(I can’t believe I’m still writing about April…)
On my last day in Madrid I was all by myself (my amiga was on the plane to Barcelona) and had a lot of activities to fit in.
I started early and headed to the Museo de la Reina Sofia for the Sunday morning free entry. The Reina Sofia is a gallery of modern art and its most famous piece is Picasso’s Guernica, his large, black and white, cubist depiction of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It is a very striking piece, taking up almost a whole wall. Even in the cubist style (which I confess I don’t really ‘get’) the anguish and pain on the faces is very real and very scary.
My next stop was the Museo de Sorolla, a gallery of paintings by Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla. As it was a nice day and because I am pig-headed, I decided I could walk there and save myself the Metro fare. The gallery is in the painter’s house, which he designed in an Andalusian-style with a lovely patio garden. The artworks are displayed inside the house, including in his studio. I love his wonderfully bright and light paintings and highly recommend that everyone checks them out.
By this point my art quota had been well and truly met for the weekend so I skipped the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the third major gallery in the capital (behind the Prado and Reina Sofia). Instead I went to the Parque del Retiro, a great big open park with plenty of grass, trees and even a pond for boating. I ate an ice cream and soaked up the sun.
One smooth train ride that evening and I was back in Oviedo, in the rain.
On Saturday of my weekend in Madrid we took a day-trip out to Segovia, a little town about 90 kilometres away from Madrid. After Renfe, the national Spanish train company, made things slightly difficult, we ended up on the slow, but cheap, train to Segovia. The weather was marvellous, a perfectly clear sky with lots of warm sunshine, both things I have come to appreciate so very much living in rainy Asturias.
Walking in to the old town from the train station the first spot we came across was the Aqueduct that originally dates from Roman times. Even taking into account the fact that it has been rebuilt and restored a number of times, it is very impressive. It has beautiful, even arches, lovely stone work and a Virgin hiding away in a little niche. With clear, blue sky behind it, it could not fail to be very picturesque.
We found the best way to see the town was to cut a path from the Aqueduct on one side, through the tiny, cobbled streets and the Catedral de Santa María in the middle, out to the Alcázar (fortress) on the other side of the old town. This took us to the three main attractions and we got a lovely walk in between. So from the Aqueduct we took some back streets and meandered down to the Plaza Mayor, which is somewhat overshadowed by Segovia’s Cathedral.
The Cathedral boasts the usual plethora of side chapels and ornate choir stalls but it also has some great artworks. After the bright sunshine it was a little chilly though!
From the Cathedral we really only had to keep following one street to wind up at the Alcázar. We decided to skip the Artillery Museum inside but I did buy a ticket to climb the Torre de Juan II (one of the fortress’s towers), laughing at the warning that the 152 step staircase was “not for unhealthy people”. Turns out the spiral staircase is more unsuitable for claustrophobic people or anyone bigger than about a size 12. It was a tight squeeze! Especially with people walking both up and down and trying to pass each other. However the views from the top, looking back towards the Cathedral towering over the old town and the snow-capped mountains in the background, were magnificent and worth the effort.
One delicious lunch later and we were back on the train to Madrid. One siesta later and we were heading out to dinner and our last night together before my lovely friend headed off to Barcelona the next morning. We ate in the Plaza Mayor, which turned out to be much more touristy in the evening but beautiful all the same. A chocolate con churros each later and we were very ready to sleep! The next day was to be my last in Madrid and I still had plenty left to see!
I finally made the trip to Spain’s capital back in early April when I made plans to meet a friend visiting from Australia for the weekend. I took the train from Oviedo on Thursday evening, and it turned out to be a very comfortable, pleasant journey of approximately 6 hours. I got to read, stretch out my legs in the tons of leg-room and watch first the mountains of Asturias and then the plains of Castilla y León pass by. My point here: trains are awesome! (My cross-country bus trips in Semana Santa really proved this too).
The next morning we started out with few fixed plans, just a generally idea of walking in a vague direction and seeing a few of the sights. We started out at the Plaza Mayor, which was lovely in the early morning without so many tourists and touts (except for Minnie Mouse who seemed to think we were famous because she kept wanting to have a photo with us…) We also headed out to the Palacio Real and climbed up the dome of the Catedral Almudena next to it for a lovely view over the city. All of this seemingly organised sightseeing was interspersed with copious amounts of aimless wandering but it was nice getting to see the city, something you miss out on if you just take the metro from your hostel to your chosen tourist attraction.
View of the Palacio Real from the Catedral de la Almudena
After a yummy lunch involving delicious tortilla española and a good dose of caffeine, we spent a large part of the afternoon exploring the collection of the Museo del Prado. Madrid has three world-renowned museums, all located within the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’, a little corner of Madrid. The Prado is the most famous and houses European art spanning the 12th to 19th centuries. Famous Spanish artists such as Velázquez, Goya and El Greco have lots of paintings on display, as do Ruebens and Bosch. There are also a few paintings by my favourite Spanish artist Sorolla (but I got to see many, many more at the dedicated Museo de Sorolla later that weekend). The Prado is very big, not anything like the Louvre, but it would take you a long time to see everything properly.
An early evening siesta later and we headed out for more tasty tapas and Spanish wine. We had an early night though to get ready for our early train out to Segovia the next morning!
PS: No surprises, Mum picked all of the right royals from the last post. They were (in no particular order): Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Catherine and William the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Charles Prince of Wales and Prince Henry who is more commonly known as Prince Harry!
Las niñas en el mar by Joaquín Sorolla.
One of the best things I did in Madrid last weekend was visit the Museo de Sorolla. This painting struck a particular chord and so here it is for all of you to enjoy.