And then there was Madrid – the City of Wonders
I don’t know if that is what Madrid is actually known for, but it was a city of wonders to me. After I walked 8oo km, I looked forward to the idea of taking it easy. Surprise, surprise … that did not happen. I had six days to explore this city with a rich history.
It is been eight month since my visit; so, I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few of my adventures in Madrid with you.
Though, the first thing that I will say is this: Madrid has the best subway (transport) I have seen. And the best, this is for those who want to visit Madrid one of these days, is they have a tourist transit pass. You can use it for the bus or subway for as many rides as you like. It beats buying a single ticket each time.
Now, lets be real, when I arrived at my hotel, which had a balcony on the 6th (top) floor, I took the day to rest a little. Oh, and here is perhaps another thing I learned. See, I bought an airplane ticket from Santiago de Compostella to Madrid. It was 56 Euros! What a deal, better than either the train or bus. Well, it did not include any luggage! That was 30 Euros extra.
Day one I mostly rested, did laundry, and drank Cafe Bon Bon (1 oz espresso with 1 oz condensed milk), the best coffee in the world.
Five days left in Madrid. What to do? How to divide my time? To the Zoo, I went. From the hotel I had to take two different subway lines. The ride was under 30 minutes, which included a bit of a walk at the end.
I was surprised that the entrance fee of the Madrid Zoo was quite high, at least compared to the Calgary Zoo that is.
There were many animals from Orangutans to Baboons and everything in between.
Perhaps the biggest surprise at Zoo was the Aquarium. The dolphins were a delight to watch.
The Gran Vía of Madrid
If you have only one day in Madrid it is recommended that you walk the Gran Vía. Gran Vía means Great Way. It is located in Central Madrid and runs from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de España There were plenty of shops, though I did not really go into any of them; after all, clothe shopping is not my forte. However, I did go to Desigual to buy something for those back home; I basically told the store attendants, “I want that in a number ___ in Canada.” And they knew which size was the right size.
There were also a few Teatrós here. I went to see El Rey León, it was kind of funny to hear the Lion King songs in Spanish. There were also quite a few Starbucks cafés along the way and I stopped at at least 3 of them.
Without further a due here are a few pictures of the Gran Vía.
Royal Palace of Madrid and Jardines de Sabatini
When in Madrid it is worthwhile to visit the Royal Palace and the Sabatini Gardens. Interestingly, the Gardens were opened to the public in 1978 (a good year) and was named in honor of the Italian Architect Francesco Sabatini. He designed the royal stables, which used to be on this site. Throughout the Garden there are statues of the Spanish Kings.
Walking from the Jardines de Sabatini you pass a statue of king Felipe IV, he was the king from 1621 t0 1640. The Royal Palace is also something to see. I will admit, the line-up to visit the palace was perhaps a little longer than expected; yet, it was worthwhile. I enjoyed the many different rooms, each one decorated differently and lavishly. Perhaps the best was the Royal Armory. It was strictly forbidden to take any picture with the exception of outside and at the entrance. Here are a few of them.
And Few More Sights of Madrid
A few other places deserve mentioning though. And they are:
The Cathedral Santa María la Real de La Almudena, which is relatively new. Construction started in the late 1870’s and it was consecrated in the 1990’s.
Templo de Debod. This temple was originally from Egypt, dismantled and then rebuild in Madrid. Today it is in Parque del Oeste, which is near the Royal Palace.
The Museums, especially Museo Nacional Del Prado, here you couldn’t take any pictures, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza where you could take pictures. Both museums are a “must visit.” Imagine standing in front of a canvas painted 500 years ago by one of the Masters, it is incredible. The day I visited Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza there was a special Picasso exhibit. The Museo Nacional Prado also had a special exhibit entitles El Espíritu de la Pintura Cai Guo-Qiang en El Prado. He is a great artist who uses gunpowder for his medium.
La mejor Tarta de chocolate Del Mundo is another little gem many may miss. But who can resist a visit to the Best Chocolate Cake in the world.
Parque del Buen Retiro – Park of Pleasant Retreat – is on the edge of the city center and also a must see.
Madrid a city well worth visiting
All in all Madrid was a city well worth visiting, there are a lot to see and I would certainly go again.