Madrid & Toledo Spain
After departing Nice, France (on our 2018 Europe Adventure) we flew to Madrid, Spain and found that the "Madrid Challenge" bicycle racing event was taking place on the Paseo del Prado. As our hotel was located a short distance off the intersection of the Plaza de las Cortes & the Paseo del Prado, our taxi driver (after repeated attempts) finally told us that he could not get us to our desired destination. The bicycle racing event barriers were effectively blocking crossing access (cars & pedestrians), requiring pedestrians to walk to the Estacion del Arte circle, and then walk back up the Paseo del Prado to our hotel - a bit of a hike.
With tens of thousands of people watching the bicycle race, we quickly realized that we were not going to be able to walk on the Paseo del Prado while rolling our suitcases behind us! Celeste fired up her cell phone mapping Application, and found us a "back street" route to reach the hotel.
Even though it wasn't exactly the arrival we had anticipated, we were glad to arrive and start our Madrid exploration. The back street route wound up revealing some interesting pubs & restaurants, so it was useful information for use later.
Paseo del Prado Race View
We decided to stop and watch (since we could not yet determine how to cross over) the bicycle racers, you can see how crowded it was, bicycle racing in Europe is widely followed. Click this image to see a video we took from this location on the Paseo del Prado.
We finally asked a policeman how to get to the Hilton Hotel and he told us to walk to the Réplica de la Fuente de la Alcachofa ("Fountain of the Artichoke") traffic circle where we could cross over. As you can see in this video, the bike racers are on the Paseo del Prado headed north, and the Hilton Hotel is on the other side of that boulevard.
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Interesting Facts about Madrid
- Madrid lies at the highest altitude of any capital in Europe at 2,188 feet.
- The Retiro Park in Madrid has the only statue dedicated to the fallen angel Lucifer. The statue is at the Fuente del Angel Caído in the park and has gargoyles which spit water at the base.
- There are various explanations as to how Madrid got its name, but the most trusted explanation is that it’s over 2,000 years old according to Arabic records, 'Mayrit' or 'Magerit' were the old names of Madrid which mean 'place of abundant water' which then evolved to the Madrid we know now.
- The Palacio Real is the largest royal palace in Europe by floor area and although it’s the official residency of the Spanish Royal Family it is only used for state ceremonies. King Felipe VI and the Royal Family actually live in the Palace of Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.
- Known for its parks and green spaces, Madrid has the most green space per inhabitant in the world, encompassing 35% of the city’s total area.
- Madrid is the third largest city in the European Union.
Madrid Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World
Madrid lies on the River Manzanares in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the Capital city of both Spain (almost without interruption since 1561) and the surrounding autonomous community of Madrid (since 1983), it is also the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. The city is situated on an elevated plain about 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the closest seaside location.
We flew into the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport from Nice, France. It is the second largest airport in Europe, and it is located approximately 30 kilometers outside the center of Madrid where our hotel is located.
Click the above map link to view a Google Map of Madrid.
During our trip planning, we had researched VRBO for a Madrid rental that would give us quick downtown access, and be close to the places we wanted to see. Not finding anything that fitted our requirements exactly, we decided to stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Madrid-Prado. We made that decision because the hotel is very nicely located, and within easy walking distance of most of the Madrid sites we planned to visit.
Here are examples of how well located this hotel is; a number of art museums are located within three blocks, the Royal Palace area is a 1.7 kilometer walk and the Paseo del Prado (a major Madrid street) can take you from one end of Madrid to the other.
Images are the property of Hilton Hotels
This was our first adventure goal, and the Hotel warned us that it is a popular destination and to try and arrive there as early as possible. So we rode a taxi (early in the morning) there expecting to find a short line. Didn't quite work out that way.
As you can see, tourists and other visitors are already lined up to gain entry. The good news for us is that these people are waiting to buy tickets, and we had obtained our tickets online and were therefore able to walk right in.
Plaza de la Armería & Palace Entry
From the visitor's entrance, you have to walk across the Plaza de la Armería court yard and then walk to the entrance area - which is to my right below the flag.
