Parting thoughts on Barcelona
We were so fortunate to have such beautiful weather, sunshine every day and perfect temperatures. The city is kept so clean. City workers are constantly hosing down sidewalks and street sweepers regularly roam the roads. Even the statues where all the pigeons hang out are clean! The locals have been very patient with us as we navigated our way through the city. Drivers always stop at crosswalks and never honk. The subways are clean and feel safe as well as being user friendly. Tourism is the city's life blood, and they make it very inviting here. We feel very satisfied with our visit, although there is still so much to see here and in the surrounding areas.
Our flight to Madrid went without a hitch. Our hotel here is so centrally located. When we arrived our tour director, Filipa, gave us a brief orientation. We then took a little walk around the area. The Opera House is just a block away, and the Royal Palace of Madrid (see below), is only about two. This palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but is only used for state ceremonies. King Juan Carlos and family live on the outskirts of Madrid. The site of the palace has over a 1000 year history, but the current palace was begun in 1734 by Philip V. It was first occupied by Charles III in 1764. Its 1,450,000 sq. ft. of floor space and 3418 rooms make it the largest palace in Europe by floor area.
There were 20 of us in Barcelona, but now in Madrid we are a group of 36. At 5:00 the entire group of travelers gathered for a meet and greet sangria (yum) and more information from our tour director. Filipa is amazing. She greeted each of us with a big hug and has already learned everyone’s name. Her English is perfect, and she has such a fun personality. As a group, we took about an hour’s walk as an orientation. Before heading back towards our hotel, we went to the Puerta del Sol, one of the best known and busiest places in Madrid. In the picture below you can see the Old Post Office located on the south side of the square which serves as the office of the President of Madrid.
Right in front of the Old Post Office is the kilómetro cero, a plaque on the ground serving as the symbolic center of Spain. All distances in Spain are measured from this point.
This plaza is the site of many rallies and protests. Currently, the sanitation workers are on strike because they were given a 40% cut in pay; and many have been let go. Unfortunately, the city is strewn with trash. In spite of the trash, the beautiful condition of the historic buildings shines through.