Sunday, January 8, 2012

Monday, continued...

Doesn't that sound awful? Monday though Mondays aren't bad enough already. Well, if you are in Madrid though, it isn't so bad.

We left the park. It was sad, but we had to do it. I really wanted to see the Plaza Mayor, and we had reservations for a Flamenco show that night that didn't start until 10:30, dangerously close to the "Michelle would rather be in bed" time zone. Okay, SMACK DAB in the middle of that time zone, so I was hoping to get in a nap in the afternoon.

That, and we were kind of hungry. When is that never the case? So, off we went. Here are some random street shots to tide you over.

A building in Madrid.

Another building in Madrid. There were far less people on scooters in Madrid than there were in Barcelona.

Getting to the Plaza Mayor involved another Metro ride. Yippee! I really did enjoy riding the Metro. I liked checking out people's shoes and occasionally there was a musician on board. Amplified and everything. When I really loved about the Metro though...was that one of the stops actually had a little art gallery, there below the city. An exhibit of photography. How cool is that? We only had a few minutes to enjoy this before the train came. Then it was back to checking out people's shoes.

Art gallery in the Metro Station. One of the best surprises I've ever had while riding public transportation. Sure beats the suspicious puddle on the bus the other day.

As I've said, we headed over to the Plaza Mayor. We almost missed it. We knew we had to head down a particular street. I think we sort of thought it would hit us over the head, but it's a plaza...surrounded by you have to actually turn down another street and then there it is!

The Plaza Mayor, where now you enjoy a nice meal, but where once, if they didn't like you, you would burn.

Back in the day, they burned heretics here. Now, it is a square lined with restaurants. As you walk through, the waiters greet you and hold out their menus, hoping to lure you into their dining establishment. Frankly, any of them would have been fine. Outdoor dining, you can't beat that!

Did I mention they executed people here? Where is this morbidity of mine coming from?

I'm sure we picked the place we did because it looked just fine and we didn't want to walk all the way around the square. It's hard for me to say no to people and I didn't want to have to say no to a bunch of different waiters. Of course they all had a menu of the day (menu del dia), where you choose two courses and then either coffee or dessert. We also, of course, had wine with our lunch, because that is what you do when you are on vacation.

Honestly, I don't remember what we ate too much. I probably had gazpacho and I know I had the Spanish Omelet, which was okay. I'd had better. But just sitting in this plaza that has seen so much history, on a beautiful fall day, with the best companion ever...Nothing could be better than that. And...our waiter was delightful, as many Spanish waiters are. I'm not sure how much English he spoke, but he was very friendly. When it came time for the check, I nervously got his attention and then asked David how to ask "la cuenta or el cuenta"...and then looked at our waiter and said, "la cuenta, por favor" and he smiled at me, the most genuine smile, and said "Muy bueno" and bowed at me. sweet! We left him a nice big tip. Maybe he didn't say "muy bueno"...but I am pretty sure he said, "very good" and was appreciative of my crappy Spanish.

The Plaza Mayor has also hosted numerous festivals and other happy events over the years as well.

Where to next? How about the palace? It wasn't something I had planned, but we were in the vicinity and I had heard wonderful things. The Palacio Real is supposed to be incredibly beautiful. By the time we got there, I was also looking forward to using the restroom!

Alas, when we got there it was closed. There was some sort of actual event going on. So, we just stood and looked into the great, big, huge gate. It was only closed for a bit, but we didn't wait around.

Oh dear, I had hoped to use a royal bathroom.

I really had to pee.
Let's get a picture and find someplace with a public restroom. Quick. Hurry.

Luckily, the map we had was apparently sponsored by the Golden Arches, so we headed to a nearby McDonald's, got a coke, and were on our way. I really should have taken the chance to order something unique to Spanish McDonald's, but I already was feeling a little ashamed to be in a McDonald's at all. They of course had some kind of Iberian Ham sandwich, which I suppose would have been lovely.

It's a HUGE palace. Really wish I could have seen the inside.

We wandered around a bit, but by this point we were kind of tired and decided to head back to the Metro and to the apartment. When we arrived back at the apartment, Alan, Erin, and Kelly were all in the little bard downstairs. I was sort of in the mood for a nap, but the ladies wanted to head over to El Corte Ingles to find an English-language book for Kelly to read on the way home. Since my sister's mother-in-law had highly recommended I go to El Corte Ingles, I joined them.

Kelly did find a book in the very small foreign language section. El Corte Ingles is just a massive, high-end department store. Most of what was sold in there I could never afford, but I did get a cute purple dress. Then, I'd had enough. Erin and Kelly did a little more shopping, but I tried to take a nap.

It was flamenco night, afterall. And I will write about that in another post! Ha! I know what you are thinking! Come on Michelle! It is January! You took this trip in OCTOBER.

Sorry, I can't help it. My writing attention span is very short tonight. Mostly I just want to crawl into bed and read Harry Potter. Yes, I have read Harry Potter before...but I am reading the entire series again because David is reading it for the first time. He's on the Goblet of Fire right now. I am reading the Prisoner of Azkaban. We are having a lovely time, pretending to be surprised ("OH NO! The goblet of fire is a PORTKEY!")

