I’d never been to Spain so I was looking forward to our trip to Madrid. Spanish, after all, was the first foreign language I was exposed to as a girl.
D and I arrived in Madrid during what seemed to be a heat wave. The plains around the city were brown and dry leaving me to wonder whether fires were an issue during the summer. I admit that I appreciated the lack of humidity after the stuffy heat we experienced in Toronto. And boy, was it hot! I think it reached 40°C leaving me to weigh my options: stay inside with the air conditioner on; or take on the heat and see a little of this marvellous city.
I love a challenge and as this was my first time in Spain I wasn’t going to let a little heat stand in my way. It was worth it. Madrid is a beautiful city and it’s easy to get around on foot as a lot of her historic buildings are within walking distance of each other. I had a half-day to myself while D attended his business meeting. My first stop was Plaza de Cibeles.
The streets leading to the plaza were either partially or completely blocked for the Pope’s visit for World Youth Day 2011. This made it easier to cross the streets but I still had to be on my toes as cyclists and other pedestrians had taken over the streets. (The streets were packed mainly with young people from all over the world. I think the French kids were, by far, the loudest.)
From the plaza I took Alcalá street towards the Metropolis building.
As I hadn’t thought to take a map with me my sightseeing turned into aimless wandering. Around every street corner I found something to gawk at or to photograph.
But Madrid, like the rest of Spain, isn’t just about her historical buildings. I’m talking about tapas and jamón. On our first night in Madrid, D and I went up to the hotel’s rooftop bar for a bite and a pre-dinner drink. Along with our flutes of champagne we selected two different plates of tapas: smoked salmon and Iberian ham. In a word: delicious. I am a huge fan of smoked salmon but that night it was all about the ham. It was tasty and tender and I could have spent the night eating those not-so-little toasts.
The following night we found a restaurant, El Mercado de la Reina, courtesy of one of D’s clients. The restaurant is on Gran Via across the street from our hotel De las Letras H&R. The restaurant is divided into three distinct spaces: the bar, where you can grab a quick bite or enjoy tapas; the restaurant; and the Gin Club, where you can select from 30 different gins for your gin & tonic. We dined in the Gin Club. Again, we were not disappointed. Our drinks were very good — we got to try gins we’d never even heard of — and the food, while simply presented, was tasty and filling. We capped the evening off with a lovely cappuccino.
We returned to Nice to find the region in the midst of a heat wave. We’ll get a break from this heat during our quick visit to Amsterdam on Tuesday. Another trip means more sightseeing and more food to sample and I can’t wait.
PS: I’ll post other photos from Madrid on my Facebook page. Stop by and take a look!