Continuing my series of posts of Spain, we stayed in Madrid on the third day, choosing to explore the city a little bit more before we took off for Granada and Seville. Before embarking on my trip, I knew that the obvious tourist destinations for anyone coming to Spain for their first time would be Barcelona and Madrid, for it being the capital of the country. And upon speaking to others, everyone was raving about Barcelona – it seemed like a whole lot more was in store in the northeast than in Madrid. Perhaps the purpose of my trip was different – I wasn’t out to conquer the fantastic sights of the city, but just spend good quality time with my Auntie – and so that said, I really enjoyed my time in Madrid – there was a good amount of historical sites to see, shopping and its sales, although the food was better in Seville, that I’ve got to admit.
I’m pretty much a last minute planner when it comes to possibly anything. I did most of the planning for Spain and marked out the places I had to visit – Casa Hernanz being one of them. With The Royal Palace of Madrid as our end destination for the morning before lunch, we took a stroll through the city. Thankfully, the weather was very forgiving. It was slightly cold – cold enough that you would require a jacket, but also with enough sun. Our first stop was Plaza de Espana. So it gets a little confusing in Spain. Every city that we went to had a Plaza de Espana, so much so, that after a while, my brother and I felt that it almost diminished the importance of the Plaza de Espana in that particular city. So at this one, it features a monument to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a Spanish novelist, poet and playwright. If you get your picture right, it’ll feature two of the tallest buildings in Madrid.
From there, it’s a short 5 to 10 minute walk to the Royal Palace of Madrid. I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of royalty or someone special, wouldn’t that be wonderful. As expected, it wasn’t our day. Even though it might be a tourist site, there were parks and benches just steps away from the Palace, and it was nice to just sit there, take the sights in, especially the clouds, which looked so pretty that it was almost unreal.
We moved onto the Almudena Cathedral, which is also in the area. The Catholic churches here are significantly different from the ones in Singapore – the interiors are so much more elaborate, there were so many statues, and the size of the church was just much bigger. If you’re at Almudena, the focus will definitely be on the statue of Madonna and child, pictured below.
Then we moved on to lunch! It was one of my first meals in Spain after the buffet the day before which wasn’t exactly Spanish – sure they had paella, but I was looking for something a little more authentic. We continued walking, hoping to chance upon a nice restaurant or cafe to dine at. It’s tough navigating anywhere new without a map or GPS. We passed over a few shops as it wasn’t budget friendly – and then, I saw this – Mercado de San Miguel! It was also in my list of places to visit. I get that it might be less authentic and more commercial, but I thought it was a good introduction to Spanish food for a first-timers. Prices weren’t the best – and there were little seats – but it’s all part of the experience isn’t it? Imagine this to be like Fremantle Market in Perth – just that it’s stocked with wine, food and happy people over lunch.
Tummies full, we headed to Cibeles Palace where we heard you could get spectacular views of the city, thanks to a recommendation from a friend. It costs just 2 Euros to head up to the Gazebo, and you get free entry on the first Wednesday of the month! From there, you can also catch a glimpse of Cibeles Fountain, which is probably familiar to all Real Madrid fans. Fans use the area to celebrate after the team’s victories in competitions.
And of course, more walking to do. I was amazed at the amount of energy we had – considering we walked to most places, and would end our day only around 9 or 10 at night. We headed to Retiro Park thereafter, it’s almost like the Central Park in New York City. Buskers around, people rowing their boats in the lakes, children running around, and little kiosks lining the street. I would have loved to spend a little more time here – sit down, read a book, grab some coffee. I think this would make a perfect place for a date too, just saying. We only walked through the Park to get to the train station to book our tickets to Granada and Seville. And even then, the Park is huge, it took us perhaps half an hour to 45 minutes just to pass through.
And to end the day, we went to Parque Europa which took about a half an hour bus ride from town. My Auntie’s friend, who’s been living there for five years or even more, recommended this place. It’s more like a novelty place to go to, basically, it has all the major attractions of Europe in one park, so you could take pictures with the Effiel Tower and lie to your friend that you’ve been there, haha. From what I saw, the Park was deep in the suburbs and would probably be suited to locals, or visitors who have half a day to spend exploring areas outside the city.
Granada up next!