I posted on the start of our trip to Madrid here. So time for another update. Our 2nd week is just over. Each day brings so many different things. The other day I read Kathy’s Retirement Blog where she posted about Firsts. For me, one of the great things about going to different places is that you have to force yourself out of your comfort zone and do many things for the first time. From finding out where the nearest supermarket is, to working out how to ask for what you want and then even once you have mastered the question, the bigger challenge for me is understanding the answer!
So what have we done this week?
We had some friends come to stay with us. It was lovely to be the ‘old hands’, and show them all the sights which for us had been new, just a few days before. We had a lovely walk in the sunshine down to Puerta del Sol, and left them in the hands of the same tour guides which had taken us round a few days before. Although it was the same company, they saw a few different things, and got some different information.
We had a close shave with ‘disaster’. My husband was pickpocketed in the gardens of the Palacio Real. The day before when we had been in the El Rastro market, it was busy, and we were watching all our possessions carefully. However the gardens were really quiet, with only a few people around, so we weren’t thinking that there would be much risk. Wrong!
I wanted a picture with the three fountains in the photograph below lined up. My husband had moved up some steps to give me space for the shot. There were some girls around which we didn’t think anything about. Mistake – while my husband was watching me take the photograph, they managed to lift his monthly metro pass out of his back pocket, which was securely fastened with velcro! Also in the folder was about 150 Euros. We were shocked because at no stage had we realised someone was close enough to pickpocket us!
We carried on walking round the lovely gardens, and it was only when we got to the exit, that we were stopped by two policemen. We initially thought they were trying to distract us, but no, they were trying to ask us if we had got all our possessions. It was at that stage that my husband realised he had lost his pass. Fortunately the metro pass had a photo on it, so it was easy to confirm that it was his. We also got all our money returned. The two plain clothes policemen had already spotted and arrested the pickpockets. (Three good looking young females!) I don’t know who else had been targeted but I was really impressed by their professionalism. To not only stop the girls, but to identify us and return our belongings promptly. No forms to fill in, nothing else to do.
We emailed their office later in the evening to say thank you, and also to let their bosses know. It never hurts to say thanks! It turns out that the police in Madrid have a special office, just to help tourists.
Thank You Madrid Police! What efficiency and great service. You made a great difference to our trip.
We have been to a few Miradors (viewing points). I have taken far too many pictures to include here, but here are some of the shots I took.
We went up the central tower in the Palacio de Cibeles. (A stunning public building) Cost 2€ each. The inside of the building was fantastic, and the views from the tower were great. Money well spent!
And part of the skyline view
The architecture is stunning. We saw several buildings which reminded us of the shape of the flat iron building in New York. Like so many of the buildings we have seen this week, virtually no building is finished simply. So many have intricate designs, ornate turrets or statues on top. There are fantastic fountains at most of teh rou
There are fantastic fountains at most of the roundabouts
The weather has been great. We did not bring enough shorts with us, with the result that I have been really glad our apartment has a washing machine! I have splashed out, and bought a clothes airer, so the clothes can dry on the terrace. There is an outside clothes line at the apartment, but it involves leaning out the kitchen window (6 floors up) and pegging your items on the line. If anything falls it is gone forever, as there is no way to access the basement level!
We don’t consciously try to save too much money while we are on these long trips. We certainly eat out more than we would do at home, and have a lot more coffees and beers at small cafes. However, we do try and make sure we maximise the ‘free’ opportunities that are out there. So far this week we have been to the Museo del Prado for free. Entry is free for the last 2 hours each day. Unfortunately the queue starts about 4pm. So we had a 40 minute wait before we got it. But as it saved us 14€ each it was worth it. (14€ = $17 = £12.50.) That is the cost of a 3 course meal at lunch time, so well worth it. Today’s Museum only saved us 6€ each, It was free from 3:30pm to 4:30pm, and was a hidden star. The Prado was mobbed, with hundreds of people making use of the free entry. However todays Museo Lazaro Galdiano was stunning. In my opinion, better than the Prado. It was originally a private house, that the owner had gifted to the nation, along with his very extensive collection of paintings, bronzes, limoges enamel, coins, armour, swords. We were there an hour, and may well go back again.
Earlier this week we visited the Estacion de Chamberi. This was a station on the original metro line, which had been decommissioned because they were unable to extend the platform. It was just left as it was for many years, and was a bit of a mystery, because there was no entrance, and it appeared on no maps. It opened about 10 years ago, and looks like it did in 1911 when the original station opened. Again this museum is free!
As we walk round Madrid, we are becoming aware that all the different areas have a different feel. Today we walked along the Calle De Serrano, past the American Embassy, and past a lot of very expensive shops. The streets were wide and very different to some of the old town areas. If you are into expensive brands, then this is the street to go to. Also some shops are doing things differently. There was an IKEA Temporary, which was IKEA, but not as I have seen it before. On reading a bit about it, every 6 months they will change the theme. Just now it focus on bedroom furnishing, them they will move onto a different part of the home. Quite clever really.
We have been having difficulty acquiring a bus map. We were spoiled the last two years. Both Nice and Barcelona have really simple bus systems. Not Madrid. The route numbers have no obvious system, and it involves a bit of guess work when working out what bus goes where. So we set off to a shop which we had been informed would be able to sell us a map. On the way there, we went past this old water tower
So having failed in our search for our map, we decided to walk back and investigate the tower. It was once a water storage tank for North Madrid, but had not been used for some years. It was converted into an exhibition space. The exhibition on was a costume display, so we didn’t go in, but what an innovative use of a landmark building. The building is called Canal Isabel II. As it happened, the metro home from there took us past the disused metro station, so we decided to look out for it, and saw it lit up, as a tour was in progress – it is fascinating what can be hidden in clear sight.
Sometime over the next month or two, I think a blog post on Madrid for free or very little would be a good idea….
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