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Extreme Worship. Or, How To Hurt Your Neck.

We have come up with a new travel rule today. Whenever arriving in a new city, it’s best to take a cab to your place of lodging. Traveling on public transportation is certainly cheaper but trying to figure out a brand new cities transportation intricacies each week while carrying your luggage around just aint worth it. Plus, ridding a bus or subway with your luggage makes you prime picking for pick pockets. So we now cab it to the hotel/hostel and then figure out the transportation sans bulky bags.

We arrived in Sevilla this afternoon without any difficulties due to the fact that we planned ahead yesterday. We caught an 11 o’clock high speed train which put us in Sevilla at around 1pm 13:00. Outside the station, we hopped in a cab and we were off to Corral Del Rey for a couple nights at Cajellon del Aqua. Turns out, Corral Del Rey is impassable by car. Only scooters and pedestrians can make it down this narrow “street.” Oh, and of course a Segway would work too. The cabbie dropped us of at the beginning of the sidewalk-sized road and we footed it the rest of the way. We checked into our room, cranked the AC, and then left to find the tourist office for a map of the city and to explore Sevilla.

The lady at the hotel pointed us towards the tourist office by telling us to take a left and then a right after the cathedral. She said you couldn’t miss it. Boy was she right. Now normally in Europe you will be walking down a street, turn a corner and then BAM a plaza and a church appear out of nowhere. But not this one. This sucker towers over the city (literally), and you can see it coming from blocks away.

This is the cathedral to end all cathedrals. It’s an X-TREME Cathedral for only the most X-TREME worshipers.

Just how X-TREME is it?

126 meters in length.
83 meters in width.
37 meters in height.
23,500 square meters.
And the tower is 98 meters tall!

This thing could have it’s own zip code!

And you better believe that the outside…

… is just as impressive as the inside.

Would ya get a load of this organ!? I had to take this photo in 3 pieces and digitally stitch it together to capture it all.

You would think an organ this big would be more than sufficient. But no, not for these people. They need TWO monsterous music makers.

And this alter! My goodness, you could baptize all of Iceland at once in here!

If you can’t repent all of your sins at this place, then I’m sorry, there is just no hope. You might as well go ahead and quit life (or change religions).

Despite the scorching mid-day sun, we climbed up the 35 levels to the top of the bell tower…

…to see some amazing views of the city below.

From one side of the tower, off in the distance you can see the bull fighting arena Plaza De Toros.

Back down on the ground floor, in other parts of the colossal cathedral are rooms and rooms of treasures and gifts given to the church.

One of the things I absolutely love about these places are the ceilings. The amount of detail that goes into thr ceilings is uber-impressive and an art form all its own.

After staring upwards at the ceilings high above us, we not only got pretty dizzy, but also developed a fairly stiff neck. So for the rest of the day all I could do was look down at my feet.

This Little Piggy Went To Market

And this little piggy went “we, we, we” all the way into my stomach this evening at the worlds oldest restaurant (according to Guinness), Restaurante Botin which first opened it’s doors in 1725.

Right when you walk in the door…

…they have a cured leg of… of… of some 4-legged creature that they will gladly carve a thin slice off of and hand it to you to sample. I must confess, I’m a leg man and boy was this leg scrumptious!

After sampling some calf calf (or something) they led us past the kitchen…

…where the chef was taking some baby pigs out to pasture. And by pasture I mean the original 280 year old oven so he could cook their little baby piggy butts (say THAT 7-times fast). After meeting some of our dinner-to-be, we were lead up some old rickety stairs to our table. Jay ordered the filet mignon which was cooked to perfection, and I had no other choice but to order up some of the specialty swine.

The pig they serve here is suckled pig, which means it was raised ONLY on it’s mothers milk for 2-6 weeks before being tossed into the kiln until it’s skin turns a crispy golden brown. The meat is very soft and as you may have guessed… sorta tastes like chicken! The skin is delicious and crunchy, which is probably the closest thing I’m gonna get to crispy bacon here in Europe. I swear the bacon we’ve had this far has been WAYYY too undercooked.

After a slice of some chocolate cake we paid the bill and walked back down the rickety stairs and past the now empty kitchen…

…on our way back to the hotel for our final night in Madrid.

