Spain and Portugal travel blog

Today we walked Madrid--over 23,000 steps which was 8.4 miles. We started at the Royal Palace. Our apartment is pretty centrally located and a lot of the sights are within walking distance. We got to the palace when it opened. There were more people in line with tickets than without but overall it was not too crowded and it didn't take us much time to get in. According to Rick Steve's this is the 3rd greatest palace in Europe. It was built by King Philip V who wanted to make it his own private Versailles to match his French upbringing. He was born in Versailles and is the grandson of Louis XIV. The outside was pretty nondescript but the interiors were very much like Versailles. We were only able to take pictures of the entry way and after that no photography. The royal family does not live there but it still functions as a ceremonial palace and it is where King Juan Carlos signed the treaty for Spain's entry into the EU. Judi and I were most impressed with the Gala Dining Room where up to 12 times a year the king entertains as many as 144 guests. The dining table is longer than a bowling alley. The royal family has collected clocks over the years and there were some really interesting ones on display. And I especially liked all the beautiful chandeliers in all the rooms.

We then walked to the Descalzas Royal Monastery as we had tickets for a 1 p.m. tour that I booked at home based on Rick Steve's recommendation. Because it is still a working Franciscan monastery, tourists can enter only when the nuns vacate the premises so the number of daily visitors is limited. I would have sworn I booked an English tour but Judi and I spent an hour listening to the tour in Spanish. Needless to say we didn't get much out of it. The place was a little underwhelming and not what I expected. Oh well, on to the next adventure.

Now we are off to the Prado where again we have tickets. We booked them on line and were not timed. We had some trouble reconciling Google Maps directions on the cell phone and the paper map we had and I got us totally turned around at Puerto Del Sol, Madrid's Time Square and there was some sort of demonstration going on (always see at least one when we travel). We ended up back at Plaza Mayor which is across the street from our apartment and the opposite direction of the Prado. As it had just started to rain and the museum was open until 8 p.m., we decided to go back to our apartment to sit out the rain and get off our feet for a bit.

It worked. After about 90 minutes the rain stopped and the sun was out. Armed with better directions we again headed out for the Prado and this time we made it. But when we got to the ticket booth Judi couldn't get the tickets to come up on her phone. We were pleasantly surprised when we explained our situation to the clerk, she nodded understandingly and asked for the e-mail address. She checked on the computer, found our order, and gave us our tickets. The best part is we got senior tickets for about half price.

We had gotten there just before 6 and noticed a huge line waiting to get in. Turns out you can get in free at 6. But fortunately that was through a different entrance and there was no line for us. Even with that it was not overly crowded. It is a lovely museum, very spacious, with beautiful art work. Rick Steves' has a walking tour highlighting paintings from the different eras. We had fun following that guide, finding the paintings mentioned (sometimes they were not where they were supposed to be) and learning about them. It gave us a good overview and comparison of different eras.

About now we have run out of gas. It was time to get off our feet. It was a little early for restaurants--it was only 7:30--and we knew once we got home we wouldn't want to go out again. So we decided to do "take away" from a nice shop we had noticed on our way. We picked up a tuna salad, a couple croquettes (which seem to be big in Spain), three empanadas (spinach, chicken and caprese), and some sort of an apple pasty. Also stopped at the wine shop around the corner to get another bottle of the 4.5 Euro wine which was really good and was already chilled. It was all tasty (the spinach empanada not so much) and it felt so good to get off our feet. Needless to say it was an early bed time to rest up for tomorrow. JB

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