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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Having done two walking tours yesterday, we opted to skip the 11am one today. We had a fairly leisurely wake up and time getting ready. We had decided to check out Mercado de San Miguel for breakfast, so by 9:45 we were on our way.

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Timing wise that worked out perfect as we arrived just before they opened. That meant way less people and an easier time moving around looking at and photographing everything. So many tasty options, to choose from. As well as quite a few interesting, and some borderline scary things. Markets like this cover all the bases for tourists and locals alike: fruit, bread, sweets, meats (either cooked or raw to take home and prepare), fish from the fried variety to those still looking at you with their beedy little eyes, cheeses, and so many ready to eat small portions showcasing all those delicious ingredients. A veritable feast for all the senses. We both grabbed fresh fruit juice (mango, passion fruit, orange for me and some raspberry coconut, beet option for Cindy). Then we ordered up a cute little stuffed empanada each. Sadly my basic meat one was not the curry chicken one I had wanted and ordered. Disappointing, but still tasty.

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Snacks over, we were headed back toward the Palacio Real and Catedral de la Almudena to get more photos than yesterday’s tour allowed. Not to mention I’ve been waiting 24 years to get into that church (spoiler alert: it was worth the wait!!). We climbed the stairs and located the entrance (no easy feat as the first 2 times I was here, I couldn’t figure out how to even get in the building. What looks like the main facade on the square facing the palace is just the ceremonial entrance. Somehow I don’t qualify as special enough to use that though...how rude!). At first glance it seemed fairly simple. But then you turn and look up and that’s when all the stained glass panels and colorful ceilings come into view. Every little nook and cranny seemed to have a statue with stain glass behind it. Just beautiful.

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That crossed off my list (at long last), it was around to the main square to snap some pics there. Good thing we had no plans to go in the palace as the line for that was pretty crazy. I am good just admiring the architectural wonder from the outside...especially when bathed in sunshine! Too bad there’s a big old ugly fence blocking off any views behind the square toward the mountains outside the city. But I am pretty sure I can get us some views from the park a bit further down.

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So off we went toward the park when Cindy spotted some guards outside the palace. Talk about the perfect happy accident: we showed up just in time to secure a front row seat to the changing of the guard...on foot and horseback!!! I didn’t even know they did such a thing in Madrid, but my Spanish eavesdropping paid off to know not to leave. Videos and photos were on order for this super cool sight and the sounds of the drums leading the way. Plus how do you not love the clip clop of horses hooves on cobblestones?! As Cindy pointed out, good thing we bailed on that walking tour as this was so much more fun and entertaining. To be honest, I had totally forgotten about it already.

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Ok, day made and it’s barely noon. Might as well continue the gloriousness that is sitting in a European park. Sitting in Los Jardines de Sabatini, when it is clearly warmer than the predicted 64 degrees, I totally wish I had worn a skort today. And to quote myself, “I just wanna take my pants off. That’s probably frowned upon, but it’s just so warm that I totally wanna take my pants off.” I opted not to scare any small children or the older gentleman on the bench next to us (or Cindy for that matter) and suffered through. Such sacrifices!!

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From one garden and park to the next, we took a swing through each of them. Then it was time to find Plaza de España, which I remember the monument surrounded by a carpet of flowers. Yet another work in progress, the entire area is fenced off and tore up. Ok, so now where to?!

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One more park I remember from a bike tour I was on. It actually contains an Egyptian temple, for reasons I cannot recall at the moment. Regardless, it is also set on the cliff area with some pretty fabulous views across to the mountains. We spent a good deal of time enjoying those views. We thought about going into the area containing the temples, but there was a line and they only let a limited number of people in at a time. So that would be a no to that thought.

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Hunger calling, we had our eyes peeled for any and all options. I saw a sign for a creperia, the menu looked great, and bonus that there was an open table in the sun. Sold!!! We both loved our choices - some kind of ham and cheese for Cindy and the Texano bbq beef with crispy onions for me. We would’ve loved to partake in the dessert crepes, but with a food tour only a few hours away, we better not.

