Madrid is a living history lesson. If high school history class was where you did your best sleeping, a visit to Madrid will make you regret what you missed; fortunately, you can make it up without having to take a test. If you are a food- or art-lover, you will find plenty to satisfy your palate, and palette. Madrid is a multifaceted and fascinating city, one of the towering capitals of the Mediterranean region. Its most popular tourist locations tell bloodstained stories, and mysterious ones from medieval times that shed a light on Madrid’s modern lifestyle. Today, you wouldn’t know that the place you're standing was once an execution stage, or that a king was assassinated above the restaurant you're in; which is why escorted tours must be part of your immersion here, and are an investment in your vacation. How else will you know about the bomb in the bouquet that was tossed to King's new bride in 1906, or what caused the horrid smell in 19th Century Plaza Mayor? Along with walking tours of the city that include the magnificent Royal Palace (with its decorative masterpieces, priceless furniture, extraordinary clocks, splendid fresco paintings, sculptures, and tapestries, and astonishing porcelain room), and the rich collection of artwork in the Prado Museum, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, here are some must-do day tours:
- Make sure you take the Tapas Tour, an ideal experience if you who love the idea of exploring Old Madrid at night, visiting undiscovered restaurants, and indulging in authentic Spanish food and wines. Your guide, a member of the Spanish Wine Tasting Association, will lead the way as you stroll through the most enchanting corners of historic Madrid, past local haunts that are mostly unknown to tourists. This incomparable food and wine experience is highly recommended for visitors who wish to breathe and feel the exciting, yet leisurely, lifestyle of authentic Madrid...and who also wish to enjoy amazing tapas! Prepare yourself for an evening of pure magic.
- Ávila to see it's massive medieval wall, a national monument that still guards the city. From paths along the Walls you will experience a wonderful view of the valley of Ávila, and encounter such things as the Santa Teresa Convent, the Palace of Nuñez Vela, and Monasterio de Encarnación.
- Segovia. Segovia is charming and old. This historic city just northwest of Madrid has had centuries of settlement which have resulted in a rich architectural legacy, including medieval walls, Romanesque churches, a former royal palace, and a Gothic cathedral. Its iconic ancient Roman aqueduct has more than 160 arches, most in the original mortarless granite, and stands above the central plaza in the heart of the city. It remains one of the finest examples of Roman engineering still standing.
- The 30-minute high-speed train ride to Toledo, where three of the world's major religions - Christianity, Islam and Judaism - and the cultures they represented were able to exist so successfully. There was simply no room to expand and so accommodation and tolerance became the means of survival. Toledo was founded by the Romans, near the year 200 B.C., and in the 6th century A.D. was named the capital of Old Spain by the Visigoths. I love this stuff! Toledo was the home of the painter El Greco, and his most significant masterpieces are still housed there.
Madrid. Yes, the sun shines, the sangria flows and the paella simmers. In a week of tours and excursions you'll skim the surface, and leave PLENTY of Spain unseen by your eyes. You'll just have to return to experience the rest of it...way more fun than reading about it here.
'til next week.