Hmmm, Security at the Train Station…

It was a sad day for Doug. Upon leaving Madrid we headed, by train, to Toledo the first capital of Spain. Since we were only going for three days, we decided to leave a couple of our bags in the lockers at the train station. Doug travels with two chef kitchen knives. It hasn’t been a problem because they travel in his checked luggage.

When we entered the locker storage area at Estacion de Atocha in Madrid we were surprised our bags had to go through the X-Ray security machine. This is the train station that was bombed by terrorists a few years back. It’s the only time we’ve gone through security in a train station.

The security guard wouldn’t let Doug keep his knives; not to take on the train or to store in the lockers or to dump in the trash (unless he took them to trash outside the station). Security would not confiscate them. This all happened in Spanish, the security guards did not speak English. Since this was eating up our time and we had a train to catch Doug’s only option was to give the knives to a restaurant kitchen in the train station. So, that’s what he did. It was so sad, one knife was a gift from Jason, the other from Erin. So many memories of great kitchen times and meals prepared. The grieving process had begun. So go the adventures of travel.

On to Toledo. This is a walled city on a hill, about an hour outside Madrid. The city is protected on three sides by the Tajo River. It boasts a rich Jewish, Moorish, and Christian heritage which continues to make it a tourist attraction today. It looked to us like many of the Roman villages we visited in France but much larger. A closer look shows the multi-cultural influences. Toledo is said to be the historic, artistic and spiritual center of Spain.

Toledo was the first capital of Spain until the king wanted to expand his castle. Being on a hill surrounded by a river left no room for expansion. A new palace was built in Madrid, the capital moved and the rest is, as they say, history.


Royal Palace in Madrid

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There were many historical, artistic and spiritual sites to visit in Toledo. Needless to say we didn’t see it all. We did our share of ‘getting lost’ in the maze of tiny streets and sitting at the outdoor cafes watching the other tourists. I must confess, we also visited McDonalds for breakfast one day. The gooey cheese food stuck to my teeth in a nasty way. Only the real deal for me after that. Above are some sights of Toledo.

Another thing Toledo is known for is it’s steel. Yup, they make great things of steel, swords, cutlery, scissors, and of course, knives. It took a few days of looking before Doug was ready to replace his beloved tools. But, in the end, with much assurance that as long as the knives are wrapped and include a receipt, Renfe, the train company, will allow the transport. Here are the new kitchen tools:


Not to be opened until on U.S. soil. We did check at the post office in Toledo about mailing these babies home. We were told they could give no guarantees on how they would be handled once they enter the U.S.A. In other words, they didn’t know if U.S. officials would allow delivery.  Hmm, guess we’ll carry them home.

We’re off to Seville via Madrid. It’s how the train goes so how we go too. The trains are nice and fast. If you get a seat facing another seat, leg room is minimal for Doug. But overall, not a bad way to travel.

Hasta la vista. Via con Dios.

It’s Good to be Back…in Spain

A little over a week ago we had just returned from a month in Washington and Oregon. We’d decided to take a break in our European travels to celebrate our grand daughter’s 5th birthday and see family and friends. It was a nice reprieve yet, it’s good to be back in Spain. Madrid to be exact.  

Madrid is great; great wine, great food, great art, great sites. Not so ancient as Greece. Right off we noticed an absence of ancient ruins. It was okay. What replaced the ruins was lovely 15th-17th century architecture. Most of the buildings were four to five stories with long narrow windows and always wrought iron balconies. Some buildings were more decorative than others showing different styles and eras.

The main Plaza, Plaza Mayor, has had a face lift in recent times, yet, it has been around since the 17th century. This was the city’s main square in medieval times and has been the home to royal pageantry, the market, “open air theatre,” bull fights, as well as hangings and other horrific acts during the Spanish Inquisition. Now it’s a great place to hang out and people watch. However, if you sit at one of the outdoor restaurants, you will pay a nice price for the privilege.

Sunday on Plaza Mayor


Typical Madrid street


Plaza Mayor, the bakery side

Of course we had to visit the infamous La Torre Del Oro Bar Andalusia to see gruesome pictures from bullfights, have a cana (small beer) and tapas during our walk around the city. Sorry for the fuzzy pics, there was a lot of activity going on and quite a crowd.


Lots of dead bull heads in a small space.


Lots of celebs have visited La Torre Bar.


I think I see another…Yup, I’m standing with the guys.


True picture of a neck goring.


Our apartment in Madrid was in Lavapies neighborhood. As is typical, we had several flights of steps to climb. I believe it was only 64 in this case. The apartment was near the new art museum, Reina Sofia, and overall very well located. The neighborhood was very multicultural with Chinese, Indian, Turkish and Jewish markets nearby, just to name a few. We also had a very current French grocery chain that we’ve frequented since coming to Europe called Carrefour. Outside there was a little parking place for dogs. Very nice.

 We saw most of the major sites, the Prado Museum, which some believe has the greatest collection of artwork by European masters that can be found in one place anywhere. We saw famous paintings by Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, Picasso and many others. Do I sound as if I might know what I’m talking about? It was amazing and overwhelming and I learned a lot.

Pictures weren’t allowed in the Prado.The following Picasso was in the Reina Sofia where you could take pictures in some areas. The Reina Sofia houses Picasso’s famous ‘Guernica’. This painting was a response to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) but had been housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art until 1981.  It was very moving. Of course no pictures were allowed but if you google Guernica, you can see what I’m talking about. The painting is still considered an homage to the atrocities of war today.

Instead of ancient runs, we visited the ‘oldest restaurant in the world’ that had a plaque to prove it. The story is Ernest Hemingway loved to eat roasted, suckling pig here. He ate one all by himself on a regular basis. We didn’t try that dish, which, if you’re interested is still on some menus.


Outside the oldest restaurant.


Miniature of the kitchen in the oldest restaurant.


At cooking class we learned to make traditional Paella, Spanish Tortilla (potato omelet), orange and bacalhau salad and bananas flambé. It was a fun day. Tasty and quite informative.


Toasting the pimenton.


Slicing oranges.


Ready to eat.




Spanish Tortillas and Orange Bacalhau Salad

The language has been challenging here. Very few people speak English. Doug has made a huge effort to practice his Spanish, however, the accent and rhythm is so different from what we’ve learned in Mexico. People rarely seem to understand our attempts on the first or even second try. In the end it all works out.

There was so much to do and see in Madrid. We loved it and really got our steps in. Among some of the highlights were the Tapas (we took a tour with Historical Tapas), touring the Palace and learning about the multicultural history of the city, and just hanging out. We didn’t get to all the things we wanted to see so of course we’ll be back!

Spanairds eat jamon daily. The black pig that only eats acorns is the most prized.


Back of the cathedral.


Tio Pepe is a sherry and this is a big landmark in Puerto del Sol Plaza.


Tapas, Spanish tortilla and sausage.


Street statue performers. How does he do that?




Looking over the Moorish Wall at the Jewish Plaza across from the cathedral.

Next we head to Toledo via train, a walled city and former capital of Spain. Adios amigos, until we meet again.