First time in Europe! To Spain!

Trip Start May 03, 2009
Trip End Dec 22, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Spain  , Autonomous Region of Madrid,
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I arrived at Dallas-Ft Worth after 2.5 hr plane ride from Denver.  It had been snowing in Denver when we left, but the weather was clear here.  I had a 2-hr layover in DFW, which gave me enough time to clear customs before boarding to Europe.  The flight to Madrid seemed short because there was such little darkness.  It seemed like the night was only a few hours, well, that's because we gained 8 hrs on this flight and chasing the sun the whole time.  Oh boy, I just got acclimated to Mountain Time in U.S., now I have to readjust back to the time I was on plus a few more hours, only a few weeks before.  I know my body is really going to be unhappy with me, again.

The airport in Madrid is absolutely stunning!  More than any airport I've ever seen, and maybe including train stations as well.  Their carts here are FREE! So, I snagged one, and headed to the baggage carousel to get my packs.  After retrieving backpacks, headed to the Tourist Info booth to get a good map and get directions to the hostel.  That being done...hmmm, $.  I tried 6-7 ATMs to get some Euros, but they weren't on my VISA network(?) but finally found one that liked my debit card, so was good to go.

The metro is very convenient to the airport, and I found a kiosk to buy the ticket that I needed; so, 3 lines later, I arrived at my stop (which should tell you something).  I was a little confused upon exiting the Metro as to which way to go, but finally did find and board the bus (130) in the right direction.  I had booked a hostel in the Industrial section of town (ohhh, that's why it's so cheap!), which left me one metro ride and bus ride (or a longish walk) to the town center from the hostel.  I figure it cost me about 2 hours every day, that transport to/from the hostel.

Anyway, checked in the hostel - it's very institutionalized, but I had a pretty good room, good bed, and WiFi for a decent rate for Europe. 

My neighborhood has some lovely parks, outdoor cafes, shopping, etc.  The meat markets had displays that made my mouth water. It was all very residential

Because of my new jet lag, I didn't stray too far from the hostel the first few days, since I was sleeping wierd hours and couldn't stay awake daylight hours.  After a few days of local touristing, I took the metro downtown and walked around.  There exists a huge gigantic menu of sights in Madrid; it is difficult to decide which to visit, because it would take a very long time to see it all, if that is even possible.

The first thing I sought was the train station.  I generally like to scope out the train and bus stations for ease in leaving for my next town.  Also, I wanted to check out the prices to determine if I wanted to leave by train or bus.  The train station is as grand as the airport.  Simply outstanding.  I wonder where these Spainards get the $ for all of this infrastructure: the metros are wonderful too.

After surviving this trek to the trains, I had to go see the Prado (Museo del Prado), the world-famous art museum.  The guidebook says it has a "peerless collection of Spanish and European art".  Well, after touring it, I can agree with that. The part that I liked best was the collection of surreal works by El Greco and works by Titan. For more info, you can search the internet.  If you ever decide to visit, allocate alot of time to cover this place if you're into museums.

The environs of the museum are interesting as well.  Artists sit outside, drawing this and that  and the grounds are very special: perfectly manicured lawns surround the side and back entry ways, and a beautiful church is very near the back entrance.
After visiting the museum for an afternoon, I wandered around, and stumbled upon the entrance to the Real Jardin Botanico, or the Botanical Gardens (Park).  It was still May, mid spring, and the park was at peak, the weather being perfect.  There is an indoors section to the park, where a myrid of plants are housed: cactus, orchids, etc.  A visit here was the icing on the cake for a perfect day.

My next stop was the Anthrological Museum.  I think I remember that seniors have a special discount day in the museums, and I wanted to take advance of the discounts.  And, it was nearby.  So, I stopped in to see what they had to offer.  Among other interesting displays was the map of religions.  (Missing on the map is the key for the Indian religion, which is Hindu.) But I was rather impressed with the spread of the Muslim religion, which is prevalent in Malaysia.

After a full day, I returned to the hostel.  On  the way from the Metro to the hostel is a market where I stop to get fruit, vegetables, etc.  I don't eat much in the restaurants because of the cost and high fat in restaurant food.
The next day, I planned another visit to the city center: I wanted to cover the Parque del Retiro and the Palace.  So, off I went for another day of walking and touring.  The entrance to the park is marked by a huge gate, and then after entry, miles of promenades are available for strolling around all day, if a person should wish. 

After walking miles, it seemed, I happened upon the Estanque (lake) which is overlooked by the
huge ornamental structure of Alfonso XII's mausoleum, complete with lions.   I ate some ice cream, sat and people watched while the day slipped away.  Later in the day, the crowds got bigger, and people started to dance.  This park is perfectly manicured, and is in tip top condition.  You can tell the Spanish people take great pride in their environs.

The next stop was the Palacio Real.   I never did get inside, the days I came to visit, it was either closed for business or their day off.  I am sorry I didn't go inside, but some other day.  In my later day trips, I saw a lot of grandeur in palaces, so this was just one more.  I did pass by the Palace on several occasions; I saw the band playing one day, and was able to catch the changing of the guard also.

On Sunday, a visit to the El Rastro is a must: it's "one of the best flea markets in Europe".  So, I set off to find this place, and did a little shopping after I discovered it.  Unfortunately, it was a little rainy, so it wasn't perfect weather, but OK.  Actually the name of the barrio is the Rastro also, and there are all kinds of monuments, statues, etc. located in this barrio, near the "flea market".  I wandered around here for some number of hours and did manage to purchase some items in the flea market.

From the Rastro, I returned to the Palacio, hoping to enter, and I
encountered the Cathedral Almudenda.  WOW!  What a spectacular building.  I walked all around it, but was
never able to enter; I would have liked to, as I am sure it must be really something.

Later, I went to the zoo, in the El Campo.  It was a long walk, and the zoo was rather a disappointment. I made a promise: no more zoos!  But, after wandering around a bit, I found the cable car to return to "civilization", and it was a good ride.  The El Campo used to be the king's hunting grounds.  The cable cars terminate across from the Rose Garden, which was spectacular at this time of year. 

My last visit in Madrid was to the Templo of Debod which is incredible.  It's an authentic 4th Century BC Egyptian temple that sits in the heart of Madrid.  It was saved from the rising waters of Lake Nasser when they built the Aswan Dam, and it was sent, block by block, to Madrid.

And this ends my narrative to Madrid.  I'd love to return and see some more!

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