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3 days [and nights!] in Madrid - a trip report

3 days [and nights!] in Madrid - a trip report

Feb 28th, 2007, 02:47 AM
  #1  
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3 days [and nights!] in Madrid - a trip report

Hi, all

Just got back from a long weekend in Madrid and thought you might like to read how we got on.

First of all, an overview.

The "we" is me and DH, two over 50s from Cornwall, who try to get away to mainland europe two or three times a year, flying usually on Easyjet from Bristol, which is about 3 hours drive on the motorway.

we like a bit of culture, gardens, music, and trying local food - so much the same as the rest of you on this forum!

our choice of Madrid was mostly driven by cost - it was just about the cheapest place on our shortlist to fly to on our chosen dates. The return flights, from Bristol to Madrid, were £40 each, including taxes.

Our hotel was a bit of a lottery simply because there was so much choice. We ended up at the Hotel Opera - it was very competitively priced for the dates we had, it was supposedly in A QUIET area [more of that later], and it was right next to the teatro real, where we hoped to get opera tickets. [more of that later too]. We got a twin room [no doubles] with a reasonable bathroom for three nights, for about 250E, excluding breakfast.

Weather - for February it was pretty good - better than Cornwall, at any rate. Apart from a rain storm on the sunday, which only lasted 30 minutes, it was pretty sunny, and on Monday and Tuesday, postively hot in the sun. [well, hot to us].

General impresssion - Madrid is not Rome [silly remark] - there are massive public buildings and some interesting architecture, but nothing particularly special. The open spaces and gardens are very pleasant, and we liked the Plaza Mayor, but it isn't Salamanca.

More details later!
annhig is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 02:53 AM
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ComfyShoes
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Annhig, 40 pound (my keyboard doesn't have the pound symbol!) airfares to Madrid? I should live in Bristol/Cornwall.

"Madrid is not Rome". Yes, it is not. It is Madrid

Looking for your reports.
 
Feb 28th, 2007, 03:08 AM
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Hi, comfy - yes, I knew it was stupid remark as soon as I'd posted it.

I will try to avoid the comparisons in future.

REgards, ann.
annhig is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 04:14 AM
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Yes, I want to know how you got on in Madrid--look forward to reading more.
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 04:23 AM
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I'm always interested in people's reaction to Madrid given the ongoing "controversy" about whether or not it is worth it, better/worse than Barcelona, etc., etc.

I personally have never regretted going even though "it isn't the Cotswolds" but am sure you agree that's the whole idea!

Anxious to hear more.
Dukey is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 04:43 AM
  #6  
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Ann,

I was merely teasing you. There is nothing wrong with saying that you didn't like a city after you have visited it. Not liking may be due to all sorts of reasons including your planning abilities, who you went with, etc etc. Or may be because the city had less to offer than you thought. Rome, to me, is kind of a Disneyland of ruins (which is fun).

Anyway, looking forward to your report on which tapas bars floors did you spit on, if you tried flamenco at all, etc
 
Feb 28th, 2007, 06:04 AM
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Hi annhig. My husband and I will be going to Madrid in April (We're also "over 50" - quite a bit over, actually). Would love to hear ALL about your trip. We're flying Easyjet from Liverpool - how did you travel into Madrid from the airport? Thanks.
BettyB is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 01:34 AM
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Hi, again, thanks for the interest - much more fun to be replying to real folks than typing into a vacuum.

To put the record straight, we DID like Madrid - but for a capital city it is not so packed full of interest [at least that we found] as many others. Hence the "it's not Rome" comment.

I'll try to answer other queries as I go along, but if I forget, please remind me.

Day 1

The flight was at 13.50 from Bristol so we left home, waving good-bye to the kids [DD, 19 & DS, 16], dogs & donkeys, in good time to drive the 3 hours to the airport. THis is a road much travelled for us,and fortunately the gods were with us, the notorious A30 was blessedly clear, and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to remind ourselves of the appallingnous [not a word i think, but you get the idea] of teh airport food.

The flight was delayed about an hour, but when we eventually took off we made it up, and landed more or less on time, at Terminal 1. [1 of 4, apparently; it's worth remembering this for the journey back when your taxi-driver wants to know which terminal you need].

There was a long walk from the gate to the passport desk and luggage reclaim, but as we were only allowed one item of hand-luggage [zealously imposed at Bristol] and there were moving walkways, it wasn't too bad.