Fact And Fiction. Fountains And Foliage

Little known fact… the street signs in Madrid (they have street signs in Europe???) have pictures on them that represent the street name so that even the illiterate know the names of streets. Here’s an example:

Calle Del Codo, is a long street that bends in the middle, hence the translation and depiction of Elbow Street. Now isn’t that handy? (ba-dum-bum-ching)

Little known made up fact… Madrid has more fountains per capita than any other city in the world at 1.25 fountains per person!

They even gave me my own fountain! Or maybe they could just sense I had been wearing the same pair of socks for seven days now. Either way, my feet were now cool-n-clean.

So after learning our lesson about trying to get train tickets the same day of travel, we decided to get tomorrows tickets today. We headed on down to the train station by way of Gran Via (a major shopping district) which lead us right past our first fountain of the day: Fuente De Cibeles in front of Placio De Cibeles.

Same fountain, from the other side, with a some cool dome off in the distance…

…and a close up of the dome at the corner of Gran Via.

We decided to take the scenic route to the train station and cut through Parque De El Ritero which is the perfect place to take a leisurely weekend stroll. Perfect that is if you like fountains, foliage and fish.

Once you enter the park you are greeted by some spitting frogs and turtles (in fountain form of course).

Following the path a bit farther leads to Monumento Alfonso XII, which I guess technically isn’t a fountain, but for our sake we’ll let it slide.

Off one of the many side paths we found some nicely groomed gardens.

And a few fountains later…

…we found a Crystal Palace in a clearing…

For some reason they wouldn’t let us throw stones in their glass house, so we instead threw sunflower seeds to some ducks and fish that shared a nearby fountain…

…which was also being shared by some turtles.

Further into the park we found a rose garden…

…which helped to combat the aroma emanating from my shoes.

And of course, there was a fountain in the garden…

…or two.

And while Jay seized the opportunity to take a “Joel Photo” with some Lilly pads (inside joke)…

…I stealthily crept up on this dragonfly for a candid shot.

A few more fountains later…

…we emerged from the park at the train station.

Fact: The old train station was converted to a tropical garden of plants donated from Brazilian rain forests…

…making it one of the nicest train stations I’ve ever seen.

We Are Special

We are special people, with special needs. Like oversized bathrooms for wheelchairs.

And toilets with special support bars for the handicapped.

Apparently, we somehow got “upgraded” to the disability sweet of the hotel here in Madrid.

I don’t know too many handicapped people, but what little I do know, I can say with 100% certainty that the disabled dislike wet towels just as much as everyone else dislikes wet towels. So it is with great surprise and disbelief that the shower inside this special shower stall acts as if it has a mind of it’s own.

Like most showers in Europe it comes with a detachable shower head. I’ve never had a problem with the fixed shower head variety, but the detachable version sort of makes sense, especially for those with limited mobility as one might find in this particular bathroom. But herein lies the rub… The concept of a shower-door is in a perpetual prototype stage throughout most of Europe. It’s as if they started thinking of a way to keep water from the faucet off the bathroom floor — got about halfway there — and then stopped in mid-thought. Probably distracted by their eureka moment of a detachable shower head! What I’m trying to get at here is that all the showers only have HALF of a shower door. It’s bewildering!

Taking a shower here is like those torturous games your older sibling would make you play as a child. Make the wrong move, get pulverized. Make the right move, and get pulverized as well. Or so I’ve heard. I was usually the pulverizer, not the pulverizee. Sorry Alice! Anywho, when showering in these contraptions it’s a constant battle to see how much water you can get on yourself, without getting any on the bathroom floor. In my experience, the bathroom floor usually ends up winning. And I end up in second place with wet socks. Ugh.

To make matters worse (yes, things are about to get worse than wet socks) the towel rack in this particular bathroom is on the adjacent wall. On the towel rack are two nice and clean towels fresh from housekeeping. There is about 6 feet between the shower head and the towel racks. One would have to deliberatly take the shower head and aim it directly at the towel rack in order to get the towels wet. No sane person would ever do such a thing. But just what would an insane shower do? I’m glad you asked, as I’m about to show you in this YouTube video exactly what happened to me earlier today.

So there I was in my birthday suite, all lathered up in soapy goodness. Just enjoying my morning shower, thinking of how lucky I am to even be standing there showering in Madrid at that very moment. The shower lasts the normal 5-6 minutes and I finish off the morning ritual just as I normally do by rinsing off all the excess suds. I reach for the water valve and push it towards the off position as the water pressure responds and drops to a lite trickle of the remaining drops in the shower head. I start to motion towards the dry towels on the rack when I hear a rapid succession of clicks.