The entrance to the Palace is in the center of image # 2, and the walled area on the left overlooks the Campo del Mora gardens.
The entire Royal Palace complex is in really excellent condition, and considering it's construction was completed in 1755, it is in amazing condition.
Philip IV of Spain
This bronze baroque statue of Felipe IV (Philip IV of Spain) stands at the centre of the Plaza de Oriente park across the Calle de Bailén from the Royal Palace.
The statue was begun in 1634 and shipped to Madrid in 1640, the year of King Felipe's death. The sculpture, atop a complicated fountain composition, forms the centerpiece of the façade of the Royal Palace.
NOTE: Image # 2 is the property of Alvesgaspar via Wikimedia. All other images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
Plaza de la Armería History
The Plaza as it exists now was laid-out in 1892, according to a plan by the architect Enrique María Repullés. However, the history of this square dates back to 1553, the year in which Philip II ordered a building to house the royal stables. Both images were taken looking south from the Palace of the St Mary Royal of the Almudena ( AKA "Almudena Cathedral" ) adjacent to the Palace complex.
NOTE: Image # 2 is the property of Elena F D via Wikimedia. All other images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
Salon de las Columnas
The neoclassical Columns Room in the Royal Palace was used for the celebration of dances and banquets until the year 1879 when Alfonso XII's first wife died.
Palace Grand Staircase
The Palace Grand Staircase is composed of a single piece of San Augustin marble. Two lions grace the landing, one by Felipe de Castro and another by Robert Michel.
Palace Grand Staircase
Grand Staircase as seen from the floor above - can you imagine the work required to construct this staircase?
Our interior tour of the Palace was not a guided tour (there is a guided tour available), as we wanted to be able to move about at our own speed and to view rooms of our own selection. Needless to say, the entire interior is a stunning living museum.
Inside the palace rich materials were used: Spanish marble, stucco, mahogany doors and windows and important works of art, particularly frescoes by leading artists of the moment as Giaquinto, Tiepolo and Mengs and his Spanish followers Bayeu and Maella.
Lunch in the Parque del Oeste
After we completed our tour of the Royal Palace, we decided to walk north into the Parque del Oeste and find a place for a quick lunch. We wanted "quick" because we were on our way to the Teleférico de Madrid, which is a cable car from the park to the Casa de Campo. This isn't a long walk, and you will pass through a couple of nice parks along the way.
MAP: Click here for a map of the Parque del Oeste.
Madrid views from the Cable Car
The views of Madrid & the Royal Palace from the Teleférico de Madrid, cannot be duplicated anywhere! We recommend taking this ride to get a break from the city and enjoy the Casa de Campo from the air.
Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum Map
We had decided that the plan for our next day was to visit some of the nearby museums. We tried to obtain tickets for the del Prado, but it was "sold out" that day. So we decided to visit the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza which was only several blocks north of our hotel on the Paseo del Prado.
Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside the Museum but they have a really good collection of art works and it is nicely laid out for visitors.
After the Museum, we we looked for a lunch spot by walking along the Calle de Antonio Maura to the Puerta de España. This is considered to be the entrance to El Retiro Park.
El Retiro Park: Retiro Pond
This is the Estanque grande del Retiro in the El Retiro Park, a beautiful lake surrounded by a huge number of trees and flowers everywhere! The park is an excellent place to enjoy nature, get some shade, or just stroll along admiring the park's natural beauty.
Click here to go to the official Park Website.
El Retiro Park: Walkways
This walkway in the park gives you some idea of how well kept and how beautiful the entire park is. The major paths and walkways are used by families, runners, bikers and rollerbladers, and the circular route through the park is approximately 1.9 miles in length.
El Retiro Park: Rose Garden
This view is looking west toward the Prado Museum, as we were headed back to our hotel. You can see a few of the more than 4,000 rosebushes in the garden.
Churros at Las Farolas
We had read a number of people's reviews about Madrid, and many of those stated that one must try the chocolate churros at Las Farolas.
