Madrid – August, 2021

It took me 56 years to get to Madrid! For a European Capital city relatively close to home, this was a major oversight for me, and a mistake I was keen to rectify. It is a beautiful city and was well worth the wait. Carol had been before for a hen weekend but this would be a different, more cultural break for her. A very long, hot and sweaty 10 hour bus ride through Flixbus for £26 each brought us from Porto to Madrid; this was one trip neither of us were keen to repeat, but we made it.

We booked some very reasonably priced accommodation through Airbnb and stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment complete with cooking and washing facilities, just the job 😊. Arriving late on a Sunday evening, our first job was to find a shop so that we could use those facilities. A little research to find something open, and a shortish Uber ride later we found ourselves not only outside a shop selling everything we needed, but also right next to Plaza Mayor!

I had wanted to visit here ever since I saw the 2008 Dennis Quaid film ‘Vantage Point’ and was one of only two places in Madrid I had particularly wanted to see prior to arriving here. Ok from reading the blurb most of it wasnt actually filmed in Madrid but thats not the point…Half an hour gone, first ticklist place ticked!

The other place I wanted to see was the home of arguably the most famous football club in the world, certainly the one with the fullest trophy cabinet; Real Madrid. I got online and booked my tour for 9.30am the next day. It turned out to be less than a perfect day to visit. The first sight that greeted me was of a demolition team at work! The ground is being reconstructed and is currently no more than a building site. They are supposed to be playing at home next month. I have no doubt it will be ready, but boy is there a lot of work to be done!

Both my wishlist items were ticked off within 18 hours of arriving so everything else from here was a bonus. Over the next couple of days we saw quite a lot more of Madrid and another highlight was meeting up with Elisa and Tucker again, even if it was for only a very brief time. They managed to get a few hours sleep in our spare room at the appointment, between them arriving in the early hours after an overnight bus ride from Sevilla and leaving from Madrid Airport in the early afternoon to head, on our recommendations, to Costa Rica. Below are some of the other lovely places we managed to visit over the couple of days we were there.

Parque El Retiro

We revisited Plaza Mayor for some breakfast and then it was time to relax – where better to do that than the beautiful, tranquil Parque de El Retiro? The park is huge, covering over 125 hectares and home to more than 15,000 trees but more so it is an oasis of calm in the middle of the bustling capital city. We headed here as we wanted to visit the famous Museo Nacional del Prado which was very nearby and according to the website offered free entry from 6pm to 8pm. With a bit of time to kill what could be better? Maybe the addition of a glass of sangria to sip. Let’s put a tick on that one too 🍷😊

Our llovely time in the park came to an abrupt end when a police car came through, using a PA system asking everyone to leave. A combination of very hot weather, a forecast of strong winds and a history of people being hurt there by falling branches meant our time was up, the park was closed!

Museo Nacional del Prado

Although this is mentioned I’m sad to say we didn’t make it in 😦 we got there in time for the free entrance but were told we needed to book it online before. When we looked there were no tickets available today even for paying customers; Carol had been before and no booking was required so it must be due to covid regulations. We tried to book for the day after and indeed the week after (just to see if it was possible) but the website just wasn’t playing.

Temple of Debod

We didn’t visit here for the temple as it was closed (and we heard that there’s not so much to see) but rather for the amazing sunset views, as recommended by Nigel’s friend Miranda, whose brother lives in Madrid. We made it with 10 minutes to spare, by Uber and it certainly was worth the visit. We had grabbed a couple of beers and sat back to see the sunset – bliss 😊 We had a busker too who was playing some really chilled out stuff including some Bob Marley covers, which just added to the ambience. It is definitely worth a short sunset visit of anyone’s time when in the city and we even saw some newlyweds visiting after their wedding.

Puerta del Sol

This is another square just down from Plaza Mayor. We visited here a couple of times during the day and at night. The square is home to several bars and restaurants and is a busy place; we heard public speakers here (althought our spanish was not good enough to keep up with what they were saying) and it is the main place for New Year Celebrations in Madrid. We also had a lovely coffee and cake in one of the restaurants on the square.

Mercado de San Miguel

Located just off Plaza Mayor this Market is something else; fresh fish, cakes, Sangria and wine you name it you will find high quality produce here. We would have stopped to try some different food and drink if we weren’t particularly stuffed from breakfast when we visited. Worth a look for sure!

Flamenco Show

We decided to see one on our last night in Madrid. Neither of us ever remembered seeing one in Spain; perhaps a cheaper cousin version on a holiday resort somewhere else so we bit the bullet and booked one. We booked through Cardamomo which wasn’t cheap at €45 each but when in Rome…or Madrid! We arrived by Uber and had a welcome drink of Sangria.

After our drink we were shown through to our table which for the price we paid was a premium seat; however to be honest the show lasted an hour and we had latecomers walking in front of us for at least 30 minutes of that so you may be better with paying for the cheaper seats at the back. We did enjoy the show though especially the passion shown by the dancers!

So unfortunately our time in Madrid was up and we kind of regretted not booking longer; there was definitely so much more to see and do but we had already booked our onward flights to Barcelona so no extensions were possible. We would definitely not rule out a return here which is something of a rare thing for us to say.

Carol & Nigel x

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