Although I was still on US time internally and woke up super early, I nearly missed my flight! I did not realize there was passport inspection after going through security. And there were tons of people! As I ran to my gate, I could see the door was closed. Oh crap, I thought. Breathless, I asked if there was anyway I could get on? Then I stopped and saw several others in the same situation as me. “They’re taking us to the plane” someone said. Oh phew! I would’ve been flustered had I truly missed it!
Then, on the plane, super roomy! Thank you Iberia! Can you sell a plane or two to United? Their planes have zero leg room!
Arriving in Marrakech, it is one hour ahead of Madrid, so I get to live 12:25 to 1:25 all over again. Kind of makes up for the running for the plane out-of-breath part.
Arriving at the airport
I was met by our driver and my guide, Abdul. We took off in comfort in the German camel (a Mercedes SUV).
We stopped at a roadside diner for lunch, where I got an omelet with mushrooms, a flat bread and two dipping sauces (not sure what flavors?) and had my first (but not last) taste of their delicious mint tea. Ahh.
Omelet with mushrooms and delicious mint tea
Three hours later, we arrived in Essaouira. My riad was in the walled medina, so we left the car, took my luggage and walked through the cobblestone streets the last part.
The riad Al Medina was very charming.
Riad Al Medina
My room was nice, with separate living area, bedroom and upstairs bath. The bathroom lighting was a bit dim, but otherwise it was a nice place to stay.
Next up – our first day in Essaouira with the group and Karen!
For my second day in Madrid, Art Safari reserved a guide for me. Julia, a native of Spain, met me at 10am in the hotel lobby.
We started off at a brisk pace, as she knew we had a lot to cover. I had visited the Plaza Major and another main square the day before, so she took me to different areas. Sadly, my usual lack of direction sense means that I am not sure of many of the names of places we walked to. Lesson learned – I am a visual person. If I want to know where we are, I need it pointed out to me on a map! Also, our busy pace meant that I didn’t stop to sketch, so the sketches posted here were all done from my photos.
I saw important buildings and architecture , Julia was a professional through and through and you can tell she loves her city. When we were in a small park, she spotted a couple of guys that were asking other tourists for “donations” to some orphanage scam. She was furious. She didn’t want them to get away with it, first she scolded them, then we marched off to find a police officer. As it happened, there were tons of uniformed men around the corner – some military ceremony was taking place later that day. With much gesturing, she told them what she saw and they sent someone to follow up.
Meanwhile, I ‘needed’ to get my souvenir photo with men in uniform…
Next up, Palacio Real – the royal palace of Madrid. It’s the official residence of the Royal family, but is now only used for ceremonies. It has over 2,000 rooms! No, that’s not an extra zero! Pretty sure we saw less than 100 of those, but it was enough. Very rich, ornate, everything you would expect in a palace.
A statue at the Royal Palace
We stopped for a coffee after, I needed some breathing time.
For me, it was more fun to see the police using scooters! I know, I know, what can I say.
Next – passing Plaza de la Villa and Calle del Coro to see lovely doorways, unique street signs,
Pasadizo de Panecillo – Panecillo= small piece of bread
interesting stores, stop in an old church, then past a very unique restaurant, Sobrino de Botin, with marvelous miniature displays and listed in the Guinness book as the oldest restaurant in the world!
And then, lunch – at the Posada de la Ville, where I tasted several traditional Spanish dishes and received a small pot with a key as a gift! More walking (!), then for a grand finish, the Prado. Julia is an art historian, and was able to share many details about the paintings and the artists, etc., which sadly, I am unable to share specifics because I have a terrible memory. I know, right? Lesson learned, don’t try to fit so much into one trip. Or even one day. Or use your recorder on your phone!
Statue of Goya at the Prado museum
But having said all that, it was totally worth having a private guide, and Julia was great! Maybe if I had done my homework beforehand (tsk, tsk) I might have given some input and used my maps. (So I knew where I was) Madrid is a wonderful city with lots of side streets to lose yourself in (literally, haha). I would definitely go back to Spain, but would save a return visit to Madrid after I’ve visited some other cities.
I’m so glad I stopped here!
Next – I fly to Marrakech…stay tuned!
A short background: This is one of several posts about my first trip to Madrid and Morocco. I found Art Safari online, and am I glad I did! This company plans trips for artists. They worked closely with me and planned every detail, with an end result of perfection. I met some great people, who now feel like old friends, enjoyed my art lessons from Karen and found the perfect blend of interacting with others and free time to myself, learning new things and relaxing, going and not going. For me, a nearly perfect vacation!
Art Safari is based in England, but they are planning a trip to NYC in January, if you’d like to meet a few of the team!
Now, on to my story…In my short time in Madrid (only 1.5 days), I couldn’t do the city justice, although not for lack of trying. The architecture was divine, I could have sat and just sketched buildings!
Bara Cosmetics building- view from my hotel window
After my morning arrival, I rested in my room for a bit, then took off exploring. First strolled down Gran Via and over to Puerta del Sol. There were lots of street artists, and entertainers, and several looked as though they were defying gravity.
Then over to Plaza Mayor, where I happened to find the Mercado San Miguel, which, yes, it was touristy, but hello, that’s what I am! Inside was a feast for the eyes, nose and stomach!
Veggies at Mercado San Miguel
I passed on the animal brains and the sea urchins (One question? How to eat?) and chose paella, easy on the stomach.
Another easy on the stomach (and eyes!) was the hotel breakfast – croissants, fresh fruit, cheese, jambon and plates of scrambled eggs were offered.
Unfortunately, my internal gps was incorrect as usual, and I took off in the wrong direction, thinking I was heading back to my hotel. Wrong! Thankfully my phone’s gps was working, and once I realized I had NO idea where I was heading in such a hurry, I switched it on and got safely back to the hotel.
After a non-eventful flight, I had a lovely welcome at my hotel in Madrid (@Hoteldelaslaetras; Gift was from @artsafari.co.uk) with a gift bag including a bottle of wine, jam, crackers, a Basque textile fabric square, and a Sangria spoon. (Never used a spoon for Sangria, I prefer a glass?)
Then, while checking the mini-bar, I found these:
Yeah, I’m a going to be needing a case of these? (As holiday gifts, of course. Me? I’m HAPPY!)