Europe 2014 – Madrid: The Best Laid Plans

Timeline: July 2nd  – 7th

We returned to camp after our fine ride, cleaned up and drove over to the bus stop for our trip to central Madrid.  A quick check of the Ciclos Otero web site revealed that they close at 2:00pm on Saturdays so a stop there was out.  We arrived in town and walked over to Cava de San Miguel and down to the barbershop only to discover that they too closed at 2:00pm.  Nothing to do then but return to Mercado San Miguel for our dinner.

Spoiler alert: It was disappointing upon execution.  The food and ambience were all that we expected, but after more than a month in Spain, the prices we ended up paying here were more than we found to be usual, a by-product of the upscale nature of the place.  Thus the costs of our orders quickly escalated a simple pursuit into an almost budget busting exercise.  In the end, we got full, but spent about 37 Euros, a little over fifty dollars for a number of good, but not that good small plates and expensive alcohol.

Mercado Dinner

Mercado Dinner

We returned to camp a bit tired, drank three beers for the cost of the one I’d ordered at the Mercado and went to bed, sleeping well.  We’d agreed that after so many active days, the next day, Sunday would be a day off with no sightseeing.  Given the positive bike ride we’d had, we figured we’d just duplicate it the next day.

The morning dawned bright and sunny and quickly warmed up.  We killed time in camp, not really doing much of anything, a luxury after the fairly driven schedule we’d maintained.  By late morning it became apparent that between the heat and our lack of motivation, we wouldn’t be bike riding that day.  We’d been discussing the need to buy a set of sheets for the sleeping bags, as they are logistically difficult to clean.

I’d looked up the dimensions of our Thermarest NeoAir Dream sleeping pads on line (buying these new pads was absolutely the best decision we made equipment wise for the trip) and we set out for a nearby Carrefour to check out bedding and replenish our dwindling food supplies.  Shopping for the sheets was quite a lot of fun, needing to do a bit of conversion work on the dimensions to figure out the appropriate sizing.  In the end we guessed right and the sheets are working out quite well.

After our quiet day in camp on Sunday we doubled down on Monday with an aggressive agenda.  Hit Ciclos Otero first thing; walk over to the Real Fabrica de Tapices (Spain’s official tapestry factory), then hit the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid’s modern art museum) and finish up with a haircut for me.

Ciclos Oteros is located on Calle Segovia, just below the Sabatini Gardens, nicely located as we walked from Principe Pio.  We entered the shop and I noticed they had bells on display and we went inside this large place to look at all of the merchandise.  Bike shops, record and bookstores are dangerous places for us, easy to get lost and spend money in.

While I was looking at their tire selection, mindful of the tire problems I’d experienced, right before my eyes appeared Bontrager Jones CXR tires, the original equipment for the Poprad, and long since discontinued in the United States.  I engaged a salesman, who spoke quite good English, and confirmed that these were indeed the original tires that had been discontinued.  What a find!!  And incredibly, they were a shade under 30 Euros apiece, about $20 less than what I’d last paid for them in the States.  I bought two.  Unfortunately, the bells they had in stock wouldn’t fit my bike, but nonetheless, I walked out of that shop a very happy man.

The Tires

The Tires

We began the long walk towards Ronda de Atocha to access the two museum’s but got turned around and a bit lost and in doing so, thought we would miss the 2pm closing of Real Fabrica de Tapices.  We got on track though and showed up at about 1:15 to find out that the last tour of the day, in English, would be at 2:00pm.  What luck!!

Throughout our time in Spain on the many tours we’d taken we kept hearing about this place, how it had been started in 1720 by Felipe V after Spain stopped the importation of Flemish tapestries after the Peace of Utrecht.  We got to hear about its history and then walked through some of the actual production rooms, watching the generation of new and repair of old tapestries and rugs.  This is an ancient craft, still practiced like hundreds of years ago.  It can take upwards of three years to produce a large tapestry, employing a couple of craftsmen with a total cost of more than $70,000.

Atocha Train Station

Atocha Train Station

We left the factory and began to walk towards the modern art museum.  Knowing we would be there for a few hours, we stopped at a café along the way to grab a bite to eat.  We sat outside at a table and ordered two beers and a hamburger.  It was lunch time, a busy time for waiters although this place wasn’t particularly crowded and when we placed our order for just the sandwich, he asked us in a less than friendly voice if that was all we wanted.

We responded yes and he stormed off, but the beers were cold and when the burger came, it was large and very, very good.  We finished it off, paid our bill and made our way to the museum, which is comprised of two buildings, a newer facility and the bulk of the collection in a converted hospital.  Our primary objective was to see Picasso’s Guernica so we went to that gallery to view it and the other works from the time period in which it was created.



We spent almost two hours in that area and were ready to leave, having had a busy day already.  We decided to make a brief stop at the Richard Hamilton (a major force in the world of pop art in the 1960’s) special exhibition and ran through sections of it quickly, regretting that we’d dawdled in the other gallery.  It’s a lesson to learn with museums, not to stretch yourself, but to spend the time where it can be of the most value to you.

On the way back to Principe Pio we stopped by the barbershop to see about a haircut.  It was later in the day, an hour before they were scheduled to close and there was easily an hours worth of folks waiting.  Needless to say, my hair is getting longer by the minute.

We returned to camp satisfied with a long day of quality sightseeing and a bonus shopping experience.  We sat down on the outdoor patio to check email and eat, sharing a couple of beers and enjoying a plate of fried calamari.  It was a memorable way to finish our time in Madrid, a place we’d been apprehensive about and yet having found in it a charm that captured our fancy.  Big, yet small, a place you could spend more time in.  A place we will return to.


Thermarest Neo-Air Dream:

Bontrager Jones CXR Tire:×34-cyclo-cross-tyre

Real Fabrica de Tapices:

Centro de Arte Reina Sofia:


Guernica Picture: “PicassoGuernica”. Via Wikipedia –

Richard Hamilton:



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