Spain
Madrid

Here you’ll find travel reports about Madrid. Discover travel destinations in Spain of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

189 travelers at this place:

  • Day23

    Toledo to Madrid

    July 20 in Spain

    Today we said goodbye to Toledo, stopped on our way out of town for one last photo and then drove to Madrid. We checked into our Airbnb in the centre of town at about 3.30pm. The traffic in the centre of Madrid was crazy. Our host could not believe we had brought a car into the centre of Madrid. She doesn’t even own a car and recommended that we get rid of ours too. I am already scheduled to return the car tomorrow.

    We walked around town to get our bearings. We found a supermarket close by to stock up on supplies.

    Sam had a quiet night in. I had planned to attend the bullfighting display in the Madrid bullring. There were young matadors, picadors and banderilleros putting on a bullfight during the summer while the more experienced bullfighters take a break. It was an interesting spectacle.
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  • Day24

    This morning I braved the crazy Madrid traffic to return the hire car. In some ways I was happy to return the car in one piece after braving the Madrid traffic, sitting on the left-hand side of the car, driving on the right-hand side of the road, and just to add a bit of spice, the far right lane in Madrid city centre is reserved for buses and taxis. The far right lane is the slow lane, my preferred lane in the circumstances, but that was unavailable to me, something which my Spanish compatriots on the road were equally frustrated about - they were all quite keen for me to move into the far right lane, something they regularly urged me to do by use of their loud honking horns. Also, turning right from the middle lane is something the buses and taxis are not keen for motorists to do, as it means cutting through their lane. I discovered that buses have much louder horns than cars, and taxis are even more ready to use their horns as well in such circumstances, as I discovered, having many right turns to make as I circled rather fruitlessly around the train station trying to find the hire car drop-off point. One-way streets are also something Madrid town-planners have embraced with enthusiasm disproportionate to their practicality. I am not sure the complete guidelines around their use was complied with in my driving experience this morning, although I am unsure I could pinpoint exactly where I went wrong. The Spanish were keen to give me hints about this, once again using their horns to maximum effect.

    The hire-car depot was in the huge Madrid Train Station, which is so large and filled with commuters and tourists coming in on the fast trains that it is more like an airport. It took me three hours just to drive to the station via a petrol station to fill up, find the appropriate location to return the vehicle, and then find my way back to the apartment. It was quite an ordeal, for me and the Spanish citizens who interacted with me for various purposes, including providing valuable feedback on my use of large roundabouts.

    As I walked back to the apartment I was sidetracked by quite a few fascinating sights and spectacles in Madrid. It was a Saturday so there were markets aplenty. One market I came across was just all bookstores selling second-hand books. There was a line of permanent wooden stalls that housed thousands of books in little stalls. It was amazing. Even though I can't read Spanish, and there wasn't an English book to be seen, the atmosphere was similar to the stalls on the walkway beside the Seine in Paris. I found a copy of Asterisk in Spain, in Spain, in Spanish.

    I also tried churros for the first time in Spain, having resisted until today. I ordered what I thought was going to be some churros with dipping sauce, but turned out to be churros completely covered with chocolate. A carb overload for sure. I was given a bag-full of them and I only just managed to finish them.

    Madrid is an entirely different kind of city from anything we have seen before in Spain. This is a much more modern city like Sydney or Melbourne. The crowds are packing into the city and its shoulder to shoulder. As our Airbnb hostess was keen and correct to emphasise - never bring a car into the centre of Madrid.
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  • Day24

    Segway Tour of Madrid

    July 21 in Spain

    I came across a shopfront in Madrid, on the way back to our apartment after dropping off the hire car, that organises and runs Segway tours of Madrid. I have seen plenty of them running around many of the other cities we have been to, but it seemed today was a perfect time, and Madrid a perfect place, to give these cute two-wheelers a go. I booked a 2-hour private tour via Segway at 6:30 pm and then returned to the apartment and told Sam. He was very keen, as was I.

    We arrived promptly at 6:30 pm to begin the tour. It doesn't get dark here till 10:00 pm so things are just getting started in Spain at 6:30 pm. We were given instructions on how to ride the Segway, and a guide named Irene (what is it with girl guides named Irene in this country? we have only had two young female tour guides and both of them have been named Irene) proceeded to lead us on a 2-hour journey around the most beautiful sites in Madrid.

    Our tour took us through the gardens which were once part of the Royal Palace. The gardens had a French area, a huge greenhouse and a massive lake. The greenhouse was for plants from the Philippines (named that after Philip the King of France at the time of colonisation) and the massive lake was for mini naval battles using full-size galleons for the entertainment of the king and the nobles.

