“Madrid is a relatively new city,” our local guide explained as we bounced along a wide avenue. This morning, we got to see Madrid through a wet, dark perspective as it rained all morning. Luckily, we had a bus for the morning portion, making occasional stops at the Real Madrid soccer stadium, points of interests, fountains, etc...
After touring around by bus, we visited the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) of Madrid. I have waited many years to return to Madrid and visit this palace, and it was well worth the wait! We were enamored with its grandeur, its powerful architecture and its ornate decorations. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take pictures inside, so we must be content with our photos of the outside and courtyard, and hole the imagery in our memories for years to come.
Today we had lunch as a large group at a cafe where the dessert enchanted most of us.
After lunch, we walked though the rain for 15 minutes to reach the magnificent Prado Museum. Touring the Prado was fun, and almost overwhelming. There was so much art, history, and stories to take in. It was not possible to see everything we would have liked to within our two-hour visit, but we did see many many masterpieces by Goya, Velasquez, and many more Spanish artists. .
Signing off for now, but days 9 & 10 are to be continued...
Our day started st 9am for bus departure, but the students had one additional opportunity this morning. I told the students that if anyone wanted to experience the Pineda beach at sunrise that I would meet then in the lobby at 7am. Three students showed up, and we walked down to the beautiful, deserted beach and enjoyed a beautiful display of colors for the first hour of our day.
Then off we were to Zaragoza! I personally LOVED Zaragoza. It was a picturesque mid-sized city that any foodie would fall in love with after just a couple days. Our first stop was the cathedral:
After visiting the cathedral and famed holy pillar within where religious pilgrims stop to pray and kiss the pillar, I ser out with four of our students to explore a tapas bar in Zaragoza. It was a cozy, traditional place, where no one spoke English and all four girls had to do their best in Spanish to order. What a cool experience.
The other part of our group opted for a buffet near the cathedral, but we were happy we had explored the city a bit in search of food. All in all, we all had full bellies and happy hearts as we continued on three more hours by bus to Madrid.
Most slept the majority of the way, while others gazed out at the landscape or visited and played around...
The rest of our evening consisted in arriving at Madrid, checking into our really cool “más madrileño” hotel in downtown Madrid, and eating supper at a “Museo del Jamón” or “Ham Museum.”
That’s all for tonight. Tomorrow - we explore this beautiful, bustling city!
Today we enjoyed a full day of free time in Barcelona - which we decided to fill with an impromptu bike tour of the city, an afternoon of relaxing at the beach, and time to wander and shop along the bustling and beautiful city streets...
The bike tour of Barcelona - An Unexpected Surprise! While the bike tour was never part of the itinerary for this tour, it was nonetheless a tour favorite of many! We laughed, were active, and saw the city from a whole new perspective. I will always remember fondly riding alongside the students and hearing Maddi shouting back giddily - “I just love this so much!”
After the bike tour, we spent our free time today down by the marina where most of us are Italian food, then shopped, explored, and relaxed on the beach.
The day ended with another traditional tapas meal down by the marina, and then a brief visit to the Pineda Del Mar beach at nighttime for anyone who wanted to go.
Tonight we packed our bags again, because tomorrow it’s on to Zaragoza & Madrid!
After lunch in Barcelona during day 6, our Buffalo group took a guided tour of the temple: La Sagrada Familia. This is Barcelona’s most famous landmark. It is an awe-inspiring church designed by the famous Antoni Gaudí that has been under construction for more than a century and will take around another decade to complete. While I have been outside the cathedral a few times, I have never been inside. The lines to enter are usually super-long, but we managed to purchase tickets in advance for a guided tour that would skip the line. Upon entering, we were absolutely awe-struck by its beauty. Gaudí designed the church to look like a forest of sorts, playing with light and colors to loan a stunning visual effect throughout.
Next, we took the Barcelona metro to re-join our larger group for a walking tour of plaza Cataluńa and the Gothic Quarter to La Rambla.
We ended our day with free time and dinner. For free time, some went shopping along La Rambla (Barcelona’s famous shopping steer lines with cafes and street performers). Others just wandered the windy streets and people-watched. Half of our group also walked down to the sea today as it was (for a couple) their first time at an ocean. All in all, it was a perfect afternoon to enjoy the city. We enjoyed perfect warm weather throughout.
Today’s agenda included full city tour with stops at the Olympic stadium, Parque Guell, La Sagrada Familia, and a lot of information to take in.
After our morning sight-seeing, we moved on to lunch. Although we all were able to split into small groups for lunch, one small group did an entire tour of Spanish Tapas this day:
At this point, we were just warming up for the day’s activities. More to come in the next post...
Because of the transportation strike in France on Tuesday, our train trip to Barcelona was cancelled. In lieu of the train, we were rerouted to travel by plane. This freed up our morning for an additional morning of exploring Paris. We decided to spend our time revisiting the Arc de Triomphe and wandering along the grand avenue of Paris - Champs Elysees
This morning was also a special treat for Massimo - as we (half of our group) were able to visit a couple of dealerships - Aston Martin & Renault - while the other group shopped.
All in all, we really enjoyed Paris. We caught our flight on time, and arrived safely in Barcelona. For this leg of the trip, we are staying in a seaside suburb of Barcelona in a really nice resort hotel with the best breakfast we could imagine. Tomorrow: city tour of Barcelona.
The second half of day 4 was exhausting. Completely, utterly, exhausting. But also, the best time we could imagine! As we left Montmartre, and it’s throngs of artists, tourist, windy streets and cafes, we stopped to eat our first macaroons, then we navigated the metro system yet again - but this time, Elijah led! He played the role of tour guide and brought us all to the Louvre.
Inside the Louvre, we split into small groups to explore. The Louvre is so massive that it is hard to wrap your mind around. It is an experience unlike any other.
After the Louvre & lunch, we descended to the Metro again as a small group and traveled to the Eiffel Tower. We had several laughs at security, and then we began queuing in an hour-long line to ascend the Eiffel Tower vía elevator (and that was WITH prepurchased tickets). But wow! It was worth it! The views at the top are pretty spectacular. Students got some of their best photos here today. We stopped at the 2nd floor (which is mandatory) and we took a brief orientation tour. Then on to the summit for us! We ascended the next 2/3 of the Tower to the very top and enjoyed unparalleled views for another hour before traveling back to the bottom to regroup for dinner.
Because our self-led excursion lasted so long, we had missed dinner by nearly two hours. So we did what the French & Spanish often do - we are late! We walked quite a ways to a cafe called Le Dome that offers views of the Tower as well where we all ordered our own meals. At my small table of four alone - we tried pesto pasta, duck confit, pizza, and creme brûlée s and mousse. At the end of our long but rewarding day, we used the metro one last time to return to our hotel and sleep.
Today was a free day in Paris! We began our day by taking the metro into the city center to visit Notre Dame. We were smart and arrived early in order to beat the lines. After touring the cathedral, we had coffees and crepes - then we moved on to our next adventure - Montmartre
in MontMartre, we split into small groups and explored the artists district. Some date for drawings, others shopped, but everyone found something delicious to eat for lunch while there....
the rest of the day to be described in a future post when the website is working properly again.
Today we began our day with a city tour with stops at Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower
Next we worked our way through the many sites to the Arc de Triomphe
Then we drove to Versailles to tour the famous gardens and palace: