Given our exhausting day on Thursday, Friday we slept in until 9 a.m. Cindy had caught a cold, and both of the girls were tiring from the hectic pace. So, on this day we took a more laid back approach. We hung out in the hotel until after 11, at which time we wandered toward the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and had a quick lunch nearby. Then, we walked on down to tour the Royal Palace, which was ordered to be built in the mid-1700s by King Philip V, the grandnephew of the “Sun King,” King Louis XIV of France. Philip, who was born at the spectacular Versailles, desired a comparable palace in Madrid, hence the Palacio Real. The palace contains 2800 rooms, an abundance of luxurious tapestries, a wealth of grandiose chandeliers, frescoes by Tiepolo, and oodles of gold leaf, bronze, and porcelain. Photos were not allowed inside the palace, so if you want to see it, you’ll have to plan your own trip (or, perhaps, go online). 🙂
We were also blessed to visit two impressive churches on this day. The Almudena Cathedral (named after the Virgin of Almudena) sits next door to the Palacio Real. Standing in opposition to the usual churches we find in Europe, the Cathedral is a modern edifice, built in the late 20th century and consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It’s interior is Neo-Gothic and the ceilings and paintings within have a very contemporary feel to them. The main attraction for pilgrims is a 13th-century coffin (empty) in a chapel behind the main altar. It at one time held a humble farmer named Isidro, who is now Madrid’s (co-)patron saint. Angels are said to have plowed his field for him while he prayed. Forty years after he died, the coffin was opened, and his body was found to have been miraculously preserved.
Earlier I had stopped in the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, which was very near our hotel, in the barrio (neighborhood) called La Latina. The interior is magnificent and teeming with gold interspersed with art, including the works of Goya and Zurbarán. It was constructed in a Neo-classical style in the 18th century. It’s dome is massive.
After touring the Palacio Real and the Cathedral we had dinner at a mediocre restaurant not far from the hotel for dinner. It was a little disappointing, but you can’t hit a home run with every dining choice. Afterwards, the birthday girls walked back to the hotel (with a little directional assistance), while I wandered around town in the night for another hour or two. I strolled up to the cobbled, traffic-free square called the Plaza Mayor. This was the main square in times past. During the 17th-century Plaza Mayor played host to bullfights, royal events, and happenings of the Inquisition. I ambled through the congested Mercado De San Miguel and made my way to the Plaza de España, where I discovered a statue of Don Quixote and his sidekick, Sancho Panza.