Sunday, November 16, 2014

Madrid, Spain

Wed, 27 - Fri 29/8/14

Granada to Madrid

We took the train from Granada to Madrid, a  415km journey which took about 4.5 hours from 9.10am to 1.35pm and the ticket costs a whopping EUR 70.80 (RM300) one way although for a Turistic class. The Madrid Puerta de Atocha is an integrated station so it is connected to the Metro. From there, we took the Metro to Sol station where our Hostal Victoria II is. There was no problem buying the Metro ticket from the machine as there are instructions in English.

Madrid Puerta de Atocha integrated station

green lung in the station
Metro ticket machine

Madrid metro ticket
Metro track
inside the Metro. this one seems like a light railway train

Puerta del Sol

Our Hostal Victoria II is a 2 star hotel on second floor of a shophouse but very near to the Sol metro station. We could even see the Puerta Del Sol plaza from the balcony of our room. Our room cost EUR 45 (RM190) per night. Puerta del Sol is a square with Statue of King Charles III on horseback and where street performers show their talents. 

Hostal Victoria II

our room

Puerta del Sol plaza

fountain at Puerta del Sol

view of Puerta del Sol from our balcony

street performer playing tennis

sombrero wearing street musician

As we were already hungry, we ventured out to find halal food which could be found around Sol and Gran Via area according to the guide provided by Shawn. Thanks again to Shawn! We walked first to the Plaza Mayor, a square with restaurants and cafes; but couldn't find any halal restaurants, only abundant of Museos de Jamon (no this is not a museum but a restaurant chain selling the famous jamon - or dry cured ham). We stopped by at the tourist information centre there and got ourselves a guide map of Madrid.
Plaza Mayor
Museo de Jamon

We then turned back to Puerta del Sol and walked towards Gran Via into the Calle Hortaleza where we finally found a halal restaurant - Bosforos Turkish restaurant . We ordered ourselves Plato Adana (a set of kebab with arroz (rice) and fries for EUR 8.80) and another set of Plato Kofte (set of sliced beef with rice and fries) and walloped everything!

Bosforos Turkish restaurant
Plato Adana

Replenished, we continued venturing at the Gran Via area until Opera, back to Plaza Mayor and back to our hotel to rest for the day. We chanced upon the interestingly looking Mercado de San Miguel, a market selling a variety of food.

Mercado San Miguel

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

For the tour of Madrid today, we bought the Metro 1 day ticket for EUR 5.20 which gives unlimited use of the Metro for 1 day since we were going to places via the Metro. We bought the ticket from the machine at the Sol station. Again, no problems here as there are instructions in English.

We started the next day heading towards Santiago Bernabeu stadium, home of Real Madrid alighting at the Santiago Bernabeu Metro station. Since Partner in Crime is a football fan (guess which team?), we decided to go for the Tour del Bernabeu, minus the players in action though. Ticket cost EUR 19 per person. The tour starts at the highest point of the stadium with a panoramic view of the stadium, then to the exhibition room with exhibits of past trophies won, jerseys and audio visual presentation of the Club's history. We then went down to the grounds of the pitch, crossing the field to the presidential area where the VIPs sit and watch the games. From there, we went on to the changing room; then went up the tunnel to the dug out at the players and coaches' bench area; lastly to the press room where post match interviews were conducted. Of course the tour wouldn't be complete without visiting the merchandise store.

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
Tour del Bernabeu tickets
panoramic view of the stadium

I particularly like the old boot and ball exhibits

the pitch
we are here!
changing room

the gaffer heh
yes, next question please

After all the excitement at the stadium, we were feeling hungry , but where to get halal food around here? Stepping out of the stadium, turning back towards the Metro station; an Indian looking person handed us a leaflet - and there it was - promoting the Taj Mahal halal restaurant. Our question was instantly answered, alhamdulillah. The restaurant is located at the nearby Centro Comercial mall. We ordered the seafood paella (EUR 10.90) which tasted so-so, but it wasn't really important as replenishing our energy was more important.

Centro Comercial mall

Taj Mahal restaurant
the seafood paella (not in pan)

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

With our energy recharged, we went on to our next destination - the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas Bullring, alighting at the Ventas Metro station. We didn't go in for the tour though, only admiring the beautiful facade from the outside. The tour ticket cost EUR 12

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas Bullring
the circular bullring

Estadio Vicente Calderon

It was then time to visit the home of derby rival of Real Madrid - Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, a bit of walk from the nearest Metro station - Piramides. We didn't go for the tour though, only taking pictures outside.

Estadio Vicente Calderon

Atletico Madrid shop

On the way back from the stadium to the Piramides Metro station, we made a detour to a nearby modern design bridge across the Madrid river.

Madrid river

Palacio Real de Madrid

We then went back to Sol and rested for a while from the scorching hot sun before venturing out again at the area around Sol - checking out the Palacio Real de Madrid - the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family and the Catedral de la Almudena; both located nearest to the Opera Metro station. We didn't go into the Palace as the queue was snaking very long. We only took pictures from the outside of both the majestic buildings. Entrance for the Palace is EUR 10 and for the Catedral is free with a EUR 1 donation for the building's maintenance.

Palacio Real de Madrid

side view of the Palacio Real de Madrid

Catedral de la Almudena

We needed to buy water again to quench our thirst as it was too hot. We found this neat supermarket Coviran at Calle Mayor (not far from Plaza Mayor) which sold cheap mineral water (EUR 0.5 for a 1.5 litre bottle) and very fresh and juicy fruits (EUR 2.99)

fresh fruit

Retiro Park

The heat now more bearable, we moved on to the last destination of the day - the Retiro Park alighting at the Retiro Metro station. I first thought that this is a park for retirees, but it actually means Park of the Pleasant Retreat or Parque del Buen Retiro. This is a place where families do fun activities or picnic, health conscious people jog, cycle or exercise; couples spending time together; a place for everyone. There is lake here where you can row a boat or feed the fishes and ducks. There are also activities organized here such as concerts, exhibitions and book fairs. Although it was still summer, there were already shades of autumn foliage visible at wooded area. For more of the history of the park, check out the Madrid tourist info and Wikipedia.

the Retiro Park lake
enjoying the lake view
fountain at the park
autumn foliage visible

relaxing under the shade

The next morning we had our desayunos (breakfast) at McDonalds. There is a cafe just downstairs from our hotel that was already opened and had churros on its menu, but we didn't try it out. After breakfast, we packed our bags and departed for the aeroport via the Metro, alighting at the Aeropuerto T1-T2-T3 station to catch our Easyjet flight to Paris CDG scheduled at 4.20pm. We had to buy a separate supplement ticket costing EUR 3 at the Aeropuerto station to proceed to the airport. We checked in at Terminal 1 with our pre-printed boarding pass and proceeded directly to the gate without going through immigration check. Perhaps this was because we were flying in between EU countries.

McD breakfast

supplement airport Metro ticket

gate C37

Adios Espana, it was a truly enriching experience, I was especially amazed by the impressive history and architecture and also the culture of its people.



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