Tiempo de Tortugas

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The main draw for our visit to Madrid was turtles.

You think I’m kidding.

Madrid Train Station Turtles

I wasn’t.

Apparently, residents of Madrid who tire of their pet terrapins often bring them to the Madrid Atocha train station and leave them in the water in the terminal’s tropical courtyard. And despite signs begging people not to abandon their turtles in the terminal, the rail company, Renfe, employs someone specifically to care for them all.

Can I have that job? I like turtles.

Leslie: The turtles were a funny little addition; they kinda reminded me of the Peabody ducks that walk through that hotel in Memphis every afternoon to get to the fountain.

Turtles weren’t the only exciting thing at the Atocha train station. Before leaving to explore the city, we grabbed lunch at a fast food place in the terminal. While we were sitting there, enjoying our burgers and a salad with fancy little bottles for olive oil and vinegar, Leslie said, very calmly, “I think I’ve just been pooped on.”

I’m sorry, come again? (Those of you who know Leslie will know that it’s completely in character for her to respond to situations like this with impressive levels of composure.)

“I think a bird just pooped on my head,” she said, nursing her noggin. “And it hurt.” We both looked up to the rafters above us, and sure enough, there sat the offending pigeon, tail hanging threateningly over our meal. I swear it was laughing.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

And not only had Leslie legitimately been pooped on, but it was a doozy. It was everywhere: in her hair, on her shirt, everywhere. I was laughing so hard I could hardly see straight to help her clean the fowl feces from her person as best we could. Leslie, bless her, took it all in stride—but she did develop a rather strong aversion to pigeons for the remainder of our trip. Let’s just say that every subsequent opportunity that arose to terrorize that pigeon’s kith and kin was rather gleefully accepted…

Oh, and I bought a postcard in the bathroom, because that’s a totally normal thing to do in a public restroom. It was one of those places that makes you pay to pee, but they gave you a little slip with a coupon on it that you could redeem for goodies at a giftshop.

A giftshop in the bathroom.

That definitely happened.

We only allotted one day to our explorations of Madrid, a fact that both of us came to regret very quickly. Madrid is an absolutely gorgeous city, and it was quiet and practically deserted. It almost felt like we had the whole city to ourselves. We really wish we had given ourselves more time there—especially because it rained for most of the day and we didn’t get to see much.

But what we did see was pretty spectacular. Beautiful architecture, sprawling parks, and the fantastic Palacio Real, or Royal Palace of Madrid.

Unfortunately, they didn’t allow photography inside the palace, except for the grand staircase and one random hallway. But you can see pictures of the interior  here. My favorite rooms were the Blue Room (the Official Antechamber) and the Throne Room. Every room was extremely ornate—gilded to the hilt, painted ceilings, uncomfortable-looking furniture—and it’s difficult to believe anyone actually lives like that. And they don’t, really. The Royal Family of Spain actually lives in the much more *cough* modest Palace of Zarzuela. They just use the Palacio Real for fancy meetings with other famous rich people.

You know, like me and Leslie.

*snort*

Leslie: I was amazed at the opulence inside. Each room seemed to be more ornate than the next and I felt like I would never be able to take it all in. My favorite may have been that absolutely ginormous dining table that was set with fancy plates and silverware, and several gigantic chandeliers. It was quite the sight. This was one palace that was definitely worth it to see.  

But the best bit was definitely the Armory.

Leslie: Which we kind of found by luck—at least I didn’t know it was there until we saw a little sign for it as we were leaving. It was quite interesting to see the armor from all the different periods, especially the full armor for the horses and their knights.

Again, they wouldn’t let us take pictures, but you can see some here. It was ridiculously cool, and it renewed my childhood dream of being a knight at the Renaissance Faire. It was a fun way to see a side to the royal family that was a bit grittier and rough than what we saw inside the palace.

After we left the Palace, we tried to find the Prado Museum, one of the world’s greatest art galleries. But unfortunately, we got lost, and the weather got a lot worse. After wandering aimlessly in the rain for a couple of hours, we decided to call it a day and found our rental apartment instead.

Leslie: I didn’t want to give up and “waste” our only day in Madrid, but our plan totally backfired.

Still, it was good to have a quiet evening to rest and do some laundry. Super early the next morning, we left for Granada, a pretty spectacular city in its own right—and home to something I’ve dreamed of seeing for years.

Read more about my trip with Leslie here.

Where We Stayed: Hotel Apartamento Prado

Apartamento Good Stay Prado

Because hostels in Madrid weren’t as economical as they are in many other cities, we were actually able to rent a private apartment for less than we could book beds in a dorm. We had privacy, a balcony, and an all-in-one washer/dryer that took hours to do one load of laundry—and that was after we figured out how to use it. It’s amusig how difficult it is to figure out how to use a washer where the dials are all in a language you’re not fluent in. Why don’t they teach you things like “delicates” and “permanent press” in high school Spanish? Clearly that would be more useful than, “¡Hola! Nuestros nombres son Jess y Leslie. ¿Dónde está el Museo del Prado?”

Type of Room: Studio

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Booked at Booking.com[A]

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