The Aeroballistics Range Association (the official name of what I have termed "the Old Fart's Club") has been at the heart of many pleasant travel experiences ranging from Alsace to Livermore, Minneapolis to The Hague. Once a year these testers of the world's most advanced weapons systems get together and discuss their ideas on blowing up stuff as well as on ways of keeping stuff (and people) from getting blown up. We all agree not to talk publicly about what goes on in the meetings, but the most interesting experiences usually take place in the halls and between meetings anyway. This year the meeting was held in Madrid, Spain.
From the moment I heard the description of the Residencia Militar El Alcazar, where the meeting would take place, I became excited about this trip, not to mention that Madrid is home of El Prado and near El Escorial and Toledo, places I have dreamed of seeing. I had no idea of how much of an understatement my dreams actually had been. The ARA announcement described the hotel as being small but ideally located in the heart of the city. Because the number of rooms was small, other Western Style hotels were listed nearby at five times the cost of R.M Alcazar. I did not really understand how this could be so I made a reservation the very day I received the announcement.
We ultimately discovered that the Residence Militar Alcazar is a residence for the Spanish Military officers, and the meeting organizers had received special permission for us to use it. The good news was the price, an unbelievable $30 per day including two meals for two people. The bad news was that the hotel could have a place in the Guinness book of World Records for being the noisiest hotel in the world.
Partying went on outside our window in the streets each night until 6 AM. What looked like a small side street, was gridlocked with cars blowing their horns at 3 AM. Until I got use to this and somehow filtered it out, I kept wondering to myself, "What insensitive idiot would sit between a group of hotels where people were obviously attempting to sleep, and blow his horn at 3 AM? Is the guy in front of him really that braindead?" One morning I rose at seven and opened the window to a deathly quiet street and screamed out the window, "BLOW YOUR DAMN HORNS NOW. I AM AWAKE!"
Being tired of traveling alone, I looked for a traveling victim……., er …. I mean traveling companion who could share the experience with me. The search went no further than the WWT apprentice, my 33 year old daughter, Kris. She had become fully aware of the possible pitfalls of traveling with the WWT since she had created the WWT web page and had at least seen, if not read, all of the adventures, now over twenty in number. She had never been out of the country, except to Tijuana, which hardly qualifies.
Kris' Tijuana experience captivates some of her kind personality as well as her giving heart. She is one of those people who gives all her money to the United Givers Fund, local church, and a variety of telephone solicitors. In Tijuana I looked at a leather wallet and asked the clerk its cost. "For you I make a special deal", he responded, "since I badly need a sale today to buy my child a birthday present. The wallet is yours for 25 dollars."
I liked the wallet, and knew I could get it for a lot less, so I offered him 15 just to establish a benchmark. After much whining about starving children and sick wife, he dropped his price to 20. Not totally ready to buy a wallet, I said no thanks and walked out of the store. The man followed me out of the shop and down the street working his way down until he agreed to the 15 dollars. I realized then that I had set the benchmark too high, but I bought it anyway out of courtesy.
After paying the clerk and leaving the store, Kris became angry with me for being so unsympathetic for the child's birthday present and the sick wife. I realized that I had forgotten to explain to her that bargaining is the rule in many shops in Tijuana. Since they expect it they usually inflate the prices, in fact, quite heavily. I thought that bargaining could be a useful experience for her so I talked her into trying her hand at it. She liked the paper flowers being offered by the street vendors. I gave her some simple pointers just to give her the experience. "Ask how much, then ask for an extra flower for the same price." I suggested.
A little old fat Mexican lady offered her four flowers for a dollar. Kris quickly responded "How about five for a dollar." Without hesitation, the lady beamed and responded yes. She could probably have gotten 10 for a dollar. Even as the lady was handing over the flowers, Kris could not hold back her guilt-laden words. "Four for a dollar is okay." The lady looked at her rather strangely and gave her five anyway. The truth is that four for a dollar was a bargain. Maybe Kris was right after all. Maybe some kid went hungry that night because I bargained with them. But I don't think it works that way.
