Sunday, December 6, 2015

Madrid, Spain: 5 nights, October 10-15, 2015

Our train from Valencia to Madrid left from a different train station in Valencia. So off we went by foot to get there. Again, so very thankful we only had our small carry on and a backpack. At this station, we actually had to go through security with everything being xrayed. A first for that.

A lovely 1.5 hour ride inland and we arrived in this wonderful lively city. Again, our hotel/apartment location was excellent and we were able to drop our bags off and go out exploring a bit before coming back to check in.

Once checked in, off we went to find the Hop On, Hop Off bus. No worries, it was right around the corner at the bus stop. Still being early in the day, we were able to ride each route and get a lay of the city.

We decided to get off at Plaza Sol in the heart of the shopping and restaurant area of the city. It was packed with people everywhere especially since it was a holiday weekend here to celebrate Columbus Day on the 12th. We wandered the area and made our way back to our own neighborhood where we stopped in at the bar Stop Madrid. What a terrific beer and wine bar with quite a bit of history.  we found a delicious Rioja red wine, Lan 12, for only 3 euros. Fun, fun!

As we were not happy with the condition of our apartment, we filed a complaint the morning of our second day. Our landlord told us that he did have a better apartment but it wouldn't be available until the next day (Day 3 of our 5 nights).

So off we went to discover Madrid. I had been to Madrid in 1999 with a couple of girlfriends but we only stayed a few days, so I was just as eager to see the city up close and personal. As the weather was once again a little on the "iffy" side, Mike and I took the metro to the museum of Spanish art - The Prado. To say that it was magnificent, would be putting it mildly. It's huge with over a hundred salons. What fabulous art! However, after several hours, my head couldn't absorb any more. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed but as usual, I managed to take a few when the guards were otherwise occupied.

Just behind the Prado is a beautiful church called San Jeronimo el Real. It sits up above many many steps to get to the entrance. Just had to go take a peak!

From there we made our way back to the metro stop and along the way shot a few photos. Getting off the metro at Plaza Sol again, we headed in the direction of Plaza Mayor. We found a sweet little sidewalk cafe for dinner then headed further up the pedestrian street to the actual Plaza.

As it was Sunday evening, we actually found an American Pub with football onwhere we were able to talk them into putting on the last few minutes of the Seahawks game against Cincinnati. Unfortunately, despite a large lead, they managed to blow it right at the end. While at the pub, we ended meeting and having a fun conversation with a wonderful young man from Norway, who was a huge Seahawks fan. The joys of traveling!

Monday the 12th was the Columbus Day holiday and, of course, they were going to have a huge parade and lots of celebrations all over town. After a quick bite to eat at our local little breakfast bistro, we made our way down the hill toward Independence Circle. Along the way, the synchornized jets, planes and helicopters flew over us. Quite the spectacle!

Not being able to get anywhere near close enough to see the parade, we turned around and headed back to our apartment to meet with our landlord to look at another unit that we might be able to move into that was supposed to be in better condition. It turned out that it was in much better condition but didn't have a closet and was very small. So we ended up staying put where we were for the duration.

We then headed through town and made our way to the Palace thinking we were going to the tour. As it turned out because of the holiday, it was closed due to the King entertaining in the Palace. So after watching the King leave, we made our way to the Cathedral ( to take a tour there before proceeding on to a neighborhood outdoor cafe overlooking the canyon and having an afternoon drink.

One of the other attractions that we had wanted to do was the cable car over the canyon. So hoping that it was still running by the time we walked up there on the other side of town, we took off on foot. It was about a 3 mile walk and we were rewarded with the attraction still being open. So off we went to see the city from above. Enjoy some of our photos that we also took on the stroll to get there.

Our 4th day in Madrid was actually spent in Toledo, only a 35 minutes train ride away. But, boy is it a whole different world! Since that's a story in and of itself, I will be posting a blog entry on it individually.

Our last day dawned brilliant! So off we went to go for our tour of the Palace and armory! They don't allow photos in there either so we could only take photos up until the actual entry into the rooms. Such a shame! A beautiful palace so don't miss it if you go. Mike and I thought it rivaled Versailles. However, they did have a video show going in the lobby and I was able to capture a few photos of its beauty to share.

After having a wonderful lunch at a cafe on the square, we once again caught the metro to go to the Botanical Gardens. It was so beautiful out that we only wanted to be outside and enjoying Madrid at a leisurely pace for our final day.

The day couldn't have been more gorgeous, so we continued on up the hill and entered a huge park called Parque del Retiro Jeronimo. With a small map, we found our way to the Crystal Palace, which sat next to a beautiful large pond with waterfall. The Palace was empty except for a small art exhibit. However, it was originally built to house plants from the Philippines.

 Continuing on in the park, we passed some beautiful buildings, saw Mickey Mouse, and came upon a most beautiful small lake with paddle boats, kayaks, cafes, and monuments. Of course, since the sun was beginning to set, we set ourselves down at one of the cafes for a beer and a wine while enjoying the whole holiday family atmosphere. Totally content and relaxed!!

Making our way back to the center of town, we decided it was our last chance to go into the largest and most exclusive department store all over Europe, El Corte Ingles. We had been seeing advertisements for the Gourmet Experience, so we hopped the elevator to the 9th floor. Well, OMG!! What an epicurean experience! Gourmet foods everywhere and then food and drink stations set up all over. Tables were arranged in a cafe setting with walls of windows where we were lucky to find one with a view of the city and could watch the stunning sunset while sipping beer and wine and eating gourmet delectables. A terrific way to end our fabulous stay in Madrid!

So Madrid came to an end after 5 glorious days. Love this city! It most certainly shouldn't be overlooked or missed during a trip through Spain.

But, it was time to move on to Portugal. However, since I didn't include our day in Toledo in this blog entry, I will be posting that day's experience before moving on to our last city.