Day 17 – What we did in Madrid
13 April 2015
While the world still slept, Wifey and I got up at 3:30am as our flight from Paris to Madrid was at 6am. Good thing for us that I booked a shuttle service to the airport which made the transit a lot easier, plus it would have probably cost more catching a taxi. We got to the airport on time, had something to eat and off we were to Spain! We were to meet our friends Katrina and Alfred from Como there. It was awesome of them for joining us in Madrid, at least we had someone to hang out with :).
From the airport we headed to our hotel. The entrance looked like an apartment’s and so we got a little confused at first whether we were in the right place or not. We found out that the hotel was on the third floor. It was small but was convenient as it was within the city centre. Our friends were waiting in their room. They arrived the day before and so they have checked out the city already. Not wasting any time, we all headed out to see what Madrid had to offer. First stop was Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun), the city centre. Restaurants and shops surrounded the square. There were many people in costume walking around the place, Bart Simpson, a bull fighter, the alien from the movie Predator, they were encouraging tourists to take photos with them, but it came with a price. We weren’t that interested. The famous national symbol of Madrid Estatua del Oso y el Madroño stood in the square. I did not know that there were bears in Spain and that strawberries grew on trees ;). Strawberries didn’t grow on trees, it just so happened that a Madroño tree bears fruit similar to that of a strawberry and so that is how it got its name. The bear stretching to reach the fruit, according to this site, it meant to ‘symbolize the resiliency and strength of the industry of Madrileños’.
We then headed to another plaza called Plaza Mayor, same vibe as the other one, just a little less people. Not far from here was the Mercado de San Miguel. If you liked your Spanish tapas then this was the place to be. The market was full of fresh produce from fruits and vegetables to seafood. The food displayed in every stall looked mouth watering. We tried some pork crackling and a soursop fruit shake. It was delicious!
Next stop was the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid) the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family for state ceremonies only. We only took pics by the gates as it cost €11 to enter #cheapskates. Right next to the palace was the Cathedral de la Almudena.
As it was around lunch time already, we decided to look for a place to eat. Alfred recommended we ate at this buffet place called Topolino which was near our hotel. All-you-can-eat Paella! Haha. It was one of the food I was really looking forward to tasting in Spain. Luckily our friends could speak Italian, well some of the words were similar to Spanish and so it made communicating with the waitress a lot easier. The food was great. I ate a lot :). After a hearty meal, it was time to experience another Spanish tradition which is the siesta haha. Since we were quite tired from our early flight, an afternoon nap was needed to gain back some energy for later.
After a two hour nap, we regrouped, headed to the nearest metro station as we were going to find the statue of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero. He was one of the great Filipinos who fought for freedom under the Spanish colonial rule through peaceful reforms. We weren’t quite sure why this replica was erected in Madrid (the original located in Luneta Park in Manila), wiki mentioned Rizal had visited Madrid before. The statue was located at the junction of Agenda de Las Islas Filipinos and Calle Santander. Seeing the statue brought back some memories of Manila to me. I had seen the original before.
Going back to the city, we stopped at Buen Retiro Park. It was the perfect place to spend our afternoon. We casually strolled through the gardens, by the lake filled with people in row boats.
It was getting late and the sun was about to set and so our friends took us to the top of a department store called Corte Ingles. There were restaurants and bars at the top floor which included an awesome view of the city, the right time to see the sunset over Madrid. We ordered some burgers and nachos and hung out till it was dark. Plenty of stories and laughter were shared. It was one of the best nights in Europe so far :).