Okay, now I’ve already told you how awesome Madrid is right? Let me tell you again. MADRID IS FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!! I’ll stop shouting now. But I cannot stress how, to use my favourite descriptive word, amazing, the city of Madrid is. I pretty much want to move here and I haven’t even spent a full 24 hours here yet.
Fresh from a good night’s sleep at Two Bad Tourists‘ new place in the heart of Madrid after wandering lost coming from the airport and just happened to hear a shout from above as I walked down a non-descript street and there was Dave and Auston grinning broadly and waving from their balcony. Result and how much of a co-incidence! I suppose I had a good night thereon after they introduced me to sweet sangria and wine and I suppose a few more. They are a bad influence on me….Anyway, I’m going off the point! So where was I? Oh yes, it’s the next day so really, I want to know more of the wonderful capital of Spain. So a walking tour is in order for the next 3 hours! Punting this idea to the bad tourists, Auston suddenly claimed he had to stay and do some work whereas Dave couldn’t think of a quick answer thanks to his hungover state. Taking advantage, I took Dave, kicking and screaming (he doesn’t like walking without a glass of wine in his hand for more than an hour), to Plaza Mayor where a well established walking tour started. Yes, I’m back again with Sandeman New Europe Walking Tours. I had already been with them in Edinburgh, Munich and London and I’ve always been impressed.
So rather than bore you with a full length description of more than 1000+ words about the tour, I’ve decided to show you what I saw through my pictures! With a very clever Scotsman (I was amazed there was such a thing!) as our guide, off we went to learn about the dark, humorous, and thrilling history that Madrid came to being since 1561 when King Philip II moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid as it is today.
Before we start, you must be aware that most of Madrid was destroyed in the Civil War between 1936-39 so many of the buildings are built since then and still have retained their quirky architecture. But here in Plaza Mayor, 3 sides of the plaza is relatively new and the 4th side is still standing, which also happens to be behind the pic! But this is the place to be if you want to find an event on. in the past, this was the place where people were executed in the past in front of the masses. And don’t worry, those aren’t the ghost of the criminals…
I would definitely recommend to go with Sandeman New Madrid Tours. Very informative, funny, and enthusiastic! Just make sure you aren’t with a bunch of iPad wielding Chinese people blocking your way… Here’s our long suffering guide! (in a non-stalker way)
No, you read that right. Dead Pigeon Horse. For 3 centuries, the inhabitants of Madrid noticed a horrible smell about the King Fellipe III statue but with their ‘Manana’ (I’ll do it tomorrow) attitude, no one thought to check until the Civil War when it was smashed down on the pavements spilling…you guessed it…dead bird bones. This was our first introduction to Madrid, and I thought it really captured the attitude of the Madrilenos perfectly…plus it had me in hysterics…for the attitude…not for the poor little blighters.
There’s a cave in Central Madrid and here it is. This is where Madrid’s answer to Robin Hood lived in Cuevas de Luis Candelas. It’s now a restaurant commemorating him. Pretty ironic as he stole from the rich to give to the poor and now rich people dine here. But if you ever want a cocktail in the cave…go there!
This Botin Restaurant is the oldest Restaurant in Europe! It survived everything that the dark times threw at the city. I thought it was impressive but I didn’t go in to check it out...I mean, it’s just a restaurant isn’t it?
Now, as I wandered around Madrid in the next week, I noticed a lot of these plaques in front of many an establishment. With my pathetic excuse of attempting the Spanish Language, I didn’t know what this was all about until the guide told us that it was to commemorate a service that’s lasted more than 100 years. It became a game to me afterwards to spot as many as I could. I know, I’m weird and goofy like that.
This spanish saying is the quote for Madrid. ‘Madrid was built on water, and the city walls were made out of fire.‘ Now, Madrid was built on the site of many a spring so that pretty much explains it…but what about the fire? Read on…it’ll be explained further.
