Thursday, March 8, 2012

Madrid Day 2

We woke up on Saturday in Madrid to beautiful weather. It was so warm and sunny with perfect blue skies. Perfect weather for our first planned activity. :) At 11 we did a 3 hour bike ride tour around the city of Madrid. It was so much fun and great exercise too. We got to see a ton of things that we probably wouldn't have ever seen normally and also have a great overview of Madrid as a whole. I can't wait to do my next bike ride tour. Our tour guide was a Spanish girl that is an actress and does bike ride tours on the side for extra cash. She spoke English very well and was so sweet. She took our picture by all the sites too! And the best part was that it was just Nate and I and then another young couple from Australia that is living in London right now like us. Since it was such a small group, we got a lot of attention and an overall great tour.

The back side of the cathedral by the Royal Palace. The building above is an old Egyptian temple that was given to Spain by Egypt.
It was moved to Madrid and now it is a museum.

The city hall and the temple again.
I thought that was pretty much the coolest city hall I had ever seen.
Plaza Mayor
The Crystal Palace at the Retiro Park.
You can go inside for free. Right now it is just a big art exhibit that looks like the night sky with stars that are made from punctuation marks. Interesting.
On the right we have a building that was painted to look like part of the street. However, the graffiti at the bottom of the painting kind of ruins the effect. On the left is a cool church that is right across the street from the Prado Museum.
Here is our tour guide. We had a great time! However, riding bikes in Madrid (and London) is way more scary than in the US because you ride on the streets right next to the cars and buses. You don't ride on the sidewalks with the pedestrians. There were times where I felt like I could totally have gotten hit if I was a couple inches over towards the car or if I accidentally swerved a little or lost my balance. Literally, there is no room for any mistakes or inaccuracy while riding. Plus, we didn't have helmets on. But we survived!
Our tour guide recommended a gelato place close to Plaza Mayor so of course we had to check it out and yes, it was as good as she said. I got nutella and dulce de leche flavored gelato.
This is the Australian couple that we met on the bike ride tour. We went to lunch afterwards together at a cute little outside sitting restaurant at Plaza de Santa Ana. After we parted from them, Nate and I realized that we didn't even know their names! :) Oh well. We still had a great time with them.

Here is some of the food we ordered-
A Caprese salad with tomatoes, mozz, basil, and olive oil, a prosciutto and ham sandwich and a honeydew melon with prosciutto on top.
After lunch, we took a gondola ride and we got to see the entire city from a bird's eye view.
It was so much fun. We got a mix of gummy candy to snack on during the ride that I had never seen before. I don't know if they only have it in Spain, but it was really good.
Here are some pictures...

Just like in London, in Madrid there are a ton of street performers all over the place. Most of them are kind of dumb or things that we have seen before, but this guy was pretty cool. He had different amounts of water in each glass and did a "Miss Congeniality" performance. :)
For dinner, we ate at La Barraca.
We were so lucky to even get in because it was completely booked. We had gone there during the lunch hour and got turned away and decided to try again at dinner. It was booked until 10:30PM but they said to wait a little while because one of their parties hadn't showed up yet. Luckily, they never showed up and we got their table! We wanted to come here for their paella, rice dishes. They are famous for them here. And I thought the decorations with the plates looked cute online and I wanted to see it in real life!We were definitely a little under dressed.
Here is what we got:
Ham croquettes (fried potato balls with ham bits inside)
Chicken, rabbit, green and white bean paella
(Yes, I actually ate rabbit....and it was on the bone too, along with the chicken)
Green bean and ham side dish (more like lima beans, but excellent flavor)
They had excellent dinner rolls
Creme Brulee

The paella concept is kind of interesting. Two people have to order the same paella dish because the pan that they cook it in makes such a big portion. All the other paella dishes had seafood in them (some even with whole bodies of shrimp with the eyes on them!) which I would rather not eat, so we got the most normal one that we could order, even though it did have rabbit. Then they bring it out and show you the finished product at your table. Then they take your plates and dish it up for you and bring it over to you. Later they come back and ask you if you would like any more. It had such good flavor! Loved it!
Madrid is known for their night life. It is interesting how most people don't eat dinner until around 9PM. Some restaurants don't even open until then. It wouldn't be uncommon to eat dinner at 11PM and then go out for a few more hours afterwards. There is definitely a ton to do late in the evening.

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