After a night of New Orleans style blues at La Coquette, breakfast is on the menu. Actually, one of the few downsides of the hotel is that it doesn’t provide meals. But that’s not a problem, since Madrid is famed for its tapas bars, many of which conveniently open for breakfast. My favourites are those specialising in cured meats. A simple ham sandwich is transformed into something rather wonderful here, not least at the San Miguel Market.
After a right Royal breakfast it seems only fitting to head for the Royal Palace. There’s already a lengthy queue building outside – so I forgo the 11 Euro entry fee and admire it from outside. In any case, the King’s not at home – he lives out of town. Or does he? As I walk towards the neighbouring Sabatini Gardens a posh car fitted with police lights on the grille pulls out of the front door. I didn’t take a picture of this for fear of being arrested.
From riches to rags, the Malasana district is a great little collection of cobbled backstreets. Even the “main” roads marked on the map here are barely wide enough to fit a car in. It’s a bit early in the day for any of the bars to be open, but there are loads of small boutique shops, and a quirky for of street art.
Despite an initially bewildering layout on the map, Madrid is an immensely walkable city. So far I’ve already passed about five metro stations and not felt the need to take a break. There are one or two inclines, but no really steep hills within the main town. And everywhere here are tapas bars or patisseries.
Mama Framboise in Chueca seemed a good idea, not least based on the wonderful displays of cakes, breads and desserts. The tea and cake was nice enough, yet when I presented my credit card I got two receipts – one for the 6 Euro bill and one for 11 Euro for my actual credit card. Fortunately I spotted their error before I left and received a 5 Euro note to cover the difference, together with a half hearted “sorry” from the staff. Sorry they got caught fleecing a tourist, I reckon.
Next, the PradoMuseum, Madrid’s biggest and finest. And busiest. “NO PHOTOS” shsoutshe security guard (then why let me inside with a camera ? The rest of my bag had to be left in the cloakroom). It seems to be an afternoon of rules. The outside of the main Post Office looked so nice and historic, that I wanted t get a picture of the inside to show the contrast. Another official appears from nowhere waving his hands. But not before I got my pic.
I really don’t know what the fuss was all about. After that, I was too scared to attempt a photo of the ornate, historic post boxes of the outside wall. In any case, there was a beggar waiting for people’s loose change. Security did nothing.
Every city, of course, has its begging problems. Increasingly though, I seem to see it on a far more organised level. Outside the San Miguel Market, the beggars were laying out sheets of cardboard at opening time, vying for the best pitch. Ignorance is easy, of course, not least when you play the stupid tourist who carries no money and doesn’t speak the language.
Anyway, Paris has the Arc De Triomphe. Madrid has the Independence Gate.