Saturday, 2 January 2010


We returned today 2 January from Madrid, this is our second visit to Spain we truly enjoy our visits there, the culture, the people, the food, the modern infrastructure blended into the old historical architecture and so many other things which makes the visit enjoyable.
Our first visit to Spain was to Barcelona in Catalonia, which is not Spain proper but an autonomous region with its own language and culture. Madrid the Capital in the centre of the Iberic peninsula is really a marvelous city, the airport of Barajas is ultra modern and impressive, modern highways take you into the city and a system of tunnels can take you over 12 Km from one end of the city to the other. Madrid has a modern subway system and in the old centre of Madrid and the Royal neighborhood many streets have been closed to cars. The city has many large parks around the Royal Palace and at the Alcala Gate not to mention many other green areas where people can relax and the great avenues like Gran Via, Paseo del Prado or Recolets where you can stroll. Our Hotel at Plaza San Martin was in the perfect location, minutes on foot from all the major city sites. So many good restaurants, we also discovered that ham was the number one export of Spain. There are so many varieties you almost need a course, but in many specialize shops you can taste several varieties and decide which you like best before you purchase anything. We also went to several Tapas bar and though I was use to the little plates, in Spain the plates are big and there is lots to eat so we learned to order only 2 plates and a glass of wine or beer and then order more if we still had an appetite.
So many other good restaurants, grilled meats is also a specialty as is seafood and paella, everywhere we ate the food was excellent with great service. If you are a vegetarian in Spain you might find yourself in difficulty, vegetables do not appear much on menus except for salads. We got ourselves a little brochure called Restaurantes y Tabernas Centenarias de Madrid, (100 yr old restaurants and taverns of Madrid) see their website

We visited the Royal Palace which is the largest in Europe with close to 3000 rooms, King Juan Carlos and his family do not live there and I understand why. Juan Carlos prefers to live in the suburbs at the Palace of the Zarzuela. The Royal Palace is used for State ceremonial only, the decor is heavy and gaudy, the worst excess of the 19th century in what can only be described as poor royal taste, opposite the Palace, the Cathedral of Madrid is relatively new, Pope John Paul II inaugurated it in 2003. Previously it seems that the Royals used the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, c.1563 or other great Cathedrals in various cities in Spain, like Santiago de Compostela.

We visited the Prado Museum, with its incredible wealth of artwork, was able to see the paintings of Goya, Velasquez and of many other great Spanish artists but also French, German, Flemish, British, Italian painters and sculptures, etc... A beautiful museum, we only saw a small part of it, we will probably have to return. After 2 hours in the museum, we were really tired, too much to see, our eyes were tired and our senses over excited by all this glut of artwork, it was a bit like eating too many sweets, you get indigestion.

The streets illumination at night were spectacular,an orgy of colors, very high tech and colorful. On New Year's Day we walked to the Park of Buen Retiro, which is a former Royal Park opened to the public by King Carlos III on the condition that you could enter if you were washed and properly dressed, which meant that you needed a hat, gloves and a sword, this pretty much restricted the entrance to the aristocracy and the wealthy. It is a beautiful park with a large rose garden and many broad leafy avenues to walk, fountains and statues. It is the only park in the world with a fountain and statue of Lucifer entitled the fallen angel. At this time of the year the trees have no leaves but it is still a peaceful place and very popular with Madrilenos.

All in all we were very impressed with Madrid and its people.


  1. Sounds like a lovely holiday break. Our choir sang in the Cathedral just across from the royal palace last May. We did lots of touring but there was still so much left unseen. Loved the parks too. Loved the Prado but it's a multi-day effort to see it. El Escorial was gorgeous too. Did you have time to get there? Loved the ham but some of it can be mighty pricey (more than the most expensive entrees). But it's delicious. Can't wait for more of your blogs to get even more details.


  2. Hey!..You have a dove of peace over your head in that first picture...Very Rennaisance.

  3. mmmm !! very very lovely .. and i just LOVEEEE that hat !!! gegegege