Discovering Madrid

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
Trip End Nov 24, 2013

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Where I stayed
Catalonia Atocha Madrid
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Monday, November 11, 2013

We flew through customs once we got there.  We had a long way to get there. They just looked at our passports and stamped
them, then we went to baggage claim.  When we got out it was just 9:00
and the Globus Tour Rep, Maria, found us very quickly after that.  She told us
we had not missed the 9:00 shuttle because the King and Queen are in town and some of the freeways were shut down, just like when national political candidates come to Columbus.  Shortly a British gentleman, Raymond, came to let  us know it would be another 10-15 minutes.  He came and got us when the bus arrived.  Than we drove to Terminal 4 and picked up a young girl from New York.  On the way to the Catalonia Hotel, Raymond told us the pertinent stuff we needed to know for today.  He pointed out a few things along the way.  We arrived at the Hotel a little after 10:00, registered (they photocopied our passports), and got our room.  We had free time until supper at 6:00.  We know from past experience to just keep going until early evening and then go to bed.  You get over the jet lag better that way.  We had planned to go see the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace but Raymond thought it would be closed because the King and Queen are in town.  So we chose Plan B, the Rick Steeves walking tour.

But before we could walk we needed more food in our bodies.  We walked up our street, Atocha, and first found a little mom and pop store that sold a little bit of everything.  We went in and found an adapter for just E3 ($4) as opposed to $15 in Columbus or Philly.  Then we stopped at a bakery/cafe and had sandwiches.  We had jamon and queso on a hard roll.  (Ham and cheese)  Derek had a coke and Larry had a coffee.  I had my water bottle.  We headed up Atocha to the Plaza Mayor skipping the Puerta del Sol as it is part of our tour tomorrow.  The Plaza Mayor was main square in medieval times.  It is surrounded on all four sides by identical three story buildings with towers and steeples, common in Madrid.  This plaza has been the scene for bullfights, fires, royal pageantry, and the Spanish Inquisition.  There were also nice outdoor cafes.  We left the plaza through the northwest arch and went a short distance to the Mercado de San Miguel.  This is a great market in an historic iron and glass structure dating from 1916.  There was fresh produce, wine, beer, gourmet foods and some very good looking tapas which are traditional appetizers, lots of olive, fish and meat. 

Next we went to Corpus Christi Church and Convent.  A group of cloistered nuns live there and make dulces, sweets to sell.  We looked at the beautiful chapel but didn't get any goodies.  You had to buzz the door bell, wait for the sister to come on the intercom, then go in to the torno (lazy susan), place your order and pay for it.  We had just eaten so we didn't do that.  Just up the street (alley really) was the oldest door on the oldest bulding in Madrid, shaped like a a Moorish keyhole.  It has been inhabited since 1480.  This little street brought us out onto Townhall Square with its garden and statue of Phillip II who moved the capitol from Sevilla to Madrid in 1571.  Then we walked along the Calle Mayor to the Almudena Cathedral which took 100 years to build and was just dedicated by John Paul II 20 years ago.  We took pictures from Calle Mayor and then went around to the front entrance to get tickets for the museum and cupola.  The cathedral is just south of the Royal Palace and we could see that the Palace was open.  So we went through the museum and up into the cupola where we had a spectacular 360* view of Madrid.  It reminded me of being up in the dome at St. Peter's in Rome.  Remember, Peg?  But Madrid is not nearly as big as Rome.  When we came down out of the cupola we toured the Church.  It is very full of light with bright colors and modern beautiful stained glass windows.

Next we went to the Palacio Real.  You were right, Erin, it was the best part of the day.  We took lots of pictures outside but they didn't allow them inside.  The highlights for me inside were The Throne Room, the Gasparini Room all Roccoco, the Porcelain Room, Gala Dining Room which can 144 people at one table!, the Royal Chapel, gold everywhere, the Stradivarius Room, best collection of his violins anywhere, and the armory, lots of armor both human and equine, swords, spears, lances and guns.  We saw everything that we could.  Next we walked to Plaza de Oriente just east of the Palace where we saw a statue of Philip IV and the Royal Theatre.  We stopped at Plaza Isabel II with its statue of her.  Then we walked down Calle Arenal a pedestrian shopping area to the Puerta del Sol, than south to Atocha and back to the hotel. 

I had some time here to begin the blogs.  Larry and Derek rested and helped me write the blogs.  At 6:00 we went down for our Welcome Meeting and what we thought would be supper.  The meeting lasted until 7:00 and covered all kinds of things from the wake up call at 7:00 am that goes to everyone to our itinerary to optional excursions to the Whispers (headphones that help us hear our guide when they "whisper" when we are on tour.  We signed up for the excursion to El Escorial tomorrow afternoon and the optional meal at one of Madrid's oldest and most traditional restaurants.  Then we found out that supper wasn't until 8:00 and I needed something to eat so we went to the little store down the way and I got crackers and also a bottle of water.  The little bottle I brought will not be enough for a whole day of travel.  When we got back Larry and Derek got a beer in the bar here at the  hotel.  We went down to supper and Ozzie Hernandez from Brooklyn, New York sat with us.  She is a single woman who works as a project manager at Sprint.  We had a buffet meal of paella, potato croquettes, salad, chicken legs, french fries and ratatoullie.  On our table was a bottle of red wine and mineral water.  It was all delicious but Larry had to pick the shrimp out of paella and give it to me as  he is allergic.  For dessert there was bread pudding and two kinds of torte, strawberry and chocolate.  There was also fresh fruit.  We had a delightful conversation with Ozzie then went back to our rooms to bed.
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