This post is entitled ‘finally this feels like vacation’ because although it has been a fun and grand adventure it definitely hasn’t been the most relaxing vacation – between constantly being on the move, planning the next steps while we are trying to see everything a city has to offer and keeping up with posts it can be quite tiring. I know you don’t feel sorry for us 😉
Today however we really got to relax. We went to Hammam Al Andalus which is one of four Arab baths here in Spain. It is kind of like a spa – it has 3 large baths (or pools) one hot, one cold, and one medium temperature and a steam room. They also provide two traditional treatments – we tried 15 minutes of each. The first is like a body scrub, basically they pour hot water over you while you lay on a stone table, put a fine scrub on you, then take a soapy pouch like cloth thing and squeeze soapy bubbles all over you and then scrub you. When it’s all complete they rinse you off. The second is more like a traditional massage with a scented oil (you get to choose from four scents in the beginning). Although the treatments we had only lasted 30 minutes total we got to enjoy the baths and steam room for another hour and I almost fell asleep floating in the warm bath!
Since photos were not allowed, to describe the ambiance there was a very dark, stone corridor with candles and a small amount of natural light coming through covered windows in the bath ceilings. The first thing you have is the steam room on the left, then you have the hot bath and warm bath on the left further down the hall which are very shallow pools. There are multiple entrances into the baths from the hallway by arched doorways. The baths are separated by stone dividers and the walls are a dark red stone. Across from those baths was a small stone tub of cold water. At the end of the hall was a relaxation room with various scents to smell and tea. Finally across the hall from that is the room with the stone massage tables.
In the evening we again took advantage of the fact that the Reina Sofia museum is free from 7 – 9 pm. The main attraction there are the vast number of Picasso works they have including the Guernica. And although Guernica was quite impressive after spending a couple of hours viewing cubism, modern and abstract art I can definitively say it’s not my thing. Andrew and I both preferred the Prado museum. We ended the evening with a stop by a carnicera for some patatas bravas with prosciutto and then went to a restaurant called Brutal for a beet and raspberry gazpacho that was amazing and grilled meat which was the best we’d had so far and we even got a free dessert! The dessert isn’t normally free, it was ordered by Oompa Loompa’s bachelor party and they left before receiving them.
The next day we again took an organized tour to two more Unesco World Heritage sites – Salamanca and Avila. Salamanca is pretty far from Madrid in fact it’s only 80 km away from Portugal. Salamanca is interesting because it has the oldest university in Spain and it was where the Queen gave Christopher Columbus the funds to go to America after all the academics told him it was a stupid plan. It also has a incredibly large cathedral which is actually the combination of two cathedrals (the old and the new). We only got a glimpse inside the new cathedral because they were holding services to celebrate the cathedral’s anniversary which was pretty neat to see too.
Avila is a very small city and it was built primarily as a defensive city to defend the Catholic or Christian frontline. It was pretty much abandoned after Spain was made completely Catholic because it was no longer needed to defend them and their water supply ran dry. This ended up being a great things for us because it means that the entire wall of the city was preserved and it is quite amazing to see. Even their cathedral is built into the city wall and looks like a fortress.
We were dropped back off in Madrid at the Plaza de Toros where a bull fight was going on. After reading about it on Wikipedia and watching a YouTube video we had decided not to go to one but it was still interesting to see the atmosphere and revelry around it.