Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tips for Madrid and Toledo

Library, Madrid
1. Once landing in Madrid go immediately to Casa Gonzalez on Calle de Leon (just off of Calle de Huertas) and order tapas. The Chorizo Iberico, semi-cured Manchego cheese or the Cabreles (the strongest blue cheese made in Spain) and the Foie Gras are exceptional, especially when you forget about animal rights.

2. Don't be picky about your beer. Just order "Dos cervezas" or "dos canyas" and trust it.

3. Definitely do one of those day trips people talk about and if you choose Toledo, plan in go to the RENFE train station a day or two before if you want to get on the 9:20 a.m. or 10:20 a.m. train. Otherwise, you will get on the 12:20p.m. train and arrive at the top of the hill of Toledo right at the hottest part of the day. Be kind to yourself. You can throw caution to the wind when you are there, but plan ahead. And if you do miss the train, the answer to your back up plan is: No, you cannot get tickets to Sergovia at this train station. Also note that Trip Advisor forums are correct when they talk about American's having difficulty using credit cards here. It is the only place Mike's credit card has been denied in the many countries we have used it. Bring cash - 20 Euros each for a roundtrip ticket.

*This is also true for bus tickets to Granada. Go ahead of time. We could not buy online because we don't have a printer, so we went two days before our departure and three of the buses were sold out. Also, purchase your tickets at the window. One of those little kiosks froze on us and it tool twenty minutes before it reset and we learned that no, we had not been charged and not given our tickets. They say accept credit cards, but we they don' least ours didn't.

4. In Madrid, when they tell you to get to the platform twenty minutes ahead of time, it's true. You have to go through security before you get on the train.

5. If you take a day trip to Toledo, wear shoes. Sandals, even those ugly ass Keens of yours with the toe protector, cannot save the balls of your feet from the constant smacking on raw cobblestone up and down that hill.  When I say cobblestone, I mean just rocks in cement. Unlike smooth cobblestone pavers, these bad boy streets are all sorts of uneven rocks, some polished down and some sticking out like mini road bumps waiting for you to stub your toe. Okay. it's not bad...unless you are circling that mystery spot where Mezquito del Cristo de la Luz is supposed to be.

2. After Day 3...okay maybe 5, move on from jamon and Manchego cheese.Yes, even the chorizo!

3. Hablo espanol. Like any other country where English is not the main language, at least try to exchange a few pleasantries in their language before bumbling around for your request in English.
Churros con chocolate

4. That whole myth about "siesta" is true. Get up, get going, and siesta before a late dinner at 9:00.

5. Try Schweppes Limon. So delicious and no, they did not pay me to say this...but I'm open to an offer...any offer. This trip ain't cheap!

6.  Save the money you would have spent in Italy on clothes and buy them here. The clothes are cheaper, but also way cuter (in my opinion) with  more of a funky vibe and a lot more mixing of individual style with designer cuts.

7. Madrid is fucking hot. Yes, even at the end of September, wear tanktops, but pack a light wrap for the night time.

8. The napkins here are shitty. Pack a hankie.

9. When you go to museums, if you have a messenger bag, you must wear it in front of you or check it. That is what they are trying to tell you when they stop you at the ticket entrance. Swing it around!

10. Don't believe TripAdvisor or the Guidebooks on the 19 items it is suggested you can cover in a "Day Trip to Toledo." Toledo is a very sleepy, dreamy-like town with streets that weave you in and out of beautiful medieval architecture...but mind you it is on a hill, so you are in and out and up and down. Sure, it might be nice to see The Alcazar, The Cathedral and the fifty million churches and museums possible...but it also may be nice to take a wrong turn and find yourself at Happy Hour with the locals at Plaza de Montalbanes...or you can keep looking for that Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz. (Where the fuck is it?!) Your call. If I were to do it again, I'd spend a night here and do as the Spaniards do...chill. What we did was take our time at the Cathedral (which is not free. 8€ and it comes with a free audio guide.), saw El Greco's painting El Entierro Del Señor De Orgaz at Iglesia de Santo Tome (2.50€) visited Sinagoga de Santa María la Blanca (2.50€) and tried to see the Hospital de Tavera but it was closed an hour earlier than the guidebooks said it would be (5:30 not 6:30). We also stumbled upon San Juan de los Reyes and the facade was beautiful as well as a million other places in Toledo.

