Southern Spain – November 2012 – Day 6 (El Escorial and Madrid)

Wednesday November 21, 2012

For our last day in Madrid we split our time.  In the morning we paid a quick visit to El Escorial and we wrapped up the afternoon sightseeing in Madrid.  You get to El Escorial via a local train so it’s a little slower and takes about an hour from the Atocha station. The two main sights in El Escorial are the Valley of the Fallen and the Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial.  Valley of the Fallen was built to honor the Spanish Civil Ware casualties and is the burial site of former dictator Francisco Franco. It’s a very controversial site among locals as it was previously agreed to be the location of the newest Euro Disneyland.  Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the historical residence of the King of Spain.  We arrived around 9AM and took a cab to the Valley of the Fallen.  The driver said something in Spanish and pointed up, but we couldn’t understand him and just got out.  Unfortunately, it didn’t open until 10AM, so we waited outside for an hour keeping warm between the walls of a nearby bus stop. Once it opened, we paid the entrance fee and began walking up the hill.  Numerous cars passed us and it seemed that we we were going nowhere fast.  We ran into some luck about 15 minutes later when a lady was kind enough to offer us a ride. We quickly realized it was another four miles to the top.  The good news is we were able to translate what the cab driver said.

After visiting Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, I can’t say this is a must side trip from Madrid.  I think our time would have been better spent in Madrid, nonetheless, both sites were impressive.

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Valley of the Fallen, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

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Valley of the Fallen, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

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Valley of the Fallen, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

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Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

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Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

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Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

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Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

Back in Madrid, we walked around a little more and headed to the Royal Palace, the luxorious residence that includes a royal armory, grand rooms, enormous gardens and its own chapel. After the palace, we were off to have our sole meal for the day.

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Street in Madrid, Spain

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La Puerta de Alcala, Madrid, Spain

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Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

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Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

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Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Estado Puro
Plaza Canovas del Castillo, 4
28014 Madrid, Spain
http://tapasenestadopuro.com/

It would be enticing to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants day and night, but I’m not sure you get a comprehensive view of a region’s culinary scene.  Here we get the opportunity to experience both ends of the spectrum. Paco Roncero, of Michelin-starred restaurant La Terraza del Casino, recently opened an inventive tapas bar for the commoners. It appears to be one of the trendier spots to grab a seat and had a good vibe with patrons split between the indoor dining area and outdoor patio.  Unfortunately, the food was uninspiring.  We started off with meat bombs that tasting like fried beans from Taco Bell. Instead of fire sauce, they used a simple aioli. The ham croquettes were fine, but I think any restaurant could make a descent version of this Spanish dish.  The intrigue with the Tortilla is that it’s Paco’s liquified version of a Spanish classic, but the flavors just didn’t do anything for us.  The anchovies were well fried, but they begged for a dipping sauce.  Maybe that’s an American thing.  My favorite dish of the afternoon was the callos.  I’m glad I was able to try one version while in Madrid.  Jen wasn’t a fan, though because she felt they were heavy handed with the salt and oil to thoroughly enjoy. I think you could navigate the menu and find a few favorable dishes, but for us Estado Puro fell flat.

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Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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Meat bombs, Meat & potato balls 1/10 – Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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Iberian Ham Croquette 5/10 – Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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Iberian Ham Croquette 5/10 – Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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XXIst century Tortilla 4/10 – Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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Fried “pescaito”, anchovies 4/10 – Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

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“Callos a la madrileña.” 6/10 – Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain

After lunch, we did some shopping in the Salamanca district of Madrid.  We headed into the four story Zara location.  I recently went to a California Zara for the first and was impressed by the reasonable prices. Interesting to note, the founder of Zara is the country’s richest citizen and his ex-wife is third richest.  Spain is also the world’s largest producer of olive oil, so we continued our shopping excursion by heading over to Mantequerias Bravo to purchase a good bottle.  Our final stop was Lavinia, a noted wine store in Madrid, to get their suggestions on a reputable bottle of Rioja and Ribera to bring home.

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Zara, Salamanca district, Madrid, Spain

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El Corte Ingles, Salamanca district, Madrid, Spain

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Mantequerias Bravo, Salamanca district, Madrid, Spain

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Mantequerias Bravo, Salamanca district, Madrid, Spain

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Lavinia wine shop, Salamanca district, Madrid, Spain

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Fountain on Paseo de Prado, Madrid, Spain

And so the Madrid part of our trip had come to an end. We got on the subway, grabbed our bags from the hotel and took the three hour train ride to Seville.  Jen was beat and felt like a mess.  I just told her she looked fine, but I’m not sure this picture tells the same story.  

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Jen looking tore up from da floor up, en route from Madrid to Seville, Spain

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