Thursday, August 17, 2017

Travel through a Winter Weekend in Madrid

We travel to Madrid, a city full of unexpected views that open the eyes of those who not only looks at the top but also upwards. We landed early at Barajas airport from which we take the subway to the center of Madrid. The journey takes about 15 minutes. We have booked a fantastic hotel located only 20 meters from the metro station, practically near the golden triangle of museums of Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza.

The magic of Madrid Christmas

After a quick shower, we dive into the city. To meet our hunger, with 2 euros, we eat a great Bocadillo (sandwich) with ham and a beer. Refreshed from the stage, we immediately visit the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. Both were beautiful. Plaza Mayor is more of a square. Puerta del Sol is rather more of a converging point (pedestrian and otherwise) of roads, where is located the infamous kilometer zero of the Spanish road network.

For those wishing to locate it immediately, it is located on the sidewalk in front of the Palace de la Comunidad de Madrid (former Post Office building). We then embarked on one of the crowded streets that lead to the Gran Via and we stopped once again to eat the Boccadillos, french fries, and beer. Even though we were already tired, we held out and went up to the Retiro Park to take advantage of the beautiful sunny day, fearing the rain in the upcoming days.

Parque del Retiro in Madrid

The park is huge (118-hectare). At the entrance look at the map, and decide for a goal because the risk is to walk without being able to see anything really significant. We came across the Forest of the Disappeared, a memorial consisting of 192 trees including cypress and olive trees dedicated to the many victims of the attack at the Atocha station in 2004. It would have been nice to see the Palace of crystal and the Monument to Alfonso XII with the pond but really the forces we have not seen.

We left the park and headed to the Museo Reina Sofia on Saturday afternoon and Sunday is open free to the public. We took the outside glass elevator and we visited the museum on the contrary, from the top floor in the first. Needless to say that the most evocative work and that is worth at least a fleeting stage is Picasso's Guernica. I imagined smaller and instead takes up an entire wall of the room 206 on the second floor.

It is said that a German officer, at the sight of the picture, asked, Did you do that? And Picasso responded, No, you did. At about 6, we returned to the hotel to rest before the long evening. In Madrid, if you want to eat at a restaurant in regular times (between 8.30 and 9.30) I recommend you book in advance. We started with a list of recommended restaurants and then we did it, thus avoiding lengthy and exhausting queues.

We tried the Valencian (meat and vegetables only) to just fish and mixed vegetables. All the three were exquisite at absolutely fair prices (11 to 15 euro per person). Pending the paella, we ordered the appetizers of the cod fritters, typical and divine Manchego sheep cheese, and the croquettes with Croquetas de Jamon. To close the meal, we order the Catalan homemade cream, all washed down with two excellent bottles of chardonnay.

After dinner, we made the last effort to the return to the hotel on foot, but it was worth it because the alleys are beautiful and we often encountered squares and surprising nooks. For example, the Plaza de Santa Ana is cute, a meeting place for the Madrid nightlife, full of cafes where you can dine at affordable prices.

Churros and hot chocolate in Madrid

The first destination was for the breakfast and the menu was the churros dipped in hot chocolate. Like donuts, pretty much is the same fried batter, without the veil of sugar and bread stick form The problem is that it is not an original idea, and on Sunday morning we found the panic with queue for the tickets and line up to sit as the cafe is small, with two floors crammed with people. Only the stubbornness made us insist in the project.

After about 15 minutes of waiting, we sat and ate voraciously at least 3 churros each. My advice is to go there in the afternoon for a reinforced snack because breakfast is preferred in a less crowded and more peaceful place or sitting on the terrace. Later, we gorged went to the largest flea market in Europe which is only open on Sundays. It is located in El Rastro (so called because the Rastro is the trickle of blood of animals that were slaughtered in abattoirs, which supplied the nearby leather goods.

Easy to find, it occupies an area that goes from Plaza Mayor in the Puerta de Toledo. With an eye always on the bag, we move from the main street, where every alley is specialized in something from antiques, paintings, animals, knives and fabrics. You can find items of interest without elbowing among the people.

We saw huge sandwiches costing only 3 EUR. You'll have to find a niche in the square, where to eat them, but they say that they are a specialty. We made the mistake of not buying them right away because we were not yet hungry. Of course, once gone, we never returned and when we did it desperately on Monday, we found it close.

Royal Palace of Madrid

From Rastro, we headed on foot to the Royal Palace and then to the Cathedral. For the palace there was a long line and given a short time, we admired it only from the outside. We instead visited the Cathedral, which does not excite us much. The only thing of note is the grandeur.

