John Hadfield

Joined August 2018
  • Day43

    Last day in Barcelona

    November 14, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    When Robyn was here with Carmen and Pete around 7 years ago she went to a shop that sold home and kitchenware, much of which was local content, and she wanted to find it again to buy a few things for home. It was in the travel guide, but not on the web, and when we arrived at the address we found it was no longer there. However nearby was another fantastic archeological museum, El Born CCM, or Centrede Cultura Memoria. El Born was a market, built on an earlier part of the city, dating from the 1600s. The current building was erected in the late 1800s and nearly pulled down in the 1970s and replaced with a library. However, when they started excavations they found a wonderfully preserved section of the earlier town, and good sense prevailed. The building now provides shelter to the diggings which have been well presented to visitors. The funny part of it all was that the remains from around 1700 look quite similar to the Roman ruins of 2000 years ago.

    Before the El Born museum we called in to see the Arc de Triomf, erected to welcome visitors to the 1888 Exhibition. The Arch, and the avenue that led from it down towards the sea was quite something to see. The street lights there were works of art, and the whole thing was very stylish. There were quite a few tourists there of course, and it was here that we decided to do our “tourist shopping” for things to take home.

    Our map showed a huge space called Mercat De La Barcelona and we thought that it might be a market, to make up for what we had not found earlier. While we found the space there was not a proper market there. Instead we found dozens of people trying to sell the usual tacky stuff - sunglasses, handbags, Gucci T-shirts, Rolex watches etc. It is really quite sad to see so many people trying to make a living in such a demoralising way,and we wondered about the social security system in this country. Many of them may well have been illegal immigrants and outside the social security system but we will never know.

    After sitting on the beach for a while, watching a windsurfer and a few peddlers, La Rambla beckoned to Robyn again, this time to see what it was like earlier in the day, and to (perhaps) do a little shopping. We walked along for a while until we came to Mercat St Josef La Boqueria, a huge food market. For produce it outdid Madrid but had less opportunity to eat and drink. Even though it was not quite wine o’clock we stopped for a while and had a local wine, after walking up and down most of the rows. If we were staying in Barcelona again, hopefully for more than three days we would shop there every day and cook at home, using the wonderful local produce.

    Robyn did find a pair of trousers, and a bowel, so shopping is now done and dusted.

    To finish our time in Barcelona we went to a rather nice restaurant just a few blocks away from our apartment. We enjoyed goats cheese with quince and raspberry, caramelised artichoke, oven baked capsicum, and tomato rubbed into toast, followed by dessert. It was such a nice way to end our holiday.
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  • Day42

    Barcelona and Gaudi

    November 13, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Very few visitors would come to Barcelona without trying to see a little of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture, but in reality there is much, much more to see. In our Eyewitness Travel book for Spain there was mention of the Museu d’Historia. It was claimed to contain the most extensive subterranean Roman ruins in the world. This piqued our interest so we found it down a small side street near the main Cathedral.

    What a wonderful museum it was. It was excavated in the mid to late 20th century, underneath parts of the Cathedral and associated buildings, and gives you a truly amazing look at what a Roman village would have looked like. So much of it has been preserved and documented that you can see the public baths, the laundry of a big house, a dye shop, another that made fish sauces and preserved fish, and a winery where wine was made and stored. There were examples of mosaics in situ that were works of art. Remains of murals were there on walls. The sewer system left London in the 1700s for dead, as well as the water supply. The ticket seller said that they see quite a few Australians so it is good to know we are an interested lot.

    Backtracking along Via Laietana we headed off to see one of Gaudi’s masterpieces - CasaMila or “La Pedrera”. It is such an amazing building to look at, once you look behind the flowing lines and see the intricate work necessary to carve the blocks to his design. The ticket price was pure extortion, and as Robyn had already seen this we headed up the road to see the Basilica De La Sagrada Familia.

    Words cannot convey the sheer beauty of this building. That one man could conceptualise it, draft the plans for it, and follow its construction until his death is truly a wonder. Getting in was a challenge but soon we had tickets to enter (on the other side).

