20 Years From Now...

"20 YEARS FROM NOW," Mark Twain said, “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did.”THIS online journal is dedicated to our next 20 years!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Intro to Madrid

The week of March 13-19, 2017 we explored Madrid, beginning with our home base a lovely Airbnb flat completely renovated with all the mod cons. Although it was located downtown, on a main street and was literally steps away from the Plaza Mayor, there was not a sound once we stepped inside. Sheer bliss! 

The Plaza Mayor is a must-see while in Madrid. Since its creation it has been the centre of festivities, bull fights, royal coronations and executions and can apparently squeeze in as many as 50,000 people.   Today it is a mecca where Madrilenos and tourists alike head to see the sights - or just be in the thick of things.

A popular rendezvous point is the bronze statue of King Phillip III and his horse. The locals, however, don't refer to the king when making arrangements to meet a friend in the square. Instead the phrase translates to meeting "under the balls of the horse"! 

Shops selling everything from souvenirs to leather goods, clothing and shoes as well as restaurants and a tourist information office are accessible via the arched hallways on all four sides of the square. 

Detail of murals on building
There are four arched entrances from the square that lead to various streets, including Calle Mayor. Exploring various streets we spotted a few things that varied from unique and photo worthy to downright creepy!

Sweet & savoury shop

Clothing shop on bottom with strange balcony above
Detail of balcony decor - potted Barbies!
Further along Calle Mayor towards the Palace is this building. The detailing caught John's attention.

We often take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to get an overview of the city and we did so in Madrid.

Along the route we had ample opportunities to capture some snapshots. The daffodils were a welcome a sight around Madrid's Puerta de Alcala (arc de triomphe).

This building was a drawing card for many tourists because of the banner at the top.

Near the street in front of the building were some lovely spring flowers.

While the majority of buildings in Madrid are relatively modern those in this small plaza on Calle Mayor date back to the medieval period.

Our first full day in Madrid we toured the Prado Museum famous for its paintings by Velasquez, Goya and El Greco - all Spanish masters.

Statue of Goya
Entrance to Prado Museum
Church to left of the Prado

Along the way from the ticket booth (across from Goya's statue) to the entrance of the Prado Museum are a few musicians and buskers. This "dog clown" was one of the most unique and entertaining we've ever seen. He wished each passerby a good day!

Meanwhile Edgar Moffatt an Argentine native now living in Madrid showed off his classical guitar expertise. We enjoyed it so much we purchased his CD.

Eventually we headed inside the Prado that surprise, surprise! has a no photographs policy. At first it felt like a major setback, but after a little while the idea of just enjoying the paintings without being encumbered by photographic angles, lighting, or waiting for a good vantage point became a welcome, exciting and stress-free concept. To be honest I quite enjoyed the freedom both on our first day visit as well as our second. In total we spent 8 wonderful hours at the Prado, but decided to divide it up for fear our heads would explode!

The most memorable painting for me was Goya's May 3 1808 painting (courtesy of the internet). The horrors of war captured with a raw realism that leaves the viewer with little doubt of what will happen next.

Equally impressive is his portrait of Ferdinand VII of Spain. 

It's the shifty look in his eyes that says so much about this man and made me think of the 45th. Historian Stanley Payne wrote about Ferdinand: 
He proved in many ways the basest king in Spanish history. Cowardly, selfish, grasping, suspicious, and vengeful, [he] seemed almost incapable of any perception of the commonwealth. He thought only in terms of his power and security and was unmoved by the enormous sacrifices of Spanish people to retain their independence and preserve his throne.[1]

Not far from the Prado is the El Retiro Park. Covering more than 308 acres it is a hubbub of activity, especially on a Saturday afternoon.

There is ample room to take a stroll, have a picnic, play ball, soccer, or just read a book.

This manmade lake was originally created in the early 17th century for the exclusive use of the royal family, but is now enjoyed by everyone regardless of social standing.

Here, there and everywhere are outdoor cafes and like so many others we stopped for a glass of wine and bite to eat.

Booths selling balloons, candy, ice cream, water, etc. were strategically placed to lure those euros from your pockets.

What's a park without a statue or two?

Another outdoor cafe located next to Velazquez Palace. It was built between 1881 and 1883 for the National Exhibition of Mining held in Madrid from May to November 1883. 

The same architect, Ricardo Velazquez Bosco, designed the Glass Palace that is a short stroll from the palace.

It was originally built to be used as a greenhouse for tropical plants but is now used for special exhibitions.

During our travels we've discovered that no matter where one is in the world there is usually an Irish pub and Madrid was no exception. The Gran Cafe de Madrid was a few yards from our flat and naturally we stopped for a Guinness. 

However, we also dined elsewhere and enjoyed the paella. 

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