Spain 2018: A week in and around Madrid
We flew from London to Madrid on Sunday 15th April on an Iberia flight and got to our hotel on the Gran Via in the city centre about 10.00pm.
Monday we set out to explore the areas nearby our hotel in the Gran Via, and also the areas that I recalled when I was in Madrid in 1977. We walked to the beautiful Plaza Mayor and the nearby Mercado San Miguel. As it was then nearly lunch-time we bought far too much food at the market; Paella tapas, squid, prawns, beer, Spanish version of Portuguese tarts, olives on skewers. Delicious but quite expensive.
We spent some time organizing 2 one day tours, and then wandered the shoe shops. Dinner was at restaurant Gusto in Plaza Mayor; a huge portion of Tapas to share and Heather managed a solo effort 500ml of Sangria.
On Tuesday we took a full day tour to Avila and Segovia. These cities are about 100km north of Madrid through the mountains. Avila is an ancient walled city & we visited a famous church of Saint Theresa.
We drove about 70-km to Segovia and went to a local restaurant for lunch, we ate roasted suckling pig. Very tender and very nice.
We then walked to the Roman aqueduct that was built by the Romans in the Year 1 AD and is still standing. Amazing architecture of 2000 years ago, built entirely with mortar or cement.
We visited both the cathedral and the Alacazar (castle) of Segovia before a one and a half hour drive back to Madrid.
Tuesday evening we went to a restaurant nearby our hotel for dinner; very cheap menu dishes for between 4 and 6 Euros, but we chose the Galician paella at 27 Euro for 2. Best Paella ever. Unfortunately their sangria was rubbish, but the paella made up for it.
Wednesday we walked the streets and did about 12km including going to the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the Guard. But we lucked out; the Palace was closed until Saturday and there was no changing of the guard until Saturday.
We then walked the length of the Gran Via to the Retiro Park. Beautiful gardens, lakes, cafes and bars on a wonderful spring day.
We visited Toledo on Thursday; a full day tour. Toledo is about 70km south of Madrid and is a city with a blend of Arabic, Jewish and Christian architectures.
The Cathedral of Toledo is a stunning building. And we went inside for a detailed look. We also visited the Mosque of El Cristo de la Luz; this Mosque was built in 999 on top of an old Roman Road In 1186 it became a Christian church and had an addition to the left side. Today it is a Museum showing the blend of architectures.
We visited a Jewish Synagogue of Santa Maria Blanca, also a blend of Arab and Jewish architectures, and then to the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.
After walking through the narrow streets of the old town, we went for lunch at a nearby hillside restaurant. We had starters of Castilian tapas, and then roasted young lamb, huge portions, and all very nice.
After lunch we stopped to take some photos from a great vantage point over the city and the river, and then stopped by a craftstore selling handcrafted damascene works, as well as swords and expensive coats of armour.
Friday we walked the streets some more; our Hotel (Hotel Atlantico) is n an excellent location, and you can walk in 20 minutes to all of the key areas within the city. It’s more expensive than we usually pay, but then you spend zero money on public transport.
We fitted in some shopping at the huge department store El Cortes Ingles; very nice shopping in several buildings within the city centre.
Madrid has changed immensely in the 41 years since I was last here. In 1977 it was just transitioning from General Franco’s military rule and was extraordinarily conservative. Today it’s a really enjoyable place to visit, big but not too busy, reasonable traffic, friendly people, great food and wine.
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