| Madrid : El Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) |
I’m back with another post about our trip to Spain, covering our days in Madrid. You can read all the details of Part 1 (getting there) in this post, or my must-have items for international travel in this post.
| In the Palacio Real |
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To recap, I was very pleased with the online company we used to book our trip, Great Value Vacations. They have dozens of trips available, but we chose the 6-night Madrid & Barcelona trip, which included airfare, hotel, airport transfers (by private car/livery service), tours in Madrid and Barcelona, high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona, and daily breakfast at the hotels (the breakfast was out of this world–I am not kidding!). We paid about $1400 per person.
| The bar at the Hotel Tryp Atocha |
Because of the time change, we arrived at our hotel in Madrid around 4pm and were pooped. We unpacked and rested for awhile, then headed out around 6pm to find dinner. Note to self: that is WAY early to go out for dinner in Europe! Most places don’t even begin dinner service until 8pm, and 9 or 10pm is the norm.
One of my favorite places in Madrid was the Mercado San Miguel, with delicious tapas and something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
The drinking age is sixteen in Spain, so we let Connor sample the fruit of the grape. Red wine was a bit strong for him, but he was a big fan of sangria. You would order vino tinto or vino blanco over there to get red or white wine; their wines were delicious and dirt cheap–a glass was usually just a few Euros.
Annabelle found plenty to try, too. The fruit over there is amazing, and you could buy zuma (juice) that they made right in front of you.
| Fruit stand in the mercado |
| Fresh pineapple and coconut juice |
| Don’t forget to take a huge book with you when you’re sightseeing! |
One of Madrid’s specialty food items is Iberian ham (jamón ibérico), which my husband fell in love with (note: you can’t bring it back through Customs, so just enjoy it over there). Many of the tapas include ham, but if you’re a vegetarian, there are still plenty of delicious options. If you eat cheese, well, there’s an embarrassment of riches!
| Jamón |
| Tapas |
We were probably asleep by 10pm that first night, courtesy of jet lag. If you’re staying in the city and aren’t a night owl, then be sure you pack earplugs or earbuds–Madrileños stay up super late and were making noise in the street until at least 3 am (on a weeknight!). Of course, most shops don’t open until 10am, then many close in the afternoon for siesta, reopening around 6pm, so they are on a completely different schedule than we are!
We were up and ready to go the next morning for our Madrid tour that was included as part of our trip package. It was a bus tour, but we hopped out at many locations for a closer look. Our tour guide was trilingual, which gave us the chance to hear the same information in several different languages. My Spanish is pretty rusty, but came back faster than I expected when I heard it being spoken all the time.
| Madrid: Temple of Debod |
| Madrid: Plaza de Toros |
| Madrid: Plaza Mayor |
Our tour concluded at the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), which I loved. They didn’t allow photos of the interior rooms, but they are amazing.
We were allowed to take a shot in the entrance foyer; the ceiling gives you an idea of the grandness inside:
We were on our own for dinner that night, but had really good luck finding excellent restaurants using Viator, Yelp, Trip Advisor and my Rick Steves’ guidebook.
We ate at Casa Alberto on Calle de las Huertas, and it was excellent (try the meatballs!).
We found several “tapas tours” on Viator, but did our own thing for meals. We did, however, book tickets to see a flamenco show using Trip Advisor, and would definitely recommend the one we saw (Essential Flamenco on Calle Cruz). The musicians and singers were wonderful, as were the dancers.
A glass of sangria was included with our tickets, too.
As a quick aside, our hotel had Wi-Fi, as do many public places. Chris and the kids left their phones in the hotel room safe while we were out and about, and we just carried mine along, knowing that we’d need at least one for directions, reviews, translators, etc. I added an international plan before we left. In my opinion, it’s worth having at least one phone with a data plan so you can make reservations and book tours using the apps I’ve mentioned.
We grabbed churros y chocolate on the way home in the Puerta del Sol–can you tell we ate and drank our way through Spain?
The next day we visited The Prado (heaven on earth for me!). You also can’t take any interior photos in there. We self-toured with the audio guides, but also hired an art historian for 50€ who gave us a 75-minute tour of the major works, especially Las Meninas. You can book these tours ahead using Viator or another app, but he approached us in the entrance area. I thought it was money very well spent as he took us much deeper into the details of the paintings than the audio guide or guidebooks did.
We finished the day with a visit to the Maritime Museum, then a walking tour of Plaza Mayor and a late night dar un paseo and shopping on the Gran Via. And, of course, more eating and drinking!
The next morning, we walked to the train station for our train to Barcelona. The ten miles or so we logged per day was a nice way to walk off all the yummy calories we ingested!
Someone asked me about the weather in March–it was actually quite warm compared to their norm (70s and even 80s one day), but I did notice that they were still wearing winter clothes in layers and darker colors. Spaniards seem to dress a bit more conservatively than many other European countries, and I mostly packed neutrals and seemed to fit in (although as a rubia, I probably screamed tourist no matter what!).
I’ll be back soon with Barcelona.
Thanks for stopping by~
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