After being so tired last night, we took it rather easily this morning and pottered off to breakfast about 9.00. We had the usual, which was very pleasant, then returned upstairs to finish the packing. We checked out leaving the bags with the concierge and set off for the Royal Palace on a beautiful sunny morning. On the way down we picked up another PC at the Thyssen, and walked down Carreras de San Jeronimo where we came across a little shop selling every kind of violet sweetmeat, La Violeta. We decided that we would call in on our way back to the hotel. When we arrived at the Royal Palce there was a bit of a queue, but soon we were inside, and again, no photos of the interior, but I could take in the plaza de armas, with its arched west side with views across the countryside outside the city. We had taken audio guides here, and proceeded into the palace on the north side of the plaza. We mounted the grand staircase up to the official apartments, and followed the natural route through the sumptuous rooms with the guide as a running commentary. Everything is quite magnificent, and although several groups whisked through with or without a guide, we never felt completely overtaken. Only in the last room, where there is a display of ceremonial china, did one guide appear almost shouting her head off, but one among so many wasn't so bad!
The route now took us to the royal pharmacy where we walked through several rooms of ancient flasks and bottles made from glass and pot with gilded labels. In the far recesses there were travelling trunks for medicines, distillation retorts, balance scales and other apparatus on display. Some of the bottles had strange labels such as asparagus extract and hoof of the beast, but there was also quinine bark from Peru. Apparently, Spain had the monopoly on quinine bark - a good little earner for the royals. Leaving the pharmacy we crossed the plaza de armas to look at the view out to the west through the archways, and then entered the armoury. To start with it was very interesting, but as we descended to the lower floor, the standard of commentary also descended. Instead of having extra numbers to press if one wanted to hear more about certain objects, the whole story just went on and on, and we just gave up in the end. It was definitely time for a little lunch, and we found our way to the palace cafe for a small roll with salami and cheese and a cup of coffee.
It was now about 2pm, so we planned a slow route back to the hotel via the oldest part of the city along and to the south of Calle Major. The oldest buildings are around Plaza de la Villa, and just down one of the side streets we came across a beautiful little shop selling produce from convents and monasteries across Spain, El Jardín del Convento. We had to go in and have a look, and we were not disappointed, finding jams, biscuits and cakes on sale but also, incongruously, Yankee candles! We bought some jams and biscuits as gifts before continuing. Our next spot was 'stronginthearm' street (for TP fans), up which we found the bikeSpain shop, closed.
The next plaza along Calle Major was Plaza de San Miguel and just behind it is the Mercado de San Miguel and we had to go and have a look. It is full of delis selling all sorts of delicacies that people were buying and eating standing at the counters. There were also wine places and juice counters. after a stroll around, we stopped for some juice, it would have been a great place for our snack, if only we had known! So on we went, crossing Puerto del Sol and going back up Carreras de San J, looking for the violet shop, which sadly was shut until four thirty, too late for us.
We decided to head for the Retiro park and maybe tea or an ice cream. when we got there, after some photo taking of buildings, we voted for ice creams and sat at a shady table enjoying them. Back at the hotel we collected the bags and put our treasures inside, then walked up the street to the metro, which would take us to the airport. We arrived in good time and sat in the lounge for a while. Then we discovered the flight was delayed for half an hour, so we sat a little longer, then took our time walking to the gate. The passengers from London were just disembarking so we thought we would soon be boarding, only to discover that they would delay our flight (8.50), to 10.20 with no announcement, apology or explanation. Thanks very much BA and Iberia.
Eventually back at Heathrow, A called the valet parking and the man said the car would be waiting for us when we got through customs. He handed over the keys and we drove home down a fairly busy motorway. What a great break Madrid has been!