Saturday, August 20, 2011

48 hours in Madrid

Our cruise this summer left from Barcelona but since we arrived a couple days early we decided to take advantage of some low airfare and squeeze in a quick trip to Madrid.  Madrid is one of those places I have always wanted to visit.  I'm not sure where or when that desire originated.  Not sure what I expected out of the city or what I was expecting to see but it didn't really live up to hype I had created in my own mind.  Not that I didn't like it but it wasn't an outstanding city that I feel like I need to visit again.  Oh well!

Much of that activity and sight-seeing seems to center around the multitude of parks and squares.  We spent most of our time outside.  The first stop was Retiro Park with extensive gardens and a small boating lake.  (Emily and Marcy really wanted to rent a rowboat but it was hot and neither Frank nor I would agree to row them around.)

Right outside the park is the city gate - Puerta de Alcala, built in 1778.  Being that it is one of the most photographed  monuments in Madrid I photographed it.

Next stop - Puerta del Sol which supposed to be a hub of activity, especially for tourism.  Unfortunately, there was some kind of demonstration going on and people had set up tents and temporary shelters all over the square.  Did not provide a very welcoming environment.
There is a famous statue there which is supposed to be a symbol of Madrid.  It's name translates to the Bear and the Strawberry Tree.
But, I happen to know that strawberries do not grow on trees because we have all kinds of strawberry plants in our yard in Almaty and they grow very close to the ground.  Emily and Marcy harvested strawberries all spring.  We got a bowl-full like below everyday for about 3 weeks:
Moving on!  Day 2 we decided to do the hop on - hop off bus because we really just couldn't figure out what there was to see in the city.  The bus would help focus our sightseeing.   We stopped first at the Plaza Mayor.  Here's what we had been looking for!!  This is a big square with a market set up in the middle and restaurants with outdoor seating along the outside.  We were a bit early for much activity but we came back later for a great lunch of paella.  Here are Frank and girls heading out for the next stop:

We hopped off at the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral.  We decided the palace tour prices were a little steep so we viewed it from the outside.  But, we lucked into being first in line when tours opened for the cathedral viewing platform.  We got great views of the city and the palace next door.  And we got a close up look at the many statues on the roof of the catherdral.

Wow - now we're tired!  Frank needed a nap and the girls wanted a chance to visit the playground at Retiro Park again.  So, Frank fell asleep under a tree, I read  under the same tree, and all the girls -even Madeline - played in the park.

Feeling refreshed, Frank realized that if we took the 2nd bus line we could get out the the Real Madrid stadium so off we went.  While we decided that a palace tour wasn't worth the price we didn't blink an eye at the stadium tour which cost even more.  Priorities!

Emily, our soccer player, got the most out of the tour
(and came home with a Renaldo jersey)

We got to go down on the field, sit on the team bench, walk through the locker room, and visit the press room.  (And of course the team store.)  Madeline, Olivia and Marcy were more than ready to leave by the end.

Marcy picked up her own souvenir in Madrid and proceeded to wear it to dinner almost every night on the cruise.  She has decided that she should collect local costumes during future trips to go along with the Spanish costume below and her belly-dancing costume from Istanbul.

Phew!  That was a long post for a quick visit.  Well worth the quick trip and even worth the flight delay that got us back to Barcelona at 1am the night before the cruise to find the hotel had given away our rooms for the night (it was a long night)!

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