    The audio guide was a bit gushy, and sometimes hard to follow, but we generally followed its drift. It is still being built, and plans are to have it completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death. Personally I don’t think they have a ghost’s chance, with many more spires and the biggest one yet to be done.

    The light coming in through the stained glass windows made it seem light and airy, but when you look at the size of the columns that support the existing building and have yet to carry the weight of the biggest tower it is a marvel that it is so light. The height of the ceiling helps and the colour of the materials used also creates a sense of space. It must have been an out of this world experience to have been there with a 700 strong choir for the consecration in 2010. We hope to go there again when we have more time and just sit in awe.

    Dinner was a simple meal prepared back at our apartment. We have been trying not to eat out every night and avoid the weight gain usually associated with a long holiday.

    Photos to come
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  • Day41

    Barcelona

    November 12, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Our hotel in Madrid was only a ten minute walk from Atocha station and we had planned to walk down this morning. Thinking about it though I imagined one of our suitcase wheels breaking, or perhaps the footpath would be crowded with people going to work. It just wasn’t worth the risk so we booked out and at the same time ordered a taxi. There was a 15 minute delay, and then the traffic was so heavy we were hardly moving. This caused a little bit of stress but we made it to the station in plenty of time.

    The AVE only had one stop between Madrid and Barcelona, and cruised at just under 300kph. Now if we had a high speed rail link between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne it would stop half the planes that currently ply those routes. No need for a second airport perhaps?

    Our apartment at CASP 74 is a real find. We were upgraded to a two bedroom apartment and we have heaps of room, but far more importantly it had a washing machine. The FIRST thing we did on arrival was start washing. We have not had anywhere to wash for over a week and were really getting to the bottom of our wardrobes!

    We have been culturally backward these holidays, with no concerts and few museums so we thought we would look something up while here. I found a really good looking concert for Wednesday and we thought we would go and see if we could get tickets. Fronting up at Palau De La Musico we couldn’t see the desired concert, but there was something else on that looked good this evening so we bought tickets.

    Then we headed off to Las Ramblas and walked the length of it twice. It is an interesting place, but it really is overrun with tourist shops and eating places. We will go back tomorrow and have another look, plus some other things nearby.

    Dinner was a simple repast in our apartment before we togged up in our finest (not) and headed to the Palau. It is a magnificent building in every way. How it could have been designed without CAD and then built is almost incomprehensible. The concert was Barcelona Guitar Trio and Dance, and was a tribute to Paço de Lucia. The guitarists were world class, and funny as well, but the dancers ........ they were superb athletes and musicians, helping with the rhythm section by very complex clapping and tapping at times. We are so glad that we saw a little bit of the true Spanish, or is that Catalonian, culture.
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  • Day40

    Mercado De San Miguel

    November 11, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Mercado De San Miguel was just astounding. Robyn said it was a bit like a market she visited in Barcelona some years ago, but I had certainly never seen anything quite like it. The range of food types was huge, and the opportunity to buy or taste things was there for the more adventurous but we still enjoyed it. Mumm champagne jostled with local wines, ugly looking fish were next to a huge display of fruit, sweets and meat cuts (didn’t see any kangaroo) vied with nuts and pastries, and we even saw some “crisps” which appealed to an English lady walking past.

    We tried a few different wines and ended up with a dessert to share. What a lovely day it was.
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  • Day40

    Our last day in Madrid Pt 1

    November 11, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Our plan is to leave Madrid by AVE tomorrow and go to Barcelona. Well, that requires train tickets, and the on-line booking option was not a good one for us, for a variety of reasons - no access to a printer, language, and not having an Apple or Android phone. So, off we went to Atocha railway station, which was only a short walk from our hotel.

    Atocha is a big station, but we soon found an information desk. The response was underwhelming - a shrug and pointed in the direction of the ticket office. There we met with even worse. No English at all, and no offer of help, while one of them was doing a Find-a-Word. Fortunately a young couple with Spanish were also able to speak English and they had a dismal response too, but at least they were told to go to another area. We followed them and we ended up in the AVE ticket and information area where it was not quite bedlam, but very disorganised. Due to some troubles AVE tickets were not able to be booked at a booth, and certain lines HAD to be booked at certain ticket offices. Even Spanish speaking people were having problems!

