Day 37: Madrid

Posted: August 25, 2014 in Madrid, Travel
Tags: , ,

Day 37-38: Madrid

We started off with a quick breakfast of yogurt from a mini-mart near the Plaza Mayor and then headed to the Palace to beat the hordes. When we arrived there was virtually no line and once inside the palace we found it significantly less busy than many of the sites we’ve visited on this trip. Technically the royal palace of Spain (although the royal family now lives in a different palace somewhere else), it was built in the 17th century replacing the wooden one that used to be on the same site but burned down in the 1650s…  Apparently having your wooden royal palace burn to the ground is good incentive to make sure the next one is built entirely of stone so that’s what they did.

This palace is very similar in design and look to Versailles but the part open to the public is much smaller (we spent 8-10 hours at Versailles where this one took about 90 minutes). Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures in most of the spaces so you’ll have to take my word that it was very elegant and extravagant – one positive difference between this palace and Versailles is that much of the furnishings are intact as it’s been continuously used since it was built (where a lot of the furnishing in Versailles are copies or period pieces as the originals were stolen or destroyed during the French Revolution).

After the palace we checked out the Royal Armoury (included with admission to the palace). Your usual collection of swords, muskets, etc. and a great collection of model horses in full tournament and battle armour – very impressive. Some of them were so heavily armoured that seeing one of those bearing down on you at full speed must have been like watching a small tank come at you… It would have taken a brave pike man to stand and hold the line in the face of one these things coming at them.

After the armoury we paid our 8 euros to enter the cathedral… Well technically to enter the museum and the cupola – the cathedral itself is free to enter. First time on this trip that Caitlin was denied the student rate because she didn’t have her ID… Can’t say the young guy behind the counter was particularly friendly either… It seemed ironic that he was working in a church. In any case, this was probably the most disappointing site we visited on this trip. The cathedral is quite modern (it was actually finished in 1993) and is built to modern safety standards so you have a glass wall keeping you from being able to look down from the cupola on the cathedral below and everything is modern. You do get some nice views of the city from the cupola though. The cathedral itself is decent enough albeit a bit bland and modern after all the old churches we’ve visited.

After the cathedral we walked back to the Mercado de San Miguel and sampled some of the tapas, paellas and other food we’d seen there the night before. It was all quite tasty but quite expensive by our standards (our whole lunch came to 28 euros – about 42 cdn – which is 2-3 times what we we’ve been paying for lunch in most of the cities we visited).

After the Mercado we walked over the Museo del Prado – the Prado Museum – one of the best art galleries in Europe. It was very big… Some of the highlights included “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymous Bosch – that dude was so far ahead of his time and the inside of his head was a scary place, some very nice and some very disturbing works by Goya, a fascinating exhibition on the way El Greco (who I always thought was a modern painter but was really a Renaissance-era painter) influenced modern painters like Picasso, Pollock, Dali, etc. It was quite interesting and El Greco’s works are amazing (another painter light years ahead of his contemporaries). After a while, though, our feet were hurting (the hills and cobblestones in Lisbon had pummelled all of us pretty good) and our eyes were glazing over a bit… But we did backtrack to make sure we saw the Raphael’s we’d somehow missed earlier… In all we spent about 3 hours in the museum – enough that Marie was wondering again where all the art comes from and Caitlin was reprising her suggestion that there be some kind of spay and neuter program for artists… The part that gets me about art is that aside from the truly great artists (put a Picasso or a Dali or Raphael or El Greco in a room with hundreds of other paintings and even the most neophyte viewer would be drawn to them – their works really do stand out that much) much of the art is sort of ho-hum… Unless you’re an art historian, it’s hard to tell the difference between a nice painting you could pick up at a garage sale and a museum quality piece (the really old stuff being an obvious difference).

After the Prado we walked through some of Madrid’s swankier areas and visited the famous city gate (I’m typing this on the plane without WiFi and the name escapes me) and the Fountain of Cibeles (I think that’s the name) – a couple of famous Madrid landmarks. Then we headed back to the Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor areas to find some souvenirs and explore… Marie even paid money for one of those cheesy tourist pictures where you stand behind some kind of costume (must have been something she ate). We also stopped for some tapas and drinks at one of the places near the mercado… Turns out Marie still doesn’t like mojitos so Caitlin ended up drinking both of them… Good thing they were pretty weak (you can’t expect much when they’re 2 for 8 euros I guess) or we’d have been rolling her home.

We decided to eat at the same restaurant we’d eaten at the first night (lousy service notwithstanding) because the food was good and the prices were better than the rest… Then it was off to bed for an even earlier start the next day (our last in Madrid and the last of the trip).

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I don’t usually take the time to comment on the pictures (just takes too much time and it’s hard to keep up with the blog as it is with all the stuff we do during the days) but I had to point out that this photo is of Caitlin – completely exhausted – after we left the Prado… And it was her idea to go there!


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