Fountain in the Botanic gardens

Madrid was bleak! Yes, it was mid-Winter but it felt even bleaker than any of the other places we had visited in the past month.

This could have been because all the trees and shrubs had lost their leaves and had been well pruned, or because we were nearing the end of our trip and we felt bleak or maybe due to the hugely increased security personnel on every street corner. Whatever it was it just did not feel as welcoming as it did in 2002.

Fountain in the Botanic gardensEverything looked bleak

We arrived in Madrid on Sunday afternoon and our flight home was at 21:50 on Tuesday evening giving us 2 full days to explore Madrid. The Arctic wind definitely seemed to be following us. The morning temperature on Monday was -10deg so we decided to use the hop on hop off bus to be introduced to Madrid. As usual there is a discount for Senior Citizens and for this bus it was very generous, making the cost €10 as opposed to €21 for other passengers. For 9 hours of hopping on and off it was well worth every cent of those 10 Euros.

We covered the whole city, both old and new, using each of the 2 routes available. When I visited Madrid in 2002 with my sister, we stayed in an hotel very close to the Plaza Mayor and visited it a couple of times. I really enjoyed showing it to Trevor and strangely enough there were some of the same buskers, one an elderly gentleman, and others using the same toy hidden in their mouths to make sounds like birds. I did not actually see any of them sell anything. Imagine spending your days walking around a town square with a silly little whistle inside your mouth with which you can make a few bird sounds in the hope that someone will be so impressed with it that they will pay €2 for it. It is possible that 9 year old boys would love to own one.

Plaza MayorBeautiful 2 storey building in Plaza Mayor

Statue of Phillip III in Plaza MayorStatue of Phillip III in Plaza Mayor

We also got off the bus near the Royal Palace but were very disappointed to find that one can no longer walk around parts of it which were previously open to the public. There were policemen and women absolutely everywhere, most carrying MK47s. Besides those on foot there were ‘paddy wagons’ and other vehicles all around the precinct. This was a real let down as, from one spot on the Palace balcony, there are spectacular views of the city. I had been fortunate to see this vista 14 years ago.

One wall of the palaceA portion of the palace

Palace of MadridFront entrance to the Palace

In one of the eateries we had passed earlier were racks of hams hanging from hooks along the wall. Their packaging was one of three colours – red, blue and green – indicating quality with green highest and red the lowest. For our lunch we purchased rolls from there. They were pretty big and very fresh with plenty of ham as filling an cost just €1!

Different kinds of hamRacks of graded hams

Although we had spent 12 days in Spain, we had still to try a local dish. It was not a deliberate decision not to have done so, it just had not happened. Thus, for supper, we decided to go to the little Bistro next door to the hotel which advertised paella as a speciality. I was not sure what to expect when I ordered Paella el Mare (or something similar) but I was pretty sure that it was supposed to have more than a few tiny scraps of prawns, mussels and calamari stirred up with sauce and pasta, which, sadly, was undercooked.

I thought that I would finish this blog with some info on our room and the breakfast offering. Not long after arriving we realised that we could hear everything that was happening in the room next door and later in the evening they sounded as if they were really enjoying themselves. Then there was the bedding which was rather different to what we had experienced in other hotels and at home. There was a bottom sheet, a top sheet, an uncovered duvet and a quilt – all white!

The shower head was stuck in such a position that if turned on fractionally hard the water would shoot out and go over the end of the bath. Otherwise the pressure was so limited that washing oneself took an awfully long time. I decided to forego the opportunity to wash my hair as we would be leaving for home the next evening. Once again the breakfast was a real let down. Another small and uninteresting spread referred to as ‘A true Continental Breakfast’ and it cost €8.80 (R157) each! It seems that hotels which can’t serve a proper breakfast for their guests employ “dragon ladies” who stand either in the doorway (remember the Hotel du Simplon in Lyon) or in a corner where she can keep her beady eye on everyone, ensuring that not one crumb is taken from the dining room. This is how it went down at the Hotel Madioda in Madrid.

Our hotelThe front of our hotel