Sunday, 15 January 2012

An unexpected day in Madrid

It’s three days before we are due to fly to South America for our final trip of the year, and I receive an email from Aerolineas Argentinas, informing us of a flight cancellation. As a result, instead of a mere two hours to hang around in Madrid airport before our connecting flight, we would now have 14 hours. Sigh. With no way around it, and grateful for the extra buffer days we’d planned into Buenos Aires, we decided that we would make the most of the time, and have a whistle-stop day in a city neither of us had previously visited.
In the end, it turned out to be one of the best days we’ve ever spent in any city. The weather was fresh but with clear blue skies, and after working out the incredibly simple subway system, we were on our way. With just one day, we decided to stick to the centre, and began with strolling along the streets, glancing through the Christmas market and ducking into beautiful small plazas, warmed by the winter sun, admiring the gorgeous buildings with their graceful and majestic architecture, quiet and welcoming.

Finding ourselves at the palace, situated high with a fantastic view of the city and the countryside framing it, we went in to check the entrance prices and were told that we could go in for free. Language communication between us and the seller was a little stunted, so we couldn’t quite work out why we were given a couple of tickets for no payment, but we certainly were not going to argue, and went through to one of the most spectacular palaces I’ve seen. The rooms became more and more opulent as we walked through, rich colours and stunning furniture appealing to the senses – nothing matching or particularly complimentary of course, but this really was a display of wealth and world-wide influences. The ‘chapel’ (which was the size of a full church) was the highlight – the scale combined with the sculptures around the walls took my breath away, and was definitely not what I had expected. The palace sits opposite the cathedral, a soaring white-grey building with delicate spires perfect for photos.
We eventually moved on as the sun began to set, watching the sky fade to yellow on the road beside the Victory Arch, before finding an underground station and returning to the airport. A small glimpse of Madrid, a city that had never been high on my wish list, but one which I would be happy to explore further in the future. But it was time to leave - we had places to be, and mental preparations for a very long plane journey to make…

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