Madrid, Andalucia and North Africa

Typical Apt. Building

Come and join me today, won’t you, as I begin a three-part adventure making our first jumping off point Spain’s capital of Madrid.  In the second installment I’ll move on to the Andalucia area, and finally, in segment three we’ll finish up in more of Andalucia, and ferry over to northern Africa.  These three locales are all in an easily accessible straight line; and when you travel this far, you mustn’t visit one without the other two.  The large metropolis of Madrid sits smack in the middle of the country, and unlike its other European neighbors as you arrive from the west in the a.m., stop by any shop and search out a water cooler – what do you find? Why a glass bottle filled with vino (wine), of course.  Just for reference, and not because I love McDonalds, way back in the day this adult beverage could also be found on any of their menus.  Today, however, this fast food restaurant no longer offers the vino, but it still lists Cervaza (beer) – but, again something way off the chain, and unthinkable in America.

Have you ever been to Europe?  I remember wondering what to expect, with so much history would there be anything new at all?  What would the buildings resemble?  Although, I had come that far, and had been so excited when booking the trip, I continued to have many questions.  But, the instant I could make out the buildings as we circled to come in for a landing at Aeropuerto de Madrid Barajas the excitement level skyrocketed.  All my fears were put to rest, and none of my prior questions mattered any longer. The old blended very nicely with the new, and its wide avenues almost gave me the impression of being home.  But, let me ask, why would a person want to travel thousands of miles from home to have the same experience as being in their own native land?  Hello? But, soon enough siesta time arrived.  At that point, I certainly knew – home – absolutely not.

Are you one that thinks siesta is a myth? Think again – shops and businesses close from 2:00 p.m. to about 5:00 p.m., while bars and restaurants close from around 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.  Although, there are still some places open, don’t expect to get much done.  If you take the time yourself to rest, you too will be raring and ready to go when evening arrives.  Do not anticipate an early dinner while in this country.  Madrid is a wonderful place for active night life and long leisurely dinners.  Expect to have a very late dinner – beginning at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. and lasting until midnight.  This is an old tradition in this country, one that has made it all the way to the twenty-first century.  By 9:30 p.m. you should be well into your second pitcher of vino and more than likely, just digging into the appetizers. There are many restaurants that offer strolling musicians as well as Flamenco, which is certainly synonymous with Spain.  I can remember as vividly as though it were yesterday, a subtle tear rolling down the cheek of a female dancer as she performed this dance of passion.

Prado Museum

Want to plan a trip here?  I believe it’s definitely better to arrange for an early September getaway.  At that time, the weather is still warm, but tourist traffic is somewhat lighter.  I would also suggest, when visiting any area in Europe, do yourself a favor and set aside at least two weeks, otherwise you’re in for a rushed vacation.  There are an unbelievable amount of things to do in Madrid.  Among some of my favorites are: the beautiful Prado Museum (Museo del Prado), which is filled with art work, paintings and sculptures from the 12th to the 19th Century. This museum is on the list with Paris’ Lourve and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.   Don’t miss a visit to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real de Madrid). It is, however, only partially open to the public, but definitely worth the trip.  In this country you will find great buys on leather goods, and Majorica pearls.  So, make certain that credit card is light.  Now, depending on whether you’re a city or beach person, will determine where you spend the most time.  Personally, I only needed four days in Madrid, but I couldn’t do less than one week at the beach – this is totally your preference.

Also worthy of mention, it would be a great idea if someone in the group spoke Spanish.  Or if one of the two of you learned some simple sentences.  When you show that you’re trying to speak the language – with a smile, everyone will be more than happy to help.  I would suggest a phrase book or one of those language apps on your phone will also work nicely.  Just remember Madrid is a large metropolitan city where you’ll find Paella in abundance, Tapas Bars that beckon with aromas and friendly locals, as well as avenues like Paseo de la Castellana where the passers-by are as chic and hip as Fifth or Madison Avenue in New York City.  This city is filled with Squares to people watch and enjoy their street vendors, Spanish architecture on steroids, theater, fountains, large churches – name it and it can be found there.  Bravo, Madrid. Again, next time, we’ll meet in Andalucia. Until then. 

Royal Palace

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