Sunday, July 26, 2015
Exactly one month after leaving for the Southern Spain Trip with my family, I flew back to Spain. This time the central region with significantly less traveling between towns. Also, I went by myself as it was a work related trip. For those long time readers out there, you'll recall this is something that happens when the occasion arises (whether it be the Greek Islands or Thailand or living in Japan). It's kind of nice to be able to turn what is essentially a long airplane trip for work, and add a few days on for fun as well.
I arrived in Madrid with two days to adjust to the jet lag prior to my conference. I started with the Sunday flea Market in El Rastro, and walked to the Reina Sofía Art Museum for their free hours in the afternoon. Having just arrived by plane, I knew I would be passing out shortly and could not appreciate the art to its full extent, so the brief free admission period was perfect. Like it was made for weary travelers missing a night of sleep. My roommate and I managed to get terribly lost on our way back to the hotel, and it wasn't until my book-guided walking tour the next day that I realized we had stumbled by all the top sights. The Royal Palace, Segovia Viaduct, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Espana, and Gran Via were all in our neighborhood!
Just as before, the food was always amazing. In all of Spain, it really seems like you can't throw a rock without hitting a fantastic restaurant. Tapas. Paella. Sangria. All absolutely lovely. I sat in Plaza Mayor and drank sangria on three separate occasions, because that's just what you do. A lady could get used to this kind of lifestyle. A lifestyle that also includes eating family-style with friends/colleagues, an amazing array of amazing art museums, and 24-hour churros con chocolate.
My absolute favorite part of Madrid was the Parque del Buen Retiro. It was so lovely, I went there twice! I've also imbibed two pitchers of sangria while gazing at the Monument to Alfonso XII, with its lovely lake crowded with little rowboats full of rowdy teenagers. This park has everything. Beautiful neoclassical monuments, fountains with cherubs or fountains made of rocks, sculpted symmetric Italian gardens, pathways lined with marble figures, shady orchards, open forest areas, ponds, a Crystal Palace greenhouse, and swans. Every turn I took, I ended up in what should have been a completely different park, but it was all part of El Retiro. I'm jealous of people who live near it.