So, dear'll have to wait just a wee bit longer for the conclusion! And then I'll be blogging about cooking, eating out, the books I am reading, and maybe knitting.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Monday in Madrid

I've gotten to the point in blogging about this trip where I have to actually go to my husband and ask him, "What did we do for lunch that day? Did we eat lunch? I don't remember eating lunch that day?" and then he has to really think and then say, "Oh...we went to that square, and there was the nice waiter". Oh, yes! How could I forget.? This is even more troubling since you all know how I love to eat. All in all, it is good that I have finally arrived at our final, full day in Spain. I think I will divide this post into two or maybe even three separate posts. We'll see how it goes.

This was one of my most favorite days of the trip. The others would be our first day in Lisbon; the tour of the winery and olive mill; that first day in Barcelona; and now this last day in Madrid. It makes me feel good that when I look back on the best days, there were days we spent with the entire group - days we spent with just a couple other people - and a day we spent alone.

I had really tried to keep the things I absolutely wanted to see in Madrid to a minimum. I knew we only had two full days there and I didn't want them to be jam packed. Since this was the last day and David and I were pretty tired, we planned only two daytime destinations: the Parque del Retiro and the Plaza Mayor. The Palacio Real was close to the Plaza Mayor so we added that to the list. The evening would be dinner and then a Flamenco show.

Several of the gang got up a little early and went for a run in el Retiro. They said it was an easy metro ride away and a very nice park. I had read a lot about the park and how busy it is on the weekends because many families come here to relax and spend time together. It was also on the list that a co-worker had given me of things to see in Madrid.

Hola from el Retiro! It's a lovely day in Madrid!
I don't recall exactly what time it was when we got there, but it was fairly early in the morning. Since it was Monday, the park was quiet and many of the little snack shops were not open yet. We hadn't eaten yet, so we were anxious to find a place for coffee and a pastry.

Those are Principe cookies we had for breakfast. Do they sell these in the states anywhere? We had them in Ireland too.

We did find a spot and got our cafe con leche and some cookies! Cookies for breakfast. What a great way to start the day...leisurely enjoying my coffee in the park, listening to a guy playing guitar (we later bought his CD for 5 euro. I am listening to it now). I wish we could have had more moments like this on our trip - where we weren't in any rush to get anywhere.

Eventually we felt we should get up an walk around the park. It's a huge park, and we weren't really sure where to begin. So, we just kind of started walking. One of the first things we saw were mermaid butts!

He he...Here is the entire statue.

I wasn't able to find any other information for you. This was obviously a fountain but it was not on. I'm not even sure if these are really mermaids and a merman...or just unfortunate people with eels for legs.

There are many fountains and statues in the park. Below is the Fountain of the Fallen Angel.

 At the base were these crazy monsters which I thought were kind of cute.

I kind of like the one second from the left there...he's got these crazy eyes that kind of bug out. And then of course they are all spitting water out of their noses, which gives the impression they have all heard something really, really funny.

We kept wandering and came across one of those little parks with exercise equipment. I saw quite a few of these in Spain actually, and surprising to me, people actually used them. As David and I played around, there were about 5 or 6 people seriously using the equipment.

We were not serious.

 Pretending to be on the balance beam.

 Monkey bars! Fun!

Our daily exercise out of the way, we were now ready to seek some wildlife. We came across crazy ducks. These ducks were chasing each other off for some potato chips. No kidding. There is another video where you can see the guy just dump the bag in the water.

More ducks from Michelle on Vimeo.

Just in case you can't see the video, here is a picture of the crazy ducks.

We also saw some random cats roaming the park. Or sleeping as the case may be.

And this...this was a black cat in our path. And yes...we did go the other way.

David didn't seem to mind the black cats or the crazy ducks. He looks like a pretty happy guy, no?

We had seen the fauna of the park. Time for the flora. There is a lovely rose garden, the Rosaleda. I love rose gardens. We also saw a lovely rose garden at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver and of course the lovely Lyndale Park rose garden here in Minneapolis. I took many, many rose pictures, but I think these yellow ones were my favorite.

Of course, I had to get a picture of me with the lovely roses. Feel free to leave comments about how I am as lovely as a rose. ha ha.

Then we headed over to the Crystal Palace. We couldn't go in because they were setting up some kind of exhibit, but some nice women took a picture of us in front of the fountain.

Then we saw this group of three musicians. I cannot resist an accordion! We dropped some money in their box and then I was taking some video and a photo and one of the musicians offered to get one with David and I. That led to the funny video below the picture. "it's on"

Music from Michelle on Vimeo.

And then....we went rowboating! There is a small "lake" in the park in which you can rent rowboats for 45 minutes and paddle around.

David did most of the rowing. That's the Monument to Alfonzo the 12th behind me there.

The monument comes complete with its own cats.

I did take a turn rowing as well. It was fun. The problem with a rowboat is you cannot see where you are going. Where is the sense in that?

We really had a great time. It was so relaxing, we went in circles, high-fived some guys hanging out on the monument, enjoyed the music from a saxophone player.

Eventually though, we had to leave the boat behind. We were almost out of the park when I remember I wanted to check out this pathway lined with statues.

Here is David imitating one of the statues. This is always fun to do when statues are involved.

And here is a closeup of that statue. Don't you think something looks amiss with his head? Like they took the head off a different statue and stuck it on this one?

Well, I think this post has gone on long enough. There is still the entire rest of the day, including lunch (!) to blog about. And the Flamenco! Oh, the Flamenco!