Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monday in Madrid (Originally Posted 3/10/09)

Well, my luggage arrived! Thank God for that.

Today, we woke up a bit late and made our way downstairs for breakfast. Before I left the U.S., I had dinner with my mom Thursday night and we went to Cracker Barrel where I proceeded to order a big breakfast for dinner because I figured it would be a while before I would see eggs and bacon or sausage for breakfast. I couldn't have been more wrong.

EGGS. Spaniards eat eggs and lots of them. In Texas, when we say "tortilla" we mean tortillas...flat breads that come in either corn or flour versions that are rolled or hand patted into circular shapes and toasted on a griddle or "comal" on the stovetop. When you say "tortilla" in Spain, you get an omelet with onions and potatoes. Eggs can be eaten at every meal but they are usually fried or sunny side up. Well...I didn't have eggs for breakfast. I had toasted bread and coffe or "cafe con leche" because if you order straight up coffee, you end up with espresso. Butter with your bread is not the norm, you have to order it specifically and pay extra for it.

Anyway, after breakfast, we walked down to the Royal Palace and took a tour of it. The Palace is currently used by the King of Spain for ceremonial events but is not lived in. It took 26 years to build and it has approximately 2800 rooms, of which you can visit about 25 or so when you take the tour. It's impressive and beautiful but unfortunately, no pictures allowed so you all have to content yourselves with pictures of the exterior.

After a visit to the Palace and the neighboring Almudena Cathedrel. Construction began for this church in 1883 and it was finally finished in 1993! Both the Palace and the Cathedral were built on grounds that were originally those of Spain's first mosque, an alcazar that burned down in 1734. Both places were quite beautiful.

After our tours there, we went for lunch at a restaurant named, Restaurante Botin which is reputed to be the oldest restaurant in the world (according to Guiness Book). It was an interesting place and apparently pretty much everyone has dined there at one time or another. There specialty is a "roasted suckling pig" and so, being the adventurer that I am, that's what I ordered for lunch. Let's just say that lunch was very interesting. It started with a course of soup. Not just any kind of soup my friend, a "garlic and egg" soup. (Eggs again!). It was ok. It was brought to the table straight out of the oven in a clay-type bowl and it was bubbling and boiling, it was so hot. It had an egg in the middle of it and I think it also had bread in it. It was an interesting flavor but the texture wasn't really to my liking. The next course was the pig. It wasn't a whole pig but the pieces were straight from a whole pig. Again, interesting food. The skin was crispy and pretty tasty...sort of like pork rinds but with a different sort of smoky, "gamey" flavor. The meat was tender and also "gamey" tasting. The pig came with some oven roasted potatoes. I also got ice cream for dessert and a half-bottle of the house wine. I wouldn't order it again, but it was definitely as experience!!

After lunch, we found our way to a convent where the nuns have no contact with the outside world but they sell "dulces" or candy and confections to the public. It's pretty cool and sort of subversive-feeling to buy cookies here. You have to find the place and it's not really easy to locate. Then you press the buzzer and speak into the speaker, code word "dulces". The nuns buzz you in and you make your way into the convent where you find a "turin" or a huge lazy-susan kind of thing and a sign on the side with the items they sell. As soon as you get into the room, the nun is somewhere behind the turin and asks you what you'd like. You tell her what you want and she puts it into the turin and turns it out for you to collect. You put the money into the turin and she turns it back with your change. Very top secret feeling!

After all that spy work, we made our way back to the hotel for a nap because Thomas, my cousin, surprised us with tickets to a flamenco show. I'll write about the show on my next blog. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that on our way to the Palace, we came across some excitement near the city hall and found ourselves in the middle of the arrival of the President of Serbia! Secret Service types and snipers in the apartment terraces nearby...very exciting!!!

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