I would like to enter this into a contest and am looking for critiques
|The worst day of our trip
I spent my junior year of college abroad in Madrid Spain and talked so much about it over the years that my husband finally asked "When are you taking me?" So, my husband, daughter and I decided to spend two weeks travelling all over Spain for my 50th birthday. This was several years before I turned 50 so it gave us plenty of time to save for the trip. I love to plan and I spent many hours working out all the details of our trip. I perused many travel forums to create an agenda that would work for all of us. I learned all sorts of things that helped save us money as well as what to see, where to eat and when museums and sites were open. But even the best planned trips have hiccups as we learned on that trip.
We started our two week adventure in Barcelona, a large cosmopolitan city on the northeast coast. We spent a few days there and had a wonderful time taking in the Picasso Museum, Sagrada Familia church and the Barcelona cathedral. We barely scratched the surface and have decided to visit it again on our next trip. We then took the high speed train to Madrid where we would spend several days. I wanted my 50th birthday to be special and as such I planned the trip so that we would spend the day in Toledo, a day trip from Madrid. Toledo was my favorite city in Spain while I was a student in Madrid and I took many day trips to that charming and ancient city. Shortly after we arrived in Madrid I felt a cold coming on but we went on with our plans nonetheless. The next day, the day before my birthday, we did typically touristy things like visiting two of the three major art museums (Prado and Thyssen) and visiting El Corte Ingl, one of Spain's major department stores. It seems to have grown since my year as a student and the store in the center of town now occupies several buildings.
The next morning was my birthday and I woke up feeling the worst yet. But we had purchased our train tickets to Toledo ahead of time so we felt we should go on with our plans. To make matters worse, I didn't sleep so well the night before. So, not only was my cold at its peak, I was very tired. But, onward!! We got to Toledo about 10 a.m. with return tickets for about 5 p.m. I suppose we could have cut the day short and purchased train tickets to return earlier than planned. In hindsight, that might have been better. But then I wouldn't have a story to tell would I?
We took a taxi from the train station and asked the driver to drop us close to the cathedral. We walked around its massiveness taking in the beautiful stained glass windows, the ornate choir area and some works of art. We wanted to tour the alcar, but it was closed. The alcazar was an important site during the Spanish Civil War and it houses a war museum that would have been nice to see. I would have loved to have seen the famous painter El Greco's studio as I had studied his paintings as a college student in Madrid. He's one of my favorite Spanish painters. But it was also closed. It was unfortunate that I didn't find out ahead of time that these two major sites would be closed. We could have rearranged our plans for the day. Next, hubby had his heart set on buying a sword from Mariano Zamorano, a sword maker who was highly recommended by Rick Steves, the travel writer. It sounded like the perfect place to buy a handmade and authentic Spanish sword. Alas, it was not meant to be. The shop was closed due to the death of his mother. Incredible timing!
We did get to view El Greco's masterpiece, the burial of Count Orgaz. And we had a nice lunch at an outdoor caf After lunch we had to figure out things to do to fill the afternoon until our train ride back to Madrid since our plans had been interrupted by museums and shops that were closed. We decided to go to the Santa Cruz museum which purportedly had fabulous architecture and more of El Greco's paintings. My guide book said this particular museum did not close for siesta. Siesta literally means nap and the Spanish close up shops and restaurants from between 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. I remember that as a student in Madrid we would come home from morning classes, eat lunch and then head back to school for an evening class. And sometimes I even took a nap during this time. When we arrived at the gate of the Santa Cruz museum around 2:00 that afternoon, it was being closed for siesta!! Either the guidebook was wrong, or things had changed since the guidebook was written or something special was going on that day which was the reason it was closed for siesta. By this time I was pretty upset all because I had such high hopes for a wonderful day for my 50th birthday. As the saying goes, it's best to not have any expectations. That way you're not disappointed.
We did manage to fill the afternoon by walking our feet off up and down the hilly streets of Toledo. We visited an old synagogue Santa Maria La Blanca that had wonderful Moorish architecture, purchased leather souvenirs and took refreshment in Plaza Zocodover. By the time we returned to our hotel in Madrid I was exhausted and feeling feverish so I laid down to rest up so that we could have my birthday dinner at El Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world as well as a place I had eaten as a student in Madrid. Dinner and the service were fabulous just like I remembered from my youth. And, by the time we left the restaurant I was starting to feel better.
In the end, my 50th birthday ended up being the worst day of the trip due to my cold as well as the handful of things that were closed that day, especially the sword store. Still, there were plenty of positives about the day. My husband and daughter got to see my favorite city in Spain and we had two great meals. Plus we would not have seen the great architecture at Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue. We only went there because it was open and it ended up being a nice memory from that day. My husband and I were able to return to Spain 10 months later to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We spent part of it in Madrid and then took another day trip to Toledo just so that he could get the sword that he had his heart set on. Mariano showed us how the swords are made in the back room of his shop. It was so interesting and he was such a charming and friendly man.
The moral of this story is to remain flexible while traveling because even the best planned trips might have issues.