Part 1: Gemma, Gareth, Mum and Dad
Night Location: Toledo, Spain
Mumisode of the Day: Today was a bad toilet day for Mum. She was forced to use the men's at our lunch restaurant as apparently someone was taking a terrifically long time in the ladies. Later in the day when we were stopped at a petrol station, Mum tried to break in on Gemma and then another lady. Gemma heard a loud, 'Oh, sorry,' and knew it was Mum.
Dawn broke bright and clear: another splendidly blue skied day in Spain. We continue our trend of being the first at breakfast in the morning and the first at dinner in the evening. It is interesting people-watching to see the restaurant slowly fill up.
The big mission of the day was to explore Granada's Alhambra. This is a Moorish fortress with internal palaces situated high up on the hill with the Sierra Nevada mountains behind, glimmering with their snowy caps. It really is a huge complex and given our schedule we knew that we would have to be fairly speedy so as to not miss any of the highlights.
The big ticket item on the list was the 14th century Nasrid Palace of the Lions. Can't imagine what this place would be like in summer as even at the beginning of December we were forced to line up with many other people. The palace itself is just splendid. Chances are, if you've seen a picture of Spain, you may have seen a picture of this place. The intricate architecture and decoration inside is really so beautiful, once again so different to anything that we have seen so far in this trip. Many photos were taken. You emerge from brilliant rooms with key-hole arches into courtyards with fantastic gardens and water features. The most famous of these courtyards is the Court of the Lions. Sadly for us this was being restored during our visit so you could only imagine what it would have looked like. It is nice that someone is taking the time to restore it.
The Alhambra was surrendered to the Christian monarchs of Spain in the 16th century and in stark contrast to the Nasrid palace, Charles V palace is sleek, but almost stark. From here, Gareth and Gemma went to explore the Alcazaba, while Mum and Dad went walking in the gardens. The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra and was the military area of the complex complete with rampart walks and towers. The view from the watch tower was fantastic. You could see down to the town and up to the mountains and across to the other walls. Definitely worth the stairs!
Walking through the gardens with their incredibly slippery stoned paths, Gemma and Gareth caught up with Mum and Dad to explore the summer palace. Once again, structured gardens, courtyards and fountains were abundant. A highlight was the water staircase, where the handrails were water features; running water makes such a fantastic, calming sound. Great place for sheltering from the heat.
Leaving Granada, we set off on our drive to Toledo. Toledo is in a fortunate position, high up on a hill with a river protecting it on three sides. The gorge down to the river is just beautiful. We arrived just on sunset, and the glow of the sky illuminating the rocks and bridges was fantastic. All was going really well up until this point; even Gemma who was preparing for the worst was surprised at how easily the car fitted down the cobbled streets and into a car park almost without effort.
The adventure element increased dramatically, however, when upon reaching the hotel with mound of luggage in tow we were told that Gemma had actually booked the hotel for the night before and a large group had checked in during the day meaning there were no rooms available. A look of horror and shock was exchanged amongst the group but the receptionist was able to find two rooms for us in a hotel across town. Grateful at this point for a room out of the cold, we set off towing the bags. We missed a major turn, followed directions from a random old man and heard Dad utter, "How on earth did we get here?' before at last stumbling into the foyer of the new hotel. Gareth towed his and Mum's backpack, together with Mum's Country Road, for which Mum was extremely grateful. The rocks of the road weren't really designed for trolley bags!
After we had recovered somewhat, we set off into the night through the cobbled streets in search of sustenance. After narrowly missing another tourist trap restaurant complete with pictures and four languages, we were lucky enough to stumble into a fantastic restaurant. Really modern with amazing architecture on the inside encased in an ancient house. The food was equally impressive. Somehow our order managed to be doubled and our drinks appeared twice as did the appetiser. Gareth and Mum were very grateful for the double serve of drinks and the waiter informed us that the restaurant had gone "Loco!"
Tomorrow after exploring more of Toledo, we are heading north to Segovia before returning to Madrid.
Part 2 - Amber and David
Night location: London, England
Today in summary was an epic shopping day! We started on Oxford Street, walked from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch Station and back again, shopping as we went. Standouts were Marks and Spencer and Selfridges, both huge and full of clothes, cosmetics and customers! I bought a new dress, a pair of jeans and a black coat.
From here we walked via New Bond Street (the Champs Elysees of London, but better) to Jermyn Street, the hub of men's fashion. David bought ten business shirts, five ties and a pair of cuff links from two shops!
This evening, Wicked, the musical was on the agenda, so after a quick change (into our new clothes) we caught my first black cab to the show. Without a doubt, the best taxi I have ever been in. Wicked was spectacular. The music was outstanding, with some of the best vocalists we have ever heard, the set was extravagant, and the storyline was innovative. A standing ovation from the entire crowd says it all.
After the three-hour performance, David was fading, so Jamie's Italian could not come fast enough! A tube ride later and a short walk we were ushered to a table for two 15 minutes before last orders. Another excellent Italian meal.
Getting home proved to be more challenging than we had anticipated due to the Underground closing at midnight and there being a distinct lack of available black cabs. After being approached and followed by three rickshaw drivers touting their services, (and being dubious of their sound character and wanting to be home before breakfast), we decided that buses would be our best option. Whilst waiting for a bus I managed to flag down a cab and we lived to tell the story.