dinner at 10:45 and the center of town was still buzzing. We found a nice café with outside dinning and quickly ordered two wines. We had tapas, a nice salad and more wine and finally wondered back to the hotel a little after 12. There were still families with children eating and drinking when we left. I’m not sure if this is the true story but the owner of the bar told us the story of the tapas. The king was not happy with all the drinking going on and how drunk everyone was, so he declared that for every drink the owner must supply a tapa. So now they just go from bar to bar drinking and eating tapas. That’s his story not mine. More wine please!
September 25, 2013
We found a nice little café down town in the morning for coffee and croissant. We wondered the town looking at the architecture and the beautiful gardens. And then it was back to the hotel around 11 to pack up and head to Cuenca. I refused to leave the hotel until we knew what each switch in the car did. Some Spanish you could find very useful, how do you turn off the rear window wiper. With the wiper still going we were off. It was a very nice ride through the country side. Some of the land looks almost like the west with the hills streaked with reddish clay. There were rows and rows of sunflowers. We passed through several small towns with the whitewashed homes and every town had a stone church sitting high on a hill. We arrived in Cuenca around 1pm and then the fun began. Driving on cobblestone streets, made wide enough to accommodate two bikes, on twisting hills with busses and trucks coming at you is very interesting. Your life flashes in front of you on every turn. We found the hotel on the side of one of these hills, with no place to park in front or in back. Annette spotted a parking garage just in time because the clutch was starting to smell again. We checked in at the hotel and it was off to lunch. The menus were in Spanish and no one spoke English but we managed to get two sandwiches and two beers. It was very good and very reasonable. Some places you can get a glass of very nice wine for $1.25. We walked to the cliff houses and the swinging bridge and toured around the town before heading back to the hotel for a siesta. We were going to dinner at a restaurant that was recommended in the Frommer’s travel book. We walked to the restaurant only to find that it did not open until 9pm. So we headed down to the Plaza Mayor for a glass of wine and they bring a tapa. We had another glass of wine and another tapa shows up. We were all set to leave when the piaya arrived. One more glass of wine and a bowl of paella and that was the end of our restaurant experience. The bill came and was an astounding $8.50. You could learn to love Spain. It’s off to bed and Annette has managed to get the AC working, so life is good. It’s off to Valencia in the morning.
September 26, 2013
We had a light breakfast this morning at the hotel. Then it was off to Valencia. The drive out of the city was easy; no one gets up before noon. The ride was very leisurely, through the hills and farm land that fill both sides of the road. The red clay reminds one of NC or GA. We passed through some hills that were around 3-4 thousand feet. We arrived in the city of Valencia around 12 noon, counting on our Garmin to bring us to the front door of the hotel. The traffic was crazy with narrow side streets and cars turning and cutting in and out. Well the Garmin said turn right and I turned right. The only thing that saved us from death by bus, was one of Larry’s waste containers, we were on a one way street, going the wrong way. While I was backing up I managed to sideswipe one of Bob’s barricades, yes they have them here, only they are made out of metal. A gentleman having coffee was kind enough to help me back up on the street, holding up the traffic. Thank you, whoever you were. We did find the hotel and with Annette’s directions we found the parking garage. Down underground we finally found a space that was made for bike but did manage to accommodate a car with the mirrors folded in. Another Spanish phrase you need to learn, how do I get my parking ticket out of the CD changer? Annette just stuck the edge of the ticket in the ejector and it ate the ticket. We found the office and the gentleman was nice enough to issue us a new ticket. I did the same thing at the last garage and didn’t eat my ticket. Hum! We checked in to the hotel and then headed out for lunch and a tour of the old part of the city. The lunch was good, fish and the wine was even better. We had a very nice afternoon walking tour, with many twisting and turning roads that are much easier to navigate on foot. We found Catedral Sue, where they once had the Holy Grail. The Catedral and Basilica were very nice. The Mercado Central Market was closed but it might have been that time of the day when everyone goes home for a nap. We stopped for a cold beer and then headed back to the hotel for a shower and some rest. We are planning on dinner at Casa Montana, which was a recommendation in the Frommer’s book. It’s off to Granada in the morning. It’s a long ride but we will arrive at our timeshare the following day, for some RR.
Annette and Bob