Day 9 and 10: Back in Japan

Whether I wanted to leave or not, I had to take the flight back to Japan in the morning on December 31st. I checked out the hostel, where the hostel’s middle age woman was kind and friendly, and then took Metro to the Madrid airport.

When I arrived to the airlines check in counter, there was really long queue for checking in. I sighed a couple of times. However, the queue was for Air Europe, not for Aeroflot which I had a ticket. The Aeroflot flight did not have many passengers. I was waiting at the boarding gate for my friend Paco, who is working in the airport and told me that he was going to see me off. He came with his coworker half an hour before my departure time. We had conversation for a while there.

My name was called by Aeroflot when I chatted with Paco. I was actually the last passenger boarding the flight. Anyways, I sad goodbye to Paco and took the flight to Moscow, Russia. The seats were probably 50% occupied. Not a lot of people move from Madrid to Moscow on the New Year’s Eve.

At Moscow airport, I had a glass of beer. The price was displayed in Russian currency and I had no idea the currency rate between Russian and Japanese yen or Euro. I was tired and wanted to have beer, so ordered beer however it cost. After getting back home, I looked into the Russian currency and found it cost around 5 USD. I was relieved to see that.

I saw a couple of movies that were on demand at each seat on the way back to Japan. The meals in Aeroflot were not bad. I could be relaxed in the flight and enjoyed it.

I feel sadness and some relief in the end of a travel.

The best thing in my travel was that I could be safely back to my home in Tokyo. I already started wondering what country I go next in the train to my home. The bachelor traveler came back to Tokyo on the New Year’s Day with much satisfaction.

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Day 8: Toledo and Madrid

I woke up at 8AM on the 8th day in Spain, December 30th. This day was the final day that I could go somewhere. Toledo was my last destination where I wanted to visit in this bachelor travel.

Quickly took a shower and went out in a hurry. Then took Metro at Tirso de Molina to Atocha and tried to get a ticket to Toledo there. However, the trains in the morning were completely full… The unexpected thing happened again! So I bought the earliest one, which departs at 12:20PM. And same situation for the trains to return, it was going to be sold out soon. I purchased the one leaving at 16:50 at Toledo.

Got a curro and coffee at cafe and came to Reina Sofia at 9:30.

Madrid

Museo Reina Sofia is the museum of contemporary art. I had more interesting in the arts there than others, Prado, Real Palacio, and Tyssen.

I didn’t want to wait for entry and no priority access with the place by Madrid card. So I was there half an hour before opening. There was 10 or 20 people making a queue.

In the Sofia Reina, you are allowed to take pictures on the contrary to other museums.

This is probably the most famous work in this museum, Picasso’s Guernica. There was a crowd near the drawing and two stand guards, so I instantly figured out.

After the Sofia, I went to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. There was a long queue again in the rain, but I had a priority access by Madrid card and got entered without waiting. Due to the limitation of time for the train departure, I almost walked through all floors.

Toledo

You can go to Toledo for just half an hour from Madrid by AVE. It seemed to me like Tokyo people go to Kamakura in Japan because of the geographical relationship between the two cities, and their historical features. Toledo is one of the World Heritage sites in Spain and was the place which I couldn’t miss to go to. I thought so when I decided to go to Spain.

Got off at the Toledo station and could already feel the atmosphere of Toledo.

You can take a bus or walk to the main part of Toledo. I took a walk on the bridge with nice view on my left.

During waiting for the bus to the Parador, I walked the slope toward higher and had beautiful panoramic views.

Went to Parador on the hill across river by bus, which ran circularly around the river. The reasons why I went to Parador were that my friend Paco advised me to go there and I saw some nice pictures on the Internet that were taken from the Parador I guessed. I was only the passenger who took off the bus at the Parador. Because I was not a guess of the place, I hesitated to get into the building a little bit, but I walked through a hallway to get to the garden. I took some nice pictures from there as follows. As I imagined before, I was sure the location was the best for seeing Toledo.

I asked a front desk to call a cab to get back to the center because the bus ran once an hour. The cab cost just 10 euros.

When I strolled in the center of the city, it started raining. I got wet a lot and escaped in the Cathedral.

There was the house of El Greco, but it was closed due to the refurbishment. I walked around the Alcazar and took a bus to the train station. The vehicle in the picture is called Zoco Tren.

Waiting for the AVE for Madrid.

Got back to the hostel. The shower room was inside the room, so it became wettish after taking a shower. The bathroom was outside fortunately.

