Day 14 - Thursday, April 6, 2017 - Explore and Contrast Old and New Madrid; Optional Tour of Segovia
Thank goodness for a good night's sleep. The energy of the group was back up again when we met at 9:00 for another beautiful day, this time in a huge city, Madrid.
Alberto, our local guide, began our visit to the capital. Our hotel was located right in the heart of the city and the theater district. He reminded us that Madrid became the capital of Spain in 1561.
Once a medieval city, Madrid was reinvented to expand the main thoroughfares with wide avenues and boulevards. It is a very green city with over 30% of the area devoted to parks and green spaces.
The old palaces have now been transformed into apartments that are generally owned by the residents. Many of the most beautiful are now museums, embassies, and exclusive offices.
Shops in the city opened at 10:00 and we saw all of the classic brands as well small privately owned cafés. The buildings were generally graffiti free.
We got off of the bus and walked through the Retiro Park, once the Royal Gardens. Now the Central Park of Madrid, the park is so large that the whole city of Toledo could fit inside of the acreage.
Many fountains, small lakes, and flowerbeds made this a popular place for joggers, dog walkers, and families that use the park on a daily basis. The grounds crew was busy trimming trees and watering the newly transferred bedding plants.
After an hour's stroll in the park, we walked back through another of the entrances to meet Rikardo and Luis and to get back on the bus. We went directly to the parking garage and then said goodbye to Luis. He will drive the bus back to Lisbon for another tour.
We continued our walk to the Royal Palace and Alberto told us about the royal family and the relationship they have with the public of Spain. We made our way to Mercado de San Miguel, the local inner city fresh produce market.
Rikardo took us for another Learning and Discovery to an olive vendor. The display cases were filled with a variety of toothpicks with olives stuffed with cheese, meats, and vegetables. We were able to choose the pincho (tapas on a stick) we wanted and Rikardo paid the bill.
From there we walked to the Plaza Mayor and then to the Plaza Del Sol where we ended the walking tour and thanked Alberto. The group dispersed for lunch on our own and we found a small but busy shop for a chicken and vegetables wrap.
At 2:00 we left the hotel again for our optional afternoon excursion to Segovia, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Again everyone went together with a new driver, Alfonso, and a 22-passenger bus. The ride over the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains took about an hour and thirty minutes.
We met Mariano our local guide who told us of the city beginning with an explanation of the magnificent Roman aqueduct built over 2,000 years ago. The water way was 16 kilometers or 12 miles long. The gentle slope of 1 degree brought water from the mountains to the hilltop castle of El Alcazar.
We climbed to the castle, a medieval fortress where 22 Spanish kings lived and ruled. The castle is furnished in the style of the monarchs with an extensive collection of armor from the middle ages.
After visiting the town, the aqueduct, El Alcázar (the fortress castle), and taking a gazillion photos, we left Segovia at 6:30. The drive back to Madrid took another two hours as we got into the rush hour traffic.
Our driver told us that tomorrow begins the Holy Week vacation for the schools. People were coming home from work and families were leaving for vacations. The city was unusually congested.
Dinner was not included so in keeping with the Spanish customs at 8:30 we went out to a small tapas bar, TXAPELA, for a light dinner. The bar was alive and well and the meal was delicious.
We walked along the busy streets and finally got home at 10:30 – a late night out for us! Tomorrow will be a day on our own so we do not have an early wake up call. We have Madrid to ourselves.
More about the city:
Madrid, like New York never sleeps, it has everything, stunning architecture, scenery, nightlife, celebrations, terrific weather, flamenco, great food and wines. The famous football (soccer) club, Real Madrid begun in 1895, is one of the richest and successful clubs in the world.
Accommodations: Emperador Hotel - - - Meal: B
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The Olive Pinchos look delicious! The Roman aqueducts are always amazing. What builders they were! Enjoy a perhaps more relaxing day tomorrow in Madrid!
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