Tuesday, June 12, 2012

International Traveler

The past 3 weeks have been amazing!!! In the course of nearly a month my dream to Spain unfolded. I was looking at cruises a few months back, found a cheap one, and encouraged my bf we should do it. We looked at other cruises and didn't really find a good one. We talked about it, and decided that we would do it. I would pay for the cruise, which was about $50 a night for a 7 night cruise, and he would cover airfare. The planning began, and I mapped out all the cities, landmarks, and restaurants we needed to eat at. 

So here's what we did- 

Left for Spain on a red eye out of LA. Landed in NY in the morning and spent Memorial Day in NYC doing what New Yorkers do - going to GMA, Coney Island, Little Italy, and then headed to the airport for a red eye to Madrid. 

Woke up in the morning in Madrid where we spent some time debating how to use the Metro to get to the hotel. The maps weren't as easy as provided, but thanks to some experimenting we sound discovered we were on the right track. What a beautiful Metro. 

Got to the hotel and saw how voyeuristic the room was - the shower was in the middle of the room - that was hot to watch btw. 

So here's the highlights and important things from Spain in the order we did them: 
- Parque Retiro
- bus tour
- Fountain de Cibeles
- Gran Via
- Museo del Prado (So cool to see artwork I'd studied)
- Plaza Mayor 
- Palacio Real
- Walked through the gay area/party area, Chueca
- Salamanca, the ritzy area
- Mall in Salamanca
(Photo of Parque Retiro)

Some tidbits about Madrid
- Cheap wine was good
- People were somewhat unfriendly
- Couldn't get used to flagging down a waiter, flagging to get our bill, almost felt as if we were intruding
- Food was not good - everything was served on bread, icky calamari everywhere with no taste
- Ate thai when we couldn't take more bad tapas - not what I'd pictured
- Madrid people looked down on my Spanish until I got differences in basic words (bano vs. aseo) etc. - we found a charming bar we went to 2 nights with friendly people, which was nice. 

Went to a coastal city where we saw the following: 
- Roman ruins (INCREDIBLE!)
- Really old churches
- Good food
- fun outdoor cafes
- Picasso's boyhood home

Tidbits about coastal city:
- Friendly people
- Good food

(Picasso's boyhood home)

Took an 8 day cruise on one of the world's largest cruise ships - it was the largest at induction in 2001. Info about the ship/people: 
- British like their sun
- Speedos on skinny guys are sexy
- The service on the ship was atrocious due to a language barrier between the staff and people on it
- The cruise catered to an English crowd at times too much, and to Spanish too much at times
- Awful cruise director who seemed like a game show host
- Good wait staff only in the dining room
- Some not so friendly bartenders - but nicer the longer they had been around on the ship
- Room steward and all service staff had a language barrier understanding basic things we were asking whether we asked in English or Spanish
- Dumb cruise ship policies especially towards gratuities 
- Friendly Americans
- We were placed twice at a Spanish speaking dinner table, and I felt soooooo bad and offered to switch tables many times for my bf so he could have interaction because I knew he wanted it, and so many days he had only spoke to me. 
- A big promenade instead of a nice walkway for seating was interesting, but took away from the intimacy, but on such a large ship it was necessary it seemed

The stops:

- Loved Valencia - very old, good food, nice people

- Rome - soooooo many people everywhere, which detracted from it making it feel very touristy and blah (so many people like NYC x3) 
1 more day when it was not so busy would have been nice
Saw Trevi fountain, Vatican (so different than we expected), Coliseum

- Florence - charming city! Friendly people! Great shopping - watches and suits! Loved Il Dumo, the big river, the trees, the city smelled wonderful

- Corsica - unfriendly French, expensive prices (4 euros for a soda), we had a definite language barrier, and I felt helpless, as did Mike. We couldn't even get one dude to give us a menu in a restaurant... obviously we weren't that hungry. Saw Napoleon's boyhood home, found a French cafe on the water with friendly Spansih and we dined on 2 bottles of wine and tapas

Back to Spain for a day, then off to Switzerland for the night, Germany, and back to LA!

It was honestly the trip of a lifetime as cliche as that sounds - and I love my boyfriend is so agreeable after a little convincing.  


fan of casey said...

Mike: Wow! What an amazing trip. Who would have thought you would get bad spanish food in Spain?

I've heard that cruises, despite the glamor, does have annoying issues -- and you ran into some of them. But at least you had your BF with you to make it pleasant.

Did you see how bad things are economically in Spain or did you get to avoid that in the tourist areas?

Anonymous said...

Mike for you people are unfriendly just because they don't speak English ? For us (not American, the rest of the world) we make an effort to speak English when we visit the USA, so you have to do the same.
And what you would said if you visited Paris , never saw more unfriendly,

SCalRF said...

That's great that you got to go on such a wonderful trip! Ahh some of your pictures take me back to my trip. That sucks that you didn't like the food in Madrid. Eating paella in La Plaza Mayor is one of my favorite memories from there.

Aek said...

Great pics! Looked like an awesome trip. I'll definitely have to make my way over there one day.