The Churreria-Chocolateria Las Farolas restaurant has been in business for over 100 years, and they have several other locations scattered about Spain.
If you are ever in Madrid, we would suggest that you consider stopping at Churreria-Chocolateria Las Farolas. The best churros & chocolate we have ever had! They are located at Calle Mayor, 11, 28012, Madrid, Spain at the intersection of Calle Mayor and Calle de San Cristobal.
Flamenco at La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton
One of our goals while in Madrid, was to experience a "real" Flamenco show, so
we attended one at La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton. The
singers & dancers were very good and the flamenco guitarist was excellent.
NOTE: Post Edit 1/20/2022 - Mister Pinkleton appears to have permanently closed.
Image # 2 was during a break in the Flamenco show, the musicians and dancers were changing costumes, so we ordered another round of sangrias - which by the way, were quite good.
You can acquire your tickets online at Viator in advance of the show, highly recommended, as we saw a lengthy line waiting to purchase tickets at the door when we entered with our reservations.
La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton serves drinks & food as well as dinner if you so choose. We don't have any flamenco experience, but we thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Tapas at La Meripepa
We had decided to have tapas one night, and we only had to walk a few blocks from our hotel to this highly recommended restaurant.
They had a great beer on tap, and we ordered what we thought was going to be a couple of "small plates" and wound up with a full meal!
WARNING: We were hungry, but there was so much food that we could not finish it all !
Click here to go to their website.
Our next day's adventure was to visit Toledo, only 87 kilometers from Madrid. We got our tickets from Viator. You would have to select from several different types of bus tours, we took the "Toledo half day" tour.
This is the first view we had of Toledo as the bus crossed the River Tagus. I would assume that the bus followed this route to give our tour group a great view of Toledo, and if so they certainly made it nice for us!
The river nearly encircles Toledo, as it winds its way back to the west of Spain. The Tagus River rises in the Sierra de Albarracín of eastern Spain, at a point about 90 miles (150 km) from the Mediterranean coast, and flows westward across Spain and Portugal for 626 miles (1,007 km) to empty into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon.
Original Jewish area of Toledo
In image # 1 the Jewish emblem notes the boundary of the original Jewish section of the old city. However, during the Spanish Inquisition all Jews were expelled from Toledo and none live there today.
Image # 2 is a street scene in the quarter, not far from the Puerta de Assulca. That image is the property of José Luis Filpo Cabana via Wikipedia Commons using a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes
The courtyard of the
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. This
is a beautiful building and quite famous!
The original church was completed in 1504, commissioned by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Mass is still celebrated here!
Click here to view the Wikipedia Article about the Monastery.
Madrid Street Performers
We had just exited Jardines del Cabo Noval (park near the Royal Palace) and had entered the Teatro Real area when we saw this street performer. Yes they are pan-handling, but you have to admit that it was a unique costume!
I should mention that it was a warm day, and we were wondering how this street performer could remain still for such long periods of time without hydration?
In Madrid, street performers are legal but they must audition in order to receive their license. Click here to read the story on NPR about licenses in Madrid.
Dinner at Fogg Bar Birras & Cheese
This was our last dinner in Madrid, we ate at the Fogg Bar Birras & Cheese on the Calle de Moratín about 1.5 kilometers from our hotel.
That item in image # 1 is the Spanish version of nachos with a guacamole sauce and it was delicious! The restaurant had a very good draft beer selection, of which we put to good use too.
The name of this establishment might make you think that it was just another pub, but their food was quite good and the restaurant filled up rapidly while we were enjoying our dinner.
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- Google Search Results list for "places to eat in Madrid"
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- Madrid Travel Guide on 'Travel & Leisure' Site
- Toledo on the "Wikipedia" site (good history article)
- What to see in Toledo on the 'Spanish Sabores' site
- Toledo History on the 'Spain now & then' site
- The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Toledo on the 'Culture Trip' site
- Madrid Eateries on the 'Destination Eat Drink' site
- Google Search Results list for "places to eat in Toledo"
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