5 Nights In Madrid Oct 19

Madrid is awesome! This is my last night here, in which I will have stayed five nights. Sadly, my stay here is coming to an end. But, here’s what happened!

My flight from Boston started out miserably. At the airport, I slid my credit card into the ticketless passenger machines and it immediately showed my flight as delayed. In bigger red letters, it said I’ll miss my connection – I was flying to Washington D.C. and then to Madrid. I almost flipped out, but the man behind the United counter told me to move to the next line to sort out my situation. I walked over and talked to a lady behind the counter. She immediately booked me on a Continental flight to Newark, where I could connect with another flight to Madrid. How awesome was that? I had forgotten that United and Continental were the same company! So, I hopped on a shuttle over to the Continental terminal and off I went. All said and done, I lost a total of three hours. My original flight was to fly into Madrid at 7:30 am, but my new flight got me in at 10:30 am. Not too shabby.

When I landed and went through security – unbelievably easy compared to other countries – and headed to my hostel. It’s called Musas Residence. Staying there was good and the only thing that happened was my room flooded with bathroom water halfway through the stay. The room was across the hallway from the bathroom and someone clogged one of the shower drains. I thought it was the toilet originally, but when I took a shower the next day, the room flooded again. Anyways, the hostel folks booked me another room and it was all gravy.

The best part of the hostel was a symbiotic relationship they had with an activities company. I don’t know the name of the company, but the head honcho was named John. He’s as friendly as can be. He’s from Yorkshire and has hook ups with all the local bars and restaurants. The activities he and his employees run are coordinated with five or six other hostels so there’s always a group of 10 to 20 travelers to hang with. It’s a great way to meet other travelers. Especially if you’re into Aussies, which happen to be everywhere at all times.

The first nightly activity I went on was a tapas night. I paid nine euros and they took the group to three different tapas joints. I had a bunch of tapas with combinations of cheeses, ham, sausages, blood sausages, tomatos, and bread. To top those off I had a dark beer that was sweet rather than ale-like, the best sangria I’ve ever tasted, and a cider from northern Spain. The cider was my favorite. It’s not like the cider that you’re thinking of – it didn’t have carbonation. Instead, to aerate the cider, they poured the cider high above the glass. It was awesome in the drunk and spilling it over yourself kind of way.

Along with the tapas night, John told us some theories about how tapas originated. The first theory was that an old king had the best chefs in town cook him small portions of a meal that the king would eat. The problem was, by the time he tried all the portions he became full. This would eventually lead to tapas. That’s more fairy tale-ish and the second theory was something he believed to be closer to the truth. The second theory starts with the word tapas. It means top. In Madrid, the air is dry and dusty, so back in the day when big carts and carriages moved past people would place small pieces of bread on top of their food to prevent dust from getting in. This would then lead to tapas. This theory made more sense to me, but believe what you will.

The second activity I did was the walking tour. This tour was amazing. It was ran by Pablo, and Argentinian who’s been living in Spain for the past five years. When I think of tours, I think of dates. This tour was nothing like it. Instead, Pablo told stories. He introduced us to how things in Madrid were built and who built them. Best of all, it was free! Of coures, at the end of the tour he asked for tips, which I threw out 10 euros. Five euros is what you would respectfully pay, but 10 seemed appropriate considering the quality.

One thing I learned on the tour was how Madrid is a city of constant change. Madrid’s biggest street – similar to New York’s Time Square – is called Grand Via. The Grand Via that is there now was not always the same. 100 years ago, a the king decided that the city needed a street similar to the grandeur of Paris – Paris was basically the big city of the world back then. So the king had all of the old architecture on Grand Via destroyed. The start of the street seen below was built in the same style as Paris buildings. As New York came to replace Paris as the city of the world, the buildings further down were modeled after American architecture. Pretty sweet!

Grand Via's Entrance

Grand Via is now 100 years old this year, which makes it historic! Pretty amazing. As Pablo finished telling us this, he told us that the very place we’re standing on is scheduled for bulldozing so that it can provide more traffic. This was the Paseo del Prado.

Another thing I found interesting from the tour was how funny King Philip II was. He was the king that moved the capital city from Toledo to Madrid. He was mentally challenged and he wanted his name to be remembered in history. So he moved the city to Madrid. The royal family and all the nobles moved the day after his decision. When they got to Madrid, all the nobles slept in the park in their carts! The king didn’t think about the housing situation since Madrid was a small town.

So, to keep the nobles from causing havoc, the king proposed a tax. The tax said that all Madrid residents that have an extra bedroom will move into said bedroom and allow a noble to take over the rest of the house. Yes, that meant that many people would be locked out of their home if the noble was out of the house! This leads me to this picture:

Uh.. how many floors?

