Museums and Siestas in Madrid

by Michael

I may have grown up in a small town, but I’ve grown into being a city dweller. So while I enjoyed 34 days walking the Camino, even León was a small place to me. Going to Madrid reminded me why I like cities — so many things to do and so easy to do them! We spent roughly three days — not enough to see everything but enough to hit some highlights and get a feeling for the place.

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Overlooking the lake in the middle of Parque Retiro.  It was hot — a big change from cold, rainy Galicia!

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In front of Palacio de Cristal — built in 1887 and still standing!

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Modern art exhibit in the Palacio de Cristal featuring the Titanic… random.

We arrived by train with a commuter rail connection (which took a little figuring out). Madrid has an extensive metro system, but if you are willing to walk a bit, a lot is within walking distance in the city center. That includes the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums, which we visited over the next couple of days, as well as Parque Retiro and the Royal Palace.  We were lucky to be in Madrid on a Sunday and managed to take advantage of the free days at both the Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums (which were expensive)!

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Plaza de España

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In front of the living wall (across from the Prado).

There is something special about seeing great art in person. I’ve seen Goya and El Greco in books and on film, but it’s different in person. To be honest I was never that interested in El Greco, but his images are captivating in person. And Goya’s giant 2nd of May and 3rd of May paintings are an experience unlike what you can see in a book. The same is true for Picasso’s Guernica (which is on display in the Reina Sofía) and several others.

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Man Ray piece on display in the Reina Sofia.  He was the only American artist that we noticed in the collection (although we were only able to see one floor of the permanent collection since it was the free time on Sunday afternoon).

Madrid is also home to a more diverse population, which means more diverse food. I do like Spanish food, but I am a spoiled Californian used to having four types of food on any given street, so being in the city and eating Indian, Thai, Turkish, and Mexican food was a nice change of pace after over a month on the Camino. All were good.

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Food pic… except we got too excited and ate the food first.  The one Spanish dish that we had in Madrid was churros con chocolate.  It was amazing.

We also had a chance to see our neighborhood and some surrounding neighborhoods, including Chueca — Madrid’s Castro District. “Orgullo Gay” (Gay Pride) is set for a couple weeks after our visit, so the posters (of people who spend more time at the gym than I do) were up. While we definitely saw that Chueca is home to a gay community, the more visible feature is that it is a nice, lively neighborhood. There are many shop, restaurants, and the multi-level San Antonio market (where we enjoyed tapas and cider).

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Getting ready for pride.

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Tapas in San Antonio market — featuring a bathtub full of foie risotto.  Elizabeth sadly passed on this one knowing that I wouldn’t help eat it and that it would be too much for her.

Madrid also gave me a chance to go running again. I love running in cities (more on this in a later post) because it gives me a chance to see neighborhoods, often as they are just opening up in the morning. I did one run mostly in Parque Retiro, enjoying some leafy shade, and another run past the Cathedral, Royal Palace, and Plaza España.

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Along the street that we stayed on — Calle Leon (as in “lion”).

Now we are off on a new adventure: renting a car to go to Toledo and Andalusia. This will be my first time driving in a foreign country — wish me luck!

[We’re making an attempt to finally get caught up on getting our blog posts up.  This post describes our visit to Madrid on June 18-21, 2016.]

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