Day trip to Aranjuez.
On first sight, Aranjuez didn’t look like a well-maintained town. Probably suffering from a budget deficit. When travelling, you can tell that some places are richer, and some places are poorer. For example, Barcelona is definitely not as wealthy as Madrid – there was a lower security presence, it was dirtier, and urban facilities were not as well-maintained. As for Aranjuez, it was very dirty, strewn with litter, and its numerous monuments and parks didn't seem to be well-maintained – the place needs more sweeping, more pruning and more repair-work.
But I was pleasantly surprised by Aranjuez. It turned out to be a good side-trip from Madrid, almost as good as the trip to the university town during my previous stay in Madrid a week ago. Its a palace town, and the palace isn’t as big as the one in Madrid, but it looks very nice – it has a pink and cream-coloured exterior. Lots of slightly-old buildings around the palace, not ancient, but with a bit of age in them. I like the graceful multiple archways fronting the plazas.
Was disgusted with myself for having two very processed coffee and chocolate cakes bought from a supermarket (a pack of 3 for 1 euro). Then came upon a bar/cafe (as I said earlier, I can’t tell the difference between bars and cafes in Spain) advertising tapa + beer for 1 euro (the singular of tapas is tapa). It was cheap, and I enjoyed the small glass of beer. The tapa, as expected, was a really small plate of food. The plate would be equivalent to the size of a saucer back home, used to put a cup of coffee on. On this saucer-sized plate were four very fatty slices of ham and two slices of baguette. The ham was salty but actually tasted pretty good. For 1 euro, I liked it a lot. So there. I had my tapas experience in Spain :) In a very authentically-local place, not a word of English spoken, smoke-filled, with a few locals enjoying their food and drinks.
I was happy after the beer, and strolled around liking Aranjuez more and more. I only came upon one souveniour shop during my half-day here, but another reason might be because the shops were closed for siesta/easter break. There were a few tourists around, but other than that, the town was pleasantly deserted and quiet. It was a very sleepy place.
Paid 2.50 euros to enter the palace, and it was worth the money. This is one of the few times I decided to visit a paid attraction, and I enjoyed it. Walked through many opulent rooms, each of a different design. The chandeliers, the quaint little clocks, the chairs, the tables, the wallpaper… all so unique and beautiful in their own way. I especially liked the Arabic-themed room that was modelled on one of the rooms in the Alhambra in Granada. There were also displays of royal wedding dresses, traditional painted fans and etc. Nice.