Temple of Debod Madrid

We put back on the march towards the Egyptian Temple of Debod. Along the way, we crossed the Plaza de Espana, where there is the fountain dedicated to Cervantes, with statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Edificio Espana and the Tower of Madrid. Unfortunately, we did not know that the temple closes at 2 over the weekend in this period and the guard was adamant, even though it was 1:50 and we promised a quick look around but no way!

Tired after walking and failures, we come back to Sol for lunch. After wandering in search of a place that was not already crowded, we went to one behind Plaza de Santa Ana. Unfortunately, given the time (almost 4) we could not eat their specialty, Cocido. On the other hand, we ate good croquettes and a platter of meats and cheeses. We wanted to find the energy to go and visit the Prado (daily from 5 to 8 - apart from the Monday closing - the visit is free) but the idea of walking still did not really allowed the company.

A short stop at the hotel and on the road again for dinner. The choice fell on one with spectacular Galician specialties. There are two, closely spaced. The largest and best-known and is, therefore, more crowded is on Calle De Las Huertas and the other, to where we went, is in the street of Calle de Jesus.

In an informal setting, with stools and a menu written on a palette of wood with colored chalks, you can start with the Caldo Gallego, a delicious soup with sauerkraut, beans and chorizo (sausage), continuing with the Foliada Mollusques, a kind of sautéed mussels and clams with cream and Pulpo Gallego, an octopus with diced tomato and a boiled potato placed in the center.

For homemade desserts, in addition to the pudding, we take biscuits made of almond paste covered in chocolate, who will serve you with a Chupito, an excellent port in which to dip. In summary, to spend 20 Euros, you risk indigestion! Obviously, we did not make a return to the center because the hotel's appeal was too strong. On the other hand, we did a different ride to the hotel.

We come across Calle de Las Huertas and then shot to the right, along the Paseo del Prado to Calle Atocha. At Paseo del Prado, there is the Caixaforum, the Museum of the Caixa de Espana Foundation. Two particularities is a solution of the architects to give the illusion that the museum is suspended and the vertical garden on the wall that faces the top.

Next day we get up early because we had planned from the outset to visit the city of Toledo taking the AV train. We paid the hotel and after a stop at the Calle Del Doctor Drumen, with windows overlooking Reina Sofia and surprisingly a good cappuccino, and fragrant croissants, we headed to Atocha station.

Madrid Atocha Train Station

The station is well worth a visit with its Art Nouveau style roof in iron and glass and tropical garden with a constant temperature of 24 °. Unfortunately, bad luck has just pursued us as we discovered that all trains between 10.20 and 12.20 were overflowing. Therefore we had to give up because Toledo would have been ridiculous to go at 1 and start at 3.30 at best. So if you want to take a trip outside the city, book your ticket the day before.

Disappointed by the news of the museums being closed on Mondays and all the tourists flock outside the capital, we had to improvise our program for the day. So we opted for the Plaza de Toros, in Calle Alcala, giving up the arena visits because it was raining, but already the outside made the idea of ??the place that houses 25,000 paying spectators to see bullfighting!

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

Instead, we made a stop at Taurinos Museum, which was free of charge and displays bullfighting memorabilia including shocking bloody clothes worn by matadors in the last bullfight of their career. After this tour that taught us something more about the most talked-about show and loved always, we headed in the Chueca district, north of Gran Via with the real nightlife, restored to its beauty after the degradation of the Franco period.

In the square at the exit from the metro, there are stalls where I bought some beautiful prints of Mayte Alma line for just 7 Euros each. After a look at the colorful windows of the neighborhood, we headed to the San Miguel market, a structure of glass and cast iron, behind the Plaza Major.

Market of San Miguel

The peculiarity of this market is, in fact, to eat the goods for sale, in the raucous crowd of tourists and Madrileños shops from that of the cuts to the one of the cheeses, from that of the fish to that of wine and so on. In short, if you are patient, you can eat fresh food at reasonable prices. After a tour, I take refuge in Plaza de Canalejas close to the Puerta del Sol, where I could finally eat the famous Madrid Cocido, a kind of chickpeas soup with carrots, potatoes, and meat stew. I was served as the first the broth of meat with a real treat including drink and dessert.

As time began to tighten, we did the last walk through the crowded streets of Madrid, between the souvenir shops in El Corte Ingles, although I recommend the purchase of postcards, T-shirts, ashtrays and magnets in the shops of Calle Montera which are cheaper and you get more choice. With the usual regret for the things we could not see and the more reasons to come back soon, we packed up and headed to the airport. Hola!