    We spent about an hour through the gardens, then we went on a tour through some of the older areas of Madrid. We saw the impressive Royal Palace and the Cathedral on the opposite side of the square, both built in renaissance style. We also visited the Main Square which dates from the 15th century and used to be used for bullfights. Also, it was used by the Inquisition to execute convicted heretics - about 4000 were executed in that square alone over the years. Franco, the dictator on Spain from 1939 to 1975 also like to use the square for executions. There were places for hangings, beheadings and garrotings. The last garrotting took place in the square in 1975 (yes, only a little over 40 years ago) under the orders of Franco.

    Ernest Hemingway, the famous American writer who spent a lot of time in France and Spain, travelled to Spain and fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. He also watched many bullfights here in Madrid. His famous book, For Whom The Bell Tolls, is based on his experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He also wrote at least three books in which bullfighting plays a major part in the story, including Death In the Afternoon, and The Sun Also Rises. We saw the restaurants and cafes where Hemingway had a regular table and watched the Spanish day go by in the 1930s.

    We saw medieval prisons, the town hall, museums and concert halls, the world's oldest continually operating restaurant. I have visited at least three restaurants claiming to be the world's oldest, in various countries now, one in Paris, one in Vienna and now one in Madrid. The guide assured me that it was in the Guinness Book of Records so I will have to remember to consult it to verify the claim.

    The Segway Tour was a highlight. They are remarkably easy to control, despite them appearing very difficult to ride. They are very stable, extremely maneuverable, and quite speedy. I really thought these would be useful in Australian cities as an alternative to other modes of transport. They run on rechargeable batteries and go for at least 2-3 hours on each charge. I am not sure of the rules in Australia about their use, but I would presume the rule-makers and fun police would have outlawed them.
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  • Day25

    The Royal Palace

    July 22 in Spain

    The Royal Palace of Madrid was the next site to be explored. Spain currently has a monarchy - King Felipe VI. Spain has been through various versions of political constitution, including republic, dictatorship, monarchy. At the moment it is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. In that sense, Spain is like Australia (except our monarch is really the Queen of England). There are two strong views in Spain - one group say that the monarchy should be eradicated in favour of a republic, and the other support the king. One of our guides said that one day there will be another civil war to decide the matter. Obviously all the previous civil wars have not decided the matter satisfactorily, so I'm not sure what another civil war will achieve.

    The Royal Palace is not the permanent residence of the King and his family, although it is used for special state occasions. The royal family live outside Madrid in a more peaceful setting. The Royal Palace is now used for state events and a whole wing of the palace is open to tourists. This wing is furnished as it was in the 18th century in the reign of Carlos 111 (Spanish for Charles 111). The sumptuous palace and its rooms are magnificent. The artwork and furnishings on display are much like the other great palaces in Europe. In fact, this royal palace is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. It has 3418 rooms. If you visited 10 rooms a day, it would take a year to visit all the rooms!

    The throne room in which the king received ambassadors is furnished as it was. The visitors would wait in a smallish room, to get acquainted with their smallish status, and then enter the grand throne room where the king (and queen) would be seated, elevated, and surrounded by royal fabrics and statues of lions with their paws resting on carved spheres, representing the power of Spain over the earth.

    There was one thing on display that particularly caught my eye. In one room there is a full quintet of Stradivarius string instruments of the highest quality. It is the only such set in the world. They are on display in glass cases. There are two violins, a viola and a cello, all decorated the same. Then there is an additional undecorated cello that is the finest instrument of them all and one of the best in the world. I wasn't expecting that. With all the crowns and gold sceptres around, it was these instruments that held the most value from my perspective. It was tempting to break the glass case right there and do some busking. The instruments are all set up ready to play, and apparently they do get played on special occasions. These instruments would be priceless, but I would reckon the set would be worth more than 150 million dollars if it went onto the market right now.

    The Royal Palace is worth a visit for a number of reasons, not least of which is the collection of Stradivarius string instruments. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in most of the palace, so my photos are only those I could surreptitiously take when the security personnel weren't watching and they will be low quality.
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  • Day25

    The Royal Gardens are attached to the Royal Palace and are as impressive as would expect them to be. The largest palace in Europe is not going to be embarrassed by a small veggie patch and a few pot plants out the back. The formal gardens were huge and well kept. They were pleasant to stroll through and they are open for the Madrid residents and tourists to enjoy on the hot summer days.

    The Madrid Cathedral is very young as far as cathedrals are concerned. It was only completed in 1993, 110 years after the foundation stone was laid on 1883. When the capital of Spain moved from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the church remained in Toledo. The cost of running and maintaining an empire came first for the monarchy, and then some wars with France, civil wars and other costly ventures diverted funds from a project that was alwayd meant to happen, but just didn't for lack of funds. Finally the project was completed in 1993. The external design is classical to fit in with the architecture of the royal palace across the square, but the inside is neo-gothic, a bit more modern. There is also a large crypt which is the same size as the cathedral itself, underneath, which was completed many years ago and houses some famous Spanish graves.

