R&R – Spain
After the safari day with Doug, it was back to the response. The time in Nairobi was pretty quiet and I was beginning to prepare for my first R&R. Instead of returning to Costa Rica, I decided to take my vacation in Spain. Since R&R was a paid vacation all in, why not take advantage of seeing new places.
The policy with R&R was that the organization would fly a staff member as far as the home point location or all points in between. There was also an allowance for meals and accommodations, so why not. After work each day for a month, I planned my trip in Spain and what I would do for the week off.
My R&R was scheduled to start on September 23, 2011, so I had a free day to travel, then 5 days and a day to return. I would return to Nairobi on October 3, in time for World Vision’s day of prayer. While in Spain, I would visit the following places:
While in Madrid, I stayed at the Fuenlabrada hotel, just on the outskirts of the city. From here, I could drive anywhere and it was quiet. Next to the hotel was a mall which, when I arrived was closed. I had just learned about “Siesta”. It seemed that every day for a couple of hours each afternoon, everything closes for siesta. The afternoon nap time. This was quite comical, but I did find a small pub open, so I had a beer and sardine sandwich while waiting for Siesta to end.
After siesta, when the mall opened, I found a tourist booth. As they say, when in Rome…or in this case, when in Spain. I had decided I wanted to see the bull fights. So, purchasing tickets for the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, that evening I was off to see the brave matadors taking on the beastly bulls.
Well, seems the brave matadors were not all that. By the time the matador comes out, the bull is half dead and with little energy. The jury is still out on how I feel about the sport, but it was an interesting evening watching 6 brave bulls fall.
The most excitement of the evening was a female matador from Peru, Milagros Sanchez. This was her first event in the big ring, and I am pretty sure her last. As she came out to meet the bull, the bull one upped her and charged before she was ready. In an instant her evening was over.
The following day, it was time to see some of Madrid. Parking the car at a parking lot in the city center, I then walked around the city. I found a park in the center of Madrid called Buen Retiro Park. This park is actually quite large and the home of the famous Crystal Palace.
Enjoying the day, I had discovered a small outdoor restaurant where I could enjoy some real Spanish cuisine. Here I had for the first time, Paella, a Spanish dish of rice and seafood. This is truly an amazing meal and highly recommended.
The second day in Madrid I had decided to do the bus tour. This was pretty fun as you could get off the bus and different locations and then get back on. One fee for the day and one could tour many different locations throughout the city.
Seeing the royal castle was probably the highlight of day 2. The grounds are huge and everything is clean and in order. Until now, I had not seen a royal palace and this place was impressive.
Closing out the tour was riding next to the stadium where Real Madrid plays its home games. There was a match on, but I had decided not to go. I believe it was a match against a team from Germany, which I do know that Real Madrid had won.
Toledo – Day 3
Toledo is one of the Spanish cities with the greatest wealth of monuments. Known as the “city of the three cultures”, because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together there for centuries, behind its walls Toledo preserves an artistic and cultural legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues. This great diversity of artistic styles makes the old quarter of the capital of Castile – La Mancha a real open-air museum, which has led to it being declared a World Heritage Site.
One could also say this is the birth place of Don Quixote, the man of La Mancha. Walking around the open air castle was quite exhilarating. And, another lunch of Paella was had, which I was growing fonder of each time I had it.
Salamanca – Day 4
Another World Heritage site, Salamanca is an ancient university town situated in the west of Spain in the community of Castillo and León. The Carthaginians first conquered the city in the 3rd century B.C. It then became a Roman settlement before being ruled by the Moors until the 11th century. The university, one of the oldest in Europe, reached its high point during Salamanca’s Golden Age. The city’s historic center has important Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance, and Baroque monuments. The Plaza Mayor, with its galleries and arcades, is particularly impressive.
I was quite surprised how quiet Salamanca was in comparison to Toledo the day before. It was another beautiful fall day in the sun for walking around.
Returning to Nairobi
The fifth day in Madrid consisted of a final drive around Madrid to see if there was anything missed. The break was great and getting to know Spain was an experience. But, there was still this Category III global response going on down in Nairobi. It was time to get back to work for an additional 6 weeks on deployment.
We were also preparing for a second HEAT course to be held when I was back. So, there was still lots to do and it was time to say goodbye to Spain.
Next Story – Closing out HARD