An overview of my two days in Madrid. Stories, photos, and bucket list successes.
I was expecting to feel a heavy weight of jetlag, but I was surprisingly immune. I hoped that my first out-of-continent trip to Italy had hit me with a lifetime dose, and that I was now impervious to the sickness, similar to the way chickenpox is only contracted once. However, I have a feeling that my time for jetlag is long overdue and that I will be experiencing it during one of my upcoming trips.
Madrid was not what I expected at all. After visiting so many historical sights during my trip to Italy, I did not expect Madrid to feel so modern. The collective buildings were of similar shapes and colors, blocky and brown.
When you looked at a street as a whole, it didn’t look particularly…how do I put this… European? It didn’t have the same feel of “these buildings have been around for hundreds of years” that other cities had given me. However, when you looked at each building on its own, the architecture was stunning and unique.
We stayed in a hotel near the center of the city, close to Madrid’s smaller version of broadway. It was easy to walk to town from our quarters.
Looking back, this was my favorite hotel of France and Spain. On all logical accounts, it shouldn’t have been. It was not the fanciest by far. There weren’t enough beds for my two roomates and I, so I volunteered to take the pull-out bed in the couch. We had classic rusty keys to get into our rooms, and the locks were tricky. On several occasions, we panicked when we realized the door had not shut all the way. The room was plain and not heavily decorated. The front of the hotel was nothing spectacular. What made it my favorite were the views.
Our room looked out over a brilliant sea of rooftops. Below us was a small park, and it was fun to people watch. During the evenings, we could hear voices rising over the city. A beautiful foreign music unlike anything I had heard yet or since. We concluded that there must have been some nightly show closeby, with performers singing songs from ancient Spanish culture. I felt like I had been transported to the fictional land of Agraba. The entire city lit up in a golden light from old street lamps.
El Palacio Real de Madrid
We were also in close walking distance to El Palacio Real de Madrid, the royal palace.
The palace was regal and stately, with white buildings and sharp, straight lines.
Lamp posts were placed throughout the courtyard. Some parts of the palace had details of dark blue and gold.
It was impossible to see the whole palace at once, as it was massive. We only walked down about half of it’s length before deciding we had seen enough of it to move on.
Catedral de la Almudena
Next door, and next stop was Catedral de la Almudena, a bright, airy cathedral with vibrant frescos.
The patterns and colors were unlike any I had ever seen. Modern meets classic, both beautiful.
The golden alter was magnificent.
In addition to these beautiful monuments within walking distance from our hotel, we enjoyed strolling the streets, shopping and watching street performers.
We had a bit of free time on our first day there, and we walked into town. Shops with sunglasses, makeup, and futbol memorabilia were in close proximity to each other. At one point we spotted a young women standing near the side of the road who was clearly a prostitute, something very foreign to us Californians.
Souvenir shops had the typical figurines and T-shirts, as well as beautiful Spanish fans.
We also got our first look at one of the many European bakeries that we would be gawking at throughout the trip
One of my most memorable moments in Madrid was walking down Preciados Street.
The street was packed with a horde of people, and my spanish teacher immediately panicked trying to make us promise to stay together.
The street was lined on either side with an eccentric array of performers, all trying desperately to receive money from passing tourists. There was a mime who became extremely angry at people who took pictures of him without paying, and made his anger very clear with a slew of cusses and middle fingers.
We also took a bus tour to see parts of the city that weren’t in walking distance from the hotel.
Espessially impressive was Plaza de Toros, the grand bullfighting ring.
We stopped at Parque de Retiro, the most famous park in Madrid.
In the center of the park was a huge pond full of carp, and you could watch people row boats on it’s green surface.
A massive white stone tower loomed over the pond. There was a gravel bike path to one side, and a green field of grass on the other. The entire park was sprawling, with many twisty paths, food vendors, gardens, statues, and trees.
On the edge of the park was El Museo Nacional de Prado.
The building was magnificent from the outside, and we couldn’t resist taking pictures
Unfortunately, photographs weren’t allowed inside, but we took a guided tour and saw some amazing pieces. I particularly liked seeing “Saturn Devouring His Son,” “Maja,” and “The Garden of Delights.” The guide also explained an early form of photoshop: Portraits of people were each done individually, and then repainted into an inclusive family painting. That way, the family in the picture didn’t have to stand and pose for hours on end.
On our second night in Madrid, riots broke out.
There were piles of burnt garbage in the streets, helicopter camera crews, and riot police keeping crowds back. We had just come out of a restaurant, so missed most of it. We didn’t really comprehend what was going on, but it was exciting. You can read about the actual event on CNN’s website.
Overall, Madrid was a perfect way to spend our first days in Spain and France. That being said, it wasn’t my favorite city.