Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A City Break: Things to Do in Madrid...

A while ago my lucky husband won some travel vouchers. Last month, realizing they were about to expire, we booked a trip to Madrid.  I had been once before as a teenager but my memory of it was hazy. 

We stayed at the handy central location  of Principe Pio, in an ancient hotel with green walls and bathroom tiles so old fashioned they had gone full circle and become stylishly vintage. 

We didn't spend much time in our hotel room and were locked out of it completely on day three because the booking agency had made a mistake and only booked two nights! 

Some heavy rain was the only other setback but I solved the crisis of wet feet (I had holes in my shoes!) by buying some very sparkly trainers. We wore rain ponchos after that and waved maps around in case there was any one left who hadn't realized we were tourists. 

Madrid overflows with culture. We began with an essential visit to El Prado and opted for the €4 audio guide to educate us on the masterpieces by Goya, Velazquez, El Greco and a gazillion others. I hope to come out with something knowledgeable at a dinner party one day, although right now I can't think of one fun fact! 

Erm... did you know that Goya painted his nightmarish Black Paintings directly on the wall of his house? ... I hope the rest of his decor was more cheerful. Oh dear, that's all I've got. Never mind. 

Getting Cultured at El Prado

Drunk on Art, we hopped on a tourist bus to get a sense of the city. I love a tourist bus although I think the audio guide could have done with more of a story line. It was basically date of building, architect, date, architect, date, architect... the views were fantastic though and we feasted our eyes on the cityscape.  

I loved Calle Alcala and in the evening we went up to the Azotea (rooftop) at the Circulo de Bellas Artes nearby for a glass of wine. I would recommend heading up there in the day though to take more advantage of the panorama.
View from La Azotea de Bellas Artes 
Our Madrid pass made our trip extra enjoyable as we didn't have to queue up anywhere. Lovers of opulent chandeliers, ornate clocks, frescoes, overwhelming wallpaper and mismatching carpet will love the Royal Palace. 

I recommend popping into the Cathedral next door too because it has the best ceiling ever. It's bright and colourful and if I had a kitchen with old wooden beams I would want to paint something in between them just like it!
Colourful Ceiling at Almudena Cathedral
I also have to add El Museu del Traje (Fashion and Costume Museum) to my list of recommendations. Opened in 2004 it has a fascinating collection of clothes from the 17th century through to the 90s. You get to see just how uncomfortable women's clothing have been through the ages. I'm talking about all those horrible corsets and crinolines! After months of wearing comfy shorts I can't even bear to wear jeans at the moment. Maybe I'll just line my rain poncho with some fleece and wear that this winter! 
As for food?
We hid from the rain at famous San Gines chocolateria for chocolate and churros. At San Miguel market we tried everything from fresh anchovies, to spicy sausage, to octopus, sardines, eel and weird barnacles which resemble dinosaur feet (Percebes). 

Percebes - barnacle or dinosaur foot? 

At San Miguel we also drank lots of sherry in the sherry corner: amontillados, olorosos, finos... (I began my sherry love affair in Jerez and Sevilla last year and it's still going strong.) 

I may not be a city girl any more or have any inclination to move to one but I do wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this vibrant capital for all those after a city break!

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