Our vacation began with our attendance at a yearly bash thrown by one of our friends who is a blues musician. We went to the party/blues jam at his place in the country and ate, drank, danced and made merry.
The very next morning, our niece Alex drove us to the airport in St. Louis, where the adventure began. We checked in, blew through security in about ten minutes and rode the tiny 50 seat commuter jet to Atlanta. There we spent a pleasant layover at a piano bar in the middle of the concourses, and then wended our way onto the big jet that was to take us across the Atlantic to Spain.
There was a short wait while the plane received new batteries that functioned, as our pilot opined that even though there were backups, he really didn’t think anyone wanted to start off across the ocean with a set of non-functioning batteries. We only had to wait 45 minutes, and during the course of our flight to Spain we more than made up for the delay as we arrived in Madrid 20 minutes earlier than scheduled despite the delay in Atlanta, and we all got free wine and beer with our dinners because of it, so it was all good.
We found the shuttle bus from the airport to the center of Madrid with no trouble, and debarked the bus at the main train station. There we found the “Left Luggage” service, and divested ourselves of our carry-ons.
That train station is something else. The older part of the terminal has been made into an indoor tropical garden.
It even has a turtle pond, full of red-eared sliders.
This made me wonder where all these guys came from, if perhaps this isn’t the rehab facility for abandoned baby turtles that got too big for their terraria.
Well, we had a while before our train to Málaga, so like proper gardeners, we walked down the beautiful main boulevard of Madrid past the Prado area to the Royal Botanical Gardens. It was school tour day there. Pre-teenaged girls sound the same in every language — shrill and hysterical.
Right away I had to get a shot of this Spanish bee, busy pollinating a species of rhododendron.
Then I spent about ten minutes trying to get a good shot of this squirrel. He was not thrilled to be pursued by American paparazzi, and so I never really got a good one. Still, I was entranced by his bright red tail and very tufted ears.
The first spot that truly beguiled us there was a demonstration vegetable garden. All this proves is that you can make your food source an extremely attractive place.
There was a cycad garden just along the way from the vegetable plots. I really loved the way they used the native slate to set off the planting.
There were long alleys of grape arbors on three sides of this garden. We marveled at the iron work, wishing we had something like this back in Missouri for our grapes, and also being pretty sure that the cost would be prohibitive. Still, wonderfully beautiful.
Most of the gardens were pretty low key, since it was late November. We found our way to the greenhouse area, though, and found plenty to look at there.
The first house we entered was quite old. I loved the iron pillar supporting the roof.
Check out the date at the base of the metal pillar.
The walkway in this house was also a drainage ditch, covered with metal grill work.
We escaped this greenhouse right about the time a gaggle of giggling girls entered with their guide.
Right next door was a series of three houses that started out as tropical, transited through temperate and wound up as a desert climate. Not only were there walkways down at ground level, there was a cat walk that you could access by way of wonderful spiral stairs. In the tropical house, you risked being misted, but we decided to experience the plantings from up there anyway.
It was worth the climb and the occasional wetness.
Back down at ground level, we truly enjoyed the various succulents. The living rocks were blooming.
Such very cool plants. I love the way the flower buds coming out of the “rock” look like little tongues protruding between lips.
They had lots of cacti, from all over the world. Some were even native of the US.
There was an extensive collection of carnivorous plants too.
Our layover in Madrid was nearly over. We walked down the boulevard back towards the train station, stopping at the Museo de Jamón (Museum of Ham) for lunch. As we walked along, we admired the amenities provided for pedestrians, and the well regulated traffic of the capital city.
Back at the train station, we retrieved our luggage and proceeded to the waiting area mear the train platforms. By this time, jet lag was starting to affect us, and I went off and exercised my Spanish acquiring a couple of cups of expresso.
Then it was time to board the train. I decided I wanted to get a shot of the engine that was going to be propelling us down the track, and much to my astonishment I was allowed to go all the way to the end of the train and do just that. I’m pretty sure that here in our paranoid country there would be some sort of barrier and guard preventing such foolishness.
Traveling by high speed rail was soooooo cool. We were speeding along at 300 kilometers per hour. There was a monitor in every car that let you know just how fast it train was going.
Lots of times it only read 270 kph… The ride was incredibly smooth and very quiet. The only way you could tell you were going that fast was to look out the window and see the countryside whizzing by.
I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have things like this here….. Oh yeah, that’s right. We have Standard Oil, Goodyear, and General Motors.
But enough sarcasm. We arrived in Malaga and found our way to our hotel, Los Naranjos, a lovely place away from the city center.
Check-in was a breeze, and once we were in our room (top floor back left in that shot) we availed ourselves of the mini bar and drank a couple of beers to celebrate our safe landing in Málaga.