We made great time, and decided to take a short drive to charming Carmona less than 30 minutes outside Sevilla. (Jeff had learned of this "must see" town from his neighbor on the plane.) We didn't have time to take in the town, but we walked around the main plaza and snapped pictures of churches decorated with blue ceramics. Colorful banners hung across the streets in advance of Corpus Cristi. A town to return and absorb on out next visit.
Emily guided us back to Sevilla, and into the Santa Justa train station. I will give Emily credit...she butchered pronunciations and was unaware of some recent road construction, but in the end she always got us where we needed to be...muchas gracias, Emily! The Avis return was confusing, but a friendly woman patiently guided us...adios, Leon!
For our AVE train to Madrid, we decided to upgrade to get a more peaceful three-hour ride. Certainly worth it for this leg. A quiet coach. Facing window seats to ourselves. As we left the station, we were served a sherry from Jerez...which wasn't our favorite...but something we had to sample. A simple lunch was included with fruit, salad, and a hot pasta. And afterwards, they brought around small glasses of Gecko caramel liquor...perfect for dessert! With no intermediate stops, we arrived faster than we expected. A smooth ride in peace.
Arrived at the Madrid Atocha station (again)...grabbed an easy cab...and we were suddenly plopped in the middle of bustling Madrid. A simple lime-green room at the hip Oscar RoomMate hotel.
Spent the afternoon trying to get acquainted with our new surroundings. Cities are the hardest to appreciate at first glance. Sun beating on us. Cars barrelling down every street and alley...and even in the pedestrian plazas. At first, its all just harsh and irritating. But as we crossed a few landmark plazas (Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor), grabbed a sweet nutty treat at a foodie market, and entered the gardens behind the Royal Palace...we began to appreciate the surroundings. The gardens (Jardines del Campo del Moro) were cool and refreshing, and the Palacio Real loomed overhead brightly lit by the late sun. The Jardines de Sabatini provided another "well lit" view of the palace.
Dinner at Umami on the Gran Via. (We can't tell is this is related to the Umami in LA...someone will have to verify.) In any case, our meal was a nice change from trasitional tapas. Our two shared burgers were inventive and flavorful. Two rice dishes were delightful with Asian flavors. And everything is more awesome with mojitios. Drinks at trendy Liquid.