    After visiting the cathedral and the crypt, it was time to wander back through the streets of Spain for our last night in this amazing country. Tomorrow we fly to Paris. It has been an whirlwind tour, and an amazing journey, around this unforgettable country. Grazias, Espania.
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  • Day25

    Prado Museum

    July 22 in Spain

    Today we explored some of Madrid's most amazing sites - the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Palacio Real de Madrid, the Madrid Cathedral and the Royal Gardens. These places are magnificent.

    The Prado Museum takes its name from the "meadow" (Spanish "prado") which once existed in the area gave its name to the location in which the museum now stands. It is one of the pre-eminent art museums in the world. It's collection rivals the Louvre. There are some huge paintings in the collection, and many fine works by artists such as Goya, Rubens, El Greco, Titian, Valezquez, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, just to name a few. We spent four hours there and still did not see everything. It was an amazing place. The artworks are breath-taking. One could just look and the giant paintings by Rubens in the main arched hall for hours and still see new things in them. One of the paintings that captured my imagination was a 16th-century painting called The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. It depicts life as a battle between the forces of death and life, and that death is winning the war and everyone living is, or is soon to be, a prisoner and casualty of death, who is depicted as a scythe-wielding skeleton on a horse leading an army of skeletons swamping the army of the living. It is very graphic, almost cartoonish, and difficult to believe it was painted in 1562.

    There are many famous paintings in the Prado, and around every corner, there were new amazing sights to be seen.
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  • Day20

    Burnt feet, Rapids and Dolphins

    July 17, 2017 in Spain

    The morning began with a buffet breakfast. Up until today I have chosen Adalia's food at a buffet, which I did this morning- fruit and a croissant. At this buffet however, they have a kids section which has a lower serving area. Adalia decided she wasn't happy with my selection and wanted to get her own food. She returned with a plate filled with bacon, chirros and chocolate biscuits!

    Then the moment Sammy had been waiting for was upon us, the whole trip was leading up to this day. Today we took the bus to Aquopolis water park!!!

    I am not a fan of water parks. Give me a rollercoaster over a water slide any day. They just don't seem safe, you have to get wet, probably sunburnt, and you walk around all day in your swimmers. Not my idea of fun. But Sammy (and Tom) love them.

    We have been to a Disney water park in Orlando and Atlantis water park in Dubai, we are seasoned water park adventurers. I was pretty sure a water park on the Golden Coast of Spain just wasn't going to compare.

    We got off the bus and immediately took a wrong turn which ended up being fortuitous. We found a tourism shop selling water park tickets cheaper than everywhere else, and you got an extra day free! (Plus a lolly pop for the kids). Now armed with tickets we launched into our day of water sliding fun.

    First impressions of the water park were making me wish I had stayed at home. It didn't have the glamour of Disney or Dubai, but Sammy was in heaven! Adalia immediately decided that everything looked too scary and wanted to stay in the kids section (which was impressive by Dubai and Disney standards). This was fine by me, except she would not move from my legs. She wouldn't play on any of the kids slides. I was getting cranky. Tom had run off with Sammy to have fun and I was spending my day standing in full sun with a child attached to me. At one point I picked her up, climbed some stairs and threw her down a slide. I was hoping that after she had done it once she might be happy doing it again. Instead she screamed at me. I was so glad for the defending noise at those places; hardly anyone noticed her.

    We put our shoes on and went in search of the boys. When we found them it wasn't hard to convince Sammy to play on the kids slides, and he lovingly encouraged Adalia to come with him. In less than two minutes she was comfortable on the equipment and eager to play.

    Tom convinced her to try the Rapids. We had done this in Dubai so we knew she would be fine. She was reluctant, but half way down she shouted "we need to do this again!" So we did...for the rest of the day. By the end she was going down backwards and wanting to go faster. Sammy gave me a break taking me on the "black hole" while tom rode the Rapids, but then it was back to the rapids for me.

    At 4pm there was a dolphin show. Turns out Adalia had never seen dolphins before. She asked what they were and was mesmerised with them! Tom and Sammy missed the beginning but came running in with burning hot feet part way through.

    I was feeling quite burnt by 4:30. So when Tom suggested we go to the beach I wasn't keen and opted for an early dinner. And....the kids actually had an earlish night!!!
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  • Day19

    The Ocean Beckons

    July 16, 2017 in Spain

    This trip has seen us continually moving to new and exciting destinations. It has been full of adventure and has taken us to places we have never been. However, doing so with two children is getting quite exhausting. We haven't seen nearly enough of Barcelona which is sad, but the Tom Schipilliti "follow me even though I have no idea where I am going" tour yesterday was great, and we saw many of the top tourist attractions by accident.

