Some new low-cost airlines from Toulouse made the direct trip to Madrid very cheap and easy. From Toulouse to Madrid center in 5h, even after a few plane delays. The only hiccup is a bad sinusitis combined with poor pharmacy prescription supposedly against a cold, that made my nose only flow some blood – and scare off a bunch of children in the airport.
My hotel is located in the downtown of Madrid, a few hundred meters from the “Sol-square” on a pedestrian street. First reaction, even at 11pm on a thurday evening Madrid is more crowded than pretty much anytime in a German city!
My first day was spent visiting the Prado museum, with paintings from the most famous “not-too-recent” artists, later walking across the city in the large parks and all the way through the main streets to the royal palace. The photos will probably show more than the text!
Second day in Toledo, a medieval town 30min by train south of Madrid. Toledo was for a long time a more important city than Madrid in Spain and was for some time capital and/or imperial town of various kingdoms for a thousand years (the kinda-unified country of Spain is actually fairly recent). Toledo has a very interesting combination of architectures from various rulers and religions: arabic, medieval, gothic, jewish, renaissance architecture are all next to each other throughout narrow cobblestones streets on top of a hill. Toledo has a completely different atmosphere than Madrid, a lot more quiet, no cars, some fresh air and views over a rural region instead of the large Madrid metropolian area. Back in Madrid in the evening and the combination of the cold, walking all day long, the cold temperatures (included in my hotel room: apparently heaters generally don’t work in Spain even if night temperatures go well below freezing!) have all made me KO in the evening. One of the shortest new years eve celebration!
Third day, starting 2017 early by meandering in the downtown Madrid: its parks, various neighborhoods, flea market, etc. The morning is very quiet and I was expecting everything to be pretty much closed during the day, but surprisingly all restaurants and cafés open around noon. It looks like the tradition is to get some churros with chocolate, which will thus be my first lunch (the noon one, the real lunch is more at 3pm in Spain…). And although it is a public holiday, the whole city gets as lively as usual in the evening.
I’m heading back to the airport in the evening to get a car rental, and at 11pm pick-up the parents from Toulouse to join me for the continuation of the trip further south in Andalusia. Next post!