On my second day in Madrid I woke up at 9 after a wonderful 12 hours of sleep. After getting ready I went out for breakfast. I had done some research to find a suitable breakfast place, because although I was sure there were many lovely places around my hotel I had a special need that Madrid could not easily cater for: good tea. In my experience tea was something Spanish people were not very familiar with. Luckily my research had found Mür Café, a small café a 10 minute walk from my hotel, which was supposed to offer a good selection of tea.
I almost missed the small sign for the café and was a bit surprised to find the entrance blocked by a flower pot. According to the information on the website the opening hour was 9 and it was now 9.40. Apparently this information was inaccurate since a waitress who saw me peering inside came out and let me know that Mür Café would open at 10. By now I was very hungry and not happy at all to wait for 20 minutes, but I decided to walk around until the opening, rather than risk missing out on my morning tea. At 10 I was back and sat down on the small terrasse outside the café. The service was not very fast but once breakfast arrived it was worth the wait. I ordered the traditional breakfast, a simple meal of toast and marmalade with a cup of Earl Grey tea. The toast was not some squares pulled out from a plastic package but thick delicious slices of freshly baked bread, grilled to perfection. How happy good bread can make a person! The tea was proper loose leaf tea and came in a pot with a bottle of milk.
After breakfast I continued my sightseeing tour of the centre of Madrid. Walking down Calle Arenal I made my way towards the Royal Palace. As I arrived at Plaza de Oriente it began raining, and tourists huddled together under trees and awnings. When the downpour softened to a drizzle I ventured out from under my tree and had the unusual pleasure of walking up to the palace unhindered by crowds of tourists.
After seeing the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral I walked up Calle Mayor and Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de Cibeles. On my way I passed the charming Plaza de la Villa which used to house the City Hall before 2007 when it was moved to the much grander Cybele Palace.
After walking up the busy Calle de Alcalá in the ruthless glare of the sun I was in the need of shelter. Luckily Retiro Park was just around the corner. As I walked in among the trees the sound of the traffic on Paseo del Prado was replaced by the sounds of birds and green branches provided a respite from the sun.
I am not sure how long I had been wandering through the park when I came to the realisation that my feet were killing me. Suddenly I felt as if I could not take another step. Of course I had no clue were I was. Luckily I happened on a map of the park and managed to find my way out. Not able to face the walk back, I hopped on the metro at Atocha.
At the hotel I decided to visit the pool on the roof, but I had chosen a bad moment since a thunderstorm decided to break right as I was enjoying the water. So I returned inside and was having a tea in the hotel lobby as my friend Esther messaged to say she was on her way into town.
Esther took me to the neighbourhood of La Latina, the oldest part of Madrid, where the grand buildings and wide avenues are replaced by narrow winding streets and innumerable tapas bars. We visited Txakolina, on Calle Cava Baja, and I ate an absolutely delicious pintxo with chicken, pepper and mojo sauce. Highly recommended!
After the snack, we walked down in direction of the Royal Palace and entered the Almudena Cathedral. The Cathedral is quite new and I found the combination of neo-gothic architecture and modern artwork beautiful.
As we left the cathedral we walked back towards Calleo, with a stop at Casa Labra, a traditional old tavern near Puerta del Sol. The queue outside had me worried, but as a local Esther new that queuing only gets you a standing place, while worming our way through the crowds we found several places to sit in the back room. Esther ordered us some absolutely delicious empanadas and croquettes which I happily devoured together with a glass of Tinto de verano.
After the meal I walked back to my hotel for a final night there before the next day when I would move to Esther’s place for the rest of my stay in Madrid. Even on a Wednesday night the streets running up to Callao were filled with people, probably taking advantage of the finally bearable temperature outside.