(91 429 27 14)
There are literally hundreds of small pensions and hotels in Madrid. Gonzalo is probably one fair example of them. To me it was acceptable, though the owners a little anal. In fact, the building where the "hotel" was located, had a different hotel on nearly every floor. It must be good business, and they are nearly always fully booked. I remember running around the entire area for two hours, one evening, trying to get into one of them. Prices vary and the rooms can usually be had with or without bathroom. Hit the guidebooks or the Internet when you're ready to go there. In the rest of the country things seem not quite as critical as in Madrid. In my preferred Cordoba, I just walked up and after two tries found a small hotel, nearly downtown that was inexpensive and had a few open singles, though, I noticed the following day it too was fully booked and remained that way for the duration of my stay. The Madrid subway system is ultra modern, remarkably well executed and very convenient. Alas, in the entrance tunnels, more often than not, derelicts are sleeping on cardboard and old mattresses. Take an open bus tour in Madrid. It's a large place and a ticket lets you get on and off for 24 hours all over town.
From Madrid I took the train to visit Toledo and also Avila. Both very interesting locales to experience.
Jose Zorilla 3 (957 47 60 00)
Walk from the station toward town. On the right side of the boulevard with the big green strip in the center, you will find a very nice and somewhat expensive hotel in a side street. Going on, crossing where there is the circular foundation of a Roman Mausoleum, you enter a pedestrian shopping area. Go past the Burger King and down a lane to the left. An old church is visible at the end of that alley. On the left side there is the little dive Andalucia. The location is very good. Going back toward the main street, take the first alley left and you'll see a very friendly and convenient Internet place. Going the other way leads you into the heart of the town. Get a map from the hotel. Navigating is a little tricky because of all of the beautiful winding alleys. I had walked, carrying my 60 lbs of backpack and camera bag, from the Cordoba train station to find this little place. Not much to it, but it served me well. The location was good and I was satisfied. The price was ridiculously low. No A/C, but private baths. Cordoba is a lovely and historically significant city to walk, and I enjoyed my stay here tremendously. Here, as in Madrid, I would shop at the Corte D'Englise and would get magazines and all the food and wine supplies I needed at a reasonable cost. An interesting thing to note. There is a huge archeological site outside of the city with a great exhibit of Moslem artifacts and the tickets for the event were on sale at the top floor of the Corte D'Englise. Cordoba is my favorite city in Spain and kept me entertained for a week. The absolutely mind-boggling great mosque with a Catholic cathedral in it's center, by order of the emperor Karl II, following the expulsion of the Muslims from southern Spain and thus the end of Spain's "Golden Era", is a unique and truly spitirual experience. From Codoba it is also very easy to make a day trip to Sevilla. I took the high-speed Spanish AVE bullet train and it rockets you there in 90 minutes or less. Spain demands the highest express-train surcharges in Europe. That goes hand-in-glove with an economy that is heavily dependent on subsidies from the European Union and because of that it protests the entry of the eastern states. Spain fears that they either have to get their act together (doubtful), or they will have to share that wonderful subsidy with other poor EU members. Later I took the train from Cordoba to Algeciras to start my Moroccan trip. Learn to read the train schedules. Lots of the Spanish railway employees do not speak English (or German, or French). Another note on the schedules. I waited for an hour for a train that runs only on weekends. Small symbols on the schedule will show those important details.
Upon arrival in Algeciras I immediately purchased my roundtrip ferry ticket to Tangier. My Eurailpass served to get me a discount. Then it was a two-hour ride past the Rock of Gibraltar to Tangier. When I got there, I listened to people talking about being on a tour of Tangier, a weekend package, staged out of the four-star hotel Solazur. I talked to a young Canadian couple and then some others and found out that there will be a bus that was to pick up some of the package tourists. Since I had no hotel reservation, I first informed the couple that they do not need a cab, and to simply slip onto the Solazur tour bus. They did, and I did, and then we were all briefed on what to do and to expect and off we went, to the Solazur: (see Morocco).