A Travellerspoint blog

Art and the Art of Driving

Madrid and the road south

all seasons in one day

Windmills and olives? Must be Spain!

Jan 4


We landed in Madrid, effortlessly contacted our car rental company, immediately were picked up and taken to our brand new, sleek Peugot 207 (ours for five months!), which we drove directly to a lovely budget hotel around the corner, and then....went out again....and got completely...and spectacuarly...lost. Well, we had to push our luck. We had no map, no Spanish, and no directions. Well, we thought we had directions. The trio at the reception desk argued for a while about how to direct us to the big shopping centre. Then the one who spoke English gave us the directions, while the other two shook their heads. Then he said "good luck." So how lost were we? We went through a 1,760 metre tunnel that we didn't want to, we took a round trip on a toll highway that we didn't want to, we passed by the shopping centre several times without being able to get it, and...our crowning glory...we ended up back at the airport. All this with the gas light on. But, after much effort, and asking for directions, we got all our errands done (ATM, gas, dinner, buying that i-pod thing that connects to your car radio), and didn't get half as lost on the way back. I used that "amazing race" trick of asking a taxi driver if we could follow him, but he refused. Speaking English, he said, "look you're only two kilometres away, you can do this! I'll give you directions." And we did it!

Brand new ride

I also found out that maybe I do speak French fairly well, because I couldn't unuderstand the Spanish spoken today at all! To read it, I can pick out words, but listening or speaking I'm lost. There's that word again: lost.

Jan 5


Our one full day in Madrid, before we head farther south in Spain. So went to the Prado, one of the world's greatest art galleries. What a difference a day makes: we got directions and a map, and we flawlessly exeecuted the drive into the heart of the city. The catch? The parking lot was already full. And the next one. And the next one. Not having a car until now meant never having to look for a parking spot. Even in Amman, we learned from Rusha that you "park where you want." Not so in Madrid. But, eventually we fouund one that was really close to the Prado. Still feeling good about our skills, we were stunned to see a huge line-up to buy tickets. An hour later, at noon, we were inside. So much for a morning at the Prado, but no matter.

The Prado, including statue of Velasquez

What a beautiful place, with wonderful art. I was most interested in seeing Goya's dark pictures, and Anica, too, enjoyed the grotesque monsters, portraits of dwarves, and masterful royal portraits. And the Velasquez and El Greco paintings, also very extensively collected here.

One room had Brueghel's "Triumph of Death," which Anica and I spent a long time examining. Violence! Skeletons! Also, a man at work "copying" it had subtly changed all the symbols to re-cast it as the Nazis killing Jews. Meanwhile, Jenn was drawn to Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" tritypch. That's another gruesome artwork we all found new things in by seeing it in person. Have you ever noticed the ice-skating duckbilled platypus before? Check it out.

Anyway, I won't go on any more about the great paintings. But I could!

Madrid itself, where we walked today, reminded me of just why "culture" and "civilization" are often synonmous with Europe. We've seen some marvellous places on this trip, but we've seen urban avenues so impressive and clean, lined by buildings of such sumptous architecture. There's also a "finished" quality to the buildings here, that was especially lacking in the Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia.

Jan 6


A big driving day. Sometimes it's like you're learning to travel all over again! But more about that later.

We started out from Madrid at -1 degrees celsius, which involved scraping frost off our windshield with my Ontario health card (less important right now than a credit card). By the time we'd reached Cordoba, about 400 km south, it was 23 degrees! In between was fog. Four seasons in one day, indeed!

Fog was the big feature of our whistle stop tour of Toledo. Parking was nerve-racking, because we had to hand over the keys and let them squeeze our brand-new car into a "space" that existed in their vivid imaginations.

You can't go wrong just walking around Toledo. Unesco just gave up and blanketed it all with the World Heritage label. It's one of those old-world mazes, and mostly pedestrian streets. Fog ruined some of the views from the hilltops, but before we left it lifted enough to for us to see how the rivers surround it on three sides. Anica had her first "churros and chocolate" snack, a Spanish favourite of ours.

Twists and turns in Toleo

Back in the car, we made good time in getting to Cordoba. Then it got interesting. We had the name of one "hostal" in the old quarter, and that we'd visit the "Mesquita" of Cordoba in the morning, and then move on to Nerja, where a rental flat awaits. Well, even with signs pointing the way to this hotel's parking lot, we never caught sight of either the parking or the hotel! In and out, round and round we went, looking for any hotel, really. Cordoba's ancient streets are not made for automobiles, as we knew. We've actually been here before! As in: should have known better. Eventually we looked at two hotels; one was full and the other had no option for three to sleep comfortably. So, after two or three hours, we gave up on Cordoba, and headed south, looking for the next hotel in the next town. Anica was pretty upset, thinking we would never find a place to sleep. It was only eight o'clock, but to her the search must have seen endless. Add that to the 400 km we already drove today, and we were over eight hours in the car. The "stress" of travelling is self-imposed, and anyone reading this is probably thinking "hey, it beats working," or some such sentiment. Still, there's something elemental about not being able to find shelter for the night. It is pretty stressful.

