The capital of Spain and one of the most visited cities in the world, we had been to Madrid way back in 2013 (and have flown through it twice in our Spain travels thus far). This time it was a trip to visit the city for four days, centered around a second birthday celebration for Jesse and a new friend of ours birthday as well. We arrived by train in the early afternoon, checked into our hotel room, dropped off our bags and were off.
We stayed in the Lavapiés neighborhood, which is the international district of Spain, with many restaurants from all over the world, from India to Africa to South America to Asia, one can find worldy food, grocery stores, salons, bodegas, in the neighborhood. We first dined at a contemporary Spanish restaurant, with the largest and best tasting croquetas we have tried so far in Spain along with a few other vegetarian delights (though one dish I thought was meat, it was actually leeks, which were quite good).
After this we walked to the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, which is an art gallery featuring paintings and other works from the medieval and Renaissance times to modern and contemporary art. They have a lot of really impressive paintings, and while there were a few too many paintings of the patrons; but when the museum and collection was yours, that makes some sense. Below are a couple my favorites in the gallery. On the right is a portrait of Maria Rosa Walburga von Soyer by Georges Desmarees (1750), and she bears a striking resemblance to my maternal grandmother, Giovannina Rossi DiBerardino. The other is The Annunciation Diptych by Jan van Eyck from 1433 (these are paintings, not statues), and The Annunciation has become my favorite biblical depiction, as so many artists in the medieval and Renaissance periods painted their own interpretation on the theme it is interesting to see all their different takes.
Afterward we proceeded to wander the streets of Madrid, finding ourselves on the Plaza Mayor after dark. We sat on a patio, while resting our tired feet, soaking in the liveliness of a really big city. More wandering found us in front of the grand Royal Palace, though we could only see it from afar, and across from the equally as grand La Almudena Cathedral.
We slowly paced on the square that separated the two, before heading toward the entrance of the cathedral. It is not as ancient as many we have visited in Spain, with construction beginning in 1899 but not finishing until 1993. It has the typical gothic ceilings, but with added colors much more modern, and is lined with shrines to many lesser known saints, and one very bright and impressive one to the virgin Mary. A crypt also houses many saints, but it was closed on our visit.
The next morning we set out to the Santiago Berbeneu stadium, which is home to the Real Madrid football(soccer) team. Though it is undergoing major repairs, I still wanted to see it, though 15 Euro was a bit steep for a tour where more than half of the exhibits were under repair, so we decided I would go by myself. There were many other visitors speaking many different languages, and it was fun to listen to see if I could guess where they were from. After taking a couple selfies and pictures of the trophies and field, we met back up and went searching for a lunch spot, which happened to be an excellent Mexican restaurant, where we ate queso fundido and drank Micheladas, just like we would do back in Los Angeles.
We finished the evening having drinks with friends outside of the Mercado San Miguel, where one of our local companions walked us in front of the residence of the famous Spanish author Cervantes, down the street that also bears his name.
Our next day in Madrid began with a trip to the Reina Sofia Museum, which is the second Museum in the Madrid Art Triangle, which includes the aforementioned Thyssen and also the world famous Prado. We had visited the Reina Sofia on our last trip, but only made a beeline to Picasso’s Guernica, as we only had about an hour to visit before closing. The Reina Sofia specializes in modern and contemporary art, and has some impressive pieces by Dali, Max Ernst (who I have grown to like a lot after seeing many of his art works in Spain), Kandinsky, Miro, and Chillida, among others. They also had an impressive collection of posters made during Spain’s fascist era and the Soviet era in Russia. We could also traverse the top level, which provided good views of the city, the outside statues, and Atocha train station.
After this we joined the birthday group at a virtual reality game, in which we were given headsets that removed all hearing and sight, given plastic rifles, and set out to kill as many zombies as possible (and not shoot each other). We played for a little less than a half-hour, but it could’ve been an hour or ten minutes; one loses track of time in VR world. I finished second out of sixth (thanks to decades of video game playing) and after taking off the packs, headed off to a bar with a rooftop view high above the city, to watch the sunset.
Afterward we walked along the Gran Via, the main road in Madrid with so many lights, high end shopping, bars, restaurants, clubs, and people, that it can become overwhelming to the senses. Our final destination was eating and sharing some excellent Italian food including the best ravioli I have ever eaten.
Our final day in Madrid we spent at the Prado Museum, world famous for its collection of per-Modern paintings, cultures, and even fancy tables. If and when you visit, keep an eye out for these tables, with the most excellent tops and the legs, of which some are lions! The largest collection of the Spanish painter Goya are found here, and one can see how his style changes from painting typical portraits to much more darker subjects. The room devoted to these is a must see.
There was also a room devoted to the painter Hieronymus Bosch, who painted the famous triptych Garden Of Earthly Delights, which is a long before precursor to Dali and other trippy paintings, as Bosch painted in the 16th century. He also has a couple other triptychs on display; one thing to do is look at the Backs of the works. So many people miss the fact that he painted the outer two panels on the back as well. They were missed by even the tour guides we saw in the Museum. The Prado has many, many other famous works, and if one can, spending a whole day here is recommended.
The fall leaves were changing colors as we walked throughout Madrid as one can see above in pictures taken just outside the Prado. As we took the long way back to our hotel, we ate our final meal in Madrid, of Indian food in the Lavapiés neighborhood, and it was just as we remembered from our US Indian food meals, and so tasty (though not as spicy as we would have preferred it). As we headed toward the train station, we realized we had experienced a lot of Madrid, but not enough to make us bored or lack the conviction to return again, and experience more of what the city has to offer.