Last Day (October 4, 2023)

We had a few things planned for our last day in Madrid, but mostly it was for relaxing and finishing up some souvenir shopping.  We ate a delicious last breakfast in Madrid near the Puerta Del Sol area.  There were a lot of military planes flying overhead, but were hard to see from where we sat in between buildings.  A few airplanes were visible, including an airplane refueling mid-air.  The Real Madrid store was close by and we were able to pick up a few gifts for some crazy Real Madrid fans in our family.  We then stopped at the El Cortes Ingles department store for the post office and a bathroom.  El Cortes Ingles is a huge department store that seemed to have everything.  Just the floor we were on was like a department store, combined with an REI, combined with a toy store all in one.  And it had a post office on the 7th floor.  That’s where I was headed to mail some post cards back home.  After marching around the floor for a while, I finally found the bathrooms, which of course, even though it was a huge department store, only had two stalls.  The establishments in Madrid all seem to be environmentally conscious, especially on saving energy.  Similar to in El Prado, the lights in the bathroom turned off on me, and there wasn’t even a switch in the stall like El Prado, so I had to use my phone flashlight to see my way out.

One of our scheduled activities for the day was a tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid.  We arrived around noon to see the changing of the guard prior to our tour.  However, we were surprised by a large parade with horses, a military band, chariots, and much more that lasted for over an hour, first through the street and then into the courtyard of the palace.  Unbeknownst to us, there is a special changing of the guard at noon the first Wednesday of each month, and we were lucky enough to experience it.

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The Palace was gigantic and opulent.  We used the self-guided audio tour, which was well done, guiding us from room to room and pointing out the interesting aspects of each.  I, of course, got in trouble for trying to take a picture one room.  In my defense, there was a no photos sign in one area the beginning, and it was not obvious to me that the one sign indicated no photos for the entirety of the palace tour.  We visited the Royal Armory, viewing lots of ornate body armor including for dogs and kids.  I can just imagine the protest if we were to hang all that chainmail on Maddie or Sam.

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Nearing 3pm, it was lunch time.  We found ourselves a delicious lunch de la semana, which turned out to be one of the best meals of our trip.  Three courses for about $17.  Ryan and I both started with avocado stuff with salmon.  And this wasn’t a little bit of avocado.  It was a full extra large avocado half.  Main course for me was a sea bass, while Ryan had stewed beef, which tasted almost exactly like the beef stew we make at home.  Dessert was a brownie cheesecake and pineapple, where they pretty much chop a pineapple and half and stick it on a plate.  And of course it wouldn’t be a meal in Madrid without some beer and wine.

Appetizer finished before we remembered to take a photo

Appetizer finished before we remembered to take a photo

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Following our Madrid tour guide’s recommendation, we headed to the nondescript wooden door with little signage to await the opening of the secret nun cookie business.  It was a very interesting process.  We stood outside the door until it opened, probably about the 4th in a line of maybe 10.  The door is unlocked, we go down a relatively narrow hallway to a dark alcove, where there is a large turnstile built into the wall.  Cookies can only be bought in weights of a kilo or half kilo.  There’s a list of the cookie flavors, but not all are made every day.  We get to our turn.  Someone (presumably a nun) says hello from the other side of the wall, and we said back half kilo of this type and half kilo of another type.  She then said that there was none of the second type that day, so we quickly decided on a different flavor.  All of this conversation in Spanish.  The cookies get put on the turnstile and spun around to us.  We put the money on the turnstile and spin it around to them, then it gets spun back to us with change.  What an experience!  We wound up getting some lemon shortbread cookies and powdered sugar cookies.  Both were delicious.  Even if they weren’t, it was more about the experience anyway.  Only later while packing up cookies to bring with us to Port Aransas a few days later did I notice that the monastery was named Monestario de Corpus Christi.

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 Back to the AirBnb to get most of our packing done and take a short rest before our final adventures in Madrid, a Flamenco show and some tapas.  The show was great, down in a little basement, all seats very close to the stage, lots of fun, amazing how quickly the dancers move their feet.  I also had the opportunity to try the sweet vermouth which is common in Madrid, which was pretty good.  There was a little girl there with her parents in front of us watching the show, and I was yet again amazed at how late everyone, including kids, is awake in Madrid on school nights.

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Afterwards, we headed to Mercado San Miguel for our last chance at amazing tapas, followed by our last churros y chocolate before flying home the next day.

Mercado San Miguel

Mercado San Miguel

Our last churros con chocolate

Our last churros con chocolate

AirBnb - Visible from San Gines

AirBnb – Visible from San Gines

I don’t remember much about the trip home.  Getting through the Madrid airport took a lot longer than anticipated, lots of security to fly back to the US it seemed, and we made it to the gate just in time to grab some quick food and get on line to board.  The flight home was easy, and we were actually able to get standby on an earlier flight from Dallas to Austin, so we arrived home a little after 8pm.  Maddie was asleep, but Sam was there to greet us, though unclear if he was actually happy to have us home.