Same as the previous day, Paco picked me up at my hostel and took me his favorite place where we could see Madrid city from the top of the small hill. I couldn’t figure out where he took me. It was not a tourist place, but had good view as he said.

Then he took me a party at his friend’s apartment. I talked the guy in the center a lot about Japan because he traveled there last year.

Took a picture with Paco and the Santiago Bernabeu. The resident of the apartment, not in the picture, is a big fun of Real Madrid. The party went on until midnight.

You can see more pictures on my Facebook if you like.

Day 7: Madrid

My travel was getting close to the end. The seventh day in Spain was December 29th. I woke up at 5AM and checked out the hostel in Cordoba. Walked for half an hour and got to the train station around 6:30. Then bought a ticket of AVE to Madrid departing at 7:30. The AVE was really comfortable and even had a cafe. I had a cup of white coffee, which looked popular coffee in Spain.

I arrived Atocha station that is the terminal station of Madrid city, then took Metro to Tirso de Molina. I booked a hostel there because it was convenient location between Palacio Real and Prado Museum. Checked in there around 9:30.

Put my backpack in the room and started strolling in the city. At first, I headed to Palacio Real. On the way to the place, I found a market, Mercado de San Miguel, in which there were probably 10 or more bars, cafes and stores. I had some tapas and beer as early lunch.

Arrived at Palacio Real – Royal place of Madrid, at 11:30. Unanticipatedly, there was a quite long queue for buying a ticket at the entrance. And it seemed to move very slowly. It would probably take a couple of hours to enter into the place with waiting in the cold weather…

Museo del Prado

I decided to go to Prado Museum instead of Palacio Real and moved there with expectation that Prado was easier to get into than Palacio Real. However, Prado also had a long queue, which appeared to take a few hours to enter, as well…

I did not have time to queue, so after a little consideration, bought “Madrid card“, which included admission fees for sightseeing places in Madrid and priority accesses for some places including Prado and Palacio Real. It cost 49 Euros, which was not cheap, but with this card you did not have to wait at all. “Time is money” again.

Taking pictures was not allowed in the Prado Museum. I was not familiar with arts, but could enjoy and have fun to see many famous works.

Palacio Real

Took a bus tour from Prado and got off near Palacio Real. I entered there from the priority access entrance, which was located a bit away from the regular entrance.

In the building you cannot take pictures. Many spacey and gorgeous rooms with beautiful and glittery furniture there.

I finished the tour in Palacio and left there at 4:15PM. Hanged out in the Plaza Mayor for a while. It was busy with many families and tourists.

A fake pooh with human hands and shoes.

Santiago Bernabeu

Then rushed to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, located 20 or 30 minutes by the center of the city, because wanted to be there before the sunset. Arrived there at 5:45. I got a ticket for Tour Bernabeu, which was also included in Madrid Card. I knew they had no matches of Real Madrid during my stay in Spain.

I was pretty excited to come to the pitch level and get into the bench, locker room, and press rooms, so on.

I left the stadium at 7:15 and went back to the hostel.

One of my classmates of UC San Diego, Paco, lives in Madrid. I told him that I was going to Madrid before departing Japan and arranged to meet in Madrid. He was busy for working and came to pick me up at the hostel a little bit before 10PM. We met for the first time since we graduated the School in June, 2009.

He took me the bar called Lateral which was near Paco’s dad’s garage. I am not sure but probably on Belazguez. We had some tapas and beer there and then moved to a club called Nells. Joined Paco’s friend’s birthday party. Got back to the hostel around 1:30.

More pics on the day are available on my  Facebook.

Day 6: Sevilla and Cordoba

Time went really fast. I had only three days left for visiting places in Spain. If I had more days, I could stay in Sevilla for another night. But I decided to move to another beautiful city in Andalucia, Cordoba, this day.

Sevilla

I woke up at 5 am to arrange hostels for the rest of trip in Madrid. Because it was amid winter holidays for students, I couldn’t get cheap hostels like 15 Euros per night. I had to book a private room for 40 Euros per night. This was another extra cost due to traveling in busy season.

After waiting for the dawn, I got out just before  8AM to take a walk around the Cathedral. I arrived at Sevilla in the previous night and went to see Flamenco, so hadn’t seen anything but Flamenco yet.

Behind the picture there was Ayuntamiento (City council).

The tram runs by the Cathedral.

