28th December 2005 - Spain Day 4
I woke from a deep sleep in a comfortable bed. Edyta had been up all night as her sickness got worse and decided to squirt itself out of her body. The room was still hot, which didn't help her dehydration. We went down for our buffet breakfast which had less to offer than the 3 star hotel we'd just been staying in. Although not overly well and needing to stop at a toilet every half-an-hour (for more frequently than usual) Edyta still wanted to go out and see Madrid.
Don Quixote, the first sighting
We walked to the Plaza de Espana (Madrid uses Spanish, not Catalunya, so we had to learn new words for places and food). There was a big statue of Don Quijote and his travelling companion Sancho. The Spanish just love that guy, they base half their culture on him (and for those who don't know he isn't any more real than Sherlock Holmes or James Bond). The fountains were turned off. We travelled across to the Jardines Sabatini garden, an area of the standard Spanish use of small gravel for paths with a surrounding of box hedges. Spain is normally a hot and dry place were few things grow, very different to the always green look of England. In fact Spain feels a lot more like Australia, except it gets a lot colder in winter. On the other side of the garden there was a big building. We went to look at it.
One really huge building
The big building turned into a huge building. We found an entrance on the far side that seemed to be full of tour groups. We figured we'd just got in the wrong time. Once we finally got to the front a person told us in broken English that this was the tour group entrance. We needed to keep going around the building to the individuals entrance. We paid our money, went through security checks, stowed the backpack, visited the toilet and went into the courtyard. The building we discovered was the Palacio Real, the main palace of the royal family in Spain and a building built when Spain had a lot of money to throw around. It is incredibly big, some 2800 rooms and we only saw 50 of them. This place is opulent, every room is decorated in a style slightly different to the other. There was one room that was big enough to fit my entire house in, and our Reading apartment would've barely filled a corner. There is also an excellent display of plate mail and barding armour in the military museum in the palace, including the armour of various Spanish kings (and this was obviously ceremonial armour, it would've been to hard to repair any battle damage to it).
When we were done with the palace we went to the cathederal next to it. The palace had it's own internal cathederal that was a massive room, but of course a bigger public church was needed. Getting into the church involved stepping over the standard beggars jiggling the coins in their hand (or showing the 2 euro coin they all seem to display). I also had to give some pictures back to a guy who shoved them into my hand and then expected payment. Pushy beggars, they should convert to Christianity and beg from the church, not the tourists. The Catedral de la Almudena wasn't overly inspiring. There was Picasso inspired stained glass windows and a nice flip-book style of paintings shown Christ walking to the crucifiction and a big alter to worship at but nothing that hasn't been seen in 100 churches already. ABC - Another Bloody Church/Castle/Courtyard.
The common peoples entrance
Once we were done with these buildings we walked down the main street of Calle Mayor to get to Plaza Puerta Del Sol, the centre of Madrid. We didn't get past the first souvenir store. After stopping in a couple more Edyta decided the need for food and especially a toilet were far more important. We found an open store that sold Pizza (Only Pizza brand, a chain of pre-packaged pizzas re-heated by a restaurant). This was a typical Spanish restaurant, a pokey or two in one corner, a bar with some sweets for display and mostly alcohol, smoking allowed and tables on the edge of the room for the rare people who want to eat something. Importantly they had a toilet, though I had to remind Edyta that Servicio is the word for toilets in Spanish (as is Aseos, Lavbos and Toilettes if near the French).
A Spanish Bazaar
Food was at Plaza de la Villa, on the way to our destination we then made it into Plaza Mayor. There was a market in here selling goods in preparation for New Years. It was like a mini royal show, places were selling wigs, joke stuff, even one type of show bag. There were also as many stalls selling nativity scene goods. The Spanish are mad for a nativity scene at Christmas time. Nearly every store window had one. There have been bigger ones set up in various plazas in Barcelona and also Madrid. I stopped at a photo-mart to burn the images from the camera which was near full by now. No English was spoken but enough pointing got the job done. During the burn process an error dialog popped up, so I'm praying that the images burnt correctly. It was probably only to do with the memory card being removed without telling Windows about it, so it should be safe. Later Edyta and I stopped in some toy stores, then in a few military model stores (a strange Spanish obsession, yet no Games Workshops in sight).
Sunset lit Madrid
A litle taste of Egypt
Eventually we made it to Plaza Puerta del Sol. It was crowded and not impressive. Edyta was feeling as bad as she had been in the morning so we walked on to find the big park with a big gate from the old city wall. We found the garden but missed the gate. We ended up off our little tour map. Instead of the gate we found a big rectangular lake and an impressive statue. This was the Parque del Buen Retiro and the statue was Alfonso the XII's mausoleum. There were shifty African gangs in the area so we moved off quickly. Being off the map meant I couldn't find the Metro stop to get home. Suddenly we came upon the gate I was aiming for in the first place, the Plaza de la Independencia. Satisfied, I'd took a picture and then we took the Metro back to our hotel. Before going into it we crossed to a nearby park to look at the Temple de Debod, an Egyption temple that was moved stone by stone to Spain when the valley it was in was to be flooded in 1970 (the temple is 4th century BC). There was a couple having wedding photos at the temple.
Madrid did introduce us to a new little green man. He has been our friend in many countries, telling us when to cross the road (not the little green man from the Flintstones who would appear when the series was getting tired, but the one on the traffic lights). Here he is shown walking with a countdown of how many seconds are left above him. When the time gets down to five seconds the man starts running before he is replaced with the red guy. On some lights he flashes at the same time. On a few lights you also get to see how many seconds you have to wait before the green man will appear.
We slept at the hotel for a bit and then went for tea. We had an omlette Spanish style. Edyta needed the rest so we retired for the night.
The people in Madrid speak less English than those in Barcelona, and look a lot more like you would expect the Spanish to than in Barcelona.