As we arrived in Madrid pretty late last night, we didn't have any time to see anything. Once we'd had breakfast this morning, we therefore wanted to head into the centre of town and see some of the parts of the city which we remembered particularly enjoying when we first came to Madrid in 2014.
The apartment we're staying in is quite close to several metro stations, so we were able to jump on a metro to the central station of Puerta del Sol fairly quickly. It seems like a ride on the metro to anywhere except the airport is €1.50 which is extremely good value.
There's a large square at Puerta del Sol, with various roads leading off from it like spokes. We decided to follow one of the main roads which would take us in the direction of the royal palace.
As we walked along that road, the first impressive building that we came to was the Casa de la Villa, which used to be Madrid's town hall.
It's an impressive building with towers which wouldn't look out of place in a Nordic country.
From there it wasn't far to walk to the Almudena Cathedral, which is located next to the royal palace.
It's an absolutely enormous cathedral. On one side there's a statue of Pope John Paul II who consecrated the cathedral in 1993.
Around the corner from the cathedral is the Palacio Real de Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish royal family.
The palace is huge too. You can pay to go inside, but we contented ourselves with a photo through the bars of the fence
Once we'd spent some time admiring the palace and the cathedral, we wanted to seek out a church which we particularly remembered from last time we were here. We caught sight of it in the distance and tried to walk in the correct general direction.
Our route led us through the Sabatini gardens, which are in front of the royal palace.
They're lovely peaceful gardens, with some impressive hedges...
...and some great views back towards the royal palace.
We were getting closer to the colourful church now.
The irony of this church is that when you're close beside it, you can't actually see the beautiful dome. So we ended up accidentally walking past it, and found ourselves in a neighbouring park, which is home to the the Temple of Debod.
This is an ancient Egyptian temple, which was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government in recognition of their assistance with preserving historical monuments during the building of the Aswan Dam.
When we realised our mistake, we turned around and walked towards the views of the church again.
Eventually we tracked it down
The church is called Santa Teresa y San José and the roof is made from coloured mosaic tiles. It's really unique.
From there we walked back towards the palace, through another of the pretty parks which is situated alongside it.
We needed to walk across to the opposite side of Madrid, to where the Biblioteca Nacional de España (National Library of Spain) is located.
Our friend Jorge works there and had offered to give us a private guided tour, which was too good an opportunity to miss.
The exterior of the library is very grand.
There's very tight security and in order to be allowed in, we first of all had to pass our belongings through an airport-style scanner, and then show our passports at a security desk to be given special visitor badges, including our photos.
We weren't able to take photos inside the library, but it was really fascinating. There was a really grand staircase and a beautiful reading room. We were also able to see behind the scenes, from where the books are first received into the library, to where they are processed, catalogued and finally stored. It was amazing to see the rows and rows of shelving, and in particular the rows of antique books, with shelves full of books dating back as far as the seventeenth century.
After the tour we went to have lunch with Jorge at a place called Café Gijón. That was quite an exciting experience too, as it was a posher place than we might have dared go into on our own. There was a fixed price lunchtime menu for €12.50, with various options to choose from. We both had a clear soup to start, then I had a steak and Tim tried some Galician ham, which was in a sort of paprika sauce. Drinks and pudding were also included in the price. I expected to get a glass of wine, and ended up with half a litre! Overall it reminded me a bit of a coffeehouse in Vienna; both in terms of the atmosphere and the slight unfriendliness of the waiters
After lunch, we walked back into the centre of town, wanting to find some bookshops where Tim could stock up on Spanish novels. We walked past the Palacio de Cibeles, an incredibly ornate building which is the home of the city council.
We continued along a street called Gran Via, where there were some really beautiful buildings.
We must have been enjoying looking at them too much, because we ended up walking further than we intended, ending up at a gate called Puerto de Toledo. We didn't intend to see it, but it seems quite fitting, because tomorrow we're going on an excursion to Toledo
To get back on track, we tried to walk through the Campo del Moro park.
This is another beautiful park by the royal palace and it looked like it was criss-crossed by a useful network of paths.
We tried to follow them in a direction which we thought would lead us out close to where we wanted to be, but unfortunately several of them were closed for maintenance, so we ended up going round in a big circle and having to retrace our steps. En route though we passed this lawn which was covered in what looked like some sort of parakeets!
Eventually we made it back to the centre of town and were able to visit the bookshop, before going back to the apartment for a short break. In the evening we went out once again, this time to a Lebanese restaurant with a group of local Esperanto speakers. The food was excellent and we got to try some different desserts and tea which we would never normally have ordered
We've had a great day in Madrid and tomorrow, as mentioned, we're going to travel slightly south to Toledo, a town which looks really beautiful in pictures. Although it may be on a hill