The way the king’s people decided whether or not a house had an extra room was to count windows. Definitely not the best way to do this. So the person who designed this building made it confusing. Awesome, right? Anyways, this building has five floors in total. Some of those windows are in between floors!

Enough about history, and more about food! Overall, the food was very good in Spain. All restaurants always had multiple forms of pig on their menus. From ham, to sausages, to more ham. I was in heaven.

Look, ham in my breakfast!

Breakfast

The other thing I loved ordering was paella. Yes, I know that paella comes from Valencia. I’m on my way there tomorrow, so I’ll tell you how awesome it is. Anyways, this is my first meal in Madrid.

So good....

See the bread basket in the back? And the bottled water? Both were added onto the bill without my knowledge. I thought it was all complementary! The restaurants always slipped in bread and always gave me bottled water rather than tap water. Luckily, I caught on.

Anyways, the other notable things I did was seeing the Guernica in the Reina Sophia – Madrid’s contemporary art museum. This painting is enormous. It was the center piece of a huge room. There was a crowd gazing at it. I didn’t take a picture since you all can find a picture online. But if you’re in Madrid, definitely check it out.

I also went into the royal palace. There were 12 to 15 rooms in the palace that I could walk through. Most the rooms had amazing ceilings. There were only two rooms that didn’t have paintings or etchings on the ceiling. One room was covered completely in porcelain art! It was incredible. I think I spent ten to fifteen minutes in each room just staring upwards. I had to stop between in room and massage my neck. I also saw the throne room! I’ve never seen a real throne room. I had trouble believing that people actually sat there back in the day, but it happened. I couldn’t take pictures in here, but if I did, the security guards would be all over my camera. I saw a security guard force an old man to delete the photo he took. The guard stood there while the tourist showed him what pictures he shot. If any were in the palace, the guard had the tourist delete it. Serious business here.

Pictures weren’t allowed inside but here’s some of the outside!

Outside of the palace to the east.
Royal Palace

Outside of the palace to the south.
Royal Palace

Inside the palace to the south.
Royal Palace

Lights please!
Royal Palace

The clock.
Royal Palace

Across the palace was the Almudena Cathedral. I’ll just let the pictures show you what’s inside and out. My pictures don’t do the inside any justice. It’s HUGE inside. You have to see it for yourself. My lens isn’t wide enough to even try to take a picture of it.

From the palace.
Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral

From the south. It’s a bit small, but the cathedral looks much better. The front looks bland since it cannot out class the palace. Funny, right?
Almudena Cathedral

Almudena Cathedral

Now for the inside! It’s really big. My camera is too puny for this beast.
Almudena Cathedral

Jesus!!
Almudena Cathedral

I just want to hit one key on that organ. PLEASE?!
Almudena Cathedral

The dome.
Almudena Cathedral

Almudena Cathedral

This post is way too long and too much text. I’ll stop here for now. I’m writing another post for my day trip to Toledo, Spain’s original capital.

As usual, here’s a few more pictures from Spain!

Starting with street performers. Although, I would consider some of them as just street sitters.

Okay, this dude is sitting in this little doll’s backpack with his arms sticking out. He’s also talking as well. This was when a tourist came closer and pulled away. No money for him!
Street performer sitting in backpack

Not sure what the hell this is, but it whistles a lot.
Weirdo

Dude with a frog sock puppet.
Frog toilet

Puppet master!
Puppet master

This guy made his little puppet dance to the song “Living La Vida Loca” from Ricky Martin. The WHOLE song. It was pretty impressive. He also made the puppet hump cute girls. That’s right.
Puppet master 2

Okay, here’s a sitter.
Headless sitter

Multiple heads!
Heads

I just love this one. This woman decided today would be a good day to put dirt on herself and then go sit outside for money. Who would have thunk it? Pretty cool though.
dirty sitting performer

Another dirty sitting street performer … err sitter.
dirty sitting perfomer

Okay, not a street performer, but looks cool!
I'm cool

Now for some architectural scenery.

A street at night

The 0 km. All road measurements start here in Spain.
Starting point for all road measurements in Spain

And all the people taking a picture of the 0 km. Or are they just taking a picture of the ground for kicks?

0 km people

The opera house. It was supposed to look this ugly. It couldn’t out do the palace which was behind it.
0 km people

Photographer. I can’t hang with her. She’s hardcore.
street photographer

Flamenco! Performed in a small space where they were originally performed as to not disturb neighbors.
Flamenco