After a breakfast of fresh strawberries, greek yogurt, jamon, and coffee, we eventually left the apartment around 11:00am. We were delayed getting out, as we had to let the maintenance man in to fix our heater and hot water situation. You see, the heat for the radiators and hot water are controlled by a single mechanism with buttons that don’t make any sense. And yes, Madrid still gets chilly enough at night this time of year that working heaters are an important thing to have.
We walked a couple blocks to Puerta del Sol and bought tickets for the Madrid City Tour, the open top bus tour that operates throughout the city stopping at various points of interest. Yes, it is touristy, but whenever I visit a new city, I like to take one of these buses on the first full day as a means of getting the lay of the land, and to scope out locations for further exploration.
After a short wait where we were again reminded that other cultures have a much different notion of personal space, we boarded the bus and checked out what Madrid had to offer. We saw many grand boulevards, beautiful parks, charming squares, and impressive buildings and thus our list of “must visit” places grew longer by the minute. I didn’t catch the names of everything we saw, but here are a few snaps from the tour:
It was well past 3pm when we ditched the bus tour and set off in search of a late lunch. We ventured down a side street and popped into a promising looking hole in the wall called the Taberna Alhambra. It was filled with locals and not a tourist in sight, always a good sign for finding tasty grub.
We split a bottle of Rioja and ordered three dishes to share: patatas bravas, croquettes, and a tomato and onion salad. The food was good, not great, but we had a great time chatting and watching Madrilenos both inside and outside the restaurant. People-watching is a favorite activity whenever I travel, and Madrid does not disappoint in that respect.
After a couple of hours filling our bellies we headed off to explore the area surrounding the very impressive Plaza Mayor. There were some very interesting street performers, including this woman who was one of the more creative of the living “statues”:
We popped into a Mango department store, which, Mallory and I both agreed had the most unflattering dressing room mirrors in any store anywhere. Don’t they want to sell any clothes? We left empty-handed, which probably wasn’t a bad thing.
Our last stop was El Corte Ingles for “essentials” like cheese, jamon, beer, and wine, which we have been snacking on this evening as we kick back in our apartment. We’re planning on at least one museum tomorrow, and who knows what else the day will bring?