Madrid: Part I
The last week or so has been a total whirlwind of visitors, nerves, wedding, nerves, nerves, and nerves, and tasks. When it all came to an end I was understandably tired. The honeymoon was planned, flights and hotels booked, but the whole thing suddenly became pretty intimidating because we’ve never been to Europe, I haven’t really tried to speak Spanish in any meaningful way since high school, and the first stop was SPAIN. How could I, the guy who just barely managed to hold it together long enough to get married, enjoy the beginning of this trip as much as I wanted to when I was so tired? Well the answer is always a good night’s sleep.
We woke up at about 5:00 Monday morning, finished packing, had final showers before the trip, and waited for my Dad to show up to drive us 3 hours over to Houston where we were to start the flying bit of the trip. It all went quite swimmingly, save for a small delay getting out of Newark-Liberty International Aiport. The in-flight entertainment was kinda meh-tastic but it did the job, and about 8 hours after we took off from New York we descended back through the clouds and landed on the most beautiful, green, earthy landscape I’ve ever seen. A quick stop at tourist information to find our way to the subway and we were off to our hotel. We checked in and about two point seven seconds later we were both asleep…for eight hours.
After we woke up it was time to freshen up and hit the road, because food is obviously what Spain is all about, right? As Carolyn did her hair and makeup I checked some websites looking for tapas bars in our neighborhood, and stumbled across a chain particular to Madrid called 100 Montaditos which makes two-bite sized sammiches that you enjoy with a nice beer. Also the price is totally right. We selected about 8 montaditos and a salad and a couple of beers and nommed for a while. I don’t remember all of them, but there was chorizo, Jamon Iberico, manchego cheese, calamares, gambas, pollo asado con bacon, and a few others. It was delish. After our first outing into the world of Spain’s food, we went back to the hotel and passed out again. UNTIL 11:00AM.
We never sleep late anymore, so it’s a bit out of character that we’d do it while in a place as interesting as Madrid. Weirder stuff happens though, I guess. Upon waking up we headed over to the Palacio Real Madrid and found ourselves in the midst of some sort of celebration. It turns out that May 1st is a holiday in Spain, and that the palace was closed. The cathedral across the street however, was not.
We paid a 6 Euro entry fee to get into the museum inside the church only to be told we couldn’t take pictures in the museum itself. The first few rooms of the museum were absolutely beautiful, and then there were some galleries of relics and stuff. We did see some great vistas from the balcony and the dome atop the cathedral.
On the way out we were finally let into the cathedral proper, and there were no signs saying “No Fotografia” so we went nuts. It was a beautiful work of light and space. The bold colors on the altar and frescoes were pretty stunning, and the sheer verticality of the whole thing was just nuts. We’re not very religious, but it’s always refreshing to see the good works that a devout belief can manifest out of people.
After our visit to the cathedral we stopped for a quick lunch at a little tapas bar across the street where we had a platter of charcuterie. Chorizo Iberico, Jamon Iberico, different selections of sausages, blood sausages, and cheese. It was pretty glorious. Throw in the fact that the beer was basically free and hell, that’s what I call lunch.
After lunch (which was around I think 3 or 4) we headed down Calle Mayor towards Plaza Mayor, the theme-park-esque Times Square-ish kinda bit of Madrid. It’s a huge open square with all manner of street performers, pickpockets, knockoff handbag dealers, cafes, football hooligans, bars, and restaurants. Some places are made for people watching, and this is one of them. We had a coffee and a dulce de leche cheesecake while we watched the square do its thing, then we headed along to Puerta del Sol where preparations were being made for protests against austerity and celebrations of a citizens uprising against the French that happened on May 2, 1808.
We moved along to Plaza Cibeles to see some impressive buildings we saw on postcards earlier that day, along with a great fountain of Neptune, and all the way up to the gate of Parque Retiro. It was getting late. Already 8pm. Still light out by any means of description, but we were getting kinda tired, and we’d been on our feet pretty much nonstop for 8 hours. We found a place to eat with pictures of paellas in the window and sat down.
Paella has been on the list of things I want to eat for a while, and the fact that they had a paella de verduras and I was needing some vegetable action sealed the deal. What we’ve learned since then is kinda sad. There is some sort of mass production going on and places have a separate menu that says Paellador! Lots of places both in Madrid and here in Barcelona have the same menu. I’m pretty sure the vegetables were frozen or something, because they didn’t have a whole lot of color. It was pretty tasty, but not the beautiful food I’ve become accustomed to in Spain, ya know? My tip: Avoid Paellador paellas. Not worth the 12 Euro everyone seems to charge for them.
After our meal it was back to the hotel where we once again fell asleep quite fast. Jet lag is a bruja.