The third part of my Easter trips saw Laura and I getting up at 5am to cross the city and catch the AVE from Joaquin-Sorrolla station, heading to Madrid-Puerta de Atocha. The AVE is basically Spain’s answer to Japan’s bullet train, with a maximum speed of 300kph it links Spain’s east coast to the capital in just under 2 hours.
(295kph, I fell asleep afterwards!)
Arriving at 8:30 we caught the metro towards the centre and (tried to) find our Wimdu apartment. When we finally found the right street, and the right door, and called the right number, a voice answered and told us that instead of calling the fifth floor we should have called the second floor. While we were frantically trying to find the email to see if we had confused the floor, the voice came back on the intercom asking if I was Sam and then told us to go up to the fifth floor. hmm…
After leaving the suitcases in the flat, we heading to the Puerta del Sol, which was five minutes away from the flat. We saw a few tour guides in various parts of the square and decided to take the free tour, which is a tour without a fixed price, where at the end you decide what “tip” to give the guide. We walked for kilometres following him, starting at kilometro 0, the point from where all of the roads in the peninsula branch out, and the various things that he show and taught us, before stopping halfway through the tour to try (FOR FREE! free alcohol still gets my student heart racing) the traditional licor made from the berries of the madroño tree. He also told us a story about the clocks, which instead of having the IV to symbolise 4, had IIII, which was, according to him, because a Swedish clock maker messed up and was executed, prompting other European clock makers to make the same mistake on person as a sign of solidarity. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the weekend looking at all of the clocks I could find to see if they had cuatro palos. The tour ended with him nearly killing an old lady when he accidentally knocked his water bottle off of the parapet overlooking the garden… oops!
He also showed us the oldest restaurant in the world, along with various other bakeries, hotels and pharmacies which had been open for 100 years or more, for which the town hall had installed gold plaques on the floor outside their entrances.
Afterwards it was time for a bit of shopping on Gran Vía, Madrid’s version of Oxford Street, including a visit to the superhuge Primark store… Then it was time for the reason that we had come to Madrid in the first place…
El Rey León! WOW. It was just amazing, especially the first song where they just exploded onto stage, I spent the whole 2.5 hours with goosebumps. Even though it was prohibited to take photos I still snuck some in right at the end… sorry not sorry.
Saturday we spent the day running around Madrid under our umbrella and waiting in MASSIVE queues to enter both the palacio real (also banned to take photos, also took one in secret) where we saw the letter the previous rey sent to the presidente when he abdicated, and the prado art gallery, along with the Parque Retiro, with the glass palace and the Velázquez palace and the first ever statue of a horse rearing up with a king on top, which according to the free tour guide the day before, was entirely hollow except for its backside and tail, in order to stop it from falling over.
We then walked back to the apartment passing by the Congreso, stopping in a 100montaditos to have an ice cream because I’m an Englisher in Spain, and even if it’s raining tourists need ice cream right??
And on one final note, I’VE HANDED IN MY YEAR ABROAD RESEARCH PROJECT, finally the torture is over and I can relax and enjoy the last months of my year abroad!