A Travellerspoint blog

Madrid - Friday, 22 July 2016

Morning tour of Madrid, taking in Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, the "Austrian" quarter and the 18th century Royal Palace. Scenic Freechoice - Flamenco Workshop

sunny 33 °C

Hotel - Hotel Villareal, Plaza de las Cortes, 10 Madrid - Room 501

Breakfast was very nice this morning. There was avocado on the buffet for the first time since we have been away. It was very popular.

We started our morning city tour with our local guide Bibi. Bibi was also our guide for the Prado Museum yesterday. She is a very tall Dutch lady who has lived in Madrid for a long time and knows her stuff.

We started off in the Plaza Mayor, which is a central plaza in Madrid. Building commenced in 1617 during Philip III's reign and the plaza was opened in 1619. The buildings around here are stunning, as with everywhere we have been in Spain and Portugal. And the dates of all these buildings are just blowing us away - I mean Australia was only discovered in 1770! Some of these photos are a bit blue because they were taken through the bus windows which are tinted.

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Next we visited Puerta del Sol, which is another very famous and beautiful square. This square contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes at the beginning of the new year. Eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve is both a tradition and a superstition in Spain. One grape every second for the first 12 seconds of the new year, will guarantee you 12 lucky months.

The Puerta del Sol originated as one of the gates in the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century. The name of the gate came from the rising sun which decorated the entry.

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Some of the lovely buildings in the Austrian quarter.

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Then onto the 18th century Royal Palace of Madrid. It is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family but is only used for state ceremonies. Unfortunately, throughout most of our tour, we weren't allowed to take photographs which was such a shame. The rooms were stunning. The palace is on the site of a 9th century Alcazar. The palace burned down in 1734 and King Philip V ordered a new palace to be constructed on the same site. It was completed in 1755 and Charles III moved in in 1764. It contains masterpieces by Caravaggio, Velazquez and Goya.

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Here are some photos that we were allowed to take.

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We returned to the hotel with only a short time for a quick lunch before we went to our Scenic Freechoice activities for the afternoon.

We had a lovely light lunch in the bistro section of the hotel. Very nice and quite reasonable.

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Then off to our Scenic Freechoice.

Phil went to the Real Madrid Bernabeu Soccer Stadium for a guided tour. It was large, holds 84,000 people seated, but wasn't as big as the stadium in Barcelona.

Now, there were two choices for our Scenic Freechoice - visit the Real Madrid Soccer Stadium OR attend a Flamenco Dance Workshop. What do you think I chose to do? Yep, that's right - the Flamenco Dance Workshop.

There were about 10 ladies and two blokes!! Very brave.

Flamenco is a bit like elements of tap dancing as there is a lot of stamping of feet and clicking of heels and the arms and hands have a lot to do with it as well. We all watched this lovely young lady show us the movements and then we stood up and tried to emulate her - not very successfully, I might add but we had a lot of laughs and then she performed a dance for us. How stunning she was. But what fun we had.

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On our way back to the hotel, Isabel took us into an authentic Flamenco Restaurant, as opposed to the ones the tourists frequent. It was very atmospheric and would be more so filled with patrons and dancers.

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For our last night in Madrid, Isabel's home town, she invited anyone who wanted to, to go with her to dinner in the square, maybe tapas or maybe just a normal meal. Robi and Renata from Kambah in the ACT and Phil and I decided to go with her. We chose a tapas restaurant, outdoors, in the middle of the square and proceeded to order "willy nilly". Oh, if we only remembered William's words! William was our driver for our transfer from Barcelona Airport to our hotel and he warned us about tapas. He said that these days they had become very expensive as people get carried away and at the end, they have quite a large bill - well, yes, that's exactly what happened to us. We would have been much better just ordering separate meals. Anyway, it was an experience and lovely to have dinner with Isabel on our second last night in Madrid.

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Posted by gaddingabout 23:39 Archived in Spain

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