When we were trying to decide where to go for our next big adventure, we were tossing up between a few countries and then I put my foot down and decided on Spain & Portugal. (ok maybe I exaggerated a little bit there ;))
And then after 4 months of planning and a 25 hour plane ride later we were in Madrid. After finding our hotel and leaving our backpacks we stepped out to the streets of Madrid.
After just two minutes of walking we found plenty of cobble stone streets, cute restaurants with chairs and tables out on the street and jamon hanging off the ceilings and people chatting and getting ready for the lunch rush. We decided to first get some food so wandered in to a restaurant which had ‘Paella Marisco’ on their chalk board menu but it was empty. We knew before coming here that in Spain people don’t have lunch until well past 1pm. And we were a little bit early. The guy behind the bar was nice and asked us to have a seat but food won’t be ready till 1. We were fine with that and I ordered the paella and a sangria while A ordered jamon tostadas with a beer. We saw tostadas in every lunch menu and they were pretty much slices of toasted bread with thinly sliced cured meat.
Then we excitedly waited for our first taste of Spain.
Then we headed back for a nap to get rid of jet-lag (unsuccessfully) and started wandering again at night. It was a different sight. The streets were completely taken over by people. We walked to Puerta de sol (Gate of the sun) one of the most known and busiest squares in Madrid. People were everywhere. There were dancers, footballers, magicians and sellers. It was somewhat overwhelming but exciting at the same time. Next stop Gran via, the street known as the Spanish Broadway. It was big. Architecture, lights, shopping, food, people, cars, all in one place. It was a shoppers paradise. From there we moved onto Plaza Mayor, where grand buildings stood on all four sides making this one of the biggest squares I’ve seen, Yet it was much calmer than Sol, maybe it was late at night. Still it had a very real european feeling with restaurants on all sides and seating out in the open.
Day 2 in Madrid started with a walking tour. We decided to do a free walking tour just to get a glimpse of the city, to know the places we might not go otherwise. This turned out to be a good idea. We started from Plaza Mayor and went to the ‘square of the closed gate’, the oldest restaurant, Plaza de La villa, Catedral de La Almudena, Palacio Real de Madrid, Plaza Oriente and finished off at Plaza de Isabel II or the Opera Square.
After the walk we decided to venture on our own towards the Art district which turned out to be quite different from the Madrid we have seen so far. It was big and clean with less tourists and felt more like a CBD in a western country of course except for the amazing architecture that are centuries old. First we headed towards Reina Sofia Museum, after being inspired by the works of Picasso, Salvador Dali and many alike we headed to the Prada Museum. It is Spain’s main National Museum and home to some of the finest collections. And not surprisingly there was a massive line. It was too long to wait to get in for us so we decided to take a photo of the line, say hello to the museum and move on.
And move on we did. We spent an amazing Autumn evening in Retiro Park.The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards. The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards.
On our way back we came across the Puerta de Alcala. The light was perfect for some amazing shots. Dinner was at Mercado San Miguel. I have no photos for proof. But it’s something you have to do. There are lot of options. Buy some tapas with all sorts of fillings, a nice big glass of sangria and… The End. 🙂
Travel tip – Madrid is full of tourists and even more tourist traps when it comes to eating and drinking. Have meals at their times. Lunch after 1pm and dinner after 8pm. Always stay away from restaurants and bars near major sights and wander into the little streets. A tip we got from a local, if there are english menu’s, if there are signs saying’ we speak english’ or if there are photos of the dishes in the menu, especially paella, run! 🙂