Believe it or not, Madrid was actually one of the most conservative cities in years past thanks to the Spanish Inquisition! So this cross was actually put up at the gates of Conservative Madrid to stop drunken people and prossies from entering from the bars and taverns that sprawled outside. If it was still around, I don’t think Dave and I would have got in…from the drinking…not the other thing…
So after walking around, we quite rightly deserved a bum resting break. So our guide, Ben, decided to tell us the tale of the 4 Hapsburg Kings. Without going into too much detail, basically they married their cousins, nieces, maybe a mother? So in the end, Charles II, the last Hapsburg King was so inbred that he was completely impotent and unable to have kids and also, there were a lot of health problems with him. The most significant was that he had too big a tongue in his mouth thus creating a big lisp. As a result, the entire Spanish population who revered their King, copied his lisp and to this day still talk like him. I knew that the Spanish spoken in Madrid is different to the Spanish spoken in Latin America!
I thought this was a totally cute street. I just absolutely love the architecture here. I really do.
Not that I noticed this, but the guide pointed out that many buildings have windows that doesn’t seem to conform in a straight row. Why? It was at a time when officials said that each family would have to pay rent for individual rooms. Residents, struck with genius, decided to stagger the windows as officials would class a house how many rooms it would have by the amount of windows. So, now many houses will look like they would have less rooms than it actually did. Neat, eh?
During the walk, we walked under the aqueduct. There’s a story to this that a woman tried to jump off this to off herself in the name of love as her dad wouldn’t agree to her impending nupitals to a rogue. Luckily, a tree snagged her billowing dress so she hung there with knickers showing but in the end, her dad realised the error of his ways and agreed. I preferred the story that she landed safely as her dress acted like a parachute…now that’s a story!
Now remember when I said about the Madrid saying about being born on water and the city walls are made out of fire? You’re looking at the original city walls. During the time, when the Moors fought with the Christians for control of this city, the Christians built this wall from the surrounding land. The surrounding land, contained a special time of rock…flint. So everytime the Moors fired at the city wall with their arrows (er why?), the arrowhead would strike the wall creating a spark. Multiply this, and you would see that the city wall is on fire…hence the name. Cute.
As we got closer to the Almudena Cathedral, that took ages to build, this was opened officially by Pope John Paul II. He’s immortalised by this statue, although he looks like he’s about to dance the Flamenco…
Can’t you share how enthusiastic I am about the architecture?!
Here we are at the Royal Palace! This is where the official residence is for the Royal Family. Great news for the Latin Americans…if you hold such a passport, you can look inside for free! The guide laughed that this is the Royal Family saying sorry for..you know…the conquest…
I just love the street signs dotted around. Cute, clear and yellow. You can’t miss them!
It goes without saying that I love Madrid. Big Love. And I can profess this by eating Madrid. It’s a way to a gentleman’s heart…
This is the Opera House opened by Queen Catherine who faced scorn from her uncle who believed he should have been King rather than a lowly woman…sexism much?
Apparantly, this is the official sign for Madrid. I’m still not sure why. I hear it’s something to do with the Moors being trees and the Christians the bear. The Bear Kills Trees. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Sorry, I just have to show you more architecture. I’m excited.
With all the architecture around and old style signs, you really do feel like you are in another time.
Welcome to Plaza del Sol! This is the centre of Madrid and all roads lead to here. So if you’re lost, follow a road and you’ll find yourself here…unless you went the wrong way and find yourself out on the outskirts. Don’t blame me, you’re the one who got lost!
And finally, you guessed it. Here’s more beautiful architecture. Outstanding! Can’t you see why I love Madrid?
So finally, we finished the walking tour 3 hours later. I really, really, really, enjoyed it. I can’t recommend how fantastic this walking tour and I urge you to do the same. The photos here didn’t capture all what I saw as I want YOU to experience it all. So what to do now? I agreed with a sorely complaining David that he needed a glass of wine and some tapas. Bring it on!
Did you go on the Walking Tour of Madrid? What did you think?