Day 1, Madrid:
We took the redeye last night from Newark and landed in Madrid around 11 AM this morning. After a little mixup we made our way to the apartment we are renting and met the landlord who was extremely kind and helpful and even had stocked the fridge with drinks and bought us some groceries for breakfast.
We finally met up with Dan at the apartment around 2 and headed out to start exploring. The apartment we're renting is in the center of the city and close to all the major highlights, including being just around the corner from their version of Times Square (which happens to be beautiful old buildings with no flashy advertising and the only thing that really resemble one another are the CROWDS of people swarming the open space). We found a spot for our first tapas and beer and enjoyed some of the the local fare including a gazpacho shot, croquettes and grilled octopus. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we realized we didn't have any sunscreen for the almost 80° sun. The first pharmacy we went to it was €30 or more for a bottle of sunscreen and Dan thought we'd have better luck at a department store around the corner. When walking to the department store you could've been at Macy's or any other department store in the US with all the same makeup counters and sunglasses brands but then resembled Harrods downstairs with the groceries and food hall. The sunscreen situation wasn't much better here and we still ended up paying a pretty penny to protect our freckly skin. Make sure you bring your own to Madrid!
We joined a hop on/hop off tour bus that included an audio guide in more than 10 languages. Between the stop and go of the bus and the instrumental music the audio guide played in between descriptions, I was probably nodding off more than I was seeing the sights. The lack of sleep on the flight definitely was hitting me and Dan captured several moments of slumber atop the bus (mom definitely had some as well). We stopped for sandwiches and beers at a place called the Ham Museum. This bar/restaurant/deli has sandwiches for one euro and baby beers for 40 cents! The forecast called for rain for a few hours so it was perfect time to head back to the apartment and rest before heading back out to wander before dinner. The first rule of jet lag is to stay up for as long as you can so your body can adjust to the new time zone and at that point my body had had enough and mom and I both passed out for a couple hours.
Not being a seasoned napper, I always regret the choice afterwards because I usually feel more groggy but this time it actually helped tremendously and I got my second wind for our 9:30 dinner reservation! Dan had a lot of students who are from companies in Madrid and asked them for restaurant recommendations for our trip. The place we went to tonight his student pulled out her phone in the middle of class to book the reservation. Dan joked that 9:30 was the earliest she could get and the restaurant was practically empty when we arrived and bustling when we left. It will take some adjusting to get used to their later lifestyle here! We had a birthday feast for Dan of some more grilled octopus in a buttery sauce, Brie and apple baked salad and while mom and Dan opted for the fresh fish, I think I won with the most juicy steak and frites!
We are off to Toledo tomorrow for our first day trip outside Madrid.
Day 3, Back in Madrid:
This is the first trip abroad to visit Dan that we have been in a Western country and weren't scheduled daily with tour and trips. It's been great to wake up, ease into the day in the apartment and not have a sense of urgency every morning to get out the door. Mom and I headed to the grocery store this morning while Dan went back to his apartment to get clothes. The grocery store that was in the basement of the department store looked very similar to any smaller grocery store at home aside from the little problem with everything being in Spanish. Although the yogurt and juice labels may look the same, beyond the basic ingredients we were at a loss. We made the best of it though, got what we thought we needed and headed back to the apartment. Also, similar to Canada they charge you 50 cents per plastic bag at checkout.
When we met back up with Dan we set out to see some of the sights but wanted to save the major highlights for when Sheridan arrived. There's so much to see here but it's like picking the worst of the best so she wouldn't miss anything too. We had lunch in Plaza Mayor which is a gigantic square that could originally hold 50,000 people. It's since majorly a tourist attraction with buskers and gypsies hustling visitors. Our fixed price 11 euro lunch of appetizer, entree dessert and drink was fine enough (mine was actually really good) and we enjoyed taking our time and relaxing at the table over the leisurely lunch. Afterwards we wandered the narrow city streets and saw Dan's old apartment on the way to a museum mom was interested in seeing.
Upon arriving at the Thyssen-Bornemisza at 3:15, mom was less than impressed to find out it closed at 4:00 but settled for an audio guide and began the tour. Two of the paintings she was hoping to see were on loan so the 45 minutes leant enough time to see the Degas and other impressionists favorites she had on her list.
