The flight to Madrid went without event and thankfully it was our last Ryan Air flight. The queuing, the seat hopping, the luggage restrictions……… We were 200 gms over in one suitcase so we had to unpack and rearrange it – I travelled to Madrid with my bathing suit and underwear in my handbag! We really enjoyed Madrid and wished we had three weeks to explore it and not just three days. “A taster” as Peter calls it.
At Madrid airport we couldn’t see the signs for taxis, but we found a booth that arranged shared transport, for less cost than a regular taxi. We shared with two people from Mexico, Ana and Tomas. The driver was full of local knowledge so it was very informative. By the time we got to the hotel it was too late to do a “hop on hop off” bus tour (now affectionately known by us as “hoppy” buses) so we took a walk. The hotel was so central it was wonderful.
We found the Palace and a beautiful church.
We then took a walk a different way and stumbled across the food market that Cherie and Kate said is a must do. Wow! Amazing food stalls selling both raw food to take home and also cooked foods / tapas to eat there. Also wine stalls. The process is you gather up the food and drink you want and then sit at shared tables.
What an afternoon / evening we had! First two Americans in their 80’s who were on a bus tour. We shared a glass of wine with them and enjoyed their company. Then as they left, woosh – another American couple filled their seats. They had just got off a cruise so we had a lovely chat with them and shared dinner tapas and some more wine. Then as we were eating a third American couple and their son arrived to join in. They were travelling similar to us and were 6 months in to a year long trip. They will be in NZ this year too! So all in all we had a fab four hours meeting lots of new people and eating wonderful tapas.
When we were walking back to our hotel, we amazingly bumped in to Ana and Tomas (from the taxi). How amazing – with so many people in Madrid and there we saw them again. And we couldn’t believe it when we bumped in to them AGAIN the following day on our way to find somewhere for lunch. We weren’t even in our own district. So at this point the four of us decided it must be meant to be that we shared a meal together so they took us to a local place – where they ordered in Spanish for us. What a great afternoon we had with them – learning about Mexico and getting to know them a little.
The “hoppy” bus was good and we loved the beautiful wide tree lined streets and lovely architecture of the city. It is very beautiful. I also had my hair cut (an interesting experience with the language barrier but I LOVED those massage chairs!), did some market shopping and got some bacon to take to Cherie! I was quite excited to read there was an evening Christmas Market in the month of December, where local people buy their decorations, trees etc. So that was definitely on my list of “must do”. But imagine my disappointment when we finally found it to see it was only cheap trinkets and live trees. But we did get to see a bit of Madrid walking to find it, including some of the lovely Christmas lights in the streets.
The last night we had booked in to a Flamenco Dinner and Show at restaurant recommended by our hotel. It was a wonderful experience. The food was fantastic (which is not usually my experience of dinner and show meals!!!) and the show itself was awesome. The dancing, the music, the costumes, the energy ……. And all on a tiny stage.
Our dinner neighbours were an Egyptian couple who were on their way back from Canada to live in Egypt. They were strict Muslims, being very careful to explain to the waiters they could eat no pork or ham at all. Imagine our mirth, knowing that in my handbag I had a kilogram of bacon to take to Cherie in Istanbul the following day!
So it was time to leave the European Union for the last time on this trip. We were really looking forward to seeing Cherie and visiting Istanbul again, so off we went. A bit sad to be saying goodbye to the EU though…..
Istanbul was like home again – and we were able to catch the local bus to Taksim Square, where Cherie met us. Taksim is very near Cherie’s house so off we went with our bags. We had a great time in Istanbul and met some people we had met last time so that was really nice. Cherie had put up a Christmas tree and it was excellent to catch up again.
This time we spent more time looking at the shops and bazaars, as I could BUY things this time, as we were coming back to NZ. We did buy some traditional Turkish ceramics and some hand woven linen, which is quite exciting. We had a couple of nights in, and a couple of nights out – one at a fabulous restaurant in the high rise hotel we had been to last time. Beautiful views and great food.
On the Sunday we went to an excellent Turkish restaurant and met some friends of Cherie’s there. The food was amazing – albeit we had ordered too much. The best humus, fresh pomegranate juice (my favourite!), spicy breads, meats, kebabs……….. mmmmmmm. And I tried candied eggplant for dessert. An acquired taste I feel!
Here is a photo at a local café where they were making me a fresh pomegranate juice.
We enjoyed Istanbul just as much this time as last, but did notice the increased Police presence around Taksim, as there had been a suicide bomber run in to the Police line, just a few weeks earlier.
BUT! It was time to celebrate Cherie’s birthday. We had a great night out and met a lot of her local friends. Very nice!
And so it was time to leave and end this wonderful journey of a lifetime. What amazing experiences we have had and so many lovely people we have met. Many ask us what is our highlight, or what 5 things we liked most. But it is impossible to say, as different countries, different cities etc were all so different so not really comparable. We loved them each in different ways. Peter does say the Baltic Sea cruise was one of his favourites, as was following the All Blacks for the Grand Slam. Me, well I liked everything! There have been so many people who have helped make this trip even more special……………
– Cherie, or “Cherry’s Tours” for showing us Istanbul and arranging Gallipoli
– Wayne and Liz for their company, fun and laughter on the Cruise
– Ajay for his friendship and all the treats he arranged for us, including getting to attend an Arsenal game (hope to see you in NZ soon……..)
– Benedict for coming to our rescue with accommodation, and enjoying his company so much
– Sean and Michele for their “Driscol” tours, a bed in Rome and especially, for their support and help when Peter was in ospedale, in Siena. Not to mention the lemoncello!
– Maurio for his friendship and English language skills when in ospedale
– To all the staff at Siena ospedale – phew!
– Robyn and Grant for putting us up, your fun and sharing some lovely meals
– Sylvia and Bo, it was so great to see you again and thanks for the accommodation and for “Sylvia Tours”
– Dieter and Inga for a lovely day, good food and for showing us around, and for hooking us up with that lovely hotel in the Canary Islands
– Dieter for cooking fabulous food for us and for the fun and laughter and the bed – Kate for all sorts – putting us up, arranging the P!nk concert, meals, the Sketch experience, meeting your friends…
– Sean for meeting us and showing us around, as well as letting us use his bed!
– Cameron and Anna for showing us the foodie side of Barcelona – Carol and John for coming to stay in Saissac with us and all the fun times on the deck
– Catherine of Saissac for all her help, local knowledge and fun company
– Billy and Margaret and Ina and Patsy, for so willingly taking us in and showing us a great time, and all the other family in the village!
– Annie Diamond for the biggest morning tea we have ever seen!
– Phil and Wayne – for a graet nigth out on Dublin – hope to see you soon in NZ!
– Jean Paul and Philip for the most entertaining fishing trip ever
– To friends and family who kept in touch and jollied us with listening to our tales, not to mention those of you who actually read the blog ………… hee hee
– To many, many others who shared their stories and company with us – thank you.
We are now firmly back in NZ after a long 30 hour trip from Istanbul. In the three weeks we have been home we have had Christmas, a four day break with Peter’s family at the beach at Whangamata, a night at Lake Taupo, a wedding in Wellington and have crossed over to the South Island. Here are some photos of our trip over, coming in to the Marlbourgh Sounds and a couple from down in the South Island. So for those of you who haven’t been to NZ, this is what awaits you
Love to you all Jo and Peter