6 days - October 2018
Our last week in Europe started with a visit of a new capital city: Madrid !
We took the plane on a autumn day in Paris and arrived 2 hours later in Spain that still thinks its summer ! (These Latinos are always late ;) )
The pilot gave us a guided tour of France taking the microphone every 5 minutes to tell us where we were (Loire atlantique, Bordeaux, Basson D’arcachon etc) we are used to guided walking tour but not a « plane tour » yet!
Speaking of free walking tour, we took one with Sandemans tour , walking in the city centre discovering the history from the Moor invasion to the Reconquista of Christians in 800 years, Inquisition, to the Habsburg empire, to The Bourbons taking over (as there was no more descendants!) and finally the dictatorship of Franco.
It goes with the different architecture from few relics of the Moor empire (a few only as Madrid was a village from the 9th century and became capital of Spain and grew from 1561), to the many Plazas developed by kings named after them , to Royal Palace and churches. We also quickly understood that it was better not to mention Cataluna and start a debate between a Madrileno and a Barcelones...!
After the tour we got to try what we came for: tapas (and soccer for Cedric). At the Mercado San Miguel, a lot of mini tapas are sold with olives, Spanish ham and cheese. Yummy! Time to head for dinner with Alix and Gauthier to celebrate Cédric’s birthday ! More tapas and sangria: feliz cumpleanos !
The day after we went to the Royal Palace and discovered a Palace bigger than Versailles with 1000 more rooms! (Around 3500 in total!) don’t worry we didn’t visit them all but only around thirty all with a different atmosphere and theme with Chinese inspirations, rococo, classic, gothic, etc etc. (One room = one ambiance like a night club!)
The ceilings are beautiful painted with many frescoes all bigger than the previous one ! Impressive.
We then went to the Cathedral in front of the palace and what a surprise: finalised in 1981, the interior is super modern! We never saw this design before. A good visit.
We then wandered around the city centre (gran via, plaza mayor etc) and tried another local specialty: Paella for Cédric and Lomo for me ! Delicious (and for or Spanish friends: ok we have to admit there is no chorizo in Paella...)
And finally to finish the day : flamenco !! The lady scared us with her expressions but we still loved the show, the expressions, the story, the live music (and the sangria!) ole !
To finish this 3 days stay in Madrid we wandered around the Retiro Park - the green heart of Madrid.
With many roses garden, Moor influenced buildings, plants, ponds and people boating, we could spend our Sundays here as the Madrilenos do!
Time to go to tee suburbs now to visit Alix and Gauthier and discover :
- the King throne: one of the King of Spain commissioned a seat to relax and contemplate nature. At sunset the colours surrounding us and the valley were beautiful
- The Escorial: previous residence of the Kings and functioned as a monastery, residence, cathedral, library and so on. We thought it would be a bit more bling bling and we have been surprised by the massive size but a simple building compared to the Royal Palace for example.
-Segovia: home of a 2000 years old Aqueduct! Yes 2000 yo. Build by the romans and 28 metres high, it is still intact. As per the legend, a young lady who had to walk 19 kilometres a day to carry water to the village one day said she will give her soul to someone who -overnight- can find a way to carry water. The Devil tried and built the aqueduct but as the sun comes up one stone was still missing and the lady was able to keep her soul!
Impressive . (Cédric’s favorite visit!)
- finally on our last day we went to Toledo. Previous capital of Madrid and still with many buildings built under Moor influence, we liked the little buildings, the arabesques, the big castle, the cobblestones streets and one thing brought our attention: what are the steel strings hanging around the church ? To hang erratics ??! So weird !
A great stay in Spain to finish off these 5 months in Europe! Merci Alix et Gauthier !
# from the airport, easy to reach the city with the metro. 5 euros per person
# we did the free walking tour with Sandemans and we had a really good guide !
# the Royal Palace is free for Europeans from 4pm to 5pm during the week. There is a bit of queue so make sure to arrive around 3.45pm. And bring an ID!
# Segovia and Toledo are really nice and close to Madrid !