When we lived in England, we had a tradition of going to some interesting destination for my birthday. Be it Amsterdam, or Andalusia, or Rome – I’d rather be someplace fun for my birthday. (Ok, part of the reason for that “tradition” was that school holidays coincided with my birthday every year, and we just liked to go away for every such occasion…)
This year, I made a specific effort to get away for my birthday. Chalk it up to mid-life crisis – I wanted to minimize reminders of how old I was on the actual day.
It should not shock anyone of my fiends and readers that my destination would be the good Old World.
The precise target was Madrid. It was a city that we’d been to quite a few years ago, liked very much, but left only partially explored for reasons both within and beyond our control. We also never managed to go back during our years of living in Europe. And a couple of friends who wanted to join us on this trip have not been to Madrid themselves. The choice was made.
Ready for another non-shocking statement from me? We had a great time!
The weather was gorgeous, slightly crispy in the morning, sunny but not too hot in the afternoon, and very pleasant in the evening. There were no annoying royal occasions to disrupt our itinerary. We enjoyed what we like to do best to the fullest.
As much as I like Paris, I subscribe to a not very widely held opinion that architecturally Madrid is superior and clearly is not as uniform in its core as the French capital is. Which makes walking in Madrid all the more enjoyable for us, finding fine architectural specimen not only on the main streets and squares, but also around many a corner. We took quite a few strolls in various parts of town and all of them yielded positive impressions.
Madrid boasts several great museums and galleries, a well worth a visit royal palace, a brilliant newish cathedral, many interesting churches and quite a few other sights. We planned our time to take as much advantage of those as we could without rushing from place to place. I actually cannot recall any other vacation where we planned anything just as perfectly, to be able to visit all of the sites on our wish-list and also leave us enough time for idle perambulation, coupled with opportunistic shopping so dear to hearts of the female half of the party.
Time for leisurely meals, as well. Be it a fancy restaurant or a random street-cafe choice for lunch, we successfully emulated the natives, who never rush a good meal.
We predominantly went for tapas in our meal selections, and even tried a tapas crawl, with mixed results. As our crawl progressed through the evening into the night and then into deep night, we discovered that all the popular places were crowded so much that we would only be able to sample various pinchos while standing over those lucky enough to have gotten seats earlier in the evening. I suppose it might be a quintessential part of the overall experience, fighting for space and eating in vertical position, but it diminished its attractiveness enough that we opted for less popular establishments, which probably reflected in the quality of the product. Too much salt in the plate was a dead giveaway.
Most of the time, though, the food was excellent.
We also fit two day-trips into our itinerary, to Toledo and Segovia. Both are appealing in their own ways – and highly recommended by yours truly – but Segovia, where we have not been to before, turned out to be especially to our liking, with a 2000-years-old aqueduct, lacy stuccoed decorations on building walls, and a fantastic Alcazar, royal palace, the 180-degree panoramic view from which is shown below. Click for the bigger version.
As always, an excellent trip, whose only shortcoming was that it had to end.
And then, friends and family did their very best to remind me how old I was. Not that I ever doubted it would happen regardless of how many days had passed since the actual birthday. Thank you, all!