Home-Sweet-Home

Trip Start Oct 08, 2005
1
10
Trip End Oct 23, 2005


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Where I stayed
Residencial Alegria

Flag of United States  , Michigan
Sunday, October 23, 2005

Trip Tidbits....

Lisbon -
Lodging:
We booked a hotel for our stay in Lisbon. We stayed at the Residencial Alegria, located just off Avenida da Liberdade. We booked through a booking company online but they also have a website: www.alegrianet.com The room rate was 43€ a night for a double room including the typical European breakfast. The hotel has an elevator and small bar in the breakfast room. Our room was small but nicely furnished. A very hard double bed, recently remodeled bathroom, TV and air-conditioning. The staff was friendly and the hotel is right next to a police station. It is located on Praça da Alegria, a square that has great potential. The only problem with this hotel was this square... despite the police station, there is a very large population of bums that have taken up residence in the square. They are there day and night and are not very hygienic (we saw feces on one of the sidewalks... yes, feces!). We never felt threatened by them but they obviously ruin the charm of the square. Address: Praça da Alegria, 12

Transportation:
From airport - we took the Aerobus from the airport. They depart every 20 minutes and make several stops along the way to the city center. The cost is 3€ per person and this ticket can be used on any Carris transportation for the rest of the day.

Around town - We bought the daily network ticket that covers the metro and the buses, trams, funinculars and elevators. It costs €3.10 per person, per day. This is quite economical considering one, one-way ride on the Elevador Gloria costs €1.25! This ticket will also get you to Belém and back.

To Seville - There are two bus stations in Lisbon. We visited both.... Luckily we decided to purchase our bus ticket to Seville the day before we wanted to leave. Once we found the station, which is not well marked, we realized that we could take the metro, Jardim Zoológico (Sete Rios) stop. The international bus station is near a train station and the zoo. It's a bit out of the city center. We could not find anyone who spoke English but they were very helpful and walked us to where we should wait for our bus. Be forewarned... the bus drivers usually do not speak English and you should remain alert when making stops... you may need to change buses at one of these stops.

Ferry across the Tejo - Nice ride for €0.65 per person, one-way.

Bus to Christo Rei - This bus is hard to find. When you get off the ferry there are oodles of buses. Look for the sign above the waiting areas.... You'll find it eventually. J

Sights:
Christo Rei - Worth it! You have to take the ferry then a bus but to stand at the feet of this gigantic statue was amazing. The views are of course great.

Castelo de São Jorge - €3 per person, great views, pretty gardens

Igreja de São Roque - Beautiful church we visited with many relics.

Monument to Discoveries - In Belém, great views from the top. The map on the ground makes for fun photos.

Port Wine Institute - If you have an interest in learning the basics about port... it's worth a visit. The wines are categorized by type and age. It is fun to directly compare the different types and ages.

Fado - See a fado show while in Lisbon. There are many places and they have men outside trying to convince you to come in. Most singers sell CDs after their show. They run about €15.

Web C@fe - Rua do Diario de Noticias, 126, (Bairro Alto): Good web bar with Belgian beers available.

Monsteiro dos Jerónimos - In Belém, and gorgeous! The exterior of this building is amazing. Wander through the cloisters... it's free.

Pasteis de Belém - In Belém, look for the blue awning. This is where it all started. Very yummy, you can get them to go.


Seville -
Lodging:
We rented an apartment in Seville through a website for 60€ per night. www.sevillarent.com/tintes/index.htm The apartment was recently remodeled. We stayed on the ground floor (there are two other apartments upstairs). The location was good (Seville is not that big of a city). The apartment was very spacious. A queen-sized bed, beautifully remodeled bathroom and a large kitchen with a clothes washer. The owner is very kind and full of information about Seville. We highly recommend this apartment! Address: Calle Tintes, 8

Transportation:
We took cabs from the bus station to the apartment and then back to the train station. The price was reasonable and worth not having to drag our luggage through town.

