Parks and Palaces
Trip Start Jan 06, 2011
10Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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After waiting in Ryanair's check-in line and security, we boarded our flight. Ryanair is a low-cost airline so it's different from the traditional airlines that I was used to. Seats are not assigned and flight attendants read advertisements over the loudspeakers throughout the flight
We made it safely to Madrid, landing in the main airport there since they don't have a low-cost airport like Rome. We rode the subway into the city center and located our hostel. The first thing I noticed about Spain was how warm the weather was! Rome had been rainy and chilly, so it was wonderful to have sunshine and warm weather. We left our bags locked up in the hostel, along with our winter coats, and wandered back out to find Retiro Park. The park is huge, at 350 acres, at includes gardens, statues, fountains, playgrounds, monuments, and a large pond. It has been around since the early 1500s, undergoing many different changes over the centuries as different royal figures came to power. Rachel and I had a great time exploring the park and playing and just enjoying the sunshine. Finally around noon, we got hungry, so we left the park to find a restaurant nearby. I had a delicious tuna dish with country vegetables, and Rachel ordered a cheese platter.
After finishing, we headed back to our hostel to check into our room. Madrid is very economical for travelers looking to save money--we paid 16 euros each per night for a private room, and our meals were around 10 to 12 euros each.
Once we settled into our room, we went back out into the center, passing through the beautiful Plaza Mayor and heading for the Cathedral de la Almudena and the Palazzo Reale
After the Palazzo Reale, we got some frozen yogurt and then passed through Plaza a Puerta del Sol, which reminded me of a quiet little Times Square. Lots of people were hanging out in the plaza and enjoying the nice weather. We were feeling tired, so we headed back to the hostel to rest until dinner. We headed back out around 7:30, only to realize that many of the Spanish restaurants were starting to close up from dinner--I guess it's just the Italians who like to eat dinner as late as 10:00 p.m. We found one place that was still open, and the most adorable old man served as our waiter. He was very patient with Rachel's little bit of Spanish and my nonexistent Spanish, and he even gave us free drinks. I ordered a plate of fried calamari, and Rachel got fish and vegetables
The next morning, we slept in some, then went out to explore Madrid's art museums. First we went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which is dedicated to works from the 16th century on. There are many Flemish, Dutch, German, and English pieces there, and I recognized works from Chagall, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Picasso, and Van Gogh. There were lots of school groups there and the children were so adorable. I thought it was interesting that Europeans think it's important for small children to learn about art--back home, art history is a subject for high school students and college students.
After thoroughly exploring the museum, we headed out for lunch. I got a fried veal steak and Rachel ordered Spanish sausage, eggs, and black pudding. At the time we figured the black pudding was some sort of rice pudding, but when Rachel got home, she realized that it was actually a traditional dish made out of pig's blood! Rachel enjoyed it when she ate it, but I didn't try it since I was full already.
That afternoon, we saw even more art in the famous Prado Museum
For dinner that night, we took a break from local foods and went to an Indian restaurant. I was so excited to get some ethnic food, since it's very difficult to find in Perugia and usually very expensive when you can--I paid 18 euros for a sushi dinner in Perugia that was not very filling. This Indian food was under 10 euros and absolutely delicious. I had a dish with rice and vegetables and Rachel ate this sort of hummus made from eggplant and a salad made with cucumber, tomato, parsley, crackers, and a pomegranate dressing.
We headed to bed early again on Wednesday night, just like Monday, since we had another 6:00 a.m. flight for Paris. Sadly, our hostel had an organized outing to go see flamenco dancers, but we couldn't make it and get some sleep too, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone else staying there. Later that night, we woke up ready to catch our plane to Paris.