Then walked to the bullring that was located near the river. Went down to the river side walk. It was pretty view with the sunrise.

Went back to the Cathedral again to see from the main entrance.

Got back to the hostel to have a complementary breakfast. To explain for readers who do not have experience staying hostels, the majority of the guests in hostels are usually students from various countries. I saw lots of European students, American, Indian and Korean. You do not see Japanese students so much. This is from my experience only in Italy and Spain. In the other countries such as South East Asian, the situation might be different.

After the breakfast, I walked toward the Cathedral again by the different route.

The Real Alcazar is located right opposite from the Cathedral.

I thought the Cathedral would open at 11, but actually opened at 11:30 because they had a mass at 11, which takes place on 28th every month. It was December 28th on that day.

I climbed the tower, La Giralda, in the Cathedral. The view from the top of the tower was awesome. You can see 360 degrees around the tower over Sevilla city.

Map of Sevilla

Since I needed to move to Cordoba, I gave up seeing inside the Real Alcazar. Walked to the train station and took Renfe train to Cordoba departing at 1:30PM.

Cordoba

With about one hour trip, I got to Cordoba. Took a bus from the station as instructed the hostel’s website and got it off near Ayuntamiento. Took a walk for 10 or 15 minutes and arrived at the hostel, which was located not far from the Mezquita. As soon as checking in, left there for the Mezquita. After checking the opening hours of the Mezquita, I headed to the Puente Romano (Roman bridge). The Guadalquivir river looked muddy stream.

Acrossed the bridge, I asked someone to take a picture with the bridge and the Mezquita you can see in the back of the picture.

Took the same way on the bridge to get back to the Mezquita. Inside the Mezquita – Mosque Cathedral – which is the World Heritage site.

The Jewish quarter.

The Alcazar.

The Plaza de la Corredera.

I guess they are Iberico pigs.

I went out the night because the live house in front of my room was so loud and noisy at that time. Took a couple of beer and some snack at the cheap “Bar Correo” and hanged out around the square.

Map of Cordoba

Much more beautiful pictures of this day are available on my Facebook.

Day 5: “White Village” Mijas and Sevilla night

The fifth day in Spain was busy for seeing Mijas and Sevilla, and traveling. Same as the previous day, I woke up early in the morning at 4:20 and checked out the hostel in Granada at 5:45. I wanted to get the long-distance bus, which was run by ALSA, departing for Malaga at 7. The bus station was not close enough to walk to, so I was going to get a bus to go there. However, buses did not started running yet.  So, I went back to the square near my hostel and got a taxi to bus station. It cost just 7 Euros for 10 or 15 minutes drive. Taxi is reasonable transportation in Spain. When I got a ticket, there were less than only 10 seats.

Arrived at Malaga airport after 9 am.

Then took train to Fuengirola at 9:47.

Got off the train at Fuengilora and took a bus to Mijas at 10:40.

Mijas

Although it was sunny in Fuengilora, the weather in “White Village” Mijas that was just 15 or 20 minutes away by bus was not good.

The small bullring in Mijas. Bullfighting is off season now.

I imagined Mijas town would be much much more beautiful under the blue sky.

Got back in Fuengirola at 1 pm and took train for Malaga at 1:30.

I got to Malaga terminal station, Maria Zambrano. I wanted making for the next destination Sevilla, but the earliest train was AVE departing at 4:15. So I stopped by a cafe and had Calamari and beer.

Sevilla

The AVE took me to Sevilla via Cordoba. It was around 6PM when I arrived the station, Santa Justa.

Took a bus to Plaza de Ponce de Leon and checked in the hostel near the square where I reserved. I asked if they have any recommendations for Flamenco show, then they told me there is reasonable ticket for guests of the hostel. The show was about starting, so I literally dashed to the Flamenco. I got lost in a minute though… Asked a kind old gentleman and found the way to the Flamenco. I was just in time. Flamenco was great and much more interesting than I expected. I thought I could see the same show one more time right after the show finished.

Map

More pictures on this day are available on my Facebook.

Day 4: Granada

The fourth day in Spain started early in the morning. I woke up at 4:30 to get the flight from Barcelona to Granada. Barcelona airport, El Prat, which is located 10 km away from the center of Barcelona. I took the earliest bus that departed for the airport at 5:30 and arrived there around 6. The flight of Vueling Airlines left El Prat at 7:10 as scheduled and arrived at Granada airport at 8:30. I had to take a bus to Granada city as well.

