After a long week in Barcelona, I took the train inland to Madrid. This was my very first time in Madrid and to be quite honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. Madrid is very different from Barcelona. It’s what I like to call regal. Being the capital of Spain, of course Madrid houses a royal palace for the established monarchy, but it wasn’t even that. The entire city is regal. Like, the buildings are all very ornate and even the parks are delicately manicured to perfection. And yet, it’s still a metropolitan city and huge one at that.
So my first full day in Madrid was spent on one of the hostel’s free walking tours. In hindsight, I don’t think I really needed the walking tour at all and it was just two hours of my life wasted when I could have seen everything that I had and more in about an hour or so. But I did it anyway because a few people I met at breakfast were doing it too and I figured it was a good way to make some new friends. The tour was decent, but I had already marked my Google Maps offline map of Madrid with all the places I wanted to hit and while the walking tour did hit a few of them, our guide didn’t really give us much time to walk around and really look and take photos and such.
Anyway, after the tour ended, I went off by myself and did my own thing. I went to a few of the sites that I had marked off and did a little shopping at Hema, which lead me to parts of the city that were a bit out of the way from the center, which was cool. First, I went back to the Royal Palace to get a good picture of it. I couldn’t get close enough to it though because that particular day was a special changing of the guard ceremony and the entire thing was closed off for the procession. So I decided to leave and visited the Temple of Debod instead. That was super cool. It was like seeing the Temple of Dendur at the Met but outside in a public park. I sat around there for a bit trying to plan out the rest of my day before I gave up and just went to Hema.
After my Hema visit, I ended up at the Plaza de Cibeles and sat on a bench to eat the fruit I bought for lunch, while I waited until a cute little stationery store called Souffle opened back up for business. See the thing with Spain–and all of Italy for that matter–is that they have little siestas in the middle of the day. So from the hours of 2:00pm-5:00pm–give or take a half hour–most shops are closed. Spoiled as I am living in NYC where everything is always open, waiting for this shop to open sucked. And I didn’t want to stray too far away from the area to kill time in case I got lost. So I took a break for a few hours and sat at a park near the plaza. Then after visiting Souffle, I went back to the hostel for their free dinner night with my roommates.
The next day I took a long walk to a different Hema in a different part of Madrid. (Please forgive me, I was hunting things down at Hema all the way up until Paris). My walk took me along the Parque de El Retiro, which was a mark on my map that I wanted to visit. So after my Hema run, I doubled back and took a nice stroll through this huge lavish park. I ended up hitting two major sites of the park: Estanque grande del Retiro, this huge pond with people rowing boats on it or sitting on the wall along its banks, and Palacio de Cristal, this glass building that was currently housing an art exhibition. I stayed at both places for a bit to take photos before heading off to look at the many fountains along the park’s main walkway.
At some point, I tried to double back to one of the entrances to the park that I had passed while on my way to Hema, but I must have took a wrong turn somewhere because I ended up at a section of the park that was so beautifully landscaped, I made me question of this park belonged to royalty (and I suppose it does, since the King owns everything…right? Is that how that works?). There were actually a few men doing a bit of planting and landscaping when I stumbled across this lovely little section, but everything else was immaculate. I ended up taking a seat on one of the benches and sat there for a while before I was ready to leave and head back to the hostel.
That evening, a few of my roommates and I grabbed some pizza at this place called La Pizzateca and took it back to the hostel to eat, since take away pies were cheaper than eating in. Probably the greatest pizza in Madrid; dinner was delicious. After that, we went back up to our room and the girls and I chatted about all sorts of things while I had them fill out some playing cards for me. And that was my Madrid experience.