From the exit from customs, the taxis [we always take a cab now from the sirport to the city centre, having too often failed miserably to use cheaper froms of transport] were well-signposed, and there were loads of them, with a special person to guide you to your cab.

The road from airport to town is pretty average, the traffic was quite thick, the driver was silent, and the journey was enlivened only by what we eventually worked out was the broadcast of an anti-terrorism demo that seemed to have taken place in Madrid that day.

Although we'd be told that the cab should only cost about 25E, because of the traffic and the airport surcharge, the metre read 35E, so that was what we paid.

We checked in pretty easily, then dumped our bags and made for the town. Our hotel turned out to be just off a little square, at the end of the calle del arenal, a main thorughfare that is full of road-works, leading us up to the Puerta del sol past loads of shops, tapas bars, restaurants. THen we headed off in the direction of the plaza mayor - another 10 minutes' stroll, along the same sort of street.

THe plaza Mayor is a pretty standard galleried spanish square, with cafes and restaurants all around the sides, and a statue in the middle. We were ready for our first drink round about now, and quite co-incidentally, DH spotted in one corner of the square an Irish bar, where they equally co-incidentally were showing the England -Ireland rugby match!

So we elbowed our way in, and eventually managed to secure ourselves standing room within ordering range of the bar. Beer and wine received, we found that we were surrounded not only by Irishmen [who got progressively happier during the match] but also by a stag party from Cambridge, which comprised a french girl an irshman and his south african wife, a frenchman, and a spaniard, who was the prospective bridegroom [hence the trip to Madrid to meet up with his spanish mates]. The international atmosphere made england's woeful performance a little easier to bare, and I decided to accept at face value DH's assurances that he hadn't known the bar was there! and the drinks were cheap - 2 large beers and 2 glasses of red wine for 15E.

Then it was back to the hotel [very easy to find from the plaza] for a shower and change of clothes [unfortunately no smoking has not yet reached Madrdid, at least not everywhere] and out to find some supper. Not being that hungry, we opted for tapas, and soon found ourselves in a bar somewhere off the calle arenal, our choice being dictated entirely by the fact that as we were looking through the window, we saw two seats become avaialable, and grabbed them before anyone else noticed. This led to a somewhat heated confrontation [at least on his side] with a local who seemed to resent us nicking "his" seats, but eventually our complete lack of comprehension defeated him, and he withdrew to grumble to his mates about "los touristos".

THe form in these bars is that with your first drink you get the "tapas del casa", and different ones with every subsequent drink. Being free, these tend to be quite small, and there's no choice. THere is also a Tapas menu from which you can order - anything from iberian ham to chorizo to octopus or goose-barnacles, usually either "Raciones" [a portion] or "media raciones" [a half -portion]. I seem to remember we had a very nice tortilla in that bar, but it's a bit hazy - I'd had my 3rd or 4th red wine by then.

As the night was still young, at least by Madrid standards, we went for a bit more of a wander, and ended up in another bar drinking more wine, and this time having a mixed plate of cheese [manchego, which we liked a lot] and cured ham [which i quickly began to tire of].

By this time it was past midnight, so we made our way back to our hotel, falied to get a coffee [the hotel cafe/bar shut at midnight - about the only place that did!] and went to bed, "purchance to dream", but reckoned without the good burgers of Madrid, for whom Saturday night is obviously party night.

We must have dropped off eventually, because at about 4am we were awoken by a massive bang [immmediately thinking bombs, given the demo and the trial] and then a second one, after which we were sure that we would hear alams and sirens, but not a bit of it.

An hour later, we were awoken again by some late night/early morning revellers, who seeemed to think that no evening out was complete without revving their scooter engines and knocking over a few rubbish bins in the street right outside our double gazed window.

Light sleepers please note - we were in a quiet room in a quiet street - arrival in Madrid on a Saturday is probably not recommended.

Next - a museum and an opera [or rather 2!] - and more tapas!
annhig is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 03:02 AM
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I'm enjoying your report and envying your proximity to Spain to be able to go for a weekend. I was only in Madrid for a day and a half last summer en route from Barcelona to Lisbon, but I liked Madrid much more than I expected to. Maybe not Rome, which I agree has more to see than any other place I have ever been, but certainly a city with endless possibilities for culture and entertainment.
Nikki is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 08:29 AM
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Hi, Nikki, thanks for the feed-back - I'm never sure how much to write.

not managed to make it to Barcelona yet - whenever we look at going there, the flights are too expensive, especially as i'd like to take the kids, so that dounbles the flight costs, plus then we have to get a house-sitter.