Kris kept her composure all through the process of getting passport, tickets, and literature. I even gave her a tour guide....ugh.... on Madrid to help break her in to a new experience. With this trip I have changed my stance on tour guides. In fact the tour guide for Madrid proved worth its weight in gold and I will highly recommend it and humbly now acknowledge that someone has finally produced a valuable resource for travelers in the form of a guidebook. The book is by Dorling Kindersly, named simply "Madrid". It provides easy to use information that is needed to get around efficiently, with excellent cross references, and useful diagrams and pictures. One really needs nothing else, not even a map. I found myself referring to it over and over to make life in Madrid much easier. It told me when museums were open, where they were on maps, how much they cost, when they were free, and which subway stop to get off on.
Kris was fine right up until the day before our travel, at which time she caught a cold, sore throat, and severe jitters. People always catch colds when they face something they really are nervous about facing. This is just another confirmation of the current theories on the immune system, which state that the war between viruses, bacteria, and our immune system is always an ongoing war, which most of us are usually winning most of the time. When something happens that demoralizes or weakens "our troops", we begin losing the war, hopefully, just for long enough for the generals to take back the command from the bureaucrats that try to run the war from the brain. Actually, it is not much different from the bureaucrats in Washington who try to run a war in Vietnam; they usually lose. As you will soon see, even I lost a battle in Madrid.
Our plan was rather simple. Kris would come from Nashville where she lives and I from Los Angeles. We would hook up in Chicago. With available amazing modern electronics I arranged our meeting in the Admirals club in Chicago, could see her name in the LA Admiral's Club computer, and called her on her cell phone from the airplane. She was already in the Admirals Club waiting when my plane sat down.
Another 7 hours out of Chicago and we sat down in Madrid, Spain's largest city of three million people. Everything went so smoothly that we were standing in the hotel lobby at 9:30AM, on Friday, too early to get a room. So we left our bags and hit the streets, at what would be a little before midnight at home. Half a block from the hotel we found Fundacion Lazaro Galiano, a magnificent collection of medieval and Renaissance art housed in a beautiful mansion once owned by Mr. Galiano. Among the collection were great works by El Greco, Bosch, and Goya. In this stage of a trip, there is no really good thing to do except to just get by. As pointed out recently, a traveler must survive the first day blues, a rather common affliction. One just has to survive like a zombie for about 24 hours. I am afraid that not much would impress me in this state and doing the Galiano at this time was an injustice to the gallery, but then one has to do something.
I found myself wondering "Why on earth have I chosen to do this, and how on earth am I going to stay interested for the next 9 days in this shit hole. Like many big cities there are too many cars, too many people, too much noise, and too much confusion. Nevertheless, even though almost in constant gridlock, there did seem to be acceptable order and design in traffic control and people obeyed the laws, which is more that one can say about many countries these days.
Forty eight hours later I found myself wondering "How on earth will I ever get everything in with only 7 days left in this magnificent place?
After checking in the hotel, we decided to sleep for two hours. After two hours, if each of us had not been challenging the other we would have stayed in bed, a bad mistake. It really takes discipline or a good challenge to force one out of bed at this point. We were determined to stay mostly awake until nighttime, and we began by walking the full length of Seranno Street, a major fashion district, to the Plaza de Colon. (I had first learned in Dominican Republic that Colon is Spanish for Columbus). The Plaza de Colon, as it is called, is an example of Spain's superior art creativity and forward thinking. This magnificent square has a wonderful combination of modern and classical art and state of the art fountains and waterfalls. It is a massive art work full of symbolism that invites onlookers to participate by strolling through and under water falls and sculpture. Three huge chunks of stone represent the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. An underground performing art center includes an interesting restaurant. Skateboarders use the area to attempt suicide on the many walls and steps. It seems that the Razer skooter has not made it here yet.
