Next day, after a tour of the impressive Royal Palace, a walk through the old quarter took us to the Metropol Parasol – a wooden waffle-like structure completed in 2011. It is intriguing to walk under, over, in and atop this sequence of undulating parasols offering great views of the city in all directions.
A maze of narrow cobblestone streets, old whitewashed houses, small squares with orange trees – this is the picturesque Barrio de Santa Cruz where a myriad of eating places enticed us to enjoy unforgettable Andalusian cuisine every evening.
Garry’s memorable moment in Seville was when he received a haircut from the Barber of Seville –actually it was the Bald Monkey Barber. A day trip by train through ever changing landscapes to the ancient port of Cadiz took us to the southern coast of Spain. Founded by the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago Cadiz is the oldest city in Western Europe and is steeped in history – on three occasions Columbus set sail from here on his voyages to the New World.
The final days of our trip were spent in Madrid. Breakfasts were enjoyed on our balcony overlooking the Plaza de Oriente to the Royal Palace. A tour of the opulent palace includes the Royal Armoury which houses an outstanding collection of weapons and armour belonging to Spanish royals dating back to the 13th century. Walking around Madrid is the best way of discovering all the plazas, parks, fountains, monuments (the Spanish are very big on monuments!) and markets. For places a bit further afield the metro is just the ticket.
During one of our walks we chanced upon the Mercado de la Cebada, a three storey produce and crafts market. As well as great food and wine I found a charming stall belonging to a talented señor hand making beautiful jewellery. Garry loved the rows of mouth-watering Iberico hams hanging around – I loved the jewellery!
On our first night in Madrid we ate at La Bola Taberna, a brilliant family restaurant (6 generations since 1870) and I tasted the authentic “cocido madrileno”, cooked and eaten in the traditional way. In the narrow streets of the La Latina neighbourhood, especially along Cava Baja, we discovered many cosy tapas bars and restaurants – even one exceptional gluten free tapas bar. Evenings partaking of tapas and paella – la perfección.
Filling in time in Madrid was so easy with attractions like the Prado Museum – home to a display of works by the great European Masters, the Temple of de Debob – a 2nd century BC Egyptian temple saved from the Aswan Dam and reconstructed in Madrid, Plaza de Torres – where we learned the history and traditions of the bullfight, and the 2.5km cable car over parks, gardens and the Manzanares River. A definite highlight was an afternoon at the Estado Santiago Bernabeu Stadium getting caught up in the euphoria that is a Real Madrid home game – such an electric atmosphere!!
Unfortunately our time in Madrid came too quickly to an end and, for us, it was a flight home. On returning I started planning the next trip to h elp alleviate the symptoms of the “travel bug”.