Sights:
Cathedral - So the tale is that the builders wanted anyone who saw the cathedral to think they were mad.... Well, it worked. This huge cathedral is crammed into Seville. You can walk around it a dozen times and still not really find the "front". This is the third largest cathedral in the world so you kind of have to go. We, of course, climbed the tower. I can't tell you how many stairs because there aren't any... there are ramps. I don't know if that's better or worse.

Real Alcazar - This is the palace of Seville. They are worth the €5 entry fee. The tile work and tapestries are amazing. The Moorish palace is breathtaking. Wander through the gardens. You could spend hours. I want to live there. J

Casa Baratillo/Casa Chari - Calle Pavía, 12. Tiny little place run by Chari. The paella and sangria are great. She will have you sign her book. If you can take something small that you can attach in the book. While you are waiting for your paella (which can take about an hour) decorate your page and then have a look back at some of the other pages. Travelers from around the world come to Casa Chari for good food and fun.

Cerveceria Giralda - Mateos Gago 1. This place was packed. And recommended by the woman renting us our apartment. No one spoke English and the menu is on a chalk board in Spanish. We stood at the cramped bar and the man waiting on us managed to get across that all of the tapas were good.... So Steve ordered some of what we knew and some that we didn't. The man was right... they were all good. Highly recommended.


Madrid -
Lodging:
We stayed at the Hostel Mirentxu. We booked it through www.venere.com and got a rate of €40 a night. The hotel is family run and the owners were very kind. The hotel is very centrally located and is in a building with other hotels. The room was very basic... two twin beds, simple bathroom. No TV, radio, etc. This is simply a place to sleep. Address: Calle de Zorrilla, 7

Transportation:
We walked everywhere in Madrid. The only time we need public transport was to go to the bullfight. We took the metro. It was very easy to buy tickets from the machine.

Sights:
Prado - The museum in Madrid. A must see. A fantastic collection. www.museoprado.es

Plaza de Torros - This something I felt we should do to truly experience the Spanish culture. The plaza is a bit out of town so you should take the metro. We had no problem getting tickets. We decided to buy seats in the sun because they are cheapest and I wasn't sure if I would make it for the duration (which I didn't). There are three fights, we stayed for one. It is a bit gory. They do kill the bull in Spain unlike in Portugal. Website: http://www.ticketstoros.com/espanol/home-plaza.html

CafeeKe - Tapas y Cervasas de Belgica... need I say more. We spent a lot of time here. As you can imagine. It's right off Plaza Mayor. They have a lovely patio and the owner has two French Bulldogs that constantly roam the bar and patio... so sweet. The beer list was fabulous. They had beers that Steve has never had. Didn't think it was possible. I couldn't find a website but here is the address: C. Cuchilleros, 3

Restaurante Botin - Steve took me here for my birthday. This is the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This place was sooo cool. The atmosphere, the staff, the food.... Beverage. It was wonderful. Their specialty is roast-suckling pig... Steve got it, of course. Here is the website: www.botin.es This is a definite must if in Madrid!

Museo del Jamón - This place is so funny. Basically it is a deli/restaurant that celebrates ham. I know it sounds crazy but the Spanish love their ham. We realized after walking by a couple times that most of the hams hanging are fake. We didn't even go in but it is worth walking by. We did see tourists snapping photos. Pretty funny. Can you believe it, they have a website: www.museodeljamon.com

La Taurina - Bullfighters Planet Hollywood. This is a tapas bar dripping with matador business, mounted bull heads and some great pictures of the bull taking out the matador. The tapas were pretty good.

