Second Full Day in Madrid: A Day of Discoveries

Although my tendency as an American travelling abroad is to get up early and launch a full frontal assault on a day filled with sight-seeing, my inner Spaniard is taking over. In this spirit, Mallory and I did not leave our apartment until nearly noon, after a leisurely breakfast of coffee with full fat cream (so good), berries, greek yogurt, eggs, and some leftover jamon from our trip to the market on Monday.

I should mention that we have been living without heat or hot water for nearly our entire stay at this apartment. Miguel, the extremely sweet maintainance man has been unable to fix the heating unit and a part has been ordered. Our choices at this point are to continue to tough it out with a combo of cold showers and sponge baths and hope that the part will come in today, or to pack up all of our stuff and move to an alternative, less convenient apartment across town. We have chosen to tough it out, as feeling grimy still seems a better alternative to packing up all of our stuff and moving for our last night. We are both girly girls who like to feel and look our best, so this is indeed a test for both of us, but there’s nothing we can do about it except continue to enjoy this experience to the fullest extent possible, and it is with that spirit that we continue on … just don’t get too close to us!

(Ed. Note: As of about 30 minutes ago, the faulty element was replaced and we now have hot water and heat! Bonus: the technician was HAWT, and had a super cute Spanish accent. Something is definitely in the water over here …)

Our first stop yesterday was Starbucks, followed by the Museo del Prado. Neither one of us are fans of “old art”, but the Prado is one of the most important museums in the world and thus on the most-do list for a visit to Madrid. I also wanted to visit a particular painting I wrote a paper about in art history class in college, Titian’s “Bacchanal of the Andrians“. Unfortunately, it was in a gallery that was being remodeled! I was disappointed, of course, but we did a quick circuit and took in some of the Spanish and Italian masters, and particularly enjoyed looked at the collection of Greek and Roman sculptures.

We then decided to take a walk through the Real Jardin de Botanico, located next to the Prado. It was beautiful and a tranquil retreat in the middle of a busy city.

Jardin De Botanica in Madrid.

After about an hour, our bellies started to grumble and so we headed for an agreeable-looking little cafe’ with an open table in the sun. We shared a delicious chorizo and tomato baquette, and a salad with field greens, avocado, shrimp, and other veggies. Our waiter, as seems to be the case with a lot of Madrileno men, was extremely good-looking (is it el agua?), and so perhaps we lingered a little longer than was necessary. But this is Spain, so at no point did we ever feel pressure to relinquish our little table. However, we had a park to explore, so we set off in the direction of Buen Retiro Park.

I’ve had the great fortune to explore parks in many fine cities, and Buen Retiro is right up there with the best I’ve seen. Rather than try and describe everything we saw, I’ll let a few pictures tell the story here:

These bendy trees were all over the park and I was fascinated with them.

Adorable turtles sunning themselves, and an invading pigeon.

The Crystal Palace at Buen Retiro Park.

Stunning palace with a lake you can take rowboats out on.

After leaving the park, we stopped in at the Westin Palace for a glass of cava on the advice of a friend. The rotunda bar was gorgeous and did not disappoint, although in my unshowered state I felt quite grubby. But the staff was welcoming and it was a relaxing way to unwind after a day of lots of walking.

The stained glass rotunda at Westin Palace hotel.

On our way back to the apartment, we stopped at our favorite clothing store, Zara. Zara is based here in Spain and so it felt somewhat like a pilgrimmage to visit this retailer. We each took several items into the dressing room and emerged with a handful of choice pieces.

After a short stop at the apartment to clean up (best we could given the no hot water situation) and change, we headed for the “cave bars” near Plaza Mayor with the intent of doing a tapas crawl. Our first stop was Meson de la Guitarra. We arrived just after 10pm, so the place was empty, but a lively guitarist and proprietor convinced us to order a tapa and stay. We stayed there for awhile, and then moved on to another bar that had a group of cute German boys, and then we finally headed home around 1am.


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