Our second stop saw us bunkering down in the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Our first impressions of Madrid? Busy. But cool. It's very much a cosmopolitan concrete jungle like NY and London but it still has its ancient buildings and cute little enclaves.
I kicked off my second day in Madrid with a visit to the Vicente Calderon Stadium, the home of Atletico de Madrid - one of the biggest football clubs in Spain (along with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, of course). Any football buff will also know that Atletico Madrid is currently on top of the Spanish League with 1 game remaining in the season and will face arch enemy Real Madrid in the EUFA Champions League Final. So the atmosphere in the neighbourhood surrounding the stadium was electric - flags hanging from every window, kids running around in Atletico shirts and a general excitement for a club that is on the verge of completing the most successful seasons in its 111 year history!
Unfortunately the first team were having an extra training session so my tour of the stadium was limited to the museum, trophy room and club shop. But I did manage to get within a fly's whisker of the shirt worn by Diego Forlan when he scored 2 goals in the 2010 Europa League Final triumph. Anybody who knows me well would know that I have somewhat of a man crush on ol Deigo and his cheese grater abs. Just look at those things…. http://www.stayfitbug.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Diego-Forlan.jpg
Speaking of man crushes, Jess continues to be impressed by the quality of the Spanish men. Three day growths, exotic names and accents and sensational bodies - what's not to like? And that's just her travel partner! Then there's the Spanish men! However, not all the Spanish men managed to live up to Jess' lofty expectations - Spiderman, for example, looks much better in the comic books and movies than he does in real life (see the photos section). He's not your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman anymore. He's a whole bloody neighbourhood unto himself!
The highlight of our stay in Madrid was the visit to the Royal Palace - the biggest palace in Europe at 1,450,000 sq ft with 3418 rooms (that's a lot of vacuuming!). We managed to view only 25 spectacular rooms (or 0.73% of the building) and we weren't allowed to take photos. But we did manage to take pics of the Palace grounds - including a sneaky pic of a tourist doing her best Eurotrash tart pose at the Palace gates. Stay classy creepy lady ;-)
Our last night in Madrid was spent at our favourite restaurant of the trip thus far: Restaurante Puerto Rico on Calle de Chinchilla, a laneway off Gran Via, across from an American Ribs restaurant and strip club (classy!). This little hole in the wall is one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it type places that serves up authentic Spanish cuisine with friendly service. The restaurant was full of locals (a sure sign that the food is good) and the food was presented in a no frills manner that made you feel like you were having dinner at the house of the Spanish grandmother that you never knew you had. Our soups were hearty, salty and yummy (and salty, did I mention salt?) and the head chef was a gentleman of the highest order. Do check it out if you're in Madrid.
Finally we'll leave you with some video footage of some of Madrid's finest street performers. Go to the video section of our blog to check out the two blokes on the hammered dulcimers - they're going off like a bride's nightie!
Next stop: San Sebastian.