Palacio RealNicole DeLory

By Nicole DeLory

My globetrotting cousin and I were off to Spain! A flight from Halifax to Madrid, I learned, is long and arduous. I just wanted to sleep when I got to the hostel, but I knew I was in Spain, sleeping was for after the trip.

Leaving the hostel we walked to the Palacio Real. That was very impressive. You could go into most of the rooms, including the grand dining and dancing hall. I made my cousin spin me around to say I had danced where Royals had danced! We also explored the Plaza Mayor; it is a large centrally located building with a huge courtyard in the middle. There are lots of restaurants, buskers, and life, worth a visit. For the evening, I had arranged through my friend who knew someone in Germany, who knew someone in Madrid that would take us out on the town that evening. Both my cousin and I hoped our local guide would be dark and handsome with Spanish charm. He was! We spent the evening vying for his attention. Antonio was a gracious host and took us out for tapas, a true Spanish experience. We went to what looks liked a farmer’s market, but each booth was a mini restaurant designed for patrons to choose a small drink and a small bit of food. One had olives and sardines, one had bread and fancy cheeses, another had a nacho like item, and one ham. (This city seems to really like ham, walking around town you see many shops dedicated to just ham, ham legs, ham pieces, varied ways of smoking or preparing the ham.) Madrilenos eat and mingle from one mini restaurant to another or you can bring your food to the middle of the market area, but most stand and mingle and move about. It is very social and relaxed. Afterwards we had a bit of a walk around town and visited some local pubs. At last we had to bid Antonio good night, we never did figure out which one of us he would be keen on. There goes our chance of an EU work card! 

Plaza MayorNicole DeLory

Day two was an “explore the city” day. Madrid’s buildings are historic and have magnificent sculptures built into the buildings, even the post office is fascinating. We made our way to Parque Del Retiro; known as the lungs of Madrid. It has a lake for row boating, a pathway with roman looking statues on either side, lots of green space and outside restaurants. Even in February the Madrilenos are outside enjoying! After our walk the plan was to go to Museo del Prado. Note to travellers, it is closed on Mondays, shoot! However, in the early evening my cousin discovered the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía was open and it housed most of Picasso’s works for Madrid, including “Guernica”. I knew all my well-read tourist books said the Prado did not display works of Picasso. I always use Picasso’s cubism period when teaching geometry, so Picasso was a must. My cousin said if we hurry we could dash over so we did. (A big advantage of hostels is that they are centrally located! But note stay at Hostel International hostels, they are regulated and undergo an annual inspection). When we got there it was so late that we got in for free! We strolled around and in one room I saw my first Picasso and Dali! Then finally we turned a corner and there it was – “Guernica”. I was so excited I grabbed my cousin’s hand and he mine. Another room had Picasso’s sketches for the painting. It was educational to see his first attempts and where he positioned things, not where they eventually ended up.

Parque Del RetiroNicole DeLory

The next day was Valentine’s Day; a dread for us singles. But this year I wasn’t alone, I was in Spain with a man! Oh shoot, it was my cousin and we were in a hostel with single beds way too close to each other. They say God has a sense of humour, I agree.

The day’s plan was a quick train ride to Toledo, but it was thwarted by rain. We did a bit of shopping in the morning, and then made our way over to the Prado. It was the art gallery I was most looking forward to, however, as my cousin said it was filled of old rich dead people that paid to have their portrait like the way it was painted. I was a bit more impressed, we just prefer an art gallery that has more than portraits for the bulk of their collection. However, I was in the Prado, so my awe was still at an extreme high level; even the building itself causes the awe level to rise. Plus, I really enjoyed learning the history of the restoration done on one painting of Adam and Eve on pine panels. The panels had been x-rayed to reveal the artist took pieces of pine and put them together to paint his subject. Repurposing back then, how environmental! There also was a painting of the death of Mary; that spoke to me as I had never seen a painting of that subject. The “Garden of Earthly Delights” was really beautiful, the hell side looked much like a Dali, but done in 1500.

The next day we were off to Marrakesh. My cousin had discovered for only 20 dollars you could fly from Madrid to Marrakesh. What an opportunity! On the flight, there was no doubt we were getting a 20-dollar flight. The plane was like sitting on a yellow school bus. The seats were the same grey cheap plastic like leather and very stiff, however it was a quick flight and we were off to Marrakesh! The airport in Marrakesh was so modern looking, I was impressed. My cousin had arranged a car through our hostel, thank goodness because the inner city of Marrakesh is truly a labyrinth of tiny twisty streets. We were in Indian Jones’ footsteps. I was swept up in the adventure of it all. We got settled quickly at our hostel and left to explore the market. When shopping in the stalls the seller assumed my cousin was my husband and he offered him 2,000 camels for me. Good to know I am worth 2,000 camels. When you go into some of the covered areas, you are right in The Amazing Race. It is easy to see how the contestants get so lost and it qualifies as a task on that show. In the streets all the women are in beautiful colourful flowing Moroccan djelabas. We saw green, pinks, purples, decorated in gold silk. Mrs. Roper would be in her element. We even saw performers with monkeys and snake charmers.

Refreshing break at the SoukNicole DeLory

The next day we took a tour outside the city. We saw a Burbur village then drove over to a mountainous area. There were restaurants built into the mountain side. Our guide led the group up the mountain. I thought we were going only a bit of the way up to a restaurant, but no, we were just climbing. When I realized this I tried to stop, but the guide forced me up. I enjoy hiking, but I was not dressed for it. At the top of the mountain was a small waterfall. Someone else on the group said, “You have Niagara Falls in Canada, why did you hike for this?” Exactly!

Marrakesh HostelNicole DeLory

After a lunch, at the bottom of the mountain, we stopped at a roadside camel stop designed to lure in tourist buses. For five dollars you get a ten-minute ride on a camel. You actually have to use a ladder to get on, once on it is much like a horse, but taller, the giraffes of the horse world if you will. My camel had woolly soft fur I could pat. Across the road from where our bus stopped, there was an old palace-looking building so our photographs are really impressive. Wait, did the camel owners plan it that way. I am such a tourist!  

CamelNicole DeLory

Well the next part of the trip was off to Seville then Barcelona, but that will have to be another essay. For now, as my cousin’s friend says you should always be on record or play. Record is when you are soaking in a new experience and play is when you are telling about it. For this leg of the journey my tape was full, I could not record anything else. I will rest well on the train to Seville. Safe and happy travels to all!