Like usual trips, we woke up the latest on the last full day and hit the road just in time for… oh, will you look at that? It’s lunchtime!
We did try to be less of pigs and had been on our way trying to check off yet another sight, Templo de Debod. But apparently we’d approached it the wrong way, getting off at Metro stop Principe Pío instead of Plaza de España. On the map, PP was closer, but upon closer inspection, we had to basically scale buildings and walk through endless streams of traffic order to get to the Templo whereas it took just two streets to get there from Plaza de España.
Upon reaching Plaza de España, we gave up and started to search for restaurants instead. By day 3 in Madrid, we had a good sense of how a good search is done. But first, we had to fight our way through a Spanish protest, which included a lot of drum-beating, singing, and music.
Across the giant Spanish flag, we saw the name of a restaurant that one of her Spanish friends recommended highly: Museo de Jamón. Museo de Jamón, although a chain restaurant throughout Madrid, comes highly recommended as the place to eat just about any Spanish dish you ever wanted. There are two prices listed next to each item on their 10-page menu; the lower price is the one you pay for standing and eating at their counters lining the entire upstairs area, the higher price (higher by an average of 2€) was the sit-down, dine-in price.
Unfortunately, due to their diet habits, we could not sit down in their dining room until after 13h so we chilled in possibly the most secure Starbucks for an hour before heading back over. Seriously guys, this Starbucks had unique bathroom codes and wifi codes printed on each receipt.
Once the long hour was over, we crossed the battle lines once more to find ourselves… following the largest tour group into the dining area where we were politely escorted out because there was no more room. However, we were extremely determined not to leave before having a meal here, so… standing it was! You burn more calories that way, don’t you? That justifies everything we ate in Madrid….
The front of the restaurant was decorated like a charcuterie; a variety of meats arranged neatly in the glass-window display. At first, this was confusing, like many other Spanish eateries: how and where do you order? And then you start to realize that the entire restaurant was like a… vegetarian’s nightmare. Thick legs of meat hung in rows from the walls, inaccessible because who wants to eat meat that have brushed against thousands of bodies?
I’m pretty sure it was a little bizarre to stand and eat such a complete meal at Museo de Jamón—most of the people standing were there for some early-lunch snacking.
“Forty-five minute,” the server said in a heavy Spanish accent, “The paella will take forty-five minute. Okay?” I nodded, answering for the two of us; she didn’t speak English and could only comprehend simple phrases at best.
She was starving, so we ordered a taster plate of meat and cheeses to stave off the hunger.
I was highly anticipating the paella. Since it took 45 minutes to make, I knew what was in store: the mouth-orgasming, fresh paella that I’d tasted back in Barcelona. And I was not disappointed.
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.
For some reason in Barcelona, Madison and I were able to finish a whole pan of paella by ourselves. It’s a shame we weren’t able to finish it this time, but I think it’s because we had been eating out so much that my metabolism couldn’t keep up. Although now, it seems like I can’t eat enough to satisfy that fickle monster.
After getting our fix for the day, we now had enough energy to restart our search for Templo de Debod and the rest of our plans for the day.
But once at the Plaza de España, we found it easily enough, guided there by helpful signs. Strangely, although it was 1:30PM, we were greeted by this sunset? Which, by the way, made for difficult lighting.
Templo de Debod: check. According to the information inside, the Egyptian temple originally resided in, well, Egypt. However, in gratitude to Spain for helping to save the temples of Abu Simble, they donated the Templo de Debod to Spain, rebuilding it in Madrid.
Next on our list was Palacio Real. I took photos sparingly at this point because my camera was running low on battery. Photographer’s worst nightmare.
In order to stroll through the courtyard, you’ll have to pay. I believe it was 6€ for students; remember that’s the discounted price. All we did was enjoy the full-on touristy ambience and stick our cameras through the fence.
Near the Palacio Real is also the Oriental Garden as well as the Téatro Real, whose prices seemed much higher than the ones I was used to in Barcelona. But they seemed to have more variety as well as a few English ones (I think?).
Next: Plaza Mayor. Now I’m not sure why I didn’t expect to see a Christmas market there because these markets are standard in Europe come December. Grenoble’s market started around the 25th of November. This is probably the biggest market in Madrid, since Plaza Mayor is considered the central hub of the city. You know a plaza is important when it has 9 freakin’ entryways.
That night we headed to the streets partly to find Monasterio Descalzas Reales. What we ran into instead was people. Lots and lots of people. As an American who is very used to having personal space, this made me quite uncomfortable and frustrated. Neither with sexual connotations. But we could barely walk two steps without having to stop and wait for the people in front of us.
Apparently this is the norm in Japan because my friend emerged from this experience a lot less haggard than I did. Maybe because I did a lot of weaving and forging through the gaps in the crowd. It’s been a while since I had road rage, mostly since I haven’t driven in about a year, but this was very much its cousin.
As we weaved from one street to another to find this elusive church, we came upon this giant display on the face of a mall. In the streets, countless families stood there, just looking at it? Why were they just gathered here, staring aimlessly at this display? We put two and two together and concluded that there must be some kind of show within the next half hour—hopefully we found the church before that.
Are we children? Yes. Of course.
Found it! Well, that was pleasant. But back to the show.
I found the crowds more interesting than the display—except when they made it snow—and took a lot of photos similar to the ones I imagine a pedophile would take. One thing I do like about a crowd is the human interaction.
The minute children started to occupy adult shoulders, we knew the show couldn’t be more than 2 minutes away. What adult would willingly shoulder 50 pounds a minute more than necessary? I’m only 22, but even I wouldn’t do that. It’s called arthritis in the making.
That night, we ate at this place called Nuevo Apolo, a Peruvian-Spanish restaurant right off of Dr. Corteza because it was cheap(ish) and close to our hostel. The waiter was smitten with my friend and kept coming by to “talk” to her. Talk in parenthesis because I was the awkward common-language man in the middle.
During the middle of our meal, a man came in to serenade us. When walking past this bar/restaurant, I always noticed some kind of performer hanging around and inside the joint. I think this restaurant allows street performers to come in and perform for their tables. He started performing for us without our ok, but it was fine because we chatted a bit and I got the video and photos I wanted.
Thanks to our charms, the smitten waiter not only refilled our glasses of wine for free, but also offered us some shots, I think, to goad us into going out with him. He mentioned a few times that if we decide to go dancing that night, he had a few connections with the clubs nearby and would we please go dancing with him.
We refused his offer and he left us the check. A few minutes later, another waiter came over with a bottle and poured us shots. “For free!” he said jollily. “Oh, no! We can’t!” but our protests fell on deaf ears. It tasted like Robitussen.
When we reached the door, our original waiter tried yet again to convince us to take his offer of free shots as well as clubbing. But we cried off, saying that we had already received shots from another waiter. I thought that he’d been the one to send over the shots anyways, but from the look of surprise he gave us, I guess we impressed more than one waiter in the restaurant that night.