Monday, September 27, 2010
On Saturay morning, we decided to escape rainy Geneva and head to the moutains. Unfortunately, the rain followed us to the mountains and even seemed to get worse at times. However, that did not stop us from exploring the Grindelwald, Interlaken, and Murren. Staying in a wonderful family owned hotel outside of Grindelwald, we experienced some fresh moutain as our window framed nothing but grassy hills, wooden houses, and cows! With cow bells seranading us all night, we had the best sleep in quite some time. It was perfect! On Saturday afternoon, we sloshed through the main streets of the Grindelwald and enjoyed a delicious lunch of pizza and the famous Onkel Tom's Hutte. After lunch we headed a short distance to Interlaken and decided to work off our lunch with a long, rainy walk along the river. The day ended with an absolutely fantastic dinner back at our warm, cozy hotel. Our original plans for Sunday were to take the cable car all the way to Schilthorn, one of the highest peaks in Euorope. However, due to tremendous fog and the first snowfall of the season the view would not have been worth our 100 bucks. We did, however, go up halfway to Murren. Despite the thick fog, we walked around a bit and imagined what the view would be like on a sunny, clear day! Our weekend ended with a late lunch in Lauterbrunnen before heading back to Geneva. Even though the trip was short and the weather was far from ideal, it could not have been a better weekend. We got to escape Geneva and spend some time together in the quite countryside.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
For a major European country, Spain is rich in history and culture, affordable, beautiful, and vibrant. Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a huge city with tons to see and do. Known for late night dinners and clubs that don't close until 8am, we were delighted when we learned that our hotel was in the quiet area. Although Recoletas is known as an affluent area, the hotel was reasonably priced, modern, and well staffed. Since Recoletas is not a tourist destination, we were able to dine in some local establishments...it is always more interesting and fun to be the only tourists in the restaurants! For once, Jignesh was happy with the our pick.
On day one of our trip we walked the area around our hotel and through the amazing Parque del Retiro. We ended up at the Prado, one of the world's most famous art musuems. Since neither Jignesh or I are huge art fans, we usually skip all the musuems. However, since this one was free after five, we decided to pop in for a short walkabout. Surprisingly, we both enjoyed the visit. For true art enthusiasts, the Prado would be a complete dream! The end of the day ended with the first of many meals of tapas and sangria!
On day two, we headed outside Madrid to Segovia. A beautiful little city, Segovia is highlighted by an ancient Roman aquaduct, a huge cathedral, and an adorable castle. We explored it all and enjoyed lunch in the main plaza where we witnessed a spanish wedding. It was a great side trip...easy to get to and lots to see.
Sunday morning we headed straight to the famous street market, El Rastro. This colorful street market is simply crazy. One of the largest in Europe, El Rastro is street after street of stalls selling everything from antiques to underwear! Locals and tourists come here in the thousands to both take in the scene and do some serious shopping. The best part of the market was the stallholders shouting at the top of their lungs to promote their wares. You can easily spend an entire day winding the streets and browsing the stalls...just be careful of the pickpockets! After the bustling market, we slowly wandered through the Madrid streets towards Plaza Mayor. Capable of holding 50,000 people, Plaza Mayor is impressive. It is the perfect place to get a drink and watch the world go by. It is also worth checking out some of the stores and bars that line the plaza. One of the most interesting was La Torre del Oro, a tapas bar decorated with mounted bull heads and gory pictures of bullfights!
Our fourth and final day in Madrid started with a visit to Palacio Real. Madrid's Royal Palace, Palacio Real is still hosts many state functions on a weekly basis (the King and Queen live outside the city). We took the obligatory tour and were not disappointed with grand rooms lavishly decorated with tapestries, antique furniture, and painted ceilings. After the Palace we spent the remaining hours of our trip shopping and enjoying the city! What a perfect trip.