Madrid!

We (Jenny, Brad & I) arrived Monday afternoon in Madrid. It was of course a bit rainy and quite cool, Madrid being in central Spain and having some altitude. After checking in at our hotel (which was well located, near the Prado museum and a huge park) we went out to explore. I hadn’t been to Madrid other than for a few hours when I had a long wait for a train last week so it was another new city to explore. Each city we visited was larger than the last…La Manga, really just a resort, then Granada, Sevilla and Madrid.

We went first to the big park 10 minutes or so from the hotel. Brad is a navigator savant, so it was nice not to have to refer to a map every block). We walked in past a detailed boxwood hedged garden lined with statues, to a small lake in the park. Despite temperatures in the 40s and light rain, boating on water was quite popular. Photo of me courtesy of Brad.

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From there we saw a couple of interestingly carved fountains and headed to the Crystal Palace, a building made of glass. Inside there’s a sound installation and signs requesting silence, but it was pretty crowded and so good luck with the silence. There’s a pond in front of the palace and a lot of well fed ducks were swimming or on the grass eating (mostly the latter). I went back the next day at sunset and it was really pretty there, with the reflections from the sky on the water and in the glass.

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After we exited the park, (there was also a modern museum, but I don’t get modern…we didn’t stay long), we went to the big shopping street, which is Madrid’s answer to Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Madison Avenue, NY, though there was a mix of stores. We split up for an hour, and I walked back and forth across the streets trying to get the right Christmas lights photos and I also did a bit of shopping.

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After reconvening we went to a nice restaurant on the recommendation of a saleslady and it was really cool and the food was great. It had a huge display of fruits and vegetables at one end and the normal legs of ham on another wall. (FYI, Serrano ham is the expensive one, from black pigs and is graded according to the feed (all acorn fed leads more expensive meat), and how much room the pigs have o roam (free range at the high end, caged at the lower end) how long it’s aged; Iberian ham is cheaper, because it can come from other pigs and they can be fed feed without acorns.)

On Tuesday, our last day in Spain, the sun came out and it was a lovely day. It was also Constitution Day, something like 4th of July…everyone was out and it was so crowded! Streets were blocked off near our hotel for much of the day because VIPs were coming and going and the police were out in force.  The sun didn’t come up till nearly 8:30..we went separately to the Royal Palace, and got there right about when it opened. The line wasn’t bad but by the time we finished it was very long. The palace is huge and has the usual high ceilings, painted ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, a church, and less usual, the Throne Room. Photos weren’t permitted inside, though I got a few because I asked a guard if it was ok and he said no problem…and it wasn’t, till I got to the next room and was busted, but I think the guard may have gotten into more trouble than me. One unique room was lined entirely by painted porcelain and the seams were covered by the porcelain “vines”. It was beautiful and not something I’d ever seen before. The dining room was three rooms combined and I think you’d need a telephone to talk to the person at the opposite end of the table. On the back of the palace is a large garden and opposite, another park lined with more statues.

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After the palace, we went shopping, and ate lunch, and then wandered separately. Churros are very popular here, especially chocolate ones.  I went back to the park, then, at the end of the day into the Prado (it was free, so the lines were very long till about 6pm; it closed at 7. I just wandered around, took a few photos (never saw the sign saying they were prohibited, but they are, in case you wondered). The area I ended up with had a lot of portraits of royalty and a lot of tableaus of the Virgin Mary & Jesus and angels. The clothing from the 1500s or so does not look very comfortable.

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We had paella for our last dinner in Spain, it was fantastic and now I’m on my way home. This flight (the carrier is Iberia) is one of the emptiest I’ve seen in a long time. I have four seats to myself and anyone who doesn’t have at least two is crowded by choice. (Travel tip: do not try to bring your massage stick in your carryon through Madrid…it will have to be checked or will be confiscated.)

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Happy Holidays everyone. 

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