April 2 and 3
Our next destination was Madrid. We have booked the hotel Holiday Inn for two days. The driving distance from San Sebastian to Madrid was more than 450 kilometres. We looked at the feasibility of spending a few hours in Pamplona, but that would make the trip much longer. We drove directly to Madrid and arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon.
Madrid is the capital and the largest city of Spain. The population of the city is almost 3.2 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-largest in the European Union after London and Paris.
We were tired after the long drive and decided to have dinner in the hotel and take a rest. We had another full day to explore the city. but that day happened to be good Friday, a public holiday in Spain. Some shops were closed, but most of the tourist attractions were open.
We decided to use the Metro system to visit the tourist attractions. Our hotel was only a five minute walk from a Metro station.
Our first visit was to the royal palace of Madrid. This is the most important landmark in Madrid.
The Royal Palace of Madrid or the Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but is only used for state ceremonies. King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. The palace is accessible from the Ópera metro station. Several rooms in the palace are regularly open to the public except during state functions.
When we arrived at the palace, it was still not open and already a queue has formed. We joined the queue and waited nearly 30 minutes before gaining entrance to the palace.
We then visited the church right next to the palace and later went to the Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is a large square in central Madrid. It serves today as a meeting place for tourists and locals alike, and has played host to a variety of festivities throughout history, including bull fights, soccer matches, and executions during the Spanish Inquisition.
The plaza was built in the early 17th century during King Felipe III's reign. Forming the outer walls are a series of three-story residential buildings with balconies overlooking the center, providing excellent views of the action below. There are also several shops and eateries that occupy the ground level of the buildings. Plaza Mayor was full of tourists when we went there. There were several artists who draw portraits of people and Mala got her portrait done by one of them.
Being Good Friday, there were three processions happening in the city. One was starting near 'Museo Nacional Del Prado' or Prado Museum. We went there in a taxi and spent nearly two hours visiting the great art work collection in the museum.
The Prado Museum is Madrid's top cultural sight, and one of the world's greatest art galleries. Its dazzling display of works by the great European masters such as Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Rubens, and Bosch, are housed in an 18th-century Neo-Classical building that opened as a museum in 1819.
When we came out of the museum, already the streets were full of people who came to witness the procession. We walked a long way to the closest Metro station and took the metro back to the hotel.