Perhaps next year!

hope to carry on with this tomorrow.

regards,

Ann
annhig is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 09:40 AM
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Day 2

By 8am we'd decided that we weren't going to get any more sleep, so it was breakfast time. we always go for the hotel breakfast on the first morning - it's very frustrating to find that you've missed great breakfasts on the last day! This one was average; as well as the standard coffee, toast, croissants, there was fresh orange juice, fruit, hard boiled eggs, but for 11.50E each, nothing special.

As the weather forecast was poor and the Prado was free on sundays, the plan for the morning was to walk to the Prado, so it was back up the calle arenal [again] to Puerto del sol, then down the other side, passing lots of bars [Madrid must have the highest concentration of bars and restaurants anywhere] and some rather swish looking hotels.

THe prado was easy to find - it was where everyone else was going! THe closer we got, the more our hearts sank - the queue to get in snaked all the way around the front and down length of the building. But hold! that's the queue for the Tintereto exhibition - hooray. So we headed for the entrance, and after negotiating the now obligatory security measures, we walked straight in.

The prado is well-arranged and signposted - we simply looked at the plans, grabbed a [free] guide, and headed for the 1st floor to start with the medieval flemish and dutch paintings and work our way through el greco, velasquez [our favourite] and Goya - then upstairs to the rest of the Goyas.

By now we needed a rest, so we took the lift to the basement, to have a drink in the cafe, before finishing with the more modern paintings on the ground floor.

We'd already decided against seeing the tintereto exhibition [I went to Venice last autumn and had seen enough!]- but had we wanted too, by heading upstairs immediately after getting through the entrance, we could have bypassed the queue and walked straight in!

According to our map of Madrid, the botanical garden was at the south of the prado, and as the sun had unexpectedly come out, we decided that some fresh air was required, so paid our 2E each and went in. At this time of year it certainly wasn't anything remakable, but we passed pleasant hour or so, enjoying some interesting winter veg displays, some lovely camellias, and the hot-houses.

The plan was then to go up to the retiro park, but it started to rain and very quickly it got so hard that we were forced to take shelter under the trees and then the book stalls along the paseo prado - no handy umbrella hawkers like in Rome!

Eventually even our waterproofs were starting to leak, so with nothing to lose, we made it across the road and traffic, and dashed into the 1st half-empty bar we could find. 2 beers/red wines and tapas later, we had just about dried out, and the rain had eased off, so we set off again into the centre of town, following the calle cervantes and the other little streets of this area [yet more bars and restaurants] up to the Plaza major, where we stopped for a "manzanilla" sherry each and some tapas of calamares at the "torre del oro" bar, on the square. Not cheap, but very atmospheric, and quite warm sitting in the sun - the sunglasses came out for the 1st, but not the last time!

Then it was back to the hotel for a rest prior to the opera we'd booked for the evening, via the opera house in the hope that we could access our tickets. [we'd tried the night before, but found that our spanish was just not up to it after 4 glasses of red-wine!] I'd managed to get tickets on the internet, but even though I'd booked on the day booking opened, we'd only managed to get tickets with "very restricted view". [or rather, I'd been too mean to pay for more expensive ones, that still said the view was restricted].

Fortunately, I'd checked the day before we left, and discovered that to get the tickets, I had to have the credit card that I'd used to buy the tickets, and even more fortunately, I was able to work out by looking at my credit card bills, which card I had used! It turned out that all i had to do was to swipe the card through the automatic ticket machine, and it printed it out. EAsy! Yes, you may go to the ball.

AS the hotel was right next to the teatro real [nothing much to look at outside, very impressive within] we were able to stroll round about 20 minutes before curtain up [6pm on sundays, 8pm the rest of the week] and found our seats after a little struggle with our spanish, and their english - i think it was a draw.

Very restricted view turned out to be an accurate description - we could see less than half of the stage from our 2nd row box seats - but they did have large TV screens to help us out, and the singing was fabulous.

For those who are interested [everyone else skip to next paragraph] we saw [or rather heard] cavalleria rusticana [curiously on a brilliant white set with all the cast in black, apart from the KKK lookalikes who came on whipping themselves] and i pagliacci, with the lead sung by a fantastic canadian tenor called Richard Margison.

Then after a few more tapas and drinks, it was back to bed - and sunday nights turned out to be a lot quieter than saturdays, than goodness.

Tomorrow - another museum, another bar!
annhig is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 08:24 AM
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Sorry for the break in transmission - life intervened!

