Spain has been on our travel wish list for several years, as evidenced by the travel guides dated from 2002 that line our office walls. It finally made it to the top as we decided to visit Madrid, San Sebastian and Barcelona in October 2016.
For this post, I'm focusing on our first stop in Madrid. We flew direct from LAX to Madrid on a late night flight, arriving a little after 2pm on Saturday. As we rode in a cab to our hotel, I was pleased to look out the window and see the "Refugees Welcome" sign hanging above the entrance to the Palacio de Comunicaciones building. Not all European countries share that sentiment.
|Palacio de Comunicaciones|
We arrived at Hotel Villa Real and loved the location- right in the middle of everything! The hotel staff were friendly and luckily for us, spoke excellent English.
|Hotel Villa Real located at Plaza de las Cortes|
|View from our room at Hotel Villa Real|
Carl has always done an incredible job of researching and planning our travels. He's really good with maps which is not one of my strengths.
The next morning, we awoke to spectacular weather and planned our day to include the Prado Museum, the Decorative Arts Museum and a bullfight.
The Prado museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Spanish painting in the world. It opened for the first time on November 10, 1819. Thanks to the determination of Isabella of Braganza, married to King Ferdinand VII, the building that Juan de Villanueva had initially designed to house the Natural History Cabinet finally accommodated an important part of the royal collections. Years of private donations and acquisitions enlarged the museum's collection. While a fantastic collection, it wasn't our most favorite style of art.
Right around the corner from the park, the Decorative Arts Museum was right up my alley. Housed in a 19th century palace overlooking the Parque de Retiro, its rich collection mainly consists of furniture, ceramics, and decorative pieces from Spain dating back to Phoenician times. The exhibits cover over sixty rooms in the building's five floors, with the highlight being a fine 18th century kitchen that was moved to the museum from a mansion in the city of Valencia. Of special note is a panel of 1,500 tiles depicting a domestic scene from that time. When we visited there was a special exhibit of jewelry and accessories by contemporary Spanish designers.
|Decorative Arts Museum|
|I was drawn to this sterling button bracelet with colorful embroidery thread accents|
|And this vest designed from leather and metal|
|Recreation of a tiled kitchen|
|Plaza de Toros|
|Mounted police outside Plaza de Toros|
|We were all smiles before the bullfights started. Especially because we heeded the advice of a travel writer who suggested we rent the padded cushions to sit on. That concrete was hard.|
|While I don't regret our decision, I left the bullfights feeling a bit sad and depressed.|
The Royal Palace (Palacio Real, in Spanish) is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city Madrid, but is only used for state ceremonies. King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.
|When someone offered to take our picture, we said "yes, please." We aren't very proficient at selfies.|
|Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena|
The Neo-Gothic interior is uniquely modern, with chapels and statues of contemporary artists, in heterogeneous styles, from historical revivals to "pop-art" decor from Kiko Argüello.
|Painted vault In Catedral De Nuestra Senora De La Almudena- amazing and so different from anything we'd ever seen.|
|Loved the ceramics that echoed the logo of the peineta, a hair comb worn by flamenco dancers|
|Gorgeous wrought iron|
|The amazing architecture at Galeria de Cristal, City Hall|
|The largest plaza in Madrid, Plaza Mayor. This panoramic photos helps illustrate its size.|
|Colorful signage reinforced what I imagined Spain would look like|
|Good looking people|
|Dinner at Lhardy was an experience to remember....|