Madrid : My First Impressions
Do you know this feeling when you get out of the plane, put your feet on the new ground, breathe the air, and smile to yourself at the thought of the adventure you are about to begin? This is what I felt the first moment when I landed in Madrid. Do you know this? When your soul feels at peace? I don't know but it makes me happy.
Madrid - the capital of Spain, a cross-cultural city with an amazing architecture and thousands of tourists in every corner of the city.
I landed on the Barajas airport on June 3, 2015. Compared to the experiences I had in Luton and Stansted airports in England, going through Madrid's Border Control was pretty quick -- they just stamped my passport and that was it! And mind you, the TSA officers are gorgeous. If that was an indication of things to come, well, I thought I was in the right place. The airport is not so far from the city center, about 20 mins. After checking-in at the hotel, I had a quick shower, ordered an in-room service, took a nap, and met with the rest of the group in the afternoon.
While waiting for my ride going to the hotel, I had a quick snack in this tapas bar at Madrid's Barajas Airport.
We went on a walking tour in the evening, started at 6pm. The first thing I noticed on the street were the elderly people walking hand-in-hand and young couples kissing publicly. I don't see that very often here in the Philippines. Another thing is that Spanish people, although Spain is in a very deep financial crisis and everybody can feel it, they spend a lot of time eating at the restaurants. Especially in the evenings, you can see that the restaurants and bars are full. That’s because the Spanish dinner time is around 9 pm, they have their "tapas" (small plates) in-between, and they love to accompany it with wine or beer, which is very cheap in Spain. And my Filipino pride kicked in when I learned that the most famous beer in Spain is San Miguel (more of this in my next post, the only thing I can share now is that it has its roots in the Philippines). And of course the Spanish siesta – in the city center it is not so visible, but if you go to a smaller neighborhood, between 2 pm and 7 pm you won’t see a single shop open. This is quite annoying to those of us who aren’t used to it. And I also learned that the banks and all the important offices in Spain work between 9am and 2pm. And everything closes at 11pm. The Spanish timing is… well, they don’t really have a sense of timing at all. That's what I heard, but thank God, never experienced it while I was there.
My first glimpse of Madrid's streets -- this one is near the Plaza Cibeles
The Cibeles Fountain, the symbol of Madrid, stands in the middle of the square. Behind the Goddess of Nature's statue is the Cibeles Palace (now, the site of the CIty Hall).
"Woman With The Mirror" by Botera, renowned outdoor sculpture that adorns Madrid. This is at Plaza de Colon.
Once more, I was drawn to the incredible architecture and as we strolled through the town, I snapped the buildings and streets that captured my attention (above and below).
Estacion de Madrid Etocha is the largest railway station in Madrid, designed by Gustave Eiffel.
We had a great dinner in this restaurant tucked up a side street in the Salamanca area -- Restorante Cinco Jotas. We had some great starters -- ham croquettes, Cristal bread with tomato and olive oil, cod, grilled asparagus with Manchego cheese. Followed by gazpacho and it's loyal companion, Jamon Iberico..!!! Fantastic introduction to the best Iberico Spain has to offer. This restaurant is dedicated to pork but each dish was delicious. All I can remember is how happy I was at the end of dinner.
The facade of Cinco Jotas.
Iberico Heaven….!!! And the restaurant serves only Spain's BEST Jamon Iberico brand -- 5J…!!!
The creamiest gazpacho I've ever tasted -- still at Cinco Jotas. This gazpacho is made of grilled yellow bell peppers and of course, lots of garlic. Yes, that's Jamon Iberico sprinkled on top of the cold soup. Oh, and I thought I would never like cold soup -- but I made exceptions with the Spanish gazpachos. Yummy!!!
And we washed all the fatty goodness of the Jamon Iberico with a glass of a cold Osborne's Fino Sherry.
Over the next few weeks I’m looking forward to reliving my time there through a series of blogs and reviews of the fabulous places I discovered, explored and will never forget. More to come…..next post will be about my visit to Toledo and more of Madrid.