One of my favorite days during my recent trip to Spain started with an annoying errand: returning the keys to the first apartment we stayed at. You see, before we arrived in Madrid we booked an apartment through Airbnb which has (in the past) been my go-to for finding lodging for vacations. Never again…
Maybe you’ll remember the last time I booked with Airbnb in Maui my boyfriend and I encountered bedbugs. Well, this time we encountered cockroaches! At three o’clock in the morning on a rainy Madrid night, we found ourselves frantically searching for open, affordable hotels and trekking through the streets in the wee small rainy hours of the morning (with all of our belongings) to a new pest-free place. I think Airbnb is a good idea in theory but, because it is not robust enough to set up and monitor proper standards, I have (twice now) been placed in the position of needing to book expensive last-minute hotel rooms or be left in a heap of pests. I worry that the next time I am met with an unforeseen pest/problem, I will be stranded without options. Because of these terrible experiences and the fact that Airbnb hasn’t done much to help (except offer discounts on “next times” that don’t exist), I feel as if renting through Airbnb is a bit like buying underwear secondhand: no guarantees.
After returning the keys and gratefully bidding adios to the old place, we enjoyed a somewhat-guided walk through the streets of Madrid to a really beautiful vegetarian restaurant named Viva La Vida (shown in the two previous photos). The walk was “somewhat-guided” because I used the Triposo app I talked about in a previous post which (among many other great features) offers city walk guides. This example is not exactly the one we did, but very similar because it sets directions for you to follow and offers points on the map at different sites to learn about important buildings, monuments, etc. After eating a VGF burger (with vegan, gluten-free bun!), we stopped by a few buildings on our way to our main destinations: Santa María la Real de La Almudena (Almudena Cathedral) and its neighbor Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace).
Our first view of the Cathedral was amazing, seen from a distance across a valley as we walked up a road. I stepped in front of couples eating lunch outside a fancy restaurant in order to snap a photo of it from that distance (worth it) and eagerly walked toward the building. The inside of this building is so incredibly diverse and gorgeous. The ceiling was my favorite: gold-framed colorful mosaics tucked away above the pale grey granite and marble. As you walk through the space, looking up, you see new designs unfolding slowly and standing underneath each one is its own moment. I wanted to spend more time here, but Mass was beginning and I felt disrespectful hovering around so we left before it started.
We walked around the corner to a beautiful open space between the Cathedral’s steps and the Palace’s courtyard and enjoyed the sight of the two buildings next to each other while a street performer played “Memory” from Cats on violin accompanied by a piano record playing at his feet. I saw people walking around the courtyard of the Royal Palace and figured people could go in, but I have never been inside a palace (or even castle) before so I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We bought tickets to go inside and, after snapping photos in the courtyard and enjoying its amazing view, we went in.
The Royal Palace was absolutely, insanely, outrageously, ridiculously ostentatious. Each room was filled with one-of-a-kind wood mosaic or marble inlay floors, unique embroidered and porcelain walls, and gold everywhere (like, everywhere). Each room had incredible art, furniture, and various unnecessary items to indicate wealth. It was both impressive and sickening. One minute I would bug my eyes out because the embroidery on the walls (by the Court Embroiderer) was just so incredible and the next minute I would be rolling my eyes at the sheer ludicrousness of the décor. I would have loved to see the Royal Library and Royal Pharmacy, but they weren’t in our guide and we ended our tour just in time for closing.
Back outside in the courtyard, we witnessed the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen in my life (while that same street performer played one of my ultimate favorite songs “Hallelujah” on his violin) and I literally cried it was so amazing. I felt like I was inside the sunset and the clouds were exactly like the ones painted in some of my favorite European works of art. Unfortunately guards were shooing us away and denying us access to the gorgeous view we saw before, so all we could do was quickly take photos of the Sun setting beyond the walls while I muttered “you don’t own the sky!” under my breath to the guards. For the rest of the evening we walked up to the Parque de la Montaña where an Egyptian temple looks out over the valley and I enjoyed the last of the sunset from the park’s unguarded vista.
What’s the most beautiful building you have seen?
What was your most recent “gorgeous sunset” experience?