Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spain Trip: (Madrid) The Sights, Part II

On the morning of our second day in Madrid, we took a short excursion outside of the city to El Escorial, an historical residence of the king of Spain. We spent a couple of hours there and returned to the city in mid-afternoon. This post details that particular afternoon and the next day. I will write about our trip to El Escorial another time.

Madrid's main park, Park Retiro, is very popular among tourists and locals. It is home to several sculptures, monuments, and a boating lake. People enjoy taking relaxing strolls there.

Oh my goodness, on the day we went, it was anything but relaxing. On top of the cold weather, it was windy (sand blowing everywhere!) and rainy. We walked for a bit, took pictures, and left.

Interestingly, a co-worker of mine recently spent a week in Madrid and she went to the park twice. On both occasions, she said it was 75 and sunny and super nice. I guess when traveling, it's all about luck!

Park Retiro isn't too far away from Madrid's famous art museums, Museum Prado and Museum Reina Sofia. During certain days and time, both museums have free admissions.

We timed it pretty well; by the time we left Park Retiro, the free admission was just starting at Museum Prado. However, when we arrived, we were greeted by this loooooong line of people waiting to get inside. On a good weather day, it would had been fine to wait, but we decided against waiting that day. It wasn't worth that much trouble to save a couple of euros.

After warming up at Starbucks (chocolate muffin never tasted so good), we decided to go to Museum Reina Sofia instead.

I like this museum! It's a treasure-house of contemporary and modern art. We saw the museum's most famous painting, Picasso's "Guernica". Paintings by Miró and Dali are also well-represented.

Sunday was our last full day in Madrid. We got lucky because Madrid's largest open air flea market, the Rastro, is hold on Sundays! I had lots of fun walking around, looking at antiques, and wondering who would buy such things. Some vendors sell brand new products, such as framed hand-drawn sketches of famous Madrid landmarks. At 10 euros, I am kicking myself for not buying any as souvenirs. Sigh.

We then spent the next few hours checking out some monuments around the city.

Gran Vía, one of Madrid's most famous streets. There are hundreds of businesses - upscale shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, and theatres

La Plaza de Cibeles and Cibeles Fountain

Puerta de Alcalá

We eventually got tired of walking and decided to try Museum Prado again. This time, we paid immediately and went in. Since we weren't going to spend hours and hours in the museum, we referred to the museum brochure for the must-see masterpieces. I am not an artsy person. In fact, I don't even take advantage of the abundant free museums in DC. However, art museums in Spain are somehow different and, as with Reina Sofia, I like Prado, too!

"Las Meninas" by Velazquez, the most famous painting at Prado.

Next to Prado is the Royal Botanical Garden. The plan for that night was to see a bullfight, and because we still had time, we visited the botanical garden on a whim. I took some pictures, but nothing great since there were hardly any flowers.

Few hours later, we arrived at Las Ventas only to find that we were too late for the bullfight! Ugh! I don't know how we got messed up, but I suspect daylight saving (it had just started that day) had something to do with it. So anyway, we missed the bullfight, but now looking back, it wasn't a big deal. Who wants to see poor defenseless animals getting killed anyway?

We still took a few pictures outside of the stadium, though.

Because we missed the bullfight, our evening was freed up to roam around some more.

We hopped on the metro and went to Plaza de España. From there, we hiked up to Templo de Debod and saw sunset from above.

Later, as we moseyed back to our hostale, we passed by the Royal Palace and caught some nice shots.

My itty bitty camera isn't so bad!

This is right next to the Royal Palace, I never did figure out what exactly it is. Pretty, though.

Casa de la Villa, originally served as both prison and Town Hall.

What a beautiful city!

6 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to travel to Spain - you lucky girl. The photos are outstanding!

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  2. Great recap. Now I will always remember what we did in Madrid!

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  3. I love hearing about your trip! You pictures are so fantastic! And I love some of the blog changes you made!!

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  4. Again, beautiful photos. It makes me feel all longing-y and dying to go to Spain and Italy and...I could go on and on.

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  5. The Templo de Debod sunset picture is very interesting. It caught my eye as it looked like something was on fire.

    I think Picasso's "Guernica" is compelling. My understanding is that the painting is very large - from floor to ceiling? It must really be riviting in person.

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  6. Very pleased to report our top notch experience with Spain tours. We had to scamble to find a tour to Spain on New Years Eve when our original tour operator cancelled trip. We then found www.privatetoursinistanbul.com online. They were very responsive in emails to arrange a substitute plan for us to have a private guide/driver who picked us up at our hotel, gave us a brief overview of Madrid as we drove to Spain, and then an excellent tour of Toledo. He made several stops with us, tailored to our interests, took us to a few spots typical tour bus would not go to. Excellent and less expensive than some our private tours we and our hotel concierge had found.

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