Monthly Archives: June 2014

Road Trip to Ottawa and Montreal

My university friend and I decided to do a road trip to Ottawa and Montreal for the Victoria Day long weekend. My university friend hadn’t been to Ottawa or Montreal before while I was interested in the tulip festival. We stayed at Barefoot Hostel which another university friend had recommended to me. Barefoot Hostel is located near Byward Market and is a really cool, chill place. There’s only 2 bunk beds in each room and there’s four rooms in total for the entire hostel which are all located on the second floor. Two nights is $64. Barefoot Hostel has free wi-fi, free shampoo bottles, a hairdryer and straightener that you can borrow, a locker to lock your valuables and belongings and a nice common room with a large flat-screen TV and DVDs. The bathrooms are nice and clean. This hostel reminded me of the EDU hostel I stayed at in Yogyakarta/Jogjakarta, Indonesia. The Yogyakarta EDU hostel is a 5 star hostel if there is such a thing as a 5 star hostel. Barefoot Hostel is a 4.5 star hostel.

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Tulip Festival at Major's Hill Park

Tulip Festival at Major’s Hill Park

Tulip Festival at Major's Hill Park

Tulip Festival at Major’s Hill Park

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location of Byward Museum

location of Byward Museum

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

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a view from the double decker shuttle bus

a view from the double decker shuttle bus

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After driving from Toronto to Ottawa and checking into the hostel, we decided to walk around downtown Ottawa. We meandered through Byward Market, toured the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica and meander through Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill for the tulips. We walked past the Rideau Canal and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier on our way from Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill. The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage site. the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is part of the Canadian railway hotels. While at Parliament Hill, one of the guides told us that the tours were all full for the day and that they were open on Victoria Day. We walked down a part of Sparks Street which is classified as an outdoor pedestrian mall. We then waited for the free tulip festival shuttle bus at the corner of Elgin and Sparks Street. The shuttle bus turned out to be an open top double decker bus. The bus passed by the Ottawa City Hall and Confederation Park to drive along Queen Elizabeth Dr to reach Commissioners Park and Little Italy. Queen Elizabeth Dr is a very scenic road which follows the Rideau Canal to Dow’s Lake. We decided to first walk around Litttle Italy before having dinner at La Favorita.

Tulip Festival at Commissioners Park

Tulip Festival at Commissioners Park

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Man with 2 Hats near Dow's Lake

Man with 2 Hats near Dow’s Lake

 

 

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fireworks at Dows Lake

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After dinner, we walked back to Commissioners Park to look at the variety of tulips planted there for the tulip festival. The variety at Commissioners Park is much larger than the varieties at Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill. We then waited by the north side of Dow’s Lake for the firework show to start. The fireworks show was quite pretty with a nice variety of fireworks. After the fireworks ended, we walked to Preston St/Gladstone Ave to take the 14 bus back to Byward Market. The OC Transpo fare is $3.45 per person (check the OC Transpo website for the most up-to-date fare price).

wandering around Old Port

wandering around Old Port

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

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stain glass at place d'art

stain glass at place d’armes

stain glass at place d'art

stain glass at place d’armes

On Saturday morning, we drove from Ottawa to Montreal. I thought that there would be English road signs in Quebec but I was sorely mistaken. There are only French road signs in Quebec. We found cheap parking at UQAM via the Best Parking app. This particular part of the campus is close to Place des Arts metro station and downtown Montreal. A STM day pass is $10. It can be bought at the ticket booth or the electronic ticket booth. We first went to eat brunch at l’Avenue. After brunch we took the metro to walk around Old Montreal. We passed by Chateau Ramezy, Place Jacque Cartier and Bonsecours Market. We went to the Clock Tower to see if we could climb up but the door to the stairs was locked and there was a spiderweb around the door handle and wall. I had asked the parking attendent working at the Clock Tower parking lot if it was possible to climb up the Clock Tower and he said that it was possible, I was misinformed yet again. We meandered around Old Port on our way to Notre Dame Basilica, the Berlin Wall in the Centre de Commerce Mondial and St. Patrick’s Basilica. We then went to Marie Reine du Monde Cathedral in which we discovered that there was mass at 5pm. So we walked around Dorchester Square. We then took the metro to Place d’Armes to see the stain glass window effect before taking the metro to Mont Royal to meet my friend for dinner at la fabrique bistrot. I had hoped that we had time to go to Mont Royal Park before dinner but we only had 10 minutes before we had to meet my friend so we settled for walking around a part of the Plateau.