From Plaza de Colon we continued to walk past the National Library and many other beautiful works of architecture, fountains, and sculpture, along the tree lined Paseo de Recolletos, a main street of Madrid. We continued our walk to the Prado, the botanical gardens, and looped around along Independence Square, along Parque de Retiro, back up Serrano to the hotel where we collapsed into a sleep that lasted until 11 AM Saturday.
Our goal Saturday was to master the subway system, which in Madrid is a snap. For thirty five cents you can be anywhere in the entire city in twenty minutes or less. Today, we were rested and less zombie like, so we headed for Old Madrid. Many people shy away from the subways, apparently because it takes some understanding of the language. Especially in Spain, where taxis are cheap, it is tempting to take taxis everywhere and not need to get to know the city layout. There are many reasons to use the subway. First it is much faster than taxis. Underground, one can zoom comfortably across town in minutes avoiding humongous traffic jams and frightening close calls. Once you are in the subway, distance is hardly an issue. For thirty five cents and a few minutes you can be within a block of almost anywhere in the entire city. Another reason is that it gets you familiar with the city layout. Within a few trips you feel comfortable anywhere in the city, knowing you are always within a few minutes from your hotel room. Finally, you don't have to worry about whether you have been ripped off by the taxi driver, whether you can hail one, communicate with one, or how much to tip him. We headed for the Puerto del Sol (door way of the sun) in the heart of Old Madrid.
Old parts of cities are always much more appealing than the new parts, probably because they appear so unique to Americans. Much of this was built when American architecture amounted to which kind of log or even teepee to use. This district lived up to its reputation of being one of the most fascinating old towns in Europe. We walked to the Plaza Major, watched a wedding in St. Miguel's Cathedral, did some shopping, checked out the produce in the Market San Miguel, wandered the narrow streets spellbound by beautiful architecture, gardens, and churches. We had a Paella lunch in the Plaza Major, where once were held bullfights, political events, and even executions. In this square the church murdered a lot of people during the Spanish Inquisition. It is difficult for me to understand how the same church commands the respect it does today.
By most standards Madrid is a very clean city. Beggars and homeless seemed small almost non-existent. One problem, though, is finding a place to pee. After a while, we figured that most people just go into a restaurant and head for the "Asios" or "Servicio". Fortunately, they have pictures of a man or woman on the door. The restaurants don't seem to mind. Actually, it makes good sense when you think about it. Everyone has to eat somewhere as well as pee somewhere. Maybe a guy who peed down the street will stop in to eat here and vice versa. The hotels always place their "Asios" on the second floor to discourage this, but in a clinch, go for it. I found Macdonald’s to be a good place to pee. The toilet is always upstairs and easy to get to without feeling guilty since there is always a long line to buy big Macs. I rationalized that enough other people eat there and pee somewhere else to make up for me peeing and leaving sans Big Mac.
We continued our walk past a modern Cathedral to the Royal Palace and stopped for a rest in the Palace gardens. The cathedral is one of the few new ones, having been completed in the past few years. A sign outside in Spanish went into a great detail about how the place was not a museum and that people should not bring in noisy children or run around with cameras flashing everything in sight. It is too bad the sign was not also in English and Japanese. I think the Spanish people already knew how to behave in the church.
By now we were ready for a long sit, so we mounted one of the tour buses that circle the city. These buses have stops around the city where one can get on and off every ten minutes. The view from the top of the bus is unique and better than one can get from the sidewalk, so this method is another way of seeing the city from a different vantage point. We found a seat on top and rode until dark, finally exiting at Puerto Del Sol. Having seen a few places we wanted to walk, we crossed a pedestrian street to the street Gran Via. The later it got the more crowded it got. The pedestrian streets were loaded with entertainers, mimes, music, and artists and are a sight in themselves.
