Our introduction to Madrid was delightful with a nice Moroccan driver in a comfortable car to take us to our apartment . He was a good driver too, so that really helps when you arrive at your lodgings in a relaxed state, we had such a hair-raising drive to Budapest airport that we were still getting over.
The apartment is in a fantastic location, in the heart of the old town, across from Plaza Mayor in Calle Mayor, there’s lots of stairs,but we are getting used to that and it must be the narrowest building in madrid, ( above left in centre). Comfortable bed and nice shower and recently renovated and we are happy, we look out of our balcony and the liveliness of the street below and the beautiful buildings opposite calls us to go out and discover. Even though it’s getting onto 10pm we are energised by it all. It’s Sunday night so everyone is out and about enjoying the balmy evening.
We wander up to Plaza Mayor but it is a bit of a tourist trap, the atmosphere is great with the street theatre and people everywhere ,but the annoyance of the hassle of being asked to sit at a restaurant or buy the latest gimmick was annoying so we go to the Mercado San Miguel, that our driver mentioned and also we had seen a show on tv about.
It was a great way for us to start Madrid, mostly locals enjoying this new market concept where you get your tapas and drink from lots of stall holders and either stand near the stall and eat & drink or walk around taking in the atmosphere. There are some tables and stools around but impossible to secure.
We had been fed on the plane but the allure of it all was too much so we tried some wonderful tapas and a glass of Sangria, we needed to walk to digest our food intake, so we leisurely strolled down to the Royal Palacio Real and the Cathedral to look at them lit up at night.
It was nice to see them without lots of tour groups around the buildings, so we enjoyed the solitude. We will return tomorrow when they are open to see the interiors.
we couldnt resist this shot of the old busker and the lovers at midnight outside the Palace, so Spanish….
After a great nights sleep and leisurely breakfast , we take off for the day to absorb as much of Madrid as we can. We feel that the public transport ticket will be more useful to us than the tourist bus, so we master the underground and find a bus just near us too , so we can then concentrate on enjoying the sights we want to see, instead of being exhausted in the heat.
We head off to look for the food markets and get a little lost before finding a nice cool plaza to sit and drink and eat some tapas and just around the corner is the Mercado we were looking for. It’s nothing flash and a bit sad and tired but still serves a purpose, we then head down hill past a lovely open garden that was once a private garden now opened to the public and up to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral looks old but it is a recent building in Madrid and it is beautifully decorated inside in a modern way with older Baroque and Gothic influences too. It was certainly different from those we have seen and was great to see the artistic way it had been done. The feel of Madrid with its dry climate and yet abundant flora is evident everywhere and there are so many colourful and picturesque scenes that just jump out at you like this one accross the road from the cathedral
The Palacio has a very large uncovered courtyard entrance that in the midday heat is glarey and hot so we grab what shade we can along the sides to enter the Palais via the Palace Pharmacies which was very interesting.
Of course we had to DO the Palace but this time on our own and got enough from the info plaques to get all we needed. After the palais we grad a cool drink in the shade and head up to the Mercado San Miguel where John gets some lunch to take back to the apartment that he could not find from his shopping expedition this morning.
We picked up the no 3 bus down to the plaza,,, to see some more sights such as the Metropolitan building the Bank Espana and watched the setting sun light up the Stunning Palace of Communication ( Old Post Office) And then caught The Metro back to Puerta del Sol , the heart of Madrid.
Wandering the streets of an evening is delightful as it is cooler and the atmosphere is more vibrant with everyone out and about enjoying themselves. We stop at an italian restaurant near us and have a scrumptious meal and enjoy an Italian wine too. The amount restaurants near us is mind boggling , but we felt like an Italian meal and we were so glad of our choice.
The Prado gallery we have been told is a must and we que to get in. There are wonderful Spanish Masterpieces, but many of the religious scenes etc start to get a bit repetitive for us and after the many galleries of Italy over the years we decide we have probably seen enough of this style of painting to last us a lifetime, and so in future will mainly stick to the 19 th century and upwards. We are glad to have visited but do not stay as long as we would normally in a gallery.
We stopped for lunch at the Palace Hotel that Lizzie C told us to visit , and we were glad we did. Sitting under the glass dome and enjoying the scrumptious lunch buffet was a real treat. The architecture of old Madrid is beautiful with so many Art Noveau buildings, so many photos are taken of these . Many are banks now and they stand majestically on the corners of busy streets, so John has to be careful not to get carried away with the photo taking and forgetting about all the cars and buses zooming past, with a few reminders from me!! We picked up the no3 bus again to look at the beautiful Casa Lombrdo designed by a student of Antonio Gaudi which is now an office building so no internal viewings and loved its moulded Art Nouveau plaster work.
Back on the bus thinking it wold go back from where it came and we soon relished that maybe that s not the case so decided to get off and ind a metro bak when the buildings became plain and ugly from the Facist era of the 50’s.
That afternoon we got tickets for The 14th cetury Convent les Decalzars Reales near our apartment and found it very much untouched for the past 300 years and we got to view it by a small tour. It was very unassuming from the outside but inside the frescoes and artworks were fantastic, so we were so glad that we were able to add this into our afternoon.
Another extensive wandering of the Streets and Plazas that night past the sometimes humorous street theatre led us back to The Mercado San Miguel for an early Tapas before the local crowds hit and we incised the night with a jug of sangria and desert…very decadent indeed.
We visited the Reina Sophia gallery on our last which had an enormous amount of Picasso,Dali and other modern masters exhibits and it was great to see Picasso’s Guernia. This gallery was more to our liking and the time flew by here and the garden courtyard was appreciated too. John especially liked the giant cuts of meat sculpture.
The Old City gardens in the huge Park del Retiro were a peaceful sanctuary from the busy city streets and many people enjoy them and sit in the shady areas and read or just watch the world go by.
Our last night we walked up to Santa Ana Square and enjoyed having tapas, but we ordered way too much! and enjoyed watching the locals enjoy their evening with many going to the Opera building nearby.
It was a lovely way to be voyeurs of the locals and a few tourists and the beautiful weather makes you want to stay outside for as long as you can.
We have felt very safe everywhere in Madrid, even in the underground , although always conscious of could be pickpockets. The Police presence is huge and most of the large squares have at least 3 police vans and 4 police bikes, they certainly seem to be concentrating on making sure that their tourists feel safe and keep tourism happenings with the downturn of their economy. The only time we felt unsafe was when John was trying to find the old music building and we got a bit lost and we must have been obvious with us consulting a map etc and we noticed a couple of young guys watching us and then follow us, so we turned around and John looked straight at them and waited for them to pass and then we decided the building was not important and got back into the more lively streets, before we could become a target for them again. We enjoyed Our last wander through the streets after dinner before going back to pack our bags again for our next adventure in Morocco. We are glad to be coming back to Spain in 8 days time to have 4 days in Toledo, as we have thoroughly enjoyed our Madrid experience . John couldnt resist this picture of the Architecural Gem Madrid’s Terminal 4 is, pure genius.