at the War Museum

at the War Museum

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Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

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On Sunday morning, we lined up for over an hour for the Parliament tour tickets. After getting the tickets, we checked out of the hostel. We then went to Shawarma Palace so we could eat brunch. After brunch, we went to the War Museum. My friend was told to go visit the Civilization Museum in Hull, Quebec. I managed to convince my friend to go to the War Museum instead. When I lived in Ottawa back in 2010 I toured the Currency Museum, Royal Canadian Mint, Cold War Museum aka Diefenbunker Museum, the Library and Archives Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, National Gallery of Canada, Canadian War Museum, Civilization Museum and the Canadian Postal Museum. My favourite museums were the Currency Museum and the War Museum. My friend wasn’t interested in looking at money so I pushed for the War Museum. The admission price to the War Museum is $14.69. The War Museum showcases the War of 1812, the battles prior to the 1900s, Canada’s involvement in World War I, World War II and the Cold War. It also showcases some of Canada’s peacekeeping missions.

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House of Commons

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in the Library

in the Library

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Diamond Jubilee stain glass window

Diamond Jubilee stain glass window

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Senate

Senate

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at Byward Market

After touring the war museum, we went to Parliament Hill for our tour. We had to first pass through security then wait for our group. The tour took us to the House of Commons, the library and the Senate. This is my third time touring Parliament and the newest thing to the tour is the stain glass window commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Currently the reign of Queen Elizabeth II is as long as the reign of Queen Victoria’s at 63 years who is Great Britain’s longest ruling monarch, an achievement unto itself. After our tour of parliament, we went to Byward Market to get beaver tails before beginning the drive back to Toronto.

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Categories: Canada, Montreal, Ottawa, Sightseeing, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shawarma Palace

The best shawarma I’ve ever eaten is in Ottawa. It was a restaurant recommended to me when I was living in Ottawa. The last time I ate there was in 2010 so I was extremely happy to find that it was still open. Shawarma Palace is close to Byward Market. It used to be beside an all you can eat Korean BBQ place but it’s now a cafe. Shawarma Palace is abit like a fast food restaurant in that you line up to state your order and get your food and then you pay for your food before sitting down to eat it. I normally order the shawarma plate ($14.63 including tax). There’s the beef shawarma plate or the chicken shawarma plate. They also have beef or chicken shawarma wraps or the falafel plate, among other options.

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This time around I got the beef shawarma plate. The beef shawarma plate consists of beef shawarma, brown rice, pitas, hummus with olive oil, garlic sauce, garlic potatoes, labneh yoghurt, pickles, salad and beets. It’s absolutely delicious. My friend, who’s picky about Middle Eastern food, loved the shawarma plate. For me, the portions of the plate is 3-4 meals. My friend and I shared it and we still had leftovers.

For the price, the quantity and quality of the food is worth coming for. Whenever I’m in Ottawa I’ll always have a meal here.

 

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Juliette et Chocolat

One of my friends had raved to me about eating crepes and chocolate at Juliette et Chocolat. When I was in Montreal last November, I didn’t have enough time to go eat here. This time around my friends and I came here at night for dessert. There was a slight line up and the patio wasn’t open even though it’s the end of May.

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I first wanted to try their Spicy Sunset alcoholic chocolate drink ($10.50) however you have to order a crepe or salad in order to be able to get an alcoholic drink due to their restrictive alcoholic license. In the end I was debating between the Maralumi 64% ($11.75) or the Mangaro 65% ($11.75). The Maralumi 64% is made with dark chocolate from New Guinea and it’s suppose to be spicy with hints of green banana, gooseberry and pomegranate. The Mangaro 65% is made with dark chocolate from Madagascar with hints of mango, gingerbread and citrus fruits. I thought I ordered the Maralumi but I was given the Mangaro instead. The Mangaro was very chocolate-y. At first I was able to taste the mangoes but after awhile all I could taste was chocolate. I’m a self-confessed chocoholic but this drink was very chocolate-y. I needed alot of water to help finish the Mangaro Noir drink.