The old part of Gran Via contains some of the most spectacular palaces in the entire city. We had dinner along Gran Via, finally returning home by subway. We had been on the streets for nearly twelve hours; It seemed a lot less.
We soon discovered the unusual Spanish time divisions for the day. They consider that 2 PM is mid day. Most stores close from 2 to 5:30, then reopen at 5:30 to 8:30. Perhaps this is the siesta. Lunch is eaten from 2 to 4 PM and dinner is eaten from about 10 to midnight. This didn't seem all bad to me until later when we had to rise at 7:15 each morning to meet schedules.
On Sunday we narrowed our focus to a few things in more depth. We headed for a different subway station finding an entire new wave of street art along the way. Under the bridge at the station Ruben Dario we found magnificent modern sculptures that distracted us for some minutes from our original goal of just getting on the subway. This experience resulted in formalizing a new corollary to the WWT principle of Vablop, the value of being lost principle. The principle states that being lost is a thing to cherish and look forward to. When you have been in a place long enough not to get lost, it is time to move on. The new corollary states that when you are comfortable with a route to get somewhere, try a different route. This doesn't always guarantee that you will find something wonderful, but it does guarantee something new, and sometimes wonderful.
A few minutes later we were standing in front of the National Center for Modern Art of Queen Sophia (Sophia Reina), where the famous painting "Guernica" by Picasso resides. We headed straight for Guernica and stood mesmerized before it for about 15 minutes. This painting is considered by many art critics to be one of the most powerful paintings ever done. It has bulls, men, women, and children with eyes in the wrong place and arms and legs sticking out everywhere but right. Clearly, it is not a happy painting. Clearly I would be laughed out of the art world if I said anything negative about Guernica.....so I won't. If you look at it long enough and if you know the history behind Guernica as well as the painting, and try hard enough, your own brain can stir up a lot of emotion. I think that is what Picasso counted on.
After leaving Guernica we spent two hours looking at the rest of a huge collection of Picasso, Dali, and other less known artists. I walked by three rooms of Miro stuff as fast as possible so as not to throw up with the wasted wall space.
After a rather unworthy lunch we strolled through the Parque Retiro, a large park once reserved for royalty. The park is loaded with entertainment and one could easily spend a day watching the drummers, singers, artists, and Chinese "Chigong" therapists. These guys cure diabetes, heart problems, liver problems, and even problems you don't have yet by manipulating your aura. They stayed busy, too.
The park has a large lake, many nice sculptures, palaces and art galleries. We ventured into the Crystal Palace, which was displaying an art form in which the artist had solicited faxes from all over the world and then spread them on the floor of the palace. In many languages one could read greetings, statements, and comments. We walked the entire length of the park back to the train station and subwayed home.
Monday included a scheduled visit to Toledo, a city lying 40 miles southeast of Madrid, a city that had been around for 2000 years. Toledo was built on top of a mountain, where the king built his alcazar, or palace fortress. Now one can take an escalator from the foot of the mountain, helping minimize the traffic on top (a really good idea). Nevertheless, there are still droves of peckerhead tourists who insist on driving their Mercedes down the narrow 2000 year old streets, irritated at all the pedestrians that get in their way.
Toledo is one of the places where it becomes difficult to remain unsaturated. Our tour moved in the unfortunate direction that included the cathedral first. The Toledo Cathedral is possibly the most art laden cathedral I have ever seen. The West portal (Puerta del Pardon) has an elaborate tempanum, decorated with carvings of religious characters. We entered the South portal (Puerta de los Leones) named after the lions decorating it. Walking along the ambulatory, from the entrance one encounters first the choir, which is in the opposite location of a typical Gothic cathedral. The nave, which is located behind the choir, is rather small, since the church is so full of stuff. Actually, it is difficult to see how a service is conducted in Toledo cathedral. There is so much stuff, there is little room for people to be located in a good seat it would seem. Every square inch of the choir is carved in walnut with scenes of the fall of Granada and figures from the Old Testament. The statue of the White Virgin is located here as well. The main chapel is surrounded with carvings of angels and elaborate iron work and what is surely the most elaborate high altar in Spain, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The walls and ceilings are covered with frescos. The huge columns tower like mountains into a ribbed vault that is like a sky.
