Madrid is loud, gritty, cosmopolitan, and large, with tree-lined streets that go on forever, plazas, and large parks. Yesterday, with my two hostel room-mates, Erin and Joanna, I did three art muesums, yes, three! The Prado Art Gallery, with a collection of painting right through from the 12th century to the impressionists, the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, with a smaller collection of famous paintings, including a lot of early Picasso, Gaugain, etc, and the Museo Reina Sofia, which specialised in the most famous Spanish painters, Dali, Picasso, Gris and Miro, with Picasso´s famous Guernica being their star player. We sat in the beautiful and huge Parque del Retiro for lunch, and then wandered through there afterwards, watching the people on the lake floundering around in rowboats. We had the whole Murphy´s law thing happen where you pass a whole lot of cafes, and then when you're hungry, there's NOWHERE to eat, so we spent ages wandering around after the Prado trying to find a cafe for lunch, before another 30 minute wait in a busy cafe while the poor harassed waitress tried to understand our takeaway order and get us sorted, only to get to the park and find avenues lined with cafes!! Ah well. My two poor US freinds started to get cramped legs from all the walking (this is their first stop, whereas its near the end for me, so my legs are hardy now!).
Day 2 we headed to the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace, where we goggled at 25 sumptious rooms (as ridiculously opulent as Versailles... a room with stuccoed porcelain decoration of cupids with lurid green ceramic upholstery and garlands of fruit on all the walls from floor to ceiling, and all over the ceiling, anyone?) and then walked through the massive park at the back, through the shady avenues and beautiful fountained squares. Then up into the city, exploring some beautiful fountain bedecked plazas with their stunning buildings surrounding, to the Plaza Major, where we sat and people-watched over paella and a specialty Spanish drink I don´t remember the name of which is like an almond milk tea, very refreshing. Then it was on, past an awful lot of very cool shoe stores, through a district where the prostitutes were out advertising their goods at 3pm in the afternoon (!!) and up to Cueca, a funky arty district full of alternative fashion stores and cool little boutiques. A very cool couple of days.
My tour starts tomorrow, and I'm not sure how much access to the internet I´ll get, but I'll try and keep some posts happening!
Me beside the lake in the Parque Del Retiro.
Me and my hostel-found Houston friends, Joanna and Erin, in the Palacio Real's beautiful Parque del Campo del Moro, looking back at the Palace at the top.
Me in the guard´s post at the Palacio Real.
The Plaza Major, a very Italian feeling square lined with cafes where we had lunch on Day 2.
The Plaza Santa Ana, with its beautiful buildings and cafes everywhere... this is very typically Madrid.