The Palacio Real was as far west as we planned to walk so now we turned around and started back towards the Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol but took an alternative route past the Teatro Real and through the Plaza de Isabel II along the Calle de Arenal and back to our starting point. It was time for a drink so we thought it might be nice to sit in the Plaza Major but when we arrived there the prices were higher than we generally like to pay so we abandoned this particular tourist trap and began our walk east towards Bourbon Madrid.
In the appropriately named Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol the sun was shining now and in this wide open space the sun reflected off the buildings and the paving slabs and the temperature was rising steadily as we walked past the statue of the Bear and the Madroño tree which is the heraldic symbol of the city. The Plaza is the very centre of Madrid and the hub of the radial network of the city’s roads and from here we walked down the busy Calle de Alcalá towards the museums and the political centre of Bourbon Madrid. Calle de Alcalá is one of the oldest streets in the city and is flanked by impressive official buildings, ministries and financial institutions. At ten and a half kilometres it is also the longest street in the city but we weren’t proposing to walk the entire length and after a few hundred metres we found a restaurant with pavement tables and our sort of prices.
A friendly waiter rushed out to attend to us and started to erect an umbrella but we stopped him and told him we liked the sunshine and he looked strangely puzzled by this. Within a few minutes we discovered why because a blob of bird poo landed on Kim’s foot and when we looked up the tree that we were sitting under was full of pigeons. We should have spotted that the pavement as well as some of the tables were covered in bird droppings and although a poop on your shoulder is supposed to bring good luck but there is a world of difference between a bit of sparrow waste and a full rectum load of pigeon shit. We were understandably nervous after this and after we had finished our drinks more swiftly than we had anticipated we paid up and continued our walk.
Even though we were only there for a few hours our overall impression of Madrid was favourable and we liked the wide boulevards, the attractive plazas, the clean open spaces and the general hospitable ambiance of the city. We continued our walk along the Calle de Alcala as far as the Plaza de Independencia where there was a busy road intersection and police officers theatrically choreographing the traffic almost as though they were conducting an orchestra. This was another positive about Madrid because although it was hectic the Spanish drivers seemed surprisingly patient and polite.
We reached the Parque de Retiro, which is a huge public park that was full of tall deciduous trees in their full autumn glory and with paths that meandered below them. It used to be a Royal park but now belongs to the city and it would have been possible to spend an entire day in there alone but it was way past lunch time and we were getting hungry so we only small a very small corner of it before we left through the Puerta de España and returned to the city streets.
We needed somewhere to eat but the road that passed by the Cortes and the Congress buildings was suffering a programme of major road works so as there was nowhere suitable here we returned instead to the little bar we had used a short time earlier and this time we let the waiter put an umbrella up for us. We had bocadillos and tortilla before we returned to the Plaza de la Puerto del Sol and retraced our steps back to the bus stop on the edge of town.
I got into a bit of a muddle about which side of the road the bus stop was on but it didn’t matter and after we had corrected the mistake we caught the bus and in late afternoon sunshine it took us back to Chinchón, which seemed much busier this evening as people seemed to be making preparations for Sunday’s bullfight. The shop owner must have been busy elsewhere because the little mini-market was closed and that meant we had to source an alternative supply. Mickey and I walked into town and stopped for a drink and were presented with a pickled eggplant as an appetizer. It was quite nice but I made a mental note not to accept a second. At a different little shop we purchased some wine and decided that we would have to try the local drink Anís de Chinchón, which is a bit like Pernot I suppose.
Those of us that had a balcony enjoyed an hour in the sun and those of us that didn’t stayed in their rooms. Later we met up and enjoyed a glass of champagne to celebrate Kim’s birthday and then when we returned to the Plaza we were surprised to find that everything had quietened down again so we selected an alternative restaurant/bar and had another meal of shared dishes. Later we finished the evening in the hotel lounge with the bottle of Anis and it quickly became clear that we almost certainly wouldn’t be able to drink it all in just two nights.