Saturday May 14: Madrid
Flowers and a Tuk-tuk
This was the first and only day on the trip that we didn't set the alarm and slept in. We got up a bit later than normal, went downstairs, and found breakfast in full swing. They had a fairly decent selection of food. One unique thing was the coffee. They had a self-serve machine that apparently ground beans and make a fresh cup for you.
After breakfast, we left for the day's activities. We planned to check out the botanical garden that we had seen yesterday. We went down into the local metro station and got a tourist ticket for one day. This allowed us unlimited uses that day.
I was getting a lot more comfortable around the Madrid metro, and so line changes were no long something to be avoided.
We went to the station at the end of a long grassy area (the Paseo del Prado) between two parallel roads. We were looking for that chocolate shop that we had stopped at the previous day, but nothing looked familiar. It turns out that we were one traffic circle further north than I thought. When we reached the next traffic circle, things looked familiar and we found the shop.
Amy would have liked the botanical garden. With Sam and myself, a little goes a long way. The longer we went through it, the faster we went.
We bought the "extra" ticket, which gave us access to a building in the gardens that had a display of old books. With good timing, just as we were approaching the building, it started to sprinkle, so particularly as we didn't have rain gear, we went straight in. I don't think the rain amounted to much, however.
When we came out, it was sunny and getting warmer.
We were pretty much gardened out, so we went through the rest of the gardens fairly quickly, hit the restroom, and then left.
Our next stop was a huge park (Retiro Park) next door to the gardens. It was apparently a royal park back in the days of the king. Amy had mentioned a “crystal palace” in the middle, which I wanted to see.
We made our way there, but it wasn't too impressive. Looking through the windows, it looked like the interior paint was peeling. There was some sort of exhibit inside, but there was a line to get in, so we didn't bother.
We then headed north to find our way out and reach a metro station. Along the way, we passed by a very popular pond with a large number of rowboats in it.
Actually, the whole northern portion of the park was very popular. Not only were there lots of people wandering about, but there were people selling things laid out on a blanket in front of them, people in furry animal costumes trying to get people to take pictures of them with their kids, mimes pretending to be statues, and a number of places selling over-priced greasy fair food.
Sam had located a 5 Guys about halfway between us and the hotel, and we decided to have lunch there. We took the subway there and went in. It was pretty much like the US version, except that everything was in Spanish. It was fairly crowded. We ordered two cheese burgers, split an order of fries, and I got a strawberry shake. The shake was much better than the one that I had gotten at Santiago.
Fortunately, I knew enough Spanish to recognize when they called my number (cincuenta nueve).
We then returned to the hotel. I figured that I just had enough time to take a Covid test before we needed to leave for the Tuk Tuk tour. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I didn't want to try doing mine and Sam's at the same time.
It was pretty straight forward: check the packaging, swab both nostrils, stick it in the card, add the magic liquid, close the card, wait 15 minutes, look at the results.
One thing that surprised me is that I thought that they (through the cell phone camera) would be interpreting the results, but this isn't what happened. They seemed to be asking us what we saw, i.e. one line (control) or two lines. Perhaps it was too hard to see through a cell-phone camera? I was wondering what would happen if I saw two lines (which means I had covid) and told them that I only saw one.
This took a bit longer than expected, so then we raced through the metro to get to where the Tuk Tuk would pick us up. We got there with a few minutes to spare. It seemed to be the right space, but there was nothing indicating that the tours started there.
Then a line of about 5 Tuk Tuks drove up, and it was obviously the right spot. None of them were ours, but the last guy said that the sixth one was just slightly behind. It drove up, and it was ours.
The tour was much better than walking around aimlessly. At one point, we stopped at a park where there was an Egyptian monument/building that had been moved there from Egypt. As we walked through the park, we saw a sign saying that admission was free. We started walking up to the door, but a security guard waved us off.
What we hadn't realized was that there was a line to get in, but so that the line wouldn't block the wide walkway, the line ended on the opposite side of the walkway, and periodically people would be told to cross the walkway and enter. We had accidentally tried cutting the line.
Near the end of the tour, we opted to visit the bull-fighting ring. Halfway there, the guide remembered that there was actually a fight there today. It wasn't clear if it was in the evening or if it had been going on most of the day.
We got there, and wandered around the outside a bit. There were a bajillion people showing up, milling around, or already in the building. Apparently it is a big family occasion, and little kids (along with the whole family) show up, which seems strange since apparently each contest doesn't end until either the bull or the matador is dead.
We were thirsty, so we got a bottle of cold water.
After the tour, we returned to our hotel and Sam took the Covid test. I tried to look at my results, but I couldn't open the document. The password was my birthday, but my birthday didn't work. I finally called them and found that I had made a typo when I had entered my birthday. I had said that I was born in 1061 rather than 1961. The fact that this would have made me more than 900 years old apparently didn't raise any red flags. I didn't know if this would be acceptable, so after Sam's test, I took one again, this time being very sure to use the right birthday.
We then had a late dinner (normal time for the Spanish) in the hotel restaurant.
After that, I spent much too much time fighting with the Iberia web site trying to check in and get our boarding passes. It wouldn't let us do that until we had uploaded our documents, but uploading our Covid results was pointless, as the document was password protected, and I couldn't find any way to unprotect it.
Eventually, I gave up and figured that we would just check in at the airport.
By this point, it was just past midnight, and I found that there was a midnight fireworks show going on, which we could see clearly from our hotel room. If it wasn't so late, I might have actually watched it. Monday was a major religious holiday, so I'm guessing that the fireworks were the celebration beginning early. (On the Tuk Tuk tour, we visited a large plaza where they were setting up a large stage for some sort of rock concert for the holiday.)