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Published: July 29th 2017
We had arrived in Madrid the night before, hopped on to the Metro and checked in to our en-suite 4 bed dorm at OK Hostel Madrid with no issues. There was evidence of us having two room mates but we didn't see them until this morning (although we heard them both come in). The room had a balcony and an exterior shutter that blocked out e 99.9% of the daylight (great for me) so I was a little confused when my alarm went off at 08:30 this morning as I thought it was still the middle of the night (and felt like it too)!
We quietly showered and dressed and made our way downstairs to tuck into the bargain €3 breakfast our hostel offered. I thought it was a decent offering for €3, it even included cook your own pancakes, but Dan wasn't too keen (the coco rocks were to hard for him....). After breakfast, we packed up our bags for the day and joined e free/pay what you think it's worth walking tour organised by the hotel and taken by our guide Viviana. It was scheduled to leave at 11am Spanish time aka 11:20 :-)
The tour route
started in Plaza Mayor (the main square) where we heard about the Spanish Monarchy, the cost of the apartments surrounding the sq. and a little about Viviana our guide, who is from Columbia. Then it was down to Puerta del Sol, a plaza in the centre of Madrid and he centre of Spain. It houses the statue of the 'Bear and the Strawberry Tree' the municipal symbol of the city and a statue of one of the many kings (Charles or Phillip of varying numerical suffix). Next it was past the Opera (Metro station and building itself) through Plaza de Oriente and in front of Madrid Palace. Viviana gave us some tips on when to visit the palace for free with an EU passport (6-8pm) and we talked about the cathedral opposite, we later saw it from a better angle from the distance and discussed the Spanish Inquisition and Spains conversion to Catholicism way back in the late 1400's (or expulsion/execution of Jews and Muslims). Finally we made our way across to a small square which housed the city hall and back up to Plaza Mayor where we discussed the widespread disease in the city during times of plague and
how that saw the birth of tapas and sangria (through only being able to drink alcohol, not water, and the need to lower the alcohol content and eat little and often so as not to get drunk 24/7).
Once the tour was over we grabbed a coffee and started making a plan for the next two days and plotting places of interest on Google Maps, my good friend and basketball team mate Manuel, who is a From Madrid, had kindly provided a number of good suggestions. We decided to retrace our steps from the tour in order to take some more pictures without feeling rushed and then started to make our way over to the west of the city towards the Temple of Debod an Egyptian structure in the middle of a large park. On our way there we visited Plaza de Espanya and made a stop in a bakery chain called Rodilla.
Having taken in some views of the landscape in the distance from the park we made our way to the metro in order to get across town to Valesquez in order to walk around the shopping area between here, Serrano station and Colón. When we
exited the station we were greeted with a view of a massive pearly white church called xxxx
. We walked around these streets for a while and made our way up to a tapas place called Jurucha, which Manu had suggested, to scope it out for a later date. We didn't make e any purchases however as A) the shops were fairly high end and B) neither of us have that much room or weight allowance left in our bags! Next we headed over to Plaza Colón where there is one of the largest Spanish flags flying I have ever seen before wandering down to Puerta de Alcalá a multiple arched structure adorned with chariots on top. As we were right next to Parque de el Retiro we almost headed in there to look around but decided we should leave ourselves something to do for the next 36h we had in Madrid, so opted to leave it for tomorrow and head back to the hostel to freshen up before dinner.
At about 9pm, as Spaniards start their evening/dinner no earlier than this, we wandered around the corner from our Hostel to Casa Baja. This street, and the ones surrounding it,
seem to house some of the most highly rated restaurants in Madrid, as suggested by Manu and verified by TripAdvisor ratings. We opted for a place called Almander
13 a small bar which served a number of traditional dishes at reasonable prices. Dan got a beer, I got what I thought was a beer (it said 'beer with must' in the English menu we were given) but turned out to be white wine (or lost in translation). For food, we shared a Serrano and Brie Rosca (Bagel) to start, I opted for the 'surprise' Spanish omelette (the surprise was bacon and cheese) and Dan had home made crisps topped with 'smashed eggs' and diced ham, a traditional dish, the food was very good.
After dinner we wandered the streets for a while, investigated he churro place we had been recommended but decided we were too full, so bought an ice cream instead and sat in Plaza Mayor to eat it and take in the evening. We then dodged all the looky looky men and massage ladies and made it back to the hostel to get some rest for an equally busy day tomorrow.
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