Postcards & Passports

Madrid: Palaces and Napolitanas

This post was most recently updated on August 11th, 2020

Madrid: Palaces and NapolitanasIn the summer of 2010, we took our entire family to Spain…or more specifically to Madrid, for one week. We packed our days full of exploring, visiting, shopping, eating, and anything else that sounded like fun. I’m going to attempt to recreate our experiences right here for you, including quotes from our travel journal we kept each day.

Arriving in Madrid

As tired as we were when we landed in Madrid, we wanted to attend church with my daughter’s friends.  After checking in to our apartment, we rushed off to the subway and tried to stay awake (not really)!

Madrid: Palaces and Napolitanas

Trying to stay awake after a transatlantic flight

“Flying overseas is slightly scary, really long, and it’s nearly impossible to get any decent sleep.  I got 3 hours. Also…a little surprise to us Americans…but everyone was giving us besitos.” 

–Heather, age 18

After church, we were treated to a home-cooked meal by Rosi and Carlos.  One of the best things about traveling is hanging out with the locals and eating their food!

After dinner, we joined a young adult gathering of about 20 in the front room of an apartment. Crowded? Yes! But such wonderful energy and love! These were many of the friends my daughter made while serving in Madrid for 18 months as a missionary.

Madrid: Palaces and Napolitanas

Young adult gathering

Toledo: medieval village, museum of torture, swords,  & doner kebaps

“I indulged my geeky side by using the GPS to help us find the plaza where we ate doner kebaps for lunch.  At the sword shop, the owner knew Jessica and the missionaries in general.  With great pride he showed us the sword they made for Captain Moroni!” –my husband

“The food is great! Doner kebaps are awesome…and the sword shops are totally awesome.  The buildings are super cool and I like the small streets and alleys.” –Caleb, age 15

Reina Sofia Art Museum: Guernica, Dali & trash (?)

After returning to Madrid from Toledo, we went to the Reina Sofia art museum.  It’s famous for the painting, “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, but it also has some very interesting (?) modern art exhibits.  This is where we began having problems with our son’s souvenir dagger from Toledo. But that’s a whole other story–you can read about it here.

“We enjoyed the Picasso and Dali exhibits and then a temporary exhibit made of trash.  Mom didn’t like that one so much but us kids did!  I loved seeing Picasso’s Guernica again…such an impactful, breathtaking piece of art.” –Jessica, age 23

El Escorial: monastery, gardens, cathedral, palace, & library

Madrid: Palaces and Napolitanas

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El Escorial was a very impressive place, in size, grandeur, and historic significance.  It was built in the 1500-1600’s and was at one time, the residence of the king of Spain.

“The monastery was so huge, almost castle-like.  The architecture of it all was so grand, and it was very beautiful inside and out.  There were tons of murals and paintings, on every wall and ceiling…and tons of stairs to climb, so we got a great calve workout.” — Heather, 18 yrs

“The Hall of Battles definitely has “WOW” factor. It was huge, with a vaulted ceiling and depictions of battles painted on nearly every square inch.  The detail was amazing. Oh, and did I mention the library? Original manuscripts hundreds of years old–which means they were all hand-calligraphied.  Can’t even imagine that!” –my journal entry

Shopping in Puerta del Sol

Puerta is a busy and well-known shopping hub in Madrid.  It is also the center radial point for all Spanish roads. Mostly it’s just a fun place to hang out, grab some tasty napolitanas, and shop for souvenirs.

Retiro Park and La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

Retiro Park is one of the largest public parks in Madrid.  It is filled with sculptures and monuments, a lake, gardens, playground, and the Crystal Palace. It was a wonderful reprieve from the busy-ness of a metropolitan city, and the shaded walkways and grassy lawns were an oasis in the summer heat.

Our next stop was to tour Madrid’s bull-fighting ring: La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. I hadn’t realized how much bull-fighting was a part of Madrid culture.  I personally had no desire to see a bullfight, but it was interesting to take the tour and walk through the museum. And for the record, the bullring is used for other purposes as well: concerts, tennis tournaments, and theatre.

A Palace and a Temple

The Palace Real (royal palace) in Madrid is not actually the residence of the king of Spain, but it’s used for state ceremonies.  The current palace is over 200 years old and is quite ornate.  The tour takes you through most of the palace rooms, though we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. It’s hard for me to imagine living amongst such opulence.  We just don’t have the royalty concept in the United States, so the White House really can’t compare.  Because the palace is built on an old fortress foundation, it’s higher than most of Madrid, and the views are wonderful!

The Madrid LDS temple wasn’t open the week we were there, but we enjoyed visiting its grounds and feeling the peace there.  It has great significance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints throughout France, Spain, and Portugal as a place where they can go to be married and sealed to their families, for time and all eternity.

We had a wonderful week in Madrid, dampened only a little by the fact that our flights out of Madrid were cancelled, and we had to hustle to find train tickets to France at the last minute. (You can read more about that here under “Don’t Travel Without a Back-up Plan”.) The train ride across Spain was wonderful as well as the buses and subways we used to get around Madrid. Europe really makes public transportation easy. I hope you’ll get to see Madrid someday, and I’d love to hear about your trip if you’ve already been…



14 thoughts on “Madrid: Palaces and Napolitanas

  1. Heather

    I loved that trip; it was full of so many fun stories and adventures! I especially LOVED all the foods we tried during our time there: everything from soup with popcorn (that was our first meal with the locals!), to chocolate filled croissants (napolitanas), chocolate muesli cereal for breakfast, as well as several consecutive, meat-filled dinners with locals at the end of our stay. Food is one of the best parts of vacationing! 🙂

  2. Michael Huxley

    Toledo steel is famous among fencers and sword aficionados, I’ve fenced (as well as studying other sword arts like Kendo and Aido) for years. I glad you took the time to check out some of the sword culture there.

  3. Amanda

    I remember going to a lot of those places in Madrid and Toledo! I could relive my experiences through all your photos so thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Natalie Deduck

    Great post!!
    I have been to Madrid and Toledo last year and loved. So much history in those places, amazing culture and great food. But believe or not I didn’t try the napolitanas.

    Happy travels,

  5. Tanya Harry

    Great post! I’ve always wanted to see Madrid. I love that you all went to support your daughter, even going so far as to meet and spend time with her friends.

    I would have loved Toledo. Captivating architecture, narrow, twisting alleys— that’s for me!

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