Sunday, August 16, 2015

Madrid ~ The Royal Palace

We ate a hearty breakfast to prepare us for what would be a long day full of walking.

Our walking tour took us through Plaza Mayor, where they were having a GIANT yoga fest. There were hundreds of people inside the fenced area already (but only a few were actually doing yoga...haha), and hundreds more waiting in line to either fill up the last few spots or wait for others to leave. Rachel knows yoga :)

 Our first stop was the Royal Palace, but before we got inside we ran into these two dudes... 

Rachel says: "Take a close look at Tyler's eyes...stunning!"
Tyler says: "I can't believe this beautiful woman followed me all the way to Spain."

The Palace was incredible! The royal family used to live there, but for the last few decades it has been exclusively a museum of Spanish heritage and history and a tourist attraction. It was VERY grand, full of incredible artwork, architecture, and artifacts. There were very few places where we were allowed to take pictures inside the palace, so you'll just have to take our word for it.

The Royal Staircase...not part of the original design but built in after the fact by one of the Monarchs because he wanted a grand entrance to his ballroom and other parts of the palace to impress the foreigners. It worked. 

The ceiling paintings were typically murals depicting the life and accomplishments of the great monarchs of Spain and the people they ruled. I was surprised to learn about how strong a connection there was between Roman culture, Christianity and the Spanish nobility.

Toledo and our first night in Madrid

Rachel forgot to include this video her last post about Consuegra. The castle was left almost entirely in its original state, with only the bare minimum construction work done to ensure that it didn't collapse in on itself. There were lots of neat rooms, each with different artifacts that described the purpose of that part of the castle.

After fighting windmills alongside el Hombre de la Mancha, we made a quick stop in Toledo (means the steel blade) on our way to Madrid. The city is an ancient treasure and the former capital of Spain, surrounded by walls and known for its steel making, sword smiths, and religious diversity. The picture above is of Rachel standing in front of it's gigantic Catholic Cathedral. We only had about 3-4 hours, and we got rained on trying to escape to our car at the end, but it was worth the quick stop.

When we arrived at Madrid we dropped off our bags at the attic apartment where we'd be staying for the night and then ventured out to return our rental car. The Mini-Cooper was a blast to drive and a perfect fit for our needs on the trip!

From the rental dealer it was a short walk to Atocha Train Station, the main hub for Madrid's high-speed train, metro and bus systems. We ate a delicious meal right across the street - Rachel's first time trying calamare (squid) - and then stopped to listen to a part of the city orchestra playing a free concert on the lawn in from of the train station. It was moments like those that really made it seem like a vacation: no hurry to get anywhere, just enjoying whatever life happened to bring our way. As the sun set we caught the metro (for $1.50/person) back to our apartment at Puerta del Sol.

Madrid's night life is apparently epic, and we got to experience a bit of it just by walking through Plaza del Sol. This particular town square is right in the geographic center of Madrid, and it is a happening place. Magicians, musicians, street dancers, vendors, plenty of locals and lots of tourists!

This is the apartment that we stayed at for two nights in Madrid. The owners, Gigi (Italian) and Bibiana (Spaniard), and their 6 year old daughter Mia, were friendly and helpful. The first night we stayed there Bibiana and Mia returned home late, at almost 11 pm, and Mia was pretty upset to find two strangers staying the night instead of her dad (Gigi was flying in from Italy but had not yet made it home). Mia had a little meltdown, and Rachel and I lay in the attic thinking about our own boys, whom we hadn't seen for over a week. It was easy to forgive because we'd been there before!

The view from our attic bedroom window, on the 5th floor of an apartment building at about midnight. The room was shaped like a triangle, but the windows on the roof cranked open and gave us a unique look at the city.