We hiked around seeing historic urban attractions our first afternoon, then found a busy & inexpensive Tapas bar that night for dinner. Dinner the previous night in Zurich set us back $130.00, and our night of Tapas and Rioja wine in Madrid cost about $30.00.
Despite Heidi's & my limited command of Spanish, we did fine with friendly waiters and the locals that crowded the bar. Most of the patrons appeared to live in the neighborhood and many were even older (mas viejo) than me. No smoking rules in Madrid bars & resturants was a plus for us.
Our first full day in Madrid: we toured the Prado Art Museum, which has an incredible collection of "old Masters" paintings, hiked around the Botanical Park, and then late afternoon took in a traveling art exhibit from The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The next morning we took the Metro (subway) to the north-side of Madrid and then took a bus 30 kilometers North to Manzanares El Real. Great little town, with its own castle, large lake, and famous climbing area.
Our friends Manolo & Francesca, that we met last summer at City of Rocks, live there. We got the joy of being their guests for two nights, and the fun of climbing with them for two days at their nearby famous climbing area named La Pedriza, in the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park.
It is one of the largest granitic ranges of Europe and holds numerous peaks, rocky cliffs, streams and meadows. Nearly a thousand routes of all difficulties are available to rock climbers. Hiking is also popular in La Pedriza, especially on weekends, since the area is so close to Madrid.
Left to right, Manolo, Francesca, and his old climbing buddy visiting from Venezuela, Ewaldo.
More to follow!
The next day we hiked up 2,000 vertical feet to El Yelmo (the helmet) which is the dominant dome above Manzanares El Real.
That night Manolo & Francesca made a huge Paella for dinner on their much-loved back-yard patio. Various climbing & non-climbing friends showed up for dinner, including an American, who teaches English in a local school.
During our visit, we discovered that Manolo is well respected and popular in the local climbing community. He works for the city of Manzanares as a climbing instructor and also runs nature hikes for students. His young friend Daniel is an aspiring Cinematographer, and we just missed the local premier of his movie about Manolo: El Flaco: Anonymous Portrait of a Mountaineer. Manolo emigrated to Spain from Venezuela in 1980, but later authored a guide to the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Venezuela. Here's a link to the youtube movie preview. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1roLrq2v30
Manolo & Francesca were wonderful hosts and we had a great time, but we left for other urban adventures after only two days. We were both sore from the long approaches and the climbing, so I don't think we would have enjoyed a 3rd day of climbing.
The rest of our Spanish adventures don't measure up to the first 4 days and mostly involve a government workers strike, a cancelled flight back to Zurich, and getting out of town one day early to miss the main strike-day which caused our cancelled flight.