Hola readers! It is currently 8:30am and we are on the coach on our way to Segovia. We just had our last day in Madrid (for now) as well as our first day on Contiki.
The day started with a relatively early wake up. Then a classic continental breakfast – this time it was actually pretty excellent. It had everything you could imagine – Eggs, Bacon, Croissants, Noodles, Donuts, fruit, beans, waffles, rice, meats, cheeses you name it. I mean, the quality of most of it is average but it’s definitely a good spread.
We smashed that and then jumped on the bus for our first included tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid….or not. The royal family were hosting an event so this royal palace was closed to the public. This was replaced by a guided tour of The Prado Museum….that we already did two days ago. We weighed up skipping it and spending some times walking around, but we thought that looking at world class art for a second time is definitely not the worst way to spend a Tuesday morning.
This tour went for about an hour (nowhere near long enough in an art museum) but it covered the most famous paintings that we had already seen, but the guide provided insight from a different and Spanish perspective which was good. After the tour we grabbed a coffee which was shit. Spanish coffee has nothing on Italian coffee so far.
After this we had a ME Time Optional which was a guided tour to “The Valley of the Fallen”. We opted to do this. The Valley of the Fallen is an enormous monument/church that was built in the valley about half an hour outside of Madrid as a “national act of atonement” for the civil war. There is a 152 metre high cross constructed from stone built on top of the dome of the basilica which is the tallest memorial cross in the world. The dimensions of the basilica is larger than St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
It is a really controversial site because the dictator Fransisco Franco is buried there and he didn’t die in the Spanish Civil War. It is also said that him being buried there makes the Valley of the Fallen a monument for the fascists rather than a gift to help the country reconcile. The government are currently in the process of exhuming his body and removing him from the basilica, so it is likely that we will be some of the last groups to see Franco’s resting place. All of the controversy aside, it is a really grand and beautiful monument.
We drove back into the city after our visit to the Valley of the Fallen for a few hours of free time. We were to use this time to have lunch and do some exploring. We had seen pretty much all of what Madrid has to offer in terms of attractions (except for the modern art museum which is closed on Tuesdays) so we focused our free time around food and chilling. Five Guys, our fave American fast food chain, has opened up in Madrid and sadly for us we decided to head there. We got a huge cheeseburger each and some fries to share. As soon as we left we regretted our food choice immediately. We just felt gross and it was extremely expensive fast food.
It was hot out and we walked past the bar with the mushrooms we went to on our food tour and decided to go in for a refreshing tinto de verano. We were not hungry in the slightest but the bartender talked us into getting a plate of the stuffed mushrooms and there is a sign in Spanish in the bar that literally says you can’t leave without trying the mushrooms, so we obliged. Well the drink was delicious and the mushrooms were just as good as the first time. It was cheap and we wish we had made this our first choice for lunch.
We then headed towards a church for some cookies. We had seen and read a bit about these cloistered nuns that bake and sell cook as a way to make there living. Cloistered nuns can’t be seen by outsiders and spend their whole lives living in solitary for the church. Anyway, you have to find the place first, which is difficult as it literally just looks like a normal door, very unassuming. You ring the buzzer and walk for Dulce (sweets) to be let in. You the walk through a dark hallway that leads to this little window with a wooden door. You open the window and there is dumbwaiter type device in there. You shout your order into it (in Spanish) and out your money in the device and then they spin it around with the cookies and your change on it and then you leave. It’s a pretty cool and weird experience and the cookies do not taste great (very plain) but it was fun.
By this time it was time to meet back up with the group to drive back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. We got back to the hotel and we’re still very full, we were unsure if we would head back out. We knew the Matilda’s were playing at 9 and if they have had them on the tv in the hotel, I don’t think we would’ve went out. They didn’t though, so we jumped back into the coach and headed into the city.
We were still pretty full from lunch so we grabbed a lemonade from Mercado de San Miguel and then we went to a place called Museo De Jamon (transalation: Museum of Ham) which isn’t actually a museum, it’s kind of like a deli/bar. We got Jamon Iberico sandwiches and a glass of sangria each. Jamon iberico is like prosciutto but it’s a special sort of pig that is raised in a special way – Jamon Iberico in Australia is about $600 a kg – not cheap. Cheaper here though and really nice! It was a light dinner but we needed that.
After that we caught the coach back to the hotel and hit the hay to get on the road tomorrow towards Bilbao via Segovia.
- Coffee at prado – €3
- “Valley of the Fallen” Optional – €38
- Five Guys lunch – €30
- Tapas and wine – €11
- Nun cookies – €9
- Jamon Iberico + sangria – €11
- Coke – €3