Two Weeks in Spain: Madrid

After three or four days in Barcelona, The Best Girlfriend Ever and I spent one final evening in the city, relaxing in Parc de la Ciutadella next to the city’s Arc de Triomf before boarding a night train to Madrid.  The night train was not quite as comfortable as we’d hoped, and at first we were under the impression that we would be riding in a car seated for the entire duration of the trip, not the best way to try to sleep.  On top of everything, a neighbor in the car managed to step on Andrea’s already swollen toe, adding to our (or, at least, her) discomfort.  Fortunately, some of the people in our car left, and we were able to lay our seats flat, even if we didn’t quite have total privacy.

After arriving in Madrid, we found our way to our hotel, a big change from the sprawling, modern 2-br apartment with kitchenette we’d left behind in Barcelona.  This time, we were in a tiny room at Hostal Josefina, a room so small that the bathroom had a sliding door.  But we’d chosen location over comforts, and our room overlooked the Plaza Callao, which was well within walking distance of most of the locations we hoped to see, including the Prado, the Royal Palace, the Puerto del Sol, the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia (Spain’s modern art museum), and the Plaza Mayor.  Unlike Barcelona, where quick subway trips were sometimes a necessity, most of the major sites in Madrid are in easy walking distance.

We both found Madrid to be a little more business-like.  This might be due to the retail stores along the Grand Via where we stayed, or it might be due to Barcelona’s artsy, coastal vibe.  But the Prado and the Royal Palace both offer quite a bit to explore.  In particular, it was cool to see Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas after viewing many of Picasso’s reworkings of that painting in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.  Sadly, we missed Guernica in the modern art museum because we got there relatively late and got a little lost, but for those who like modern art, the Reina Sofia offers a nice collection.  The Royal Palace itself was an almost surreal experience.  I have to admit that it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of hereditary power and around the sheer wealth that was (and is) accumulated around the throne.  And yet, at the same time, it’s impossible to ignore the sheer craft and detail that went into the construction of the Palace and the design of the many rooms there.  Only a small number of rooms–15 or so–are open to the public at any given time, and yet, even the small amount we saw began to overwhelm (this might also be due to impending cathedral/palace overload).

Madrid  also gave me the chance to meet up with Hunter, Ramon, and Nicolas, who are all involved with the production of the crowdfunded film, The Cosmonaut, currently in the early stages of production.  I had a chance to record a video interview, inside a Vips store/cafe, which I’m hoping to post soon, but it was very cool to talk shop with a few people about DIY cinema and to learn even more about their project.  Plus, we got to exchange a few travel tips since they (at least some of them) were heading down to Morocco to do a shoot for a short film.

Other fun tidbits: we stopped by The Mueso del Jamon (the Museum of Ham), a restaurant in the city center, and we spent a couple of hours relaxing in Retiro Park, a nice break from our frenetic exploration of palaces and museums.  Then, of course, there was the odd experience of coming home and catching a Rick Steves travel show where Steves visits Madrid, especially after we used his guide throughout our trip.  Madrid felt a little rushed–we were only there for two full days, one after sleeping on the night train–especially since we were left with somewhat limited time in the museums, but it’s another city I’d love to revisit when I have more time.

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