We're back in that nice little cafe where we had breakfast yesterday. Today it's time for a toasted croissant. Which is a wonderful thing indeed.
It's not long until we're back on the Plaza Mayor again. There's been a little bit of rain today to go with the cooler-than-expected temperatures. But the weather's been perfect for walking and exploring and I'd rather have temperatures in the mid-to-high teens for a spring city break anyway.
Inevitably we're back on the Plaza Mayor checking out a few more shops and restaurants. One of these sells nothing but hats. So here is my little tribute to this year's San Marino Eurovision representative, the one and only Serhat!
We have a (surprisingly affordable) lunch on the Plaza Mayor - where a number of restaurants tout for business. And then on to our first big activity of the day.
Like every other big city on the continent, a sightseeing bus tour is a good way to get around and spot the city's main landmarks if your time is limited. The Madrid City Tour buses (http://madrid.city-tour.com/en/hop-on-hop-off) operate two routes covering 'historical' and 'modern' Madrid. Both routes are easily do-able on the same day, consecutively from Sol. Some parts of the tours cover the same area, but then head out in different directions.
The tour passes city hall (below) which proudly displays a 'refugees welcome' banner....
...the impressive architectural columns of the national library...
..the Art Deco style of the Gran Via...
I can't remember the name of this building - it's either a church or a museum - but I liked it.
And when you've had your fill of art, culture and beautiful buildings, nothing will gladden your heart more than a cow dressed as a matador outside one of the city's many flashy hotels!
We covered both of the bus routes this afternoon, and as I said earlier it's a very good way to cover a wide area of the city within a limited time.
But there was one other activity on our agenda and it turned out to be the absolute highlight of our holiday: a visit to a flamenco tablao. Now we'd previously been to flamenco shows in Barcelona, and seen a very watered-down tourist version in Puerto Pollensa, but during our research we discovered that Madrid boasts some of the best and most authentic flamenco venues in Spain. After reading many reviews we chose Casa Patas for our flamenco show and pre-booked tickets in advance. It's a small, intimate venue but we got very lucky indeed, being seated three rows from the front rather than the usual seats at the 'bar'/back of the venue in the past (hello Moulin Rouge and Lido!)
Unfortunately I don't have any photos thanks to respecting the venue's no-photos rule, but there are lots of photos over at Google Images and Trip Advisor which will give you an idea of how it looks. Like many of this type of venue, Casa Patas offers both show-only and dinner & show options. However, there are many restaurants in the surrounding area and we ended up having a tasty and reasonably-priced Indian meal, just a few minutes' walk from the venue.
The show starts at 10.30pm and runs until midnight. And from beginning to end, it's an enthralling, intense and compelling experience. The talented musicians on stage accompany the three featured dancers, all of whom display a stunning level of fancy footwork and authentic intensity. (Oh, and shallow alert! - the male ponytail-haired dancer is absolutely gorgeous. I wish I'd taken a note of his name :))
Whilst attracting the tourists in their droves, Casa Patas presents the highest possible standard of the art of flamenco and is an absolute must-see if you are visiting Madrid.
In the next instalment: our last full day in Madrid :(