Today’s cultural activity was a walking tour of old Madrid and then a tour of the Palace Real. Me Jenny and I don’t love a large group tour, so have opted for small groups or private tours when we can. I don’t enjoy wearing the ear piece and I hear better when I can see the guide’s face/lips… I find that in large groups the guide has to walk and talk, otherwise they’d get nowhere and I miss most of what’s being said.
And…. a first for us today – our small group consisted of us and a lovely Spanish speaking couple from Argentina, so our guide had to say everything twice – once in Spanish and then again in English. It probably made the tour twice as long as it needed to be.
So we started walking towards the palace, but just to see where we would go later on…. that’s the queue for people to get in – and that’s only half of them!
This tour really doubled up on a lot of information that a guide from the tapas tour told us in relation to the history of who was here and when the christians took over, etc… This chap below (don’t know if he’s somebody significant, our guide didn’t know) but he’s looking at an ancient wall from the Moorish times that they have preserved under glass…. whoever he is, rubbing his butt obviously brings you luck!
We also learned that the symbol of the city is the bear climbing up the ‘strawberry tree’. It never occurred to me that Spain would have bears, but apparently, they’re out there in the forests.
You can tell that this section of the city has ‘Moorish’ history because of how close the buildings are to each other. They loved a narrow street – making it shady for the people, and also having narrow windy streets was a defence tactic.
Having a tour in both Spanish and English really highlights how many more words are needed to explain something in Spanish. Spanish needs about 3-4 minutes of non stop words and then English 15-20 seconds – tops!
Here our guide is telling our Argentinian friends something in Spanish while Me Jenny and I stood aside and discussed why short pantaloons were invented.
If it looks like these buildings are on a bit of a lean, that’s because they are!
At the bottom of the curved street is the oldest restaurant in the world. 1725 is apparently when they opened their doors and they have the Guinness Book of Records certificate to prove it.
In the window they have a miniature dolls house version of the inside of the restaurant, so you can see that it goes over 3 levels. You can also see the miniature version of the kitchens.
It’s not a cheap place to eat – maybe for a special occasion? Probably safe to say that they are not the original prices.
In one of the main squares on the city – Plaza del Sol there is a building that used to be the post office and just outside on the pavement is this marker. It is their point of centre. Every street in Madrid (or possibly Spain, if you go by the map) is measured from this point. The streets are all numbered from this square as well, so Calle 1 is pretty close and if you’re after Calle 48, you’ve probably got a bit a walk ahead of you.
Street performers are having to step it up a notch here. I don’t know how long these two people had to do this for, but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the money? A bit more inventive though that the standing statue.
Once we finished our walking tour, we headed back to the tour office to meet with some more people (!!!!) to do our palace tour. That’s right – more people and you know what that means…..
I guess the one good thing about going with a group is that you get to enter through the group entrance which is generally quicker.
So this is the palace – the royal family don’t live here anymore, but they do hold banquets and royal ‘do’s’ here on occasion.
You would think though with all their dough, that they’d do something about their shutters!
There’s a massive courtyard out the front and to the left the palace looks directly at the Cathedral – so when royals get married they do it in the Cathedral and then zip across to the palace for the shindig after.
So our tour group had about 30 people. ½ Spanish speakers and ½ English speakers. Our guide did a great job of flicking between both languages however there was a lot to say about each section of the palace, and as I explained Spanish seems to take about 5 times longer to get the information across, and when she did start the English version, she moved straight on into it, so you always missed the first few sentences trying to work out which language she was speaking in.
So since we were missing most of the information and there was a lot of standing around waiting in a very crowded palace, we thanked our guide, handed our ear pieces back and bid her adios. There were English signs in each room telling you what you needed to know… The palace started off quite sedate, but as you moved from room to room it got more ridiculously ornate (that rhymes!).
The one thing that I did hear her say is that the man in the painting below had a very big nose and that’s how you recognised him. I can’t tell you who he is though.
So whilst we sat in a square nearby with a caña (beer) in hand, we wondered which room in the palace our group would be up to….
Then we slowly wandered home stopping for lunch at a place that our tapas guide recommended. It was a wine/tapas bar with a groovy vibe. People came in and stood at this centre table, had a glass of wine and a tapas plate of something, then went on their way. The turn over is amazing.
… and lucky us – we found white asparagus again, so we took our time.