We flew to Madrid as a summer vacation to rest after the five day trek to complete El Camino de Santiago. Knowing that with our Spanish fluency the trip was going to make for a better experience, we set out on a vacation that unknowingly would be the introduction to a great and enriching experience.
We flew to Madrid from Santiago de Compostela and decided not to rent a car because we were not sure how much we would be traveling outside the city center to venture around the large metropolitan area. Madrid is a large metropolis, second only to Paris in the European context. We were tired and physically hurting from our trek around Galicia so we decided to confine our exploration to Madrid's city center.
Weather in Madrid is very close to what we are used to in the part of Texas we are from. It is hot and dry, with a blazing sun cooking everything in its path in the hours the sun is at its highest, in the summer months. There is a dear song to me called Uña y Carne, that describes, using similes, how inseparable the author is to his wife. One of those similes references the sun under Madrid's sky. Well we discovered why that made sense and how strong the author's love for his wife is.
Because of the heat, we decided that the best thing to do is to see the city during the mornings and late afternoons, leaving us some time to rest and escape the heat of the afternoon in our hotel rooms. Our first stop was La Puerta del Sol, the place where all the roads converge in Madrid. La Puerta del Sol is a public square where you can find restaurants, souvenirs, shopping, and live music. Thousands of people convene in this square to spend the afternoon, passing by to their destination, or in search for something special. We were looking for coffee, chocolate, and churros from San Gines, something special indeed. In San Gines the Chocolate is dense and is used as a dipping sauce for your churros, creating an delicacy that is an experience too good for words to describe.
The surprise that we found on our way to our comfort meal made us very happy. A mariachi band was playing in the middle of the square, bringing a piece of Mexico to the old continent. The joyful rhythm of the songs can bring people together, and it did that morning in La Puerta del Sol.
To escape the afternoon sun, as it was rising quickly, we decided to take a tour of the Royal Palace, the Royal Family's home when they are in Madrid. We have visited many castles and palaces during our stay in Europe, but I must say that this has been one of my favorite to visit. I have seen many arms rooms before, many with great historical pieces, but the Royal Palace in Madrid has one of the most impressive collections I've seen. The only issue I have with it is that photography is not allowed in there.
The enormous palace offers an awe inspiring tour through many aureately decorated rooms, where the traditional plaques explain to the visitors the part of history that was written in them, its importance, and its use. The Palace also counts with a museum illustrating Spain's efforts to help people find their loved ones during World War II. Since Spain remained neutral during the war, it gave them a great opportunity to help separated families reunite, finding thousands of loved ones, and bringing closure to many more.
In the evenings, we enjoyed walking the streets of Madrid. The streets are always alive and the city's vibe is super energetic and those conflate to make sightseeing exponentially better. In our evening strolls we were able to enjoy the sights of Cibeles and la Puerta de Alcala, however, the best sight is from the cafe on top floor of Bellas Artes over looking part of Plaza Cibeles and the skyline of La Gran Via.
Great food is not difficult to find in Spain, especially Madrid. It seems that one of the things we have in common with the Spaniards is our love for food. Spain is known for many traditional dishes, however, I did not know that one of my favorite meals is also one of their many specialties, steak! We never worried about finding good places to eat, from the markets of San Miguel and San Anton, to Rincon Asturiano, or the many tapas restaurants near La Puerta del Sol. Our trip was a very enjoyable culinary experience, as well.
There were many things that we could not enjoy during this visit because of how exhausted we were after the Camino. Next time we are in Madrid we intend to fully enjoy Parque del Buen Retiro and other outside attractions that were too much to add during this trip. We definitely cannot wait to go back to Madrid, and expand our experience. From this trip I was able to see that Spanish public transportation system is excellent. We had an early flight back home and took a cab to the airport at 5:00 am and we waited less than 30 seconds to catch one in the street outside our hotel. Cabs circle around all night and they are not over priced, making renting a car optional.
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