Madrid Day #2

Last night, I slept harder than I have slept in a long time. Until 3:37am local time, that is. At that point, about 50 screaming tourists got onto their bus heading who-knows-where. All I know is that woke me up...but I fell quickly back asleep again and walked into our morning buffet breakfast: holy cow. This was nothing like we consider breakfast to be - proscuitto ham, spicy ham, sausage, cheese, toast, olive oil, olives, fresh fruit, croissants with honey, poached eggs, apricot and peach juice...it was truly amazing. There was, in the corner, a small bit of Fruit Loops for the unadventurous-eating American. I needed, of course, my cup of coffee, which I discovered is not what we think of as a good old cup of Dunkin´ Donuts, but instead a cup of very, very concentrated espresso with some warm milk. Knowing me, this made me immediately very hyper, which psyched me up for the long day ahead (it is 11:10pm local time as I write this, and falling asleep!).

We headed to the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, which is the heart of the city of Madrid. It reminded me a lot of Downtown Crossing in Boston or Times Square in New York City. It was quite sleepy at 10:00am, which is when we arrived. We walked and browsed around, I bought a few souvenirs, and stopped for a café at an outdoor café. This time, however, I knew what to expect (in terms of caffeine, anyway). Our meeting place was the statue of the bear in the Puerta del Sol, which is the symbol of Madrid. If you click on that past link, you can see a picture of the bear, as well as the café where I had my café, just beyond the bear on the right, by the white umbrella.

We proceeded to lunch, where we had again, paella (but still with no fish - only chicken and some veggies), which is standard fare for groups in Spanish restaurants. It is probably the equivalent of taking a trip with a big group in America and being given trays of pizza or chicken fingers or hamburgers. Paella is everywhere in Spain - in every restaurant, from fancy to basic.

From here, we picked up Ana, our tourguide, who gave us a driving tour of the various neighborhoods of Madrid; we saw all the government center buildings, such as the Department of Agriculture and the national Library, we passed the monument to the Madrid train bombings, which took place on 3-11-04. We ended up at the Palacio Real, which is the Royal Palace of the King and Queen of Spain. We didn´t see Juan Carlos, but we got beautiful views of the valleys heading south, which was built on the given hill so that the Spaniards could see the invading Muslims from the south. We also got to see their Medieval Armory, which was full of amazing armors, for adult knights, horses, and even small children! Imagine that - baby knighthood!

OK, to bed for me! Tomorrow, we head to Cordoba and Sevilla in the south on the Mediterranean, and then afterwards, I believe to Morocco! More to come asap...

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