After a cell phone incident with Dan's speaker and a stop for a beer on the way back, we took a siesta before Sheridan's arrival at 7. Moms meeting for the first time (thanks for being here, Andy haha) is a big deal! But I think all went well as we sat around with wine and cheese at the apartment and conversations continued to flow easily throughout dinner delicious at a local spot Dan chose. We are headed to Cordoba tomorrow in which the day will start exactly the opposite of how this post began as we have an 8:30, two hour train ride.
Day 5, Madrid:
Since we went to Cordoba on our fourth day, Sheridan hasn't seen much of Madrid aside from right around our apartment and the train station. On the first day we were here I saw a bridal store of the designer, Rosa Clara, I have pinning several dresses. I should have tried to make an appointment then because after the moms several attempts today they were booked today and closed tomorrow through Sunday for Semana Santa. Sheridan said the girl in the shop kept calling her "honey, honey" which was very typical of Argentina as well. (Future note: I ended up choosing a Rosa Clara gown for my wedding! The same designer I saw in Madrid just after getting engaged!)
We stopped for a breakfast of champions including beer and ham and cheese sandwiches on the yummiest bread before making our way to the palace. The current King doesn't live here but in a different palace just outside the city. We waited in our first long line all week but it moved quickly and didn't last too long. Today was HOT and shade was necessary whenever possible. Sheridan used her Spanish skills to book us an English speaking guide and it was worth every penny. She had been working at the palace for over 14 years and was incredibly knowledgable and just the right amount of sarcastic for us Americans. You should've seen her reaction when a French tourist came up and told her "we have the same at Versailles" and she responded by rolling her eyes a bit and saying "okay...but this was designed by a Spanish metal smith" and walked away.
The guide allowed us to go to ten extra rooms that were not open to the general public and see more of the private collection of art. The royal rooms in the palace were breathtaking, one completely covered in porcelain wall to ceiling and other with the most immaculate embroidered silk that took hundreds of craftsmen years to finish. Pictures weren't allowed inside the palace but you could also google those if you're interested, they're worth it! Our 1.5 tour lasted almost two and she graciously answered all of our questions and didn't skip anything because she was behind.
Following the palace, we set out to find somewhere for lunch but it was a tricky part of the day at 3:30. Their lunch had ended and dinner wouldn't be served until 9 or 10. It's difficulty to find a place that serves food all day rather than a limited assortment of tapas in between meals. Our first stop for drinks was unsuccessful but as the request for salad was made by mom, we eyed a place on the next walk that was perfect. Full menu, great selections and delicious wine. We enjoyed a long, leisurely meal ending with dessert and their complimentary limoncello (no thanks for me after the first nights dinner and I think Dan drank 3 of our 4).
Many of the museums here have free evening hours so next stop was the Reina Sofia to check out some Picasso and Dali. Surrealism isn't really my thing but it was cool to see Picasso's famous, Guernica.
Following the museum we walked back towards the apartment where another procession was set to begin at 8:30. This one was much larger and mor elaborate than the last but just as darn slow! Lots of still participants waiting for the "floats" to change people in and out. Tomorrow we have another day exploring Madrid before Sheridan heads back to London around 4:30.
Day 6, Madrid:
We began the morning in the Selamanca district for shopping. The majority of the stores didn't open until noon so we mostly window shopped which was fine because the stores were much more high end than we expected. The Zara Home store was open and I loved everything there. Can you register there?!
At the top of the beautiful old post office now...lots of other stuff building, we had Sheridan's last lunch. It was a gorgeous location overlooking the city with fantastic food, especially the bread (haha). Our long and leisurely lunch lasted well over two hours and then we walked back and Sheridan headed to the airport.
We spent the rest of the early evening and night shopping, stopping for beers and tapas and then meeting up with two of Dan's friends. It was great to once again get to meet people that Dan hangs out with in his new(ish) city. The weather, food and drinks have all added to our trip so far! Two more full days and then we fly back on Easter.
Days 7-8, Madrid:
I didn't blog the last few days in Madrid but kicked back and just enjoyed wandering the city and exploring more food, drinks and areas of this incredible city!