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Valencia & Madrid, March/April 2011
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Whilst over in Spain for Spring 2011 we decided to have a city break to Valencia and to Madrid. In late 2010 a new high speed train line was opened between the two cities and we wanted to try it. Madrid is the capital of Spain and Valencia is Spain's third largest city. Barcelona is second!
The entrance to Valencia is, as are most Spanish cities, marked by Puerta, or gates. These are, of course, no longer at the actual city entrance but at the place which, at one time, was the entrance to the city. Our first night there, and we went into the city to see the buildings lit up. This is the Correos, or main post office. And, opposite the Correos, is the Ayuntamiento, or town hall
The following day we went to the new part of the city, the concert hall and Science and Arts centre. Stunning buildings and a pleasant walk around water, fountains and shaded walkways. We didn't have time to go in; walking around the outside was interesting and took all the time we had available.
Whilst we were ogling at the buildings, a group of students were sitting by the side of the lake and soaking up the sun.. The sail-like fin in the distance is actually holding up a dual-carriageway bridge! Dinosaurs still rule in some parts of Valencia, it seems.
So many lakes! Art? or Fun? or both? We took the tourist bus as it was the easiest way to get around and see the city in the limited time we had.
And in the evening we walked around the old town - the evening walk is a tradition in just about every city, town and village in Spain On our last morning we went to sit in the square outside of the Town Hall in the sunshine before making our way to the station. Next day, and we were on the train heading to Madrid. The AVE, as it is called, is Spain's environmentally friendly alternative to internal air flights. Traveling at over 300kph, the airlines simply can't compete.
Plaza Mayor is both a stunning architectural gem and a tourist trap. The buildings have been wonderfully preserved so it's a not-to-be-missed place even if you can't afford a coffee there! And then the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace. Visit on a Wednesday - and entrance is free. Prince Charles and Camilla were visiting when we went so the palace was closed to the public. Adjacent to the Palacio Real is the Almudena Cathedral
And then to the most famous of Madrid's squares or plazas. The Puerta del Sol is literally the heart of Madrid. Here, the clock of the Correos that rings in the New Year for Spain, the Bear and Strawberry Tree (above) which the symbol of Madrid ..... ... and Kilometre Zero just outside the main Post Office (Correos). This is the epicentre of the Spanish road system which you just have to put your toe onto. Why? You just have to! For a country so bathed in sunshine there are a fantastic number of spectacular fountains in Madrid in both the parks, at the side of the road and the centre of large roundabouts.
El Retiro is Madrid's equivalent of London's Hyde Park. It's where the Madrillenos go to walk in the countryside and is so large you can forget you are in the middle of a large city. This is one of the lakes where you can hire rowing boats. And this is the Crystal Palace which is actually an art gallery on the inside Another lake and another fountain. With trees growing in the water.
And terrapins living quite happily there Around the other side of the main lake, we sat to watch the fun as the youths of Madrid tried to show off their prowess at rowing to impress the senoritas. This is Chueca, the square in the gay area of Madrid where there are bars, cafes and restaurants and impromptu performances such as this fire dancer/eater.
Here are a couple of Videos taken on the AVE between Valencia and Madrid. It was the fastest we've ever traveled and still been on land.
Video 1 Video 2
Inside the train View from the window

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