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My university friend got the Sao Tome 70% ($10.50). It’s suppose to have hints of fruits and vanilla with a bitter cocoa taste which is expected since it’s dark chocolate. My friend liked it.

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My friend got the Ivory brownie ($3.75). The Ivory brownie is white chocolate and coconut. It was really sweet.

If you’re not a major chocoholic, this place may not be right for you.

 

 

Categories: Canada, Cuisine, Dessert, Food, Montreal, Restaurant Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kem CoBa

After dinner, my friend took us to Kem CoBa for dessert, specifically ice cream, soft-serve ice cream and sorbets. It’s close to a Fairmount bagel shop so you can technically have bagel with ice cream. Their flavours change biweekly and are all made on location. The week I was there, the flavours showcased included salted butter, vanilla, peanut & honey, 72% chocolate, passion fruit, strawberry, mango and masala chai. The other flavours that they also make include hibiscus, green tea, almond milk, strawberry lychee, lemon, raspberry and coconut. My friend and I both got salted butter with masala chai. It was absolutely delectable. The masala chai tastes exactly like the masala chai I had in Little India in Singapore. I wish there was a location in Toronto. The next time I’m in Montreal, I would definitely satisfy my sweet tooth here.

flavours of the week

flavours of the week

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la fabrique bistrot

My Montreal friend took us to eat at la fabrique bistrot. The decor is very rustic. The center of the restaurant is the open kitchen so if you’re lucky and your table is close to the kitchen you can watch the chefs at work.  Our waitress was very friendly and patient. She was able to answer our questions about the menu. I was indecisive between the 2 terrines and the rabbit main. In the end, I decided to get the Quebec’s melted cheese terrine ($15). My university friend got Pig and some more ($9). My other friend got the aged grilled beef sirloin steak ($32). After we ordered, we were given bread in a pail, pickles in a jar and cheese spread. I found the pickles to be quite good.

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do you want Pig and some more?

do you want Pig and some more?

Pig and some more is a terrine. The pork terrine is on top of a thick slice of bread and is served with a side of carrots and arugula. My friend enjoyed it. I thought it was alright.

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The Quebec’s melted cheese, proscuitto, apple marmalade, mustard seed terrine is proscuitto between 2 layers of melted cheese on top of a thick slice of bread with arugula and apple marmalade with mustard seed on the side. I found it quite delicious. My friends liked it as well. I found it very filling as well since I was only able to finish the cheese terrine and I had the arugula for leftovers.

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The aged grilled beef sirloin steak is marinated with red wine. It comes with a side of potatoes, onions, endive, arugula, celery and root vegetables. My friend had it grilled to medium rare and it was done exactly to the medium rare degree. My friend thought it was good but not spectacular. We thought it was interesting that the steak was served in a large bowl rather than on a plate.

If I come here again when I’m in Montreal, I’m tempted to try their rabbit main.

Categories: Canada, Cuisine, Food, French, Montreal, Restaurant Review, Western | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

l’avenue (Part II)

My university friend and I went to eat brunch at l’avenue due to my raving about it. We waited in line for a long while. Unlike last time, there wasn’t a DJ spinning tunes.  The menu had changed slightly since November. My friend had the arc en ciel eggs benedict ($14.68) while I got the tout l’monde à poële eggs benedict ($14.94). The fruit skewer had a slice of grapefruit, watermelon and pineapple and a piece of cantalope, strawberry and honeydew.

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The arc en ciel eggs benedict consists of potatoes, an English muffin, 2 poached Omega 3 eggs, smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers and hollandaise sauce. My friend enjoyed it.

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The tout l’monde à poële eggs benedict consists of an English muffin, potatoes, 2 poached Omega 3 eggs, bacon, garlic confit, arugula, cream reduction, sauteed wild mushrooms and hollandaise sauce. There were different kinds of mushrooms and the eggs weren’t very runny. Overall, it was quite scrumptious.

l’avenue is worth the wait for its eggs benedicts.

