Churros are a local treat: it's hard to describe them, suffice to say think a piped-version of doughnuts without all the extra sugar dusting. They make a fine breakfast, although apparently improved immensely by chocolate to dip them into! Although prepare for sacrilege: I don't really think I'd fancy that. I'm more savoury than sweet :)
After breakfast it's time to see the Plaza Mayor, the city's main square, in all its daytime glory.
Our first full day in the city centre meant a) further exploration and b) going in search of a record shop!
Puerta del Sol is a busy, manic square and transport hub in the middle of the city. Our favourite holiday tradition, the French electronics giant FNAC, has a store north of Puerta del Sol, just next to that Spanish all-conquering department store El Corte Ingles. Just like their French counterparts it's refreshing to actually find somewhere on the continent where you can still buy CDs and DVDs in these days of streaming and on-demand viewing. This time round I purchased some live concert DVDs, the most recent ones by Alejandro Sanz, Pablo Alboran and David Bisbal. Which inevitably will be reviewed on here at some point, hopefully before 2016 turns into 2017 :))
Anyway, my knowledge of Spanish music isn't really what it should be. There is one familiar face on the CD racks however: the new CD by Spain's ESC representative Barei, which is all in the English language. Which, to this native-language purist, just won't do, so I have to "say nay"!
We move on to lunch at an Italian restaurant. Delicious stuffed mushrooms followed by delicious pizza time!! OK so it's not Spanish, but the time and the place was just right.
We do some further exploring in the area around the Gran Via and then make our way up to the Plaza de España. At the top of the square is this big building which reminds me either of a) Stalinist architecture, or b) a 'landscape' rather than 'portrait' version of the Empire State Building. It actually belongs to the Franco era, and the name of the building is the Edificio España. And I had to lean back to take this photo, to get it all in shot!
Also on the Plaza de España there are a few market stalls and a statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which faithful travelling companion was very excited about.
After hanging around the square for a while, we were on our travels again in search of the Royal Palace. Now we're not really into checking out palaces on holiday but this one is in the heart of the city, just a few minutes' walk from Calle Mayor and the Old Town, and it also has a lovely garden called the Jardines de Sabatini.
Time is getting on though, and we need to get back to the hotel to get ready for another night out. Which will inevitably involve tapas...
After dinner, it was time for a stroll and we end up at a very unusual bar, the Cerveceria La Mayor, which stocks an endless amount of beers - they're even on the ceiling! This bar feels like it belongs more in Brussels than Madrid. Faithful travelling companion agrees and gets into the spirit by ordering a Kwak.
I forgot to mention earlier that a big event's been taking place in Madrid tonight: the Champions League semi-final between Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid. Plaza Mayor was taken over by a crowd of rowdy but unthreatening Bayern fans, whilst we've seen a few German fans since we arrived. When we entered the bar, the match had just finished, and some fans arrived in the bar a little while later.
It has been a long day though, so we didn't stay out too late. Neither did many other people by the looks of it: by the time we get back to the old town, there's hardly a bar or restaurant still open. And it's not even midnight! Madrid is definitely not living up to its all-night-party-city billing :)