Vamos a España! The adventure begins with a flight from Cleveland to Washington DC. It was supposed to be a 1hr 45 min ride but the pilot booked it over there in an hour. We hit a lot of turbulence this way and at one point, people’s drinks were flying up in the air! Haha, but we made it safely there, and we then boarded our plane for Madrid. There was a small thunderstorm in DC so we were stuck on the plane at the gate for 2 hours. The flight staff, however, was very accommodating by offering drinks and had the AC on so the wait was bearable.
The 8-hour overnight flight to Madrid was an easy one, as the 7 of us on this flight slept and enjoyed movies as we zipped across the Atlantic.
Upon arrival to Madrid, our tour director, Doris, lead us to our tour bus that took us a quick trip into the city center of Madrid. We are staying at Hotel Victoria 4 and it is a great little hotel right near Puerta del Sol. We quick left our luggage in one of the rooms and we broke off into small groups to start exploring.
My group’s first stop was the Palacio de Cristal del Retiro. The Palacio de Cristal is a glass and metal structure located in Madrid’s Retiro Park. It was built in 1887 on the occasion of the Exposition of the Philippines, held in the same year, then a Spanish colonial possession. This was absolutely beautiful!! A glass atrium in the middle of this lush and dusty park gleams and sparkles in the light. It’s entrance is free, so we snap some photos inside the now very hot atrium and then make our way to the next item in the park which was it’s lake.
Although the lake is man-made, the peaceful waters set in front of the massive columns and statues of the Alfonso XII monument are a sight to see. Thousands of blue and white row boats filled with families and couples littered the water. We walked up to the monument where it was nice and shady and snapped a couple of pictures before heading across the street to Museo Nacional Del Prado.
The Prado Museum is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It is widely considered to have one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and the single best collection of Spanish art. This was one of my favorite parts of the day. With free entry (valid with a student ID), we got to see the famous Goya Paintings, The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych and Las Meninas. I could have spent hours in this museum!!
The group then made their way back to the hotel to officially check into our rooms. Half of us decided to stay in and sleep off the jet lag while the other half of us made our way over to the other side of the city to see The Royal Palace of Madrid.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. The palace has 135,000 square meters of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms. THIS. WAS. SPECTACULAR!! We paid €5 to enter (student discount price) and every room we went into was painted with breathtaking ceiling frescos, gold leaf fireplaces and thousands upon thousands of crystal chandeliers. It seemed as if every new room we went into was more beautiful than the last. Totally my most favorite part of the day and I’m so glad we took time to see this as it was just beyond words how beautiful it was.
We the went right next door to Almundena Cathedral. A glorious gothic cathedral with another beautiful ceiling and altar. We snapped a few picture before heading back.
We the scurried back down the street, through Puerta Del Sol back to our hotel to meet the group for our 6:00p orientation meeting with Doris.
After or meeting, we all walked over as a group to La Plaza Mayor. The Plaza Mayor (English Main Square) was first built (1580–1619) during Philip III’s reign and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid, Spain. We had an hour to explore the area so four of us zipped around the square, snapping a few photos before heading over to La Plaza De La Villa just a block down to catch up before dinner.
Dinner was at a hip restaurant, Amicis. With cool lighting and a great vibe, we had the inside all to ourself. We started off each with a drink of either wine, beer or a soft drink. I chose the beer and it was beyond refreshing on this hot (90 degrees) day. We then enjoyed appetizers of Gazpacho (a chilled tomato soup) which was to die for, fried balls of cheese, spinach or mushrooms, and aioli potatoes. Everything was fabulous and we each followed up with a second drink. This time I chose a sangria. Yum! We enjoyed a main dish of steak, followed by some delicious flan for dessert.
We made our way back to the hotel warm, full and ready for our exciting day traveling to Sevilla.