Hola, España!

by Gray Cargill on May 24, 2011

The Crystal Palace, Madrid

The Crystal Palace, Madrid

I almost titled this post “Cantankerous Spanish Train Websites, Political Protests, and Volcanic Ashclouds, Oh My!” But I knew if anyone reads my blog posts aloud, they’d suffocate from lack of oxygen over that one. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

This week, my spring vacation kicks off as I jet off from what has been an unusually wet and rainy spring in Vermont to warm and sunny Spain at the beginning of their summer tourist season. In other words, my “t minus” is at the point where my stomach is doing somersaults in a nervous and excited state. This has been one of my more interesting trips already, and it hasn’t even started yet. How interesting?

  • As soon as I booked my flight to Madrid back in March, I learned there would be possible airline strikes in Spain. No worries, though, as the Spanish publish the dates they plan to strike ahead of time so people can plan ahead. Considerate of them, eh? The dates did not coincide with my travel. Yay!
  • When I tried to book my ticket for the AVE (high speed train) between Madrid and Barcelona at the RENFE website, it refused to accept my lowly American credit card. I followed the instructions I found at TripAdvisor religiously, and even called my credit card company to make sure they let the purchase go through. Still, nada. (Luckily, TripAdvisor recommended a Plan B of booking via travel agency Petrabax. Worked like a charm.)
  • Last week, I learned about the massive political protest practically on the doorstep of one of my hotels, with thousands gathering during the day and hundreds camping out at night. It should be very interesting to be there while this is going on. . . .
  • If my flight isn’t canceled, that is. I awoke this week to news that one of Iceland’s volcanoes is spewing ash again. Right now, experts don’t think it will make it as far as Spain. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Fun times.

Assuming all goes as planned, I’ll be exploring two different cities, Madrid and Barcelona. I had a hard time choosing where to go in Spain, as I heard so many wonderful things about other places like Sevilla and Grenada and Sitges, but I only have a week. At least I’ll get to see some of the Spanish countryside as I zoom past at 186 mph.

I will be bringing my netbook on this trip, so hopefully will be able to upload a few photos while there, but I’ll save the big posts for my return. What kind of content can you expect to come out of this trip? Don’t expect any articles detailing all the gory details of a bullfight, because that’s one cultural offering I don’t plan to partake of. Nor will I have an opportunity to see a live soccer (excuse me, “football”) game.

You can probably expect some posts about Spanish cuisine; all the usual suspects are on my list, such as tapas, churros con chocolate, and the sampling of regional Spanish beers and wines. I’m just guessing here, but you may see something about fashion faux pas (mine) and my success (or lack thereof) with the Spanish language. Perhaps I’ll even have some stories to tell of matching wits with Spanish pickpockets.  No doubt I’ll have plenty to say on the subject of traveling solo in Spain, and I hope I come home with thousands of gorgeous photos to share. Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter as well as this blog for updates.

Photo credit: dalbera

Gray Cargill June 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I had a great time, Christine! (That was last month.) I had some great ensalada mixtas, but they had tuna in them, so if you don’t eat tuna either, that could be a problem. I have to say, I preferred Barcelona over Madrid, too.

GRRRL TRAVELER June 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Ah, muy bien– have fun with your itinerary! Madrid wasn’t my favorite city, largely due to the fact I’m veggie & pork shops were everywhere. I couldn’t find a normal salad to save my life. Also, I didn’t find much to see. =-( But that’s me & I’m always trodding around on foot. If you do get bored, you might want to try taking a couple of day trips from Madrid. I went to two Spanish towns– the names escape me (not cause they weren’t memorable, but I have bad memory w/ names); they were only a couple of hours via train outside Madrid and they gave me a unique variety of landscape and cultural beauty.

Barcelona was glorious. Much more cosmopolitan and artsy and you’ll find a lot to do and see!

Gray June 3, 2011 at 10:23 am

Sabina, Alouise, Clara – Thanks so much for your well-wishes. I had a terrific time in Spain. It wasn’t always easy, it had its occasional challenges, but what a beautiful country! I enjoyed my time there very much.

Clara June 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

I hope you’re having a great time in Spain! Madrid and Barcelona are both great cities!

Alouise May 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Spain always sounds like such a lovely country. I can’t wait to hear the stories from your trip. I’m sure everything will go off with out a hitch, but I’ll cross my fingers and knock on wood just in case.

Sabina May 25, 2011 at 11:36 pm

This trip sounds delicious. I’ve never been to Spain, but I can see myself going there. I hope none of the possible troubles pan out for you, Gray. I’m looking forward to reading all about this.

Gray Cargill May 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Thanks so much, Simon! Headed over there to read your posts right now….

Gray May 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

@Kent – And I’m looking forward to eating the food, so it’s a win-win! 🙂
@Frances – Thank you so much, Frances. I will guard my camera with my life.

Frances May 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I think food is the best part of travel! Good luck and have fun on your trip, I can’t wait until you post those lovely pictures!

Simon May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I keep my fingers crossed that you’ll be able to visit Spain. It’s such an amazing country! And I am totally in love with Barcelona. If you missed it, maybe you’ll find interesting a few posts i wrote on Barcelona… http://www.wild-about-travel.com/tag/barcelona

I look forward to read about your impressions!

Kent @NVR Guys May 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm

We look forward to posts on the food 🙂 We loved both places. Enjoy!

Gray May 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Thanks, Ann. I think so, too. 🙂

Ann May 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Spain is one of my favorite countries! I think you will have an amazing time. I once spent a whole day at the Sevilla airport waiting on a flight to Paris (but that was due to a strike in France).

Gray May 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

@Erin – No! Really? I am really sorry to hear that. Thanks very much for the kind offer. I’ll keep it in mind.
@Deborah – Okay, I’ll be your guinea pig. 🙂
@Barbara – Thanks very much, but you have the wrong solo traveler. I’m Gray. Janice is over at the SoloTravelerblog.com. Don’t sweat it, people get us mixed up all the time. And again, I’m happy to be your guinea pig. 🙂

Barbara May 24, 2011 at 10:52 am

Hi Janice,
Lucky you! I am looking forawrd to july when I will be in Spain, too. I will be in Alicante to learn Spanish. Part of my stay will include visits to Madrid and to Barcelona so I am looking forward to reading what you have to say. Keep on enjoying yourself,
Barbara

Deborah May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

I’m very interested in how your trip goes, since I want to go to the same two cities within the next year. Enjoy!

Erin May 24, 2011 at 8:19 am

If only they always told you when they are planning a strike here! In December I was sitting on my plane at the Madrid airport, seatbelt buckled, and ready to head to the Canary Islands, when they told us to disembark because Air Traffic Control had decided to go on strike. Surprise! No Canary Islands for us, and no travel for thousands of unsuspecting Spaniards. Grrr.

If you need anything while in Madrid – tips, help or otherwise – don’t hesitate to give me a shout!

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