Madrid Was Our Gateway to Spain
Madrid was the first stop on our trip to Spain. We were booked for our stay at the ME Madrid right on Santa Ana Square. We would be right in the heart of the action. It would be a good base to explore the art and architecture in Madrid. It was a short visit before we headed off to the beaches of the Costa Del Sol, the amazing Moorish history of Granada and the colour and art that is Barcelona!
The hotel check-in was quick. We were even offered a free wifi hotspot device that was being piloted. We would experience excellent customer service in virtually every interaction with this hotel. Our room was compact but well-appointed. With a view overlooking the inner courtyard, it was dead quiet. Even cranked to high the a/c fan was whisper quiet. The only two minor flaws with the room were the missing bathroom fan and the leaky shower door that caused a flood no matter how careful we were. The door opened inwards, which concerned us. We’ve heard many horror stories about inward-opening shower doors exploding after catching on something when being opened too quickly or carelessly. This may have also been one of the reasons it leaked. Perhaps this is why most hotels seem to buy frameless shower doors. These sorts of doors can be pushed open either way, so the chances of them catching on things in the room are reduced. They also give many hotel bathrooms an elegant feel. Hopefully, they’ll replace their doors for some new ones. We knew their alarms worked just fine when a hot shower one morning resulted in a heat alarm triggering a call from the front desk.
After unpacking we joined the Sunday crowds on Santa Anna Square and tried to decide which spot to try for lunch. We had our first tapas experience though not standing at the bar. Our sample plate was good washed down with ice-cold cervesa (beer).
The Latin district was on our plans for the first day. We had thought the concierge said it would be lively on Sunday but it was less exciting than expected. When David and I disagreed on the best route, we decided to go our separate ways. I took a meandering path constantly checking my iPhone map app. It was not as much fun getting lost on my own.
Arriving back at the hotel safely, I rewarded myself with real frozen yogurt that had a very unique real yogurt taste. Of course, I had to make it past the dulce de leche and chocolate sauces before I could taste the yogurt. I would have to bring David back here.
When we finally connected back up, we wandered in our neighborhood for dinner. The paella mixte ended up being just mixed seafood so I did not get the chicken protein I had been looking for when I mistook mixte to mean seafood and chicken. While sangria was not on the menu, the summer wine tasted just as good.
Our hotel was lit up when we returned that night. It was yet one more example of the art and architecture in Madrid.
We often use a Hop-On-Hop-Off (HoHo) bus when exploring a new city. Since we were in Madrid for a quick stop, the HoHo bus was a great choice. It offered not just a narrated tour but transportation around the city.
Picking up our HoHo bus tickets at the hotel, we walked the few blocks to Porto del Sol to get our bus. We did a full loop on the bus, snapping pictures in every direction. We found the mix of art and architecture in Madrid to be so much more impressive than we had expected.
With no firm agenda we stayed on the bus until we got to the Palacio Real and then got off for a snack break – more coffee and pastry.
Our first tourist stop was the Almudena Cathedral where David first needed an audience with the pope statue at the door.
Before we even entered, we would get our first glimpse of the art and architecture of Madrid. The church building was perfectly structured with beautiful copper doors.
The inside was beautiful and colourful, adorned with gilt and stained glass. The ceilings were mathematically perfect arches and decorated with bright colours. The art and architecture in Madrid!
God light streamed in through several stained glass windows and I took a moment to stand in the light. I even went so far as to kneel in a pew, with David watching out for lightening bolt strikes.
The Palace on High
Beside the church was the Palacio Real grounds – the huge palace with a front courtyard and massive rear gardens.
With no advance tickets we waited in line in the hot sun for 30 minutes. The wait was enlivened by the street accordion player. The tunes appealed to the tourist line and was earning him a good living.
Our first stop in the palace was at the armoury. It was incredible to see the broad collection of mostly ornamental suites of armour for both knights and horses, big and small, endowed or not. Fine detail work encased most of their bodies, discouraging weight gain or a major cost. We were glad on have started here or we might have skipped this when exhausted at the end.
