Today was (mostly) consumed by a lengthy walking tour of central Madrid (with a wonderful pair of guides) followed by free time (spent geocaching and walking home in the rain) and a late-night tapas feast.
Naturally Southern Man rose at first light for some pre-breakfast geocaching...
Another "travel bug" destined to visit caches and Spain and then return. This one contains some of the ashes of a beloved family member and one of her children has arranged for her to see the world, in a matter of speaking. Norma will return to Southern State and rejoin her family at the end of the trip. This particular cache was near Comillas Pontifical University, a private Catholic university.
After breakfast we got busy with the guided tour. And oh the places we went!
Admittedly, some of these were pretty quick passes. But our tour guide (accompanied by her brother) was a spellbinding storyteller and she related much of the history behind what we visited today.
- Royal Palace of Madrid - official residence of the Spanish royal family
- Plaza de Oriente - a statue-lined plaza just east of the Royal Palace
- Plaza de Villa - a small plaza southeast of the Royal Palace
- Teatro Real - a major opera house
- Plaza Mayor - a famous plaza in central Madrid that is home to a possibly haunted statue
- Puerta del Sol - another famous plaza, near Plaza Mayor
- Almudena Cathedral - the Catholic cathedral in Madrid
- Church of San Ginés - one of the oldest churches in the city
- Basilica of San Miguel - a baroque Roman Catholic church
- Plaza de Puerta Cerrada - there are a lot of plazas in Madrid
- Santa Cruz Palace - a baroque palace that now houses government ministry offices
- Plaza de Santa Ana - named after a monastery, not a Mexican dictator
- Teatro Español - the oldest theater in Madrid
- Barrio de la Letras - an area in Madrid that contains (among other things) the Plaza Santa Ana and Teatro Español
- Prado Museum - the national art museum of Spain
- Reina Sofia Museum - national museum of 20th-century art
- Thyssen Museum - another major art museum that completes the "Golden Triangle of Art"
- Neptune Fountain - one of many in Europe
- Cibeles Palace and Fountain - the symbols of the City of Madrid
- Gran Via - the street that never sleeps
- Metrpolis Building - a famous commercial building on the Gran Via
- Parque el de Retiro - an enormous, beautiful park with many sculptures and fountains at the center of the city
- Paseo del Prada - a wide, beautiful tree-lined street that runs by the park
- Crystal Palace - a stunning glass and iron building in the park
Our tour guide (Celia, near the center) and her brother (Guillermo, behind her). Southern Man talked with Guillermo for a couple of hours over lunch and both joined us later for the feast.
The Plaza Oriente is lined with these unsettling statues, with crude features and odd proportions. They were designed for placement on the upper level of the Royal Palace (and would thus be viewed from below and from a distance) but were removed to give the palace a more classical appearance and placed in this plaza. Photo from Google Images.
The oldest continuously-operating restaurant in the world - Casa Botin, since 1725. They proudly display a "Guinness Book of World Records" certificate in their front window.
Food prep. Those are whole pigs on platters there on the shelf.
A peek into the wine cellar.
Statue of Filipe III in Plaza Mayor.
The statue has an interesting history. When it was toppled by vandals as a symbol of the Spanish monarchy the statue broke open and thousands of tiny bones spilled to the ground. The superstitious vandals immediately ceased their destruction, fearing the bones were sent by the spirit of the king to guard his statue. It was found that a small hole in the statue allowed birds to enter, but they could not find their way back out and their bones accumulated over the centuries. The hole was sealed when the statue was repaired.
And Southern Man's technological issues were resolved; the phone finally got to where it would pick up GPS satellites (sometimes) so the caching apps would work (occasionally) and his debit card finally allowed him to withdraw some cash (without a call to the bank). So Southern Man was a happy camper with Euros in his pocket and geocaches waiting to be found.
He was caught by a rainstorm while caching near Retiro Park and by this time his right leg (formerly broken and sporting a massive blister) was throbbing from the knee down so he hobbled back to the hostel and showered and rested a bit. And then we walked (more walking!) to a nearby venue for the feast.
It is possible that tapas - the custom of serving a small food dish with wine - was "invented" by King Alfonso X, a name familiar to Southern Man as the sponsor of the astronomical Alfonsine Tables. There are several stories about King Alfonso and tapas. One is that while Alfonso was recovering from an illness, a servant brought him a glass of wine covered with a piece of ham to keep windblown sand out of the drink. Another is that Alfonso wished to encourage his workers to eat actual food at lunchtime (as opposed to only drinking) and passed a law stating that drinks must be served with a small snack or "tapas." Either way, it's a fine tradition.
The feast was delicious and loud (many pitchers of wine and beer were consumed and the volume increased proportionally to the alcohol consumption) and great fun and then right when Southern Man was thinking about leaving one of male students (in other words, a roommate) had a minor medical issue and our coordinator put him and Southern Man in a taxicab back to the hostel and Southern Man got his roommate settled in and then (having outraced the others) jumped on the laundromat to wash clothes and update the blog. So in a few moments Southern Man will be settled into bed with an updated blog and a duffel bag full of clean warm clothes, ready for tomorrow's 7:00 am bus ride to Córdoba.