Sunday, March 1, 2015


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We left Alicante by fast train and two hours twenty minutes later, we were trying to find our way to the Mayerling Hotel in Madrid. The train coach in which we rode had a status screen and I watched as the speed of the train hit 249 k/h (150 mph). Can you imagine a rail system in the states of equal speedIf we had a similar rail system, we could go to Chicago from Lansing in less than two hours!

The four of us walked in single file from the train station - somewhat for protection ("be careful about what you carry in your backpacks because the pick-pockets/street robbers are very skillful...") some to manage the numbers of people on the sidewalks.

Madrid is a marvelous, vibrant city. No ghosts of the Inquisition or the years of Franco (at least none that we saw). Madrid is exciting.

We stayed at a hotel recommended by a friend of MB. It was a lovely European-type hotel just three blocks from the Puerto del Sol - Madrid's most famous central square.  The rooms were neat and well maintained. The staff was the best feature of the hotel. They were very welcoming and friendly. They reminded us of the breakfast bar (included in the room rate) and informed us that the café/tea machine was ours to use 24 hours per day. The day clerk provided us with a map and good ideas of where to go to find tapas. When we checked out, the clerk told us that when we finished our touring/shopping and came back for our bags, we could use the facilities and have a café or tea. (We did both.)

Our hotel was pretty much at the top of the city; just blocks from the indoor city market and in the heart of a non-franchise shopping district, i.e., little shops selling everything from the new spring fashions to Spanish hams to shoes made in Spain.

Our first tapas bar visit turned out to be a bad choice. We picked a place with few customers (contrary to the advice of the hotel clerk) and two of us ended up suffering the consequences for most of the next 24 hours. (I sure hope it was not the fried eggplant drizzled with honey – I really liked that tapa!)

We walked around our neighborhood and discovered the indoor market with all of its offerings, the cathedral of La Almudena, the Royal Palace and the Royal Opera.
Cathedral de la Almudena
We visited the Prado (Velasquez, Goya), the Reina Sofia Museum (Dali, Picasso) and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Dufy exhibit). Spain has a rich art history and we got to see some of the greats.

Following our first day food disaster, we found wonderful places to eat and drink. Tapas bars are everywhere and we enjoyed wonderful tapas, delicious paella and very nice wines. We drank mostly Rioja wines - from 2 euros a bottle! - always worth the price and usually excellent. The Spanish eat even later than the French! The restaurants don’t open for the evening until 8:00 pm and then hit their peak at 10:00 pm. (We missed out on the Wednesday “1 euro” tapas as suggested by MB’s friend – only discovering the shops on Thursday.)
The fearsome foursome at the Plaza of the Orient (between the Royal Palace and the Opera)

Our train was at 16h30. We agreed that two nights was not enough time to begin to discover Madrid. We plan to return.
Madrid Train Station