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la favorita

My university friend and I were wandering around Little Italy in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Stonefaced Dolly’s and Two Six Ate both declined us for not having reservations for dinner. We ended up eating at la favorita. It’s fairly dim inside and the decor is quite rustic for an Italian restaurant. We were given a basket of bread and butter once we’ve ordered. I didn’t have any but my friend did.

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My friend had the Veal Piccata ($22). Veal Piccata is thin slices of milk-fed veal that’s sautéed in white wine and lemon sauce and served with either potatoes and vegetables or pasta. My friend didn’t find it extremely filling.

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I had the Deep Ocean pizza ($16 for a small). The Deep Ocean pizza has Alaskan king crab, mussels, shrimps, scallops and lobster for the toppings. It’s baked in a wood-fired oven. I found it to be a fairly thin crust pizza and it’s quite delicious. The small pizza was very filling for me.

If you’re in Ottawa’s Little Italy, this is the restaurant to go to for seafood pizza and pizza in general.

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Barcelona

The works of Antoni Gaudí and the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau are UNESCO World Heritage sites in Barcelona. The works of Antoni Gaudí include Park Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, the Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. Casa Batlló is inspired by the carnival. The balconies are the carnival masks and confetti. Barcelona is bounded by two rivers, a mountain range and the Mediterranean sea. There aren’t alot of parks in Barcelona so trees are planted along roads to make up for the lack of parks. This reminds me of Singapore where there are trees along the highways and flowers over the bridges. Barcelona’s city center looks more historic and is more reminiscent of Paris with the French balconies. While most streets in Barcelona run either vertical or horizontal there is a road that cuts diagonally across the city.

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Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene

top: one of the 4 Gospels You can imagine yourself in a forest

top: one of the 4 Gospels
You can imagine yourself in a forest

Multi-Lingual Our Father

Multi-Lingual Our Father

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We first went to La Sagrada Familia which is also known as the Unfinished Cathedral. The columns inside La Sagrada Familia are inspired by the local, native trees in Barcelona. There are 4 columns that depict the 4 Gospels. The stain glass windows are very avant garde in that it doesn’t depict a picture but rather it’s just pieces of coloured glasses of the same or similar hue. The effect of this is that sometimes you can easily imagine yourself to be in a forest. There is a wall that has the Our Father written in Catalan and a verse “Give us this day our daily bread” written in various languages. The Nativity scene is at the front of the church and beneath the Christmas evergreen tree. The workshops are on site and you can see through the window into the workshops. La Sagrada Familia relies on the admission fees and private donations to fund everything about the cathedral.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

 

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After touring La Sagrada Familia, we went to the Olympic Stadium to take pictures. Afterwards, we drove around Barcelona before eating lunch at Restaurante Shanghai 1930. After lunch we went to Park Güell. Gaudí lived in the model house in Park Güell. There were only three houses built. One was the model home, another was for the Güell family and the third was purchased by a family who still currently owns it. Park Güell is most iconic for its mosaic benches that are nice to sit on and for the mosaic salamander.

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After touring Park Güell, we went to Casa Mila. Casa Mila is inspired by a stone quarry. It is also known as La Pedrera. When it was first built the Mila family would live on the first few floors and rent out the space above them. Casa Mila now houses a museum dedicated to Gaudí in the attic and an apartment right below the attic that recreates bourgeois life in the early 20th century.

Fish

Fish

Goliath

Goliath

David

David

Around Las Ramblas

Around Las Ramblas

Around Las Ramblas

Around Las Ramblas

souvenir stall at Las Ramblas

souvenir stall at Las Ramblas

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

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After touring Casa Mila, we stopped by the waterfront. There is a Fish or Peix sculpture by Frank Gehry and David and Goliath sculptures by Antoni Llena. These sculptures were commissioned for the 1992 Olympics. We then leisurely walked around Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a fairly touristy promenade. There are some unique shops along it. I particularly liked the music shops along Las Ramblas. There are many stalls selling Gaudí inspired souvenirs. The Barcelona FC store is close to Las Ramblas. After walking around Las Ramblas, we went to the Spanish Arc de Triomf  before eating a mediocre dinner at Restaurant Wok Japonese Arc de Triumph. The Arc de Triomf was built as a gateway for the 1929 Expo. After dinner we went back to the hotel. Our hotel was a 10 min. walk from the FC Barcelona stadium. The next day we flew from Barcelona back to Toronto.

