Madrid at last!
The capital of Spain lies pretty much exactly in the heart of the country. It’s been on our list of places to visit for a long time but last year we changed our minds at the last minute. We weren’t quite confident enough how we could visit with a dog. We spent a lot of time researching places to stay and trying to find out the public transport connections into the city centre so that we can avoid taking our motorhome into town but we weren’t sure we could do it.
This year we are determined and we research even more. Luckily, our friends Karen and Colin from Rewind the Gap visited Madrid in Spring, staying in Aranjuez and taking the train to Madrid. We thought this might be a good option as we remembered Luna was allowed on the train when we visited Barcelona last year. The campsite International Aranjuez is registered with ACSI which means it’s €20 per night in the off-season.
The best bit seemed that Aranjuez is quite a nice town in itself with a Royal Palace and some lovely gardens and parks. The Royal Palace can even be visited for free with an EU passport on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon (after 3pm in off season, after 5pm in the high season). This is a good way to visit it as the rooms are spectacular but you don’t need lots of time for your visit. My favourites where the arabic study and the porcelain study which both have incredible detail in their decorations.
Next to Madrid! It turns out we were right and Luna was allowed on the train without any restrictions. Perfect! Train tickets were €8.60 return per person and the journey took approximately 45 minutes to Madrid Sol, right in the heart of the city.
We arrived fairly early and it wasn’t too busy yet. We turned into Old Madrid first, down Calle de Arenal and to San Gines for Churros con Chocolate. We saw the Palacio Real and the Cathedral next to it. We also visited the Mercado the San Miguel full of amazing, bright and colourful tapas and Plaza Mayor as Madrid’s tourist centre as well as countless lanes around the old town.
Eventually we made our way back to Puerta del Sol where we had started that morning and we decided that we should find somewhere for lunch. There are lovely looking tapas restaurants around Plaza Mayor, but we wanted to find something a little bit off the beaten track. We made our way towards Chueca barrio via Calle de Alcala and found a little restaurant (El Pescador, Calle de la Infantas) that would allow Luna in. It wasn’t a tapas restaurant but they certainly did authentic food with one menu dìa option being pig’s trotter… We weren’t feeling quite that adventurous but we enjoyed a lovely dinner with steak, padron peppers, patatas bravas, a mussel salad and croquettes. It was a busy little place full of local workers coming in for their lunch.
After lunch we walked up Calle Fuencarral which is a busy shopping street and finally along the Gran Via back towards the old town to try to see the sunset at the templo de debod.
Finally we travelled back to the campsite, 2 very tired campers and a tired pup, but what an amazing city and what a brilliant day!
There is still lots to see however, and we also have an old friend to meet in Madrid so the next day we take the train in again. Our day starts with a powercut at the aranjuez train station, which means we end up getting a free train journey into town as the ticket machines are out of order and they can’t sell them at the customer service desk. We travel to Chamartin this time to spend the morning with a friend of mine from school. It’s been more years than we care to admit, but it’s just brilliant to spend some time together and soon we’re chatting away as if it was only yesterday that we last saw each other. Thank you Cristina for a lovely morning!
We decide to walk south to explore this side of the city today and we walk via the Bernabéu stadium to a large shopping centre where we have some lunch and finally through the rather posh Calle de Serrano with its expensive shops (Rolex, Cartier, Dior, Gucci etc) in the Salamanca barrio to the buzzing Retiro Park where we stop for a drink in the sun. Finally we get to Atoche barrio from where we get the train back to Aranjuez. Day 2 in Madrid was just as great as Day 1. This city has some wonderful attractions and is a shopper’s paradise!