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downundergal Madrid - A travel report by Kerrie
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Madrid,  Spain - flag Spain
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downundergal's travel reports

Madrid - Una Ciudad Maravillosa!

  24 votes
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What a marvelous city Madrid is!
She may lack the magnificent monuments of other European capitals but for me the city held a real old world appeal with a lively atmosphere to be found at any time of the day or night.
report of the month contest
Oct 2006

Some of the beautiful tile work to be found in Madrid
Some of the beautiful tile work to be found in Madrid
Call me a romantic but I just loved wandering through the narrow streets that were perfect to lose yourself in, soaking up the history. You could almost hear the echoes of another time, just imagine horses hooves clopping while drawing their carriages, gentlemen challenging their opposition to a duel for a ladies honor. This is especially true in the area off Plaza Mayor where we stayed as it was virtually pedestrian only. I was also taken with the old world traditional tiles used for the street names with matching pictures to tell the story. The Plaza Mayor always seems to have something going on and if you don't mind paying the steep tourist prices it is a great spot to sit, have a drink and watch people taking their paseos. Sunday morning in the Plaza hosts a huge turnout of stamp and coin collectors. If you knew what you were looking for no doubt you would be able to pick up a special piece at a bargain price.

Favourite spots:
Lake at the Parque de Buen Retiro
Lake at the Parque de Buen Retiro
Some not be missed sights and these will be on any travelers list are definitely the Prado Museum crammed to the rafters with notable Masters, the Royal Palace; just to see how the other half lived, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which houses Picasso's Guernica and the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza.

I would also add the Parque de Buen Retiro, located near the Prado Museum. It is a huge park with a large lake that draws thousands of people on a sunny day and the weekends in particular. It is the perfect spot for some time out just to stroll the grand walkways, hire a paddle boat on the lake, find a secluded spot under the shade of some of the huge old trees and enjoy an ice-cream from one of the vendors.

What's really great:
Part of The Annunciation of Fra Angelico
Part of The Annunciation of Fra Angelico
The Prado Museum is absolutely huge so unless you are ready for sensory overload you may need to pick what you really want to see. The audio guide is a great investment as you press the number listed under any of the paintings and it gives you a full description of what you are looking at. The standout for me was definitely Las Meninas by Velázquez, what a magical painting when you see it in all its glory. You really feel that you are a participant in the painting. Other standouts include Raphael’s Annunciation of Fra Angelico and take a real trip with the Triptych of Bosch’s Earthly Delights. The panel on the left is the creation of man, worldly pleasures in the centre and the panel for Hell on the right. Study this one too closely and you’ll never commit a sin again. Unfortunately for us the El Greco section was under wraps whilst the museum was preparing a large exhibition of Picasso’s works.

Forecourt of the Royal Palace
Forecourt of the Royal Palace
The imposing Royal Palace is fronted by a large forecourt Plaza de Oriente. You pay 8 euro on entry and make your way up the Main Staircase and through a series of elaborate rooms that serve as the Throne Room, Banqueting Hall, Royal Chapel and so on. As you can imagine these boast lots of gilt, frescoes, paintings and tapestries. At the rear is the Royal Pharmacy with all sorts of strange items in bottles that I wouldn’t like to trust my health to. And lastly, the very impressive Royal Armoury boasting enough suits of armour, swords and weapons to start a medieval war.

You couldn’t visit Madrid and not see Picasso’s Guernica in the Museo Nacional de Art Reina Sofia. I actually thought that it would be larger (yes, I know it is large) but I always thought that it was more along the line of a Rivera mural for some reason. Our visit here was very short as it was almost closing time and the Museum was closed the following day.

Hostel Tijcal
Hostel Tijcal
Off the Plaza Mayor is the Hostal Tijcal I. Fantastic location; it was perfect for our needs, close to restaurants, bars, the sights & Metro station Sol. Security is good, the front door is locked at night with the Reception being manned 24 hours.
The room was comfortable. Although we had booked some 2 months prior I got the feeling that the rooms were allocated on a first to arrive best room allocated so as we arrived very late we were given a tiny room just off the Reception. Unfortunately I am a really light sleeper so I knew exactly what time everyone else came home and in Madrid that is very late!!!
They were more than happy to move us the next day so up we went some three flights but the quiet was well worth the stairs. Make sure you know exactly where the Hostal is located as the Metro Station is still a 10 minute walk. When we asked for directions, the reply from the six or so people was a puzzled "No estoy seguro, pero soy muy cerca" - I am not sure but it is very close.

