La Ultima Citudad

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Sep 16, 2011

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Where I stayed
Benjamin's Place

Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Sunday, July 10, 2011

We are finishing our tour of Spain in the capital – Madrid. For the first time since coming to Spain, we are not grabbed by the atmosphere; its almost like Madrid is trying to be grown-up and responsible – being the capital and all, but restraint does not sit well with the Spanish. This impression is strengthened by discovering that the restaurants are wrapping up by 10:30am instead of starting, and bars closing at 11pm - in other words, very un-Spanish like !

Our initial explorations tend to confirm this impression, but then we re-discover Spanish exuberance in the Plaza Major, where once again the ability of the Spanish to create landmarks that make clear statements about power and position is demonstrated. A huge square courtyard, ringed by impressive buildings, with a bronze statue of a general astride his horse in the centre. Indeed.

Further extravagance when we find the rainforest inside Madrid's main train station – complete with turtle colony. Not joking !

We are impressed when we find the Parque Madrid – this city’s green space. A large park, heavily treed and greened, with winding paths throughout offering afternoon strolling without experiencing crowds. In the centre, a large formal lake, semi-circled by old city-hall buildings, lawns and waterways on the other side. Entertainment provided by a couple of buskers and the hire boats tootling around in the lake. Towards the back of the Parque we discover a magnificent old glass house – a huge space, now used for art installations. Formal avenues cross the Parque through the middle in both directions to complete a one of the best city parks we have seen – so Madrid gets out vote on that one !

Its time to visit the Palace in Madrid – and if we had thought we had seen lavish palaces before, Madrid took regal interior decoration to a new level ! Lush velvets, gold-leave encrustations, every more exotic murals decorating ceilings – its bizarre to imagine living in amongst it all. The palace of course held a fantastic view out from Madrid – surprisingly green and undeveloped – being the old royal hunting grounds, and since a desire to maintain the parkland outlook.

The famous Prado gallery resides in Madrid, and we must have a look through before we go. There are many must sees to the Prado particularly the Goya with his risqué nudes that drew the ire of the Spanish Inquisition. Not that risqué by today’s standards but since a bare shoulder was a no no for the Inquisition a nude was very dangerous. We also loved the Titan’s that depicted various Greek mythological scenes…. Zeus was not a nice guy !

Our time in Spain in nearly done, but there is one more experience to try – churros & chocolate – a mainstay for the inhabitants of Madrid ( and apparently a late night institution – the Spanish equivalent of going for a kebab ! )

We find one of the oldest "chocalatiers" and sit down to a feast of freshly prepared churros and cups of pure, liquid chocolate. Yum yum piggy yum ! Bears no resemblance to those churros from the van at the Vic Market, let me tell you, wow – what a treat and way to end our time in Espanol. Viva Spain !
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