Exploring Spain: Madrid

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Madrid, my first destination that kicked of my summer Ultimate European Tour. Prior to the touch down in Madrid, all I knew of Spain was Paella, mid-day nap (otherwise known as a siesta), bull fighting, and greeting by kissing on both cheeks. As I walked through the lively streets, I struggled to muster up the 2 years of Spanish that I learned in high school. While I was able to say please, thank you, and where is the bathroom, my limited Spanish skills it did not help me much.

Madrid is the capitol of Spain. With over 3 million inhabitants, it is no surprise why Madrid is known to be one of the most lively, colorful, and historically impressive cities in Europe. With hundreds of historical sites, fun bars, and plenty of 5-star restaurants, it brings in thousands of tourists every year. Culturally, what makes Madrid interesting to most millennials is the mid-day siesta and late meal times.

Culture

Siesta is a middle-of-the-day nap that occurs during the hottest part of the day (12-3pm). In the past it was believed that a short nap during the middle of the day would improve one’s health. Nowadays, people use this time to either rest from work or to get other tasks done. Don’t be surprised of you see many stores closed during the lunch hour! Take this time to catch some Z’s of your own.

Food

The later the better! Yet, my stomach does not agree. In Spain, eating is a special occasion and it should not be rushed. Typically, breakfast is between 8-10 a.m. The largest meal of the day is lunch, which occurs between the times of 2 to 4 p.m. The last and lightest meal of the day is a 10pm dinner AKA. tapas.  Tapas are like a snack. These snacks are often ordered in variation to create delicious dinner arrangement.

Traditional Spanish Paella

Another staple of the Spanish food culture is the Paella. Traditional paella is made out of rice, seafood or meat, vegetables, spices, and sometimes squid ink. The word “paella” is linked to the ancient Sanskrit word “Pa” (to drink). The Paella dish above is a less traditional take, with sausage, chicken, artichokes, and peppers.

Eat at the Oldest Restaurant in the World

Restaurante Sobrino de Botín, open in 1725 as inn and became the world’s oldest restaurant in the world. Botín is famously known for its delicious Castilian cuisine, including it’s award winning suckling roasted pork. Whole pigs are roasted to udder perfection in the restaurant’s brick oven that is over 300 years old.

This is not the cheapest of the restaurants in Madrid, yet you pay for quality and taste! For appropriately 60 Euros, the full-course meal includes: a summer pumpkin gazpacho soup, large cut of the suckling pork with potatoes, and a half-bottle of wine (red or white).

For those who are huge English Literature nerds, you might want to add this restaurant to your must-see list. Botin was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite restaurants!

Landmarks

The Devil is in Madrid. No, really he is. The statue of the “Fallen Angel” is a unique site for Madrid’s incoming tourists. This 8 foot statue of Lucifer is the only one in the world that is dedicated to the Fallen Angel himself.

Placed in the midst of the Parque del Buen Retiro garden, Lucifer is 666 meters height above the sea level. The statue is set on top of a marble pillar, in the middle of a beautiful water fountain. The fountain is decorated with deep demonic beings and rather striking reptiles. Lucifer is depicting the very moment that he is cast out of Heaven.

Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is titled as the King of Spain’s “official royal residence”, although since 1967 the king as not resided here. Currently, he lives in a more residential home in the western the suburbs of Madrid (Palace of Zarzuela). The official Royal Palace is only used for state meetings, ceremonies, and special events.

The Royal Palace

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