Today started with a walking tour of Madrid at 10:00 am after breakfast. We started at Calle de Sevilla and continued to the parliament. Here, the building was decorated for international women’s day on March 8th, which Madrid is expecting a big crowd for because Madrid is generally progressive with respect to their politics.
We continued toward the Museo del Prado. On the way, we passed the second oldest luxury hotel in Madrid: The Westin. This is one of the many hotels that Hemingway stayed at, and I am certain I speak for all of this when I say that I was astounded by its breathtaking architecture. As we continued on, we passed the Neptune Fountain and the Ritz, which is the oldest luxury hotel. During the war, many of these buildings were covered so they could be protected during the war, however, some bullet holes can be seen as signs from the past.
Next, we saw the Plaza Dos de Mayo and continued to Ell Retiro Park. This park was breathtaking, and felt like home. It is the second largest park in Madrid, and is about one third the size of Central Park in New York. There were cyprus trees that looked like something I have never seen before. A street performer was playing the song of spring on the accordion, and that made it feel like a scene from a movie as we strolled through the park.
In El Retiro Park, we visited the Palacio de Cristal which was built by Ricardo Velásquez Bosco. We learned that this was built with the intention of dismantling it, but then it became very popular, so it remains here. I can see why it stays here, as it was a very beautiful landmark. Journeying through this park felt unreal and boosted my mood, I felt filled with joy.
After this, we continued to walk through the park and saw another pond where you could paddle boats. The tour concluded and we all decided to go on the boats. Shoutout to my boat driver Will! It was stunning in front of the monument and was a once in a lifetime experience. After this, we stopped for a quick lunch and made a stop at the hotel. Not shortly after we decided to go back to El Retiro Park because we knew there was more to explore.
At the park, we visited the rose garden. While there were not any flowers in bloom, it was beautiful at this time in the evening. We strolled through the park before our reservation at Las Carboneras for a live flamenco show.
The flamenco show was an amazing experience. There were multiple dancers in beautiful traditional flamenco attire. The show consisted of each dancer having their own fifteen to twenty minute routine while the singers and guitar player played a song for them to dance to. As each was dancing, I found it interesting that the other dancers would cheer them on. Additionally, during their performance you could see their true emotion and passion. Their outfits flowed beautifully with each movement.
When the performance was over, the flamenco dancers came back onto the stage and taught us about flamenco. They informed us that none of them knew each other prior to this performance, and they had to improvise. I found this very impressive because I couldn’t tell it was improvisation. I also didn’t expect to hear that these performers didn’t know each other. They were so kind to each other on stage and would cheer for one another, so finding out that they didn’t know each other made me realize they have a very inclusive and welcoming community, instead of one that is more competitive.
Watching this show was one of my favorite moments of the trip thus far. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before, and I felt like I got the chance to experience the culture. I am very excited for the flamenco dance lessons, especially after seeing this performance.
Following this, we headed to Calle Cava Baja. We decided to hop from tapa bar to tapa bar and compare dishes from each restaurant. We ordered croquetas de jamón and tortilla to split. It was fun to try these local dishes and see how the quality varied from each place to the next.
As someone that has never been out of the country before, trying all of these local dishes, seeing a flamenco show, and even the simply stroll in the park was eye-opening. While there were some dishes I didn’t like, there were so many I loved. I am really happy I am able to try new things and build these memories I will never forget.