Madrid was a city we visited as a result from a Qantas "use it or loose it" threat on our frequent flyer points. Oneworld's Spanish partner airline Iberia took us into Madrid where we quickly found out that weekend wasn't nearly enough to discover and expereince the city's many historic sights, cuisines and activities. We estimated that we've roughly seen only 15% of Madrid over the weekend ... raising hopes that this will be a city we will return to sometime in the future to see.

Our walk commenced from our hotel, located in the city within the Art Triangle of Madrid, amongst museums and Art Galleries. It was close to Puetra del Sol, the reference point for Madrid where map distances are calculated from. The walk brought us past Plaza Mayor - Jeanette is pictured above - a central arcade within Madrid, through some sidewalk malls, past monuments and back to the starting point to finish off. Unlike the winter season, we easily tire from the hot weather and/or bright sunshine- which was indeed the case during our walk in Madrid.

We found it easier to navigate around the city using landmarks - Plaza Mayor, one of Madrid's more famous squares was one within Madrid's Old City was lined with all sorts of eateries, cafes and sourvenir stores. As a backup, we also had a list of restaurants provided to us by a colleague at work.

Not being familiar with Spanish cuisines, our experience was limited to famous dishes like the rice "stew" called Paella, the "cold soup" Gazpacho and of course Tapas "Snacks", we had the opportunity to enjoy during our trip to Barcelona a couple of years ago. At Plaza Mayor, we enjoyed Tapas - the Smoked Ham, Eggplant and Preserved Octopus we the three we had enjoyed the most.

Tapas was served on individual plates with a serving of toast. For the Smoked Ham tapas, you simply had to run some garlic onto the toast to have the taste and aroma released, place a sliced tomato dripped with some olive oil on the piece of bread followed by the piece of ham, then enjoy it!

One of the unique things about Spanish culture is the concept of a short nap in the afternoon (mostly after lunch), called the SIesta. The net efffect, at least in the past was that Spaniarrds have long work days - characterised by a long SIesta break during the afternoon. Officially, dinner appears to be later - around 8.30pm - than what we are used to. In former times, it also meant that the city had to endure 4 peak-hour traffic periods instead of just two. This was because of the additional pre and post-SIesta traffic created by people wanting to return home. It was commonplace back then to see traffic congestion up to 11:30pm!

The traffic did not give us much problems during the weekend since we explored the city on foot. Visiting the city right in the middle of the World Cup 2010 fever meant that we also experienced how passionate they were of the game. Having said this, Spain had just beaten Chile at the quarter finals to get to the semi's during our visit, but there was little sign of celebrations that we could see. Perhaps the hoardes of fans were somewhere else!

The walk through the streets and squares took us through many historic buildings, churches, monuments and statues. Some of which were on ground level, around fountains and a couple perched atop historic buildings. We quickly discovered how much there was to see, learn and experience even in the confines of the Old City. By the time the day was out, we had only discovered merely 20% of the Old City ... with more parts of Madrid city to see.

 


Images of our walk in
Madrid, Spain
June 26th, 2010

 


The Bear and Tree statue
in Puerto del Sol


The Mojito is a drink
we enjoyable most in Spain.

'
You'll see surprising things
during City Walks



Es Rastro de Madrid street market
Lots of things to see, bargain and buy but watch out for the pickpockets!


Early the next morning, we ventured to El Rastro by the subway. El Rastro de Madrid is the most popular flea market in Madrid. Operating each Sunday, three streets are literally lined with stalls selling new and used goods. Hoards of locals (called Madrilenos) and tourists in the thousands simply shuffle these streets, looking for quaint and interesting bargains. We enjoyed what was sold - things we wanted but never really bothered to look for - an experience which befitted the ending of our weekend in the Spanish capital.

Like in Rome, we were forewarned by many stall owners to be vigilant against pickpockets who worked in this area. We noted that some storeowners even stood guard while we browsed their store. This was a particularly nice gesture.

We had a fun time in Madrid over the weekend but had totally underestimated what there was to see. Hence, we made a promise to return to Madrid sometime soon for more. We hope you enjoy the pictures!

cheers

Jeanette and Raymond
July 24th, 2010
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The "Old City" of Madrid was a pleasure to visit, experience and photograph. We will be back.