I really enjoyed most of what Madrid had to offer. Like most large cities, I found Madrid to be remarkably walkable and pretty easily navigable. Here's some trivia for you...The photo on the right depicts a bear attempting to get berries from the Madroño tree. This combination is the symbol for Madrid. By the way, just for your information, the berries from the tree make a delicious liquor.
Armed with our "Fodor's Spain" and our GPS-enabled cell phones, we found ourselves exploring in ever-widening circles. We walked all-over the "historic" district. We arrived at our flat at mid-morning so after a quick shower and change, we were off. We explored the area in and around Plaza Mayor where we decided to have lunch at one of the alfresco dining areas. Some group was sponsoring some races for groups of children so it was entertaining for us during our lunch. We decided that "when in Spain..." was a good idea and headed back to our flat for a quick siesta.
Thanks to Fodor's, we discovered that the Prado museum offered free entry every evening from about 6:00 to 8:00, (or was it 7:00 to 9:00?). Anyway, we decided to go exploring and headed toward the Prado. Along the way, we found this "living wall." It really was spectacular and covered the entire side of a building. The botanical gardens are next to the
Prado and while we didn't take the time to do a full tour there of, what we could see from the outside was incredible!
The Prado itself is massive. There is no way you can do it justice in the short span of two hours. We saw works from the 15th and 16th centuries. The paintings were breathtaking. The colors were so vibrant and details so sharp, it is unreal that some of them are nearly 600 years old. The sculptures were so elegant. The stone was as smooth as glass and I am always in such awe of the artists' abilities. I simply don't have the words to do these masterpieces justice.
After leaving the Prado, we decided to take a different route back toward our flat. Along the way, we passed some of the most stunning architecture one could imagine. Fountains and statuary are everywhere! Some depict mythological gods, others honor Spanish heroes. Each is different and each is astonishing. The buildings themselves are works of art. Honestly, walking through the streets was like walking through the pages of some type of Architectural Digest Magazine. We learned that the magnificent facades did not necessarily indicate that the workings inside were particularly special. The city hall, shown below was one of the most magnificent buildings we saw. (I compare it with the simple buildings that the cities near our home and am left wanting for us.)
On our final day in Madrid, before taking the bus to Astorga, we met up with the rest of our "Texas Contingent" and introduced them to alfresco dining, Madrid style. Then we returned to our neighborhood wine bar, (where possibly one too many bottles was consumed)...then we called it a night.
By the way, still no luggage...thankfully, our flat had a washer so we could wash and hang some essentials.
Next installment: our Camino officially begins!