Arriving at the Madrid airport, we made our way to Hostal Jerez which was a about 100 yards off of Grand Via (and it’s metro stop) It was a great location right in the middle of things and our room overlooked the construction of the expansion of the metro stop. We walked down the pedestrian street (Calle de la Montera) did some window shopping, observed a juxtaposed porn shop and what appeared to be street people next to a grocery store and outdoor cafes, and, after a couple hours, scored a bite to eat and retired to our room for the evening.
The next day was our 30th wedding anniversary so we decided a nice visit to the park and gardens (and maybe the art museum) would be a great way to spend the day. First though we needed to get tickets for the train to Barcelona and being so close to the station, this was our best opportunity. The Puerta de Atocha train station surprised us; it was a very nice station with a huge hall full of greenery. We found the ticket office but the line was a mile long so we opted to try the automated ticket machines; unfortunately a special payment card was needed so we were stuck waiting at the ticket office. About an hour later we made it to the counter and informed the two ladies there (one spoke English well, the other not so much), of our travel plans. The English speaking one told us they had a special deal on the fast train to Barcelona: if we could leave at 11:30am instead of 12:30pm we would save about 100 Euros. We had no problem saving that amount and it turns out the train was just 40 minutes longer because of some extra stops so we would arrive about the same time we would have if we’d taken the non-stop 12:30 express.
From the station, we walked to Retiro Park, the “New York Central Park” of Madrid. It was nice wandering the huge park; quiet, a fair amount of fountains, large main paths, quaint side paths, and some amazing sites like the Crystal Palace, an ornate glass structure, built in 1887 on the occasion of the Exposition of the Philippines (which was a Spanish colony). The park isn’t as well marked as we’d hoped but using our phone GPS we finally located The Rosaleda a lovely rose garden. After about 30 minutes, noses full of rose pollen, we decided it was time for lunch so we made our way to the Estanque del Retiro (“Retiro Pond”), a large artificial pond in the center of the park next to the monument to King Alfonso XII. There are two cafes right on the water where we enjoyed a bottle of wine and a veggie pizza just as a short but rather fierce thunder storm rolled in. The wait staff scrambled to secure the umbrellas as we were ushered to a safer part of the cafe (well, still outside but under the thickest, leafiest tree ever). In relative safety, we amused ourselves by watching the boaters scramble and row for all they were worth trying to flee the storm.
After lunch we meandered thru the garden and headed out towards the Museo Nacional Del Prado, the premier art museum in Spain. On our way out Cynthia was delighted with what we could only describe as “brain” trees. We came to the museum and it was overrun with school kids and tourists so we decided not to spend the rest of the day in line and inside, opting instead to wander the city enjoying the stunning, varied and grandiose architecture around every corner. If nothing else, Madrid is a grand city. One thing we did notice were the unusual
multicolored statues that appeared all over the city. We assumed it was some sort of public exhibition that was happening while we were there. The day ended in a wonderful anniversary dinner at a place we stumbled upon during our first night’s walk. It was called Lamucca del Carmen and we throroughly enjoyed a meal of grilled hake and ox tail risotto. We finished the evening joining by my brother and his family while they ate at a local tapas restaurant.
The next day we continued our city tour to try to catch the highlights. At the Royal Palace, the line was short so we decided to go in to check it out. We first toured the royal armor and arms collection. It was a vast collection with everything from cannon to toddler armor. We wish we could have taken some photos, but that was strictly prohibited and there were photo police everywhere. We then toured the palace proper where we learned about the Spanish royals and their history, including the 2014 abdication letter by Juan Carlos the First, the king that lead Spain’s transition to democracy. Now, working up an appetite, we thought we
would get a bite to eat at the Mercado de San Miguel, a real foodie type market, but it was slammed full of people. So we wandered around and found a really nice Turkish restaurant on a corner across from an Unos where we finally had lunch (yeah, we know, it’s not Spanish food but it was quite good and not very expensive).
Meeting up with my brothers Allan’s family, we convinced them to go to the same restaurant we had eaten the night before because today was their anniversary. We took our niece and nephew, Arron and Mia, to dinner at El Rincon de Madrid. This was right next to the famous churros place, Chocolatería San Ginés. We finished up dinner and my brother joined us for some decadent chocolate dipped churros. This was a nice way to end the visit to Madrid. Tomorrow off to Barcelona via train…