time flies so fast here in madrid, and it would take forever to tell you every little thing i've gone through, so here are some snippets:
museo nacional centro de arte reina sofia
repository of modern and contemporary art, where i got to see picasso's famed guernica. the museum used to be a hospital, and if you're thinking visiting, try to allot three to five hours if you want to go through everything. we got pretty tired exploring, and we only saw two floors!
a part of the permanent collection was closed, though, but it was just as well. call me an uncultured swine, but i really can't handle that much modern art in one day.
if you need a break from all the swirling colors, there are quaint bars and restaurants right across the museum, where you get to enjoy authentic spanish food, and enjoy live entertainment too! that day, i saw jugglers, and listened to a man play the spanish guitar while finishing my merluza.
estacion de atocha
madrid's oldest railway station, inaugurated in february of 1851, is still teeming with life and activity to this very day. inside the station, you will find tall, tropical plants that lend a sense of warmth to the otherwise fast pace of the people inside.
this was also where i took the train to toledo, a province in the south of madrid.
the trains are now pretty modern (most of them, anyway), and i had so much fun during my first visit, and when i was there to leave for toledo. trains are lovely, lovely things.
for train routes and fares, check out renfe.
just one of the many must-see sights in madrid, along with puerta de alcala, fuente de cibeles, and palacio de la comunicacion.
i remember that i was hit by the reality that i was in europe when i was strolling in this plaza: an accordion was playing in the distance, there were pigeons at my feet, and tables filled with coffee-ing people were everywhere.
platform zero, or the old metro chamberi station, no longer functions as a metro stop, but as a museum that tells of the history of the madrid metro.
the station has been restored, retaining the tiles that used to cover its walls. the ads of old are also still intact, and a wall of the platform has been used to project old school ads to give you a feel of how busy chamberi was back then.
the concept is just genius--the old ticket booths are still there, and they even play a video of the metro's history. the attendants are very friendly, and they accommodated the kindergarten group that visited with us on the same day.
and best of all, entrance is free!
this is one of the places i really enjoyed. it's the former home of artist joaquin sorolla.
it's filled with his paintings (the photo is entitled nadadores), and has preserved his studio just the way it was when he painted there. from the way his house looks, he seems like a guy i could have gotten along with.
the three gardens are also open to the public. you only pay a fee if you're going inside the museum. ain't that cool?
el parque del buen retiro
a sprawling park close to the golden triangle of museums, the park's name, when literally translated, is "the park of pleasant retreat," and it really does live up to that name.
you see an entertaining mix of every little thing that can give you pleasure--lush grassy areas where i saw people taking in the sun, a large estanque that had a boating area, there are art installations here and there, and even some breakdancing and live music performances. there are small kiosks to get refreshments from, and even a rosaleda for the flora lovers.
the photo on the left is my, and probably everyone's, favorite part of the park--the palacio de cristal. it's located in the heart of retiro, and just so pleasing to the eye that i took around 8 photos of it.
the photo is of the cathedral of saint mary of toledo, just one of the many outstanding sights you will find in this city. toledo is just 30 minutes away from madrid via the renfe AVE, and i highly recommend it for people who have a few days to kill in madrid.
i was bowled over by the train station alone, but toledo holds many more surprises. another thing that amazed me is the synagogue of santa maria blanca, which has moorish, jewish, and catholic elements in one place of worship.
the place is also known for its swords, and i was salivating when i saw LOTR swords there. i badly wanted to take home a sting replica, but it was too expensive, and probably would make me pay for excess baggage when i get home.
so that was my first week in the spanish capital (and toledo). more on food, and the other places i've visited, when i find the time and energy. :D