After a good sleep, I woke up at the routine time – I know it’s vacation but as Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) says, you get more time to play when you get up early on days you don’t have to go to school! I still tried to stay in bed longer but finally gave up :). So at around 9:30 or so, I found myself outside the Royal Palace (Palacio Real). Queues were already forming up but I had no intention of going inside as I wanted to take the walking tour at 11:00.
So instead, I looked around and took some pictures. The palace is huge – considered to be twice the size of Versailles and has more than 3000 rooms, making it the biggest palace in Central/Western Europe. The Royals come here now only when some foreign heads of state are in the city to meet them.
Opposite/Right next to the palace is the Cathedral Almudena. If you get the feeling that the name sounds Arabic, then you are right. Spain was ruled by Catholics, Muslims and then taken back over by the Catholics. So there are a lot of Arabic influences. The Cathedral today is at the site of a medieval mosque. It’s relatively new (made over a period of 100 years!) and consecrated by Pope John Paul in 1993. The architecture has three styles – Neo Baroque (front), Neo Roman (Crypt) and Neo Gothic (interior).
After this exploration, I went towards the meeting place for the walking tour. That was next to the statue of the Bear and the Tree. That’s the symbol of Madrid, and can be seen over many Metropolitan objects.
The walk started at around 11:15, before which I fortified myself with some orange juice. The sun was quite strong but the strange thing is here the sun is strongest between 4 and 6 pm, unlike in other places where the evening starts getting cooler than midday.
We embarked on the tour, got to know about the various kings and queens. A dedicated post for the stories would come soon.
After going through several places, we came to this restaurant which is now the Restaurant of the Nephew of Botin (as it says in the name). It’s been running since 1725 and was opened by a Frenchman of the name of Botin. The nephew is long gone but the name remains. So now this is considered the oldest running restaurant in the world. Both the exterior and interior have been kept intact from the old times. Of course, it is expensive.
After all the walking around and making new friends along the way, it was time to gran some lunch. I found a vegetarian Asian buffet place on the net and decided to go there. A nice fellow walker joined me as we both are vegetarians. The place was decent and we had lots to choose from! Then we parted ways. I came back to the room to drop some heavy things like the camera etc., take some rest and drink lots of water!
Then, I decided to go to Prado – the famous and huge art museum. The tour guide had warned that it would take forever to see every piece of work in the museum, and therefore do some research online to decide what you would want to see. Now, the good thing about this museum is that you can go in for free in the last two hours of the museum – which yesterday was from 6 to 8 PM. The bad thing of course then is that you need to queue up since long before. When I reached, a huge queue was already formed at one of the entrances but the worker told me that on the other gate, it was relatively smaller. So I went there. Stood for around half an hour and then the gates opened. While in the queue, I downloaded the brochure of the highlights of the museum and then made my way through the rooms accordingly. That way I could see most of the highlighted pieces in the 2 hours. You can see them here.
Once out, the heat had gotten significantly milder. Beautiful music from the street artists filled the air and I just sat for some time facing this beautiful church.
Then went in search of food, couldn’t find anything that I liked despite walking a lot from one place to the other. The buffet meal was still keeping me from feeling super hungry, so I gave up the search and returned to the room. Had some snacks that I had with me and called it a day. Now time to get ready for day 3. Adios!