Though we spent the longest in Madrid, we did the least amount of stuff, mostly because I was still recovering from food poisoning. Our first day I stayed in the room and when we ventured out to a restaurant, the smell of food made me so sick I had to leave early and go back to the hotel by myself.
The next day I was better, so Fionn and I did some exploring and went looking for shoes, since Spain makes a lot of nice shoes (or so we were told). Fionn found some but I left empty handed. I picked up a hand painted fan instead!
We walked around the city, hitting up the famous places and making our way to the Cathedral and Old Palace. The Cathedral was so so, but the Palace was cool. Lots of history and ornately decorated rooms. Fionn and I enjoyed walking through the courtyards and I enjoyed jumping in front of his pictures to make goofy faces. He didn't find it as funny as I did :)
Afterwards we took the metro to a local park. It was pretty and had a big lake and a crystal palace. Unfortunately, the crystal palace and an adjacent building were playing host to an art show and it was awful with a capital A. Yerrch. Honestly, it was so bad that we couldn't tell which was the art and which was a construction site. Awful.
That night we had dinner in the oldest restaurant in the world! I forgot the name of the place, but the food was all very good and served in hearty, gigantic portions. Fionn had the suckling pig and I had saffron chicken. I devoured it-it was the first food I'd been interested in in days and I was STARVING. We decided to get dessert, and as per our usual tradition, we got something we'd never had before. I can't remember the name of this cake but WOW. So tasty!
Madrid is a cool place, but it's not quite the cultural hotspot like Barcelona. Going on the advice of Andrea, we decided to take a day trip to Toledo, Spain's old capital. It's a medieval walled city and when you visit it seems like time is standing still. It's only an hour from Madrid, so well worth a trip!
We stopped to see El Greco's masterpiece (no photos allowed) and then continued on to visit a mosque that became a church, and then to the former home of a contemporary artist. All the while we tried not to get lost in the winding streets.
From there we visited a monastery and the church built by Ferdinand and Isabella. They originally wanted to be buried in Toledo, but later changed their minds. So the church stands with no one famous buried in it.
Before we left Toledo we stopped to visit a Damascene workshop. Damascene is a specialty of Toledo that started when the practice was brought over by the Moors. Gold or silver is inlaid into oxidized steel, creating an intricate pattern.
The use this method to make jewelry, plates, and lots of other things. There different categories of damascene-the cheapest and lowest quality is stamped by a machine, the second quality has some flaws, and the highest quality is handmade by artists and has no flaws.
The best part is it's all very affordable! I had trouble limiting myself but I love the earrings I left with. We even got to see one of the craftsmen at work!
With that, off we went back to Madrid. I had hoped to meet with my friends Soni and Sara, but unfortunately we ran out of time :( Maybe next time!
With our Spanish adventure at a close, we packed out bags, headed to the airport and took a plane to Dublin, for the Irish leg of our trip!