Madrid Travel Blog

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Wednesday 11th of February 2009

There had been a heavy snow in Edinburgh over the last few days so we were very glad to be heading to the continent, even if it is winter there too, there is no way it will be as cold as here! We landed in Madrid about 11am and were keen to get on the metro and into town. Madrid is the fourth most populous city in Europe, despite its size the city centre is quite compact and we hoped walkable. As we approached customs I went to get out my passport and it wasn’t in the backpack! A wave of panic came over me as we tried to get some help, a phone call was made and we waited for what seemed like an eternity, all the time thoughts of me being sent back to the UK running through my head, when an air hostess appeared with it in hand – phew, hopefully that was all the drama we were going to have on this trip. We managed to find our way to the metro and into town to find our hostel. Hostal Dolce Vita is right in the centre of town so we dumped our stuff and headed back out along the Gran Via to get some lunch. We stopped in the Zahara bistro and managed to order ourselves a feast despite our very, very limited Spanish. We decided to take a walk down to the Palacio Real, along the way we passed the Teatro Real and the Catedral de la Almudena. The Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is the official residence for the Spanish Royal Family, though they do not live there, it is the largest palace in western Europe with 2800 rooms and a spectacular courtyard. The original castle was built in the 16th century but was burned down; the current building was constructed between 1738 and 1755 to be occupied by Carlos the III. The Jardines Oriental form a decorative courtyard at the front of the palace with the main courtyard looking out over the Campo del Moro at the rear and Cathedral de la Amuldena on one side. The place has free entry to EU citizens on a Wednesday so we spent a bit of time there exploring the rooms. Because we wer eon the right side of town, we took a walk down to the Basilica de San Francisco and the Stadiun Vincente Caledron the home of Atletico Madrid. As we wandered back towards the town centre we found ourselves at the Puerto de Toledo at sunset, it was quite a magnificent view. I wasn’t really in the mood for a big dinner so we explored the streets a bit longer finding Plaza Mayor in full swing. Before we turned in for the night we grabbed a bite at Gran Via and some sweet treats near the hostel.

Thursday 12th of February 2009

Happy Birthday to Cam! I surprised Cam with his presents that I had managed to smuggle into his suitcase before we came before we headed out for the day. The breakfast at the hostel was not as substantial as those we usually get but we had planty of coffee to get us up and at ‘em. Today we were going to head to the opposite side of town to Parque del Retiro. Along the way we passed the Banco de Espana, Casa de America and Puerta de Alcala all displaying over the top Spanish architecture. The Retiro Park was created as a royal park; it belonged to the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace. In 1632, the palace was built by King Philips IV as a retreat for the Royal family. Retiro stands for retreat, hence the name of the park and palace. At the time the park was well outside the city walls, but now Madrid has completely enclosed the Retiro Park. The 320 acre large royal park opened to the public in 1868.there is a large artificial lake close to the northern entrance to the park, as well a glass house or ‘Cristal Palacio’ built to house exotic plants. It took us longer than anticipated to get there because of my poor map reading (much to Cam’s disgust) we got to the art centre eventually. The building which houses the collection was designed in the 18th century by the architect Francisco Sabatini to be built as a hospital, and which was later modified and extended on numerous occasions. In 1977, after much debate, this was declared an artistic historic monument. We spent some time exploring the exhibitions and enjoying the views from the roof before the school groups got in. After our long walk we decided to stop for a ‘tortilla de Espana’ (Spanish omelette) for lunch before heading towards the museum district. We went past the Museo de Parado but Cam couldn’t really face another exhibition at that point so we continued to the Museo Ejercitio which was closed for siesta. So we walked over to the Parque de la Montana to the Templo Debod, the authentic Egyptian temple was built in the fourth century B.C. at the village of Debod, near the sacred temple island of Philae. The Debod Temple was dedicated to the gods Amon and Isis. In 1968 Egypt donated the historical monument to Spain as it was in danger of being flooded by the Aswan dam. After a tour of the temple we headed out to find the Palacio de Cipi, which somehow managed to escape us so we headed towards the Museo Municipal which was closed for refurbishment, so we weren’t having much luck with the museums. I convinced Cam that we should treat ourselves to some churros con chocolate before going to dinner. We had an amazing dinner at a restaurant in Sol which was the happening part of town at that hour so we stopped in for a few drinks too.
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photo by: vulindlela