Day 3

After breakfast in the hotel cafe [feshly squeezed oarange juice, coffee and croissant for 4e each - much better value than the hotel breakfast and much nicer coffee], we ste off for the palacia real which we had discovered was very close to our hotel and had already decided that it would be the best destination for our last day, especially after reading all the "puff" about it. [best european palace after versailles and schoenbrun, etc., etc.], leaving the rest of the day to sort itself out.

Well, I'm sorry to say that we were a tad disappointed - I've never been to the schoenbrun, but the palacio real bore no relation to versailles, not least becaue you only get the palace itself, and not any grounds to go with it. We did find the guide -book woth-while and i took a perverse pleasure in reading it out loud to DH to compete with the official tourist guides, who were very aggressive.

This is not to say that the rooms were not impressive, but there was little about their inhabitants, though the way in which they moved rooms and indeed staircases around at a whim did give an insight into absolute monarchy!

Most impressive were the instrument room, and the armoury, with the suits worn by the smallest children, and the horses, as well as sdults, on display.

After and hour or so, we refreshed ourselves with a beer in the cafe, deciding that given the improving weather, we would have another go at getting into the retiro park, behind the Prado.

Despite our map and guide book, we managed to get a bit lost, and ended up after walking what felt like miles [probably because they were] south of the retiro, by the atocha station. At least we found the reina sophia museum, and DH decided that it would be better to do that last, as it opened til 9pm. [9pm - is he kidding?]

Despite the lack of signs we managed to negotiate the roadworks and building round the station, and into the park. Pretty soon though we realised that we were rather tired and hungry, and not knowing whether there were any cafes in the park, we made our way to a restaurant near the southern entrance to the prado that we'd spotted the day before.

as it was 2.30 [a very respectable time for lunch in Madrid] we were lucky to get a table outside in the sun, and to the gentle hum of the earth movers and dumper trucks repairing the pavements round the back of the prado, proceeded to work our way through the "menu del dia" - a house salad or soup, steak and chips, pudding [our old friend flan aka creme caramel] and bottle of red wine [navarre from memory] water and coffee, all for 50E. Not the cheapest or best menu del dia to be had in Madrid I'm sure, but given the derth of restaurants in that area, not bad, especailly as it was enlivened by the very sweet dog belonging to the couple at the next table, which was almost a replica of one of ours at home, though rather better behaved. [the dog, not the couple].

For anyone in the Prado/jardino botanico area, the restaurante el botanico [tel:914 202 342] would be a very pleasant alternative to the museum cafe - it is just behind the museum to the left of the southerm Murillo entrance.

more later.....
annhig is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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I'm really enjoying your trip report. We are off to Madrid in 3 weeks time so it couldn't be better timing.
Ryanair from Bournemouth though - I would rather fly Easyjet any day...
STUMBLEBUM is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 09:21 AM
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annhig, I am enjoying your report, perhaps particularly because some of my reactions to Madrid differed from yours.

If you want to compare notes, see my report at http://www.iol.ie/~draoi/ (copy & paste the url).
Padraig is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 01:07 AM
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hi, stumblebum [love the name, by the way]

where are you staying?

sorry about ryanair - not tried them myself yet, but easyjet are not always a bed of roses! [main complaint is that towards the end of the day, flights are almost always late - the result of them cramming so many flights in per aircraft, I think.]

Padraig- I couldn't access your link and it caused my computer to freeze - so I'm still dying to know whether you liked Madrid more or less than me?

thanks to both of you for your interest; I'll try to get this finished asap, especially for stumblebum's benefit.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 03:25 AM
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...and mine, please annhig
BettyB is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 09:31 AM
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Ann,
I thorougly enjoyed your Madrid trip report. We have never been to Madrid, but are thinking of going next spring, with a few days in Sevilla first. You might try adding the bit at the end ~draoi/, and copying and pasting it into your browser. It opened with no problem, but for some reason when I tried to copy it, Fodor's didn't pick up the end.

http://www.iol.ie/~draoi/

Sandy
sandypaws3 is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 11:39 AM
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thanks sandy, I'll try that when I've got the odd hour to spend and a computer literate partner in hailing range!

I'll try to finish the report tomorrow, promise!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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At the moment, partly just to secure a room and partly for location, we are staying at Hotel Moderno-Puerta del Sol.
I've had plenty of trouble with Easyjet, but they have always compensated me (vouchers, free hotel in Dublin etc). Ryanair is a bit luck being stuck on a bus for two hours, no room, lurid colour scheme, sweltering heat, poor food etc. That said, cheap fares, once you learn to dodge the worst of their baggage fees. Pay your money....
STUMBLEBUM is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 03:07 AM
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DAy 3, continued.