    Today we need to be on an 11am train. The kids were sleeping in which I didn't mind as I could scurry around packing and cleaning and Tom went to get croissants and baguettes for breakfast.

    When Sammy woke up he was excited to see that the tooth fairy had found him even though he was from Australia, had lost his tooth in France and was in Spain.(talk about a jet setter) And he was impressed that he received both an Australian dollar and an euro coin!

    I was ready to depart at 9:30. Unfortunately no one else was. By 10:30 we were only just leaving our room and we had admitted defeat. We could not make it to the train station in half an hour.
    But then Tom's "we're not late until the train doors are closed and even then I'll barge them open" mentality kicked in and we were abandoning our subway plans and searching frantically for a taxi.
    Even with a taxi I wasn't sure we would make it in time. At the station I raced to buy tickets while Tom strolled along. I frantically ran around looking for the platform while Tom moseyed to the information screens. Yes we bought the tickets in time, yes Tom found the right platform, but a little more panic from him may have lessened mine!
    We made the train with one minute to spare, and ran to the back of the train where there were less people sardining themselves in. Apparently there was a pick pocket aboard the train, thankfully I didn't notice him and he didn't notice my wallet!

    The taxi driver that drove us to our hotel was so much like Tom's Italian relative Nunsia. She was hilarious, wanting to chat with us in basic Spanglish. My favourite line was that if she were in Australia for 40 degree heat she would go caput!

    We arrived at the hotel but couldn't check in for another hour, so we sat in the lounge area watching the tour, using the free wifi and consoling Adalia who was teary at the thought of me dying (I don't know why she is thinking such thoughts, but nice to know she loves me)

    Once we had our room keys, the afternoon was spent with the kids and Tom in the pool, I did some washing, then a couple of hours at the beach. At the beach there are paddle boats for hire that have a slide into the water! Sammy thinks we might need to hire one. Adalia meanwhile entertains herself by giving me a salt scrub; completely covering my skin in sand!

    As usual our good intentions for an early night evaporate, as we found ourselves dining at 8pm in an Oz family restaurant/ Top one style dining room that is included with our accommodation. The kids are happy, there are hot chips, pizza and watermelon with ice cream for dessert. And I don't mind that my kids have eaten nearly an entire watermelon as it has been days since they have eaten any fruit!
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  • Day2

    Day 2 - Exploring Madrid

    September 11, 2017 in Spain

    First full day in Madrid! We got a much needed 11 hours of sleep then ventured out for a long day. Started with pastries at the famous La Mallorquina where I had the best croissant of my life! Next, we walked for miles, hitting some of the top tourist attractions of the capital - Museo Del Prado, the Royal Palace of Madrid, and the Plaza Mayor for lunch. Early evening siesta and then tapas and vino!Read more

  • Day21

    Spanish TV and Ferraris

    July 18, 2017 in Spain

    Our intention was to hit the water park again. I woke up feeling under the weather (some may say suffering from heat exhaustion) and I wasn't keen to spend the day back out in the sun. Thankfully we had a couple of days left in Spain and could be a little flexible. So we had an easy morning, called our families and Tom took the kids to the beach.

    Our new plan was to spend the afternoon at Ferrari world. All the online reviews had slammed this new theme park saying there was nothing to do there and every ride had long queues, so we figured an afternoon there would be ample time.

    Unfortunately by the afternoon I was still feeling pretty unwell. Tom reluctantly left me at home with Adalia, and my boys set of for a father son Ferrari world adventure.

    Poor Adalia spent most of the day watching the Spanish kids chanel (all in Spanish). I took her to the pool, but the only shaded seats were at the deep pool. I told her to stay near the edge, but after seeing the dolphin show the day before she wanted to do dolphin tricks. The poor lifeguard, at one point she genuinely looked as though she were drowning, and this moment happened to coincide with me feeling guilty for not sitting on the pool's edge, so I was taking my clothes off and perhaps it looked like I was preparing to rescue her. He jumped up and ran over. So I made Adalia come and sit with me for a while.

    The boys came home an hour later than planned. And their experience matched the reviews. Rides kept braking down and there wasn't heaps to do. But they still had a great time together, and loved the things they did do. I asked Sammy if he loved his boys day and he replied "I wished you were there mum, dad wouldn't come on the big rollercoaster with me." I didn't want to burst his bubble and tell him I probably wouldn't have gone on it either. It reached 180 km/h in 5 seconds!!!

    We couldn't face another night at the very ordinary hotel buffet, so we ventured out to a pizza restaurant which was pretty good and cheap (bonus!). We got home just in time for the buffet ice cream cones.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Madrid, Madryt

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