May 14 - Madrid
We walked down the stairs to breakfast and found that the room was small, the tables were very close together and it was crowded to capacity with guests from many countries. The buffet was adequate and the diners were pleasant. It was another cultural experience.
Our day was loosely planned. We first dropped off our laundry at a nearby laundromat. Everthing that I brought with me needed washing after three weeks or so on the road. Ann was ready too. We were going to stay at the laundromat and do our laundry ourselves, but I talked Ann into leaving it for the nice lady to do it for us. It only cost a few euros more and we could use the time to see Madrid.
After that we went to a travel agent in the huge department store near our hotel to make train reservations for Toledo tomorrow. The store also had a supermarket where we bought bananas and oranges for snacks. Then we walked down to the Royal Palace for a spectacular tour. Madrid's Royal Palace is one of the best in Europe. It is still being used by the Spanish monarchy for special occasions. Ann and I agreed that the rooms are much nicer than the ones we saw at Versailles. The audio tour was better, too. And there were far fewer tourists. While we waited in line to enter, we struck up a conversation with two couples in front of us. They were from Belgium but were speaking Dutch and English. I really regret that we are monolinguist.
Back at the hotel for some downtime, we were interrupted by lots of noise outside on our street. There was a parade going on with gigantic figures of kings, queens, attendants and others marching and dancing down the street - kind of like Macy's Thanksgiving parade scaled down. I grabbed my camera and fought through the crowds to get some photos and videos.
Parade in Madrid
Dinner was at a couple of tapas bars nearby that Rick Steeves recommended. At the first one, Casa Toni, I was reluctant to stay because there was a lot of trash on the floor and the wait person was coughing and sneezing. We decided to have one tapa - fried eggplant with a sweet sauce - and leave. The owner saw our Rick Steeves tour book and treated us to some Marsala wine. Hopefully, this killed the cold germs. (I have since learned that customers at tapas bars traditionally drop their small napkins on the floor because there are no other places to put them after they are used. The more napkins on the floor, the more popular the tapas bar).
At the second tapas bar, Ann had BBQ pork skewers and I had some grilled shrimp. We were also treated wth some after dinner liquor. A peasant evening.