Across from the Royal Palace in Madrid is the Plaza de Oriente. It’s a beautiful garden with majestic rows and paths for strolling around. Later in my trip, I would learn a few funny secrets about this park. The numerous statues in the park were meant to go along the roof of the Palace. However, the statues were too heavy! So they placed them throughout the garden. If you look closely you’ll notice that they aren’t top quality sculptures, with random chips and unfinished details, because the artists didn’t plan for people to see them up close!
Another interesting story I would learn was about the statue of a king on a horse in the park. It’s a large impressive bronze statue of a man on a horse with his 2 front legs in the air. If you look at the statue and think about it you’ll notice that the only part of the statue touching the base are the horse’s two hind legs.
This statue was built for a king who no one liked, but the kind wanted an impressive statue so maybe people would think differently of him. So he insisted on having the horse up in the air… but the artist had issues. The statue kept falling forward…. even hollow it was to heavy and off balance. So they called in some brain power… Galileo! Galileo came up with the genius idea to make the back half of the horse solid bronze and the front half hollow. And now we have an impressive statue of an unpopular king!
I stuck my camera through the fence to get a nice shot of the palace. Someone told me this palace is bigger than Versailles, but I didn’t really believe them. It’s big, but it’s hard to tell if it’s really that big?
If you turn around from the Royal Palace Gate, you face the Cathedral. It’s not the most impressive Cathedral, but it does have interesting murals on the building and doors that are worth checking out.
I assume this is the royal crest that I took a picture of. It’s very pretty stonework.
I turn to leave and notice the morning light shining into the lonely courtyard between the Palace and the Cathedral. I headed down Calle Mayor towards my hostel and stopped over at the Mercado de San Miguel. The market is a beautiful iron and glass historic structure. My lonely planet book mentioned that Anthony Bourdain had been there on his show.
I checked out the beautiful fruit stands and grabbed a cafe con leche to go.
|One in, One out|
|3 planes in a row off to who knows where?|
|Coming in for a landing|
|Oopsy I moved the camera, but it looks cool, right?|
The next destination of our trip was Madrid. It was kind of rainy in France and I wanted to move on and find good weather. So the next day we went down to the train station to figure out when we should go. There was a train leaving in an hour that would connect me to the high speed Renfe train in Spain at the border.
The high speed train cost the same as a plane ticket! But I was excited to get there and decided I didn’t care about the cost… 100+ euros…
|Expensive Fancy Fast Renfe Train… with a movie in Spanish, thanks for the free headphones I guess?|
Nicole on the other hand, was not going to cave on the price and decided to wait in France for the super cheap overnight train.
I raced back to the hotel, grabbed my backpack and ran back to the train station to board my train. It was a regular train to the Spain border, then I transferred to a regular Spanish train and then in Barcelona I went through airport level security and boarded the high speed train.
At this point, I probably should have stayed in Barcelona for a couple days. But Nicole was flying out of Madrid in three days, and I wanted to spend the last few nights together. What I didn’t know was that Nicole would be sick the last two days and would stay in most of the time.
|Mediterranean view from Spanish train|
But it turns out Madrid is not a bad spot to spend a week. I arrived at the Madrid train station around sunset. I had a reservation at a hostel near the Puerta del Sol and I decided to walk since the weather was so nice. But it was a Sunday, and the closer I got to my hostel, the more and more crowded the sidewalks became. Turns out, Spanish families walk around the shopping districts on Sunday evenings. And particularly this week was very busy, because it was a week full of holidays for them.
|Pretty Circle outside Madrid train station|
Eventually, at a snails pace I made it to my hostel, where I was put in a five person dorm by myself! Sweet! I got settled and headed out for tapas and sangria! The streets were super packed, but I was super hungry and 20 pounds lighter without my backpack, so I quickly zigged and zagged until I found an empty shrimp shop.
|Puerta Del Sol Christmas Tree|
I walked in and they had a pretty menu written on a wall of mirrors. One of the guys spoke english and he kindly walked me through my options. I went for a full plate of prawns and multiple glasses of the sweet house red wine.
Within minutes of chugging my first wine, while waiting for my prawns, the shop filled up with hungry groups of people. I was watching the people at the bar, peeling their shrimp and throwing the shells into a little gutter along the foot of the bar. It reminded me of the olive pit spitoons in Venice.
|Prawns and Wine at my cute standing table.|
I was utterly stuffed after my plate of prawns, but I wandered on to find a glass of sangria. I found another empty bar and sat down near a girl that was also by herself. She said hello in English and asked if I spoke English.
I was excited as always to find someone who spoke English and we sat together and chatted. She was a doctorate student from England and she said she spends a lot of time in Spain for whatever her thesis was. We chatted for a while until I explained I was tired and said good night.
I went back to my nice solo room and enjoyed my bed next to the radiator.