After our lunch, the cun was still shining, so we decided to give the retiro another go. looking at the map, it appeared that there was a large lake to the north of the park, so we set off along the paths to try to find it. Retiro is obviously a place for locals - no useful signs or maps at all that we could find. eventually, we found our way round the tennis courts to a formal garden area [trees cipped in cloud shapes - very fashionable] and thence to the lake, complete with, my pet hate, the obligatory stationary people - [apart from the woman waving her arms around like a tree], boats for hire, and no less than 4 cafes. not surprisingly this part of the park is full of locals and just a few tourists, who like us must be of the more persistent variety.

after a leisure;y stroll round the lake, and a photo stop at the fountains [very bernini], we decide that we'll give the reina sophia a go, and work our way back through the park, past the atocha road works, and down to the museum.

as we approach from a different direction, we find a lot of people coming out, but no visible way in. Eventually, we work our way round and enter by the group entrance. turns out there there are lots of entrances, but fewer signs!!!

Inside, the guernica is well signed, but it's easy to spot by the crowds. When you get the chance to see it properly [and evetually people do move away] it is a compelling sight. I am no modern art enthusiast, but it would be difficult to be unmoved by it. Almost as interesting are the studies Picasso did in preparation - and they are easier to look at as most people seem to look at the guernica and then leave.

after a look at the Dalis [anyone else notice the resemblence to Heronymous Bosch?] we decide that our feet can't take any more, and to treat ourselves to a taxi back to the hotel. the exit we find is the one we found earlier, with the glass lifts, and no discernable entrance. Clearly others are better informed than us, including a lady in a plaster cast who has just manouvered herself up the steps to the entrance. Thinking that it would be tactless to tell her that she could have got in without any steps just round the corner, we make for the taxi rank where true to form the driver feigns to misunderstand "hotel opera" several times.

after long soaks in the bath, and a nap, we set off at about 9pm for the flamenco show at the cafe de chinitas we have worked out is about 10 minutes walk from the hotel. we picked this one mainly because it was the closest, though there is another just south of the cathedral which looked a bit more formal.

even though it is almost 9.45pm when we arrive, it is still early for Madrid,and the cafe is set up mainly for people having supper as they watch the show. we looked at the menu [not cheap, as it effectively includes the price of the show, though there is are set menu options], as we are still full of lunch, and the odd tapas we indulged in on the way, we settle on the 15e entrance, 15e drink plus tapas option. my red wine proves to be a better chioce than DH's beer - i get a whole carafe whereas he gets a small beer! - and some of my wine, as I'm a generous person [but too mean to by him another beer].

The only flamenco I've seen before was at a hotel in Majorca - all swishing skirts and castanets - and in Berlin, where the flamenco ballet of madrid was performing at the opera, having done a swap with the opera company which was in Mardird! that was very dark, based on a lorca story about 3? sisters [the house of ???]

This show was somewhere in the middle - a bit of swishing skirts and castanets, but also some very good singing, especially by a very striking looking chap with very "gipsy" features and excellent improvised dancing by a woman, dressed as a man, who by the looks of her, had seen life!

There are a number of people who seem to get hung up on whether the flamenco they see is "authentic" - I'm not even sure what that means, but the show was well presented, well-received by the spaniards in the audience [we spotted at least two parties of locals] and the performers were really sweating by the end - they weren't just going thorugh the motions. the show lasted about 90 minutes, and for our 80E we reckoned we'd had good value.

By the time we left, most of the bars were shut, but we managed to get a coffee in the little square on the way back to the hotel, and fell into our beds again.

Day 4 - another museum, then home.

AS our flight wasn't until about 6pm, we had most of the day to fill - I hate days like that when you always have to have an eye on the clock and would much prefer to be off and way, but something had to be found to fill the time, and DH wasn'y very keen on yet another ....museum.

Having breakfasted in the cafe, paid the bill, lodged our luggage with the concierge and checked the time of the shuttle bus to the airport,[at 11e each quite a lot cheaper than a cab], and thinking of something that didn't involve a museum, shopping for the kids who were kindly minding house seemed a priority, so we set off to find the gran via - the madrid equivalent of Oxford street, we supposed.

