Market Day (October 1, 2023)

My planning for this trip has been relatively non-existent.  While I’m trying to be flexible, by today I was getting frustrated with my lack of planning.  The original thought was to go to Toledo on Sunday, but as mentioned above, train tickets were much harder to reserve than expected.  In addition, my lack of planning means we are getting our steps in as we criss-crossed the city many days.

Today started at El Rastro flea market, another recommendation from our tour guide.  When we first arrived, we thought it was just a block or two.  Turned out the flea market was huge!  At every intersection, there was more in all directions.  We wandered around for a good hour or two.  Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded when we arrived around 10am.  By 11:30am, it was packed with people and Ryan had had enough.  It was fun wandering around, looking at all the items, though there were definitely a lot of stalls selling the same items.

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 After expending so much energy at the flea market, we needed some sustenance.  Time for some more churros con chocolate!  We then headed to Reina Sofia, a modern art museum.  The timing was right that we were able to hit the free entrance hours again.  Like El Prado, there was a line, but it moved quickly.  After first getting lost in the museum, we visited one of the upper floors with an exhibition focused around math and computers.  There were a few pictures designed entirely with ones and zeroes on a dot matrix printer, and a display using multiple photos of people at tables, where the number of people matches the Fibonacci sequence.  They were also spaced out along the wall accurately with the number in the sequence.  Needless to say, I think the display only went up to 34 or 55.

 Slowly working our way down the floors, we saw a lot of Salvador Dali and Picasso, and of course in a modern art museum, a number of displays that Ryan and I could have made, a la ‘Red Wall’ (what is the actual name of that painting?) in the MOMA.  The free entry into Reina Sofia is only 1.5 or 2 hours, right before closing time, and they definitely rush you out, so we didn’t make it to everything we wanted to see, but got enough in.

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Madrid train station


Large traffic circle

We took a long leisurely walk around Parque Del Retiro in the afternoon.  It’s comparable to Central Park in NYC, though about half the size, it still felt very large.  The day was gorgeous and the park was filled with tourists and locals enjoying the weather.  We wandered around, looking at some of the statues and gardens, visting the Glass Palace and Monument to Alfonso XII.  There is canoeing and paddle boating in a lake, which sounded fun initially, but the lake was underwhelming in both size and water quality, and the hot weather and sun dissuaded us.  We also saw a number of people pedaling 4-whellers, which looked fun and exhausting.

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On the way back to our AirBnb, we saw a carillon clock on some building.  Later research explains that the building was originally built by a philanthropic multimillionaire in 1913 and has housed an insurance company since the 1940s.


We FaceTimed with the kids before heading out to meet co-workers for dinner.  The kids said hi and were still uninterested in talking with us.  A number of my co-workers were supposed to travel to Madrid for work.  Plans were cancelled for all except two.  So we were meeting up with those two who still traveled for work, and another co-worker who like me, had a spouse with flights so they decided to take vacation.

We all met up at Plaza Mayor, the main square in Madrid, and walked to a nearby restaurant.  The two co-workers who traveled for work are based in Rochester, so I have never met one of them, and the other I haven’t seen in probably 4 years.  It was a lot of fun seeing everyone and catching up.  They all enjoyed huge plates of paella, while Ryan and I had tomato with burrata and some garlic stuffed squid.  I loved it, but not sure Ryan was too thrilled with the squid.



Afterwards, it was only around 10pm, so the night was young in Madrid.  We walked back to the San Miguel market to wander around, ogle the delicious food, and search for dessert.  No hits on dessert, though Ryan and I definitely put the market on our list to return to at a later point for tapas.  We wandered back out towards our lodging and right past a small café selling stuffed churros to go.  Couldn’t pass that up!  It was pretty good, but not as good as churros con chocolate.  We said goodbye to my co-workers and headed back to the room to catch up with the kids again and take care of some logistics.

The plan for Monday was to go hiking.  We spent a lot of time figuring out where exactly to go hiking, and renting a car to get there.  It is surprisingly difficult and expensive to rent a non-electric automatic.  I got the International Driver’s License, originally for work, so I was going to be driving.  While I can drive a manual (around round-abouts, on the wrong side of the road, in the rain in Ireland), Madrid has lots of very narrow, alleyway-like streets and is relatively hilly, so I would prefer an automatic.  The range on the electric cars doesn’t get us to and from the hiking locations, and one of my co-workers said that his credit card wouldn’t work with the chargers.  An hour or two later, after figuring out hiking and renting the car, we found a bus that goes to the base town of the hike and decided to take the bus instead.