Day 2 – Madrid

Today we start out with a walking tour of the area around the hotel. Our guide Luis brings us to an Egyptian temple, dating to the 2nd century BC, called the Temple of Debod. It was moved to Madrid from Egypt stone by stone as a gift to Spain for helping with the Aswan Dam.

Luis takes us on a walking path near the Royal Palace. Maps embedded in the path show the configuration of the site at different points in time. The royal stables were demolished and replaced with an enormous garden, among other changes.

From the path we can see our Hotel Barcelo located in the Madrid Tower. The gardens with their greenery throughout Madrid make it a very pleasant city.

We have a good view of the Royal Palace, said by Luis to be the largest in the world. See the long line. Many in my tour group tried to get tickets but could not. I plan to reserve a ticket for my return to Madrid.

We came to a statue of Phillip IV. Luis described it as the first statue of a horse with the front two legs off the ground, apparently no mean feat at the time. It is based on a painting by Velasquez. The history of its creation shows its challenging technical obstacles.

Madrid’s coat of arms contains a bear eating from a strawberry tree.

Images of this bear are found throughout Madrid. The image has a rather complicated history.

Tradition is very important in Madrid. Brass plates like these are embedded in front of stores and other places that are over 100 years old.

The plate in front of this apothecary says it was established in the 1500’s. Luis told us that the paranoid Queen of Spain, known as Juana la Loca, didn’t trust the palace apothecary and came here to the Apothecary of the Queen Mother, for her meds.

We stopped in front of a shop selling specialties of Spain. Saffron took up much of the display, along with olive oil and chickpeas, which are made into a soup Luis said it was essential we try.

Next we headed to the Mercado di San Miguel, filled with an amazing array of food choices.

Many are quite elaborate.

And calorie-laden.

Tuna in saffron and ?

Other displays are plain and simple.

Young’uns enjoying an after snack dip.

Passing along the Plaza Mayor, we came across a shop with an interesting interior. I return to Madrid at the end of the tour and plan to revisit this place, along with a cordage shop around the corner.

For lunch I stopped in at the Museo de Jamon, not a museum but restaurant focused on ham of all kinds. Luis had told us about the pigs fed on acorns that produce ham that melts in your mouth. I decided to try it.

The Museo is one of those fast moving, vibrant spots where people stand or sit at the bar while waiters pass plates of ham in various forms and small glasses of beer. Despite its location in a tourist area, a good number of locals crowded up at the bar. A young woman next to me helped me order a bocadillo (sandwich) made of the best acorn ham.

The best part of the experience was not the ham tasting but watching the lunch hour clientele interacting with their food and each other.

Time is nearly up for these guys. Ham is such a big deal here there are names for front legs, back legs, acorn fed or not. Surely there are many others. Windows are full of legs and slices.

Summer is coming, so handbills and posters announce an array of concerts and other events.

Scaffolding is being constructed for an upcoming concert in the Playa del Mayor.

I returned to the market but decided it was too crowded. No way.

Back near the Metro station at the Plaza del Sol, vendors were actively hawking their goods. The vendors have gotten ingenious with the ropes to rapidly pull up shop. They were busy running here and there this afternoon to avoid the drizzle.

I heard familiar strains bringing me thoughts of La Bella Italia. The musician might be a bit better there, but this could just as well be a scene in Florence or Rome.

This is early May. What might it be like mid-summer? I aim to avoid the tourist areas, as possible.

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