This is the second part of our walking tour of Madrid’s city center. In the first part (last week’s blog), we visited La Puerta del Sol, La Plaza Mayor, and ate churros y chocolate. Now in part 2 we continue to follow our tour guides (my friend Plácido and his lovely family) towards El Palacio Real, The Royal Palace, in downtown Madrid. Everything is within a few blocks, making this tour manageable on foot, even in the hot July sun.
With regards to the palace, I truly appreciate the royalty who wanted to create a palace that rivaled France’s Versailles right in the heart of Madrid. Maybe at that moment in time it wasn’t smack-dab in the middle of the city, but at least this royal family wanted to be closer to the action. As tourists, we thank you, hundreds of years later.
It is now fully midday. And like cows in a sunny meadow, people congregate in the shade. We excuse ourselves to cross through the enormous line for entrance tickets (We don’t even consider entrance into the palace! There is no time.). We sit for a few minutes in the shade of the cathedral, facing the palace. We take some photos, struggling for the correct lighting in the sun and shade.
We take in the sight of the palace and then decide to stroll through the cathedral, in whose shadow we are somewhat cooling off. Aren’t those cathedrals chilly inside? I hope so. There is no line and no fee, so we head inside.
People are shushy inside the cathedral. We walk around in a slow perimeter, craning our necks to catch a glimpse of the artwork on the soaring gothic ceilings and stained glass windows. It’s only a bit cooler, but enough to give us a break. I take some photos, we walk around whispering. This is my kids’ first visit to a European cathedral (old world, enormous, elaborate, beautiful). It has a distinct feel from any church they have ever seen.
We exit the cathedral and after a short distance we find ourselves in front of the Royal Theater. There is a garden between the theater itself and the palace so my husband takes a few photos while the rest of us stand in the shadow of the theater building, planning the remainder of our route.
“Plácido says, “Why don’t we get a nice cold drink before we have to head home?”
“Oh!” I interject. “One last thing before I forget. I want to take a photo in front of the statue of the bear and the tree. Is it far?”
“That statue was back in the Plaza Del Sol! The first place we stopped!” he exclaims.
“Oh no! But…wait. The Plaza del Sol? I didnt see it.” I say, reflecting on our time in the first Plaza. It seems like we were there days ago, not hours.
“It’s actually quite a small statue,” Marí points out. “It was off to the side not far from where we were.”
“Well could we go back?” I ask, unsure of our exact location. Nobody in our group has consulted a map this whole day. I am terrible at navigation so I don’t have a sense if it’s on the other side of the city or just around the corner.
“Of course we can go back,” our ever pleasant guides agree. It turns out we are just around the corner.
We return to the Plaza Del Sol, and we realize that we missed the bear and the tree by maybe 50 feet. Fortunately, the churros have sustained our energy enough for a few more photos.
By now, though, we are weary of the sun and the walking. Our tour day ends with cold drinks at an outdoor café, followed by a metro ride that returns us to our low-key, non-tourist neighborhood.
We thank our hosts and part ways. We will see them again before leaving Madrid but at the moment we feel our fatigue creeping up on us. We stop to gobble up ham sandwiches at El Museo de Jamón, a restaurant specializing in Spanish ham (which also calls itself a museum). We are spent from the walking and the sun.
We finally stagger into the apartment—we are elated and spoiled to enjoy the cool air-conditioning—and collapse onto beds and couches. We are now ready for the famous Spanish siesta. Within five minutes the whole family is asleep.
Thank you for tuning into my Madrid day. More day trips from our recent trip to come. Tune in next week for Valencia!