The central part of the church contains a unique skylight that allows rays of sunlight to illuminate the sacrament in the main chapel. The Sacristy act as art galleries containing works by El Greco, Titian, Van Dyck, Goya, and less well known artists. El Greco’s "Denuding of Christ" act as a centerpiece above the altar, painted especially for the cathedral. After spending and hour in the cathedral it was difficult to fully appreciate the other churches and monasteries in the city. I would rather have stayed in the cathedral for two more hours. By the time we reached the Church of Saint Thomas, housing El Greco's famous "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz ", one of the younger men on the tour elected to use the time visiting a local sword shop instead. In Toledo, a sword is not just something that the local merchant gets from Taiwan to sell tourists. These swords and other weapon replicas have been made in Toledo by craftsmen for many years, are real works of art and they are bargains. One can buy a beautiful full size, elaborately decorated, gleaming sword replica that, for all intents and purposes is "real" for a mere fifty bucks. So, electing to look at swords here over a painting by El Greco was not as bad as it sounds.
Toledo is definitely one of those places one should spend at least two full days exploring at a much slower pace. Doing Toledo in two and a half hours the way we did it is not only not recommended, it is sinful. There should almost be a law against it.
On Monday night we had what was called a "typical" dinner, which was anything but typical. During the week we had several of these "typical" meals that included tapas, multiple courses, suckling pigs, and "ox steaks prepared in an ancient way".
Believe it or not I did do some work during the week. On Tuesday, I described experiments on recording the three dimensional distribution of flying glass shards from windows shattering during terrorist attacks. This may explain how we were able to stay in the Spanish Military Officers Club. All of the rooms had retractable steel windows. I wondered if these were to protect us from terrorist attacks or simply to reduce the noise. They did help a little with the noise, but I will never know how well they worked with the terrorists. But hey, we are still alive.
The week included a reception in which we were invited by the Mayor of Madrid, Jose Maria Alvarez del Manzanoy Lopez del Hierro (and I once thought my name was long) to have drinks and tapas in the oldest public building in Madrid. The mayor sent his vice mayor, for technology development to represent him. (I doubt seriously that the mayor ever had any intention of coming). The reception room was decorated with tapestries that had been designed by Goya. A glass of wine tastes much better while standing next to a three hundred year old Goya.
Wednesday included a choice in the morning between an army gun range and a guided tour of the Prado. There are few galleries in the world in the class of the Prado. I was amazed that a few guys actually chose the gun range. Even so, there was some surprise on the part of the ARA committee that an extra bus had to be ordered for the Prado tour. The two hour visit only convinced me that I had to return before the week was up.
After a "typical lunch" we headed for the city of Segovia, another ancient city founded around 300 BC. Segovia also has an alcazar, a cathedral, monasteries, several old churches and one other spectacular feature left by the Romans 2000 years ago. The Romans needed a water supply for the alcazar on the mountain top, so they built an aqueduct from the nearby mountains. In the heart of Segovia, the aqueduct is over 100 feet tall. This stones fit perfectly and have sat in place since construction. The structure is beautiful and looks ever so fragile, only because of the arch design.
We strolled through Segovia and visited both the cathedral and the alcazar. The castle is largely a restoration of what was once there and was mostly destroyed a few hundred years ago. This is purported to be the castle that Disney copied for Disneyland and Disneyworld. Imagine it sitting on top of a mountain. The view from the castle was breathtaking. Our explorations continued until around 9 PM. I never would have guessed that I would be ready for another major meal, but I was. And that is exactly what we got in a 15th century palace, now called Restaurante Floresta.