The temporary exhibit had mostly religious paintings and was quickly passed through. The main palace took much longer as each room seemed to leave my mouth gaping wider. The rooms, chandeliers and decorations were spectacular and absolutely worth the visit. Each room was a perfect mix of the art and architecture in Madrid.
Travelling Around Madrid
Using the HoHo bus purely as transit this time we went to the train station to get our tickets for Malaga. The train station was yet one more beautiful building we would see in Madrid.
Despite the overall lack of English in the Spanish capital, we managed to point our way through the calendar and the agent’s website screen to get the tickets we wanted – with a slight premium for doing this in person. The inside of the Atocia train station presented a botanical garden and several ponds with hundreds of turtles of all sizes climbing over each other. This gave us a photo op while we just sat and watched with the other children.
Refreshed with a Starbucks stop, the next stop was at the first of three art galleries the list for this trip. A museum pass got us all 3 for a discounted price. The Sophia Reina museum provided mostly Spanish paintings and a very wide display of modern art. We were introduced to some artist names that would appear again at the other museums.
Totally spent, we staggered into a taverna for an early dinner. Unfortunately the sangria we drank was not enough to dull the pain from walking all day, even when combined with ice on all the sore spots. It took awhile of tossing and turning to finally conk out exhausted.
More Art And Architecture In Madrid
With a full day planned, we hoped to eat right to start our day. It would be a full day of art and architecture in Madrid.
David wouldn’t take me to the ham museum to eat (the Museo del Jamon turned out to be just a common restaurant and not really a museum). So we had coffee and pastry again. At some point in the trip I would have to find a large hotel just to order an English breakfast with eggs.
It was a short stop to the Thyssen Museum. We started there because it looked smaller but we quickly learned it was not small. This once private collection was massive and spanned all decades. We were impressed by the large Impressionist collection that had been amassed. David did not like much of the older dark paintings. He wondered again about what made modern art “art” and what would trigger someone to buy what often looked like kid’s finger paintings.
The Prado Museum was much larger and we were now tired. We targeted our visit, spending less time at the individual paintings and absorbing rooms at a time. This museum had a massive and impressive collection, made more spectacular by the number of very large wall sized paintings. One wondered at the size of houses that were needed to properly display most pieces. Overwhelmed, we cut our visit short, stopping only long enough to find Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.
Don’t Miss the Churros
We had seen a lot of art and architecture in Madrid. Totally museumed out, we had just enough energy to take the bus to the last thing on my list. It would be my special treat for David. No visit to Madrid is complete without a stop at Chocolaterie de San Gines for a cup of liquid chocolate with fresh hot churros. Licking his lips gave me just the right pic to post online that night.
Our last night for dinner we returned to spots bookmarked in the first day of separate wandering – David took me back to the Latin quarter for seafood and I took him to the frozen yogurt shop.
We were packed early, leaving us time to find some breakfast at a spot we had identified a short walk from the hotel. We had certainly been finding it hard to locate breakfast places in Spain. We settled ourselves into a corner with iPads and computers while we waited for our non-protein breakfast. My biggest worry at that time was a yeast infection from too much sugar and bread. I never would have thought we would get robbed at breakfast!
A short stop at the hotel let me handle the cancellations and password changes I would need to urgently do. A quick taxi ride got us to the train station with what we thought was enough time to catch the next Malaga train. But trying to change our tickets would not be that easy.
There was no urgency or special customer service afforded a customer who had missed their train due to a robbery. We waited through shift change. When the new supervisor came on, we had missed the next train and had yet 2 more hours to sit and wait.
Once we finally got on our train to Malaga, we settled in to relax. It had been quite a day. We had enjoyed the art and architecture in Madrid, even if the end had been marred by the robbery. We were looking forward to some time on the Costa Del Sol to relax and regain some sense of security.
Did you love the art and architecture in Madrid? What was your favourite thing to do in Madrid?
Shared as part of The WeekendWanderLust