Roaming the Portugese Countryside
Lunch at St. Nicholas Hostellerie - a two-star Michelin restaurant

Madrid, Spain

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D had business in Madrid on Thursday and Friday and we stayed the weekend.  We were lucky with beautiful days as the week before they had heavy rain all week.  But with beautiful skies comes crowds of people!


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Colorful Streets

Madrid has really colorful streets.  It is the capital of Spain and is the largest city.  The city dates back to the 9th century.  


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Since I was on my own for two days, I decided to do the Hop 0n - Hop Off open top bus tour.  They are always interesting and give a good overview of the city.  Here are a few buildings I thought were pretty.


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For you sports fans - here is the Real Madrid football  stadium (we call it soccer).  Sapin won the 2010 World Cup.  Remember, the pulpa Paul predicted it!

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The sight I enjoyed the most was my visit to the Monasterios de las Descalzas Reales - the convent of the barefoot nuns founded in 1559 in the former palace of King Charles I of Spain and Queen Isabel of Portugal.  Their daughter, Joan of Austria, founded this convent after the death of her young husband. 

Throughout the remainder of the 16th century and into the 17th century, the convent attracted young widowed or spinster noblewomen.  Each woman brought with her a dowry, which included such treasures as precious metals, paintings, and religious relics.    With all these possession, the convent became one of the richest convents in all of Europe.


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By the mid-20th century it was mostly home to very poor women.   It still held its priceless collection of treasures, but the nuns were forbidden to sell anything.  The state eventually intervened and, with a special dispensation from the pope, the convent was opened to the public as a museum in 1960.

This place, with so many beautiful objects and art to look at mesmerized me.  Photos are not allowed inside.  I took D back on Saturday so he could see it.  I had a different guide and she only repeated 25% of what the first one said - so I learned quite a bit between the two tours.

They say 19 or 20 barefoot nuns still live here, growing vegetables in the garden.   Fyi - the name barefoot nuns came from the open sandals they wore.


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One of D's all-time favorites - Jamon Iberica also called pata negral (black footed pig) is a specialty of this area.  It is cured ham.  The pigs are fed a special diet of acorns.  To cure them, they hang the meat to age for a minimum of 12 months but most cure it for 36 months before serving.  I am not a fan.  It smells just like you would expect a non-refrigerated ham that has been out for 36 months would smell.  I can't even tell you how much of this he ate the five days we were in Madrid.


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FYI - it is only 10 am when this photo was taken and we had eaten a big breakfast.  D even tried to convince me to let him buy 1/2 pig to bring home.


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But I won the argument with the simple fact that I needed the seat on the airplane more than he needed the pig.  Plus with the amount of weight he gained, it was like he brought one home  :  )


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D's other favorite - grilled sardines.


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At his favorite bocas (tapas bar), Bar Santurce.  Notice how they throw the napkins on the floor and that there are no tables.  This is very typical of the bocas.


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The grill was going non-stop the entire time we were there.


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 I prefer the calamari to the sardines.


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Our new favorite food discovery was the pimientos de padron with lots of salt.  We decided they might actually be healthy.


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We found the best Mexican restaurant we have eaten at in Europe, Taqueria Mi Ciudad - Sabor de Mexico.  Cheap and oh so good.


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Now onto my favorites - of course they are the sweets!  A tray of delectable muffins.  Guess which one I picked?


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The ooey-gooey apple caramel one!


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And a specialty of the region, churros and hot chocolate.


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We had ours at Chocolateria San Gines, founded in 1894.  It is said to be the best.


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Like Portugal, Spain has a high unemployment rate, 20 %.  So scenes like the one below, a young boy and his father selling fruit on the corner, are not uncommon.


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I am always drawn to the artists painting "en plein air".  This gentleman is painting the very famous Prado Museum.


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People out and about in the city.  Guess she knew I was taking this photo, as she is looking straight at me.  I took it from the bus.


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Street performers

Because it was such a beautiful weekend - the street performers were out in full force. 

Elegant ones - 

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....Odd ones.  She did not move, even when we gave her money.  


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....Funny ones.  He had us laughing and we did not understand a word he was saying.  His face expressions said it all!


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And probably one of our favorites of all time, the toilet man:


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He was very entertaining and again, we could not understand what he was saying.  In fact, we could not read what we were supposed to do.  But he was made us laugh so we gave him money.  You can't tell from the photo but I am scratching behind his ear and he was cooing.


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As we stood watching a woman stepped up, gave him a euro and pulled the cord.  He made a flushing noise....down went the puppet and......
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And up came a new one.  BRILLIANT!


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We had to get a video clip of this one.  Yes, we gave him several Euros for all the photos we took



Well hello Kermit!  We are not sure how many puppets he had; we saw at least eight of them.


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If you'd like to visit the Madrid flea market and see a few more photos -  click here to hop over to my art blog, ma vie trouvee.


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