Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exploring the Solar System...Oh, and Madrid

Our second day in Madrid started out with a guided city tour provided by our hostel...for free! There were only 5 of us and we had a really great guide. She showed us the major highlights of the city and the stories behind it without giving boring information. I am slowly getting my bearings and learning to find the way from one plaza to another without looking at the map.
This is Plaza Mayor. Originally it was made of wood and housed bakeries, but it burned down a total of 3 times and was finally reconstructed with stone.
Plaza Mayor
This is the old wall that used to surround Madrid. Once it became the capital and started expanding, the wall was either torn down in places or turned into buildings. On the left the architecture is pretty plain, but later architecture (on the right side of the street) is more ornate.
We also saw Restaurante Botin, which is the oldest restaurant in the world. I'm not exactly sure how one would go about determining that, but they have a certificate, so it must be true. 

Restaurante Botin certificate

The Catedral de Santa MarĂ­a la Real de la Almudena was only recently finished. It was under construction from 1879 until 1993. Apparently a lot of people are not very happy with the construction because many architects were cycled through and there is no one style of architecture. I have to say this is true and it is not a very impressive building.
This is the Royal Palace. The royalty don't actually live there, but there is a museum and a garden that are open to the public.
This statue of Philip IV is located in the Plaza de Oriente.
Isabella II became the first queen of Spain in 1833. Previously, women had married the kings, but she inherited the throne by succession. Supposedly she was a pretty crazy lady and accused her husband of affairs so she could have her own.
At the corner of Calle Gran Via and Calle de Alcala is a large gold dome adorned with an angel and the word "metropolis". It rests high above a major intersection and is the place two of the main streets come together.

Overall, I am impressed with the beauty of Madrid. All of the buildings are nice to look at and there are so many plazas, outdoor cafes, and parks. It seems like people enjoy being outside here so much more than other cities I have been to. There are so many museums and with that comes a lot of TOURISTS! I am so surprised at how much English I can hear just walking down the street. The majority of shop and restaurants also speak English. I'm kind of disappointed in the people of Spain. I heard that they were so friendly and helpful, but every experience I have has been the opposite. Oh well, traveling here is still a lot of fun and yesterday afternoon I found the most amazing place in the world: The National Geographic Store and Cafe! We spent a while there looking through the photo books, movies, clothes, and magazines. The have a huge TV room with movies playing, pillows all over the floor, and books lying around. I educated myself about our solar system....did you know that it has 11 planets? Whoa...

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