Madrid: First Impressions

We arrived in Madrid after more than 30 hours in transit, expecting a long haul though immigration and customs. It was not to be: a quick look at our passport and we were ushered into the country. Brett tried to declare some Australian spices he brought for his classes, but the lady in charge of the “customs” line (literally a sign indicating that if you had anything to declare, to do so–with no further specifications) just laughed at him.

Extensive pre-departure research enabled us to work out the Metro system just enough to find our accommodation, over which there was some confusion. Eventually, though, after an hour’s wait in a nearby café and some mistaken identity, we had a roof over our heads. However, aforementioned pre-departure research did not extend to confirming the presence of air-conditioning in our little apartment. Unfortunate, as the weather was somewhat warmer than anticipated.

Our time in Madrid was brief (less than two days) and studded with jetlag-induced ‘naps’. (Inverted commas because I’m not sure you can still call a 5-hour sleep a nap?) Still, we saw some of the sights and began to get a sense of the capital city.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where we will be living, is only about 3 hours away, so we will be back!


Mercado de San Miguel

Before we left, someone asked what I hoped to see while I was in Europe. I didn’t really have an answer–we prefer a style of travelling that is slower and adopts more of a “wait and see what’s happening” philosophy. However, there was a fairly considerable list of food that we wanted to try! So, it seemed fitting that our first major tourist stop was the Mercado de San Miguel (‘St Michael Market’).

This is not exactly an authentic local hotspot–there were tourists everywhere–but it was a fun place to walk through nevertheless. We saw heaps of slightly-overpriced tapas options, super-fancy acorn-fed jamón (at the bargain price of €195/kg–we haven’t tried this yet but it is definitely on the list!). We lunched on some octopus and anchovy tapas from a place that specialised in cod, and continued on our way.

Palacio Real and its gardens

We also walked past the Palacio Royal (‘Royal Palace’) and took a stroll through its extensive gardens. It’s somewhat-excessive 3,418 rooms make it the largest royal palace in Europe. We didn’t venture inside this trip but plan to go back and see the extensive collection of paintings, elaborate clocks, and the world’s only complete Stradivarius string quintet.

Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida

We trekked over to this little chapel (‘Royal Chapel of St Anthony of La Florida’) which was painted by Goya over six months in 1798. It was a little confusing at first because after being declared as a National Monument, there was an identical chapel built next to the original one. The services were moved there so that the original could be kept as a museum. (No photos allowed inside, so your best bet is to check out the Wikipedia page or do a Google image search.)

This is also where Goya was buried, except for his head which mysteriously vanished after he died in Bordeaux, France.


Madrid Miscellanea

Traffic lights

In 2017 Madrid hosted the World Price celebrations and as part of the event installed same-sex traffic lights across the city. With one such crossing just outside our accommodation, it was a nice surprise in a country so deeply rooted in Catholicism.

Late-night crowds

This photo was taken at 9.30pm on a weeknight. It was busier, if anything, as the night went on. The Spanish eat late (think 10-12) and so our first meal (post-nap) was in a loud restaurant called LaTita surrounded by Spaniards at about 10.30pm. It’s important not to skip lunch lest you starve before dinnertime rolls around!


Never wanting to walk past a strange fruit, we bought a paraguayo, also known as a Saturn, or doughnut peach, from a fruit shop we happened past on our way to the Ermita. Less fuzzy than a peach, sweeter and more complex-tasting, they proved a worthy snack! We had these again once we arrived in Logroño.

[Photo stolen from Wikipedia because we forgot to take one.]


Any city with a good pastry selection has me convinced. It’s really all I ask…so, we will definitely be back to try some more of these!

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