At the beginning, we had wine and tapas. One of the tapas, a black one was really tasty and I ate about five of them. The next day when I found out that it was made from blood and rice, I almost threw up. The main course of the dinner came with great fanfare. A huge table of smoking piglets, head and all were wheeled into the dining room led by chefs with sparklers and flashing knifes. A chef then took a plate and in a dancing, aerobic movement chopped the piglets into smaller portions, after which he flung the plate high in the air. As it smashed into million bits upon the tile floor each of the many pieces were considered a year of good luck for the guests.
Many people had a hard time with the piglet. By that time I had downed enough wine that I couldn't imagine what their problem was. Before the night was over Kris retrieved one of the heads for everyone to pose with. We finished eating around midnight and were back at the hotel at 1 AM.
The week included a trip to the nearby El Escorial, a monastery located about thirty miles Southeast of Madrid on the way to Toledo. In this monastery, kings and queens and royalty are buried. They are buried in caskets that are much smaller inside than a human body, so they first place the body in a "rotting" room for about 40 years. Imagine taking forty years to get buried. After 40 years the body has shriveled to the extent that it can be stuffed into the smaller space. Human vanity is represented at its worst here. Why does anyone think so much of himself that he wants to know that his body will be preserved in such a way? These idiots sure could have learned something from the American Indian.
Our final stop was at the Valley of the Fallen, a monument ordered by the Dictator, Franco. The monument is centered around a large granite cross weighing nearly a 100,000 tons, which stands over one and a half football fields tall. It sits directly over the dome of a basilica carved from the stone beneath. The basilica is second only to Saint Peters cathedral in Rome in its size. Franco, himself, is buried in the basilica beneath the cross. Many others who died both fighting him and fighting for him are also buried here. This is a somewhat controversial and possibly unrevered monument for the Spaniards. Franco leaves a legacy that would not be the envy of any man. Most Spaniards consider that only with his death could Spain ever become a country to be proud of. Of all the countries I have visited, I have never seen one so positively effected by the death of single man. I am somewhat baffled as to why they still have statues that honor him.
By Friday Kris and I were almost exhausted haven been out until 1 AM every night and up at seven each morning. By now we had gotten use to the noise, the all night parties, and even the unbelievably noisy garbage truck that came every night at 2AM. We decided for once to let down the steel windows and sleep until we woke up naturally. With the steel windows down, one lost all perception of time and with that help we slept almost until noon. On Friday, we limited our touring to two galleries, the Prado (second visit) and the Thyssen Bornamisza gallery.
Having been so overwhelmed with my first Prado visit I decided to restrict this visit to two artists, Goya and Titian. In fact, the Prado has an entire floor (hundreds) of Goya's, so I homed in on just a few rooms, specifically in the period in which the Maja's were done. The Maja paintings are extremely intriguing. To see the real paintings side by side, one clothed and one unclothed is spell binding. To follow the intrigue associated with these paintings is even more captivating. Who was this lady, who Goya has obviously concealed by placing another head upon the body? The pose that Goya has captured could have been the model for playboy centerfolds over two hundred years later at a time when nudity is more accepted, though still often rejected as art. Surely some man, somewhere recognized the body. Even today, some critiques claim that the dressed Maja is the best painting, containing more expression and eroticism than the naked Maja. GIVE ME A BREAK! But don't get me wrong. I like them both. They belong together. For years apparently the clothed Maja covered the naked one in the same double-thick frame. Thank God, some do-gooder did not have them destroyed. There is one other amazing fact about the Maja. The face is a spitting image of my daughter-in-law, Tracy; it could have been her great great grand mother. You will have to ask my son, Adam, if the resemblance goes beyond the face.
