Madrid, Spain

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We skipped having a traditional Thanksgiving again this year and instead flew to Madrid for warmth and sunshine!

The cute little town of Nabburg was shrouded in fog and clouds as we headed to the Munich airport. 
We had a little time before our Air Europa flight so we stopped at the Hofbrauhaus cafe and got some delicious potato wedges, soft pretzels, and a fruit cup for Fox. Happy Thanksgiving to us!
Me'n'my girl.
I love breaking through the rain and clouds into glorious sunshine! Auf weidersehen, Deutschland! See you after the long weekend!
Spain! It's a country we fall in love with more and more every time we visit.
I had the awesome chance to come to Madrid earlier in the year to teach a workshop and I visited my grandparents in Madrid when they were on a mission in 2005, but Chris and the kids were first timers. I was excited to show them around this lovely city. 
Today's Madrid is upbeat and vibrant. It is the hub of Spain and a modern capital with a population of 3.3 million. It's also the second-highest European capital at 2,000 feet above sea level and a fairly young city by European standards. King Philip II moved the capital of what was then the world's most powerful empire from Toledo to Madrid in 1561. Successive kings transformed the city into a grand European capital, but even today there is still an intact, easy-to-navigate historic core. 
PINK entryway! It was on a building just down from our fantastic (finally!) airbnb apartment so we got to pass it multiple times a day. I loved it.
Our airbnb was in the La Latina neighborhood of Madrid and was an easy walk to all the major sights. 
After the scariest landing EVER, including one aborted attempted where the pilot was almost down but then hit the gas and gave up and then had to circle the whole city again before he could try again, we rode the metro to our apartment, got settled, and then hopped back on the metro to find some dinner.

My trusty human GPS getting us to our destination. 
The Plaza de Colón. 
Since it was Thanksgiving, we decided to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe - as close to American as we could get! This is the first Hard Rock that we've eaten at in Europe even though we've seen them in all the big cities. 
Jane and Chris on Thanksgiving 2015 in the Madrid Hard Rock Cafe.
Delicious chicken sandwich and fries. 
Since it was such a lovely evening, we decided to skip the train and instead just mosey on back to the apartment. It was a cool preview of all the big sights we'd get to see more in depth over the coming couple of days.
After a few minutes walk we arrived at one of the classic Madrid sights: The Palacio de Cibeles. 
The palacio is the current City Hall, but it was originally the headquarters of the postal service. That's quite the post office!
Leaving the Plaza de Cibeles we wandered down Calle de Alcalá and arrived at the Puerta del Sol. All along the road and throughout the square were Christmas decorations, but they hadn't officially been turned on yet! C'mon, light it up!

The next morning we awoke to another beautiful, cloudless, sunny day! This is why we come to Spain in the winter.
Cute baby goods shop nestled between two towering buildings.
From our airbnb we would walk down Calle de Toledo to the Plaza Mayor multiple times a day. This was our view looking back towards that street from just out side the plaza. Muy bonita, no? 
To start the day we did one of our favorite things: follow Rick Steves' Self-Guided Walk through the heart of Madrid. The walk started at the Puerta del Sol. Spain gets a late start so it was a pretty empty town even though it was almost 10:00am.
The equestrian statue honors King Charles III who decorated the city squares with beautiful fountains, established the public school system, mandated underground sewers, opened his private Retiro park to the general public, built the Prado, and made the royal palace the wonder of Europe. Generally, he was responsible for really cleaning and sprucing up Madrid.
Santa photo bombed me while I was trying to take a picture of the metro station!
At one end of the square is a statue of a bear pawing a tree to eat the berries. This motif has been a symbol of Madrid since medieval times. Bears used to live in the royal hunting grounds outside the city and the madroño trees produce the berry used in the traditional liqueur. 
At the head of the square is the red and white city governor's office. It was Madrid's first post office in the 1760s. During Franco's dictatorship the building was notorious for being the police headquarters.
At the opposite end of the square from the bear statue is the popular La Mallorquina bakery. 
The shop has a wide array of goodies hot out of the oven.
What they are most famous for are the cream-filled Napolitana de la Crema. Holy cow, this thing was good. It was still warm from the oven and was delicious. Every time we found ourselves back at the Puerta del Sol we'd stop in and get one... or two. Lots of bakeries make a Napolitana, but not like this one!
Leaving the square we walked down Calle Mayor. Madrid has such beautiful buildings. 
I thought this looked like Madrid's version of New York's Flatiron building.
Super cool building on Calle de Postas.
We followed Calle de Postas to the Plaza Mayor. They were setting up for Christmas concerts and a Christmas market, so Chris didn't really get the whole experience of stepping into the wide open square surrounded on all four sides by the uniform buildings like I have previously. Today, the square's buildings are largely private apartments. A tiny attic studio will cost you $500,000 and a 2,500 square foot flat will run you north of $2 million. Wowza.
Just past the Plaza Mayor is the Mercado de San Miguel. The historic iron-and-glass structure from 1916 stands on the site of an earlier marketplace. It was renovated in the 21st century and now hosts some 30 high-end vendors of fresh produce, gourmet foods, wines, tapas, and full cafes.
I love the textures and colors of these buildings!
While all the flower baskets in Germany are long gone, they're still a-bloomin' in Spain!
The nearby Town Hall features Madrid's distinctive architectural style: symmetrical square towers topped with steeples and a slate roof. The building still functions as Madrid's ceremonial town hall.
We decided to peek into a church that was along the walk.
I'm glad we did! 
Just in front of the church is a monument memorializing a 1906 assassination attempt when an "anarchist" lobed a bomb at the newlywed king and queen, missing them, but killing 23 others.
Bright purple building. Nice.
At the end of Calle de Mayor is Madrid's massive grey and white cathedral. It opened in 1993, one hundred years after work began.
Inside is a refreshingly modern and colorful ceiling. I loved it.
Behind the altar is the 12th century painted leather on wood coffin of Madrid's patron saint, Isidro.
After enjoying the cathedral we headed just across the square to one of the highlights of Madrid: the royal palace. 

