Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Madrid: Day One

Okay folks! Well, we (myself and my sisters Caroline and Leanne) are back from Spain and we had a wonderful time. On my last trip to Europe, I had grand plans to create a scrapbook of the trip. It's been two years and I have yet to do anything at all with the photos. My blog posts of Paris then, became the scrapbook and it's one I have visited several times in past couple of years when I felt nostalgic. So, these blog posts about our trip are as much for me (and my poor memory) as it is for you lovely blog readers. I hope you enjoy them!

The less said about our plane trip to Spain, the better. I hate hate hate, long plane trips. Long and boring, I do not posses the happy ability to sleep through flights so I was thrilled to get off the plane and start our adventure! In order to save on costs, we decided to fly in and out of Barcelona - which meant that we needed to hop on the RENFE high speed train bound for Madrid right after the flight. My sister Caroline, has no problem at all sleeping on public transport and spent the majority of the 3 hour train ride asleep, I read more of my book.

Planning for this trip was quite the undertaking, and I turned to the very helpful, always reliable Rick Steves for assistance and he didn't let us down. I made reservations at hotels that he recommended and they were both perfect for our budget and our needs! After arriving in Madrid, we checked in to our hotel, freshened up and stepped right back out for a cup of coffee. Our hotel is located right in the heart of Madrid, about a 3 minute walk to Puerta del Sol - the heart of the city.
A couple of weeks before we left for Spain, we heard reports about large scale (but peaceful) demonstrations being held at the Puerta del Sol by the young members of the country protesting the worsening economic conditions in the country. As much as 40% of Spanish citizens under the age of 35 are unemployed, so there is definite cause for their dissatisfaction. Anyway, by the time we arrived, the large demonstrations had stopped (since local elections were over), but there were still a few folks camped out on the plaza keeping this topic alive. The white sign with the red writing pictured below reads: "the voice of the people is never illegal".

Our first evening was to be a low key walking tour of  Puerta del Sol and its surrounding streets. On our way we passed this lovely lovely lovely little book store attached to the side of a building. The photo below is one of my favorites of the entire trip and I took it about 30 minutes in to our stroll.

Madrid in June is hot folks. Wide open plazas with baking concrete doesn't really sound like a recipe for a happy trip, right? The saving grace then, was the cooling breezes. It was a dry heat, not soppy and humid, which is really made things bearable - when in the shade, it felt 15-20 degrees cooler than in the sun and we quickly learned the walking tactic we called "shade hopping".
Or maybe we would just roll up our pants and let them soak up the refreshing cooolness of a nearby fountain!

On our way back up the the Plaza Mayor, we spotted the San Miguel market! It's one of the oldest in Madrid - but was recently refurbished, so it does not have your typical market ambience.
On one side the butchers and the grocers, on the other side, tapas bars, confectioners and a little book store!
It was a lively hot spot for Madrilenos and we left with our mouths watering.

We had dinner at an outdoor cafe instead of the market, since the lines there were quite long. After a  delicious dinner we walked back to our hotel and practically passed out. Just like the last time we crossed this many time zones, we stayed awake for about 30 hours before sleeping again, and just like the last time, it worked like a charm and we didn't suffer from any jet lag at all. Thank goodness!


Shay said...

Wow! That picture of the bookstore looks like a painting by an old world master! I am so jealous. I'm looking forward to the "next installment" :)

jaxmom said...

Can't wait to visit more of Spain vicariously through you! Lovely pictures! It looks amazing.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Such fun!

Caroline said...

Already miss it!

lucylucia said...

Shay- it's funny you say that! At least 4 or 5 oher people have said the same thing about that photo. That little old guy totally makes it.

Lindsey - Oh I hope you enjoy it. We had such a good time!

Sally - it was!

Caroline - i know. I KNOW!! ahhh.