Preparing a city tour for friends is exciting on one hand and a challenge on the other. Putting yourself in the shoes of someone who has never visited a city before however having the full (or at least near-to-full) knowledge about the place.
Plotting a course bearing in mind a lot of factors:
- fast walkers or slow walkers,
- early birds or sleepy heads that you cannot lure out of the hotel before 10am,
- interested in culture and “backgrounds” or “just show me the sights”,
- weather conditions and day times,
- breaks to re-fuel the batteries in attractive places that serve both purposes, get energy back into the system and be attractive and pleasing,
- anticipating crowds at touristy places – though you would avoid such places, however you owe them to your “guests” in a certain way (“first-timers” anyhow).
Maybe it is the project manager in me or the executive consultant who wants all of this to turn out just perfect – a perfection that – and here is the art – never comes across as such or as staged, but lets things appear in a “natural” flow almost casually and unintentionally.
Putting out the dots and let my “guests” experience the “connecting of the dots” and – at the end of the day have that mental map and picture and be proud of “their piece of art” that they drew during their walk.
To cut a long story short:
We had envisaged a tour, however heard last night that B. said: “I read that there is a temple-kind attraction in Madrid… Templo de Debod or somthing like that…”
Darn, we did not have that one on our list – so, we added that silently and re-drew the path 🙂
This is how we walked with M. and B.
Start: 8:47am at “Room Mate Laura” – length: 6.14 Km. End of the walk: 1:00pm
We had two breaks: one at “Mercado San Miguel” and one at “Casa Labra”.
Strolled from the hotel up to Gran Via, which we hit at the Callao Metro Station, to turn left and walk down Gran Via towards Plaza de España
– along some of the major musical theatres that make you believe you were walking on Broadway.
– crossing “Plaza de España” surrounded by buildings that have always reminded me of the buildings I saw when I went to Moscow – similar style, similar message.
– passing by the monument erected in honour of the great writer Cervantes to enter the quite vast East Park of Madrid with the “Templo de Debod” – a gift by the Egyptian government and an actual shrine that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid.
Once at the upper Nile, now residing in one of Madrid’s green lungs.
From there directing towards the “Jardines de Sabatini” which provide shadow and cool in the beginning heat of a very nice summer day and put the visitor – just for one moment – back in time and let him experience what it might have been “back then” when the Royals of Spain took a little afternoon walk in the green mazes in the garden right behind the Royal Palace.
We emerge from the green of the Garden Sabatini to walk along the Royal Palace, the “Teatro Real” to our left,
one of the fronts of the Palace to our right.
Fortunately we had started our tour a) early-ish in the morning and b) on a normal work day (as opposed to the week end). Only a few groups had gathered at the ticket counter for the visit of the “Palacio Real”. A good pre-requisite for picture-taking.
We skip the visit of the insides of the palace, but sure will not miss to catch a glimpse of the court yard from the “Plaza de la Armeria”.
Quite handy that is, as you turn 180° you face the Madrid Cathedral – “La Almudena”
Since we are here, why not take a look inside.
Time to move on… via the Teatro, towards el Mercado de San Miguel – having our first real break over some tapas, a glass of chilled vino rosado, mineral water and of course a “café solo”.
What’s missing – well, for sure la “Plaza Mayor” – a gem and a must-see in Madrid. I have been here many times and it captures me every time. One cannot help but to feel like in a city in a city surrounded by buildings and the arcades with their little traditional (however touristy) shops, restaurants, wine bars.
We re-enter Calle Mayor walk towards “Puerta del Sol” to only take a left turn to pay “Café Ginés” a short visit – an institution and a must-have-been for all fans of the real and authentic “Churros Y Chocolate”.
The place is open 24/7 and even though this sounds like something you would expect at a fast food franchise business – Ginés is the classy and very Madrilenian version of it.
But we all fancy something less high-carbohydrate but more savoury, our next stop and “lunch break” is “Casa Labra” equally an institution and in business since 1860.
We have some of their battered deep-fried fish fingers and some “croquetas de bacalao”, some bottles of mineral water and some “cañas” the miniature version of a “cerveza”.
Filled with good food and a lot of new impressions – it is time to take a rest. The temperature has risen to not so pleasant 31 degrees Celsius. Before we move on, taking a nap is in order.
So, we return to the hotel to continue our Madrid exploration later in the afternoon.