Edd: After our wonderful experience in Lisbon, the bar was set pretty high for European capitals. So how would our next stop, Madrid, measure up?
Cynthia: It turns out the two places are so different that comparisons aren’t really fair. Lisbon is quite small with a population of about 500,000; Madrid is a sprawling city of almost 7,000,000!
E: With lots of people and lots of traffic. Fortunately, our Airbnb was located on a quiet side street with grocery stores and metro stops nearby.
C: Our experience with public transportation in Europe has been fantastic. People who never use it in daily life may be hesitant to try riding a tram or subway in a foreign country.
E: That would be a mistake because the systems are safe, clean, well organized, and very economical. By using them extensively, we were able to do and see so much in Madrid. I’m glad we had two weeks to take it all in at a relaxed pace.
C: Everything is on such a grand scale. The buildings. The parks. Even the statues! The city is extremely impressive and we could wear everyone out with all the incredible photos you took. What are some of the highlights we can share?
E: When you talk about grand scale, it’s hard to top the Royal Palace. Over 3000 rooms and the place is totally unoccupied! An unexpected benefit of that attraction was free admission because we’re residents of Ecuador, a Latin American country. Who knew??
C: The Palace employee looked at us a little funny, but we had our Ecuadorian cédulas (national ID cards) to prove it! I loved El Retiro Park, a beautifully maintained green space in the city.
E: We spent a lovely afternoon strolling around there. Another day was dedicated to visiting the Prado Museum. Like everything else, it was massive, with centuries of art to view. Sadly no photos or videos were allowed.
C: Not so at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which we actually enjoyed more than the Prado.
It was a manageable size, and we had no idea that paintings by so many renowned artists were featured there.
E: Even better, admission is free every Monday from noon to 4 p.m. Also, at Prado from 6 to 8 p.m. every day. What a great amenity! No visit to Madrid is complete without going to a flamenco show, right?
C: Absolutely. And the one we attended at La Cueva de Lola was outstanding. The small venue is in a cellar, which made the experience quite intimate.
E: All right, people always want to know about the food, and we’re happy to report that Madrid’s cuisine is outstanding. From…
Duck breast in port wine reduction to…
Possibly the most interesting pizza we’ve ever tasted—artichoke puree with citrus infused prawns, porcini mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. Magnificent!
C: The wine is so delicious and affordable that we’ve perhaps been enjoying ourselves too much in that department.
E: Gotta mention hot chocolate and churros, one delicacy all the travel blogs say you have to try. We sat down at Madrid’s most famous chocolatería, San Ginés. Turns out the “hot chocolate” is really a cup of hot syrup like Hershey’s!
C: Except way more rich and decadent. We would have split one cup if we’d known. Beyond all the attractions we visited, I think the most fun we had was simply picking a neighborhood and wandering around.
E: Absolutely. The architecture in Madrid is just remarkable.
C: And we never knew what we might see. On a gorgeous Saturday morning while exploring the Salamanca district, we stumbled upon a big flower market sponsored by Vogue.
E: I think it’s fair to say that we really did Madrid.😀
C: But before we move on to Bordeaux, let’s write about our trip to the cities of Toledo and Segovia, Spain.
E: For sure. What a day that was! And we took some fabulous photos. Until then…