A Travellerspoint blog

September 2009

Just some pictures -2-

other pictures from Aranjuez

sunny 33 °C

On my trip to Aranjuez I made more pictures than the ones I put into the piece of Aranjuez. So here are a couple of those:

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Posted by Herr Bert 15:08 Archived in Spain Tagged photography

Alcalá de Henares

zum Oktoberfest !!! (and the city)

sunny 31 °C

A friend of mine suggested last week to go the Oktoberfest in Alcalá. And my first reaction was just like yours when you read Oktoberfest a few seconds ago. An Oktoberfest in Spain sounds weird, so a must-see for me. As I still hadn't seen the place it was good to also have the possibility to see the town, and than go to have a party. We decided to meet up at 13.00 at the station in Alcalá. To reach Alcalá you can take several trains (cercanias lines C-2 and C-7) and from Atocha it only takes 35 minutes to get there.

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The girlfriend of my friend studied in Alcalá years ago. So she was the guide for the day. Showing us the beautiful Plaza de Cervantas, before heading to the famous University of Alcalá. One of the oldest in the country (although not strictly as the present one was founded in 1977, but the predecessor which moved to Madrid, was founded in 1496. The building is beautiful, and we could only have a short look inside, as the building was closed for a wedding.

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After that we walked to other parts of the center, seeing some beautiful squares, houses and the church (were again a wedding was taking place.) On the roofs of the town, there were a lot of empty nest, which in a few months time will be housed by hundreds of storks. It seems the place is a bit famous for that as well. But you see the same in many towns in Spain.

One of the other things Alcalá is famous for are the huge tapas. Normally you have to do with a slice of bread with a slice of Chorizo, or something like that, but in Alcalá they are serving Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and complete Bocadillas as Tapas. So with two drinks, we also had out lunch. From the bar we walked through the Calle Major, which is special because of the arches of both sides of the street, and also because of the birthplace of Cervantas (the writer of Don Quichote.) On the street we also discovered a beautiful courtyard of an old hospital.

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After a walk which almost took us back to the station, and beyond to the Plaza de Toros, we arrived at the scene of the Oktoberfest. It was held inside the bullfighting ring, making it already a pretty cross-over between Germany and Spain. There were not too many people, but we were arrive early I guess around 16.30, which is way too early for Spanish people. After a look at the menu, my friends went for the 1 litre jar of beer, and as a non-beer drinker I decided on the whisky-coke. But as you also get hungry, and the menu promised German sausages it was not long before we made the trip to the barbecue, for some genuine Thüringer weiss-wurst. a trip we would repeat once more, and declinded later in the evening, as it was too crowded by than.

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The one thing I had feared most was the music. Let's put it this way: German folk music is not my cup of tea. But I was lucky, as the bands turned out to be 'normal rock (and roll) bands. At 22.30 we called it a day, as we needed to take the last train to get home.

Oktoberfest in Alcalá: two thumbs up.

Posted by Herr Bert 14:35 Archived in Spain Tagged food

Aranjuez

one of the many daytrips from Madrid

sunny 32 °C

There are many daytrips from Madrid that one can do. And yes in time I will mention most of them here. Most people will choose for Toledo as the one and only daytrip from Madrid, and it needs to be said that if you only have time for one trip this is the obvious choice. The second choice normally is Segovia, another good choice, and lovely town.

Yesterday (or much longer ago, depending on when you read this) I went to Aranjuez, a town 45 minutes by train away from the Atocha Station. It lies south on the river Tagus. Which in Aranjuez is not much more that a big stream. The main sight in Aranjuez is the Royal Castle.

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I made the same trip a couple of years ago on a visit to Madrid, but back than I went on a monday, meaning that the Palace is closed. And one thing that annoyed me ever since is, that I found a way to delete most of my pictures from that trip. So all the more reason to head back to the town. A colleague of mine tipped my on friday, that the entrance to the palace would free of charge this sunday, as it was a local holiday.

The day started with missing the train at Atocha. I saw it move out of the station when I arrived. I blamed myself as I forgot some stuff at home, making me go back up from the lobby, losing just enough time to miss the train. After half an hour a new chance, and this time I was on my way to Aranjuez.