I checked in the Pension Britz located in front of Plaza Nueva just before 10 am. It was very convenient location.

The person in the pension kindly checked if Alhambra ticket in the morning was available for me. The entry to Alhambra is limited by time. By the ticket in the morning you have to end seeing by 2 pm. I headed to Alahambra in a hurry and reached around 10:30.

The shop on the way to Alhambra entrance. I guess he makes or fixes guitars.

Alhambra

The Alhambra has four main parts which are Placios Nazaries, Palacio de Carlos V, Alcaszaba, and Generalife. I seem to like Alcazaba because most of pictures I took was Alacazaba. Alcazaba means a walled-fortification in a city.

The following pictures are Placios Nazaries.

These are Alcazaba.

I always like this kind of a panoramic view. I do not miss visiting the place that has beautiful view wherever I go.

You can have beautiful scene of Sierra Nevada mountains covered by snow in the distance.

Generalife is gardens.

Generalife is away from other parts of the Alhambra. You can see them over the valley.

Cathedral Area

I left the Alhambra around 1 pm and went down to Cathedral area.

Albaizin

After that, I walked around Albaizin and Sacromonte area. You may see the pictures here on Facebook. (Click Next button at the upper right corner of the picture when you want to see next picture on the Facebook page.)

There is no pics, but it was good memory that a Spanish girl, who seemed 6 or 7 years old, taught me Spanish words when I was waiting for a bus.

Coming back from Sacromonte, almost dark out there, but I strolled Campo del Principe – square where many bars get together, but didn’t get into.

Then I was back in the pension at 6. Ate something with Alhambra beer quickly and then went to an Internet cafe to book hostels for the following days. As walked so long this day again, I went to bed at 8:30.

Day 3: Montserrat

It was Christmas Day on the second day in Barcelona that I planned to go to Monastery area in Monistrol de Montserrat. The place is located in the middle of Montserrat – rugged mountain. It takes about one and a half hour from Barcelona by train and cable car. I could not find information about the earliest transportation in the morning to Montserrat on the Internet, so I woke up at 6 and got to Espanya around 7, where the train to Montserrat departs.

The street to Catalunya station of Metro around 6:30am on Christmas Day. There was almost no people except for me and police.

Although I got to Espanya station at 7, I found there that the earliest one was at 8:30… Even worse, there was nothing around the station. So, I took Metro to Barcelona Sants and had breakfast.

With one hour trip, the train arrived at Montsserat Aeri station at 9:40, where we transfer to the cable car. The view from there was beautiful. The weather was also fine on the day. The cable car goes up to the place in the center of the picture, between the both rocky hills.

The terminal of the cable car.

I started hiking toward Mirador de Sant Miguel, which is the cross in the center of the picture.

I got to the place from where I could see the Basilica over the valley. What a fantastic view, isn’t it?

By the way, Montserrat reminded me Japanese famous place, Mount Koya because of their similarities. Both are located amid the mountain and religious place. Mount Koya does not have such beautiful view though. Instead, it has very unique atmosphere that you could feel only when you are there. I recommend you visit there if you have a chance.

View of the bottom of the valley.

I hiked for half an hour more. The slope was substantially steep.

After the hike, I descended by funicular to visit the Basilica. The Christmas Mass was being held there.

Went down the mountain by cable car in the same way as ascending.

I was wondering if I stayed more in Montserrat. But I wanted to see a little bit more in Barcelona and had to get new digital camera because mine did not work well at all. So I took train at 12:48 and was back around 2 in Barcelona.

Went to a department store, Fnac, to buy new digital camera, but it was closed due to Christmas. Most of business was closed. It is not unusual to open shops for 365 days a year in Japan. So I did not come to the idea the shops were closed although I had similar experience two years ago in the U.S….

Therefore, all the pictures after Day 3 were taken by iPhone 4. If you noticed the differences in the pictures from previous ones, you deserve to use digital camera. If not, iPhone camera might be enough for you.

I gave up getting new camera and walked toward Ciutadella park.

After strolling the park, I went to Santa Maria del Mar.

It was a bummer that Picasso Museum was closed due to Christmas as well.

Came back at Casa Batllo around 4 and entered into the building. Audio guide was included.

Got back in the hostel after 6 and went out to have Paella and beer nearby. It cost about 15 Euros.

Went to bed early, around 8:30, with being tired by walking this day and in preparation for early flight of next morning.

Map