Going straight to the Plaza Mayor after checking in to our hotel when we arrive in Madrid seems to have become a bit of a tradition (okay, okay, so we were only on our second trip, but maybe I should say we were starting a tradition), so we walked on over and had a seat at one of the tables outside the same restaurant where we ate at last time.
We ordered two bocadillos jamon y queso and two coffees. This is a really “simple” meal, but so awesome! The ham is paper thin and slightly fatty. It’s hard to describe just how good the ham is, but trust me — it’s amazing! The bread is perfectly crispy on the outside and just soft enough in the middle and the Manchego cheese has this distinct “sheepy” flavor. It’s a mix of being creamy yet sharp at the same time. It makes me hungry just remembering about it!!
Yum! Bocadillos and coffee!
You’ll notice that the Plaza Mayor was not anywhere near as crowded as it was when we were here in September. That is because it was a whole lot colder. As the sun was going down it was getting downright chilly!
We walked around a bit more and saw this interesting fella. This was at a tapas bar window, but we weren’t brave enough to try out this dish!
Maybe next time…
We arrived at Madrid’s Barajas airport. The last time we flew into the older part of the airport, but this time we arrived in the newer part, which is beautiful. A bit of history: The airport was originally built in 1927 and of course has gone through numerous remodels since then. This newest terminal was built in 2004, so it is quite new. The architecture is very attractive!
This time while in Madrid we decided to try out a different hotel. We really liked our stay at the Hotel Plaza Mayor last time, but just wanted to stay somewhere different. We picked the Hotel Victoria because it was located in what seemed to be an interesting side street very close to Puerta del Sol.
See what a cool side street?
There were all these awesome tiles decorating the exterior walls of shops and restaurants.
…and it was right down the street from the Museo del Jamon!
Remember? We went there on our last trip.
There were quite a few photo opps just within the block outside the Hotel Victoria. Here is Curt being oh-so-serious in front of another set of tiles. (We did NOT go to another bullfight, by the way. Once was enough for us, I think!)
Even though we were feeling under the weather, we decided to stroll around Albox and investigate this quaint town. Every town has a “Plaza Mayor” and this one was really lovely.
There was a beautiful church at one end of the plaza, and we went in to see the architecture and take some pictures. It was truly beautiful. It always amazes me to see how intricate the design of a small town church is in Europe and here in the States our modern churches are so “cookie cutter.”
Eglésia de Santa Maria
We left the church and sat on a bench in front on the Plaza Mayor to relax. A lot of people started arriving and we wondered what was going on because it seemed an odd time for Mass. Soon we realized people were arriving for a funeral service and so we left the bench and walked around the town. Albox is a typical little Andalucian town, with beautiful winding streets covered in mosaic tile.
Tiles on the wall of a building along one of the side streets in Albox
This picture below is the coat of arms for the city of Albox. We thought it was very interesting because it depicts the fruit trees which are so abundant here, but it also shows a representation of the river which is now a totally dry riverbed. The only time there is water in the riverbed is during a rain, but then it quickly dries up again. We were baffled by this because it is said that long ago people came and fished on the banks of the river Almanzora, but now it is only a dry and dusty rambla. How did this happen? One woman told us that Franco dammed the river to stop the peasants from having access to water for their crops, but try as I have to validate or dispute this, I can find no information one way or another. Anything I read tells me: “The river used to be full, but now is at most a small trickle.” and that is that.
Maybe we will find out the story behind the dried up river some day.
Albox coat of arms
Driving in the dry riverbed!
The architecture in Madrid is awesome, and we enjoyed walking around and soaking it all up. There were lots and lots of people everywhere, especially at Puerta del Sol, but the bustling vibe is what made it even more interesting. The Puerta del Sol translates to Gate of the Sun. It gets its name because this was the location of the city’s eastern gate which let in the rising sun.
This building above was just across the street from a Starbucks. Just to let you know, Starbucks is no big deal after having a coffee at the Plaza Mayor!
The statue above of Carlos III was in the Plaza del Sol.
Even the view from our hotel windows was fantastic. We looked out over a street in one direction and then out of the other window we could see a relief carving that was on a building next door.
Little plaza in front of Hotel Plaza Mayor
Looking to the right from the hotel window
Wall of adjacent building
During the Middle Ages, the Plaza Mayor was a market place outside the city walls; eventually it was made into a real square. There is a lot of history that goes along with this plaza. Its surrounding buildings used to be wooden and actually burned down and were rebuilt multiple times. The Plaza has been used for all sorts of festivities: from bullfights to soccer games to the crowning of kings! It was also the location of more gruesome activities such as executions during the Spanish Inquisition.
The Plaza Mayor is surrounded by beautiful red buildings. Apparently, after Franco was no longer in power, a vote was put to the city and the people were allowed to choose the color for the buildings. Some of the buildings also have really beautiful murals and there is a large statue of Felipe III in the center of the Plaza.
Along the perimeter there are many restaurants with patio seating and this is where we had bocadillos con jamon y queso, sangria, and a great cup of coffee.
This was a fantastic spot for people watching! The Plaza Mayor is closed to traffic (there is parking underground.) It was fun to watch the tourists, and there were many street performers for our entertainment as well. Actually, I use the term “performers” loosely, because while there were some true entertainers, like these musicians:
there were also some strange people dressed in costumes in hopes of having people pay for candid shots with them. Surprisingly enough, many tourists did pay to have a picture taken with the less than svelte Spiderman and the psychedelic cabrito.
The Plaza Mayor was packed with people, but it was a great place to sit back and relax…
Even Spiderman needed to take a load off
Not “Cheers” subtitled in Spanish, but an actual remake of Cheers with Spanish characters! Instead of Norm, there is a character named Blas who is greeted with a hearty “Blas!” as he enters. Sam is “Nico” and is a womanizing soccer player (as opposed to baseball player), and instead of the theme “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” it’s: “Dónde la gente se divierte” (Where people enjoy… or have a good time, I guess… I really need to learn Spanish!)
We were quite entertained by this strange show, but didn’t spend too much time watching it because we had Madrid to explore! We left our quaint room to see what Madrid had to offer.
We checked in to the Hotel Plaza Mayor. We had an awesome room: the one on the top floor with the window facing straight out above the hotel entrance. The trickiest thing was the parking situation because the hotel stated that they had parking available for half the price of public parking. Little did we know that this was one parking space in a “preeevaht” garage and as the girl at the desk let us know, “Eeees berry cohmpleeecated.”
The complication she was talking about was how to find the private garage which was on another street and beneath a totally different building.
The actual complication was manuevering the car through this garage which had to have been dug out of the cellar of the building because no one in their right mind would have designed a parking garage with such tiny lanes. To make things more challenging there were supporting columns placed in what seemed to be total random fashion throughout the levels of the parking garage. The columns were knicked and had broken bits of concrete off their corners, so we knew it wasn’t just the “crazy Americans” who had a hard time in there. At least we didn’t crash into anything!
That’s our rental: the dark car backed in to the spot. We decided to back it in while we had room so that leaving would be a simple straight shot out of the space.