Our trip to Spain in April 2013
Santiago de Compostela
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Elizabeth and I joined our three traveling companions (Ray, Ceci and Father Agustín) at Ray and Ceci's home in Anaheim. Their daughter Vibiana drove us to the airport. Our flight to Madrid left LAX at 2:45 pm.
I forgot my passport on the plane, but Iberia Airlines searched and brought it to me. That made us an hour late getting out of the airport. The others forgave me. In a van we had reserved at the airport, we drove to our rented apartment in Madrid.
We had a great dinner at a restaurant called El Pezcador near the apartment.
Today we saw lots of Murillo, Bosch, Goya, Picasso, etc. We visited the Museo del Prado, the Museo Reina Sofía, the cathedral, the Royal Palace, the church of San Francisco el Grande and the Corte Inglés department store.
We ate a delicious early afternoon dinner at restaurant called El Botín near the Plaza Mayor.
Today we visited El Escorial, Valle de Los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), Segovia and Avila. At El Escorial we enjoyed a guided tour of the 16th century royal palace. At Valle de Los Caídos we explored the huge underground church built to honor the dead and wounded of the 1936-1939 Civil War. In Segovia we ate the obligatory Cochinillo dinner at El Mesón de Cándido near the ancient Roman aqueduct.
Sunday we attended the 10:00 Mass at the church of San Isidro. Then we ate breakfast (hot chocolate and churros) at the Chocolatería San Ginés.
We boarded a bus for a one-hour tour of the historic center of Madrid. We ate an elegant early dinner at a restaurant called La Capilla de la Bolsa. For dessert the waiter brought an anniversary cake and a birthday cake. (Ray and Ceci's 50th anniversary will be in June. Father Agustín's birthday will be this Wednesday.)
We boarded another bus for a one-hour tour of the beautiful neighborhoods north of central Madrid. We returned to our apartment to get ready for Monday.
Monday morning we left Madrid early. We ate breakfast in Salamanca at a cafe on the Plaza Mayor. In Salamanca we visited the old and new cathedrals. (The new cathedral was begun in 1533.) Then we drove to Santiago de Compostela.
Monday afternoon we checked into the Hotel Montenegro in Santiago de Compostela. At the cathedral, we attended Mass while Ray and Ceci explored the chapels and the bookstore. Meanwhile Father Agustín knelt at a confessional to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. We wondered why he was there such a long time. The priest hearing confessions (Father Samuel) happened to be from Colombia and they had mutual friends, including Father Agustín's brother Norberto.
Tuesday we ate breakfast at the hotel and walked around town. We attended noon Mass at the cathedral. Father Agustín and Father Samuel were among the dozen priest celebrants from France, Poland, Colombia and several other countries. The huge church was crowded with pilgrim hikers and prayerful tourists.
Father Samuel joined us for early afternoon dinner and a long walk around central Santiago de Compostela. At 7:00 pm we enjoyed a guided tour of the roof of the cathedral, enjoying a 360-degree view of the city. We ate supper with Father Samuel and a local married couple named Manolo and Amparo, at a restaurant where one item on the menu was Los Huevos del Cardenal.
Wednesday afternoon on our way to Burgos we stopped in León. We ate dinner at an outdoor cafe and visited the 11th century cathedral.
After checking into the Hotel Londres y Norte in Burgos, we walked down a long pedestrian street to see the outside of the cathedral. On the way back we bought bread, sausage and wine for an impromptu supper in the hotel lobby.
Today (Father Agustín's birthday) we ate a late breakfast in our hotel in Burgos. We walked to the 11th century cathedral with Father Agustín, who celebrated the 11:00 Mass with three local priests.
We spent about two hours touring the cathedral, carrying hand-held phones that explained what we were seeing in each room. In the center of the cathedral we saw the burial place of El Cid and his wife Jimena.
We ate a very nice mid-afternoon dinner at a restaurant near the Cathedral. Then we relaxed at the hotel for a while. Later we walked around the center of town, shopped a little and ate a light supper at one of the many cafes.
Friday morning we checked out of our hotel in Burgos at 8:00 and drove to Zaragoza. We ate an early afternoon dinner there and toured the basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the cathedral. At 2:00 we left for Barcelona. We arrived late at our rented apartment across the street from Antoni Gaudí's famed Sagrada Familia basilica.
After breakfast on Saturday, we began our visit to the magnificent interior of Sagrada Familia. We emerged three hours later. The huge building includes a museum and gift shop. It was begun in the 1880s and is still under construction.
Then we got on a tour bus that took us to the Plaza de España. We ate our late afternoon dinner at La Lola, one of the many restaurants built over the upper deck of the old bullring. (People no longer go to bullfights in Barcelona and Madrid.)
We walked about a mile to the Plaza de Cataluña, then down the Rambla to the port. Along the way we bought a few snacks and stopped at several stores. We rode the subway back to the apartment.
Sunday after breakfast we drove to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat. We arrived in time for the 11:00 Mass. With about 20 monks and some visiting clergy, Father Agustín was one of the priest celebrants. Connie and I had visited there almost 14 years ago. That was when and where we bought the little replica of Our Lady of Montserrat that we have at home on a bookshelf near the desktop computer.
Sunday afternoon we returned to Barcelona. We ate a late afternoon dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, and a light supper of wine and cheese in the apartment.
