Location, location, LOCATION! Last night got a bit rowdy at times, but Mikey finally got to try out his earplugs. They worked so well that he slept through both of his alarms. Still, it was nice to wake naturally at 7 am and start the day at a slower pace.
Pans can perhaps be best described as a Spanish take on the American Subway restaurant chain. Although not open 24 hours a day, it was the only place that was at 8 o’clock this Sunday morning.
Surprisingly tasty, Mikey’s cafe con leche, zumo de naranjas, and toasted sandwich de jamón serrano y queso set him back a mere 3€. Yeah, it was way better than Subway.
What a difference a day makes! This morning began beautifully with bright blue skies. Since practically no Spaniard is up before 9 am on a Sunday, Mikey (and a sleepy-eyed guard) got the run of the cathedral just after opening.
Ready for a little history lesson? In 1561, the capital of what was then Spain moved from Toledo to Madrid. They started work on the palace, public buildings, residences, factories, and all manner of building projects, yet overlooked their need for a cathedral in the capital. It wasn’t until 1879 (or over 300 years later!) that work began on the Almudena Cathedral.
Prominent outside the cathedral is a statue of Pope John Paul II. Why you might ask? Well, he was the pope who consecrated it in 1993. Insert Spanish siesta joke here. Haha.
Built in the neo-gothic style, the interior is strikingly modern. For instance, zoom in on the vaulted ceiling above to note geometric patterns in place of biblical allegories.
Even though it’s style clearly belies the cathedral’s age, Mikey was most excited about getting this shot from behind the altar! In case you weren’t already aware, dear reader, Mikey likes sneaking around and capturing images from alternative views. In this case, it is from the perspective normally reserved for the mass celebrants.
Now permitted beyond the gates, Mikey was ready to get all the palace pictures his 10€ ticket would provide!
The Grand Stairway was definitely impressive and explains why guests are always brought through this formal entrance.
Of particular note was a mural depicting Hercules’ erecting his pillars. If you aren’t familiar with the ”Pillars of Hercules,” it relates to his 10th of 12 labors in Greek mythology wherein he traveled to the mouth of the Mediterranian Sea and placed stone pillars (read: mountains) on either side.
Legends differ, but a popular Renaissance allegory has Hercules placing a serpentine banner between the European and African pillars with the words, ”Ne plus ultra,” or “nothing further beyond.” Sure, that might not mean a lot to you, dear reader, but if you are from the US and have ever seen your dollar sign ($) written with two vertical lines, that’s one of several accepted origin hypotheses. Just saying…
Back to the Royal Palace…this is a painting of the last royal family. Yes, King Juan Carlos and the rest seem pretty casual, but trust us – they don’t mess around with tourists like Mikey taking pictures inside their house…er, palace.
Boasting the highest domed ceiling in all the Royal Residence, the Chapel is both the spiritual heart of the palace and the site where Mikey was dressed down in broken English for snapping the above picture before being fully encouraged to visit the gift shop at the conclusion of his visit.
Now safely outside, our “shell-shocked” cameraman snapped a hurried photo of the main inner courtyard. Although seemingly akin to other royal palaces throughout Europe, the Spanish palace is unique in its predominant placement of the 4 Roman emperors who hailed from Iberia.
A blatant attempt to legitimize their rule, the late Hapsburgs and early Bourbons made sure to highlight the 4 Spaniards who ruled Rome at various points. Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, and Theodosius are depicted in the courtyard where most government bureaucrats and foreign diplomats would converge. Once again – location, location, location!
We walked a ways to the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande. Just wondering, and as an aside, but is this a title that you use while alive to denote virility or something they call the fat guy once he dies? Anyway, mass was in progress so all we got was this exterior photo.
”Walk a dozen steps on a Spanish weekend and you’ll damn well trip over an outdoor bazaar.” -Mikey el Grande (2018)
Oh, and here’s the (possibly) oldest restaurant in the world. Yeah – just look at that doorman’s passive expression: ”No reservations? That’ll be a 5 year wait.” Mikey tried, but got burned.
Oh – we almost forgot! As promised, here’s a modern shot of the Plaza Mayor.
After a quick walkabout, we tallied one horse and not a lot of heraldic dress – well, unless you count fanny packs and Crocs. Oh, Mikey wants to point out that the selfie-stick could be considered the modern lance. It just depends on how one uses it.
Of interest, though, was the number of coin and stamp dealers stationed around the interior of the plaza. It was really interesting to watch regular buyers and sellers carefully consult price guides before beginning negotiations well oiled with practice. No way was this haggling – it was an art!
That above reference to the prevalence of weekend bazaars goes equally for protests.
Since the Royal Family wouldn’t let Mikey take pictures of their digs, he went for the next best thing. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, the Museum of Romanticism showcases much of the romantic writer Mariano José de Larra’s furnishings. Let’s just say, this guy was really into pastels!
He also enjoyed music. Practically every room had at least one piano. (Mikey kind of geeked out on the number of different styles.)
So much for romantics – Mr. & Mrs. Larra had separate bedrooms far enough away to accommodate even the loudest snorer. But, after comparing their distinct decor, Mrs. Larra was probably the one who was really into pastels.
It wasn’t as big as the Royal Family’s 120 place setting, but the dining room was impressive.
The Billiards Room was definitely Mikey’s favorite. Oh, and the three chairs that are against the wall behind the table – they’re called ”flying chairs” because they are meant to be moved around to card tables or put into groups for conversation. Perhaps one could equate them to our modern folding chairs at dinner parties.
Speaking of parties, this is a view from our balcony during the siesta hour (so not at a busy time.) Just thought you might be interested. Ok, that’s a lie. Full disclosure: Mikey was just playing around with the timelapse feature on his phone.
After the siesta, we went out for tapas. Tapas are basically snacks or small appetizers. Although they are meant to whet the appetite, they can also serve as a progressive dinner of sorts. The above is a tortilla. Many foreigners erroneously refer to it as ”Spanish tortilla,” but that’s like saying ”Mexican standoff” in Juarez. (F.Y.I. if you are ever involved in said standoff in Juarez, you probably won’t have to worry talking about it later. Just saying…)
But then we digress. A tortilla in Spain is basically an egg and potato frittata. After these required ingredients, it can presumably include almost any other edible item the cook chooses to include. Mikey was once served one with baby eel and mayonnaise, but he kind of thinks that old woman was just messing with him. (He ate it, though!) Anyways, it should be a little gooey like the above.
While tapas can be purchased for a few euros, the savvy tapista* feigns hunger and is served freebies such as olives, random fish on bread, and the like. Then, rinse and repeat!
Well, we still have packing to do before catching a morning train to Cadiz. Oh, and that’s where we’ll start this whole Camino walking thing. Good night, dear reader.
*Mikey wants to clarify that tapista is, in fact, a word since he recently added it to urbandictionary.com (he’s just waiting for peer approval).