Eurotrip Series: Madrid “The Heart of Spain” (Oct. 22-28, 2011)

Among all other European countries in the itinerary, we had our longest stop in Madrid. I’ve been asked a thousand times, “Why not Rome or Paris? Why Madrid?”

Well here’s the real score…

The primary purpose of this trip was to reconnect with “Mi Padre’s” roots. To reconnect with his bloodline (Yeah, he’s half-spanish by blood). And though we never got to meet our Spanish relatives, we got to talk to  them over the phone since they were away on a vacation of their own and that was more than enough for my dad.

Now the real tour begins. If Barcelona is rich in architecture, then Madrid definitely has all that and a whole lotta art.
Here’s how we spent 5 full days in the Spanish Capital…

Started off with a warm greeting from an “enormously delicate” sculpture right outside the Madrid Atocha Railway Station.

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The sleeping child outside the Madrid Atocha Railway Station

Quick Tip: Save a couple of Euros. If you’re heading for the airport, there’s a bus stop in this area for buses that’ll take you straight to the airport for roughly 2 Euros. Way cheaper than taking a cab.

 

Day 1

Palacio Real (the Royal Palace)

Still considered the official residence of Spain’s Royal Family although they don’t live here anymore (At present, they live in Palacio de Zarzuela). This, however is still used for state ceremonies. With more than 2000 rooms inside this fortress, only about 50 are open to the public. This includes the Throne Room, the Royal Pharmacy, The Chapel, The Porcelain Room, The Gala Dining Room and the Royal Library. We capped off our tour of the Royal Palace in their little army museum  located in the western side of the plaza.

Palacio Real

 

Day 2

The Golden Triangle of Art

This is composed of 3 museums located in close proximity to each other. Hence, the monicker.


Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Home to some of the works of Spain’s greatest artists including  Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. I’m pretty sure those names ring a bell. Be sure not the miss the centerpiece of this museum – “Guernica” by Picasso himself.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

 

Museo Del Prado

I could easily say that this has the most extensive art collection among the three. From paintings to sculptures, you can find it all here. I’ve said this during the Barcelona trip “Art is my water-loo”. But then I came across the works of familiar names from my high school history class like Goya, Van Gogh, Van Dyck, El Greco, Rafael and of course Velazquez whose imposing statue sits outside this museum. I must admit, coming from a person who knows so little about art, let alone appreciate it, I was literally wide-eyed the whole time I was walking the halls of this museum. Always excited to visit the next exhibit not knowing what’s waiting for me in there. Describing the whole experience would be like describing every single artwork in here – “It’s nothing short of MAGNIFICENT!”

Velazquez in Museo Del Prado

 

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Named after its founder since it started as a personal collection. I’d say this is the “Modern one” among the three. This one’s for fans of Impressionism.
I wasn’t that keen on the collection since I didn’t have a clue what Impressionism is. Okay, I admit until now I still don’t understand what it’s about.

Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

Quick Tip: Make an initial visit to each of the Museums and check the schedule for free entries. Yeah, nothing beats free access to attractions.

 

Day 3

          Plaza de Cibeles

A square in the intersection of 2 of the main streets in Madrid (Calle de Alcala and Paseo del Prado). Right in the middle of the square is the Cibeles Fountain, named after the “Cybele” The Roman Goddess of Fertility.

The Fountain of Cibeles

Quick tip: If you want a birds-eye-view of the Plaza, you can go up the Observation deck of the Palacio de Cibeles for free at a given time. Again, check the schedules.