I turn my head towards the sound and the shower head has gone from the 12 o’clock position at which I left it, rotating quickly to 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3… it was all happening so fast, 4, 5, 6 and just as gravity had worked it’s magic and caused the shower head to spin a complete 180 degrees, somehow the water came back on all by itself and resumed it’s previous water pressure state! So now the shower head is speweing water like a fountain all over the clean/dry towels!!! What the hell man!? I was just about to use one of those to dry off!!! Now what the heck am I supposed to do!?

Sheesh! Now I have to walk around the rest of the day feeling like a cripple that dried off with a damp towel! Limping around in wet socks. This sucks!

It’s A Mad Mad Mad MadSeg Ride Through Madrid

We don’t have a whole lot of time to spend in Madrid since we spent extra time in Barcelona. So we got an early start today to try and cram in as much sightseeing as possible.

What better place to start than at the beginning — or the Zero-kilometer sign in Plaza del Sol from which all of the distances in Spain are measured.

Also in the plaza is the famous statue of the official logo of Madrid, the bear eating berries out of the tree…

We would later find out that the bears which were once so common in these parts were pretty much wiped out because they would get drunk off the berries in these Madroño trees and then pass out underneath them and get killed for their fur. Yeah, that’s who I want for MY mascot! Nice choice Madrid. I’m just sayin’.

If there is one thing about the Madrileños (or gatos as they sometimes like to be called) it’s that they LOVE their jamon (ham) and take great pride in their acorn fed animals. I wandered into a Museo de Jamon for a quick snack because it looked more like a restaurant to me than a  museum. In fact a Flesh Factory might be a more appropriate title.

I guess if hanging lots of something on your walls qualifies you to call yourself a museum, then this place certainly is one.

All meat. All the time.

From one scene of a great massacre to the next…

Plaza Mayor, where many a criminal was paraded around before being executed for high-crimes and misdemeanors.

Crimes like cheating at a messed up game of oversized tic-tac-toe! That’s messed up man!

But there’s a brighter side to Madrid, the Northwest side. Where you will find picturesque squares like this one…

…and these gardens…

…surrounding The Royal Palace…

…and the Almudena Cathedral.

Funny story about the palace and cathedral. At the time of their initial construction, the then king had a huge ego, and he wanted the palace to be the the largest royal palace in Western Europe. In the above pictures you can see 3 of the 6 stories that make up the 2,800+ rooms in this mega-mansion. The other 3 stories (and ~1000 rooms) are completely unusable as they are all filled with sand! Apparently the earth that the palace was build on was so unstable, and unable to bear the weight of the massive building that they had to turn the bottom three floors into a foundation for the upper 3 floors!

Similarly the cathedral across the way underwent 3 different phases of construction and had over 5 different contractors working to rush the completion of the building in time for the pope’s visit. It looks okay from far away, but if you get close you can really see the hodgepodge of varying architectural designs.

Now here is where the day gets interesting (a.k.a. uber-dorky)! At 4pm we met up with a tour guide (Anthony) at Plaza Espana, right near some warped trees…

by the Don Quixote statue…

The thing you need to know about Anthony and the tour is… well, just see for yourself…

Yup. It’s all via Segway scooters! Now before you fall out of your seat laughing, just understand that we had limited time in the city so we had to make the most of it, and Segway’s are pretty gosh darn efficient at covering a lot of distance in little time. Anthony had a massive amount of knowledge about the city and even though we got a lot of stares from onlookers, it was well worth the experience. While other tourists were limited to walking, we could just zoom past them…

From one attraction…

…to the next…

There was really no limit to where we could go on these things. From narrow pathways through the city…

…to off-roading through the dirt, rocks, water, sand and grass within the city parks. Much of what we learned about the city we learned while standing atop two wheels and a some gyroscopes. This included the previously mentioned info about the cathedral which just so happened to be the last spot in the tour where we had a look inside…

…at the domes…

…and the textile-like ceilings.

And of course what place of worship would be complete without a massive organ…

…and some religious figures to worship.

It was getting late and our 3-hour tour was now almost 4-hours long so we hopped back on our trusty steeds outside the elaborately carved cathedral doors…

…and sped off into the sunset (at 12mph), just like Don Quixote once did!

Okay, you can stop laughing now. If you too want to have a lot of fun, see a lot of Madrid, and learn a lot about the city, head on over to MadSegs.com to book your reservations.

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