The slick new AVE train whisked us from Barcelona to Madrid in just under three hours. When Gregg did the same trip in 2005, the journey took well over five hours on an old, clattery train. We were served a four-course lunch that included wine or beer and even brandies (we just had the beer). The poached salmon was excellent as was the cheese and walnut salad. Luxury!
Neither of us was feeling 100% the next morning. We thought we were coming down with colds and so decided to take it easy for the day. In the morning we took a taxi to the Prado and wandered among the masterpieces until lunchtime.
The Prado has a great many of the biggies – Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, Velasquez’s Las Meninas, Goya’s 6th of May, and a whack of Raphaels, Rubens, Durers, El Grecos, et al. The Prado is a very easy to handle museum. Although large, it is not as daunting as the Louvre and certainly not as crowded. Even with thick heads and sore throats, we navigated the rooms with ease. It’s always a thrill to stand in front of a painting that you’ve seen for years in books. There’s no doubt that the real thing is, well, the real thing! There’s no comparison to a reproduction.
|Durer’s self portrait|
We ate a surprisingly good and reasonable lunch in the modern cafeteria built onto the Prado. I’m quite amazed at the prices in Spain so far—certainly cheaper than France (which I thought was pretty reasonable anyway). For two large sandwiches, two cappuccinos, a bottle of water, and a large slab of cake, we paid 14 euros all inclusive. I don’t think we’d have gotten all that for $18 at home, particularly at a tourist attraction!
We wandered around the botanical gardens after lunch and I took pictures of an amazing assortment of dahlias. I’ve never seen such a variety of colors and sizes.
The botanical gardens also featured a stunning outdoor exhibition of photographs from 1896 to the present documenting seminal moments in Spanish history. Some of the shots were just amazing—dead bodies in the streets during the civil war, Franco riding a car with Nixon, the Beatles wearing matador hats, and on and on—100 photographs. I wished I could have read the commentary but my Spanish is just about nil.
|The Beatles come to Madrid|
Around 5, I took a walk from the hotel to check out the stalls in the Plaza Espana—lots of tacky jewelry, scarves, bags, etc. Of course I bought a necklace and two sets of earrings along with two scarves. The prices are very low.
|Monumental Madrid from the Taxi|
|Guernica by Picasso|
The Reina Sofia is a very well designed gallery that combines a modern area with the arched hallways and barred windows of an old hospital. In many of the rooms, a film representative of the period is playing. Most were silent era films which made following them a lot easier.
We strolled from the Reina Sofia up to the hub of Madrid – the Plaza del Sol where five years ago Gregg had his wallet stolen. Demonstrators from the “manifestation” streamed past wearing red and carrying placards—most saying “No!” It was September 29 – the national day of protest against the proposed government cuts. The city was to have shut down but we didn’t notice any difference except for taxis couldn’t take the direct route to the museum area because streets were blocked off for the demonstrators. As a result, taxi rides costs an extra 2 euros or so, but not a big deal since the average taxi fare was around 5 or 6 euros. The speed, convenience and the chance to see something of Madrid made the slightly higher cost of taxis over the metro (1 euro each) well worth it.
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