Our second trip to Spain gravitated around the northeastern part of the country (Catalonia) and the Balearic Islands. As a lovely bonus, we had my mom and dad join us for part of the trip.
- September 29—September 30: Knoxville, TN to Madrid, Spain
- October 1: Toledo (day trip from Madrid by car)
- October 2: Segovia
- October 3—October 7: Barcelona (picked up mom and dad on October 5)
- October 8: Valencia & Madrid
- October 9—October 13: Majorca (flight from Madrid)
- October 13: Madrid
- October 14: Madrid to Knoxville, TN
We flew into Madrid at the end of September, a little later in the year than our usual Europe trip. Luckily, the weather was still nice and we enjoyed plenty of sunshine.
We booked a room via AirBnB close to the center of Madrid. When our host Nerea didn’t answer the doorbell, our heart skipped a beat. We sprung into action: we messaged our host via AirBnB, then tried to use a public phone to call her. The phone didn’t work…. We asked one of the locals if we could use his cell phone, and finally got in touch with Nerea. She apologized and said she would meet us in a few hours, at 4 pm. Since we had some time to kill and our suitcases with us, we popped into Cafeteria Alfe, a small brunch place nearby. We savored a Spanish omelette with potatoes (Tortilla Española) and used the WiFi connection to plan our visit. The TV in the corner broadcasted Spanish politics, which made the cafe owner very animated.
Our AirBnB hosts gave us a map of the city and some recommendations for places to visit in Madrid. We also got a lesson in Madrid parking, which turned out to be quite a challenge. We found out that the blue spaces were cheaper than the green ones, and thus a hot commodity. The maximum parking time in one spot was four hours, except if it was late in the day. On weekends, the spaces were free of charge before 9 am and after 2 pm on Saturday, and all day on Sunday, but everyone was fighting for a spot.
The traffic was heavy and we missed our lane more than once, ending up going through the tunnel and away from our rental; it turned out to be a good side trip and we explored a bit more of the city that way. However, we did stop by FNAC store and bought a GPS with European maps….
We walked around and took in the European architecture, the museums, and the verdant parks.
Antocha station is one of the city’s most recognizable architectural landmarks. Built in the 1800s, Antocha was the capital’s first railway station. What started off as a simple wooden platform is now an impressive edifice, standing 88 feet tall and stretching almost 500 feet long.
Museo National Del Prado gathers comprehensive collections of 16th and 17th century artists who were royal favorites, including Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez and Goya. Nearby, ahead of its time and created for all to enjoy is a UNESCO World Heritage site: Paseo del Pardo and El Retiro Park. The tree-lined Prado promenade was created in the 16th century with the intent of allowing all the city’s inhabitants enjoy nature in an urban setting, regardless of their social status. Later on, in the 18th century, the king added a collection of scientific buildings, creating a unique venue of science, art, and natural beauty unique at the time. El Retiro Park is a green oasis in the middle of the city, home of 15,000 trees and a perfect spot for Madrileños to enjoy nature without leaving town.
Reina Sofia museum is home to a large collection of modern and contemporary Spanish art, by renown artists such as Dalí and the Malaga-born sculptor and painter Pablo Picasso.
Real Jardin Botanico was alive with bright green parrots, screeching and chattering from their high nests.
When in Spain, one must have tapas. We had the most wonderful olives, along with the traditional bocadillo de calamares (squid sandwich) and croquettes at El Brilliante. We kicked back and people-watched while sipping on Rioja wine at Cafe de la Reina.