Having crawled into bed at some outrageous time close to 5am, I dragged myself out of the hotel at 9am as this was already my last day in Madrid and there was much to see. Weekend breaks can be so stressful...
I walked along Gran Via down to Sol to wake myself up and had a quick stopover at the completely huge El Corte Ingles complex which covered three prime sites in this busy retail centre of town. I always like to look at Supermarkets when I'm abroad to see how people's daily food needs differ (weird I know) and given I had no time to track down a Mercadona, was thrilled to see huge Iberian jamon and cheese counters in the basement food store at the nation's favourite department store. The wines took up 4 aisles and was incredibly good value - we have the same brand wines in London supermarkets which sell at almost 2.5x the price.
My walk took me past all the fabulous old buildings on the way to Banco de Espana - theatres, national banks and the Spanish stock exchange. There was already a queue of budding art enthusiasts when I arrived at the Prado museum but the wait was to be proved worthwhile. I'm not a big art fan by any means but this gallery is so huge and packed with a variety of works that even I managed to recognise some of the paintings and artisits. Whilst as one of the most famous art collections it is obviously home to the Spanish greats such as Velazquez and Goya but the Prado also showcases some of the big names from Holland and Italy including Rubens and Titian's Venus.
After that draining cultural stop, I briefly paused for a cool beer at the Terrace of the Ritz hotel. You can walk straight in to this beautiful patio, where white wicker furniture with plump cushions allows you to rest your weary feet. The beer was served in tall stemmed glasses accompanied by a selection of nibbles (included in the price) and you can sit back in the Madrid sun and listen to the live pianist.
Feeling pretty mellow, the question now was whether I wanted to spend this gloriously sunny afternoon in the next gallery. Being somewhat sun starved, I figured I would return another time for Picasso and opted instead to stroll round the botanical gardens. Again, I'm no big gardening enthusiast, but for the sum of €2, I was able to roam this huge garden which had plenty of postcard-perfect landscapes and a greenhouse full of the more exotic plants.
Only then did I realise that I hadn't eaten all day. I started walking through the back streets towards Plaza de Santa Ana - where I stopped for some tapas at Lateral. I opted to sit at the bar indoors as the outside terrace was largely unshaded and relatively full whilst the inside was cool and empty. Along with a glass of red house rioja which was beautifully drinkable and well priced, I enjoyed a taste of tortilla, sardines and pimientos. I chose this particulare tapas bar out of many on the square, as the restaurant was modern and clean and they use the cutest crockery - but the food turned out to be delicious too. Just a little further down past Plaza de Angel and on the way to Plaza Mayor is a little square with an open market selling various bric-a-brac. Not that I needed to after the tapas, but I bought a little bag of dry roasted sunflower seeds (toasty and sweet) from a man who was applying the same dry roast to everything imaginable!
A trip to Plaza Mayor saw a suspiciously Mexican looking group of street entainters who were pleasing the amassed tourists. The square is huge and amazingly, despite its scale, was completely packed with people - some sat in the outdoor terraces of the many bars and restaurants, some looking at the collection of stores under the grand arches and others, like me, just enjoying the sunset and watching the world go by. Tired, full and aware of the inhuman hour of my flight back home, this is where I bid adios to the City and its people.