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I remembered the huge parks near to the palace very well, as I spend a lot of time there 3 years ago. But I was curious about seeing the inside of the palace. In my view a lot of the palaces in Europe look the same from the inside, so I never bothered much to go inside. But as it was for free, why not? I also decided on the audio tour this time, for the palace and the gardens (3,50 spend but in a good way.) The lady at the counter explained my in her best Spanish how to use the guide (what can go wrong with pushing numbers an pushing play, one might wonder), and what was the best way to get around the gardens and where everything was. I didn't understand a word of it and didn't bother really, as it seemed that following the numbers would be a fairly obvious way to go. And that turned out to be true.

But first the palace, after the normal rooms, that every every palace needs to have the first room to make me say wow! was the Arabian Room. Which was decorated as was it a piece of the Alhambra in Granada. The Audioguide told me it was done by the architect who was in charge of the restauration of the Alhambra, on request of the King. Another very nice room was the porcelain room, and room decorated with what seems to be thousands of porcelain figures, all in a chinese theme. The rest of the Palace has the normal rooms you seen in every palace, (King's study, Queen's bedchamber etc etc. ) with the predictable pieces of art. To out you also need to pass the museum of how live was at the Palace. A nice touch was the collection of weddingdresses used by Princesses in recent weddings.

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At around 15.30 it was time to go outside, into the heat and into the parks. As the audioguide suggested to do the Jardin de la Isla first, that's what I did. It has a number of very nice fountains, and it kept me busy for a while. (making pictures.) As this garden is not too huge, I could head over to the Parterre in front of the south end of the palace, and after that to the Jardin del Principe, which are a lot bigger. For me a tree is a tree, but it seems that there is a nice collection of trees in this park. For me they were all green, and grew towards the sky. In other words, biology was never my favourite subject in school. This park is more streched out, while there are still some things to see.

The biggest attraction is the Casa de Labrador, which ever when it can only be visited with a reservation is a nice little palace to see. The little Chinese pond is also very nice.

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After seeing the gardens it was time for the walk back to the palace, to hand in my audioguide. It took nearly half an hour to get back to the Palace. After that I decided to make a little walk into the nearby parts of the town, and stay for a while at a square not far from the palace, which was surrounded with interesting buildings. At the end of the square is the Royal Chappel, where I had a look inside, and was a bit less royal than I had imagined. At least without the many decorations you often see.

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I completed the round around the square, and decided to go back to the palace to enjoy being outside, and to do some people watching. At 19.00 I headed to the trainstation, where the train took me back to Madrid.

All in all Aranjuez can be a nice daytrip, but because of the walking also one that can make you a bit tired.

If you want to know more about the Palace and the gardens (like dates, costs etc, check this article on the TP wikiguide: Aranjuez Cultural Landscape.

Posted by Herr Bert 13:19 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites

Hiking

in Cercedilla

32 °C

The hottest part of the summer is over. It's September and that means perfect weather to go to the mountains. At the moment my favourite spot to go to is Cercedilla. From Madrid Atocha you can buy a cheap ticket to go to Cercedilla by Cercanias (the local Commuter trains.) For around 8 euros you have a return ticket. Trains go on a regular bases to this town that is quite popular. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Madrid-Atocha to arrive to Cercedilla.

There is one slight catch to going to Cercedilla, and that is that you have to walk a bit to get to the starting points of the routes leading in the the Fuenfria Valley. Halfway the town, and the entrance of the Valley, there is a good information kiosk, where you can get a map, with the routes in the area. There are a couple of routes, all signposted with different colours on the trees along the paths.

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The most well-known route is the white route, which is the old Roman Road, which leads to Segovia. If you know Italian roads, just imagine them in 2000 years, and that is indeed the state the Roman Road is in. There are only a couple of pieces where the stones are still more or less on their spot, but on most spots it is just a collection of bigger and smaller stones going up the mountain for a distance of 4 kilometres. The start is steep, the middle is pretty ok, and the last kilometres is really steep again. To walk comfortable it's not the best route to take, but with some imagination you can imagine the old Romans heading from Toledo (Madrid was not founded yet in those days) and Segovia.

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Another beautiful but also busy route takes you to the Miradores. From where you have a great view towards the town, and over the region surrounding it. For me hiking is a great way to get away from the city, and to get some fresh air. For travellers who like to deviate from the beaten track it can be a good daytrip, provided that you have some good shoes with you. (which I think that you need to have as a traveller anyhow.) The only thing for me is, that my right knee always start to give me pains, when going downhill. I guess that all these years of playing volleyball where not that good after all.

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Posted by Herr Bert 15:11 Archived in Spain Tagged foot

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