It was an early start with the same breakfast as before so I could be down at the royal palace in time for the 10:00 opening. I needed to be in the queue by 09:30, as it is renowned for being very busy. A beautifully sunny day greeted me. The plaza deal Oriente outside the palace was being cordoned off, I suspect for May Day celebrations. Consequently, I was unsure whether the palace would be open. However, I was not disappointed. The 30 minute wait went by very quickly. The Royal palace itself is fantastic. A bit of history about how and where it is situated. The design, and the sumptuous nature of the interior, plush furnishings, silk wall covering, Goya paintings, Chinese vases, gilding etc. All of the rooms explained in English. A very leisurely amble around the wonderful palace. Next it was down the road to the Moors garden. Part of the palace grounds that were only laid out in the 19th century. A very very pleasant walk in the sunshine, loads of photos taken. With trees and shrubs in bloom a very tranquil time with hardly any people there. A nice indulgent hour.
Time to follow the walk in the lonely guide starting with a walk to the Plaza Espana. Where there is a statue dedicated to Cervantes, and of course Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Timely, as it was the 400th anniversary of his death recently.
Consulting the guidebook further led me to Tabernacle del Alabardero for lunch, a superb choice, beer, chickpea soup, cod stuffed deep fried peppers, and lots of finely cut ham on toasted baguette, with coffee to finish. It was then on with the walking tour down to Plaza Major, where I chanced upon a rather nice ice cream shop, and had a dulce de leche wrapped with orange jam. Very scrumptious indeed. I then headed out on a walking tour of plazas and roads in the old part of the city, finishing with a beer overlooking the Jarninesde las Vustillas. With the Sierra snow capped mountains in the distance.
Afterwards it was more meandering around the city. Plaza De La Plaja, Calle De La Maldonadas. The clouds cleared to leave a wonderful sunset reflecting on the majestic buildings on Calle de San Bruno.
I then headed for dinner at a recommended restaurant that serves authentic Madrid food. Sadly I was the only customer. The underground restaurant was long past its best and was now a store room. They did however, serve me the authentic cuisine. With some beautiful wine from a vineyard associated with the restaurant. I had eaten too much that day and could not finish the meal. Afterwards I slowly made my way back as all the locals started the late evening early morning celebrations and partying
On Sunday morning I woke to a clear blue sky albeit a tad cool in the late spring here in Madrid. I had to be at the airport at 13:45 for my flight at 15:45. Therefore, if I was to go to the famous El Rastro flea market. It was an early start. Up and out at 07:30 after a quick breakfast. Once outside, it was into a very quiet city, empty streets, but great for photography. On the metro on the way to El Rastro I took a detour to view the underground remains of the old city. Not sure what era it was from but had an angular strength to it, so Roman or Moorish I suspect. Not what you would expect to find on the Madrid Metro at all.
A quick wander around the corner and I was entering one of Europe’s greatest outdoor flea markets. Everything from clothing, to food, to music, to shoes, to pictures. It was packed even at 08:30 in the morning. I meandered here and there buying scarves and tee-shirts for Alie. A must, as I had failed miserably on my trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Time for a coffee break, on a side street at the bottom of the hill in what appeared to be an islamic coffee house. Service with a smile and a well earned strong black coffee. The obvious accompaniment to this coffee was a sandwich. So further back up the hill I spotted a man thinly slicing some beautiful ham. With some freshly baked bread right next to him it was time for a delicious sandwich. Mmmmm. Further on up the hill on a street corner were a group of young jazz musicians. 2 guitars and 2 clarinets, all playing their solos to rapturous applause.
The last stop before my trip to the airport for my flight home, was obviously a food related one. The Mercado de San Miguel to be exact. An old market with a vast array of small stalls selling food to go. Sushi, wine, sandwiches, pizza, fruit, smoothies, delicatessen, cheese etc… you name it, they had it. The trick was to just wander around until you found something you liked the look of then try some. Then move on to the next place you liked the look of. Just my style of eating.
It was such shame to leave this wonderful city in such fabulous weather. I have had such a wonderful time. Superb art galleries, food never more than 5 minutes away and European city 5 story apartment buildings. A city to wander and enjoy.
I am a very very lucky man indeed.