Typical bar - note the hams hanging above the bar
Typical bar - note the hams hanging above the bar
If disco is not your scene and it isn't ours any restaurant is a bar and they are also open late so you are never without somewhere to go any time of the night. Coming from a country with strict regulations regarding smoking it is something of a shock in Spain where bars and restaurants are either smoking or non smoking. If they are smoking, phew, hold your breath, you won’t have to light up even if you are a smoker. With the ubiquitous ham legs suspended from every ceiling it gives a whole new meaning to the idea of “smoked” ham.

Sunny afternoon
Sunny afternoon
Chilling out with the Madrileños for a long, leisurely lunch at a sunny outdoor café whilst enjoying a couple of glasses of great Spanish vino blanco and finishing with a café con leche is the best way to soak up the atmosphere and mix with the locals.

El Rastro - The weekend market literally translates to the thief and this may be true depending on your point of view. Judging by the crowds I would also take that as a warning and be watching your pockets. This is a great spot to spend a Sunday morning browsing through everything from the Spanish version of your standard t-shirts found everywhere in the world, cd's, lots of bric a brac and just plain junk. These markets are HUGE and spread over many city blocks. It will take you hours to fully cover them. Just a word of caution should nature call "servicios" are few and far between. If you do get caught short try a small bar located right at the bottom of the hill.

Typical street signs
Typical street signs
Through the Arco de Cuchilleros off Plaza Mayor & down into Calle Cuchilleros & Cava de San Miguel you will be spoilt for choice of where to eat. We opted to dine alfresco at the atmospheric Meson Rincón de la Cava. Helpful service the waiter insisted we try one of the house specialties; a type of croquette with a creamy potato and ham filling and a plate of crumbed calamari with some bread.

Las Canas was another favourite. A modern little bar serving some great food such as pizzas, pastas and lots of specials on drinks like 2 beers or soft drinks for 4 euro.

The other good reliable spot we found and our breakfast choice every day was Maestro Churro. A typical café with a café con leche 1.10 at the bar, 1.40 in the salon and 2.20 outside. They also served the traditonal chocolate con churros which was actually really good if not something you would have every day. A standard “mixto” (toasted ham and cheese sándwich) was 2.40.
It was a reliable and buzzing little place.

Other recommendations:
Plaza mayor at night
Plaza mayor at night

Getting into town from the Barajas Aiport is by Metro is dirt cheap at just one euro but it does take a little effort.
If you are like us and you land at the new sterile Terminal 1 you first need to make your way by the free airport shuttle to Terminal 4 and the Airport Metro Station. Once you are here there are helpful Information booths that will furnish you with a map and which line to take. In a nutshell though, you will need to take Line 8 from Barajas to Nuevos Ministerios change for Line 10 to Tribunal and then in our case we changed again for Line 1 to Sol. It took a good hour just on the Metro not including traveling from the arrival terminal and the walk to the hotel. In between there were lots of stairs, escalators and crowded cars on the Metro. If you are carrying a backpack no sweat, we were with suitcases on wheels for probably the first time ever so it was a little tougher but manageable.

Published on Saturday November 11th, 2006

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Thu, Dec 07 2006 - 11:33 AM rating by davidx

I've used Madrid mainly for transit between plane and train. I've meant to go back and see it some time - you have made me add the words 'very soon.'

Sat, Nov 18 2006 - 08:21 PM rating by soyazur

I love Madrid too ;)

Fri, Nov 17 2006 - 03:52 PM rating by jorgesanchez

un report maravilloso!

Mon, Nov 13 2006 - 04:03 AM rating by eirekay

Kerrie, this is a magnificent report! You capture such a wonderful feel of the city! What a terrific read!

Sun, Nov 12 2006 - 12:53 PM rating by st.vincent

I've not been to Madrid but the way you describe it, it looks like a perfect place for a cultural weekend break. An enjoyable report.

Sun, Nov 12 2006 - 02:07 AM rating by rangutan

Very well done. There are so few reports on this MAJOR world city. Compare this report, from an outsider, with the RoM of Aug 2005, they suppliment each other well!

Sat, Nov 11 2006 - 02:45 PM rating by mistybleu

A advertising campaign says that 'Madrid only happens in Madrid' and you have expressed this so very well. A lovely informative report.

Nice work

Sat, Nov 11 2006 - 02:42 PM rating by picasso

Exelent report,and beautiful images.

Sat, Nov 11 2006 - 12:14 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

wonderful report

Sat, Nov 11 2006 - 05:31 AM rating by marianne

This is definitely the RoM. I especially like the first section. It is very well written and informative at the same time.

Sat, Nov 11 2006 - 04:59 AM rating by leillli

i myself enjoy:)you wrote with ur heart,i like this style cause all is about feeling.good luck

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