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Madrid!

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Tomorrow evening David (almost 13) and I are off to Madrid. The occasion: There Be Dragons. (Angels & Demons got me to Rome and Geneva. Here's to more religiously themed films shot abroad!)

The best part is that, as with Rome, we'll be staying a few days after the junket, so we'll really have a chance to see the city.

I've been told I need to see the Prado Museum and the Parque del Retiro. I expect we'll see the cathedral, but since it's so modern I'll be more interested in San Jeronimo el Real and other older churches. We may also take the train to Avila.

Anyone been? Any other tips?

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Posted · Report post

Too awesome. I've never been to Madrid, so I can't provide any tips, but this sounds like a lot of fun. Consider me jealous.

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Posted · Report post

Um, the wine. Spain makes wonderful Cava and various reds and whites. I bet they save some of the best for themselves. And the hams. Unique regional hams that don't conform to USDA curing standards and, alas are left over there.

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If you can get a day trip to Toledo, do it. Be-yoo-tiful. That's Spanish, doncha know. And hang out at the Plaza Mayor, and Plaza del Sol if you can. I'm jealous--we were hoping to do a Spanish trip this year, but the airfare was prohibitive.

edit: Ah Pax corrects my faulty memory--Puerto del Sol!

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Madrid is a wonderful, wonderful city.

Bring home some manchego cheese! Great ham (jamon) served everywhere, too, but you probably can't get it through customs. Much of the cuisine can take getting used to. Things almost unheard of here are more common there, such as tripe and octopus. Lots of great seafood, even in Madrid. Get some churros and hot chocolate!

To start, take one of the circular double-deck bus tours (the hop-on/hop-off kind); it will give you a very good overview of the city and is, in fact, one of the best ways to get around.

Definitely the Prado. It's a truly remarkable museum, rivals the Met in scope, and is a very worthy object of your time. Some of the intensity of the religious art is very moving, breathtaking.

If you can, get a tour of the palace and (separately) the adjoining cathedral (La Almudena). The palace was closed when I was there because there was some official function--but lots of pomp and pizazz! The Cathedral is unique, surprisingly light and modern inside. There are innumerable convents and monasteries throughout the city that would be breathtaking in any city.

There are many great plazas throughout the city. Plaza Mayor is really wonderful, although a bit touristy, there are lots of great shops in the area. Same goes for Puerta del Sol, but better culture and food. Not to be missed.

You might want to consider taking the (cheap) overnight train (yes, you can get a decent night's sleep--and no hotel!) to Barcelona. Sagrada Familia is one of the world's truly unique sites and so rich in Christian meaning. Barcelona has many other treasures, of course.

Edited by Pax

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Posted · Report post

I liked Madrid a lot, my favourite city of Spain (I visited Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada...), with also the small Aranjuez not far away. Back in 1989, I was amused bu all the students in rolling skates in the long, long street separating Madrid in two parts.

The Prado: I've been amazed by the paintings of Le Greco. I expected to be more impressed by Goya or Velasquez, but no, the surprise was Le Greco. In books, the dizzy colors of his paintings don't make it like when having them real right in the eyes.

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The Prado: I've been amazed by the paintings of Le Greco. I expected to be more impressed by Goya or Velasquez, but no, the surprise was Le Greco. In books, the dizzy colors of his paintings don't make it like when having them real right in the eyes.

Actually I have also seen his paintings in Toledo and may confuse several of them from memory. It could be those of Toledo that amazed me especially. Anyway, Toledo is a great city to visit as well. But more historical than lively. I mean, the city itself looks like a museum. Madrid is a city of life, and you can smell its Spanish soul.

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Back from Madrid!

Also back from Avila and Segovia! After about two and a half days exploring Madrid, we spent our last day on a day-long bus tour with a guide that included the other two cities. Brief but highly gratifying. The Prado, Retiro Park, the Naval Museum (David especially enjoyed that), the Roman aquaduct and castle at Segovia, so many beautiful churches -- the grandest of which was Segovia's cathedral, but the most beautiful and harmonious of was the final discovery of our trip, literally a minute before it closed on Saturday evening at 9pm, was San Pedro's in Madrid's old city. We weren't able to visit Madrid's new cathedral -- it was closed for something or other.

Except for breakfast and the lunch on our tour, every meal was eaten at a restaurant stumbled upon at random. It was a great way to eat, although we were a little baffled at first that we couldn't get lunch at nearly noon (still breakfast time), and when we asked a friendly native about local restaurants at nearly 6pm, he looked confused and asked, "For lunch?" When we said supper he laughed out loud and said, "Too early." "Lunch" doesn't start until around 2pm, and "supper" isn't until 7pm at the earliest. But we got by.

My favorite discoveries at the Prado included Fra Angelico's Annunciation, a painting I've loved for at least 20 years, and Velazquez's stark Crucifixion. (We prayed the fifth sorrowful mystery of the rosary before the latter; I wish we had remembered to pray the first joyful mystery before the former.) It was also great to see Velazquez's Las Meninas in person, among many others.

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