    Nevertheless we ended up with a very helpful lady who was able to help us register for a Seniors Card and then book us tickets for tomorrow. The 40% saving off the ticket price was much, much more than the price of the Seniors Card, so we did well there.

    We backtracked and started following the Red Bus route as per yesterday. One of our goals was to go up to the top of the Branco de España building at Calla Alcala. It was 4 Euro to take the lift up, or for another Euro you could go to the current exhibition. We had no idea what the exhibition was, but why not? The view from the rooftop was great, and gave us good photo opportunities of several icons that were difficult to film from street level. The coffee though was way overpriced.

    Nearly every day we come across a gem, and today it was the exhibition. It was all about record covers (remember them?) and concert posters, starting around 1963. All the big bands from that era, and the individuals such as Joni Mitchell, were there, with a strong contingent from Europe too. It was a stroll down memory lane in so many ways.

    One of my goals was to see the Templo De Debod, a reconstructed Egyptian temple from the area now covered by the Aswan Dam. Before the dam flooded important historical monuments they were dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere (I am a bit hazy about the details) and because Spain helped they were given a temple. Just awesome to look at something in the middle of a park in Madrid that was built in Egypt over two thousand years ago. Unfortunately it was closed to the public but we still admired it.

    A long stroll down to the Cathedral was next. This amazing structure is the result of both religious and secular funding, and was only consecrated in June 1993 by Pope John Paul II. It had been started well over a century ago, and the history of the statue associated with it, Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena, is extraordinary. Well worth a visit, even if they don’t have real candles to light.

    By this time it was getting late so we went back to our hotel, showered and changed, and headed out for dinner. Not far from Puerta Del Sol we turned down a side street and stumbled upon a tapas bar that just appealed to us. We sat outside and had a lovely dinner. People are the most important thing when travelling, in our opinion, and we struck up a conversation with a young couple from Panama who had a friend currently living in Australia. A photo of a kangaroo was pulled up on her phone, and we had a great chat about travel.

    Earlier in the day we had found food market, Mercado De San Miguel and after dinner we headed there again. That warranted a second posting for the day!
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  • Day39

    Madrid - a beautiful city

    November 10, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    Our plan for the day was to catch a Red Bus early on and go around both of the routes on offer. One route concentrates more on the old part of Madrid while the other goes a bit further afield.

    Now that we are of a certain age it is remarkable how much you can save when buying tickets. Our one day pass was 10 Euro each, a veritable bargain. We lined up and bought our tickets and waited for a bus. Unfortunately the place is full of tourists at the moment so it took us a while to get on a bus. The audio was not so good on the first route, and it was quite cold up the top, although it didn’t really rain. However the second one was much better and we gained a better understanding of the places and buildings we went past. In fact it was so interesting that when we had finished we went and walked nearly half of the second route, just so we could get better photos and have a better look.

    We had not realised just how beautiful Madrid is. Lonely Planet can give you an idea I suppose, but it isn’t until you walk the streets and see the workmanship, the design, the beauty of everyday buildings, that you gain a true appreciation of the city. We particularly enjoyed walking through the Real Jardin Botanico. It is such a beautiful, peaceful place and obviously absolutely full of plants of all kinds. We even found a good old Australian eucalypt there.

    Sunset beat us in the end however, so we headed back to our hotel, looking all the while for a suitable place to have dinner. Back at the hotel we still had not found anything that really took our fancy so we walked a little bit past it, down off the main road, and there we found a nice looking place with an interesting menu.

    An hour later we were back, refreshed and ready for dinner. We walked straight in to the last table for two inside (it was starting to drizzle) and within minutes had placed our order. The food was fresh and hot and the service excellent. We weren’t too adventurous, trying just a couple of tapas and then a paella.

    The hotel has a lounge area next to the restaurant, and there is a bar there as well. However, they don’t do evening meals, and if you want something from the bar you have to ring reception. I understand that most people just want to be out and about, so there is not much use manning the bar for perhaps a couple of people. That gave us a nice quiet place to drink our wine, read, check and send emails, and for updating this blog.
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  • Day38

    Off to Madrid

    November 9, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    As for dinner last night we were the only guests for breakfast. There was enough food there for a dozen people so we had to do our best to make it worthwhile for Theresa.