We left early Monday morning for Valencia. We checked into the Hotel Sol Playa near the beach and ate dinner at a popular nearby restaurant called La Pascuala. Then we boarded a bus for central Valencia where we visited the church of San Martín, the church of the Our Lady of the Forsaken and the cathedral. Father Agustín walked up the 203 steps to the top of the cathedral tower. Inside the cathedral he approached a sacristan who gave us a personal tour of the chapel of the Holy Grail and the museum.
Tuesday we ate an abundant self-service breakfast in the dining room of our hotel. Elizabeth and I went for a long walk and a short bus ride, returning in time for a 2:00 pm paella dinner at La Pascuala with Ray, Ceci and Father Agustín. Then Elizabeth and I rode a bus to central Valencia for some shopping at the Corte Ingles. We returned to relax in our hotel room.
We watched Munich play soccer against Barcelona. At half time I bought a salad to go at a nearby restaurant called Vivir Sin Dormir (To Live Without Sleeping). We shared the salad and an orange during the disappointing second half. Munich won, 4 to 0.
Wednesday morning after breakfast at the hotel we left at 8:15 for Granada. We arrived about 2:00, checked into the Hotel Reina Cristina and ate dinner at an outdoor cafe. Elizabeth and Ceci stayed at the hotel while Ray, Father Agustín and I rode a bus to the Alhambra. We expected to buy tickets for seeing the Alhambra the next day. But they don't sell advance tickets there.
We rode back to central Granada and took another bus to Plaza San Nicolás at the top of the Albaycín. There we enjoyed the music of some very talented street entertainers, and fabulous views of Granada, the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada of southern Spain. We walked down through the winding, narrow and picturesque streets of the Albaycín to central Granada and our hotel.
Ray, Ceci and Father Agustín spent most of Thursday morning touring the Alhambra. We had been there and done that, Elizabeth in most recently in 2005, and I with Connie in 1999. We slept in, attended 9:00 Mass in the chapel next to the cathedral and ate breakfast at a cafe on the Gran Via de Colón. Then we toured the chapel of King Fernando and Queen Isabel and the adjacent museum.
We left Granada at noon Thursday and arrived at the Hotel Londres in Sevilla before 3:00. We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant called the Patio de San Eloy. Then Ray and Father Agustín went to get a flat tire fixed, while Elizabeth, Ceci and I went shopping at the Corte Inglés.
Friday morning in Sevilla we rode around the city on the upper deck of a tour bus. At the cathedral, at the Plaza de Espana and at the Basilica of La Macarena, we got off the bus, walked and looked around for a while and boarded the next bus. At the cathedral we joined a small group attending Mass celebrated in the Mozarabic rite. At the Plaza de España we took some photos near where the tour bus group picture was taken when Connie and I visited Spain in 1999.
Friday afternoon we ate dinner at a tavern near the Patio de San Eloy. Then Father Agustín and Ray went to an Avis office to get a different vehicle. (The one we had rented came with a spare tire that couldn't be removed.) I took some clothes to a laundromat about ten blocks away. I returned later with Elizabeth to pick them up. From there we walked to a place near the Cathedral and exchanged some of our dollars for euros. Our supper was some ice cream we bought along the way.
Saturday morning we ate breakfast at a nearby cafe and left for Córdoba. In Córdoba we visited the Mezquita, a huge and beautiful mosque built during the 8th through 12th centuries. In 1236 the Christian armies captured the city and turned the central area of the building into a cathedral. The interior of the Mezquita covers several acres. It includes many chapels dedicated to various Christian saints and a few museum displays.
We arrived about 5:00 at the Hotel Eurostars in Toledo. We checked in and went by taxi to the Cathedral. Father Agustín was one of the two priest celebrants at the 6:30 pm Mass. The cathedral boys choir sang during the Mass. Afterwards we enjoyed supper at a restaurant called La Malquerida and returned to our hotel.
Sunday morning we slept in. We enjoyed a full and delicious breakfast in the hotel dining room. Ray, Ceci and Father Agustín had already gone by taxi to central Toledo. Elizabeth and I checked out and left our luggage with the staff at the reception desk. We took a city bus to the cathedral, arriving in time for the noon Mass. The cathedral boys choir sang again today during Mass at the main altar, which has a magnificent retablo. We hadn't seen the retablo last night, because most of the cathedral was dark.
We visited the church of Santo Tomé, where we saw El Greco's master work, the Burial of El Conde. Then we toured the museum of El Greco, where we saw most of his paintings that are still in Toledo. We ate dinner at an elegant and friendly little restaurant called La Orza.
We returned to the hotel by taxi to join our traveling companions at 5:00 pm. We put our luggage in the van and headed for Madrid. A little more than an hour later we arrived at the Hotel Nuevo Boston near the airport. Tomorrow will be our last full day in Spain.
Monday morning we all went to central Madrid in a shuttle van. Elizabeth and I attended noon Mass at the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen near the Puerta del Sol, and shopped for family gifts. We ate dinner in the food court on the ninth floor of the Corte Inglés, enjoying nachos and salad at Central Mexicana.
At 5:00 we met Ray, Ceci and Father Agustín where the shuttle van arrived to take us back to the hotel. Our supper was some cheese and wine in Ray and Ceci's room.
Early Tuesday morning we drove to the airport, returned the rented van and boarded the plane for JFK airport in New York. Our flight from JFK to Los Angeles departed at 2:45 pm.