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Published: December 3rd 2017
Today is our first day of sightseeing in Madrid and we are keen to get started. The apartment is well located just 500m from the Plaza Mayor, it is a little noisy as yelling on your way home seems to be a Spanish thing. With our internal clocks still in home mode we woke up at 6.30am which is problematic. A deathly pall hung over the city with all revellers, workers and café owners safely tucked up in bed. The best we could do was waiting outside La Mallorquina (an old pattiserie off the Plaza Mayor) until it opened. It brought back memories of Southern Europe as the waiter dealt our coffee saucers like a poker game, clearly disappointed that he didn't have a special tourist area to seat us in. To be fair the pastries were great even if the coffees weren't but we still had one more hand before we left.
Given my ineptitude at using Google maps I was quickly sacked as primary guide and Constance took my place. The Plaza Mayor was set up with Christmas stalls selling decorations. Constance led us to the Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande. It has the largest dome
in Spain and the 4th largest in the world. To me the dome didn't really live up to expectations, but we struck out for the Royal Palace via Almudena Cathedral. It takes a big person to admit when they are wrong and when I pointed out that the dome on the basilica we were now passing looked pretty big Constance broke down in tears and confessed that she had stuffed up Google maps. We conducted an on the spot Performance Review and gave her a "needs improvement" and have now put her onto a programme of daily reviews via Survey Monkey.
Predictably the Palacio Real de Madrid was closed on 1 December due to a Special Event but it was fun to watch the changing guards and it is an impressive building even if the King doesn't actually live here. Had a quick squiz at the Monasterio de la Encarnacion and then went to the Museo Cerralbo. This is a really interesting house set up as it would have been in the 19th century with all the family's belongings. It was a bit cluttered and not sure that you needed quite so many rooms but a lot of fun.
We visited the Templo de Debod in Parque de Oeste. I love it when holidays link together. This Egyptian temple was moved and re-built in Madrid when the Aswan dam was built and would have been flooded (we have been to Aswan and also to the Met where another has been re-built). A great opportunity that Australia missed out on. An Egyptian temple in Martin Place would have made great accommodation for homeless people.
Back to the Plaza Mayor to try out a Bocadillo Calamares. Luckily the restaurant had a dedicated tourist area. We then hiked up to the Museo Arquelogico Nacional which is a highlight of any visit to Madrid with a fascinating collection of antiquities laid out thoughtfully and interspersed with virtual reality stations, videos and maps showing the development of civilisation in Spain. It was of course closed. Randomly closing major tourist attractions in Spain is a national pastime. In fact there is an entire Government department called the Departamento monumento clausura where every morning Rafael (who heads up the department) spins a big chocolate wheel and today the archeological museum's number came up. To add to the fun it is imperative that the website isn't
updated or any signs put up. At this point things fell apart. Everyone had dutifully embraced the "let's not spend money on taxis" strategy, but now the complaints began "I'm hungry", "my feet hurt", "I need a beer" (actually that was me). So we grabbed a taxi and headed home. After a quick kip we were ready to hit the tapas bars. Our Airbnb lady had given us a list of bars to try. Some were full but we were able to secure a table out the back of La Perejila in the tourist section where we had some terrific tapas (anchovies, meatballs, clamari etc.). After the meal and a slight glitch with Amex (where i'm sure I've been charged twice) we had a night cap at the wine bar across the road.
When we got back Marta (Airbnb lady) and her husband Adolfo ("like Adolf Hitler but with an o") dropped by. They are running 10 Airbnb properties in Madrid (own 4 of them). They bought them after the GFC when property prices halved. Gus and I had a beer on the balcony and watched the locals heading out (11pm!) and then bed.
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