Never a great shopper at home, it took only 10 minutes for DH to get bored with shopping in madrid, so my master plan sprung into action, and with only a little persuasion, we headed por the Thyssen museum. Manipulative, moi? our route took us past some very impressive buildings [mostly banks] and down onto the museum triangle again, where we found the Thyssen very easily, abd blessedly free of queues. They have a timed ticket system, but there was hardly anyone there, so we went stright in.

as well as the temporary exhibitions, there are two sections on each floor - the main collection, and the "Carmen" - the pictures collected by the former miss spain who had the good fortune to be able to spend a very small part of her husband's dosh on paintings she liked! the two collections run on ffrom each other on each floor, so if you head up to the second floor from the entrance, you can start with the italian primitives of the main collection, procced via the titians and tinterettos, and straight into the 17th century paintings in the Carment collection.

so far so good. However, if you then go downstairs from the carmen collection, you end up going backwards through the first floor which rather defeats the point of both collections being arranged more or less chronologically. however, I'm just being picky- the first floor has some real treasures, including a lovely monet of westminster bridge, and some really interesting early north american artists.

I suppose the two top floors tok us about 90 minutes [lots of sitting and admiring] and we decided we'd skip the pop art etc. of the ground floor - a drink was calling. With no particular plan in view, we wandered up through the streets in the general direction of the plaza mayor, one eye always on the clock, and found ourselves in a square by the teatro espagnol, helpfully equipped with a number of cafes with by now very sunny terraces. 2 beers and tapas later [don't ask, i can't remember] we decided that their "menu del dia" looked quite good so we would stay put.

for 10e each, we got a huge serving of " patates marinara" [not mariated potatoes as i had thought, but fish soup/stew with lots of potatoes in it - very scrummy], our old friend the minute steak and chips, and a large glass of house red. this was at the "o cacho do jose" on plaza de santa ana, but there were a number of other cafes in the square offering the same sort of thing- we were we just too lazy to move from our lovely sunny table.

then we really did have to do some shopping - but of course the shops were shutting up for lunch! Madrid is blessedly free of the usual souvenir hawkers, but we could have done with one just then. WE ended up in el corte ingles - just like john lewis, IMO - and found a lovely bag from ecuador for the DD, but nothing for DS, for whom a madrid t-shirt was just about obligatory. eventually we found a shop just off the plaza mayor - t shirts, but none in his size - we'll just have to hope they have some at the airport.

then it's back to the hotel, to wait for the shuttle bus. We spend our time [shorter than expected cos it's early!] trying to repack the bag so as to find space for DD's bag and the very large piece of iberian ham we've bought at the "museum del jamon". [the cheapest one, we don't know any better].

the bus journey takes just 20 minutes, half the time it had taken on saturday, and we arrive at terminal one [luckily the bus driver knew which one is used by easyjet] just before check-in time, only to find ourselves behind two women who seem to be taking the whole of their wardrobes plus skis away with them. They have clearly failed to read the web-site instructions about having one piece of hand luggage, and one piece in the hold [you can have more, but have to pay]. their attempts at repacking prove entertaining; though other queues are moving faster, we are enjoying ourselves too much to want to move.

eventually they accomplish thier gargantuan task and we check in. Only one bag to check in ??? yep, that's right, and only one piece of hand luggage each. the girl at the desk almost looks disappointed.

SEcurity brings more entertainment; the couple ahead of us are travelling "light" and [clearly not on easyjet] have laptops, carry-on bags, hand-luggage, coats, and magazines, plus a whole chemist's shop each in the obligatory see-through bags, including giant bottles of shampoo. after a lot of head shaking and teeth sucking, they get waived through, giant shampoo and all. we spot them later, buying get more stuff in the airport shop. I can just hear them telling their friends "no ,we never check anything in the hold, we always travel just with what we can carry"! well, not for much longer.

Hooray - the shop has t-shirts, and in the right size. now we can relax.

Even better the flight is on time, and we have group A boarding cards. Boo - we are taken out to the plane by bus, so whatever group we are makes absolutely no difference. [THe "speedy -boarding" scam by the "cheap" airlines is of course a complete rip-off if there's a bus - usually the first on are last off, so it's just a waste of £15.]

less than 2 hours later, we are through customs and picked up by our car-parking firm, and home by 10pm. work tomorrow - ugh!

Thanks to all who helped me plan the trip - especially Maribel, whose guides are invaluable. [www.maribelsguides.com]

Dear reader, please don't hesitiate to enquire, comment or criticise!

regards, ann
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