A week in Madrid (warning - lots of pictures!)
In November of this past year we took a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Madrid. It didn't take us very long to fall in love with this magnificent city. I apologize in advance - this isn't a particularly "artistic" set of photos, just my impressions of our few days.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and after checking in we set out to explore. We quickly learned to keep our eyes aimed up towards the heavens because there is something to see on nearly every facade.
1) The Gran Via is lined with impressive edifices sprouting a variety of styles
2) One of our favorites was the former central post office (now housing city offices), finished in 1919
3) Late Saturday afternoons the world-famous Prado museum has free admission for the last two hours. We walked over to check it out but decided against it - this was the line 1/2 hour before the free period started.
4) Normally, Puerta del Sol is bustling with activity, but early on Sunday morning it was relatively peaceful. My favorite factoid about this square is that it's the center (Km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads.
5) The reason we headed out early was to experience "El Rastro" the immense flea market that takes place every Sunday. With up to 3500 (!!) stalls, it takes over an entire neighborhood of the city. One can find ANYTHING there.
6) We also visited two other markets, the down-to-earth Mercado de Cebada
7) and the upscale (and jam-packed) Mercado de San Miguel
8) One of the buildings we often passed was the Congreso de los Diputados, Spain's lower house of governance. One side of the building is this interesting modern addition and the other half is a 19th century structure featuring two magnificent lions.
9) On Monday we spent the morning at the Prado, where no pictures are allowed. Monday was a wise choice, since it was fairly empty. But after a four-hour museum visit, a brief walk through the Botanic Gardens next door was quite welcome.
10) after the Botanic Gardens we walked down the street (did I mention that we walked nearly 10km every day!!) and as I was standing in front of the Atocha train station, I turned to the camera-toting person standing next to me and said "are you Richard?" Yes, I had arranged to meet DGrinner extraordinaire @Richard, with whom we had a lovely conversation over wine and tapas.
11) Nearly every morning we started the day with breakfast tapas. Yum.
12) Tuesday morning we passed by the Puerta de Alcalá where there was one of the ever-present Menina statues. (The maids of honour to the Infant Margarita in the famous painting by Velázquez.)
13) The park "El Retiro" is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. The first major stopping point is the Monument to Alfonso XII.
14) I also enjoyed the neighboring Artichoke Fountain.
15) We also visited two art installations in the park, one in the Crystal Palace
16) and the other in the Palacio de Velázquez
17) We spent much of the next day on the grounds of the Royal Palace, that teeny little abode with 135,000 square metres of floor space and 3,418 rooms.
18)The hour-long mounted changing of the guard was impressive.
19) Afterwards we took a tour of the palace (no not all 3000+ rooms, only 50, but that was more thatn enough) - this surreptitious snap is the ceiling of the magnificent Porcelain Room.
20) There is no escaping the Meninas - they even take the form of traffic poles.
21) A must for any visit is a stroll through the Plaza Mayor, which was once the center of old Madrid.
22) Other outings took us to a rooftop (high class) food court with a great view over the center of the city...
23) and we had to have churros and chocolate!
24) There are many, many, many tempting windows full of food, from pastries...
25) to ham
26) When I saw this I laughed because I remembered this mural from a picture that @Richard posted a couple of years back
27) On our last morning we visited the fabulous Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which contains an extensive private collection of paintings from all periods, including this famous 16th century painting of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger, who just happened to be born in Augsburg, the city where I now live.
28) In and around Plaza del Sol we noticed loads of lottery ticket sellers. This seems to be the national pastime.
29) As is was November, work had started on the Christmas tree on Plaza del Sol. Every day we watched it grow but unfortunately didn't see the final product.
30) And to close we look down to foot level. These plaques are placed in the pavement in front of businesses that are more than 100 years old. Apparently there are over 150 such establishments in Madrid.
Thanks for sticking with me. Cheers to all!