Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Madrid, Spain

Actual date of this event: 16-18 May

Madrid was the most "last minute" trip we have ever made. We originally wanted to use the weekend to go to Isle of Skye because we never got a chance to go while we lived in Scotland. After some research, the journey would have been too much {time and money} for just two nights. We threw that out the window and decided we would use the weekend to rest. Well then we got really anxious thinking about how we would be spending a weekend in May - a prime time traveling month - just sitting at home in London. Omf! Listen to us, "thinking about spending a weekend in London" as its a bad thing! We. Are. Spoiled. Tothebone. Anyway, we pulled out the map and used the trusty googleweb and determined we would head to Madrid for the weekend. Perfect place as there isn't much to see or do there, so I wasn't rushed to book and plan with only five days notice! Five days, y'all! For us OCD travelers, that is very short notice! Moving on... Madrid is a beautiful city, touristy but not so much the annoying tourists, if you know what I mean. It was lively with many people all over the streets, but not too much action. Our focus was relax, eat tapas, have sangria, eat tapas, and relax. We did just about that!
We really lucked out with our accommodations! I had booked us a hostel (which was basically a hotel), but upon arrival, we were upgraded for free {cha-ching!} to a two bedrooms apartment with TWO terraces. This was the bomb! It wasn't the nicest of places, and it didn't have the most awesome view ever, but to have two terraces for the price of a small hotel, yeah buddy! And each night, we were some lucky ducks and got to arrive to a front door... that looks like the door in The Shining. :-)

Once we dropped our bags on Friday, we went out to grub. On our way, we passed through Plaza Mayor, one of the main squares in Madrid. We actually walked through again the next evening and a free concert was going on.

Feeling energized, we visited the Almudena Cathedral first which I talked about previously. Oh that stained glass!!!

Next to the cathedral is the Royal Palace where there is a wide open space between the two.

The sun was brutally hot - my body just can't handle 80*F+ temps anymore. We kept walking and arrived at Plaza de Espana, and I wanted to jump in this fountain. But I refrained.
We headed along Gran Via which is one of the main street of Madrid.
We turned north and refreshed ourselves for a moment at Fábrica Maravillas, a new craft brew bar. Next, we ventured down Calle de la Montera, which is apparently where the prostitutes hang out - we saw at least 
ten just chillin', on a Friday afternoon, waiting for their evening work. Yup. 
And then we ran right into the center of the city Puerta del Sol. This big open square is really nothing special at all except for just a giant meeting place. There were several men dressed in full body costumes (smurfs, sponge bob, spider man, etc) trying to earn a few cents, but I thought it was just really creepy. (I was never a fan of people in costumes - especially Chuck E Cheese!)

Luke and I took a picture of our reflection on the metro station's glass, which was HIS IDEA, and then five minutes later he said, "Ah, I just realized we took a selfie!!!! Ahhh!!!" Haha
We wandered around a bit as the sun started to disappear.
For dinner, we decided on a random tapas place (not the one above). As we were ordering, our server cut us off from ordering more food. People really underestimate Luke's belly! I was pretty full, but Luke claimed he could have eaten another plate. :-) Afterward, we did some more wandering. Just like many other European cities, many of Madrid's restaurants don't open until 7pm or later, so the city was pretty happenin' until late.
We ended the night sitting on our terrace with some drinks - nice and relaxing! On Saturday, we slept in, and decided we would use up a few metro rides we had purchased (we bought a ten ride pass when we arrived at the airport). We hopped on the metro and went out to see Spain's largest bull fighting ring. The museum has an admission fee, but we didn't feel like spending a few hours at a museum, so we just walked around it taking pictures. (Besides the heat, the weather was perfect during out time in Madrid!)

Around the back, we saw dozens of horses getting their hair braided. At one point, one of the sleeping horses "got a little excited" if you know what I mean. Luke and I were cracking up and no one else around us seemed to think this was funny. Apparently, we aren't as mature as other people! :-) (I would do a Buisson Funny Moment on this, but it is totally inappropriate. See, I can be mature.)
Anyway, we hopped back on the metro to visit the ginormous park of Retiro. What an amazing park! It had a lively area with a pond, but then there was a foresty area as well. It would have been nice to take a jog through there, if it weren't so hot of course.

Inside the park is Crystal Palace, whose walls and roof are made of glass. It was pretty neat inside!

We exited the park at Paseo del Prado, so we walked north passing all of the famous museums. Eventually we reached Plaza del Cibeles which is a huge round about with really pretty architecture around it.

From there, we made a drink stop at El Tigre which was one of the places that gives free tapas with your drink! We made arrangements to meet up with our friends Sara and Mike who happened to be in Madrid at the same time. We had hung out all evening having dinner and drinks. That night also happened to be a big football match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona in La Liga - I think the Spanish Cup?? Madrid won which was a huge deal and people were loud and crazy all night!
{pictures - courtesy of Sara}
We ended with a late snack of Churros y Chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés which was just like Cafe du Monde in New Orleans - it looked the same, the vibe was the same, the price was the same, just churros instead of beignets. Very yummy!

On Sunday, Luke and I slept in again, packed up our things, and had a quick breakfast of crepes. Can't beat crepes! We had a few hours before we needed to head to the airport, so we got on the metro to go see Temple of Debod, an Egyptian Temple dating back to the 2nd century B.C. which is now located in a park that overlooks the western side of the city. 

After we were finished, we made our way back to the metro so it could take us to the airport. While I wouldn't say Madrid should be a top priority on anyone's list, it is definitely a great city to be in. We enjoyed our relaxing weekend, and we are glad we chose to visit rather than stay in London!

Madrid is the third most populous city in Europe after London and Berlin (as of Jan 2012).

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