Part 1: Gemma, Gareth, Mum and Dad
Night Location: Madrid, Spain
Mumisode of the Day: Mum and Dad visited the Museo del Prado in Madrid this afternoon. Dad can attest to today's Mumisode. For a long time Mum has used the phrase (picked up from an aunt), "He's no oil painting himself," to describe someone that is less than attractive. While viewing a portrait of Philip IV in the gallery, she turned to Dad and said "Well, he's no oil painting." Then realising what she had said, she laughed and exclaimed, "Oh, but he is!" Mum and Dad both found this very amusing.
Having explored Segovia yesterday afternoon, we made a quick getaway this morning for our last day in the car. Gemma had a truly blonde moment in the car and thought she had misplaced her phone. After emptying the contents of her bag, rummaging, and wondering if it had been left behind in the hotel, she realised that it was connected to the car stereo as the iPod. Not clever!
Although we have seen quite a few monasteries during this adventure, the allure of seeing the burial place of over 500 years of Spanish kings was too good to pass up. The monastery did not disappoint. Walking up to the immense structure, Gareth commented that we could be here for a while and he really was spot on.
El Escorial is the Spanish version of the Vatican. So much of the country's religious art is on display here. It was fascinating to see the king's rooms built right next to the high altar of the basilica. From the king's bed you could get a view of the high altar as well as the garden. Not bad for inspiration!
The pantheon for the kings was really something special. You descend a huge flight of stairs to find yourself in this round purple marble room surrounded by black sarcophagi with gold inscriptions. Here lie the kings of Spain together with the queens who have borne sons to become kings. From this room there are about nine other rooms with many other members of the royal family including a huge crypt with the remains of 60 children who died before they reached puberty. A real highlight of the visit was the library, complete with ancient books, and shelves and a fantastic globe of Ptolemy.
Driving into Madrid was quite the challenge. Mum commented that the Navman roads looked just like spaghetti. Claude had great difficulty instructing us where to go as he had no idea where we were while in the maze of tunnels. Dad decided to make a hasty exit and try and get back on track overland. Everyone breathed a great sigh of relief when we located our hotel, dropped off the bags and emptied the car. The hotel is very nice but a bit strange as we are in a separate building that is connected via a tunnel. You have to make a quick run in the freezing air into the next building. Fantastic showers here again: an entire room for the rainforest shower and spa bath enclosed in clear glass with mirrors.
Everyone piled into the car for the final journey to Atocha station across the street to return the car. Thinking this would be a simple trip we were quite surprised when we couldn't locate the point to return the vehicle. Gareth and Gemma walked through the maze of the station and eventually found the Europcar desk. The entrance to the car park drop off was marked with a tiny sign and the final challenge of the drive was to fit the massive car through the boom gate. We wondered how many hire cars had suffered damage at this point.
As it was by this time 3 pm we decided to have lunch in the railway station. Not much vegetarian here. Potato omelette baguette didn't sound overly exciting so Gemma, Gareth and Mum ordered a Margherita pizza. We were quite shocked when our pizzas came out covered in ham! How is that Margherita?
In the afternoon, Mum and Dad visited the Museo del Prado to see some of the greats that Mum had studied in school. Gemma and Gareth went on a long walk into the city centre. Saw the Puerta del Sol and visited a department store. The masses of people everywhere were incredible. There must be a fantastic lotto happening in Spain this weekend as the lines out the door of the lottery agent stretched across the square. Gareth thinks this is training for the Oxford Street shopping experience on Boxing Day in London.
After a long siesta, Dad led us to a fantastic vegetarian restaurant to make up for our terrible experience at lunch. Even though we went in at nine, we were still the first in the restaurant. Still baffled by the late dinners in this country!
Part 2 - Amber and David
Night Location: Zurich, Switzerland
A lazy start to the day which was nice given yesterday's experience. After leaving the hotel, we purchased an all day travel pass and boarded the Number 11 tram into the main part of town. First impressions were very positive given we walked through many quiet streets filled with interesting shops and boutiques. As advised by the hotel manager we found the biggest clock face in Europe on the side of the St Peterskirche tower. The hotel manager compared it to Big Ben in London and while Big Ben is a much grander tower, the clock itself is smaller than this one. The 13th century tower displays the clock face that is 8.7m in diameter and was indeed very impressive.
At this point, David was fading so we needed to find food quickly! We saw 'Pic Nic' and made a beeline for it. Inside was a variety of buffet style meals serving anything from sandwiches and wraps to hot lasagna. Upon arrival we noticed with surprise and joy that directly opposite this café was 'Laduree', our favourite macaron shop! Naturally, we headed in and purchased some delights immediately after lunch to be eaten back in the hotel.
Since David had been revived, we decided to walk down the remainder of the main street towards the lake. It was on this walk that David spotted 'Sprungli, a chocolate and coffee café. After waiting for a table we ordered two hot chocolates and two chocolate mousse desserts. Everything was delicious, however I think we both went into chocolate overload, as we couldn't even consider purchasing chocolate from the shop downstairs.
Feeling a little sick we pressed on to the lake. Today was quite a clear day so we could see the Swiss Alps with their snow-capped peaks in the distance on the other side of the lake. After a few photos we boarded the Number 11 tram and returned to the hotel where we watched the sun set over the Alps from the heated roof top spa and pool.