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More walking and wandering with no real destination in mind. We eventually made our way back toward our hotel, and with time to spare, we took a mapless meander around there. It’s a working class neighborhood and had a lot of typical things like little corner stores and bars, cafes and alleyways. The only thing is all the streets kept leading us down down down. Eventually we landed at the very bottom of the street our hotel is on, way down by the train station. Time to hike it back up up up so we can get ready for tonight’s festivities.

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Back in 2011 my friend Julianne found this amazing food tour (like the kind of amazing where 2 weeks later I turned on NBC’s “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?” and Matt was in San Miguel market with our guide Andrés). So all these years later, I decided to look and see if he was still doing tours. Sure enough, he is and I was able to get us signed up for one. Then I had a moment of panic wondering if I should’ve picked a different tour cause maybe it wouldn’t be as good or we’d do exactly the same stuff and I didn’t want that. But too late, we’re going with it...and it absolutely ended up being the right choice!!

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We met our little group of 7 in Plaza de la Villa. It was the two of us, John & Mandy from Edinburgh, and John and his two sons Jeff and Bryan from California and Arizona. We all got along famously and by the end of the tour, we headed to San Miguel to share one final bottle of wine without Andres.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we had lots of fun and tasty stops before that. We started in what I believe to be the same bar as we did last time. They have fabulous Vermut on tap that they all enjoyed with some olives. No matter the country or the kind, I just can’t do olives. Then they brought out these little fried bacalao (cod) nuggets with a madroño jam. Alright, I’ll try it but I probably won’t like it...but wait...that is delicious!! How can that be?!

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Time for stop number two and the several wine or sherry options there. Those were accompanied by a plate of sliced sausage and jamon (all super tasty), as well as this interesting tortilla with pimiento and morcilla in it. You don’t see that every day!

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Walking from place to place, conversation amongst everybody was plentiful. Andres was willing to answer all our questions and point out the sights along the way. And we were all having a magnificent time. Stop number three had its own restaurant dog that liked to keep coming around to visit. But the highlight here (and of the tour and quite possibly all my food in Madrid) was the seared pork with potatoes served with two different red wines (I preferred the second, decanted one myself). Had I known this was the last stop (I was thinking there’d be one more), I would’ve eaten more before they started feeding stuff to the puppy. But alas, there was still the dessert wine with ice cream to finish things off and it’s not like I didn’t get plenty to eat.

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Upon our return to Plaza de la Villa there was a group photo to snap before we headed off together all food and liquored up. John and Mandy had a wine recommendation so why not just buy the whole giant (like seriously giant) bottle and have the 7 of us drink that. We finally said our goodbyes and headed toward home...Cindy having claimed that giant blue bottle as she felt it was just too pretty for them to throw it away. Now the trick will be fitting it into her bag (side note: it has safely made its way to Barcelona). Somehow we ended up in a shop at like 11pm, slightly drunk, and not having bought any souvenirs yet. Thankfully I only made one small purchase and continued on our way.

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So in going through the photos, it appears I completely forgot the fact that after the food tour and shopping, Cindy and I ended up at the ice cream shop next door (what the what?!). We each got big cups full that we took to the room, threw open our patio windows, pulled a bench over, and ate that ice cream right there under the full moon sometime after midnight. Craziness I tell you!! And you wonder why I haven’t had time to post :P

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These sun not setting until 9:30pm days just wreak havoc with your sense of time...thus making it oh so easy to lose track and yet again be up till 2:00. At this rate I’ll be out cold before our plane even begins to taxi on the 24th. A girl can dream can’t she ;)

Posted by JackiesJourneys 15:13 Archived in Spain Tagged gardens parks madrid palacio_real mercado almudena food_tour san_miguel

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