We made Madrid our home base for this trip since our flight arrived and departed from here, so this is where my Spain series will begin. What can I say about Madrid? It's a city rich with history, and we spent three or four days wandering around and soaking it all in. I love how walkable Madrid is. We walked so much each day and literally only took the metro once, to get to GranVia from Chamartin. (We did take a taxi a few times, so that we wouldn't have to deal with dragging our luggages around the city). There was one time when we asked our hotel front desk for advice on taking a taxi to a place in GranVia, and their reply was, "But you could just walk it; it would probably be faster than dealing with lots of turns and traffic..." ha. The weather was absolutely perfect too. The beginning of June was a great time to visit since temperatures were in the mid-high twenties in Madrid...not too hot to be suffering in the heat while sightseeing.
By walking and wandering around Madrid, we stumbled upon so many different plazas, each with their own unique vibe. It was cool to see tons of locals and tourists sitting in restaurant patios, enjoying the beautiful weather and eating late dinners each evening. We found ourselves having to adjust to Spain's siestas and eating late dinners as well. 8PM was considered early and on some nights, we ended up eating around 9 or 9:30PM.
Speaking of food, Spain is of course known for their tapas! I love the idea of little portions of food, so it was fun going to a tapas bar and ordering different tapas to try. One of my favorite places in Madrid was Mercado de San Miguel, located near Plaza Mayor. There were so many cool booths and vendors there and we sampled paella, desserts, Spanish-style bruchettas, and more. We also enjoyed churros con chocolate in Madrid! I never knew churros came from Spain, so it was a treat to see them everywhere and eat them as a snack. Yum.
Another highlight in Madrid was stumbling upon Casa Hernanz, a family-owned espadrilles shop in Madrid that has been in business for five generations. We saw a huge line-up forming outside a place one day, and we thought it was a restaurant so we went closer to check it out. It turned out to be a line-up to get into this store. We wrote down the name to google later, and discovered that it was a popular espadrilles store where the shoes are made by hand. It was even mentioned in the New York Times! Intrigued, we returned early in the morning a few days later and were happy to purchase a couple of pairs. The espadrilles I bought here have since become my summer staple...they are so comfortable :)
Madrid also has lots of museums, and the nice thing is that there are certain hours where admission is free. We went to Reina Sofia during the free period to see Picasso's famous Guernica. We also spent a few hours at Thyssen-Bornemisza, which used to be a private collection and has a great range of artwork through the centuries. We spent the most time in Prado, since it houses one of the best collections of European art in the world. One of my favorite moments in Prado was seeing the famous Las Meninas painting. When I was in Prague back in April, the Lobkowicz Palace had on display a beautiful portrait of Infanta Margarita, and while admiring it, my sister had told me I would see a famous painting of her when I visited the Prado. It's just a little thing, but it was cool to find a link between my Prague and Madrid adventures.
Though we only spent a few days in Madrid, it became the place that was most familiar to us as we had lots of time to explore the city and walk here, there and everywhere. So glad we came here! I'll be back next week with more stories and photos from Spain. Happy Tuesday!