The Real Madrid

In Madrid, I drank gin and tonics. Who knew Madrid was famous for their gin and tonics? I didn’t. But I wasn’t upset about it! With full page menus consisting of only gin and tonic drinks, the options were endless. Even if you aren’t a fan of the gin and tonic, there was bound to be one out of the hundreds of combinations you would have liked! The drinks were fabulous, the food was great and the city was full of life. Being the capital of Spain, we knew we were going to have a great time.

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Coming from Seville, it was like night and day. Madrid had that mysterious Spanish vibe combined with that big New York City feel. The contrast was interesting. The old architecture was drowning in cell phone ads and publicity posters. Cabs lined the streets ready to chauffeur people to their next destination. And businesses big and small snugged every wide street and corner. The plazas weren’t so charming, but the people who filled them were. And if you searched deep enough, you would stumble upon old tiny streets that haven’t been touched in decades. Madrid was a maze that my husband and I were so badly trying to figure out. One minute we loved it and the next we’d be questioning ourselves. I think it’s the kind of city you need more than three days to explore.

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We arrived by fast train from Seville late Monday morning heading straight to our hotel. The city is large, so it’s not entirely walkable the way some cities have been, but we did manage to walk all the way to our hotel due to the fact that we needed to kill some time as our hotel room may not have been ready yet (it was rather early). Also, I’m quite keen on doing as much walking as I possibly can now-a-days, given all the tapas I’ve been eating. We stayed at a Preferred Boutique Hotel (which are my favorites! If ever you are traveling to a destination where they have one, I highly recommend staying there!) called Only You. In fact, we loved the hotel (and our room) so much that we ended up staying there the entire first half of the day. Eating lunch over a bottle of wine in the restaurant and relaxing in the tea room over a game of cards until we were ready to go out. Our hotel was located within perfect walking distance to all the sights we wanted to see and all the neighborhoods we wanted to explore. If you turned left out of the main entrance, you’d step into the trendy, local boutique-y neighborhood. And if you turned right, you would wind up by all of the main plaza’s, squares, museums and parks. It was really the perfect mix of everything right below our feet.

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Walking around the neighborhood we were staying in has been one of my favorite thing to do once we arrive anywhere. It helps me get a grasp of what’s around us and also helps me understand the city a bit more. Madrid de los Austrias, the puzzle of 15th and 16th century streets surround Plaza Mayor, the city’s most infamous plaza, and are the oldest streets of Madrid. So we did a substantial amount of walking in that area followed by a quiet dinner at a restaurant our hotel had recommended. It was located within a small door to what seemed to have been an old wine cellar made out of rock and brick. Dark and cold and really cool. Not tapas style, which we were ok with… as all we had been eating lately was tapas! But great food.

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My husband gets in serious tour guide mode whenever we have “tourist days” scheduled. He seriously reads up on where we are going and gets extremely excited about showing me all the cool sites and museums, as if he has been to each one a hundred times before. It’s really funny to me because sometimes we don’t talk like we’re husband and wife until the end of the day when our “tourism” is over. I’m super appreciative of his efforts, I just had no idea I married a secret tour guide! Lucky me…! Wednesday was a “tourist day”. We woke up, got coffee, and went straight to the Prado Museum. This museum is known to have one of the worlds best art galleries, so we were excited. Home to not only Spanish art, but that of other countries and eras as well. Masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck fill the walls while sculptures, prints and drawings were scattered throughout. I’m not sure if it’s just because we are at the end of a three month escapade through Europe and we have been inundating ourselves with museums and art galleries galore, but we found this museum to be rather boring.

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Our boring museum experience lead us to the magical Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid. Magical might be a stretch, the whole experience was rather elusive as the overall experience was a bit unimpressive. But we happily strolled through the gardens and after walking through some major shopping lanes and eventually made our way to Buen Retiro Park. Buen Retiro Park was filled with picturesque meadows, tranquil walkways and multi-colored gardens that were simply amazing. We loved this park. And seeing as it is huge, we spent a lot of time there. Back in the late 1600’s when the piece of land was transformed into gardens, it included a lion’s cage and an octagon shaped pond, both of which are still in tact today. The whimsical shapes of the trees and surrounding greens are captivating. I dream of going back! We ended our day with tapas followed by gin and tonics, of course!

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Our final day in Madrid was one to remember. After hours of strolling through Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Colon, we witnessed a once in a lifetime moment. The King of Spain was being sworn in and we got to be in the heat of it all. Reporters, cameramen, flocks of people crowded the palace and on Thursday, June 19, King Felipe VI was named the new King of Spain. That’s some pretty serious stuff! And we were there! It was the coolest. Also, I almost forgot to mention, his wife, Queen Letizia, is gorgeous.

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That night it rained. It poured, actually. And just as any 20-something-year-old couple on a budget, we decided to trek through the downfall of the puddles and make our way under a broken umbrella to dinner. I guess you could say it was pretty romantic. We did walk through my favorite park, Buen Retiro, and did share a kiss under a tree as we waited for the hurricane-like winds to die down. I think the kiss came out of fear from my husband… Fear that I might kill him for making me go to dinner soaking wet. He’s still alive, so it worked. We had a lovely dinner at an upscale restaurant and after my hair had finally dried, took a cab back to the hotel.

The next morning we were set to take a flight from Madrid to Dublin, where our Ireland adventure would begin! We were sad to be leaving Spain, but very excited to drink gallons of beer with happy Irish people.

Until drunken tales from Dublin, adios amigos!

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