Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Me Encanta Madrid!

Ole ole ole ole ole ole ole ole!  We picked the perfect time to visit Madrid!  On the way back from the US for the fantastic Malikowski-Gaucker wedding, Matt and I decided to make the most of our prospective connections.  We had narrowed it down to Madrid or Amsterdam...and chose Madrid.  Turns out that we are just as good at predicting as that darn octopus!

We arrived the day after they won the World Cup and the city was in very high spirits!  This feisty city was a fantastic place to visit.  Prior to our arrival I had heard that Madrid could be a little too 'corporate' or that it was stuffy due to it being the financial center of Spain.  We must have visited two different cities, because Matt and I found Madrid to be full of life, a tremendous amount of energy and always looking for a reason to celebrate (winning the World Cup didn't hurt).

The people were some of the friendliest we've met anywhere!  We also loved practicing our Spanish.  Between my recalling old Sesame Street lessons and working at Chili's in high school combined with Matt's zany ability to recall conversations between his Spanish speaking friends and their parents - we understood about every 3rd word, which was great because surprisingly no one really speaks English.

We had four hot, sunny days, which were mercifully a 'dry heat' - side note, Dubai is NOT a dry heat why does everyone think this? - to explore the city and we made the most of every minute!

 Champions of the World!  The ketchup and mustard was everywhere!

We started our tour of Madrid on segways.  I was skeptical at first, but I am now a total convert.  It was SO much fun.  If you haven't done it you must!  Here were are speeding through the Plaza Mayor at 12mph. 

Out of nowhere the Temple Debod appears in the Parque de la Montana.  Its an actual Egyptian temple from 2200BC that was gifted to the Spanish for their archeologists' help in staving the temple as the waters of Lake Nasser almost destroyed it before the Aswan Dam was build in 1968.

Matt decides halfway through our segway tour to try to bench press our guide Alex in the Retiro.  Told you they were fun people!

Can't you just feel the fun?

It front of the gorgeous Palacio de Cristal in the Retiro park.  It was used as a winter garden for flowers, but now houses temporary exhibits from the Reina Sofia.

Dinner at the famous Restaurante Sorbino de Botin the Guinness Book of World Record's oldest restaurant in the world established in 1725.  We tried the famous dish of the house - suckling pig.

While we were at dinner a university group of strolling musicians came into the restaurant.  Little did we know it was a special ocassion.  The older gentlemen who was at a table next to us with about 20 people was the founding member of this group nearly 40 years ago and the were quite popular around town.  When the current members found out he was in town for a wedding (he lives in Puerto Rico now) they suprised him at the restaurant and "the Maestro" didn't waste any time getting into the performance and we had front row seats (literally we were backed into a corner and couldn't move if we tried).  This guy is great!
We shut down the restaurant with this fantastic family and heard all their old stories, how the maestro met his wife and even played with the grandkids, it was truly very special.
On a side note, it may take the grand-kids some time to appreciate the music of their grandfather.  When ever the group asked for requested they would yell "Waca Waca!" begging the group to play Shakira's World Cup anthem. 

Sorry Germany I am going to have the relinquish your claim to the pork-loving throne.  I have NEVER seen as much pork as I did in Spain.  They LOVE their pig.  Interestingly, I was told the reason they eat so much pork, is that back in the day when they were constantly warring with the Moors it was the only livestock they wouldn't plunder because Muslims can't eat pork.  Clever.

I love me some Dali.  The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia has an amazing collection.  We spent a few hours dissecting these!

The passion, the emotion, the skill...flamenco is so moving!  I was completely mesmerized by the performances.  The Corral de la Moreria is one of the most famous flamenco houses in Madrid.

Who does it better?

Like I said, I was inspired...
The symbol of the city of Madrid in the Plaza de la Puerta del Sol.  The Madroño tree (which sounds like Madrid) is not native to Madrid.  And it is not a strawberry tree.  The berries of the Madroño tree are red like strawberries.  However they are very sweet and are really not good eaten raw.  Unless like us you find out they make an amazing liqueur out of them!

Matt is trying to master the traditional pouring technique for Pachu an Asturain (area in northern Spain) apple cider.  The trick is to hold the bottle as high as you can and the glass as low as you can and attempt to have the stream just hit the side of the glass as you pour about 2 oz.  Once aerated it must be consumed in about 5 minutes before the sediment forms and the bubbles are lost.  Trust me it's worth working for!
Known locally as "Fat Spider Man" (can't see why?) this guy hangs out in the Plaza Mayor and is a total riot.

On our last day we headed to La Castille-Mancha region to try the local wines.  They make some awesome wines with granche and tempranillo grapes, not to mention some great Spanish olive oils.

The barrel room in one of the regions family run wineries.
A fantastic view of Toledo!  The walled medieval city is just 1 hour South of Madrid and it is truly a time warp.

The modern ceiling decor of the Catedral Almudena.
Standing on the balcony of the Almudena, a perfect place to see the entire Palacio Real.  It has over 2,000 rooms!  And the current King decided he doesn't want to live in it - go figure.


jimdad said...

Thanks for the great photos and videos - if Kate Winslett had been on a Seqway instead of the bow of the Titanic, she couldn't have done better than Katie.

It's hard to imagine packing more fun into just a few days. Following the World Cup final, it looks like you visited the perfect place at the perfect time.

Elin K said...

Seems like you guys had great fun! Can't wait to catch up with you and hear the story "live'!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great photos and videos - if Kate Winslett had been on a Seqway instead of the bow of the Titanic, she couldn't have done better than Katie.