La Creación - After midnight the day before my birthday (technically my birthday) Steve and I decided to start the celebration. We stumbled upon a bar dimly lit by candles that had the small wooden barrels on the bar and a resident cat. We were the only patrons in the place. One of the barrels was labeled Moscotel... is that what I think it is??? Yep! I had two. Nice place to stop for a quiet drink. Address: C. de Nuñez de Arce

Naturbier - We stumbled on this place. A German brewery that brews all organic beer. Not bad. We had the dunkel and the helles, both good. Address: Plaza de Santa Ana

La Casa del Abuelo - This is a tapas bar known for their prawns. Grilled with garlic and olive oil... yummy! You throw the shells, heads and your napkins (you will need a few) on the floor. You can watch the guys grilling from the street. C. Victoria, 12

Casa Toni - Another tapas bar. Similar to La Casa del Abuelo. We had champiñones (mushrooms). They had a wooden barrel of vermouth on the bar but we failed to try. Address: C. Cruz, 14

Bar Majaderitos - A place for churros con chocolate (basically long donuts that you dunk in hot chocolate). We stopped and had. You can watch the guy making the churros in the back. Address: Calle de Cádiz

Chocolatería San Ginés - The best place for churros con chocolate. The chocolate is like pudding. Fabulous. This place is only open in the evening for the after the bar crowd. A night cap after your night cap. Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5

Convento de la Encarnación - This place houses Spain's largest relic collection, more than 1500. They also have a vial of blood from San Pantaleón that supposedly liquefies every July 27th. You pay for a tour, which is in Spanish only. The last stop is the relic room. They allow you to wander around and take photos. Address: Plaza de la Encarnación

Santa Maria Novella - This is an Italian product from the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. It is one of the world's oldest pharmacies and they sell wonderful natural products for personal use and for the home. They have stores scattered about Europe and there is one in Madrid. We went and bought. I love this stuff. It is tough when you become addicted to things from overseas. Website: http://www.smnovella.com

Aranjuez - Day trip from Madrid. We wanted to go to Toledo but only made it to Aranjuez. This town was awarded something from UNESCO. Lots of great gardens and a very helpful TI. Don't go on a Monday... everything is closed. Beautiful town with a huge palace.


Valencia -
Lodging:
We stayed at the Venecia. We booked through www.sleepinspain.com but they also have a website: www.hotelvenecia.com The location could not be better, right on Plaza del Ayuntamiento. We only stayed one night and gave the honeymoon line so we got the suite on the top floor with a balcony overlooking the plaza. The room was spacious and clean. All that for €47 a night.

Transportation:
Our feet. Valencia is small enough that transportation is not necessary. We walked to and from the train station and hotel. Even the museum was close enough to walk to.

Sights:
Cathedral and Miguelete Tower - Our first stop... to climb the tower... of course. The view is amazing. Highly recommended. The cathedral is also quite amazing. In the cathedral there is a relic of someone's arm, I can't remember whose. The cathedral is located on Pl. de la Reina.

Finnegan's Irish Pub - Or the Valencia board of Tourism (unofficially). The bartenders at this pub speak English and are happy to help you find anything in Valencia. They will also recommend restaurants, etc. They are located on the same plaza as the Cathedral.

Museu Provincial de Belles Artes - This little museum has quite a collection. There is a beautiful courtyard and a sculptures pavilion. Worth a visit. C. Sant Pío V, on the river.

El Rall - Try the paella de Valencia. This is the best place for paella in Valencia (or so we were told). The place is small but has a great patio on a small plaza. Tunidores,2

Mercat Central - Don't miss this market! Absolutely lovely! Buy Valencia oranges and Marcona almonds. Pl. del Mercat


Barcelona -
Lodging:
We stayed in an apartment. The Plaza Cataluña Studio D for ~90€ a night, booked through www.discoveringbarcelona.com The apartment location was great. Very central, at the top of Las Ramblas. They were late meeting us and the apartment was very basic. Bunk beds, small TV, very basic kitchen and bathroom. We washed some clothes in the bath tub and dried them on the clothes lines outside our window. Address: Jovellanos, 7

Transportation:
We traveled on foot, by cab and by subway. The subway is quite easy but very hot on the platforms. I can't imagine how warm it must be in the summer. Luckily the cars are air-conditioned.

