Day Two in Madrid, Spain
07.04.2011 - 07.04.2011
We slept pretty well on our first night in Madrid, but that is likely owing to the sheer exhaustion with which we fell into bed.
Oh, and let’s update the hair situation: Day One with no hairbrush. Oi.
Having spent Day One tootling around the areas known as “Downtown” and “Royal Madrid,” we decided to dedicate Day Two to “Old Madrid.” We did, however, elect to start in Downtown, disembarking at the Gran Via Metro station along Gran Via (street).
Interesting tidbit: Ernest Hemingway arrived in Madrid in March 1937 to find a city under siege. He stayed in the Hotel Florida on Plaza del Callao (since demolished) and recalled dodging shells and sniper bullets on Gran Via as he made his way to the Telefonica building to file his stories. That’s the Telefonica building right there as we first came up to the street.
Our major objective for the morning: Plaza Mayor, perhaps Madrid’s most popular arcaded plaza, if not its most touristy. By this time, it was blisteringly hot as we explored the four corners of this massive plaza.
We elected to take one of about a thousand exits from the Plaza Mayor, and found ourselves on a cute little street of shops. Had I known that they sell liquorice by the dozen, I’d never have stopped at the cheap candy shop in our Metro station!
From there, we were off through a maze of streets, plazas, cafes, terraces, statues, churches, open markets, and pubs, eventually passing through Plaza de Segovia Nueva, Plaza de Santa Cruz (home to the Palacio de Santa Cruz), Plaza de Jacinto Benavente, and then Plaza de Santa Ana, where we found the Teatro Espanol (Spanish Theatre).
We carried on down Calle del Principe, and came out at Plaza de Canalejas, which was a kind of roundabout with the most beautiful buildings in all directions.
From there, we ambled down Carrera de San Jeronimo, passing by a number of legal buildings, including Congreso de los Disputados (law courts).
We took a wee break at Plaza de las Cortes before venturing on to Plaza de Canovas del Castillo, which is one’s entrance to the “Paseo del Prado,” another of Madrid’s major areas/divisions and home to the famous Museo del Prado (“museo” = museum), not to mention the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the other two of Madrid’s major museum trifecta.
We managed our way around the massive roundabout to the Prado Museum proper, which is bordered by the fancy schmancy Ritz Hotel on one side and the Iglesia de San Jeronimo el Real (“iglesia” = church) at the back.
After a short rest on the museum’s lawn, we made our way to the day’s ultimate destination: Parque del Retiro (“parque” = park and “retiro” = retreat). It’s Madrid’s Stanley Park, an inner urban park and the pride of Madrid’s citizens. It is quite large, actually, anchored by the dominant inner lake, Estanque Grande. If it was already blisteringly hot earlier in the day, by now, we were officially cooking. On top of that, J was fighting a nasty cold (it was his turn this time), and I was still battling a nagging cough I’d had since we returned from Salzburg. Being the intrepid tourists we are, we soldiered on, and we entered off the Calle de Filipe IV, and took our time exploring the many gardens.
I must say, this park has some of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. They even grow in heart formation!
Soon, we found ourselves strolling the lake’s perimeter, taking in the local artisans (J bought me the most beautiful necklace and bracelet) and stopping at nearly every stand for a drink or bathroom break.
We finally gave in and decided to go for it: a row on the lake! It was only €4.55 for 45 mins, so how could we go wrong? On the lake (hey, we shared the rowing—and by “shared,” I mean that J did 90% and I “had a go” as he says *eyeroll*), we got up-close views of the lake’s major monument, Monumento a Alfonso XII, the rather Romanesque structure on the park’s east side. For some odd reason, J didn't take kindly to my declaring, in full Quintas Arias voice, "Ramming speed, 41!" Not sure why he didn't appreciate my Ben Hur reference while rowing his lungs out. Some people just don't appreciate great acting. *shrug*
After such a strenuous workout (heh), it was time for beer and ice cream! We parked ourselves at one of the park’s many outdoor restaurants/cafes, where we had perhaps the weirdest waiter I’ve ever seen. Suffice to say, I ended up in such a bad laughing fit that I almost choked myself trying to stifle it. If our waiter didn’t already hate me, he sure did after that!
After we left there, rested and cooled off considerably, we were able to take in the Alfonso XII monument even more closely.
Then it was on to the Palacio de Cristal—the Crystal Palace—a nifty glass building in the middle of the park. But first, we hit the Palacio de Valezquez. We mistakenly thought that Valezquez was the Cristal, but alas, it just wasn’t … crystal-y enough, ya know?
The Crystal Palace is situated on a small lake with a big fountain and low-hanging cave-like walkthroughs. For some reason, the city police were doing their horsey practicing there.
After checking out the palaces, we spent the rest of the evening strolling the park’s major pathways, named for Uruguay and Cuba, for some reason unknown to us but I’m sure very important. The evening’s joggers, rollerbladers, walkers, and other street performers were out in full force, not to mention the cutest dogs ever! Who knew that the Spanish were such fans of Yorkies? When we were in York, we didn’t see one Yorkie, but between Salzburg and Madrid alone, we’ve seen 100s!
We did make one pit stop at La Rosaleda—the park’s rose gardens. Unfortunately, we were a wee bit early in the season, so we saw only about …oh … 4 or 5 roses!
We exited with one more stroll by the lake, where we ran in to a pack of wild cats! Weird.
We left the park via the major entrance at the Plaza de la Indepenence, another massive roundabout with another massive Arc de Triumphe-like archway. (Notice that I say “massive” a lot? Freud would have a field day with that, no doubt.)
From there, it was just a few steps to the Retiro Metro station and home once more to Hotel Charmartin.
Night night again!