    Jorge picked us up just before 9.30am and we headed off to the railway station at Segovia. He told us quite a bit about his family, all musicians, and also the company. As I mentioned earlier we were the last of the walkers for 2018! His car showed that it was 2.5 degrees outside and we ran into quite a bit of fog on the way. Nevertheless it was an uneventful trip to the station and we arrived in plenty of time to catch the 10.12 train to Madrid.

    Such an early start meant that we were very early to our hotel, Hotel Cortezo, just a few minutes away from Plaza Mayor, or the centre of old Madrid, at around 11.30am. Our taxi driver spoke virtually no English (fair enough) so it was a fairly quiet trip.

    Arriving at the hotel we fronted the desk, hoping that at least we could leave our luggage there until a room became available, but luck was with us, as usual, and there was one ready. Off we went, up the lift, went to our room, and found it was a twin room. Oh well, better that than having to worry about finding another one, or leaving our luggage there.

    Being so early meant that we had virtually three days in Madrid, a real bonus. Being so close to Plaza Mayor we headed there, but it seemed that half of Madrid had the same idea. As we got closer we could hear singing, and I don’t mean rock and roll. It turned out that we arrived on the day of the patronage festival of St. Xxxx The patron of Madrid. The Plaza was packed and the Archbishop was in the middle of saying Mass. There was no room so we headed back towards our hotel area. Puerta Del Sol seemed a pretty good place to go, so we walked there, not far, and had a look around. The place was infested with shoe shops, and as Robyn has wanted to buy a new set of boots we started looking. Two shops later she found a lovely pair, in her size, so this was a great relief to me. Not only were they made in Spain, but we found them quickly and that meant that there was no more shoe shopping to be done!

    We stopped for a coffee in Puerta Del Sol and then went back to Plaza Mayor where things seemed to have quietened down. Actually they had all made their way to the Cathedral, so we followed. We found the bells ringing (or is that clanging) seriously as the procession made its way towards the entrance to the Cathedral. We settled ourselves into a position near the entrance and watched as the procession made its way, led by the local brass band to the big ramp into the Cathedral. It was an amazing experience being surrounded by thousands of locals, many of whom were obviously quite religious, as they performed their annual ritual.

    When it was over we went for a long walk to get the feel of the place, and picked up information about the Madrid Red Bus tours. We will definitely do this tour tomorrow, being resent converts to this activity.

    During the afternoon we had been looking at restaurants in the local area, focusing on tapas. Pete said a few days ago that one of his regrets is that he never had time in Madrid, the tapas capital of the world. Well, we are trying to make up for that, and we found a nice place about a hundred metres down the road. It was an experience, although a bit touristy, but we enjoyed it immensely.
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  • Day37

    Pradena to Gallegos

    November 8, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 2 °C

    Day three of our Segovia walking tour, and it isn’t raining! Jamie, the owner of Senderos y Pueblos, picked us up from our hotel right on 9.30am. It seems that his company has a policy of being on time.

    During the drive to Prádena he told us about his company and how it was started. It was an interesting story, and he is obviously passionate about the environment. He trained as a biologist in Edinburgh and took to the wild parts of northern Scotland. After marrying a local lady and having a couple of children he persuaded her to move to Spain, his home country, to commence a business that has now grown, after 12 years, into a successful operation. It runs walking, cycling, donkey and family tours, and only operates around the region of Segovia.

    Anyway, as planned, he dropped us off at the edge of Prádena and pointed us south. I am fairly sure he thought that we were underprepared, with only two small backpacks, but wished us well.

    It was very cold and windy to start with, so we were rugged up. The rain help off all day and in fact it was almost sunny when we finished. We were following the foothills, so there was a bit of ascending and descending, but we were on a pretty straight run. At one stage we were heading uphill towards the spoils of a former mining site and the wind was so strong that it almost blew Robyn backwards! Thereafter it settled down a little, to just strong. Whenever we crested a hill, or had a paddock on our left that was unprotected the wind picked up. We watched the clouds whip over the mountains towards us, but never quite reaching us.

