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A Walking Tour of Spain
We walked a LOT on this trip, from day one. On the way over, at each airport we had to walk as far as possible to make our connections. Facing long, cramped flights, we avoided moving sidewalks and courtesy carts in favor of a little exercise.
In the Metro, we had to change trains four times to get from the airport to the part of Madrid we were staying in - and climbed up and down stairs each time.
When we finally dragged ourselves up onto the cold streets of Madrid on the first morning, we immediately got turned around in the narrow and congested back streets. The schematic map in our book was not good enough, and we walked in circles almost an hour to find our little hotel. This turned out to be a pattern.
In every single city I had reserved a room in a small, old hotel in the oldest part of the city - which was great! We loved every hotel, and they were all right near (walking distance!) to the places we wanted to see. But the streets are winding, narrow, and hard to follow, even with a good map, which we never had in advance of arriving.
We soon learned that the first order of business in a new city was to invest a couple of euros in a detailed street map before trying to find our hotel. The magic formula was por favor, necesito (or tiene usted) un mapa de la ciudad, which, don't forget, must be combined with something along the lines of Donde estamos aqui? And they would show us on the map where we were starting from.
So in each city, we walked from the bus stop or train station to our hotel, and it was always a longer hike than it needed to be because we always got at least a little lost. Then, once we checked in, we ditched our suitcases, and walked all over town to see what it was like. Then we'd walk to dinner and back.
We never once took a cab. We absolutely never take cabs! We are in complete agreement on this point.
We walked to the sights, then walked through them, then walked back, then walked to lunch, then walked some more, then walked to dinner, then walked back. For good measure, now and then we'd climb a tower.
In the weeks before the trip, we walked for miles in the hills around our neighborhood to make sure we were in good enough walking shape. I was glad we did - on the day we saw the Alhambra, counting minor forays in search of food, souvenirs, ice cream cones and postage stamps, we figured we walked nine miles!
In fact, mentally and physically, we slaved at this trip, reading maps with tiny print, trying to understand a new language, getting lost, figuring out how this or that is done, and above all walking, climbing, and walking some more.
But I am not complaining! This is how we like it. We both hate to be led around. We'd really rather get lost and walk too far. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was excellent exercise, and we slept like bricks. We would do it all over exactly the same way.
NOVEMBER 2004: SPAIN
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