Friday, September 4, 2015


Wow, I have a whole day in Madrid and I have to make it count!

I didn't sleep well at the hotel.  At 1 a.m. someone passed my door with a really loud roller bag.  At 2 a.m. someone came by to noisily join a party in progress, which was pretty quiet until he got there. Did I mention the walls are thin? I finally slept and woke up at 8.  My body told me to go back to sleep and I woke up at 10.  I finally left the room at 12, ready for my first "whole" day in Spain.

I had originally planned to visit a couple of the big art museums that are very near the hotel.  I looked at the map and saw that the Royal Palace was less than two miles away, a good walking distance for me.  I would rather look at history than Picasso, so I made that my goal.

Actually, there are several royal palaces, and many Royal buildings on the map.  I passed Royal Academies, Royal museums, etc.  "Real" is "Royal" in Spanish.  After many difficult years under dictator Francisco Franco, the Spanish love their royal family.  However, King Juan Carlos did get in trouble with the public for going on a luxury African safari when the people were suffering unemployment over 23%.  The safari was actually paid for by a Syrian businessman, but the King said he didn't want his son "waiting forever like Prince Charles." After almost forty years in power and overseeing the government transition to democracy, the King abdicated in favor of his son, Felipe, in 2014.  I think Elizabeth does not want to see Charles and Camilla taking over, and William is enjoying his young family life too much.  So she waits.

It was a pleasant walk to the Palacio Real. There are lots of tourists and many different languages around me.  I see a lot of short short denim pants, but I am out of the fashion loop and don't know if that's a local thing or a broader fashion statement.  We had similar "hot pants" in the 1960's, but I don't remember them being made of denim, except perhaps for Daisy Mae Clampett's.

The Royal Palace is huge, consisting of a large courtyard surround by three legs of the multistory palace, anchored by a large church on one end.  One leg holds the Armory, which contains ancient suits of armor and even life sized horses fully armored except for their legs.  Some of the gauntlets had sharp spike across the knuckle area, so a slap by the back of the hand would have caused serious damage.  Some helmets had curled horns in the ear area, which I guess was to make the wearer look more fierce or godlike.

The Palace itself is no longer lived in, but is used for ceremonial occasions.  The dining room must sit over a hundred people.  The throne room was sumptuous, of course.

I started walking back to the hotel and opted for some interesting detours through diagonal streets and plazas.  Forty five minutes later I was back at the palace, even though I could have sworn I was heading in the direction of the hotel.  At this point my foot was hurting, so I quickly went the direct way home, stopping only to enjoy some Spanish paella and wine at an ancient looking bar/restaurant.  It was not what I expected. The rice was lukewarm, maybe because I was again eating my dinner after 4 p.m. when lunch service was officially finished.  The paella also was very crunchy, and I had to pull a lot of shrimp fins, chicken bones, mussel shells, etc out of my mouth.  I have heard they put "everything but the kitchen sink" into paella, and this was an example.

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