11. ART IN MADRID: I don't care if you don't like museums, you have to go to the Museo Nacional Del Prado, and you should do this one first (followed by Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza then the Reina Sofia). And if you are on a budget, go at 6:00 p.m. Monday -Saturday and you can get a free ticket. They give you a map of the masterpieces you must see and although it is more crowded, there is an exciting energy in the museum as people move quickly around each other to take in all of the free art at their disposal. Never have I been to a museum where so many people were so excited to see art! This also goes for the Reina Sofia. The free hours are 7:00 - 9:00 and although they are above giving you an easy guide (probably because they are the modern museum), they do give you a map with an index of the artists you want to see. You can finally see all of those Salvador Dali paintings you used to have as prints in high school when you smoked a lot of pot and dropped acid and thought it said something about you to have them up in your room when your friends came over. What it said...probably that you smoked a lot of pot and dropped acid, but now you can have an actual context for those paintings you loved fifteen years ago!
Monet at Museo Thyssen

12. THE PRADO: See Velazquez's Topers (The Drinkers) at the Prado.  I know you will see his Las Meninas, but Topers was my favorite. Also check out Rembrandt's Judith at the banquet of Holofernes and Rubens The Three Graces and Ribera's The Sense of Touch.

13. SOFIA REINA See Picasso's Guernica at the Sofia Reina. And when you look for that piece by Hitchcock, go see it. It's in English! (And pack a sweater. This one is freezing!)

14. MUSEO THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA: See the Impressionists - Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir. See the cubists - Gris and Picasso. See the American - Edward Hopper's Hotel Roomi crushing. There are no free hours here and Mike and I were the youngest patrons at this museum. To be fair, it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday.  This one has lots of different rooms and a couple floors. Like the Prado, they give you a map/checklist of the master paintings, but many of them were on loan and some were in different rooms than listed (off by one or in one case, one level). Go before lunch and then get a goo meal afterwards. You will be tired.

*It should be noted that Caixa Forum is now considered to be among these three giants. Outside of this museum they have a huge living wall that is pretty cool.

15. Just like Italy, public restrooms are hard to find. Having come from Italy, my bladder has been stretched and I now have the amazing ability to "hold it" for long stretches of time, a consequence that has UTI written all over it.  Been in Madrid a week and I have yet to see a public restroom, but in case I do, I have my emergency one Euro packed (the cost to get in) and a few squares of toilet paper for the 50/50 chance there will be none when I close the stall door.

16. That girl in the green vest speaking to you in Spanish very very fast and very excited and hopeful...much like any promenade or busy city street in America, she is asking you if you have a moment for Greenpeace.
El Transparente, Cathedral in Toledo
17.  Try the Patates Bravas and the Tortilla de papas con pimientos. Also, churros con chocolate and mazapan.

18. If you love yourself, go to Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, close to Plaza de Mayor.  Yes, all those little tapas will add up, but it will be so worth it. While I disliked the empenadas and stuffed olives, I LOVED the jamón, the queso, y tostas. The sweets were excellent, too.

19. The post office...yeah, good luck, if you are trying to find that and you have stumbled on my blog by mistake. La oficina de Correo is hard to find but there is one San Francisco however it closes at 1:00 on Saturdays, unlike what a couple forums said. Yes, we did learn this the hard way. From what I can make out, I think you might want the International Prioritario Paqueta and I still don't know where to find bubble wrap in this city. Looking for a box? Try trash day.

20. Go see The Fallen Angel statue at Buen Retiro Park. It is the only statue of Lucifer in all of the religious art of the world and it is fabulous! We had one of our best days in this park. The temperature dropped and a cool breeze rustled fallen leaves as we strolled through the park on a fall day in Spain. There are tons of cool sections on this park and we generally just enjoyed people watching. We also went to the Botanical Gardens which don't hold a candle to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden but have the most amazing stretch of Dahlias I have ever seen. 

We are off to Granada tomorrow, so more to come!

The Fallen Angel at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid

1 comment:

daleboca said...

sounds great! i have helped my tutees study that el greco painting- would love to see it in person.
are you guys tired??
miss YOU!