May 20, 2013
|Note to self: go to the dining room early for breakfast if you have to catch an early train. Luckily, we didn’t today, so the lineup was not a hindrance.
Our guide, Pepa, met us at the hotel and took us on a walking tour of the old city of Madrid. She has a wonderful knowledge of the city and of Spanish and European history. This part of the city looks quite different from other European cities we have visited. Many of the buildings are built of brick, which was a cheap and plentiful resource. The ones that have stone are rough and not fancy.
Some of the sites we saw
1. Puerta del Sol-this is the centre of Spain (literally). It is where demonstrations and celebrations happen. The clock is featured on television all over Spain on New Year’s Eve. It is customary to eat a grape (the bigger the better) with every chime of the clock at midnight to ensure a good new year. And I am sure it must be named after Dad. There is a statue of Charles III, who insisted that the sculptor portrayed him exactly as he looked, without corrected features to make him more attractive. The “bad blood” contributed to an unattractive appearance and a weak mind.
2. Teatro Real-the Opera House. In front is a statue of Isabel II, who loved opera.
3. The Royal Palace-not lived in by the king, but used for special occasions. The statue of Alfonso X is interesting because the horse is balanced on only 2 legs. This was considered to be very difficult because of the weight of the statue. However, a trouble-maker named Galileo, said it was easy..so he did it. The castle has 2,800 rooms.
4. Almudena Cathedral. This faces the palace. It was begun in the late 1800s and finally finished in 1992
5. A building that used to belong to one of the Jewish families who was sent out of Spain. It has now been returned to the small (about 250 people) Jewish community of Madrid.
6. Plaza Mayor-home of bullfights, inquisitions and other such nice things
We had an early supper (about 9 PM-most Spaniards don’t eat until at least 10:30 at Tres Encinas, a restaurant suggested by one of the hotel staff. It was delicious. Dessert was at Cholateria San Gines for churros and chocolate. It is something everyone should try at least once. Imagine deep fried churros (salty, not sweet) dipped in thick melted chocolate. It is common to see people eating them for breakfast.