We started our morning with a walk to Plaza Mayor. What is in Plaza Mayor, you ask? Well other than being the main square of Madrid full of shops and restaurants and apartments, it is also the designated spot in Madrid to place love locks.
Some may not be familiar with the tradition of love locks, so if you aren't: love locks are padlocks used to symbolize a couple's love -- they are usually placed on bridges / permanent structures and locked their, the keys thrown into the water below showing that their love is forever. I fell in love with the concept of love locks the first time I ever saw them ... so when I knew CJ and I would be traveling abroad, I bought us one to place in Madrid. Usually I put pictures at the end, but --
Ahhhh!! It's just so cute!!
And locked onto its spot in Plaza Mayor, Madrid to live forever. 😍
After spending a little time in Plaza Mayor, we went in search of breakfast: churos and hot chocolate. We people watched and ate our breakfast until about eleven when it was time four our walking tour. If you've never taken a free walking tour of a city that you are visiting for the first time (it wasn't my first time in Madrid, but it was CJ's), I highly recommend the free walking tour. They do work for tips, so you'll be hit up at the end, but usually five euros makes them happy and they are full of good tips and knowledge about the city. Not only do they know about the history of the building that you keep passing but have minuses what it is, they also know how to help you avoid tourist traps, recommend restaurants that are authentic and not crazily priced, and tell you how to get places on your map. Our tour guide was great as was the tour.
We went to Sol (or its longer name: Plaza de Puerta de Sol, plaza of the gate of the sun) and learned that not only is it the home of the bear / tree that is so symbolic of Madrid but also the home of "little Big Ben" ANNNND the most popular place to protest in all of Madrid. The square is not that large, but in 2003 it held over 2.5 million protesters who came out to rally against Spainish troops participating in the war in Iraq. After Sol we went to the Opera House, built by Queen Isabel II. I have to admit, I didn't know too terribly much about the history of the monarchy of Spain; and I assume if you are reading this you do not either. So here is a little information about Queen Isabel II: first of all, she became queen when she was just three years old and began ruling the country in her own when she was twelve. TWELVE. Sheesh. At the age of nineteen she chose to marry ... her first cousin, who happily married her because he sought the power that came with being king ... but turned out to be gay, which did not go over well with the teenage queen. Being a teenager and prone to teenage tantrums, she threw an epic one and banished her "husband" from Madrid, only to be able to enter again with written permission sealed with the Royal stamp from Queen Isabel. She never gave him permission to come back to Madrid and he died without ever seeing Madrid again. She did shend him money from time to time, but only when he wrote letters begging for funds. (Maybe this is why we don't let teenagers run countries?) Queen Isabel was very progressive in her ruling of the country, however, and decided that Madrid needed an opera house; at the time the Catholic Church was not so sure this was a good idea ... but being the eccentric queen that she was, she said do it, and it was done.
Next we went to the Royal palace -- not a super impressive building when it comes to beauty, but quite amazing when it comes to size. There are over three thousand rooms inside the palace. Can you imagine? And where does the royal family live now? Not there -- too big. They had another palace build a little ways away. We also saw the cathedral of Madrid; again -- not so pretty. It is said that the church was not to be prettier than the home of the monarchy, and since the palace is kind of plane, so must the church be.
Those were the highlights of the tour -- we also saw a few other neighborhoods and went to lunch. On our tour we met a girl from California who is starting her Camino this week; she had lots of questions and we had lots of advice! We also met a lady from Israel and a girl from Brazil.
After the tour and lunch, we went to the Prado to see my favorite paintings: those done by Grecco, Goya, and Velazquez. All of the paintings are beautiful for different reasons -- I really like the colors and proportions of the Grecco paintings; he has a four piece series of religious paintings of the annunciation, the assumption, the baptism of Christ, and the crucifixion -- he is always sure to include not only God as father and son in his paintings, but also as spirit in the form of a dove. Velazquez has a ton of paintings in the Prado, but my favorites of his are his depictions of mothers with their children -- usually portraits of children with their parents are very stiff and posed and no one looks happy or like they like each other at all; Velazquez portrays more realistic portraits -- the mothers look loving and the babies and children look happy and engaged; they are holding one another. He really captures the feelings of bonding and love. And then there is Goya -- though I am not a dark person, I really enjoy his dark paintings "the black paintings"; you most likely are familiar with his most famous painting Saturn Devouring his Son. They are all so eerie and full of angst and emotion -- I wouldn't want them hanging in my house, but I do enjoy viewing them when I go to the Prado.
After the Prado we went to Retiro Park and enjoyed the quiet peacefulness for a while -- sometimes it is nice to just sit in silence and gather your thoughts and reflect. Finally we went to dinner -- tapas and sangria (we were still really full from lunch). Then it was time to pack our bags, set out our things for travel, and get some sleep.
And now I am sitting in the airport after a morning of metro rides and security lines and coffee ready to board my plane home.
A few photos ...
Buen Camino. ❤️