Madrid was the first stop on our trip to Spain. Centrally located with reasonable airfare landed it atop the batting order. From Madrid to Barcelona, Barcelona to Ordesa National Park in the Pyrenees and finally on to the food capital of the world, San Sebastian (return flight from nearby Bilbao).
My wife and I traveled here with some close friends after their wedding. The trip was quickly coined Luna de Miele (loosely honeymoon?). We stayed at an excellent bed and breakfast called Abracadabra B&B just a block or so away from the Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor. Breakfast was great and the rooms were quiet and well kept. Highly recommended.
We hit some of the key tourist spots such as the Palacio, Plaza Mayor, Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum. Intersting stuff but I wasn’t blown away by any of these sights. Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia was memorable. The claustrophobic outdoor El Rastro street market and the Mercado San Miguel were the must sees. My first taste of Jamon Iberico as well as other small bites at the Mercado will be planted in my memory for years to come (I admittedly appreciate food more than paintings and sculpture). The sheer size and volume of people at El Rastro was unforgettable. The streets were flooded with shoppers, entertainers and storekeepers. Just about anything could be found on sale. I recall a specific tent specializing in VHS tapes and another with casettes.
Jamon aside, Madrid was my first shot at quite a few traditional Spanish dishes/styles. Papas Bravas, Paella, and Tapas to note a few. Our most memorable moments came from bar hopping and savoring a variety of small dishes along the way. Rioja wine also made quite a few appearances.
Madrid is a great starting point to get over some jet lag and start to experience Spain. Variety of experience but relaxed. Major sites all within walking distance of Plaza Mayor. Fewer tourists than Barcelona. Some sightseeing and bar hopping here should satisfy just about anyone.
Next post: Barcelona