We have been thoroughly enjoying our time in Madrid… the sights and sounds (or lack of horns, really); the art, sculptures, fountains, and plazas; the food and drink – especially tapas and sangria; the brilliant blue sky and crisp, clean air; the consistent electricity, heat, hot water, and wifi; people standing in self-formed, orderly lines; not being run down when crossing the street… there is so much to love!
We wondered if we would have found so much to love had we come to Madrid at the beginning of our trip and we all thought the answer would be no. In the last six months we have learned to make due with no air conditioning in tropical climates, no heat in the Himalayas, limited food choices, limited wifi, chaotic tourist locations, and dodging cars when crossing the street. Six months later, we can see so many things we have take for granted in our lives.
With our new-found appreciation for all things modern, we set out to experience Madrid. In our three short days, we visited three museums – Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – which we read house some of the finest collections of European art. From the 12th century to present day pieces, we saw it all from artists you’d recognize – Picasso, Dali, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Renoir – to those you’ve never heard of, but were nonetheless impressive… and sometimes strange. One exhibit was an ongoing film of a naked bottom, or maybe several naked bottoms, that just kept playing and playing. We didn’t stick around long enough to see what might happen next.
We stopped by the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid) and toured many of its elaborate and decadently-decorated rooms. As an added bonus, this tour was free from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Even more amazing was that the extremely long line to get into the palace during free hours was quite orderly, with no pushing or shoving and moved along at a nice pace with no outbreaks of violence.
Next stop was the Parque del Buen Retiro (Park of the Pleasant Retreat) where we wandered through the gardens, around the lake, and ultimately made it to the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace houses an odd collection of fossils hanging from the ceiling that apparently fall down occasionally. The park itself was beautiful, even at the end of the winter season and we could only imagine how much more beautiful it would be in spring and summer.
I dragged the family into two cathedrals in Madrid – the Almudena Cathedral and the San Jerónimo el Real. Even though I do not practice any religion, I love visiting cathedrals – especially the very old ones found in Europe. I think the boys all get a little sick of visiting the cathedrals, but they tag along just the same.
Finally, we ate a lot of tapas. Many of the bars in Spain give you a plate of finger foods when you order a drink. You can literally hop from place to place for a drink and get free food at each stop. We found a favorite place in Madrid called El Tigre, where the portion sizes were gigantic – great for two teenage boys who have rediscovered their appetites!
Boys on the streets of Madrid.
Sculpture in Retiro Park.
RJ and Lisa at the lake in Retiro Park.