Saturday, September 20, 2014

Spain Travels After First Oasis Cruise

This is being written in our small, rented apartment in Madrid.  We have one more night here and then we move to the hotel where we will join our Gate1 tour group for our 10 day tour of the interior of Spain.  Our 3 days in Madrid have been great.  So far we have done a very informative free walking tour with MADride tours, had 2 free hours in the Prado museum, and done an extensive tour of the Royal Palace.  And we have WALKED a lot!  Several evenings we have gone out in the area of our apartment, called Chueca, and joined the "paseo".  This is when everyone is out walking around and either shopping, showing off their outfits, schmoozing with friends at outdoor caf├ęs, or meeting up with friends at bars.  Chueca is the "alternative" area, which we didn't know when we booked this apartment, but there are many Gay people here, and everyone else seems to be fine with whatever is goings on.  There are small stores, bars, restaurants, on every street, with living quarters above.  We couldn't believe how many people were out on the streets last evening!!!  Thank goodness our place is on the 4th floor and at the back of the building because we are away from all the street noise.  They stay out until the wee hours of the morning, then take an afternoon siesta.  We haven't adjusted to that schedule!  The weather has been comfortable although we had a rain shower on our walk back from the Prado.
     Before flying here, we stayed for 4 days with our friends, Ger and Jeannette from the Netherlands.  They have a lovely home near Alicante, and we even had our own apartment upstairs.  They took us around their area, and we had interesting tours of a factory making a liquor called 43 (Cuartena y Tres).  The building was beautiful, painted all over in rainbow colored stripes, and we had 3 different drinks made with the liquor as part of the tour price (9 Euros).  Another day we drove to Xixona, where a famous factory making turron, a type of nougat, gave a tour.  It was only in Spanish, but we got the gist of things, saw the process, and had some samples.  To get there, Ger had to drive down very narrow streets in the little town where we had barely an inch on each side of the car from the buildings, and it was steep!  We were so glad we weren't driving!  Every evening we had meals in different types of restaurants, with good food, and sometimes entertainment.  The first night there was a singer, small band, and a flamenco dancer.  Afternoons we could lounge by their beautiful pool, or swim.  Then we had drinks and snacks and enjoyed the wonderful, warm temperatures.  They were the perfect hosts, and we greatly appreciated all they did to make our visit such an enjoyable one.
     Before that, of course, we were sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona on the Oasis of the Seas, the second largest cruise ship in the world.  We only had one port, Malaga, in 12 days but that wasn't a problem because the ship has so much entertainment, activities, restaurants, and places to enjoy that we were never bored.  And so many prior cruise friends were aboard, we loved reconnecting with everyone.  They had 4 lounges open for Diamond and Diamond+ every evening because there were so many return cruisers and we visited them all.  The weather was very warm and the seas were calm.  In Malaga, we did a free walking tour and it was excellent.  It is also a lovely place to explore on your own, which we also did.  Because it was the first visit of this huge ship to Europe, and this port, thousands of local people came out to the port to see us sail out, and there was a fire boat shooting huge water spouts into the air as a salute.  You can see it on YouTube and the German guy who posted it did an excellent job.
     Because I don't have my computer along, I will have to wait until we get back to post pictures about these activities.  Rest assured we have been healthy, happy, and having a wonderful time.  Don't know when we will have time and internet for another update, but sometimes we post a small update on Facebook.  Look for it under Mary Lane and with a picture of both of us.