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Brian’s Travel Diary

Monday, 29 Aug 2011

Location: Madrid, Spain

MapAnyway, after checking in we picked out the Prado and Thyssen Museums for a visit. We especially wanted to see the Antonio Lopez photographic exhibition at the Thyssen. We headed off to the Plaza de Castilla Metro station.

The ten-ride metro ticket is fantastic. Ten trips including interchanging cost 9.5E and a single ticket is 1.50E. If you wanted to, you could get on the metro and ride all day for 1.50E - just like the singers, orators, accordion players busking through the trains all day. They must make money to do it. When we arrived in Madrid and realised how big this city is and how far our hotel is from the "action", we were considering a quiet time, but the metro cured all that and by the time we got into Sol and wandered around a bit, it wasn't long before we had chalked up a couple of art galleries and a museum and decided to forgo the red tourist bus.

Brian was concerned we wouldn't be able to get tickets for the bullfight, but we found a ticket agent in a plaza near Sol. We didn't expect that we couldn't get tickets for the Antonio Lopez exhibition - that was sold out. We took a photo of his work outside the FNUC store in Seville, so I was looking forward to seeing his exhibition.

On Sunday, we looked for a pair of sandals and a short-sleeve shirt in the Summer sales but no luck. Most of the shops are already stocked with Winter clothes and boots so we had some lunch and "did" the palace and cathedral - waiting in the long, long, long queue. After about 30 minutes Brian decided it wasn't worth another half-hour wait to see more opulence so opted to take pictures from the outside. After that, we found a nice little hotel looking out on the Palace to share a bottle of cava for my birthday. Back to the hotel for siesta and got ready for the bullfight.

Emerging from the metro we walked into the crowded Plaza del Toro - lots of stalls selling t-shirts, bottles of water - bullfighting trinkets etc. There was a massive queue lining up to buy tickets, but we walked straight in, hired a couple of cushions and were shown to our seats. We had purchased the dearer in the part sun tickets, but the sun was only shining on the side of our faces for about 20 minutes and then we were equals. We were close to the ring, above where the horses exited and very close to heavy cigarette and cigar smokers. In front of us there was a man and his son - Australian working in London, and a couple of Americans. The American wanted to know what the bull fight was all about and Brian gave them some information that we learned from the tour of the Plaza de Toros in Seville.

All we can say is that it was a "been there, done that" experience. From what we gathered a "quick-clean" kill gets huge applause. We were very close to when a bull attacked a horse and upended it and it's rider. As the horses have protective armour now that is quite heavy, a number of attendants had to assist in getting the horse to its feet. We'll tell you more about it when we catch up face-to-face.

Our overall impression of Madrid is that unless you are a real Art fanatic, it's probably just too big to really enjoy - particularly after the wonderful buzz of Seville - and to give it a miss and spend your time in the smaller cities and towns.

Unfortunately being so far from the centre of town it meant that we didn't get a chance to enjoy the tapas of Madrid. The Plaza de Castilla really had no restaurants or cafes just some bloody big towers. a huge bus terminal and this 4 star hotel with NO BAR!!!

And now it's off to Salamanca were we might have some trouble getting close to our hotel without a bit of carrying of luggage, as the Tour d'Espana bike ride is in town and the streets around the main plaza are closed AND our hotel is 30 seconds from the Plaza!! We'll see what happens and let you know!!