Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Our Last Visa Renewal Trip to Madrid

We left Moscow on January 24 for our last visa renewal trip that we have to make from Russia. Our new visa is good until April 30, so we know we will have to leave by then for our return home. Once again, we went to Madrid, Spain, which was our third trip there. As reported on an earlier blog, other visa renewal trips were to Tallinn in Estonia and to Prague in the Czech Republic.

We have enjoyed our visits to Spain, and this time of the year it was especially nice to have a break from Moscow's winter temperatures and walking on ice. On Sunday, we went to church at the MTC in the morning and walked around Retiro Park in the afternoon. The next morning we took a fast train and spent Monday sightseeing in Toledo. Tuesday morning we went to the temple, and that afternoon we did a self-guided walking tour around Madrid.

Ancient ruins in Retiro Park
Narene & Sam on a walking tour in Madrid.

Since we always have double-entry visas, we use up one entry upon coming back into Russia. That leaves only one entry left to leave if we need to go to another country to do humanitarian training. For this reason, we combined our visa trip with a trip to Armenia to provide training to Elder & Sister Blotter, who began their service as humanitarian missionaries in Yerevan in January. We scheduled to do the training in Yerevan first and then go to Madrid, and we already had our airline tickets before we learned that if we had scheduled our trip the other way around, going to Madrid before going to Armenia, we could be in Madrid the same time as the Shepards and Reeses. The Shepards were going out early to renew their visas, and the Reeses did not have their duplicate passports yet so had to go to Madrid for their first visa renewal. Since our tickets were non-refundable, we thought we would miss out on traveling together with them. Shortly before our trip, though, Victor from the travel department, came into our office to tell us "some bad news" - our flight had been canceled and our money was being refunded. He didn't realize until we told him that this was actually "good news," because now we could reschedule and go with the Shepards and Reeses to Spain and then to Armenia afterward.

In Madrid on the metro
Reeses, Perrys (from Samara), Shepards, and Irelands

The metro in Madrid is quieter and typically less crowded than the metro in Moscow, but there is more interesting variety in the way the Moscow stations are decorated. The metro system in Moscow is really a great way to get around in spite of the pressing crowds and occasional homeless drunk sleeping off a hangover.

Riding the Madrid metro on the last day turned out to not be very pleasant for Chris, as her passport was stolen from her purse only two stops from the airport. Fortunately, after reporting the theft, she was successful in getting a replacement passport; and they were able to take the red-eye plane back to Moscow with the Reeses following a busy day getting a new passport and visa.

Fallen Angel Monument in Retiro Park

I read that this is one of three statues in the world dedicated to a fallen angel, although another site said it was the only one. It represents Lucifer falling from heaven and was inspired by a passage from Milton's "Paradise Lost."

Another one of the many monuments
in Retiro Park.

Valazquez Palace in Retiro ParK (1833)
Now used as an exhibition hall for contempory art.

Crystal Palace in Retiro Park

Interior of the Crystal Palace in Retiro Park

The hanging crystal decorations in the center of the Crystal Palace were new since our previous visits. Exhibitions of modern art are said to be regularly held here, but not while the remodeling work has taken place when we have been there.

Retiro Park lake and monument to Alfonso XII
( Photo taken early evening on our
return walk to our hotel through the park.)

Monument to Alfonso XII
by the lake in Retiro Park

A pretty sky in Retiro Park in early evening.

"The token photo"
Churches and cathedrals seem to be
important tourist attractions
in each city we visit.

Caixa Forum Cultural Center
with a wall of vegetation without earth.

This is a free museum where we had seen an Etruscan exhibit on our last trip to Madrid. This time we saw an exhibition of Chinese art. The main stairs of the building widen steadily as the stairs rise upward producing an interesting effect.

Stairs inside the Caixa Forum
(Perrys, Narene, & Greg)

La Cibeles Fountain
dedicated to
the Greek goddess, Cibeles

I read that this fountain, built at the end of the 18th century, is the most important symbol of Madrid. Cibeles, the Greek goddess, holds in her hands a scepter and the keys to the city.

"Puerta de Alcala" or Alcala Gate
A monument very near the center of the city

This is the "Year of the Cow" in Spain
and bright colored cows were seen around the city.

The Palace Hotel

Palace Hotel lobby

Eternal flame in Loyalty Square
or "Plaza de la Lealtad"
near the Palace Hotel

The eternal flame and obelisk is a memorial commemorating the victims of the uprising on 2 May 1808. On this day, the people of Madrid rebelled against the occupation of the city by Napoleon's French troops. The French were harsh in suppressing the rebellion, and it triggered the Spanish War of Independence.

The Ritz Hotel
across the street from the Palace Hotel

The lobby in the Ritz Hotel

We stayed in the Convencion Hotel.
(Chris, Steve, Linda, Narene, Greg;
Sam took the picture)

I will add pictures from our Toledo trip on the next blog, and I also have pictures to post from our visit in Turkey enroute to Armenia.

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