IT’S ALL STARTED IN VALENCIA
It was raining and we had to walk to the other main station in Valencia for our high-speed train to Madrid. We took the metro to go to the station. They have a weird system. You can buy tickets for one or multiple people. But even if you buy for 2 persons you will get only one ticket. Then, You have to pass one by one so you insert the ticket then pass it over to the next person. Of course, at the station, you can see entry for Individual or Group. But it still felt quite weird to us. And confusing at first.
CALM BEFORE THE HOTEL NIGHTMARE…
The main station of Valencia had security screenings like the airport. So you should get there in advance. And our reservation and Interrail global pass were checked before entering the train. That seemed logical. We had a lot of leg rooms and the train ride was just smooth and comfortable. We could even move our seats! Certainly didn’t feel 2nd class car. It’s more 1st class for us. It’s 2 hours of ride to reach Madrid. Inside the train, we received a message from our Madrid apartment agency that we have to pay 50€ service charge (!!?) And 100€ deposit via a link they provided us in the message. And after that, our smooth train ride turned into a complete mess.
WORST HOTEL EXPERIENCE OF ALL TIME
A 50€ service charge? For What? and Why telling us now? Never heard of such charges. We have already paid in full for the full reservation And nothing else was not mentioned in Booking ( Dot Com). And 100€ security deposit? Well, it was mentioned in the website. But they didn’t say how to pay. Otherwise we could have done that long time ago. Now, how we supposed to pay without a proper internet connection and with a foreign credit card ( our cards are actually Debit visa cards but our banks take long times to process transactions for security purposes. It is normal practice elsewhere as well)! And why they gave us these details just hours before our supposed check-in time?
According to the message (which was sent a few hours prior arrival), check-in time was at 3 pm or something like that. But our booking website said earlier! ( WHAT THE FISH!!!) In between our angry exchanged messages, we tried to pay the deposit via their provided link. That attempt was unsuccessful too. Then finally we made the Apartment manager agree on cash payment, provided with receipts. Later he finally arrived with the credit card machine and the apartment keys. And apologised on behalf of the booking website (because of course, it’s not his fault!?).
So let me get this straight, all the mess could be avoided if he could just come earlier with the card machine? just like he just did. Instead of arguing and keeping us waiting for 2 hours out on the street. Right?
In Austria, our apartment owner literally drove us to another new apartment because of a water leak. Here in Madrid, they practically just showed zero responsibility of any kind. Not only that, like Valencia, we still needed to pick up our keys even if everything was sorted. The apartment was tiny. Half of the size of our apartment in Valencia. Well equipped, except …. that…. there were no plates to place our food on. Those plates arrived a night before our departure. Luckily we ate half of the time outside and one dinner with the leftover sandwiches from Valencia. Our Madrid visit started really really bad. Oh, man. Potentially this was our worst Hotel/Apartment experience ever hands down.
TAKING A METRO IN MADRID
We took a metro from Madrid train station to our, not at all amazing apartment. Madrid has the same (almost) ticket system like Valencia for metro. It’s 2.50€ for the multiple passes with 10 years of validity which you can recharge as you want. The metro ticket itself is 1.50e per person. So, like Valencia, my wine used the pass first Then she gave it to me over the barrier. In Paris or Sydney, usually, it would look pretty illegal.
Anyway, after all the mess with our apartment, we lost all the motivation to do anything that day. Felt like we make some kind of mistakes in previous life. And Now we are paying for it.
Our first complete day
Started with a sunny day and a beautiful blue sky. Our neighbourhood was busy. Sound of reality was everywhere.
Real Basilica de San Francisco El Grande was our first stop. It is one of the oldest churches and one of the National Monuments of Spain. Basilica De San Francisco El Grande has the biggest dome in Spain. And fourth-biggest dome in Europe. We didn’t go inside. It had 5 euro per person entry. But spending a little bit of time in the courtyard next to the Basilica was nice. From the balcony of the courtyard, part of Madrid was visible.
Right before our visit to the Almudena Cathedral, we stopped inside a park with a couple of fountains and statues. I wonder what’s the name of it. There was a hockey playground right next to it, where kids were playing. Domes of the Almudena Cathedral were clearly visible too. We reached the cathedral via a bridge and it’s balconies were protected with transparent glasses for public safety due to height.
Almudena cathedral is Madrid’s biggest church. The courtyard has a big statue of Pope John Paul 2. During my research, I found some interesting facts about the church. The site of the church used to be a part of the Jewish Quarter. Before that, it used to be a mosque. Interesting.
The church was not far from Palacio real de Madrid or The Royal Palace of Madrid. As a matter of fact, the Palace is right behind the façade of the church.
Even though this palace is the official residence of the King of Spain but the king does not live there. The palace is mostly used for function protocols. Interestingly enough, there was a helicopter hovering on top of the palace all the time. At first, we thought, it was there temporarily. But the helicopter never stopped circling around. We were reluctant to go inside the Palace though. The admission was like 15€ per person and a big waiting line. And our eyes were already satisfied with the exterior design of the palace. Luckily enough, we were there just on time to witness the Change of Guards Ceremony of Spain.
We walked around the castle area a little bit. There was a Big fountain next to a Garden. But we liked the other garden, right behind the Palace. It’s called Jardim De Sabatini. It can be reached via Senate (or Senato in Spanish). From there, back of the Palace can be visible with a beautiful Palace garden.
We had to climb a little bit to reach the top of the Parque Del Oeste (Or, Park of the West? If I understand correctly). The Park has probably the best panoramic view of Madrid with the Cathedral and the Royal Palace. Also, there was a Temple of Amon (or Known as Templo de debod as well) in the park. Amon is an ancient Egyptian God. Admission is free. But 30 people at a time. Again, didn’t go inside.
We then went to the Gran Via, one of the most important areas of Madrid, with high-rise buildings, big highways, via Plaza de España. Plaza de España was under construction so we had no chance to spend time there.
We had our lunch at Gran Via. It is entirely located in the district of the centre, extending over the neighbourhoods of justice, parliament, university and palace, for a total length of 1,300 meters. It includes three sections whose first stretches from the street of Alcalá to Saint-Louis Square, the second to the Square of Callao and finally the third to the Spanish Square.
** DIsclaimer: (These pieces of information can be found in the many official websites of Madrid and Spain. I have done some research with the help of these websites to know about this particular location and many other sites of Madrid. It is important to know about the place you are visiting. Otherwise, the whole purpose of travelling would be incomplete. At least to us).
We took a little bit of time in the Gran Via. Because we found it to be difficult to finish our extremely over-ordered greasy and fatty Lunch. Argh!!
The second biggest highlight of the day after the Royal Palace was visiting the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. It’s a big square . Like the Piazzas of Italy. This one is rectangular shaped. In the middle of the square, there was the statue of Phillippe III (A king of course). The square was built in the late 15th century.
We live not far from it though.
Our next day weather was not bad either. We walked passed many historical buildings, Parks and Monuments via Indian shop dominant neighbourhood, to the Museo Nacional – Centro de arte Reina Sofia in the morning. Not too far from there, the main station of Madrid Station, Puerta de Atocha.
Big black baby heads.
Monument victim ad 11M is situated right next to the station which was a Round building. Next to a busy road.
Comparing to Barcelona and Valencia, Madrid trip overall was not The Best trip. It was OK at best. I personally think, we would not be here if Madrid was not the capital of Spain. Who knows. Could it be because we started off with a bad experience with our apartment? May be.
Let see what our next stop, Seville has to offer us. Hasta luego.