We had a late night flight from Lisbon to Madrid, since we went forward an hour in time. I had found an Airbnb that accepted late check-in and I’m glad our host was so accommodating. It took over an hour by metro to get to the center city and we didn’t arrive until 1am. We were exhausted and crashed right away! The apartment was close to busy parts of the city, but we were on the 5th floor and it was super quiet.
It was good to be able to sleep-in the next morning and grab a late breakfast at McCafe (we really try to avoid McD, but it was close and fast). We then joined a walking tour that focused on the history of Madrid up to the 18th century. The tour guide was a walking encyclopedia and we learned a lot. She gave us the option of having a traditional Spanish lunch with her at a local restaurant after the tour and we opted in. A couple from Australia, a couple from Arizona, a young American expat living in Switzerland and a couple of singles from England also joined in. Fried squid (calamari) is a common dish and often served in a sandwich in Madrid. I chose it for my main dish — it was sooooo tender and yummy! I also had sangria. Dick was a little underwhelmed with his choice, which was some sort of beef cutlet.
After our long lunch, instead of taking a nap like the Spaniards do, we took a quick break at the apartment to charge phones and plot out a visit to the Prado Museum. Sometimes detouring from my well researched itinerary is fine and often it’s just swapping activities around anyway, but this time changing things didn’t work so well. 😐 Dick thought we should wait to go to the Prado when there is free entry from 6-8pm. So we waited and after the 30 min walk to get there, we saw a lot of people waiting around to form a queue to get in. If you consider a 1/2-1 hr wait in line, that leaves just one hour to see this massive museum. Not such a good idea! So scratch that plan and come up with a different one.
We decided we would have enough time to tour the Royal Palace before it closed and maybe even go in the cathedral afterwards. And that’s what we did. We may have lingered a little longer at the palace if we had the time, but it was enough for me. We weren’t allowed to take pictures and I’ve already forgotten most of what I saw — or it’s blurred together with the other palaces we visited. 😑 I do remember that it’s the largest royal palace in Europe. We were able to see the changing of the guard there the next day. It was a fairly simple ceremony, but it was nice. It only happens once a week on Wednesdays and there isn’t a constant guard there like in England or Denmark. King Felipe VI doesn’t live in this palace. Dick was not impressed with the ceremony (not as grand as England), but I reminded him that there is no changing of the guard at all in The Netherlands! 😛
Since we had a big lunch, we chose to go to the Mercado to get light eats for dinner. I couldn’t pass up paella, more sangria and then some churros dipped in chocolate. 🤤It’s really all about the food and drink! We’ll go back to our healthy diet when we get back home.
We headed back to the Prado after the changing of the guard on Wednesday morning and spent over three hours there. We both really loved this art museum. It’s well laid out and the descriptions were really helpful. We focused on the Spanish art — mostly Velazquez and Goya. We were also interested in the large collection of Rubens, many of which were purchased by King Felipe IV. After we maxed out on art inside, it was time to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. We went to El Retiro Park where there is a “Crystal Palace” and a huge monument to Alfonso XII. It was a nice place to relax a little and have some gelato. Next up was some shopping. I had high hopes of finding some clothes more my size (Spanish women are shorter than Dutch women, right?). I ended up with nothing and Dick ended up with several pairs of shorts. Sigh.
That evening, we did a free tapas tour and it was a blast. Our amazing Spanish guide took our group to four different bars that served four different kinds of tapas. He gave us an education about Madrid culture along the way and he was a lot of fun. At the first place, we had some nice wine and shared (as in dip your spoon in the same bowl) several bowls of potatoes, hummus and something else that I can’t remember. At the second stop, we had pinchos, which are slices of toast with olive oil, meat and sauce on top. The one I chose was cod and it was yummy. The third stop was a place known for it’s cured ham and we paid for the ham by the gram. Slice of ham (cut by a master), little bit of bread and some sauce with a good red wine = delicious. The last stop was at a bar that served Spanish cider with fresh peanuts and a variety of tapas. The cider is poured from an arms length height into a glass (with a bucket to catch what you miss). Dick gave it a try and he managed to get a little in the glass. 😁 I’m sorry that I didn’t get it on video. We met a some Germans who came from places that we’ve visited and a couple from Brazil on this tour. It’s a good thing we were walking back to our apartment at the end of the night!
So long, Iberian Peninsula. 👋 We need to come back to see more of you some day!