Woke up early for a heavy breakfast, then I check out of Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos at Avinguda Diagonal at Barcelona. As I would be coming back to Barcelona for two nights before heading back home, I left my luggage with the hotel concierge and carried my overnighter to the Sants Railway Station. I managed to book the 11 am train ticket which took two hours and forty-five minutes to reach Madrid from Barcelona.
I arrived at the Sol Railway Station, one of the busiest stations of Madrid Metro. The station looked very impressive and was crowded with travellers moving briskly with their overnighters and luggage.
From the Sol Station, I took a taxi to the hotel, Petit Palace Lealtad Plaza. Upon reaching, I realised that it was just around the corner, about 10 minutes walk from the Sol Station. That explained the upset look on the taxi driver’s face when I told him where I was going. Should have done my homework the night before and perhaps save some money too.
Petit Palace Lealtad Plaza is an elegant four-star hotel built in 1905 and refurbished in 2012 located at Retiro, Madrid. It overlooks the El Retiro Park.
Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum located just 250 meters away. It is also within convenient walking distance to Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. Indeed an excellent location.
After checking in and freshened up, it was almost 3 pm. I took a walk to explore the area and had steak at an Argentinian restaurant for lunch. The food was good. The restaurant was filled with diners though it was way past lunchtime.
After a nice meal, I made my way to Puerto del Sol. I walked past the legendary Palace Hotel, the hotel that I originally would like to book but was fully booked as I only made the booking after I arrived in Barcelona. Guess it was a blessing in disguise as a night at Palace Hotel is equivalent to two nights at Petit. Petit is a lovely and cosy hotel.
Puerta del Sol
I went with the flow and reached Puerta del Sol, the heart of Madrid, one of the busiest places in the city – hub for the local transit system, the favourite meeting spot for locals, opportune location for street performers, tour guides, pickpockets and anyone looking to take advantage of the tourists. Do watch your bags and belongings, hold your bags close to you and do not leave any belongings unattended.
In the centre of the plaza sits the statue of King Charles III (20 January 1716 to 14 December 1788) on horseback, facing the clock tower. King Charles III reigned from 10 August 1759 to 14 December 1788. He made reforms such as promoting science and university research, facilitating trade and commerce, and modernising agriculture.
Part of the clock tower building known as the “Real Casa de Correos” was originally built in the 18th century as part of the Royal Post Office and now functions as the headquarters of the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community.
“El Oso y El Madroño” (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree) or Oso & Madroño, the official symbol of the city, is the work of the sculptor Antonio Navarro Santa Fe. The building behind the sculpture is the Apple Store. Every city I visit, I will pay a visit to the Apple Store, think it has become a “ritual”.
Just a few blocks away is Plaza Mayor, originally built outside the city walls, this enclosed square has played host to bullfights, markets, symphonies, tournaments and executions. Today it is ringed with tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. Plaza Mayor is the best-known plaza in Madrid, a must visit for all tourists.
The Plaza Mayor (Main Square) is the central plaza of Madrid. The origins of the Plaza goes back to 1577 when Philip II wanted to remodel the busy and chaotic area of old Plaza del Arrabal but construction only started during the reign of Philip III.
The statue of Philip III (14 April 1578 to 31 March 1621), King of Spain reigned from 13 September 1598 to 31 March 1621), sits in the middle across from the Casa de la Panaderia, a municipal and cultural building. He was also the King of Portugal, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia and Duke of Milan.
Mercado de San Miguel
I took a short walk to my next stop, Mercado de San Miguel (Market of San Miguel), the most popular market in Madrid among the tourists as it is located in the centre of Madrid, a place highly recommended by my colleague. He said that I will definitely love this place and he is absolutely right.
The market is not a traditional grocery market but a gourmet tapas market selling a wide variety of freshly prepared tapas, hams, olives, baked food, beer, wine and champagne. It was originally built in 1916, then was purchased by private investors in 2003 who renovated and reopened it in 2009. And in 2000, Mercado de San Miguel was declared Bien de Interes Cultural or Heritage of Cultural Interest.
After checking out the stores at Mercado de San Miguel and grabbed a few bites here and there, I made my way back to Puerta del Sol. I was welcomed by the beautiful colour of the sky. I could not stop taking pictures of the sky.
After snapping lots of pictures of the beautiful sky I walked back to the hotel to plan my visit to Toledo on the next day.
Back in the hotel room, I received a call from the reception asking if I would like to watch the Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona match happening the next day. I was tempted but upon hearing the price of the ticket (500 euro), I decided to stick to my plan for a day trip to Toledo.
This trip was in November 2015.
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