It’s been quite awhile since my last post and this one is again still in Madrid. As mentioned in my previous entry, Madrid is a city that is full of history and sites that one day isn’t enough to soak in the entire metropolis. On this day, I visited the Palacio Real de Madrid or The Royal Palace which is Madrid’s largest and most beautiful building. It stands on the site of the former Alcazar palace of the Spanish Habsburgs but was destroyed by a fire in 1734. An entirely new palace was completed on the same site in 1764 and it continues to be the official residences of the royal family of Spain. Unofficially, they live in a simpler palace now (to avoid the tourists visiting, perhaps?) but it is still used for state ceremonies and to host some foreign dignitaries who visit. I didn’t originally have plans to actually go inside the palace and do the tour since the hotel I stayed in for this trip, The Apartosuites Jardines de Sabatini, actually offered the best view of the palace. We rented out the nicest suite of the hotel which offered a terrace view of entire structure and it was breath taking. Imagine waking up, opening the windows and eating breakfast with the majestic palace greeting you a “Good Morning!” With that view in itself, I was beyond satisfied. Last minute, I decided that I really wanted to visit the palace and actually go inside to see how royals live. I rationalized that it was already in front of our hotel… what’s a short walk anyway right? Wrong. The short walk ended up being an hour and a half trek since it was raining that day, it was severely cold and my friend Charm and I got sidetracked since we passed through the Sabatini Gardens which is actually 2.5 hectares and still very much a part of the Royal Palace. It was built where the royal stables once were and the final result was a Neoclassical style garden with hedges and trees adorning the surroundings in symmetric and geometrical patterns. It also had a pool, fountains and statues of Kings which is why Charm and I got so distracted that we ended up exploring the gardens instead and taking photos from there. It is a great spot from which to view the palace… away from the maddening crowds.
Since it was particularly chilly on this day, I decided to wear the most palace-appropriate outfit I had packed that would keep me warm and which I didn’t already assign for my trip to Paris and I ended up with this. I actually loved this peacoat with a graphic floral pastel print that I got from Zara and never got to use. Since I wanted the coat to be the statement piece of my ensemble, I kept everything simple and wore a white button down top and navy trousers to complete the look. The outfit was, for me, classic and clean… something fit for a day in the palace.
After we rounded the corner and went to the front of the palace which as it turns out was the entrance point of everyone going on a tour, we were disappointed to see a long line. The disappointment, however, did not last long since there were two men who entertained people in line by singing classic opera songs and they were actually extremely talented to the point that I found myself enjoying being in the line under the rain with an umbrella. Not the most ideal situation but these two men made it work. In front of the Royal Palace is another important site to to see which is the Catedral de Almudena. The cathedral is built in the Gothic style with heavy medieval inspiration and strong vertical lines. It strongly contrasts the adjoining horizontal Palacio Real that has strong influences of Classical style.
Photographs were prohibited in the palace especially when artifacts, jewelry, srt collections of the royal family and actual well-preserved rooms with tapestries, furniture and actual gold were displayed. I still managed to get a few but ended up so enthralled with what I was seeing that I just decided to immerse myself in the tour. There were various rooms, the antechamber of Kings, the banquet hall, the royal chapel and the actual bedchamber of King Charles III and the interior designer in me instantly picked up on the polychrome stuccowork ceilings, the walls lined with silver embroidered silk and the Spanish marble flooring… actually the Spanish marble everything… It was apparent it was decorated by someone who had a taste for the ornate, grand and baroque. While most people who took the tour thought the Throne Room was the highlight of the palace, I actually found that it was The Porcelain Room that was most majestic (and no it is not to be confused as a room where porcelain dinnerware are kept). The Porcelain Room is actually a room where the walls and ceilings (and formerly the floor) are covered entirely by porcelain with intricately designed vines and flowers all over the room. I was good with my trip to the Palace after seeing that majestic, rich and very detailed room.
It took us a good two hours in the palace and from there, we met up with my family to have lunch in Restuarante Sobrino Il Botin in Calle Cuchilleros. Il Botin was founded in 1725 and was awarded by The Guiness Book of Records as The World’s Oldest Restaurant and there I was there to have lunch like it was no big deal. Actually it was a very big deal especially since I had their world-famous Cochinillo Asado or roast suckling pig, a dish that was so good Ernest Hemingway actually mentioned it in his book, The Sun Also Rises. And I have to say, that it was so delicious, so perfectly cooked that up to now, I am still having Cochinillo dreams.
After lunch, I decided to walk around Calle Cuchilleros or Cutler’s Street which had amazing restaurants, shops, bodegas and I also happened to stumble upon the World’s Oldest Barber Shop too. We also had some chocolate con churros in Chocolateria San Gines that has been serving churros since 1894 and is actually quite the favorite of celebrities who flock to the restaurant to get some churros whenever they visit Madrid. This proves to me that despite living in the modern world, Madrid possesses an inimitable character of a city passionate for tradition.