Pete Cairns

Joined January 2017
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  • Day43

    Toledo - Saturday

    February 18, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Toledo for the weekend. Left home early (for Spain, so just after 9) and headed south. Madrid has a very complex highway system. But we figured it out with the help of Apple maps and general guess work. The route we needed to take to Toledo wasn't the one sign posted for Toledo. Somewhat confusing until you realize there are three highways going from Madrid to Toledo. That would be like 3 highways going from Joburg to Springs. Useful but not very sensible.

    Arriving in the old town we parked up next to the Alacazar (fancy name for castle) and bundled everyone out the car. Parking in these small towns is not cheap and you don't get very much space for your money. In fact you leave your keys with the car park attendant so he can move your car around to get others in and out.

    From the car park we headed West-is and downhill to the Plaza Mayor (not very impressive) and the then to the cathedral where we got into the he free part (a tiny little corner that holds the confession section) but you get to see about as much of an old cathedral that you need to, so that was value for money.

    Out the cathedral and round the corner we came upon the other side of the cathedral. This is what would normally be the main entrance with a square and a large party for kids with cancer. Kirsten got two balloons out of it so she was happy. Round the corner again, past an old lady with a dog three times her size that tried to eat another dog next to Kirsten (not the best moment of the day) and we were back at the Plaza Mayor. Sigh. But just goes to show if you keep turning left you'll probably end up where you started.

    By now it was lunch time and we traced out steps back tot he Alcazar to a little bar in a closed off courtyard. Taryn said her food was good. I disagreed. Kirsten had fun with a little Spanish boy so in the end all was good.

    By now it was time to head off to our abode for the night which was in the newer part of town. A few arguments about direction giving and taking and we made it to the abode. Nice flat and everyone had a nap. Some (Kirsten) for longer than others (Nathan and parents by association).
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  • Day28

    Jardines del campo del moro

    February 3, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Had Friday off and the weather has been miserable so took a trip with Kirsten and Gaga to the palace gardens (hoping it wouldn't rain on us). It took over an hour to convince Kirsten to leave the mall and go outside. It should be noted this had nothing to do with shopping and everything to do with tigger.

    Gardens were pretty and well maintained. There are rose beds all the way up to the fountain which I suspect are very impressive in spring but not so amazing in winter.
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  • Day22

    Segovia

    January 28, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 3 °C

    Segovia is awesome. It's an old town built on the edge of a cliff. I'm told Toledo is more awesome, we will go and find out.

    It's got an old Roman aqueduct that still works and is very impressive. We unfortunately only got to see it from the car window, but I guess thats how it is with kids.

    We got there on Saturday lunchtime (normal lunchtime not Spanish lunchtime) and looked for somewhere to park the car. Eventually found a spot that you had to park underground through the use of a lift system. Similar to the car parks in New York except those are up and this was down. By the time we'd parked and got everyone sorted out it was Spanish lunchtime and we hadn't booked anywhere. That meant that in a town renown for its grilled baby lamb and roast suckling pig we had Italian pizza just off the main square (Plaza Mayor - every town has one). Once we'd had lunch we headed to our Airbnb which was in the new town across the river.

    A lovely place run by Chelo (who lives downstairs with her daughter and grandson - there could have been more people but we never met them and asking was impossible as they didn't speak English (the grandson couldn't speak at all, he was 20 months old) and we don't really speak Spanish. That afternoon, post naps was spent exploring the little place we were staying and finding the bar for a glass of wine and the obligatory snacks that come with the drinks.

    Next morning we packed up and headed into town. This time parking in the large parkade that was supposedly under the cathedral but when we had to walk to the cathedral we realists it wasn't.

    From the cathedral which was your standard gothic building (apparently there's more to cathedrals than this but I'm not sure what they are) we headed to the alcazar (aka castle, aka princess castle) which word on the street suggest Walt Disney used to model his castle on. I'm not sure what Walt Disney was doing in Segovia but one look at the castle and you realize it could be true. The castle is now a museum and used to be a military barracks at some point. Knowing Spanish history would help me in explaining some of this but it has a lot to do with the nationalists nationalizing everything (or something like that).

    Anyway, after the castle we strolled back to the Plaza and had a coffee and watched most of the last set of the Australian Open final. We missed the last bit but Roger won. From there there was a real need for lunch and based on the chaos that was the previous days lunch we thought the solution would be to go back to the bar we had drinks at the night before as this was out of town and there was a restaurant next door. Well, sort of fail. The bar was packed and the restaurant was super expensive. I think it would have been delightful if one child wasn't screaming and the other climbing over everything because they were exhausted. So after one course (everyone thought we were odd) we bundled everyone into the car and headed home.

    Unfortunately the final chapter of the weekend was in relation to returning the car to Atocha station. It is a long chapter that, like Haper Lee's compendium shall remain unwritten.
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  • Day22

    Snow!!!

    January 28, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    Went to Segovia for the weekend and traveled through Puerto Navacerrada. There was lots of snow and I thought we were going to die in what I would term a blizzard but the rest of Europe would probably call a light breeze with a little bit of sleet.