The Evanses in front of the Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain.
From the courtyard of the palace you can walk out to a view point.
The outskirts of Madrid.
Then it was time to tour the palace interior. Here's my big, strong, sexy man lugging the stroller up the grand staircase. He's had to carry that thing up tons of awesome staircases.
A grand fresco by Tiepolo crowns the Grand Stairs. Man, that guy got around! We saw his work in Würzburg, too.
Pictures weren't allowed in the rest of the interior of the palace, but let me tell you, that place was incredible! Rick Steves puts it at #3 of the best palaces in Europe, behind Versailles and the Shönbrunn in Vienna.

Looking back towards the cathedral from the palace courtyard.

After enjoying the grandeur of the royal residence, we continued on our walk and moseyed through the Plaza de Oriente, a quiet peaceful square near the palace.
Apparently a recent mayor of the city spearheaded construction so that all the traffic here runs underground. Now the area is noise free except for the calming chirps of birds.
An equestrian statue of King Philip IV looks over the park.
At the head of the park is the Royal Theater, renovated in 1997.
Then we headed down Calle de Arenal and strained our necks because we couldn't help but admire all the lovely buildings above us.
I guess Black Friday is even a thing in Europe??
More Christmas lights dangling over the pedestrian drag. Light 'em up!
The brick St. Gines Church (right near the delicious San Gines Chocolateria).
Cool traditional Spanish outfits for a photo-op.
After recharging at the apartment for a couple hours, we headed out to go see the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. We passed by a lovely flower stand.
And some more beautiful buildings.
The we arrived at the museum! There was a huge Stormtrooper head there to publicize the upcoming release of the new Star Wars movie. We found another one of these oversize heads - a Rebel fighter pilot - at another place in the city.
The Reina Sofia is one of Europe's best modern art museums and is home to one of the masterpieces of the twentieth century: Pablo Picasso's massive Guernica. 
Unfortunately, photos weren't allowed inside, but I did get a couple of pictures from the cool glass elevators.

Good night, Madrid!


Our plan for the day was another Rick Steves' walk and another world-class museum, the same as the day before. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
This walk was along the Gran Via, Spain's version of Fifth Avenue. Built primarily between 1900 and the 1950s the boulevard affords a fun view of early 20th century architecture and a chance to be on the street with workaday Madrileños.
These doggies were out on the street just sitting there. Not bothered at all by the gobs of people passing by. I want them.
The section of the Gran Via built in the 1930s is the Spanish version of Broadway and is home to all the big theaters and plays. People were already lining up to get tickets for The Lion King.
Once again, the sun was shining and that wasn't a cloud in the sky. Love it!
At the far end of the Grand Via is the Plaza de España with it's Cervantes monument.
Fronting the park are a couple of Franco-era skyscrapers. Franco wanted to show that he could keep up with America so he had a couple of buildings built to look like those in Chicago and New York. Most people thought they turned out more USSR than USA, though.

