Authors Note: Linda and I took an 18 day trip to Spain. It was not part of a professional photo-shoot. I carried only an IPhone and the Sony RXR1 as photographic gear. It was agreed, as with most vacation trips we take, the photos captured would be Tourist shots.
Madrid is a sophisticated, large, and magnificent city. After Berlin, it is the largest in the European Union (3.4M city proper 7M metro). Madrid has its act together and is progressing to the positive. Madrid has an elegance and sense of stature to it. With England, and therefore London, leaving the European Union, Madrid is taking a larger role and presence in the financial space.
As with many European cities. Madrid is a walking town, and Linda and I are walking people. Linda and I stayed six nights in a home in the Chamberi – Salamanca district. This is one of the nicer areas in Madrid. We had easy access to museums, places of historical note, and terrific local establishments.
The big tourist spots (The Royal Palace, San Miquel Market, Prado Museum, City Mayor, Retiro) are worth every moment of your time. Do not pass on a visit to any of them. The architecture of multiple centuries remains to a great degree. What was most enjoyable to me was the walk from our home to each of these areas of interest. It allowed Linda and I to see first hand how the city lives and breaths.
There are the usual Tourist Trap type of streets. Luckily, there are not too many. However, they exist, are grimy, and are sprinkled with homeless people whom live in make-shift corrugated cardboard boxes set in building door wells. It is not as pervasive as that of today’s Manhattan, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. The difference is that Madrid, especially its superlative parks, have no enclaves of homeless tent cities.
However, the beauty of the city’s core is at times undermined by graffiti. At least that is how I see it. In some places, it is extensive.
— Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Other Thoughts —
Linda and I are members of HomeExchange. It is an organization of home owners who exchange staying at each other’s home. Linda and I have been members since HomeExchange’s inception in the 1990’s. We exchanged with Alexandra who has a wonderful place in Madrid. In my mind, staying in someone’s home is vastly superior to that of a hotel. The HE ground rule is no money is exchanged between the Members. Home Exchange verifies (prior to getting a membership), people are who they say they are, the home is real, and they own it.
As with many of the European countries, the operating aspect of daily life is distinctly different than the United States. The day in Madrid, does not really begin until 10AM. Some shops (Coffee, Bakery, etc.) will open at 8AM. They are few and far between. Most operations close down for a few hours starting at 2PM and re-open at 5PM. Most restaurants if open during the daytime will close at 2PM and re-open at 8PM. Nightlife continues well into the morning hours.
Madrid has an extensive rail, subway, bus, and cab system. We walked, but if any of these transportation options are needed or desired – they were close by and readily available at all hours. A car is not needed to enjoy central Madrid, In fact it is a liability.
Each of the neighborhoods are filled with small specialty stores, markets, pharmacies, coffee shops and the restaurants. Do not expect to load up with everything at Costco at the start of the trip.
I strongly recommend you purchase tickets to the museums and other exhibits on-line with designated start times. This action may prove to be the greatest provider of satisfaction and saver of time for the entire trip.
I am a coffee drinker. I am used to a hot full mug of Joe, with cream and no sugar to start my day and continue throughout as needed. No such concoction exists in Spain, Nespresso makers produce small luke-warm products one-quarter the size I expect. there is no concept of Cream for your coffee in Spain. Pastries and breads are simply wonderful. However, a breakfast bagel with sausage and swiss cheese will not be found. I did not miss it!
Jamon is the legendary food product of Spain. Most often it is Iberian Ham cured, and stored for weeks and then dried for months. The best of the best is the the presa and the pluma. They are two different cuts of meat, but they are similar in size. The presa is sometimes known as the pork’s caviar for its exclusivity — it’s hidden between the cabecero or shoulder collar and the shoulder itself. The thick-cut is insanely juicy, and it’s best enjoyed when grilled at high heat. I enjoyed a presa cut prepared to perfection, My goodness it would fool the best steak lover.
After a week in central Madrid, I had come to believe there was no such thing as a Shopping Mall. Boy, was I wrong. We had heard about a really good Argentinian restaurant near the Hilton Hotel at the airport. As always Linda and I found a way to walk to it. What we did not know, was the restaurant (CHE!!!) was located on the 3rd floor of the Plenilunio Shopping mall. The mall was the best (or worst) of U.S. Malls in their heyday. We had dinner at 9PM on a Sunday night. The mall was packed with people and families until well past 10PM.
I strongly suggest reading up on Spain and Madrid’s history, prior to arrival, It is fascinating, and will help you understand the interplay of religion, society and cultures that have influenced what you will experience.