My first couple of days in Spain were spent running around Madrid to the most famous sites and tourist attractions.
First Stop: Palacio Real de Madrid
The Royal Palace stands on the site of the former Alcazar (Castle) of Madrid, a medieval fortress that was destroyed in a fire on Christmas Eve 1734. When Phillip V became king, he decided to raise a new Royal Palace on this site. Born at the Palace of Versailles in France as the grandson of Louis XIV, he was heavily influenced by the French architecture and the lavish style. The Palacio Real is 2 square meters larger than the Palace of Versailles.
There are 2,800 rooms inside the palace and 28 are available for viewing. The palace was lavish and held relics such as crown jewels, the abdication of the Juan Carlos I and much more.
Next Stop: Parque de Retiro
El Parque de Retiro is the Central Park of Madrid. The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park. As my mom and I were beginning our leisurely walk, a political protest marched straight through the Avenida de Mexico. My mom had a minor freak-out moment and then I assured her the peaceful protesters wanted nothing to do with her and we were safe to continue on our walk (and luckily I was right). Past the Avenida de Mexico, there is a giant pond in front of the monument to Alfonso XII. Tourists and locals alike can rent paddle boats, but with the choppy waters, January temperatures and our lack of coordination, we chose to just watch the paddle boaters and continue our exploration of the park.
Deeper into the park we discovered the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace). This completely glass and metal structure dates back to the 1800s and was originally used as a giant greenhouse. Today it is used as an extension of the Reina Sofia art museum. We also discovered another palace nearby called the Palacio de Velázquez that also had modern art exhibit as an extension of the Reina Sofia modern art museum. Lesson learned: I understand very little about modern art…
We finished our walk in the park with café con leche at a small stand in the midst of the beautiful estate. The coffee shop worker took a real liking to my mom and practically chased her out of the café trying to get her number. Least to say there was a little bit of a language barrier between them.
Spanish men count: 1 for Susan, 0 for Rachel.
After a nice walk down Calle Alcala with my mom and Shannon (who had joined us by now), we grabbed some tapas and ended our day with a skyline view of the city.
Last Stop: Palacio de Comunicaciones
As the day was coming to a close, we headed to El Mirador (the lookout) on the top floor of the Palacio de Comunicaciones and got a birds-eye view of the city. Check it out.
Touring Madrid: Success. To hear more about my trip so far, check out my next blog, Taking on Toledo.