    On the way up to Navacerrada people were parking everywhere along the road but due to the mist/crazy blizzard there didn't seem to be much sense in getting out the car and dying of exposure less than 50km from Madrid. As such we pushed on through and went down the other side of the mountain. Well the snow was whiter, quieter and overall a lot more pleasant.

    We found a nice little car park and headed into a restricted permit only area (this being Europe everyone else followed the rules and we were quite alone). Had great fun and even made a semblance of a snow man. It was however freezing cold and we made our way back to the warmth of the car quite happily.
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  • Day21

    Took the train to get a car

    January 27, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 6 °C

    Plans for the weekend are to head out to Segovia and spend Saturday night in the area. Only problem is that there is no other way to get to Sergovia other than drive. But to drive you need a car and to get a car you need to pick one up.

    I asked the secretary to assist in the renting of the car part and she was most helpful in getting Hertz to call me and set it all up. Only problem was that the car needed to be collected at Atocha train station (the main station in Madrid) on Friday afternoon. This meant I needed to get to the station and drive the car back to Las Tablas in Friday afternoon traffic. A task made all the more exciting by rain all day on Friday.

    Anyway, I figured that the best way to get to the station was to take the train (proof that they don't give away PhDs). The train journey was extremely painless. Trains are regular, clean and all announcements in Spanish and English.

    What was of interest though was that while people on trains are much like people on trains everywhere those that were reading books all had these massive hardbacks. No small in the back pocket story books for the Spanish but massive tome's recording the history of the world or some other not so light reading. I guess kindle hasn't gone Spanish just yet....
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  • Day18

    Sunset in the park

    January 24, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    So there's a park every 6 meters in Las Tablas and that's very exciting if you're 2. What is also cool is when you go to the park late in the evening and the freezing weather is made better by an awesome sunset.

  • Day16

    We went to Madrid to see the king

    January 22, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    But he didn't invite us to tea....

    Today's plan was a trip into the city to do a walk around the old parts of the city. Unfortunately a late start caused by the standard vomit from Nathan and the not so standard vomit from dad meant we only got into town around 11 (late for us, early for Madrid). As fate would have it we also left the map of where we wanted to walk behind. So we just winged it.

    The taxi dropped us off just outside the palace and the first thing we saw was a missive carousel that had two floors and went around to Coldplay. Obviously Kirsten had to go on. Somehow she got on without a ticket and almost made it to the top floor before mom caught up with her. Three Euros later and Kirsten was a legal occupant of the carousel and the happiest kid on the ride. I know this because none of the other kids shouted "hello daddy" while waving vigorously every time they did a loop.

    From the carousel we passed the main entrance to the palace and investigated the small Plaza de Oriente. As the plaza has a statue of a horse and a fountain we were here for quite a while. I did notice that there was ice in the ground at 11:30 and decided that this was my limit for winter experiences. We've been watching some winter sports taking place in Winterburg on TV and it looks absolutely appocolyptic (a frozen over hell is a worse scenario if you ask me).

    From the Plaza, we made our way back to the square and down to the cathedral. It was big and looked suitably old. To prove they were proper Catholics they even had a service that started at 12 on the dot. Kirsten didn't appreciate the organ and decided we should leave so someone else could listen to it.

    Further down for the cathedral were the old Arab walls of the 9th century fortress (not really visible from the road) and a viaduct giving great views to the west of Madrid. By then however Kirsten was hungry, Nathan was hungry, mom was hungry and dad was hungry. So up Calle Mayor we went to find somewhere to eat. First decent spot was just outside Plaza Mayor where a lunch of beer, eggs, potatoes and bacon just made sense. Well, for me anyway.

    By then it was time to go and after avoiding a protest march against Coca-Cola we caught a taxi and headed home. All in all another fun day exploring.
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  • Day15

    Lunch at Lago de la Casa de Campo

    January 21, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    Based on last nights fail of a meal we were somewhat hesitant to sit down to another meal in Spain. Ever.

    But as the trip around the park and the lake had taken us (and especially Nathan) well into lunchtime we needed to settle somewhere. The first spot we tried had lost of people sitting outside post park run or cycle drinking beer. However when we went inside and asked for a table we were politely told that tables were only for eating and lunch would only be served from 13:30.

    This really got us worried that once again our timing was out and we were too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. The next stop put paid to these worries.

    We sat down at a sunny table outside and the waiter immediately came up and asked what we'd like to drink. We asked him if he had a menu (in english) and from there the awesome fun started. He brought us a menu and told us that we should have the 3/4 kg grilled meat, which came with chips and deep fried peppers and if we wanted a salad. We agreed with this brilliant plan of his and also ordered 2 beers.

    Well, the beers came with a small plate and a mound of paella (chicken, pork and prawns), then the small mixed salad turned out to be a massive Niçoise salad and the small bread we ordered for Kirsten four loaves (so under he prescribed amount of loaves and fishes but only just).

    And then. The grill. I anticipated a mixed grill of sorts where it was all cooked and we just had to eat. Oh how happily wrong I was. We were brought a small braai that I was thought how to use in Spanish. All I really understood was 'rub the grill with the massive piece of fat and don't put any of the mass of salt I've given you on the uncooked meat'.

    Wow. What a meal. I think we may never have to eat again. And best of all? It was 5 cents cheaper than the mess of a meal we had last night. Wins all round.
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