In our last installment I showed you the first couple of pictures of our first couple of days in Madrid. Today I’ll show you what happened next. We had a really packed schedule, as we wanted to take in and experience as much as possible of gorgeous Madrid. The night of July 11 the Spanish team (La Roja) would face The Netherlands for the final game of the World Cup. Ages before I had booked my ticket for Madrid, I remember joking with honey that it would be fun to watch the game there if Spain made it all the way to the final. As time passed and my ticket was booked, and we were there, on July 11, 2010, I couldn’t believe it. It’s not that I’m a die-hard fan of soccer (futbol), but it was a nice coincidence to be there while Spain got to the finals and I am thankful for being able to experience the entire game and aftermath with a vivacious Spanish crowd.
We had a couple of things planned for that day. Early in the morning we went to El Rastro, Europe’s biggest flea market. You can find many things here, from cheap and colourful espadrilles, to decor, shirts, food, jewelery, etc. It’s best if you get there early, so that there’s time to wander around, look at the booths and do some shopping. We didn’t have a problem walking around and shopping, but we were ready and careful as there are many stories of people being robbed at the flea market. I think we got there between 8:30-9am and left right before noon. It is amazing the amount of people who show up at El Rastro. And it’s only open on Sundays.
On our way back to the hotel we started to get a feel for how happy and eager the Spanish crowd was getting for the final game.
As we were walking close to Plaza Mayor, we saw that the game would be broadcasted at one of our favourite spots, Mercado de San Miguel. We thought it was an awesome venue as it had many little spots for food and drink, so we thought we’d try our luck there later (we weren’t sure if there would be crowds, and if so, whether we’d need a contingency plan).
Our next stop was the Thyssen museum. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza’s collection was started by the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, who married a Spanish woman (a former beauty queen) who influenced which pieces were acquired by the Baron after their marriage. Like the Reina Sofia, this museum showcases modern and contemporary pieces, as well as art from the 14th and 15th centuries and completes the Golden Triangle of Museums of Madrid. At the Thyssen you can admire works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and Monet … it is well worth the visit. I especially liked the layout of the Thyssen, and it was definitely less crowded than the other 2 museums.
After the Thyssen we still had a respectable amount of time left before the game, so we came up with the idea than since hon’s birthday was coming up, we’d try our luck and visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as part of his birthday celebration. The Real Madrid plays at the Bernabeu Stadium. This was very fitting for the day. Turns out you can tour almost all of the Stadium, from the very top seats, all the way to the turf and even the lockers (which OMG are amazing!) … but it’s a pretty penny (~16€, or over 20$ depending on how the market is doing) … It was well worth the splurge. We opted for the self-guided tour (as guided tours started at over 30€). You get a map which helps guide your tour and there are selected areas in each level where you can take pictures and take in the views.
I won’t spoil the experience for you, but I’m including a couple of pics hon and I took while at the Bernabeu Stadium. If you want to see more you’ll have to go ;-).
We toured the whole facility and even had a granizado … a delicious crushed-ice beverage with a fruity flavour that is so refreshing (like an Icee, but with a fruity flavour, I usually go for citrusy ones). The tour starts up at the top where you get the full view of the stadium and the nearby area. The sun and the heat were in full force. Luckily, many of the areas selected for the tour are shaded, and some are indoors. At one point, between the mid and ground levels there’s a museum showing different artifacts, trophies, and memorabilia from the team from its early days. From pins, to shirts, to shorts, to photos, to shoes … you name it, it’s there. You can go to the mid-to-lower level seating area, very close to the field (if I’m not mistaken you can touch the turf, if you’re so inclined). It must be an amazing feeling to watch the team play from that area.
We concluded our visit by walking close to the turf and the seating area for the visiting team. It was H-O-T, but I still got to sit where the other team sits, and OMG those seats are amazingly comfortable. After, we went to the lockers/washroom area. It is beautifully equipped, with many shower stalls, a jacuzzi, boards to discuss game strategies (we wrote our names there, I think, hehe) and finally you emerge where else? but the store. We bought a couple of souvenirs for the family. Needless to say, the authentic shirts and tees and jerseys were extremely expensive which we obviously couldn’t afford, but it was nice to see it all.
Back at the hotel we got some rest before the game. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Mercado wasn’t too full. There were customers, and most of them had taken up all the seating available. We found a spot near one of the booths and tried a couple of things. We were on out feet for a little while and eventually decided to just sit on the floor and watch the game like that (something which I wouldn’t recommend at the Louvre, since the guards get all pissed, trust me, I’ve tried it). A couple of people followed our lead and eventually more and more people joined. Thankfully it wasn’t to difficult to move around and there were a couple of TVs at the Mercado, so there weren’t any turf wars. After a couple of scares courtesy of Team Netherlands team we joined the celebration and jumped up like crazy with all the Spanish peeps and some of the other tourists who were at the Mercado watching the game. It was truly magical. I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed that the city didn’t have a couple of jumbotron screens at the main squares. Spanish people are jovial and fun and it was a bit sad not to share the moment with more people. Luckily,, after the game, many fans started coming out of the bars and apartments and started flocking the streets. It was amazing to see people of all races, languages and origins join in the celebration. Below is a photo from when we got to Puerta del Sol. We found Canadians, Asians, Latin Americans, Spanish, all united, all celebrating and partying, smiling and greeting each other.
We finally made it to the hotel really late and it was fun to see and hear people around hugging each other, celebrating and just plain having fun.
The next day we walked around a bit, had some western food at this cowboy-ish/old west looking place (it was yummy, and it was nice to have free refills of pop!) and then patiently awaited to see the team. Since we were staying to close to the Gran Via, one of the main arteries of Madrid, we wanted to make sure to catch a glimpse of the team as they greeted the fans. The team got to our area sometime after 7pm (probably 8), and we were at Gran Via from 4pm on (we wanted to make sure we had good visibility and luckily we found an area to recline/sit as needed). Little by little more and more people started filling up the avenue, up until there was enough space for the buses with the team to drive around. It was so cool. Below are some pictures from the celebration at Gran Via.
And we got to see the team kinda close. See? We saw the coach, and the trophy.
Up next is Toledo and Cuenca!