We landed at the airport and our full group of 52 musicians proceeded ahead to meet our tour guides. A severe delay caused our day to start late, but soon enough our bus left the airport and drove to the center of Madrid.
Scheduled for today was a panoramic tour of Madrid, partially by bus and partially on foot. Our first stop was at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. This is the third largest arena for bull-fighting in the world, but it is deemed possibly the most significant. Several monuments and etchings illustrate scenes of bull fighting and the memories of fallen fighters.
The tour continued with several anecdotes being shared from the bus, but there were moments to leave the bus and explore. I was happy to find the Palacio de Congresos de Madrid and nearby, a monument dedicated to Gandhi. A return to the bus showed incredible fountains, monuments, and archways towering above the streets.
Our tour transitioned to walking along the streets, which brought our group to small alleyways and wide squares of performers and people in costumes. Our choir actually got to sing in one of these squares for a television program, attracting some native boys to join in and sing mockingly. Other natives and/or tourists circled around and were very impressed by our Caña Dulce (Zúñiga, arranged by R. Wesby).
Our final stop before lunch was the Plaza de Oriente, set between the Royal Palace and Royal Theater. Then lunch was, admittedly, the best grilled chicken I ever had. I was too scared to try ordering in Spanish, although I considered doing so. Maybe next time.
The next portion of the day included checking into our first hotel and waiting for Caña Dulce to air on TV, but it never happened. I dozed off a bit, but eventually headed over to Retiro Park with a friend. And what an incredible park it is!
Retiro Park is filled with gardens and fountains, as well as incredible monuments. The Rosaleda is an incredibly vast and symmetric garden, whereas other portions of the park included various types of trees, bushes, and flowers.
Some of the remarkable structures include Fuente del Ángel Caído and the "Crystal Palace" Palacio de Cristal. There were many fun moments, including seeing cats run around with abandon and feeling the love in the air amongst many couples.
A nice dinner and some light conversation ended the first full day in Spain. Up next: concerts and more!
In love with experiencing all the world has to offer, a trip to Spain is a dream come true!