Good coach tour covering the west of Madrid that the hop on hop off does not cover. Guide gave English commentary which explained the history of the city and why it's architecture is as it is. Did not feel that the commentary was as good as the Spanish version ( the majority of the tour bus came from Argentina). After a couple of hours the coach dropped us off at the Bernabeu. We had to exchange our passes given at the coach office for entry tickets at the (poorly signed) stadium ticket booths. The stadium tour takes about two hours and does not have a guide. This allows visitors to follow the tour signs at their own pace. Interesting interactive displays. After finishing the tour you have to make your own way back to the centre of the city. The easiest option for this is to take the hop on hop off bus directly outside the stadium for €10 per person and you get a day ticket or get a bus from the same bus stop for €1:50 but this does not go to the centre. The Bernabeu tour is not suitable for wheelchair bound people as there are stairs and steps to negotiate and no ramps or lifts.
Our sightseeing tour was provided by Orient tours. Our guide Abdul aziz met us at a prearranged hotel promptly at 8 a.m and we were pleasantly surprised to find we were the only people booked on the trip. Abdul immediately drove us to the Grand Mosque where he was able to give us a detailed tour despite his rather faltering english. The reason for the early start became obvious after taking two hours to see the mosque - as we left we were met by about 24 coachloads of tourists coming in the opposite direction to see the mosque. We avoided seeing the fish market and then went to look around the Souk. Abdul showed us what was good value and after a coffee and bite to eat we were then taken to Muscat museum at Bait al Zubair which gave us an insight into Omani culture and history, the story of the boat 'Jewel of Muscat' and a worthwhile picture exhibition by various local and international artists as part of the Festival. Abdul was courteous and very helpful and it was a pity that we had arranged transport from the hotel back to our daughter's house at 13:30 as he would have taken us to see the royal palaces and any other sight we requested, but we ran out of time and even local Muscat people seem to get lost in the bewildering street and district system. We would thoroughly recommend this tour- very good value for money but opt for an early start to avoid the heat of the day.
No hassle to collect tickets. Comfort break at the gift shop a good idea due to the early start from the tour operators office. Good seats by the barrier so very close when the Pope passed by meant good opportunity to take reasonable pictures. Word of caution- no shade in the square so worth pointing out that sunhat or sun umbrella a good idea as seated from 9:00 a.m until half past midday. Take care with the chairs as mine collapsed under me due to rust and old age and I could have had a serious back injury.
For anyone who wants to find out about some of the cultural influences on Rome's history then this is the tour to take. We were a small group of six so our guide was able to give us a detailed account of the ghetto area as well as showing us some of the lively cafe night life and churches and monuments . Our guide was totally professional and very knowledgeable and gave an educated and balanced view of catholic and jewish attitudes. Unfortunately one of the group had very strong opinions about catholic approaches during World War II and voiced them rather vehemently against our guide. To her credit our guide remained professional throughout this attack and continued to give her even handed commentary although the verbal outburst clearly upset her. In spite of the outburst our guide continued to make this an enjoyable and worthwhile tour.
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