Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My First Day in Madrid

When I arrived in Philadelphia Wednesday evening I had about an hour and a half to find the gate for my connecting flight. My NOLA flight had landed in terminal C while my Spain flight was departing from terminal A. It must have been at least a two mile walk from one to the other. My knee had become stiff on the first flight and I thought that the trek across the airport would help, but that wasn't the case. I had worn my cowboy boots on the plane so they wouldn't add weight to my suitcase and they were starting to bother me because I hadn't worn socks. Of course I hadn't expected to go on a hike either. The signs in the airport were a little confusing as the language was different from what I was actually looking for. Fortunately there was an information desk along the way where I was able to find out I was headed in the right direction. I got to the gate and checked in and made a few phone calls home, something I wasn't going to be able to easily do until the next time I was in that same airport nearly two weeks later. When I boarded the plane there were lots of empty seats so it was easy to get comfortable as people began spreading out. Dinner was decent and I elected not to spend $5 on a headset since I had brought my MP3 player along. I eventually tried my earbuds with the in-flight entertainment system and discovered I could only get sound through one channel, but it was better than nothing. The flight itself was pretty uneventful aside from a little turbulence here and there though it was a little weird flying over the ocean in the dark and not having any concept of what time of day it was. After a time I could see dark blue through the windows on one side of the plane and a lighter shade of blue on the other. I arrived in Madrid around 8:00 in the morning. Temperatures were in the thirties but I was prepared for it as I had brought along a sweater/coat and carried it with me on the plane. It had actually come in quite handy as a blanket during the flight. I made my way through the airport and customs fairly easily by trusting my instincts and just following everyone else getting off the plane, retrieved my baggage and stepped out of the terminal to find my traveling companion for the next twelve days eagerly waiting. We made our way over to the parking area and stowed my stuff in the rental car and set off for the hotel in downtown Madrid. After checking in we took a stroll around the area. We happened upon the opera house, which was practically around the corner from the hotel, (we had originally planned to see Salome but there were no tickets available) the Plaza de Oriente and the Royal Palace of Madrid. I was hungry after not having eaten in several hours so we ended up at a nice little place called Cafe Vergara. One of the things I am going to miss the most about Spain is that in most places when you order orange juice it is almost always freshly squeezed right then. For breakfast I had a slice of tortilla (sort of a Spanish omelet/pie without a crust made with potatoes and eggs) served with a cold piece of bread and juice. (Options are often limited when you don't eat meat and it's even harder to order if you don't speak the language.) We walked around a bit more after eating and passed through the Plaza Mayor before going back to the area by the Palace and Opera House. Of course I took pictures at every turn. Forget about everything being bigger in Texas; everything's way bigger (and more ornate) in Spain! It seems there are monuments, scultpures and/or fountains every where you look in Spain. We walked around again; there was a long line to get in to the Palace and since my companion didn't want to wait, we didn't go in. I took a bunch of pictures of the outside of the Palace and adjacent Cathedral Museum as well as the Plaza de Oriente and then we walked around some more. We stopped for coffee at El Cafe de La Opera near the hotel for cafe con leche and discovered there was a restaurant attached which had live performances of operatic selections at dinner (fixed menu). We then walked back to the hotel to relax for a while until lunch time. Most of the buildings in Spain are quite old and were built before elevators I suppose that is why when elevators were added there was not much space for them and they had to be completely utilitarian resulting in little mirrored boxes barely large enough for one person to enter with a standard sized suitcase and a carry on. It is actually posted inside that the maximum capacity is four persons. Of course I had to take a picture of the elevator at the Tryp Ambassador. For lunch we went to the Taberna del Alabardero which is located in the same area as the opera house (I learned the word alabarda means spear). I started off with a pleasant Albarino and a variety of interesting tapas (more on this later) followed by Paella de Mariscos (seafood). The paella was a little disappointing. It was a little drier than what I am used to and it didn't have much flavor and had been cooked ahead of time and reheated. After lunch we crossed the Plaza de Oriente once more to have a look at the rest of the sculpture in the gardens and went over to see the Jardins de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens) along side the Palace followed by more walking and of course more photo taking. I love the way that architectural ornament is so prominent in Spain. From iron work to doors and building facades to the layout of some sidewalks, the entire country is like a large elaborately decorated museum. I filled up a bunch of SD cards and ran through dozens of batteries on this trip. Many of the photos I never actually saw until I got back. Coming soon... Ribeira del Duero

1 comment:

Christine Zibas said...

I love the gardens and the outdoor sculpture! You got some great photos, and I can't wait to read and see more!