Day Three in Madrid, Spain
08.04.2011 - 08.04.2011 28 °C
By Day Three, we were both feeling the effects of too many colds, coughs, and miles walked on OLD LEGS in blistering heat! But, we are nothing if not Intrepid Troopers (especially J, who was feeling especially rough with his first real head cold in probably ten years), so off we ventured to parts unknown.
Oh wait. Day two with no hairbrush. Double oi!
After we took a close look at our guidebook and map, we realized that there were whole sections of Downtown Madrid that we hadn’t seen, as well as two other major sections of Madrid, Salamanca/Recoletos and Chueca/Malasana. With that, we disembarked at Alonso Martinez Metro station, and we were in business.
Unsurprisingly, the Alonso Martinez station opens up to Plaza de Alonso Martinez! But it also borders Plaza de Santa Barbara, which is where we started our day. From there, it was on to Plaza Villa de Paris, which is where one of the Supreme Court buildings looms rather conspicuously.
Right behind that is Plaza de Salesas and Iglesia de Santa Barbara, which is perhaps one of the more ornate churches I’ve seen in a long time.
From there, we entered a kind of ‘law, justice, and attorney general’ street, with lots of buildings and restaurants catering to legal types (and presumably, their victims!).
We also passed by the Institute Français, the Biblioteca Nacional (the National Library) and the Museo Arqueologico Nacional (the National Archaeological Museum). All of this was anchored by the huge statue and fountain at the Plaza de Colon, which also borders the Teatro Feman Gomez Centro de Arte (arts and theatre centre named for Feman Gomez).
From there, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump back to where we’d been just the day before, the Plaza de la Independence and the main entrance to Paraque del Retiro (where we’d rowed boats). We made the trip back because, the day before, we’d noticed some really great stalls outside the Prado Museum, and we wanted to shop around a bit. The artisans and other sellers did not disappoint, as we picked up quite a few things for friends and family back home.
Then, it was up the Paseo del Prado we went, through the financial district, past Banco de Espana (Bank of Spain), past Museo Naval (Naval Museum), and smack dab into the middle of Plaza la Cibeles, which is home to a massive building of the same name, which looks like a very old castle, but which now houses an arts and cultural centre only recently open to the public (seems that the building was previously off limits and/or privately owned). There’s a tower and observation deck that you can go up to, but we didn’t bother. Instead, we looked around the lower/public floors and took advantage of the funky bean-bag seating area to rest our weary bones. Oh, and this is probably a good time to mention that this is the only time in my life that I’ve ever been told by an usher to—get this—not “slump” so much while sitting … ON THE BEANBAG COUCH. Seriously? Oh yes, this is a serious, serious, serious, serious building with many, many, many, many rules … BUT COME ON!!! The worst part is that the lady who told me to sit up (yes, she actually came over and motioned to me to sit up) was the lady who goes around straightening out the pamphlets and making sure, I dunno, that no one has dirty shoes or something? I felt like telling her that if they were so concerned with people’s posture, perhaps they might not have PUT BEANBAG CHAIRS ON THE FLOOR! Of course, as J pointed out, it was only fitting that I be told to sit up, as just the day before our Weird Waiter at Parque de Retiro had told me to take my foot off OF THE PLASTIC LAWN CHAIR. Crazy Spanish people.
Anyhooooo, the Plaza de Cibeles building was quite breathtaking, inside and out. From here, we were both feeling pretty sluggish (colds + sniffles + coughs + age + self-pity), so we decided to change plans and instead take the Metro across central Madrid, heading west from the neighbourhoods of Recoletos and Justica, bypassing Malasana, and over to Universidad, which, as you might guess, is where you’ll find most of Madrid’s university students and younger types (we did our best to blend in and not hobble around too much).
We disembarked the Metro at San Bernardo station, and walked ourselves in the general direction of Parque del Oeste (Park West), another of Madrid’s major parks. This led us by the Centro Cultural Conde Duque (another major arts/cultural centre) and then, eventually, right into Plaza Espana, where we ran into a great open market—Expo Naciones en Primavera—where J bought me a really beautiful silver ring, and we found even more goodies for those at home.
Once at Parque del Oeste, we were treated to some spectacular views across to the Palacio Real and Cateral de la Almudena, which we’d visited on Day One. It was really the first time we’d been given a higher-up viewpoint, and as the sun was going down, it couldn’t have been prettier.
We strolled around the park’s walks and fountains and, once more, found time to relax—i.e., totally sack out—on a park bench.
The view from my bench, while lying down:
And here’s when one of the funniest things happened. My stomach was feeling a bit, ummmm, dodgy, so I decided that we probably needed to find a bathroom. We started walking toward this building that seemed to be a bathroom, as lots of people (mostly women, it seemed) were going in and out.
We walked up to the rather boxy building, climbed the steps, and went through the automatic sliding glass doors, thinking, oh yeah, this is totally a bathroom (J reminded me that I was also chanting, "Please be a bathroom, please be a bathroom, please be a bathroom!"). Nope. Not so fast, silly tourist. It was, in fact, Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple dedicated to the gods Amun and Isis and dating from 2200 years ago! It was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government in 1968 as a thank you for Spain’s help in rescuing the ruins of Abu Simbel, in Nubia. Good lord. We went inside, and J said, “So, it could be a bathroom … ooorrrrrrr it could be a 2200 year old tomb!” So, being as we never miss an opportunity to scope out even the littlest and shittiest of shacks, this was quite a find, so up we went to explore the original carvings, stones, and other lintels. Heh.
Funnily enough, by the time we emerged from this darkened catacomb, my stomach was feeling better, so we spent what was left of the day’s sunlight outside the temple’s ponds and archways. Very beautiful, I must say. Thank you, Dodgy Stomach Gods! You just never know where that bad street food is going to take you in life, eh??
We took our sweet time exiting the park, parking our behinds at the central fountain and slowly exiting along the brightly lit and bustling Cuesta de san Vicente, a major street that led us down to the Principe Pio Metro station (once more, with feeling), where we took in our last night in Madrid in style—drinks and nachos! It was another warm night on a lovely terrace, the Estacion del Norte looming over us. After a couple of drinks, we boarded the Metro, back to Charmartin and our dearly needed beds.
Night night again!