Arriving in Spain after so long in Cuba was like a dream come true. For the first time in our lives, we didn't have an OUNCE of jetlag. In spite of our sorry physical state, we headed straight out of the hotel after landing at around noon to explore this magnificent city. Luckily, our hotel (Intur Palacio San Martin) was cheap, beautiful, and very centrally located so we could walk everywhere.
In spite of the heat (at about 35 celcius) it was marvellous. There wasn't a drop of humidity, and the sun shone brightly, so all in all perfect weather. We left that afternoon with big plans, but unfortunately all we could manage was a trip to Starbucks (I know what you are thinking and you are all RIGHT!) and a trip to a fantastic little restaurant recommended to us by our friend's Andrew & Elle. We had a delightful gazpacho, and even managed a glass of Rioja - the most we had eaten in about 7 days.
The jetlag helped us two oldies to stay up past midnight (quite a feat for us!) and enjoy the Spanish evening which begin and end VERY LATE. When we left the restaurant well after midnight, the squares were absolutely packed with people drinking, eating, and generally enjoying the great weather of the evening. Inadvertently, we managed to walk into a little bar also rumoured to have been frequented by Ernest Hemingway... we didn't realise that our journey had turned into a "walking in the footsteps tour" but we can see why he loved it here!!
On our next day, we took it a bit easy again and just wandered around taking in the sights, sounds and smells that are this very regal city. Again, we weren't sure whether or not we LOVED this city or that we were so happy to be back in Europe that anything would have been perfect. I think it was a combination of both... but Madrid is a truly beautiful city. Arriving back here was arriving back to a sense of familiarity... and in spite of how fantastic our travels have been, we are very happy to be back in Europe!!
Again, that evening, we went out to a little cafe right next to the Opera. It turns out that this restaurant has a sister restaurant in Washington, DC where my family had taken me upon graduating from Georgetown, so it was quite a coincidence (as Jonathan had chosen it!) We looked out onto the Plaza and the Royal Palace. We watched as the sun dipped down about about 10:00... not actually getting dark until about 11! That meant it was time to have another go at food, and we found another great place that served Argentian steak for pennies... it was fabulous, as was the Rioja we tried!!
Our final day was very memorable...we rose early for the first time in order to get down to the Prado museum quite early. On my first visit to Madrid (In April 1993) we made a trip specifically to Madrid to visit this museum... we didn't realise that at Easter, everything closes including this museum.. a slight disappointment! However, that was all remedied this time round. We saw all of the brilliant paintings the museum is known for and really enjoyed ourselves thanks to our little audio tour!
However, no time for dawdling because we had to rush back to the Plaza Major to watch the announcement of the Olympics 2012 decision... Madrid was a candidate city and they were ready to celebrate if they were to win and we wanted to be part of it! The square was PACKED full of people and you could feel the tension as the minutes ticked away. London and Paris were also candidate cities... so you know where our allegiances were!! When the announcement came
After all the excitement, we opted for a nice lunch to enjoy the weather and some cold white Rioja... thrilled about the news, and also that we finally got our appetites back without our bodies rebelling!! A siesta later, and then we were off again for some early evening tapas and another lovely dinner....
Sadly, we leave tomorrow to head to Paris for U2 (at long last!!)... we are not quite ready to leave though, so we hope to be back soon to revitalise ourselves once again!!