Wednesday, June 17, 2009

spain: day six (off to madrid)

the cab came for us at 5am, when it was still dark outside. we ate a light breakfast at barcelona el prat and watched the sun come up as we waited for our plane. the flight was short - when we arrived in madrid an hour or so later we hopped on the metro and took it to the puerta del sol stop, which put us in the heart of madrid's central square. our first moments in this city were pretty overwhelming: the square was bustling with people and construction, it was noisy and disorienting, and we were running on three hours of sleep. we got our bearings fairly quickly, though, and started walking down calle mayor in the direction of our hotel.

naturally, we couldn't check in yet, so we left our bags with the friendly and energetic front desk guy and went exploring. the day was sunny and warm. we headed away from puerta del sol, towards the royal palace. we admired it from the outside, though, because (a) we were just too tired and (b) it was packed with locals that day (wednesdays are free for locals).

it was close to 9:30, and our tummies were growling, so we started looking around for some food... but to our surprise, there was almost nothing open (we were quickly learning that life in spain just doesn't start until 10am)! we happened upon a restaurant that was just opening for the day, and we went in. the menu posted outside listed 20 or so scrambled egg dishes, but when we tried to order one, the waitress looked at us like we were absolutely insane (scrambled eggs for breakfast?! preposterous!!!). apparently, those were lunch or dinner meals - i don't know. regardless of how offended spain might be, however, we ate our scrambled egg dish and went on our happy way.
on the way back, we stopped at a supermarket for a few little snacks. there was a room ready for us when we got back to our strange little hotel. it was a really cute room, and a good size... but it had... an interesting smell. it wasn't awful, but it wasn't pleasant, either. luckily we had open-able windows and a nice view of the city. we took a few hours to just relax, check our email, watch a little bit of tv, and take a siesta.

after siesta, we showered and headed over towards the prado. still a little groggy, we stopped at a starbucks (i know! i am disappointed in us too!) for some caffeine and a sandwich. we got to the museum at 6:00 (it's free from 6-8pm), and hit the highlights - goya, velazquez, rubens, titian... of course, las meninas stole the show, and it was everything i'd imagined it would be (even though i'd never really imagined i'd ever see it!).

we left the museum as it was closing and roamed around a bit until we found a lovely little tapas place nearby where we enjoyed a lovely little dinner and a lovely little drink. from there we took a little while finding our way back to calle mayor, wandering along little side streets and just looking at everything. i wanted to look at each and every street sign - they're all made of ceramic tile and painted with the street name and an illustration (from the days when most people couldn't read).
our hotel was right across the street from plaza mayor, so instead of going straight to our room, we stopped at the charming 17th-century square. it was getting dark outside, that perfect time of day when the sky is still just barely lit up by the last little bit of the day's sun. a lively combination of musicians and entertainers and tourists and locals gave the cobblestoned plaza a certain care-free energy. the statue in the center of the square and the buildings around it were lit beautifully... we got some gelato for dessert and soaked up the romantic atmosphere for a little while before heading up to our hotel room for some much-needed sleep.

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