28.07.2013 - 31.07.2013
Now I do have to say I was nervous about the train ride here...the accident felt too close for comfort. But everything was great down to the minute. The Renfe trains are clean, modern & provide a movie, comfort & have a cafe on board. I even had a wonderful conversation with a lovely older lady from Salamanca! That's where I lived for a month when I was in Spain 7 yrs ago. Very rare to meet people from there.
So lets start this new journey to our new city of Madrid.
Beautiful mountains & clouds were the scenery on this 2hr 40 min train ride. I find it interesting there aren't any seatbelts on these high speed trains...something that should be changed Renfe!
Made it to hotel that turns out to be on a main street---thanks Hotels.com. This is great because I don't have to worry about getting "home" after dark since I'm regularly walking alone & I don't have any weapons...maybe I should get one.
Thankfully, it doesn't get dark until about 10:30pm! So I don't have to worry about getting home at a certain time, like Cinderella. The day & some night filled with sun makes the days very long & the nights short. This is great because you can do so much & still have plenty of time left in the day. Except that I end up going to sleep at 1am! As soon as I put my stuff in the room, my mind told me that I should relax since I had a long & busy weekend. I had stayed up late packing, walked my heavy & bulky luggage for what seemed like forever to the train station. It actually made my back hurt--geez I thought I was strong. Guess I need to work on making my core stronger. Oh Carolina Fitness, how you will make me strong again. My feet hurt from all the walking done during the recent visits to the La Alhambra & Gibraltar visit. But Madrid was calling my name to go play outside!
Holy Smokes I forgot it was Sunday! NEVER woulda guessed that because of the drones of people walking, shopping or drinking/eating at their tables. People on the sidewalks as far as the eye could see. In Málaga, I was so used to ghost town Sundays. From the start, you could see the heavy tourist population mixed with the local Spaniards- a lot more t-shirts here, an urban vibe. In Malaga, I was used to everyone being Spanish, German, American or French. There seems to be a lot of Asian tourists here as well.
Local Spanish eateries are right next to a Starbucks! I instantly felt good about this place, which was refreshing since I had become comfortable in Malaga. It felt like Chicago to me...Spain style! I walked around to get my bearings with nothing but a map & an appetite for taking in the city.
Let's start with the famous Plaza Mayor or Main Square of Madrid.
I made it here for a brief excursion 7 yrs ago, so I remembered I wanted to go there. It was initially built to be used as a market in the 1400's, but has been used as a proper square for courts, kings, bullfights, carnivals & executions. Very nice square with a bronze statue of King Phillip III on a horse in the middle of the plaza. There is nothing else in the middle, just hundreds of people--all the time. Oh there are also a variety of random street performers that set up spots to make some money, by making you laugh, smile or granting photo ops.
Surrounding the square are a multitude of shops, cafes/restaurants/tapas on the first floor, while the 2nd & 3rd floors are apartments. It has a clock in the middle wall & very minimal decorations. This is interesting to me because the rest of the city is SO EXTREMELY architecturally decorative. I seriously had to tell myself to stop taking pictures of the light posts, balconies & doors! The roof tops of the some of the buildings are outstanding with statues!
I must stop & say that I have made a realization; I have left out information that was once unusual & then became usual & that made me forgot to mention it. So I will try to remember to put those things in as well, even though its 5 weeks into this European journey...
Next up El Mercado de San Miguel or The San Miguel market. Fabulous!! So picture the Atarazanas market but with a more modern, food & drink element. There was a variety of vendors selling seafood, meat, vegetables, fruit, olives, pasta, wine, cheese & desserts. But in addition, you could have some tapas of the products or a full plate. I had lunch here by just eating tiny tapa portions & was sooo full, I had to wait to eat dessert! That's a big deal for me, ladies & gentlemen. I tried Gulas which is a very northern Spain thing. Basically they're small thin strips of a huge fish, mixed w/ mushrooms- Yum! Pretty cool being introduced to this local treat just coming from the south of Spain too! Also had Octopus a la Galicia (Spanish city know for its seafood) & an anchovies/codfish/cheese bite as well.
Onto the double decker bus to tour the city, see the famous landmarks & get my bearings! This place is HUGE! To give you some perspective; the double decker bus tour had about 21 stops in Malaga. Madrid has 2 different routes & has 35 stops. I like these tours because you can use it to get an idea of what to see more closely, you can hop on & off at any point & use them as transportation home as well :-) Wow wow wow taking the bus around the city.
Hopped off in a number of places for pics. Visited the Botanical Gardens which had soooo much. But surprising to me was the lack of color. I guess from seeing the rest of the city in its decorative state, I'd assume more color/flowers. Nonetheless, I was pleased to go & see the numerous plants, trees, flowers & the grounds.
Onto the Royal Palace or El Palacio Real, which is the official residence of the King of Spain. So we start the tour & make our way into a grand staircase of marble leading up to marble lions. And then we found out we weren't allowed to take pictures!! Wait, what?! Well, after seeing the grand regal elegance of some of the luxurious items/rooms----I realized that I would risk my life & ACCIDENTALLY take some pictures ;-)
Jaw dropping rooms were seen. Enjoy.
Next stop...guess what?
Who said the zoo?!! Or aquarium? Hello, it's been many days since my last animal encounter...
So the wonderful city of Madrid has put its zoo AND the aquarium in the same place! Fantastic, smart AND economical :-) Super hot day + a hike to get from the metro station to get there = me not keeping track of what animals I saw.
Saw some of the usual animals, but also got to see some creatures from this region of the world. But by far one of my favorite animal friends in Madrid & also in Fuengirola are the Lemurs. They're darn cute & have such funny expressions! And you were able to go in their enclosure & get super close to them. One of them touched my lap, while another almost touched my nose!
Yay an actual aquarium! With actual fish, jellyfish (one of my faves to see, yes I know they sting), creepy sharks & sweet dolphins. It's been interesting to compare between the countries let alone cities in Spain.
Will load more pics when I get the chance...
Here's to a new week!
That's all for now!
Ps this site went mobile hence why the pics are on the actual page. Some good & bad comes with that-