View from the observation deck of Palacio de Cibeles

 

Fuente de Neptuno (Fountain of Neptune)

This is another noteworthy fountain located in Paseo del Prado. Victory parties for Madrid’s football teams are sometimes celebrated here. Don’t worry, you won’t miss this beauty when you walk from Museo Del Prado all the way to Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Puerta de Alcala (Gate of Alcala)

When you’re walking from Calle de Alcala towards the northern entrance of the Retiro Park, you’ll be greeted by this imposing monument located right in the middle of Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Sqaure).

puerta de alcala

Puerta de Alcala – Madrid’s version of the Arc de Triomphe

 

Buen Retiro Park (The Park of Good Rest)

As the name suggests, this is the place to relax after a long walk in the streets or even inside the museums. Don’t try to take a walking tour of the whole park. It’s just impossible considering the size of Madrid’s most famous park. Instead, take a seat across the monument of Alfonso XII of Spain, sip coffee or grab a bite while enjoying the sight of street performers near the lake or just watch other people paddle around the lake in their little boats. Leftovers? No worries, you can always give it to the resident pigeons that are notorious for bugging open-air diners in the hope of scoring a free meal.

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Monument of Alfonso XII of Spain from across the Lake

 

 

 

Night 3

Templo de Debod

While we were riding around town in a cab during our 1st day in Madrid, we passed by this (sort of) monument and it immediately gave me an impression that it was something Egyptian. True enough, after a brief research, it really is an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in Madrid as a gift from Egypt to Spain for their help in saving the Abu Simbel Temples.

Templo de Debod at night

 

 

Day 4

Puerta del Sol

Personally, I’d consider this the melting pot of Madrid, if not all of Spain. As soon as you step outside the metro station, you can immediately see that this is where locals and tourists converge. Some trying to pose in front of Madrid’s symbol “El Oso y El Madroño”(The Bear and the Strawberry Tree), some trying to haggle with street vendors and some just singing along to the songs covered by the street performers. And just in case you’re curious about that beautifully carved statue of a guy in a horseback. Well, that’s Charles III of Spain nicknamed “El Rey Alcalde” which literally translates to “the Mayor-King”. If the “Heart of Spain” had a heart of its own, it would be Puerta del Sol. Considered the Center of Madrid or Km(kilometer) Zero where all other roads branch out.

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Plaza Mayor

About 2-3 blocks away from Puerta del Sol is Madrid’s main Plaza. At each side of the plaza are shops, restaurants and cafes where you can spend the day enjoying Madrid’s unique atmosphere or simply watching people buzz around the square and looking up at the towering statue of King Phillip III.

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The Plaza Mayor Square

 

Mercado de San Miguel

A very short walk from Plaza Mayor and you’ll find yourself inside the best place to satisfy your gastronomic cravings. You’ll everything you want in this market, not just limited to Spanish cuisine. You can binge on fruits, milk, cheese, pickles, french macarons, pizza and even steak but don’t forget to savor authentic Spanish food like paella, tapas and my personal favorite a cold glass of Sangria to quench your thirst with a little bit of kick after a long day of roaming this majestic metropolis. The best thing about this “Mercado”(Market) would hands down be the free taste of food samples offered by the vendors here.

madrid food

 

 

 

Day 5

The last day was spent searching for souvenirs, cheap ones. And going back to places we haven’t had enough of, which is uhm…EVERY SINGLE ONE WE’VE BEEN TO! Yes, you can never get enough of Madrid. I also managed, out of curiosity, to visit the main venue of bullfighting events in Madrid. The Plaza de Toros. I think the name pretty much explains what goes on inside. I wanted to watch the event but unfortunately the bullfighting season was long over. It usually runs from May to June.

Plaza de Toros

 

 

 

Night 5

The timing couldn’t have been any better. I found out awhile back that their very own football team Real Madrid is playing at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and there’s no way I’m gonna miss this. That explains why everyone was wearing Cristiano Ronaldo’s jersey earlier that day.(I’ll share more about this experience in a separate post). All I can say is that it’s a totally different experience for me but nevertheless it was so “Madrid”.

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium filled with Anticipation right before the players’ entrance

 

Phew! This is probably the longest post I’ve done yet. I wish I could cut it short but I didn’t wanna leave out any detail of this trip. I just wanna do justice to the beauty of the Heart of Spain – MADRID. After all, it’s the Heart that pumps life into the whole country. I sure hope I did…

 

 

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Comments

  1. Oferte Vacante

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?

    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is wonderful, as well as the content!

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