Spain: Introduction to Madrid

we’re home. this trip was an incredible whirlwind, trying at times due to inadequate rest periods, but so wonderful after all that I wish I was back. I will say, while grateful for any minute I spend on the other side of the pond, 10 days is too short for a trip like this.maybe I’m getting old, or I’m not exactly an all-star traveler, but the exhaustion takes over and away from the splendor of all a place has to offer… a place like madrid. we found ourselves making comments like I don’t think we gave madrid a fair chance and I still believe that to be true. but enough of that. on to the joys of this here adventure. believe me, there were many.

we arrived at a bit after 7:00am. we followed the simple route to ground transportation toward renfe cercanias the cheap train service into town (useful if you arrive at Terminal 4 or 4S ). we emerged at the atocha station less than an hour after arrival and proceeded to our hotel, the AC Marriott Atocha. I know what you’re thinking… a marriott? en serio? but we got 5 nights free, you see, with credit card rewards, and that made the lack of cultural immersion worth it. that, and the location less than 5 minutes walk from atocha station that makes traveling around the beautiful beast that is Spain really quite convenient. thankfully we were able to check into our super-minimalist room early. the temptation to flop onto the bed was real, but we resisted, and gathered up our things to explore.

I forgot to mention, the first day of our trip was All Saint’s Day. this doesn’t mean much for the sites, but for restaurants and shops it translates as a bank holiday giving permission to close…mierda (I learned that from Top Chef Spain). anyway, off we wandered into a city bursting with achingly bright sunshine, doing a mighty route of all of the sites in the main circuit- Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Retiro Park, Palacio Real, Mercado de San Miguel …It’s always best to just keep moving, I find, and we got a fine lay of the land as a result.  In between we had a coffee at a small bar ourside of Plaza Mayor, tapas at Txakolina a Basque themed bar in the La Latina neighborhood and landed our first menu del dia (bread, first and second course, wine and a dessert for about 10E each) at a restaurant off of Calle de Jesus. my first all-Spanish exchange… complimented by a quick Google translate by the staff when asked about the menu. the dessert- a cherry compote over a baked ricotta of sort- was the highlight.

From here we needed a respite. We found our way to the Parque Retiro , property of the monarchy until recently, and dozed on a sun-drenched park bench in an effort to stop willing the day to end so we could fall into sweet sleep. after another cafe con leche we arrived at the Prado for their free hours. what a stunning museum. comparable to the Louvre in many ways and a delight even in the state we were-which by this time was pretty bleak.

we chose to find a supermarket for our evening meal needs instead of going out. it was necessary after all that touring and no sleep, you see. chocolate and nuts for two, por favor. complete with aforementioned Top Chef episodes.

the night of the first day I remember feeling frustrated; I was overly exhausted and willing myself to remember that the first day after a radical time change and over 24 hours without sleep is always like this. It’s hard not to be so hard on yourself, I’ll admit- the time and expense of planning a big trip and you feel spoiled rotten and ungrateful for not being positively giddy at all times.but I know it’s the jet lag talking…I put in my earplugs, turn on a white noise app (the perfect cocktail for sleep while traveling) and welcome rest. I remind myself that the  feeling fades and a week later-acclimated and savoring each moment- I’m always tearing up at the thought of leaving. more soon.

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