Rain Greets First Full Day in Spain

The rain in Spain falls mainly on … my feet.

Our first half-day in Madrid proved gorgeous, with coolish temperatures and sunshine that lasted well past 7. We walked way too long in search for the perfect tapas bar, so we settled for a good-enough one and then a second where the waiter didn’t appreciate sharing. Isn’t that what tapas is all about?

He grudgingly allowed us to order one set meal for Declan that we intended to share (along with drinks for everyone), then proceeded to remove all the silverware save one setting and replaced the generous portion of bread with a stingy one. Tipping is optional in Spain, and I had fully intended to leave nothing to the surly bastard despite being an otherwise generous tipper. But Marilynn was the only one with euros, and she left what I thought was an obscene tip based upon the (lack of) service we received.

Largest palace in Europe

During our first night in Madrid, the skies opened. It was still raining a fair bit when we set out for the Palacio Real de Madrid, the largest royal palace in Europe at 1.45 million square feet. The rulers decamped for smaller digs in the ‘burbs long ago, but the palace is still used for royal ceremonies and the like.

In addition to the rain, it also was pouring tourists, even 15 minutes after the palace opened. We dodged and weaved among the mostly Asian tourists during the entirety of the visit. Fortunately, photos aren’t allowed inside the palace or we’d probably still be there, waiting for someone to finish taking a selfie while blocking the view of 50 other people.

Like any Big House opulent enough to charge admission, the palace is filled with bling, gilt, tapestries and Masterworks. Ho-hum, four Goyas in an antechamber. Yawn, four Stradivarius instruments (two violins, a viola and a violincello) in another. Huge tapestries and elaborate ceiling frescoes can be found in just about every room.

Personally, I enjoyed seeing the rare stringed instruments, which apparently could fetch $15 million apiece if sold. The throne room was quite impressive, with four lions guarding the steps leading to the his and hers thrones and the four ornate clocks positioned around the room.

Looking down

While others were looking at the walls and ceilings, however, I was looking at the floors. I don’t think any two of the ones on the tour were alike. I liked the wooden floors best, many with intricate patterns of different wood species. But the tile floors also proved delightful, with swoops and swirls of complementary colors joined in interesting patterns.

So, my advice for visiting the Palacio Real de Madrid is come for the bling, stay for the flooring. And hope it’s not raining—the liquid kind or the touristy kind.