About fifty kilometres south of Cordoba, we found a pretty nicely-maintained roadside hotel/restaurant, and checked in there. The kitchen was just getting going at nine o'clock, this being Spain, so we were able to have dinner. A surprisingly good dinner, and not just because we were so hungry either. Anica bounced back immediately, and didn't even want to go to sleep until she'd written and drawn in her diary. All's well that...

Jan 7


Even closer to Nerja now, we decided to take the slower, more scenic route to Nerja. Would this, too, be pushing our luck? Our driving experiences in the last three days have involved getting lost, nearly running out of gas, and not having a place to stop for the night. Now we were looking at taking a winding, mountainous route to Malaga.

Part of the road between Antequerra and Malaga

But we found our way easily, and loved the drive from Antequerra down to Malaga. If this is what the mapmakers mean when they designate a "scenic route", then we'll have to look for these again. The rest of the day we spent in Nerja, but that's another story!

Feb 4


"We are in Spain! Got our own car! Most of all: Europe!"

Today we got on a lovely little flight on a nice little airline called "Tunis Air." It was only two hours so I reread the 7th Harry Potter book (I had finished a 607 page and 36 chatper book in less then 7 days!) When we arrived at Madrid International Airport we saw are Peugeot guy and went to our car! It was so nice! Found a nice 3-star hotel called "Express by Holiday Inn" and had dinner G.N. The Worst of the Day: why, why does Madrid have almost no signs? Why? because they expect all the people to be from Spain? Yes? That's right. At least in this neberhoughd. We were just driving along and were totally close to empty of gas, on a big highway (no worries there) and arrived at a toll! We could-not-turn-around! And then all of a sudden we were in a 2km long tunnel. When we got to a parking garage we asked directions to this hotel? They gave us some pretty good ones, and we got a mall that we wanted to go to, but on the way back (and having gas less then a cm from zero) we did mess up...by going to another town! But lucikly Dad got instructions from a taxi driver and getting gas (big thumbs up for me) and getting...back to our hotel! (me doing a yay-yay dance and song), me really tired, getting home at 10:33, so really tired. Mum said it might be a big laugh tomorow or later, going "One day my parents took me out all over the place." We semmed so glad to get back. G.N.

Feb 5


"Prado Museum"

Today we went to a pretty famous and nice art museum also with carvings and statues. The drive there was o.k., but also...we-did-NOT-get-lost! Hip-hip horray! But we did go on a serch for parking. Not to hard but we did see a very nice station, but not as good as London's Kings Cross! When we got to the Prado we got in a h-u-g-e (!) lineup to buy tickets! My favourties where: this one with a king and queen looking in a mirror, ladys in waiting, princess, and the artist himself! One with still life of shallots, carrots, apples, ducks, lemons, and herbs. Also a neat monster eating a barenaked person! And a camera-taken photo you would have thought, but no! drawed! It was a pic of a cardinal. And most of all...The Triumph of Death!!! It was the best. So tricky to explain. Had lunch, looked around some more, went home, had dinner, G.N!

Feb 6


Today we got in our Pegout 207 and drove to Cordoba. We going to Toledo we saw a big Christian church. Dad said "it was built only for Al Grecos painting to go inside." Not the opposite! Then we walked over to a place with many minature nun dolls inside. There we got have churros and chocolate. Then we went to Cordoba where we runned around looking for a hotel! (starting worst of the day) Then we got out of Cordoba, but before we saw a big Michelin place with a huge fire! Smoke everywhere! It was so black! And I mean everywhere! We looked at one hotel in Cordoba, "Boston Hotel" (Blah) Then when we got out of Cordoba we looked at a place/Hostal but to cold! Then we looked at a place across a sreet: too expensive. Then we went to another place and we went there. G.N

Posted by jennrob 01:35 Archived in Spain

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Madrid is on my list! I want to see the paintings! Sounds awesome! I can't believe you're only an hour away from Blighty *g*

by LottieL

Cute little car! Well, collecting the car went amazingly well! Surprise, surprise!

So Anica, do you like churros and chocolate? Your descriptions of the paintings are so interesting. As to getting lost, ask Mommy is she remembers her daddy's many "short cuts" and the "fun" places they took us.

Rob, it doesn't matter what country you're in, when nighttime comes ~ you just want a nice place to lay your head. Add fatigue and a new car to the travel experience and how frustrating can that be! Plenty! Enjoy Nerja.

by Mom-Momma

Don't panic Anica! The grown-ups will always make sure you have somewhere to sleep. Fin and Sadie had the same worries in Hanoi as everywhere was booked during the floods, but we found somewhere eventually! How's driving after all this time?! Hoe you have fun by the lovely med, all love CRFS xxxx


Finally in Europe! Nice wheels! Sucks about the getting lost thing! Have a good time...look forward to more stories.

JBWL xoxo

by JBRobinson

Ah, Spain! We loved Toledo & we're glad you enjoyed the Prado so much. Aren't some of those paintings scary-looking? We can just picture your time in Madrid.
By the time you're finished your trip, you'll be able to write a textbook on "Finding a Parking Spot & Suitable Hotel in Europe" or better yet, "How Not to Get Lost in Europe".
Looking forward to lots more adventures in your neat car!
M&D, H&D, N&G xxxooo

by hdbutters

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