Sights:
La ciutat dels artisans / Mini Spain - This is a big complex of buildings built in the style of all the areas in Spain. There are vendors selling local wares and restaurants with food and entertainment. We saw flamenco dancing (from the Seville area) here. If you missed part of Spain or forgot to buy something, this is the place. Marquès de Comillas

Gaudí - Walk up Pg. de Gràcia and turn right on C. Provença. You will pass La Manzana de la Discòrdia. A couple of apartments designed by Gaudí. Casa Batlló is open to the public. It's a bit expensive but worth it. There are a few other buildings worth checking out. The last stop is La Sagrada Família. The cathedral is under construction... still. It is quite amazing. Take the lift up the tower, climb a bit more by stairs and then take the stairs down. The views are great. Then walk around the cathedral and watch the work in progress. They say it will take another 50 years to complete! Maybe we should plan to go back when it's done...

Picasso Museum - A must. Located in a beautiful area of Barcelona. The museum shows works in chronological order. Montcada, 15-23.

Tooth pick Tapas -

Alt Heidelberg - A very cool German cerveceria serving yummy beers. Watch how the bartenders send food and beverage from one side to the other. Great beer list. Ronda Univerdidad, 5.

Vildsvin - An upscale restaurant. Good taps and a decent beer list. Sit at the bar. Ferran, 38.

Irati - This is fun tapas bar. The tapas are on plates on the bar. The bartender will give you a plate. Take all that you like. When you are ready to leave the bartender will count the toothpicks to tally the bill. Explore, try each kind. C. Cardenal Casañas, 17.


Amsterdam -
Lodging:
We had an apartment in Amsterdam for 60€ a night. We booked through www.amsterdamstudio.tk The apartment was just outside the ring of canals on Albert Cuypstraat, home of the street market. It was a walk to the city center and we were at the end of our trip so probably not the best choice. Although a tram stop was a block away. The apartment was on the top floor.... No lift.... Ladder stairs.... You can imagine. The apartment was a small studio with a queen bed, very small kitchen and probably the smallest bathroom I have ever been in (if you are tall your knees touch the door when sitting on the toilet!). There was also a "balcony". I put that in quotes because it didn't really seem up to snuff and the owner told us we probably shouldn't go out there. The owner(s) lived downstairs and were very kind. The apartment was very clean and quaint. Address: Albert Cuypstraat, 270

Transportation:
Most of Amsterdam can be covered on foot. We also took the tram. The trams are easy to use; just get a map that shows the different lines. You can buy strip tickets from tobacco shops. It takes two slots for travel in the ring. Either stamp the ticket in the machine or have it stamped by the conductor.

Sights:
Gollem - Our favorite bar in Amsterdam. As always the beer list was fabulous. Steve managed to get three Westveleterens in the three days we were there. Such a lovely place. Check out the website: www.cafegollem.nl

De Bier Koning - The beer store we have been getting our "souveniers" from since our first trip. Of course we raided the joint on this trip too. Good beer selection and tons of glasses, shirts, etc. See website: http://www.debierkoning.nl/

In de Wildeman - Another great bar. We popped in and had a couple Chimay Blue... draught! Their website: http://www.indewildeman.nl/

Café Belgique - A very small but incredibly charming bar serving scrumptious brews. A quick St. Bernardus 12... yep, draught again! Gotta love Amsterdam. Belgique website: http://www.xs4all.nl/~phj/index.html

Cracked Kettle - This is a new beer store located across the street from Gollem (excellent location). The owner is from Boston and is very happy to try and get whatever your beer-heart desires. We will be putting in a request before our next visit. The website is still under construction but here it is: www.crackedkettle.com


Flights -
We flew Transavia from Amsterdam to Lisbon and from Barcelona back to Amsterdam. The tickets were booked on www.transavia.com The prices were very reasonable: ~$80€ pp for Barcelona to Amsterdam. We found out that Transavia is a European charter company run by KLM... excellent! Seats are assigned and boarding was by rows.

Bus from Lisbon to Seville -
This was not an easy one. We went to the bus station to purchase the tickets. They cost €36 each.

Train -
We bought the Iberian rail pass. Three days of travel for $225 each. We also booked reservations for the high-speed trains. They were between $12 and $24 depending on what class is available.
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