Thursday, October 20, 2016

Madrid in Two Days - Complete!

Before I begin let's all just agree that Madrid is like your laid-back best friend that likes to stay up late and drink way too much wine. Ok?

Madrid is a diamond in the middle of an arid plain in the middle on Spain. Though it's been an important Spanish city of centuries, it wasn't the Spanish capital until the early 1600s. The grand palace was built in the 1700s, which isn't that long ago given the ancient castles in Toledo or Seville.

I arrived in Madrid on Monday morning with my Mom and two sisters. We got an apartment suite just north of the the Gran Via -- the main boulevard that cuts through Madrid east to west. We got lucky because the room was ready, so we were able to dump our luggage, freshen up and head out onto the street.

Here's the most important thing you need to know about Madrid -- this is a very walkable city. And a walkable city makes like all the more easier.

From our hotel, it was an easy 30 minute walk to the Prado, which was basically on the other side of the city from where we were. And after an over-night flight, the walk was most welcome.

The Prado has an amazing collection ... especially if you're into religious paintings. Murillo is the star of the museum, in my opinion. I get goosebumps looking at his ascensions. But the Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights is what brings most people in.

Art Lovers!
From there we wandered through the Puerto de la Sol and onto Plaza Mayor, making stops here and there along the way. We stumbled upon Lhardy's, one of the oldest restaurants in Madrid and talked to the staff there about their history. One of the benefits of traveling with Spanish-speakers.

Drink Service at Lhardy's
The Plaza Mayor was just too inviting to leave, and since the sun was setting and we were exhausted from our day, we sat for a glass of wine and our first of many plates of jamon iberico. DearGodThatHamGivesMeLife!!

Plaza Mayor in the Setting Sun

HAM!
We ended up sitting there for several hours and went through several plates of delicious tapas. Because, when in Europe, sit in a square and watch the world go by. That's just what you do.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Mercado de San Miguel. It was a functioning market in the early 1900s but had been closed for decades before private investors bought and fixed it up in 2009. It's now a GREAT place to stop for ice cream and other bites.

Mercado de San Miguel
Day 2:

I had planned Day 2 down to the hour! I wanted to take advantage of all the little places near our hotel in the north, as well as get into the Palacio. HOWEVER, we made the horrible mistake of not setting an alarm and none of us slept very well ... so ... I was the first one up on Tuesday at 12:30 in the afternoon. The horror!!! We slept through our hotel's complementary breakfast and everything!

I roused the girls and we got out as quickly as uncaffeinated mothers can move. Which isn't too quick.
Streets Around the Hotel
We meandered in the general direction of the Palacio Liria that I wanted to catch a glimpse at and down to the Plaza de Espana where we finally got breakfast and cafe con leche.

By the time we got through the beautiful side garden and to the Palacio Real it was CLOSED! By 15 minutes!! There was some event happening there in the afternoon so they closed early. Of course!

Royal Palace - Closed
The Catedral de la Amudena is across the square from the Palacio and it just looks funny. By comparison to a lot of the old cathedrals in Europe, this one is relatively new (late 1700s, but finished in this century) and austere -- not a lot of decoration and a really "flat facade." I couldn't put my finger on it. So, I just stared at the beautiful Palacio and it's neo-classical style. And wished I'd set a damn alarm!
Teatro Real in the Distance

This pretty much concluded the "sight-seeing" portion of our day ... the rest was dedicated to SHOPPING! We walked back up to the Gran Via and then took a left up the Calle de Fuencarral, a pedestrian street with shops for blocks and blocks.

Shopping Ladies
In my original plans, there's a few smaller museums, including one specialized in the Romantic-period art and the history of Madrid, at the top of the Calle de Fuencarral. But, of course, by the time we got to that part of the street it was late and we were pooped.

Unable to adopt to the Spanish meal schedule, which dictates a small dinner at 9 or 10, we looked through a few just-opening restaurants to find a place for dinner at 8. We found a cute restaurant and drank wine until the kitchen opened at 8:30. Oh those Americans!

That night, we repacked our suitcases and got ready for our early-morning departure to Tenerife, for the next leg of our Spain travel.

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