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The next morning we had more time to look for accomodation. Madrid has small reasonably-prized hostels everywhere, but many of those in the center apparently still full in November, especially the ones that are mentioned in Lonely Planet. After a small round tour we found the best place so far: at Hostal Callao 7500 pesetas (45 euros) entitled to a clean and comfy room for three with private shower and toilet. The friendly landlady even knew some French.
If you're on tight budget it's possible to find still a lot cheaper places, especially if not trying to hunt the room in the very heart of the city. The youth hostels charge around 1500 pesetas / person.
|At noon we set up an appointment with José-Maria (another Spanish friend that is on the same French course with me) who had returned home for the holidays. He had evidently studied the history of his home town and we got a better tour in the centre than any tourist guide would have given. One nice detail was the street numbering: just look on the map which end is closer to the center of Puerta del Sol and you have found building number one. The picture shows the royal palace.|
|This nice old fellow next to Rodrigo was looking at some very old traces of human life on the site.|
|The cathedral of Madrid is the youngest in the world: the city didn't have it's own cathedral for historic reasons so they built a new one. It gained the cathedral status only seven years ago. The architechture was very similar to many old ones I've seen, but the paintings and other decorations were more modern.|
While José-Maria was giving a warm recommendation to visit the art museums we bumped again into our Indian friend Abhishek. He had just been to Prado to see some well-known paintings of Velázquez, Goya and Rubens. We continued together to an area near the railway station with several restaurants, and said thank you to our guide who had a lunch waiting at home. Once again we ate quite well with little money - try to find a three course menu with wine and bread included for under 40 francs in France.
After dinner we split again. Didi and Rodrigo headed to Cibeles to see some more architechture and have a walk in the park while I and Abhishek visited the Reina Sofia museum of modern art. The most famous piece on display is Picasso's Guernica, which was impressive, but I liked best some surrealistic works of Dali. I contemplated on buying a poster of "Melancholy, Atomic, Uranic Idyll" but decided that it wouldn't really suit my dorm room wall at INSA.
In the evening we didn't go for a regular dinner but tried a Spanish tradition called doing "tapeo". That means walking from a small bar to another ordering usually a glass of wine or beer accompanied by something small to eat. The plates are called "tapas" and all the good places have their own speciality. My favourite was a tortilla with mushrooms. It turned out not to have anything in common with the Mexican tortilla but to be a delicious crossbreeding of a pie and an omelette.
|On Saturday we drove about 70 kilometers to the south to see still one more old town with a church in the center. That may start to sound boring after one week but the cathedral of Toledo was one of the most impressive I've seen. Especially the stage of the choir with about every piece of decoration being unique and some old treasures were worth making the extra trip. Otherwise we spent a rather relaxed afternoon, not even trying to visit as many museums (Toledo is packed with them) as possible.|
|On the way back I had promised José-Maria to pick up some of his stuff that would be difficult to transport in the aeroplane. Finding the place took some time after misunderstanding one critical part of the driving instructions, but having the chance to meet his family was certainly worth it. We were treated with some home-made delicacies and had a nice discussion about what we had seen in Spain and the viewpoints and habits in different cultures.|
Before ten o'clock we still had time to go to a local supermarket to buy something to eat for the following day and wines to bring home. Didi had his thoughts already on Christmas and invested into 7 kilos of Spanish dried ham which is hard to find and expensive outside the country. After shopping we contemplated between continuing the evening and returning to the hostel, it was necessary to leave early the following morning. Well, one can always get sleep more in the car, so we went bowling with José-Maria and some of his friends.
For Sunday there isn't much to tell: 12 hours on the highway. The total for the whole trip was 3250 kilometers, and we did see a lot. Best of all, we sticked to using French in the conversations among us the whole time - I bet no outsider guessed right the actual mix of nationalities. Hasta luego!
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Last update 17.8.2001.