El Corte Inglés, the popular Spanish department store, had a special all-Christmas store set up in the Plaza del Callao along the Gran Via. They even had a little area picture perfect for photos so my wonderful kids obliged, albeit with a typically silly face from Fox.
We explored the winter wonderland of the shop then went back out onto the street and enjoyed more gorgeous architecture.
Pretty pretty.
At the other end of the walk was one of my favorite things: views! We rode the elevator to the terrace of the Circulo de Bellas Artes building and got to overlook marvelous Madrid.
Old and new.
Me on the elevator back down | Me and my hubby. Yeah, we're extremely good lookin'. (Note my sarcasm :)
We totally lucked out on weather. Plenty of our European adventures have been rainy and soggy, but not this one! Perfect the whole time!
We found a little park along the middle of the Paseo del Prado and let the kids enjoy the sunshine. I need to make a collage of all the pictures I have of the kids in swings I've taken all over Europe. Lucky ducks.
Then I dragged everyone out to Retiro Park. I had to take them to see the Crystal Palace.
Once the private domain of royalty, the majestic park has been a favorite of Madrid's commoners since Charles III decided to share it with his subjects in the late 18th century. It's a 300 acre green-and-breezy escape from the city.
Nestled within the park is the beautiful steel and glass Crystal Palace.

The structure also doubles as a sometimes gallery space for the Reina Sofia, so there was some sort of modern "art" installation cluttering the space.
A Jesus between all the bones.
This side of the building looks way prettier without all the stuff hanging from the ceiling.
Now (2015) and then (2005). Has it really been 10 years? I used to be skinny! I want my 19 year old body back :)
Leaving the Crystal Palace, we walked out to the big lake, El Estanque. The kids liked seeing the fish.
You can rent a rowboat and enjoy a peaceful paddle across the man-made lake.
From there it was a manicured, statue-lined garden stroll to the Prado.
Fox being a goofball. "Look, there's a tree growing out of my head!"
The Prado!
With more than 3,000 canvases, the Prado is arguably the best collection of paintings anywhere in the world. It houses masterpieces by Velázquez, Rembrandt, Hieronymus Bosch, Goya, Titian, Raphael, and Fra Angelico. But, like the palace and the Reina Sofia, pictures inside weren't allowed so you'll have to take my word for it. My mom says that the Prado is THE reason she became an Art History major. She lived in Spain when she was 7 and walked there all by herself with her older sister to view the art.

Fox went "AHH!" when he saw Saturn Devouring Children by Goya.
Just behind the Prado is the lovely church and convent of San Jeronimos. 
After the walk, playground, lunch, park, and museum, we were wiped out, so we walked back for naps. But, since we were in Spain, our day wasn't over. Spain keeps a late schedule so we did our best to follow suit. Usually we're in doing bath and bed time with the kids before it gets dark, but this trip we spent a lot of time out and about in the evening. 

Our first stop was the famous Chocolatería San Gines. It's a classy (and popular) institution much beloved for its churros con chocolate. Locals have been eating these up for more than 100 years.
Chris was the brave one and went inside among the chaos to get treats.
Dunk and enjoy. Churro? Good. Chocolate? Good. Churro dipped in chocolate? Gooooood.
Lines of people everywhere all trying to get a taste of the famous treat. You get six large churros and a cuppa chocolate dipping for less than 4 euros. Noice.
After our traditional Spanish treat, we went to the Puerta del Sol and to our utter delight they had turned on all the Christmas lights and decorations all over the city! YAY!!!

The Plaza Mayor may have been the highlight, though. Don't you love these colorful cubes suspended all over the square? We sure did!

We called that a (wonderful!) night and turned in. 

On our last day in Madrid we decided to enjoy one of the benefits of our apartment's location and explore the famous El Rastro flea market which takes place every Sunday literally out the front door of our apartment. This was the view out our bedroom window early in the morning.
It's Europe's biggest flea market and stretches up and down streets throughout the La Latina neighborhood. We browsed and browsed and enjoyed checking out all the wares on display.
Right near our place was a breadshop, the Panishop. Chris thought that name was funny but the bread was delicious and was a nice carbo-boost before our trip back to the airport and home. 
Goodbye, Madrid! We loved ya! Can't wait to go back!
"God must be a painter, why else would he have so many colors?"
And that, my friends, concludes our trip to Madrid. I LOVE SPAIN!


  1. And I was gonna ask you if you have been losing weight as your face is looking thinner on this trips photos... and then I read your 10 year photo difference comment! LOL!! I think you look amazing!! I have recently been watching my numbers and walking like crazy and have lost 27 pounds so far! :) I loveeeeeeeeeee all the photos ... what a gorgeous city!! And did you tell photo bombing Santa he is now on the naughty list??? *wink* :)

  2. Loved everything about this post. I never, ever, in a million gazillion years would have thought my grandson would "enjoy" Goya's most gruesome painting like I did when I was young.

    What an amazing trip. Thanks for taking such amazing photos and sharing your artistic perspective. I wanna go baaaaaaack!


Paige Taylor Evans © // Quinn Creatives DESIGN