Madrid, First Impressions

"Watch out - Madrid is really hot!"

So cautioned some fellow travelers I met in Valencia who were doing their tour of Spain in the opposite direction as I. (They were heading off to Barcelona next, whereas I had just come from there). Sure enough, when I disembarked my train at 5pm, it did feel warmer and vaguely sticky - no doubt because the city lacks that pleasant sea breeze. I pulled out my phone and opened the weather app. Mid-80s - not too bad. And then I realized it was still set to Valencia.

Changing the setting to Madrid, I was displeased to see daily highs of 100 and above for the rest of the week. I toyed with the idea of switching the temperature to celsius, finding double digits less offensive than triple digits, but in the end I knew there was nothing to be done other than embrace the fact that I would be sweaty and stinky for the next few days.

The expansive Plaza Mayor.

The expansive Plaza Mayor.

While trying to capture some nice shots of Plaza Mayor (tricky even with a wide-angle lens to give you some idea of the vastness) I unexpectedly  ran into a guy I had met on a walking tour in Valencia. Seeing as it was his last day in Madrid and he'd already been to all the sites he'd wanted to visit, he was game to tag along with me for the afternoon. First stop: Mamá Framboise.

Before I left Paris I encouraged my more well-traveled friends to give me tips on where to go. One, a chef, told me I must visit her former workplace - a whimsical French pâtisserie just a bit north of Gran Via towards Salamanca. For just 3€ each, I sampled a chocolate raspberry tart and my friend a chocolate eclair. Delicious. (Just to compare: one individual size cake at the pastry shop I interned at will set you back at least 6€). She had also given me the name of her chef, but unfortunately when I asked for him I was told he had recently left. Too bad - I would have loved to peak inside the kitchen.

I wanted to try everything.

I wanted to try everything.

Next stop: Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, better known as the home of Real Madrid. I'm generally apathetic when it comes to sports, but in the realm of soccer I do harbor some small appreciation for the players - well, a few of them anyways. (Google image search Cristiano Ronaldo and you'll see what I mean). Tours were a bit pricier than we felt compelled to pay, so instead we took some photos outside.

We got there just as a kids' soccer camp was heading in. Almost all of them were wearing Ronaldo jerseys.

We got there just as a kids' soccer camp was heading in. Almost all of them were wearing Ronaldo jerseys.

My friend had previously mentioned a museum for the blind so, with curiosity bolstered by the prospect of free admission, we set off to find it. The description in the provided literature stated that there were two main goals: to provide a tactile space where the blind could feel the art, and to promote the work of visually impaired artists. It's an admirable mission, no doubt, but in instances where the art is, say, framed behind glass I'm not sure how well it succeeds. Still, as far as museums go it's quite a unique concept.