9 am: You wake up to the sound of steady rain falling outside your window. You peek outside and realize that it’s been raining for quite some time and quite heavily, in fact. You think to yourself that you have the worst Spanish luck – the last Saturday you were in Barcelona it rained all day, your friend broke her ankle and therefore couldn’t meet you in Madrid for a weekend getaway, and now it’s raining the Saturday you’re in Madrid. But you’ll deal, you always do. You make a beeline for the Museo del Prado. You’re amused at the umbrellas used by your fellow tourists.Once you get into the museum and pick up a musuem map, you breathe a mental sigh of relief. You’re secretly relieved that the Prado doesn’t feel as huge and imposing as the Louvre in Paris. But wow, the collection in the Prado makes you a little woozy in the knees. Just wow. The Goya collection is just phenomenal. You learn that Francisco Goya was a Spanish painter in the romantic tradition. You see his brilliance. You’re amazed at the wide scope of his work, from ladies and gentlemen frolicking in the grass to the Black Paintings.
12:30 pm: As is often the case with you and art museums, you realize that you’re actually quite hungry. But you haven’t finished ooh-ing and aah-ing over the beautiful art. You decide to head to the Prado Café on the ground floor to grab a quick tuna empanada and water. Once you’re refreshed, you head back up to the rest of the Goya collection. As you’re climbing a set of stairs, you happen upon a window overlooking the Real Jardin Botanico. You squeal a little because – is that a patch of blue sky you see?
3 pm: You finish with the Prado and head eastwards to the Parque del Buen Retiro, a calm, serene park that was once the private gardens of the royal family. Nowadays, the Park is free to all visitors. Today, at 3 pm, there was hardly a soul out. Perhaps the rain hadn’t stopped as soon as you had thought. But you decide to forage onwards, propelled by the lush greenery that you’re not so used to seeing in the middle of an urban city.
You soon find the Palacio de Cristal, a beautifully imposing crystal palace. You learn that the Palacio de Cristal was modelled on London’s Crystal Palace and built about 36 years afterwards, in 1887.
You remark that the Palacio was built in the shape of a cross and is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework. You read that the palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions done through the Reina Sofia Museum. Your imagination starts to run wild as you think of how quaint it would be to have a ball here, with gentlemen in tuxes and ladies in flowing, summery ballgowns… but that’s another dream.
You see that just outside the entrance to the Palacio de Cristal is an artificial lake. You loveeee wildlife and are glad to see that there are places that provide a habitat for our furry and winged friends, even if they are artificial.
Aha! It is indeed. It’s the statue of Alfonso XII. He was the king of Spain from 1874 to 1885 after a coup restored the monarchy and ended the First Spanish Republic.Alfonso XII looks over the Retiro Parque Lake. Once the site of staged naval battles to entertain royalty, the Lake is now quite the popular place for locals and tourists alike. As you walk around the lake you are strongly reminded of the World War II memorial in Washington, DC back at home. For some reason, the oval structure of this monument reminds you of the pillars commemorating the soldiers who helped secure our freedom in WWII…
You sit for a while and notice that the sun is starting to peek out from beyond the clouds. Twenty minutes later, the sky is a completely different color. Isn’t it wonderful what the sun’s rays can do to a landscape?
4:30 pm: You peek at your map to see what other treasures the Parque del Retiro might hold. You notice that there are architectural gardens somewhere southeast of where you are now, so you head over to find the Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez. Of course, you stop and smell the flowers. Even after the rain, some flowers still give off a beautiful scent.
5:30 pm: By now, the sun has taken over the sky and the rainclouds have mostly disappeared. There are still wisps of clouds in the sky, but these are the happy, pure white clouds that contrast so beautifully against a bright blue sky and the green leaves of the trees. You bid farewell to the park and head back into the center of Madrid.
6 pm: You decide that it’s high time for a Spanish snack (yes, in Spain snacks can still be eaten at 6 pm – remember, dinner is eaten at the earliest after 9:30 pm) and that you’ve spent 3 days in Madrid now without eating churros and chocolate! You find a chocolateria called Valor and order these delicious pastries and thick, hot, dark chocolate. You happily munch these pastries as you people-watch from the terrace.
7 pm: You decide that since the weather has now become perfect, you should take one last tour around Madrid. Soon enough, you find yourself at the Plaza de Oriente once again. This plaza is on the east side of the Royal Palace. You love how the opera (building in the middle) is shaped to fit the curviness of the plaza. You pause here and observe just how many people have come out. What a difference the sun makes on a weekend day.
8 pm: You amble down a few more streets and notice that there are quite a few yellow and pink buildings. You love it – not only are the people of Madrid so lively and energetic, but the streets and architecture of the place is so vibrant as well. It makes you happy to see that the city design works so well with the overall personality of the city.
9:30 pm: Start off your dinner/evening with a tapas bar. Then go to another. And another. Until you’re too full and tired to even think of eating more.
1 am: Sleep. What a wonderful weekend you’ve had in Madrid.