    The track was actually quite easy, and following our notes, and GPS on occasions, meant that we were never in trouble. The highest part of the path was around 1310m, and it was 15.8kms in total. We felt pleased with our achievement, and it was nice to end up ringing the bell at our hotel, Posada De Gallegos, the best and only hotel in Gallegos.

    Posada De Gallegos is a very nicely restored house, well set up as a guest house, They have obviously spent a great deal of time, thought and money into making it a very comfortable place. The sitting room and dining room were well set up, and our room was quite comfortable, with UNDERFLOOR heating! They also had a lift, ensuring that mobility challenged people can enjoy their hospitality. The only question we have is how, out in the sticks, they attract enough custom to make it worthwhile.

    After settling in and generally finding our way around we left and took a stroll around the village. There are some quite nicely restored places, and some new ones, of course, it it is not a bustling metropolis. We found two bars, which was the point of our strolling, and there ordered a coffee and a beer. They had absolutely no English and we ended up with two coffees, one short and strong and the other with more milk. This made sense when you consider how Robyn tried to order her coffee, but where my beer went is anybody’s guess. It was soon sorted out, with more hot milk to weaken Robyn’s strong coffee and a nice cold beer.

    We were the only guests at the hotel this evening. Later we found out that we were the last walkers for the season for Senderos y Pueblos. They advertise walking trips up to the end of October but when I enquirer about early November they replied that would be fine. Nobody else bothered it would seem, and given the weather, fair enough!

    This left us in the peculiar situation of having the restaurant to ourselves. They were very friendly, with, I think, Theresa’s husband being the front of house while she ran the kitchen. What do you order when they provide you with a Menu of the Day plus an a la carte option? It was not a difficult decision to take the Menu of the Day, because the two options for the entree and main gave us enough choice. Robyn had a very nice creamy zucchini and bacon soup, while I had a salad with walnuts and goats cheese. For the main we both chose the roast Piglet and potato, and desert was no option but very nice. The local Verdejo was again very drinkable and we finished our second bottle in front of the fire in the sitting room.
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  • Day36

    El Chorro Waterfalls

    November 7, 2018 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 3 °C

    We had been expecting rain today as it had been forecast, but why did it have to rain up until we finished our walk?

    Today’s goal was to do a circular walk up to El Chorro Waterfall, a 10km trip. There was some pretty hard climbing as we approached the bottom of the falls, and in the rain and mist we took what was a pretty silly decision to press on. After a while, about 350m into the final 550m we actually became lost, not a nice situation. Robyn slipped on a huge granite builder and thought she was going to slide a long way down, and the GPS was not lighting up the screen enough to see clearly. We backtracked, found our place, and headed up again. This time we were successful, but. ..... the fog or misty rain was too thick to really see the falls. We did however see the remnants of the snow fall from last weekend, so it was pretty cold.

    The trip back was okay, but the mist made it impossible to see the views over the town and the Palace and Gardens. This was a great pity because it was easy to imagine how good the view would have been on a fine day. Part of our track took us along two walls of the Palace estate. We were amazed at just how big the estate was, being approximately 1km square. That’s a lot of garden and forest to enjoy.

    As Hotel Roma is not opening the restaurant at this time of year, except on weekends, we were once again forced to look elsewhere. However, before that we enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and a game of Scrabble in the bar of the hotel, where we enjoyed the company and interest of the barman /concierge / owner(?). He was very helpful with advice, we enjoyed discussing such things as speed limits and police cars, cycling and the weather. He suggested three different restaurants for us to consider.

    The first one was closed, the second one was not doing meals that night, the third one was not yet ready for dinner, and we were hungry. Any port in a storm, and it just so happened that there was a pizzeria ready, willing and able to help us. It wasn’t too bad, and it was nice being in a place frequented by the locals.

    To finish the night we had more wine back at the Hotel Roma bar, this time sitting in front of the fire. The barman had nobody else to look after at that time, so we talked a little more. He is in the middle of reading a book by Catherine McCulloch, and was quite knowledgeable about her writings. You just never know where a little bit of Australia is going to pop up.
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