Madrid and overview of Tuscany and Caminos Mozárabe 

Madrid

Nice to be back. I like this place and it’s easy to keep away from the heavily touristed parts even though I’m staying in a hotel in the CBD. 

I visited some old haunts today including an amazing cheese shop. We transacted in Spanish and it was only afterwards I discovered how well the woman serving there, Monika, speaks english and knows, and loves, Spain. 

Getting a haircut

Haircuts in Spain are something I’ve steered away from. Think of all the information you can’t impart. I did it once in Santiago de Compostela, after walking the Via de la Plata, and it wasn’t a roaring success. Let’s just say I got my money’s worth and didn’t need another one for quite a while. 

Armed now with more Spanish, and a mop that looked like an inverted floor mop, what to do. Obvious: try again. Skipped the places nearby as they focus on wigs and hairpieces. Wasn’t sure we’d see a haircut the same way. 

Found a hairdresser in the arty suburb, near the cheese shop. Wasn’t obvious if it was open and indeed, if anyone was there. Crossed the road to an orange coloured hairdressing salon, one with two cliched gay guys both doing the hair of women clients. Had to get buzzed in. I wondered why. And then wondered about the clients who were both wearing polyester crossover orange house coats. What had I done!!! What was this place. 

After about 10′ the more handsome of the two guys finished curling his client’s hair for church this weekend (an old fashioned set with curls that many older church going women seem to favour). Me next. As his client took off her orange coat she was clearly well dressed and that ghastly costume, the house coat, was not hers. 

Next Enrique had to get me a house coat. Ugh. He picked blue for me. Must have been my crestfallen survey of the options. Wearing an orange housecoat would be difficult. They are horrible. Blue wasn’t quite as bad. Hmmm. 

Hair washing was sort of usual. I suspect he must have completed reiki 101 and knew I had a hangover from hell (chocolate poisoning – it’s true). 

For the cutting: I tried to explain I wanted it thinned. He showed me his thinning scissors so I figured it’d be ok, and showed him a photo of my hair as I liked it. Hmm, yes, could only find one good photo. Must start taking selfies. 

The best thing: none of the usual tedious hairdresser chat. None! He realised the cost to us both could be high so he stayed quiet. Phew. Not like the lovely masseur in Mexico who, despite my level of Spanish and semi naked state, persisted in chatting to me. So I loved Enrique from the start. 

And no, I hadn’t asked how much it’d cost as I needed it done. While the salon wasn’t on the Gran Via or another major street it is in a trendy area so I figured I’d have to just swallow the cost and guessed €30 to €50. It was €20. So, good haircut and wash, no boring chatter and it cost only €20!!! I’m letting my hair grow until the next time I’m in Madrid. 😁😁😁

More exploring: found a new market I like. It’s an increasingly common style of market here: quality produce and co-located restaurants that use produce from the market. The quality of the produce is high and a guy working there told me it’s increasingly busy on weekends and, trendy. It’s not too far from where I once lived. I’m seriously thinking how I can justify more time in Madrid at school next year.

Last night here tonight. Packing is nearly done. Just a few clothes from today to go in then I’m ready. Flight tomorrow is not until the evening so late morning I’m heading to my favourite museum here, the national archaeological one. Yes, it’ll be about my 4th visit and I’ve saved it up this trip until the end.

Overview of this trip

Bear with my self indulgence. 

Two weeks in Salamanca was a good way to start. Then, Florence and walking in Tuscany. I unexpectedly loved Florence, the tower in Pisa exceeded my expectations and the walled city of Lucca was, yawn, yawn, overtouristy. I enjoyed the walks with the group I joined in Tuscany. It also taught me the value of mixed international groups as having the majority from the one small country (the U.K.) made it a little um, inwardly focussed and exclusive. 

Then, back to Spain. Walking from Malaga towards Córdoba was good except for all the spare beds beside me every night. That got a little underwhelming. On the other hand, no waiting for a shower or for a powerpoint or having to confess to being the one who snored last night. Just say olive trees and km of them come to mind, easily. Up and down hill and almost always walled in by olive trees.

And then, Almería. Who knew what a wonderful castle it had. I regret missing the museum but had not planned to be there for long. Avoiding the first few km out of town, through the industrial area was very sensible. I made up a little of the distance I skipped the first time I got lost on this camino. I continued blithely down the empty riverbed, having just seen two walkers with packs behind me. Wasn’t sure if they were walking the Camino too or, locals. Finally realised the absence of yellow arrows and checked my map. Turned back and, miracle of miracles, passed the first few bars in town and walked into the very one where the two walkers were. They’d thought I might be doing some other Camino. Hmmm, my own as I’d dreamed along.

Each night after that Benedicto, Manual and I stayed at the same place. We didn’t really walk together much for a few days and then I found myself increasingly walking with them. They are nice guys and we stumbled through Spanish together: I can’t say Spanglish as neither had more than a word or two of english. Often difficult but, good for me. Thanks caballeros! 

Almería to Granada is one part of the Camino Mozarabe, an amazing route that is almost different every day from astoundingly dry and barren to quite fertile and productive. I’d recommend it anyone with a little experience walking here. Helps immeasurably if you speak some Spanish as only one guy I met spoke any english.  The other help came from the Almeria Amigos of the Camino Mozarabe. Their material is comprehensive and impressive. 

Then a visit to one of the interesting chains of old castles in Andalucía, in Alcalá la Real. I think I have to return there to visit some others between it and Córdoba. 

From Córdoba to Madrid and, tomorrow home

While walking with the boys Benedicto took innumerable photos he’s allowed me to use. I’ve mixed his with some of mine, a bit of self indulgence for me of my time with them. They may or may not see this blog: Manual was translating it into Spanish and reading it earlier so, they might. His brother teaches english so it’s not totally improbable. Benedicto wasn’t reading it but emailed me the other day and had sent me the photos so, here goes.

Heaven is: wifi, Coke light, great raciones and a nice bar with the caballeros:

If you’re ever in Spain, go to Finaña, a small town with an interesting past. Get the private tour €2 each, we had. You may be lucky and see the muzzled goats too!



Yet again the photographer was giving orders. Move to… move closer… note how bossy he must be?


Low ceilings are dangerous for tall Australians. 


Together again, and again, and yet again… smiling for posterity and El Papa.


Yeah, ok, obviously a place with wifi! The depth of focus says it all. 


Why would you take an angled photo? To show the double rainbow of course. The person was just an irrelevance in the foreground. 😏


One of the photographer’s last opportunities to order us, on our last morning.

The excitement must have got to him as the focus is not great in this. 


On an earlier day: note superman in his cape in the distance, excited by the rain.

In case you’ve forgotten what B looks like, here he is, surrounded by his fans (L to R: Julia, Benedicto, Manual, Val). And barricaded in by beer. 


One other view, yes, first breakfast together! 


And then, Granada.



Thanks for reading this blog. Next episode will probably be written in April next year

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