jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 25 [23 Feb 09] – Madrid

Posted in Madrid by jn82 on February 24, 2009

We left the hostel later this morning as we intended to join the Madrid free walking tour with the guys from New Europe Tours, henceforth NET, as we had previously in Edinburgh and Dublin). However, this was not to be as the tour guide told us that the groups for the past few days had been harrassed by the local “official” tour guides of Madrid (appointed by Tourism Madrid), henceforth MT, and had reached a point where it was no longer comfortable for them or the members of the NET tour to proceed with the walking tour. They said that the MT guides had dressed as pirates and blew smoke in the NET members faces, shoved them around and kept shouting at the tour group the previous day. This may sound extremely unreasonable, but we did not believe the NET tour guide 100%, after speaking with some of the MT protestors (who were tour guides themselves).

The main issue was that the guides from MT felt that NET was encroaching on their turf by offering free tours, which were not really free considering the tips paid, while the tours organised by MT which cost around the same as the tip amount paid per person to the NET had less people as a result. MT stated that the NET guides were untrained and did not know the full level of Spanish history to be qualified to lead tours for tourists to the city. There were other certain issues which I will not mention, but I did see where the MT guides were coming from and could understand their side of the “protest”.

The MT “protestors”.

In short, all this just meant that we were left on our own today.

The first site we went to was probably the biggest non-museum one, which was Palacio Real (Royal Palace of Madrid). Although this is the official residence of the King of Spain, King Juan Carlos, he and his family choose to reside in another smaller palace on the outskirts of Madrid. This leave the Palacio Real to be used for state occasions. Unfortunately, no photography allowed inside the palace.

Outside Palatio Real.

Side of the Palace.

The next stop was just beside, Catedral de la Almudena. Plans for the construction of a new cathedral for Madrid dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena began in the 16th century, but the slow construction did not begin until 1879, and it took another 100 years before the construction was completed. Although not very highly rated by a MT guide I had spoken with at the protest due to the “newness” of the cathedral, I found this to be a nice change from all the old cathedrals we had seen previously, as the interior was totally grey and white, as opposed to the brownish colour of other cathedrals.

Outside Catedral de la Almudena.

Inside Catedral de la Almudena.

Insane pipe organ.

After this, we had a quick lunch nearby. Funny thing is that lunch was two Singaporeans and a Japanese having Italian pasta and Belgian beer in an Irish Bar in Spain, talk about globalisation as work. The picture moment of the day was probably the Duff beer the bar sold (yes surprisingly from Belgium). The beer itself was nothing great, which makes me wonder why Homer Simpson has so much of it.

Doh! Tapas and Duff!

Headed to the Temple of Debod after lunch, but that was closed on Monday. This seemed pretty interesting as this entire temple was rebuilt in Madrid in 1968 after construction works in Egypt prompted UNESCO to make an international call to save the temple.

Temple of Debod in Madrid.

The final stop of the afternoon was to Parque de el Retiro, the favourite park of the people of Madrid. Lots of people chilling out at the many cafes and on the grass, as well as rowing boats in a small enclosed space below the monument of King Alfonso XII. We also walked past and saw Palacio de Velazquez and Palacio de Cristal, both of which I think are exhibition spaces for the Reina Sofia now.

Row boats and the monument of King Alfonso XII.

After having a rest at the hostel, we intended to head for dinner and some flamingo dancing. However the tour company which previously arranged the flamingo dancing program seems to have gone out of business (and we only found out at the last minute), so we had dinner at the same place we did last night, more delicious Paella!

Link to full gallery of today’s pictures here.

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