Day 14 in Spain: Exploring Madrid

Considering the fact that these next two weekends will be dedicated to traveling in other cities, I decided to spend this past Sunday (yesterday) in Madrid to explore all that the city has to offer. In comparison to the US, I’d have to say that Madrid is like our New York City. There are so many people in this city, that one traveling alone in this huge city may possibly have no idea what to do with himself/herself. Luckily I was with a small group of friends, so I didn’t have to worry about the overpowering size of the surrounding environment, and was able to take in all the sights. Madrid is so fast-paced and everyone there is either running to or from work, running to or from home, running across the streets before the lights change colors, running around as crazy tourists trying to jam-pack their days and get in all the famous monuments, but wherever you turn, someone is running. Such a crazy city can really make ones head spin, but I tried to not let the living in the fast-lane mentality of Madrid get to me.

We started the day off by going to El Rastro, also known as the Thieves Market, because of all the pickpocketing that takes place here. The market was truly incredible! Anything you could possibly ask for, they had. Clothes, souvenirs, playing cards, collectors items, antiques, junk (in a few stands), toys, art; they literally had everything! The market is only open on Sundays from the morning until 2pm, so once the vendors started breaking down their stands, we headed over to our next destination, La Plaza Mayor. This central plaza, located in the heart of Madrid dates back to the 1500’s and has been reconstructed in the 1700’s due to various fires. Its history and beauty is truly breathtaking, and you’re always guaranteed to find street performers and entertainers close by to keep you on your feet.

Next stop on the list was the Mercado San Miguel, a market place right next to the Plaza Mayor. This market has private vendors, each of whom all sell different tapas, drinks, desserts, you name it. You literally walk from one food vendor to the next with pocket change and taste the incredible food that they offer. Once we sampled enough food to keep us satisfied for a while longer, we walked over to the Museo de Jamón, which is the Ham Museum, just a few blocks down the road. This museum offers a wide array of pork selections, and even though I don’t eat pork, everything looked great. I had the only non-pork item on the menu, which was chicken, which was good, but nothing worth writing any more about. After recharging ourselves, we walked over to the Parque del Retiro, which is an over 350-acre park that Spanish monarchs from back in the day used to spend time at, and entertain guests here. Various statues and monuments can be found throughout the park, and its beauty is truly mesmerizing. My friends and I enter a rowboat to further explore all that the park had to offer, and it was definitely refreshing considering the dry heat all around us in Madrid.

Finally, after making our way out of the park, we walked over to the Jardines del Museo del Prado, an incredible garden area by the Del Prado Museum, one of the most famous museums in the world. The gardens were amazing, as you can see in the pictures, but unfortunately, by the time we made it over to the museum, they were closed. However, it’s a great reason to come back to Madrid soon to check it out again! Not to mention, we found inexpensive tickets to a flamenco show and found out times for upcoming bullfights so you can count on another post about Madrid in the near future!

Spanish words of the day: mercado- market; cuánto cuesta- how much does it cost (singular); cuántos cuestan- how much do they cost (plural) — both useful when making a purchase or preparing to bargain with a street vendor