Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Madrid Day 4: Nun biscuits, Churros, Jardines Del Campo Moro and the Palacio Real

A breakfast of chocolat y churros
We set out, around midday, to buy some biscuits from the convent that had been pointed out to us the night before on our Food Tour. James, our guide the previous night, described how you purchased biscuits without every seeing the nun who remained on the other side of a revolving door. I'm sure I've seen something similar on a Palin travel show before and was keen to try it for myself.

We navigate our way back through the Plaza Mayor to the Convento de Corpus Cristi without too much trouble and buzzed our way inside. I'd imagined quite an idyllic scene with us buying biscuits from a sweet elderly run the other side of a revolving door. What transpired was a communication disaster with us unable to understand anything the nun was saying. After what must have been the longest transaction they've ever had departed with our box of biscuits. Even the lady outside who was hassling us for money on the way in had given up waiting for us to reappear.....
The nun biscuits
With our biscuits belatedly purchased we set off in search of breakfast. We decided to try the Spanish classic of chocolate y churros from the famous Chocolateria San Gines. We ordered and paid inside and then headed out onto the pavement to enjoy our churros in the sunshine.

I definitely have a sweet tooth, but wasn't the biggest fan of the churros for breakfast finding them quite oily and not very flavourful. The accompanying hot chocolate was excellent though.

I couldn't recap breakfast without mentioning the two Japanese girls who came and sat down at the table next to us while we were eating. One of them was wearing a skirt which could only be described as highly inappropriate. How her mum let her leave the house wearing it I'll never know.....
Jardines Del Campo Moro
After breakfast we walked towards the River of Madrid so that we could visit the Jardines Del Campo Moro that our hosts had recommended. From the entrance to the park there are stunning views up to the Royal Palace above.

It was another beautiful Madrid park, although not to the heights of the Retiro or Botantical gardens that we had visited on previous days. We had a wonder up the central avenue towards the palace and then along a couple of tree lined paths. On our way back to the exit we had a quick sit in the rose garden and saw peacocks and ducklings near the ponds. There were a few other people around, but it was surprising how quiet the park was.
Madrid Rio
After the Jardines we crossed over the Madrid Rio and headed towards the Casa de Campo. Formerly a Royal hunting ground it is an enormous 80 sq km park. Our plan was to rent some bikes and explore the park for a couple of hours before heading back into town. We thought the bike rental places would be obvious, but when we wanted to find one we couldn't......

We bought a couple of drinks and had one of our nun biscuits in the shade while we reassessed our plans. Looking at the map we decided instead to walk up to the laguna instead of original cycling plan. The lake wasn't the most attractive with a few canoeists doing circuits round the outside.
Looking up at the Royal Palace and Cathedral
Leaving the lake behind us we decided to head into town. Near the exit to the park was another major train station the Madrid-Principe Pio. One of the train sheds has been converted into a café / shopping area, while the other still acts as a train station.

It was then a walk up the hill to the Temple de Debod an Egyptian temple which was rescued and moved to Spain when the Aswan dam was built (I think). The guide book got it pretty spot on when it said that the temple looks a bit out of place in the middle of Madrid.
Templo de Debod
At this point not having eaten much all day was beginning to catch up with me. We headed out of the park in search of a very late lunch. I'd marked on the map a restaurant recommended for its menu del dia. We couldn't find the restaurant I was aiming for and ended up back at the Taberna Real which we'd visited the night before during our food tour. The sit down and sustenance was most welcome.

After our late lunch we tool the short walk to the Palacio Real which is free for EU nationals during the last two hours each evening. One of the largest palaces in Europe with over 2,000 rooms, it is no longer home to the Spanish Royal family who live 15km outside of the city.

The palace has just over fifty rooms open the public and seems to get mixed reviews with some people suggesting it isn't worth a visit. All I can say is that the doubters are absolutely nuts.
A view of the cathedral from the palace courtyard
The state rooms that were open were opulent beyond belief, with incredibly painted ceilings, detailed carpets and impressive wall coverings. It almost certainly isn't everyone's taste, but I don't see how you could fail but to be impressed. It was well worth the hour we spent looking round, especially as it was free!

Once we'd finished looking round the palace we headed back to our apartment before going out for dinner later in the evening. A dinner that turned out to be pretty special with a 'best ever' shout for the food.

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