The Thyssen Bornamisza gallery turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises yet. We already had high expectations of the Prado and they were all met. Never did I expect to find a gallery across the street that in its own way exceeds the Prado. The museum takes art all the way from today to the medieval period on three floors. It houses about enough art from every period to just saturate the senses. It has a few of everyone, Titian, El Greco, Valasquez, Tintoretto, Rubin, Manet, Monet, Degas, and so on, and these are topped off with Rothco, Picasso, and even ugh......deKooning.
I felt myself becoming saturated again as Kris and I stood before a large life size painting by Giovanni, "The Judgement of Solomon", she was struck by the image of a man holding a baby dangling from his feet with sword raised. Another baby lay dead on the ground, with one woman pleading for Solomon to spare the living child and the other agreeing to cut it in half. To my surprise Kris did not know the story. I began to relate the story to her as I pointed out the different features in the painting. At that point I realized the full power of the painting and as I spoke, my voice began cracking with emotion, and I could hardly finish the story. We both became so touched by the painting that we felt tears and a rejuvenation for art appreciation. Giovanni's powerful message had left an impression on both of us that we won't forget for a long time. We stayed in the Thyssen Bornamisza until it closed. We had run out of time and would not make the Royal Botanic Gardens as originally planned.
Our plan was to crack the bus system on Saturday. Buses take more guts than subways, but one really needs them to get outside the city. We had located a bus schedule to a nearby village of Chinchon, which has been described as arguably Madrid Province's most "picturesque" village. It has a cathedral, an alcazar (ruins) and a market place on Saturday. We could make it in a one hour bus trip. I decided to rest in the hotel, while Kris, still full of energy, accepted an invitation to go to a dance exhibition with some of our group. I should have gone with her; it would have saved me a lot of time. Fortunately what happened next came near the end of the trip.
At 9 PM I dropped in on the Residence Mess Hall, which served the dinner they included with the room between 9 and 11 PM. This was more like what I would call a typical meal. Ground beef patties, a baked tomato and salad. I ate about half of it and returned to the room. After dozing for few hours in front of a German movie, I woke with a strange feeling I had felt a few times before. Within the hour by body experienced instant flue, shivering with chills and beginning to ache everywhere. I reflected on the meal. I reckoned I had just met up with Mr. E. Coli. I was deathly sick for the next 12 hours and left the bed only briefly for the next 36 hours.
I can pinpoint three or four identical encounters over the past twenty years. They are really unpredictable. Two of us got it in a bar in the Raleigh Durham airport eating popcorn. Three of us got it from the salsa in a Mexican restaurant in Huntsville. Two of us got it in a restaurant in Newport Beach. Expect to lose at least 36 hours of useful life when you get it.
Fortunately, with my suitcase kitchen, Kris was able to prepare enough teas and soups to give me back the strength to pack by Saturday night. Needless to say, we missed Chinchon. In fact I hardly remember Saturday at all.
I received my next big shock on Sunday morning upon checking out of the Residence. For the first time I discovered I must pay in cash. Even though the bill was quite small, about 60,000 pesetas or $300, I was in possession of just enough Spanish money to get a taxi to the airport. Fortunately, in this district Madrid has four or five cash machines per block. I ran out on the street and found my limit in any one machine to be 25,000 pesetas (why, I don't know). So I quickly visited three machines to get the required cash. After this experience I wondered why thieves don't hold up a person, demand his PIN, knock him out, then hit about a 100 machines to withdraw money. I ask myself, "If a man holds a gun to my head and demands my PIN, what should I do?"
A taxi to the airport costs about 15$ and on a Sunday takes 15 minutes. The subway costs 35 cents each, but requires negotiating bags between subways and up and down unknown stairways. We copped out and hailed a taxi.
In the ten day travel I discovered a few new tricks and applied many old ones to wind up with a net wonderful overall travel experience. Possibly the most valuable piece of knowledge I gained from the trip is the discovery that I have a very likable daughter who made my trip not only more fun but also easier. There was never a question of how much I loved her, but I had no idea how much I could like her.