Spain & Portugal Blog 10
“No city on earth is more alive than Madrid,” claims Lonely Planet, “a beguiling place whose sheer energy carries a simple message: this city really knows how to live!” And any self-respecting Madrileño will tell you that (i) their city’s medieval mansions and royal palaces are up there with architecture’s best … (ii) art lovers keep coming back, again and again … and (iii) foodie-fans go nuts over Madrid’s gastronomic delights.
Little wonder we Kiwis were excited when we drove into Spain’s elegant capital late Saturday afternoon. And we weren’t the only ones! The city’s population of 3.3 million was boosted by planeloads of partying Brits who had arrived for that night’s soccer final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur!
Madrid was still waking up when our Sunday morning tour kicked off: a leisurely stroll through El Retiro Park, created as a royal retreat, now valued as the green lungs of the city, and littered with monuments and sculptures … followed by a highlight tour of the Museo del Prado: one of the world’s premier art galleries, overflowing with priceless paintings and sculptures by Spanish and European masters. (Cameras not allowed, unfortunately.)
That evening, we fought our way through the still celebrating/commiserating crowds (Liverpool had won) – enjoying a Food Lovers’ tapas-&-wine tour! Yum! At one tapas-stop, we found ourselves in the street where Miguel de Cervantes lived while penning his famous novel about Don Quixote: ‘Man of la Mancha’.
Come Monday, our last sightseeing day in these unforgettable countries, we hit the pavements one final time for a panoramic tour of Old Madrid – including the Cathedral area … the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) … and the Plaza Mayor (Madrid’s grand central square, one-time site of bloody bullfights, heresy hangings, and burnings-at-the-stake during the Spanish Inquisition).
That night we had a bonus Midlife Madness treat. Pulling on our tight-fitting muscle-shirts (men) … and hitching up our flared, truffled skirts (ladies) … we rendezvoused at the Corral de la Moreria restaurant for a very classy Flamenco Dinner & Show.
WRAPPING IT UP: All good things come to an end, of course. And our Spain & Portugal Adventure was over all-too-soon. A transfer to Madrid’s Barajas International Airport and a very grateful “Adios amigo!” to Sandra (our tour manager and friend), then we Kiwis were up-up-and-away on our 23-hour flight back to Godzone.
What to say in closing?
Well, allow me to tie up any leftover loose ends with 14 sweeping (and probably inaccurate) generalisations:
- If it wasn’t for Spanish and Portuguese explorers the world would still be largely undiscovered.
- People socialise on the streets and in the plazas – not at home – because their apartments are tiny and up several flights of stairs in buildings that are older than Columbus!
- Everyone smokes. Or that’s the impression you get.
- They kiss big-time – on both cheeks – from right-to-left (not left-to-right like the French).
- They talk loud – and often seem to be shouting at each other.
- Everyone’s Catholic. (Well, almost everyone.) And they love their gorgeous cathedrals, even if they never attend.
- The Spanish go gaga over tapas – the Portuguese over codfish. And both swish their food down with oodles of olive-oil.
- Given a choice of meat, they prefer eating pigs. And their pigs prefer eating acorns.
- Wine flows freer than water – but I can’t recall seeing anyone drunk. (Oh, except those soccer-crazy Brits!)
- Flamenco is quite scary. And the dancers look quite angry. Getting stomped on would be a horrible way to die.
- The siesta (midday nap) is their very best invention. We should make it compulsory here in NZ.
- They all play guitars – and when the music starts they get extremely romantic.
- Bulls don’t chase people down narrow streets. At least they didn’t in the cities we visited. What a shame.
- Nobody works. Okay, they must work at some point, but they weren’t when we were watching. They get up late, take all afternoon over lunch, and don’t start dinner until NZers have gone to bed. Way to go!
PEOPLE-NEWS: The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. And our last Quacky Yellow Duck decided to stay, too …
- Sandra received our ‘Mother Duck Award’ with honours – for escorting her flock of happy fluffy ducklings safely around the Iberian Peninsula. She may have missed the train in Barcelona, leaving us to find our own way to Cordoba, but all 16 of us Kiwi birds were still waddling along behind her when we finally finished in Madrid. Sandra was simply wonderful, going above-&-beyond at every stage in our grand journey … and we’re all gonna miss her big-time!
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
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- We’re cruising ALASKA & THE ROCKIES in September 2019 …
- touring JAPAN in cherry-blossom season, March 2020 …
- river-boating along the RHINE & DANUBE in May 2020 …
- enjoying a WILD AFRICAN SAFARI in August 2020 …
- and lots more!