Iberian trip I: Madrid
Because of our Spanish wedding, C.’s parents and 4 Taiwanese friends flew to Spain at the beginning of October and stayed there for 2 weeks. It’s very far, so if you go, you have to stay for at least 10 days! It was the first time that they had been to Spain (or to Europe; for C.’s parents it was the first time they were outside of China/Hong Kong) and I was a bit anxious they wouldn’t feel comfortable or wouldn’t like the food. I didn’t need to worry though! They had a great time and liked everything.
I had been in Spain for almost a month already, so I took the bus to Madrid to pick them from the airport. The first city in our tour was indeed Madrid, the capital of Spain as everybody knows. I never really know what to visit in Madrid apart from the museums and the commercial streets, so I had to download several travel apps to give me some inspiration. We stayed right next to the subway stop Tribunal and this is a great area if you are interested in alternative bars and hipster restaurants and shops. We spent two days in Madrid and this is what we saw:
– The Royal Palace
I had never been here. The entrance ticket is 11 euros and you get to visit the palace, the armoury and the painting gallery. There are also some gardens, and the royal kitchen was opened to the public a couple of weeks ago, just a few days after we went. The palace was built in the 18th century and it has over 3000 rooms (don’t worry, you don’t visit all of them!). The Spanish royal family doesn’t live there anymore; the palace is only used for official ceremonies.
– The streets
The centre of Madrid is very lively. The area around Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor has many pedestrian streets which are always full of tourists and locals strolling or hanging out. There are many shops, restaurants, cafes, street artists…
– Centro Centro Palacio de Cibeles
This cultural centre is right in front of the Cibeles fountain, where the Real Madrid fans go to celebrate their team’s victories. There are exhibitions and restaurants inside (also spaces with sofas and chairs if you want to have a rest) but we went for the views from its rooftop.
– El Retiro park and Puerta de Alcalá
El Retiro is a huge park in the centre of Madrid which is very popular on the weekends. There are several roads you can walk, a small lake where you can rent a boat and a palace made of glass. Puerta de Alcalá is a triumphal arc and used to be a gate of the city walls. It’s a symbol of Madrid and there’s a popular Spanish song about it.
– Bernabéu football stadium
I hate football and I was not interested at all in this place, but my guests wanted to go and they even bought things in the uber expensive Real Madrid shop (over 100 euros for a t-shirt that was made in Cambodia? Really?). This stadium is quite ugly, so I won’t upload a picture.
– Food, food and more food
We ate A LOT in Madrid. Well, in Spain, in general. In Madrid we ate cocido madrileño (chickpeas, meat and vegetables stew), callos (beef tripe stew, many Spanish don’t eat innards anymore but Chinese are big fans as you know), churros with hot chocolate, paella (this is actually not typical from Madrid but we went to a fancy Valencian restaurant), Spanish omelette, croquettes, octopus, tapas… Most of the places we went for lunch and dinner were recommended either by my brother and his girlfriend or by a couple of my friends; all of them are foodies so everything was delicious.
We even went to see a flamenco show! I had never done this before and it might seem quite touristy but it was actually a lot of fun. The place we went was called La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton, right next to the Plaza Mayor. The show lasts for around 1.5 hours and there’s singing, dancing and guitar playing.
Something that we didn’t do was going to the museums. Madrid has a lot of very good museums, but I wasn’t sure my guests were too interested in art and as we only had two days I preferred to spent them outside. We also went shopping and in one of the shops the assistant asked for my card in case she had Chinese customers and needed my translation services in the future… she thought I was the tour guide or something, haha! (I should have asked her for a commission on the sales!).
And that’s the summary of our trip to Madrid! On the next instalments I will write about Toledo and Portugal!