I’ve always wanted to watch the Real Madrid v Barcelona match and this year I was lucky enough to bag a couple of tickets for the game. I’ve been to Madrid before, but that was in the hot summer months, so I was looking forward to discovering what a winter break in the Spanish capital would be like. As the coronavirus is currently on the increase, it was interesting to note that the Spanish appeared comparatively relaxed, in contrast to the people on the plane from Doha, many of whom were wearing masks.
Petit Palace Carmen Hotel
I met one of my daughters who flew in from the UK. I booked the Petit Palace Carmen, located pretty centrally in Plaza del Carmen. The hotel itself is great. There is a restaurant serving food and drink outside. Unfortunately, there were renovations taking place to the adjacent building while we were there, so it was a bit noisy during the day.
Parque Del Retiro
The weather was amazing on our first day, given the time of year. It was t-shirt time as we strolled through Parque Del Retiro.
It was Friday, so as the afternoon wore on, more and more people spilled out of their offices and work places so that soon the park was full of people skulling about on the boats, picnicking, or just ambling around like us.
The park includes the botanical gardens as well as the boating lake, and there are plenty of amazing statues to admire.
Cherry Blossoms Out in February
A big surprise was to see the blossoms of the cherry trees in full pink splendour. There were plenty of other early blossoming and flowering plants too, which made it feel like early spring.
Madrid is a city with many parks and we walked through several over the first two days. Some were ornate and well trodden, but there were other smaller ones too, like this one (opposite) which is located not far from the cable car station.
Unfortunately the wind was gusting a bit so the cable car wasn’t running, but as a compensation that meant that we were able to walk through little gems like this.
On this occasion we decided we would visit Guernica by Picasso which is housed in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reína Sofia. As you probably know, Guernica is Picasso’s tribute to the town of that name which is bombed by the Nazis in the 1930s. At almost 4 metres by 8, it is a sobering and powerful visual tribute.
Parakeets and Storks
Okay so this was a surprise. I knew that London has Parakeets, but Madrid?
These are not the same Parakeet as London’s however, which are the Ring-Necked variety. Madrid’s Parakeets are Monk Parakeets, thought to be escaped pets originally from Argentina. They appear to be flourishing and I was worried about the impact this non-native invader might have on the local birds. Once home, I learnt that Madrid has decided to wage war on them.
Later the same day, we saw a Stork sitting on top of a tall fir tree. I’m not clear if this was an escapee from the nearby zoo, but was a marvellous sight in any event.
A Walk Through Casa Del Campo
The Casa Del Campo is an enormous park on the Western fringe of the City. It’s a former royal hunting park, and spreads out over more than 80,000 square metres.
There are paths and facilities such as a tennis centre, but the park also has wilder areas. We walked all the way across it to visit the zoo at the far end. It is a fantastic amenity for the city dwellers, and it was busy with cyclists, runners and walkers.
Templo de Debod
Another of Madrid’s park is Cuartel de la Montaña which although not the biggest home to the Templo Del Debod. The Templo was donated to Spain at the time of the construction of the Aswam Dam, and is a 2nd Century BC Egyptian temple.
It was given to Spain because it was due to be flooded when the damn was made. It is normally surrounded by water, which would have made it an even more impressive sight.
Real Madrid v Barcelona
The purpose of our visit was to watch the Real Madrid v Barcelona game, El Clásico as it is known. I purchased our tickets through footballticket.net which is a leading secondary sales ticketing company.
It was expensive, more than the face value, but this was for a game with Real Madrid and Barcelona neck and neck at the top of the table. I found the experience to be smooth, although there was a slight communication glitch with returning the tickets. This was easily solved with a phone call however.
Unlike in the UK, it seems there are few away supporters and so the stadium was just a wall of home supporting noise. The atmosphere was amazing and for the record Real won two nil.