Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Madrid, Spain

For a major European country, Spain is rich in history and culture, affordable, beautiful, and vibrant. Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a huge city with tons to see and do. Known for late night dinners and clubs that don't close until 8am, we were delighted when we learned that our hotel was in the quiet area. Although Recoletas is known as an affluent area, the hotel was reasonably priced, modern, and well staffed. Since Recoletas is not a tourist destination, we were able to dine in some local establishments...it is always more interesting and fun to be the only tourists in the restaurants! For once, Jignesh was happy with the our pick.

On day one of our trip we walked the area around our hotel and through the amazing Parque del Retiro. We ended up at the Prado, one of the world's most famous art musuems. Since neither Jignesh or I are huge art fans, we usually skip all the musuems. However, since this one was free after five, we decided to pop in for a short walkabout. Surprisingly, we both enjoyed the visit. For true art enthusiasts, the Prado would be a complete dream! The end of the day ended with the first of many meals of tapas and sangria!

On day two, we headed outside Madrid to Segovia. A beautiful little city, Segovia is highlighted by an ancient Roman aquaduct, a huge cathedral, and an adorable castle. We explored it all and enjoyed lunch in the main plaza where we witnessed a spanish wedding. It was a great side trip...easy to get to and lots to see.

Sunday morning we headed straight to the famous street market, El Rastro. This colorful street market is simply crazy. One of the largest in Europe, El Rastro is street after street of stalls selling everything from antiques to underwear! Locals and tourists come here in the thousands to both take in the scene and do some serious shopping. The best part of the market was the stallholders shouting at the top of their lungs to promote their wares. You can easily spend an entire day winding the streets and browsing the stalls...just be careful of the pickpockets! After the bustling market, we slowly wandered through the Madrid streets towards Plaza Mayor. Capable of holding 50,000 people, Plaza Mayor is impressive. It is the perfect place to get a drink and watch the world go by. It is also worth checking out some of the stores and bars that line the plaza. One of the most interesting was La Torre del Oro, a tapas bar decorated with mounted bull heads and gory pictures of bullfights!

Our fourth and final day in Madrid started with a visit to Palacio Real. Madrid's Royal Palace, Palacio Real is still hosts many state functions on a weekly basis (the King and Queen live outside the city). We took the obligatory tour and were not disappointed with grand rooms lavishly decorated with tapestries, antique furniture, and painted ceilings. After the Palace we spent the remaining hours of our trip shopping and enjoying the city! What a perfect trip.

Au Revoir.

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