When we arrived back to hotel after Toledo, I mentioned that we didn't have to get up at any specific time the next morning (nothing opened until 10 am) to manage what I had listed on our itinerary. Caroline perked up and said, "Well then lets sleep in and not set the alarm clock!" I thought that sounded like a great idea and sure enough were in bed and snoring by 11:30 that night...only to wake up at NOON the next day. I write that in capital letters, because that's exactly what it felt like in my head when Caroline announced the time. As in: "IT'S NOON AND YOU JUST SLEPT AWAY AN ENTIRE MORNING IN MADRID, YOU FOOL!" I had a bit of a freak out about that squandered time, when Caroline gently reminded me that we slept 13 hours because our bodies probably needed it. I nodded and calmed down. She would continue to say this the rest of the day. "Boy! I sure am glad our bodies got rested today! Right, Lucy?" or "I just feel so refreshed getting all that sleep last night!" Eventually, her subtle brainwashing worked its magic and I began to believe her. It helped that we were able to see everything anyway and that this day became one of our favorites of the entire trip.
Our afternoon began with a visit to Spain's answer to Versailles: the Palacio Real de Madrid. It was built in the 1730's and it is still the official Royal residence of the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos. Of course, he and his family only use the palace for state occasions. It was built in the neo-classical or baroque style (depends on which pamphlet you read!) and is pretty gaudy. But aren't all palaces?
I was foiled again by the "no fotos!" signs all over the palace. Ugh! I did sneak some though, so what you see below is what I got. We started our tour by visiting the Royal pharmacy, which was actually quite extensive and super interesting. All of the original canisters are there to see and some of glass containers still have creepy looking stuff within.
I will say that I enjoyed the tour of this palace more than Versailles. Strictly on the basis of the interior tour, however, in terms of the exterior and the grounds, Versailles still wins in my book.The Palacio Real was fully furnished, so it made it so easy to imagine past Kings and Queens living in those rooms! I particularly enjoyed seeing the throne room! King Juan Carlos still uses it to this day to formally welcome state visitors.
Another treat during our tour was the Stradivarious room, which housed the only known quartet of violins designed by Stradivarious as a set in the entire world. So that was special!
I am including the photo as an example of ads we saw all over Madrid, advertising the "Treasures of Polonia" exhibit at the Royal Palace. Looking at the ads, I thought "hmmm, Polonia...that must have been a past Queen of Spain." So, when we get to the the admissions desk at the Palace, I tell the girls that they should also buy the extra ticket to go see Queen Polonia's treasures and they did. And we went. And Polonia ain't no Queen of Spain. Polonia is Spanish for Poland. Yes. Poland. So we paid extra to see the "treasures" of Poland, which frankly, I didn't really care about. Although, there was a painting of a noblewoman (the one in the advertisments) by Leonardo Da Vinci, so I thought that made the exhibition worth it.
After the palace we began making our way to the metro station. We were headed to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and on our way, passed this ornate and much photographed white building. As far as I can tell, it is the Ministry of Agriculture and is not open for tours or visitors. If you google Madrid and look at the images though, you will see this building all over the place.
SIGH! Again, no photos allowed. I will tell you however, that we really enjoyed this museum. The Thyssen is actually the private collection of the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon and his heirs. In 1992, the family decided to open a museum in Spain and eventually sold the paintings to the Spanish government. It is also considered the finest private collection of paintings ever assembled. What makes the Thyssen special, is that you can literally walk through time, as the paintings are all displayed in chronological order. The museum begins with the Visigoths and ends with Pollock. Amazing.
The folks in Madrid are wizards at creating comfortable outdoor spaces on even the most hot days. The Thyssen's outdoor cafe was a delight. Large fans with water sprays were located in each corner creating a lovely cooling breeze - I could have stayed there all day!
But it was not to be. We had something we had to get back to Palaza for...like this creepy street performer!
Just joking. Caroline and I had discussed making reservations to see live Flamenco dancing before leaving for our trip, and that morning we decided that this would be the perfect ending to our visit to Madrid.
But not before stopping by the San Miguel market again to enjoy the atmostphere and buy some treats!
After mush discussion and reading in our dear Rick Steves guide books, we decided on Las Carboneras, a little restaraunt that also featured live flamenco.
And it became the absolute highlight of our entire trip to Spain.
Please forgive the amount of photos. I just couldn't choose between them. The dancing, the music and the emotion from the performers was just overwhelming.
Caroline and I found ourselves close to tears several times. There is just something about the music that just catches you up!
If ever a flamneco dance troupe finds its way to St. Louis, I will be there quick as a flash.
On our way home, we enjoyed a paseo (a walk) and just lingered here and there enjoying the energy of Spain.
There were street performers everywhere, these fellows in particular were so talented!
I took the photo (badly exposed!) below to show you the crowds walking around at 10:30 at night. Literally thousands of people out for a stroll, dinner or ice cream.
Which is what we too decided to get on our way home.
And so passed our last night in Madrid. The next morning we were to get up and head over to the Atocha staition for our 3 hour trip to Barcelona!