Categories: Barcelona, Sightseeing, Spain, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zaragoza

There are two main land routes between Madrid and Barcelona. The first is along the coast of the Mediterranean sea via Valencia. The second is landlocked via Zaragoza. We first had lunch at Las Palomas Buffet & Tapas in the old quarter or old city which is known as the Casco Viejo. Afterwards we walked across the Plaza del Pilar Square to visit the Cathedral Basilica de Noestra Senora del Pilar. The Basilica del Pilar doesn’t allow pictures inside. The Basilica del Pilar is a stunning church. It has a lot of chapels and there were two masses going on simultaneously. The pictures are 3D in that the background is painted while the people are sculptures. The frescos on the ceiling are dark. There is a really large organ and an especial area for the choir in which there are three large books with the lyrics written in it.

Basilica del Pilar

Basilica del Pilar

Basilica del Pilar

Basilica del Pilar

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Seo Cathedral

Seo Cathedral

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Around the Plaza del Pilar Square are other well-known buildings in Zaragoza. There is the San Salvador Cathedral which is also known as the Seo Cathedral. The Seo Cathedral is Mudejar architecture so it’s considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mudejar art and architecture is the integration of Islamic artwork and architecture and European artwork and architecture in particular the Gothic style. The San Salvador Cathedral was built over a Moorish Mosque. There is La Lonja. It is now an exhibition venue whereas it was an important civil building in the 16th century. I found the La Lonja building to be an extremely unassuming building compared to the building next to it (picture above).

 

 

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Madrid

We first went to visit El Escorial in Madrid. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside El Escorial which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. El Escorial is currently part monastery and part school. The Kings and Queens chambers have doors that are made of wood from Germany with unique depictions on each door. King Philip II’s rooms are in their original condition. There are maps of the Spanish colonies on the way to the royal chambers. The mausoleum is made of black and red marble. The chandeliers in the mausoleum are more decorative than the ones in the royal chambers. The Pantheon of the Kings is completely made of the black and red marble, the floor, ceiling and walls are all marble. The church in El Escorial is quite grand with lots of paintings and an entire wall of life-size statues behind the altar. Beneath the steps to the altar is where the mausoleum is located. From the Kings and Queens chambers, you can see the altar. This was so that King Phillip II can still listen to mass when he was bedridden. The library is on the second floor with a ceiling fresco that is modeled after the ceiling fresco at the Sistine chapel. The pages of the books in the library are lined with gold and face outward to protect the leather bound books. There are about 50,000 original books in the library. As well, in the library, above one of the two entrances, there is a painting of Philosophy surrounded by Aristotle, Plato, Seneca and Socrates. After visiting El Escorial, we had lunch at Asador La Tahora de Alburquesque. After lunch we stopped by the Real Madrid stadium before proceeding to the Plaza de Espana.

Outside of El Escorial

Outside of El Escorial

Outside of El Escorial

Outside of El Escorial

Outside of El Escorial

Outside of El Escorial

Real Madrid Stadium

Real Madrid Stadium

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana

After taking pictures at the Plaza de Espana, we visited the Royal Palace of Madrid. The Royal Palace of Madrid doesn’t allow pictures either. The Royal Palace of Madrid is influenced by Versailles.  The walls in each room matches the upholstery of the chairs in each room. After visiting the Royal Palace of Madrid we went to Puerta del Sol. The official Real Madrid store is located near the Puerta del Sol.

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid

Outside the Royal Palace of Madrid

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After walking around Puerta del Sol, we went to the Christopher Columbus Square. The three large rocks in the square represent the three ships that brought Christopher Columbus to the New World. After taking pictures at the Christopher Columbus Square we had dinner at the Restaurante Las Cuevas del Duque.

Statue of Christopher Columbus

Statue of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus Square

Christopher Columbus Square

Categories: Madrid, Sightseeing, Spain, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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